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The Bible Blotter

Turning the Bible Into Behavior

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Whatcha Wanna Talk About?

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I get a lot of questions from people. Some are deep, some are fun. Here are some of my favorites and my brief responses to them. If you’d like to talk about any of them more in depth I’d be happy to converse. So away we go!

– Is a believer’s baptism valid if the minister that performed it later renounces the faith?

Interesting question! Yes, it is still valid. Salvation comes by God’s grace through faith, not by immersion. Baptism is an outward sign of what God’s doing in the heart. The pastor doing the baptism doesn’t save or confer salvation.

– What are your thoughts on the future of organ music in churches?

Depends on the type of organ. A Hammond B3 rotary sound is popular again. I do think that the era of the pipe organ is waning. That’s okay, though, because musicianship is fluid and not static. Who plays the lyre in worship anymore? 🙂

– What do you think of the doctrine of the inerrancy of the bible? Do you see any errors or real contradictions?

I believe that the Bible is inspired. I think that inerrancy is a human way to try to protect the Bible because we don’t have a big enough view of God to believe simultaneously in inspiration & humanity within the text. That being said, I don’t think the Bible contains “contradictions” the way that angry atheists do when they try to poke holes in Scripture.

Since ancient thinking, writing, and narrative were different than contemporary thought, word, and narrative, it doesn’t make sense to force our understanding on the Bible. Since the advent of the printing press our culture has been obsessed with “historical truth” and “fact.” Oral societies don’t function in these concepts the same way we do.

Two storytellers from oral societies could each tell their version of a story and be “truthful” even though their stories might have slight variances. This is merely a part of storytelling, not error. For example, when Jesus exorcises demons and sends them into a herd of pigs how many demoniacs were there? Mark says 1. Matthew says 2. Who is right? It doesn’t really matter. The point is not the number of demon possessed men but the power encounter between Jesus and the demons.

The Bible contains these kinds of differences, but we should not view them as error or contradiction – merely the result of multiple people telling the story. It does not minimize or reduce the power and potency of Scripture to say that God used flawed humanity to communicate Divine truth.

– Are you opposed to the legalization of gay marriage?

I am opposed to the legalization of same-sex MARRIAGE. I believe that marriage is a spiritual event, not a state-sanctioned event. That being said, I do not believe that Christians should forbid people from living the way they want, so I would not oppose the legalization of same-sex unions (and the rights that go with) from a political point of view – but I think the state should stay out of the “marriage” business (and out of all of the church’s business, actually) and leave that to the church.

– If you could have anything you want for dinner tonight, what would you have?

Easy! Hotdogs and Mac & Cheese. It’s my fave. I’m a man of simple tastes. 🙂

– What is the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything?

Respect God, keep his commandments, and never take life so seriously you can’t laugh at yourself 🙂

– Is it wrong to get piercings? My parents are freaking out about one little thing…

It is not wrong to get piercings. The Bible does talk about obeying and honoring parents. If you’re having trouble convincing them but REALLY want one, I would recommend waiting until you’re out on your own. Honor them before seeking to exercise your Xian freedom. 🙂

– What was the worst thing you ever ate?

Wasabi. Didn’t know what it was…

– Is there a passage in the bible that addresses swearing?

No, the Bible never addresses profanity. There are some passages about wholesome talk, but in context they’re not about saying four letter words. Now it IS a good practice to use real words to communicate rather than expletives (you’ll offend fewer people) but God won’t condemn you for profanity.

– Who is your favorite person in the Bible?

I know you mean besides Jesus – no Christian can have a favorite person above Jesus. After Jesus, one of my favorites is David.

He’s a tragic character who made a lot of personal and professional flubs, yet he is still remembered as “a man after God’s heart”.

David gives hope to schmucks like me. Though I mess up God can still use me for His purposes.

Do You Have a One-Sided Jesus?

