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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Messianic Southern Baptists?

Southern Baptists Rely on Deception in Effort to Convert Jews.

That's the title of a recent in-depth article put out by JewsOnFirst.org.

Check it out:
Six million Jews and only 15 Southern Baptist Messianic Churches! A Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) official's recent juxtaposition of the US Jewish population (and, by inevitable association, the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust) with the SBC's main vehicle for converting Jews raised this question: is the SBC's objective to empty Judaism of American Jews and make them all Messianic Southern Baptists?

At its 1996 annual meeting, the Southern Baptist Convention resolved to focus on converting Jews -- specifically to "direct our energies and resources toward the proclamation of the Gospel to the Jews." This year's meeting afforded a look at how the SBC goes about evangelizing the Jews through the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship.

The "messianic" -- Jesus worshipping -- congregations endeavor to appear "Jewish" in order to provide a reassuring display of Jewish symbols to potential converts. Rabbis contacted for this report deemed the Jewish facade deceptive.
The article states that the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship's deceptive evangelism methods are spelled out in a 1998 North American Mission Board pamphlet on converting Jews. The pamphlet advises:
Use terminology that emphasizes the Jewishness of our faith. For example, instead of “Christ,” which is based on the Greek word for “the Anointed One,” use “Messiah,” which is based on the Hebrew. Instead of the “Old Testament,” refer to the “Hebrew Scriptures.”

Use verses from their Bible in discussing topics like: sin (see Ps. 14:2-3; 51:5; Eccl. 7:20; and Isa. 59:1-2), atonement (see Lev. 17:11 and Isa. 53:5-6), Messiah (see Isa. 53; Dan. 9:16; and Mic. 5:1 [v. 2 in our Bible]), and faith (see Gen. 15:6; Num. 21:7-9; and Joel 2:32 [3:5 in our Bible])
By no means is this the first time that the Southern Baptist Convention has been accused of deceptive evangelism practices by Jewish groups. As this concept of being a "Messianic" Baptist is new to me - I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the movement. However, it's worth pointing out that these messianic congregations often (if not always) have close ties to Christian Zionism - a political ideology which I believe to be both dangerous and destructive.

But read this very interesting article and visit the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship.

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25 Comments:

Blogger ElhananWinchester in Pinstripes said...

Hi BDW; good to chat with your dad briefly and meet you at CBF. Now, this stuff on Messianic Judaism and the SBC is fascinating and one more evidence of radical fundamentalism in the SBC.
Attempts to convert Jews to Christianity in 2007 are a form of antisemitism. I think any Jewish religious leader would agree with that.

6:50 AM

 
Blogger Chad said...

Those of us, like myself, who are Jewish believers in Jesus disagree, elhanan. We believe that the most antisemitic act one could commit is to withhold the Good News of Jesus Christ from our Jewish brothers and sisters. There's nothing deceptive about us -- we are born Jews who have come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, and we are very upfront about that belief. Perhaps the word "deception" is being confused with the word "disagreement."

8:19 AM

 
Blogger Larry said...

As Dispensational as the SBC has become, I'm surprised if this is still much of a focus. There are more people interested in rebuilding the Temple, breeding red cows, and trying to reinstate the sacrificial system in an effort to hurry God along toward the Second Coming.

11:01 AM

 
Blogger ElhananWinchester in Pinstripes said...

Greetings, Chad. First, let me welcome you to the Christian religion. I hope that it continues to be valuable to you in your faith journey.
Now, as I understand Judaism from my colleagues in the local ministry association who are rabbis, one cannot be a Jew and a Christian. To become a Jew is to leave the Jewish religion for another religion. Are there any authorities in modern Judaism that still recognize you as a Jew? I'm curious--I don't think the Reform Movement does. My conversations with rabbis have led me to understand Messianic Judaism as a Christian denomination.

Now, about the antisemitic part. It does seem antisemitic to me to target someone who finds her Judaism fulfilling and persuade them that their religion is deficient. If someone is satisfied in their Judaism or Islam for that matter, we should leave them alone. AND, if a Jewish person approaches me with an interest in converting, as minister, I would first ask that we meet with the person's rabbi to see if we can find a way for that person to become fulfilled in their native religion before taking such a drastic step as conversion and abandonment of one's faith community. If every Jew converted to Christianity, there would be no Jews left. Hence, the antisemitic nature of conversions.

