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Did You See What He Did There? a lenten sermon on Exodus 17


church at communion 2Did You See What He Did There?
Exodus 17:1-7

I.H.S

 May the Grace and Peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ teach you that He will always provide for you, even when you can’t see that He is, and has planned to do so!

 Did you see what Israel did?

Have you ever met people like the ones Moses tried to lead in the Old Testament reading this morning?  A little of what went before.

In chapter 13, after more miracles than we can remember, Pharaoh lets the people of God go.

In chapter 14, a sea splits apart long enough to let 2.4 million people cross through it, and then swallows a half-million-man army chasing them with the intent to kill them all

In Chapter 16, the Lord provides them with the makings of quail tacos, as every morning he provides with the Manna and quail that would sustain them for 40 years.

After all that, after all God did, they doubt He knows what He’s doing?

Just because they don’t have enough water, and are so thirsty they can’t thing straight,  Just because they are struggling with the thirst,  they forgot the most important thing we need to know in life, they go crazy and become demanding and complain and whine to Moses, their pastor. Led by a pillar of fire and a cloud, they forget all that…tormented by thirst, unaware that the answer is so close….

Did you see what they did there?  Do you know people so overwhelmed by their place in life that they forget what makes life, life?

Did you see what they did there?  Yeah – that isn’t important.

Did you see what Moses did?

What about Moses?  Did you see what he did there?

He’s just as much of a whiner! Even as God leads them, Moses vents to God!  Why me Lord?  Why do they want me to suffer? Why are they going to kill me?  He too is overwhelmed by fear and anxiety!

He didn’t see that they were tormented by their thirst, he wants them to just stop their whining and be quiet. He takes their reaction to their stress personally, their cries to God as if they are personal attacks.

God go get them….. they don’t like us. Who cares what they are going through! Did you ever know anyone like that?

Did you see what he did there?

That isn’t important either,  There is only one Person whose actions we need to see in this story

Did you see what God did there?

God’s actions are really what everyone is concerned about, or is

Do we see what God is doing?

First He’s the One guiding them, He’s the one who brings these wandering people to the place where they are at, the place where He’s going to make eternal promises to them, and bring them into Abraham’s covenant in ways they will not understand until the resurrection of Jesus.

Then, God doesn’t bat an eye at the complaints.  He deals with Moses first – directing him to get back to caring for the people God gathered around him.  Walk out in front, gather them around.  Get your staff, the thing you’ve always had at hand when I worked through you, gather around the elders and all the people to see what happens.

Oh yeah – I will be there, standing before the cliff face..

And then for those miserable, tormented, thirsty, complaining people, God does something wonderful.  He provides what they need, as He planned.

He hadn’t forgotten them, He hadn’t forgotten to provide for them, He didn’t want them to die, but live, in peace, in relationship with Him.  So he tells Moses to take the staff and hit the rock face and water comes out, enough for them, and all their animals.

To give you and idea of how much water, quick calculations gave me the number of at a minimum. 500 backyard pools worth comes spilling out of rock face…or if we walled in the church property and made it one big pool, the water would be 7 feet deep. (and that’s not counting evaporation!)

Did you see what He did there?

People that whined and complained, led by a shepherd who didn’t care for the problems they were in, who forgot He was there. People just like you and I, people that were overwhelmed, who couldn’t function, who despite the miracles, who despite the things testifying to God’s presence, doubted.  People who scripture says tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord here with us or not?

For those people, God again provided what they needed.

Even though they struggled to realize it, He was there, He heard their cries, and had already provided for them.

Did you see what He did there?

So what?

The reason I want you to see what God did there, is often we forget.

It’s time to see what God is doing, no longer concentrating on our failures, or on the weakness of our leaders.

We need to see what He’s doing here, which isn’t much different.  Indeed, His faithfulness, His loving care, His giving life, is always there.  He is faithful.

I could focus on Christ being the rock that the Holy Spirit shepherds us to, or that He is the living water that cleanses us and gives us life.  That He does so, because He is faithful to His promise, to His plan, even if we struggle.  I would focus that he does work through weak and tired leaders, even when we think no one is listening.

But I would like us to focus the most on this, the answer to Israel’s question.  He is with us!  The Lord is with you!

Yeah – He is here! He promised to never leave us, to never stop providing for us.

That He is here is we need to know, with more than our mind; to experience deep in our souls the comfort and peace that God gives us, and letting that comfort and peace work its way from our hearts into our minds, overcoming the doubts, the fears, the pain, the hunger and thirst for life, that seems unquenched.

That is what the cross and the grave, the resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost are about.  He went through it all to show us His presence, giving us evidence that backs up His promise of love, His promise to care.

