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Archive for October, 2010

My wife has now transitioned from Blog Widow to Blog Wonder.  Emma’s website is called A New Name and I’m letting you all in on the ground floor!

There’ll be lots of discussion about the gospel and food, the body, gender, identity, that kind of thing.  When you read her story you’ll know why.

Through her own testimony and wisdom she has helped so many other women through struggles and I’m praying that this will be a way she can bless more.

She’s speaking at a big conference tomorrow on some of these issues (hence getting the website up in a hurry).   I’m sure she’d value your prayers about that too.

Go over and encourage her with a comment.

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Happy Friday

Here’s the book they’re from.  Here’s where I found them.

More below

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You will [repost]

The Ten Commandments are written in the indicative.  Did you know that?  There’s a perfectly straightforward imperative mood in Hebrew.  God could easily have  said “You must not murder”.  But God didn’t say that.  He said “You will not murder.”  You won’t.  You’re my special people.  I’ve saved you.  You won’t lie, you won’t murder, you won’t covet.  You won’t.  These things are not said in the (grammatical) mood of command.  They are said in the mood of promise!

Now of course they carry commanding force.  When a mother says to two screaming kids “There will be peace in this house”, by golly there had better be peace.   And when God says there will be peace, well there’s a huge commanding force to that.  But it’s first and foremost a promise.

And because it’s a promise, it becomes the most binding command.

“You will” is far stronger than “you must”.

“You must” implies that you may not.  “You must” puts you in the driving seat.  To be sure it stands above you with a threatening tone.  But even after “You must” is spoken the reality is that maybe you will and  maybe you won’t.  The choice remains yours.

“You will” takes the choice out of your hands.  “You will” does not even contemplate an alternative.  “You will” binds you to the promise.  It makes you a slave of grace.  It casts you as a humble recipient of the word with nothing to do but walk in the service that is perfect freedom.

So now Jesus says this in Matthew 5:48 – and again, He could have used the imperative.  Instead He spoke in the glorious future indicative:

You will be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

What a command?  Well, yes, subsequently.  But first – what a promise!

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Boring alert – preacher talking boring preacher stuff, justifying self, boring, boring…

I preached Colossians 1:1-14 on Sunday night from some pretty full notes.  It was the first time I’d preached from notes and it was terrible.  I usually have full script or no script.  I think I thought I’d be more free with less written.  But instead I had enough info on the page to tie me down and at the same time I wasn’t let loose because I hadn’t thought hard enough about how to actually express it all.

Well the recording failed on Sunday night so I recorded my sermon repeat at Wednesday communion this morning.  No notes at all this morning.  Much better.

Colossians 1:1-14 (23 mins)

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Sermon audio (preached at a midweek communion service)

Do you want to be fruitful?  Do you want what comes out of you to be life and blessing?  Are you sick of poison and darkness coming out?  Paul tells us here how to bear fruit as believers and as churches.

Right from Genesis 1 we learn that people are meant to be fruitful trees.
Day 3 & 6 are parallel.  And just as seed-bearing plants bear fruit with seed according to their kind, so Adam and Eve are told to “be fruitful and multiply” according to their kind.

But sin cuts us off from true life.  Flesh gives birth to flesh (John 3:6)

What’s spread through human race has been counterfeit life:
life after Adam’s kind – it’s poisonous and it doesn’t last

I was taking a funeral last week and noticed all the cut flowers on the graves.  What a brilliant picture of our predicament! We’ve been cut off from our life source and we flourish for a little bit.  But soon we rot.

I said these words at the graveside:

“15 As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.”  Ps 103:15

That’s us!

So how to be fruitful??  Colossians 1:6 and 10 – Paul tells us how Christians globally and individually can bear fruit.

