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Some Rantings and Ravings from Someone Who’s Been in Christian Ministry for a Long Time! (Part 2 of 2, I Promise!)

We’re ranting and raving here for a few minutes.  There are so many concerns screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-4-50-23-amthat I have, especially for the next generation.  I hope I don’t come across like the old curmudgeon to the right, but these are matters that are really critical.

What got me thinking about these issues is the conference I just attended.  I’m actually writing this before the conference, but, Lord willing, it will (did) take place and I will do (did) an okay job of speaking on the topic “Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality.”  The conference took place at Emmaus Bible College February 6-7 and was called the “Christian Ministry Seminars.”

My last message in my four-part series expressed some of these concerns that I am summarizing here and in the earlier post of the same title (Feb. 18th).  Permit me to share just a few more of my “issues”:

(1)  I’m concerned that young believers get into the battle and do good work on an intellectual basis.  This means reading books that challenge the Christian faith (what I call “Boiling Books”, i.e. books that boil your blood before you get through the preface).  If we only read the books we agree with, we will not learn the questions and issues an unbelieving world has with the gospel.  “Doing good work” on anscreen-shot-2017-01-31-at-5-37-06-am intellectual basis involves good study skills, critical thinking, and solid research.  Believers of the next generation need to work hard in what are called the “primary” sources, rather than get all their information from secondary sources.  Primary sources are the original documents of a writer or thinker, not what others have said or written about him or his position (secondary sources).  So, if one is going to challenge the abandonment of the gospel by someone like the late Chuck Templeton (at one time Billy Graham’s best friend and an evangelist), one needs to read Templeton!  His Farewell to God as well as his An Anecdotal Memoir would be the first place to start (before one reads Lee Strobel’s interview of Templeton in The Case for Christ).  Does that make sense?  Sometimes Evangelicals are guilty of reading only what others have said about a person’s beliefs — and not that person himself.

Suggestion:  Start small.  Begin a blog and take on some topic with which you want to engage.  Be positive toward the writer and gracious toward what they have written.  But point out the weaknesses in their argument or position as you formulate your response from a biblical perspective.

(2)  I’m also concerned with how many of us view life in general.  My generation frowned on such activities as going to the movies, roller skating (it was dancing on wheels, unless you fell a lot like me), and visiting museums (a waste of time — one ought to be reading his or her Bible).  Today’s generation, it seems to me, doesn’t give those issues a second thought (which is good), but doesn’t hesitate to go to (or download) just about any movie screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-5-40-12-am(some are downright diabolical), learn and sing the lyrics of just about any contemporary song (have you analyzed the words in songs by Lady Gaga or Beyonce?), or attend any play just because the critics said it was good.  If you’ve never been tempted to walk out of a movie theater, turn off your TV in disgust, or ask for your money back at a play, check your Christian pulse.  You might be dead.

Suggestion:  There’s a better way than the legalism of my generation and the libertarianism screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-8-52-13-amof today’s young people.  I believe Mike Witmer has articulated that better way in his book Becoming Worldly Saints.  Christians are to enjoy God’s good creation (I Tim. 6) and not become or be known as anti-world.  We should live in biblical freedom!

(3)  I’m also concerned with how many of us look at the local church.  It seems that for many today the local church is a big bother.  We go through the motions; we serve when we have to; we give when we must. Instead of seeing the church as the one thing that Jesus is presenting building, we tolerate it as our Sunday activity and as a gathering place with other Christians.  I’m not surprised that one of Philip Yancey’s books is entitled Church: Why Bother?  We must move from thinking of the local church as a place we must be to a place we get to be.

The church in Acts focused on four priorities, according to Acts 2:42 —  “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  Here’s my final list of questions:

1.  Are you truly “devoted to” the local church? How do you or I show that?

2.  How concerned are we about biblical doctrine/truth?  Do we see theology screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-5-41-09-pmonly as the domain of elbow-patched, sweater-wearing academics who debate how many angels can sit on the head of a pin?  Or are we committed to knowing, enjoying, and defending the truths of God’s Word?