Lent does, for this is the time when we realize our thirst is not for water, not for manna, but for Him.  And He hears our cries… and reminds us, “I am standing right before you..”

He is our LORD – the one who stands before us, calling us home, welcoming us home, welcoming us to His feast…. Where we remember His presence and rejoice and rest.

AMEN!

Every time He said, A sermon on 2 Corinthians 12


Video Presentation of Sermon

Every time He Said, 

2 Corinthians 12:1-10

In Jesus Name

 

My God’s words of love penetrate your heart and enlighten your life, as you live trusting that His grace is indeed sufficient!

How many times!!

I don’t think it matters which relationship we talk about, but it seems that in every kind of relationship known to mankind, there is a serious issue that arises.  (SLOW CLICKS)

Simply put, we don’t know how to listen to each other.

For example, is there a parent who never questioned whether their teenage children listened to them all the time?  And wives, what about you, has there ever been a husband that paid perfect attention to everything you said?

I am pretty sure that there have been times where I wasn’t listened to, whether when I was in management or as a pastor, and there are times I am sure I didn’t listen as well as I should have.

Anyone here want to say they listen perfectly, all the time?   I mean, there was this cartoon on FB this week… Would it be there if a lot of people didn’t find it… true?

We have some good company then in the apostle Paul, in who letter this morning we heard… well, at least I hope we heard…

“Every time he (that is Jesus) said, “

Meaning that it took Paul three times to hear what Jesus said!
We’ll get to what we said earlier, let’s first deal with the topic of listening, and specifically, listening to God.

The Problem of Narcissism

Things have changed a little since the church came to America.  Back in the days of John Hancock, the Adams brothers and the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the pastor or priest in most villages was the most educated man in the community.  Some would say he was also the smartest, and if he had been around for a while, one of the wisest.

Even today sometimes we play the game that was going on in Corinth, where the people wanted to be led by the smartest pastor or apostle, the best speaking one, the one who looked and lived like he was blessed by the gods.  We even get in competition some times when we gather.  Hey my church just doubled in size, or my budget is 8 million.

Rarely do we hear the stories I like to hear, and even more witness, about the 2 year olds that are so at peace at the altar that they do not want to leave when their parents get up from communion.  Or the children who might not be able to explain it, but know something incredible is happening when someone is baptized, or when the Body and Blood of Christ is given to eat, to drink.  Or do you notice your bodies relax when I get the pleasure of saying, “in the stead and by the command of Jesus Christ, I forgive you all of your sins…”

But do we hear that, or do we hear what we want to hear?

Do we try to find the most educated, most successful or at least the most popular person we can find to agree with us?  Do we hear ourselves saying, “this is what Bill Gates said, or Ronald Reagan or the Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther wrote; pointing to their words to back up what we want to hear?

The church in Corinth did that all the time.  Remember these words from Paul?

12  Let me put it this way: each one of you says something different. One says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Peter”; and another, “I follow Christ.” 13  Christ has been divided into groups! Was it Paul who died on the cross for you? Were you baptized as Paul’s disciples? 1 Corinthians 1:12-13 (TEV)
You see, sometimes our ability to hear and understand is limited by our own desire to be right, our own desire to be better than the person next to us.  That is why Paul had to go on what he called a foolish mission to convince everyone that he was as good as an apostle as the next guy,  He thought it foolish and a waste of time, which is why he said,

6  If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message,

But sometimes, we need to be humble enough to hear it.  We can’t be so full of ourselves that we don’t leave room for the Holy Spirit to teach us.

Which means, sometimes like Paul we need to hear, over and over the message of God’s love, we need to be able to say with Paul,

9  Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.

The Penetration of the gospel

His power works best when we can’t oppose it, when we are so desperate for His action in our lives, that we hear it.

In Greek, the word for hearing, and the word for obeying (to take action on what is heard) are related.  One is simply the other with the prefix “hyper”  Akouo and Hyper-akouo.  Think about it, when you ask someone if they heard you, what you are really asking is, are you acknowledging what I said and doing what I asked.  Right?

Yeah, some things never change.  To hear is to understand something so well you respond to it.  I came across this quote about faith that bears this out this week,

We do not simply choose grace for ourselves, for grace is by nature an answer and is therefore attributable in the first place to what comes to me from another person, penetrates deeply into me, and makes me open to say thou and so to become truly I. It is, in truth, a gift given me by another person, and yet I am more deeply and more completely involved in it than in any work I might have chosen for myself. Faith is likewise a Yes to God in Jesus Christ, who looks upon me, makes me open, and enables me ultimately to entrust myself to him.[i]

I love that picture of grace, as it is described penetrating into us and opens in us the ability to recognize that the Lord is with us.  To be able to address God, not in the third person, but in the second.  For those who don’t remember English – to address Jesus as you – and not “him”!
Because God’s love penetrates deeply into our souls, getting us to recognize His presence, it involves us at a level deeper than just our intellect, and more completely than just our emotions.

