The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘Austin Walker

When did you last weep?

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In this further guest post by my father, Austin Walker, he adds to a previous article some further reflections on the church’s response to the present crisis.

In my first article I outlined some of the biblical reasons why I believe we are facing the present crisis. I suggested that the true church of Christ should take the lead in seeking the face of God, confessing our sins and the sins of our nation, pleading with him for his great mercies’ sake. In so doing the church would be following the noble examples of men like Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. This second article is intended as a sequel. I would like to develop the response of the church further by considering in particular the examples of the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul.

If you have followed the details of the crisis on the internet over the past few months you will have read some tragic and harrowing accounts of those who have died as a result of Covid-19. Sometimes husbands and wives have died within days of each other. Members of the same family have died in similar circumstances. Occasionally younger people and even children have been cut down, though many have been spared. In some care homes across our nation many elderly people have died. Early on in the crisis we heard of nurses and doctors who were reduced to tears because their patients had died without any relatives being present at their bedside. The disease has not discriminated. We know of Christians who have died as well as those who adhere to different religions or none. In the UK some 35,000 are known have died as a result of Covid-19. Unnumbered tears of sorrow have been shed by the families, relatives and friends of those who have died. Such grief has been compounded by the restrictions on numbers attending funerals.

Of course many people die every day from a wide range of diseases or as a result of accidents or for some other reasons. Public attention is not normally drawn to these ‘ordinary’ statistics in the way that it has with regard to deaths associated with Covid-19. These are extraordinary days. While it is true that many more have survived the disease than have died , we cannot escape the distress and sorrow that accompanies the death of loved ones. There is no escaping the fact that this is a very real disease, often bringing long-term damage even when it does not fatal, that has brought intense grief in its wake.

Many people regard death simply as an inevitable and natural process. The Bible sees it with a different pair of eyes. The book of Job refers to death as the “king of terrors” (Jb 18.14). There are some unbelievers who say they are not afraid to die. That sounds bold, but it is folly born of unbelief. Death is not a natural process. Death is an unwelcome invader, an evil that brings to everyone pain, grief and sorrow. It entered into the world in which we live as a result of the sin of one man, Adam: “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom 5.12). Furthermore, we read that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6.23). Death brings us face to face with our Judge: “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb 10.27). Confronted by death we are powerless and exposed to God’s judgment.

Death is not only the inevitable outcome of sin but primarily divine punishment for sin. Beyond death there is God’s judgment of condemnation and hell unless we have been cleansed and forgiven for our sins. The Lord Jesus several times warned of being “cast out into outer darkness” where there will be such intense sorrow—“weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt 8.12; 13.42; 22.13; 24.51; 25.30). Hell is real, the place of “everlasting punishment” (Mt 25.46), utterly devoid of any of God’s blessings which every human enjoys in this life.

The Bible has the answer to the dilemma caused by death and the reality of divine condemnation. There is a way of escaping judgment and the wrath of a just God. The gospel of Jesus Christ, who died and rose from the dead, is our only hope, as 1 Corinthians 15 makes plain. He died for our sins and—having been raised from the dead—is the first fruits of those who died believing in him. “Since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead” (1Cor 15.21). “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2Cor 5.21). “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)” (Gal 3.13).

Our present concern is with our reaction to the deaths caused by the current pandemic which was identified in the previous article as a temporal judgment of God, justly deserved by our nation. Furthermore, it serves as a divine warning about the final judgment. If we understand our Bibles correctly there is a far deeper sorrow than death from Covid-19 or any other disease. Disease is one of the tragic consequences arising from the entrance of sin into the world. This pandemic brings us face to face with death which is the result of sin and ends in condemnation and everlasting punishment if we remain in unbelief.

The reality of death and all that is involved in death plunged our Lord Jesus Christ into tears. John 11.33-38 is a remarkable unveiling of the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ as he is confronted with the death of his friend Lazarus and the grief of Lazarus’ two sisters, Mary and Martha. Twice we read that Jesus groaned (verses 33 and 38), once that he was troubled (verse 33), and once that he wept (verse 35). Christ’s tears were not shed for Lazarus—he was about to raise him from the dead. The spirit of the Lord Jesus was reacting to the reality of death with a mixture of righteous anger and intense grief. Death was the object of his anger. He was also very aware of the one behind death, namely the devil, who has “the power of death” (Heb 2.14). Christ did not react with a cold and somewhat distant concern but rather, as B. B. Warfield once said, “with flaming wrath” against the foe. Yet at the same time his reaction showed that he had entered into our lot and identified himself with our deepest griefs and sorrows, taking to himself all the miseries associated with sin. The devastating evidence of a fallen world drew out of his heart both anger and compassion.

