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The Story of Thanksgiving

The Story of Thanksgiving

Pause and Consider

0621

11.22.17

‘The Story of Thanksgiving’

 

For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 100:5)

It is important to remember the spiritual origins of our Thanksgiving holiday.  There is much more to the story than a turkey dinner.

The Atlantic crossing in the fall of 1620 had been an extremely difficult journey. For two months, 102 people were wedged into what was called the ‘tween decks’—the cargo space of the boat, which only had about five-and-a-half feet of headroom.  No one was allowed above deck because of the terrible storms.  This was no pleasure trip, but God sustained every one of the Pilgrims through the voyage.

God providentially protected His people in many ways.  The Mayflower normally carried a cargo of wine; and the wine spillage from previous voyages had soaked the beams, acting as a disinfectant to prevent the spread of disease.  During one terrible storm, the main bean of the mast cracked.  Death was certain if this bean could not be repaired.  But one of the Pilgrims had brought along a large iron screw, likely for a printing press.  This was used to repair the beam, saving the ship and all on board.

After 66 days at sea, land was sighted off what is now Cape Cod, MA.  But that was not where the Pilgrims wanted to be.  They had intended to establish their new colony in the northern parts of Virginia, but two factors interrupted their plans.  The winds had blown them off course, and some Englishmen who wanted to settle the same location had bribed the crew to take them off course.

Once again, God was in charge and the Pilgrims landed exactly where God wanted them to be.  Had they landed where they intended, they would most certainly have been attacked.  Instead, there were no Indians on Cape Cod when the Pilgrims made landfall there.  The land had already been cleared and the fields had already been cultivated, but those Indians who had prepared the land had died of the plague.

Despite the provision of safety from local Indians, the Pilgrims barely survived their first winter.  Only four families escaped without burying at least one family member. But God was still faithful.  In the spring of 1621, He sent Squanto to the Pilgrims, an Indian who spoke their own language and who offered to teach them how to survive in this strange new land.   He was one of the few Indians from that area who had not died from the plague.  Captured as a young man and taken to England as a slave, he mastered the English language, and was later freed to return to his native territory shortly before the Pilgrims arrived.  He greatly helped the Pilgrims by teaching them to fish and to grow corn.

The Pilgrims thanked God for this wonderful helper, but they also shared with him the most valuable treasure they had brought with them from England—the gospel.  Squanto died soon after coming to the aid of the Pilgrims, but before his death he asked the Pilgrims to pray for him that he might go to be with their God in heaven.

On the first Thanksgiving Day, both the Pilgrims and the Indians were thanking God for His great goodness in providing for them all.  In fact, with the help of Squanto, the Pilgrims had established a peace agreement with the nearby Indians that remained in place for a half century. Truly, God was in control of their whole situation.

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Why so Many Languages?

Why so Many Languages?

Pause and Consider

0620

11.15.17

‘Why so Many Languages?’

 

And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.  (2)  And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.    (Genesis 11:1-2)

After taking the past two weeks to give thought to the Protestant Reformation, we return our attention to the first 11 chapters of Genesis.  As you can see, today we begin Genesis 11.

According to Bibles International, there are 6809 living/spoken languages in the world.  What would you guess are the five most spoken? According to Ethnologue, they are: Mandarin, Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabic (honorable mention goes to: Portuguese).  Sadly, of these close to 7000 languages, more than 4500 are without any written Scripture.

Just over four thousand years ago, God “confused the language,” and the various major language groups were created.  Genesis 11 took place before much of Genesis 10.  Chapter 11 explains the genealogies of chapter 10.  This event continues the message in chapters 1-9 that when mankind disobeys God, the LORD will judge sin, and then His grace makes a new beginning.   In Eden, man sinned, and death came.  God gave coats of skin by grace.  Later, man became so corrupt that God sent the Flood, but Noah found grace in God’s eyes.  Now man, given the gift of human government, is in rebellion, and God must come down to judge.  He will also show His grace as we shall see in Gen 12.

We are first presented with man’s rebellion.  This centers on man’s language (1).  And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.  For about 1800 years, from the time of creation until about 300 years after the flood, all the people in the world spoke one language: the same language with the same set of words.  No one knows, of course, what that language was, but since so many of the early men had names that correlate to Hebrew, that would be the best guess. (Though perhaps some readers would claim it was Norwegian, Danish, German, etc.)

Next, we see the location (2).  And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. Mankind moved as one to a plain in the land of Shinar (ancient Babylon, present day Iraq).  Perhaps they thought they could there establish their own Garden of Eden since they named the two rivers (Tigris and Euphrates) after two of the rivers that flowed out of Eden (Gen 2:14).

