Monthly letter archive

Christian Biblical Church of God

Post Office Box 1442

Hollister, California 95024-1442

(831)-637-1875

Fred R. Coulter

Minister

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Books

June 17, 2008

Dear Brethren,

The new Bibles are on their way by cargo ship from China! The shipment should arrive in Oakland, California, within 2-3 weeks--around late June or early July. Once they clear customs, our importer, Sea Model, will deliver the Bibles to ADMAIL, a company specializing in mass mailings. ADMAIL will "double box" each order to assure that you'll receive your Bible(s) in pristine condition. As you know, the Bible project has seen several delays--but only because we set such a high standard of quality (as is befitting the Word of God). However, once you hold the new Bible in your hands, we know you will be very pleased. Your beautiful, high-quality, genuine lambskin-covered Bible will be well worth the wait. Thank you for your patience and support in making the Bible Project a reality.

Because the value of the dollar has plunged since the beginning of the printing and manufacturing process, it is fortunate that we had fully pre-paid for the Bibles. Otherwise, the devalued dollar would have driven the cost up considerably.

Elders' Conference: We had an excellent Elders' Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, May 14-17. All of the elders and their wives were present: Glenn and Phyllis Daniel, Bob and Elaine Hunnicutt, Wayne and Sylvia Stenhouse, Norbert and Denise Bohnert, Marlin and Nancy Fannin, Roger and Emy Kendall, and Anse and Ella Mae Cates. Jim and Betty Hyles attended as well, along with six other leading men and their wives. In this mailing, we are sending several of the elders' presentations so you will have an "inside view" of the conference. Because of a poor quality recording with missing portions, the only meeting we are not sending out is the one in which each elder gave a report about his local area.

The Purpose of the Ministry of Jesus Christ: It is no coincidence that before His ministry Jesus' occupation was carpentry--which in His day involved building with wood, timbers, concrete, iron and stone. As a carpenter, Jesus was undoubtedly involved in every aspect of building--from conception and planning to stone cutting and laying, including the "finishing" work. It is rigorous work constructing four-story stone block buildings such as those in the nearby city of Sepphoris. (If you do not have the book Jesus & the Forgotten City, write us and we will send you one.)

Early in His ministry--after Peter declared Him to be "the Christ"--Jesus said to His disciples that He would build His Church. Matthew writes: "And Jesus answered and said to him, `Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but My Father, Who is in heaven. And I say also to you, that you are Peter [a little stone, John 1:42]; but upon this Rock [Jesus Christ Himself is the Rock (I Cor. 10:4)] I will build [oiko-domeso] My church, and the gates of the grave shall not prevail against it' " (Matt. 16:17-18).

The Greek verb for "build" is oiko-domeo, meaning "to erect a building, to build." As we will see, the verb is elsewhere translated, "to edify, to build up (such as godly character), to encourage" (Berry, Greek-English New Testament Lexicon). In addition, this verb forms the root for "steward."

According to the apostle Paul, the work of an elder in the Church is to serve the brethren in love and to feed the flock of God--to up-build the brethren so they may be prepared for eternal life. The last time Paul saw the elders of Ephesus, he recounted to them his ministry and admonished them concerning their responsibilities to faithfully serve God and the brethren: "For Paul had decided to sail by Ephesus, because he did not want to spend time in Asia; for he hastened in order to be in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, if possible. Now from Miletus, he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them, `You know how, from the first day I came to Asia, and all the time I was with you, I served the Lord with all humility and with many tears and temptations, which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; and how I did not keep back anything that was profitable, but preached to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, earnestly testifying, both to the Jews and the Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

" `And now behold, I am bound in the spirit, and am going to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall happen to me there; except that the Holy Spirit fully testifies in every city, saying that bonds and tribulations await me. But I myself do not take any of these things into account, nor do I hold my life dear to myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to fully testify [of] the gospel of the grace of God. And now behold, I know that you all, among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom of God, will see my face no more; wherefore I testify to you on this day that I am pure from the blood of all, for I have not held back from preaching to you all the counsel of God.

" `Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this: that after my departure grievous wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will rise up speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves. Watch, therefore, remembering that for three years I ceased not to admonish each one night and day with tears' " (Acts 20:16-31).

The truth is, all the brethren belong to God the Father and Jesus Christ--not to any man! Elders and ministers are to always keep this fact in the forefront of their minds, because Jesus Christ has purchased each one with His own blood.