5:08 PM

 
Blogger D.R. said...

Elhanan...,

I think your beef is with the Gospel and Jesus, not with Southern Baptists. The Gospel is for the Jews first. Even a cursory reading of the Gospels and of the letters of Paul and Peter show us that (not to mention the universal witness of the early Church in rejecting that anyone could be saved who rejected Christ, especially Jews who were unbelievers for the Gospel was preached to them first).

The fact is that Judaism is deficient - why else did Jesus come? If the Jews could be saved through their religion why did Jesus have to die and why did He and His disciples call the Jews to repent and believe upon Christ? Why did the apostles (and millions since then) die for the cause of spreading the Gospel if men do not need it to be saved?

Elhanan..., the Gospel is timeless - it doesn't change. Unfortuantely your brand of Christianity and Evangelism is a far cry from the Christianity of Jesus and the ministry of Paul.

And as far as anti-semitism goes, you've bought into the lie that it is somehow evil to believe that one is sincerely wrong in their understanding of God and should be enlightened with the Gospel (and even more evil that we as Christians have a responsibility to preach it - did not people die for preaching the Gospel throughout history because others were offended - why should it be any different today?).

It's not about what's best for the person, it's about what is most Glorifying to God, which is the conversion of all men to Christ, not to self-fulfillment. Christ died so that men could be saved, not so they could live self-actualized lives in a religion leading them to Hell. And to help put a man on the path to Christ and to eternal life is not hate - it's the ultimate expression of love that we can give to the Jews (or to anyone else for that matter).

I'll leave you with this passage to ponder. I hope that all Christians would be as grieved as Paul was here in seeing his brethren reject Christ - Romans 9:1-5

"I am speaking the truth in Christ- I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit- 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen."

11:59 PM

 
Blogger ElhananWinchester in Pinstripes said...

Hi Dr,
I am sorry if I've come off as strident. I really don't think I have a beef with anyone, just a different view. My hermeneutic of the scripture is one of pluralism and inclusion and yours is one of exclusivism. Everyone has an interpretive approach that guides them to particular scriptures and particular readings of those scriptures.

It is the inclusive message of the NT that rings true for me. The one in John that says, "In my parent's house are many mansions" and "I have other sheep that are not of this fold." And Paul's more inclusive statements, such as "All Israel shall be saved" and "Every knee shall bow," both of which are affirmations of universal salvation.

I'm sorry, I just don't think Judaism is deficient. It is not my religion, but it is a good and valuable religion that works for many. My rabbi friend has a rich faith and I expect to see her in heaven. In many ways, she is a better xn than many xns. She certainly follows the ethic of the Sermon on the Mount, which is the essence of the Gospel.

Now all this stuff you say about religions leading people to hell--we just have different understandings of the purpose of religion. Religions don't lead people to hell. God doesn't burn people forever because of their dogmas. That is inconceivable to me. The only forms of Christianity that condemn other religions to hell are fundamentalist forms.

8:45 AM

 
Blogger D.R. said...

Elhanan,

I'm sorry man, but your readings of Paul and Jesus in an inclusivist light just don't square with Church history, and especially with the rest of the Gospels of Paul's writings.

The "other sheep of this fold" is clearly speaking of Gentiles who would become Christians. This reading is not only historically attested to, but it is internally consistent and harmonizes with the rest of Jesus's words.

As for Paul's comments in Romans 11 about all Israel being saved, your view rips that out of context and misapplies it. If you notice in Romans 9, Paul begins a lengthy treatise on the Isrelites and his goal is to answer the question, "Has the word of God failed?" Why is this a problem for Paul that he must spend the next three chapters explaining it? Because the Jews who rejected Christ were rejecting salvation and would suffer (see Romans 9:2-3 again, where Paul wishes he could switch places with his "brethren" who are cut off from Christ and accursed, clearly language indicating eternal judgement would come upon them).