Third, there is the timing. As noted, this likely occurred within 300 years of the Flood.  This would have been just towards the end of Noah’s time on earth.  Whether he was alive then or not, we do not know.

Fourth, there is the plan (3, 4). And they said one to another, ‘Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.  (4)  And they said, ‘Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.’  It is an involved plan on the part of mankind, and space forces us to consider it another time.  We will come back to this in two weeks after we give some thoughts next week to Thanksgiving.

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The Dark Side of the Reformation

The Dark Side of the Reformation

Pause and Consider

0619

11.08.17

‘The Dark Side of the Reformation’

 

Last week we highlighted the Protestant Reformation, as its 500th anniversary was celebrated Oct. 31, 2017.  The Reformation changed the world.  It is not far off to say that it led to the period we know as the Age of Enlightenment (1600-1800), and then to the Industrial Revolution (1700-1900).  Western civilization was changed forever by the Reformation.  The gospel has been preached around the world as a result and millions of lives have been changed.

There is however, another side to the coin, a dark side to the Reformation.    The first dark mark on the Reformation is the persecution the Reformers executed towards those who did not agree with them. There have always been those who held tenaciously to God’s Word in contrast to the word of man.  They were called by various names down through the years.  Many were imprisoned and even killed by the very people who were rejecting the oppression of the Church.  This even occurred in early America. Tolerance was not a feature of the Puritans.

The second dark spot is that the Reformers did not leave the idea of a state church.  Thus, various Protestant churches became the state church in various European countries.  When the Thirteen American Colonies were established, at least eight of them had their own state church.  This is something that was finally corrected by the first sentence of the 1st Amendment to our Constitution— “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The third area of darkness is the fact that though the Protestant Churches left the Church, they did not leave all its practices. Primary among these practices is infant baptism.  Though it was a practice invented by the Church they were leaving, and is not found in the Bible, it was ingrained in the minds of the Reformers.  It continues to be practiced widely in Protestantism.

The word translated ‘baptism’ means to dip, plunge or immerse.  It never means to sprinkle or pour.  The English word ‘baptize’ was created by the (primarily) Anglican translators of the Bible into English.  Had it been properly translated as ‘immerse’ there would be no question about the mode of the practice.

As to the candidates for immersion, there is no record of any infant being immersed in Scripture.  Immersion in Scripture is for those who have trusted Christ as personal Savior, a means of displaying that trust.  Immersion is intended to be a picture of death and burial—a person is placed into the water and comes back out—showing an identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

Sadly, multitudes of Protestant people are told that when they were sprinkled as a baby, they entered the Kingdom of God. This is not taught in Scripture.  It is the giving of a false hope.  To come up with that idea, one must try and connect NT baptism with OT circumcision—there being no connection.  There is a play on people’s fears that a dead infant might not make it to heaven, whereas Scripture teaches that all infants go to heaven.

A last stain on the Reformation is replacement theology—the concept that God is through with Israel, and that the Church has replaced Israel as to its promises and future.  Paul contradicts this notion clearly showing that God has a future for Israel (Romans 11:25-27).

The Reformation was a wonderful event in the history of Western civilization.  However, it did not go far enough.  The Bible, especially the NT, is the only rule for faith and practice. God intends that we study, understand and practice it.

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The Bright Side of the Reformation

The Bright Side of the Reformation

Pause and Consider

0618

11.01.17

‘The Bright Side of the Reformation’

 

On Oct 31, 2017, the world celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  This marks the date in 1517 when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany.  This event that has impacted civilization since that day.

One of the promptings of the Reformation was the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in about 1440.  By 1500, presses were operating all over Europe.  People were learning to read, and the Scriptures were becoming available for lay people.  Once people understood what the Word of God actually said, the authority of the Church was undermined.

Various men began to translate the Bible into the languages of the people.  Wycliffe, Tyndale, and Luther produced Bibles which were in the mother tongues.  People could read the Word for themselves and the flames of the Reformation were fanned.

There were many reformers, but three deserve special mention.  The first is Martin Luther of Germany (Nov. 10, 1483 – Feb. 18, 1546).  Luther was a German professor of theology, composer, priest, and monk. He came to reject several teachings and practices of the Church.  Primarily he objected to the practice of indulgences—the belief that freedom from God’s punishment could be purchased with money.  Luther was eventually excommunicated by the Pope and condemned as an outlaw by the Holy Roman Emperor.

