Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Friday is for Friends: T

posted by Scot McKnight

SpiritDove.jpg

Several Fridays ago, Scot allowed me to post here about several reasons that working supernaturally with and through the Spirit (healings, prophetic insights, etc.) can be a match made in heaven–and on earth–for those interested in joining God’s mission.  We also discussed how the strengths of the missional church movement would also be very helpful to those already working with the Spirit in this way.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited when Scot started the series on the book of Acts.  And the posts didn’t disappoint.  But there hasn’t been much discussion. The relative silence in light of such an exciting book got me thinking about the comments to my prior post.  I wondered how many folks read these passages and studies and just feel foreign to the dynamics described there.  Looking back at the comments to my earlier post, there were at least two common refrains:


(i) “Yes!!
I’ve practiced some of this and want to practice it more and want to see it
embodied more in emerging/missional church.  Thanks for raising this issue!”, and

(ii) “I
believe it’s possible and even a good thing in theory, but have little or no
experience with this personally, nor am I likely to have any given my church
tradition, and it makes me nervous.” 

So, in
response to both these loosely described groups and everyone in between, and to
help us all, I have questions for us to think about and discuss.  To those more in the latter camp: 

What are your own biggest concerns, fears,
objections or obstacles to practicing this stuff with the Spirit?  Also, how do you feel when you
encounter or do studies like Scot’s on the material in Acts (or similar
passages in the gospels)?  Do they
encourage you, create longing or interest, or just seem distant and strange
and/or intimidating?
  

[For
those interested in further reading, Authority to Heal
, by Ken Blue (IVP, 1987) is, still in frequent use at Fuller, and
deals with common hindrances and gives practical advice for getting started in working
with God to heal.]

To those who
have had experience with these things, what
were and what continue to be your common obstacles, etc., to working with the
Spirit in these ways?  What has
been most helpful?  Any surprises
in your experience relative to what you expected?  What are some of the most memorable things you’ve seen God
do?  What are some of the most
memorable things he’s taught you as you participated in these things?

For my part, I
personally have more experience with what I consider to be
“prophetic” experiences–experiences in which I’ve been given inside
information about or for someone else that had great significance to them (at
that moment or later), or been told to do something that had particular
significance to them, and that I had no way to know about on my own.  (Think of the woman at the well or
Nathaniel under the fig tree, or Agabus with Paul.)  At first, my main obstacles for me were merely the avoidance
of the topic and practice by the tradition I grew up in and the fear of the
unknown.  Later, though, and to
this day, my main obstacles are just getting busy and being fearful of how I’m
perceived.  Basically, just different
forms of selfishness are my most common impediments.  That’s my initial encouragement to those curious about doing
these things with God: perfection is neither a prerequisite for nor a
by-product of doing these things. 
They’re just part of our apprenticeship to Jesus, part of our growth in
trust and love for God and others. 
They are not deserved by anyone involved; they are given as part of
God’s love and mission.  They are
embodiments of what and whom we proclaim.

 



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Jim

posted September 25, 2009 at 8:25 am


I grew up in a church that did everything it could to prohibit and stifle the exercise of such practices. As a matter of fact, to practice these things was as quick a way to be shown the door as adultery…now that I think about it, quicker.
During the charismatic explosion of the early 70s many of these churches split over the matter and many people were wounded and lost to any form of ministry. The follow up to those experiences was generally: ‘See, this is the sort of thing that happens when you go there.” (without regard to the part that the opposition groups played in those debacles)
The church taught that these practices passed when the New Testament was written. Looking back from a “many year vantage” I can see how, in many ways and perhaps unconscious to those who were so opposed, much of it had to do with the exercise of power,of keeping people in a movement under control. And, in all fairness, some of it was grounded in our Scottish Rationalist roots. Interestingly, emotional expressiveness was as frowned upon as the actual practice of these gifts.
I have often wondered about the ethnocentricity of it all too. As I have often commented: “We may assume that WE won’t be seeing these sorts of things but why must we assume that such thing would not be occurring all over the world where God deems them necessary?” (Not implying that they aren’t necessary here…just being tongue in cheek!)
As Reggie McNeal suggests, I am always happy to see it be “Pentecost, A.D. 30 all over again!”
I really look forward to watching this conversation. I am all “ears”… Thank you & sorry for the lengthy post. I am open and willing….