So his question is answered by showing in chapters 9-11 that the true Israelites were those who believed in Christ (shown by illustrating the story of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob that birth lineage is not what makes one an Israelite). He sums his position up in Romans 11 by saying that the word of God to the Israelites has not failed because "All Israel will be saved" - meaning all that God intended to be saved will be saved because they are the true Israelites.

The fact is that Church History clearly attests to an exclusivistic reading of Scripture. Christ did not die in vain, the apostles did not die in vain, and even today men do not die in vain. If any person could be saved outside of Christ, then all of them died in vain and all of our missionary efforts are for naught, as was Paul's, as was Peter's and as was the whole of Baptist missionary legacy. Those in China should just lay down to the Communist church and quit dying daily for their brethren so that they can hear the Gospel and those Christians in Muslim countries should just reconvert and quite putting their lives on the line every day for the sake of Christ.

You see Elhanan, when it comes down to it, it's quite insulting to Christ and to those who have given their lives for the sake of the Gospel to say that any religion will lead to heaven. It just doesn't square with the mission and history of the Church, with the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ, or the Great Commission. I hope this will spur you to rethink your position in light of Scripture and Church History and see that exclusivism is the only logical view one can hold to as a Christian.

10:23 AM

 
Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...

Allow me to drop a little Baptist history...

You know, Isaac Backus once called Elhanan Winchester "a man of good sense" but in some respects "inexperienced and rash."

Ha!

I am my father's son. :-)

12:11 PM

 
Anonymous Amy Downey said...

I could post and post and post but I believe that Chad and d.r. have done a good job.

The question which must be asked and answered is whether Jesus is the Messiah for all of us ... including and especially the Jewish people.

Elhanan -- to answer your question Reform Rabbi Daniel Cohn-Sherbok is urging Judaism to accept Messianic Judaism as a part of the fabric of Jewish life.

BDW -- what do you think? Does a Jewish person need to receive Jesus as Messiah?

12:31 PM

 
Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...

Amy,

While I'm not an exclusivist - I do believe Jews and Gentiles alike need Jesus as their personal saviour. That's my reading of Scripture. And I may be wrong. However, I'll leave the "who gets in" question up to God.

But I'm unsure how I feel about "messianic" Southern Baptist congregations. Nonetheless, folks who are comfortable with these congregations should not be upset when a Buddhist accepts Jesus but chooses to to act and function like a practicing Buddhist in their own culture....

I also find it interesting that D.R. seems to heavily rely on Church History or tradition to bolster his argument. I'd expect a good Southern Baptist to cite the Bible and the Bible alone.

It's must easier for me to conclude that the church fathers were wrong on various points than it is to suggest that the Bible is wrong...

2:07 PM

 
Blogger ElhananWinchester in Pinstripes said...

BDW, thanks for your words on Isaac. He was a great man, but he was wrong on a few points. Vidler, Ballou, and Winchester, we all get a bad rap as baptists.

Your father, though, is finer than Isaac. Nations will arise and call him blessed. I trust the charisma has passed to you as it did from David to Solomon.

2:27 PM

 
Blogger ElhananWinchester in Pinstripes said...

Now Amy, thanks for your word on this particular Rabbi. I will look forward to checking out his work. At present, though, no Jewish organization advocates that Mess. Jews are Jews. And no Rabbi with any authority to speak for Judaism thinks differently. In fact, the state of Israel considers Mess. Jews to have abandoned Judaism for Christianity. They are not covered under the law of return. So, Judaism considers Messianic Judaism to be a form of Christianity.

As to your question--do Jews have to accept Jesus as Messiah to be saved, well the answer depends on the type of Christianity one accepts. I am am pluralist and I say no. It smacks of antisemitism.

2:43 PM

 
Blogger ElhananWinchester in Pinstripes said...

dr, there is much in your post to address, but I am particularly struck by your notion that one who is a missionary does so in vain unless one does so with a view to converting people from one religion to another.

