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______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

The Idolatry of God February 14, 2013



“There is a fire inside the building.
Please remain calm and step inside.”
idolatry


The Idolatry Of God
– Peter Rollins




– The Apocalypse isn’t Coming, It has Already Arrived. –
          Thus the adventure begins.


They say that (especially for those of us who are “youth-challenged”) one of the best ways to help prevent the decline of mental capacities is to actively use the brain by learning new things.
Simply put: THINK.  And think new thoughts.
In that context, a Rollins book is just what the doctor ordered.   Reading  “The Idolatry of God” is spiritual LASIK.  Here, however, the surgery is never finished.  Even if we don’t see everything the way Peter does, the adjustment continues to change the very nature of our spiritual vision.

The sub-title to this book is “Breaking Our Addiction To Certainty and Satisfaction.” I think it could also have been sub-titled, “Insurrection: Part Deux.” A number of the ideas expounded upon here were initially raised in “Insurrection.” While each book stands on it’s own merit, thy make a lovely couple.
🙂

It may be hard for some to conceive as to how one can “idolize” God.  Nevertheless, this book declares that’s predominantly just what “Christianity” has done.
“We have turned God into just another product to provide for our personal satisfaction.  A cosmic vending machine that promises answers and an escape from eternal suffering.”
The truth is, no matter what our vision of God is, that vision is never God.

There are three sections to “The Idolatry Of God:”
The Old Creation, The New Creation, and The New Collective.

Section One.

Early on, we read about how infants undergo two births.  The second of these is where “the infant begins to identify as existing in separation from her surroundings and slowly begins to experience herself as an individual.”
This information becomes important in the discussion of our sense of separation, and in turn, our feelings of being incomplete.

I love how Peter finds truth wherever truth can be found. He references works like “Austin Powers,” “Mission Impossible III,” and “The Walking Dead.”  In chapter one Mr. Rollins discusses a phrase made popular by Alfred Hitchcock: The “MacGuffin“.   A MacGuffin can be anything, and the point is not what it is, but that it has some assigned value, and it is wanted and desired, even if what it is is not known. OK, that may not make much sense on it’s own, but within the pages of this book, it initiates some amazing thought processes.

This leads to a discussion of “Original Sin.”
Finally, after 58 years, I’ve read an approach to Original sin that makes sense.  The church often says “sin simply means separation from God,” but then turns to endless discussions of “sins” instead of “sin.”  The focus is on what is and isn’t a “sin.”  This, of course, would vary from person to person, church to church, decade to decade. It all became an issue of what one could or couldn’t do, and still “remain” a Christian. I now find all of that laughably ridiculous, and simultaneously quite sad.  The end result is a “sin management” system, and any meaningful concept of Original sin is lost.

Chapter two has a visual recreation of the standard line drawing used in many evangelical tracts.  It’s the one with the stick figure on one side of a chasm, and GOD on the other.  You’ll know it when you see it.  We see why this entire approach to understanding our reality misses the point entirely.  “Instead of seeing Christ as the apocalyptic destruction of this whole approach…these diagrams obscure the truth by calling the Idol ‘God.'”

Chapter three reaps wisdom from the 23rd chapter of Matthew, and from “Miami Vice.”  We expand on a concept introduced in “Insurrection:”   I wear a mask that looks like me.  We look at the masks we “are,” and the mythologies (political, cultural, religious) that create and feed our life stories.  The church, in large part, does not confront these mythologies, but rather blesses them.

Chapter four brings us the “Zombie Apocalypse,” the “radical message of the cross,” and great insight into the Temple curtain being torn during the Crucifixion.  I loved the revelation of “what’s behind the curtain.” This is good stuff!

Section Two.

One of my favorite parts was chapter 5, “Trash of the World.”

We explore how a Christian “identity” is actually the setting aside of all identities.
We look at divisions that were thought to be a “natural” part of the world during Paul’s life:
Religious identity (Jew/Gentile),
Political identity (slave/free), and
Biological identity (male/female).
We then look at how the “sword” Christ says he brings divides those who may, in fact, believe the same things, while bringing unity to those who’s beliefs may be markedly different. A person’s enemies are now those of their own tribe.  The graphics in the book help clarify the new division of non-division.

Chapter Six covers material like “renewing of your mind,” “freedom from the obsessive drive for that which we (falsely) believe will make us complete,” “Christ as Fully God,” and more insights into the Crucifixion.