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He is the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace… Get up from your beds of sloth; rise from your chambers of ease; go forth, go forth to pray, to labor, to suffer; go forth to live in purity, leaving Babylon behind; go forth to walk with him alone, leaving even your kinsfolk and acquaintance if they will not follow with you. Wherefore tarriest thou at home when the King is abroad? “Behold the Bridegroom cometh, come ye forth to meet him…”

Today let your eye rest upon him. Let your eye behold the head that today is crowned with glory, wearing many crowns. Behold ye, too, his hands which once were pierced, but are now grasping the scepter. Look to his girdle where swing the keys of heaven, and death, and hell. Look to his feet, once pierced with iron, but now set upon the dragon’s head. Behold his legs, like fine brass, as if they glowed in a furnace. Look at his heart, that bosom which heaves with love to you, and when you have surveyed him from head to foot exclaim, “Yea, he is the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.”

Spurgeon

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Blogging emergency, help needed

Have I ever mentioned how ramshackle the whole christthetruth enterprise is?  I’m sure you’ve noticed it’s basicallly held together with bluetac and prayer.  I edit my website in miscrosoft word, I produce my videos in powerpoint and tape my songs on a little dictation recorder.  And, yes, I know that it shows.

So anyway, my technical know-how is zero!  This is where you come in.

For a new little (ramshackle) adventure I have purchased a domain name and I’d like to get a website up and running in the next three days.

It needs to:

  • Be a website with a blog section.  i.e. Not exactly a blog, but a website with a prominent blog section.
  • Be attractive – especially to teenage girls (all will be explained!)
  • Have a fixed homepage
  • Be easy to navigate in order to find informative papers.

So, something like a homepage with a tab at the top for the blog and a sidebar down the side for papers – something like that.

I’ve looked at a lot of wordpress templates but, while they’d be fine as blogs it seems difficult to have more than a few pages displayed on them.

I’m willing to spend a little bit of money.

Any suggestions?

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Giving in Exodus

This week has been a frightening week for the nation financially – unless you’re Wayne Rooney.  Or his agent.  But for the rest of us it seems like tightening the belt is the order of the day.  So you might have thought that this Sunday was a bad week to have chosen for our church Gift Day.  Well we chose it months ago, but I think, in the providence of God, Gift Day has fallen in just the right week.

Because, in the bible, financial giving is never spoken about in the context of plenty.  In the bible the giving that’s highlighted is almost always in the context of scarcity.  (cf 2 Cor 8!)

And nowhere is that more clear than in Exodus.  In Exodus you wouldn’t reckon they had ideal conditions for fundraising.

First they’re in the desert.  They’re not in wealthy Egypt and they’re not in the land of milk and honey– they’re in the desert.  Secondly, they have been saved out of Egypt and for that they can be grateful.  But it does mean that each and every one of these 2 million Israelites is a slave, and they have been for generations.  They have no transferable skills, no social security, no family wealth, no connections.  They are the biggest refugee crisis in human history.  Can you imagine fundraising in a Haitian refugee camp?  Or in Darfur?  Moses is fundraising in the midst of a humanitarian crisis – 2 million slaves who are only ever a day away from starvation.

It puts a double-dip recession into a bit of perspective doesn’t it?!

And yet the Israelites overflowed in generosity until they had to be restrained from giving more!

How did they do it?

Read more below.

Sermon audio here.

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Three talks given yesterday.  Outstanding

The Loving Father

The Beautiful Son

The Heart-Melting Spirit

Thanks Dave for posting and putting it all on!

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Happy Friday

Chuck Norris Facts:

Chuck Norris does not hunt because the word hunting infers the probability of failure. Chuck Norris goes killing.

The chief export of Chuck Norris is pain.

Chuck Norris drinks napalm to quell his heartburn.

Aliens do exist, they’re just waiting for Chuck Norris to die before they attack.

Chuck Norris can speak Russian… in Chinese.

Chuck Norris can win a game of Connect Four in only three moves.

When Chuck Norris was born he drove his mom home from the hospital

Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a watch. HE decides what time it is.

