Silly Road Signs

This article first appeared in the August 21 2002 LaPlata Home Press. for a time, I wrote a devotional article called “Flowing From The Mouth Of The Jordan.”  I’d like to share some of these devotionals with you over the next few posts.

Have you ever noticed how silly some of the road signs are that we see on highways around the country?

For instance: FRESH OIL; LOOSE GRAVEL. The street or highway department sprays oil and tar on the road or shoulder, than they cover it with chat which sticks to the tar like flies on a no-pest strip. When this is done in town* (see explanation below), it seems everyone is upset and grumbles and gripes about it because it messes up our cars. On the highways in particular, in the right circumstances, it can be dangerous and wrecks can happen as cars slide around on the loose chat. The sign is warning us of a possible hazard ahead.

Or, DON’T DRIVE INTO SMOKE. January 1978 was my first experience on the Will Rogers Turnpike as I drove into Oklahoma. As I was heading toward Vinita, Oklahoma, I see these signs with a peculiar warning, “Don’t Drive Into Smoke.”  I’m think, “What? What a stupid sign. This is a highway. Where would smoke be coming from on a highway?” My limited intelligence, experience, and imagination could not figure a good reason for the warning. When it was explained to me by an Okie, I finally understood. Sometimes, people burn off their fields near the highway and the highway department burns off the shoulders of the road and the smoke may roll onto the highway obscuring your vision. It could hide the danger of a slower or stopped truck or car. The sign is warning us of a possible hazard ahead.

Or my favorite, BRIDGE MAY ICE WHEN COLD. I’ve seen these signs mostly in Arkansas and Louisiana. The first time I saw one of these signs I began to imagine the bridge with a mind of its own and the highway department is warning drivers to beware. I could see someone driving across a bridge in the winter when the bridge decides to ice over and cars begin spinning.

In Louisiana, I saw a couple of bridges with the signs on the exit side of the bridge, as if some demented highway employee is playing a joke on drivers. The bridge ices and you start spinning. As you spin past the bridge and see the sign, you yell out, “O yeah. . .thanks. . .for the. . .warning!!!!!” But, ice on bridges when the road is clear is a very real danger. The sign is warning of a possible hazard ahead.

The Apostle Paul says, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes  Ephesians 6:11. The devil is a liar and a deceiver. He plots and schemes ways in which to trap you in sin. The Bible warns us about the devil and his tricks. Beware, the devil has a trap ahead, around most every turn in life, just over the rise each day may be one of his tricks.

  • He may trip us up, and cause us to stumble: FRESH OIL; LOOSE GRAVEL.
  • He may hide behind a smoke screen of grumbling of some sort: DON’T DRIVE INTO SMOKE.
  • He may change the conditions quickly to cause you to slip up: BRIDGE MAY ICE WHEN COLD.
By knowing God’s word and way, we can, with the help of God’s own Spirit, see the road signs and dangers and YIELD AND STOP, keeping us out of danger. Beware, the devil is a roaring lion looking for whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). He may be around every corner trying to snatch you away from God.
* Many small towns such as in northern Missouri pave their roads (and on some two-lane highway shoulders), tar and oil is spayed on the road surface and chat spread to cover and adhere to the tar and oil and it makes a sort of pavement type surface and until it settles in, cures or whatever the correct term is, the dust and the tar mess up your car.
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Nothing is What it Seems

The movie “The Recruit” starring Al Pacino and Colin Ferrell is an interesting story of a CIA agent who recruits and instructs prospective CIA operatives. The story has its twists and we learn from beginning to end the reality of the training and the real world of espionage is that “nothing is what it seems.” Al Pacino’s character Walter Burke repeats this truth throughout the movie and in the end is caught in his own farce and is told by James Clayton (Colin Ferrell’s character) “nothing is what it seems.”

What appears on the surface to be true is not what is real.  It may seem real, it may seem to be true, and everyone believes that it is, but reality lies somewhere else, somewhere underneath, it is buried beneath the surface of life and is manipulated by someone who is controlling reality.

One of the problems with modern Christianity is that we have ceased to fight a spiritual battle. We are fighting individuals and organizations and governments and movements and joining movements and organizations to fight all of these where they differ from or we believe that differ from our Biblical and religious beliefs and practices.

So we fight against the organizations of abortion, homosexuality, economic irresponsibility by the government, sexual immorality on TV and in the movies, pornography on the internet, liberal feminism, and so much more. But attacking the establishments of these values is that where the battle for Christians and the church is at?