That certainly was not the position of one of the highest profile missionaries, Albert Schweitzer, a Unitarian.
Nor was it the perspective of Temp Sparkman, a long time professor at Midwestern Seminary. He stated, and I paraphrase, missionaries do not travel to other lands to take Christ to others, but to find Christ for themselves.

2:45 PM

 
Anonymous Amy Downey said...

Daniel Cohn-Sherbok is a very loud, very publishable, and very reputable British rabbi.

I don't agree with everything he writes but it is quite informative, especially his work on Holocaust theology. Much more relevant and understanding of the topic than Marc Ellis.

2:46 PM

 
Blogger ElhananWinchester in Pinstripes said...

Well, Amy, let's move from theory to praxis. If Daniel Cohn-Sherbok and Marc Ellis were to die tonight, would they go to Heaven or Hell? Neither is a Christian.

3:08 PM

 
Blogger ElhananWinchester in Pinstripes said...

Amy, one more thing; I just found the website for Daniel Cohn-Sherbok. He is a very impressive academic and I will look forward to reading his work, a bit at least.

While he has significant academic standing, though, his confessional standing is pretty thin. I am not imagining that he will have much influence in his own Reformed tradition on the question of whether Messianic Jews are Christians. That question has been settled since 100 CE. Despite the significant differences among the branches of Judaism, they are united in their conclusion that to become a follower of Jesus is to cease to be Jewish. It will be interesting to see if Cohn-Sherbok can persuade Reform Judaism, or the state of Israel, to think differently.

3:32 PM

 
Blogger D.R. said...

To address a few points,

First, BDW, if you noticed I did go to the Bible and I showed pretty succinctly that Romans 11 can't be used for pluralistic or inclusivistic arguments. My secondary argument is that of history and tradition. I use this one often with moderates and liberals because of at least two reasons, 1)I want to show that I am not alone in my understanding of Scripture. There is a thread of Biblical interpretation that runs throughout Church History on many topics, including inclusivism, homosexuality, and the role of women in the Church. In dealing with issues such as these I want to point out that I stand with the Church, not apart from it and that the opposing view is indeed one of a johnny-come-lately nature and not that of the historic Church. 2)I believe, as the Church always has, that the Holy Spirit inspired the text of the Bible and He leads men to understand what He inspired. There are many theological positions that are indeed based upon cultural leanings, but exclusivism (in this case) cuts across not only cultural lines, but chronological times as well. Unfortuantely, those who hold to inclusivism and certainly pluralism must pick and choose individuals here and there (many of which were rebuked by the Church - like Origen) for their views. Additionally, I find it important to establish that exclusivism is certainly not an American theology, as believers in China, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, and a host of other countries with various and sundred cultural perspectives hold to this view. So when one holds to an inclusivisic or pluralistic view, they must be informed that they hold to a position not only in the minority of Christians today, but a massive minority when measured against the backdrop of the Church universal. Thus, one must present a case that rivals no other to overcome this problem.

As for your comment that it is much easier for you to conclude that the Church Fathers were wrong than the Bible, I can concur. The problem comes when you must dismiss BOTH the Bible and the Church Fathers, which is what we have with an acceptance of pluralism and inclusivism.

5:36 PM

 
Blogger D.R. said...

Elhanan,

You said, "As to your question--do Jews have to accept Jesus as Messiah to be saved, well the answer depends on the type of Christianity one accepts. I am am pluralist and I say no. It smacks of antisemitism."

Actually, the answer doesn't depend on what you or I think, but on what God says. Accepting a "type" of Christianity isn't what Christ called us to do. He called us to empty ourselves of our own personal beliefs and put our faith on Him, which means taking Him at His word and believing the Holy Spirit, who in John 16, Jesus reveals to be His mouthpiece to the disciples when He is gone. They listened and now we have the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. Our faith is built upon the witness contained therein. So, as I said, it's not about what I think, it's about God has said in His word.

As for whether that is antisemitic, may I ask if you are an anti-DR-ite since you clearly disagree with me and do in some way hope to persuade me to change my view. Or what of Democrats, are they slanderous of Republicans and hate them when they debate and attempt to persude men and women to change their views? Certainly not! You see toleration doesn't mean accepting everyone's views as equally valid. It never has. It means being able to coexist with difference and being able to discuss those difference and persuade others without hateful or violent behavior. I personally think the most loving thing I can do is show someone the way to the Father. After all, Jesus did clearly say that "NO MAN COMES TO THE FATHER BUT BY ME."


