They Surrounded the Hall With Torches!

Guarding the Assembly Hall overnight, the way we used to do, sitting in that guardhouse with hourly walkarounds, it was peaceful and anything but exiting. I checked the logbook of previous shifts, updated hourly.

“All’s quiet”

“Peaceful “

“No problems” and so forth. 

I thought that I would liven things up:

“Building is suddenly surrounded by an angry mob carrying torches, led by priests, threatening to burn it to the ground. Partner & I react quickly, confront & tie in knots mob leaders with selected scriptures, they disperse muttering & scratching heads. Like Saul: “But Saul kept on acquiring power all the more and was confounding the Jews that dwelt in Damascus as he proved logically that this is the Christ.” (Acts 9:22)

I felt bad about it the next day. Had I been too flippant with the ‘sacred records’? It was an assembly day & I stopped by to remove the sacrilege. But the old pages were gone & new blank pages added. Was the old the subject of a Wednesday meeting at HQ?

I might not do it today. But then, we long ago decided not to guard it that way, so the opportunity would not come up.

Would I tease the priests that way, today? Yes, probably, for that was clearly in good fun, but I might be slightly more circumspect....though not decline it altogether—about relating of the minister giving the talk who built his theme around such-and-such material: (turn to the verse and it is one of the blanks)

and then the middle and concluding portions around...(two more verses)

with the immediate result that “some began to believe the things said; others would not believe” (Acts 28:24)

and the long-term result that: “The fact is, some were crying out one thing and others another; for the assembly was in confusion, and the majority of them did not know the reason why they had come.” (Acts 19:32)

That one is clearly an inside joke, and even that one I dial back these days. One not get smug.

We came across a clergyman’s house out in the ministry, attached to the church. I made for it, and a companion wanted to come. “Nah, you’ll get into a fight,” I said. I felt bad and had to dig myself out of it later, but not too much because I know it would have gone down that way. He just likes correcting people. 7F6E3DA4-F1C5-45A6-B28D-202F3212759C

 

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"We Are Wise and Learned Adults, Far Too Clever to Be Sold Adam and Eve. What's Next - Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?

I like the way Paul deliberately dialed back on the ‘wisdom.’ Most of his contemporaries would have had to because they didn’t have it. Not so Paul, who was highly educated, and could have gone toe to toe with these characters. He deliberately chose not to. 

And so I, when I came to you brothers, did not come with an extravagance of speech or of wisdom declaring the sacred secret of God to you. For I decided not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and him impaled.  And I came to you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling; and my speech and what I preached were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of spirit and power,  that your faith might be, not in men’s wisdom, but in God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:2-5)

The upshot is that you treat a highly educated person pretty much like anyone else, with only minor adjustments. They just as much as anyone else, have no clue as to why there is suffering, why people die, what happens when they do, why governments suck & so forth. The explanation for them too will lie in discerning what "Jesus Christ, and him impaled" means in practical terms. People do not understand this. Even religious people, as they say to you "Christ died for our sins" are almost always unable to explain just how and why that works.

Show the high-brow people something about Adam & Eve from Genesis, for example, and there is no reason that you can not present it as a metaphor, its underlying message to be deciphered. Let me tell you, there are many people who will be intrigued, rise to the challenge, and even be flattered that you count them smart enough to figure it out. Whereas if you said from the get-go that it was all literal to people conditioned to reject the idea, you know what the reaction would be: “We are wise and learned adults, far too clever to be sold Adam and Eve. What’s next? Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?”

Focus on the meaning of the account itself (Genesis 3:1-5) without regard to whether it is literal or not. Sometimes when people see how much sense something makes, they reappraise their initial assumptions. 

For a concise explanation of the subject itself, without regard for whether it is metaphor or not - in fact, taking for granted that it is not - I don't think you can do much better than the short clip presented on the JW website:

 

 

 

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How Strong is Putin?

