Category Archives: Culture, News, & Reviews

A Fresh Summer’s Work (and Rest)

It’s that time again.  Last summer, I took a two month blogging sabbatical, and this summer I am sorely tempted to forge on through.  Partly because I love to write, partly because I fear loss of readership (oh, vanity, my constant companion!), but mostly because of you.  Every few days when I scroll through my emails, there will be one or two from readers.  Always, I can’t wait to see what you’ll say.  Sometimes you have an idea or an opportunity to offer, and sometimes you just want to share a little bit of your life.  With me.  Few things in this world make me feel more undeservedly blessed.  Somehow, amazingly, through the wonders of technology and the grace of God, He has allowed me to meet people all over the world.  And what’s more, to encourage them, share my broken story with them, and celebrate Christ’s mercy together.  That is my favorite part of blogging.  I thought it would be the writing, but it’s actually the impacting.  It’s you.  Being a small part of your life.

For this very reason, I’m reluctant to say farewell for the summer.  But if I were honest (which is always my first priority in writing), I would admit that my batteries need recharging.  My soul needs time to meditate on God’s Word for no purpose other than personal growth.  To soak it in without immediately thinking about how to spew it back out.  Not to mention, I welcome the chance to spend a little less time online and a little more time like this. P1060355
Besides quiet reflection and loud play, there’s one other item on my summer agenda.  It’s a project of sorts that’s been sitting on the back burner of my mind for months now.  This summer I want to explore it–maybe embrace it, maybe chuck it.  Either way, if God brings me to mind, I would greatly appreciate your prayers.

Here’s to hoping God grants us both a rejuvenating summer, filled with laughter, purpose, and the peaceful satisfaction of Christ.  See you in August!

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Moms Night Out

In case you’ve been wondering, I haven’t been abducted, just sick!  Our busy schedule is winding down as summer approaches, and all at once my body is exhausted.  So last night, when my kids’ MMO program offered childcare and a free ticket to the new movie Moms Night Out, I was right on time.
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I hadn’t seen a single trailer and had no idea what the movie was about, although for free childcare I would’ve seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  The movie began by introducing a clean-freak wannabe Mommy blogger barely holding it together in the crazy, messy chaos of her world.  Yikes.  If I had red hair (and a nicer house) it would’ve been like watching the story of my life.  At one point, the main character tells her husband something like, “This is the life I always wanted.  So…why do I feel so unhappy?”  So much work, so much exhaustion, so little sense of self.  That was what her life looked like.  And boy, could I relate to her.  I could relate all the way down in my bones.  And as I watched her story unfold, it struck me that all these feelings must be much more common than I realize.

Patricia Heaton (of Everybody Loves Raymond) plays the wise and like-able pastor’s wife, who gives us a glimpse of mothering a teenager.  When I realized her husband was played by Alex Kendrick (think Facing the Giants, Courageous…etc.) I’ll admit I had a moment of “eesh, I hope this isn’t cheesy.”   And you know what?  It was, at moments.  There were spells of over-acting and slapstick humor.  But there were also truly hysterical moments, that prove you don’t have to be crude to be funny.  And more importantly, there was a sense of resolution for the main character, a recognition that maybe a lot of the discouragement and discontentment in motherhood comes from expectations we heap upon ourselves.  The unrealistic standards that nobody (except you) expect of you.

Is it Oscar worthy?  Of course not.  This movie has been trashed among Hollywood critics.  But for the first time in a long time, I left a movie feeling like my heart had been a little bit refreshed.  I left a movie grateful for my messy life, and not longing for the romantic adventure of Charlize Theron’s sexy life.  I left a movie without the slightest twinge of guilt over the things I’d just seen and enjoyed.  And to me, that’s a pretty good moms night out.

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Counter-Cultural Parenting

After giving up a career as a TV reporter for motherhood, Jenny went on to found and host Channelmom.

After giving up a career as a TV reporter for motherhood, Jenny went on to found and host Channelmom.