3.  Do we really understand “fellowship”?  Perhaps we all need a primer on something as basic as FRIENDSHIP!

4.  We must constantly ask, are we truly worshiping the Lord?  Or are we just keeping the machinery going?

5.  I have so much to learn — and to practice — when it comes to the issue of prayer!  I commend you to my post back on January 9th when Dr. Roy King talked about the three prayers we all ought to pray everyday!

So much for my rantings and ravings.  Any you wish to comment on?

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2017 in christian life

 

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Psalms of the Salter: Some Thoughts on Really Living for the Lord (Psalm 106)

Psalm 106

Praise the Lord.screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-7-28-50-am

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

2 Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord
    or fully declare his praise?
Blessed are those who act justly,
    who always do what is right.

Remember me, Lord, when you show favor to your people,
    come to my aid when you save them,
that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,
    that I may share in the joy of your nation
    and join your inheritance in giving praise.

We have sinned, even as our ancestors did;
    we have done wrong and acted wickedly.
When our ancestors were in Egypt,
    they gave no thought to your miracles;
they did not remember your many kindnesses,
    and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
    to make his mighty power known.
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up;
    he led them through the depths as through a desert.
10 He saved them from the hand of the foe;
    from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
11 The waters covered their adversaries;
    not one of them survived.
12 Then they believed his promises
    and sang his praise.

13 But they soon forgot what he had done
    and did not wait for his plan to unfold.
14 In the desert they gave in to their craving;
    in the wilderness they put God to the test.
15 So he gave them what they asked for,
    but sent a wasting disease among them.

16 In the camp they grew envious of Moses
    and of Aaron, who was consecrated to the Lord.
17 The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan;
    it buried the company of Abiram.
18 Fire blazed among their followers;
    a flame consumed the wicked.
19 At Horeb they made a calf
    and worshiped an idol cast from metal.
20 They exchanged their glorious God
    for an image of a bull, which eats grass.
21 They forgot the God who saved them,
    who had done great things in Egypt,
22 miracles in the land of Ham
    and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23 So he said he would destroy them—
    had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him
    to keep his wrath from destroying them.

24 Then they despised the pleasant land;
    they did not believe his promise.
25 They grumbled in their tents
    and did not obey the Lord.
26 So he swore to them with uplifted hand
    that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
27 make their descendants fall among the nations
    and scatter them throughout the lands.

28 They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor
    and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods;
29 they aroused the Lord’s anger by their wicked deeds,
    and a plague broke out among them.
30 But Phinehas stood up and intervened,
    and the plague was checked.
31 This was credited to him as righteousness
    for endless generations to come.
32 By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord,
    and trouble came to Moses because of them;
33 for they rebelled against the Spirit of God,
    and rash words came from Moses’ lips.

34 They did not destroy the peoples
    as the Lord had commanded them,
35 but they mingled with the nations
    and adopted their customs.
36 They worshiped their idols,
    which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed their sons
    and their daughters to false gods.
38 They shed innocent blood,
    the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
    and the land was desecrated by their blood.
39 They defiled themselves by what they did;
    by their deeds they prostituted themselves.

40 Therefore the Lord was angry with his people
    and abhorred his inheritance.
41 He gave them into the hands of the nations,
    and their foes ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them
    and subjected them to their power.
43 Many times he delivered them,
    but they were bent on rebellion
    and they wasted away in their sin.
44 Yet he took note of their distress
    when he heard their cry;
45 for their sake he remembered his covenant
    and out of his great love he relented.
46 He caused all who held them captive
    to show them mercy.

47 Save us, Lord our God,
    and gather us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
    and glory in your praise.

48 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.

Let all the people say, “Amen!”

Praise the Lord.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2017 in God's anger, sin

 

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Some Rantings and Ravings from Someone Who’s Been in Christian Ministry for a Long Time!

screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-4-50-23-amOkay.  Okay.  Maybe I’ve not yet entered the rank of an old curmudgeon who’s always complaining, but I do have some concerns which I want to share.

I’m writing this before my Emmaus Bible College’s conference “Christian Ministry Seminars” which will be (was) held on Feb. 6-7.  I will speak (spoke) on the topic “Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality” and I hope it will go (went) well.  Whew!  I’m confused with these verb tenses!

