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January 07, 2014

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Christians are sinners, obviously. If they were all like Christ, there would be no confession-forgiveness-redemption, and that's the core of Christian belief.

On the other hand, we've got lots of so-called Christians who scorn the poor and act like money-changers in the temple. They're full of pride and justify themselves with creative Bible interpretations.

The main problem with Christians is that they are the powerful majority in many countries. This is a self-contradiction. You can't be powerful and humble at the same time. A rich Christian is an oxymoron. So if you want to find an honest Christian, don't look at Congress or the mass media; look in the ghetto soup kitchen. That's where you'll find them.

@ John Moore; Very well put. When Christ called us to forsake all and follow him, He meant for us to lay down our dreams, the "American Dream" especially, our talents, and career aspirations. Making Him instead the focus of our efforts. This of course places us on the bottom rung of society with the trials and tribulations college and career Christians are trying to escape.

Those who put their talents and skills to work for Christ are only fooling themselves, trying to have it both ways.

John Moore,

You've hit the point of the essential nature of the Christian in the first paragraph. What you have defined as the "confession-forgiveness-redemption" aspect of the Christian life is important; what we declare as God's grace is the impetus of our life in Christ.

It is in the following paragraph that you may have strayed a trifle. Rich people can be Christians. Politicians can be Christians. Media personalities can be Christian. At the ground of all this is living for Christ and the kingdom of God. I am put off of the notion of the super-saint, the acts of supererogation, as if the Christian can only be found in the ghetto soup kitchen. to do all for Christ can be accomplished by a father going off to work in support of family, by a child offering a cold cup of water to a sick mother, to young adults maintaining the yard and sidewalks of an elderly person. The list of such simple kindnesses can stretch.

Yes, anyone can do such and such. They need not be Christian. But the motivation is subtly different. Christ had spoken in the Sermon on the Mount of converse situations where good is done. The first is in Mt. 5: 16: Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. The second comes one chapter later: Be careful that you don’t do your charitable giving before men, to be seen by them, or else you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Therefore when you do merciful deeds, don’t sound a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may get glory from men. Most assuredly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you do merciful deeds, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand does, 4so that your merciful deeds may be in secret, then your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Mt. 6: 1-3). Therefore, a worker in a ghetto soup kitchen who is a politician striving only to have a favorable rise in his poll numbers gains only his desire, victory in election, not nourished people.

The main point I appreciate remains your understanding of the "confession-forgiveness-redemption" factor in the Christian life. Luther saw Christians simul sanctus et peccator, at the same time saint and sinner. Gandhi (if the quote is accurate)could focus on the sinner. Such would be too easy. But this focus on the sinful follower mars the marvel of the Christ and His grace.

Such is the heart of all confusion about the Christian and the world's expectations of one as such.

I'd reply along these lines …

"I don't approve of any Christian's behavior on the whole, either. That includes my own behavior. But think about this: the claims of the Bible stand or fall on their own merits, not on my ability to be a good enough person. The fact that you know moral wrongs when you see them should suggest something to you, don't you think?

"You see, the whole point of Christian faith is that this is how God shows mercy for people like me who commit moral wrongs & deserve to be punished for them."

I think the starting point would be to have an accurate understanding of who Christ is and what he came to do. Fortunately, we have an accurate record of both of those things.

While we might tend to focus on the more "humanitarian" narratives we see in the Gospels, they also contain direct quotes by Jesus as to who he was and and his purpose that are often overlooked in discussions such as these. Here's a sample:

  • 'And they all said, "Are You the Son of God, then?" And He said to them, "Yes, I am."'
  • "The Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost."
  • "The Son of Man came not to be serve, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
  • "I have not come to abolish [the Law or the Prophets] but to fulfill [lit. to make full or complete] them."
  • "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."
  • "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose."
  • "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." (In other words, he came to define truth from falsehood.)

Then, once we grasp these things we can compare those who claim to follow Christ with his example: are they sharing the good news of Christ's atoning death and resurrection; are they living according to his commands (i.e. making disciples, exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit, etc.); are they learning more and more about the truth of Scripture and applying it to their lives.