Before I go further, please don’t get me wrong, I appreciate those who go to battle in the courts and before congress to protect Christian values and rights and work hard to overturn or enact legislation to set things right. It is needed and certain individuals and groups such as Focus on the Family and others are certainly called by God for that purpose, but is that where the Christian and the church is to focus? The government? The courts? Abortion clinics? Is it? Should I complain to television producers that I am offended by almost every TV show that is on TV now? Should I lobby for greater restraints on the Internet so that people cannot access immoral sites? What?

Here’s the truth of scripture. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” Ephesians 6:12.

Our fight is not the immoral or misguided organizations, or even individuals who believe and/or follow these belief’s and practices. They are not the enemy. As one preacher I heard say more than 20 years ago, they are prisoners of the enemy. The devil has them trapped. Our fight is with the the powers of sin that influence our world. Satan, the devil, his demons and evil spirits, their influence in individual lives.

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Disturbing Dream Because of Disturbing Religious Trends

I had a vivid dream the other night. I don’t often remember dreams and when I do, I rarely remember details. Until now, there are only two dreams I have had that I remember and one a recurring dream.

In my dream I was walking with a man I knew from the town I ministered at a few years ago, Theo Goodding. Theo was one of the patriarchs of the town at the time. He attended a different church than I ministered too, but I respected him and am pleased to have counted him as one of my friends.

In the dream, Theo and were walking down a country dirt road and talking about the land. He would point out this piece of land and that one and who they had belonged too. A lot of the land had belonged to him. Walking and talking with him I began to emphathize with his distress and pain. He was troubled because he and the others sold the land we were viewing because the generations following them were not interested in the land that they wished to pass on to their heirs.

Two disclaimers here. First, I am not trying imply that Theo Goodding’s heirs rejected to accept what he had to pass on them. I know several of his family and they are believers and I believe faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Second, I don’t put a lot of stock in the idea that every dream has a meaning. That would be inconsistent with the randomness of thought and honestly, we wouldn’t be able to keep up with all our dreams and their meanings. Yet, I do believe some dreams have meaning and I do believe that God uses dreams to help us understand some things and/or gets our attention by means of some dreams.

Here is what I have come to understand. I have read two books, the analysis of 20 years of polling and surveying about religious belief and the washout of a standard of belief and faith in God, Christ, the Bible and the Church, and an editorial about how today’s teens have no moral intuition to  base anything value on.

Book 1: The Vertical Self by Mark Sayers, http://www.amazon.com/Vertical-Self-Biblical-Discover-Obsession/dp/0849920000.  Sayers explains that modern culture directs people to want to be famous (thus, American Idol, that I sarcastically and maliciously call American Idiot, and similar shows, like American’s Top Model and so forth. I really don’t like these type of shows, they disturb my Biblical sense of morality and fairness) and how that is a problem from a Biblical and Christian perspective.

Book 2: Uncompromised Faith by S. Michael Craven, http://www.navpress.com/store/product.aspx?id=9781600063626. This book really disturbed me. Craven documents the how our society and culture has had its moral, religious and values foundation has disappeared and the future of America because of this.

The polls and Surveys were Barna Groups’ research for the past 20 years called the State of the Church Series (6 in all), http://www.barna.org/faith-spirituality/504-barna-examines-trends-in-14-religious-factors-over-20-years-1991-to-2011, in which Barna examines the trends of 14 religious factors for the years 1991-2011. The two biggest elements that hit me is that among the whole American population Church involvement and Bible reading and Bible study is significantly down in almost every category and that each generation is moving away from the beliefs and values that Theo’s generation possessed.

And finally, I read an editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this morning (9/14/11) that is not religious or spiritual in nature but highlighted how today’s teens have no ability to determine what is moral and what is not. It has disintegrated, http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/.

The editorial prompted this post. It is apparent that the values, beliefs, and hopes that people like Theo Goodding, my parents, myself, and so many others is not being received by the next generations. And that will have a negative effect in the church, for faith overall, and will affect the whole world and already is

That dream was emphasizing to me the problem and the need to search for a solution to our culture failing to accept what God wants each person to have and as it is passed on from one generation to the next. In fact, this factor was an issue in Israel’s history. When a generation of Israel had been faithful to God, after a revival of sorts, such as documented a number of times in the book of Judges, that same faith and trust in God eroded more and more with each succeeding generation until there was virtually no one who trusted in God anymore.

That very factor has been growing in our society and it is now evident. I don’t have the practical solution to this issue except to say, I will continue to pray, and to preach Jesus, and be genuine in my faith and witness to Jesus in my life.