In his epistle to the Ephesians in 61 AD from Rome, Paul clearly states that the purpose of the ministry is to perfect the saints and up-build, or edify, the body of Christ: "And He gave some asapostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers [all of these are functions of elders--not "exalted offices" through which ministers are to rule over God's people]. For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; until we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we no longer be children, tossed and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men in cunning craftiness, with a view to the systematizing of the error; but holding the truth in love, may in all things grow up into Him Who is the Head, even Christ from Whom all the body, fitly framed and compacted together by that which every joint supplies, according to its inner working in the measure of each individual part, is making the increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:11-16).

All the apostles understood this, as evidenced by the apostle Peter's admonition to the elders to serve the brethren and be examples of loving, righteous conduct--but not as overlords! "The elders who are among you I exhort, even as a fellow elder, and an eyewitness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker of the glory that is about to be revealed. Feed the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight not by compulsion, but willingly; not in fondness of dishonest gain, but with an eager attitude; not as exercising lordship over your possessions; but by being examples to the flock of God. And when the Chief Shepherd is manifested, you shall receive an unfading, eternal crown of glory" (I Pet. 5:1-4).

There is no question that Paul and Peter always followed the teachings of Jesus--as did the other apostles--and understood that they were not to exercise lordship over the brethren. Notice Jesus' direct teaching to the apostles: "Jesus called them to Him and said, `You know that the rulers of the nations [the kings and civil rulers] exercise lordship over them, and the great ones [the religious leaders] exercise authority over them. However, it shall not be this way among you; but whoever would become great among you, let him be your servant; and whoever would be first among you, let him be your slave; just as the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:25-28).

Not wanting to come to them with harsh correction, Paul appealed to the Corinthians to resolve their own problems. He reminded them that he and the elders did not exercise lordship over them: "But He Who establishes us with you in Christ, and Who has anointed us, is God, Who has also sealed us and has given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. But I call upon God to bear witness of my intentions, that in order to spare you I did not yet come to Corinth--not that we exercise lordship over your faith, but because we are working with you to increase your joy. For you stand by faith" (II Cor. 1:21-24).

It is clear that the apostles never established a rigid, hierarchical government over the Church of God. The top-down form of government which developed in the Roman Catholic Church is absolutely contrary to the teachings of the New Testament. Indeed, throughout the gospels, Jesus taught against the iron-fisted, intimidating, fear-breeding authority typically exercised by pagan religious leaders and rulers.

Expressing His hatred for heavy-handed approaches to government, Christ exposed them as "the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate" (Rev. 2:15). He warned, "Repent! For if you do not repent, I will come to you quickly, and will make war against them with the sword of My mouth" (verse 16).

Church leaders claiming to be "presiding evangelists" or self-appointed "apostles" or "prophets"--and who exercise rigid, pagan, top-down authority over their members--are taking to themselves a level of authority that Christ, as the Head of the Church, absolutely forbids! Such leaders are self-exalted, self-appointed corporate hirelings--religious professionals. Not only are they sinning against God the Father and Jesus Christ, they bring fear, intimidation and suffering into the lives of the brethren--while robbing them of income beyond God's tithe and offerings.

Such "leaders" deprive their followers of the joy of coming to know the true love and grace of God--denying them the opportunity to develop a deep personal relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ, wherein they might thrive spiritually in faith, hope and love.

On the other hand, we are to teach the brethren--which is feeding the flock of God with the Word of God--so that they might grow into the perfection of Christ through a personal, direct relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ. As the apostle John wrote: "That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our own eyes, that which we observed for ourselves and our own hands handled, concerning the Word of life; (And the life was manifested, and we have seen, and are bearing witness, and are reporting to you the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested to us;) That which we have seen and have heard we are reporting to you in order that you also may have fellowship with us; for the fellowship--indeed, our fellowship [our personal relationship]--is with the Father and with His own Son, Jesus Christ. These things we are also writing to you, so that your joy may be completely full" (I John 1:1-4).

Elders are Stewards of God: Though the term is seldom used today, "steward" primarily means: "One who acts as a supervisor or administrator, as of finances and property, for another or others." This is the biblical meaning as well. A steward always works on behalf of the property owner. Elders are stewards working with someone else's property--God's property--the members of the body of Christ, purchased by Jesus' own blood.

The Greek root oiki (or oiko) means "to edify." The following are variations of this root and their relative meanings:

Oiki-a--a house, a household, a family, a house and all the goods within it

Oiki-akos--one of a family, whether a child or a servant

Oiko-domeo--to erect a building, to build, to build up, to edify

Oiko-domee--the act of building, a literal building, a spiritual body, of the church's

edification, spiritual advancement

Oiko-domia--edification

Oiko-doomos--a builder

Oiko-nomeo--to be a steward

Oiko-nomia--management of household affairs, stewardship

Oiko-nomos--a household manager, steward; the Christian stewardship

Oikos--a house, a building, a family residing in a house; a family perpetuated by succession; the house of God, the temple, the family of God, the Church of God

(Berry, Greek-English New Testament Lexicon.)