For my fourth and final message I want to vigorously challenge the students at Emmaus on several areas of the Christian life.  Let me divide my concerns into three categories:

(1) The Christian life in general:  I’m deeply concerned with Christians of my generation screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-6-33-00-amwho lived like they could simply glide to glory.  Some did not take personal Bible study very seriously.  Few (it seems to me) have a strategic prayer list that they go through on a regular basis.  Very few have unsaved friends.  Only a handful volunteer for work in the local church.  Many don’t know what spiritual gift or gifts they have — so how can they be deployed in serving other believers?  I’m equally concerned with this generation of young people who have far more and far more addictive distractions than my generation did.  Social media tends to make people anti-social (just look at a family of four in a restaurant fixated on their devices rather than conversing with each other).  TV programs on demand tempt us now at all hours of the day to watch whatever we want on whatever device we presently hold.  “Binge watching” can consume hours upon hours of mindless “entertainment.”  Someone has said, “If and when American civilization collapses, future researchers will sneer, ‘They entertained themselves to death.'”

Where are believers re-discovering the “spiritual disciplines”?  Where is real mentoring going on?  Even church leaders, it seems, appear to be content only that the one hour of the week (Sunday morning) “goes well” and is well-attended.  But what about discipleship?

Are Christian leaders feeding the flock — and protecting them from unbiblical ideas which bring ruin to the soul?  Which leaders are standing up and saying, “I’ve read the newest best-selling Christian book — and it’s dangerous and ruinous to your spiritual health.  And here’s why . . .”?

(2)  Ministering in our culture:  We are not like Jesus.  Let’s face it.  He had unsaved friends.  He was a friend of publicans and sinners.  We usually aren’t.  We excuse our friendlessness in a variety of ways.  But the bottom line is — we don’t take the time and screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-8-11-49-aminvest the energy to develop meaningful relationships with lost people.  And we wonder why we see so few come to know the Lord.  We surround ourselves with Christian music, Christian books, Christian wallpaper, and Christian cookies and we seem oblivious to those around us who don’t have a clue about the gospel.  This is a day of good news — and we’re doing a great job of keeping it to ourselves!

Some look at the Christian life as if there is no room for FUN!  It is all duty, drudgery, and discipline. screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-8-06-41-amSomeone has said that the mentally and emotionally healthy are those that have learned when to say Yes, when to say No, and when to say Whoopee!  Where are our “whoopees”?  Where does the world see Christians having a blast, enjoying God’s good world, interacting with screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-8-52-13-amGod’s creation with a thankful heart (see I Timothy 6 here.  Michael Witmer’s Becoming Worldly Saints is also quite helpful in this area).  Jesus did not say, “I have come to give death” but “I have come give LIFE and that more abundantly!”  Some of us act as if Jesus gave us a misery pill and told us to go out and medicate the world!

(3)  Christian careers:  Some of us come from a background which criticized “denominational” churches.  We’ve inherited a suspicion (sometimes legitimate) of professional ministers (= clergy) and rightfully challenge the idea of the omni-competent pastor.  All believers have spiritual gifts and should be encouraged by the local church’s leadership to exercise those gifts for the screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-8-48-46-ambuilding up of the body (Eph. 5).  HOWEVER — we need qualified, trained servants of God in our local churches to help equip believers in their ministries.  We need men who can faithfully and carefully teach the Word of God, women who can lead effectively in the areas in which God has called them, and young people who are developing the skills to serve our lost and dying world.  We need Bible colleges and seminaries which provide excellent training for an impatient generation that will vote with its feet when the local church has poor preaching and unwise leadership.

Some Christian parents hardly blink when they decide to send Johnny or Susie away to college and graduate school for six or seven years to become an engineer or a lawyer or a physical therapist.  But what about our church leaders?  Three or four years in a solid Bible college plus three years in a reputable seminary appears to many to be out of the question!  “Where’s the money in that?”, they might not ask out loud, but think to themselves.

I guess it all depends on what kind of currency we’re attracted to.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2017 in christian life

 

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Psalms of the Salter: Some Thoughts on Really Living for the Lord (Psalm 105)

Psalm 105

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-5-48-39-am
    make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
    tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always.

Remember the wonders he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
    his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
He is the Lord our God;
    his judgments are in all the earth.