I think this is the root issue of this challenge. By the way, we have an entire book of the Bible, 1 John, written on this subject.

For starters, whether Gandhi even said these words is in dispute. It looks to me like its some sort of pastiche of words Gandhi did say and attitudes that third-parties have attributed to him.

Second, Gandhi is not an infallible source. I'm not convinced he's even a particularly reliable source on the subject he's speaking about.

Third, even if every word he says about Christians is utterly true, that just expresses the one doctrine of Christianity that can be proven indisputably by empirical observation: Man is sinful.

Fourth, I do not think it is true that Gandhi liked Christ. At a superficial level, it bears remembering that it was Christ who drove the money-changers out of the temple. Is that the way he'd like Christians to behave?

To really get to the heart of the matter. Gandhi actually didn't know what he was talking about.

What will Gandhi do with the man who said of himself "Before Abraham was I AM"?

That he likes him?

Really?

That he worships and adores Him, OK.

That he pities him and hopes for his mental healing, OK.

That he despises him as the ruthless deceiver that he is, OK.

That he doesn't believe that any such person ever existed, Silly. But at least he's not saying that he likes him.

You don't just like God. And the other alternatives you have when considering one who claims to be the source of all existence is either pity or disgust (or both). Liking is off the table.

This person needs a COEXIST sticker on the other side. : )

The one defacing their car with this bumper sticker has multiple problems:

1. The outward expression of moral superiority (Yikes!)

2. The misunderstanding of human nature, namely, that we’re all sinners

3. The misunderstanding of Christ. It’s not about “liking” Christ. Christ didn’t come to be liked.

If anything, this bumper sticker is too long. “I do not like Christians” would suffice.

As for a response in actual practice:

I’ve found that the kind of person who puts this type of bumper sticker on their car is most likely invincible in their wrongheadedness. I’m speaking generally. The reason being is that there’s already so much hostility built up. It takes a special type of hostility to slap that on your vehicle for all to see.

We shouldn’t be fooled. The “liking” Christ is just a front – the equivalent of ‘Jesus is my Homeboy’. He’s being used as a moral shield, that’s it. It's: “See, I’m a good person”. How much can they possibly know about Christ?

The person needs the basics, but the needed conversation most likely can’t occur in a parking lot or in passing. Maybe on an airplane.

Ah, I now see the question is about a friend that has the bumper sticker. Well, let’s just hope he like you. : )

I would start by asking them what do they think Gabdhi was trying to say in this quote and why are they displaying it on there car. We need understand what they believe first before we can respond. It is a good chance that what they mean by this statement is; that Christ seem so long loving and compassionate, and that see thar Christan they meet are not like that. Most like they have a false understanding ofJesus and Christianity. It would great to ask them if they have ever read the bible. It would be ask them what they know about Jesus or what there experience what Christians has been like.

I wonder if people who put this bumper sticker on their cars have ever read the Bible. It is easy to pick and choose passages from the Bible that flatter one's proclivities (Judge not that ye be not judged, Jesus never specifically condemned abortion or homosexuality) but do they realize that He also commanded His followers to make disciples of all nations and will someday judge the world including them?

Here is what I think:

The fact that many christians are unlike Christ is true, but it doesen't in any way contrast with the doctrine of the Bible and it should in no way lead one to diminish Jesus and his teachings.
Actually, it affirms two important truths:

1. Jesus Christ is unlike any other person who ever lived.
He's an unique example of morality that everyone should imitate; even Gandhi acknowledged this. At the same time he said that “If it weren’t for Christians I would be a Christian.”. The problem ,for Gandhi lied in Jesus's followers, however it's not surprising at all that they would lack the perfection of Christ, for:

2.Every human being is corrupted by sin.

Yes, even Christians. Even Christians who decide to put their trust in Jesus as the savior remain subject to their sinful nature while in this life. Of course the holy spirit works within them and he can transform people, to a certain degree, but only after God resurrects us with spiritual bodies and cleanses us of all sin, we will be able to be rescued from our flawed nature.

