Posts Tagged ‘money’

(Excerpt from The Twisted Cross:  Distortion of the Gospel)

There was a crooked man,
And he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence
Upon a crooked stile:
He bought a crooked cat,
That caught a crooked mouse-
And they all lived together
In a little crooked house.

What has become of the humble country ministers who lived in little cottages next door to the church, and received allowances for their travel and other needful expenses so that they could go to the jails and hospitals, and visit the elderly members who were confined to their beds?  They sought out every opportunity to further God’s Kingdom within their communities, and worked for little or nothing because they wanted to finish all of their work on Earth before they departed.

Charles Finney writes in his autobiography that after his conversion in 1821, he left his career as a lawyer to “plead the case for Christ.”  He writes of how he lost all interest in worldly pursuits:

…I had no desire to make money.  I had no hungering and thirsting after worldly pleasures and amusements in any direction…Nothing, it seemed to me, could compete with the worth of souls, and no labor, I thought, could be so sweet and no employment so exalted as that of holding up Christ to a dying world.

So, when did the Gospel become such a highly profitable business in America, and the churches so corporate and greedy?  What makes religious leaders today feel entitled to get rich when Jesus, the Son of the Most High God, did not abuse His position for personal gain?  Does anyone truly believe that Jesus lived as a poor man and suffered and died on a cross between two thieves so that Christians can drive a Mercedes Benz?

A year or so ago, I watched one of the senate hearings regarding mega-churches and tax-exempt status, and one senator confronted a wealthy preacher, saying “Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.  So why do you feel entitled to have so many cars and private jets?” I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.

I know a church mother who told me that her husband often said, “Ever since people found out that they could make a lot of money off of Jesus, they have made a shipwreck of the Gospel and the church.”  I have also heard people say they can’t afford to join a church.

One Sunday I was asked to speak at a church, and I remarked that God is not going to pay us if we keep getting paid by people for every service we render, because Jesus said that we only have one payday- on Earth or in Heaven. After the service was over, the secretary approached me and offered me some money for speaking. I told her that the Lord would bless me some other way. I knew that the leaders wanted to catch me in some hypocrisy.

The following Sunday, the minister approached me at the altar in front of everyone, and put his hand on my head and said, “Lord, break that rebellious spirit.”  I knew then that he wanted to undermine me and what I had said the week before.

When the recession had really become serious in 2008, I clipped an article from the religion page in the newspaper about how the churches were dealing with the financial “crunch.”  It said that one church had cut out all of its outreach ministries.  Another church started a “Kingdom Seeds” program to try to get people to raise more money for them.  But one lone priest in a Catholic church said that he would not accept any money for his services until his congregation had stabilized financially. I found it shocking that most churches were trying to keep the income of their leaders intact, while cutting out the ministries that represented the whole purpose of the Body of Christ in the community. It seemed strange to me that the leaders did not simply pray and trust God to bless the business of the Kingdom.

One church I attended threatened to publicly humiliate those who were unable to afford the offerings, by listing their names or having the financial reports read out loud.  They knew that many contributions could not be accounted for, because many members only gave in cash without envelopes.  Jesus said not to let the right hand know what the left hand is doing, and not to brag about what we do for God, but this church was pressuring people to disobey His teachings.

I have also seen people forced to stand in front of the church to request financial help for their household. I suspect this is to discourage people who need assistance. No one should have to be publicly humiliated because they are in need of money.

Religious leaders are quick to accuse people of robbing God, when they themselves have no accountability and seem to have no shame about it. One common practice in some churches today is for a preacher to start off an offering with, for instance, a twenty-dollar bill of their own, and to ask each person in the congregation to match the amount they put in.  They don’t reveal that a large percentage of that same offering is being given back to them behind closed doors, and that they are receiving instant returns. Technically, they are giving nothing, and they promise people hundred-fold blessings for giving to the church. Why do leaders ask their congregation to trust God to take care of their bills, when they don’t trust Him to take care of the church and its ministries?  That is hyprocrisy in its purest form.

