COLLECTED ESSAYS FROM THE WEBSITE "THE DOORMAT

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BY MARK and KAREN EIDEMILLER INDEX Why "The Doormat?" THE SOAPBOX 1. Common Sense 2. To Die For 3. World Peace Now 4. Gems of Wisdom – Margin Notes from a Bible 5. Mark's Testimony 6. Reflections on a Home Ministry 7. Halloween: A Season for Giving 8. A Day in the Life (In Appreciation of my Wife) 9. Lessons from a Hard Disk Crash 10. Hell: The Fifty-Cent Tour 11. Salvation's Inquiry: What's It All About? 12. Walk By Faith Ministries 13. Respect 101 14. Teddy Bear Theology KAREN'S CORNER 1. Karen's Testimony THE SHOWCASE 1. The Visit by Kurt Bolding 2. The Room by Joshua Harris EPILOGUE: To Be or Not To Be (The Final Essay)

FOREWARD by the author During a moment of reflection on my own mortality, I realized that these essays wouldn't survive long after my death. Therefore, I decided to assemble them into this collection, and post them for all to read. In Isaiah 55:8-11, the Bible says: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." The Word of God never comes back without making an impact. Therefore, consider these essays as 'fiber for the soul' – some will be easy to digest, while others may seem impossible. Feel free to share this collection. I pray they become blessings for you as they have been for me and others. Mark Eidemiller, January 2007

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INTRODUCTION: WHY "THE DOORMAT"? Our website was titled "The Doormat". I wrote this essay to explain why we gave it that name:

Funk & Wagnall's Standard Dictionary simply defines doormat as: "a mat placed at an entrance for wiping the shoes." It's a mat placed in front of a door. You wipe your feet on it. It doesn't expect anything of itself, but to serve. The one who wipes their feet on the mat: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Must recognize that they stand at the door Must recognize that they have mud (or something equally dirty) that needs wiping off Must recognize that they can't pass through the door with mud on their feet Must recognize that the doormat will completely clean their feet Must accept the cleansing of their feet on the mat Must pass through the door and not turn back

Jesus Christ is the doormat, and the door. "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6) "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my

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life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." (John 10:1-18) We all will, or have, stood before that Door. The doormat is the invitation. The doormat beckoned us to the Door. "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44) And we have made a decision at that doormat, at that door: accept, or reject. The doormat compares to the cleansing of sins. Christ illustrated that analogy in the cleansing of the disciples' feet. "He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." (John 13:4-17) Let's get personal: where do I fit? Those who have passed through the doorway must, in turn, be as doormats to those around them. "And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all." (Mark 9:35) "But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:43-45) "And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it." (Luke 9:23-24; see also Matthew 16:24-25 and Mark 8:34-35) Sometimes, we can be doormats just by being there as ministers (servants) of Jesus Christ. Minister to those within our own sphere of influence. Everywhere we go, everyone around us, is our sphere of influence. Our homes, our workplaces, our schools, and our communities. And through intercessory prayer, we can minister to the world. Minister to all people, because of the love of Christ, and only in the love of Christ. "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2) END

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ESSAY #1: COMMON SENSE I've heard it all my life: • • • "Why did you do that? Don't you have any common sense?" "Don't you have the common sense to understand ____________ (you fill in the blank)." "That was dumb. Where's your common sense?" Et cetera. One job I worked at had to do with customer service. During a regional cold wave, I heard many off-the-phone comments and complaints about people who would call in with problems that seemed to co-workers as "dumb" or "obvious." OK, so let's examine this. What is common sense? By the way some people talk, common sense is something you have when you're born: a Common Sense Gene. OK, I'll bite. Let's continue this line of thinking. Assuming we all have the same amount or measure of Common Sense Genes at birth, then doesn't it follow that those who don't seem to have the common sense to - say, come out of the rain - must have lost something in their genetic makeup along the way? How did they lose it? Something they ate? Something in the air? Something in the water? Scientists could look for centuries, and God only knows what they'd come up with. Now let's look at it this way: What if common sense is something you learn? Your experiences. Your head knowledge. Your instinct. The sum of your parts and experiences throughout your lifetime. That would mean that people who haven't gone through the same experiences as you have would not have the same "common sense" you have. Faced with identical pitfalls, you might be able to avoid it, and another person might not. I like this theory much better. It's easier to understand. But there's something that surpasses even common sense. It's faith. (Matthew 14:24-31) Common sense says, "Peter, get back in the boat!! You can't walk on water!!" However, Peter did step out of the boat, and did walk on the water. He kept his eyes on Jesus, who was already standing on the waters. He (temporarily) disregarded everything his senses were telling him about his surroundings. He disregarded all his fisherman's knowledge and memories of when he would go swimming in those same waters, off the side of that same boat. He also ignored the fact that (however he perceived it) he was openly defying the law of gravity. (Genesis 7) Common sense says, "Noah, you really intend to float this big thing?? On what??" However, the rains came, and the ark floated. Noah stood firm by faith in God's promise. And he and his family were the only survivors of the flood that killed everything that breathed on the face of the earth. (Genesis 22) Common sense says, "I can't kill my son Issac! You allowed my wife to become pregnant even though she was well beyond child-bearing years. Issac is the child You said would be the father of many nations!" But, by faith Abraham did what God said, trusting God to bring his son back to life even if he did sacrifice him. There're more examples, but this will suffice for the moment. Look twice at the man who "doesn't have the common sense to come out of the rain," and you might just find someone who doesn't care if he gets wet, praising and worshipping the God of all Creation with the joy of the Holy Spirit. You might think he's nuts ... you might be right ... but, then again ...??

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2 Corinthians 13:5 says "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" Maybe the one without common sense knows more than you do. Think about it. END

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ESSAY #2: TO DIE FOR For several years, I worked temp services for numerous businesses. While at one of those jobs, I overheard a coworker declare that he would die for his family, but not for [then President] Bill Clinton. Not necessarily with respect to President Clinton, but in general, this is a very common sentiment. People will give their lives for friends and family, but not for strangers or (God forbid!) enemies. What if that had been Jesus' attitude on the cross? "I'll give My life for those around Me who stuck with Me, but not for those traitors who said they loved Me but now curse and mock Me! Let them burn in hell, where they belong!" That would have been the darkest day for all mankind. Thank God it never happened that way. Jesus Christ died not only for those He considered friends (remember, even Peter said he'd die for Jesus, yet three times denied knowing him), but for those who crucified Him. "Who killed Jesus?" "We all did."

Follow me in a little experiment. Look at your life. Find the time in your life when you were the lowest, the most despondent of life. When hope did not exist for you. When death itself would have seemed a merciful relief. Got it? Now multiply that by, say, ten per day. Carry it outward to make a full year, then the total number of years old you are, and toss in a number of years to the end of your lifetime. Take that number and multiply it by the number of people currently on the face of the earth. Then take that number and carry it in both directions in time, from the beginning of time to the end of time. I figure you've already given up trying to calculate this impossibly-large number. Good enough. Imagine each of those despondent times to be a single sin. Jesus Christ took all those sins on Himself as He hung on the cross.

Consider Jesus' condition: • • • • • • He had been beaten by the Roman guards A "crown" with 2-inch-long thorns had been forced down upon his forehead, drawing blood He had been scourged with forty lashes (most men didn't survive that much!) He was forced to carry his own cross up the long road to Golgotha He was nailed to that cross, and hung up to die the most evil method of execution ever conceived And yet, as impossibly weakened as He was, He still took upon Himself all the sins of all mankind: "Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Galatians 1:3-5)

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"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the w hole world." (I John 2:1,2) The darkness of all those sins upon Him caused Him to be separated from the Father: "And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34) And still, His reaction was not what would have been expected by fleshly man: "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots." (Luke 23:34)

Why? Because of love. How? Because of love.

I killed Jesus Christ. And you killed Jesus Christ, whether you wish to acknowledge it or not. It was my sins He took upon Him those centuries ago. And your sins. And those sins separated Him from His heavenly Father. He died with those sins upon Him, the perfect sacrificial lamb. Why? Because of love. How? Because of love. Who should we be willing to die for? Even the ones who persecute us, or those who may eventually kill us. We have the ultimate example to follow, and not to follow means we don't want to be like Christ. You gotta take the good with the bad, and that me ans giving it ALL up. Why? Because of love. How? Because of love. Easy? Yeah, sure! Dream on. Necessary? Yes. It's only through Christ we can do it, as we give up ourselves and submit to His authority in ALL aspects of our lives. Why? Because of love. How? Because of love. What about you, my friend? END

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ESSAY #3: WORLD PEACE NOW! This started off as the text of a tract I made many years ago. Thousands have been passed out over the years. I finally decided to post the tract on our website for others to benefit from.

Peace in this world? Don't bet on it. Check it out: "And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places." (Matthew 24:6,7) "And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows." (Mark 13:7,8) "But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by. Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven." (Luke 21:9-11) "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." (1 Thessalonians 5:2,3) "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." (2 Peter 3:10) However... this is NOT the way it has to be. There can be TRUE PEACE.

PEACE IS FROM THE LORD: • • • "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." (Isaiah 26:3) "The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace." (Psalms 29:11) "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety." (Psalms 4:8)

PEACE IS FROM GOD: • "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)

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PEACE IS FROM JESUS CHRIST: • "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27)

PEACE IS FROM JESUS CHRIST, OUR LORD AND GOD: • • "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:" (Romans 5:1) "The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)" (Acts 10:36)

THERE IS NO PEACE WITHOUT JESUS CHRIST AS YOUR LORD AND GOD: • • • • "Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none." (Ezekiel 7:25) "There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked." (Isaiah 48:22) "Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered morter:" (Ezekiel 13:10) "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:10-18)

THIS PEACE IS NOT AN EARTHLY OR WORLDLY PEACE: • "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law." (Luke 12:51-53) "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me." (Matthew 10:34-40)

IN OTHER WORDS: • • "Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all." (2 Thessalonians 3:16) "Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen." (1 Peter 5:14)

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Want more? Check out Salvation's Inquiry: 'What's it all about? or HELL: The Fifty-Cent Tour

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ESSAY #4: GEMS OF WISDOM – MARGIN NOTES FROM A BIBLE A friend of mine (now, sadly, in prison) had a Bible given to him years ago. Inside the Bible are some of the most marvelous observations, comments, and notes I have ever seen. Just about every single page has something written in the margins, and there are dozens of pages covered edge-to-edge with notes and words of wisdom. Whoever penned these gems, wherever he is now, I praise God for him. I would like to share some of these notes. I pray they bless you as they have blessed me.

A Quote by Johnathan Edwards, as a description of Hell: "Hell is a spiritual and material furnace of fire, where its victims are exquisitely tortured in their minds and in their bodies, eternally according to their various capacities by God, the devils, and damned humans (including themselves), in their memories and conscience as well as in their raging and unsatisfied lust, from which place of death, God's saving grace, mercy, and pity are gone forever, never for a moment to return." We ought to bring our minds to the scriptures as blank paper is brought to the printing press, that it may receive the impress only of its type. "A Christian indeed is one who is neither ashamed of the gospel, nor is a shame to the gospel." (Matthew Henry) Talking is when you do all of it. Conversation is when you listen in between. Conversation is your advertisement. Every time you open your mouth you let men look into your mind. You don't have to explain what you don't say. Give no more to every guest Than he is able to digest. Give him always of the prime, But a little at a time. Give to all but just enough; Let them neither starve nor stuff. Who does God's works will get God's pay. Where love is there is faith. Where there is faith, there is peace. Where there is peace, there is God. Satan may try to build a skeleton wall around the one who prays but he never can roof him in. Suspicions are weeds of the mind which grow of themselves Sometimes arguments will convince men. Convincing speech appeals to the mind; persuasive speech appeals to the heart. And only as men's hearts are reached are their wills affected. Gossip is that which goes in both ears and comes out greatly enlarged out of the mouth. It is easy enough to be pleasant when life moves along like a song. But the man worth while is the man who can smile when everything goes wrong. Seeds planted are never really completely lost.

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While the lamp is allowed to burn, the vilest sinner may yet return. The raindrops of repentance precede the sunshine of holiness. God's Minute I have only just a minute, Only sixty seconds in it, Forced upon me, can't refuse it, Didn't seek it, didn't choose it, But it's up to me to use it, I must suffer if I lose it, Give account if I abuse it, Just a tiny little minute. But eternity is in it. Jesus gives us an invitation, not a subpoena. Parents who do not put their foot down will have children who will tread on their toes. Worshipping God is a mockery if we lack kindness, compassion, and forgiveness for others. The creed of the selfish is built around selfishness: the earth is the center of the universe; the individual is the center of attention, and everybody's favorite topic is himself. Satan's will is based on the principle of selfishness: self is god; others are exploited for the benefit of selfish interests. There are no two leaves of a tree precisely alike; neither do all minds run in the same direction. Dealing with people is important in not so much as what is said as how it is said. He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven. Each of us lives a life that never has been, or ever will be, exactly like that of any other human being. • • • • • • Without fresh air, we live only a few minutes, and then die of suffocation. Without relaxation, rest, and sleep, we live only a few hours, and then collapse from exhaustion. Without fresh water, we live only a few days, and then die of thirst. Without wholesome food, we live only a few weeks, and then die of hunger. Without sunlight, we live only a few months, and then fade and go into decline. Without exercise of mind and body, we live only a few years, and then vegetate and wither away.

Every minute we are angry, we lose 60 seconds of peace and happiness. A man's strength is shown by what he stands for. A man's weakness is shown by what he falls for. God calls busy people to do His work; Satan calls the idle. The horse that pulls has no time to kick. "I have held many things in my hands and lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I always possess." (Martin Luther)

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It is not the beer in the glass but the beer in the belly that causes broken homes. The fish that never bites the bait can never be hooked, and so if you never yield to temptation you can never be overcome or become a captive. The boat that keeps the water out is useful and does not sink. "When I get on fire for God the people come to watch me burn." (John Wesley, Billy Sunday) Fasting is voluntary hunger caused by going without food beyond the usual time, or dieting by eating less than enough. When man fell he became dedicated to himself while seeking to do his own will. We are not responsible for conversion, but we are responsible for personal contacts. We cannot compel any man to decide for Christ, but we may urge every man to make a decision one way or another. Discouragement is the Devil's anesthetic he uses before he cuts out the heart. Keep your own counsel. If you do not keep it for yourself, you can not expect others to keep it for you. A fool utters his entire mind. Your life lies before you, white as the fallen snow. Be careful how you treat it, for every mark will show. A smile is the light that illuminates the face and that springs from the fire that warms the heart. Character is what we are in the dark. "The harbor is almost reached. It has been an interesting voyage with splendid companions." (the last words spoken by the doctor Sir William Ousler, as he died) "There will be no crown wearers in heaven who were not first cross bearers while on earth." (Spurgeon) "Give your life to God. He can do more with it than you can." (D.L. Moody) Four ways of dealing with a guilty conscience: 1. Justify self (Read Luke 10:29) 2. Blame others (Read about Adam and Eve) 3. Hide mistake (Read Proverbs 28:13) 4. Confess (Read Psalm 51) Conscience is the alarm bell of the soul. "I can understand how a person can look down upon the earth (made desolate by man) and be an atheist, but I cannot understand how a man can look up to the heavens and say, 'There is no God.'" (Abraham Lincoln) (Read Psalms 14, 53) Whoever lets go the smallest part of a secret has lost the power to keep the rest. "If you would wish another to keep your secret, first keep it yourself." (Seneca, A.D. 60) It takes time to make a loaf of bread after you have planted the seed in the ground. And it takes time to have your prayers answered. Blessed is the man who is too busy to fret and worry in the daytime, and too sleepy to worry at night.

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Information consists of two parts to be of any use: (1) it must be broadcast, (2) it must be received with good receipt. The Old Testament opens with man made in the image of God. The New Testament opens with God in the image of man. Keep your temper. Nobody else wants it! The day is immeasurably long to him who knows not how to value and use it. Our bodies are rightly made but wrongly used. What I see of God's creation teaches me to trust in Him for what I have not seen. The ancestry of every action is a thought. Character is made in the crucible of affliction. Before our lives take on the quality of Christlikeness, we have to go through many fires. Under God's guidance such trials prepare us for service. These fiery trials are designed to purify. Remember: the three Hebrews cast into the furnace lost their bonds. When a person is right that one has the advantage over the one who is wrong. Always remember if you are in the right you have an advantage over the ones who are guilty and know they are wrong. Fanaticism is when you re-double your effort after you have lost your aim. God expects progress. The marksman must have a target; the Christian must aim at being more Christ-like. It means being more kindly in the way we speak and more gentle in the way we act with a personal touch. A happy man or woman is a radiating focus of good will; and their entrance into a room is as though another lamp had been lighted. "Our Lord and Father, may the world not mould me today, but may I be so strong in Thy long as to help to mould a portion of the world for Jesus' sake. Amen." A life without tension is like steel without temper. Daily tensions do not destroy those whom Christ tempers to bear their load. He also tempers our spirit so that we can spring back straight and strong as before, as before, after trials, disappointment, and discouragements buffet us. God's Best God has His best things for the few Who dare to stand the test. God has His second choice for those Who will not take His best And others make the highest choice, But when by trials pressed They shrink, they yield, they shun the cross, And so they lose His best. I want in this life of mine as much as I can be pressed of service true for God and man. Help me to be Thy best. I want among the victors to have my name confessed, and hear the Master say at last, "Well done! You did your best!"

