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Devotional for July 8, 2020

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“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1:1-5

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Dear fellow-redeemed sinners, ransomed by the shed blood of Christ Jesus, God’s Son and our Savior.

Who is Jesus of Nazareth, that Babe born in Bethlehem but who lived and was raised in Nazareth? We look to the Word of God, to the inspired testimony of the apostles who suffered all to faithfully follow Christ Jesus.

We begin with the inspired testimony of the Apostle John, in his Gospel (John 1:1-5): “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

The Word, spoken of here in the inspired Scriptures, is Jesus, for John later writes, in verse 14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

In his first epistle, John writes (1 John 5:7): “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”

This already tells us that Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God come into this world as a true man, that He had divine glory, and that He is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit (a Person of the Triune God).

The opening verses of John’s Gospel tell us that “in the beginning” — the same “in the beginning” when “God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) — the pre-incarnate Jesus, the Son of God, already was. He was with God and He, in fact, was and still is God.

While some cult religions of our day (such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons) would try to reduce Jesus to being only “a son of God,” the Greek text leaves no doubt: “The Word was with the God, and God was the Word” (the Greek definite article and the placement of God at the beginning of the second part of the sentence, emphasizing that Jesus, the Word, was not only with God; He is God Himself — a Person in the Triune Godhead).

Some so-called “Christian churches” would make Jesus, the Son of God, less than and inferior to God the Father. This too is a rejection of the truth God has revealed to us in His inspired Word.

Not only was the pre-incarnate Christ there with God in the beginning before anything was created or made, He is the Creator God who made all things and gave all living things life and breath.

This is why the Christian Church has, for centuries confessed to believe “in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by Whom all things were made…” (Nicene Creed).

God tells us: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

Can it get any clearer than that? Jesus, before He took on human flesh and blood and became true man and was born of the virgin Mary, created all things. Nothing made or created was made or created without Him.

Read Genesis one in that light. Creation was not just the work of God the Father; all was created by God the Son and nothing was made without Him (cf. Col. 1:15ff.; Heb. 1:1-3). The Holy Spirit was also actively engaged in this divine work, for the Scriptures tell us that “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be…” (Gen. 1:2ff.).

In Jesus was life. When “the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7), it was Jesus, the eternal Word, who gave him life and made him a “living soul.”

And, lest we forget that life was more than physical life but included spiritual life and the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27), Jesus is the One who gave to Adam and Eve a knowledge of God and a life in harmony and fellowship with their Maker. This life which Jesus gave was “the light of men.” They were spiritually alive, they knew God and His holy will, and they loved and honored Him and trusted in Him.

This was the life which mankind lost in the fall of Genesis three. Instead of loving God, trusting Him and seeking His honor, Adam and Eve rebelled against His commandment and then hid from His presence. And, even yet today, when this light shines into the darkness, the darkness does not comprehend it — it does not understand it or receive it.

People today — all of us as we are by nature — walk in darkness. We do not wish to accept the truth that Jesus is God the Son in human flesh, our Maker and our final Judge. Though the evidence is all around us, we do not wish to face up to the truth that we are sinners and guilty before God. We do not wish to hear of our sins and shortcoming and of the hell fires we so deserve. We would rather continue on in darkness, thinking that we are basically good and that God will not condemn us if only we do our best to be loving and caring people.

The light shines in the darkness, and we would rather the light not shine that we might continue on in darkness! We don’t want to give up our own selfish and sinful ways. We don’t want to return to fellowship with God because that would “cramp our lifestyle!” Instead, we would attempt to change God into a god who smiles at sin and disobedience and would punish no one. Of course, to form our own opinions of God instead of accepting what God tells us of Himself in the Bible is no different than making a graven image and inventing our own ways to serve it. It is idolatry!

What does God say? “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 1:5-2:2).

In God — Jesus Christ, the eternal Word — is light and life! If we claim to have fellowship with God but continue to hide and cover up our sins, pretending that all is well, we are lying and deceiving ourselves. God’s truth tells us that we are sinners, that we have failed to love God with all our heart, soul and strength or love our neighbor as God requires. God’s light reveals His holy will but also our failures to live in accord with His holy commandments.

