< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Love Foreshadowing in the Bible

In my study of Revelation, I've gone back to re-read Anne Graham Lotz' book 'The Vision of His Glory: Finding Hope Through the Revelation of Jesus Christ' and loved finding this bit of foreshadowing about David and Jesus:
1Samuel 22:2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.
David had been anointed King of Israel. But Saul was still on the throne, so David was really a king in exile. He became a rallying point for God’s people though. His leadership in their lives, even before he ruled from the throne in Jerusalem, radically changed their perspective of the present as well as of the future.
David gave them hope. They because David’s mighty men. And when he was crowned king of Israel, they reigned with him. In a sense, Jesus is God’s anointed king in exile. The enemy, Satan, reigns supreme on His earthly throne. Like King Saul, his power and authority causes us to be discouraged and distressed. But we’ve heard about God’s anointed one. About His compassionate leadership. And we chose to put our hope in Him. To give Him our loyalty, to make Him our priority and one day we will reign with Him.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In view of Heaven, how ought we to live?

This is something I wanted to remember from a Bible Study Fellowship study of the book of Revelation I’ve been doing all year.

2 Peter 3: 10-13 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

Peter sums up what kind of people we should be. Holy and godly ones who look forward to the day of the Lord and speed its coming.

It’s not enough to go through the motions of life, knowing we are on our way to a better place. Heaven motivates whole hearted commitment to holy and godly living now. God’s Word tells us when we see Jesus we will be like Him. Because Jesus is holy and we will be completely holy when we see Him, the logical goal for every believer is to pursue holy living now. This is also God’s command and it glorifies Him when we do it.

God has not only commanded us to be holy, He commissioned us to witness for Him. Words, deeds and attitudes that reflect God’s character reveal Him to a watching world. Confession of faith in Jesus Christ carries weight only when accompanied by the proof of a transformed life. A set-apart, holy life attracts those being drawn to the Savior while convicting those who reject him.

God’s plan to establish His eternal dwelling place fuels our desire to bless our community today. Believers join the Lord in His work of redemption, bringing the justice, peace and righteousness of his kingdom, in some measure, to our world today. God gave us a mandate to fill the earth and reign over it. We are stewards charged to help all of God’s creation flourish. Jeremiah called God’s people to seek peace and prosperity for their community.

How are you working for justice in your community as you pray and wait for Jesus to complete that work at His coming?

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Little Oil

I've just finished reading the book Reckless Devotion: 365 Days into the Heart of Radical Loveby Heidi and Rolland Baker for the third time. And I've put parts of one of their sections together for this devotion I'm going to share at a nursing home in a couple weeks.
2 Kings 4:1-7 The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”

Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”
“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”

Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”

She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”
But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.

She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”

Elisha asked the widow what she had when she cried out for help. And instinctively she said, “Nothing.” But then she remembered. “Oh, I have a little oil.”

So often we are dismissive of ourselves. We say we have nothing. Nothing God would want to use anyhow. We come up with all kinds of good reasons for why God can’t do anything notable or meaningful with us. “I have no special talent, I’m poor, I’m old, I have no connections, no special gift.”

“But, wait. I guess I have a little oil.”

And that is all God needs to take us and do a miracle.

Then Elisha told the widow to go around to all her neighbors to give her their empty jars.

What an interesting approach to solving her problem! God could have told Elisha, “Pay off her debts.” Or “Give her money.” But He did neither.

Why? Because God didn’t want to just solve her problem; He wanted to change her life, giving her a completely different outlook and perspective. He wanted to transform her faith and grow her trust in God, removing her anger and bitterness.

The process of gathering up all the empty jars was a prophetic act. She cooperated with God, making the statement that something was about to happen, even if she didn’t know precisely what. “Go and ask your neighbors for their empty jars.” Elisha told her. So she did. And he added, “Don’t just ask for a few.” Then he told her to start pouring oil.

Think about this. She had a lot of jars and her one jar with just a little oil in it. But she took the step of obedience and began pouring. And the oil didn’t run out until every jar was full!  God had done a miracle.

