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« Reply #2910 on: March 11, 2009, 07:34:17 AM »

 "Not As A Thief's"

But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 1 Peter 4:15-16

When I ask, "How low do you think someone can go?" I'm not talking about a person who is doing the limbo.

No, I'm speaking about the new moral lowness recently found in Bremerton, Washington. There are many good people in Bremerton, good policemen, too. I'm sure they're just as glad as anyone else that three thieves have been caught.

Understand, these were not ordinary thieves. These were thieves who were going around using counterfeit money to buy Girl Scout Cookies.

We're not talking about buying a car or a vacation home in the Bahamas. We're talking about three people who ripped off the Girl Scouts.

This takes me back to the text for today's devotion, the words of Peter: "Let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or a meddler." In Peter's time, as in our own, there are some very nasty people -- people who prey upon the weak and defenseless.

One of the great strengths of Christianity is the fact that the vast majority of us do try to act in a moral, responsible, God-pleasing way. This we do not because we have to, but because we wish to give thanks to the Lord Jesus for having saved us.

By our lives, through the things we do, we are given opportunity to reflect His light of love to a world that is dark, very dark indeed.

As Peter said, that's the way we glorify the name of Jesus.

It's small consolation, but with people stealing from Girl Scouts, our reflected light ought to shine just a little bit brighter and a little further.
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« Reply #2911 on: March 12, 2009, 07:45:03 AM »

 "Forgetfulness"

They did not keep God's covenant, but refused to walk according to His Law. They forgot His works and the wonders that He had shown them. Psalm 78:10-11

Some people say the opposite of love is hate.

I believe the opposite of love is indifference. This takes me to the case of Marcus Borden, coach for a New Jersey High School football team.

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear his appeal of a court decision that banned him from joining his team in student-led prayer. Understand, Coach Borden wasn't leading the prayer; or organizing the prayer; or assigning people to pray. He just wanted to bow his head and drop to one knee while various members of his team did the praying.

By law, he is not allowed to do that.

Borden said he wanted to show respect for the students engaged in prayer by bowing his head silently and dropping to one knee.

By law, he's not allowed to do that.

Coach Borden is supposed to be completely, totally, absolutely neutral. I don't know how that is possible. If I have a guest at my table, and he does not believe as I do, I don't expect him to join me when I bow my head. On the other hand, I expect him to respect what I'm doing.
That's all the coach wanted to do. By law he's not allowed to do that.

It would appear that some of our leaders, like the children of Israel, have forgotten God's works and the wonders He has shown us. How sad this is. As Jesus said, "For the one who is not against us is for us" (Mark 9:40).

This means that it falls to us -- parents and pastors, church leaders and committed Christians -- to show our children that faithfulness to the Savior is a freedom that ought to be cherished, nurtured, and valued. We, who know the Savior's personal blessings to us and His national blessings to our country, ought to remain faithful.

It's the right thing to do and, besides, who knows how long it will be before we, by law, won't be allowed to do that.
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« Reply #2912 on: March 13, 2009, 05:59:43 AM »

 "Love Manifested Through Vulnerability"

But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8


Our God became flesh. This is a fundamental teaching in Christianity and entirely radical in its meaning. God became flesh. He took on the form of a man. He set aside His divine omnipotence and became vulnerable for us. Unlike the gods of ancient Babylonian or Greek mythologies who manifested themselves in order to display their powers and authority, Jesus gave up everything to become the sacrifice Lamb of God.

Jesus did this for one reason: love.

Jesus -- through whom all things were created -- came down to earth and became like us. He experienced what we experience; He completely identified with us through His incarnation. He became thirsty and asked the Samaritan woman for a drink at a public well. He became thirsty and asked the Roman soldier for a drink during His crucifixion. These were two people a Jew ordinarily would have nothing to do with; they were His enemies. But His love went beyond these class distinctions. His love shows His willingness to be vulnerable to the people He created so that we might see how true love behaves. Jesus sacrificed Himself to make His love known and our salvation a reality.

Vulnerability is not held in high regard much by society these days. Yet, it's the very attribute our Lord displayed for our sake in order that the will of God would be fulfilled in His life.
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« Reply #2913 on: March 14, 2009, 07:21:42 AM »

 "Security"

Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62:8

A few years ago, Pam and I went house hunting with a friend.