As we can see, the various meanings related to the root oiko all point to the service-oriented ministry of Jesus Christ and the building up of the Church--so that we all might grow into the spiritual perfection of Christ. Everything an elder does for God and the brethren--God's family--is the work of a steward. Therefore, the leadership is never to "lord it over" God's people--Jesus Christ alone is Lord over the household of God! Leaders are never to exploit the brethren to gain power and control!

A steward is to be absolutely faithful in leading and shepherding the brethren: "So then, let every man regard us as ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Beyond that, it is required of stewards that one be found faithful" (I Cor. 4:1-2). As stewards of the household of God, elders are to protect, up-build, increase, and develop God's people as they prepare for eternal life. The Church is God's property--it is not up to the steward to do as he sees fit by implementing his own ideas and doctrines for his own personal profit and aggrandizement.

Thus, elders are to always teach the way of the Lord and preach the truth of God's Word: "Therefore, having this ministry, according as we have received mercy, we are not fainthearted. For we have personally renounced the hidden things of dishonest gain, not walking in cunning craftiness, nor handling the Word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth, we are commending ourselves to every man's conscience before God. But if our gospel is hidden, it is hidden to those who are perishing; in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we do not preach our own selves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake because it is God Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, Who shined into our hearts the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (II Cor. 4:1-6).

Notice Paul's instructions to Titus concerning the qualifications of elders, also called overseers: "For this cause I left you in Crete, so that you might set in order the things that needed to be done, and might ordain elders in every city, as I commanded you: If any man be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children, not accused of debauchery or rebellion. For it is obligatory that as God's steward an overseer be blameless, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not a bully, not greedy for material gain; but hospitable, a lover of good, sound-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding steadfastly to the faithful word, according to the teachings of Jesus Christ, so that he may be able both to encourage with sound doctrine and to convict those who are gainsayers" (Titus 1:5-9).

Elders are stewards of God's Word, and must be diligent to teach and preach, to watch over and guard, and faithfully divide the truth of God. Paul instructs Timothy: "Diligently study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of the truth; but avoid profane and vain babblings because they will only give rise to more ungodliness.... Preach the Word! Be urgent in season and out of season; convict, rebuke, encourage, with all patience and doctrine" (II Tim. 2:15-16; 4:2).

Furthermore, true Christians are stewards of the Holy Spirit! God has entrusted us with His spirit in order to empower us to grow in grace and knowledge--to enable us to develop and use our individual talents and abilities to serve the brethren. This is our part in up-building the body of Christ in brotherly love. Notice Peter's instructions: "Let each one, according as he has received a gift from God, be using it to serve the others as good stewards of the grace of God which manifests itself in various ways" (I Pet. 4:10).

Jesus Christ is the Master Steward over the entire household of God for the Father. Jesus is the Head of the Church and leads us in grace and knowledge so that we might grow and develop the godly character necessary for eternal life. Paul expresses it this way--using related Greek words sharing the same oiko root: "Now when He came, He preached the gospel--peace to you who were far off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have direct access by one Spirit to the Father. So then, you are no longer aliens and foreigners; but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of the household [oikei-oi] of God.

"You are being built up on the foundation of the apostles and prophets [NT as well as OT], Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Cornerstone. In Whom all the building [oiko-dome], being conjointly fitted together, is increasing into a holy temple in the Lord; in Whom you also are being built together [sun-oiko-dmeisthe] for a habitation [kat-oike-rion] of God in the Spirit" (Eph. 2:17-22).

These verses emphasize that we are to be faithful stewards of all that God has generously given to us--our physical bodies and material possessions, our families and brethren, the Holy Spirit, our personal relationship with the Father and Jesus Christ. We accomplish this through daily prayer and study as we live God's way of life. This is how Jesus Christ is building His Church and dealing with each one of us individually in His love.

(For more on the subject of godly leadership, please call, write or e-mail us for a copy of the booklet Is the Ministry the Government of God?)

Pentecost: Because of the many biblical events connected with Pentecost--the beginning of the visible return of Jesus Christ and the first resurrection--I have again presented a series of sermons and studies showing in great detail why the Feast of Pentecost pictures the first resurrection (rather than the Feast of Trumpets). After going through these sermons and studies, you will clearly see that the return of Jesus Christ will be awesome--literally a heaven- and earth-shaking event. Everyone alive at that time will witness these events unfold. I hope that you fully understand these studies; if you have any questions, please send them in and we will do our best to answer them.