She now had the resources she needed to pay off her debts and get out of her bad situation. But more than that she had firsthand knowledge of the supernatural provision of our incredible Father. She had the faith to believe for His supernatural intervention in her life and the lives of others.

Her empty jar had been filled. Her life transformed.

And God wants to do the same for us. He wants to fill our emptiness with His plenty and He’s inviting us to take a step of faith, to trust Him completely.

He’s looking for is our willingness. He wants us to quit telling Him He can’t use us and just say yes. He’s looking for empty vessels to fill. He is looking for those people who want to be fully filled with His precious Holy Spirit, who don’t have a lot of stuff in the way.

And when we come to Him willing to cooperate He’ll do the rest. That’s when God is able to display His glory through us.

When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and filled Jesus’ disciples, empowering them to go out and plant the Church; that wasn’t a one time only thing. God is still anointing, filling and empowering those who belong to Him. We should each ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with His oil everyday.  In fact, fill us to overflowing so that oil touches the lives of those around us. So that the love of Jesus flows from us.

God wants to use you. When He calls you, go. Now you may be sitting there thinking, “I’m 80 years old and can’t drive any more. Where am I supposed to go for God?” Well, yes, I don’t think He’s going to call you to go to Africa as a missionary! But he may ask you to knock on your next door neighbor’s door and make a new friend. Or sit with someone at the dinner table who’s alone. Or attend a Bible study. Or write a letter. Or send a card. Or smile at someone. Encourage someone. Make someone laugh! Or listen to their problem without telling them about yours. Or pray for someone. Pray for our country, the church or the world.

God has placed each of us where we are. If we let Him we can be useful to Him.

And whatever He has you do, do it with all your might and for His glory. We are His children and He wants us to burn brightly for Him.

Ask God to empty you of all that hinders His work in your life. Choose to make yourself an empty container. Then He can come and fill you with His presence, and in a moment, everything can change.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Review of The 30-Day Faith Detox

I just finished reading

The 30-Day Faith Detox: Renew Your Mind, Cleanse Your Body, Heal Your Spirit

And I was underwhelmed.

It’s interesting to me that some of the reviews said they expected this book to be more on faith, but that it was more about food and physical detoxing. I found it to be just the opposite.

There were a handful of smoothie and juice recipes in the back and while each day the author gave you a meal plan, it was basically the same every day and a plant based diet. (Which of course is a good idea, but hardly novel.)

And on her Facebook page most of the comments people wrote in about dealt with how much weight they lost. (And I would expect that after 30 days on a plant based diet, so no great surprise there.)

But personally I thought it had very little about eating and health.

I think she was trying to tag along on a popular theme now – the fitness/wellness world. I would imagine that authors who are in the business of cranking out books need to come up with something catchy all the time. (For instance look at all the adult coloring books coming out that are now “devotionals” or some other current theme.)

I do feel that if you took the time to read the financial part or the section on social media and really questioned yourself about what you are doing in those areas and work on making changes, it would serve you well. But you only get one day to do it in and I don’t think it needs to be tied into what you are eating.

Since the author is a certified nutritional counselor and also a pastor – maybe she should write a book in each area and not try to combine them.

Note: This book was provided free of charge by Chosen Books in exchange for an honest review.

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

A New Chapter? Or Our Divine Destiny?

When something “bad” happens in your life, make the decision to let go of the story you had planned on living out and get caught up in the one God wants to tell.

Because He knew it was going to happen before it did!


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Genesis 49:29 - 50:26

Genesis 49:29 - 50:26

29 Then he gave them these instructions: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. 31 There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. 32 The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.”

33 When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.

Joseph threw himself on his father and wept over him and kissed him. Then Joseph directed the physicians in his service to embalm his father Israel. So the physicians embalmed him, taking a full forty days, for that was the time required for embalming. And the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days.

