Prayers for America (10/4/2018)

Do you realize that in the Great Tribulation, which could soon happen, half of the earth’s population will be killed in a forty-two month period of time?

To arrive at this figure:

Check out Revelation 6:4 where we learn that a quarter of the earth’s population will be killed by war, hunger, plagues, and beasts when the fourth seal is opened. Then, check out Revelation 9:15 where we discover one third of mankind that’s left will be killed at the sixth trumpet by an army numbering at least 200 million soldiers.

Simple mathematics: 100% – 25% = 75%

                                          75% – one third of 75% = 50%

60 to 70 million died in World War II, the world’s costliest war in history, but that would be just a drop in the bucket compared to 3.5 to 4 billion killed in the Great Tribulation. Over fifty times as many dead people!

Now, this has nothing to do on with when the rapture takes place: Pre-Tribulation or Post-Tribulation. It has to do with God’s Word. It will happen!

My prayer today:

Lord, send Your Holy Spirit to help Americans to love God with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, with all of our souls, and with all of our strength; and to love our neighbors enough to pray for them. (Based on Mark 12:30-31)

What do you think and has the Lord spoken to you today?

Join with me on Thursdays to fast and pray for America.

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Churches: Fellowships Without Fellowship (Part 6)

 

Continuing with Wolfgang Simson’s 15 Theses from his book, House Churches That Change the World:

9. Return from organized to organic forms of Christianity

The “Body of Christ” is a vivid description of an organic, not an organized, being. Church consists on its local level of a multitude of spiritual families, which are organically related to each other as a network, where the way the pieces are functioning together is an integral part of the message of the whole.

What has become a maximum of organization with a minimum of organism, has to be changed into a minimum of organization to allow a maximum of organism. Too much organization has, like a straightjacket, often choked the organism for fear that something might go wrong. Fear is the opposite of faith, and not exactly a Christian virtue. Fear wants to control, faith can trust. Control, therefore, may be good, but trust is better.

The Body of Christ is entrusted by God into the hands of steward-minded people with a supernatural charismatic gift to believe God that He is still in control, even if they are not. A development of trust-related regional and national networks, not a new arrangement of political ecumenism is necessary for organic forms of Christianity to reemerge

10. From worshipping our worship to worshipping God

The image of much of contemporary Christianity can be summarized as holy people coming regularly to a holy place at a holy day at a holy hour to participate in a holy ritual lead by a holy man dressed in holy clothes against a holy fee.

Since this regular performance-oriented enterprise called “worship service” requires a lot of organizational talent and administrative bureaucracy to keep going, formalized and institutionalized patterns developed quickly into rigid traditions. Statistically, a traditional 1-2 hour “worship service” is very resource-hungry but actually produces very little fruit in terms of discipling people, that is, in changed lives. Economically speaking, it might be a “high input and low output” structure.

Traditionally, the desire to “worship in the right way” has led to much denominationalism, confessionalism and nominalism. This not only ignores that Christians are called to “worship in truth and in spirit,” not in cathedrals holding songbooks, but also ignores that most of life is informal, and so is Christianity as “the Way of Life.”

Do we need to change from being powerful actors to start “acting powerfully?”

11. Stop bringing people to church, and start bringing the church to the people 

The church is changing back from being a Come-structure to being again a Go-structure. As one result, the Church needs to stop trying to bring people “into the church,” and start bringing the Church to the people. The mission of the Church will never be accomplished just by adding to the existing structure; it will take nothing less than a mushrooming of the church through spontaneous multiplication of itself into areas of the population of the world, where Christ is not yet known.

12. Rediscovering the “Lord’s Supper” to be a real supper with real food

Church tradition has managed to “celebrate the Lord’s Supper” in a homeopathic and deeply religious form, characteristically with a few drops of wine, a tasteless cookie and a sad face. However, the “Lord’s Supper” was actually more a substantial supper with a symbolic meaning, than a symbolic supper with a substantial meaning. God is restoring eating back into our meeting.

(Continued in Part 7…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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Prayers for the American Church (10/2/2018)

Christ Church Stellarton

Photograph of Christ Anglican Church, Stellarton, NS. Taken the morning of October 28, 2005

“Do you believe the Bible is the “inspired” Word of God?”

Almost every Evangelical Christians will answer “Yes” to this question and will then quote his or her favorite verses, such as John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8 and Psalm 34:19.

But if you ask Christians whether they believe in Pre-Tribulation Rapture or Post-Tribulation Rapture, 90% of them will answer: “Pre-Tribulation Rapture.”

If you then ask them, “How can you justify your beliefs in light of Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 15:52 and John’s words in Revelation 11:15-19?”

