Posts Tagged ‘Deception’

Greed bleed.png

Bleed for Greed © by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:25-31 – BLEED FOR GREED (Part 2)

  1. DECEPTION WITHOUT CONSCIENCE

No doubt every male is a little surprised by the requirements of the deal Shechem and Hamor propose, but then again the advantages are lucrative? “… if we do this, all their livestock and possessions will eventually be ours. Come, let’s agree to their terms and let them settle here among us.” 

Their greed gets the better of them and “So all the men in the town council agreed with Hamor and Shechem, and every male in the town was circumcised” (Genesis 34:21-24 NLT). As if circumcision, devoid of meaning, isn’t bad enough,…then comes the horror in the aftermath of their decision …

  1. VENGEANCE WITHOUT COUNSEL

“… three days later, when their wounds were still sore, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, who were Dinah’s full brothers, took their swords and entered the town without opposition. Then they slaughtered every male there, including Hamor and his son Shechem. They killed them with their swords, then took Dinah from Shechem’s house and returned to their camp” (Genesis 34:25-26 NLT). This is not unlike the horrors of ISIS.

The sons of Jacob butcher every male in the town! Circumcision was used as a means for murder. Innocent men are massacred, deceived by promises of riches and by the misuse of a holy Covenant ritual. Blasphemy heaped upon murder and lawlessness. This is not justice, only vengeance!

Dinah has other brothers; Reuben, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun but they do not participate in the massacre. Perhaps Simeon and Levi thought that if they killed only Shechem, who had raped their sister, Dinah, it would bring the whole town upon them in retaliation. And so since Shechem, despite his crime, was somehow still the respected leader of the community, house by house, Levi and Simeon commit their atrocity of murdering every unsuspecting male. Although Simeon and Levi were the main instigators perhaps their servants joined in the bloodbath under their authority.

Did the writer of Proverbs 3:29 (NLT) have these events in mind when he wrote many years later, “Don’t plot harm against your neighbor, for those who live nearby trust you.” 

It seems significant to me that years later, the tribe of Levi would become the priestly tribe of Israel and they would look back at their ancestor as a murderer of innocent people. Perhaps God used this terrible event to remind the priestly tribe of Levi of their need to involve God in matters of justice, not abuse the ritual symbols.

  1. PLUNDER WITHOUT CONSTRAINT

But the train of lawlessness has not run it’s appalling course because…

“Meanwhile, the rest of Jacob’s sons arrived. Finding the men slaughtered, they plundered the town because their sister had been defiled there. 

They seized all the flocks and herds and donkeys—everything they could lay their hands on, both inside the town and outside in the fields. 

They looted all their wealth and plundered their houses. They also took all their little children and wives and led them away as captives” (Genesis 34:27-29 NLT).

Ruthless! All the brothers join in! First murder, now pillage and enslavement! Why? “Because their sister had been defiled there” is their excuse, but there is no measure of justice in Levi and Simeon’s deceptive barbarous revenge, nor is there in the brothers’ additional atrocities of robbery and slavery. And still Jacob is nowhere to be seen!

Paul would one day write in Romans 12:17 (NLT) “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.” Brutally murdering all the males in the town, kidnapping women and children as slaves! There is nothing honorable here.

So far in this Chapter of Shame, it seems lawlessness prevails, from rape without consequences, to deception without conscience, to blasphemy without covenant reverence, to vengeance without counsel, to murder without cause, to plunder without constraint, and then to slavery without compassion. A train-wreck of sin upon sin.

  1. INEPTITUDE WITHOUT CONTRITION

It is at this point that Jacob finally speaks up. Where have you been?

“Afterward Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have ruined me! You’ve made me stink among all the people of this land—among all the Canaanites and Perizzites. We are so few that they will join forces and crush us. I will be ruined, and my entire household will be wiped out!” (Genesis 34:30 NLT).

