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Monthly Archives: July 2012

1 Corinthians 2 – True Wisdom

True Wisdom From God’s Spirit

Some of the claims of the first Christians made very little sense to Jews, Romans, or anybody else.  They claimed that a common religious leader from Nazareth was the Messiah.  They claimed that the Messiah was crucified by Romans, but that’s okay because he was resurrected three days later.  They claimed that this was a first of many and that others could share in this resurrection through faith in this Messiah.  This even meant Gentiles could become part of God’s people and that Jesus was more King than Caesar.  And then there were teachings about giving to the poor, forgiving endlessly, and loving enemies.

So it should come as no surprise that Paul is defending the “wisdom” of the church.  He wants the church and anybody else to know that they are mature and wise, but not by the measure and understanding of the world.  After all, if the world understood God’s wisdom and plan they wouldn’t have killed Jesus.  This special wisdom comes from God’s Spirit and is a mystery to the world.

Paul then goes on to talk about how God’s Spirit knows God better than anybody.  Just like my spirit knows me and your spirit knows you deeply, God’s Spirit knows God the best. How awesome is it then that God’s Spirit comes to dwell in each and every Christian!  Through God’s Spirit living in us, we can come to know the deeper things of God.  We have the mind of Christ.

I think that this passage tells us two things about the Spirit’s working in each of us.  Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in God’s people, we are able to better understand God and have a more accurate knowledge about who He is and what He does.  Secondly, God’s Spirit helps us to have a better and stronger relationship with the Creator of the universe.  It provides us with knowledge and understanding and relationship.  What a blessing!

 

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

1 Corinthians 1 – An Introduction – Preach Christ Crucified in All You Do

Paul in his epistles usually begins with praising the church and commending the believers for their faith, charity, or something they have been doing really well with. He neglects to do that in his epistle to the church in Corinth. Instead, he reminds them where their hope comes from and that they have every spiritual gift needed as they wait for Christ. To be fair, Paul’s greeting to the church in Galatia is less warm than this one but we’ll get to that later in the year. I’m not sure what Paul is doing here in the beginning. His thankfulness for the grace of God is confusing because we’ll see later that their abuse of grace is what has caused to many of their problems that he has written to address. He is also confusingly thankful for their spiritual gifts though later we will see that they are not using these gifts to edify the body.

Here’s a quick summary of 1 Corinthians that might be helpful to reference:

    1. Reproof of Their Sin
      1. Divisions in the Church 1:10-4:21
      2. Lack of Discipline in the Church 5:1-13
      3. Litigation in the Body 6:1-8
      4. Lack of Purity 6:9-20
    2. Reply to Their Questions
      1. Concerning Marriage 7:1-40
      2. Concerning Meat Sacrificed to Idols 8:1-11:1
      3. Concerning Public Worship 11:2-34
      4. Concerning the Resurrection 15:1-58
    3. Conclusion 16:1-24
      1. Giving 16:1-4
      2. Paul’s Visit 16:5-9
      3. Treatment of Timothy and Apollos 16:10-12
      4. Greetings and Benediction 16:13-24

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

Paul’s appeal for unity in verse 10 is something that should always be at the forefront of our minds. Two things that I think should be taken away from this book that Paul comes back to often is that we to do everything we can to be unified and we are to do nothing that will hinder the Gospel. These are two things that I will come back to often while we blog through these letters.

As always, there are lots of debates as to what exactly Paul is saying in different parts of his letter. Kent and I won’t agree on everything. We, along with Bill, have always tried to demonstrate that there is a continual discussion on what Scripture says and that we won’t always agree 100% but we’ll always love 100% despite disagreement. I’m mentioning this here because I feel like this is often lacking in Christian discussions. We implore you to join in the discussion with love in your hearts as we continue to grow together through the study of God’s Word.

In verses 11-12, Paul points out the divisions in the congregation. Four names are mentioned: Paul, Apollos, Cephas (Peter), and Christ. Based on what we see in Acts, it doesn’t appear as though Peter ever had a presence in Corinth. While this could be in reference to Jewish Christians who have been taught by Peter and have moved to Corinth, it doesn’t seem as though Peter is really the issue because Paul never really mentions any of the typical Jewish Christian problems that arise in other churches. The issue seems to be between Paul and Apollos, and Paul throws Peter in there so he won’t seem to be coming down hard on those who have aligned themselves with Apollos.

