Thideology news of the day

Compromising the gospel

Yesterday I briefly addressed the danger of allowing cultural influence on the church. Today I found this commentary, written by Mike Adams, that outlines how such cultural influences led to a compromise of the gospel at his church making it necessary for him to leave.

Big government on the march

typewriter3.jpgThe founding fathers advocated a small, decentralized form of federal government because they had this hunch about the nature of power. They seemed to think that once power became consolidated in one place it would corrupt those who wielded it and tyranny would result. They believed such a government would seek to dictate to everyone how they would behave, take property from citizens in violation of their rights to property, and might even go so far as to make determinations about what is and is not the proper way to think.

But that could never happen in America. Those founding fathers must not have known what they were talking about.

Ron Paul for president

Here is a little more information on congressman Ron Paul, his ideas about government, and his possible run for the presidency in 2008.

Bumper sticker of the day

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Thideology news of the day

Who to follow — culture or Christ?

It has been theorized that the cultural trends in Europe — including ideologies, philosophies, cultural ideas, fashion trends, etc. — eventually migrate to America. There is some evidence to support this. I am grateful, however, that many cultural practices of the Europeans have remained heretofore rejected by Americans. Like, for example, the French practice of eating “mature” cheese. We Americans still call it spoiled.

typewriter2.jpgNevertheless, when we see adverse cultural influences in Europe it’s at least a good idea to keep a sharp eye for them in the U.S. lest they gain a foothold. Case in point: Europe has been called a “post-Christian” culture. It is said that Europeans embraced Christianity for a while but became too “enlightened” to keep on believing in spiritual “fantasies” or “fairy tales.” This “post-Christian” culture has been influencing American Christians for some time. Christianity is deemed “relevant” only insofar as it “embraces” the culture around it.

Hogwash! Where did that notion even come from? It sure didn’t come from the Bible (which you may recall is the authority upon which Christians claim to base their faith). Here’s what Jesus had to say about our role in culture:

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

— Matthew 5:13-16

It certainly appears the biblical instruction for the church is to influence culture not be influenced by culture. But we continually do just the opposite — like turn our worship services into makeshift rock concerts — in some futile attempt to remain “relevant.” The good news is Europe seems to be experiencing a bit of a shift. Apparently many Europeans are returning to the faith of their fathers. I hope it is a genuine move of God that will bring true revival. I also hope the church in America will forego the whole “post-Christian” phase, immediately repent of allowing culture to influence us, and remain faithful.

“Universal” healthcare is nothing more than socialism

As unbelievable as it sounds, it appears the 2008 presidential campaign has already geared up. The Democrat candidates are tripping all over one another in an effort to be the one to give away the biggest and best version of “universal healthcare.” They seem to think that government interference in this industry is the only viable solution for “controlling costs.” In this effort they have failed to recognize two very important things:

pestle.jpg1) Government interference in the healthcare industry created the problems in the first place, and…

2) Healthcare is not a “right.”

Remember, there is truth in the old joke, “If you think healthcare is expensive now, wait to see what is costs when it’s free.”

Just remember. The candidates touting “universal” healthcare aren’t interested in healthcare. They are interested in votes and accumulated power.

National ID cards

In case you were unaware our federal government has passed a law that will make your state issued driver’s license a national ID card. The Real ID Act says:

“…starting around May 2008, Americans will need a federally approved ID card–a U.S. passport will also qualify–to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments or take advantage of nearly any government service. States will have to conduct checks of their citizens’ identification papers, and driver’s licenses likely will be reissued to comply with Homeland Security requirements.”

This is a horrible encroachment on liberty in America that is already being resisted by state legislatures. Hopefully more states will follow suit. In the meantime I can’t help but be reminded of governments that have done this sort of thing before — which brings me to a couple more of my favorite bumper stickers…

Bumper stickers of the day

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Parents or the “Nanny State?”

Reasononline has an article entitled, “State-Based Parenting,” that discusses proposed legislation in California and Texas that seriously undermines the authority of parents. In California legislation has been proposed that would make spanking a child a criminal offense punishable, in some cases, by jail time. In Texas the notion is being kicked around to make missing a parent-teacher conference at the public school a criminal offense (unless the parent missing the appointment has a decent excuse and a note to verify it).

typewriter1.jpgLegislation of this kind is outrageous, and hopefully it will serve as a wake-up call to many that politicians are bent on controlling more and more areas of our lives. However, this little bit of news should come as no surprise. We’ve been turning over our liberties to the government at an alarming rate in hopes that the “nanny-state” will take care of us.