Statement: “Putin needs the support of people like (whose back he appears to be scratching). (the Russian Orthodox Church) That is why he does not stop the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

***~~~***

There is an element of truth here, but I think it is far overstated.

Latest from the New York Times is that Putin is not so strong as is supposed & that he has lost control of his own “dictatorship.” 

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/23/sunday-review/how-powerful-is-vladimir-putin-really.html

It is his statements about Jehovah’s Witnesses- that he does not understand why they are persecuted- yet the persecution intenfies, that accounts for this surmising of the New York Times.

We are too hung up on blaming the Church, in my opinion. Prime opposition does not originate from them, but from irreligious parties. That doesn’t mean that they are not happy about it, but they are also uncomfortable, because the irreligious parties don’t like them, either.

Indirectly, of course, they ARE responsible, but only indirectly. By neglecting their duty to teach people the Bible AND becoming immersed in scandal and intrigue, they have spawned the irreligious faction. I think it is how the verse is to be understood about Babylon the Great: “Yes, in her was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.” (Rev 18:24)

At first I supposed that the organization had taken one of my illustrations, and I was even a little nettled about it. But it is too plain an illustration not to have been thought of independently. Besides, they much improved upon it. I had been likening for the longest time the charitable works of churches to the handyman you hire to reroof your home but then he paints it instead. You will not be happy, even though it did need painting. If he had reroofed AND painted, that would be great, but he ignored your will in favor of his own.

The Watchtower’s improvement was to change the roles. My two are essentially equal. Theirs is one role clearly better than the other: the hired babysitter allows the children to go hungry and filthy while she paints the interior.

That said, I keep BOTH illustrations to myself at first if I come across someone in the ministry, church person or not, who does some kind of good works - say, running a soup kitchen, I do nothing but say good things about it. It is undeniably a good work, and we are not doing it.

I don’t say anything about painting the Titanic. Not at first. It’s a while before I bring out the Big Boat.

https://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/2019/01/nautical-bookends-of-our-age.html

Don’t misunderstand. I am not covetous. The organization can take any illustration that they want of mine, if they think it is any good. But this one they probably thought independently of a much better version. I don’t like all of their illustrations, but this one was brilliant.

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On Good Works

If I come across someone in the ministry, church person or not, who does some kind of good works - say, running a soup kitchen, I do nothing but say good things about it. It is undeniably a good work, and we are not doing it.

I don’t say anything about painting the Titanic. I don’t say anything about Jesus instructing his disciples to put first the kingdom proclaiming work. I’ll get to those things, but only later. It is a matter of prioritizing and of building connections with the one I am speaking with.

Would Victor (my nemesis) advise helping people? The side he has chosen doesn’t even know how to do it. In the US, there are two political parties. Both say they want to help people. Neither says that they want to hurt them. Yet they incessantly squabble and between them nothing gets done. 

Google the one about the Red Cross raising half a billion dollars in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake and then squandering almost all of it:

https://www.propublica.org/article/how-the-red-cross-raised-half-a-billion-dollars-for-haiti-and-built-6-homes

How is that world he has chosen doing in its goal to fight injustice and suffering? Does he almost have it snuffed out?

Jehovah’s Witnesses direct their blows where they will do the most good - publicizing what is the permanent solution. He shouldn’t go patronizing them as though he’s found a better way. If anthing, his is the course that comes up short. Our people are not so naive as to think that human rulership will remedy suffering and injustice. If anything, it is the cause of it.

Paul says it. You do good towards all & especially those related to you in the faith. (Galatians 6:10)

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Witnessing on the Airplane

I did not take my first commercial flight until I was in my 50's. It was very exciting. Successive flights increasingly became a pain, mostly for things having nothing to do with the plane but for the hassles in boarding. In the old days, you could pull up with 15 minutes to spare, and nobody at all wanted to strip-search you. 

Sometimes, witnessing helps pass the time. I don't always do it  but sometimes I do. Like one flight where I laid the contact card down on the armrest midflight and said to the man traveling next to me: "Everyone has a cause, and this is mine. We don't have to talk about it. We don’t have to talk about anything. On the other hand, there is time to kill, we will never meet again, and if you want to, okay."