But God’s light also reveals the way of salvation He has provided for lost mankind: “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Jesus, God the Son in human flesh, lived a righteous and holy life in our stead and He suffered and died for our sins and rose again. He satisfied God’s wrath against our sins and the sins of the whole world. That is why: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Jesus is still the life and light of men. He redeemed sinful mankind by His innocent sufferings and death in our stead. He offers to all people forgiveness of sins and life eternal in fellowship with Him through faith in His name. His light shines into this dark and sinful world, revealing God’s holy will and man’s sinfulness but also offering forgiveness and life with Him in His eternal kingdom. When He, by the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit through His Word, convinces us of sin and assures us of forgiveness through faith in Him — when He breathes into our nostrils the breath of life — we become living souls!

God graciously grant to each of you light and life through faith in Christ Jesus, the eternal Word! Amen.

Psalm and Confession of Sins –
Psalm 32 (A Psalm of David, Maschil): Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah. I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee. Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about. Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.

O Thou crucified Lord Jesus Christ, who, as the truly patient Lamb of God, didst suffer for me the most shameful death on the cross and with Thy precious blood didst redeem me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, I pray Thee, give me the assurance of this redemption through Thy Word, govern my heart with Thy Holy Spirit, preserve me with Thy divine love, and hide me this day, both soul and body, in Thy holy wounds. Wash me clean from all my sins, teach me to live a life of good works, and finally lead me from this world of sorrows to Thine eternal joy and glory, Thou most faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, mine only Comfort, Hope, and Life. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, page 118)

The Apostles Creed: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary; Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into Hell; The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; The Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; The forgiveness of sins; The resurrection of the body; And the life everlasting. Amen.

Prayers: O Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Word, the everlasting Son of God, shine upon my heart the light of Your truth, reveal my sinfulness and disobedience to Your holy will, but also comfort me with the knowledge of Your holy life and innocent sufferings and death for my sins that I may trust in You and take courage, rejoice in Your forgiveness, and walk in the light of Your truth until You come again and take me to live with You forever in Your eternal kingdom. Amen.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven; give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil; for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Blessing: “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” Amen. (Num. 6:24-27)

[Scripture quotations from the King James Version of the Bible]

My Soul’s Best Friend, What Joy and Blessing

Wolf­gang C. Dess­ler, 1692, cen­to (Wie wohl ist mir, O Freund der Seel­en); com­po­site trans­la­tion. Wie Wohl Ist Mir Geist­reich­es Ge­sang­buch (Hal­le, Ger­ma­ny: 1704)

Wolfgang Christoph Dessler, son of jeweler Nicolaus Dessler, was born at Nürnberg on Feb. 11, 1660. His father wanted him to become a goldsmith but he was not physically suited for the work and was allowed to begin theological studies at the University of Altdorf. However, poverty and bodily weakness forced him to leave before completing his studies. Returning to Nurnberg, he supported himself there as a proofreader. He became an amanuensis and translated many foreign religious works into German. In 1705 he became the conrector of the School of the Holy Ghost at Nürnberg and continued in that position until 1720, when he was paraliyzed by a stroke and forced to resign. Finally, after a lengthy illness lasting about 35 weeks, he died at Nürnberg on March 11, 1722. He wrote more than 100 hymns and many of his own melodies and published them in a volume of meditations.

1 My soul’s best Friend, what joy and blessing
My spirit ever finds in Thee!
From gloomy depths of doubt distressing
Into Thine arms for rest I flee.
Then will the night of sorrow vanish
When from my heart Thy love doth banish
All anguish and all pain and fear.
Yea, here on earth begins my heaven;
Who would not joyful be when given
A loving Savior always near!

2 For though the evil world revile me
And prove herself my bitter foe
Or by her smile seek to beguile me,
I trust her not; her wiles I know.
In Thee alone my soul rejoices,
Thy praise alone it gladly voices,
For Thou art true when friendships flee.
The world may hate but cannot fell me;
Would mighty waves of trial quell me,
I anchor in Thy loyalty.

3 The Law may threaten endless death
From awful Sinai’s burning hill,
Straightway from its consuming breath
My soul through faith mounts higher still;
She throws herself at Jesus’ feet
And finds with Him a safe retreat
Where curse and death can never come.
Though all things threaten condemnation,
Yet, Jesus, Thou art my Salvation,
For in Thy love I find my home.