It hits us in our souls, where we need to know we aren’t alone.  Where we need to realize His love at its deepest need, and enables us, as the quote mentions, to entrust ourselves to Him.

For we’ve heard the message, this message Paul had to hear 3 times.

His grace is sufficient, it is all we need.

Let’s pray,

Lord, help us to hear you in this, help us to realize the depth of your love, and may that message sink deeply into our souls.  Help us to trust you more, and cling to you in all things, and in all times and places.  Help us to rejoice in that which keeps us humble, for then we are able to see you at work.  God we thank You for your grace, which works in every person in Christ Jesus.  It is in His name we pray!

AMEN.

And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall guard your hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

[i] Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 214). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

God asks, “Can You Hear Me Now?”


Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

9  And he said, “Yes, go, and say to this people, ‘Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely, but learn nothing. 10  Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing. Isaiah 6:9-10 (NLT)

540  In the interior life, as in human love, we have to persevere. Yes, you have to meditate often on the same themes, keeping on until you rediscover an old discovery. “And how could I not have seen this so clearly before?” you’ll ask in surprise. Simply because sometimes we’re like stones, that let the water flow over them, without absorbing a drop. That’s why we have to go over the same things again and again—because they aren’t the same things—if we want to soak up God’s blessings.

I probably have written this blog,before, or something like it.

I probably need to hear the lesson again, to make sure it sticks, just as St Josemaria mentions, I need to hear it over and over again, and to be honest, I get frustrated by my inability to hear God…Like yesterday’s blog, about loving people, not just tolerating jackasses.

I know it, I preach it, I teach it, yet I need to hear it again, to realize how in that very thing, it is all about God, about His being my benevolent Master, who wants the best for me. it isn’t just to behave right, or a matter of perfect obedience.

It’s about growing in my trust of God.  It’s about hearing Him, really hearing Him.  Hearing of His love, His mercy, His desire to create a relationship with us. A relationship with us that is so precious that He will go the ends of creation to make it happen.

He will heal our broken hearts, forgive our sin, comfort us, correct us, call us back to Him, reassure us that we don’t walk alone.  He will be patient with us, for He desires our trust, that level of relationship where we count on Him.

In the Romans reading above, the lesson I need to grasp again, is what it means.

Hyper-akuo in Greek.  To Hyper-hear God, to be so attuned to His voice, to so hear it, that it forms and shapes us, that we trust Him to the extent that we simply move, guided by His words, the words that reveal His love. That is what obedience/ hyper-hearing Him is all about.

Today He is asking – can you hear Me?

May we respond like children, and run into His arms….

God Bless!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2034-2039). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

When God Doesn’t Answer….then what? The Dark Days of Being a Pastor/Elder/Parent


Devotional Thought of the Day:

16  You spoke to me, and I listened to every word. I belong to you, LORD God Almighty, and so your words filled my heart with joy and happiness. 17  I did not spend my time with other people, laughing and having a good time. In obedience to your orders I stayed by myself and was filled with anger. 18  Why do I keep on suffering? Why are my wounds incurable? Why won’t they heal? Do you intend to disappoint me like a stream that goes dry in the summer?” 19  To this the LORD replied, “If you return, I will take you back, and you will be my servant again. If instead of talking nonsense you proclaim a worthwhile message, you will be my prophet again. The people will come back to you, and you will not need to go to them. Jeremiah 15:16-19 (TEV)

7  LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived. You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me. Everyone makes fun of me; they laugh at me all day long. 8  Whenever I speak, I have to cry out and shout, “Violence! Destruction!” LORD, I am ridiculed and scorned all the time because I proclaim your message. 9  But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. Jeremiah 20:7-9 (TEV)

224      Interior dryness is not lukewarmness. When a person is lukewarm the waters of grace slide over him without being soaked in. In contrast, there are dry lands which seem arid but which, with a few drops of rain at the right time, yield abundant flowers and delicious fruit. That is why I ask: When are we going to be convinced? How important it is to be docile to the divine calls which come at each moment of the day, because it is precisely there that God is awaiting us!  (1)

There are days where events and situations occur in such a way, I have to wonder if God is on vacation.  

It might be that the burdens i deal with just tire me our, that as prayer requests seem to add up, as more and more people I know have to deal with severe trauma and grief.