Section Three.

Chapters Seven through Nine.

We’re shown some new ways of being church.   Ways of facing our addiction to certainty.  Ways of interacting with the “other.”  And, of great importance, seeing ourselves the way others see us.
There are some really good ideas here. These ideas are not just theory, but ones that have been put into practice by the author and/or people he knows.
I would participate in these practices, but I don’t know that I would initiate them.  Whether or not you use these ideas, they can spur you on to come up with your own ideas. These certainly are some unique methods of encounter.

We also look at how, sadly, the existing “church” does not confront or challenge the Idolatry spoken of in these pages. Rather, the church reinforces the Idolatry.  Actually, it thrives on it.  The modern church would, to a great degree, not exist without it.  Not in it’s current form.
(I like the title of Chapter Eight:  “Destroying Christianity and other Christian Acts.”)

Oh.  Also in chapter 7, Peter critiques the “Confessional” scene in “Blue Like Jazz.”  I understand him, and for the most part agree with his criticism.  However, I still believe the realizations made through that type of process are powerful, and for many (most?) Christians, a necessary point at which to arrive before being able to move on.  It’s like not being able to get from A to H without going through E.  (And personally, I still love the movie.  Not everyone will.)

I tell ya, one sure-fire way to know that a book, author, singer, poet, etc. has something the church probably needs to hear is if those who claim to speak for the church call it heresy. [Challenge power, and power pushes back.]
This book is no exception. Peter (like Rob, Brian, Anne, Spencer, Phyllis, and others) is, in my estimation, a modern day prophet. Not in some weird, supernatural concept of the word, but in a real-life, get-back-to-basics, kind of way.
A way that calls us out of the Babylon of Christianity, and back to the way of Christ.

– df

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Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

Also read: “Insurrection,” and
The Orthodox Heretic.”

Quotes:

– What if Christ does not fill the empty cup we bring to him but rather smashes it to pieces, bringing freedom, not from our darkness and dissatisfaction, but freedom from our felt need to escape them?

– All our religious narratives are but ash before the all-consuming fire of divine mystery.

– [Holing on to the] Idolatrous form of faith, [you] will be tempted to embrace that huge industry dedicated to conferences, worship concerts, and traveling apologists.

– The Good News of Christianity: You can’t be fulfilled; you can’t be made whole; you can’t find satisfaction.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

–  Instead of God being that which fills the gap at the core of our being, the God testified to in Christianity exposes the gap for what it is, obliterates it, and invites us to participate in an utterly different form of life, one that brings us beyond slavery to the Idol.

– [Paul] understood that the prohibition of the law does not cause one to renounce an object, but rather fuels a self-destructive drive for it.

– People tend to think that the Law and sin existed on opposite ends of a spectrum… they actually are intertwined and exist on the same side.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– All the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves have a fictional quality.

– Religious leaders are actually lying, first and foremost, to themselves.

– We are all tempted to fall into the same trap as these religious teachers whom Jesus chastised.

– Love fulfills the law…by raising us into a different register where we live beyond the prohibition.
… while not everything is beneficial, everything is permissible.
[This revelation to me, long before reading this book, was a wonderful breakthrough.  I am no longer obsessed with what things are “sins,” and what are not.  I now ask myself, “Is this the smart thing to do?  Is this the best path to travel?  Is this beneficial?”  So the writing here, as so often seems to happen, confirmed a work already being accomplished within me.]

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– Original Sin and the Law are obliterated and the Idol they create dissolves into thin air.

– [This is very good.]  More often than not, the reasons we reject another arise after the actual rejection.

– Christianity is not a singular, monolithic, unchanging belief system but a fluid tradition that is always interrogating itself.

– Love is the crazy, mad, and perhaps ridiculous gesture of saying yes to life.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

 

“The Naked Gospel” February 9, 2010

“Conviction or Counsel?”

Convict means to find guilty.  The root convict only appears eight times in the Bible.  And not one of those appearances has anything to do with the daily life of the believer!  The gospel of John contains the only passage that joins “Holy Spirit” and “convict.”  [READ John 16:7-9]
Who’s being convicted here?  It’s the world, characterized as people who do not believe in Jesus.