Yesterday I got to chat with Jenny Schmidt of Channelmom about making special occasions more Christ-centered for our kids.  If you’re not familiar with Channelmom, it’s a radio show broadcasted out of Denver that tackles a wide variety of “Mommy issues” from a Christian perspective.  If you’re free TODAY around 6:30pm (Eastern Time), click on the link below to listen to the interview live!

http://channelmom.com/listen-live/ 

Why the Bunny Makes Me Nervous

easter-basket-ideas-1024x810There are so many things I do just because.  Because that’s the way my parents did it.  Because that’s the way everybody does it.  Because that’s just what you do.  But daily I am growing more convinced that just because living is not only foolish, but dangerous.  The Bible calls us very clearly to a single purpose–that everything we do, say, think, believe, desire, accept, reject, love, and hate must glorify God so that His name will be great in our lives and among the nations.  If that is the mission then everything we do or don’t do must be filtered through that lens.

Around this time of year, moms often ask me whether we “do” the Easter bunny.  And I offer a very vague response.  “No, I never grew up with the Easter bunny.”  I’m vague because I know the Easter bunny is not sinful, in and of himself.  I know that many parents who are passionate about Jesus and His mission, choose to surprise their children on Easter morning with a basket of gifts from the Easter bunny.  I know that to many it is a special, even magical, family tradition.  And I know that of every people group on the planet, no one heaps as much guilt upon themselves as mothers.  Our hearts are fodder for guilt.  And the last thing I ever want to do is fan the flame of false condemnation.

So hear my heart when I say, I’m not writing as Super-Mom or Super-Holier-Than-Thou-Mom.  Those things disgust me, because they’re lies.  They discredit all Christ’s work in my life.  I am writing as a sister, who is learning something that I want to share in love:  We don’t do the Easter bunny because we don’t think the Easter bunny is the most effective way to glorify God at Easter.

It’s not the bunny, so much as the gifts he brings.  A few weeks ago, we took our kids to a downtown festival.  Disaster.  Much of it was poor parenting–we didn’t set limits in advance or warn them that we weren’t going to ride, play, eat, and buy everything in sight.  Suffice to say, it was miserable.  On the way home, my husband made the remark that the festival was like Sin City for kids.  It had everything they desired.  It catered to all their cravings.  And the more they consumed, the more demanding and ungrateful they became.  In essence, we thrust them into temptation without any training to stand up under it.

The Bible warns against putting obstacles or “stumbling blocks” in the way of a brother or sister (Rom 14:13, I Cor 8:9), and this is my greatest fear when it comes to the Easter bunny.  If the gospel is the most important message I can ever convey to my children, and if their understanding of it and receptivity to it determines the satisfaction of their life and the security of their eternal home, then why would I put any obstacle in their path that may distract from the gospel?  When my girls hear the word Easter, I don’t want them to squeal in delight because their first thought is that a bunny will bring them a Barbie doll.  And I know my girls.  I know that just like their mom, their flesh is weak toward materialism.  I know that just like their mom, they constantly seek false refuges for satisfaction.  Just like their mom, they’re tempted to believe that things can fulfill them more than Jesus can fulfill them.

I know that only God saves (Jn 6:44), but I want to set my daughters up to see the gospel by creating a home where as few things as possible compete with it.  My daughters have a mother who still believes that television and the latest Pamela Schoenewaldt novel is more satisfying and restful than Christ.  They have a mother who still studies the Bible like it’s suggested summer reading.  Who still can’t even wrestle her own weak flesh out of the bed to meet with the God of the universe.  It is hard enough.  It is hard enough to grasp the magnitude and implications of the gospel.  It’s hard enough to shake the worldliness out of our vastly diluted cultural Christianity.  Why add one more opportunity for our kids to turn the focus of Easter into a focus on self?

Let me, please, pour out this confession in closing: sometimes I don’t want to write anything to you because I am so deeply and painfully aware of my own failure as a Christian.  If only you could really see me (I’m talking Nanny-cam see me), you would never feel threatened by me.  Instead, you would say, Man, God is INCREDIBLE to have not given up on her.