The second important reformer was Ulrich Zwingli of Switzerland (Jan. 1, 1484—Oct. 11, 1531).  1n 1519, Zwingli became a pastor in Zurich where he began to preach on the ideas of reform.  He particularly preached against the corruption of the Church hierarchy, and the use of images in places of worship.

The third Reformation figure was John Calvin of France (July 10, 1509—May 27, 1564), though much of his work took place in Geneva, Switzerland.  He broke from the Church around 1530. His theology has impacted many protestant denominations.

The Reformers formed their thoughts around three principal ideas which are known as the ‘Solas’ (from the Latin meaning ‘alone).  Each is a key belief which contrasts with the teachings of the Church.

The first is ‘Scripture alone.’ It asserts that the Bible must rule over church traditions and interpretations.  All church traditions, creeds and teachings must conform with the teachings of scripture as the divinely inspired Word of God.  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly furnished unto every good work. (1 Tim. 3:16, 17)

‘By grace alone’ and ‘through faith alone’ work together.  They exclude merit as part of achieving salvation.  And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. (Rom. 11:6) Salvation is an unearned gift from God by means of what Jesus accomplished on the cross.

Justification is received by faith alone. Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).  No good work that any man can do can please God enough to bring salvation.

Salvation is based on Scripture alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, and to God alone belongs the glory!  This is the most wonderful news in the world! How have you responded to it?

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The Human Race

The Human Race

Pause and Consider

0618

10.25.17

‘The Human Race’

 

These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood. (32)

Having last week considered the specifics of ‘the Table of Nations’ as found in Genesis 10, today we will make some observations.

This Table of the Nations is recognized as authentic and very important.  Dr. W. F. Albright, a Near East archaeologist, though not a believer in the infallibility of the Scripture, wrote: “It stands alone in ancient literature, without a remote parallel…The Table of Nations remains an astonishingly accurate document.”

We see clearly that Jehovah is the Lord of the nations.  He is in control no matter who rules on earth.  God has a purpose for the nations to fulfill.  Though from Genesis 12 onward, Israel will be center stage, God is concerned for all nations.

Despite external differences, we are all from the same family. We all descended from Noah. …and from these [Noah’s sons] the whole earth was populated.” (Gen 8:19) Do you realize that there are no separate races?  And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth… (Acts 17:26a) This contrasts with early evolutionists’ thinking.  The full title of Charles Darwin’s famous book, for example, is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life.  Adolph Hitler based his extermination of the Jews on this teaching.  He believed Jews had not evolved as far as the Aryan’s (which he called the master race) and therefore he could speed the evolutionary process (natural selection) by eliminating them, and others as well.  Again we look to Henry Morris who wrote: “There is no concept of race found in the Bible.  ‘Race’ is purely an evolutionary concept with no basis either in Scripture or true science.  The Bible speaks only of kinds.  There are nations, tribes, tongues, peoples and families, but these are not races.” This writer is always tempted when filling in a form requiring ‘race,’ to write in ‘human.’

The descendants of Japheth lived mostly north of the Promised Land from Spain to the Caspian and Black Seas: the Europeans.  Most of my readers are from this line. This group receives the least coverage in Scripture because they had the least direct contact with Israel. They will become important in the NT as the gospel goes to the Gentiles.

As the Jews conquered Canaan, what is written in Genesis 9, 10 must have been an encouragement to them. The conquest was a victory of faith.  It is no wonder that God told Joshua to study his Bible (Josh 1:8).  Allen Ross (Hebrew scholar) notes that, “To see which neighbors would face blessing and which ones cursing, Israel need only consult this table.”  The descendants of Canaan were the primary people that Israel subdued or eliminated when they entered the Promised Land under Joshua.

The dividing of Noah’s family into nations is related to languages (10:5, 31) which requires Genesis 11 and the confusion of languages to explain, which we will consider soon.

Though we may skip over or skim through these genealogies in the Bible, God has them there for a reason.  They were especially important to the nation of Israel and the validity of the coming Messiah as being from Shem, Abraham, and then David.  We praise Him for His purpose and plan for this world, the nation of Israel, and our own lives.

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The Table of the Nations

The Table of the Nations

Pause and Consider

0616

10.18.17

‘The Table of the Nations’

 

Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood. (Genesis 10:1)

Reading the tenth chapter of Genesis might seem like reading the telephone book.  It appears dry and dusty.  But it is God’s Word, and serves a purpose.  In Genesis 10 we come to the second genealogy in the Bible.  It is known as the ‘Table of the Nations.’  Its purpose clearly is to show how the earth was repopulated by Noah’s three sons after the Deluge.  A similar but not identical list can be found in 1 Chronicles 1.

