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Jesu, Juva

Archive for the ‘Biblical Theology’ Category

Plow

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Some preliminary thoughts on this passage from Luke 9 after discussing with a friend:

Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to him, “Lord, I will follow you wherever you go.”

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Then he said to another, “Follow me.”

But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”

And another also said, “Lord, I will follow you, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”

But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62, NKJV)

It seems that plowing here is correlated with preaching the kingdom, given both the passage itself and the surrounding paragraphs.

I lean towards reading this with the same filter as the parables; namely that it is part of an overall covenant lawsuit against Israel and her shepherds and should be read corporately first of all. The appearance of the 70 (TR) underscores this. So does the lack of place for Jesus’s head; that is not a generic calling for us for all time.

But there’s always a secondary application to the church today and her shepherds, and to individuals. “Don’t you be like those branches that were cut off; they are an example for you.” This makes me think of Lot’s wife in particular. Plowing in the rest of the Bible supports these broader secondary applications.

Leithart offers this chiasm for Luke 9-19, centered around Jerusalem. There’s some beginning (Zacchaeus) and continuing to walk in faithfulness in the matching passage. I want to read the parable as corporate/shepherds first then individuals too.

I would be careful not to apply it woodenly to the pastoral ministry, especially in case of extenuating circumstances (bivocational pastor in changing circumstances; or someone impacted by ecclesiastical politics and shenanigans). I think we can discern between someone who still treasures God’s people and is giving himself somehow to the kingdom (in its fullest sense), versus someone who is longing for Sodom or Egypt or the former days.

But even the pastor still in full-time ministry needs to guard against longing for the former days.

Written by Scott Moonen

June 23, 2022 at 7:42 am

Maturation

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She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened. (Gen. 3:6–7)

He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened. (Luke 24:30–31)

Hat tip: Timothy Crouch via Mark Horne

Written by Scott Moonen

April 30, 2022 at 7:58 am

Posted in Biblical Theology

Metábasis eis állo génos (3-12)

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We need to be laughing:

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
​​The Lord shall hold them in derision. (Psalm 2:4, NKJV)

From the archives: my review of Greg Gilbert’s little book on the gospel.

Alex Berenson writes: “The only question left is not how much good but how much damage those miracle shots have done.”

You gotta raise your kids to become your curators of music. This week I’ve really enjoyed Sarah Sparks (thank you, Charlotte!):

and David Francey (thank you, Ivy!):

Written by Scott Moonen

March 18, 2022 at 5:03 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (3-11)

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Written by Scott Moonen

March 12, 2022 at 9:37 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (3-7)

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For a long time I’ve been convinced by James Jordan that Mordecai was wrong to require Esther to hide her Jewish identity, and wrong to refuse to bow to Haman. Jordan points out that the Jews were specifically charged to witness to the nations, and he also points out that it is quite appropriate for humans to bow to human authorities (e.g., Abraham in Genesis 23). Thus, the only kind of witness that Mordecai is successfully conducting is completely upside down—”God’s people are insubordinate schemers,” just like rebellious Vashti and just like Simeon and Levi in Shechem. My friend Nathaniel quotes Paul in favor of this: “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.” (Titus 3:1-2)

Doing a little digging this week thanks to Bible reading, I’ve changed my mind. I’m still convinced that Jordan is right in his principles and applications, but I now believe that the typology of the text is wanting to highlight different principles, ones which are not in fundamental conflict with Jordan’s. Within Scripture, it is not unusual to be in a place where we want to say something is praiseworthy from one vantage point and isn’t from another vantage point, or perhaps that it is praiseworthy under specific conditions. For example, we see that Kings and Chronicles do not always agree whether a king is praiseworthy, because they are interested in highlighting different principles. And we have a very similar situation in Jacob and Rebekah’s deceiving Isaac; as a general principle, we maintain that it is wrong to deceive your superior for your advancement or benefit. But the text shows us that Jacob and Rebekah are taking a great risk on themselves and seeking something quite different from Jacob’s benefit: the preservation of God’s promises and covenant, and the repentance of Isaac. Similarly, the Hebrew midwives disobey and deceive Pharaoh, but we would never charge them with a failure to be appropriately subject to rulers and authorities.

So, I take as my starting point Jordan’s view, but let’s see if there is enough evidence to lead us to believe that the text is highlighting a different principle.