One-Sided Jesus
One-Sided Jesus

Yesterday I was having a conversation with a guy who blogs about Christianity and spirituality. To be honest, he has some very angry and bitter feelings towards Christianity, so most of his writing is why churches, pastors, and Christians in general are doing it wrong. Instead of being like Jesus we’re too focused on preaching at people. Jesus listened and served. He said, “Jesus was called the good shepherd, and shepherds are not preachers.”

While I agree that there are many “preachy” Christians out there who care more about the sound of their voice than the people to whom they speak, this man has really missed the totality of Jesus. Yes, Jesus cared about people. He listened to people. He served people.

Jesus was a really nice guy.

That’s where a lot of people stop.

But Jesus was so much more than that. He cared. In fact, he cared enough to tell people that it was time to change. He was a good man who served others, but he was a preacher as well. Yes, Jesus was called a shepherd. People also called him Rabbi (teacher) because he was known for his speaking.

Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15)

In the famous story where Jesus prevents an angry crowd from stoning a sinful woman, Jesus doesn’t just come to her rescue – he sends her away saying:

“Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

It seems Jesus was a pretty balanced guy. He believed in serving people. He believed in meeting people where they were and loving them as they were. But that’s only one side, and a one-sided Jesus is an incomplete Jesus.

He also called people to repentance. He called people to change. He called people to faith. A complete picture of Jesus must include BOTH his actions as a servant-leader and his words as a preacher and teacher.

It is this complete Jesus that ministers to us in our brokenness – we are loved as we are and for who we are. But it is this complete Jesus that loves us too much to let us stay the same – he calls us to move on and leave behind our old ways.

Anything less and you’ve only got half the picture. And those who live with half a Jesus focus too much on love and service on one side or repentance and change on the other. Both extremes are inadequate to the rich character of Christ.

Embrace the fullness of Jesus.

Related Posts:
No Touchy! Though We Shudder, Jesus Touches the Untouchable
If You’re Lost and Feeling Far Away

The Mighty 100!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I make no secret of the fact that I am a big fan of television and movies. Often times after a tv show has been running for a while it will save production costs and time and commit a whole episode to clips from previous episodes – it’s called a clip show.

Today is my day. I hit 100 posts on my blog and I wanted to take some time to look back over the last 4+ months of writing. In that time I’ve had nearly 8,000 views and over 200 likes (thank you all for reading and liking).

Rather than highlight the most popular posts, though, I wanted to share my person Top 10 – the posts that I liked the most even if they weren’t the most popular to readers (although many were). So without further ado, here is my list:

My Kids Don’t Know They’re Black ~ In this post I talk about race relations from the standpoint of my kids. I find that there are a lot of ignorant people out there who say and think stupid things, especially when it comes to race. This was the first post where I literally felt compelled to write. It kept me up thinking about it – I couldn’t sleep until I sat down and hammered it out.

Reflections on Racism from a Mixed-Race Couple ~ Here my wife and I look at racism from our own perspectives. As much as I know her I’m always reminded that her take on racism comes from a very different place than mine. I loved writing this post because I got to co-write it with my wife. I keep trying to get her to write more, but no success yet.

Christian Beer…I Mean Liberty ~ Christian freedom is one of the most misunderstood and hotly debated issues in the church. What are we allowed to do? What are we not allowed to do?

Patriotism vs. Faith ~ We often confuse the two. It’s a personal pet peeve that many Christians equate patriotism with Christianity. You can be one without the other.

THAT OFFENDS ME! ~ Another pet peeve – people who try to manipulate other’s behavior through mishandling the Bible. Just because something offends you doesn’t mean the other person must stop doing it.

Forced Gay: Punishment for Religious Dissent ~ Oooh, this one got me into some tense conversations. It seems that my own view of Gay Marriage was not clear. I had people question me as to why I was going against the Bible (I wasn’t, but people get hot-headed over sensitive issues).

Leave Your Bible on Your Shelf ~ A personal favorite of mine, this was a post where I was responding to another blogger. It doesn’t matter whether your Bible is leather-bound or on your smart phone – it’s still Scripture.