If I give ten dollars, and immediately receive back one hundred dollars, have I paid my tithe?  Why is it necessary to lie to God’s people, instead of just collecting a love offering at the end? And why is there so much secrecy about the money? It obviously is more profitable to be deceptive.

An elder that I know once told me that he has seen preachers put money in the offering and tell the usher to give them back their money after the service is over.

Years ago, at a church I attended, a missionary couple trusted God to supply their financial needs so that they could go to Africa to spread the gospel, and they refused to take up offerings or ask anyone for money.  They just talked to friends and prayed and money started coming in their mailbox.  The pastor of their church heard about it, and said, “It is true that God supplied the money that you needed without any manipulation on your part?”  They were dumbfounded that their pastor had so little faith in God’s ability to provide for someone who was seeking to do His will.

Nowadays, many religious leaders will do whatever it takes to keep themselves comfortable while others suffer, and they never seem to have enough.  The money-raising goals for pastor appreciations and conferences get higher every year, because many leaders expect a pay raise every year, regardless of the struggles of their congregations.   If they were at a regular job, they might have been laid off or gotten a pay cut, but they think that the money should continue to flow no matter what.

Everyone questions why the church is so ineffective today, why miracles and true revivals don’t happen anymore. It’s really quite simple. God is a Holy God, and He cannot dwell in an unholy place.

It is time to return to the old ways, so that we can see miracles and spiritual power as we did in times past.  I would like to see this in my lifetime, but first we need some good old-fashioned humble country ministers.

[1] The crooked man and other rhymes, from Aunt Mary’s Little Series

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I came across this article from the Wall Street Journal, and it echoed with my own sentiments, so I wanted to share it with my readers today.  I am not sure of Mr. Lewis’s views on Christ, but we certainly agree on this particular issue. 

I have found many of  the “shepherds” in God’s house to be glorified con-artists, who are destroying God’s flock for their own personal gain. Jesus is very dear to me, and I have no doubt He is also appalled by the misuse of His followers. 

If you wish to read more of my editorials on this topic, click on “The Twisted Cross” page above.

Here is the link to the article by Mr. Lewis, if you would rather read it on the site:

From The Wall Street Journal

  • April 21, 2012, 8:25 p.m. ET

Prophets, Not Profits


God does not want you to be rich.

Every so often, he raises up a prophet to teach wayward profiteers about the sacrifice he demands.

Ephren W. Taylor II, who called himself “the Social Capitalist,” may be one such prophet.

This son of a preacherman sold investment schemes at megachurches from Bishop Eddie Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church near Atlanta to Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston. The Securities and Exchange Commission recently charged Mr. Taylor with running a Ponzi scheme. His victims are now congregating in a class-action lawsuit. (Read more about Mr. Taylor on my blog,

“There’s more fraud in the name of God than anything else,” says Ole Anthony, president of the Trinity Foundation, which has been investigating religious fraud since 1987.

Fleeced flocks have long herded onto the victim hotline Trinity provides, their finances and their faith sheared. “It’s so incredibly damaging,” says Mr. Anthony, who has made plenty of enemies among members of his faith and even been accused of running his own cult.

Every religion provides fertile fields for fraud. The SEC also recently charged an alleged Ponzi schemer targeting Persian Jews.

But the “Prosperity Gospel” has made Christians especially vulnerable. Plant a seed, reap a harvest: Many preachers and televangelists promise a hundred-fold blessing for every dollar donated to them—something not even the Prince of Darkness, Bernie Madoff, had dared.

“It’s totally infected American churches,” Mr. Anthony says. “But the saddest thing is that with satellite TV it’s infecting the poorest parts of the world. People who barely have enough to eat see their pastor flying in a jet and living in a mansion. And if they don’t get it, it’s because they have secret sin in their lives. It’s always the victims’ fault.”

Anyone peddling insurance, real estate, sales opportunities or investments at church has probably not read the Bible. Anyone preaching wealth and prosperity is twisting its verses for a quick buck and making a mockery of their faith.