He is not pleased. But notice, Jacob is not repentant for his absolute lack of leadership. He is not remorseful for not seeking to retrieve Dinah when she was raped and kidnapped. He was not apologetic for his silence concerning justice for Shechem’s crime, He is not regretful of not gathering his sons around the altar he had built to seek to find God’s way of dealing with this terrible situation when he first heard of it. And now he’s not even concerned that his sons have just committed a crime against humanity, an atrocious violation of justice. He’s only concerned about his reputation! Unbelievable! He does stink!

  1. JUDGMENTS WITHOUT THE CROSS

Then a bell tolls loud enough to hurt Jacob’s ears and echoes to him from the very beginning as his sons retort angrily,

“But why should we let him treat our sister like a prostitute?” (Genesis 34:31 NLT).

This question burns on the page at the end of the chapter. Why should we allow this to happen? This is a piercing question which needed asking at the beginning of this chapter immersed in morally flawed judgments.

Shechem does deserve the discipline of justice served upon him for his rape of their sister. But equally, Simeon and Levi deserve justice served upon them for their revenge rampage. Their brothers deserve justice served upon them for their looting and slavery of women and children.

But perhaps most of all Jacob needs justice served upon him for his lack of any kind of spiritual direction. He needs justice served upon him for not seeking to save his daughter after she was so brutally abused. He needs justice served on him for his lack of parenting and leadership guidance to his sons just as much as Hamor does for his lack of discipline of his son, Shechem. Both fathers bear the results of inaction and lack of leadership. The man of faith was no better than the pagan.

I am reminded that despite the atrocities done in His Name, that God is just. But look carefully because His justice was satisfied at the Cross when Jesus was judged and died for my sin. He took my shame and sin and I received His grace. The disgraceful and unjust crucifixion of Christ was used by God to bring me His forgiveness. He died for our sins.

I don’t know the specifics of what happened after this terrible chapter. Did Jacob run to the altar and ask for forgiveness because, more than ever, he and his sons need it now? All I know is that God has the only means of dealing justly with my sin.

This section of Genesis 34 screams of my need to get involved when moral leadership is required long before things spiral out of control and end with unimaginable regrets. It invites me to bring justice to bear on my circumstances but only by seeing my circumstances through the eyes of the Cross, where God’s justice collides with His love. Only through the eyes of the Cross can justice be administered fairly and it is the only justice that gives me an opportunity still to experience God’s mercy and grace.

Lord, despite my propensity to take things into my own hands, help me to do what is right at the right time when I am faced with the moral dilemmas of life. Micah 6:8 says “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” What an incredible balance that is.

Pastor Ross

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WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 47

You are so beautiful. thought Amnon as he gazed across the courtyard towards the woman’s quarters. She was walking with her mother Maacah. Your laugh is like the song of a mountain stream to a thirsty man who longs to be refreshed. “I would give anything to drink from your stream,” he said softly.

“What are you looking at?” Jonadab said, looking in the same vicinity as Amnon. Amnon turned suddenly, not aware that Jonadab had approached.

“You startled me!” he said with an annoyed look on his face. Jonadab smiled as he watched the women move out of sight. “Appreciating the beauty of the kingdom, I see,” he said.

“She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.” said Amnon.

“The mother you mean, of course.” Jonadab taunted and smiled. “That whole family is good-looking. Absalom has the handsome features of your father and his sister has the beauty and poise of a gazelle.”

“Ah, so you’ve noticed it too!” said Amnon.

“No-one in the kingdom disagrees that Tamar is beautiful.” Being the daughter of a king, she lived in the palace amidst the outward beauty of David’s kingdom, but Tamar had an inward beauty and grace that made her company all the more attractive and inviting. She had readily responded to her father’s belief in God and her values and character reflected her faith. She cared for the sick in the king’s household and helped widows.

Tamar’s half-brother, Amnon, had fallen in love with her from a distance. He was all that Tamar was not. Selfish and headstrong, he enjoyed being a king’s son because he could acquire most things. Now he wanted Tamar. But young virgin daughters of the king were well protected from such advances as Amnon wished to make upon Tamar.