He remembers his covenant forever,
    the promise he made, for a thousand generations,
the covenant he made with Abraham,
    the oath he swore to Isaac.
10 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
    to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
11 “To you I will give the land of Canaan
    as the portion you will inherit.”

12 When they were but few in number,
    few indeed, and strangers in it,
13 they wandered from nation to nation,
    from one kingdom to another.
14 He allowed no one to oppress them;
    for their sake he rebuked kings:
15 “Do not touch my anointed ones;
    do my prophets no harm.”screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-6-33-00-am

16 He called down famine on the land
    and destroyed all their supplies of food;
17 and he sent a man before them—
    Joseph, sold as a slave.
18 They bruised his feet with shackles,
    his neck was put in irons,
19 till what he foretold came to pass,
    till the word of the Lord proved him true.
20 The king sent and released him,
    the ruler of peoples set him free.
21 He made him master of his household,
    ruler over all he possessed,
22 to instruct his princes as he pleased
    and teach his elders wisdom.

23 Then Israel entered Egypt;
    Jacob resided as a foreigner in the land of Ham.
24 The Lord made his people very fruitful;
    he made them too numerous for their foes,
25 whose hearts he turned to hate his people,
    to conspire against his servants.
26 He sent Moses his servant,
    and Aaron, whom he had chosen.
27 They performed his signs among them,
    his wonders in the land of Ham.
28 He sent darkness and made the land dark—
    for had they not rebelled against his words?
29 He turned their waters into blood,
    causing their fish to die.
30 Their land teemed with frogs,
    which went up into the bedrooms of their rulers.
31 He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
    and gnats throughout their country.
32 He turned their rain into hail,
    with lightning throughout their land;
33 he struck down their vines and fig trees
    and shattered the trees of their country.
34 He spoke, and the locusts came,
    grasshoppers without number;
35 they ate up every green thing in their land,
    ate up the produce of their soil.
36 Then he struck down all the firstborn in their land,
    the firstfruits of all their manhood.
37 He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold,
    and from among their tribes no one faltered.
38 Egypt was glad when they left,
    because dread of Israel had fallen on them.

39 He spread out a cloud as a covering,
    and a fire to give light at night.
40 They asked, and he brought them quail;
    he fed them well with the bread of heaven.
41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
    it flowed like a river in the desert.

42 For he remembered his holy promise
    given to his servant Abraham.
43 He brought out his people with rejoicing,
    his chosen ones with shouts of joy;
44 he gave them the lands of the nations,
    and they fell heir to what others had toiled for—
45 that they might keep his precepts
    and observe his laws.

Praise the Lord.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2017 in actions

 

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Loving the Lord with Our Minds — Our Divine/Human Example (Part 3)

Man, does time fly when you’re preparing for a conference!  Those of you who follow this blog know that I have the opportunity to speak at Emmaus Bible College’s “Christian Ministry Seminars” on February 6-7.  By the time you read this, the conference is over and I’m back home in South Carolina.  (I’ll post a follow-up report as soon as I can).

My theme for the conference is screen-shot-2017-01-27-at-4-55-42-am“Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality.”  We are to love God with our minds, Jesus says, and I’m trying to investigate various aspects of what that means.

In our last post on this topic, we looked at the Matthew 16 text where Jesus essentially says, “You know how to predict bad weather and to cancel your synagogue picnic.  Use your same reasoning powers to come to the proper conclusion about ME!”

But their own wickedness and spiritual adultery, Jesus says, short-circuits the thinking process.

Jesus, it seems unnecessary to say, was a master logician.  He used His human mind to defend His disciples, challenge His opponents, and press home His claims to those who eventually had Him crucified.  One of the most fascinating aspects of Jesus’ use of His mental faculties is the issue of logical fallacies.  A logical fallacy is, roughly speaking, an error of reasoning.