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God is always speaking to us through His Word and directing the steps of those whose trust is in His moment by moment and day by day. The atheist has a reason but no hope; the hypocrite has a hope but no reason; the Christian has a reason for his hope. When a man's heart is right with God he can face the future unafraid. Every morning I want to be able to look myself straight in the eye, and at last close my eyes in peace. One evidence of the value of the Holy Bible is the character of those who oppose God's Word. Sin is whatever appeals to the lust of the flesh (great longing for things that are wrong). Choices are the hinges of destiny. Every choice has a price tag. A child was asked, "What is faith?" And she answered, "Faith is taking God at His Word and asking no questions." "I will close the door on the past and step out into this new day." Sometimes when we can not see where we are going, we have to stop and listen for God's voice through the fog of our confusion. When we can not see the way ahead, we can listen to Him who holds us in His loving care. Our heavenly Father will not fill our cups unless our cups are empty. Man has built a wall between himself and God, and between himself and his fellow man. Christ spent no time bridging walls, but time and again bridged the gap. I know who holds the future And I know He holds my hand. With God things don't just happen; Everything by Him is planned. "Lord, help us to live each day as we will wish we had when we die. Amen." Man is continually making claim of ownership of himself and what he possesses. A Christian is one who makes it easier for others to believe in God. Believe = rest your whole weight upon Jesus. Every time a Christian goes wrong, it makes it harder for a sinner to go right. The church does not exist for herself. She is the salt of the earth and the light of the world. (Read Matthew 5:13,14) Turn on the power and let the light shine. Jesus bridged the gap between races, classes, and nationalities, and spanned them all. Lord, help me not to follow afar off, but to calmly walk with Thee. If you want to feel rich, count all the things you have that money cannot buy.

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You cannot give out what you do not have. The life of every man is a diary which he means to write a story, and writes another. And his humblest honor is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it. Life is the mirror of every one. Just what we are and do. Do It Now If you plan to work for Jesus At some more convenient day, Just remember, fellow traveler, You'll not pass again this way. For this pathway that we follow We cannot again retrace, And the record we are leaving We can never more erase. Do the thing that's most important, Do it with a willing hand, Give your time, your strength, your money, As you're passing through the land. Do not wait until tomorrow, For perchance it might be true That this day that now is given May end life's long trail for you. Time is hasting, night is falling. Soon will come earth's setting sun; Take the time NOW to accomplish Everything you'll wish you'd done. Come is an invitation given by God to man 632 times. The Bible is the only book by which you may know certainly the future. It is the only book that satisfactorily answers the questions, "Where did I come from?" "Why am I here?" "Where am I going?" Read it quietly and slowly: "Not snapshots but time exposures" should be the rule. Picture, imagine the scenes. Search for the personal message. Your inner response to God's message is vital. When He condemns, bow penitently. When He offers help, place your hope on His promise. When He commands, obey. Remember that God ruled the world before you arrived and will likely rule it after you are gone. Why not let Him rule it today? "Lord, help us to give according to our income, lest Thou turn things around and give us incomes according to our giving." (Read Malachi 3:8-12) When our minds are filled with gloom and sadness, dwelling upon the darkness and evil around us, how can we represent Christ? If we are not encouraging evil we have agreed to go along together with it (Read Amos 3:3) God's blessings are given that they may be shared. Unless they flow through us and find an outlet in service they cannot continue to flow into us. The Dead Sea is dead because it always receives but never passes on any blessing to others. The darker the night, the brighter the light shines. Every mighty oak was once a nut that held its ground and then grew.

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To see how important you are in this world, put your hand in water. Remove it and see the hole you made. For best results, follow instructions of the Maker. The road of life has many turns, and only God can see around the bends. I have drawn you with bands of love; not forcing you as draft animals, but drawing you with kindness and affection. One heart burning with love sets another on fire. "Whatever lessens my desire for God that to me is sin." (John Wesley) "Whatever lessens, or cools, my affection for Christ, that to me is sin." (William Penn) There is one way to be happy, and that is to make someone else happy. Backsliders need encouragement from hearts of understanding. O Lord, my God, tune my heart to hear Thy call. Align my will to Thy holy purposes. Awake me to respond to Thy love. Help me share life on Christ's terms with others. Fill me with love and understanding so that through me others may receive comfort. Wise sayings often fall on barren ground; but kind words are never thrown away. In all that happens to us in life, there is no resource like the Word of God to strengthen us in our struggles with destructive discouragement. In faith we look to God for counsel and guidance, and guidance comes through prayer. You cannot mould cement after it hardens. Train your child while his life is tender. (Proverbs 22:6) As you shovel out, the Lord shovels in....and He has a bigger shovel than you have. (Proverbs 11:25) Give until the Lord stops giving to you. Before we can bear fruit we must be deeply rooted in the things of God. Don't be afraid to go to sleep at night; the Lord, our God, is awake. (Read Psalm 121:3,4) A bird sings with gratitude contentment brings. Moments make a year. Trifles made a life. But life is not trifle. Blessed are they who let Christ help them steer their course through life. There will be only two classes in that DAY: those who know God, and those who only know about Him. A man ought to root himself so firmly in God and His promises that he will not need the consolation of fallen man. If you are not meeting evil it is possible that you are in line with evil. If you do not have opposition it is possible that you are in with the enemy, and you are the opposition. If we are not meeting the opposition of the enemy, it is possible we are marching with them.

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Satan tries to deface the image of God and of Jesus in every man. Christ restores. People are lonely because they build walls when they should build bridges. Prayer is an open highway to the heart of God. If I choose to follow God He will lead me. The power of choice is the hinge on which the gate of destiny swings. The human will shuts or opens the door of decision. He who provides for this life, but takes no care for eternity, is wise for a moment, but a fool forever. God has promised His eternity for our life time given to him now for others. Gossip is a poison that puts friendship out of business. Hospitality is the art of making people want to stay without interfering with their departure. The wise fit into the Lord's plan as the water fits into the vessel. Fret = worry. Worry begets worry. Worry is like sand in the gears of a machine. You can dodge responsibility, but you can't dodge the results of dodging. Life is a matter of choices. What we are today is largely a result of the choices we made in the past. What we will be tomorrow is, in a great way, determined by our choices today. Many know no reason why they are born. They spend their existence on earth only to drink and consume food, leaving behind them filthy cups and dishes. Life is more than a trek from the cradle to the grave. Life is a pilgrimage to the promised land. We are not promised smooth sailing, but a safe landing. God can do anything except fail. Let not the mistakes of yesterday nor the fears of tomorrow spoil today. Grow and flourish or wither and became sapless is a natural and spiritual law which cannot be broken. (Read Deuteronomy 18:18; Galatians 6:7,8) God's people are not shade trees or ornamental trees, but fruit trees. You can count the fruit on a tree, but who can count the number of future fruit trees in one seed? We can't equal the pattern, but we shall not be approved of God unless to the best of our ability we copy the pattern. The same sun that harder the brick melts the butter. God does not force, but He provides the power to change; man's part is to will to change willingly.

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Kindness, sympathy, and understanding do wonders and can never be regretted. Kindness has far reaching effects that will be felt by someone sometime and is never lost. When a man is in tune with God, his lips will be saying and hands will be doing what God wants. A vision without a task is a dream; a task without a vision is drudgery. God has a blueprint for every life, and there are no duplicates. Kindness opens the doors of frozen hearts. It is not what happens to a man but his attitude toward what happens that counts. Kindness is love bearing the loving message in work clothes. Christ sends none away empty but those who are full of themselves. Sin causes the cup of joy to spring a leak. Success comes in cans: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheth me." (Philippians 4:13) Man does not live by breath alone. He who walks with God will reach his destination. Lord, help me not to lag behind, or to run ahead, but to calmly walk with Thee. Let my will be the tuned instrument which yields to every touch of the master. When you open the Holy Scriptures, the Word of the Lord speaks to you. Opportunities and events come to us as tests of character. Opportunities missed can never be recalled. Remember you can live only one clock tick at a time. Life is a grind-stone, which grinds you down or polishes you up, depending on the kind of material you are made of. Every human being longs for happiness. Money can't buy lasting happiness. Happiness is found in helping others. You cannot understand this book without knowing the Author. The Bible has a message of hope for this disillusioned age. Although it presents an interesting view of human history it also takes a forward view. It introduces its readers to Jesus, the most talked about, and the most loved one. It claims that love is the most powerful influence on mankind. The Holy Bible is the record of the movements of the Spirit of God in human history. The Bible is a book that has been refuted, demolished, and overthrown more times than any other book. Every little while somebody upsets it and it like upsetting a solid cube. It is as big one way as the other; and when one upsets it, the boot always overturns right side up. END

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ESSAY #5: MARK'S TESTIMONY The first time I "accepted Christ" was in connection with volunteering at a day care center at the church my mom and I were attending at the time. I wanted the job badly, because of the children. The call had gone out for workers, male influences for the children - some of whom came from single-parent families. This made an impact on me, partly because my parents divorced when I was 13, plus - and more importantly - I needed someone who needed me. Love exchanged for love. Four years later, however, after witnessing some of the hypocrisies and double-mindedness that went on in this "house of God," I left it, and God. I was 25 before I moved out of my mom's house and got my own apartment. I wanted some distance to be free to make my own mistakes, be responsible for my own messes. I ended up in a subdivided house in one of the not-too-crime-free residential areas of Portland, Oregon. During that time God was still keeping an eye out for me. Neither my house or car was ever ripped off, broken into, or vandalized, even though there were robberies, shootings, and the like happening all the time within a 20-block radius. Even the house across the street was the target of an arsonist. As I sat and watched it burn, it never occurred to me that, if it hadn't been by the Grace of God, it could've just as well have been my home. I just continued along in my own merry way. Looking back, the only thing that got me through the events in my life is God's love for me, and His hand in my life, covering my tail - even when I didn't truly know about Him, or wanted Him to help me. In October of 1980 I became re-acquainted with old girlfriend of mine, Lynne. By May of the following year, we were married. Lynne and I had known each other in high school. To me, she was my first real love. To her, I was only a friend, a crying towel, a sounding board. I was there when she needed me to be there. I was there after she got pregnant by another boyfriend, and I was there after she was pressured into getting an abortion. I was dependable and loyal the quintessential Boy Scout. In the years following High School, she had gotten married, had a son, and had experienced a ton of torment. As a result, she was insecure, and not entirely stable. When we got back together in 1980, I did not see her as the person she was, but as the girl that I once knew and loved. I did not see the differences. I saw someone who needed me, in the form of her and her three-year-old son. She had also put up a wall, trying to turn off anyone from becoming interested in her ever again. I saw past it. And we became a family. In retrospect, I should've known better. Lynne and I were married for almost five years. And there were a lot of problems. I claim most of it, because I was not a strong husband, and I let her become the dominant personality. We had a lot of fights, and - because my security was in her and her son, and not in Jesus Christ - I was afraid of losing her. It wasn't all bad. There were some good times. The best was that – nine months after we were married, I accepted Christ and took him on in baptism. However, my security in Christ was still less than my security in my wife and son. We attended that church for a few years, and I was comfortable. Lynne, however, was not. She felt she was being snubbed by the other women in the congregation. She stopped coming to church regularly, turning to a bizarre television preacher by the name of Dr. John Scott. I didn't like him, but she was mesmerized and obsessed. I

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continued going to church alone for awhile, because I found fellowship there, but eventually left as well. I was afraid - of Lynne, of her anger, of her head trips and mental abuse, of her threats of leaving me. I couldn't stand that. So my attitude became one of "peace at all costs." I was a coward. One day in November of 1986, while out of the house with my son and a friend of his, God led me to another church. Lynne preferred solitude while cleaning the house, so Jeremey, his friend and I ended up at Marine Park, alongside the Columbia River. We were down on the boat docks, the boys helping with an incoming boat's mooring lines, and I was looking around at the scenery. Behind me, in a little niche at the water's edge, three people stood waist-deep in the water, surrounded by a few onlookers on shore. It was a baptism! I watched with interest, remembering what Lynne had told me of witnessing baptisms, and the feelings, re-sharing the exhilaration of her own baptism. I felt this now, and it brought a tear to my eye. I looked back at the boys, who were doing fine, and told them that I that I was going to go over there and put in my hugs to a new brother or sister, and that I'd be right back. Now, there had been one man there who stood out from the crowd. He had seen me and grinned and waved when he saw my interest in the baptism. He was a giant of a man, and stood a full head taller than my 6'2" height. He had a contagious grin, and a sparkle in his eye that mirrored the Holy Spirit within him. I hugged him - like hugging a grizzly bear - and the person who had been baptized, welcoming her "into the family" of God. His name was Steve Doster, and he was the pastor of Gospel Outreach Mission. Now, I had been wanting to go to church again, but I wasn't making any efforts into looking for one. Now it came to me. Gospel Outreach Mission was a small home church. And their Sunday services were in the afternoon, not the morning; this interested me, since I was working swing shift, and getting up early wasn't easy (even for church). I had originally intended to attend this church alone, since Lynne was still interested in this other guy on TV. But, much to my surprise, she also expressed some interest in this church. I went alone the first week, to check it out on my own. I was impressed, and we all started going to this little hole-in-the-wall non-denominational church. It impressed me that there wasn't an emphasis on how you dressed - as long as it wasn't immodest, anything was acceptable. I paid a lot of attention to what everybody was doing and how they acted. It was fine, even when I talked to the pastor afterwards and admitted my suspicion. He understood, and was very friendly. Not phonyfriendly, but genuine. This was good. Things started improving. A couple of weeks later, we came with another couple, and the Holy Spirit did a demolition job on pent-up bad feelings Lynne and the other woman had had over the years. It wasn't two songs into the service before the tears started to flow, and the repenting blasted out like a flood gate. There were many changes in our household, and I was beginning to take the headship of my family. But it was not to last. On a Sunday in March of 1987, my wife and I had been fighting again. The bickering continued through church. We returned home, still quarreling, but I soon got fed up with it and went outside to be by myself and pray. I sat on the ground at the outskirts of the parking lot, and talked to God. Her son, at eight years old, joined me, and we talked - it was the last real talk we ever had (which I believe was set up by God). He went back in, and I followed a few minutes later. Looking back, I should've stayed there until I was right with God. But I didn't. In all irony, we fought over a Bible study. There was taunting, and blows were dealt from both of us. I finally caught her arm a glancing blow from an empty coffee cup, and she called the police to have me arrested. I put up no resistance - my anger was spent, and I knew what I had done was wrong.