Now, as for your comments about two missionaries who possibly contradicted what I said. I could easily produce missionary after missionary that contradicts what these men believe. Two men do not a majority make, nor a consensus, or even a legitimate argument (as it is a logical fallacy - Appeal to Authority). But one man's opinion is not what counts, but rather the Word of God. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) clearly states that our mission (and that of the apostles before us) is to "19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

You see, Elhanan, we are commanded to baptize and make disciples. We can't make disciples of Christ from those who don't believe in Him can we? So to serve without need of making disciples is to toil in vain for we have no purpose (if indeed our command from our Saviour is to make disciples). It makes no sense. Why give your life, as men like Tyndale, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, and those thousands who died last year and the year before and the year before that in China, North Korea, Iran, and elsewhere to the preaching of the Gospel if any old belief system will do?

You can reject my statement, but you have to deal with the logic of it, not merely quote people who don't understand the Great Commission from their Saviour.

Finally, in your rationalization of your position you try to pit religion against religion as if they are equal. You are assuming your argument here. Paul did not believe all religions were the same. This is even admitted by some of the more moderate and liberal scholars of the day. So in order to make such an argument you must prove that either Jesus or Paul or Peter or some Biblical writer actually believes that all religions are of equal stature before God. It is that presupposition on which all of your theology hangs.

5:41 PM

 
Anonymous Amy Downey said...

If Marc Ellis or Daniel Cohn-Sherbok died tonight without professing and receiving Jesus as Messiah, unfortunately and tragically they would spend an eternity separated from God, Messiah Jesus, and heaven.

This is tragic as is my dear friend, and Holocaust survivor, who died without Jesus. He will not be in heaven when I reach those gates. In addition my heart breaks for the approximately 388 Jewish people who die every day without Christ and spend eternity in hell.

We don't like to use that last word but it is the tragic reality of those who do not receive Jesus as Messiah, Adonai, and God.

Plain enough praxis for you.

6:22 AM

 
Blogger ElhananWinchester in Pinstripes said...

Amy, thanks for answering the question clearly and directly. It was enough praxis for me and I hope it is enlightening to others reading. I don't think you or I will change our positions and that is quite alright. I assume that the exclusivist understanding of Christianity that consigns non-Christians to Hell gives your peace and meaning.

I think it is very important to get personal when discussing whether non-Christians go to Hell. That is, we need to think of people we know personally, our personal friends and colleagues who are members of other faiths. We need to move from asking if the Jew goes to Hell to "Does this particular Jew or Buddhist or Muslim--go to Hell."

I do not think practicing Jews spend eternity in Hell. The Bible has multiple strands of messages--exclusion, inclusion, and pluralism. My hermeneutic is inclusive and my God is inclusive.

2:39 PM

 
Anonymous Amy Downey said...

Elhanan wrote, "I assume that the exclusivist understanding of Christianity that consigns non-Christians to Hell gives your peace and meaning."

My response -- You assume incorrectly if you think I find peace in knowing where those who reject Jesus are sending themselves. It breaks my heart and rends my soul into a million pieces. I find myself weeping and in physical pain on more than one occasion. In fact, the eternal destiny of my dear friend who has been gone for more than 5 years still haunts me.

What is amazing about my faith in God is that what you call exclusive I find inclusive. Our sins could have assigned ALL of humanity to perdition but He loved His creation enough to die, as the incarnate Messiah Jesus, for the sins of the world. All He wants is for us to turn to Him in our sinfulness and receive the gift of salvation for which Jesus shed His blood.

That is true biblical inclusivism (because none of us deserve His mercy) if you ask me. And that is the amazing, awesome, loving God that I serve and worship.

7:54 PM

 
Blogger ElhananWinchester in Pinstripes said...