Paul apparently was not a very dynamic preacher. This is hard to believe since he writes so powerfully. He says at the beginning of the next chapter that he did not come to them with eloquence and human wisdom but allowed the cross of Christ to speak powerfully. It seems as though another preacher (Apollos – Acts 18:24) came along after Paul who was very eloquent in speech and wisdom. It isn’t too far of a stretch to see that someone can come along and gain a lot of followers because they speak with authority and eloquence. This isn’t to say that what the speaker is saying is inherently wrong. It is just to say that sometimes people will quickly follow a person because of their ability instead of following Christ. On the other hand…I believe a person can speak falsely with eloquence and power and convince the masses to follow them. If you you’re searching for an example look at the rise of Hitler. This is a hard passage to swallow as a preacher because I like to be eloquent and speak with wisdom. We just have to be careful that we are not pointing people to us instead of Christ.

In everything we say and do we preach Christ crucified no matter how foolish it may seem! Whether it is through our spiritual gifts, our words, kindness, generosity, actions, etc. we point people to the cross and not ourselves. In all things and in every way preach Christ crucified! Don’t worry…Paul will get to the Resurrection later.

 

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Outside of Comfort

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One of the things I love about ministering to teens is pushing them to get out of their comforts and try something new. I want them to be able to see God wherever they are. This week I took the teens canoeing down the Illinois River.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2012 in Photos

 

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Capturing God’s Reflection in the World

Seeing God in the World
I love the hymn below.  It’s such a great reminder that when we open our eyes we can see God in the world all around us.  Sometimes it’s in a sunset or from the top of a mountain.  Other times you find yourself standing in a place that history has made sacred.  Then on some days you see people demonstrating God’s love in their actions.  In this blog, we have spent a tremendous amount of time helping people reflect on God’s Word.  Ryan and I have been visiting some lately about wanting to help us reflect on God in the world as well.  That was one of the reasons we added the open topic Friday posts.  At this time we are going to start another weekly experiment on the blog.  On Saturday’s every week we are going to post a picture that shows somewhere or somebody that caused us to reflect on God in the world.  Sometimes there might be a brief explanation, but when possible we will let the picture speak for itself.  Our goal is to use primarily original photography that we have taken ourselves (expect Ryan’s to be much better than mine) and current pictures, although we will also include photos from our past experiences and travels as well.
Our hope is that in capturing moments where we see God along our journey that it will help you to see him in yours.

Have You Seen Jesus My LordHave you seen Jesus my Lord?
He’s here in plain view.
Take a look, open your eyes,
He’ll show it to you.
Have you ever looked at a sunset
With the sky mellowing red,
And the clouds suspended like feather?
Then I say you’ve seen Jesus my Lord.Have you ever stood at the ocean
With the white foam at your feet,
Felt the endless, thundering motion?
Then I say you’ve seen Jesus my Lord.Have you ever looked at the cross,
With a Man hanging in pain,
Seen the look of love in His eyes?
Then I say you’ve seen Jesus my Lord.

Have you ever stood in the family
With the Lord there in your midst,
Seen the face of Christ on each other?
Then I say you’ve seen Jesus my Lord.

Ministering to Right Brained People
If you are familiar with the concept of right-brained and left-brained people, then you know that people use the left side of their brain for logic, reasoning, critical thinking, math, etc.  We use the right side for music, art, creativity, etc.  I am about 60-40 left brain dominant.  If you want to know what you are, you can find out by taking this quick assessment here.
Unfortunately, much of how churches teach and communicate is biased towards left-brained thinkers.  We depend heavily on classes, lectures, sermons, writing, reading books and reasoning.  We aren’t as good at using art, creativity or other forms of right brain thinking to share our faith with one another.  Blogging is, by it’s nature very left-brained.  We have tried to incorporate other elements using pictures, creative writing, and occasionally videos.  Our new Saturday photography element is another attempt to minister to more people in more ways.  If that includes you, then I hope you enjoy it and start looking for ways that you can be a little bit more “out of the box” to use your gifts to share your faith.
 
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Posted by on July 27, 2012 in Hot Topics, Photos

 

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Romans 16 – Greetings

A Look at the Church in Rome

The way Paul writes these greetings seems to indicate that the house churches in Rome were organized into what we would today call congregations.  He greets Prisca and Aquila and the church that meets at their house.  He also greets those who meet with two different groups in verses 14 and 15.  I think it’s neat to see the early church already organizing.  We often think of them as a ragtag group who met all over the place and lacked organizational structure, but that’s not the case.  They met consistently in small groups that allowed them to be very close to one another and minister to each other. They had habits, traditions and structure.