It was a while before he said anything, and I began to figure that he would not. However, he presently opened up on the purpose of his trip and on his background. He was a microbiologist at some university in Iowa. He said he liked the power of faith, but of course, he was a scientist. We exchanged some boiler-plate remarks, and somewhere along the line, just so that he would know that he wasn’t talking to some donkey, I mentioned telemeres. He took up the topic but pronounced the word differently. "You mean I've been making a donkey of myself all these years, saying it wrong?" was my response.

It was just idle conversation that ensued, not particularly going anywhere. Then, out of the blue he brings up that his trip has another purpose. He is traveling to get his daughter out of her latest jam. He doesn't know what happened to her. He did his best to bring her up right, but she takes up with one lowlife scoundrel after another and has made a hopeless hash of her life. 

I didn't say: "Too bad she is not a Jehovah's Witness. Then all of her troubles would be over." I mostly just listened and asked a few questions to draw him out. Who doesn't like to be reminded what can happen to kids in the absence of Bible principles and sometimes even with Bible principles? But he didn’t know me from a bag of beans, and yet he turns to me as though I was Father Confessor. It was likely because he had NO spiritual component to his life, and when he at last came across one, the dam burst.

The time flew with the plane and we landed in no time at all. I'll never see him again, most likely. But you never know. Perhaps he will be like the man who accepted a few magazines, but eventually told me he would do so no more because his wife was allergic to newsprint. 'Look, just tell me if you don't like them,' I said to myself. 'What a stupid excuse!' Years later I met them at a convention, both baptized.

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One Thing We Know About Jesus: He Does Not Go Through Channels

 

It took the religious leaders of Jesus' day no time at all to hate his guts and to put out schemes to kill him. John chapter 11 is very frank as to why. Starting with vs 47:

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Sanhedrin together and said: “What are we to do, for this man performs many signs? If we let him go on this way, they will all put faith in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” [Protecting their turf is what is was all about with these guys.]

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them: “You do not know anything at all, and you have not reasoned that it is to your benefit for one man to let one man die in behalf of the people rather than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” [He's a contemptuous character, isn't he?] 

He did not say this, however, of his own originality, but because he was high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was to die for the nation, and not only for the nation but also to gather together into one the children of God who were scattered about. [And he's a schemer.]

So from that day on they conspired to kill him.

Imagine! Issuing his own prophesy that Jesus will "die for the nation and gather the children of God, yada yada yada," so that when he killed him, he could put a happy face on it.

During that time, the high priest was not installed in the usual way that the Torah says it should be done. It was a political appointment from the governing authorities. He was serving as high priest "that year." You are not supposed to do it that way because you forget all about God and instead focus on covering your rear end. That is why you don't want a 'house church,' under government control.

For (prime) example, there is the house church in Russia, the Orthodox Church, snuggling up to national leadership and that leadership in return granting it exclusive status. And isn't the result more or less the same as it was back then: the ones closely reading, studying, and applying God's word of instruction and counsel, find themselves, from an organizational point of view, killed?

I like how one of those leaders broke ranks, having come to Jesus previously by night, as covered in John chapter 3:

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This one came to him in the night and said to him: “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher, for no one can perform these signs that you perform unless God is with him.”

He's not exactly of the same heart with his buddies, is he, and he sticks up for Jesus later on (to no avail).

In response Jesus said to him: “Most truly I say to you, unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him: “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter into the womb of his mother a second time and be born, can he?” Jesus answered: “Most truly I say to you, unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. What has been born from the flesh is flesh, and what has been born from the spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed because I told you: You people must be born again. The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who has been born from the spirit.”