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I spent the next 12 hours in jail. As I was escorted to my cell, I caught the attention of some other inmates, and felt like fresh meat. I was glad the door was locked, because they would not be able to get in. I was afraid. I was angry. Alone in the cell, I didn't get much sleep. My mind was filled with hatred, bitterness, and thoughts of revenge. For hours, I came up with all kinds of things that I would do against Lynne. I prayed to God to take the anger away from me, but it didn't seem to work. But God intervened. There was a man in the next cell (whom I discovered later was a mental case who had been put in the cell until he could be moved to a proper facility). Late in the night, he cried out for help. His mournful cry was accompanied by the sound of repeatedly hitting the wall - or the floor (I couldn't tell the difference) - and talking to himself. This went on for quite a while. It finally broke me. My prayer direction changed to intercession, asking God to take the pain away from this man. I asked over and over again, my heart going out to that suffering stranger. I wasn't thinking about my own problems anymore. And God took care of my needs, allowing me a few hours of sleep before wake-up. The next morning, I was released on my own recognizance, having no prior criminal record. But there were important decisions I had to make. I didn't want to go back to Lynne. I wasn't right with God, and I knew that if I did go back I'd either kill her or she would kill me. I knew something tragic would happen. So I did the only other thing I knew: I called Steve and asked him to come and get me. Then I called my employer and told him I wouldn't be in to work. Steve's wife, Julie, came with another brother, and I went back to their house. I told them both the details of what happened, and we prayed together. Then, fatigue catching up with me, they told me to go rest. I wasn't sure I could, but I went into the other room, knelt by the bed, prayed again, and then slept like a baby for several hours. Lynne went ballistic when she found out I had chosen to get help rather than return to under her thumb. She responded by getting a restraining order against me, kicking me out of my own home, and filing divorce papers against me - all within those first three days! A few weeks later, I moved into another apartment, alone, and continued pressing into God. Personal fires abounded, but God took care of them. Because of the Simple Assault (Domestic Violence) charge, I faced the possibility of fines, jail time, and an expensive Anger Treatment program. However, God knocked things down to a small fine, no jail time, and some Anger Control testing which showed that I didn't need the Treatment program. When I faced the possibility of Anger Control counseling - needless, since God was showing me how to handle my anger - a follow-up order was suddenly "missing" from the County's files. Praise God!! Lynne even tried personal attacks, accusing me of molesting a friend's daughter, and launching fiery darts against the church body, all without a shred of evidence. Our divorce was messy, but things ended with a clean cut. Since I had never adopted Lynne's son, I was not held to child support. During the fires I was growing in Christ, and it was evident. My mother and I had been divided in my need to keep peace with Lynne, but now we were getting closer. This closeness continued to the day she died. I was working with the church, as well as I could while working swing shift. I rode the buses, planting tracts and witnessing to people. I had friends - true friends, in Christ - at the church. I had material blessings, and spiritual blessings too numerous to list. I'm not what I should be I'm not what I would be I'm not what I want to be But THANK GOD I'm not what I was!!

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Since writing the above in 1996, a lot has happened In the latter part of 1999, the very-charismatic Steve Doster persuaded almost all of the congregation that destruction was coming to the world in 2000 with the Millenium, and that their only hope of survival was to flee to a piece of land the church owned in Eastern Oregon. Karen and I didn't fall for the fear-tactics, and – after much prayer – declared that we were staying. We have been living in Portland, Oregon since then, and the destruction they foresaw never occurred – proving, sadly, that they were not listening to the voice of God, but of Satan. In the months and years following their separation, we – and others who heeded the truth above the darkness – were shunned by those in Eastern Oregon. We used to be friends. Now we're enemies to them. Karen and I are still happily married, and God has worked in us mightily, in ministries like Gospel Messengers and through our popular Christian Fan Fiction "Bronze Saga" novels (which can be found, like this document, on www.memoware.com). We've been members of the Metro Church of Christ in Portland, Oregon since 2004. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me. (Psalms 13:5,6 NIV) END

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ESSAY #6: REFLECTIONS OF A HOME MINISTRY In 1992, Karen and I were living in an apartment in Vancouver, Washington. The jobs I was working were sufficient, but not abundant. God had impressed on us the need to take people in, but our landlords wouldn't allow it. So, informally, we looked for another place, a place where we could take people in, even when it seemed financially impossible. At the time, we had been attending church services in a small house in Vancouver. On nice days, we'd wander outside and fellowship between services. A few of us had seen this big empty salmon-colored house across the street, and so we wandered over to check it out. There was nothing there to show who owned it, or even if it was rentable. The only thing we spotted was a small piece of a memo pad on the front door, which had the name of a business on the back. No connection, just the name. I checked it out. The business was an ambulance company. They had used that house prior to us. They also had the owner's name and phone number. I called the owner. I had taken him by surprised - he hadn't even put the house on the market yet. We talked. I discovered that he knew my dad. And my dad's reputation was the key which put us into the house. My parents had divorced when I was barely a teenager, and dad and I had never really been close through the years. I tried many times to tell him about Jesus, but he was stubborn and defiantly set in his ways. Shortly after we were accepted for the house, while driving back from visiting his ailing sister, my dad suffered a severe heart attack, and plunged his car 200 feet into a ravine. As far as I know, he died without Christ - yet God still used him to help us.

This house has been, to many, a shelter from the world, and a protective umbrella in the midst of the hailstorm. To others, it's been only a one-night-stand, a place to crash, or to take unfair advantage of. We've had many people stay with us. Mostly they've been people with no place to live, but we've also taken in people who needed a Christian environment, and God just brought us together. Sometimes they've stayed for days, others weeks and even several months. A couple of them left, then returned, and left again. We never knew just who God was going to send us next, but we tried to be prepared to love them and accept them, and guide them towards the Cross. Some people who've been through here have rejected the Cross, and have returned to their worldly ways. Others reject the Word of God that is preached straight, sharp, and true, and they fall back into a pattern of false religion that caters to their flesh.

The shortest stay that comes to mind was a guy nicknamed "Too Tall." We met him on the streets of Portland, Oregon. He wanted to get free of the street life and the drugs and stuff. He came in on a Saturday, and Tuesday we discovered that he had left - through the bedroom window! Next weekend, I saw him back on the streets, and moved around behind to surprise him with a hug and a grin and a comment: "You could've at least used the front door, brother!" But he had to do what he had to do, and there was nothing I could have done to stop it.

Not all stays have been uneventful. Sometimes when they leave, they take our property. Other times, they take our hearts. But, by the grace of God, we love them and forgive them, and praise God for the opportunity to love them and give up our home for them, no matter the cost.

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And we've even made the headlines. Fred (not his real name) was a 22-year-old man with the mind of a 12-year-old. He had made some mistakes, and had spent time behind bars for child molestation. We knew him, were friends with him, and so, when he was released, our home became his home, our family became his family. Things started off great. He was thankful to be free, we were glad to have him around. Karen modified a set of flash cards so that she could tutor him in basic math. We also seeded a lawn in the back yard. He was a very hard worker, and a blessing to our home. Then, one month after he was put in our charge, things became ugly. Without warning, official police notices were distributed to our neighbors, informing them that a convicted sex offender lived in our house. The press was warned, however, and they proceeded to attack. One tv station, unable to make contact with us, filmed the house, the neighborhood - and our neighbors. We were pressured by reporters, and finally gave into granting an interview, which was butchered and turned against us, portraying Fred as a dangerous sexual predator! In one day, everyone who read a paper or watched the news knew where we were. And the opinions taken from the local community - even our own neighborhood - were hostile. Our neighbors shunned us. We were harassed and persecuted. A sign on our front lawn. A rock with a note placed at our front door. Words spray-painted on the wall next to our front door. Fliers passed around at local stores, and posted on every surface and in every window. And the phone calls, of course. I instructed Karen not to go to the store unless I was there with her. We were prisoners in our own home, and it was only God's protection that kept us from worse harm. We weren't even comfortable at a church we visited. People looked at us, and it was obvious they knew who we were. As expected, the church elders asked for a meeting, and we agreed to some simple guidelines about keeping Fred close to us at all times. They also saw the love we had for Fred, and their hearts were touched. Not all the press coverage was negative. I gave a phone interview to a newspaper reporter, who actually portrayed the story accurately, emphasizing the ministry house and the compassion for the lost. But that was the only exception. Soon after, Fred was returned to jail for his own protection, then released after things had died down (some time later). I don't know if all the wounds were ever really fully healed. I put numerous signs up in our windows announcing that Fred was no longer living with us, and asking that the harassment stop. Our next-door neighbors moved (whether this contributed to it, I don't know), and people continued coming to our door looking for Fred for months afterward; these incidents were settled quickly, with a little of God's love and reasoning together. Had we known what the future held, would things have changed? Doubtful. God protected us inside and outside. No blood was shed, no serious property damage was done. And many people saw a practical example of the love of Jesus Christ for those who, as He endured, "knew not what they were doing."

We've taken in singles, and couples. Black, white, old, young. Didn't matter. They needed a place - they had a place! The last two to stay with us were a blind young woman named Sunni, and a visually-impaired young man named James. Due to a social situation with a previous roommate, James found himself without a place to stay; he moved

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in with us in early July 1995. Sunni was looking for love and Christian fellowship that she could not find in her somewhat-isolated apartment; she moved in later that same month. Sunni and James needed to know God in a deeper way, and we became a family. And because they both looked to me as a father figure they never had, they adopted me as such. We could not imagine that they would be the last to pass through this ministry house. They left a few months before things came to an end. They wanted the desires of their flesh, not the desires of the Lord Jesus. As of this writing, they are both still struggling with what they want over what God wants of them.

At 4:30pm on Tuesday May 7, 1996 we left this house for the last time. We couldn't keep up with the rent any longer, so God closed the door. We leave behind many memories, some shared here. This house had been a blessing for many people, including those who would drive by and see the signs in BIG BOLD LETTERS in our large windows. JESUS SAVES LET HIM. JESUS LOVES YOU. And you could see the words JESUS CHRIST IS LORD from a half-block away. Every person through this house became a lesson in love and grace. We've learned from every one of them. I'd be a fool not to admit that I wish some things would've happened differently, but I praise God for it all - the good and the bad. I praise God for it all - and for the challenges to come. Amen. END

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ESSAY #7: HALLOWEEN: A SEASON FOR GIVING This isn't your standard Halloween message, trying to scare you with the demonic side of Halloween. Enough people do that. This is a different angle. Sit back and read on.

Halloween gives justification for coveteousness. Children will desire after the goodies and candy that are promised them by the world. They won't need to expend any work for them. They just beg, expecting that people will give them things. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat." Halloween gives justification for greed. They want things, they desire after the goodies. Judges 18:10 "When ye go, ye shall come unto a people secure, and to a large land: for God hath given it into your hands; a place where there is no want of any thing that is in the earth." Psalm 23:1 "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want." Psalm 34:9 "O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him." Psalm 34:10 "The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing." Proverbs 13:25 "The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul: but the belly of the wicked shall want." Philippians 4:11 "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." Halloween gives them early training, to be greedy, coveteous, and lustful for greater things later on: careers, homes, or control over others. Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." This verse can go both ways. A child trained up to be covetous or rebellious will be firmly entrenched in it when they are older. If they are called by God, they will have to go through tremendous fire before they will come to Him. On the other hand, if a child is trained up in the ways and admonitions of the Lord Jesus Christ, through the words and the example of their parents, then, if they are called by God, they will be ready and eager to follow, serve, and submit in love. Halloween gives justification to live a lie, in dressing up as something they are not. Psalms 58:3 "The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies." Psalms 144:11 "Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood:" Proverbs 3:3 "Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:" Proverbs 12:22 "Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight."

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Proverbs 20:17 "Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel." Proverbs 21:6 "The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death." Ecclesiastes 5:6 "Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?" Isaiah 28:15 "Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:" Jeremiah 7:28 "But thou shalt say unto them, This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the LORD their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth." Jeremiah 9:3 "And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD." Jeremiah 9:5,6 "And they will deceive every one his neighbour, and will not speak the truth: they have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary themselves to commit iniquity. [v.6] Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit; through deceit they refuse to know me, saith the LORD." John 8:44,45 "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. [v.45] And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not." Colossians 3:9 "Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;" Revelation 21:8 "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." Revelation 21:27 "And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life." Revelation 22:15 "For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie."

Argument: "Well, there's nothing demonic in a small child dressing up as a character from the Bible, is there?" Response: "It is still deception. The child is not a character from the Bible. In saying they are, they are lying to others."

Argument: "It's just innocent, harmless fun. Why make an issue out of it?" Response: "It's far from innocent or harmless. The innocence of children is shattered by Halloween, and the secular sides of Easter and Christmas. They are taught how to desire, to lust, to covet after what they do not need. The children do not understand what the Bible says about what they do, but the parents should; they are accountable for their childrens' acts up to the time they know the Law (right and wrong), and become accountable for their own actions."

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Romans 7:7-12 "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. [v.8] But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. [v.9] For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. [v.10] And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. [v.11] For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. [v.12] Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." Paul did not know sin before he knew the Law. But when he knew the Law, he became aware of his own sinful nature, and the wretchedness of his flesh, and the need for repentance, in order to be free from that sin. We grew up into a sinful world, the personal playground of Satan, called the "Prince of This World" (see John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11, and Ephesians 2:2). This is his turf, his domain, and we are his to control - except for the hand of God's mercy protecting us. It is His hand that protects us in the darkness of this world. Halloween may be "innocent fun" to unsuspecting children, but the damage is still done unto these children. Mark 9:42 "And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea." The responsibility is upon those who know the truth, and yet continue in the ways of the world.

My past, as the past of everyone living in this world, is sin. If we grew up in the world, we will be in the darkness of the world until we see the light of Christ. Then we either turn or burn. I now strive to live for Jesus Christ, by His mercy and grace upon me, and through whatever fires I must go through. Every little child begging candy on October 31st will have to face the God of all Creation one day. If their parents have raised them up in the ways and admonitions of the Lord Jesus Christ, by their word and by their examples, they will face God in faith, in joy and expectation of seeing their Lord and Saviour face to face. The way to Jesus Christ will be easier for them, and the children of these parents will seek ways to please God and their parents, in the examples they have set. Their lives will be directed into service unto Jesus Christ. This world is going to Hell. The devil is called the Prince of this World. This is his turf, his domain. He is in control of planet Earth. But there is hope: John 8:12 "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." John 12:25 "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." John 14:17 "Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."

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John 16:33 "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." Galatians 4:3 "Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:" Philippians 2:15 "That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;" Titus 2:12 "Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;" James 1:27 "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." 2 Peter 1:4 "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." 1 John 4:4 "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." 1 John 4:9 "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him." We're in the world. We have to live here, until God chooses to take us to be with Him. But it doesn't mean we have to live unprotected. The Holy Spirit within us protects us from that which is going on in the world. It instructs us to the Truth of the Word of God. And when we let the Holy Spirit work within us, we are invincible to anything Satan can toss at us - except what will be to God's glory, of course. As I submit, in obedience to Jesus Christ as Lord and Master of my life, I will overcome this world, as Jesus Himself overcame this world.

Titus 2:14 "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." 1 Peter 2:9 "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:" In Christ, we will not be participating in the events the world calls special, unless they glorify God in all aspects not just the obvious ones. Halloween doesn't even begin to glorify God. When we aren't glorifying God, we're in sin.

Matthew 6:24-34 "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. [v.25] Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? [v.26] Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? [v.27] Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? [v.28] And why take ye thought

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for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: [v.29] And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. [v.30] Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? [v.31] Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? [v.32] (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. [v.33] But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. [v.34] Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

God is eternal. The world isn't. 2 Peter 3:7-14 "But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. [v.8] But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. [v.9] The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. [v.10] But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. [v.11] Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, [v.12] Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? [v.13] Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. [v.14] Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless." END

Want more? Check out World Peace Now!, HELL: The Fifty-Cent Tour, or Salvation's Inquiry: 'What's it all about?

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ESSAY #8: A DAY IN THE LIFE (IN APPRECIATION OF MY WIFE) From May of 1996 to November of 1999, Karen and I lived with several others of our church in a 'ministry house' arrangement. It was during that time that I wrote the following tribute. God bless you, Karen. I love you.

I don't know how she does it. But I praise God that she does. Six out of seven days a week - Monday through Saturday - Karen's up before the sun, before anyone else, at 4 am or earlier. She's up at that hour to make breakfast for people in the house, a number which can vary between 8 to 12 people at times. Breakfast's not very elaborate - a hot half-and-half mix of rolled 5-grain cereal and rolled triticale, and a hardboiled egg on the side - but it's easy to cook and keep warm through the morning. And it's good and nutritious. Some people don't care much for the egg, so Karen's got to keep track of that so she doesn't make too many. She keeps track of a lot of things with breakfast: who's put in money and who hasn't; how much she's got in supplies; what she's got in the budget, where it's been going and for what; and what's running low (so we can get more in time and not run out). She puts my portion into a container I'll take to work - and she even peels my egg for me (the personal touch). If there's something I've got set aside in the fridge for lunch, she'll grab it as well. She's usually in the kitchen when Matthew starts wandering up from the basement at 4:45. She gives him a friendly greeting and a hug (second best thing at times, next to prayer) to start off his day. Once the cereal is done and set aside - everyone dishes their own, nukes it in the microwave, and puts their dishes in the sink - and the eggs are off to the side, Karen grabs my breakfast and lunch, and comes upstairs for a few minutes' sleep before my alarm goes off around 5:20. We have a chance to cuddle for a couple of minutes, then I'm up and out of bed. Fifteen minutes later, I'm out the door for work. When I'm leaving, she's always got a word of encouragement or exhortation: "Keep close to Jesus," "Keep your armor on." She switches on the cordless phone, and places it on my pillow so it's close: "But I don't hug it," she assures me with a smirk. She goes back to sleep. However, it's a light sleep, because she's also the chief secretary and message-handler for this house. Ever since we moved in several months back, she's taken that position - and things have never been more efficient. People who never got accurate messages are now getting accurate messages, complete with date and time. The 7:30 - 9 am block of time usually has bosses calling their workers in the house. Karen's their first contact, and they know her voice, and she knows theirs. And she gets along well with them. She tries to keep informed, to know who's home and who's away (even if she may not know where they are). When anyone gets a call, and they're in the house, Karen'll track them down to let them know they've got a call. If they're not in the house, she'll take a message. She'll head upstairs to the old electric typewriter, a 3x5" index card already in place. Her accuracy is excellent, considering she isn't able to see the words she's typing to read them. Then she flips the card over, types the name of the person who got the call, and takes it down to the message board, thumb-tacking it name-side-out for privacy. At some point in the morning, she goes downstairs to clean the breakfast dishes, and any dishes leftover from the previous night. It's a pain at times, facing so many dishes, but it's all part of the responsibility she's accepted. But it's more than a responsibility. It's ministry, a way of showing love and serving others.