Most of the 90% will answer: “Pre-Trib Rapture is what my pastor teaches and I trust him.”

Is this really a big deal?

Well, it’s not a big deal to all of the believers who have died before today. Their beliefs on the rapture did not hinder their faith one way or the other.

Yet, those believers who are alive right now have a chance of being a part of those who are raptured when Christ returns. And if not us, maybe our children or grandchildren will be in the rapture.

So, yes, it’s a big deal, especially because the Apostle Paul wrote:

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition (2 Thessalonians 2:3)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want be deceived and fall away, nor do I want my children or grandchildren to fall away. I want them and myself to be prepared to fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith all the way to the end.

There are more than 150 chapters about end-times prophecy in the Bible. That’s over sixty more chapters than the total combined chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Thus, as you can see, God has placed an emphasis on the end-times. Shouldn’t we at least  study and prepare ourselves, just in case our theology is wrong?

My prayer today:

Lord, open the eyes of the American church so that they are like the Bereans who searched the Scriptures to discover the truth for themselves rather than like the Thessalonicans who relied on their leaders’ teachings. (Based on Acts 17:10-11)

Join me on Tuesdays to fast and pray for the American church.

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Churches: Fellowships Without Fellowship (Part 5)

Continuing with Wolfgang Simson’s 15 Theses from his book, House Churches That Change the World:

5. The church has to become small in order to grow large.

Most churches today are simply too big to provide real fellowship. They have too often become “fellowships without fellowship.” The New Testament church was made up of small groups, typically between 10 and 15 people. It grew not by forming big congregations of 300 people to fill cathedrals and lose fellowship. Instead, it multiplied “sideways,” dividing like organic cells, once these groups reached 15 to 20 people. This then made it possible for all the Christians to get together in city-wide celebrations, as in Solomon’s Temple court in Jerusalem. The traditional congregational church as we know it is by comparison, a sad compromise, neither big nor beautiful, an overgrown house church and an undergrown celebration, often missing the dynamics of both

6. No church is led by a pastor alone.

The local church is not led by a pastor, but fathered by an elder, a man of wisdom and engaged with reality. The local house churches are then networked into a movement by the combination of elders and members of the so-called fivefold ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers), circulating from “house to house,” like the circulation of blood. Here there is a special foundational role to play for the apostolic and prophetic ministries (Ephesians 2:20; 4:11-12). A pastor (shepherd) is an important member of the whole team, but he cannot fulfill more than a part of the whole task of “equipping the saints for the ministry,” and he has to be complemented synergistically by the other four ministries in order to function properly.

7. The right pieces – fitted together in the wrong way.

To do a jigsaw puzzle, we have to put the pieces together according to the original pattern, otherwise the final product, the whole picture turns out wrong, and the individual pieces do not make any sense. In the Christian world we have all of the right pieces, but we have fitted them together in the wrong way, because of fear, tradition, religious jealousy, and a power and control mentality, just as water is found in three forms – ice, water and steam – so too the five ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-12 – the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers – are found today, but not always in the right forms and in the right places. They are often frozen to ice in the rigid system of institutionalized Christianity; they sometimes exist as clear water; or they have vanished like steam into the thin air of free-flying ministries and “independent” churches, accountable to no one.

Just as it is best to water flowers with the fluid version of water, these five equipping ministries will have to be transformed back into new – and at the same time age-old – forms, so that the whole spiritual organism can flourish and the individual “ministers” can find their proper role and place in the whole. That is one more reason why we need to return to the Maker’s original blueprint for the Church.

8. Out of the hands of bureaucratic clergy and on towards the priesthood of all believers.

No expression of a New Testament church is ever led by just one professional “holy man” doing the business of communicating with God and then feeding some relatively passive, religious consumers, Moses-style. Christianity has adopted this method from pagan religions, or at best from the Old Testament.

The heavy professionalization of the church since Constantine has been a pervasive influence long enough, dividing the people of God artificially into an infantilized laity and a professional clergy, and developing power-based mentalities and pyramid structures. According to the New Testament (1 Timothy 2:5), “there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” God simply does not bless religious professionals to force themselves in between Himself and His people. The veil is torn, and God is allowing people to access Himself directly through Jesus Christ, the only Way.

To enable the priesthood of all believers, the present system will have to change completely. Bureaucracy is the most dubious of all administrative systems because it basically only asks two questions: yes or no. There is no room for spontaneity and humanity; no room for real life. This may be all right in politics and business, but not the church. God seems to be in the business of delivering His church from a Babylonian captivity of religious bureaucrats and controlling spirits into the public domain, putting it into the hands of ordinary people who God has made extraordinary and who, as in the old days, may still smell of fish, perfume or revelation.