Phoebe

Some words weren’t really translated when the Bible was printed in English.  For example, baptism is simply an English pronunciation of a Greek word rather than a translation.  If it were translated, it would be immersed or immersion.  Deacon is the same way.  It should have been translated into English as servant, but since it had already become a traditional position of church leadership, it was carried over in its Greek form.  So, the same word (deacon/servant) that describes the men appointed to feed the widows in Acts 7 is used to describe Phoebe in Romans 16.  Does that mean they were simply all servants, that in Acts they were appointed leaders and Phoebe wasn’t, or was Phoebe an appointed leader of the church as well?  Some recent translations have decided that it is the latter by changing the word describing Phoebe to deacon (instead of servant).  I personally think they should have changed it to servant everywhere it was used.  It wouldn’t resolve the problem, but I think it’s a more consistent approach.

That being said, Phoebe is important whether she is an appointed office holder or not.  It appears Paul instructs the Christians in Rome to welcome her because she is delivering his letter.  It’s significant that Paul would entrust her with one of the most important letters he ever wrote.  It also shows that the church in Rome would be willing to receive her with the letter she is delivering.  The information that she is a benefactor tells us that she is not only independently wealthy, but that she had used her finances to support and fund Paul and other ministries.  Maybe she was a “deacon” and maybe she wasn’t, but it is clear that she has the respect of Paul and other Christians.  She is a strong and faithful woman who has made a significant impact on God’s Kingdom.  In a world that wasn’t structured to empower women, the church was a place where they could be influential and be significant contributors, and that’s saying something.

I’ve enjoyed our month in Romans.  I have such an appreciation for Paul’s passion and commitment to sharing his faith and making sure other understand the Gospel.  I also respect his awareness of his calling to preach to the Gentiles while he still longs to proclaim the Gospel to the Jews.

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2012 in Pauline Epistles, Romans

 

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Romans 15 – The Value of Being Flexible

The Strong Must Bend

When we think of strength, we think of huge men or towering oak trees.  And yet, Paul begins this chapter with a different idea entirely.  It’s easy for strong people to look down on those around them.  It’s easy to walk all over people who don’t match your abilities or prowess.  But Paul expects something different from Christians who are strong in the faith.  Paul expects them to use their strength to be flexible and accommodating to those who are weaker.  Certainly the greatest example of this is Jesus Christ, who showed each of us how to use our strengths to be a blessing to others, even when it is difficult and requires personal sacrifice.

Of course, there is a little bit of brilliance here as well.  Paul is concerned about the ability of churches to manage conflict, especially in the face of merging cultures.  So imagine two individuals in a Christian community who have some disagreement with one another.  It has become a matter of pride and they both feel that they are arguing from a position of being in the right.  Clearly the stronger Christian of the two will persevere in this matter.  And suddenly Paul says, “Whichever of you is the stronger Christian will humbly allow the other to have their way.  In doing so you reflect the attitude of Christ.”

Suddenly winning looks like losing and losing looks an awful lot like winning.  When people embrace this way of living that is almost forgiveness in advance of wrongdoing, that you are so committed to putting others first that you are humbled for their benefit, Christian communities thrive.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and…Paul?

At the end of this chapter Paul notes that he is travelling towards Jerusalem with a large sum of money to give to the Jewish believers there.  This money has been donated by the Gentile churches Paul has been working with.  Clearly his request for prayers shows that he is concerned about how he will be received by non-believers and even other Christians in Jerusalem.  We know from the book of Acts (chapters 21-28) that Paul was right to be worried.  His arrival was met with trials, beatings, stonings, and eventually an imprisonment of two years followed by an armed escort aboard a ship for Rome.

Paul speaks here of his plans to go to Spain (the westernmost frontier of civilization) and Rome (the center of civilization) to continue advancing the Gospel.  It’s clear that he is passionate about this cause and feels very called by God to go on these trips.  In fact, the book of Romans was written largely to help prepare the church for his arrival there.  Paul doesn’t seem to suspect that he would only see Rome under house arrest and never travel to Spain.  But even when Paul’s plans were radically changed he continued to be flexible and allow God to use him in the best way under any circumstances.  After all, just his desire to go to Spain and Rome led to him writing the wonderful book of Romans.  And it’s likely that he spent a considerable amount of time with another Christian author named Luke during those years of imprisonment possibly working on other literary projects that we benefit so much from today.  It’s remarkable how much God can use us even when we feel like everything is going wrong.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2012 in Pauline Epistles, Romans

 

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Romans 14 – CAUTION STUMBLING BLOCKS!