In fact, where our children are concerned, we long ago abdicated our responsibilities as parents to follow the biblical mandate to “bring up a child in the way he should go.” Instead, we’ve turned our children over to government schools that spend their time instilling secularized standards of “political correctness” and “tolerance” into our children that bear no resemblance to the biblical principles in which we are supposed to be training them.

That the states of California and Texas now think it is their responsibility to mandate to parents how they should discipline their children and participate in their children’s schools is merely the next natural step of a bloated government that long ago overstepped its bounds.

Bumper Sticker of the Day

I think it is a terrible idea to draw one’s theology and worldview from bumper stickers — it fosters a simplistic view of complicated subjects that deserve more than a moments consideration. But the sad reality in America is this: far too many of us no longer have the patience necessary to sit still long enough to do the reading and research it takes to actually understand some of the doctrinal and political issues before us. However, as ill-advised as it is to limit ones reading to bumper stickers, there are some that are better than others. From time to time I’ll share some of my favorites. Here’s the first…

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Creating her own “Jesus”

speedskatingsm.jpgThe Christian Post reports that a newly released novel portrays Jesus as a homosexual. The opening paragraphs of an article entitled “New controversial novel presents queer Christ,” read this way:

“Recently released Jesus in Love is said to be the first novel ever published about a queer Christ.

The controversial novel, published by AndroGyne Press, a new queer studies press in Berkeley, Calif., was written by a lesbian Christian who said she met the queer Christ in the depths of her own heart.”

Okay, let’s just hold it right there. This “homosexual Jesus” is the product of her heart? Um, there’s a problem here. You see, the Bible says that the “heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,” so any “Jesus” you happen to “meet in your heart” you might want to subject to a little biblical scrutiny — you know, just in case. Alright, let’s continue with the article…

“Kittredge Cherry [the author of the book] turned to Christianity during a journalism scholarship to Japan. There, she ‘felt God reach out to me, just as I am, lesbian and all.’”

Now it is true that God reaches out to sinners. In John chapter 8 a woman caught in the very act of adultery was brought to Jesus. He told her that he did not condemn her and then he told her — and this is a really important part — “go and sin no more.” Her sins were forgiven but they were never condoned. One more excerpt…

“‘As soon as I knew there was a God, I knew that God accepted homosexuality because otherwise God would not have bothered with me,’ Cherry says in her new book.”

It may be that Miss Cherry is the product of false teaching. There are a great many “churches” out there that advocate the acceptance of behavior God has deemed sinful under the guise of “God’s love.” One such “church” is the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) — for whom Cherry once worked. It “ministers” in the homosexual, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual “community” and essentially offers people an excuse to continue in their sin without guilt. But that’s not how the gospel works.

Consider this passage in Jude:

“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”

If Kittredge Cherry thinks God reached out to her just as she is “lesbian and all” in a way that condones her sinful lifestyle then she is sorely mistaken. Rather, she is changing the grace of God into a license for immorality and denying the Jesus of the Bible for an idol she created in her heart (which, as we saw before, is deceitful).

You see, while it is true God’s grace is offered to all (including homosexuals), it is also true that God’s grace is marked with repentance. We are not allowed to remain unconvicted in our sins. We are called to repentance. When Christ’s forgiveness comes upon us we are called to “go and sin no more.”

Dan Phillips, a regular contributor to the Pyromaniacs blog, addresses this very subject in an article entitled “Misreading God.” I wish someone would recommend it to Miss Cherry.

Thideology News of the day

shieldtypewritersmall.jpgWorldnetdaily.com reports that approximately 3,000 people place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and are saved everyday in China. This is happening despite fierce government persecution on the Church. Read the story entitled, “3,000 Christians added daily in China,” and see how God is not only calling out His own but how He is gifting them with the faith necessary to deal with their circumstances. Remember to pray for our Chinese brothers and sisters.

Meanwhile the United States congress is looking to pass legislation to criminalize its critics. Worldnetdaily’s article, “Congress preparing to criminalize critics,” reports that churches and Christian organizations could be impacted at one of the grossest attempts ever to violate the first amendment. This legislation actually provides for prison sentences for people who dare exercise their freedom of speech. Unless the lovers of liberty stand up and hold congress accountable for their illegal actions the Church in America could well find itself in the same boat as the Church in China.

May God be glorified either way.

General vs. Particular

Upon discovering that I believe in God’s absolute sovereignty in salvation (you know, election) many of my brothers and sisters in Christ have engaged me in discussion on the topic.

