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Connection Problem. Learning to see and hear Jesus when the world is so loud.

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We’ve all had the experience of trying to get a hold of a friend, and after calling, the number is wrong, the number has changed, or when you finally connect, the signal is so weak that you can barely hear what the person is trying to say. This is a great picture of how our relationship with God is. Sometimes there are attempts, but they just end up unsuccessful.

I’ve been meditating on what it means to have fellowship with Christ. Fellowship is such a christian word, and has many uses. If I’m hanging out with my friend, I’m fellowshipping. For some fellowship means singing songs, playing games, or eating together. But you can eat together and not necessarily eat together. Sometimes you can be in the same house, eating at the same time, but not really in the same room, or even looking at each other. I like to use one of my wife’s favorite words in regards to relationship, and that word is connecting. Connecting is an intentional effort to spend time and communicate despite what is going on around you.

As believers it is easy to have problems connecting with Jesus. We gather together to fellowship with Jesus but a lot of times we go to church and we forget that Jesus is there. I mean we see the pastor, we see and hear the worship team, we see the random church guy that we don’t know. Its impossible to know everyone when you have multiple services and the church is large. You just never know who you are going to sit next to. With all of the programming, announcements, and activity it is easy to get lost. Sometimes church can be so distracting. I go to a really big and an awesome church with a lot of activity however distraction is not something that  only occurs at large churches; this problem can happen anywhere.

So how do we see Jesus with all of the activity? How do we see Jesus  sometimes we go through the motions at church. We go through the motions with Jesus.

Is Jesus really always with me? That really depends on us right. Jesus promised he would never leave us or forsake us, but that doesn’t mean that we would not leave or forsake him. I want to stick on this point because the biggest problem that I have and I believe we as christians have is that we are so earthly, that we fail to see Jesus.

Often we fail to recognize Jesus when he is right in front of us because he comes in a form that we don’t expect. In one of the judgements in the book of Matthew,Jesus condemns and rewards his servants based on whether they treated him well. When they ask Jesus, ‘when did we see you?’, he answers, ‘as often as you did it to the least of these you did it unto me’. Jesus underscores that he is always there always watching and expects us to serve those who we see as burdensome or who cause us inconvenience.

Sometimes we have connection problems with Jesus because we are disconnected at church and or home.  We need to be plugged into a local church. God commands us to. There are no lone ranger christians. I know church  can sometimes be trying, and there are people who can be off putting.  This is why church is so important because even in the brokenness, pettiness and sin we find in our church, we still find Jesus is there using it to conform us unto his image. When our wives are nagging or arguing with us, we are supposed to see Jesus. When our husbands as being dry, inconsiderate, indifferent or harsh we are to see Jesus in them. When your children are being rebellious and mouthy we need to see Jesus. It is not that it’s Jesus who is harming you but rather Jesus is calling you to exercise patience, forgiveness, kindness and love to someone who doesn’t appear to deserve it. We need to see people in the divine image even when they don’t see it in themselves.

We are ambassadors of Christ who call forth the divine proclamation of reconciliation and of a new creation. Our message to the world is that “you don’t have to stay broken down and defeated but you can be born again.” If we make it our goal to focus on seeing Jesus in the mundane and unlikely people and places we will find that like those 3D brain teasers Jesus is behind the scenes in more places than we think. When we are conscious of his presence, we are able to enter a deeper worship and fellowship with him and can say,  “I see you Lord. Thank you for your presence.”

Often our connection problems with Jesus come because we are looking at the wrong things. There are sins we need to repent of in order to be connected to God.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

We cannot walk in the dark and then pretend to come in the light. We can fool people but we can’t fool God. If we confess our sins, God is able to purify us and connect with us again.