I must really leave the other answers up to people with more wisdom and ability and will watch and listen to learn from them in this matter.

May God and his ways return to our culture before it is too late for America and the rest of the world.

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What I’ve Learned From 9/11

With the tenth anniversary of 9/11, about every blogger has written something in relationship it. Many churches had special services, or special portions of their services devoted to memorializing those who died 10 years ago. Most sporting events over the weekend had special moments to honor that horrible event in 2001. Memorial events were taking place all over the nation and especially in New York where the planes destroyed the World Trade Center. What more can I add to all that has been said?

I was horrified, angered, and frightened went our country was attacked. I felt the same things most Americans did. What in the world happened? Why did it happen? How could it happen? What are we going to do now? Are we safe here like we have always believed we were?

I have learned that we are all vulnerable. That statement may seem obvious, but I mean a lot more than the obvious. It is not just America that is vulnerable, the whole world is vulnerable. We lost our innocence and no matter where in the world you live, you are susceptible to danger. The danger may not be Al Qaeda, but it may be some other enemy. Our whole planet is in danger of attack.

But I mean even more than that.

It is curious to me that my sermon yesterday, planned for months without realizing it would fall on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, was about how sin took over the world on three different occasions. The title of the message was, “Sin: Taking Over the World” from Genesis 3-10.

After Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God and eating the fruit from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” sin spread quickly. Cain murdered his brother Abel, as Hebrews 11:4 tells us, it was because he was evil. It wasn’t long until we learn in Genesis 6 that the whole world had become corrupt. Violence had completely taken over the earth and God regretted creating humans. Humanity had completely ignored God and whatever other evils they were committing, they had become overtly violent. Hating, harming, injuring, murdering one another. That’s when he flooded the earth, in order to restart and restore without evil ruling the earth.

But it didn’t take long for evil to raise up and spread as if there was no restraint. Noah’s son, Ham, saw his father asleep and naked in his tent and he brought disrespect to his father when belittled Noah to his brothers, Shem and Japheth. But it wasn’t long until pretty much the whole world resisted God’s command to spread out and occupy the world. Humanism became the rule and they decided to build a tower to human ingenuity, ability, and strength, called the Tower of Babel.

It was then that God mixed up their languages. The world spoke one language in that day, but now there were many and it created confusion and stopped their evil.

That third time that the Bible tells about sin and evil taking over the world is in the last days. Of course the New Testament teaching about the last days is that since Jesus Christ died and raised, we are in the last days. The last days will continue from Jesus’ death and resurrection until his return.

2 Timothy 3:1-5: 1But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (English Standard Version)

Sin is permeating our world at a level we haven’t seen since the events in the first 10 chapters of Genesis. The Barna research group just recently published its state of the church, examining the religious and spiritual trends of the past 20 years (1991-2011). The report is eye-opening. It is apparent from the report that sin is taking over America, we are becoming more and more worldly; http://www.barna.org/faith-spirituality/504-barna-examines-trends-in-14-religious-factors-over-20-years-1991-to-2011.

We are vulnerable to sin and evil. The world is full of it. Satan is attacking us. He intends not to just injure us but to destroy us. The attack by Al Qaeda 10 years ago is a physical and tragic symbol of how unsafe and susceptible we are to Satan’s attack and that attack was one of the tools of Satan.

Yet . . . we can be protected. There is hope. First it is in Christ. If you are born again into Jesus Christ (read John 3), you have salvation, but you better be aware and active in your faith. Paul writes these words to us about our spiritual Al Qaeda; 10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:10-18 (ESV)

May you be blessed by God and be safe within his love and hope and eternity.

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Does America Hate Christians?

     Every week I encounter people who are believers, Christians from varying church backgrounds, Jews, Mormons, atheists, agnostics, Wiccans, pagans (as a religion), people who are nothing, and on occasion someone who is Muslim. I teach the Bible with most of them, talk about faith and life with them, sing songs of faith with them, have discussions about faith with them, and just visit them.

A coupe of months ago Jerry (his name has been changed) made a comment after a teaching and singing time with a group of about 45. He remarked to someone, “How can you believe that stuff. It doesn’t make sense.” He is a skeptic.

Ever since then, when I see the group, he goes out of his way to say hello to me and he enjoys the sessions and is singing with us too. He isn’t against us, but up to now he has not believed and wonders why people would. It seems he is becoming interested in things of faith. Maybe he will become a follower of Jesus Christ too. I hope so, I am praying that he will.