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Carl Holmes

posted September 25, 2009 at 9:09 am


I was born and raised in a very Strict Southern Baptist Household and church that all but banned any discussion or dissention about the matter. I am now an adult and married to a woman raised in Assemblies of God and very prophetic and charismatic in nature. It took me awhile but I now do things like pray in tongues, have witnessed healings and other things that Acts talks about. The biggest hinderance in my mind for them right now though is the old nature, we don’t do that mentality. I am my own roadblock, but it is hard to break through.



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Rodney

posted September 25, 2009 at 9:23 am


Even though I am a newcomer/visitor to this blog, I’ve also been troubled by the lack of discussion. It seems rather ironic that discussions regarding our biological proclivities to sin (the provocative discussion RJS has been leading) is set side by side with the posts on Acts. Are these dissonant voices?



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dopderbeck

posted September 25, 2009 at 9:29 am


T — thanks for this post — it is timely in light of the discussion of a “third way” in theology. I’ve raised this in the thread on Jim Belcher’s book: there is no discussion there of Pentecostal / Charismatic insights into faith and theology — not surprising because Reformed theology is cessationist.
That said, my hesitation comes from the perception, and in a few cases personal experience, that groups that emphasize the “stuff” can tend to be (a) anti-intellectual; (b) manipulative; and (c) sometimes fraudulent.
Ok, those are exceptionally harsh words. Let me be clear that I don’t mean that “most” people in such groups are dumb or manipulative or frauds. Still, I think it’s fair to say that those tendencies can be strong in such groups.
Here’s an example. A friend of mine has a family member who suffers from multiple personality disorder. They got hooked up with a shyster (IMHO) who convinced them this person was a victim of childhood Satanic Ritual Abuse. They “excavated” all these “repressed” SRA memories and conducted exorcisms and such.
Well, SRA is a fraud. On top of the genuine hardship this person had suffered as a child, and the complex illness from which she suffered, were heaped great burdens of false hopes, guilt and fears. The “exorcist” in his own way was an abuser.
I know of several other similar examples where a person with a physical or mental illness has been further abused (IMHO) by people who think they have a gift of healing. I can’t help but see this pattern inhering in movements like the “Bondage Breaker” thing. It’s like a Manichean world filled with paranoia.
So, my challenge would be this: we don’t live in first century Palestine anymore. We can’t elide the supernatural from Acts or the rest of the NT, but nevertheless it seems to me the correspondence between the world of those texts and our world isn’t 1:1. How can the “stuff” be fitted into a broader picture of redemption so that it doesn’t become a big, manuipulative show?



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Rick

posted September 25, 2009 at 9:30 am


T-
Good thoughts and questions, however….
on these type series (Acts, Luke, etc..), I tend to just enjoy soaking it in. The posts provide a time to stop by daily routine and focus on Him through Scripture (and the commentary).
Others may be doing the same thing, so I think the lack of discussion does not reflect a lack of interest or impact.



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Jim

posted September 25, 2009 at 9:46 am


#4 Dopperdeck
I think you are right about all of the flashy stuff associated with the practice. (I rate such things on what I call my “oooo” factor. The more “oooo” the more “o’s” A lot of folks are attracted to the “ooo”…e.g. loving your enemies is, for some weird reason, lower on “ooo” than “Satanic Ritual Abuse”, which is “OOOOOOO!”)
Having said that (and I’m really interested to know what people think) & as a way to narrow it down: what do you think about the idea that missional practice ought to entail praying for the sick non-believer?
It seems to me that part of the issue here is the question of ‘what parts’ of the faith we display to those who have little to no frame of reference for understanding what it is we think we are doing. And what risk do we take when we pray with non-believers for their healing? And…what would constitute healing anyway?
For example, assume you are working with the homeless and you pray with a homeless addict that he be released from his addictions. What is the risk? What is the expectation? How would he come to understand what it is you are doing? And what would constitute healing? only that he no longer drink or that, in some way, he is restored to the community or join AA or go for rehab?
Please understand: I’m asking this group because these issues enter into my day to day ministry and am interested know what others think.