Shirt Sleeves ~ I love my son. Tremendously. I can’t even think about him without warming over on the inside. He’s my little dude. I love writing about him, too.

Jesus Loves Dinosaurs ~ This was just a fun post to write (and the idea of Jesus hugging a dinosaur always makes me smile).

Confessions From a Pastor: The Real Me ~ This is it: me.

So…how about you? Do you have any favorites from the Bible Blotter? What are the?

Related Posts:
Hitting Your Goal

THAT OFFENDS ME!

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It seems the idea of what is acceptable to Christian standards is quickly become that which is least offensive to anyone. You can do this – you might offend someone. You can’t do that – you might offend someone else. It seems that many people want us to live in virtual bubbles where we cannot even remotely do anything that might offend someone else.

And the justification for telling people to stop their offensive behavior? The ol’ “Stumbling Block Defense.” Oh, c’mon – you know that defense. It’s a variant of the “God-Card” – using your faith to shut someone down and to refuse to engage in dialogue. It’s His way or you’re wrong.

The Stumbling Block Defense goes something like this:

I don’t like what you’re doing.
            It offends my sensibilities & my understanding of what is appropriate for Christians.
                        Your doing this is making me think things I don’t want.
                                    You’re making me stumble & the Bible says not to do that.
                                                Thus, you need to stop NOW and yield to my way.

You see how it progresses? The Bible passage the Defensive Coordinators use is 1 Corinthians 8:9-13, where the Apostle Paul talks about being careful not to let your own Christian liberty and freedom cause someone else (who doesn’t share your liberty) to sin.

A blogger and new dad that I follow ran into this issue on the subject of breastfeeding in public. (he’s a very talented cartoonist and uses his art to make poignant commentary on current issues, specifically connected to faith – you can find his post here).

So the argument in which he found himself someone asked about how Christians should respond if breastfeeding caused another Christian to “stumble” – shouldn’t the Christian cease and desist according to the Stumbling Block Defense?

No.

Let’s actually look at what the Apostle Paul said:

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall. (1 Corinthians 8:9-13)

Paul is dealing with Christians in a Pagan world in which meat was sacrificed to Pagan gods and then sold in the market. Some Christians considered consuming this meat to be sinful and idolatrous. Others had no problem with it. Paul is saying that, if those who have no problem continue to eat and invite those with issues to eat with them, those with issues might be eating against their conscience. THAT is what it means to cause someone to stumble – when your actions invite someone else to participate in behavior they consider to be sinful.

For example, if someone legitimately considers consuming alcohol to be sinful (it’s not, but let’s pretend for the sake of argument) and I throw a shindig and only serve alcoholic drinks and pressure this person to drink against his conscience, then I have caused him to stumble. Pretty crappy way to treat people, huh? It’s a total lack of respect for others. Paul says, “DON’T DO THAT!”

Paul never says that we have to kowtow to every whim of every Christian we run across. We will differ on what is or is not appropriate. It does not make it a sin issue to disagree. It is not a stumbling block issue to continue to do something others might find distasteful.

Back to the breastfeeding example for the blogger I mentioned: I don’t know anyone who says breastfeeding is a sin. Even if it were a sin, a woman breastfeeding will not cause me to start breastfeeding – I struggle with my boobs, but that’s a personal weight issue and I’m working on it 😉 It’s not a sin issue. Trying to get someone to conform to my idea of acceptable when it is not a sin issue is not cool. You see how using the Stumbling Block Defense is an inappropriate use of the Bible to manipulate behavior in others?

It is inappropriate for Christians to be throwing around the Stumbling Block Defense every time there is a disagreement about what is proper or improper, acceptable or unacceptable. It’s okay for Christians to disagree with each other. We can have different viewpoints and still be brothers and sisters.

What I would really like to see is for us to stop throwing God into the mix to get people to behave the way we want them to behave. When God speaks, we do. When God is silent, we need to allow for our fellow believers to act freely in their own conscience before God, whether we’re talking about public breastfeeding, alcohol, or even eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols.