I have taken the liberty of actually reading the Bible throughout my life for those who will not. Here’s what it says: Love of money is the root of all evil. Blessed are the poor. Store your treasure in heaven. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Hand over your possessions to the poor and follow. Love your enemy. Turn the other cheek. Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal. Don’t hit up your neighbor’s wife. And my favorite: It is easier to shove a Fat Cat through the eye of a needle than it is for a camel to go to heaven—or something like that.

Jesus was not a capitalist. When he turned water into wine, he did not open a liquor store. When he multiplied loaves and fishes, he did not establish Wal-Mart. When he miraculously healed the sick, he did not bill Medicare or start an HMO. Somehow, profiting richly from the sick and infirm was considered unjust back in those days.

He worked as a humble carpenter, an itinerant preacher and sometimes helped fishermen for free. The only business transaction he was ever reported to have completed was taking a whip to money-changers for turning his Father’s house into “a den of thieves.” In the end, he took up his cross and demanded his followers do the same.

“The central message of Christianity is giving your life away,” says Mr. Anthony. “I live on $55 a week, plus room and board.” If that sounds too much like socialism, there’s always another temple where everyone is free to worship. It has even more Ponzi schemes, and a really convenient address, too: Wall Street.

—Al Lewis is a columnist for Dow Jones Newswires in Denver. He blogs at; his email address is




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Now and then, I just need to speak my peace about something, and I hope you don’t mind if I detour from my stories every once in awhile. 


There is a woman that I see occasionally at McDonald’s and we have some pretty lively discussions about religion in America.  Sometimes she will laughingly remark that she hopes I brought my boxing gloves, because we disagree on many issues.

Once she told me she had been looking for a good church.  She visited one that had several thousand members, and she remarked, “They must have something right, because they wouldn’t have so many members, true?” She loves to see what I’ll say.

“Not necessarily,” I said.  “Truth isn’t found in the crowds, unless Jesus is there. Kierkegaard said that the crowd will always lead you in the wrong direction, that the crowd is the opposite of truth.”  Then I went on about how any great speaker or musician can draw a crowd, and that they need not be spiritual-minded at all.  I told her that this is why we must have spiritual discernment, and listen carefully to what leaders are saying, so we will know if it goes against the teachings of Christ.

This same woman told me one day that she visited a church on a Wednesday night, and a fantastic charismatic speaker came, and talked about giving being the key to our blessings.  He raised more than fifty thousand dollars that night in a small church by persuading each person to give at least a thousand dollars in order to be prospered by God.  After counting the money, he said he wanted to come back on Sunday so more people could be blessed. The woman told me how wonderful she felt, and that she wished more people had been there to get their blessing. She often says that she thinks people are poor because they aren’t doing the right things.

I said that it made me angry that no one in leadership seems to be accountable for what they do with God’s money. She said that it didn’t matter to her as long as she was being obedient. I said, in that case, the next time she wanted a blessing she could just give me enough money to buy a new car. She looked at me in a strange way, as I said that people with money love to give to organizations, but they don’t enjoy giving to people.

I told her that it was no coincidence that the first four words Jesus spoke to the crowds were “Blessed are the poor.” I told her that the only one who got a blessing at that church she visited was the speaker, who twisted the gospel for his own personal gain. Corruption and greed is what I called it, and robbing the poor. I was livid because these silk-tongued con artists are making the poor even poorer. And then they dare to raise the question of who is robbing God!

I met another woman who told me that some people from her church often went out dancing at the local bar, and they persuaded her to come along.  When she objected to it, they told her that Jesus wanted us to have fun. She decided to go dancing with them, and that is where she met a man who became an abusive force in her life for many years. It didn’t sound like the kind of fun Jesus would have wanted her to have. She still regrets having listened to the crowd instead of following what she felt in her spirit.

That man set her house on fire before he left her, and it burned halfway to the ground. She has no money to repair it, and insurance won’t pay because it was arson. Her church rakes in a fortune and has never offered to help her repair her home which is freezing cold in the winter because of the damaged wiring. When she gets sick, no one calls or comes to visit her. She says once she saw her pastor open his wallet, and she was stunned by the sight of it, bulging with hundred dollar bills.