If you do not yet have the Daniel and Revelation series (with charts), please request it. Also, if you do not yet have the book God's Plan for Mankind Revealed by His Sabbath and Holy Days--with its accompanying set of four CDs containing 38 sermons and studies--you may request it as well. If you already have this material, please study it thoroughly; you will come to a greater comprehension of God's plan as it is based on the framework of His seventh-day Sabbath and holy days.

All of the brethren who have contacted us--whether they kept Pentecost with a small fellowship group or at home--reported that they had a tremendous Feast of Firstfruits! Amazingly, each year we continue to learn more and more about the meaning and fulfillment of God's holy days and feasts. It is a fact that God's holy days are the most important keys which unlock the understanding of prophecy. Always remember, however, that while prophecy is certainly exciting, it is nothing without the love of God. Paul writes of this in I Corinthians 13: "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give away all my goods, and if I deliver up my body that I may be burned, but do not have love, I have gained nothing.

"Love is patient and is kind; love envies not, does not brag about itself, is not puffed up. Love does not behave disgracefully, does not seek its own things, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there be prophecies, they shall cease; whether there be languages, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part shall be set aside.

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I reasoned as a child; but when I became a man, I set aside the things of a child. For now we see through a glass darkly, but then we shall see face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know exactly as I have been known. And now, these three remain: faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love" (I Cor. 13:1-13).

The Economic Problems of the World

The entire world is facing mammoth economic problems caused by rapidly escalating gas and commodities prices. The inflation factor in oil, gas, natural gas, corn, wheat, rice and other grains is running between 70% to 250% annually. This will cause the price of everything to rise dramatically--and the effects will be felt worldwide. There are many so-called "factors" fueling this extreme inflation. Experts and analysts are blaming the devaluation of the U.S. dollar, the limited supply of oil, and the increasing demand for petroleum products--plus the fact that emerging countries are demanding more and more fuel and commodities as they take on the American way of life. The number one culprit that appears to have triggered the overall economic situation is the failure of millions of sub-prime mortgages--now referred to as "toxic waste loans" because they are only worth pennies on the dollar. And yet, the trillion-dollar sub-prime meltdown is not over!

Unfortunately, the unprecedented rescue attempts by the Federal Reserve Bank in the United States in providing 700 billion dollars in emergency loans to the failing investment banks and hedge funds, etc., is actually fueling the inflationary pressures ravaging the entire commodities market worldwide.

Why is this happening? Perhaps the main reason is that these institutions arenot usingthe monies loaned to them at 2% by the Fed--funds loaned under the emergency lending law to hold as capital to offset such failed sub-prime loans. Rather, they are using this virtually free money from the Fed to speculate in the commodities futures market, where they purchase future contracts for 5 cents on the dollar. In effect, they are using this money to drive up the prices of commodities in order to make additional hundreds of billions in profits to replace their billions in losses from failed loans. Thus, they are forcing all nations--in fact, the entire world's population--to dig deeper into their pockets to pay these artificially high commodity prices so they can reap huge profits of billions and billions of dollars.

The question is: Will they stop such predatory practices before the entire world economy collapses? They probably will. However, they will also continue to make money as they in turn reinvest these profits back into the commodities market as they cause the markets to go lower. Thus, they make billions as the price of everything rises and they make additional billions as the price of everything goes down. Then they will take these combined profits and invest them into the stock market. Again, whether the market goes up or the market goes down, they make billions.

Brethren, we are all personally affected by the higher prices. This is why we have stressed for the last five or more years that we need to be preparing for economic hardship--primarily by GETTING OUT OF DEBT as much as possible.

We have to trust in God the Father and Jesus Christ to watch over us. We must also be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves"--so we can endure these hard times.

Brethren, we pray for you every day--for God's blessings, for your protection, for your healing, for you to grow in grace and knowledge. We also pray for the entire greater Church of God, that the brethren and ministers will repent and draw close to God, that God will use His people and ministers to truly preach the gospel. We thank you for your love, prayers and continued support through your tithes and offerings. May God's love and grace be upon you in everything.

With love in Christ Jesus,

Fred R. Coulter

FRC


Additional Tips for Marking Your New Bible

Like Bible study itself, marking one's Bible is highly personal. And while there is no single "right" way to mark your Bible, there are practical tips which can prove helpful.