Sometimes in spiritual things we fail to see Jesus. Sometimes we focus on form but not substance, on appearance not on spirit, on noise and not the gentle whisper of the Spirit. Even when reading the Bible, we can miss Jesus. This is what Jesus accused the Jewish leaders of in John 5, reading without seeing Jesus. The same thing can more easily happen with prayer. There are times when I am praying and find my mind scattered and frantic, my body tired and drained. In those times I find it hard to see Jesus. Sometimes we just pray without even trying to hear what the Spirit has to say back to us. This futile process will cause us to miss Christ as well. We must realize that our flesh is in opposition against things of God, and that we must overcome it to see him. Connecting with Jesus is a challenge in subduing our flesh and focusing on the spirit. For where the spirit is there is liberty. There is liberty because the chains of the flesh have been broken and we are able to experience new movement with little restrictions. Here’s a passage in Luke 19 that illustrates this in an interesting way.

2And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”

Zacchaeus knew his own physical limitations would limit his ability to see Jesus. He anticipated the obstacles and worked around his limitations so he could get a sight of Jesus. The devil will throw as many obstacles as he can to limit our encounters with Jesus, but when we seek to overcome them and wrestle with the flesh and seek a higher plane it is then that we will hear the master’s voice, Come down for I will dine at your house today. 

Each day I must strive to connect with Jesus. I need to be able to see Jesus as he is passing by.  I must connect with him and check in with him. I should submit my plans and have him give his approval or disapproval. This is the call of the disciple following the master where ever he directs. Where Christ is not present I must seek to bring his presence, not just as a vehicle but as a command post. Remember Gods command to Joshua every where the foot shall go I shall give you possession. We are to lay hold and build the kingdom and announce to all that this belongs to the Lord. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness there of.

Jesus promised us that he would be with us always, which is why he gave us his Spirit. When he commands us to walk in the Spirit he is telling us to be aware, to be focused, to be vigilant in our search for him. There is a great old testament image of this found in Numbers 9. After the Israelites escaped from Pharoah they were led by a  cloud, which represented the presence of God. This is how Moses describes how the children of God moved.

15On the day that the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony. And at evening it was over the tabernacle like the appearance of fire until morning. 16So it was always: the cloud covered it by daya and the appearance of fire by night. 17And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped. 18At the command of the LORD the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the LORD they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp.

Where is the Spirit leading you? Where is Jesus taking you? He who has ears, let him hear. Keep your eyes on Christ.

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Being Born Again is your only Hope

If you have seen the Matrix, you will understand why this picture relates to the message. You need to be born again. Its your only hope.

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What I learned from Coco: Family and life after death.

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I recently watched the movie Coco last weekend with my son and like every good movie, it touched my soul. I wasn’t expecting that to happen. I heard Coco was a movie about the Mexican tradition of Day of the Dead, but I didn’t really know what to expect. There was something beautiful about the depiction of Dia de Los Muertos, that the movie brought to life, and it got me thinking about something in a very new way.

The bulk of this will not focus on why Coco was a great movie, because that can be summarized in a few phrases; great writing, great acting, great story. However for me the reason Coco is such a great movie is how it makes you think about family, life and immortality in a whole new way.

For those who have not seen the movie, the bare bones plot of Coco is the following. Miguel , the main character, is a young Mexican boy who is trying to escape the trappings and weights of following in his families tradition. He has a passion to be a musician, but his family expects him to follow in the traditions of his family and become the most exciting of professions; a shoemaker. His parents were shoe makers, his uncles and aunts were shoemakers, his great grand mother was a shoemaker, so it followed that Miguel must be a shoemaker, and kill his dream of becoming a musician.  His Grandmother, reminds him that is what his great great grandmother would have wanted. His great great grandmother Imelda had banned music as if it was some type of “witch craft”, so Miguel had to secretly play, but never in in the presence of his family.  Miguel could never kill his passion, but his passion for music almost killed him and would take him into the land of the dead.

The day of the dead is the one day where the spirits of the dead ancestors can come and visit those who are still alive, however in Coco the only way the dead can visit is if the family has an ofrenda; an alter with food offerings and pictures of the dead. Miguel screws things up for his ancestors as he loses the photo of the matriarch in search of his recently discovered musician grandfather. With the photo of the matriarch gone from the altar,  Miguel’s great great grandmother is left behind in the land of the dead unable to pass through. She ends up discovering Miguel is at fault, and encounters Miguel, who by magic has entered the land of the dead in search of his great grandfather, the “secret” musician.