So in summary: this text underlines an important truth: that Christ is perfect, he's holy, while we are currupted. No other religious leader can be said to be a perfect example of morality for others, because all people are sinners, yet Jesus is more than a man. He's God incarnate! And we can well see the difference, can't we? Gandhis quote expresses just that.

Then, not all Christians are that bad. We may not be able to be morally perfect, but there are many people who did their best to live in accordance to the teachings of Jesus, and were characterized by humilty, honesty, and love and that were transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit in a visible manner. Jesus's disciples were the first ones. We can see their change from cowards to people ready to die for what they knew was true.

Ah, I see somebody messed up with the italics...

Yeah, we Christians are so unlike our Christ. As is the person displaying the sticker (and everyone else in the world).

That's the Bad News.

Fortunately there's Good News too.

Why do you think we are so grateful for the penal substitutionary atonement?

Wir sind alle Bettler, das ist wahr.

How would you start a good conversation about Jesus with a friend who had this bumper sticker?

BTW - People that tend to put bumper stickers like this on their car tend not to have meaningful friendships with Christians. They might know a few, but often times, they live in bubbles.

I heard Ravi Zacharias talk about this once. His response: "That's great! We're not offering you Christians. We're offering you Christ. He's the only one who will never let you down."

I'd ask them why they are being so judgmental!

And I agree with KWM. People with such stickers usually know no Christians. (Or, at least, generally don't have friendships with them.) Nor do they have much interest in doing so.

Bumper stickers like this are just used to flaunt their unearned moral superiority.

My reply:

"I like your Christ."
"I do not like the behavior of your atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, etc."
"They are so unlike your Christ."
"Nevertheless, I do love your atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, etc."
--- Jesus

This is amazing.

Don't like the message? Attack the messenger! We Christians get angry when others do this to us. Yet here we are.

Don't think I haven't done this myself. I'm not saying this from some kind of perfected state.

Maybe we should instead address the message behind the bumper sticker.

Why do our churches produce so few disciples of Christ? Why are so few professing Christians Christ like?

And please, no "we're all sinners" nonsense. In the Bible it is assumed that followers of Christ will be radically different from non Christians. Let's not pretend otherwise.

When the world calls us out on this we need to listen.

Goat Head 5

Idea for another post:

What do non Christians think when they see the bumper sticker, "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven".

Goat Head 5: “And please, no ‘we're all sinners’ nonsense. In the Bible it is assumed that followers of Christ will be radically different from non Christians. Let's not pretend otherwise.”

Thank you; refreshing to read. I presume the message being conveyed by the bumper sticker is basically, “Hey…you Christians are just like non-Christians. You scramble for the bigger car, a larger stock portfolio and nicer house just like we do. You file lawsuits, demand ‘rights’ (like tax deductions) and write angry letters to editors…just like we do. You get angry, lie, cheat, steal, carouse, fight, and messily encounter life….just like we do. You love, provide charity, act unselfishly, perform honorably and kindly exhibit generosity…just like we do. While many principles behind Christianity are honorable, there is no difference between you and I. We both act ‘Christ-like’ to the same extent.”

Nice to see you get it, Goat Head 5.

To answer your question, when I—a non-Christian—see a bumper sticker “Christians aren’t perfect; just forgiven” I wonder to whom the message is being conveyed. Do such people putting stickers on their car really think I am not aware of the Christian message? That I will now search out on my own what this “forgiveness” thing is all about? Do they think I will…upon seeing this pithy statement…be utterly convicted of all my sins and immediately pull over to cry out to God for salvation? (I wonder the same about the fish symbols. Or the evolution fish symbols.)

I think such ornamentation is placed far more for the owner’s satisfaction than any attempt to persuade others.

Don't like the message? Attack the messenger! We Christians get angry when others do this to us. Yet here we are.
Exactly which messenger do you think is being attacked here GH5?

Perhaps you are saying that one (or more) of the replies above employs a fallacious ad hominem attack. That the argument implicit from the bumpersticker (such as it is) is being answered, not by a legitimate criticism of the argument, but by some sort of insult to the arguer.

I'll have to say I don't really see that in any of the comments, so you need to be specific in your charge, if you want it to be understood.