Similarly, in Luke’s Gospel, we read how he reacted as he drew near to Jerusalem before his death. “He saw the city and wept over it” (Lk 19.41). He wept over their ignorance, their spiritual blindness, and unbelief. They did not know “the things that make for your peace,” nor did they “know the time of their visitation” (Lk 19.42, 44). On a previous occasion he had cried out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” a cry pregnant with pathos and pity (Lk 13.34-35). He knew what would happen in the future when divine judgment fell on Jerusalem. The Romans came and destroyed both the temple and the city. He wept in compassionate pity in the light of their persistent wicked unbelief and the inevitable heavy judgment to come.

Surely, then, we who profess to be the true church of Jesus Christ should be imitating our Saviour by weeping over the present predicament of our nation in its unbelief and apparent determination to continue flouting the law of God? We live in the same fallen world that Christ entered. It is all too easy for us to react to what we continually see before our eyes by saying it is what our nation deserves. We can react with holy indignation and display little or no grief and shed no tears. The result will be a hardening of our hearts and the growth of a self-righteousness that will blossom into an ugly pride. On the other hand, we can descend into sentimentality by displaying only sympathy. The truth is we live in tension while we are here. On the one hand there must be righteous indignation, but it must be joined with grief, compassion and Christlike tears. He alone is the pattern for our response to this present crisis and if there is to be revival in the church this certainly ought to be one of the things that must characterise the church. Have we become so dulled and adopted such an ungodly apathy and indifference that our hearts no longer feel any real compassion and our eyes shed no tears.

The apostle Paul followed the example set by his Redeemer. He spoke of having “great sorrow and continual grief in my heart,” such that, were it possible, he was willing to be counted accursed by God and devoted to destruction, if only his Jewish brethren might be saved (Rom 9.2-3, 10.1). Such a spirit was proof of a deep, fervent, Christlike love, an anguish of heart that was not only deep but continual. The language he used in Romans 9.1 is striking: “I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit.” It not only displays the profound extent of his feelings, and his great love, but also tells us what motivated and constrained his response to Jewish unbelief. It would be reasonable to say that Paul knew what it was to weep Christlike tears over his Jewish brethren. It was patterned after the love of Christ, who was made a curse for us (Gal 3.13).

How then should we respond to the present crisis? With righteous indignation mingled with compassion and tears. Paul’s language in Romans 9.1-3 is the language of a Christian. If we harden our hearts and crush our response, we will cultivate a spirit that is unconcerned about those who are perishing. Such a spirit should leave us wondering if we are Christians at all. Neither should we despair in unbelief, concluding that our God will not show mercy, or—worse—should not show mercy. That is too much like Jonah.

Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Paul and Christ show us the way to respond to what we are seeing in our nation. When we set our face towards the Lord God to make our requests by prayer and supplications it is not to be with a tepid spirit that we plead his great mercies, but with a fervent and full heart beseeching him to hear, to forgive, to listen and to act. It is difficult to beseech God in that manner without our eyes shedding tears.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 21 May 2020 at 09:11

Should we be surprised?

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A few days ago my father and I were talking about the current crisis and its causes and consequences. He suggested some possible causes for the divine displeasure, and we began to add a few more. We talked about the hand of God in all this, and our failure to see it and to respond to it. He wrote up his developing thoughts, we batted it back and forth a few times, and this guest post by Austin Walker is the result.

The pandemic caused by a coronavirus has brought the world as we know it to a virtual standstill. The normal life of a few months ago is a fading memory. The hustle and bustle of town and city life, the hum of constant traffic, guiding your shopping trolley through crowded supermarket aisles, are—for the moment—things of the past. I live within sight of Gatwick Airport’s take-off and landing flight path. It has now been silent for weeks.

What are we to make of this pandemic? Should we be surprised? Is it possible to discover any reasons for it? The prophet Amos asks a pertinent question of his contemporaries: “If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?” (Am 3:6). Hosea remonstrated with Israel, saying that the Lord had a complaint against them: “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed” (Hos 2:1–2). There are some dangers in comparing the theocracy of Old Testament Israel with any nation today. However, the link in Scripture between calamities and human sinfulness and the judgment of God can scarcely be denied.