Jacob, as Joseph’s father, was also held in high esteem by the Egyptians whom he lived among for seventeen years. This is particularly seen in their prolonged mourning for him. It lasted 70 days. No other burial recorded in Scripture is given such honor or described with such wealth of detail. Whatever his failings were in his earlier days, in later years and particularly in old age, he attains a spiritual maturity and moral dignity which give him a unique place in Bible history.

Note where it says that Jacob breathed his last and was gathered to his people.
He was gathered to Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Isaac and all the others already living in the presence of God. This is clear recognition of the aliveness of those who died in faith.

Jesus said in Matthew 22:31-32 - 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

And John 11:26 – Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me shall never die.” The believer never consciously experiences death, because when he closes his eyes on earth, they open in heaven.

That Jacob was embalmed was kind of interesting. Scripture only mentions two Israelites who were embalmed: Jacob and later Joseph.

Genesis 50: 4-6 When the days of mourning had passed, Joseph said to Pharaoh’s court, “If I have found favor in your eyes, speak to Pharaoh for me. Tell him, ‘My father made me swear an oath and said, “I am about to die; bury me in the tomb I dug for myself in the land of Canaan.” Now let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.’”

Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear to do.

So Joseph went up to bury his father. All Pharaoh’s officials accompanied him—the dignitaries of his court and all the dignitaries of Egypt— besides all the members of Joseph’s household and his brothers and those belonging to his father’s household. Only their children and their flocks and herds were left in Goshen. Chariots and horsemen also went up with him. It was a very large company.
10 When they reached the threshing floor of Atad, near the Jordan, they lamented loudly and bitterly; and there Joseph observed a seven-day period of mourning for his father. 11 When the Canaanites who lived there saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “The Egyptians are holding a solemn ceremony of mourning.” That is why that place near the Jordan is called Abel Mizraim.

12 So Jacob’s sons did as he had commanded them: 13 They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite.

All of Pharoah’s officials went! This was quite a procession. And you know the Egyptians didn’t like the people of Canaan. Remember they wouldn’t eat at the same table as Joseph’s brothers. They did all this out of respect for Joseph and Jacob, but it’s probably the first time Egyptians went to Canaan for a funeral!

Genesis 50:14-21 14 After burying Jacob, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had accompanied him to his father’s burial. 15 But now that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers became fearful. “Now Joseph will show his anger and pay us back for all the wrong we did to him,” they said.

16 So they sent this message to Joseph: “Before your father died, he instructed us 17 to say to you: ‘Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive our sin.” When Joseph received the message, he broke down and wept. 18 Then his brothers came and threw themselves down before Joseph. “Look, we are your slaves!” they said.

19 But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. 21 No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.

They doubted his forgiveness. But Joseph said “Am I in place of God?” He was saying judgment for sin belonged to God, not to him. And “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” This is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible. Because God can use anything for good. Someone recently told me that a lot of Muslims are converting to Christianity because of Isis. That seeing how they act wasn’t their idea of what the Muslim religion was about, so they were leaving it.

A commentator wrote that evil is never allowed near God’s own child without His permission first. If it IS allowed, as in Joseph’s slavery and imprisonment, David’s exile by Saul and particularly Jesus’ death on the cross, it’s because God plans to use it for the good of His child and for the fulfillment of His purpose.
Joseph kept his eyes on God. If God allowed this, He would work it out for good.

What a lesson!

If we can continue to trust God through a suffering, when it’s over we emerge with an experience that proves God is sufficient in every need and with power to help those who need help.

Genesis 50:22 – 26 22 So Joseph and his brothers and their families continued to live in Egypt. Joseph lived to the age of 110. 23 He lived to see three generations of descendants of his son Ephraim, and he lived to see the birth of the children of Manasseh’s son Makir, whom he claimed as his own.

24 “Soon I will die,” Joseph told his brothers, “but God will surely come to help you and lead you out of this land of Egypt. He will bring you back to the land he solemnly promised to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath, and he said, “When God comes to help you and lead you back, you must take my bones with you.” 26 So Joseph died at the age of 110. The Egyptians embalmed him, and his body was placed in a coffin in Egypt.