The closest we come to a fallacious ad hominem is, I think, KWM's reply (and Mo's addition to it). In order to attack the arguer rather than his argument, it is necessary that you attack the arguer...and I think only KWM (with Mo) even did so much. This is because he does talk about the morally superior smugness that the owner of the sticker displays.

Is that who you believe is attacking the messenger because they don't like the message?

Now, having said this about KWM's remarks, let me point out that I think he's a million miles away from a fallacious ad hominem. What's being asked for in these Challenge-Response posts is not just to answer the argument contained in the challenge presented, though that's essential of course. You're also supposed to come up with an argumentative tactic to address the challenge. In most cases, that's going to include, but not be limited to, an assessment of the person making the challenge (in the challenge at hand, the car owner). I think that that's what KWM was up to.

And, btw, KWM was probably right in his assessment. And that is what makes the challenge difficult, not the argument actually presented, which is, frankly, a joke:

  1. A affirms X.
  2. B believes A when he affirms X
  3. I like A
  4. I do not like B, because B is morally inferior to A.
  5. So X is false.
Let A be Christ, B be Joe Christian and X be Christianity and you've got something like the sticker's challenge to Christianity.

In truth, what I've presented is a somewhat stronger argument against Christianity than is contained on the bumpersticker. This is because I've actually presented an argument against Christianity (albeit not a very good one).

What's on the bumper-sticker doesn't even rise to that level. All it says (as KWM noted) is: I don't like Christians. (And here's why: they're not like Christ.)

You want to reply: "Thanks for sharing."

What's there is not a challenge...it's just an insult (and a pretty lame one too).

So what's difficult here is not the argument. It's the attitude of the one presenting it.

As for Mo's addition, I think his question "Why are you being so judgmental?" is also not an ad hominem. He's actually taking the tactical question one step further than KWM did.

The hallmark of the moral smugness of our age is non-judgmentalism. The irony here is thick. Moral relativism, which reigns supreme, claims that there's no true system of morality. But relativists also believe that holding this view makes them morally cool (because they're soooo tolerant you see). The non-judgmentalism of the moral relativist is precisely why they judge themselves to be morally superior.

Now, in dealing with a challenge, one very good tactic is to make the challenger feel a logical conflict in the beliefs that underlie their challenge.

When you are dealing with someone with so little logical insight that they proudly display the pseudo-Gandhi sticker, that's not going to be easy. And just showing them that their argument is bad is probably not going to do it.

The person views himself as very broad-minded. He likes both Gandhi and Christ...See!. (Forget about the fact that he's using something Gandhi never said and probably thinks that Christ's central message was "Give peace a chance".) So such a person probably does hold in very high regard is his non-judgmentalism.

If you can get him to see that he's being judgmental toward Christians, that might result is a small crack in the dam.


First, I appreciate this challenge because it comes up time and time again. I think that fact should make us stop and think, as Christians, why this would be. Are we loving our neighbors in tangible ways that would demonstrate the love of Christ? Are we seeking to follow the command to love God with our everything, and our neighbors as ourselves? Our love should have arms and legs, and should be manifest to the world around us.

Having said that, the question Columbo-style is: What do you mean by that? What is the point? What does that prove? All it seems to prove to me is that Christians are sinners, which is exactly what we profess. Also, what does it say about the truth about Christianity if the charges are sustained? If people are not acting in line with what they profess to believe, it does not negate the truth of the thing itself - it has to stand or fall on its own merits.

One other thing to point out is that we live in a nation where the majority still profess to be Christians. It is basically still culturally accepted, and even encouraged (although it is becoming less so). This is not a bad thing, but it leads to having a lot of "cultural Christians". I heard it one time put like this: If someone in Seattle, WA says to me they are a Christian, I tend to believe them. When someone in the Bible Belt says they are a Christian, I don't know what to think.

When people talk about Christians looking just like the world, whom are we talking about? I know in my circles I see a lot of people volunteering their time and energy to help widows set up microbusinesses in India, and adopting children with special needs, and working with inner city residents, etc. So even if we can generalize (these Christians are not much like their Christ), at the same time there are many who (imperfectly) are setting about being the hands and feet of the one they profess to believe in, and they cannot be discounted.