Christ warns his disciples about “the beginnings of sorrows” (Mt 24:8) which precede his coming to judge the world. Among those sorrows are wars and rumours of wars. He also spoke of “famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Mt 24:7). At the time of writing, Covid-19 has accounted for over 32,000 deaths in the UK (the most in Europe) and an estimated 250,000 world-wide. It has plunged many families into distress and sorrow. In the mercy of God, our Prime Minister survived Covid-19. We were spared a political crisis in addition to the health crisis. For a few days, his life was in the balance and contingency plans were drawn up in case he became another casualty. We live in a time of extraordinary uncertainty. Many will be asking, “Why?”

But should we be surprised by what we are experiencing? Is it not the case that our nation has consistently put the word of God behind its back? What should surprise us is that God has been merciful and patient towards us because he has not judged us more severely and more quickly! There have been very few public voices suggesting that this crisis is, in fact, an expression of God’s mercy and patience calling us to wake up, to consider the way we are living and repent of our sins. The Bible tells us that such temporal judgments are a gracious warning from God and a precursor of Christ’s return to judge the world. Yet he is merciful. Speaking in the context of the judgment of the flood in Noah’s day, Peter reminds his readers, that “the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2Pt 3:9).

Reflect for a moment on what has taken place in our nation in the seventy or so years since the Second World War. The years of post-war austerity were followed by the advent of the ‘permissive society’ in the 1960s. This was popularly associated with the discovery of sex, drugs, and rock and roll by the younger generation. There was no single event that marked the beginning of these changes, although many commentators at the time pointed to the 1960 trial of Penguin Books for publishing an unexpurgated version of the novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Without doubt there was a marked change in social attitudes and behaviour from this time, which has continued to the present day.

Consider some of those changes. God’s name is repeatedly blasphemed in public, in television programmes, on the streets, and in offices and schools. Capital punishment was finally abolished in the UK in 1969. Hardly anyone talks about it anymore. The mass murder of thousands of unborn babies was sanctioned by law in 1967, and some are now campaigning for abortion up to birth. There are those who want to change the law promoting euthanasia and make assisted suicide permissible in law. Homosexuality is promoted on every side, together with same-sex ‘marriage’ and civil partnerships. Great confusion is being sown in people’s minds as our God-given identity as either male or female is rejected. The dignity of marriage and family life has been steadily eroded, and easy divorce is available should things not work out. No wonder thousands simply choose to live together! Sexual abuse and pornography thrive. The Lord’s day is desecrated and often filled with shopping trips, even labelled ‘Super Sunday’ with sporting activities on a large scale. Pluralism in religion is promoted so that Christianity is seen as just one option—and not a very popular or accepted option either. Free speech is constantly under threat. It would appear that materialism and secularisation have won the hearts of our nation.

Sadly, even among those who call themselves Christians, there have been examples of the sexual abuse of children, the sanctioning of same-sex ‘marriage,’ the promotion of a feminist agenda, and attacks on just about every doctrine taught in the Scriptures. The urge to modernise and to change has transformed ‘worship’ in many churches; having only one service on Sunday is commonplace.

The list makes frightening reading. The law of God summarised in the Ten Commandments is flouted daily in our land by all kinds of people. It would not take a great deal of effort to identify what has been described as a trampling in the dust of all of God’s commandments. Does God look on and smile complacently? What we have described is lawlessness, ungodliness and unrighteousness. Sin is lawlessness. The fact is, there is little or no knowledge of God in our land. Rather, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18). We should not be surprised at all. What we are experiencing today are the warning judgments of God after years of placing God’s laws behind our backs. Very few will be willing to listen to that conclusion.

Those who are leading us through this crisis seem to be totally unaware of what we have been describing. There is an assumption that we, as human beings, with all our vaunted wisdom, technology and medical understanding can ultimately handle this crisis, despite the fears and sorrows it brings, and the economic ruin that is playing out before our eyes.

We are thankful for all the NHS workers, some of whom have died caring for Covid-19 patients. We are thankful for those who have medical skills. We are thankful for those who, for example, are now striving hard to find a vaccine that will save many more thousands of lives. Our hearts go out in sympathy to those who have lost loved ones. Many are lonely and suffer in silence, shut off from others in their homes, quarantined, or in hospital. We continue to pray to the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort as the only certain help in this our time of need.

Is it not time to seek God’s face and ask him in his great mercy to relieve us of our afflictions? Is it not time to humble ourselves before the God of heaven and earth and confess our sins as a nation? Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah were great men of prayer. Each of them was caught up in the judgments of God and their consequences. Yet in those times of divine judgment they called on the Lord, confessing their nation’s sins against God, and found he was merciful, even though it was the very opposite of what they deserved.