Jesus Loves Dinosaurs

Awww!!!
Awww!!!

I’m part of a Christian bloggers group. Every week we have a “challenge” where we all take the same theme and write our own blogs based on the shared theme. Then we link each other’s posts to our own.

Our theme this week: Genesis & Creation.

So I decided to write about dinosaurs! I’ve never written on dinos before, and I thought it would make for an interesting experience. Oddly enough, one of the most frequently asked questions about the Bible is about how dinosaurs fit into the picture. This brings up a whole bevy (I’ve never actually used that word before today!) of arguments from Christians, scholars, scientists, and everyone in-between. Here’s my take on it.

I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. I believe that it is how God has revealed himself and his will to humanity. I believe the Bible is supposed to draw us into a richer spiritual experience and understanding of God. Buckle your seatbelts…here’s where many Evangelicals and I part company: I do not think that the Bible was written as a scientific textbook.

God never intended for the Bible to be the end-all resource for understanding geology, astronomy, archaeology, botany…the list goes on and on. The Bible isn’t about science – it’s about faith. The Creation narratives in Genesis are not about telling us the scientific method and model of God’s activity – it’s telling us THAT GOD HAD ACTIVITY! He created. Life in the universe has a point, a purpose, a reason for being. God did it. He created us to be people in relationship with him. He created us to be people of worship. That is the overwhelming story of creation. When we look at the Bible as a textbook we lose sight of the big picture of God’s activity and design for humanity.

We get bogged down in the nitty-gritty details of the text and try to “figure out” how the text jives with empirical data. The truth is, it doesn’t matter how the empirical data lines up. Even if archaeology did not support the biblical narrative (yes, archaeology DOES support much of the biblical narrative) the science is not the point. You cannot move someone to faith through science. Science touches the head. Faith moves the heart.

The Bible is a book of faith, designed to move our hearts closer to God’s heart.

If we actually stopped to think about it, science and faith are not enemies. They are different ends of the spectrum. Science measures what is there. Faith is about what science cannot touch. It does not damage my faith to hear people talk about the earth being millions of years old. I don’t have to take the six days of creation as scientific fact in order for me to know in my heart that there is a Creator behind the Cosmos.

As Genesis 1:1 says ~

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Don’t get so consumed with scientifically proving God that you miss the bigger picture. In the end it’s not our factual recognition of God he wants. The New Testament writer James says even the demons recognize that there is one God. No, he doesn’t want your assent – he wants your heart.

So, coming full circle, did God create dinosaurs? Probably. I don’t think the bones and fossils manifested spontaneously. 😉 Does it damage faith to believe in dinosaurs? Not one bit. In fact, when we learn to let go of looking at the Bible as a science textbook we are freed to expand our faith and see the mystery of God at work everywhere. Besides, how can you look at Jesus holding velociraptor and NOT be moved? 🙂

Related Posts:

~ Absolute Authority
~ Part of His Glorious Plan
~ The Genesis Code
~ The Image of God

Christian Bloggers Network

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Calling all Christian Bloggers: We’ve launched a new FB group for writers. This fledgling group is not simply about sharing content but about conversing with others in order to get better at our craft (in both content and form). If you would like to join us you are more than welcome! Share the word to others you know who might be interested
This group exists for the following reasons:

1) to give Christian bloggers a place to share their original content – we just ask that you limit posts to one a day.

2) to engage in conversation about what we write – feel free to comment on each other’s work, even if we disagree. More voices in a conversation make us think about what we’re doing and confirm our thoughts or move us to new positions.

3) to become better at our craft – we will be posting articles and links about how to become a better writer and successful blogger. Please feel free to discuss the form and style as well as the content of each other’s blogs….

In addition to our stated reasons for being, we also engage in a weekly writing challenge. A topic is assigned and a publication date given (towards the end of the week). On the assigned day we each post about said topic and link each other’s blogs in our own. Please feel free to join us.

You can find our group here.