Even after living all this time in Egypt, Joseph knew he belonged in Canaan because of God’s promise. His faith is shown here. He said, “WHEN God comes to lead you back.”

And one day, four hundred years later, over a million slaves marched out of Egypt, led by God who used a pillar of cloud in the daytime and a fiery pillar at night to direct them. And in their midst was Joseph’s coffin.

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Jacob Blesses His Sons

Genesis 49:1-2

Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.
“Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel.

A commentator pointed out that “days to come” wasn’t just in their life time, but actually everything that had to happen to the nation of Israel up until end times when God’s plan would all come together.

Reuben - Genesis 49:3-4 Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power. Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it.

Reuben forfeited his birthright because of sin that he committed and didn’t repent from. (Reuben slept with his father’s concubine.) Jacob describes Reuben’s character as being like water, “unstable” or “turbulent” Reuben had one eye on God and one eye on pleasing himself at all costs.  And from Reuben’s tribe comes no king, no judge and no prophet. His tribe and Gad’s settled on the wilderness of the Jordan.

Simeon and Levi - Genesis 49:5-7 Simeon and Levi are brothers—their swords are weapons of violence.
Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they please Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.

These two are linked together because they were the leaders in organizing the massacre of the Shechemites back in Genesis 34. Jacob here places on record his own absolute separation from such a crime. And the result of their being together, united to commit such a crime, was that they would be “divided” and “scattered” in the nation of Israel. Therefore they couldn’t be ringleaders in causing others to sin again.

Simeon seems to have shown little change in disposition. It’s possible he was the one who led in the conspiracy to get rid of Joseph since he was the one Joseph threw in prison when the brothers came to Egypt looking for food. He did not receive a special territory in Canaan but instead inherited his portion within the allotment of Judah. Thus, the Simeonites were “scattered” among the cities of Judah.

Levi’s curse was later changed to become for him a means of blessing. But not til Deuteronomy. At a crisis in Israel’s later history Moses called, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” and all the sons of Levi gathered with him to put down the rebellion against God which endangered the whole nation. For this reason and also more loyalty to God displayed in the book of Numbers God gave Levi the privilege of leading the people to God through the Levitical priesthood. The original prophecy remained unchanged – they were still scattered in Israel, God can turn our punishments or consequences from sin to blessings if we turn to Him.

Judah - Genesis 49:8-12 “Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?  The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. 11 He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. 12 His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.

There are four parts to this most important prophecy concerning Judah: praise, power, prince and prosperity.

Praise – this is a play on Judah’s name which means “praise”. Judah too sinned. In Genesis 38 – he slept with his daughter-in-law thinking she was a temple prostitute. But he repented and turned from his sin. He also tried to save Joseph’s life from the other brothers. And he brings up the fact that what the brothers did to Joseph was a sin later on. AND he offered his own life in order that Benjamin might go free and his father Jacob be spared more sorrow.

But the reason he will be praised is because Christ will come from his line.

Power – To Judah was given power over his enemies. And he had power over his brothers in leadership as he ruled through the kingly line from David to David’s greater Son. The “lion” figuratively represents the development of power and kingship in Judah’s tribe. In Revelation Christ is called “The Lion of the tribe of Judah.”

Prince – The scepter represents rulership. Judah would have rule of Israel until Christ returns. And at the end of time every knee will bow to Judah’s descendant, Jesus Christ.

Prosperity – “He will tether his donkey to the vine.” Judah’s portion of the Promised Land was the vine-growing district of the south. But God continually speaks of the whole nation of Israel as the vine which He planted. So it would seem that Judah and the nation of Israel were to be inseparably connected. Christ is referred to as a vine too. Today we call the Israelites Jews – taken from Judahites.

ZebulonGenesis 49:13 Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon.

His land lay near the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee. It was a place to which caravans brought the riches of trade. His territory embraced the land where Christ performed so many of His miracles: Galilee.

IssacharGenesis 49:14-15Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens: 15 And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute.

