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SoundCheck_Title.jpg“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.” – Psalm 42:5 ESV

Nine or so months ago I decided I wanted my guitar to sound as good as my son-in-law, Ben’s. So, I purchased the same fancy rig he uses, matching identically the name brands of gear. I was so happy! When I first got it, I spent a few hours dialing the sound in. Playing, turning knobs and getting the guitar’s resonance and tone balanced. I use the same rig every Sunday. I can practically set it up in my sleep.

Over the months, somehow with the activity of plunking it down, plugging it in and putting it away, the settings and dials that were once so carefully adjusted, moved. I’ve never noticed it. I’ve just been putting it together and playing music without detecting any differences. However, my son-in-law distinguished a change. At our last rehearsal I think he’d had enough of listening to my flatly “E-Qued” guitar. He looks at me very meekly, and asked, “hey, do you mind if I mess with your box a bit?”

I really hadn’t been thinking about how the guitar sounded, I’d dialed it in once before and and just expected everything to sound great. I was just doing my thing—how bad can ‘cowboy cords’ sound anyways, right?

So, he has me play the instrument, all the while he’s down on the ground, bent over, adjusting knobs. Honestly, I’m thinking, “why?” All of a sudden he finishes, I play a sound check and notice that this instrument is sounding really cool again—Ben fixed it! I’d just grown accustom to it sounding like it was in turmoil, not realizing the guitar was performing poorly. Ben messes with the dials, turns up the presence of the guitar, and voilà—a new improved sound emerges that I’d forgotten this ‘axe’ was capable of producing.

Sometimes that’s how we can get with the spiritual life. We’re just doing our thing day-in and day-out, not really realizing something is slightly off. We’re grumpy not knowing why. We ask the same question as the Psalmist: “Why are you cast down, o my soul, why all the turmoil going on inside?” It may just be we need a simple adjustment; one that we’d not noticed was necessary. Other see it—we don’t. We’re just playing the same old ‘cowboy chords’ thinking all’s right with God and the world. Yet, at someplace we’ve stopped experiencing a full life—an abundant life.

Songs of praise can make a simple adjustment in our lives. How many times have I gone through the day, sort of blah—not realizing what that blah was—until I started praising God! Psalm 147, verse 1 says:

“Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”

I can ‘T.G.I.F.’ all I want, but it’s not until I start with praises in His presence that the fullness of joy and at pleasures at His right hand kick in. The abundant life starts when true praises before God begin. Just take a few moments to adjust the knobs and then ‘sound check 1, 2, 3.’ When praises begin, the turmoil of soul ends!

J. Robert Hanson

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What_title“What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” – Psalm 8:4 

Somewhere in the universe, there’s an angelic onlooker seeking to comprehend God’s fascination with man and asks the question, “What?” It almost sounds like a petulant teenager upset at a parent for an imagined inequality. The amount of attention the Almighty sets upon humanity seems out of balance when compared to man’s contemptible nature. Again, the verse reads:

“What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

Curiously, the Hebrew language uses two different words for ‘man’ in this verse; here’s their meanings:

  1. Man 1.0

The first place is in the first clause, “What is man that you are mindful of him.” The Hebrew word used is ‘enoshe’’¹ and it means ‘mankind’ with images of weak, frail, and sickly mortals. The thought is of humanity’s condition. Man universally is fragile and corrupt. He’s bereft of any possibility for self-correction. Sin has left man destitute in a permanent state of hopeless mortality.

To this condition the angelic being utters in disbelief something like, “What?! If you knew man like I do, you’d have nothing to do with him.” Why does the Almighty bother with weak, frail and sick mortals? The question asked in verse 4, “Why [Oh, God] are you mindful of him?” looks for answers.

Ever had a cheap watch quit working? Attempting to repair something broken and of little value makes no sense. It doesn’t take long until the effort and time outweighs the cost of a new watch. So, unless one is inclined to tinker with such devices as a hobby, it’s a short time until we ask, “Why am I doing this?”

Fortunately, God is not like men—nor angels for that matter. Somehow the Almighty sees value in weak, frail and sickly mortals. In fact, when reading verse 4’s question to God, “What is man that you are mindful of him,” ‘mindful’ is the idea is of being possessed of a thought! In other words, God can’t stop thinking about you—He’s got to fix it! Even in your weak, frail and sickly condition, God has His attention focused on you and can only think of ways to repair your problems.