When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself up, he’s pushing the Earth down.

There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of animals Chuck Norris allows to live.

Chuck Norris’ tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.

Chuck Norris counted to infinity – twice.

Chuck Norris can do a wheelie on a unicycle.

Chuck Norris doesn’t guess when he plays Guess Who: he knows.

Simon doesn’t say…Chuck Norris says.

Chuck Norris does not need Twitter…he is already following you.

For Chuck Norris, every street is “one way”. HIS WAY.

Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door.

 

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What’s your favourite fact?

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As always I’m very encouraged by hearing about the work of Gospel for Asia.  In their newsletter today I read something I’d love to see happening in the West.

Here are some testimonies of people converted to Christ:

…The family members repeatedly and earnestly said prayers to their local gods and goddesses… “Why are the gods against us?” they wondered…  [Sager received a tract]…  At once Sager wanted to know more about this new God, so the pastor explained the love of Jesus…

…The culture of the area to which [Pastor Gurdas] had been called was dominated by traditional religions, and the people were fervent about their commitment to it… Pastor Gurdas himself was also deeply committed – but to serving the Almighty God…

…the family prayed and made sacrifices, desperately seeking healing.  But their gods were silent…

…[Then they] realized Jesus is the true God…

“All the gods of the nations are idols.”  (Ps 96:5)  Perhaps this should be the first axiom of missionary engagement.  We are converting people to a new God and His Name is Jesus.

I think this would have incredible evangelistic power here in the West.  How many westerners pray to silent gods?  Yet what’s our missionary strategy to them?

We tell them they’ve more or less got it right!!  And then we tell them that Jesus is this god incarnate.  So from the outset we’ve left them with an idol for the Father and then cast Jesus in that idolatrous mould!

And all our western testimonies run along the lines of: “I had always believed in god and then the evangelist convinced me that Jesus was the god-I’d-always-believed-in.”

Please no.  Let’s proclaim “this new God”!

Sign up to Gospel for Asia updates here.

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Oh it’s bad.  It’s very bad.  It’s murdering your Maker.  It’s cheating on your Lover.  It’s grieving His Spirit.  It’s tearing apart your soul.  It’s bad.  Bad, bad, bad.

But not receiving forgiveness is far worse.  Failure to accept the grace of Jesus dwarfs all other sins in its monstrosity.  To refuse the vulnerable humility of God; to trample on the Lamb and blaspheme His Spirit as they offer blood-bought mercy and cleansing – this is unspeakable evil.  It’s the reason people perish eternally.

Don’t believe me?  1 Thessalonians 2:10:

They perish because they refuse to love the truth and so be saved.

Those in hell are there for refusal to love the life-saving truth of the gospel.  To sin is one thing.  To refuse forgiveness is itself unforgivable.

Now we know this on a macro level.  We know that eternity does not depend on minimizing sin.  It depends on receiving forgiveness.  We believe it for that Day, but do we believe it this day?  Do I live today as though sinning (or not sinning) is the ultimate spiritual barometer?  Or is my spiritual barometer daily calibrated to the forgiveness of Christ?

Here’s how I naturally assess my Christian walk.  I rate my ‘performance’ largely by how much distance I’ve managed to put between me and my last ‘big sin.’  (Of course it’s ‘big sins’ I’m interested in, if I worried about the little ones my holy-count would never get off the ground).  When the number of ‘sin-free’ days hits double figures I’m doing great.  In fact, once I’m talking in weeks rather than days it rockets me into the righteousness stratosphere.  Best of all, it finally allows me to minister to people from the safe distance of ‘All-figured-out-holiness.’

Of course when I sin it sucks.  Why?  Because I’m back to zero.  My functional righteousness is caput and I’ll have to endure the hassle of a ‘holy’ fortnight before I can feel good again.  If I minister to people it will have to be out of broken messiness and a dependence on the grace of Jesus.  Ewww.