[The Holy Spirit is] our Counselor, or Helper, our Comforter, our Advocate — and the one who guides us into all the truth (John 16:13).  He prays on our behalf (Romans 8:26).  And he testifies to us concerning our identity as children of God (Romans 8:16).  Rather than dredging up the past, the Holy Spirit trains us for the future.  When sinful behaviors occur in our lives, he reminds us of Jesus’ work on the cross.  We need to know that we’re pure and made for good deeds.  Too many Christians succumb to the Accuser while wrongly attributing these attacks to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

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– My Review:

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Yet another great addition to my library. 
With all the ground that has been covered by previous readings, this book managed to cover new ground.  It really helps show how religion has added so much to the gospel that the true gospel is considered heresy by much of the “church.”  It’s amazing how far we’ve fallen from truth.
One of my favorite sections is called “Crossing The Line.”  It, alone is worth the price of the book.  It discussed how the dividing line of time, and covenants, was not Christ’s  birth, but his death and resurrection.  I, of course, knew this, but I hadn’t considered the full ramifications; especially concerning the teachings of Jesus under the Old Covenant.
There are some areas that are at opposition with my personal beliefs.  Andrew believes, like many, that Father-Son briefly lost fellowship at the cross. Despite what Jesus felt on the cross, the Father didn’t turn His back on Jesus.  God cannot turn God’s back on God’s self.  (For a great understanding of this, read “He Loves Me” by Wayne Jacobsen.)
But, reading a book like this, and disagreeing with one or two points is no big deal.  I will add this to the short  list of books that I will give away multiple copies of.

I can see why earlier versions of this type of material were banned and burned by organized religion, and why the promoters of said material were tortured and killed.  Of course, Jesus was tortured and killed for pretty much the same reasons.   Anyway, thank you, Andrew Farley.

— dave
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Here are more excerpts from “The Naked Gospel,” by Andrew Farley

Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

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“Jesus spoke truth to every audience he encountered. [But]We often attempt to apply directly to our lives every word Jesus said, without considering his audience and purpose. Jesus was born under the law. His audience was under the law, and they needed deliverance from it. Jesus exposed the futility of life under the law.

He exclaimed, “Gouge out your eye” and “cut off your hand” if you truly want to keep the law (Matthew 5:29-30), so that his Jewish listeners would reach a crossroad. They would decide to try harder or to give up. Once they gave up, they could consider a radical new way.
Jesus’ impossible teachings of “sell everything, sever body parts if necessary, be perfect like God, and surpass the Pharisees with your righteousness” are not honestly compatible with salvation as a gift from God.
Couldn’t we resolve all of this by realizing the dividing line in human history? Peter, James, John, and Paul wrote epistles about life under the New Covenant. Years earlier, Jesus was teaching hopelessness under the Old. The audience wasn’t the same. The covenant wasn’t the same. And the teachings aren’t the same.

Jesus’ harsh teaching aimed at the religious kill you every time. One thing about distinguishing the Old from the New – it always liberates.
Jesus was born under the law. As Hebrews tells us, the Old wasn’t replaced by the New until Jesus’ death.
Trying to mix Jesus’ teachings directed to Pharisees and zealous Jews with the epistles will inevitably result in confusion.

Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

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“There is no greater test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace.  If my preaching and presentation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel…There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.” – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. –
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One hindrance to understanding the real gospel as life restoration is an obsession with “book knowledge.”  The life of Jesus in us is what matters most.  We shouldn’t equate “Bible smarts” with spiritual maturity.  They’re certainly not one and the same.  As in Jesus’ day, it’s often those who are puffed up about their good handle on what the Scriptures say (not what they mean!) who resist the counsel of the Holy Spirit.
(Jonh 5:39-40).