4 Through deserts of the cross Thou leadest;
I follow, leaning on Thy hand.
From out the cloud Thy child Thou feedest
And givest water from the sand.
I trust Thy ways, howe’er distressing;
I know my path will end in blessing;
Enough that Thou wilt be my Stay.
For whom to honor Thou intendest
Oft into sorrow’s vale Thou sendest;
The night must e’er precede the day.

5 To others death seems dark and grim,
But not, Thou Life of life, to me.
I know Thou ne’er forsakest him
Whose heart and spirit rest in Thee.
Oh! who would fear his journey’s close
If from dark woods and lurking foes
He then find safety and release?
Nay, rather, with a joyful heart
From this dark region I depart
To Thy eternal light and peace.

6 My soul’s best Friend, how well contented
Am I, reposing on Thy breast;
By sin no more am I tormented
Since Thou dost grant me peace and rest.
Oh, may the grace that Thou hast given
For me a foretaste be of heaven,
When I shall bask in joys divine!
Away, vain world, with fleeting pleasures;
In Christ I have abiding treasures.
Oh, comfort sweet, my Friend is mine!

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The Bible answers that question for us when it says: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them ” (Gen. 1:26-27).

It further explains how the first man was created in Genesis 2:7: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Of the creation of woman, God’s Word says in Genesis 2:18-25: “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”

The first man and woman were created in the image of God, with His likeness. This does not mean they looked like God, for God is a spirit. It means they were like God in that they knew God and His will and gladly and willingly lived for God in accord with His will and purpose in creating them (cf. Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24; Eph. 2:10). They knew God, loved Him, trusted Him and were of one heart and mind with Him in their thoughts, desires, words and deeds.

We learn from the Scriptures that God formed the body of Adam (man) from the dust of the ground and breathed life into him, making Adam a living soul. He was given life, both physical and spiritual. He was made alive to God.

We learn that the first woman was created from the first man and for the man to be a helper and companion to him who was like him and fitting for him. She was indeed flesh of his flesh.

Though many in our time would deny it, this is also the reason for marriage between a man and a woman (cf. Matt. 19:4-6). God created the woman for the man, brought her to the man and the two became one flesh. Any sexual union outside of marriage between a man and a woman is contrary to God’s purpose and design in creation.

Though we may think we exist only as the natural result of the sexual union between a man and a woman, the Scriptures teach us that we are no accident. God created each of us in the womb of our mother and gave us life. Not only did He bless man and woman with the ability to have children (Gen. 1:28), He creates and forms each of us in our mother’s womb.

The Bible says in Psalm 139:13-16: “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”

[Scripture quoted from the King James Version of the Bible]

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“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why behold you the mote that is in your brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye? Or how will you say to your brother, Let me pull out the mote out of your eye; and, behold, a beam is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the mote out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5

These words of Jesus do not forbid us to judge another’s doctrine; for Jesus says, just a few verses later in His Sermon on the Mount, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruits…” (15-16a).

They do not forbid us to judge between right and wrong and to admonish our brother when he sins; for Jesus also tells us, “Moreover if your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone…” (Matt. 18:15ff.).

So, what does Jesus mean when He says, “Judge not…”? A reading of the verses which follow will provide the answer. Jesus is warning against our propensity to pick out and condemn the faults in others, no matter how small, and to overlook our own sins and shortcomings, even if they are large.

Thus He says, “And why behold you the mote that is in your brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye? Or how will you say to your brother, Let me pull out the mote out of your eye; and, behold, a beam is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the mote out of your brother’s eye.”

It is hypocritical of us to condemn the faults of others while, at the same time, overlooking or excusing our own.

And Jesus warns, “For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

It often happens in life that we end up being treated in the same way that we have treated others. Thus, if we have been overly critical and judgmental, we are likely to learn what it is like at the hand of others.

But, of far more serious consequence, is God’s judgment. If we condemn the sins of others and are unwilling to forgive them, our Father in heaven will condemn us for our own sins and not forgive us, either! As Jesus says, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).

Rather than being overly critical and judgmental of others, we should first look at ourselves in the light of God’s Word; for when we compare our thoughts, desires, words and actions to God’s commandments, we all come far short of God’s holy expectations.