The land of the dead is a wonderful and beautiful city, with its own outcasts, and heroes. There are spirit animals, and parties and celebrations all leading up unto the greatest party that culminates at the end of the day of the dead. Life is not eternal in the land of the dead. One only lives as long as you are memorialized by someone who is alive. This is where the importance of family comes in, and in the movie it becomes the driving theme as Hector needs to ensure that his grandmother Coco does not forget her father, who Hector finally gets to meet in the day of the dead.

Hector finally returns home, and the history of his family, and returns the photo to its proper place on the family altar, with a new addition. The movie ends in joyous celebration.

One of the big themes in Coco that relates to the gospel, is the central character Miguel’s quest to know about himself through his great grandfather. This quest in a very limited way mirrors the quest we all have to know who we are and why we are here. It is our quest to know God, the father. Miguel knew that if he could find his father, it would validate who he was inside. He knew that his families answers about who he was and where he came from was missing something. There was a truth about him that he had to find out. We all are in a quest to know who we really are, what makes us tick, what is our destiny, what are we here to do. The only real way we can find that is if we find it in Jesus, who shows us the Father.

The world says all kinds of things about why we are here. It essentially says life is accidental, and our ancestors were monkeys, and we will live our meaningless, but extremely fortunate lives and then die in insignificance. Because life is so short the world tells you to live it up and seize the day. Little do they realize that we have a father here who has been hidden, but offers us keys to find him, and in finding him we will discover not just about our life here, but the life in the forever after.  Look at what Paul writes to the church in Ephesians 2

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world.[a] He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

The Bible tells us that we are living in the land of the dead now, and that earth is just a mere shadow of the world to come. The only way we enter that world is if we remember and have an encounter with Jesus, if he is on the altar of our hearts, not only does he visit us, but he stated he will take us with him in the new earth. If we deny Christ, if we place other things, success, wealth, relationships, other gods, or even saints above him, we will not enter the new world.

In Coco the dead live only as long as their memory lives, and though that works as a metaphor, in real life it is not true. We all exist and our known by God. We were made to live forever. The question is whether we live with him or we are banished away from the light and joy of the world.

Heaven is real, Hell is also real. Our lives have consequences, we must live with purpose, and the only way we can find true life, abundant life that passes beyond the grave is to find that life by looking to our father. The father God answers us in Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us we are to die to the things, the dreams and lies of the world, and when we do that in Christ, Christ promises to give us new life.

So what happens after we die. Scripture points to the fact that those who have put their trust in Christ will wake up and be with him, while those who have not believed will wake up to judgment. So there are some family we will not see again, at least not see them in the best of circumstances.

There are things that I want to incorporate from Coco, not the altar but the passing down of stories. I believe our families on earth are one of the greatest blessings we have. However I have another family, a heavenly one. Our spiritual families are of huge importance to us, and in fact are the tools God uses to help preserve our memories of Jesus. We experience God in a greater way when we worship God. When we worship together we share how God has been faithful, not just in saving our souls, but in the daily benefits, of how he gave us peace, he brought healing in our lives, he helped us overcome unforgiveness, unbelief, or blessed us with a new job or even a new child.

Underscoring all of this is our need to appreciate history, and those who went before us. This pertains to our own families, and our spiritual ones as well. Celebrate your history, share your stories and and hear the words of Jesus, and also from Hector, and our loved ones who encourage us to “Remember Me”.

 

 

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How I know God is Real

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Why are you a hater? A Look at jealousy. pt 1.

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The Word pt 2

Continuation of an expose on Bringing God’s Word into our lives.

 

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God’s Word for 2018 part 1

Lets start the year off learning to understand the Word for us.