It could be the burdens that come as I try to balance being a pastor and a father, as days go longer than I thought, or I don’t get the break I need somewhere in the middle.  Or that somehow my own physical  and personal issues challenge me as well.

It could be that working with some people is such a challenge, even as Jeremiah notes, as they continue to rebel against God, thinking their own way is better. Today they don’t kill those who would warn them, they just laugh it off, or simply ignore it and do what they want to do, not thinking about the consequences, and that God does have a reason for the guidance He gives us.  You can tell them, and sometimes they will listen, and sometimes they will come back, with tears in their eyes…. we pray that God would reveal Himself to them in a way they can’t deny… to quote the gospels,  ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets (and the gospels and epistles), they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:31 (NLT)

Whether the people we deal with are victims or the guilty, or even both simultaneously, why does it take so long for them to be restored?  Why do we have to see them struggle?  Why can’t everything be fixed, why can’t prayer work like a magic wand….?  Why doesn’t God just fix their problems – both the problems of the good and the bad?  After all, isn’t that what ministry is about?

Why do Jeremiah’s whines resonate deeply within the souls of so many pastors, priests, lay leaders in every form of ministry, including those who are parents?

is there a cure for how we feel when we wonder why God hasn’t provided the answer to our prayers?

One of the steps is to deal with the issue of self-righteousness.

That’s God’s answer in the first quote from Jeremiah.  He doesn’t tell Jeremiah to force the people to return.  God tells Jeremiah to return!

Jeremiah, you come back, you get back to doing what I’ve called you to do.  You serve, you stop whining, stop making it sound like you are the martyr, the suffering servant.  Proclaim Christ (though it was in the nature of prophecy for Jeremiah – we can point more clearly to the cross)   Time to end the self-pitying, the grass is greener ( or in my case, the leaves ae more colorful) over there.

When we stop making ourselves out to be the crucified one, the martyr of God’s cause,

But how?

I love Josemaria’s answer, for it changes the game.  When there is no answer to prayers, we usually either blame God (as Jeremiah does) or we think there is something wrong with our prayer – either our heart, or our form, that God’s not listening because something we have done is prohibiting the God of the universe from either hearing our prayer, or taking action upon it.

There is a difference between being in rebellion from God, and being in a dry spell, of not praying because we don’t trust or know God is there, and wondering why the prayers aren’t answered yet.  Sometimes, that dryness is needed, because we have to learn that God is there….even when we can’t see Him. We have to learn to be stiil, to wait on the Lord, to know that He is God.

It from such dryness that a revival can spring, that incredible growth may com.  Some places are like gardens, slow and steady, others are like the desert – where a light rain on Tuesday is followed by plants literally bursting forth.  It is that message, the very gospel that causes such, that snapped Jeremiah out of his silence, it is that gospel message that causes the life that seems to be buried to explode out of our parched souls. It is that word of God that brings to us the perspective of God’s love, of His desire, of His work that quickens people, that quickens us.

The gospel message of God’s love, that draws us to Him, that reveals how deep and high, how broad, how wide, that love is… for us.

For them.

A love that answers those prayers, in ways we can’t quite understand, yet ways fulfilling His promise to never leave or forsake us.  The promises that nothing can separate us from Him, even the valley of the shadow of death.  The gospel that says even though we think His words we proclaim may return void, they won’t.   He has promised.

And knowing Him, remembering His promises, we return from our whining to get back to our calling, to proclaiming that love we need to know ourselves to others.

And then, they come… they find that love, they find the healing for the brokenness they chose…. and our prayers… well they are answered.

For He is our God, our refuge, and we are His people, the children He cares for by providing them peace.

AMEN

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 964-968). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Can You Hear Him Now?


Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:photo

17  But it is in that way faith comes, from hearing, and that means hearing the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 (NJB)

24  Some of them were convinced by his words, but others would not believe. 25  So they left, disagreeing among themselves, after Paul had said this one thing: “How well the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophet Isaiah to your ancestors! 26  For he said, ‘Go and say to this people: You will listen and listen, but not understand; you will look and look, but not see, 27  because this people’s minds are dull, and they have stopped up their ears and closed their eyes. Otherwise, their eyes would see, their ears would hear, their minds would understand, and they would turn to me, says God, and I would heal them.’ “ 28  And Paul concluded: “You are to know, then, that God’s message of salvation has been sent to the Gentiles. They will listen!” Acts 28:24-28 (TEV)

123      Meus es tu—you are mine, the Lord has declared to you. To think that God, who is all beauty and all wisdom, all splendour and all goodness, should say to you that you are his…! and then, after all this, you can’t bring yourself to respond to him!