Now that’s a stark way of putting it.  But I don’t think there is a nice way of portraying this mindset.  While ever we pursue the Christian life as though sinning is the worst thing and ‘not sinning is the most important thing’ then such a foul system will develop.   But it’s to entirely forget the gospel.

So friends, perhaps you’ve really blown it recently.  Praise God this could be the opportunity to realize your profound and continual need for the blood of Jesus.  Allow this to teach you the truth – the person you showed yourself to be in your sin is the person you have always been.  It springs from a heart full of evil which you will carry to the grave.  Your only hope lies far above and beyond yourself at God’s Right Hand.  He is your profound and continual need.

Perhaps you blew it a while ago but you just can’t seem to get beyond it.  Friend – the Word of God forbids you to take your sin more seriously than Christ’s forgiveness.  Is your sin great?  Yes.  But is it greater than the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world?   Is it beyond the redeeming value of God’s own blood (Acts 20:28).  I think your sin has met its match in the blood of God, don’t you?

Perhaps you haven’t blown it for a while now but you’re realizing you operate according to a functional righteousness.  You hate sin only because it spoils your ‘holy count’.  You’re proud and graceless.  Well meditate on Philippians 3:1-11.  Know that such ‘righteousness’ is dung and reckon it all as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ.  He alone is your life and peace.

Or perhaps you’re a blogger who writes about grace.  You can dissect the sins of works-righteousness and see through latent Pharisaisms.  Well neither are you righteous for your pithy critiques of the flesh.  You haven’t got it figured out.  If you know anything it’s that you’re ignorant.  If you have any strength it’s only found in your helplessness.  There’s no credit to your insight, there’s only rest in His mercy.  You are nothing.  Jesus is everything.

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Four simple questions and four (perhaps) surprising answers regarding Colossians 3:10:

Put on the new self (the new man), which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

1) Who is the Creator referred to?

In context you’d think it was Christ, who is the Creator Image of God (Col 1:15-17)

2) What gets renewed?

The “new self” gets renewed.  It’s not simply that we are renewed by getting a new self.  And it’s not simply that we are given a new self.  We are given a new self and the new self is renewed.

3) How does renewal happen?

Knowledge.  Note all the knowledge language of the letter.  This is just from chapter 1:
“heard… word of truth… gospel… learned… understood… all its truth… knowledge… spiritual wisdom… understanding… increasing in knowledge… make the word of God fully known… Him we proclaim… teaching everyone with all wisdom.”
We desperately and continually need gospel knowledge to be renewed.

4) What does our Creator look like (given that we’re supposed to look like Him)?

He is compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient, forbearing, forgiving – in a word: He is love (v12-14).  We know that these character-traits originally belong to the Lord because a) it says “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” and b) these virtues are outlined in the context of our becoming like Him.

So we don’t become forgiving, humble and meek because God will hold us to account and He’s big and powerful.  We are forgiving, humble and meek because He is forgiving, humble and meek.  And He has demonstrated it at the cross.

 

Therefore as we appreciate and know the goodness of this good news our new selves are being renewed to look like Him – the compassionate and humble God.

Surprised by any of those answers?

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Ron Frost on the dangers of glorifying glory

In many Christian circles we hear lots about the theme of glory as God’s ultimate goal for the creation.  But by giving such prominence to glory, glory may be getting more glory than God…

The whole thing is… well… glorious.  Read now!

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I was in a little bible study on Hebrews 1 recently.  We were looking at v3:

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory

Someone asked the excellent question: “Does this mean that God couldn’t shine without Jesus?”

What would you reply?

Perhaps our knee-jerk response is to say “No of course God could shine without Jesus.  He’s God after all!”  Well let’s hold our horses just a minute.

Athanasius and Arius had a disagreement over a very similar issue.  They both looked at verses which called Jesus “the Wisdom of God” (e.g. 1 Cor 1:24) and it led to a similar question:  Could God be wise without Jesus?