  1. Man 2.0

The second use of the word ‘man’ is located in the second clause with the expression ‘son of man,’ or, ben-‘adam.²’ It literal means ‘human being,’ but identifies with the physical, natural condition of humanity—though still limited by mortality. To put Psalm 8, verse 4’s question in perspective, the writer asks: “What is…the son of man that you care for him?” Even in man’s natural estate, he is physically overwhelmed and outmatched in comparison to God, or even angels. In fact, the mystified questioner continues the disparaging pace in verse 5 by suggesting incongruously:

“Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” 

Since man, on his best day, is temporary and fleeting, why would the Eternal One care for humanity at all?

There’s a little verse in 1 Corinthians 9, verse 26³ where Paul uses the analogy of a boxer. If such an athlete where in the ring of a boxing match and finding himself on the losing side of a fight, a friend’s simple reminder, “I’m in your corner” conveys an inspirational thought that someone is “on your side.” That friend would be wiping sweat from your brow then sending you back into the ring with renewed support! Sometimes all it takes to be encouraged is just knowing that one person is in your corner caring for you.

That second clause of Psalm 8, verse 4: “What is…the son of man that you care for him?” spiritually means God is in your corner! He’s not giving up on any ‘son of man’—no matter how helpless, week, frail, or physically exhausted you’ve become. In fact, in The Message Bible, Hebrews 2, verse 17 reads of Jesus Christ:

“That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life.”

Metaphorically speaking, the thought is Jesus came, got into the ring, and took our place in the fight when we were physically drained and broken. When the angelic beings of heaven ask “What?” The answer is to point to the ‘Son of Man,’ Jesus Christ! He is the demonstration that God is mindful and caring toward man.

J. Robert Hanson

¹ Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, H0582, enoshe’: mortal and frail, hence, a man in general.

² Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. Ben-‘Adam; Compound phrase from H120, ‘adam: ruddy i.e. A human being (an individual or the species, mankind, etc.), and H1121, banah: a son (as a builder of the family name).

³ “So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.”

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Mouse“And looking intently at the council, Paul said, ‘Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day’…. And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks. The following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.’” Acts 23:1, 10-11 ESV

Sometimes our greatest plans go terribly wrong! One moment the apostle Paul enjoys the breathtaking opportunity of testifying before the great Jewish council, the next he’s ripped away and escorted to a lonely jail cell. And thus goes the best-laid plans of mice and men. How disappointing the whole experience must have been. That’s not the way Paul planned it! In his mind’s eye there was great opportunity to witness for Christ before the powerful Jewish leadership! But the ability to testify was gone in an instant. The entire drum-rolling enormity of prospect vanished and now Paul sits idly alone in a dank Jerusalem prison feeling as if time had been magnificently squandered.

Do you know what that’s like? How many times have great plans for God departed in a moment’s notice? Visions and ministries seemingly come to nothing all because of a few crazy chaotic choices. After such great expectations it’s understandable why Paul would be dejected. Read verse 11 again:

“The following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.’”

At some point in Luke’s account of the Book of Acts’ history, Paul thought it important enough to mentioned to the author what happened on this specific night—it would be recorded for all posterity. When discouraged and dejected, there are two essentials to learn from Paul. The first is to look for:

The Lord’s Company

Again, verse 11: “The following night the Lord stood by him and said.” That English word ‘stood’ in the Greek language is the idea of the Lord coming ‘with suddenness.’ Not necessarily immediacy, but abruptness. In fact, the thought is the concept of an assault upon you. The Lord assaulted Paul with His presence! Whether by vision or physical appearance is not entirely clear. What is apparent is that at the point of Paul’s deepest despair the Lord thankfully thrusts and assaults Himself into Paul’s prison cell and situation. It reads, “The following night the Lord stood by him!”