His name is Paul, but most people in the USA who would quickly recognize his voice, have no idea of who he is, or what he does outside of five words.

But say those five words, and they will picture him, his glasses, his short hair cut, the blue jumpsuit and the arm which is glued to a cell phone, which is glued to his ear.

He is always asking, “Can you hear me now?”  Over and over and over again.

But he isn’t the only one.

The quote from Acts above is replicated in the gospels, it is retold in Paul’s writings, and some would say it originates in the Isaiah.  But the first people to hear it, dwelt in a garden, and daily, physically, walked with God.   Can you hear me know Adam?  Eve, are you listening?

They weren’t.  The people of God in the time of Moses didn’t hear Him that well, in fact, they asked not to hear Him, for to hear God is a scary, intimidating thing.  We are afraid of what we will hear. We are afraid of what he says, and like children or teenagers, we become good at hearing what God tells us, is beloved children.  We busy ourselves with things, some of which we believe will earn His favor, but which simply exist to keep us from listening from being still and knowing that He is God.

We hear Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress” and want to make it the anthem of a church at war with evil in the world, rather than the cry of one who is broken, abused, neglected and oppressed, who finds rest and sanctuary in Christ.  ( Remember, Luther writes that based on Psalm 46, not Revelation)

Will we listen when Jesus calls us to His side, to unite with Him in death, to come to Him because we are weary and burdened, so we can find rest and healing?  Will we listen to the Holy Spirit, not described as a Warrior General, as a spiritual Chuck Norris/Bruce Lee/Yoda, but as the Comforter and Consoler. Will we listen to a God who attributes are love and mercy? (cHesed, Ellios, agape)

Will we listen and hear, and let the word of Christ dwell in us,

Or will we claim there was a bad connection, that the email was lost, that we didn’t get the Lord’s message, or understand His desire?

Will we here Him say,

1   “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. Isaiah 43:1 (TEV)

Hear Him, dear people of God… and live!


(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 635-638). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Football Season Starts Soon: Whose side is God On? (and in other rivalries as well)


Discussion and Devotional THought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

13  When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” 14  “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the LORD’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” 15  The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told. Joshua 5:13-15 (NLT)   

759         You complain that he shows you no understanding. I am certain he does as much as he can to try to understand you. But what about you? When will you make a bit of an effort to understand him?  (1)

It is getting near that time of year when men pray more consistently on Sundays.  They thank God more often, they pray too him more deeply, the acknowledge His presence and ask His blessings (and  quote all the passages about cursing and defeating their enemies…)

Well, those men who are football fans, and those who are fanatics.

I wonder if God ever tires of those prayers, if he ever gets tired of the rivalries that He is included in by prayer? As if God really had a favorite football team, as if he really has a favorite team or a favorite player, or even a favorite sport?

I think of Joshua’s words above – he wanted to be sure this soldier was on his side…… and that was even before he knew the Soldier was Christ Jesus.

Whose side are you on?

Neither.

Which football team is favored by God?  Neither.

With that out of the way – let’s get on to what is important.  I am here.. you are here, therefore this is Holy Ground.  

The purpose of God isn’t to have this team or that team win, or even this nation or that nation be the dominant power.  People will get mad at me, but it is not whether the Ukraine or Russia prevails, whether ISIS is in power in Iraq, or some other group.  Or who is guiltier in the war between Hamas and Israel.

Even if those who oppose God are “victorious”, or seem to be, that doesn’t mean God is not working in their lives.  That is why God raised up Nineveh, why Jeremiah 29:7 talks about praying for oppressors, why Jesus commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

Do we understand people enough to see their need for God in their lives?  Do we see that we, as His people, as to be beacons, to bring light into their darkness?

Those steps are needed, but first we desperately need to know that we are in the presence of God.  That it is not our agenda, or even our nation’s agenda that is important.  There is only one agenda, there is only one will that matters.  God’s.

It is His – that none should perish – but that all wold come to repentance, as St Peter instructs.  Raider fans, Bills fans, Broncos Fans, even Patriots fans.  Russians, Ukrainians, Iraqi’s of every ethnicity and culture, Palestinians, those in Hamas, even the Israeli’s.

That they would come to know they live in God’s presence, that the Holy Spirit would replace their hearts of stone with hearts of flesh, that they would have the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, give them life.

That is why Joshua would meet the pre-incarnate Christ,   it is why Israel was loved, and protected,   SO that we could heed the words of King David in the second Psalm,

Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. Psalm 2:11-12 (NKJV)

Lord have mercy on us!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3155-3157). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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