His name means “hired workman” or “he will bring reward”. His territory was small, but it embraced some of the most fruitful land. This made his life very easy and he got lazy later on becoming a “servant under tribute” to many invaders who were attracted to his land.

DanGenesis 49:16-18  16 Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. 17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. 18 I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.

Dan was the first of the sons of the two servant maids. Rachel named him Dan which means “be judged” because she felt God had judged her cause. Later Samson, who judged Israel for twenty years was from the tribe of Dan. He was unstable and violent though which might explain the part of the prophecy - an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.

Later there is a strange total omission of Dan’s tribe in the genealogies of 1 Chronicles and Dan is the only tribe not mentioned in Revelation 7.

GadGenesis 49:19 “Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their heels.

Gad chose to live where he did, on the east side of Jordan.  Together with Reuben he asked for the fertile territory outside the main portion of the Promised Land.  Because of how great the land was his tribe continually suffered from hostile people. In later years this land became the main theater of war in the long struggle between Israel and the Syrians.  Jacob talks about the warfare, but also the final victory in this prophecy

AsherGenesis 49:20 “Asher’s food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king.

Asher’s name means “happy”. Fatness in Scripture is often used to denote happiness or well-being. Like we say “fat and happy”.

God blessed Asher with prosperity. His fertile territory was the red land which sloped to the Phoenician seaboard in the north. Apparently though he never drove the Phoenicians out. Instead he became partner to their rich enterprises and shared the gains of the commerce. He never fought for Israel like some of the tribes did. However later when Solomon was building the temple he sent some of his material blessings – or “delicacies fit for a king.” Later Moses prophesized that Asher would “bathe his feet in oil” – and today the most important pipeline of oil emerges in Asher’s territory.

NaphtaliGenesis 49:21 “Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.

Naphtali means “my struggle”. Jesus spent the greater part of His life teaching within the borders of Naphtali, the land of Gennesaret, Bethsaida, Capernaum and Chorazin. Moses in Deuteronomy calls Naphtali “abounding with the favor of the Lord and full of His blessing.”

JosephGenesis 49:22 – 26 “Joseph is a fruitful vine,
    a fruitful vine near a spring,
    whose branches climb over a wall.
23 With bitterness archers attacked him;
    they shot at him with hostility.
24 But his bow remained steady,
    his strong arms stayed limber,
because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,
    because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
25 because of your father’s God, who helps you,
    because of the Almighty, who blesses you
with blessings of the skies above,
    blessings of the deep springs below,
    blessings of the breast and womb.
26 Your father’s blessings are greater
    than the blessings of the ancient mountains,
    than the bounty of the age-old hills.
Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,
    on the brow of the prince among his brothers.

Jacob’s prophecy regarding Joseph is divided into two parts. The first is retrospective about Joseph’s fruitfulness. He means that Joseph had a fulfilled life both in regard to personality and accomplishment. His fruitfulness through God’s blessing went “over the wall” in blessings to his own family and other nations.
The archers mentioned were his brothers who threw him in a well and then sold him to slave traders and also Potiphor who threw him in jail. But Jacob describes his victory over suffering in that he was not bitter, discouraged or indulging in self-pity. And he says the secret to that is “God made him strong.” (Only he used other titles for God – Mighty one of Jacob, Shepherd, the Rock of Israel)

Verse 25 is the temporal blessing; rain, springs of water, marriage and children. And verse 26 eternal blessings. “Greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than the bounty of the age-old hills.” A commentator wrote that Joseph’s life foreshadowed Jesus.

BenjaminGenesis 49:27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder.”

This seems strange for such a favorite son. Saul and Jonathan were Benjaminites and so was Paul – who actually was like a wolf when he was killing Christians! But who totally turned around. This could be an example like the Levites who started out with a bad prophecy that they turned around.

Genesis 49:28 28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.

All of these sons made up the nation of Israel. With all their faults and failures God used them to be a blessing to the world. The church is made up of individuals too – with all of our faults and failures.

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