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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.
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Adam and Eve didn’t eat from a “tree of evil.”  They ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  They weren’t pursuing sin as we normally think of it.  They were pursuing a form of godliness.  God never intended for humanity to take upon itself the burden of developing and following a code of ethics.  Adam and Eve reconsidered their confidence in God’s way and opted for morality instead.
Today, we can be deceived by the same offer.  We may find ourselves pursuing the knowledge of good instead of listening to our heartfelt yearning for an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
Fulfilling the law is something that God did in Christ.  Its fulfillment isn’t an ongoing event in the lives of believers today.  God set us free from the law, so that we’re not under it or supervised by it (Galatians 3:25).
The Holy Spirit isn’t motivating us to keep the Mosaic law, nor do I think we should consult the law as our guide in daily living.  This is why we have the Holy Spirit in us instead:  “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18).  Furthermore, if God were motivating us to adhere to the law, it would be the entire law, not just part of it (James 2:10). [By the way, God did write His laws on our hearts, not the law of Moses.  God’s law, according to Jesus, is “love God, love people.”]
I believe it’s quite clear that believers should have no relationship with the law.  Romans 7 explains that we’ve died to the law, and we’re now married to Another.  God views a return to law-based living as spiritual adultery.  Living by rules is cheating on Jesus!
Christianity was never rooted in the Law, not even in the Ten Commandments.  The commandments aren’t intended to supervise Christians (Galatians 2:19).   In fact, the law causes more sinning (Romans 7:5,8).
Paul warns that if we add even a pinch of law to our life in Christ, He’ll be of no value to us (Galatians 5:2-3).  It’s preposterous for Christians to adopt portions of the law of Moses as our guide for living.  We’re presuming that God grades on a curve.  But the law is completely incompatible with our attempt to “do our best.”  Law is a pass-fail system.  And one strike means you’re out.  The law only breeds two things: defeat if you’re honest and hypocrisy if you’re not.

[I’ve always heard people say “I know we can’t keep the law, but we should try and do our best.”  WHAT?!?!?  Scripture never says “Try to keep the law.”  It never says “Do your best.”  It says “Keep it all.  Period.”  The very scriptures they quote completely negate their proposal.  Neither do the Scriptures teach that we do what we can and Jesus does the rest.  God didn’t say that to make us try harder, but to raise the bar so high, we can never do it.  Thank God, Jesus did it for us.]
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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.
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Christ is the end of the law (Romans 10:4).
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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.
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Sure, the flesh is delighted to coerce us toward obvious evil.  But the flesh is equally satisfied to initiate religious or moral living admired by others!
Don’t believe for a minute that the flesh is limited in its scope to producing ugly behavior.  The flesh will build any kind of identity, as long as it gains love, attention, and acceptance from someone.
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The Sabbath:  The reality is Christ, and a genuine Sabbath-rest is found in Him; ceasing from the dead works we thought would gain us favor with God.
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The Tithe:  The same law that mandates a tithe doesn’t allow the pastor to own a home, own property, or own possessions.
(Also read “Tithing and Clergy Salaries.”  Click HERE.)
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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

 

Review of “He Loves Me” December 12, 2009

“He Loves Me.”  A simple title.  Actually, so simple it kept me from reading this Wayne Jacobsen book for years, even though I’ve enjoyed his other writings, audio, blog, etc.  I mean, it’s a book about God’s love.  What Christian doesn’t know about God’s love?!?!  I know His love for me is based on His grace.  I know it’s not by merit.  I know…

Well, this book is SO not as simple as its name, and yet, it is.  One of the many things I’ve learned over the last 10 years, is how much we say we know (and sincerely believe we do) that we really don’t;  at least not the way we should.  This book is yet another journey into learning what we’re sure we already know.
It looks at the Cross, not as an act of judgment, but as an act of love.  We’ve too long reduced the Father and Son to some schizophrenic “good-cop, bad-cop” god.  {The Father was really, really mad, so Jesus had to jump in the way to keep us from getting beaten up.}  Yet Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”
Hmmm.  Something is amiss.

I’m amazed at how fearful of grace many Christians really are.  Always afraid of what someone else will get away with.  Afraid of losing their ability to use religion to manipulate and control others in the name of God.
God may have wrath, but God IS love.  His wrath is against ungodliness and sin, but never against you.  “He Loves You.”  This is about learning to live loved.  It’s about choosing relationship over the fear of hell.  It’s about no longer trying to earn points with God.  That’s something many Christians say they don’t do, but listen to them talk very long, and you’ll see otherwise.
There’s a very small portion called “A Touchdown For Jesus.”  It may help you rethink what kind of testimony really gives God glory.

“He Loves Me” looks at many facets of the diamond that is God’s love.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  Just add this book  to your personal library.  You won’t regret it.
— dave
To Buy “He Loves Me,” Click HERE.

Here are some excerpts to wet your reading appetite.