Absalom and the rules of court made it virtually impossible for Amnon to develop a relationship with her, and the law of God did not permit such relationships in marriage. Frustrated because he could not get what he wanted, Amnon had made himself ill, emotionally and physically.

Being a very shrewd businessman for his father, Jonadab enjoyed mixing with David’s sons and especially his cousin Amnon. They had become fast friends. It gave him an opportunity to make further business acquaintances and he enjoyed their friendly banter. It also gave him opportunity to be in contact with Amnon’s father, the king. Shimeah, Jonadab’s father had encouraged his son to mix with those who had been blessed. Shimeah was king David’s brother and was secretly quite jealous of his success.

In the days that followed, Amnon wasn’t himself, so Jonadab came straight to the point, “Amnon, you are the son of the king, so why are you so depressed morning after morning?”

Amnon replied, “I am in love with her.”

“Who?” said Jonadab, a little confused.

“Tamar!”

“Tamar… But she’s your half-sister! Tamar was Absalom’s sister, daughter of David and Macaah. Jonadab now understood the longing in Amnon’s eyes as he had looked at Tamar a few days earlier.

“You do realise that the law would forbid you from…”

“I am well aware of the law and I don’t need to be reminded of what I can and cannot do!” snapped Amnon.

They spoke for some time. Jonadab felt a little sorry for Amnon. He hadn’t eaten for days and so, being a little more devious than his friend, Jonadab devised a plan to allow Amnon to come into contact with Tamar. It wouldn’t hurt to break a few rules until Amnon saw the folly of his ways.

It was simple really but at least, Amnon would get to talk with her. He said, “Here’s the plan. You pretend to be sick. That shouldn’t be too hard. You look half starved already. When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Please let my sister Tamar come and give me some food to eat. Tamar has a reputation as one who cares for the sick. Your father won’t suspect anything.’” The plan was successful but Jonadab hadn’t planned on the outcome.

Pastor Ross

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Genesis 30:25–35 -PLEASE RELEASE ME, LET ME GO! 

Speckled. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge, and Morguefile.org

Speckled. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge, and Morguefile.org

I hear the old long-playing (LP) record droning on even today, and my Dad’s voice singing above it, “Please release me, let me go…To waste our lives would be a sin…” I watched my Dad waste his life in work that promised him a management position but kept him waiting on meagre wages until he was too old to care.

Jacob wants out. He says to Laban, “Please release me so I can go home to my own country.” Home to my own country. I have a promise to pursue. Let me explore it’s implications before I am too old to care.

Laban is a wealthy business person but spiritually bankrupt. God and Jacob are his good luck charms. As God unfolds His truth and reveals His character even to Laban, Laban understands it only through the eyes of potential fortune. “Please listen to me,” Laban replies. “I have become wealthy, for the Lord has blessed me because of you. Tell me how much I owe you. Whatever it is, I’ll pay it” (Genesis 30:27-28 NLT). 

So you finally admit it. All of a sudden you want to get generous and give me what is owed. No, old man. It won’t work. Not this time. You don’t want me to stay because I am your much-loved Son-in-law, husband to your daughters. All you want is to accumulate more wealth. Watch it uncle, your greed is showing.

Jacob is willing to leave with nothing. The promises of God are more reliable than yours, uncle. All my life I have heard my mother, my father, you and your daughters persuading me to be involved in your plans for my life. I have played the part of a deceiver and been deceived. I have always felt like a sheep in a pack of wolves, but this old lost wether is not willing to be taken by you this time. I have already worked for you for fourteen years, Laban. But I have heard the voice of the Shepherd calling me home, words of destiny in the silence of my heart. If I stay it will be at the request of His voice alone.

“Let me take my wives and children, for I have earned them by serving you, and let me be on my way. You certainly know how hard I have worked for you and how your flocks and herds have grown under my care.” This is business language and he still speaks of his wives as the commodity that he has earned by his work for Laban. Not a romantic bone in his body. You’ve had a good deal. I’ve got Rachel even though you tricked me. We are even. Now feel a little pain yourself. Maybe even enough pain to agree to a deal before I go.