And that’s why I have the confidence to write to you.  Because God is incredible.  His grace is incredible!  We still do Easter egg hunts and bouncy house family fun days, and a thousand other things every day of the year that could threaten to distract from the gospel.  We are by no means that perfect family.  We are simply growing by grace, and I want to share with you the things God is teaching me so that we can think together, worship together, and rejoice in the grace of God together.

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Blogging and the “S” Word

woman-typing-computerThis is my 100th post.  Not too shabby an accomplishment for a wearer of many hats!  When I started blogging 1½ years ago, I had three simple goals: I hoped to grow as a writer, to cultivate contentment with my lot in life, and to leave a small, God-exalting imprint on the world.

In case you're wondering, I don't really look like that when I blog.  I look more like this only in pajamas.

In case you’re wondering, I don’t really look like that when I blog. I look more like this only in pajamas.

What I didn’t expect was for blogging to leave an imprint on me.  I thought I would be the teacher, not the student.  But blogging has taught me a lot about myself, about sin and temptation, people and suffering, culture and society.  And ironically, the bulk of the teaching comes from one little button.

For you non-bloggers, there is a button on every blogging dashboard that charts “statistics.”  It tells you how many people are reading your posts, how articles fare with others, which countries view your blog…etc, etc, etc.  I love this button.  It is my pat on the back for hours of work.  It is the just-keep-going-you-ARE-making-an-impact button.  This little button had the power to turn me into a paid writer for the first time in my life.  The statistics went up, and Wordpress offered me a portion of the revenue–enough money to buy a pack of crackers every three months.  Hooray!

I hate this button.  This button reminds me that I am constantly at war with the desire to be God.  To seek worship, to love glory, and to praise myself.  Every time I click on this button, it whispers the question, why are you writing?  This is the button that unearths motives and desires, the condition of my heart.

This button has taught me that people want to read about themselves.  That topics like parenting and marriage are popular, and topics like world hunger and the persecuted church are not.  It’s taught me that painfully vulnerable subjects will be highly viewed, but not highly shared.  That the “perfect” article must address the audience’s felt needs, be provocative, yet feel “safe.”

And so the challenge becomes walking the tightrope.  I am writing to people.  God is passionate about people.  At the end of the day, if my writing doesn’t encourage, comfort, and spur people on, what’s the point?   In this sense, I must pay attention to statistics.  I must understand the felt needs of my audience, or I risk becoming irrelevant in my own culture.

I am writing to people.  But I am writing for God.  Which means the statistics guide, but they must not govern.  I believe this is the only way I can truly be used by God.  He must govern the ship, even if His direction leaves the statistics in the toilet at times.  Because when He leads, He brings another “S” word into the picture: supernatural.  God has the supernatural ability to guide me to write that which will be used for His good purposes in the world.  And unlike statistics, this guidance knows no rhyme or reason.  It is about being in step with the Spirit.  Every time I post an article I pray for God to choose the audience.  Because the truth is, 100,000 people could read an article that bears no lasting fruit in their lives, and 10 people could read an article that changes them for eternity.  With God the statistics are unseen.

Dear reader, this morning as I blog about blogging, I am thinking about you.  I don’t know your story, but can only assume it holds its own share of statistics.  The success (or failure) of your marriage, the money you earn, the growth of your company or church, the private failures no one knows about, the public failures no one can forget.  It can be so tempting to view yourself through the lens of statistics.  But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in blogging, it’s that statistics are temporary.  One day, the greatest triumphs and the most embarrassing failures will be forgotten.  And on that day, Christ’s pleasure and the accomplishment of His purposes will be the only thing that lasts, long after we’re buried and the last statistic has dropped to zero.

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Top 10 Posts of 2013

With the year rounding to a finish, I took a peek at my statistics to see which articles have been the most influential.  After this post I’ll be signing off until the New Year for a little rest and family holiday time.  If you’re new to the site (or missed one of these posts), you may enjoy checking out some of the more popular topics explored in 2013:

1. Mom v. Mom: The War I Didn’t See Coming

By far my most popular post, this article drew over 670,000 views, exploring the insecurity behind "mommy wars" and the hope we have in Christ.

By far my most popular post, this article drew over 670,000 views, exploring the insecurity behind “mommy wars” and the hope we have in Christ.