“How can you believe in a God that picks and chooses who is saved?” They will ask with the typically over-simplistic view of the Doctrines of Grace.

shieldboxingsm.jpgI assure them that my sinful nature recoiled at the notion when I first considered it. I did not like the idea, any more than they, that I could contribute nothing to my salvation. In the end, I tell them, I conformed my beliefs to Scripture and believe in election because it is contained therein.

It’s at this point they typically uncork John 3:16 with extreme emphasis on the words “world” and “whosoever.” I agree that the gospel message is to be proclaimed to the whole world and that “whosoever believes in Him shall not perish” but John 3:16 says nothing of man’s ability to believe. It is absolutely true that whosoever believes will be saved but Scripture also indicates that apart from God’s intervention on behalf of the sinner nobody will believe because it is contrary to our sinful nature.

Thus the debate over general vs. particular atonement rages. But wouldn’t you know it — a real theological heavyweight (respected by Christians of both theological persuasions) has weighed in on the subject. And so I direct your attention to the Pyromaniacs blog and defer to the text of a sermon preached by none other than Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Enjoy.

Thideology News: Weekend Update

To Congress the Constitution isn’t so much a restriction on their power as it is a nice wall decoration suitable for framing

photo-nancy-pelosi.jpgNewly elected Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has introduced legislation that would greatly restrict American’s freedom of speech. Oh, she doesn’t call it that, of course. No, no, she calls it “lobbying reform.” Under her new reforms churches, pastors, religious denominations, public interest organizations, civic organizations and other nonprofit groups could be labeled “grassroots lobbying firms” subject to congressional regulation.

Never mind that Amendment I to the United States Constitution (the very first bill in the Bill of Rights) says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

It’s that part about “abridging the freedom of speech” that sticks out here. You see the word abridge means, “to reduce in scope or diminish.” Subjecting the speech of anyone to congressional review reduces that speech in scope and diminishes it. This is a clear violation of the Constitution but Congress will push forward as if they have the authority to do such a thing.

Just thought you might want to know.

Thideology news of the day

Top Story: Congressman Ron Paul may run for president

typewriter.jpgIncorporation papers were recently filed in Texas for a Ron Paul 2008 presidential exploratory committee. Paul is a congressman from Texas and often the lone voice for constitutional responsibility in the United States House of Representatives. In fact, his practice of refusing to vote for any bill, which exceeds the specifically enumerated powers outlined in the constitution, has earned him the nickname “Dr. No.”

More news on the potential candidacy of Ron Paul will be forthcoming as events warrant. In the meantime, you may familiarize yourself with the convictions of this champion of limited government here.

On the minimum wage debate

The House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour. Any minimum wage is a bad idea, as it restricts the freedom of employers and employees to negotiate among themselves a fair price for labor (Henry Hazlitt lays out the case against the minimum wage far better than I ever could), but this didn’t prevent the House from passing it.

Interestingly enough, the new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, apparently understands the detrimental effects of the minimum wage (either that or her principles aren’t as important to her as campaign contributions) because she made exceptions for companies in her home district. I guess it’s a good thing those corrupt Republicans were ousted in the November elections so that the Democrats could demonstrate for us all the proper ethical standards for congressmen.

Gun control

Gun control advocates often site news stories about crimes committed with guns as a means of justifying their desire to disarm Americans. What they never tell you is how law-abiding citizens have used guns to defend themselves, their families, and their property against criminals — stories like this one … oh, and this one.

Navy Chaplain bows to God alone, and pays the price

According to worldnetdaily.com a Navy Chaplain who refused to cease praying in the name of Jesus (according to the dictates of his faith) fought the Navy in court and won. The Navy then discharged him. Read his story here.

The Church out of focus

Former presidents Clinton and Carter — both of whom profess to be Southern Baptists — are working to establish a “true Baptist witness” in North America. Apparently the most prominent Baptist witness in North America — the Southern Baptist Convention — is too “narrow-minded.” According to a story in The Christian Post entitled, “Carter, Clinton join to reshape Baptist image,” leaders of a movement to establish this “true Baptist witness” think Baptists need to be known for “feeding the hungry, healing the sick and working for justice.”

Baptists in North America already do those things. Of course when they perform these acts of charity they do it in the name of Jesus, which is how Scripture instructs us to perform good works to the glory of the Father.
The Church following politicians into secular acts of charity is just one more example of what happens when we forget we were saved by God’s grace for God’s glory. I pray the believers in this movement will fall under conviction and refuse to omit the name of Jesus when they help those in need.

What are we doing?