It really was quite an experience as we shuttled from one neighborhood to another. Most of the houses were beautiful, having just about every amenity the heart could desire. As we made our rounds, I noticed many of the upscale homes prominently displayed the names of security agencies responsible for their protection.

Although I didn't talk with any of the owners, I'm sure they all hoped the official notice their home was wired to prevent break-ins might discourage would-be burglars.

Although I may have been blinded by good-old-day-itis, I found myself bemoaning the fact we have to pay for security we once took for granted. Without having done a study, I'm still not afraid to say it doesn't make much difference where you live, people feel insecure.

This leads me to ask, "Is your life filled with fear?" It makes little difference if your fear is reasonable and rational or if it is imaginary and invented. Either way, you are concerned about the things that can blindside you, that can turn your life topsy-turvy.

If I have accurately described your situation, a bit of advice and encouragement from King David might be in order. Long ago he said, "Trust in Him (the Lord) at all times . . . God is a refuge for us."

I like those words "at all times." By the Holy Spirit's direction David wanted His people to know there is nothing -- did you hear that - nothing the Lord cannot handle. The Lord who created the universe with a word, who sent His Son to defeat sin, death, and the devil to win our salvation is a caring God of grace who can handle our worries, our fears, and all the dangers that threaten -- real or imagined.

In everything, the Lord remains our refuge.
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« Reply #2914 on: March 15, 2009, 09:40:34 AM »

 "Wearing Of The Green"

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him. Psalm 28:7

The festival of St. Patrick is soon to be upon us.

Just about everyone I know is aware that, in honor of the Saint, it will be the day for the "wearing of the green." And, if the tradition holds true, it will also be the day for green beer, green ties, green socks, and the green dying of the Chicago River.

So, if green isn't your favorite color, you might want to hear about a place where green is in mighty short supply: the Aleutian island of Kiska.

I don't know how it is now, but way back when about the only thing on Kiska was a military base. Here and there a few sprigs of grass struggled for survival, and a small number of hardy shrubs blossomed for a few weeks during the brief summer.

That's it. Kiska had no green trees. Because it was so barren, the post's camouflage unit decided to build a tree. A frame was constructed of wire and canvas. To the trunk they attached some branches, glued on some plastic leaves, and put a fence around it with a sign, saying, "Kiska National Forest."

It was a pretty poor forest, but it was the best they could do.

You know, with all our technology and in spite of all our scientific breakthroughs, we still can't make a living tree from scratch. The best we can come up with is a second-rate substitute. That's true in other areas too.

Since the Fall, humankind has been trying to save itself. In that endeavor we have failed in a monumental way. This is why the Lord sent His Son to do a job nobody else could do. Jesus came to live for us, die for us, rise for us, and win our redemption and our salvation. His unique story is worth telling.

This is exactly what St. Patrick did. An ex-slave, Patrick returned to the land where he had once been robbed of his freedom, so he might tell of the eternal freedom the Christ has won for all.
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« Reply #2915 on: March 16, 2009, 09:36:14 AM »

 "From The Frying Pan To...."

Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. Daniel 3:19

Our children who go to Sunday school are acquainted with the story from which today's text for the Daily Devotion is taken.

They know how the Lord preserved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the over-heated furnace.

Now it would seem, figuratively speaking, there are Christians in the same spot. In Sudan's Darfur region there are three predominantly Christian tribes who are being persecuted. So far, 300,000 have been killed and another 2.5 million forced to flee. According to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the surviving victims have been subjected to repeated rape and torture.

Now that body has issued an arrest warrant for the country's president, Omar Bashir.

With China, the African Union, and the Arab League on Bashir's side, little can be done to enforce that warrant. Instead, Bashir, like Nebuchadnezzar, has turned up the heat in the furnace.

He has ordered 13 international aid agencies out of the Sudan. Those are the 13 agencies responsible for 60 percent of the humanitarian aid getting through to the people in Darfur.

Short of a miracle, which the Lord has shown He can do, there is little earthly hope for these -- our brothers and sisters.

It is for such a miracle that we will pray at the end of our devotion. First, however, let us ask the Lord to sustain these people in their faith. May the crucified and risen Lord enable them to withstand the forces of hatred, prejudice, and persecution. Second, let us come to the Lord and ask Him, if such be His will, to intervene for those who are being tortured and tormented.
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« Reply #2916 on: March 17, 2009, 08:36:12 AM »

 "A Little Light Here"

...that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the Word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2:15-16

Last week, I had the opportunity of speaking to the graduating class of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Looking at those educated, enthusiastic men and their wives, I am thankful the Lord is preparing a new group of undershepherds to help serve and support His people.