Again… how do you instinctively want to answer that question?  Don’t you want to say, “Don’t be silly, God is wise, Jesus is wise, the Spirit is wise – the Father doesn’t need Jesus in order to be wise.  He just is wise”

Really?  But what does the verse actually say!?

Athanasius took verses like this seriously and followed them to their conclusion.  So he argues like this:

And if the Son is the “Word” and “Wisdom” of God, how was there “a time when He was not?” It is the same as if they should say that God was once without Word and without Wisdom.  (Depostion of Arius)

Here’s the argument:

1. The Son is the Wisdom of the Father.

2. It is inconceivable to have the Father without wisdom.

3. The Father must have always had the Son.

Now it doesn’t take much thought to imagine the Arian come-back.  Surely Arius could simply reply that the Father has always had wisdom in Himself, i.e. considered apart from the Son.  But this was a move which Athanasius was unwilling to make.  He just took the verse at face value – Jesus is the Wisdom of God.  Thus the logic of Athanasius’ position – without which his argument fails – is that the Father must have the Son to have wisdom.  And without the Son He is not wise.

To be clear – Athanasius assumes that the Father does not have wisdom in Himself.  Rather the Father has wisdom in His Son who is His wisdom.  But, and here’s the argument for the Son’s eternity, God is never without His Son, indeed He is in His Son and the Son in Him.

Therefore a time without Christ is as absurd as a Father without a Son which is as absurd as a God without wisdom.  But truly God would be without wisdom if He did not always have His Son.  That’s Athanasius’s thinking.

And I think it’s so refreshingly different to the majority of today’s sytematic theologies.  So many theology books consider the divine attributes first before discussing the Persons-in-relationship.  So they build up their statements of God’s perfections (whoever this God may be): “God is wise, God is powerful, God is immense.”  And then they raise the issue of triunity and introduce us to the three Persons.  Of course now that they’ve determined what it is to be God, they’ll have to convince us that all three of these Persons qualify.  So each Person must now prove that they’ve individually got the full complement of divine attributes.  And then, by the end of the process, we’ve finally got the omni-being thrice repeated.  All hail the Unoriginate!

Yet we must prefer Athanasius here.  The Persons do not have identical CV’s of God-stuff with only the Names at the top differing.  Rather the God-stuff is, irreducibly, the communal life of different Persons inter-penetrating each other in non-reversible relations.  Each Person therefore shares in the common divine life not because they’ve got identical CVs but because they so belong to one another that Each has a complete share in the life of the Others.  Yet their distinct giftings are properly unique to the Persons in their distinct existences as Begettor, Begotten and Proceeding.  The Son is the Wisdom of the Father.  The Father is not wise in Himself but only in the Son and by the Spirit.

Ok, now that we’re thinking about this… let’s touch on that old thorny issue – the ignorance of the Son about His return. (Matt 24:36)  Well, now that we’re thinking in Athanasian ways, the Son’s ignorance is fine, right?  I mean, clearly we don’t have to go down the tortuous road of saying “He’s ignorant according to His human nature, He knows according to His divine nature.”  Instead, don’t we just say that the Son entrusts knowledge of that day to His Father.  Simple right?

In a certain sense He has knowledge of that day because the Father does.  But much more fundamentally He’s happy to depend on His Father completely such that, considered by Himself, He is ignorant.  And this doesn’t make Him less divine – it reveals His true divine nature as the Sent One who goes at the Father’s inititative.

I don’t see a problem with this solution.  It’s no more (in fact it’s much less) shocking than the fact that the Father is without wisdom when considered apart from the Son.  Father and Son depend on each other (and on the Spirit – 1 Cor 2:10f)  in order to know what they know.  The Persons are not identical and they are not self-sufficient – they really do depend on each other for everything.

So then, this has been a very roundabout way of answering a simple bible study question.  But I hope we’re now in a position to give a straightforward answer: Could God shine without Jesus?