Bradley R.E. Wright in the latest Christianity Today presents the idea that Americans are alright with Evangelicals in Americans Like Evangelicals After All. He takes his comments further along than I will with by discussing why we worry about it.

Follow this link to read the article. It is worth our consideration: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/august/americans-do-like-evangelicals.html

There is an obvious bias against evangelical Christians. But like some circumstances, it is a small number who are crying the loudest and in some cases responsible for stopping some aspects of faith from taking place or pushing agendas that vary from the beliefs and values that Christians hold, such as; getting prayer removed from schools; making it inappropriate to have a Bible or some expression of faith at your work. As well as pushing for abortion and same-sex values and there is more. It is troubling and we must deal with it appropriately, the way Jesus would have, the way the Bible teaches us.

If America doesn’t dislike us as much as we had believed, what does that mean to us? I can think of a couple of things.

  1. It should alleviate many of our fears about sharing our faith with others. If they don’t dislike us, many people won’t be offended by our expressions of faith and belief.
  2. It should change our attitude about how we encounter our culture. Some Christians are hot under the collar with our culture, some are militant in fighting the culture through litigation and or cultural commentary and condemnation. It seems we should offer grace not grouse. Please understand that I am not condoning immorality and anti-scriptural teaching, but our attitude in dealing with our culture should be a whole lot more gracious in my view. We are to love others.
      I have found in some cases, there are people who though they do not have a favorable view of Christians, when they encounter some of us, are not as resistant to our beliefs and values.
     For instance, Ronnie (not his real name), was very resistant to Christianity. Ronnie claimed to be a pagan, but was more atheist in value. He resisted faith and Christianity and had decent relationships with a handful of Christians. One time Ronnie was dissing pastors when he remembered suddenly that I am a pastor. He stopped, looked at me with a sly smile and said, Jeff, you’re alright for a minister” (I didn’t change my name, LOL).
Ronnie had a brother-sister relationship with one of the young ladies in the group. One time, she shared some things about her faith and encouraged the group of 15-20 that they need Jesus. He took offense at her comments because he felt that she had targeted him specifically. I am sure that she thought of him when she prepared to share that day, but she was considering the whole group, not any particular individual.
A couple of days later, Ronnie and I visited about what she shared and how it upset him. Fortunatel, he was convinced that she hadn’t targeted him and admitted that she had a right to share her beliefs and values with others just like he did.
I haven’t seen or heard from Ronnie for a couple of years, and I know that he checked into a drug and alcohol rehab at one point, so I don’t know if he has changed his view of Christianity, but with the right individual, he will at least talk with a Christian.
What I am saying is that though there are some who really have a poor view of Christians and Christian faith, most are not really hostile toward us and that’s a good thing. I must be honest, I haven’t personally experienced the hostility toward Christians that we read about. The closest to anti-Christian hostility I have personally seen was when the local school in the town where I ministered 18 years ago followed the advice of their lawyers and dropped the baccalaureate service for the high school graduates. The superintendent, being a man of faith, as were most of the school’s board and teachers and other employees, came to me and asked if the churches of our little town would provide the baccalaureate service for the graduates. Of course we gladly and willingly accepted and in a lot of ways it made things better. We were able to make the baccalaureate more personal and more religious in than before.
Is there bias against Christians? Yes. It seems that anti-Christian hostility is not what we thought. Praise the Lord!
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What’s This Fruit About?

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:19-23

The fruit of Spirit is about what takes place in a person’s life as God does his thing in you.

Paul notes the contrast between the ways of the world. The world is sinful. The ways of the world destroy souls, relationships, hope, even life. But the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, etc (see passage above or pic on the left) is the way of life (eternal life).

It’s about God enabling you to be separate from the world’s terrible way. Think of ancient Israel. God intended for Israel to be different. God told them when they entered the promised land to remain separate from the idolatrous people who lived there.

They were to run them out; they were destroy their sacred places, including the idols; they were his people representing God’s holy way. The 10 commandments and their explanation in Deuteronomy (starting about chapter 5) show their relationship with God and how his character is holy and those of  idolatrous people are unholy and do not accomplish the righteousness that God is and of those who are in a relationship with him.

I shared about the second commandment with some teens yesterday, do not have or worship idols (Exodus 20:4-6; Deuteronomy 5:8-10). Some of them are Christian, there is a Jewish kid, a Mormon, and a handful of agnostics and an atheist or two, and some that aren’t anything. We talked about the principle of idolatry since we don’t see people worshiping idols like Israel witnesses with the Egyptians and those they would encounter worshiping the Baals and Ashtoreth and Moloch and the like in ancient Israel when they entered the land of Canaan. What are the modern idols that we might worship in America today?