A Word of Caution

Paul’s entire purpose in this chapter is to bring about unity in Christian communities.  One of the great challenges of living in Christian community is that people bring all of themselves, their culture, their personal identities, views and baggage with them.  Then we have to make it all work together.  In a Roman context where Gentiles were worshiping in a way that would have looked terribly pagan to Jewish converts to Christianity, Paul writes this letter about how to get along with one another.  Unfortunately, the very same passage has so often been used as a weapon in church bickering.  It is sadly misused in forms that often sound something like, “Well what you are doing or proposing if offensive to me and would be a stumbling block to me so Romans 14 says you can’t do it.  So there.”  While this uses some of Paul’s words, it ignores their meaning.  Paul didn’t intend for people to use these teachings to get their own way, but to see the value of putting other’s first.

Stumbling Blocks

The Christian life is often viewed as a journey or a walk.  One of the great blessings Christianity offers is a clear path to walk on and we are often able to toss our obstacles off of the path.  What Paul is warning us about here is that we must be careful not to through stumbling blocks off of our path and on to somebody else’s.  Another way of putting this is that things that are not bad in and of themselves can become unclean or evil because of the perception they cause in those around us.

For Paul, he has already spoken at length earlier in Romans about how Gentile converts should not strive to live and behave as Jews.  They are not called to live under the Old Covenant and it would be harmful for them to try to do so.  On the other extreme, they shouldn’t flaunt their former pagan habits and practices in the faces of Christian Jews who would be extremely offended by those actions taking place in Christian community.  We see an example of this later in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians regarding the eating of meat sacrificed to idols.

There’s an old saying that used to be very common in Churches of Christ that stated, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things love (charity)”.  What Paul is saying in this chapter is that when something is a non-essential to Christian living we should allow people to do as they choose.  However, when their liberty begins to affect the unity and love among the believers, that moves the problem into the arena of being essential.  While the original source of contention might not be essential to anybody’s salvation, the unity of believers is an essential.

So, when you are shoveling snow out of your spiritual sidewalk, make sure you aren’t just piling it up in your neighbor’s.  If you are, even though you can freely walk down your path, they can’t.  And that makes you a jerk.

 

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2012 in Pauline Epistles, Romans

 

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Romans 13 – Respect and Honor for Leaders You Disagree With

Romans 13

A day doesn’t pass that I don’t have to delete an email that is badmouthing one political leader or another. I may not agree with everything our politicians say and do but they are our leaders and Paul reminds us that we are supposed to submit to their authority that has been given by God. We are to give honor and respect because it is due. We see Paul doing this as he goes before different authorities.

But what if the government is oppressive? What if they are not doing what is right in the eyes of God? Should we still submit to them?

To help answer these questions I have provided a context for the government that was in authority while Paul wrote these commands for us to follow. This is out of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs:

“The first persecution of the Church took place in the year 67, under Nero, the sixth emperor of Rome. This monarch reigned for the space of five years, with tolerable credit to himself, but then gave way to the greatest extravagancy of temper, and to the most atrocious barbarities. Among other diabolical whims, he ordered that the city of Rome should be set on fire, which order was executed by his officers, guards, and servants. While the imperial city was in flames, he went up to the tower of Macaenas, played upon his harp, sung the song of the burning of Troy, and openly declared that ‘he wished the ruin of all things before his death.’ Besides the noble pile, called the Circus, many other palaces and houses were consumed; several thousands perished in the flames, were smothered in the smoke, or buried beneath the ruins.

This dreadful conflagration continued nine days; when Nero, finding that his conduct was greatly blamed, and a severe odium cast upon him, determined to lay the whole upon the Christians, at once to excuse himself, and have an opportunity of glutting his sight with new cruelties. This was the occasion of the first persecution; and the barbarities exercised on the Christians were such as even excited the commiseration of the Romans themselves. Nero even refined upon cruelty, and contrived all manner of punishments for the Christians that the most infernal imagination could design. In particular, he had some sewed up in skins of wild beasts, and then worried by dogs until they expired; and others dressed in shirts made stiff with wax, fixed to axletrees, and set on fire in his gardens, in order to illuminate them. This persecution was general throughout the whole Roman Empire; but it rather increased than diminished the spirit of Christianity. In the course of it, St. Paul and St. Peter were martyred.”

We can disagree with the policies and decisions of our leaders but we must do so respectfully. We live in a country where we have the right to vote and can change things but we need to be careful how we talk about our leaders. Paul calls us to be outstanding citizens who follow the laws of the land. God has put authority in place to keep order in the world. Give respect and honor where it is due. This is not relative to whether we think they deserve respect or not.