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And it doesn't stop once the morning meal's done and cleaned up. There's more. If one of the other ladies in the house needs to talk or pray or whatever, she's right there. And if there's nothing else going on, she'll read, or pray, or just listen to Bible or church service tapes. She'll page my voice mail with news or a prayer request, or to ask me to pick up something on the way home. Sometimes she puts in a code that pages me with the words "I LOVE YOU." And sometimes she's able to squeeze in a cat nap to recharge her batteries - all the while alert for the phone. She also helps keep the house clean. While Cheryl keeps the downstairs in shape, Karen's turf is the stairs, landing, and upstairs bathroom (as well as our room). She keeps it clean and (in the case of the bathroom) sanitary, especially on the days after a ministry night. And there are those "special times" of serving: • • • Dishing up and serving the breakfast for one of the brothers while his glasses were being repaired, and he was unable to see well. Playing house-sitter during those times everyone is away. Bringing in the mail every afternoon, making sure it's safe, and having it on my desk so I can sort through it before we distribute it.

While Karen handles the breakfast, Cheryl handles the dinner. But then it's back to Karen to take care of the dishes - a task that sometimes takes hours, as the dishes keep rolling in. Sometimes one of the ladies will volunteer to help her, or just see the need and act on it. These times are a welcome break. Sometimes it's not easy, and she gets her share of complaints from dissatisfied brothers and sisters. Most often, it's not her fault. It's just because the person's had a bad day, or is hurting and won't admit it because of pride. If she's on top of things, she'll pray for them and keep quiet. If she's weak, she'll fall to anger. Once God gets through with her, however, there'll be repentance, reconciliation, and pressing on. She sometimes wonders if she's spending any time with me, what with all that she's busy with even after I'm home. But she does. She's usually there when I come in, with a hug and a kiss, and a "How was your day?" She takes time to talk and relax and just love on me. But even then, she's always "on-call," available for prayer or whatever. And if the phone rings - even if we're cuddling - she's up in a flash to get it! It's reflex. Her "workday" is over at bedtime. The answering machine, or whoever's awake downstairs and wants to get it, gets the calls. Bedtime for her - for us - should be earlier than it is, but it never quite goes that way. By 10 pm, she's one pooped puppy. We try to pray together (although if one or both of us are exhausted, we usually end up praying separately), and go to sleep. Sometimes we'll cuddle in bed and talk, until one of us realizes when she's got to get up. Then we sleep. And at 4 am, it starts all over again. She's visually-impaired, but she's not handicapped. I've seen her do many things that no totally-sighted person would dare do. Sometimes, I get so wrapped up in things, that I don't express my appreciation for the things that she does. I complain more about what is not getting done rather than thanking her for what she does do. From Proverbs 31: (10) Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. (11) The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. (12) She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. (15) She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to

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her maidens. (26) She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. (27) She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. (28) Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. (29) Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. I am a blessed man for having a wife like Karen. I love her very much. And I just wanted to let everyone know that. END

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ESSAY #9: LESSONS FROM A HARD DISK CRASH Between Sunday afternoon, February 9, 1997 and Monday morning, February 17, 1997, my computer was out of commission. Bad. The fault, totally and completely, was mine - literally by my own hand. In my frustration at problems with my CD-ROM's operation, I gave my computer a little smack with the flat of my palm - and my hard drive crashed. I'd like to share with you what God showed me through that time, and continues to show me.

How many of us are emotionally attached to our computers? Raise your hands! Aha, I thought so. Me, too. This computer was my baby, an extension of myself, even if I didn't want to admit it. When it was damaged, I was damaged. And my first reaction was one of shock, realizing that the damage was at my own hand. Those around me who saw me then said that I looked as if I had just lost my best friend. Well ... I had to face facts. This computer is not a living being. It's a tool, to be used of God and for God, and has been placed in my hands for that purpose. And as long as I do His will with it, it's going to work just fine. But when it starts becoming more than that - I start becoming obsessive with it, or devoting more time to it than I would be in ministering to people around me - then I'm looking for trouble. Check out The parable of the talents in Matthew chapter 25. Three people, three sets of talents, given them by their master. Two out of the three had invested the talents while the master was away. The third was a jerk, who took the talent given him, stuck it in a sack and buried it, and gave it back to him unchanged. That person got tossed out on their ear. A "talent" can be used many ways. Some people relate it to the investing of money, which it may be. But the fact it is called a "talent" leads me to believe it is the ability that God gives us - whatever it is - used for God's glory and not for our own selfish ambitions or our own goals. My talent is with computers. God has given me a good computer, and has told me to "use it or lose it."

Next mistake: I had not made a decent backup of the files. I was not a wise steward of what God had entrusted to me in this regard. I had gotten complacent and cocky - "I'm not going to need a backup! The computer works fine, the data will be safe!" To those of you out there laughing at this, it's because you've gone through it, too. There are a lot of people out there who get complacent about God, about serving Him. They settle back into their daily routine and don't think as much about the lost as they used to. Their Bible reading has slacked off to just a few paragraphs a day, or they'll settle for reading from a devotional, someone else's comments on a scripture, without taking the time to read it from the Bible itself. Or try reading the Bible before going to bed, and sleep takes them over before the Word has a chance to. And their prayer life has dwindled to a quick blessing at meals, and maybe a couple of mentions in the bathroom or asking God to hurry the traffic up so you can get to work. So we're not ready when the heat hits. We panic. We fry out in anger or frustration. We do anything out little minds suggest rather than stop and pray, and wait on God. We need to consider the true priorities of life. "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33) When you do that, everything else will fit into place. Maybe it won't be the way you may have wanted it, but it will be what God wanted. And it will be the best way.

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Towards the end of his life, Joshua gave his Final Address to the Israelites. Read the last chapter of the book of Joshua. He recounted to them what God had done for them, reminding them of His Mercy. Then he gave them an ultimatum: "Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Joshua was giving them a no-brainer. Three options: 1. Go in the direction of the "gods your fathers served on the other side of the flood," who are dead. 2. Go in the direction of "the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell," who are also dead at the Israelites' own hands. 3. Serve the LORD, and live. "And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods;" Like I said, a no-brainer. But Joshua knew better, and he told them that they would fall to idolatry, rebellion, and their own desires. They tried to tell him they wouldn't, but God had gave him the inside information. The people would give in to self. So ask yourself: who am I following? God, or self?

After it first happened, I couldn't even get a C:> prompt, no matter what I tried. I sat, doomed by my own hand. So I turned it off. Later I turned it back on, not really knowing what to do, and it came through with a prompt. I was able to get through to it now. I also didn't have an emergency boot diskette prepared. But God came through. A couple of weeks earlier, I was cleaning out the trunk of my car, and came upon a few things that belonged to the computer. It was a Computer Care Kit. The cardboard box was moldy and falling apart, and most of the papers inside were in the same condition. However, there were three diskettes inside, and one of them was a red one saying THIS IS A RESCUE DISK TO BE USED ONLY IN CASE OF BOOT FAILURE OR DAMAGED FILES. I grabbed the diskettes, not sure that they'd even work. I figured that I could always reformat them and use them for something else. I was so busy, I never got to reformatting them. REMEMBER: This was weeks before the hard drive crash. Now tell me God wasn't covering my tail! I can definitely agree with the Psalmist who said: "Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever." (Psalm 106:1) For me, the hard drive was inaccessible. So was heaven prior to the cross. But now, because of this silly little red diskette, I was now able to get in, and there was at least a hope of a solution. Just like, only through the cross and the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ, there is at least a hope to salvation. Red, like diskette - red, like the blood of Jesus. Coincidence? I DON'T THINK SO.

The last place we lived was a farm. A lot of dust. For awhile, I needed to get one of those plastic films you put over keyboards (very nice, but if it doesn't fit right it's a pain). I had suspected there was a lot of dust inside the computer, but hadn't taken the time to open it up and blow it out with one of those cans of compressed air.

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This time I did that. Took the sides off and took it outside (thank God for that!). When I put the nozzle of the sprayer through the front of the fan unit (that cools down the computer), and let it loose - what a cloud of dust!! Just showed me that we all need to get shaken up at times to clear the dust off.

I tried many ways of correcting things - in my own understanding. Some of my DOS files had been damaged, and, in trying to help things, I made it worse by deleting some of the same programs that could have saved me days and days of frustration and grief, and could have restored some files I eventually had to delete. But that wasn't the way God wanted it. I had to go through this fire exactly like it happened. With all the fancy programs I had, the best tool I had was a little DOS file manager that had served me well for many years, and now gave me the capability of working with the hard drive and accessing the damage. Yeah, there was damage. And the only way I could see of getting things back to normal was to do a complete system backup of the good files, reformat and wipe clean the hard drive, and start it all over. The obvious scripture came to mind: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea." (Revelation 21:1) "And there was no more C>." (Sorry - couldn't resist the pun.)

I tagged all the files that were smaller than 1.44MB. It hurt, seeing those who had to be left behind just because they were too big. Felt like Noah on the ark, seeing animals that couldn't come along because there were already two on board. Then I started the time-consuming task of moving them one-by-one to diskettes. As I did, God showed me the scripture "Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left." (Matthew 24:40) I saw files, many of them I knew well, file past me, and one would be moved to the diskette, but another would be corrupted and could not be moved. I had to stop, untag it, and keep going. It's like what's going to happen at the end of the world. The diskettes are a good analogy for the kingdom of God. The files are people. Those who are corrupted by this world or the things in it are going to be left behind. If I tried to copy the files to diskette, some would copy all right, even though corrupted - but I'd run into a problem with them later, when I tried to run the program they were in. They had to be left behind. From the start I knew God had been in control all through this, for my good and His glory. Now as I watched file after file scroll past, and saw which ones didn't make it, I was amazed. I saw some files I didn't recognize or care about, others I recognized but it didn't matter either way, and others I knew and didn't want to be lost - but were. And I had no choice. It's like the scripture, "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." (2 Timothy 2:19) And, in the end, they will be separated, the wheat from the chaff. And those left behind would face the fires of hell for all eternity (well, not so much as with computer files, but you get the idea). Once everything was off, then it didn't matter what I did to the data on the hard drive. I took it through a reformatting, and some others, to restore what I could. I was very happy when I found out that there was no permanent damage to the actual drive.

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I had had files on the drive, accumulated over the past two years, which had not been needed, nor wanted. Some had been glitches, which produced files I was unable to remove. So I had labeled their subdirectory "WARNING" and stayed away from it. Now, those files were all gone, and I had a clean slate to work with. A fresh start. Over two years of loading, unloading, copying, checking, using, removing, testing, and discarding, I ended up with a lot of unnecessary mess. But now God was giving me a second chance, to use correctly again for Him.

I first needed a solid foundation. To us, that foundation is the Bible, the Word of God, the rock to stand on. For the computer, it was DOS (sorry, all you Windows 95 users). I loaded that out there, taking my time now, and made sure it was secure before installing Windows. So it is with God with us. Once we have the firm foundation in faith and the Word, then He can add unto us, knowing that we will stand strong with it. If we're not ready for the next step, He'll get us ready for it, then build upon that foundation.

Reinstalling was still an adventure: • • • • This program had to be installed before that program, because this one had the drivers for the modem or the sound card or the graphics. I was amazed at all the smaller programs I needed to reinstalling, ones I found I could not do without. I praised God that I had offloaded some of them before, and that they could be used still. A few files that had been corrupted, it seemed, were nowhere to be found. But after a bit of looking, I found them - on a backup I had made in 1995 that I had contemplated scratching. Thank God I didn't! The monitor decided to screw up on me a few times, then went back to normal. I still don't know why, or what I did (if anything) to correct it, but there was a teaching of patience and praying during that time.

There's a lot of rebuilding that needs to be done. Many files that didn't make it need to be recreated. Other files need the data transferred to a new program, or a newer version of the program.

One of the last installs was my mail program, Eudora Light. Files there had been corrupted, so I had to get back online and download it from the Eudora site. It took a couple of hours to do this, what with interruptions in the line (somebody downstairs picked up the phone during the download, and....you know the rest), impatience and overloading the system (which caused it to trip and reboot), and then just trying to wait patiently for the file to download. But it got done. And installed. And I was amazed to find out that it was a far better version than I had been using all this time. I'm going to like checking this one out. When I got on Netscape, I did a quick check of mail. In the last week, there were almost 300 messages waiting for me. When I finally ran Eudora, there were around 311. I grinned from ear to ear watching them download, knowing they were from friends and acquaintances, and a few surprises.

A brother who probably meant well asked me if anyone ever read any of these web pages - asking me if it was doing any good. Well, when I checked my mail, I saw that three people had responded to the web site, praising God for how it had touched their hearts.

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And, at two in the morning, looking at the screen and reading the responses, I thanked God with much tears and weeping, as He softly reminded me, "Yeah. It's working. It's making a difference. Keep going." END

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ESSAY #10: HELL: THE FIFTY-CENT TOUR Maybe you've seen them. The location: Portland, Oregon. Downtown, near - actually, under - the west side of the Burnside Bridge. The phenomenon called Saturday Market. Quite incredible, all the booths filled with the goods and crafts of hundreds of dedicated people. Among them, making a living on the tips and "kindness of strangers" are the entertainers, the street performers - everything from piano players, tap dancing kids, one-man bands, face-painters, balloontwisting clowns, Jamaican bands, bad Irish singers .... and one particularly bad but sincere Elvis impersonator. Now, just across the street - S.W. Front Avenue, a.k.a. S.W. Naito Parkway - is Waterfront Park, stretching alongside the Willamette River. There are the kids. The Generation X'ers, the Deadheads, the punkers and grungers, the skateboarders and the rollerbladers, the runaways and the hitchhikers, the recycled 60's children drenched in patchouli oil and marijuana smoke, heads buried in their drum circles and swaying to the neverending rhythm. Also, quite incredible. But wait! What's that in between? Oh. It's them. Maybe you've seen them. They wear those shirts, the ones with the letters you can see from a block away. The sharply contrasting colors, the graphic representation of flames around the last of the four words displayed: JESUS SAVES FROM HELL. Some people pass them with dirty looks, others with condemning comments - "They should be ashamed of themselves! Bigoted, narrow-minded, zealots! Where is their tolerance for diversity!" How do they respond to this barrage of hate? Personally, I just shrug it off and love 'em through it. Yeah, it's me wearing the JESUS SAVES FROM HELL shirt. My wife Karen's got one, too. We wear them a lot, and not just to Saturday Market. They get a lot of exposure, and so a lot of comments. But it's interesting, the types of people who respond negatively to our shirts. So far, it boils down to two groups. • GROUP ONE, the "Just Say NO" people. These are the ones who will flat out declare, "There is no Hell!" Some of them even put on a seraphic smile and proudly proclaim, "We're all children of God - we're ALL going to Heaven!" Add in those people who think that reincarnation is the way, putting their hopes into past and future lives, and those who just don't want to acknowledge the concept of life after death. GROUP TWO, the "Animal House" crowd. These people, lost in their own deception, believe Hell is going to be one eternal party: "Hell's gonna be a blast, man! All the biggest names: Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, John Lennon, Jerry Garcia, Tupac Shakur, John Belushi, Mae West, maybe even Elvis and Sinatra. They'll all be there! Hell's gonna be the mother of all parties!" Then they grin and announce, "All my friends are going to Hell, and I wanna be with 'em!"

Oh, yeah. Sure. Party on, dude!

Group One denies there is a hell. When you're falling off a cliff, denying there's hard rocky ground below doesn't negate the fact that it is there, and the fall-er is going to be introduced to it REAL soon.