We often view sin as evil action alone and miss the nature of sin itself. At its root, sin is simply grabbing for ourselves what God has not given us. In this realm, our best intentions can draw us into as much bondage as our most indulgent desires.
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We don’t enter into this kingdom by a sinner’s prayer, going forward at a religious gathering, or reciting an orthodox creed, but by learning to trust who he is and by living in that trust no matter what life hurls at us.
No longer oppressed by the need to appease God, we are free to live in his love, and that can completely transform everything about the way we think and live.
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There is absolutely no condemnation or guilt for anyone who lives in him. Now you can be with your Father just as you are, still in the process of transformation, and not have to hide anything. Those who are o longer influenced by shame can finally live authentic lives.
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When Jesus asked people to “repent and believe” the gospel, he was not asking them to be sorry for their sins and embrace an orthodox theology.  He was asking them to forfeit their own agenda and embrace his.  That’s the invitation to the kingdom.  It is not whether we want to go to heaven or hell, but whether we want to trust God or continue trusting ourselves.
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In every situation you’ll ever encounter, you will be offered two options in prayer: “Father, save me,” or “Father, glorify your name!” One will lead you to frustration and disillusionment, the other to the greatest wonders in God’s heart.
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I don’t think there has been a time since the Middle Ages when the practice of Christianity was so at odds with what it means to live in the life of Christ.
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His message was not “Come to God or you’ll burn in hell.” His message was “God’s kingdom has come near you and you can become a participant in it. You have a Father who loves you.”
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As you grow increasingly certain that his love for you is not connected to your performance, you will find yourself released from the horrible burden of doing something for him.

I used to be driven to do something great for God.

I’m not driven anymore.  I haven’t tried to do anything great for God in more than a decade, and yet I have seen him use my life in ways that always exceed my expectations.  What changed?  I did, by his grace.
My desire to do something great for God served me far more than it ever did him.  It kept me too busy to enjoy him and distracted me from the real ministry opportunities he brought across my path every day.

God’s work won’t be thwarted by my lack of participation.  He will touch people anyway, but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

His focus on touching people instead of managing programs has revolutionized my view of ministry.

People who learn to live out of a genuine love relationship with the God of the universe will live in more power, more joy, and more righteousness than anyone motivated by fear of his judgment.
To Buy it, Click HERE.

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Mercy, Not Sacrifice

Since Adam’s fall we have come to picture God not as a loving Father inviting us to trust him, but an exacting sovereign who must be appeased. When we start from that vantage point we miss God’s purpose on the cross. For his plan was not to satisfy some need in himself at his Son’s expense, but rather to satisfy a need in us at his own expense.

But I am deeply bothered by the thought that in some way God was able to separate himself at the cross. The popular understanding of the cross seems to be that God the Father executed wrath on God the Son while standing at some discrete distance.

Such thinking not only denies the essence of God’s nature but then distorts what happened at the cross. Paul wrote that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ…” God was no distant observer, but a participant. He didn’t send Jesus to do what he would not do; but God himself acted through Jesus to bring about our redemption.

Some have taken Jesus’ cry that his Father had forsaken him to mean that at the darkest moment, the Father had to turn his back on the Son. God cannot bear to look on sin, they argue, so that when our sins were laid on him, God had to turn his face away from his Son.

God has never run from sinful humanity. He didn’t hide from Adam and Even in the Garden. They hid from him as he sought them out. It is not God who cannot bear to look on sin, but that we in our sin can’t bear to look on God. He’s not the one who hides. We are. God is powerful enough to look on sin and be untainted by it. He has always done so. He did so at the cross.

To Buy “He Loves Me,” Click HERE.

Here are some other reviews:

Do Yourself a Favor and Read This Book
Excellent insight. A logical, biblical foundation for a new framework for understanding God’s intended relationship with His children. Love, rather than fear. Even if you don’t consider your relationship with God to be based on fear or “appeasement” (I didn’t either), this book will challenge you to reassess many of the traditions and approaches that dominate many in the Evangelical Christian Church. However, the book is not written from a critical point of view. A freeing book. Approach with an open mind. This book is having a strong, positive impact on my life. I have recommended it highly to several friends.
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The Best Book I’ve Read On The Topic of God’s Love For Me
I’ve enjoyed a meaningful relationship with God for 37 years, and have read extensively on the topic of God’s love for individual people. This is definitely the best, most specific, and down-to-earth book I’ve read on this topic. It has impacted my life and how I view God. It’s very freeing indeed.
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“For those of us who are longing to ‘live loved,’ I cannot recommend a better follow-up to The Shack than this book. It is an exploration and adventure into the heart of the God we hoped was truly there, and who loves each of us in particular with an everlasting love.” (Wm. Paul Young, Author of “The Shack.”)

To Buy “He Loves Me,” Click HERE.
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