There's more to say, but that's enough for a start.

Something else of note is that people who level this charge often forget (as was pointed out in another comment above) or even ignore that Jesus wasn't just all about forgiveness, love and peace. Sure, those were a significant part of the message (Good News!), but the message was also one of repentance, and that he would be coming again to judge the living and the dead, that by their merits they would stand and fall. Well, I speak for myself, and safely (on Biblical grounds) speak for the rest of humanity when I say that by our merits we WILL fall (bad news). But without the bad news, what is the Good News of new life and salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ?

A mini-sermon there, but the bottom line is we can't just talk about Jesus' love and forgiveness and peace and do not judge lest ye be judged, etc., and ignore his other statements that he would be coming to rightly judge the world one day. We also can't forget that he told the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, so if keeping silent and live and let live is what is envisioned as being Christ-like, then it is missing the mark.

By the way, WL if there was a "like" button, I would click it for your post.

Goat Head 5,

And please, no "we're all sinners" nonsense.

I didn’t mean to flick mud into your ice cream sundae with sin talk, but it’s at the heart of the misunderstanding of the bumper sticker – the subject of the OP. How is it not? The title of the post is Christians are Unlike Christ for goodness sake.

It’s peculiar that this sin thing keeps coming up in a Christian blog. You think a post is safe to click on, then bam – sin talk. Yuck.

As it relates to the bumper sticker, you seem to imply that if only Christians were more Christlike, then the bumper sticker owner would be satisfied and relent. He or she would be impressed with Christian morality – perhaps even convert. Not a chance. See, that’s not what it’s about.

Christ was Christ and what happened to Him?

Even if every Christian met your standards – (and that’s what we’re talking about, btw – your standards, because God’s standard is perfection). So, even if every Christian met your standards, the driver would still slap that baby on and cruise down Main Street. In other words, the driver’s misunderstanding would persist despite better acting Christians. In fact, even if you could appease such a person, would you want to? What if they didn't care for some of your core Christian beliefs?

All that said, the right thing to do is to give them the Gospel. Full-force. Yet we fall short here all the time.

Idea for another post:

What do non Christians think when they see the bumper sticker, "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven".

Aside from the point of such a sticker, wouldn’t this be sort of like saying “Christians are sinners, yet we’re forgiven”?

Sometimes when I hear someone say, “I’m not perfect” it’s implies, “Yeah, I’m not perfect all the time, but man, I’m perfect a lot of the time. You should see me when I’m really good. Man, it’s great, you’d like it.” Not always, but sometimes.

WisdomLover,

You have my intent correct. Thank you.

*******************************************************************

WisdomLover is right about presenting them with an internal conflict. That’s what has to happen before anything can really move forward.

Another thing likely needing to be dealt with is the political undertone of a bumper sticker like this. The list could include:

1. You’re against abortion but don’t care about kids after birth

2. You’re pro-life, but for war. Hypocrite.

3. You’re a bigot and against gays

4. You don’t care about the poor because you have big churches that spend money on church salaries, heating and air.

On and On...

You know, the everyday stuff. Not necessarily the case - but likely the case - unfortunately. Lots to deal with before you can even get to the meat.

GH5-

And please, no "we're all sinners" nonsense.
How is that nonsense? We are all sinners.
In the Bible it is assumed that followers of Christ will be radically different from non Christians. Let's not pretend otherwise.
Yes, we will. We will be radically different because we recognize that we are forgiven by grace through faith apart from our works.

Because of this, Christian works have a chance of being unlike the works of those who view moral action as a means to an end. We have a chance to perform them out of love and respect for the Lawgiver and Redeemer and out of a selfless love for our fellow sinners, not to achieve an end. As such, they might have a chance to be of moral worth rather than be expressions of our own selfisheness.

Of course, this is no guarantee that Christian works, even if they do manage to be of moral worth (which is a big "if", even for Christians), will have highly pleasing consequences to non-Christians. So I don't think that there is any reason to think that non-Christians would be lead to post declarations of their affection toward Christians on their automobile bumpers.