(Continued in Part 6…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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Inside Israel

SHUK

The Shuk in Jerusalem

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Yeshua,

I greet you AGAIN in His Precious Name and for His glory Alone.  May you be blessed and encouraged and may HE be glorified, magnified and BLESSED.

So quickly, again, running together, the quiet overtakes the noise. Runningis the word that comes to mind for me because in less than an hour begins the last of the three Fall Feasts, and, yes, they RUN on the heels of one another.  Sukkot, known to most of the Church as the Feast of Tabernacles, is here in 45 more minutes.

The commands for Sukkot, to me, are quite beautiful.

” ‘Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a Sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a Sabbath-rest.  And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’ ”So Moses declared to the children of Israel the feasts of the Lord.” (Leviticus 23:39-44)

 and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.  Not a hard command to keep…what a GIFT!

I have enjoyed the many lessons that He has taught me sitting in the booth, the little sukka built outside our rented apartment, with a rug on the earth and pieces of gaily decorated material for the walls. Palm branches form the roof, through which we can see the stars.  I enjoyed decorating ours with mostly live fruit from the shuk, nearby trees, and a huge assortment of flowers and branches cut around the neighborhood. Scriptures pinned to the curtained walls in Hebrew and English.

We put a table inside and chairs and pillows and have invited many guests over the years. Both those who know Him and those who don’t yet. I have prayed that it would be a testimony to Him and a place where He would be spoken of and glorified, and it has been.

Alas, this is the first year that I have nothing even resembling a sukkah set up.  Since we moved to this apartment up two flights I have struggled to decorate our inappropriate merepesset (sort of balcony), but this year even that little bit didn’t happen. I find transitions sad.

The sun is setting so I am off to my daughter’s family sukkah 2 blocks away and I will continue this letter soon. Well, it IS a seven-day holiday.

 

Good morning to you all or ‘chag semaech!’ (joyful holyday).  I love waking early on these silent mornings and spending the richest of times with Him as the sun begins to rise and the early birds begin their songs.

At our feast that we shared last night in the sukkah of our daughter’s family, we spoke to our little granddaughters of the things of God that their young hearts could understand. How HE made the stars and HE made us and HE is big enough to take care of all. The stars, the birds, the cat trying to get the chicken on the barbeque and us.  Maya, age 4, sang a Sukkot song for us in Hebrew that she learned at her gan (pre-school) and I prayed that He Who reveals Himself in such perfect ways will reveal Himself to them.

I believe that these HOLYDAYS that HE has given us are for reasons far deeper than we begin to understand. So, I like to ask The Holy Spirit to help me remember the Sukkots since we have been here, over the past 24 years. He has taught me so many layers of lessons, each a bursting revelation on my mind.  I think of the night during the last intifada, when so much blood was being spilled in the streets, such a traumatic, unsettled time. And yet, there we were.  STOP!  BUILD LITTLE BOOTHS!  SIT IN THEM! Flimsy, little temporary dwellings and we did.

I remember looking up at the sky through the branches of my palm-roof and seeing the stars through the trees above me, hearing the quiet wind and KNOWING that HE had it all in control. The understanding burrowed deep into the very roots of my being.  I knew that I was indeed nothing but a flimsy little sukkah of a body containing a vulnerable soul. Yet when that soul was given over to THE KING OF kings AND THE LORD OF lords, The Holy Spirit would inhabit this weak sukkah and NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD!

That knowing burst into my very being. Perhaps the sukkah is intended to be one of HIS places of revelation knowledge.  NOT on our terms, only on His.  He gives to us (or not) Light according to HIS choice.  Have you ever waited for a Word or a Revelation and it HASN’T come?  I have!

God KEEP me from running anyway even when I have NOT heard that Word from Him.  God FORBID that I should ever run with a counterfeit.

Sukkot was commanded to bring in the harvest…to remember His goodness and abundance and to give back to Him and to others.  It was ALSO commanded to REMEMBER WHERE WE CAME FROM, the promises, the journey, our failures in the light of His perfect faithfulness. We were ALL slaves in Egypt at one time.  REJOICE IN HIS GOODNESS.

The symbols of these three fall feasts still sit together on the tables: the shofar (ram’s horn) The Word, honey, apples, the good fruits of the land, grapes and almonds, pomegranates and dates, figs and citrus. And the people rejoice.

It is such a unique season because the streets are also filled with believers from the nations around the world who have come  to participate in one way or another in the fall feasts.  Many come to take part in the conferences and convocations – Christian gatherings for times of prayer and teaching.