Now you know, you just know, that Caiaphas and the boys would have snapped: "What is it with these riddles? I don't have time for this nonsense!" But Nicodemus said: “How can these things be?” and he even suffers through a little reproof from Jesus as the latter replies:

“Are you a teacher of Israel and yet do not know these things? Most truly I say to you, what we know we speak, and what we have seen we bear witness to, but you do not receive the witness we give. If I have told you earthly things and you still do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? Moreover, no man has ascended into heaven but the one who descended from heaven, the Son of man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of man must be lifted up, so that everyone believing in him may have everlasting life.

He is speaking awfully plain now (for him) and he goes on to reveal to the unpretentious ruler the most compact, though complete, statement yet of just how God adapts his purpose to the present and future, a purpose he revealed long ago, when he says:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life. (vs 16)

It is too cool. He doesn't go 'through channels' because if he did, he would have run this by Caiaphas first (who would have told him to zip it). He never goes though channels. Always he goes over the heads of the pompous ones and speaks straight to the ordinary ones. And this next bit is certainly true (skipping only a verse or two):

Now this is the basis for judgment: that the light has come into the world, but men have loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were wicked.

And what about this beaut that follows? 

For whoever practices vile things hates the light and does not come to the light, so that his works may not be reproved.

Nobody wants to be reproved and a fine way to reach that end is to shut down any channel that might do it.

Nicodemus doesn't fare well (John 7:51) when he tries to defend Jesus before his co-rulers: “Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and learns what he is doing, does it?” he says.

But they tell him: “You are not also out of Galilee, are you?"

Yep. Rural, backwards Galilee, home of the bumpkins, far from the sophisticated city that they hail from. Galilee, the armpit of the world, and Jesus probably smells like one, too, even if he does raise some lowlife people from the dead every now and again.

 

 

 

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Jesus Dragged His Feet for Two Days

Martha sent for Jesus. She knew where he was. He dragged his feet for two days before coming (John 11:6) and her brother Lazurus died.

Martha knew it was Jesus‘ ‘fault‘. She said ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’

Wouldn’t a more ordinary Martha have said ‘What in God's name took you so long?!’

Instead, she said: “Yet even now I know that whatever you ask God for, God will give you.”

John 11 is the go-to place if you are trying to explain the condition of the dead and the resurrection. I like that you can read a long passage and discuss it as you go; you don’t have to cherrypick here and there. It is always better if you don't have to hop around.

I learn something more each time I read the chapter, and I never noticed this little item about both Martha’s temperament and faith before.

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Is it Time for Jehovah's Witnesses to Apologize? Part 2

 

First, it may be well to catch up with Part 1.

Jehovah’s Witnesses did fail in this regard. Let us admit it. They failed to ‘go beyond the law.’ The stakes are so high that law is thereafter reinterpreted to mean that they did violate it. Why did they fail? Ms. Chuck accurately states that any Witness victim or family of victim was always free to report child sexual abuse and that congregation justice did not preclude outside secular justice. Arguably, then, they failed because they were insular, as she says, and she may not realize just how firmly she has put her finger on the reason. They were not inclined to air their dirty laundry before the public.

It is not hard to understand. In some cultures, the concept of ‘saving face’ is so firmly entrenched that your efforts to communicate are doomed to failure if you ignore it. The very reason there is an expression ‘skeletons in the closet’ is the universal human instinct to keep them there. It is even found in the scriptures that Ms. Chuck acknowledges underlie everything Witnesses do. Decrying the spectacle of early Christians taking one another into court over personal disputes, the apostle Paul writes: “I am speaking to move you to shame. Is there not one wise man among you who is able to judge between his brothers? Instead, brother goes to court against brother, and before unbelievers at that!” If Jehovah’s Witnesses today are ‘insular,’ it is because Christians back then were ‘insular.’

In this case, however, insularity, and the failure to ‘go beyond the law’ has resulted in child abusers who did not take their turn in the police lineup, as well as victims thereby deprived of justice. Whether they would have received justice otherwise is arguable, for no end of persons manage to evade the wrath of the law. But that is not the point. They should have been turned over to police, the argument goes, for the latter to either nail them to the wall or let them beat the rap. The victims want justice. Like victims anywhere, they don’t always get it. But don’t get in the way of their quest for it. Since the Witness organization is perceived to have gotten in the way, with law being reinterpreted so as to more damningly point to that conclusion, should they apologize to victims or issue a public statement of regret? You could certainly build a case for it.