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So what's the deal? Why do people feel this way about Hell? HELL MEANS PUNISHMENT. PUNISHMENT HURTS. THEREFORE, PEOPLE ARE AFRAID OF IT. I can relate to that. Who doesn't get a sick feeling when they hear, "The boss wants to talk to you," or "You have to go to the Principal's Office"? when we've done something wrong - or, worse yet, when we haven't? PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO BE PUNISHED FOR THEIR WRONGDOINGS, SO THEY DENY OR MAKE LIGHT OUT OF THE END-RESULT OF THEIR ACTIONS. Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." In this scripture, "destruction" means "ruin" or "annihilation." That's rough. Denial also shows itself • • Through insecurity - "If I just say there is no hell, then I can go on living like I am." Or through false religions - take your pick - "We're all good people, aren't we? We just gotta think good thoughts!" or "Heaven's right here on earth!" or "I'm a little God - Benny Hinn said that!" or "Heaven and Hell's just a state of mind!" or "I gave ten grand to that tv preacher, and he blessed me right there! Said Heaven was guaranteed! And my back doesn't hurt anymore, like he promised! Doesn't that prove it?" Or they try to turn the tables back on God the Righteous Judge - "How can a loving God punish me just for gettin' down with my girl? We love one another! We're gonna get married when I get enough money, anyhow!"

And let's not forget Group Two. If they understood what Hell was really about, why it was there, and what the Bible says about what's ahead for them, they'd be on their knees in a heartbeat, repenting. • FACT: The Bible says Hell was originally created for angels who had sinned.

"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41) "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment." (2 Peter 2:4) "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." (Jude 1:6) Man became eligible when he joined the fallen angels in sin. • FACT: Hell is a place of actual fire and eternal burning.

"For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it." (Isaiah 30:33; see also Matthew 3:12; 13:38, 50; 18:9; 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; Mark 9:43; Luke 12:5; Jude 1:7) • FACT: Hell is also called the "lake of fire".

"The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the

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presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name." (Revelation 14:10-11) "And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone." (Revelation 19:20) "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." (Revelation 20:10) "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:15) "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." (Revelation 21:8) • FACT: Hell has a general location: "below" or "beneath".

"The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath." (Proverbs 15:24; see also Proverbs 9:16-18) • FACT: Hell is a place of torment.

In the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16) - the rich man testifies from hell itself, "I am in agony in this fire." (Luke 16:24). He fears his brothers are destined for there, and pleads that Lazarus "May testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment." (Luke 16:28) In Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:44, 46, 48, there are mentions of suffering in hell, including the repeated promise, "Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." • FACT: Hell is also a place where both body and soul are destroyed.

"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28) • FACT: Hell is a place of darkness.

See 1 Samuel 2:9; Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30. • FACT: Hell is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Weeping is best translated "shrieking" and the word gnashing as "grinding." In hell man will have a literal body with "teeth" and will scream and grind his teeth in anger and pain. See Matthew 8:11-12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28. • FACT: Hell is the absolute opposite of Heaven.

Heaven is - eternally, forever and ever • To be in the presence of the Almighty Creator, God of the Universe; • To be in the presence of pure unimaginable love, peace, and joy; • Facing eternity without pain, suffering, or tears;

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• Sharing eternity with family and friends who also chose to go that narrow way. Hell is - eternally, forever and ever - the opposite • • • • • • • No love. No peace. No joy. No family. No friends. All alone. Every day is filled with loneliness and isolation, pain and suffering. Every day is filled with knowing that tomorrow will be the same. No relief. No hope. No hope.

Let's bring it all together, by using a passage from Johnathan Edwards. "[Hell is] a spiritual and material furnace of fire, where its victims are exquisitely tortured in their minds and in their bodies, eternally according to their various capacities by God, the devils, and damned humans (including themselves), in their memories and conscience as well as in their raging and unsatisfied lust, from which place of death, God's saving grace, mercy, and pity are gone forever, never for a moment to return." Pretty tough language, don't you think? The truth is often very hard to hear, especially when it goes against personal preferences - or, shall I say, against personal pleasures.

Every choice we make, good or bad, has a corresponding consequence, also good or bad. The choice may occur in a moment or over a lifetime, but the consequences are inevitable. • A couple involved in a lifestyle of "sexual freedom" contracts herpes. It seems one of the partners cheated on the other. • A young man seeks comfort in the arms of other men. After years, he discovers he has AIDS, and his last six months are filled with visions in the mirror of an aging, withering skeleton of what he used to be. • A teenage girl, experimenting on the urging of her boyfriend, gets pregnant. The boyfriend can't take the thought of having a kid, so splits. The girl chooses abortion. She is scarred forever by guilt and condemnation, and every happy little baby she sees is a painful reminder of what could have been. • A man choosing drink over sobriety loses his job. Rather than getting the hint and seeking help, he continues to drown his sorrows in alcohol, and ends up driving his car over an embankment. The accident leaves him paralyzed from the neck down all the rest of his days. • A 39-year-old crack user sells her body on the streets to support her habit. Wishing to escape the pain of day to day existing, she overdoses one Christmas night. • A man desires to give his family the "best things in life." He spends long hours at the office, weekends on the road. One afternoon he returns to an empty home and a letter on top of the television, and a business card from a lawyer. What goes around, comes around. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." (Galatians 6:7-8)

Some people who have gotten this far haven't liked what I have written. Doesn't matter. I've often replied to those who deny there is a Hell, "In the end, one of us will be very disappointed."

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John Lennon dismissed Heaven and Hell in his song "Imagine." Frank Sinatra made "My Way" his theme song through life - his Way, not God's Way. Now they both know the truth. Are we willing to risk eternity with God Almighty in Heaven for "a season of fleshly pleasure" here on earth? Your choice. END

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ESSAY #11: SALVATION'S INQUIRY: WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT? Welcome. If you've come this far, you're probably curious as to what this Christianity is all about. One of the best ways to explain it is through four spiritual rules. Just as there are physical rules that govern the physical universe, so are there spiritual rules which govern your relationship with God. The first spiritual rule is GOD LOVES YOU, AND HE HAS A WONDERFUL PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE. God loves you. The one who made all Creation has a soft spot in His heart just for you. And He's willing to do anything He can to bring you closer to Him. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Jesus Christ is God's Son. He was sent to give you a full life in Him (not in the garbage of this world). He said, "I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly" (John 10:10). Sounds too good to be true? Wondering why everyone else isn't taking advantage of this? The answer's found in the second rule, which explains about mankind: MAN IS SINFUL AND SEPARATED FROM GOD, THUS HE CANNOT KNOW AND EXPERIENCE GOD'S LOVE AND PLAN FOR HIS LIFE. Bottom line: We're all screw-ups. Always have been, always will be. Can't get around it. In other words, man is sinful: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Man was created to have fellowship with God; but, because of his own stubborn self-will, he chose to go his own independent way, and fellowship with God was broken. This self-will, characterized by an attitude of active rebellion or passive indifference, is an evidence of what the Bible calls sin. As a result, man is spiritually separated from God: "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23a). God is holy and man is sinful, period. A great chasm separates the two. Men are continually trying to reach God and the abundant life through their own efforts: good life, ethics, philosophy, etc. Yeah, sure. To barrow the phrase, "As if!" The third rule gives us the only answer to this dilemma: JESUS CHRIST IS GOD'S ONLY PROVISION FOR MAN'S SIN. THROUGH HIM YOU CAN KNOW AND EXPERIENCE GOD'S LOVE AND PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE. Fact #1 - JESUS CHRIST DIED IN OUR PLACE: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8) Fact #2 - JESUS CHRIST ROSE FROM THE DEAD: "Christ died for our sins...He was buried...He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred..." (1 Corinthians 15:3-6). Fact #3 - JESUS CHRIST IS THE ONLY WAY: "Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me'" (John 14:6)

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There used to be an endless chasm separating us from God. No one could build the bridge. But then God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross, and pay the price for our sins. He BECAME the bridge back to God. And that's it. Who we are, who God is, and why we need Him. But knowing it doesn't make it happen. Knowing it doesn't give one eternal life. And saying that there is still another way to heaven isn't the answer, although many would like you to believe that there is. Jesus Christ made the bold claim, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6, NIV) Others have claimed to KNOW the way to God, and to heaven. Only Jesus Christ claimed to BE the way to God, and to heaven. Now it's your turn. This is the hard part. You have to make a choice. Take a step. What are you going to do with regards to Jesus Christ? Accept Him, or reject Him? If you reject Him, take this link back to my home page. But you're welcome back anytime. However, if you want to know more, keep reading.

Finally, we have the last of the four spiritual rules: WE MUST INDIVIDUALLY RECEIVE JESUS CHRIST AS LORD AND SAVIOR; THEN WE CAN KNOW AND EXPERIENCE GOD'S LOVE AND PLAN FOR OUR LIVES. • • • • WE MUST RECEIVE CHRIST: "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12) WE RECEIVE CHRIST THROUGH FAITH: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" (Ephesians 2:8,9). WE RECEIVE CHRIST BY PERSONAL INVITATION: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him" (Revelation 3:20). WE REPENT (TURN FROM) ALL THE THINGS THAT HELD US BEFORE: "And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." (Mark 1:15); "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;" (Acts 3:29)

Receiving Christ involves turning to God from self, trusting Christ to come into our lives to forgive our sins and make us what He wants us to be. It is not enough to give intellectual assent to His claims or to have an emotional experience. It's a commitment. THE BOTTOM LINE is talking to God. Take it to the top. No need for shortcuts. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. The following is what's often called "the Sinner's Prayer." Start here. Read it first, and ask yourself if this expresses the desire of your heart. If so, pray it right now, and Christ will take it the rest of the way as He promised, and come into your life.

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"Dear God. I come to the Father through Jesus Christ the Son. My life is a mess, and I know I need You to fill that empty place in me. Please forgive me for my sins, and cleanse my heart. Jesus, please come into my heart as my Lord, my Savior, my God and my King. Take control of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. Thank You. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen." Congratulations! The Bible says that all of heaven is rejoicing at this moment: "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." (Luke 15:7 NIV)

You've just been scratched off of Satan's roll sheet, and "Ol' Scratch" isn't going to like it. He'll try pounding you with doubt that what you did mattered. Don't go by your feelings, friend - they'll lie to you. Go in faith trusting the promises of God. Get yourself a Bible and check it out. According to His promise in Revelation 3:20, where is Christ right now in relation to you? Christ knocked. You opened. It's a done deal. Still have doubts? Would God mislead you? Look at the authority of the One who has answered your prayer: "And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:11-13). The moment that you, by an act of faith, received Christ, many things happened, including: • • • • Christ came into your life (Revelation 3:20 and Colossians 1:27). Your past sins were forgiven (Colossians 1:14). You became a child of God (John 1:12, Romans 8:16). You began the great adventure for which God created you (John 10:10, 2 Corinthians 5:17 and 1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Can you think of anything more wonderful that could happen to you than receiving Christ? This is something that will last beyond today, beyond this week, and beyond your lifetime. Would you like to thank God in prayer right now for what He has done for you? Then do it! The very act of thanking God demonstrates faith. He has a lot of promises for you. The living Christ indwells you, and eternal life is yours, as you continue to trust and follow Him.

Once you leave this web site, once you've switched off or walked away from your computer, you'll wonder what you did. You made a commitment, friend. And it doesn't end once you put distance between you and this computer. God is with you. He has promised He will never leave you (check out Romans 8:38,39, Hebrews 13:5, and in Jesus' own words in Matthew 28:20). You might feel uneasy about what you should do next. Go to a church? Get a bible? Tell somebody? • The first thing you should do, and always do, is KEEP TRUSTING JESUS. He's just as close as a prayer - no long distance charges, no online waiting, never a busy signal. Talk to Him often, just as you'd talk to your best friend. Admit your weaknesses, and ask Him for help. And trust Him to take care of it. He's always ready to answer.

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Next, get yourself a Bible. I prefer the popular King James, but get yourself a good translation that you can read. But just because it's easy to read, don't stop asking God to show you what it's all about, for you and your life. Study it - memorize it - it's your strength and it'll increase your faith (Romans 10:17, 2 Timothy 2:15). Find yourself a good church. There's a lot of garbage out there, so you may have to look around a bit. Big church or small church, I can't tell you which is best for you, but God can. He will always lead you in peace if you wait on Him and let Him direct you. One thing, though: look for a church that follows the Bible without changing it. And don't get turned off on churches, and try to convince yourself that you can do well enough without it. We all need the fellowship of other Christians. We'll dry up and die without it. Once you've found a church, follow God's command from Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:16, Romans 6:4 and elsewhere, to be baptized as a public sign of your faith and an act of obedience. Obey God, moment by moment: "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." (John 14:21, NIV) Witness to others the love of Christ by your life and words: "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." (John 15:8; see also Proverbs 11:30, Romans 10:14, John 4:36, 1 Corinthians 9:19-23) Start here, by responding to me via email. And, above all, TRUST GOD FOR EVERY DETAIL OF YOUR LIFE: "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:" (1 Peter 5:6-8)

• • •

Let me leave you with this powerful chapter: Romans 12. "1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

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Trust God to take you every step of the way. He's done it for me, and for countless others. He can do it. And I'll be here if you need anything. Email me at skylab@e-z.net. God bless you on your new walk with Him. END

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ESSAY #12: WALK BY FAITH MINISTRIES Several years ago, some friends of ours had this unique ministry. Having lost contact with them, we don't know if they are still involved in it. This essay is a tribute to them and that ministry.

It's not everyday that you see someone carrying a cross down the street. But with a couple I know, it's their calling, and the objective of their ministry, fittingly named Walk By Faith Ministries. It centers on the cross. Or in this case, their cross. It stands twelve feet long with a six foot crosspiece, and unashamedly displays the phrase "JESUS SAVES FROM HELL" on either side. At the bottom of the cross, to aid movement, are two 12-inch tractor tires. This unique cross was carried by my brother and sister in Christ, Tony and Laura Marks. The cross would rest on their shoulder and the wheels on the ground, and they would put one foot in front of the other for the glory of God. Their first cross was a heavy model of solid wood, which had been mounted in the bed of a pickup truck when not in use. This earlier model had small Christmas-tree type lights strung along the outer edge. At night, the lights would flash on and off in sequence, performing a dance around the cross. During an overcast day, or especially at night, this would be a breathtaking sight as they drove around town. The truck got attention wherever it was, whether parked in a parking lot or cruising down I-5. Reactions varied from touched and convicted, to offended and driven to attempts at vandalism. But it couldn't stop the message. The last model that I knew of was an aluminum frame with plexiglas panels, and lights mounted inside the shell. When not in use, it was mounted straight up on the back of their 27-foot Revcon motor home, which made for a very unique sight on the road. If they're still at it, and you happen to see this unique sight driving through the United States, wave at them. And if you happen to see Tony or Laura carrying their cross, introduce yourself to them and talk to them. You won't be disappointed. And let them know you first heard about Walk By Faith Ministries here (I'd appreciate knowing this message is getting through). Either way, please be praying for them. END

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ESSAY #13: RESPECT 101 Okay, class. Settle down. Good. First off, I have to admit that I was originally prompted to do this study as an emotional reaction to things that were going on around me (a school shooting in Springfield, Oregon). I tried valiantly to pigeonhole every aspect of respect into its proper place and definition, take everything around me and somehow categorize them appropriately. And I found out, very quickly, that I had a lot of things to say. Eventually I saw that -- to my shame -- all my words were not what God wanted me to share. So let's look at what was left after the dust settled --

"Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto Him, Caesar's. Then saith He unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." (Matthew 22:15-21; see also Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:25) Let's stop and look at this. The Pharisees were the religious leaders of Jesus' time. They didn't like the competition from Jesus -- especially since the people were following him and not them. So they tried to trip him up, trick him into saying or doing something that would get him in trouble, either with the people who followed him, or would make him look like an enemy of the state. In the above example, they tried tripping him up on the subject of taxes. Taxes -- known as tribute -- were paid to Caesar, the Roman emperor of the (known) world. All non-Romans had to pay taxes. The Pharisees started off by laying on the flattery, observing that Jesus didn't favor one type of person above another, and treated all equally. Their intent was to force Jesus into making a statement "on the record" regarding where he stood on giving tribute to Caesar. They knew that if Jesus said it WAS NOT lawful to pay tribute, then he would be in opposition of the ruling government. On the other hand, if he said that it WAS lawful to pay tribute, and then it would look like he was in support of something most of the people didn't care for. Either way, they thought they had Jesus cornered. However, being God, he knew what their plan was, so countered them by asking for a penny, and asked who's face and name was on the penny (back then, all coins had Caesar's image, to show who was in charge). The Pharisees answered that it was Caesar's image and name. Then Jesus simply stated that they should give Caesar what was Caesar's -- the tribute money -- and give God what was God's. That shut them up. Now it comes back to us. Rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's meant paying taxes. We all know about paying taxes. But if we are to render unto God the things that are God's -- what is God's that we are to render unto Him? God is God. He controls it all. He owns it all. There isn't anything around that He doesn't already own. IS THERE?