We hope to see you soon!

Leave Your Bible on Your Shelf

Image courtesy of -Marcus- at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of -Marcus- at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I recently read a blog post admonishing pastors to bring their physical Bibles to church and to stop using electronic media instead. You can read that blog here.

I’ve never written a post directly responding to another blogger, but I really felt that I had to this time. You see, I think that Dr. Barrett couldn’t be more wrong in his assessment of Scripture, technology, and culture – and the idea of reprimanding Christians based on his faulty assessment drives me up the wall.

Just so that you don’t think I’m some crazy, anti-Bible nut-job, let me write a couple sentences about myself. My first graduate degree was in Biblical Studies, where my Master’s work was on the authority of Scripture. My second graduate degree was in Pastoral Preaching. I am FULLY committed to the authority of Scripture in shaping the life, thought, and action of Christians. I am FULLY committed to preaching the truth of Scripture from the pulpit and not watering down the message and removing Jesus and his exclusive claims from God’s story. I have a deep love for the Bible. On my desk right now I have two Bibles (one English and one Greek New Testament). On my shelves I have 3-4 different translations, a Hebrew Old Testament, and two collector’s Bibles (a 1942 Bible produced for the Army and an 1895 printing of a Westcott and Hort Greek New Testament).

I love my Bibles. But the idea that using tech in the pulpit instead of one of my physical Bibles is doing damage is erroneous teaching and needs to be corrected. Dr. Barrett lists 5 “dangers” of using tech Bibles instead of print Bibles:

  1. A Different Message: the tablet represents many things besides a Bible. It represents apps, magazines, games, and much more. “A print copy of the Scriptures in the pulpit represents something far more focused and narrow: a visible symbol of God speaking to his people….”
  2. Biblical Illiteracy in the Pew: the tablet may…encourage biblical illiteracy in the pew. People won’t know where things are in their Bibles because no one is asking them to “turn to chapter such-and-such.” They fail to see the big picture of God’s story.
  3. Flesh and Blood: reading from a tablet removes the reality of having something “there”. As physical beings who gather in a tangible place, God is really with us as Lord of space and time. “This God has made himself known by sending his own Son in flesh and blood.”
  4. Visual Reminder: We risk the Word of God becoming lifeless when we take away the physical book. “And should an unbeliever walk in for the first time, would he know that we are a people of the book?”
  5. Nonverbal Communication: Carrying your Bible around with you communicates to others that you are a Christ follower. Forget the physical Bible and we lose our witness to the world.

Now let me tell you why he’s flat wrong:

  1. You cannot reduce the Living God to a symbol: If you believe that you need a visual symbol of God speaking to talk about God’s story then your god is too small. Yahweh cannot be contained or limited to a mere symbol. No matter what the delivery method, the power of the Gospel is not the literal word but in how the WORD of God pierces our hearts and souls. God can do that through a preacher who uses a print Bible, a Bible app, or an audio Bible while you listen to the Bible on CD.
  2. Biblical illiteracy goes far beyond what happens on a Sunday morning: There are many people who love God dearly and live their lives to conform with the desire and will of God but don’t know that Lamentations is somewhere after Leviticus. The Gospel is not about knowing the order of the books of the Bible. It’s not about being able to find a particular passage whenever asked. The Gospel is about surrendering our story to God’s story. In the history of the world illiterate people have usually outnumbered the literate. For the first1600 years of Christianity most people did not even own their own Bibles. It was only after the advent of the printing press and Reformation that it gradually became commonplace for families to own Bibles. Dr. Barrett’s accusations create a false superiority of literate Christians over illiterate Christians. It says that Christians in underdeveloped nations are lesser Christians because they can’t read the Bible or know the order of the books. This mindset actually does DAMAGE to the Gospel.
  3. A flesh and blood Savior does not necessitate a “flesh and blood” book: Jesus is the center of our faith – not the book. The Gospel is his story, not the black (or red) words printed on a page. The only flesh and blood that matters are HIS. Whether I am reading from the Bible or simply telling someone the story of Jesus, HE is all that matters, not the book. Books deteriorate, get torn, fall apart – but the Gospel will go on eternally.
  4. No visual necessary: as stated above, the hard-text is not necessary for telling God’s story. In fact, holding TOO tightly to being “people of the book” places too much emphasis on the printed word – it elevates the book to the status of idol! It creates two Bibles: the “real” Bible that is printed and the “faux” Bible that comes in other media. It does damage to the Gospel to create this dichotomy.
  5. Jesus didn’t tell his disciples that people would know them because they carried Bibles: he said that people would know they are followers of Jesus by their love. Behavior is more important than outward symbols. We’ve all seen people who wear crosses around their necks or tattoo a cross or fish on their bodies. It doesn’t make them Christian. I once heard a pastor state that wearing a cross doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sleeping in the garage makes you a car. Outward symbols do not mean anything about the condition of our hearts. I would rather people see Jesus in my character and behavior rather than because I lug around a book.