  • Money
  • Celebrity
  • Relationships
  • Objects (cars, electronic devices, etc)

They mentioned several other items. Even the teens that aren’t Christian. They understood the difference. But being godly, living the life of the Spirit and producing the fruit of the Spirit may be another thing for people.

When a person who is an immersed believer in Jesus Christ, they have God’s Spirit in them (Acts 2:38). If the Spirit is not there, there is no salvation. The Spirit however, as he works with our spirit, enables us to be godly, to produce the fruit of godliness. Being in this-worldly world, and yet living without the power of worldly influence controlling our lives.

If we were to try to picture this, it might be like the pic just to the left. God reaching down out of heaven and holding us up against the powerful influence of the world. It is because he loves us and chooses to save us from the hellish penalty of sinfulness (John 3:16).

Another way to envision this is to realize the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-12) and the complete teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. Read it and apply it and live it.

If the fruit of the Spirit is what your life is like than you are living the Sermon on the Mount.

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Salvation for Everyone

There is less than a 10% chance that a person will ever accept Jesus Christ and be saved after they become an adult.  As people get older their outlook becomes more entrenched in the worldly, away from God, without Christ.  It is very important to reach people before they become a teenager, to reach them with the Biblical worldview so that they have the seed planted which can grow into belief and acceptance and salvation.  Churches and ministries have realized this and concentrated on young people and they should.  But what of those who have become adults that have not accepted Christ?  What of the younger generations of adults?  What about my generation, the Baby Boomers?  What about yours?  Have we admitted defeat when there is victory to be won?  Have we concentrated on the obvious to the exclusion of the difficult?  The Gospel message and the salvation of Jesus Christ is for everyone, not just the most likely ones.

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Bald Men’s Church

“Now, if a man loses the hair of his head, he is bald: he is clean” (Leviticus 13:40).

Considering this passage, there are a couple of things to note here. First there is the obvious. When a guys hair falls out, he is bald. Approximately one half of all men go bald. That’s a sizable amount. If there were only a few, the significance of baldness would be less, but this is huge. The Bible says that Elijah was bald. Tradition reports that the apostle Paul was bald. I’m going bald, maybe you are too.

There is something else to note here. If the guy is bald, he is clean. That is huge.

Clean, cleanse, cleansed. The New Testament uses the term to illustrate freedom from sin, being washed clean from sin, picturing sin as dirt, filth that needs to be washed away.

Therefore, when we look at Leviticus 13:40, we realize that all bald men are going to heaven because they are bald. Since they are bald they are clean, they are cleansed of sin.

I think I’ll start a church for bald men. It should go over good. We’ll teach each other how to care for bald skin, and encourage one another because we are bald.

 

Honestly, how ridiculous is this? It’s pretty silly, maybe even stupid, but when I take that verse out of context, I can do about anything I want with it, even if it is totally wrong, scripturally and contextually.

There are a couple of things wrong here. One, if there were a church of bald men only, the glare would be blinding, but the issue is how to interpret scripture.  The context of Leviticus 13:40 is leprosy. God is informing the Israelites in this verse that just because a man loses his hair means he is simply bald, he doesn’t have leprosy. He is clean from

leprosy. It is not a skin disease it just means they have no hair.

You’ve heard the one where each day a woman simply opens her Bible and drops her finger on the open page and whatever verse she lands on is her daily devotional. One day, she opened her Bible and dropped her finger and landed on this verse; “He went away and hanged himself” Matthew 27:5). The woman thought this wasn’t an appropriate devotional thought, so she closed her Bible, opened it again and dropped her finger on the page and this is what it said, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).

That’s a pretty iffy way to try to understand scripture. Random verse selection, ignoring contexts, interpreting through a modern lens with little regard for the author’s intended meaning. And we can develop understandings and doctrines that are mistaken and false and fail to honor God and obey God in the ways he has given because it is our ideas not God’s that we are following and promoting.

Misused and misunderstood scripture is dangerous for all of us. We can go the wrong way because of it.

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Most Misused Bible Verse

Relevant Magazine has a powerful ministry. The articles they present, from various writers, are very thought provoking even if I disagree with the author about scripture and reality.

The Bible can be misinterpreted and bias injected into it’s meaning. This article presents one of the if not “the” most misused passage of scripture. Follow the link to see the article.

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/deeper-walk/features/21141-the-most-misused-verse-in-the-bible

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