One of the echoes in the book is to Genesis and the story of Joseph in exile. Some of these echoes land on Esther (she and Joseph both have a beautiful appearance) and others on Mordecai (becoming second in command to the king), and others on both of them (they are in exile like Joseph, and together God uses them for the salvation not only of his people but of the entire world). I want to focus on the echoes with Mordecai: (1) Mordecai is in exile, as Joseph. (2) Two other men suffer the king’s displeasure (baker and cupbearer vs. Bigthan and Teresh) and have their heads lifted up. (3) The Hebrew ought to have been remembered by the king because of this but is forgotten. (4) The Hebrew is eventually elevated to a place of authority second only to the king. (5) This reversal and deliverance takes place because the king’s sleep is disturbed. (6) The Hebrew receives garments and a signet ring from the king. (7) In both stories, there is another (Judah vs. Haman) who gives up his signet. (8) The Hebrew becomes responsible for saving both his people and the world. (9) In both cases there is bowing involved; in the one, the bowing of Joseph’s family; and in the other, Mordecai’s failure to bow.

This seems compelling, and leads me to lend weight to this parallel: (10) Both Mordecai and Joseph “day by day do not heed” someone (Genesis 39:10, Esther 3:4). Subtly but strikingly, Mordecai’s refusal to bow is portrayed in a righteous light by comparison to Joseph’s temptation. How could this be? How is Mordecai being tempted to compromise or sin? And what good reason could he possibly have for refusing to be subject to rulers and authorities?

For this we have to look at another connection, that between Mordecai and King Saul. Consider: (1) Both are Benjaminites. (2) Both are descended from a man named Kish. (3) Both are associated with a man named Shimei. (4) Both of them wrestle with Amalekites: Saul faithlessly preserves King Agag and the spoils of battle (1 Samuel 15); while under Mordecai, Haman the descendent of Agag is destroyed and the Hebrews do not take the plunder (Esther 9; Jordan suggests that the plunder went to the building of God’s house in Ezra-Nehemiah and that the queen in Nehemiah is Esther). (5) Rather than destroying the Amalekites, Saul goes on to attack God’s house (1 Sam 22). By contrast, if Jordan is right, Mordecai is partly responsible for the building of God’s house (not laying hands on the plunder is always a significant signal that the plunder is devoted to God and his house), but Mordecai is at least responsible for the preservation of God’s people and the nations.

Why did God want Saul to conduct herem warfare against the Amalekites—and does this indicate why Mordecai resisted temptation (so to speak, putting it in Joseph’s terms) and refused to bow? Some evidence:

Then Yahweh said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called its name, Yahweh-Is-My-Banner; for he said, “Because Yahweh has sworn: Yahweh will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” (Exodus 17:14-16)

Then [Balaam] looked on Amalek, and he took up his oracle and said:
“Amalek was first among the nations,
​​But shall be last until he perishes.” (Numbers 24:20)

“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God. Therefore it shall be, when Yahweh your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which Yahweh your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.” (Deuteronomy 24:17-19)

Samuel also said to Saul, “Yahweh sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of Yahweh. Thus says Yahweh of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ ” (1 Samuel 15:1-3)

It seems clear to me from this that Mordecai conceives of the situation as one where he is responsible, as a Jew and especially as Saul’s heir in some sense, to complete the work of herem warfare that God both prophesied and commanded. Although he is tempted (by Haman’s great power? Haman apparently has the means to put Mordecai to death) to “forget” God’s command and submit to Haman, Mordecai does not fear Haman and is concerned only for his people. Mordecai’s explanation that he “is a Jew” fits with this interpretation. Because of God’s commands, it does not seem necessary in this interpretation for Mordecai to have any particular belief about Haman’s motives, such as whether he is a usurper. In a way, perhaps Mordecai is saying to Haman that “you can be saved if you are subject to Yahweh, but until then Yahweh has declared that he will defend his people from being subject to you.” This is how the book ends, as well; salvation is found only in the church.

We are bound to read Amalek and Agag as a kind of Satan and it seems this requires us to read Haman in the same way. Thus the bowing takes on a larger significance; especially because of what we have learned from the connection to Joseph, it should, I think, remind us of Satan’s tempting Jesus.

Esther seems to be a bridge between the herem warfare of the old covenants and the evangelistic warfare of the sword of the Spirit in the new covenant. There is prayer as always, but there is much more subtlety and deception and persuasion and timing in conducting the warfare, though there are still actual swords.