No!  So it’s a good thing He’s never without Him.

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From Professor Mike Heiser, Academic Editor of Logos Bible Software and author of website, The Two Powers:

For the orthodox Israelite, Yahweh was both sovereign and vice regent occupying both ‘slots’ as it were at the head of the divine council. The binitarian portrayal of Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible was motivated by this belief. The ancient Israelite knew two Yahwehs one invisible, a spirit, the other visible, often in human form.  The two Yahwehs at times appear together in the text, at times being distinguished, at other times not.

Early Judaism understood this portrayal and its rationale. There was no sense of a violation of monotheism since either figure was indeed Yahweh. There was no second distinct god running the affairs of the cosmos. During the Second Temple period, Jewish theologians and writers speculated on an identity for the second Yahweh. Guesses ranged from divinized humans from the stories of the Hebrew Bible to exalted angels. These speculations were not considered unorthodox. That acceptance changed when certain Jews, the early Christians, connected Jesus with this orthodox Jewish idea. This explains why these Jews, the first converts to following Jesus the Christ, could simultaneously worship the God of Israel and Jesus, and yet refuse to acknowledge any other god. Jesus was the incarnate second Yahweh. In response, as Segal’s work demonstrated, Judaism pronounced the two powers teaching a heresy sometime in the second century A.D.

Here’s his video on ‘The Two Powers’ in the Hebrew Bible

There’s quite a bit on my own blog about this:

The Angel of the LORD part 1

The Angel of the LORD part 2

The Angel of the LORD part 3

Trinitarian passages in the OT

Some multi-Personal passages in more depth – Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah

But Professor Heiser says it a lot better and with a lot more learning behind him.

His website on The Divine Council is also fascinating.

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Exodus 13-16 sermon

Not just sheltered… brought out… through trials… for deeper dependence.

Grumbling goes hand in hand with comparisons doesn’t it?  Grumbling is bound up with looking to our non-Christian past or our non-Christian friends with rose tinted glasses.  We say (Ex 16:3) “Egypt was great, remember the barbecues?  Aw the barbecues were fantastic.  Man those Egyptians knew how to party.  It was feasting and fullness.”  That’s how they remember it when they’re in the desert.  It’s complete garbage of course, Egypt was slavery and genocide.  But when Jesus leads you into a desert place you re-imagine your non-Christian past as feasting and fullness and you look at non-Christians around you and imagine that they’re all blissfully happy millionaires.  You compare… and you grumble.

And here’s what’s really disturbing, the Israelites thought they were just grumbling against Moses and Aaron but we’re told that the LORD takes their grumbling personally.  In v7, v8, v9 and v11 it says the LORD heard the Israelites’ grumbling.  They were moaning to one another, they were blaming Moses, but the LORD took offence.  Isn’t that sobering, when we think about having a grumble, having a moan, complaining?

The bible is full of complaints that are addressed TO God – they’re called prayers.  And they are wonderful and godly things.  The Psalms are full of complaining prayers: “LORD this is terrible, I can’t handle it, what are you going to do?”  That’s a perfectly good prayer.  But moaning to one another in unbelief, wishing you weren’t Christ’s, wallowing in a complaining spirit – that’s grumbling.  And the LORD takes great offence.

But what does the LORD do to these grumblers?

Rain down fire and brimstone?  Rain down lightning bolts?  No.  He rains down the bread of angels (Ps 78:25).  It’s astonishing really.  He showers grace on the grumblers.

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Sermon audio

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Here’s Leon Sim on Male and Female He created them

Continuing the Genesis 2 theme, here’s David White from St Andrews, Chorleywood

A wonderful address on 1 Peter 2 to the Peninsula Gospel Partnership by John Gillespie

And here’s Andrew Wood on James 2:14-26.

All sermons come with a hearty five thumbs up. Enjoy!

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