 

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How to spot fake christians and false prophets: Separating the real from the fake

 

 

The past year I have been amazed at what and who gets called christian these days. 2017 was officially the year of “fake news”, and by extension the rise in fake christians. It is clear that many have problems distinguishing the genuine from the fake. Its ironic that in the information age, there is so much confusion. We are in an age of information however there are specializists who spread misinformation for the purposes of distorting the truth. The devil is an expert at telling half truths and misinformation. The scriptures point to us that often even the devil comes to us as an angel of light; when the truth is that he is a master of disguise. The scriptures give us clues how to discern  a true believer from one that is fake. Because God is concerned about how he and his people are percieved. Here are  a couple of ways how to spot a true christian from a fake.

A true christian will love God more than himself.

4“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

The first and greatest command is to love the Lord with all of one’s heart, soul and strength. Everything about a christian will emanate from this point. When you are looking at someone, you have to ask the question? Does this person really love God. Does this person not just talk about God, does this person know God, do they want to know him. Do they have a relationship with Jesus. Do they believe that he died for their sins and are eternally grateful for the work that he did.

 A christian will display the love of God to others.

The second commandment is to Love our neighbor as ourselves.  Matthew 22:39. Jesus clarifies this statement by stating that loving our neighbor means not just loving those who look like us and think like us, but it is to love those who are different, it is to love those who are despised, and mistreated, it means to look out for their interests and to even pray for our enemies.

This is why racism, sexism, and any other prejudice is wrong. We are not to treat others worse or to disparage, and criticize certain groups just because they look, talk  or believe differently then we do.

If you have a person who is always treating or talking about an individual or others who are different in a condescending way, if they are one to cause division and hatred this is a sign that they do not walk with God. Proverbs 16:28 states A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.

Again proverbs 15:18 states:

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger calms a dispute.

Where as the mark of a believer should be this as found in Proverbs 17:9

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.

The mark of a christian should be one that strives to bring others together in love and not one of division. I want to make a caveat in this because love of others doesn’t mean you will not confront or speak out against things that are wrong. For instance if I have a married friend who is cheating on his wife, my love for him will not mean I will not call him out on his cheating because it will offend him. Rather the opposite, my love for him will lead me to call him out on his sin. My friend may not like it when I call him out, however the way I approach him will emanate out of my care for him, not one of blanket condemnation. Christians should always strive to speak the truth, and make principled stands, but when they do it they must speak the truth in love.

A christian will have a love for the people of God and for the Word of God.

14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

The author of Hebrews takes this idea and states it this way

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

We have talked about the love for others. However there is a special love for the Word of God and the people of God. This means a christian will be a part and active in a larger community of worship and faith. A christian is one who longs to hear the words and commands of God and strives to put them into practice. There is no such thing as a lone christian. A biblical christian is one who is part of a larger community, in which he serves and encourages his fellow christians toward love and good works.

A true christian is one who admits their sins, and strives to correct their mistakes.

All christians sin. However scriptures tell us to confess our sins when we do fall short.

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

So the two points behind these verses are the following:

As a christian you will sin, but it is important to confess your sin and not just confess to strive to correct that sin. A christian is one who is humble because he understands that he is a work in progress. Any person who does not confess to their sins, and who does not make any attempts to correct their mistakes is not walking as a believer. Also important is the fact that a believer realizes that our good works will not erase our sins, but that it is only the blood and righteousness of Jesus that cleanses ours sins. We do not rest on our own righteousness but the righteousness of Jesus Christ. So by definition a christian can not be self righteous.

We should all evaluate ourselves and those who claim to be christians by these traits. Jesus warns us that there will be many false prophets, and false teachers, and false leaders. As believers we need to make sure we aren’t duped. Even if you are not a christian, by looking at these things you will be able to tell the real from the fake.