This has implications for us in our mode of dealing with Satanic government. At times we should bow, but at other times we should not. For this, much wisdom is required even if you believe someone has taken office legitimately. But, as a practical example, I think we can agree that being subject to someone does not include using zxqeir preferred pronouns. You might also choose to honor your superiors in how you dress in their presence, yet without needing to submit to their own demands over how you dress your face.

There are a few loose ends:

First, how should we understand Esther’s hiding her identity? If Mordecai is in the right, then this deception echoes Sarai/Sarah and Rebekah hiding their identities from kings while in exile. The result this time is a blessing to both God’s people and the king. We are not told how Mordecai knew in advance that righteous bridal deception would be required. But in terms of the typology, it seems he had faith that, when the king takes the Hebrew exile into his house, plunder and vindication and release from exile are soon to follow, although in this case it was necessary for faith to persevere for a number of years. The typology seems not to be concerned with the question of “how should a typical person behave in a typical situation.” Instead the text seems to be concerned with “how should the church-bride dance with emperors and defeat satans.” Of course, the emperor to whom we make our appeal today knows everything about us. But maybe he has some secret Obadiahs and Daniels up his sleeve, kept in preparation for a few bad dreams and sleepless nights.

Second, it’s worth noting that Esther remains submitted to her adoptive father in ways that a married daughter normally wouldn’t. This seems to cast him in the role of pastor to a church-bride, though it doesn’t necessarily prove that his advice to her is right. Interestingly, though, he does not hide his own identity even when he asks her to do so.

Third, we have hardly scratched the surface of the typological allusions. A significant one is the presence of an emperor-king, with wine, in a house, with an inner room, and feasting, and a garden, with a bride, and a serpent (Haman). The feasts are all closely associated with judgment; either the occasion for judgment, or else a celebratory conclusion to judgment. And as I mentioned previously, there is a tremendous and significant use of face.

Finally, the presence of a garden-temple raises another insight into Haman. The death of Bigthan and Teresh, doorkeepers, reminds us of two other stewards: Nadab and Abihu, among those who go “out from the door.” The only other death in Leviticus is that of the Israelite-Egyptian man who blasphemed and was stoned (Leviticus 24). If this parallel holds, we should read Esther expecting to find a blasphemer, who “shall surely be put to death”—Haman is a blasphemer.

Written by Scott Moonen

February 11, 2022 at 5:03 pm

Posted in Biblical Theology

Metábasis eis állo génos (3-6)

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I’m proud to be a “small minority with unacceptable views.” Workers of the world, unite!

Elsewhere, this is how I explained my refusal to take the mRNA jabs:

You can count me as mostly aligned with moderate Alex Berenson; that is, I’m not inclined to discount germ theory or the existence of the thing, and I’m inclined to blame simple greed and social anxiety for everything that happened at least as much as I blame conspiracy. I do know people who fell gravely ill, but it is also the case that when it went through my family it wasn’t even as bad as the worst flu we’ve had. But, in short: I consider that the dangers of this (real) thing have been way overblown and the risk-reward of the (inadequately tested!) mRNA therapies for almost everyone is now looking to be way upside down. I consider mandating the therapies to be an evil thing.

[When asked about alternative injections] According to my understanding, Novavax is still not a traditional attenuated virus but is on the spectrum of novel approaches that focus attention in some way on the spike proteins. I actually think that these novel approaches could be useful tools for us in a few decades’ time, but in our anxiety and hubris and our failure to engage in an open scientific process, we are instead setting scientific and medical credibility back by much farther than that (not to mention the gross ethical failures). I am intrigued by the alternate history of polio, and I think that history will judge the chicken pox vaccine to be ill advised thanks to the unintended side effects that seem to be worsening shingles in the general population. In any case, even if we had a traditional attenuated or inactivated vaccine for Covid-19 (which seems unlikely since historically we have been unable to vaccinate against the common cold) it could be positively beneficial to only a small percentage of the population. (I’m at low risk plus I’ve already had the thing.) More importantly, it should be required of exactly zero percent of the population.

I haven’t told you all their argument, of course; it was long and complicated, as it often is when both sides are right. (J. R. R. Tolkien, Roverandom, 167-168)

Mark Horne cautions us to remember that imitation is not inauthentic. This is true of raising covenant children as well as our own pursuit of sanctification and maturation.

This is God’s heart toward Jerusalem:

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!”​​
Says your God.
​​“Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,​​
That her warfare is ended,
​​That her iniquity is pardoned;
​​For she has received from Yahweh’s hand
​​Double for all her sins.” (Isa 40:1-2)

But: now such comfort is given to the New Jerusalem. So you must get yourself into the ark of the church if you wish to experience this salvation-rescue-deliverance.