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So what is left? We are. God wants us to render unto Him our lives, our ambitions, our dreams, our plans. He wants our will to be given up -- surrendered -- to Him. He wants EVERYTHING, and nothing short of that will make it. That's the bottom line. If we respect and honor God, then we will respect and honor one another. One must follow the other. Can you do that? Can I? Only if we're out of the way, and it is God working through us. Loving others with OUR love is pure self-ish-ness. Our love seeks only its own gain, never the gain for others first. Our love is selfsatisfying. However, we're talking about GOD's LOVE, which is just the opposite -- seeks the gain of others before our own. Pure self-less-ness.

I am an American. I was born in the city of Vancouver, in the state of Washington, in the United States of America. My citizenship is American by birth. I am a Christian. Jesus Christ is my God and my King. My eternal home is in Heaven, where Jesus is preparing a place for me. My loyalty is first to God, to Jesus Christ, and then to those whom He has placed in authority over me. When I became a Christian, when Jesus Christ became my Lord and my Savior, my spiritual citizenship was shifted to Heaven. A patriot is defined in Funk & Wagnall's Standard Dictionary as: "one who loves his country and zealously guards its welfare". I am a patriot -- of Heaven first, and of the United States of America last. And that gets me into trouble. However, I'm in good company. Consider the words of Jesus Christ -• • • "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." (John 15:19) "I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." (John 17:14-16) "'My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.'" (John 18:36 NIV)

You're probably asking, what does this have to do with respect? At a recent public gathering, the National Anthem was played. Everyone stood but me. No one seemed to be bothered, until later. An elderly lady approached me and asked why I had not shown respect for our country by standing for the National Anthem. This took me by surprise, and my response was unsatisfying to either of us.

Should -- and, if so, how should -- a Christian give respect unto the land of his birth?

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How did the apostle Paul look at the earthly existence? • • • • "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV) "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands." (2 Corinthians 4:1 NIV) "And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (2 Timothy 4:18) "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city." (Hebrews 11:13-16)

In the eighth chapter of 1 Corinthians, the Christians ran into a problem regarding respect and eating. In some of the poorer houses of Corinth, it wasn't uncommon for people to buy meat that had been sacrificed on the altars of false gods, or idols. The meat was cheap, and still tasted the same; so many people had no problem with it. However, since the Christian was instructed not to eat such meats, to do so would be sin. The problem: If I -- a Christian -- go to the house of my unsaved friend, should I ask him if he's going to be serving me meat that was sacrificed to idols, so I don't sin? The answer was no. If you do, you might cause your unsaved friend, who may not know better, to sin. It is better to show respect for your friend by eating the meat without questions. Now, on the other hand, if your friend informs you that the meat you're going to be eating had been sacrificed to idols, then you'd be committing sin if you do eat it. You'd do better to fast through the meal than to be a bad witness to your host.

Let's return to my situation of sitting during the National Anthem, in regards to respect. Was I right in not standing? Yes and no. I didn't suspect that anyone would be offended if I sat during the National Anthem. It was only later that the lady approached me with her concern. I may have looked like a traitor to my country to her. But that's not true if my "country" is Heaven. Now if I had suspected, or knew, that someone would become offended if I sat, then I would have stood, so as not to become a stumbling block or an offense to them.

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We are called to love one another -- people, not countries -- as we love God. Therefore we can stand out of respect to anyone who might find offense if we remained seated -- what could it hurt by giving up myself to those around me, as long as that is my attitude towards it. And don't ask, "Is there anyone here who would be offended if I sat during the National Anthem?" just like the guest in 1 Corinthians 8 shouldn't ask, "Oh, by the way, was this meat sacrificed to idols?" You'll cause more trouble by doing so than by just going along and considering others before yourself. Lastly, speaking for myself, I probably would have taken the time to come over to the lady who was offended, and explain myself with something more than a trite little phrase.

"Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." Have you ever seen a room full of people rise to their feet when Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" is played, especially during holidays? They're rendering honor unto God where honor is due. Y'know....I kinda like the idea of the "Hallelujah Chorus" as Heaven's "national anthem" -- it'll do until I get there for the real thing, of course!

We're called to, wherever possible, live in peace with all men, for their sakes. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;" (Hebrews 12:14, 15) With some people that will be impossible, because they are offended in Christ, and so are offended at us. Their contention is with God, and we're just the closest reminder. Wherever we can, we are to be those ambassadors of reconciliation we're called to be, but we'll never get away from those who hate God, and will therefore hate us.

Another matter that came up while considering this study on respect was children, anyone under the age of eighteen. Nowadays, many children have no respect -- for parents, for adults, for God, for one another, or even for life itself, as demonstrated in the number of shooting incidents in and around schools. My answer to this is easy, although some won't like it. It's the parents' fault. If a child doesn't have respect, it's because they've never been taught respect by their parents. And it's probably a sure bet that the parents don't have much respect for anything, either. If a child is disrespectful towards others, they learned it through their parents' disrespect for others. I have seen this personally illustrated. A small child of two or three, looking at a policeman, made a comment that was very disrespectful and derogatory. The parents did not correct the child; therefore they showed their support for his actions. Their inaction illustrated their own disrespect for policemen, and for the proper raising of their child.

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If a child does not show respect for man nor God, for life nor others, they have not been shown it by the parents. And it's a good bet that the parents don't respect God either. If a family openly respects God, the children will have healthy examples to follow, and will learn what it is to respect God. On the other hand, if a family doesn't respect God, or openly shows disrespect towards God, the children will learn disrespect towards God, and it will eventually backfire on the parents. It's a downhill spiral for the individual, with hell as the inevitable outcome, unless God intervenes and they are brought a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, interrupting the parent's destructive teaching. But, because of their upbringing, it becomes a rough uphill battle. Even a parent who has the best of motives, the best of teaching, and all the love they can show can still show no respect to God. And that is passed over to the child, invisibly and silently. If a parent shows no respect for life, or authorities, the child will be brought up to believe that authorities are not worthy of being respected, and will follow the parent in those hell-bound steps. Am I coming down hard on the parents? YOU BET! SOMEONE HAS TO! For the sake of the children. For the sake of the parents. And for the sake of the victims THAT MIGHT BE.

"Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." Children are a gift of God. • • • • • "I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her." (Genesis 17:16 NIV) "May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples." (Genesis 28:3 NIV) "Then Rachel said, 'God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.' Because of this she named him Dan." (Genesis 30:6 NIV) "Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him." (Psalm 127:3 NIV) See also Genesis 30:17-20, 22-24; Genesis 33:5; Ruth 4:13; Job 1:21; Psalm 107: 38, 41; and Psalm 113:9.

How do you treat a gift? Some people treat gifts like day-old bread, not treating it with respect and care. A child is not a Tamaguchi. A child is not a puppy. A child is a child. A Tamaguchi you can throw away, or put in a pocket, or ignore in a desk drawer and bring it out when you want to play with it. A puppy you can put in a kennel, or in a doghouse in the kitchen or in the back yard, and play with it when it's convenient for you.

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A child you cannot throw away (although many have done so through abortion). A child you cannot put in your pocket, or hide in a closet, or put in a kennel or a doghouse in the back yard. God gives children. Treat children with respect and care. "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) This scripture works both ways, for good or for evil. A child can be trained up in respect for God -- or disrespect for God. And the way will be based on where the parents stand with God. Need help on standing with God? Check out my page on Salvation.

Respect. Respect God. Respect and honor others above ourselves, because it is Christ working in us. Teach respect to the generation that will follow after us -- and could kill us. Class dismissed. END

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ESSAY #14: TEDDY BEAR THEOLOGY I'm a sucker for a teddy bear. When walking through toy sections of department stores I hear those small voices calling my name, addressing me as "Daddy" and begging me to take them home. And, considering that Karen and I have over a hundred teddy bears of varying sizes and colors, I admit I pay more attention to them than I should. Now, before you seek to have me psychoanalyzed because I claim to hear voices from toy stuffed bears, let me explain a few things. You can learn a lot from a teddy bear.

For one, you can learn compassion and mercy from a teddy bear. In this case, it's from the story of how the teddy bear came to be. As a matter of historical fact, toy stuffed bears were around long before Theodore Roosevelt became President of the United States, but no one called them Teddy Bears until after November of 1902. As the story goes, President Roosevelt - an avid lover of nature and the outdoors - was on a somewhat unproductive bear hunt. The organizers of the hunt were afraid his trip would be a failure, so they arranged to even the odds. The next day, their guide located and followed an old bear until it became tired, then attacked it with hunting dogs and roped it to a tree. When the President was invited to shoot the potential trophy, he looked at it with compassion and declared, "No! I shall not! Although I am a hunter, it would not be right to shoot this old bear for sport!" The next Sunday, the Washington Post published a cartoon by Clifford Berryman depicting Roosevelt in a hunting outfit, turning his back and refusing to shoot the bear - which had now been drawn as a cute cuddly creature with big ears. This came to the attention of Russian immigrants Rose and Morris Michtom, who were inspired to name handmade stuffed bear cubs "Teddy's Bear." In response to the request for permission to name the bears after him, Roosevelt commented, 'I don't know what my name may mean to the bear business but you're welcome to use it.' (As a followup note, the Michtoms' store eventually became the famous Ideal Toy Company.) And so it began. Countless trillions of stuffed bears now carry his name, just because he had compassion on a bear. All bears, regardless of the names given them by men, are now Teddy's bears. In the same way, those who have been called by the name of Jesus Christ carry His name with them, too. They are Christians. Compassion isn't reserved just for Teddy Roosevelt, however. Let's hear the testimony of one who found out about compassion: "We'd been caught, but I was the one they dragged through the streets. I'd known he was married, and that we could be stoned to death if we were caught, but that didn't stop us. Then the Pharisees kicked in the door and pulled me out of my house like a side of beef. Finally we ended up at the temple, and they dumped me there, in front of that teacher from Galilee. I was scratched and battered ... and I was tired. The ones who brought me there reminded the teacher what the law said about my punishment, and dared him to make the judgment that would end my life. I could hear the rocks being picked up around me, wondered how long I could hold out before a knockout blow came. I couldn't look up ... I was crying ... I was ashamed at what I had done.

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"I didn't hear anything for so long, and I knew everybody was waiting for the teacher to speak. But when he did, he told the crowd that the one who was without sin could be the first one to throw a rock. I waited ... and I heard the thud of a rock. But it wasn't hitting me ... it was hitting the ground. Someone had dropped it, and wasn't picking it up again. Then there was another, and another, until all the rocks had been dropped, and those who had brought me there had slowly walked away. After a few moments, I looked up just enough to see the teacher standing in front of me. And I saw the fingers of his empty hand, reaching down to me, reaching down to help me up. I couldn't believe what had just happened. I looked up, and up, and into the eyes of the teacher. He looked at me with such ... love ... I couldn't breathe! Then he asked me where my accusers were. I looked around, then told him that they were all gone ... every one of them. Then he said that he didn't condemn me either, and told me to go back home and don't sin anymore. "That was it. I felt like a weight had been lifted from my back, and that I was free in ways I couldn't even find words for. I was a little shaky, but he helped me to stand ... his hand was very strong, and it was if some of that strength had crossed over and into me. I looked around at the other people who had witnessed this incredible thing, but I wasn't ashamed anymore. I looked back at the teacher, who gave me a simple smile, then I slowly walked home."

You can learn love from a teddy bear. Several years ago, my wife was going through a serious bout of walking pneumonia. She tried to get through it by herself, but her daily activities were draining her and making her worse. I finally had to order her to bed, telling her that we would make other arrangements for taking care of her daily stuff. A short while later, while getting some groceries, I felt compelled to visit the toy section. There, among the other stuffed animals, was a teddy bear. It was about 8" tall and had soft purple fur. Well, somehow I knew God wanted me to get this bear, and I even knew what his name was: Grape Juice. I knew it was an odd name, but it was appropriate. I bought the bear and took him home, and gave him to my wife with the instructions: "This is Grape Juice. He's here to keep you company and make sure you get better." It's been several years since then. My wife got over her walking pneumonia, and the fur of the little teddy bear isn't as fluffy as it was then. In fact, it looks like he's seen a lot of wear - which he has. We like the phrase 'well loved'. We have a lot of teddy bears, but Grape Juice is very special. In both of us, he's seen sickness and health, tears and laughter, and hugs and hugs and hugs. He was a present of love to my wife in a time of need, and he's still showing that love. It may sound bizarre to say that you can see love in the eyes of a teddy bear. But Karen and I can.

You can also learn redemption and rebirth from a teddy bear. Around the middle of 2001, my wife and I visited a house where we'd lived in a year and a half earlier. There'd been other tenants since us, and now the house was being leveled. Curious to see how it looked now, we went to visit. Beyond the temporary chain-link fence intended to keep strangers from entering the unsafe demolition site, the second floor and most of the first floor were rubble. But as we looked, I saw an object lying over in the wet grass - a white teddy bear, about 14" long, left behind by the previous occupants.

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I asked one of the men involved in the job if I could come inside the fence for a moment, to get the teddy bear and look around, and I was surprised when he gave me the go-ahead. So I wandered inside, retrieved the white teddy bear, and took him back to Karen. Then I went back in again, to continue looking around. Trash was all over the place from the walls, floor, and fixtures. While I searched, my eye caught something under one of the pieces of paneling. I lifted it up, revealing a baby's teddy bear. It didn't look like it was in the best of shape, but I couldn't just leave it behind where it would end up in the dumpster at the curbside. So I saved it. After finding no more bears, I returned to Karen, and we left. Without hesitation, we named the white bear Rescued. And the other one we named Woodstock after the street the house was on. After a tour through the washing machine, the bears looked better, but Woodstock's stuffing - from years of use - had drastically shifted into her extremities. We thought about giving her away to one of the many couples expecting children, but we became attached to her. We wanted to find a way of helping her, but didn't know how until we met a man at Saturday Market whose wife made animal hand puppets. We'd done business with him before, and were close acquaintances. Posing the challenge to him, we asked if there was something his wife could do for Woodstock. He looked the bear over, and said they'd see what they could do. A few weeks later, we got Woodstock back, and were amazed! Where her arms had been empty and her hands and feet hard with compressed stuffing, her entire body was now filled and soft. Instead being floppy like a rag doll, she stood tall, her arms out at her side and a smile on her face. We didn't know what to expect, but this was beyond even our wildest imagination. Needless to say, we're very grateful to the couple. Like Rescued and Woodstock, we, too, were doomed to end up in the eternal trash until Jesus Christ saw us. Having compassion for us, He came down from Heaven's safety to this unsafe Earth, searched for us and found us, took us beyond the fence, and cleaned us up. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:7,10) "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18) Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

You can even learn redemption from a teddy bear. A couple of years ago, Karen and I were in Lincoln City. We had visited the Factory Outlet stores there, and wandered into the toy store. It was there we spotted this teddy bear. It was a large one, almost two feet tall. We had considered purchasing it, but didn't. Returning to our hotel room, talk of the teddy bear kept coming back to us. Finally we decided to put it in God's hands. If the teddy bear were still there when we were heading home, we'd get him. Otherwise, we'd consider the door closed. Admittedly, with some anticipation, we returned there before leaving town. Sure enough, he was still there, and we purchased him without hesitation. His name was not

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so easy in coming, though, and it took us quite awhile to decide on what it would be. As we ran ideas past one another, we looked back at what this bear's fate would've been if we'd left him behind. The store was a toy liquidation outlet. Now, I didn't know exactly what happens to toys that don't sell in these places, whether they are tossed out or stored in a warehouse until who-knows-when. To us, however, we saw this place as being the end of the line ... and we came back for him. So his name became Redeemed, for he had been bought back. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:9,10)

And you can know salvation from a teddy bear. Once upon a time, in a wonderful place called the Build-A-Bear Workshop, there lived a little teddy bear named Al. Al wasn't his name back then. He didn't really have a name. He was just an empty shell, a furry pelt called 'baby cub' in a barrel full of other furry pelts called 'baby cub.' He didn't have any stuffing, he didn't belong to anybody, he was just one in the crowd. Sometimes people would visit. They'd pick him up, touch him, feel his fur, then put him back and go on to something else. Sometimes he'd get pushed around and buried deeper in the barrel, and was helpless to do anything about it. He couldn't move closer to the top where the people would see him; he couldn't speak or make any noise to bring him attention. All he could do was BE there, existing from one day to the next, without hope of ever being chosen. But then one day somebody picked him up ... and didn't put him back. He carried him away from the barrel, holding tight to him. He filled his empty body with clean, fluffy stuffing, placed a shiny new heart inside his chest, and sealed him up real good so that he couldn't accidentally open us. He was brushed and cleaned and dressed in a new tee-shirt that said THANK YOU. He was given the name Al, which was printed on a birth certificate. He felt alive now! As they left the store, he knew he was going home. And he knew he was loved.