His people are going to need them.

Why? Because the world is nuts. How nuts? Really, really nuts. Let me give an example. Last week in the state of Illinois, Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire had its first homosexual dance -- a dance sponsored by the Gay-Straight Alliance.

Also last week, the Illinois High School Association banned prayer or religious messages over the public address system prior to IHSA tournament games. That ban stands even when those games are hosted at private schools, even when both teams are from Christian schools, and even when both teams agree to pray and have done so in the past.

So, let me get this right: public homosexual dances at Illinois public high schools are okay, but public prayers are forbidden? I get confused. I don't understand why I'm supposed to be open-minded about a homosexual dance, but nobody is supposed to be open-minded about prayer?

Yes, the Lord is going to need some courageous clergy, and He's going to be counting on a host of dedicated laity if those who come after us are to be "children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation." There is little doubt the next generation is being given a tremendous task that is going to call for a great faith in the Savior and the Holy Spirit who touches sinful hearts.

God grant, as St. Paul wrote, that pastors and those who serve Him may hold fast to the Word of life and shine as lights in this dark world. Then, by God's grace may the story of salvation be believed as God's gracious good news of great joy for everyone.
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« Reply #2917 on: March 18, 2009, 08:01:38 AM »

 "Let There Be Peace"

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57

With a good many years using the old Lutheran hymnal, the words still come naturally: "The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace."

To hear those words of the Lord's benediction is why a great many people come to worship.

They want to know that the Lord, because of His Son's life, suffering, death, and resurrection has forgiven their sins and will bless their endeavors and their days.

That was what the members of First Baptist Church in Maryville, Illinois, expected their pastor, Fred Winters, would say when they went to church a week ago. Terry J. Sedlacek ended that hope, the worship service, and the earthly life of Pastor Winters when he opened fire on the preacher with a 45-caliber pistol.

The gun's bullets shredded the pastor's Bible, and they ripped apart his heart.

But that is all those projectiles could do.

They didn't stop Pastor Winters from entering eternal life; they didn't stop the church from holding a prayer service that night, nor did they stop the Lord's blessings and His peace. That's why First Baptist Church could say, "Please pray for Dr. Winter's family, our two brave members who were injured when they stopped the assailant, for the assailant himself and his family, and for our church members as they deal with this tragic loss...."

By inspiration St. Paul told us, "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Luther says the same: "And take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife. Let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won, the Kingdom ours remaineth."

It is something worth remembering my friends. Unexpected, unanticipated pains, and problems are besetting many of us right now. We keep getting blindsided by tragedy and terrible news. Even so, the Lord is in control, and we can remain confident of His blessing and protection. In Jesus, the Lord will "give thee peace."
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« Reply #2918 on: March 19, 2009, 08:43:47 AM »

 "Pretty Steady, Mostly Steadfast"

As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. James 5:10-11

The March 9th edition of the Washington Post said it all: "15% Of Americans Have No Religion."

The article spoke of how the percentage of folks who say they have religion has "dropped dramatically" over the last two decades. It also added the number of people who identify themselves as Christians in the U.S. has dropped to 76 percent.

Yup, that said it all -- or did it?

If a political candidate won an election with 76 percent of the vote, he would consider himself swept into office by a landslide.

If a company, which sold merchandise in a store, had 76 percent of the people buying their product, they would be dancing in the street.

If a baseball player hit the ball 76 percent of the time, if a quarterback passed the football successfully 76 percent of the time, if a basketball player managed to sink the ball 76 percent of the time -- they would all be superstars.

Yes, it is a great and terrible sadness when someone loses his or her faith and walks away from the Lord. It is tragic when the people for whom the Savior gave His life upon the cross feel He is worthless and irrelevant.

Even so, I give thanks! I give thanks so many believers remain steadfast. I give thanks the precious message of the Gospel is still reaching lost souls and providing hope and happiness. I rejoice the Savior who conquered sin, death, and the grave is also able to conquer unbelief.