I am sorry if any of you are offended by what I’m saying, but I needed to speak my peace. I have learned not to be afraid to walk alone for what is true. If you party, the world will party with you, but if you pray, you will pray alone.


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(From “The Twisted Cross:  Distortion of the Gospel”)


“…I was wounded in the house of my friends.” (Zechariah 13:6)

I will never forget when I first realized that religion had become a highly profitable business.  I had been attending a large evangelical Friends church for a long time, and I had grown very close to many people there.  I loved my church.  I loved the leaders and the teaching and I started outreach ministries in the name of the church.  I put my money in their offerings, and dedicated my children in that church.  I went to prayer meetings and every service I could possibly go to. I was immensely smug about myself and my church.

But after Juan Carlos Ortiz spoke at our yearly conferences, the “scales fell off of my eyes,” and I saw things in a new way. I stood up in the sanctuary the following Sunday, and announced to my dear friends, “I just want to let you know that I am not the same person that I was one week ago.  I am a changed person.  I have claimed my identity as a servant of Jesus Christ, and I will never be the same.”

That is when my spiritual battlefield opened up before me, and I first saw my enemy.  What frightened me was that he was operating through my church.

Soon after my public statement, I was sitting in the sanctuary of my church and the executive minister said that they were starting a new program called “Kingdom Seeds”.  In those days, these phrases about seeds had not been coined like they are now.  Our pastor began to explain that the ushers were going to pass out dollar bills which were the “seeds” in special envelopes.  He said that the general idea was that people were to take the money and “plant it” and “make it grow”.  Then in a few months, after it had grown, they would bring it back for a special offering at “harvest time”.

I had promised God that I was going to be obedient to Him in whatever He led me to do.  Anger began to rise in my heart, and a voice broke into my thoughts, saying, “They have turned my house into a den of thieves.”  I knew I was supposed to speak up, but I began to argue with the Spirit inside of my mind, saying, “Why me?  They won’t listen to me.”  The Voice answered, “You said you were my obedient child.”  This hit me hard, because I had two young children at the time.  One of them was more obedient than the other.  When I needed something done in a hurry, I knew not to ask the disobedient one.  In a situation that required quick action, I knew to call upon the obedient child.

A few minutes later, the minister announced that it was time for “open worship.”  I rose to my feet and said, “Friends, we need to face the fact that we are tithing to ourselves in this church.  We are not tithing to God, but to man.  At least ninety percent of the money in our offerings stays within this church building to pay salaries, clean carpets, do building repairs, and such.  Very little is used for missions and outreach.  The gospel is being used as a cloak for covetousness, which Paul warned about.  Paul also wrote, ‘We are not like many, peddling the Word of God.’ People were selling the gospel then, and they are still doing it today. If Jesus came in right now He would come with His whip, because the moneychangers are still in the house of God.”  I was in the back row when I stood to speak, and people were turning around in astonishment, some with anger in their eyes.

When I sat down, it fell silent for a few endless moments.  Then our lady minister stepped to the microphone and turned to the executive minister and asked, “Do we still want to proceed with this?”  He nodded firmly, and the lady minister prayed and the ushers came forward with their hands full of envelopes.  The piano and organ began to play softly, as the ushers carried handfuls of envelopes to the end of each row, and everyone seemed uneasy.  The people in the congregation began shaking their heads or sweeping their hands at the ushers to refuse the money.

When the lead pastor saw it, he went to the microphone and asked the ushers to pass the whole stack of envelopes down each row.  I watched in surprise as the people passed the whole stack from one end of each row to the other, and no one wanted to take them.  It was an act of civil disobedience which startled me.  I never dreamed that these people would listen and act. I thanked God, but I knew I was in trouble.

A little later in the church service, the offering plate was passed around, and can you guess what happened next?  People were not putting money in the offering either.  Then I knew I was deeply in trouble.

After the service was over, many people approached me and thanked me for being the “voice of prophecy” in the midst, for telling the truth when no one else dared to.  I knew that God had used me that day, but I knew that it was not over.

The next morning, I got a phone call from the executive minister.  He said that we needed to talk, and that he wanted to arrange a time.  We planned his visit later in the week.