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To knee or not to knee

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With all the discussion and outrage regarding the kneeling and protesting of professional athletes during the national anthem I decided to organize my thoughts.
I think when you are looking at the issue you have to look at it from different angles. First if you’re looking at it from the point of the protester you have to determine what is the goal. If the goal is to bring maximum attention to an issue; there’s no better time to protest. Because of the polarization of this issue the news cycles have incessantly covered this issue for the last few days. This issue has caused many people to look up who Colin Kaepernick is and put the issue of protest on the forefront of people’s minds; so in that respect the protest was successful. It garnered attention to the issue of police brutality.
I know some people argue that the message of protest against police brutality has been lost; yet despite the mischaracterization the fact still remains that people are aware that athletes are protesting something and in their search they have discovered the true reasons. I’m convinced that there are more people who are aware of the issue because they chose to kneel during the anthem.
The second way to look at kneeling during the anthem is in regards to getting people to join or support your cause, and in this area I think the results are mixed. I want to preface my comments with this thought that protest often are met with resistance because protesting is inherently oppositional. It is an attempt to change something that is common place, something that has been accepted. A protester challenges the status quo, so whenever you protest you should expect resistance. The big question however is whether the method of protesting is creating unnecessary resistance or unforced resistance. Are the athletes making unforced “errors”. It is on this point that I think it was unwise to protest during the national anthem. I believe the decision to protest during the anthem has alienated people who may have otherwise joined and supported the cause, but because of the perceived disrespect have not been able to identify and support the cause.
The fact of the matter is that there are many people who are passionate about that specific way of showing patriotism and respect by standing and saluting the flag with the national anthem. Though others may not see that as the only way to display patriotism others view the failure to salute the flag as un-American, unpatriotic and disrespectful. Appearances are at times more important than reality, which is one reason why scriptures tell us to avoid the appearance of evil. I’m not sure, but I believe the protest would garner more sympathy if they had protested before or after the national anthem. This doesn’t mean that the protest wouldn’t have resistance because as I said earlier all protests are going to have resistance. Some resistance is avoidable. A good example of this was the Dallas Cowboys decision to protest before the national anthem. Even though they protested before they were still met with boos and resistance. Yet they did avoid the trap of their protest being missed characterized as being unpatriotic.
I know some have talked about first amendment rights, but that is not the issue as much as the utility of when to use those rights. I know others have used historical examples of protest but I haven’t seen any protests that do what this specific protest does with the use of symbolic appropriation. The best way I can say it is that if you were remixing songs, this remix chose the mix the national anthem with NWA’s F#$@ the police. You can see how that particular mix wouldn’t sit to well with folk. So my point is that there have been other remixes but none like this. So the Ali examples and the Olympics examples just aren’t the same.
The big issue which is sort of beneath the surface is the power of symbolic appropriation. Symbols are powerful they are not necessarily based on reality but on an ideal. The American flag is based upon an ideal of innocence, of peace and harmony, of a melting pot of people who have merged together to create a unique and unified American culture. What the protest does is that it hijacks that image, calls it a lie, a myth. It screams like the echo of a bucket leaving its chamber that we are not in harmony, that we are not in peace but at war .We are not content and healthy but we are ridden with puss filled blisters and warts that are ready to explode. The protests reveal that we are not united but divided. It’s very uncomfortable, it’s provocative and it’s unsettling that the American apple pie to some is more like a discarded moldy fruitcake.
I don’t want to get into the president’s response to this issue because that brings a whole other set of issues. I only want to say I know he can do better. I do want to analyze this idea of being disrespectful to the flag. Most the time when I picture someone being disrespectful to flag I think of them burning the flag, stomping on the flag or physically harming or soiling the flag. I think of the idea of maybe people talking during the national anthem or laughing and joking or maybe turning their back while people are saluting. Yet none of these things are happening. The players are calm they’re introspective, bowing down, some actually have their hands over their hearts. I just don’t see the huge uproar that it’s been made out to be. Again back to my original position I don’t think it’s the best place or time time to protest if you want to gain support from the people in the middle, however I do think the outrage has been overblown and mis- characterized.
I think for dialogue to be effective the protesters should understand and at least respect the pains of those who see their act as being disrespectful, because like it or not appearances matter. All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial.Scripture talks about using my freedoms in a way that won’t cause my brother to stumble. I’m not saying don’t offend anyone, but if you can avoid offending someone and at the same time get your point across, do it.

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The Christian Response to Hate: Where is the Love

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