Most of all I praise God that the Savior who lived 2,000 years ago has not lost His power, His impact, or His importance in the lives of hundreds of millions of souls. And with that praise is a rededication to do all I can in sharing the Savior who still is the only light available to this dark world.
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« Reply #2919 on: March 20, 2009, 06:52:04 AM »

 "Tough Life, Tougher Faith"

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him. Psalm 28:7

A while back, a young girl wrote to the Lutheran Hour Ministries' office in Riga, Latvia. Through her letters, she opened up regarding her family and the many issues they faced. Her father was in prison and her mother drank heavily. There was not enough money to pay the landlord. Eventually, the family faced eviction after the rent had not been paid for several months. Father in jail, mother on the bottle, and the prospect of being put out onto the streets-it all made life extremely difficult for this young girl.

After seeing our television programs that shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ, this girl contacted our Lutheran Hour Ministries staff. She was eventually brought to faith and learned to trust in God -- even in the midst of her many difficulties.

Today, this young woman is married and the mother of a three-year-old boy. God uses situations in our lives -- no matter how grave -- to draw us unto Him. God used the dire circumstances in this girl's life to bring her faith and hope in Christ. He can do the same in your life, as well.

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« Reply #2920 on: March 21, 2009, 09:12:57 AM »

 "Little Bits"

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-8

I am not a great athlete. I am not even a mediocre competitor.

Maybe that's why I remember some of the sports greats of the past. Maybe some of you, like me, recall the great French skier Jean-Claude Killy.

Killy became world famous because he was faster than anyone else. How much faster?

He was three-tenths of a second faster than his closest opponent. Three-tenths of a second doesn't sound like much, but it can be a very big deal indeed. It is the difference between winning and losing, the difference between gold and silver.

Perhaps little things can mean a lot -- not just in sports -- but in many areas of life.

I am thankful we have a Lord who knows that. Most certainly He is concerned with the big things of this life, such as our salvation. But He is also concerned about the little things, like how you are doing today.

The Lord doesn't just care about the leaders, the stars, the famous and rich of the world. No, not at all. God, who cares for sparrows, also cares about us. That's right, God cares about small, insignificant us.

Now, you will most certainly be excused if you're asking, "why?" I can tell you why. He is concerned about us because He loves us -- the smallest child, the homeless man, the lonely woman. The world may forget these folks, but the Lord doesn't. For them, for all, He sent His Son into the world to live, suffer, die, and rise.

Now, because of what Jesus has done, we can be thankful. Thankful that God cares about the sparrow, the hairs on our heads, and all the forgotten folk. We can be thankful that our God, who remembers the littlest things, also remembers us.

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« Reply #2921 on: March 22, 2009, 10:38:05 AM »

 "Eight Cents"

And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me." Matthew 25:40b

The expression is, "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades."

That's not exactly true, but I do remember a boy who was close. I met him while we were waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store. When it came the boy's turn to check out, he discovered an unforeseen problem: he had candy and he had money, but the two didn't match.

Having checked his pockets a last time, the boy looked up at the checkout lady and asked, "How much more do you need?"

"Eight cents," was the reply.

I coughed up the eight cents. If I had given him a million dollars, he couldn't have seemed more grateful, his grin of gratitude any more warm.

The eight cents didn't cost me much; on the contrary, it emptied my pockets of change, got the boy a candy bar, and gave me a memory that has lasted a good many years. It was a small kindness.

We, who have been saved by the Christ's sacrifice, who have been recipients of the forgiveness and salvation that cost Him His life, need to be aware of these small kindnesses -- opportunities the Lord sends our way.

Each of these is an occasion to touch the life of someone else with the joy that naturally springs from the heart of someone who knows Jesus. Each of these is a chance to reflect the love we have received and distribute it to those who have a need.

And, lest we forget, the Holy Spirit has a way of turning these little opportunities into a chance to share the Savior.

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« Reply #2922 on: March 23, 2009, 08:32:48 AM »

 "One Of The Greats"

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

He has been called a "hero" and a "legend," a man worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize, a person who is "the greatest man of our time."

And who is this man-above-all-others? Is it the Dalai Lama? Bill Gates? Albert Schweitzer? If these were your guesses, you guessed wrong.

The "great man" is Muntadhar al-Zaidi.

You do remember al-Zaidi, don't you?