“You had little indeed before I came, but your wealth has increased enormously. The Lord has blessed you through everything I’ve done. But now, what about me? When can I start providing for my own family?” (Genesis 30:29-30 NLT).

“What wages do you want?” Laban asks again. (Genesis 30:31 NLT).Finally, old man. I knew you would get to a deal, but this time you’ll have to do things my way even though one day you may wish you had let me go. “Jacob replied, “Don’t give me anything. Just do this one thing, and I’ll continue to tend and watch over your flocks. Here’s the deal, uncle. Take it or leave it. “Let me inspect your flocks today and remove all the sheep and goats that are speckled or spotted, along with all the black sheep. …” (Genesis 30:32 NLT) Let them be a part of a different flock and take them away to be looked after by your men.

Let’s start with a clean slate; with a flock that consists of only single coloured animals. Let me look after that flock. Most of the sheep are pure white and most of the goats a dark chocolate-brown. You’ll get a good deal, uncle. You can keep all your existing flocks. But this time there’ll be no room for deception. No cheating! So uncle, here’s the deal. I get all those born from your pure, plain coloured flocks that are spotted and speckled as well as any black sheep that are born from your flock (Genesis 30:32). “Give these to me as my wages. In the future, when you check on the animals you have given me as my wages, you’ll see that I have been honest. If you find in my flock any goats without speckles or spots, or any sheep that are not black, you will know that I have stolen them from you.” Take the deal! I’ll trust God and you trust in your greed. 

“All right,” Laban replies. “It will be as you say.” Jacob, you’re a fool. What are you trying to do? You know that plain sheep produce far more plain coloured animals than speckled ones. You’ll only end up with a few animals, if any. You really will need some divine intervention. So Jacob and God go into partnership.

“Please release me, let me go … to waste our lives would be a sin” (Engelbert Humperdink). The story of Jacob invites me to be released from my own deception and the sin that so easily entraps me and to make a fresh start. We are to be released from wasting our lives and from allowing others to govern our lives instead of God. We are to take the risk of faith with nothing but hard work in our hands, and live in the expectation that God “is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20 NLT). “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all Your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NLT).

Pastor Ross

Genesis 29:21-35 – CAUGHT IN A TRAP! I CAN’T WALK OUT!

Caught in a Trap - Photo by Ross Cochrane

Caught in a Trap – Photo by Ross Cochrane

“What have you done to me?” Jacob rages at Laban. “I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?” 

Treating Rachel as a commodity to be worked for, a mail order bride on lay-buy for 7 years, he is surprised when he receives the wrong package. Perhaps he had celebrated with just a little too much wine at the wedding feast but “that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her” (Genesis 29:23).

How do you confuse Leah for Rachel, even in the dark. They obviously don’t talk? Or is it that in 7 years Jacob really doesn’t get to know Rachel except for her “beautiful figure and a lovely face” (Genesis 29:17).

Has her father forced Leah to say nothing? Surely Leah could talk, but to do so will lead to Laban being embarrassed by his guests and by the community. Retribution for her will be swift and perhaps brutal. Leah will never escape the life she lives with her greedy father unless she marries this man who will one day inherit a double portion of Isaac’s wealth and take her away. After 7 years she knows Jacob to be a hardworking man and it seems she has fallen in love with him. When she bears him children, she laments that he does not love her. Caught in a trap. She can’t walk out.

Jacob the deceiver is deceived. By pretending to be Rachel, Leah was inadvertently treating Jacob in the same way he had treated his father. As Jacob had pretended to be Esau to obtain his birthright and blessing, now Leah pretends to be Rachel to obtain freedom from Laban. He reaps what he sows. What he expected to be his dream life is rapidly becoming his nightmare. Caught in a trap. He can’t walk out.

Discovering he is married to the wrong woman makes him feel like an old fool, but there is nothing Jacob can do about it, … except to marry Rachel as well. It seems bigamy is an acceptable practice in Haran. He receives Rachel a week later after an agreement with Laban to work another 7 years for her.