When the cop speeds in hot pursuit and a horrific accident results, pointing out that he had permission to speed only goes so far. There are times when only a sincere expression of regret stems the tide of outrage, for who is going to dismiss a run-over pedestrian as ‘just one of those things’?  At such times legal matters become technicalities and you look tone-deaf if you harp on them. Best to say that, in pursuing one’s mission, even within existing rules, a terrible tragedy has resulted for which there is sincere regret.

Were the Witness organization to ever do that, it would cut them no slack with the Reddit group. They would merely drop down a notch on their list to highlight the next reason they hate their former religion before surfacing briefly again to declare the statement insincere. Were the entire Governing Body membership to resign, or even hang themselves, it would not make them happy. They know that their successors would be cut from the same cloth.

No, there will be no placating these folks. But it might very well clear the air for all other persons, who know very well, simply through personal experience, that Jehovah’s Witnesses are very fine people. Even arch-enemy Barbara Anderson concedes this, as she somehow manages to insinuate that this is despite their evil governing body, rather than the much more reasonable ‘because of it. Not because of it solely, of course, for Witnesses’ decency stems from the God they worship. But in the sense that the Witnesses’ governing body keeps them clearly focused on the Bible, the source they signed on for, they surely deserve credit, not condemnation. Almost all other faiths have swayed with the changing winds of contemporary culture. Witnesses have not. They merely update now and then, as they have with their procedures of child sexual abuse investigations. Is it intimidating for a victim of child sexual abuse to appear before the three men of a investigatory committee? Well, they never thought of that. Maybe they should have. So now it is that a child’s recorded testimony can serve itself as the witness and he or she does not have to appear personally. If he or she does, it can be with any congregation member of choice, whether male or female. The religion’s fiercest critics say they will never stop opposing until Witnesses fix their child abuse policies. Arguably, they already have, since almost all cases tried are from 20-30 years ago.

Not everyone likes Jehovah’s Witnesses. Probably more do not than do. But people are mostly fair. A statement of regret would go a long way for them to say: “Oh, I see. They did screw it up, but now I can see why. They really do abhor child sexual abuse over there.”  Otherwise, their enemies find it a cakewalk to portray those in leadership positions among Jehovah’s Witnesses as ‘arrogant,’ and in some cases, careful cultivators of child sexual abusers. They are probably the least arrogant people on earth, but that does not mean they cannot be painted that way.

They do Bible education work. They do it extensively and effectively. In the developing world, a person is stuck with some 200-year old turkey of a Bible translation that he can neither afford nor understand because nobody other than Jehovah’s Witnesses thinks it is inappropriate for Big Business to handle distribution of the Word of God. The Witness Governing Body does think it is inappropriate and they have invented an entirely new production and distribution channel so that the person can obtain a modern Bible at minimal cost, or even free. That accomplishment is not nothing.

They do not do all of this personally, of course. Detractors routinely spin it that Witnesses are ‘controlled’ by ‘eight men in New York.’ It makes no sense. They are modest persons. Many of them cut their teeth performing their trademark door-to-door ministry in the developing world, carrying out a work more lowly than that of the ones they would ultimately lead. They have a certain knack at administration, as with any effective organization, but other than that, they have little expertise in anything. But they know where to find it when they need it. From a field of eight million members, where there are neither paywalls nor turf battles, they can quickly assemble whatever they deem necessary.