I was just like this teddy bear. You may be, too, and don't know it. In the garbage pit of my sins, I existed from day to day without hope.

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He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light. Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, To bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living. (Job 33:28-30) But then Jesus Christ came close, reached down, and touched me. He drew me out of my pit, promising that I never needed to return there. He took my empty, worthless hide and filled it with His spirit. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:14-16) I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD. (Psalm 40:1-3) He gave me a new heart, and a meaning to my life. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezekiel 36:26,27) He cleaned me up, and gave me clean clothes that were whiter than snow. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:7,10) "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18) He gave me the armor of God to protect me. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: (Ephesians 6:13-17) He made me born again ... he gave me a new birth in the spirit. Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (1 Peter 1:23) Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) He gave me a new name ... His. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. (Acts 11:26b) He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (Revelation 3:5)

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He held me close, and loved me. Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. (Psalm 20:6,7) My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:8) Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. (Psalm 73:23-28) I lift up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip-- he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you-- the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm-- he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121) For I am the LORD your God, who churns up the sea so that its waves roar-- the LORD Almighty is his name. I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand-- I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, 'You are my people.'" (Isaiah 51:15-16) He adopted me, became my Daddy, and made me one of His own. Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8) And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. (John 10:28,29) And one day He will take me home to be with Him, to a place He has prepared for me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:2,3) And my response? Praise and thanksgiving. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever. (Psalm 30:11,12) I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people. (Psalm 35:18) So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations. (Psalm 79:13) By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. (Hebrews 13:15)

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You can learn a lot from a teddy bear. I learned that I'm God's teddy bear ... and that is SO good. Are you a teddy bear? END

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KAREN'S CORNER: KAREN'S TESTIMONY Everyone who has heard this story has been amazed by it. They repeat the fact that this sort of thing doesn't happen in the real world. Well, it did ... and here's the proof, and the pictures. To those who believe in God, I can easily say, "God IS good!" And to those who don't believe, well ... God DOES work in mysterious ways. I was born on the first of November, 1966, in Richland's Kadlec Hospital (now Kadlec Medical Center), the youngest of three girls. During the first five years of my life I was a very sick child. I had Spinal Meningitis three times: at three months, nine months, and eighteen months. From what I understand in talking to my parents and family, I experienced very high fevers, headaches, and convulsions. I was so sick that, what with the fevers and all, they didn't know whether I was going to live or die. I also had Hydrocephalus, which is basically water on the brain. Sometime within the first five years of my life I had to have a tube (also known as a shunt) surgically implanted into my head to drain the fluid. In the process of trying to drain the fluid, the doctors didn't catch things quite in time and, as a result, I suffered optic nerve damage to both my eyes. By the age of five I was considered to be legally blind. I attended normal public school through eleventh grade, in Kennewick and Richland. With the help of a special tutor, I started learning braille during Kindergarten, and was reading it fluently by third grade. During fifth grade, while we were living in Kennewick, I got sick again with headaches, so missed quite a bit of school. I traveled to Yakima to see my neurosurgeon and he ran several tests to find out what was going on. Even though the cat scan showed there was nothing wrong with the shunt, I kept having the headaches. So they once again performed surgery on the shunt. They discovered that it was clogged at both ends, and that's what was causing the problems. During that year I missed a lot of school, so I had the privilege of repeating fifth grade, which was a lot better. You see, during my first time through the fifth grade I had some problems with a couple of the teachers. So being able to take it again because of the surgery was a benefit in the long run. Also, the following year we went to the King Tut Exhibit in Seattle. It was my first time to Seattle, and the first time on a long distance field trip alone (well, maybe not alone; my sister Kathy was a chaperone for our group). It was a lot of fun, and I met a lot of nice people that year. Well, I can see shapes, colors, and I know the difference between light and dark, and what all else I'm not sure. I can see enough to get around without a cane. However, I will use a cane if I'm in an unfamiliar area. Anything else depends on how my eyes are doing at the time. When I was in Middle School a couple of friends invited me to go with them to Sunday school. I did, and that was when I first accepted Jesus Christ into my life. This church had buses that would go around and pick up kids for Sunday school, so I went with the bus captain on Saturday's and invited the kids to go to Sunday school and church. We'd have contests to see who could bring the most kids. At that time, I thought that's what it was all about. I've learned since then that it's not. It's about a personal one-onone relationship with Jesus Christ. And He wants to be Lord of my life. When I came to Vancouver in 1985, for my senior year in high school, I attended the Washington State School for the Blind, and during that time (Praise God for all things!) I got into the wrong crowd. Why do I praise God for

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this? Well, during the time I was living at home, I was very protected and not allowed to do a lot of things. So when I came to the blind school I was 18 years old, and out from under my parents' roof, and I felt I was old enough to make my own decisions. So I did. I admit some of them were not the best decisions, but I couldn't have learned what it was about unless I had experienced them. While going to the Washington State School for the Blind in Vancouver, I commuted by bus back home to Kennewick on the weekends. In January 1986, I moved away from home and began living with a boyfriend. It all started one weekend when I wanted to stay with him and some friends off-campus at his apartment and party. I had called my mom and told her, and she said no. Well, to make a long story short on this part, I rebelled and stayed with them anyway. And then the next week I moved off-campus and began living with him. This relationship lasted between two-and-a-half to three years. During this time things got real ugly. I got into drugs and alcohol pretty heavy. I also got pregnant, and had a miscarriage; I didn't understand why then, but I do now. I was also abused physically, mentally, and emotionally. When he'd get drunk he'd slap me around and yell and call me names if I so much as looked at him the wrong way. I later found out that he had also been abused in his past, and he had a lot of anger he didn't know how to get rid of. I also fell into adultery with a married man. Having done all this - drugs and alcohol, fornication and adultery - I knew that I couldn't do this any more. I knew I couldn't live that way any longer. I'd been exposed in my sin. I was broken, and I knew I had to do something about it. In 1987, my boyfriend and I attended a small home church for awhile while still living together. We did not stay long. Two years later, in March of 1989, while I was out and about, I met a brother from that same church. I was at the Transit Mall waiting for my bus when, all of a sudden this guy starts talking to me. I soon found out it was that church brother; he'd been doing ministry on the buses, planting tracts, talking to people, etc. We stood there for a few minutes, talking small talk. As I caught my bus, my last words to him were, "I'll call you." During the next week the Lord really worked on me, because I knew way down deep I couldn't live the way I was living. I needed to get my life right with God. So I called this brother and told him that I wanted to go to church that Sunday. However, before I could be accepted back in the church he had to be sure that I was sincere, and all the immoral relationships had been cut off. I told him they had been. The brother, who had not been so sure, and was holding back feelings of his own, hugged me with great relief. And the church body was the same - they welcomed me back with loving open arms. I was baptized in the Columbia River on April 30, 1989. Although I had broken things up with my (now ex-) boyfriend, I didn't feel I had anywhere to go. So we still lived under the same roof, in separate rooms, and no fooling around. In the middle of June, a church brother was returning me to the apartment one evening when we discovered the smell of chicken smoldering in the oven. My ex-boyfriend was drunk, passed out on the couch. We aired out the apartment, trashed the well-done chicken, and went to get some cat food. When we came back he was gone. I knew if I stayed there I might run the risk of him trying to hurt me again, so I left with the brother and stayed the night on his couch. After that I stayed with a church sister until I was able to get an apartment of my own. Had it not been for the experience in drugs, alcohol, fornication, and adultery, I don't know if I would have appreciated what God has done for me. You see, once I repented and turned from my former ways, I knew the slate of my past sins was clean. And, within a few months, and after a long and often-frustrating battle, God even took smoking from me (I'll tell you more about that another time). Remember that church brother I ran into at the Transit Mall? It was he who rescued me from the potential danger with my drunk ex-boyfriend. And that brother was my own dear future husband Mark. Through him, God showed me His forgiveness. We began dating in June of 1989, and were married in July of 1990.

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Whatever happened to my ex-boyfriend? Well, after going through the fire for year after painful year, trying to survive on his own, he finally came to the end of himself. He gave his life to Jesus Christ, got free from the drugs and alcohol, and has been living and working on our pastor's farm. He's not the same person he was. Where there was once a closed fist there is now an open hand of love. Where there once was selfishness is now giving and helping. Where there was once a hard heart of hate is now a broken heart in tenderness. I'm happy to say he's drawing closer to the Lord each day. And we're the best of friends. That's cause for rejoicing - Praise God! END

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THE VISIT: by CURT BOLDING In June of 2000, I received this story from a fan who wanted my opinion on it. After reading it, all I could say is, "Wow." While not being directly Christian, it presents a wonderful, thought-provoking "what if" look at the meeting of these two magnificent individuals. Curt, it's only fitting that the first work in the Showcase is yours. And I'm honored to be able to share it. Thank you. (Mark Eidemiller, April 12, 2002)

The doctor's meditations were interrupted by the sound of a motor. It began as a low growl, its steady rhythm growing in volume as it drew closer. The doctor peered across the vast snowfields and presently the vehicle came into view. It was a small but sturdy two man Snow Cat, of the same type that the doctor had used himself to reach this remote location. When it became clear that the Snow Cat was indeed heading for his location, the doctor's mind began working at a rapid pace. No one in the world except for a few of the doctor's close associates should have even known of the existence of this place, deep in the Arctic Circle and away from the prying eyes of man. There was nothing but snow and ice for hundreds of miles in any direction, which was why the doctor had chosen this location for his activities. The doctor experienced uncharacteristic annoyance at this most unexpected and unwelcome intrusion. The Snow Cat ground to a halt in the snow about twenty yards away from the doctor, its tires raising clouds of white dust, which sparkled in the bright sunlight. The engine coughed twice and was silent. The lone occupant stepped out into the biting cold, garbed in a heavy winter coat, gloves and a stocking cap. The occupant was a tall man, nearly as tall as the doctor himself, and wore spectacles and an easy smile. "Hello," he began, "I apologize for the intrusion, but I've come a very long way to see you. In fact, I've wanted to talk to you for some time, and I thought it best that we have some privacy." The bespectacled man looked at the doctor, who met his gaze with piercing eyes, easily the most intense gaze that the man had ever seen. "Who are you?" "A reporter from America." "I see." There was a pause. The men continued to gaze into each other's eyes, as though sizing one another up. Presently the doctor stood up from where he had been sitting in a lotus position on a small weathered rug. His only garment was a plain white sarong. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything," the reporter offered. "My daily exercises," replied the doctor. "I was just finishing up anyway." The doctor stood at his full height. His scant garment, worn in the midst of the bitterly cold Arctic landscape, was not the most impressive thing about the man. He was a few inches taller than the reporter, who considered himself a tall man. Beyond that, the doctor appeared to be a physical marvel. There wasn't an ounce of fat on the man's body. He was powerfully muscled but not in the manner of a modern bodybuilder. His arms and legs were thickly corded with sinew. His torso looked like that of a Greek god, and as he stood it was apparent that he possessed an agility on par with his evident physical power. His body was suntanned a deep bronze color. In short, the reporter decided, the doctor looked like a statue given life. The doctor's unusual physical appearance almost overshadowed the other remarkable aspect of the scene. Behind him was a large structure, somewhat dome-like in appearance. The layer of snow that covered it hid its actual architecture. The doctor approached the structure and, his back hiding the reporter's view, seemed to manipulate something on the wall of the structure. Immediately a panel began to rise up into the wall, and the doctor

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motioned for the reporter to accompany him. As soon as they had entered through the hidden door, it slid back into place, where it fit so perfectly that not even a seam between the door and the wall was visible. The structure was large, and quite warm. "Pardon me while I dress," said the doctor. "Please make yourself at home." He stepped into a side room and closed the door. The reporter took off his coat, gloves, and hat and hung them on a nondescript coat rack by the door next to some other garments, apparently the doctor's own. There did not seem to be anyone else here at this remote location. The reporter, however, was not surprised that the doctor had chosen such a remote and desolate place for his work. The reporter wiped the fog from his glasses and took stock of his surroundings. The center of the floor plan was sunken, and along one wall were a gas fireplace and a comfortable set of furniture. A simple but efficient looking kitchen occupied another corner along the raised portion of the floor plan. Exercise equipment was located a short distance away. Open spaces in the walls were filled with bookshelves, which contained texts on subjects as varied as medicine, astronomy, geology, chemistry, and military science. Through a door next to the exercise equipment was a smaller room that apparently housed a modest laboratory. The only other door in the structure was the one that the doctor now emerged from, and seemed to be his private quarters. There were a few small, mostly snow covered windows between the bookshelves, which let in enough light to provide sufficient illumination. The doctor was now clothed in a white, short-sleeved button up shirt, khaki trousers, and black boots. He strode confidently into the room. Looking at him now, the reporter observed that the man was a veritable giant. It had not been so apparent outside in the frozen landscape, but now that the reporter observed the doctor around everyday items such as the chairs and furniture, his true size became apparent. "You had a long trip," he remarked. "Care for some refreshment?" "What have you got?" Again, the easy smile. "Coffee, water, and strange as it sounds up here, iced tea," answered the doctor. "I'm afraid I don't have anything stronger." "That's all right," said the reporter. "I don't drink anyway." "I know," replied the doctor quietly. "Coffee would be great." The doctor prepared a small coffee machine in his little kitchen and looked on with interest at the reporter, who continued to study the unusual furnishings of the structure. The reporter himself was not a small man. His hair was black and curly, his jaw was strong and his blue eyes were clear. His glasses were black rimmed and somewhat out of style. He wore a heavy sweater, nondescript trousers, and boots. The collar of a light blue shirt peeked from the top of the sweater around the reporter's rather thick neck. The doctor glanced at his visitor's coat and hat, which hung on the coat rack near the hidden door. It did not escape his notice that the reporter was not dressed as warmly as would most who would dare venture into this inhospitable climate. "Are you hungry?" inquired the doctor as he crossed the room with two steaming mugs of coffee, one of which the reporter gratefully accepted. "I hadn't planned to eat until a bit later in the day." "I'm fine." "Very good, I'll prepare something for us after a while."

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Both men sat down on the furniture located in the sunken area in front of the fireplace. The reporter took a drink of his coffee and sighed deeply. He seemed very comfortable after his journey. When he spoke, his voice was soft and relaxed. "This is really something," he remarked, looking around the interior of the structure. "Not as large as some places I've heard about." "True. But no less impressive. You seem to have everything you need right here." The reporter leaned over to the coffee table and picked up a sizeable textbook on engineering. Several other textbooks and papers with written notes littered the tabletop. "Are you sure I'm not intruding?" he asked again. "I mean, barging in like this unannounced?" "Not at all," said the doctor reassuringly. "I'm not working on anything particularly earth-shaking right now." Another pause. "I guess I should get around to introducing myself," began the reporter. "I know who you are." At this, the reporter started almost imperceptibly, but recovered immediately. The doctor, an expert at observation, observed this with appreciation for the man's skill. "How did you find me?" asked the doctor conversationally, taking a drink of his coffee. "I checked for you in New York first," answered the reporter, "where I received the usual runaround from your staff. You know; he's busy, can't be reached, be glad to take a message, and all that. After I thought about it for a minute, I decided that it might be best if we had some privacy, like I said before. So, I headed north, and after a bit of searching, well, here I am." The doctor seemed to consider this for a time. Then he continued: "The Arctic is a pretty big place." "I have powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men," chuckled the reporter, with amusement at his own joke. The doctor allowed himself a small smile at this, his first show of any emotion. "Yes," he said. "I've heard that about you." Then: "Why are you really here? You're not a reporter." "Actually, I am," smiled the bespectacled man. "I work for a major metropolitan newspaper. But you're right, that's not why I'm here. The fact is, I owe you a very great deal, and I thought it was past time that I talked to you about that." The doctor said nothing. He took another drink of his coffee. It was late in the day, and darkness falls quickly in the Arctic. As it did so, automatic lights that were strategically located around the doctor's retreat came on, providing more illumination. The reporter looked around as this happened, still displaying obvious admiration for his host's accommodations. Presently, with a sigh, he spoke again. "You said you know who I am?" "Yes," replied the doctor matter-of-factly. "In fact, I've been expecting you for some time." Another pause. "Although, I must admit, you've thrown me a bit of a curve with your appearance. Why those?" and the doctor made a gesture towards the reporter's face.