But: God still disciplines his church, even to the point of removing lampstands:

The threshing floor and the winepress​​
Shall not feed them,
​​And the new wine shall fail in her. (Hosea 9:2)

Bread and wine are an actual manifestation of God’s presence and mercy. If you don’t practice weekly communion, you are pantomiming-enacting a famine of God’s mercy and his presence.

For certain values of regeneration:

I’m still listening to the Psallos Hebrews and Philippians albums regularly and enjoying them.

Written by Scott Moonen

February 5, 2022 at 6:56 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (3-5)

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I think of my job often as being a translator between executives, managers, architects, developers, testers, customers, writers, etc. My favorite work projects have been those we conducted war-room style or in an open landscape, yet now it is almost two years since I’ve been in the office. We’ve filled in the gap a little bit with some team outings. Today I went in to the office to collect my belongings, before my vaxx-leper status kicks in and my physical access is deactivated. This is such a stark contrast with my experience at church where we worked hard to find some way to meet, at times even with our fussy government’s disapproval. What a joy and encouragement that fellowship was, and what a missed opportunity these two years have been for camaraderie at so many anxious companies and churches!

Gary North has interesting thoughts on intellectual property. Nassim Taleb has a compelling argument that the long-term value of Bitcoin is zero. The same, I think, is true in spades for NFTs. If North is right, his insights serve as a secondary confirmation of Taleb’s position: in the long run, there is no solid foundation for digital property or title to it.

John Barach writes:

Our children should never wonder if—let alone doubt that—they really belong to God, if Jesus really died for them, if they’re really Christians at all. And we, as parents or pastors or teachers, shouldn’t teach them that these things may or may not be true. Assurance of salvation is not meant to be something we arrive at eventually in the Christian life, perhaps after quite some struggle to get there. Rather, assurance is the foundation on which our children ought to build with confidence from the very outset of their lives.

I’ve reflected in the past that Girardian scapegoating is to be resisted forcefully. But there is also a sort of garden-variety human nature to justifying ourselves in little ways by discounting others’ experience. These can be only very little transgressions, and it is a glory to overlook them.

I found this article fascinating. HT: Aaron Renn.

Written by Scott Moonen

January 29, 2022 at 5:35 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (3-3)

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Charlotte and Asher competed in an NCFCA tournament last week and did well. Ivy volunteered with judging. I really enjoyed witnessing so many young folks engaging in good speech and debate, and I greatly appreciate the home school speech club we’ve been able to participate in this year.

One student made the striking statement that “the good is the enemy of the best.” I’m familiar with the converse expression, but there are cases as well where this is true: we must offer our best, our first fruits, to God.

The tournament forced us to miss our church’s twelfth night feast, but we lit our own Epiphany light upon our return, combining our tree with three that we collected from the neighborhood:

Then he shall put his hand on the head of the ascension offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. (Lev. 1:4)

This leads to a profound irony:

Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, saying, “Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?” (Matt. 26:67–68)

Therefore your sin remains. Thomas makes better use of his hands:

Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” (John 20:27)

May we be his heirs:

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

We set our sights too low if we merely train our daughters to “love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (Titus 2). We have received many blessings from the global economy, but it also represents an ever-increasing dislocation from a healthy oiko-nomos, that is, healthy household management. Our sons as well must be oriented towards their household, though they will naturally have a more outward-facing posture than their wives.

With Rosenstock-Huessy, I believe that the day of the big things—the big countries, the big economies, the big banks, the big companies, the big denominations—is coming to an end. Right now we must and do find ways to walk in this world of great giants and beasts, but we do so with a hopeful eye to the future. Our children will likely walk in a different world, and our grand-children almost certainly will. C. R. Wiley’s books Man of the House and The Household and the War for the Cosmos are both helpful introductions to thinking differently. I recall Nassim Taleb writing about Italian doctors and lawyers, how their practices tend to be much smaller and how they place a high value on individual accomplishment. I cannot find the quote but it was a compelling idea, especially in the male world.

It also strikes me that we do not see the hidden tradeoffs we have made. Aaron Renn’s reflections on “Beyond Economic Piety” underscore this well. What if we could abolish abortion in exchange for half of our GDP? Or abolish abortion in exchange for half of our pharmaceutical formulary being put out of reach of the average person? Wouldn’t you make that exchange without hesitation? We have received great wealth but at unbearable cost. Rich Lusk rightly observes that, “Of all the revolutions of the last several centuries that have rocked the world (the French Revolution, the Russian revolution, the Chinese revolution), it is the sexual revolution that has been the bloodiest of them all.” Miserere nobis.