When the world calls us out on this we need to listen.
Why? That doesn't make any sense. What does the world know? (Other than how to go to Hell.)

I'd like to return for a moment to my original point, which, no doubt, was not made as clearly as it should have been.

As a tactic, rather than focusing on what pseudo-Gandhi claims not to like (Christians), I think it might be more fruitful to focus on what he claims to like (Christ).

Satan would like nothing better than to have seven circles of Hell full of damned souls who loooove Christians, but rejected Christ.

The question is not what we do with Christians, but what we do with Christ.

Pseudo-Gandhi claims to like Christ.

But I don't think that makes sense. Not with the Christ in Scripture. The Christ in Scripture claimed to be God.

He was either right or wrong.

If He was right, then you'd best not like Him. You'd best fall on your face in worship and adoration.

If he was wrong, that's not a small thing to be wrong about. Christ is either a crazy man or an inveterate liar. If the former, then pity him. If the latter, then despise him. But in no case, should you simply like him.

Dear M. Ghandi & Ghandians,

Your efforts to achieve lasting peace and freedom were well intentioned, but short sighted.

Only Christ can provide true eternal peace and freedom.

You would have done well to proclaim that truth, but alas, you could not see past the error of Hindu relativism.

Though you said, "An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it."

You also said, "Religions are different roads converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take different roads, so long as we reach the same goal? In reality, there are as many religions as there are individuals."

Too bad you missed the opportunity to be like Christ and like us Christians where it counts the most.

Though we as Christians may not effect global change like you, M. Ghandi, we are actually only called to assist individuals along life’s journey, like the nameless “good Samaritan” in the parable.

But our temporal assistance would be of little consequence to others were it not coupled with the Gospel TRUTH of Christ.

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?

Christians aren’t perfect, but they’re Christians.

DagoodS:

To answer your question, when I—a non-Christian—see a bumper sticker “Christians aren’t perfect; just forgiven” I wonder to whom the message is being conveyed. Do such people putting stickers on their car really think I am not aware of the Christian message? That I will now search out on my own what this “forgiveness” thing is all about? Do they think I will…upon seeing this pithy statement…be utterly convicted of all my sins and immediately pull over to cry out to God for salvation? (I wonder the same about the fish symbols. Or the evolution fish symbols.)

I think such ornamentation is placed far more for the owner’s satisfaction than any attempt to persuade others.

For once DagoodS and I are in perfect agreement.

Of course, he rather than I, has more expertise on what non-Christians think, since he is one and I'm not (making me a non-non-Christian I guess:)

But I also happen to think he's right about what the sticker achieves and is for. It really is "placed far more for the owner’s satisfaction than any attempt to persuade others."

And this is a feature common to virtually all bumper-stickers. DagoodS also agrees with that (note the bit in his post about both Christian and Darwin fishies).

All this adds up to my belief that bumperstickers are at best silly (and perhaps they represent an evil conspiracy launched by a cabal of auto-body shops to make cars need repainting).

I suppose, that if I were to be as charitable as possible, we might imagine that the stickers sometimes also provide encouragement to fellow travelers. To let them know they're not alone. That's not a totally silly aim.

This is not limited to stickers which are clearly about encouragement of one's fellows (e.g. "Honk, If you love Jesus"). I imagine that Obama supporters are encouraged whenever they see the iconic "Hope" stickers. That anti-Christian relativists are encouraged by stickers like the one we've been talking about. And so forth.

I guess if I had a bumper sticker, it would say something to the effect of "Hate my driving? Just imagine me WITHOUT Jesus."

I know better than to think I'm fixed because I'm Christian, but I am definitely making less terrible mistakes than I was pre-Christ. But let me clarify.. I'm still WAAAY short of the glory of God. It's a paradox. The better I think I am, the more self-righteous (sinful) I am in reality. The biggest lure of the enemy as we mature in our faith is to buy into the "Hey... look at how holy I am now!" trap. As soon as the focus shifts from Christ's work to mine, I'm sunk. Confess my sin, get up, move on, remembering that any progress is Christ's work in me... not my achievement at all. I just get to watch firsthand what a miracle He is.

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