Is that experience even possible for us today? The idea of the verse is that when you’re at your lowest point ever—when you’re at the place of utter dejection—expect the Lord’s company. That’s the time when He’ll show up. Maybe it’s not the most opportune moment and you’d like just a few minutes alone to ‘collect your thoughts.’ Or, perhaps this hour will be the time when you don’t really feel like entertaining anyone. Here’s when the Lord will assault you with His presence and stand by saying, ‘Take courage!’ And then—expect Him to bring the second essential:

The Lord’s Cheer

Once again, verse 11 reads:

“The following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.’”

You ask, how do we know Paul was experiencing the miserable emotion of dejection? In this verse the word ‘courage’ in the Greek more accurately means ‘to be of good courage, and of good cheer!’ The HELPS Word-Studies reference notes that ‘courage’ literally is a radiate warm confidence because of a warm-hearted soul. It’s as if the Lord Himself came to Paul and said, ‘warm your soul and bolster your heart because you have been a good witness to me here in Jerusalem.’

The Message Bible nails down the thought further and brings it home by paraphrasing it as:

“That night the Master appeared to Paul: ‘It’s going to be all right. Everything is going to turn out for the best. You’ve been a good witness for me here in Jerusalem. Now you’re going to be my witness in Rome!’”

How often are we dejected thinking that we’ve blown it by rash, harsh or thoughtless words and behaviors? As the mouse in Robert Burn’s poem, “To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with The Plough,” we may think we’ve understood God’s plan, worked out our details perfectly, and then it’s all ploughed under in a moment shattering our expectations. We become discouraged or dejected—it’s our ‘Of Mice and Men Moment.’ Now’s the time to remember Paul’s two essentials—the Lord’s company and cheer—to lift our spirits with new reassurance!

J. Robert Hanson

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Living_Letters_titleYou yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 (ESV)

When someone seeks employment, generally there are letters written communicating why a business should hire an applicant. If you need a letter of recommendation, you don’t go to an antagonist and ask for one. You want someone you know of stature and experience, ideally in your field of industry, to write something positive.

For Paul, the whole church at Corinth was a living letter of recommendation for his ministry. The two verses above point out that his labor was a story of living transformation, enough weight to show the success of his work.

Again, Paul writes in verse 3: “…you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.” Essentially he’s saying you’re the living letter of our ministry written by the ink of the Holy Spirit.

The Ink of the Holy Spirit

Later in his writings, Paul points out that the experience of transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3, verse 6 reads that it’s God:

“…who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

The competence to minister occurs at the efforts of God; it’s the Spirit that gives life! There are gifted ways to say things, there are great methods to apply things, there are even glorious purposes for attracting commitment, but ultimately the only process that accomplishes an enduring transformation of soul is the work of the Holy Spirit!

Transformation isn’t something left up to men—this task is so important that God, the Holy Spirit, takes personal responsibility to get the job completed. He begins the project when He takes up residence within the very life of the believer in Jesus Christ. Paul pointed this out to the Corinthians in an earlier letter; 1 Corinthians 6, verse 19 reads from the English Standard Version:

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”

The ‘specifics’ of how the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside the body is a mystery. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit lives inside the believer and the opportunity for lasting change is made available to everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord. When it comes to transformation, no one is beyond hope. The thought that someone can’t be changed is not in God’s vocabulary. He is the God of change making every soul He touches a living letter through the ink of the Holy Spirit. Practically, there is only one thing capable of hindering that work.

The Restricting of the Holy Spirit

As rain delays can hinder homebuilders, the process of God’s true transformation can be held up and restricted. Paul warns the Thessalonians that this problem exists when he writes to them in 1 Thessalonians 5, verse 19 the simple words:

“Do not quench the Spirit.”

The thought behind the word “quench” is that of extinguishing a fire. The metaphor is meant to illustrate the stifling and suppression of the divine influence—the Holy Spirit! The fastest way to break the process of transformation is to behave in ways that quench the fire burning in you—so to speak, throwing cold water on the Holy Spirit. Sure, God’s promise to us is that He’ll never leave nor forsake us! But, we can surely hinder, restrict and rain-delay His work in our lives through careless behavior.