During that week, I began to receive thank-you cards from people in the congregation.   To my surprise, one of them was from the chairman of the financial committee.  Two missionary friends of mine asked if they could come to our house when the minister visited, because they wanted to provide moral support.

Then came the meeting with my husband and two missionaries present, and the minister asked me how I could do such a thing without clearing it with someone first, such as the elders.

I explained, “The Spirit asked me to speak, and I could not wait and get permission.  I had to be obedient.” He asked, “How do you know how this affected people?”  I answered that I had been receiving notes from people in the congregation, and I walked to my desk and pulled them out.  I will never forget the look of dismay on his face as he looked at the notes, particularly the one from the financial committee chair.

Then my missionary friend Susan spoke up and asked, “Why can’t Olive tell the truth?  Is it because she is a woman or because she doesn’t have a PhD?  Other people have said similar things in jest, and nothing was said.  Why can’t Olive say these things?”  The minister said that he just felt that I should have asked him first.

Then he quizzed me about whether I tithed regularly.  I explained that we spent much more than ten percent between our outreach ministry in the community and the offering plate.  I expressed surprise that he should even ask this question, since he was more than aware of the costs of the ministries that we did in the name of the church with no donations from anyone.  It was evident he was simply trying to undermine me.

After that, he told me that I needed to respect the authorities in the church, or find another church to attend.  I asked him, “Who is the head of the church, you or Jesus?”  He became very quiet, and said that he had a lot to do that day and needed to go.  We all said our farewells and the minister left first.

After that, I continued to attend the church, and watched the wheels of greed and corruption in motion.  I saw the programs and newsletters pleading for people to give money to the church.  I saw an abrupt change in the character of certain people that I had respected.  One woman approached me at church and told me ever so nicely that if I didn’t calm down, I might “go over the deep end”.  I told her it was much more satisfying than the shallow end and walked away.

The whole landscape shifted from spiritual to political, and I suddenly felt that this church was not the place that I thought it was. I felt a sense of resistance from the leaders towards the purposes and agenda of God.

There was good deal of financial trouble in that church for several months, because people were questioning things for the first time.  I kept getting calls from the child care department that they needed help on Sunday mornings so I helped with the children many times. I knew that the minister did not want me in the services until he could repair the financial damage.  I felt disillusioned, and betrayed by this man that I looked up to and trusted, and it hurt me a great deal.

But my faith grew because of this experience.  I learned to trust Jesus more, and man less.  I saw that all people have flaws, but Jesus doesn’t.  It ended the idolatry that had been going on in my heart.  It revealed to me that many people are idolizing religious leaders instead of looking to Jesus.  Because of my obedience and the ostracism I encountered, I grew closer to Christ and shared in His suffering, and that gave me great joy.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me…”  (Exodus 20:3)


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My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. (Matthew 21:13)

Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, once wrote that we live in “The Age of Judas,” when people admire Jesus and His teachings, but they politely excuse themselves from following Him, because it doesn’t suit their worldly agenda.

This unfinished manuscript is a critique of western Christianity and the spirit of betrayal.  The primary focus is the attempt of many religious leaders to blend capitalism with the gospel, for their own personal gain.

It is written as a series of essays which I will post here as time permits.



He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because Jesus said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.  (John 21:17)

Several years ago, I was asked by a church representative to write a piece for their newsletter.  It was on or near New Year’s Day, and I had been praying for renewed commitment to Christ and total obedience to His leadings in the New Year. I told Him that I would stand up for Him no matter what the cost.

As I sat down to type the piece that the lady requested, I found myself writing a different kind of piece than I had written previously. My words were going in a completely different direction than usual.  My previous writings had been pleasant cooperative pieces that made people feel good and comfortable.  But this one was a rebuke directed at church leaders. It was entitled “The Judas Spirit.”

When I finished it, I looked over it uncomfortably, and wondered if it was a good idea to give this one to the church.  It seemed as if the Spirit began to press me in my thoughts, asking me “Do you love Me?  How much do you love Me? “

After much apprehension, I finally turned in the piece to the lady and watched as her eyes scanned the pages suspiciously, and she didn’t give me the usual affirmative response about printing it.