Amy, Jews don't fry in Hell, so I think you can have some comfort about your friend's destiny. Child molesters, war profiteers, the dude who shot up Virginia Tech--these are the kinds of people who populate hell.

But not Jews. Or for that matter, Mahatma Gandhi.

I mean, think about it. Harold Kushner, the emminent rabbi and thinker spends an entire life doing good and helping people through his books, yet all that counts for nothing and when he dies, he is rejected by God and consigned to burn in eternal torture forever and ever in flames that never quit.

But Karla Faye Tucker can murder a person with a pick ax during a drug fueled rage, after a life that has contributed nothing, and go to prison and have a conversion and get to go to Heaven simply because of her dogma.

That is both unjust and not Gospel. It is not the God I proclaim when I preach.

Your friend is not frying and sizzling. A loving and just God doesn't do that.

8:22 PM

 
Anonymous Amy Downey said...

"Not frying and sizzling."

There are a dozen responses I could give to this insensitive and utterly wrong statement. However, I will only write these words --
"I pray for you and your church."

1:23 PM

 
Blogger ElhananWinchester in Pinstripes said...

Amy, I thank you for your prayers for me and my church. I believe in the power of prayer.

Now, I would be interested, though, in the 12 responses you said you could give. I'd also like to know how my remark is insensitive. Utterly wrong--I think I know the answer to that. We disagree on that one. But how is it insensitive for me to say that I don't believe that Jews "sizzle and fry in Hell?" I believe if we are going to believe that people go to Hell, then we need to use language that captures that image. Sizzling and Frying certainly paints a clear picture of the fires of Hell.

However, I don't believe that Jews go to Hell. The God revealed in Jesus Christ, the God who is love, does not engage in cosmic child abuse by burning humans in an eternal flame that never ends. Now, that's insensitive. And not the Good News. That's very Bad News.

4:33 PM

 
Blogger Messianic Jew said...

If the statement “One cannot be a Jew and a Christian” (where the term Christian is the Greek equivalent of “Christ-follower” or “Messiah-follower”), then Abraham was a fraud and the Hebrew Scriptures lied. Why? Consider this: If Abraham is the father of “all peoples on earth” and is the vehicle through which all blessings (i.e. eternal salvation from self-condemnation) flow, then Abraham MUST be a Messiah-follower for the Messiah flows from his blood. However, if Abraham is NOT a Messiah-follower (or does not believe that the Messiah will come from his blood), then Abraham is a fraud and did not believe Adonai and Adonai, the Author of Scripture, lied via Moses, who wrote the Torah. In short, ethnicity (e.g. Jewishness) is not the efficient cause of one’s beliefs (e.g. belief that Yeshua is the prophecied Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures).

“My hermeneutic of the scripture is one of pluralism and inclusion and yours is one of exclusivism” is a self-defeating statement. Why? EinP believes his viewpoint is true to the exclusion of another. EinP is also an exclusivist. The question still remains, which viewpoint is true? Indeed, truth is exclusive by nature and EinP proves that by saying “my hermeneutic” versus “yours.”

“It is a good and valuable religion that works for many” is the philosophy that whatever works is true. But is this philosophy true? No, not by any means. For example, a lie will work but a lie is a lie, not truth. How many times have you lied to your spouse so that there is not an ensuing argument? It works, but lying does NOT make something true. Similarly, something that works does not automatically make something true.

“God doesn’t burn people forever because of their dogmas. This is inconceivable to me.” Because something is inconceivable does not mean it is not true. In other words, truth is not dependent on what a person can and cannot conceive. This would be arrogance at its finest for, according to this viewpoint, only that which is conceivable is true. Moreover, if I am a Jew and do no good things for my fellow man or my environment, does that mean I am eternally condemned? The key word is “do.” “Do” implies action. The axiom “Judaism is a religion of deeds, not creeds” is very appropriate here. Believing Messiah rose from the dead (to prove His divinity and His exclusivistic message) is vastly different than believing what YOU did to earn eternal salvation. In other words, belief in what the Messiah DID and belief in what you DID are infinitely different. By the way, the gates of hell are locked from the inside (yourself), not the outside (Adonai).

8:18 AM

 

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