The true church of Christ should lead the way. Those three Old Testament saints serve as a pattern for the prayers of God’s people in the present crisis. Some speak of the possibility of revival but it will surely not happen until these and many other sins are confessed before God. He will finally bring the whole world to judgment. The Lord Jesus tells us that “as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Mt 24:37–39). In his great love God sent his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into this world. We deserve nothing less than condemnation. By his death on the cross in the place of sinners, Christ makes atonement for sin and turns aside the wrath of God we deserve. Repentance and the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name alone: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn 3:16). To believe on Christ will mean being humbled, acknowledging and repenting of our sin and our pride, and putting our trust for salvation in him alone.

Will the true church of Christ set the tone? There is a great danger of falling into the way of thinking that characterises our nation. However, our response must be directed by the word of God and, in particular, by the godly example of men like Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Daniel pleaded God’s great mercies: “I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession … we do not present our supplications before you because of our righteous deeds, but because of your great mercies” (Dan 9:3–19). By reading the entire prayer we see how Daniel humbled himself before God. He cried out sincerely, “we have sinned, we have done wickedly” (Dan 9:15). The truth is that we are definitely not in control of our lives and do not have the power or the wisdom that too many think we possess. God loves a broken spirit and a contrite heart, a heart that heeds his word instead of despising it, and thus casts itself on a merciful God.

Daniel was not surprised by the judgments that fell on his nation. What was more surprising was the mercy that God showed towards those who humbled themselves and set their faces towards him, who made urgent heartfelt requests to him by prayers and supplications. Has God changed? Will he not show himself merciful again to our generation if we but seek his face? Would that surprise you?

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 7 May 2020 at 08:24

Austin Walker talks Keach

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Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 18 July 2015 at 09:17

Posted in Interviews

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“God’s Care for the Widow: Encouragement and Wisdom for those who Grieve”

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I should like to draw your attention to (and, incidentally, to draw to your attention) a new book written by my father, Austin Walker, and published by DayOne.

Over his decades of pastoral ministry, he has cared for several widows, not least among whom were my own Mamgu (my Welsh grandmother), as well as several other ladies in this church and – as opportunity provided – one or two further afield.  Disappointed at the relative absence of modern material equipping the saints to care for widows, he has distilled the material developed during those times into a brief and cheap book (128 pages, £5) of relatively short and accessible chapters, as listed below.  You can also read a sample.

Whether you are a pastor or other Christian seeking to minister to grieving widows, want to prepare for such an eventuality, want a sensitive gift for more or less recently widowed women, or would appreciate this counsel for yourself, here is an outstanding resource, accessible without being shallow, truly sensitive without being mawkishly sentimental, Scriptural both in its substance and its tender application.  I strongly recommend it.

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1  A defender of widows
  • Chapter 2  God relieves the widow
  • Chapter 3  Three funerals and three widows
  • Chapter 4  God’s bottle for your tears
  • Chapter 5  Submitting to God’s wise ways
  • Chapter 6  Joy before the Lord
  • Chapter 7  God’s salvation in Zarephath
  • Chapter 8  Resurrection in Zarephath
  • Chapter 9  The sympathy and indignation of Christ
  • Chapter 10   Resurrection in Nain
  • Chapter 11   The love of Jesus for his mother
  • Chapter 12  Omnipotent compassion
  • Chapter 13   The care of widows
  • Chapter 14  ‘Really widows’
  • Chapter 15   Serving Christ as a widow
  • Chapter 16  Younger widows
  • Chapter 17  Standing fast
  • Chapter 18   A living hope

The official overview states that “this book is written for widows to comfort them in their various troubles.  Throughout the Bible God makes himself known as the one who defends, comforts and provides for the widow.  From the days of Moses and  the prophets, to the time of the Lord Jesus Christ and the early church, widows have been the object of his fatherly care.  Written under the conviction that the church of Christ is responsible for relieving the distress of widows this book seeks to draw out God’s wisdom for the widow.  Naomi, Ruth, the widows of Zarephath and Nain, the Jerusalem widows, and Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ are among those considered.”

Here are some of the endorsements:

James 1:27 is very clear on some of the deeds that need to emanate from a converted heart: a life separated from the corruption of the world and the taking care of orphans and widows. In recent days much has been written about adopting orphans, but little is written specifically for widows and their needs. Here is considerable help and encouragement for widows, as well as important insights for those who minister to them. May Austin Walker’s much-needed and welcome application of the numerous passages on widows have a wide circulation!