Again, it is as the Scriptures say, “For there is not a just man on earth, that does good, and sins not” (Eccl. 7:20; cf. Rom. 3:23).

Rather than look at the sins and shortcomings of others, we ought to agree with God that we are sinners and acknowledge and confess our sins before God, trusting that He will forgive us and cleanse us for the sake of the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, in our stead (cf. 1 John 1:7 — 2:2).

“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures … he was buried … he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3,4).

Rather than being judgmental and unforgiving toward our fellow sinners, God’s Word tells us to “be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36); and “be you kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).

O dear Jesus, forgive me for being quick to judge and condemn others when I myself am a sinner and full of faults deserving of Your just punishment. For the sake of Your holy life and innocent sufferings and death upon the cross for the sins of the world, forgive me and cleanse my heart and move me to love others and seek to bring them to You that they too may know Your love and forgiveness and walk with You unto life everlasting. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the American King James Version.]

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Paul’s Letter to the Believers at Colosse

A Series of Devotions by Pastor Randy Moll

Colossians 1:1-8

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth: as ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.” Colossians 1:1-8

Though the Apostle Paul may never have visited the church in Colosse, when he heard of the believers’ faith in Christ Jesus and the resulting love they had for their fellow believers, he, together with Timothy, gave thanks to God for giving them the confident hope of eternal life in heaven through faith in Messiah Jesus.

The good news of God’s offer of pardon and forgiveness and the promise of everlasting life in heaven because God the Son became true man and redeemed mankind reached the ears of the Colossians through Epaphras (and perhaps others, too) and faith in Jesus was kindled in their hearts through the hearing of the Gospel.

As the good news of God’s gracious gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven for Jesus’ sake was used to generate faith in the hearts of the believers at Colosse nearly 2,000 years ago, so this same message generates faith in human hearts today. The same Gospel, that Word of truth, tells us of the certain hope laid up for us in heaven, not because of anything we have done or can do, but because God’s own dear Son, Jesus Christ, came into this world and suffered and died for the sins of all and rose again in victory. God’s Word tells us that His gift to us for Jesus’ sake is life everlasting in the mansions of heaven.

Such a gracious gift of God — the forgiveness of all our sins because of His own Son’s holy life and innocent suffering and death in our stead and the assurance that we have a place in His eternal, heavenly kingdom — will also move those who believe to selfless love for other believers and fellow heirs of eternal life in heaven, but this love is the result of God’s loving gift of salvation to us, not the cause of it.

What a comfort to know that, though we have sinned and come short of the holy demands of God’s good law, Jesus fulfilled it for us and then took our sins upon Himself, paying the just penalty upon the cross that we might have forgiveness and life everlasting through faith in His name! And this hope which we have is not an uncertain hope but simply waiting for the things assured to us by the promises of God.

God has offered and promised us a place in heaven through faith in His Son. That place has been made certain to us by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We await that day in confidence and assurance that heaven is ours for Jesus’ sake. And, when we face the end of our lives here in this world, we need not doubt and wonder if we will make it into heaven. Heaven is guaranteed to us because Jesus shed His blood for us and paid in full for all our sins. If our salvation depended upon us or anything we did, we could have no certainty and no hope; but because it depends upon Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for us, we have every assurance and hope of everlasting life in the mansions of our heavenly Father’s house!

Paul wrote this letter while he himself was a prisoner because there were those who were seeking to rob these believers of the assurance and hope they had in Jesus by placing other demands upon them — suggesting such things as the worshiping of angels, eating certain foods or observing certain days. Today, too, there are many false teachers who would suggest and say that to be true Christians people must exercise certain gifts, eat certain foods or observe certain days.

The apostle’s message, the true Gospel, is that we are complete in Jesus — our salvation and everlasting life are certain in Him — there is nothing we need to add to His redemptive work!

Dear Father in heaven, thank You for graciously bringing to us the Word of Truth, the saving Gospel of forgiveness of sins and life everlasting through faith in Your Son, Christ Jesus. By Your Spirit, move us to believe and take heart and be assured that, for Jesus’ sake, our sins are forgiven and, for Jesus’ sake, we have life everlasting with You in heaven. Amen.

[Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

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