Some notable logical fallacies are the following:  ad hominem:  an argument that seeks to discredit a position by discrediting those who hold them (Example:  “That viewpoint can’t be true.  After all, he’s a liberal!”).  The red herring is a fallacy of distraction, and is committed when a listener attempts to divert an arguer from his argument by introducing another topic (Example: “You may think screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-6-33-00-amthat he cheated on the test, but look at the poor little thing! How would screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-6-41-30-amhe feel if you made him take it again?”).  argumentum ad baculum:  An appeal to force is an attempt to persuade using threats. Its Latin name, “argumentum ad baculum”, literally means “argument with a stick” (Example:  (1) If you don’t accept that the Sun orbits the Earth, rather than the other way around, then you’ll be excommunicated from the Church.  Therefore: (2) The Sun orbits the Earth, rather than the other way around).  A straw man argument is one that misrepresents a position in order to make it appear weaker than it actually is, refutes this misrepresentation of the position, and then concludes that the real position has been refuted (Example: (1) Trinitarianism holds that three equals one. (2) Three does not equal one. Therefore: (3) Trinitarianism is false. This is an example of a straw man argument because its first premise misrepresents trinitarianism, its second premise attacks this misrepresentation of trinitarianism, and its conclusion states that trinitarianism is false. Trinitarianism, of course, does not hold that three equals one, and so this argument demonstrates nothing concerning its truth. (Taken from http://www.logicalfallacies.info/).

Some of you right now might be saying “this hominem‘s head hurts and I feel like going out and eating some red herring!”  We will look at several examples of logical fallacies — and how the Lord Jesus responded to them — in our next post. (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2017 in loving God with our minds

 

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Psalms of the Salter: Some Thoughts on Really Living for the Lord (Psalm 104)

Psalm 104

Praise the Lord, my soul.screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-5-45-29-am

Lord my God, you are very great;
    you are clothed with splendor and majesty.

The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
    he stretches out the heavens like a tent
    and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
    and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers,
    flames of fire his servants.

He set the earth on its foundations;
    it can never be moved.
You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment;
    the waters stood above the mountains.
But at your rebuke the waters fled,
    at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
they flowed over the mountains,
    they went down into the valleys,
    to the place you assigned for them.
You set a boundary they cannot cross;
    never again will they cover the earth.

10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
    it flows between the mountains.
11 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
    the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
    they sing among the branches.
13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
    the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
14 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
    and plants for people to cultivate—
    bringing forth food from the earth:
15 wine that gladdens human hearts,
    oil to make their faces shine,
    and bread that sustains their hearts.
16 The trees of the Lord are well watered,
    the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 There the birds make their nests;
    the stork has its home in the junipers.
18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
    the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.

19 He made the moon to mark the seasons,
    and the sun knows when to go down.
20 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
    and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
21 The lions roar for their prey
    and seek their food from God.
22 The sun rises, and they steal away;
    they return and lie down in their dens.
23 Then people go out to their work,
    to their labor until evening.

24 How many are your works, Lord!
    In wisdom you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
    teeming with creatures beyond number—
    living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro,
    and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.

27 All creatures look to you
    to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them,
    they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
    they are satisfied with good things.
29 When you hide your face,
    they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
    they die and return to the dust.
30 When you send your Spirit,
    they are created,
    and you renew the face of the ground.

31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
    may the Lord rejoice in his works
32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
    who touches the mountains, and they smoke.

33 I will sing to the Lord all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
    as I rejoice in the Lord.
35 But may sinners vanish from the earth
    and the wicked be no more.

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Praise the Lord.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2017 in creation

 

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

St. Valentine was a Roman Priest under Emperor Claudias who persecuted the church and screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-6-22-55-amprohibited the marriage of young people. This was based on the hypothesis that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what might happen to them or their wives or families if they died.

Valentine lived in a very permissive society. Polygamy would have been much more popular than just one woman and one man living together. And yet some of them seemed to be attracted to the Christian faith. But obviously the church thought that marriage was very sacred between one man and one woman for their life and that it was to be encouraged. Valentine secretly married them despite the edict.

Valentine was eventually caught, imprisoned and tortured for performing marriage ceremonies against the command of Emperor Claudius the second. There are legends surrounding Valentine’s actions while in prison.

One of his judges was a man called Asterius, whose daughter was blind. He was supposed to have prayed with and healed the young girl with such astonishing effect that Asterius himself became Christian as a result.

In 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced to a three part execution of a beating, stoning, and finally decapitation all because of his stand for Christian marriage. The story goes that the last words he wrote were in a note to Asterius’ daughter. He signed it, “from your Valentine.” (http://www1.cbn.com/st-valentine-real-story)

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2017 in Valentine's Day

 

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