Was Leah God’s choice for Jacob in marriage? We are not told. Jacob only sees that Rachel has a beautiful face and figure. Does God approve of this second marriage? No statement of judgment is given, but it is interesting that He gives children to Leah and not Rachel.

The Lord sees that Leah is unloved, but why does He decide to take sides in this matter? Jacob prefers Rachel. Is it that the Lord prefers Leah? Is it only because Leah is hated that He blesses her with children or is there more to it than that? (Genesis 29:31). Perhaps it is also that Leah is a woman of faith and Rachel is yet to believe in the Lord. Jesus would come through a line of believers.

Leah expresses her belief in God through the names of her children, Reuben, Simeon, Levi. She is grateful for children because she is miserable in her marriage. Each time she has a child she expresses her desire to be loved and says, in effect “The Lord has noticed my misery. I am unloved, but now my husband will love me” (Genesis 29:32-34 NLT). We all want to be loved. Many life-lessons unfold in the years to come.

When she names her fourth son Judah (“praise to Jehovah”) she seems to have come to a place where she is content to simply trust in Jehovah, God of the Covenant, to work out His purposes in her life. From Judah the Saviour will come and the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be fulfilled.

God is Leah’s marriage counsellor and she finds her strength in Him. When our heartaches collide with His purposes, soap operas are transformed into stories of salvation as we learn to trust in Christ. 

Pastor Ross

Image adapted by Ross Cochrane from MorgueFile Photo

Image adapted by Ross Cochrane from MorgueFile Photo

Spider and Trap - Photo by Ross Cochrane

Spider and Trap – Photo by Ross Cochrane

Spider and Dining Table - Photograph by Ross Cochrane

Spider and Dining Table – Photograph by Ross Cochrane

 

Genesis 27:5-17 – THE STING – HOW TO SHAPE YOUR DESTINY THROUGH DECEPTION

THE STING

My Mum always believed that a little white lie was always acceptable if it brought about the right end. Rebekah went all in for THE STING. Strictly speaking, Esau is her FIRST BORN SON, if only by a few seconds, and as such is entitled to certain privileges. A first-born son in Old Testament times is given the overall LEADERSHIP of the family, the SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY of the family as well as a DOUBLE PORTION of the inheritance. This is his BIRTHRIGHT. This is how it is always done. Or is it? If it’s up to Rebekah, it won’t be.

Romans 9:10-13 says “When Isaac married Rebekah, she gave birth to TWINS. But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God.” She was told, “Your older son will serve your younger son.” That had an impact on Rebekah then, and years later it still does.

THE SET-UP

Overhearing a conversation Isaac has with Esau, Rebekah discovers that Isaac intends to secretly give the family blessing to Esau NOT JACOB. Once given it will be binding and irrevocable. Family inheritance, family leadership, spiritual authority. BUT GOD PROMISED REBEKAH THIS WOULD GO TO JACOB!

THE HOOK

When life appears to be going pear-shaped for your children, don’t give up! Manipulate, deceive, badger and lie! If God won’t work things out immediately, do it yourself! At least this is Rebekah’s way of getting things done. Rebekah wants to work out the will of God on HER OWN TIMETABLE in Genesis 27.

There is always a Rebekah, who feels she is responsible, playing God, but in the most ungodly of ways. God said it, I believe it, BUT… Lacking faith in God’s ability to accomplish His promises, Rebekah has her own plan, a STING OPERATION on her blind husband. It’s a long-shot and poorly conceived, but she finds Jacob and gives him an opportunity to earn an Oscar. Not wanting Jacob to be the biggest loser and be by-passed for a leading role in life (Genesis 27:6-7), Rebekah tells Jacob that deception, trickery, fraud, dishonesty, lying and a sting operation is the only way left for her to fulfil the will of God! How twisted is this kind of thinking?

THE STING

She convinces Jacob to bring two of the young goats from the herd and she cooks them in the way Isaac likes. To complete the ruse, she finds some clothes belonging to Esau and puts them on Jacob. Since Esau is hairy, she glues goat skin to Jacob’s hands and neck (Genesis 27:16). She gives Jacob the meat and sends him in to play Esau and receive the blessing from his blind father. Simple. Who will ever know?