Because this IS one of the three feasts where all Jewish men were COMMANDED to come up to Jerusalem and to worship and to bring an offering in the place where The Lord put His Name. There will be the ceremony of the blessing of the Cohenim (or the high priestly blessing) which takes place at the Western Wall, when the blessing of Aaron will be pronounced and many thousands upon thousands will participate.

As I walked through the streets of Jerusalem it seemed to me that there were less sukkas this year, but the ones that we passed last night on the way home from our daughters resounded with the warmth of songs and laughter.  Everyone whom we passed greeted us with “hag sameach.”

“MOEDIM L’SIMCHA!” is the way in which we greet one another now, whether friends or strangers whom we are passing on the street.  These are the days called khol h’moed – or the “in-between days” of the holyday.  The meaning of simcha is joy or rejoice and the meaning of moed (moedim being the plural) is an appointed time of meeting. So these are the appointed times for meeting (with) with joy.  Pretty neat, eh?

But that is my translation.

Although translations are thought of as standard and pretty well perfect by those of us who are not particularly gifted with many languages, I have been shocked to learn just how SUBJECTIVE language translation can be for everyone. I have mentioned before that Hebrew seems to me to be like a sculpture, each word describing an entire object or concept including its history.

In contrast I see English as a line drawing, carefully describing details line upon line. And yet even in English, how we can misinterpret one another.

And so, MOEDIM L’SIMCHA. 

No matter WHAT happens between Russia and us.  Moedim l’simcha. No matter what takes place at the United Nations gathering.  Moedim l’simcha. Despite the fires and floods and the awful battles at the Gaza border and wars and personal griefs that we cannot escape. Moedim l’simcha.

LORD!  Give us ALL eyes to see, and ears to hear and a heart that beats with Yours!

 

But now I WILL leave you with a Jerusalem story:

I was coming home from work last week (between Rosh h’shana and Yom kippur) and I was T-I-R-E-D.  As I approached the crosswalk on the road to my bus stop. Alas! the bus was approaching.  I sighed.  Another 25-minute wait.  Oh well, I have learned the hard way that my days of running for the bus have past, since my last fall and broken rib.  The bus pulled up to the crosswalk and stopped for me to cross.  Huh?  Ok, but still I wasn’t about to run to the bus stop, but he parked the bus a bit further back than usual and WAITED. It is now against the law for bus drivers to do anything special for anyone and even with the BACK door of the bus open.  Ok, I sped up still figuring that he would pull away before I got there but he didn’t.  I got on through the back door and passed my card up by way of other passengers to the front of the bus to be processed.  I couldn’t see the driver, but the bus emptied quite a bit before I got off so I made my way to the front.

“Toda reba reba!” I said (thank you very very much) as he approached my stop.

He turned and smiled.  “I would stop for you ANYWHERE and ANYTIME!” 

I smiled back. ‘Orie,  thank you.”

It was deeply humbling as recognition set in.  He was one of our patients and I really had been quite concerned about him when he fought a grievous illness a number of years ago.  Yes, I did sort of go the extra mile to accommodate his needs at times but I NEVER expected this.  It was a delightful gift because Jerusalem may be the center of the world’s conflicts and The Place where THE LORD OF ALL chose to put His Name.  But it is still a small town, reminding me that we are all so small, flimsy temporary dwelling, chosen to be indwelt by The Living God.

Moedim l’simcha to all of you.

Lovingly,

your Sister J in Jerusalem

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Churches: Fellowships Without Fellowship (Part 4)

In his book, House Churches that Change the World, Wolfgang Simson stole a page from Martin Luther’s reformation playbook and wrote a 15 Theses for the house church movement:

1. Christianity is a way of life, not a series of religious meetings.

Before they were called Christians, followers of Christ were called ‘The Way.’ One of the reasons was that they had literally found the way to live. The nature of the church is not found in a constant series of religious meetings led by professional clergy in holy places specially reserved to experience Jesus. Rather, it is the prophetic way followers of Christ live their everyday life in spiritual extended families, as a vivid answer to the questions that society asks, and in the place where it counts most – in their homes.

2. Time to change the ‘cathegogue system’

The historic Orthodox and Catholic Church after Constantine in the fourth century developed and adopted a religious system based on two elements: a Christian version on the Old Testament temple – the cathedral – and a worship pattern styled after the Jewish synagogue. They thus adopted, as the foundational pattern for the times to follow, a blueprint for Christian meetings and worship which was neither expressly revealed nor ever endorsed by God in New Testament times: the ‘cathegogue,’ linking the house-of-God mentality and the synagogue.