What does that restricting behavior look like from a practical sense? Paul gives a hint of example when he writes in Ephesians 4, verses 30 and 31:

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

Paul lists six-destroying emotions that can grieve the Holy Spirit and bring a work-delay to the transformation effort. But, the whole renewal processes can immediately start again through the simple act of putting away the six-destroying emotions. How can we do that? By acknowledging and confessing that we’ve slipped into any of these six-destroying detriments! Immediately following the work of the Holy Spirit is rekindled, the fire is relit and the ink of the Holy Spirit begins writing a living letter on our tablets of human heart again. We are The Living Letters written by God’s hand.

J. Robert Hanson

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Galaxy_QuestWhen I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8:3-4 ESV

Never give up! Never surrender! These words are the tagline of Commander Peter Quincy Taggart of the Starship Protector that’s featured in the science fiction action comedy, Galaxy Quest. The 1999 hit movie is a parody of the television series, “Star Trek.” The difference being—GQ’s crew knows they are actors living on borrowed time feeding off the devotedness of cult-like followers. That is, until space aliens show up mistakenly interpreting weekly TV broadcasts as historical documents. These other ‘worldlies’ perfectly replicate the TV space ‘stage-setting’ in a real planetary existence. Soon enough the aging actors become astronauts and a new reality is born into time and space—a clever piece of Hollywood writing!

Humankind’s quest to understand and live in the cosmos is intriguing—Galaxy Quest is just one fantasizing example. Since man learned to record his thoughts, the inability to access space has never quenched the human desire to romanticize interstellar admittance. In comparison to earth’s overall history, the ability to send humans into orbit is a relatively new experience. And since the capability to enter space is still young there are many unresolved themes to author, such as the prolonged effects of space upon the human physiology and social psyche.

This ‘human galaxy quest’ can be found penned all the back to Psalm 8, verses 3 and 4. These words reveal man’s longing:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

The thought is that one good peek at the heavens is enough to create a thirst in man that he/she was made for something higher than “Never give up! Never surrender! The creator of the stars and the galaxies has a personal interest in the life of all human beings. The Psalmist sees this vastly rich purpose of man and wonders why a creator would take such interest in someone so much smaller and seemingly insignificant. What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? God cares for you! He will never give up nor surrender on your behalf. In fact, similarly God promises in Hebrews 13, verse 5:

“…I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Our galaxy quest begins and ends in the arms of the everlasting one. He is the Lord of the Galaxies! So, if I may alter Commander Peter Quincy Taggart’s tagline just a little, I would remind us, ‘Never give up! Never Surrender by looking to the Living God in Heaven!’ He is our ‘Galaxy Quest.’

J. Robert Hanson

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Messenger_Title“…And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” Romans 10: 14-15; ESV

There are people who are natural born salesmen. They know the challenge of marketing and are able to convince folks to buy. And then there are individuals who passionately promote because they’ve discovered something has improved life. These don’t look at souls as if they were marks with ‘bulls-eyes’ painted on the back of heads; they reach folks because they’ve discovered something life changing.

Selling is not for everybody, but a passion behind a transformed life is. To someone who’s received the infinite value of salvation helping others becomes second nature—they are messengers of good news: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Let’s think about the anatomy of this ‘new-life’ messenger. In Isaiah 53, verse 7, we begin with:

  1. The Feet

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’”

The point being—all good news begins with a publisher of hope and peace! God is looking for publishers, folks that will ‘walk’ the message of The Writer to others. It really doesn’t matter whether you’re carrying the good news to a remote village in India or a fashionable living room in Beverly Hills; the idea is to move your feet and spread your passion: “your God reigns!” Secondly, we have:

  1. The Knees

The messenger must have the knees of prayer. Even the apostle Paul realized this! In Ephesians 6, verses 18 and 19 he formulates: “…making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,”

Are you shy about sharing the good news! You’re not alone! Paul needed folks on their knees to add boldness to his words. Publishing good news isn’t as easy as Paul made it look. A messenger needs knees. The third element of the anatomy of a messenger is:

  1. The Hands

When writing to the Thessalonians, Paul puts this third thought this way; 1 Thessalonians 2, verse 9:

“For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.

He’s saying something like, “you saw firsthand our hands working and involved in your life.” There’s something about working side-by-side with others, with our hands, that’s proof of the life of Christ. Now, it can’t be only our hands doing good deeds for others, there also must be the fourth element of the messenger’s anatomy:

  1. The Mouth

We actually need to engage words with our hands. This can be a tough one. Generally I find it’s difficult because of a lack of something significant to say at the right moment. Isaiah seems to indicate he learned a secret. We read in Isaiah 50, verse 4:

“The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.