There is a real function to the sacred text. As Paul writes:

For everything that was written long ago was written for our instruction, so that we might have hope through the endurance and encouragement that the Scriptures give us. ~ Romans 15:4

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

There is a real purpose to Scripture, and that purpose involves shaping and forming the believer. There is a relationship between the text and our life. There is nothing neutral in claiming the Bible as Scripture. The Bible must be “normative and life-shaping” because the writers were commissioned by God (whatever your view of inspiration). The divine voice demands response.

I do not impugn the authority of the text for Christian life and thought. We must not, however, substitute true authority, i.e. the story of God’s redemptive actions through human history, for cheap bibliolatry. The printing press was revolutionary technology in its day, giving the common person access to words never dreamed possible. Technology today is no different, giving us the Bible in new ways. But it isn’t really a new Bible, is it? It’s still God’s story – unchanged. And when we learn this then we can access HIS story through any means.

The Bible doesn’t change. We do.

What’s Your Goal

I pray that's not me ;)
I pray that’s not me 😉

A friend asked me a question the other day. A real friend, mind you, not merely an acquaintance I made on Facebook. He asked, “What’s the goal of your blog?” While I love writing and sharing I do actually have a single goal that drives my blog. In fact, I want everyone to know so from day 1 my blog has declared:

Turning the Bible Into Behavior.

While I have a lot of good thoughts (at least I think I think good thoughts), my driving desire is not to share my thoughts but to share how I feel our behavior can change to become more biblical. When I asked my friend why he was curious as to my goal he answered, “I was wondering because you often post on controversial things.” Honestly, I don’t think I post on that much that is controversial. I have a few posts about race-relations, the government, and one on Christian liberty, but not a whole lot would be controversial.

I don’t pick things to purposefully stir up controversy. I write on things where I see a practical need for humanity to change behavior. Too often we live according to our own rules and principles and ignore what God would tell us through the Bible. As a Christian pastor, I believe that the Bible should be our guiding force for determining behavior and action. So I write – hoping that I’ll be able to affect some change, even if the only behavior that becomes more biblical is my own. The Apostle Paul writes:

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10:13-15)

Our digital age has made it easier than ever to spread the story of Jesus and the biblical principles for living. So I write.

I have found the whole experience to be fascinating. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Like when I put a lot of effort into writing a good post about controlling your tongue and watching your mouth and it barely get 15 views. Then I write a post about Christian freedom called “Christian Beer” and it explodes overnight. You bunch of lushes!

At any rate, I’m going to keep writing. Some people play video games. Some zone out in front of the tv. Some do other things. I’ve started the habit of writing every night. So the posts will keep coming. And I hope that through the writing I am able to change my behavior and that you are able to change yours. The goal is to be more like Jesus.

So I hope you enjoy reading. I sure do enjoy writing. For every post I always encourage discussion and comments – it doesn’t have to be a one-way street. And if you read a post and it resonates with you in some way would you do me a HUGE favor and share it?

Thanks, and God bless you!

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