There’s been an awful lot of attention afforded politics lately. What, with the recent congressional campaigns dominating the airwaves, the media falling all over themselves in jubilation at the Democratic victories, and the unofficial launch of the 2008 “presidential campaign season,” politics has been the topic of discussion around America’s water coolers, dining room tables, and — regrettably — churches.

bullseyesm.jpgAm I implying that Christians should not participate in the political process? No.

What I am implying — no, no, I’m flat-out saying it — is that American Christians have become so distracted by something so trivial that we’ve completely lost our focus. We don’t know our purpose any more.

I can almost hear the objections now:

• “What about fighting gay marriage?”

Trivial.

• “What about appointing the right kind of Supreme Court justices?”

Trivial.

• “What about welfare reform? Taxation? Minimum wage? The military?”

Trivial. Trivial. Trivial. Trivial.

Are these things meaningless? No. I have firm convictions about all of these issues. But where the Church is concerned, these things are trivial. The purpose of the Church is not social reform. It’s not writing law, building economies, or fighting wars. The purpose of the Church is to glorify God, period.

How do we do that?

According to Scripture we do that by proclaiming the gospel. We do it by contending earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. We do it by making disciples and by living lives transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

When we do these things it will impact every aspect of our lives — including our political beliefs — and we should act accordingly. However, when we take our focus off of God and allow these other, lesser, things to dominate our attention we become a caricature of ourselves and completely compromise the message we were intended to carry.

Don’t believe me? Just think back to the 2004 elections. Remember how the Republicans won the presidency and kept control of both houses of congress? Remember how the media complained that it was due, in part, to the “values voters” and the “religious right.”

Now, fast-forward to the 2006 elections. The Democrats won back both houses of congress. It was characterized as a defeat for both Republicans and evangelical Christians — as if Christianity were merely a sub-set of the GOP. This little development was seen as a golden opportunity, wide open for exploitation by Democratic presidential hopefuls. The London Times, in a story entitled “Obama lifted by hand of God,” reported that the “God gap” between Republicans and Democrats is narrowing.

In an article that looked back on how George W. Bush had once been effective in securing the votes of Christians, the American Thinker described how Illinois Senator Barak Obama is “winning the evangelicals.” Apparently his success has been noticeable. One of Obama’s rivals for the 2008 Democratic nomination for president, Hillary Clinton, has hired an “evangelical consultant” to help her woo Christians to support her campaign for president.

Now, I ask you…

Is this how the Church is supposed to be viewed by the world? Are we supposed to be just another political constituency whose loyalties are available to the politician who promises to deliver to us the most goodies? Are we to be open to the manipulation of candidates and their consultants? Are we to be concerned first and foremost with public policy and building a better government?

keys.jpgAs always, I want to take my cues from Scripture. When I look at the lives of the apostles and the early Christians I don’t see that they invested a whole lot of time trying to reform the Roman government. I see that they invested their time trying to share the gospel so that God could reform lives. They took seriously their command to “make disciples.”

Of course, distractions have always plagued the Church. Certainly placing our focus on politics is nothing new. The Christian apologist C.S. Lewis recognized this very problem and addressed it in his book, “The Screwtape Letters.” This book is written from the perspective of a senior devil to a junior devil. The senior devil provides all manner of advice for deceiving and distracting Christians so that they are completely ineffective in the purpose for which God saved them. This matter of emphasizing politics is a wonderful tool of the enemy. How, exactly, does the senior devil instruct his subordinate in using politics as a distraction for the Christian? Read on…

“Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the “cause”… Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours — and the more “religious” (on those terms) the more securely ours.”

So, I leave the question with you: Are we focused on our primary purpose of bringing glory to God and His message to the world, or are we focused on making the world a better place to go to hell from?

Who is Blessed?

We’ve navigated the holiday waters once again. And — if your experience was anything like mine — you’ve been bombarded with the requisite year-in-review reflection, overblown sentimentalities, and had the notion that “we are truly blessed” foisted upon you time and time again. Please understand, I am a deeply sentimental person and have no aversion whatsoever to reflection. But this year I honestly applied some biblical perspective to the claims Christians in American make about our country being “truly blessed” and have decided that we need to further examine what it means to be blessed from God’s perspective and see if our claims of blessing match up.

cashsm.jpgWhen we say we are blessed to what do we normally refer?

Wait! Don’t answer that yet.

First think about how the topic of America being blessed comes up. Usually it is in contrast to some other place where Christians don’t have it as good as we do. Right?