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"These?" the reporter reached up and took his glasses off. He seemed to regard them for a moment, as if seeing them himself for the first time. Then he chuckled again, and tossed them to the doctor, who caught them deftly. "Believe it or not, they really do work," he offered. "Ingenious," mused the doctor, after examining them briefly. "I would have never suspected that you would have any need or desire to disguise yourself. Such a simple ploy and you actually get away with it?" The doctor didn't bother to hide the admiration in his voice. "Yes," replied the reporter with some pride. "Like you said, the idea of a disguise never seems to occur to anyone." He made a wry face. "Except one of my co-workers." "He knows?" asked the doctor, who tossed the reporter's glasses back to him. The reporter folded them and slipped them into a pocket, glad that this part of the charade was over. "She. Yes, she knows. In fact, she suspected for years. Several times she almost caught me but somehow I always managed to keep her from finding out. It was quite an entertaining little game for a while. Then something happened that I never would have expected. We fell in love, and I couldn't hide it from her any longer. I told her myself, and not long ago, we married." "You told her?" asked the doctor. His voice was sharp with concern, perhaps even disapproval. "Haven't you ever had a woman in your life?" countered the reporter, somewhat defensively. "Surely, after all these years ... I mean, I know where you're coming from. I did the same thing myself for years. Never allowing anyone to get close, for fear of what might happen to her. But she and I ... I don't know. After years of being close to one another, something changed. I didn't want to be alone all my life. We're so different from all the rest of them anyway." His voice trailed off. He didn't know what else to say. Talking to a man of the doctor's stature, he almost felt as though he'd broken some unwritten rule. The doctor didn't reply. He looked at the floor. Presently he spoke in a quiet voice. "It's been so long." He looked up and gestured at the bookshelves that lined every available space along the walls. "I've spent so much time with these as my only companions, other than my assistants. Medicine, chemistry, electrical science. And now the nuclear sciences to keep up with. It takes a lot of time." "But?" pressed the reporter gently. "I wouldn't know how to act any more," replied the doctor, and for the first time the reporter saw pain in the man's eyes. He felt a great sympathy; for it had not been that long ago that he had shared the doctor's views on the matter. "A couple of my associates certainly like the diversion that the ladies provide," continued the doctor, "but it's never been for me. My entire life has been devoted to my career. As a child, I received schooling and training from the world's finest scientists, fighters, and criminologists. My father saw to it that I had the most comprehensive education and training possible, and there was never time for emotional attachments." He waited while that sunk in, and, decided it was time to change the subject. "What was your own childhood like? It must have been very difficult." "Actually, no," replied the reporter, becoming reflective. "My childhood was one of the best times of my life. I was raised by a lovely old couple who had never had any children of their own. Farmers, in the Midwest. You know," he said, almost going into a dreamlike state, "I understand why they call it the Heartland. The wide open spaces, the waving of the wheat fields in the height of summer. My adopted parents taught me all the good things in life: loyalty, love, responsibility. And my God, the stars in the night sky." He smiled his easy smile again, wishing he could share those experiences with the lonely bronze giant.

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The doctor seemed to think on this for a time. At last he spoke: "You know, I can point out all the constellations in the night sky to you at any time during the year, from any place on the planet. I can chart a course from anywhere I happen to be to anywhere I want to go. I can even recount the origins of those constellations from memory. But simply appreciating their beauty was something that always eluded me." The doctor stood. The reporter stood also, and they regarded one another. The sheer physical presence each man exuded was indescribable. With a smile, the doctor concluded, "It's time for some dinner. I always treat myself a bit on Saturday night. It would be very appropriate if you would join me. Not that I could make you, of course," and the doctor smiled once again. "I would be honored," replied the reporter.

Dinner consisted of fish, frozen fruits and vegetables, and iced tea. The doctor had caught the fish himself, earlier in the day. It was one of the few recreational pleasures he allowed himself, rationalizing that it was well to have some fresh food during one of his extended stays. He had brought the frozen fruit and vegetables with him, having no way to obtain fresh specimens. He would have preferred to have all his food as fresh as possible, for nutritional value, but during an extended stay in the Arctic, that was not possible. He also wished he had something better to offer his guest than the food which comprised his often monastic lifestyle, and said so. "Quite all right," grinned the reporter, "you'd be surprised at some of the things I can digest." "I've had a few bizarre dishes myself," agreed the doctor over a bite of fish. "Fortunately, one of my assistants is a talented cook and takes pretty good care of us whenever we rough it. I remember a python he cooked up in the Amazon Rain Forest once." The reporter smiled at that, recalling similar experiences of his own. He had been thinking of their earlier conversation about childhood and returned to it now. "You know, we share the same first name." "Is that so?" For the first time during his guest's visit, the doctor was genuinely surprised. "That's an interesting coincidence." "It's not a coincidence," replied the reporter. "You were very well known when I was young. In fact, my parents named me after you. I told you before, I owe you a very great deal." He finished his iced tea. "You've been a positive role model for countless young people over the years, you know." The doctor seemed genuinely embarrassed by this. "Yes, well." he began uncertainly. "I think you've had a greater impact than I have." He cleared the dishes away. "You're certainly better known. In fact, I imagine that you could go anywhere in the world and be known on sight. Incidentally, I'd offer you dessert, but I don't indulge much." "I couldn't eat another bite anyway," sighed the reporter, "but I could sure go for another cup of that coffee. It's wonderful." "That's from Brazil, too," smiled the doctor. "I always stock up whenever we're down that way." He started another pot, and shortly thereafter the two men returned to the living area in front of the fireplace. "Now just how," began the reporter conversationally, "do you figure that I've had a greater impact on the world than you have? I mean, you've been everywhere, done everything. So many of us owe so much to you. Probably no one more than me, but still. You did it first. And you're still doing it." "People have forgotten me," answered the doctor. "Granted, I was well known years ago, but the world has changed. It's gone on. A lot of people don't embrace our ideas anymore. And very few still remember me."

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"More than you might think," advised the reporter. "But I know what you mean about the world going on. One of the things you and I have always had in common is that we've always gone out of our way to avoid killing anyone. We always search for other solutions before we're willing to cross that line. But now people are starting to respect killers." "My point exactly," said the doctor. "So many people look up to the man who accepts the easy solution, the man who is willing to simply kill his adversary rather than find another way to deal with the situation. It's disheartening. Don't get me wrong; I'd never consider changing my methods, and I doubt that you would either. But you have to wonder. I thought we were creating such a positive influence, showing people a better way to live. The world has become such a complicated place." "I know. The responsibility is overwhelming, at times. Every time you act, you know that whatever you do will be subject to scrutiny later on. No matter how much you help people, some of them will always be distrustful of you. Perhaps even fearful." "I expect you've had to deal with that more than I have." "Probably. Getting back to the other, though. Are you still running that college?" "Yes." "How's it going?" "Very well, thank you. I've taught the procedure to several other doctors in my employ, and some of them are now even better at it than I am. In fact, I seldom perform the operation any more at all. My employees have even improved on the original method. Even so, I must admit to a recidivism rate of about two percent, which is still better than what it was when I first started. Nowadays, I'm on the board of directors and provide financial support where needed, and that's about it. The college pretty well runs itself." "That's amazing. See, that's what I was talking about. You've accomplished incredible things, things no one else could have even conceived." He stopped briefly and his eyes misted over. "If it wasn't for you, I would probably have never been conceived. I've been portrayed several times in film and on TV. Few, if any, really understand me, but they seem to do a good job illustrating the principles that I stand for. Of course, if they hadn't, I would have put a stop to it years ago." The doctor sat on the edge of his seat, elbows on knees, fingers interlaced in front of his mouth. He felt a surge of unaccustomed emotion. "What are you saying?" he asked, his voice somewhat thicker than before. "I'm saying," the reporter replied, his own voice full of emotion now, "that if it weren't for you, I probably wouldn't be here right now. I certainly wouldn't have been able to accomplish the things that I've managed to do. If it hadn't been for you taking the lead, the inspiration that I needed to follow my own destiny would have never been there. And I wouldn't have been able to communicate the message to all the people that I have. It's all thanks to you, and that's why I've come here. I wanted you to know that, and I wanted to thank you in person." The doctor nodded. This was one of the most rewarding moments in his life, to have this man, this man, come here and say these things, and to thank the doctor for leading the way. The doctor felt younger than he had in years. "I should be getting back," said the reporter. "It's late. And those Snow Cats carry a pretty hefty rental price on a reporter's salary." He finished his coffee and stood. The doctor stood also, stepped towards him and gave him a heartfelt handshake. The doctor was an extremely strong man, but the reporter's hand was like gripping steel.

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"Will you get back all right?" asked the doctor, realizing the foolishness of his question even as he asked it. "You bet," smiled the reporter, as he put on his coat and hat. The doctor caused the hidden door to open and walked out into the bitter cold of the Arctic night with the reporter. At the door of the Snow Cat, they shook hands again. "I don't suppose we'll ever meet again," said the doctor. "No, I suppose not." "Give my regards to your wife." "I surely will." "What's her name?" "Lois." "A pretty name." The reporter climbed into the Snow Cat and started the engine. "Thanks again, Doctor Savage. For everything." "Goodbye, Clark." The Snow Cat lurched forward. Its lone occupant winked at the doctor as it pulled away. It swiftly disappeared into the Arctic night, its engine diminishing in volume until all was silent except for the sound of the wind. The only evidence of its having been there at all was its tracks, which were soon obscured by the blowing snow. END

Lovingly dedicated to Lester Dent, Jerry Siegel, and Joe Shuster, who led the way for us all.

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THE ROOM: by JOSHUA HARRIS
This story has been circulated for over ten years, through emails and websites. It is very inspirational. Despite the fact that it was written in 1995 by Joshua Harris, for the longest time the authorship was credited to "Author Unknown", or to a young man named Brian Moore. Brian Moore was an actual person who had died tragically at an early age. Shortly before his death, he read this story to a group of his peers. Following his death, it seemed an appropriate eulogy to remember him by. However, Moore had actually barrowed the story from Joshua Harris' writings, and had claimed it as his own. For years, I – along with so many others – didn't see anything wrong with Moore's name on the story. "After all," I would justify, "it's the story that matters, not the author." I now stand corrected, and sincerely apologize for my own misrepresentation of Harris' work. As an author myself, I would be devastated if someone else took credit for my writing. To any readers needing further persuasion, or who wish to convey the truth to others, check out these websites: http://www.snopes.com/glurge/room.asp, http://joshharris.com/who_really_wrote_it.php, and http://64.13.216.130/columbus_dispatch_on_the_room.php. Or drop me an email. I dedicate this new opening to Angela, a concerned girl who didn't just tell me I was wrong, but provided this old stubborn coot the facts to back her up. Thanks. (Mark Eidemiller, August 28, 2008)

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index-card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read "Girls I Have Liked." I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one. And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match. A sense of wonder and curiosity; coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their contents. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. A file named "Friends" was next to one marked "Friends I Have Betrayed." The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird: "Books I Have Read," "Lies I Have Told," "Comfort I Have Given," 'Jokes I Have Laughed At." Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I've Yelled at My Brothers." Others I couldn't laugh at: "Things I Have Done in Anger," "Things I Have Muttered under My Breath at My Parents." I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes there were fewer than I hoped. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my twenty years to write each of these thousands, possibly millions, of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.

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When I pulled out the file marked "Songs I Have Listened To," I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end Of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented. When I came to a file marked "Lustful Thoughts," I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed contents, I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded. Suddenly I felt an almost animal rage. One thought dominated my mind: "No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!" In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn't matter now. I had to empty it and bum the cards. But as I took the file at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it. Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore "People I Have Shared the Gospel With." The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand. And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that the hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key. But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please, not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one? Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands, and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me. Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card. "No!" I shouted, rushing to Him. All I could find to say was "No, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and continued to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished." I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written. END

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EPILOGUE: To Be or Not To Be (The Final Essay) Even though this essay is on the subject of death, it's not going to be the same old morbid stuff. At least, I hope it won't be. The title of this essay comes from Shakespeare's Hamlet, where the main character contemplates life and death. To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause: there's the respect That makes calamity of so long life; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The pangs of despised love, the law's delay, The insolence of office and the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, The undiscover'd country from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pith and moment With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action. - Soft you now! The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons Be all my sins remember'd. Very deep. Very poetic. I don't understand half of it. But I can feel his struggle in his words. Hamlet wasn't the first to speak about being torn between life and death: Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we

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are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. (2 Corinthians 5:1-9 NIV) But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. (Philippians 1:18-26 NIV) Paul knew the promise of Heaven. And he was torn between wanting to be there and the joy of ministry he still had left in this world. In the end, he was imprisoned and finally executed. But he did a lot of ministering before it was over.

A friend and co-worker of mine named Sharon died in December of 2006. She had lymphoma. She went through quite a lot. Despite all her intents to fight it tooth-and-nail, it won in the end. She was so weak that she finally had to quit work. Then she was moved into a care facility, where she stayed until she died. Even though I passed the care facility both coming and going to work, I never stopped to visit until it was almost over. It was a Saturday. I had to pick up Karen from her volunteering at Birthright. On the way over, I had this urge to stop by and visit her. When I told this to Karen, we were both in one accord, feeling guilty that we hadn't visited earlier. Our timing couldn't have been better. The facility staff was contacting the family, believing that Sharon wouldn't survive the night. As they slowly arrived as afternoon carried into evening, she had a chance to take care of the legal details that were being held up in red tape. The family arrived, and we waited. We had our chance to sit with her, and hold her hand, and pray with her, and even sing to her. We gave her what we thought would be our final hugs and kisses (and tears). We sat and waited through most of the night, until the staff confirmed that our presence was more tiring for her than not. So – passing on phone numbers to the staff – we split up and went home. She survived the night. We came by the next day and checked in on her. We didn't spend more than a couple of minutes there because other family was there. But we were able to swing in and give her a hug and a kiss and told her we loved her. Inside, Karen and I knew that would be the last time we'd see her in this world. We were right; she passed away early the next morning. The memorial service the following Saturday was full, despite the fact that we didn't get the word around very well. But it was clear that she had been loved. It still hurts having her gone. But it's cool to know that she knew God's Salvation at the end.

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Michael Yaconelli wrote a remarkable book called Messy Spirituality. A friend of mine turned me onto it. It was Yaconelli's final book; he died in a car crash not very long after the book was published. I can picture God telling him, "Okay, Mike. I'll take it from here. It's time for you to come home." As a writer myself, I take each novel as it comes. I put everything I have into it for the glory of God, because I never know – but always anticipate – the day when God tells me, "Okay, Mark. Wrap it up, it's time to go."

There's a quirky comedy called Dead Like Me. I got in on it when Sci-Fi Channel played the reruns. I started watching it out of curiosity, and got drawn into it. I definitely don't quite agree with a lot of what they portrayed regarding religion and death, but I found the show to be interesting and thought-provoking, and it even brought me to tears a few times.

I hate wills. Let me change that: I hated wills. Some years before my mom passed away, she gathered my brother Doug and me together and read her will to us. I walked out. I didn't want to hear it. Later on, however, I did listen to her explain things. It didn't hurt as much then as it did before. I guess I had gotten used to the possibility of my mother dying. And when she did pass away, I was glad I knew what I knew. I put writing my own will for so long – I didn't want to think about myself dying, let along what it would put others through. I finally wrote my own will. And – even though I'm still editing it - I'm glad. When I'm done editing it, I'll print it out, have it witnessed, then scan it into an Adobe file and store it on a special flash memory. I feel a bit better for doing it. It's not just a 'this is what I want done when I die' declaration. It's a Living Will that explains what I want done if I'm seriously injured and unable to communicate. It also expresses some things I want done at my funeral (I prefer the term memorial service), such as choice of songs, altar call, and other details. None of us know how long we've got. And my intent with this collection, as well as other things, has been to close up loose ends so that if I just happen to kick the bucket on my way home tonight, all I've done – all God has done through me – won't be lost.

Do I have regrets? Sure – everybody does. But God has shown me that even the regrets have been used for my good and His glory. My faults, my failures, and my successes, have all been part of the script He wrote for me before the world was created. What do I expect of my legacy – this set of essays, and the Bronze Saga novels? I really don't know. But I hope it touches you, the reader, in some way. Thanks. 'Bye.

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