Dr Michael A G Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, & Director of The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies & Research Professor of Irish Baptist College, Constituent College of Queen’s University Belfast, N. Ireland

This book will help widows. There is nothing better than the counsels to be found here.

Revd Geoff Thomas, Pastor since 1965 of Alfred Place Baptist Church, Aberystwyth, Wales

Does the Bible have much to say by way of precepts and examples concerning God’s special care for and  commitment to the broken hearts and shattered lives of widows? Do the Scriptures address the church regarding its peculiar responsibilities to be sensitive and caring with respect to the peculiar needs of its widows? Are there clear directives to widows themselves regarding how they may best cope with their widowhood and even use that state as a platform for greater service to Christ and to his people? In this Scripture-soaked book, written out of an experienced and caring pastor’s heart, these questions are answered with tenderness and biblical authority. Thank you, Pastor Walker, for giving us a much-needed book.

Albert N. Martin, B. A.; D. D. — former pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Montville New Jersey; Conference Speaker; lecturer in Pastoral Theology

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 3 May 2010 at 19:48

“The English Baptists of the 17th Century”

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, my esteemed father, Austin Walker, has been away, and was one of the featured speakers at a conference on The English Baptists of the 17th Century at the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies on the campus of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The audio recordings of the conference are now online at the Andrew Fuller Conference website and blog, and doutbless there will be much of interest to historians and general scholars, especially of a Baptist persuasion.  In an act of shameless nepotism, may I draw your attention to my father’s paper on “Benjamin Keach and the Protestant Cause Under Persecution”?  You will find it on the page above (where it can be downloaded), or can go to it directly here.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 29 August 2008 at 19:44

Light and life

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My father, Austin Walker, is in the United States at the moment.  He will be lecturing later today, God willing, at a conference at the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies on The English Baptists of the 17th Century. His paper is entitled Benjamin Keach and the Protestant Cause Under Persecution and it’s good, stirring stuff.

In his absence I had the whole day here at Crawley last Lord’s day, but – because we are on a summer break from our Sunday School – only had two services.

In the first, I preached from John 12.36 under the title While there is light.  I was disappointed that there were fewer unconverted people present than is often the case, but preached nonetheless from Christ’s earnest warning and invitation to those in danger of being utterly lost in spiritual darkness.  This is issued as his death approaches, and in the face of continuing confusion and resistance to his person and work.

Our Lord identifies a precious privilege: “you have the light.” The light was shining upon the Jews in the person of Christ Jesus, and shines still upon us in the gospel read and preached and heard under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

This is a passing opportunity: “while you have the light.” The gospel is not an inalienable right but a gracious gift. Bibles, preachers, capacity of mind and body to hear the truth, days of life in which to respond – none are guaranteed to us. This demands an urgent and immediate response.

Christ also issues a gracious command: “believe in the light.” We are called to trust in the Lord Jesus in all the fullness of his glorious person and saving work. Not to believe is to disobey, but the reality of the gospel command is also a great blessing and encouragement to the fearful.

Christ explains the gracious result of believing: “that you may become sons of light.” In Christ by faith, we are characterised by light: we live in it, love it, walk in it and shine with it. This is the instant and final change of nature, from darkness to light, associated with faith in Christ.

Finally, though, and soberingly, there is a grievous warning. Many of those who heard Jesus’ words resisted the message and rejected his person. He is light, but some choose darkness. Which will you have?

In the evening I continued through Colossians, preaching on being Rooted and rejoicing in Christ.  Paul uses verses 6 and 7 of Colossians 2 as a summary and a springboard for what is to come. He speaks of receiving Christ and then walking in him, and describes what it means so to walk.  He mixes his metaphors as a means of communicating the richness of this notion.

There is stability and solidity: we are rooted in Christ, anchored in him, drawing life and nourishment from him. We are built up in Christ, held together by him as a community, and making progress in dependence upon him.

Walking in Christ, we enjoy increasingly strong and settled faith. It grows as we are established in the apostolic faith in which we are instructed. We need no bigger and better saviours, but rather a bigger heart to love Christ Jesus, and a better grasp on who he is and what he has done.

These issue in and involve a sincere thankfulness. Gratitude to God for all his kindnesses to us in Jesus keep the saint in a spiritually healthy and happy condition, humbly looking away from self to the God of salvation. These blessings are ours insofar as we receive and rest upon Christ Jesus the Lord.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 26 August 2008 at 12:34

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