A few days later, I visited that church and all of the leaders seemed immensely uncomfortable about my presence.  After the services, I approached some of them, and they behaved in a very cold demeanor towards me, as if they wanted nothing to do with me. The way they acted was as if I had made personal attacks directed at each one of them in my essay, when no names were even mentioned in the piece.  Was the topic of money really such a delicate subject?

I was quite startled by this, and I did a great deal of soul-searching about the matter.  I decided to pay a visit to a very dear pastor and his wife, whom I view as spiritual mentors in my life. The two of them were on their way into church for prayer services, but they came out without any hesitation and sat with me in the parsonage next door to talk.

Being very unsure of myself, I told them, “I trust the two of you like my parents, and I know that you will be honest with me if I have done something wrong.”  I described the entire incident to them, and told them that the piece was about Judas and how his love for money destroyed his love for Jesus, and how I applied it to the present day and people selling out their faith for money.  After I was done talking about it, I implored them to be truthful to me about whether they felt that I had shown improper disrespect to leaders or anything that I should be sorry for.

The pastor leaned forward on his chair and said firmly, “Sister Olive, sometimes when we stand upon the Word of God, we have to stand alone.  But no matter what happens, you must stand and don’t let anything move you.”  He and his wife both encouraged me not to be ashamed of speaking the truth and standing for Christ.  After that, the three of us walked next door to the church for prayer services.  I had been very distraught that day, and was so happy to be among friends.

That night, it just so happens that a man was visiting the church from another state, and he rose during the service to say a few words.  He said,  “The Spirit has told me that somebody here is hurting tonight, and I’m talking about some church hurt.”  Tears began streaming down his face, as he continued about the evil that is taking place inside the church, and how it is wounding people, and how we must stand firm and be encouraged. I had never seen the man in my life, and neither had anyone at church that night.

I knew then that the Lord had indeed led me to write this essay about Judas, and that there is much more going in churches than meets the eye.  As I was sitting down to write again and began my manuscript entitled “The Twisted Cross,”  I heard the voice of the Spirit saying “It’s much worse than you even know yet.”

So I have set out to seek and tell the truth to the best of my ability.


The Judas Spirit

Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.  And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.  (Luke 9:1)

Judas was called to be a disciple, and he left everything to follow Jesus, just like the other eleven did.  He received the blessing of Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount, and followed Him throughout the region as He ministered to the poor and the rejected. He witnessed the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the healings, the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  He loved Jesus earnestly, and wanted to be faithful to Him.  He would not have followed if he had not loved Him.

But something began to corrupt the mind of Judas.  The scriptures say that he was in charge of the money bag.  People donated money to Jesus and the disciples, so that they would be able to buy food and things that they needed in their travels.  That money began to really sparkle in the eyes of Judas.

He began to ask a lot of questions.  Why did that woman with the alabaster box of ointment pour out that expensive perfume upon the feet of Jesus?  Why did Jesus let her do that?  Judas told Jesus that they could have sold that perfume to give the money to the poor, but Jesus knew what was in his heart, and what his real issues were.

Judas used a noble explanation to cover the fact that greed had begun to take over his heart and mind (John 12:4-6). The scriptures say that Satan entered into Judas Iscariot.  The ground work had been laid for him to possess Judas.  Judas had developed a deadly case of the love of money.  He sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

Today, the spirit of betrayal has crept into the house of God throughout our nation.  Many religious leaders have come to love money more than Christ Himself.  No doubt, most of them started out with pure hearts and joy about their salvation.  They were great witnesses to the love of God, and had powerful testimonies of forgiveness and deliverance.

But now many of these have exalted themselves against the holy things of God. They are selling Jesus to innocent people, with a variety of dishonest tactics, and are robbing the poor and the widows in their midst.

Using spiritual slight-of-hand they are summoning money out of the pockets of the poor, promising them blessings and prosperity in return. The money disappears up their sleeves and never reappears. As the poor continue to struggle, someone is holding the money bag.

This he (Judas) said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.  (John 12:6)



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