2. When Baby #2 Comes Along

I was surprised to see that this was the 2nd most popular post.  It's the result of polling a group of moms about the challenges and blessings that came with baby #2.

I was surprised to see that this was the 2nd most popular post. It’s the result of polling a group of moms about the challenges and blessings that came with baby #2.

3. The Mom Who Lies

This article explores the top two lies we tell ourselves as parents, and the way these lies influence our hearts and our behavior.

This article explores the top two lies we tell ourselves as parents, and the way these lies influence our hearts and our behavior.

4. Helping Little Hearts Overcome Sin

Based on teaching from a godly mentor, this article outlines how to create a practical plan of action for helping children overcome sin struggles.

Based on teaching from a godly mentor, this article outlines how to create a practical plan of action for helping children overcome sin struggles.

5. Running a Home While Running on Empty

One of my favorite articles, this is the result of a lively BSF discussion in which an older woman got me thinking about the sacred value of the mundane.

One of my favorite articles, this is the result of a lively BSF discussion in which an older woman got me thinking about the sacred value of the mundane.

6. The Woman I Wish I Could Be

Do you ever feel like there's a gigantic gap between the woman you are and the one you want to be?  I do...

Do you ever feel like there’s a gigantic gap between the woman you are and the one you want to be? I do…

7. Romancing a Guy

Three things I've learned (from the cutest guy I know) about the heart of a man and how to romance it.

Three things I’ve learned (from the cutest guy I know) about the heart of a man and how to romance it.

8. Do You Ever Worry You’ll Fall Out of Love?

How I answered this question when a single friend asked it.

How I answered this question when a single friend asked it.

9. How a Baby Changes Your Life

The three stages of adjusting to life, post-baby.

The three stages of adjusting to life, post-baby.

10. The Marriage Conversation You Ought to Have  

An honest look into the necessity for humility in marriage.

An honest look into the necessity for humility in marriage.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a joyful Christmas!  See you in January!

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A Radio Interview with KLVZ’s Channelmom

ChannelMom_HERE_FOR_YOU-300x121

Last week I had the privilege of chatting with Jenny Schmidt of Channelmom, a radio show broadcasted on Denver’s KLVZ station.  Along with her team at Channelmom, Jenny’s mission is to love, coach, and encourage mom’s worldwide.  We talked about the pain behind Mommy Wars and discussed the controversial subject of Public School Education vs. Home Schooling for Christian moms.  The 2-part interview airs TODAY and TOMORROW at 5:30pm East Coast Time and 3:30pm Mountain Time.  Click on the link below to listen live!

LISTEN LIVE

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Kids & Social Media: A Collection of Advice

Group of students

I was twenty-five years old when I signed up for a Facebook account, and in many ways I can’t imagine how my middle and high school experience would’ve been impacted had the world of social media been available to me.  Which is probably why the notion of raising my kids in this Brave New World feels so intimidating.  With that in mind, I turned to a group of older, wiser moms of children 10-18 years old.  I asked them several questions regarding kids and social media, and from their responses drafted 5 basic principles for parenting in the digital generation.

1. Know Your Child 
This was one of the most compelling statements I heard from a mom: “I think young people behave online as they behave in their day to day lives. If you see pettiness and dishonesty day to day, it will come out online. If the day to day habit of life is to act with honesty and respect, the same will occur in their electronic communication.”  In this same vein, a few of the moms I polled adopt a zero social media policy, simply because they believe their children aren’t ready for it.

2. Establish Ground Rules
The #1 rule the vast majority of moms either established or wished they had established was to keep all computers, X-boxes, and televisions out of their child’s bedroom and in a public living area.  Alongside this, virtually every mom agreed that it was wise or would’ve been wise to keep cell phones out of their child’s room overnight.  The second most widely adopted rule was that parents had to be privy to all social media activity.  While some parents simply “friend” or subscribe to their children’s on-line profiles, others require the password so they can see all private messages as well.  One dad who requires his kids to hand over their passwords explained to me that the notion of “privacy” for a teenager is bogus when it comes to social media, because by its very nature social media is a public sphere.  Naturally, rules entail consequences.  When one mom discovered that her kids had used iPods to secretly open up Instagram accounts, she took away the iPods–not because her kids had created accounts, but because they’d done it deceptively.