What I hear from God I can speak with my mouth throughout the day—why not? Starting the day with a verse from heaven can create something of significance for others. It gives the mouth a weighty word to speak. And the final element, and most important of all the anatomy of the messenger is:

  1. The Heart

We read in 1 Corinthians 13, verses 1 and 3:

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

All other parts of the messenger’s anatomy hinge around this one key—the heart of love. I can have feet to walk mountains, knees to pray up a storm, hands of action, perfect words—but without a heart of love there is nothing. I can burn all my hours as a messenger of Christ, but without love it’s futile, nothing is gained.

Here are five elements to experiment with and put the passion of new life to work—it the “The Anatomy of a Messenger.”

J. Robert Hanson

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Conspiracy3And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Ephesians 6:10-13, The Message Bible

In the final episode of The Taciturn Conspiracy, it’s most important to remember the battle is the Lord’s! I understand the tendency to struggle back when knocked down. No one likes the sense of humiliation. But, as The Message Bible paraphrases verse 13, this conspiracy is “far more than you can handle on your own.” In this case, it’s crucial, lastly:

c) Don’t forget who The Victor is

Jesus Christ is the victor! We stand only in the power of His might. Verse 10 reads:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

There is no one like our God! The battle is the Lord’s, not ours. He has won the victory, not us. We are weak and helpless in the face of any and all great satanic conspiracies. Even the famous Job, righteous and mighty as he was, could not withstand the whiles of the devil when he was tried. Let me explain.

Though we discover in reading the book of Job that the man did not sin in speech through all his afflictions,¹ Job does seem to lose perspective in light of his sufferings. In Job 31, beginning with verse 3, we find Job’s words about his crisis were:

Is not calamity for the unrighteous, and disaster for the workers of iniquity? Does not he [God] see my ways and number all my steps?

In short, Job’s problem was he thought he deserved to be saved because he was so righteous. Job understood the truth that his crisis was not a result of sin—he makes that case clear to his three friends throughout the book. But, his error was in thinking he was strong and mighty because he was righteousness—in short, he deserved salvation. In this Job justified himself rather than God. He fell directly into the devil’s schemes by concluding his circumstances were of flesh and blood—people were his problem—and not powers of spiritual darkness in high places.

As long as we believe we’re battling with flesh and blood we’re not able to see our need for help, a Savior, or that Jesus is victor. That’s why it’s imperative to see who the ultimate conspirator is. For this we put on the whole armor of God day-by-day! Plus, don’t ever forget who the victor is! This conspiracy is far more than we can handle. To think we can “go it alone” is exactly what the devil wants us to believe. Satan wants us taken up with the world’s surveillance cameras surrounding us. He wants us believing we fight against flesh and blood. He wants us to consider victory as up to us—just inches away from grasping. It’s not so! In his hubris, Job found that out and was rebuked by his young friend, Elihu. In Job 32, verse 2 were read:

“Then Elihu…burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God.”

And then in Job 33, verses 26 through 28, we find Elihu cuts lose in correcting Job. Beginning with verse 26 we read Elihu tells Job:

“…then man prays to God, and he accepts him; he sees his face with a shout of joy, and he restores to man his righteousness. He sings before men and says: ‘I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me. He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light.’

Job learns his suffering were more than he could handle. He finds he was only deserving of judgment and then his plea matches the state of his weakness with the words: “I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me!”

When we forget that our true adversary is the devil, we become like Job thinking we deserve help because we are so righteous in our cause. But, salvation is all about what we can’t handle and then finding Jesus as the victor. This discovery is what the devil truly fears most. All his taciturn conspiracies are in coordination to keep us from this truth—Jesus is victor.

That’s the whole deflection of the devil—to get us thinking we are mighty and we can fight against flesh and blood, when in fact, we are nothing and in desperate need of God’s help! So, please remember we have powerful adversary in the devil. But God has given us an armor to put on to discover the strength we have in Jesus!

Ephesians 6, verse 10: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

J Robert Hanson

¹ Job 2:10, ESV: “…Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

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