This also goes for within the church as well. There are times where you may not agree with decisions that have been made by church leaders but they answer to God and we are under their leading. This is something I try my best to live by as a minister who is under the guidance of an eldership. I’ve seen a lot of churches badly damaged because the ministers were at odds with their leadership. This is something I feel like I’ll have to answer to God for if I ever undermined their authority.

There is no law that needs to be put in place for the Christian that has clothed themselves with Christ and lives in love. Love is the fulfillment of the law. Continue to clothe yourself with Christ. Take on his attitude in every situation and you won’t have to worry whether or not you are following the law, being a good citizen, or submitting yourself to authority. Remember where your true citizenship is and don’t become too consumed with the worries of this country.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2012 in Bible Blog, Pauline Epistles, Romans

 

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Response to Tragedy in Aurora, Colorado

I woke up this morning to read about one of the worst shootings our country has seen. While there are a number of issues that set this shooting out from many of the others, I don’t want to focus on what all happened. I have had numerous emotions take place since I first heard about it. As I’ve read through people’s comments on articles on the Internet I am saddened by how quickly people have jumped to political issues and quickly made accusations towards guns, family upbringing, society, Obama, Right Wing Conservative Christians, etc. I’m sure the Internet will continue to explode with people venting their personal frustrations and using this tragedy as an object of their personal agendas.

Catastrophes such as this are a quick reminder to me of the brokenness of this world and of humanity. My heart cries out for those who are suffering. Let’s take time to remember those who have lost their lives, their families, those who were injured, the traumatized, and everyone else who was affected by this horrible event. Let’s also be praying for James Holmes, the brokenness that is in need of redemption, and his family who now has to live with the shame of being associated with him.

Lord God, our Father,

Our hearts cry out for the tragedy that happened last night in Aurora, Colorado. We’re saddened by the brokenness of this world and we long for your Redemption to fully come. We pray for those who were killed and their family’s who have been left asking why. We lift those up to You who are in need of healing.

With each passing day we recognize the brokenness of this creation in need of Redemption. Lord, move your Church to respond to this brokenness and to join you in making it right again. Help us to stop shaking our heads and start working to bring change.

We pray for James Holmes. Though it is hard to lift him up right now we ask that you break him and redeem him. We know that justice here on earth needs to be served but God we desire redemption for all who are broken. Be with his family and the shame that has been places on them. Surround them with Your Church to find love in the midst of darkness.

Lord, we long for Your Reign here. As Citizens of your Kingdom, give us strength to claim this world for you. It is through Christ that we faithfully pray.

Amen.

Psalm 13

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,

and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him, ”

and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise,

for he has been good to me.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Hot Topics

 

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Romans 12 – Instructions for Christian Living

Everybody Live This Way…

One of the common misconceptions about the Bible is that it is an entire book telling people how to live and what to do, a book of rules.  It’s much more the story of God and his relationship with people.  Now that being said, Romans 12 is actually a bunch of rules for good Christian living.  This chapter is also a great place to talk about how Christian living isn’t just rules.  It’s not right and wrong, black and white.  Paul’s instructions here are wise principles that will bring our lives more in line with what God wants for us.

The first principle is to make ourselves living sacrifices.  In a culture like ours that admires self-sacrifice for the greater good, this is an appealing call.  However, it means something completely different if you are a first century Jew who has watched the streets of Jerusalem turned red with the blood of sheep burned on the alter as a gift to God.  The image of living life like a slaughtered sheep is more poignant than what we often envision.  This is one of several passages in Paul’s letters where he radically calls people to die to their own desire so that they might come alive to God’s will for their lives.  He indicates that this is an ongoing transformation of continually making God’s will our will.

Paul then makes one of his many pleas for Christian unity.  In this case, he tells us that the key to unity is humility.  If we think back to any argument in churches (or any group for that matter) at some point it probably involves at least one person who thinks they are more important than they ought.  When we prioritize our wants, goals, and opinions above others, we set ourselves up for division.  However, when we recognize that what we have in common is more important than anything that divides us and humbly set those things aside, we can live in a unified family.  In this section, Paul finds about five different ways to say “Be humble.”  He definitely thinks its important for Christian living.

I think this chapter is a great place for Christians to look and find areas they can improve.  There are a dozen or so different instructions in this chapter alone.  I would encourage you to take time today and find the one that really sticks out to you as the one you have the most room to grow.  For me, at this moment, I need to work on hating evil.  It’s easy for me to become complacent about sin and evil in the world and ignore that which doesn’t affect me, but I need to remember that part of seeing the world through God’s eyes and conforming to his will is seeing evil as God sees it.

Which of the instructions that Paul gives in this chapter do you need to work on right now?

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2012 in Pauline Epistles, Romans

 

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