The phrase, ‘these are, or this is, the generation(s) of’ is found throughout Genesis, giving it real unity.  It is believed that Shem is the author of Genesis 10, 11.   This is the last section that treats historically the whole human race.  Only incidentally, in prophetic passages, do we again meet with mankind as a whole in the Old Testament. Beginning in Genesis 12 God deals almost exclusively with Abraham and his descendants, the nation of Israel.

As we approach this chapter, there are some things to keep in mind.  This is more than a genealogy.  It is also an atlas and a history book.  The listing is not complete: for instance, there is no mention of Edom, Moab or Ammon.  It is difficult to identify some of these nations with their modern counterparts: people moved, intermarried, and changed language and culture over the years.

First is mentioned the descendants of Japheth (2-5).  The sons of Japheth became the Europeans, the white man.  Most of my readers likely are sons and daughters of Japheth: we are Norwegians, Germans, Danes, Irish, English, etc.  The sons of Japheth are peripheral or unrelated to the experience of the Hebrews in the OT, because the entire OT takes place around the Middle East and this is not where Japheth’s people settled.  The sons of Abraham had little to no contact with them.

Next we have the descendants of Ham (6-20).  These settled in what we know today as Egypt, Palestine, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.  Many of them became the enemies of Israel.  There is special attention given to Nimrod the ‘hunter’ (8-12).  He was not a hunter of game, but rather, the word indicates that he was a tyrant who was seeking to establish an empire: he was a hunter of men.  He founded four cities which formed a composite city, Nineveh.  He is mentioned here, no doubt, because we will see him again in Genesis 11.  Nimrod was an early type of the coming Antichrist.  When he left the land of Shinar (Babylon) and “went forth into Assyria” it was probably due to the confusion of languages described in Genesis 11.  The cities that he founded (Babylon and Nineveh) became major enemies of Israel and thus the reason they are included here.

Finally, we have the descendants of Shem (21-31).  These are referred to as Semites, ‘Sem’ coming from its variation in the Greek language.  While five sons are mentioned, the emphasis is on the family of Arphaxad, from whom will come Abraham. Eber provides the source of the word Hebrew, and comes from the verb meaning ‘to pass over.’  The descendants of Shem settled in the northern and eastern parts of the Near East, often in areas close to the Hamitic people.

The family of Shem is that which is the focus of the rest of the OT, and we will look at its significance next time. [Please note our new email, ibcwestbrook@woodstocktel.net].

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The Rainbow

The Rainbow

Pause and Consider

0615

10.11.17

The Rainbow

 

We have been considering (from Genesis 9) the blessings that God gave to mankind following the Flood.  Last week we looked at the first four.  First, procreation—the multiplication of life.  “Be fruitful and multiply” the LORD said twice, repeating what He had told Adam and Eve.  Second, protection—the sustaining of life.  God put the fear of man into every beast.  Man is made in the image of God while animals are not.  Third, prominence—man is put in charge over the animal kingdom.  And fourth, provision—man is now allowed to be a carnivore.  This once again emphasizes the wide gap between Man and animals.

We now give thought to the last two blessings.  Fifth is a second level of protection.  And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.  (6)  Whoso sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God he made man. (5, 6)

God had put the fear of man into animals; now He must put the fear of God into man.  An animal that killed a man was to be killed.  A man that murdered a man was to be executed, because God required the highest penalty for murdering one made in His image.

‘Shall be shed’ is in the imperative.  Capital punishment is a protection for life because it is a strong deterrent to murder.  God is placing the sword in the hand of man; giving man His own judicial power; thus the establishment of government, man over man.

Government was established by God because man is evil.  One of our Founding Fathers wisely said, “If men were angels, there would be no need for government.”  The fear of punishment helps to restrain would-be lawbreakers.  This law was not changed in the New Testament. (Romans 13:4).

The sixth and last blessing is a promise—the enjoyment of life (7-17).  The only rain that Noah knew was rain that destroyed the earth and sent him into the ark for a year.  God’s promise assured Noah that when rain came now it was not to destroy the whole earth, but rather to water the earth.  God mentions three times in the text that never again will there be a world-destroying flood.