I can know God’s will and try to bring it about in the wrong way and in the wrong time. God doesn’t need me to lie and scheme in order to accomplish His purposes for my life. Do I really believe that unless I don’t act now it won’t happen and if I don’t do something God will bypass me? Is a deceptive means to a good ending justified? Is it really up to me to bring about God’s will in whatever way I please? I know I have to co-operate with God, but it seems to me Rebekah’s method is a bit sus.

God says “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT).

THE INVITATION God so patiently gives is for every one of us to believe Him and His promises. Like a father, He longs for relationship with us. He wants to include us in HIS plans, not the other way around. When I simply try to include Him in MY plans, I get it wrong and although He can turn cursing to blessing, He doesn’t condone my sin. Will my impatience with His timetable set into play a series of consequences that will inevitably shape my destiny in adverse ways? He gives every person the invitation and the opportunity to place their trust in Christ and come under His authority for their lives, and to co-operate with Him along the way. Only He knows the beginning from the end. He can shape my destiny based on integrity not a sting operation. He likes to write the end of the story with my co-operation not my interference.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:20-23 – HOW TO BECOME WELL-KNOWN

Deceptively Fruitful

It is winter in Australia and the only tree we have in our backyard has miraculously borne fruit. This is remarkable since it is not a fruit tree. At first glance you would never know. It has hundreds of ripe mandarins in it’s branches. On closer inspection, the branches of a flourishing fruit tree from my neighbours side of the fence has made my tree deceptively fruitful. My tree is actually quite bare, not even a leaf. I don’t want my life to look genuine, yet in reality find that I am as bare of good fruit as my tree in winter.

Matthew 7:20-23 (NLT) in the Bible says “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven … only those who actually do the will of My Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to Me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in Your name and cast out demons in Your Name and performed many miracles in Your Name.’ But I will reply, ‘I NEVER KNEW YOU. Get away from Me, you who break God’s laws.’”

Who are these fruitless people who call Jesus Lord, yet perform miracles and prophesy in His Name? Somehow they do these things and still aren’t KNOWN by Christ? On one hand Jesus says you will know a person by the good fruit of their ACTIONS. On the other hand there are those who cast out demons in His Name and perform miracles in His Name who appear to bear good fruit but who are NOT recognised by Him as His followers! Are you well-known?

According to Barna research 64% believe they will go to heaven when they die. Jesus says that there will be FEW who find their way to heaven because few have KNOWN Him on earth or are known by Him (Matthew 7:13-14). Few have come under His authority. Too many have a superficial faith. Big words, no character. Duty but no depth. Flowery prayers and floury lives. Dancing like David outwardly but disabled like Mephibosheth inwardly (2 Samuel 4, 16). Ritual without righteousness. Religion but no relationship. Sanctimonious but not saved. Bowing but not obedient. Deceptively fruitful, but inwardly bare.

In the end, it’s not going to be what I have done for Christ that counts, but what HE has done for me. It is not MY words about Him, but HIS Word applied to my life that will enable me to obey His will. 1 John 4:19 says that I love because HE first loved me. So it is not MY profession of Him that matters but HIS profession of me. It is not how much I try to do things for Him to gain points, but what HE has freely done for me by sending His Son to die for my sins.

The invitation is to know Christ as Lord, not simply mouth that He is Lord. The word “LORD” (Kurios) in the Bible signifies sovereign power and absolute authority. The kingdom of heaven IS coming under HIS authority. 1 Corinthians 8:2-3 (NLT) says that the person who loves God is KNOWN and recognised by God. In John 14:15 (NIV) Jesus says “If you love Me, you will obey what I command.” Loving God opens up a genuine pathway of communication and relationship with God. This relationship with God through faith in Christ informs my life and enables me to live and be fruitful in the way God intends. ARE YOU WELL-KNOWN BY GOD?

Pastor Ross