3. Educate Your Kids 
In addition to ground rules, most parents talked to their kids about the dangers of the Internet, the permanence of what’s posted on it, and the fact that what we write shapes how we’re viewed.  As a former teacher, I remember sitting in a meeting as the headmaster announced that for the first time our school was making the decision to expel a student for Facebook activity which the student refused to erase.  The lesson?  Writing on-line is not the same as writing in a journal, and kids need to realize that the consequences aren’t the same either.

4. Put Technology to Work for You
I loved this mom’s practical advice: “I think the best thing we ever did was pay 5 dollars a month for parental controls on our Verizon account. It was easy to manage and I could set it up and change it to fit whatever situation arose. I could have the phone go off at certain times on school nights and extend the hours on weekends. I could block numbers of certain “friends” altogether.  I could also see who was texting, when and how much. I couldn’t see the text but just the amount of time spent texting.”  This same mom also made me aware of the free “Life 360″ app, which can be installed on your children’s phones to track where they are, a particularly helpful tool when they’re old enough to drive.  She said, “We never ran up against any of the kids feeling like Big Brother was watching because we implemented most of these things early and they just became accepted.”

5. Use Social Media as an Opportunity for Biblical Instruction 
One thing is for sure: when it comes to social media, there’s a steep learning curve, which (yes) makes us nervous but also presents an awesome opportunity for real life training.  Whether the scenario is as mild as a child posting something she later regrets, or as significant as ruining relationships and losing friends over a post (both real stories moms shared with me), social media gives us the opportunity to teach in the context of the moment.  And it’s not all about protection and prevention–social media has HUGE positive potential for influence.  One mom said her kids use Facebook to share their faith and promote youth group activities.  Amen!  I’m actually Facebook friends with her kids and can honestly say few things are more encouraging than seeing a high school boy openly and passionately proclaim the goodness of God via Facebook.

Final Thoughts
After all my research was through, I noticed one over-arching pattern.  The parents who felt the most positive toward social media were the ones whose kids talked to them about social media issues.  In other words, the parents with the closest relationships to their children felt the most confident when it came to social media.  Which leads me to a very interesting conclusion: I don’t think social media is really the issue.  I think the real issue is the heart.  Social media is just one more realm for the beliefs, desires, and motivations of the heart to expose itself.

Maybe, then, the focus of my concern shouldn’t really be a computer, but the souls of the two little girls God has graciously entrusted to me.  Maybe the best thing I can do now to prepare my kids for the world of social media is to know my kids now.  To play with them while they still want to play with me, listen to them while they still want to talk to me, build a relationship with them while I’m still their favorite person in the world.  And one day when they ask for a Facebook account, after I’ve established rules and set up parental controls, I’ll remember that ultimately my Hope isn’t in any of those things.  I’ll remember it’s in the One who has the power to protect and sanctify their hearts.

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3 Things You Can Do {Today} for the Persecuted Church

130122193427-abedini-story-top
Today, all across the world grassroots prayer vigils are being held on behalf of Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor, husband, and father who has been tortured and imprisoned in Iran for exactly one year today.  Pastor Saeed converted to Christianity thirteen years ago, and has been arrested ten times since then.  He was imprisoned in 2009 and released after agreeing to stop supporting home churches.  According to his wife, Abedini felt it was safe to return to Iran, his native home, since agreeing not to work with churches.  But last September, while crossing into Iran from Turkey via bus, immigration authorities seized and arrested him.  He was sentenced to eight years in the notoriously brutal Evin prison in Iran.  I first heard Pastor Saeed’s story through a Facebook news feed several months ago.  At the time he was in extremely poor physical health due to beatings and mistreatment in prison.  His wife and many others fear he will not last eight years.

What Can I Do? 