There are four wonderful qualities to God’s promise.  First, it is unilateral.  “I myself…”  It was dependent only upon God, not man.  Second, it is unconditional.  “…which God established…”  There is nothing for man to do.  Third, it is universal.  “…between me and all flesh” and even with the earth.  Fourth, it is everlasting, an “…everlasting covenant.

God even gave a sign of this promise—the rainbow.  “I set my bow in the sky.”  There was no rain before the flood so there were no rainbows.  The rainbow required small water droplets in the air, and would not have been able to form in the pre-flood world when the high vapor canopy precluded rain.  While the ‘bow’ is a weapon used to kill, God hangs His bow in the sky for all to see.  The rainbow is beautiful and universal.  It is given by a gracious God even though He knows that “the intent of man’s heart is only evil continually.”  It is picture of God’s manifold, or multi-colored grace.

God wants us to use the life He has given us to serve His purpose and bring Him glory.  God wants us to be ready for His coming.  He wants us to enjoy the blessings both of natural life and spiritual life.  Through Christ alone He is able to give us ‘all things richly to enjoy.’ (1 Tim 6:17)

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God’s Blessings After the Flood

God’s Blessings After the Flood

Pause and Consider

0614

10.04.17

God’s Blessings after the Flood

 

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.  (2)  And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moves upon the earth, and upon all the fish of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.  (3)  Every moving thing that lives shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.  (4)  But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.  (Genesis 9:1-5)

Following the Flood, the world enters the third of the dispensations, or periods of testing offered by the LORD.  The first period involved Adam and Eve in Eden when they plunged the entire world into sin.  The second period occurred during the days of Enoch and Noah, when man was allowed to follow his conscience.  This did not work out well, and God sent the Flood on a very wicked world.  The third period begins with much new revelation from God, and will end with the events at the tower of Babel.

God addressed the eight survivors of the Deluge and gave them instructions for life.  These instructions apply to all people in all places in all ages.  They are permanent ordinances from God to all humanity.  They must not be ignored or altered.

What blessings did God provide in the new world following the Flood?  There are six.  We will consider four of them this week.

First, procreation, the multiplication of life (1, 7).  “Be fruitful and multiply.”   This mandate is repeated twice. This is the same command as given to Adam. This is a command, but also a great blessing: the joy of marriage and family.   It is thus made clear that God loves people and wants lots of them!  Children are a heritage from the Lord.

Second, the first level of protection—the sustaining of life (2).  “The fear of you…will be on every beast….”  This is a change from the relationship of man and animals before the flood.

This fear of man is not logical (many animals are much stronger than man) but it makes it much safer for man.  Animals reproduce rapidly and mature quickly.  Without the God-given fear of man, they would easily overrun humanity.  God instituted this for man’s protection.

Third, prominence (3).  “Into your hand they [the animals] are given.” This is the message of Psalm 8 (…you have put all things under man’s feet…).  Man is in charge of the animals.  Man is not just ‘a little more evolved animal.’  He has been made in the image of God.  Animals are not.

Fourth, provision (3, 4).  “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you.” This is new; before the flood man was to be a vegetarian (Genesis 1:30b).  This new provision would have been especially important early on after the Flood as fruit trees grow slowly.  “It would also be important because of the greater need for animal protein in the diet due to the nutrient-impoverished soils of the post-flood world.” (Morris) This also emphasized the great gulf between man and the animals.

There is however, the restriction of eating blood.  Part of this is to prevent cruelty to animals—people cooking the animals while they were yet alive. More importantly, the blood is the seat of life—it is part of the plan of redemption and must be treated with respect.  All of the animals slain in sacrifice in the OT point to the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus, who would take away the sins of the world!

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The Story of Thanksgiving

Pause and Consider 0621 11.22.17 ‘The Story of Thanksgiving’   For the LORD is...
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Why so Many Languages?

Pause and Consider 0620 11.15.17 ‘Why so Many Languages?’   And the whole earth...
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The Dark Side of the Reformation

Pause and Consider 0619 11.08.17 ‘The Dark Side of the Reformation’   Last week...
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The Bright Side of the Reformation

Pause and Consider 0618 11.01.17 ‘The Bright Side of the Reformation’   On Oct...
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The Human Race

Pause and Consider 0618 10.25.17 ‘The Human Race’   These were the families of...
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The Table of the Nations

Pause and Consider 0616 10.18.17 ‘The Table of the Nations’   Now these are the...
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The Rainbow

Pause and Consider 0615 10.11.17 The Rainbow   We have been considering (from...
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God’s Blessings After the Flood

Pause and Consider 0614 10.04.17 God’s Blessings after the Flood   And God blessed...
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