First, it is not disrespectful to God to mark your Bible. Marking one's Bible is a natural part of study--and, when done with care, actually demonstrates your love and respect for God's Word. So, don't be afraid to mark your Bible!

 

1) Help your eye fall quickly on passages that are important to

The key here is to make certain verses, phrases or words stand out--so you'll quickly find them. You might choose to underline such passages or color them (or both). You might also consider putting a key word or abbreviation in the margin. For example, after underlining or coloring Ephesians 4:30, you might boldly write HS (for "Holy Spirit") in the margin.

Use underlining to separate a chapter into logical divisions. For example, you might use a bold (or colored) line to separate each of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. This gives you the layout of the chapter at a glance.

Remember, mark only the most important passages. And rather than marking entire verses, consider underlining or coloring key words and phrases that bring out the meaning of a passage. If you mark too much, you could end up with a confusing hodgepodge of markings where nothing really stands out. Keep it simple and avoid over-marking!

This simple use of coloring works best with just one color (such as red). Other methods which employ many colors are more involved (see below). Use a small flexible ruler to help you underline. Caution: A pen will sometimes leave a line of ink on the ruler's edge, which will smear onto the page as you pull the ruler away.

Alternatively, many people choose to use a mechanical pencil so they can erase.

2) Add notes in the margin to explain specific words or phrases.

Again, don't get carried away. Save the margins of your Bible for brief comments that help explain the marked passage--or for definitions of words, names, etc. that you've marked.

There is no need to state the obvious or write what you "know you know."

Keep your margin notes straight by writing along the top edge of a small ruler.

3) Create cross-references or links to related passages.

One of the best things about marking your Bible is creating your own cross-references. Such references allow you to quickly find numerous passages that are related by subject. Here's a method that has worked well for many:

First, choose and mark a "home" passage for a particular subject. For example, the "home" verse for "Sabbath" might be Genesis 2:3 or Exodus 20:8. It should be a key passage you'll easily remember (to help, you can index these "home" verses on a blank page). This "home" passage is your starting point.

Next, in the margin next to the "home" passage, list several references to other key passages dealing with the Sabbath. Then, at each of these references, you can list other related passages. This method links references on a particular subject throughout the Bible.

And don't overlook the references already provided in the center column; simply mark or underline the ones important to you so they'll catch your eye.

The multi-color system

In this method, each subject has its own particular color. Start by creating an "index" page (perhaps on a blank page in your Bible or on a card). This index links a specific subject to a specific color. For example, passages relating to the Sabbath could be colored blue.

You can color the entire passage--or better, draw a colored line around or along the side of the passage. Or use the color to underline key words and phrases. Later, when you're searching for passages about the Sabbath, you simply look for blue.

The multi-color system does have significant drawbacks. First, the number of available colors is limited--yet there are dozens of subjects you'll want to mark. Secondly, some passages could easily fall under more than one subject heading. Which color would you use? Finally, some find that the complexity of such a system actually hinders study. And if you're not careful, you may find that some pages of your Bible are starting to look more like a coloring book!

Pens, pencils, markers--which brand is

When considering various pens, pencils and markers, do this first: test the pen or marker on a page in the back of your Bible. Most Bible book stores will let you test pens and markers in the store before you buy them--so ask!

What to avoid: Sharpies (too dark, will bleed through); regular highlighters (will bleed through); mechanical pencils with lead that is too soft (the graphite will eventually smudge and fade); mechanical pencils with lead that is too hard (may cut into the paper).

Most ball point, roller point and felt tip pens will bleed through in varying degrees. Also, the ink itself can run if exposed to moisture (unlike India ink).

Recommended: Highlighters made for Bible marking (such as Zebrite by Zebra); dry highlighters (such as made by Staedtler; they're like colored pencils, but have a bright fluorescent look). For regular colored pencils, try Crayola or Berol Prismacolor. Good pens include the Zebra-301 Ultra ball point, the Bic Writing Stick, and the Bic Accounting Pen. Fine points are recommended, but you may prefer a medium. Technical pens are also available (which typically use India ink). A Zebra Millipen or a Pigma Micron are both good choices (a 01 point is about medium). GT Luscombe also makes a good dry highlighter and non-bleeding pen.

All of the above are widely available at Bible book stores, Office Max, art supply stores, etc. You may also try www.internationalbibles.com or Christian Book Distributors (CBD) at 1-800-Christian (www.christianbook.com).

Again--if possible, test the pen or marker in the store first.

Finally, many people like to use small Post-It Notes to mark passages or add non-permanent notes to their Bibles.

--Philip Neal

 

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