Al-Zaidi's 15 minutes of fame came when the Iraqi journalist took off his shoes and winged them at President Bush. No matter how you feel about the president emeritus, you have to admire the nimble ducking he did that day. For his action, al-Zaidi has been given three-years in prison.

The decision has outraged millions who felt al-Zaidi was speaking, or throwing, for them.
I wonder what would have been the reaction if he had thrown his shoes at Saddam Hussein? I'm curious. I'm curious what would his sentence have been if he had done that to that country's dead dictator? Of course, that's beside the point.

Or is it? Scripture tells us how we are to react to those who are in authority. As often as I read the text serving as the theme for today's devotion, I find nothing there saying we should throw our shoes at world leaders.

On the contrary, the apostle tells us to uphold these leaders before the Lord in prayer. This we do for their sakes, most certainly; but we also do so because we wish to lead peaceful, quiet, dignified and, above all, godly lives.

It is an attitude the Savior espoused. During His unjust arrest, unfair trials, and cruel mistreatment, He still treated His persecutors with respect. Now, because He did so -- because He finished His work of redeeming us -- we are forgiven, saved, and able to live our days with a different set of priorities -- a set of priorities that tells us to pray even for those with whom we disagree.
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« Reply #2923 on: March 24, 2009, 08:18:41 AM »

 "Not A Good Idea"

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

Some people just don't want to be saved.

That seems to be the situation for the man who, on March 11th, climbed over a wall and waded into the rapids of the Niagara River. Rather than trying to swim back to safety, he struck out into the current and was washed over Ontario's Horseshoe Falls.

The man survived both the fall and the falls. Using a helicopter to wash the man closer toward the shore, the final rescue was performed by firefighter Todd Brunning who swam 200 feet into the freezing water to save the unidentified man.

When Brunning reached the man, the fellow couldn't, or didn't, want to cooperate.

Fire Chief Douglas Kane said he believes "this is only the third time an unprotected person has gone over the falls and survived." He added, perhaps unnecessarily, "most people end up dying."

Does that man's story sound like the human situation? By that, I mean we are swept away by sin and need to be rescued. I suppose there are some similarities, but there are also some major differences.

For example, the man had a choice to enter the water or not; sinners have no such choice.

The man probably had a choice to help save himself or not. We don't have that option either.

Occasionally, somebody can go over the falls and survive. That will not be the case for unforgiven sinners.

Truly, by our own reason or strength we cannot get to the safety of shore. It is only through the help of the Savior we can be saved, and our Savior had no safety rope when He came for us. Jesus gave Himself -- totally and completely -- to save us from sin, death, and the devil. It was an action that cost Him His life on Calvary's cross.

Still, because Jesus has successfully defeated sin, the devil, and death, all who believe in Him as their heaven-sent Substitute are saved. And that is the biggest difference of all.
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« Reply #2924 on: March 25, 2009, 11:39:40 AM »

 "A Rose Building By Any Other Name"

And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the Church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. Acts 11:26

Last week, the word went out: Chicago's Sears Tower, the tallest office building in the Western Hemisphere, would henceforth be known as Willis Tower.

As an ex-Chicago boy, my first reaction was "Whoa, that's not right!" That's like calling the Statue of Liberty the "Big Green Lady in New York Harbor" or saying the St. Louis Arch is "The Half Oval Stainless Steel Thingy." They might be accurate, but they just don't seem right.

My second reaction was that times change, and it doesn't make much difference what you call the building. In truth, that building by any other name would be just as tall and just as visible in the Chicago skyline.

I imagine the same can be said about those who believe in the crucified and risen Savior. The book of Acts says, "in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians."

That's quite an honor, quite a responsibility. Sadly, in the minds of many people today, and depending on their perspective, the term "Christian" has become synonymous with being prejudicial, puritanical, perverted, provincial, and prudish.

I cannot speak to the accuracy of that kind of thinking. What I can say is every believer is a forgiven sinner and a representative of the grace that comes through the Savior's sacrifice. We may never be able to change how others perceive us, but we can -- to the best of our ability -- lead lives that plainly show Jesus Christ has transformed our lives. For eternity, most certainly He had done this, but He has also changed us here and now.

How did Luther say it, "For all of which it is my duty to thank and praise, to serve and obey Him." Thankful Christians living for their Savior -- that is what people should think of when they see us, when they hear the name "Christian."
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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