Mark Horne recognizes the voice of Aslan:

So sometimes you know things and sometimes you really know things. I knew Jesus was YHWH but, when I came to the messages to the seven churches (Revelation 2-3), having read through the Bible from the beginning to that point, I really knew it.

His voice was unmistakable.

Mark Horne also passes along this article on what you might call a “best is the enemy of the good” strength training regimen. I appreciate the observations here; right now a one-hour workout twice a week is the best balance for me. I’m squatting twice, deadlifting twice, curling twice, pressing once, and bench pressing once. I’m never sore while I maintain this pace, though I only have to miss a single workout in order for the next one to leave me sore! I’ve also been influenced by the Barbell Medicine team to conduct my work sets around 70-80% of my estimated 1RM, rather than trying to negotiate complex patterns in an attempt to experience further progression. Maybe things will be different ten years from now, but I’m content with how things are going now.

Alan Jacobs plans to “repair something every day, even if it’s something insignificant, and even if the repair is just a bit of cleaning. I want each night to be able to say: Today, instead of acquiring something new, I took something already known to me and made it a little better.”

It is true that each little victory is hardly a victory thanks to the fact that the Overton window has moved so far. We should not even be entertaining the idea of the things that are being half-heartedly struck down.

Written by Scott Moonen

January 15, 2022 at 8:08 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-52)

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To the Word has us in Isaiah. Advent is such a fitting time to read Isaiah!

Woe to the multitude of many people
​​Who make a noise like the roar of the seas,​​
And to the rushing of nations
​​That make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!
​​The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters;
​​But God will rebuke them and they will flee far away,
​​And be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind,
​​Like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.
​​Then behold, at eventide, trouble!
​​And before the morning, he is no more.
​​This is the portion of those who plunder us,
​​And the lot of those who rob us. (Isaiah 17:12–14, NKJV)

And in this mountain​​
Yahweh of hosts will make for all people
​​A feast of choice pieces,
​​A feast of wines on the lees,
​​Of fat things full of marrow,
​​Of well-refined wines on the lees.
​​And He will destroy on this mountain​​
The surface of the covering cast over all people,
​​And the veil that is spread over all nations.
​​He will swallow up death forever,
​​And the Lord Yahweh will wipe away tears from all faces;
​​The rebuke of His people
​​He will take away from all the earth;
​​For Yahweh has spoken.
​​And it will be said in that day:
​​“Behold, this is our God;
​​We have waited for Him, and He will save us.
​​This is Yahweh;
​​We have waited for Him;
​​We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” (Isaiah 25:6–9, NKJV adapted)

I have five different tunes for While Shepherds Watched in my music library. It’s hard to pick a favorite, especially now that I have one more to pick from:

Every social theory is a theology in disguise. (C. R. Wiley, “Culture and Worldview“)

Have you ever wondered what set the ladies dancing and the lords a–leaping? Well, it was the pipers’ piping:

Written by Scott Moonen

December 24, 2021 at 9:25 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-50)

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The law of entropy began to be overturned in AD 30 with the fuller intrusion of the Spirit into creation. Children are an especially potent way to multiply the Spirit’s influence in the world.

I discussed epistemology with an unbelieving friend recently. He’s right that it is not sufficient to simply say that the Bible is the basis of Christian epistemology, since we receive the Bible in the context of other things like language and history and embodied existence. For this I like Rosenstock-Huessy’s alternative to cogito, ergo sum. Rosenstock-Huessy says: respondeo, etsi mutabor; I respond, although I will be changed.

Everything is a gift: existence, embodied existence, relationships, language, the Bible. Our proper response to all of these is first to receive them as pure gift, with gratitude to the Giver, and then allow ourselves to be shaped and changed by that. Thus, in a way, our epistemology is founded on the Giver rather than only on his Word.

A friend introduced me to Psallos recently and I have their albums on repeat right now.

Earlier I shared Rosenstock-Huessy’s summary of a few modern revolutions. I am still stuck in the middle of his book, but I wonder what the next era will bring. I pray that it will be every-man-a-fig-and-vine-dresser.

Written by Scott Moonen

December 10, 2021 at 4:34 pm