  1. Send a letter to the Iranian government on Pastor Saeed’s behalf.  This morning on the radio, I heard his wife say they are hoping an influx of mail will urge the Iranian government to reconsider her husband’s imprisonment.  They’ve set it up so that all you really have to do is type in your name, and press “send.”  (View the letter Billy Graham wrote the Iranian president on Saeed Abedini’s behalf.)
  2. Join one of the many prayer vigils, meeting today.  I think it would be incredible to gather with a throng of believers on behalf of the persecuted church, to pray for our brother in Christ and experience the POWER of the body united (Matt 18:20).  If you don’t live in a city where a vigil is being hosted, gather your family and pray!  You can join the vigil spiritually if not physically.
  3. Share his story.  Put the miracle of the digital generation to use for the gospel of Christ!  The more we raise awareness, the better.

To read more about Saeed Abedini, click on the links below.

Over 100 Grassroots Prayer Vigils for Pastor Saeed Worldwide Thursday

Iran Sentences US Pastor to 8 Years in Prison

After One Year in Iranian Jail, Christian Pastor Pens Heartfelt Letter to Daughter

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Can You Really Raise a Child with an Unbiased Worldview?

Earth boy - North and South AmericaThe notion of raising a child with an “unbiased worldview” is growing increasingly popular.  Parents want to raise children who are “free to find their own spirituality” without the bias of the parent’s preference.  Conversely, attempting to raise a child with a biblical worldview seems to be going the way of high water pants and dial-up internet access.  Not only is it unpopular, it’s often viewed as arrogant, controlling, and close-minded.  Parents are seen as “imposing their worldview” upon their children, even “brainwashing” them.

The issue is so loaded that I’ve heard Christian parents question whether or not they should raise their children spiritually “neutral.”  It just seems so intolerant, even manipulative, to teach an impressionable young child that God is real.  That God created her in His own image for His own glory.  That she inherited a sin nature from Adam.  And that God loves her so passionately that He Himself died in her place to save her.

But here’s the bottom line–every parent raises their child with a biased worldview.  We are constantly teaching our children how to view the world, whether we “mean to” or not.  Every time they see us rejoice or get angry, we are teaching them something about what we value.  The fact that you probably choose to raise your children in a home, with food and clothing teaches them that you find those things important.  And if you get down on one knee and tell them that they can determine who God is for themselves, or that they can accept or reject any religion with no consequences–you are not raising them spiritually neutral.  You are raising them with a very particular, biased worldview.

Thus the question isn’t should we influence our child’s worldview.  Like it or not, we’re already doing that.  The real question is how should we influence it?  If you are a believer, the Bible gives you an answer.  In Deuteronomy 6:6-7, after exhorting the Israelites to love the One True God with their whole hearts, Moses issues a mighty charge: “And these words…shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Clearly Christians are to be intentional about raising their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Pro. 19:18, 22:6, 23:19; Eph 6:4) recognizing that only God has the power to save (John 6:44).  Fulfilling this biblical mandate is loving not controlling.  Think about it this way–you and I teach our children countless things from the moment they’re born.  We teach them that the bump below their eyes is called a “nose” and that cows say “moo.”  Nobody calls us close-minded or accuses us of “brainwashing” when we do this.  Inherently, they recognize our teaching as truth.  So dear Christian, if you really believe Christ’s claims are as true and real as the nose on your daughter’s face, how could you not teach them to her?  How could you withhold the very Truth that has the power to save her soul on the grounds of allowing her the freedom to “find her own way”?  If you’re willing to teach her that there’s a nose on her face, be willing to teach her the truths that matter so much more than that.

If you don’t believe the claims of Christ, then I understand why you wouldn’t teach them to your children.  I don’t judge you for influencing your child according to your personal beliefs.  But I do urge you not to judge Christians for doing the same thing, and not to deceive yourself into believing you are raising your child neutrally.

One final thing: To those of you who don’t know what you think of God, to those who are indifferent to Him, and those who hate Him–I wholeheartedly believe God loves you more than you could ever fathom (Romans 5:6-8) and longs to have a relationship with you (2 Peter 3:9).  Regardless of what you’ve done or what’s been done to you, He is faithful and trustworthy.  He is capable of bringing beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:1-3), of restoring what’s been lost (Joel 2:25), and of making you a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

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