Baptized with Greek pagan philosophy, separating the sacred from the secular, the cathegogue system developed into the Black Hole of Christianity, swallowing most of its society-transforming energies and inducing the church to become absorbed with itself for centuries to come. The Roman Catholic Church went on to canonize the system.

Luther reformed the content of the gospel but left the outer forms of ‘church’ remarkably untouched. The Free Churches freed the system from the State, the Baptists then baptized it, the Quakers dry-cleaned it, the Salvation Army put it in uniform, the Pentecostals anointed it and Charismatics renewed it, but until today nobody has really changed the system. The time to do that has now arrived.

3. The third Reformation

In rediscovering the gospel of salvation by faith and grace alone, Luther started to reform the church through a reformation of theology. In the eighteenth century, through movements in the pietistic renewal, there was a recovery of a new intimacy with God, which led to a reformation of spirituality, the Second Reformation. Now, God is touching the wineskins themselves, initiating a Third Reformation, a reformation of structure.

4. From church houses to house churches

From the time of the New Testament there has been no such thing as a ‘house of God.’ At the cost of his life, Stephen reminded us: God does not live in temples made by human hands.

The church is the people of God. The church, therefore, was and is at home where people are at home: in ordinary houses. There the people of God share their lives in the power of the Holy Spirit, have ‘meatings’, i.e. they eat when they meet; they often do not even hesitate to sell private property and share material and spiritual blessings; they teach each other in real-life situations how to obey God’s Word – and not with professional lectures but dynamically, with dialogue and questions and answers. There they pray and prophesy with each other, and baptize one another. There they can let their masks drop and confess their sins, regaining a new corporate identity through love, acceptance and forgiveness.

(Continued in Part 5…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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The Apostles: Men Doomed to Death (Conclusion)

praying

The internationally known prophet asked for prayer after his meeting at the church, which I attended at the time. Some of us gathered around him and began praying. After a few minutes, a prophetic word crossed my mind.

“The calling of apostle will come upon you in the near future, but first, I see you pastoring a small church,” I said. “The Lord wants you to really understand people before he moves you into the apostolic calling. From the small church, you will walk into a world-wide apostolic ministry.”

Most believers would have been happy to receive an encouraging word like this, but not that particular man. This same prophet, who had taught us earlier in the evening about the love of God and about the importance of humility, rebuked me sharply.

“I spend lots of time in prayer,” he said with angry eyes glaring at me. “So, don’t you think the Lord could speak prophetic words like that to me in my prayer time?”

To be honest, I was shocked by his reaction. “Uh, well, uh, I guess so,” I answered.

“Then why do I need a prophetic word from you?” he asked.

I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know,” I answered, not knowing what else to say.

This eye-opening incident really happened to me twenty-three years ago.  It’s as alive in my memory banks today as if it just happened yesterday.

The crux of the matter was not whether the prophetic words were accurate or not, but rather, it was that I was not at the prophet’s spiritual level. I was a nobody. If I had been a Billy Graham, Rick Warren, David Yonggi Cho, or some other well-known international minister, he never would have spoken those words to me. Instead he would have said, “Thanks for the prophetic words. I’ll pray about them.”

Now, if you think this is a unique and seldom occurring event, I have news for you: it’s not! For most of the tradition church system, there is a hierarchy system set in place where only certain people are allowed to speak words of direction or correction to the ministers who lead (usually called the clergy) and the pew sitters (known as the lay people) have little voice in these matters.

But yet, when one of the original apostles, Peter, became a hypocrite in Antioch, the young apostle Paul had no problem handling the situation:

But when Peter came to Antioch, I had, to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. (Galatians 2:11-13)

Do you think Peter was embarrassed? Probably. Do you think Peter wanted to lash out at Paul? Probably. This is usually how our flesh reacts to being rebuked, or at least, this is how mine reacts.  Then, what do you think Peter felt when he saw the above letter sent to the churches in Galatia and his name mentioned as a hypocrite? Once again, he was probably a little miffed, but did he hold a grudge against Paul?

And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction. (2 Peter 3:15-16 NLT)

Peter, the man who had the revelation that Jesus was the Christ and who was chosen to accompany Jesus on the mountain when He was transfigured and talked to Moses and Elijah, was a humble man of God. He stayed small in his own eyes and was a seeker of truth.

The end-time apostles will not be a part of the church’s hierarchical system, but rather will blow it apart. Will the apostles rebuke the leaders of the traditional church system? Probably very little. But instead, the humility displayed by these end-time apostles will attract the long suffering pew sitters out of the traditional churches and into their royal priesthood callings. The captives will finally be set free.

(Conclusion…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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