During the holidays we may take up special offerings to provide presents to needy families in impoverished countries. We spend money to send Bibles to Christians in places where Bibles are not readily available or, worse, are illegal. We read about people like Noviana Malewa and pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who, because of their unwavering faith in or Lord, end up beaten, in jail, or murdered. We consider the horrible situations of those other poor Christians, then…

… because we are not in similar circumstances we say we are “truly blessed.”

We say things like:

• “Just last week I was ‘blessed’ to get a really good parking place at the mall.”

• “I was really ‘blessed’ to find the last PlayStation 3, which had ‘miraculously’ been misplaced behind the bargain bin of DVDs.”

• And then, when we finally get around to thinking of spiritual things, we say we are “blessed” to live in a country where we can worship as we see fit and share the gospel anytime we want.

You would think that American Christians — with all of our “blessings” — would be praising God like crazy and sharing the gospel constantly. Why, the church in America should be growing like gangbusters. Not like those poor Christians in places where they are persecuted for their faith. It would certainly be understandable if the church were not growing where they are, the odds are just so stacked against them.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: Church growth in America is virtually non-existent while the Church in all those poor areas where they don’t have it as good as we do is growing and growing and growing. Consider the following report from Global Christian Mission:

“…Persecution against Christians increased worldwide throughout 2006, but believers in those countries continue to stand strong for Christ. Throughout India, Hindu extremists have stepped up attacks against Christians, especially in the northern provinces. Experts say some Hindu leaders are alarmed over the rapid spread of Christianity throughout the nation. In China, the government continues to harass underground house churches — those congregations that do not register with the state-controlled churches. Dr. Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA, says Christians in persecuted nations know the risks when they identify with Christ. “What’s really happening around the world is [that] the Church is growing,” Moeller shares. “It’s precisely the very message that Jesus brought: that the gates of hell would not be able to stand against the Church.” But as that happens, he says, persecution comes. “The enemy is not silent; the enemy is not passive,” he says. “And the enemy is active in bringing much pain and suffering to our brothers and sisters.” North Korea continues to be the most repressive nation when it comes to persecution against Christians.”

And yet the Church thrives there.

Isn’t that interesting.

Even more interesting is that we are usually aware of the growth of the Church in persecuted areas. Even while we lament their less-than-desirable conditions, we admire the faith of those believers who stand firm in the face of real opposition. Maybe we recognize that we might not exercise the same measure of faith under similar circumstances. Often we make comments like, “I wish I had that kind of faith.”

eightballsm.jpgI’m reminded of the story of a pastor in China. He was imprisoned for preaching and teaching the Word of God. Once in prison he continued to preach and teach — and God blessed. Not only were other prisoners saved, but so, too, were a number of prison guards and officials. This pastor created such a “disturbance” that prison officials decided to release him several months early just so his influence would be removed. You know what he did? He demanded to serve his full sentence so that he could continue to proclaim the gospel in prison. His wife and children fully supported his decision to stay.

Why?

Because they all viewed his imprisonment as a God-given opportunity to proclaim the gospel in a place he otherwise would not have been able to reach. They viewed it as a — here comes that word — blessing.

Which brings me to the biblical perspective I mentioned several paragraphs ago.

All of this reminds me of the apostles in Acts 5. The apostles were in Jerusalem preaching in Jesus’ name. The high priest and the Sadducees had them arrested and thrown in jail. But an angel of the Lord opened the doors and told them to go stand in the Temple courts and preach — which they did. They were once again brought before the Sanhedrin for questioning.

“We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” the high priest told them. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

How did Peter and the other apostles reply? “We must obey God rather than men…” they said.

Many members of the Sanhedrin wanted the apostles put to death but they decided instead to flog the apostles and release them, once again ordering them not to preach in Jesus’ name.

This is some pretty rough stuff — the same kind of stuff we see in other parts of the world today and thank God we do not have to endure. But how did the apostles view this little turn of events?

You guessed it. They viewed it as a blessing. Acts 5 concludes this way:

“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”

Okay, fine! But can’t things like wealth and freedom be considered blessings, too? Yes, they can — if they are utilized according to God’s will and in a manner that is glorifying to Him. If they are valued more than God they become idols. In Romans 1 Paul discusses God’s wrath against mankind this way:

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen.”

So, where does that leave us? Do we have the proper perspective on our blessings in America? Do we view our wealth and freedom as tools to be used for God’s glory, or do we treasure our wealth and freedom more than the God who provided them? We seem to have every advantage necessary to do mighty things in God’s name and yet we seem to lack the faith.

On the other hand, our brethren in other places seem to have the faith while lacking the things we count as advantages.

We look at them and proclaim ourselves blessed.

When they look at us I wonder if they do the same thing.

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