Their latest offering in the field of Bible education consists of an online, self-guided, and anonymous course of Bible study offered on the front page of their website, JW.org. The Bible offers convincing answers to important questions of life, Jehovah's Witnesses feel, questions not readily answered anywhere else. Of course, it is free and presented without any mention of money. After each lesson there is the option to 1) go deeper, for the presentation is necessarily simple, 2) attend a group study at the Witnesses’ Kingdom Hall, 3) request a personal instructor, or 4) say ‘none of the above’ and proceed to the next lesson. It is a relatively new feature. I don’t know how it will be incorporated. But with only some exaggeration, I am looking forward to saying: “I don’t want to study the Bible with you. Do it yourself. If you have any questions or want to go a level more, I’ll be around.” With only slightly more exaggeration, the new feature illustrates that, if need be, the main Bible teaching component of the Witnesses’ work could be run out of a server in someone’s dorm room.

They always will be ‘insular,’ or to put in their terminology, ‘no part of the world.’ Surely, they must be permitted to be, for the alternative is to snuff out the type of Christianity that existed in the first century, arguably the most 'true' model. Snuffing out this model in favor of societally evolved ones would be a very fine outcome in the eyes of today’s ‘anti-cultists,’ who will allow that religion can have a place only so long as it is clearly subservient to contemporary life and leaders. Anything not meeting this description they are inclined to label a ‘cult’ that ‘brainwashes’ people through ‘mind-control.’ Those of that spirit of Western anti-cultists have used exactly that reasoning to fuel the furor that has banned Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and confiscated all of their property, with many other faiths shaking in their boots that they will be next. Of a prominent Russian anti-cultist, Alexander Dvorkin, who shares Western connections via an French NGO, a human-rights expert has said: he “enjoys disseminating inflammatory narratives and hate speech.” It is no less with anti-cultists here, who further their goals through whatever avenues present themselves.

It may well be time to acknowledge that this avenue, this one involving child sexual abuse reporting, is one that became riddled with axle-bending potholes, express sincere remorse, help out to whatever extent is necessary to fill them in, so as to move on with the overall program.

End of Part 2. See Part 3.

 

 

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My My My My My My My My, What a Mess!”

One elder here is a bug on pointing out that more and more homes record video and sound on their front porch, so publishers must be cautious.

Me, I say ‘Bring it on.’ They are going to hear a normal person speaking about normal things. In a way, that even adds to whatever witness we give.

Of course, if the house is unkempt, you cannot say like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive, “My my my my my my my my, what a mess!”

Nor can you do what that old circuit overseer did as a gag for the benefit of his buddies. Upon seeing anything out of place, he would furiously move his hand up and down, breastbone to belly, repeatedly. He was making the sign of the stake, is all. He was just staking himself.

Maybe worse is that certain brother, there is always someone, who will see the camera and mike and play up to it. “Well, dear companion, it seems to be that no one at home. Would you like to join me for a Bible sandwich?”

  Navy camerea

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No Direct Mention of the 144,000

The new online Bible study lessons on JW.org does not directly mention the 144,000. Instead, it says of God’s kingdom with Christ as King: "God also selects others to be associate rulers with Jesus" and adds that "anyone who obeys its laws can be a citizen."

Good. The 144,000 is a yawner. Nobody cares. I never go there.

To clarify a little, some care, but it is analogous to the wonks on media absolutely obsessed over the doings of government and all its machinations, imagining that they reflect the interest of the ordinary people whose greatest hope towards government is that it will pave the roads, jail the bad guys, keep a few of its promises, and otherwise stay out of their hair.

A handful throughout history go on to rule with Christ in heaven. Good. It means the heavenly government has more of a feel for humanity than it would otherwise, first indicated by the fact that the King himself did time as a human.

That's all anyone really cares about, as they envision how God's Kingdom will bring relief from the incessant woes and travesties they suffer on earth. I barely go further with the 144,000 unless someone insists on it.

It is even now as one might explain ‘the Lord’s prayer’: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” ‘Sure, God’s will is done in heaven,’ one might point out. ‘I mean, I assume he’s got everything running smoothly up there. But it is ‘on earth’ where we hope to see God’s will be done, as it will be when his Kingdom comes.’

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