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Jay Wermuth

posted September 25, 2009 at 10:14 am


Thanks for this post!
I have often wondered why I had not read much in the way about this topic on this blog.
As for my take on the gifts, I will share a glimpse into my own story.
When I was around 14 I was not a “real” Christian. I did not know who Jesus was, did not go to church regularly etc. One day my mom and I were heading out to go see some image of Mary that had popped up on a building near my house (not really for religious reasons … just curious). So at dusk, I walked out to the car before my mom and as I was walking around to the passenger side of the car I had a clear vision of the front right side of the car smashed in. It frightened and confused me so much that I got in the back left seat of the car. When my mom came out of the house and saw me in the back of the car, she was perplexed, but I was a weird kid … so whatever. As we were driving to see this spectacle, my mom made a left turn at an intersection (it was now dark). Immediately I heard a loud exploding noise and the car began spinning to the left. When the car came to a stop, I realized that the front right side of the car was now smashed in by someone who had just run the red light.
Now at this time I was not some crazy Charismatic. I was just a kid getting in a car. So to those who would say this just doesn’t happen anymore, I cannot even process that thought anymore, given my experience. This encounter, though, led me to a lot of questioning. I knew that I experienced something supernatural, but what? I began my search for what happened and I found an explanation in scripture. A few months after this event I was bored so I picked up an NIV Bible that my friend had bought me, which I had never cracked opened. I decided to read a book called Revelation. As odd as it sounds, that book actually helped me understand my experience, but I didn’t really believe yet. Then, now 15 years old, I fractured one of the toes on my left foot. The doctor told me there wasn’t much that could be done for it outside of taping it up and staying off of it. That night I went to bed and prayed: “Jesus, if you really do miracles, please heal my toe.” I actually prayed this prayer with very little faith and almost no expectation. The next day I was standing at the “fridge” looking for some food when I stopped and realized that I had been walking around with no pain! I instantly fell on the floor stunned. I was so overwhelmed by God that I couldn’t believe it. I started shouting and it wasn’t more than a few days untilI read the book of John and gave my life to Jesus.
I say all of that to point out that people can say what they want about miracles and healing, but if you have experienced it, you can’t rationalize it away. Miracles brought me into the Kingdom. Not for the sake of miracles, but just because of Jesus’ will.
For those who say that “Charismatics” are ((a) anti-intellectual; (b) manipulative; and (c) sometimes fraudulent.), I say true, but isn’t that true of everyone else? And I would point you to the work of some fabulous, “Charismatic” intellectuals: Gordon Fee, Amos Yong, Graham Twelftree, Ben Witherington, Wayne Grudem, Larry Hurtado, Frank Macchia, Veli-Matti Karkkainnen, Russ Spitler, Max Turner and I would suggest a few people like John Wesley, Paul (the Apostle), Ezekiel (Zeke) and a well know Miracle-Worker named Jesus.



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T

posted September 25, 2009 at 11:11 am


Some wonderful comments and thoughts. I’m glad that both the anti-emotional bent of the cessationist camp and the anti-intellectual bent of the charismatic were mentioned. I remember, growing up SBC, being drawn to becoming a preacher and a big part of that was that the pulpit seemed to be the only place a man could be passionate or emotionally genuine without being taboo. I think we’ve got some recovery to do from the enlightenment to become both intellectually and emotionally whole at the same time, which isn’t always a tidy process. Lots of obstacles to this practice lie along this intellectual/emotional faultline. Working with the Spirit doesn’t require that we shut off our mind (he leads into all truth), and we’ve also got to let go of some fear regarding emotions and our desire for order/control and for front-loading all understanding before experience–sometimes obedience precedes understanding.
dopderbeck, yes, there can be abuses through these kinds of things, as with teaching, preaching, counseling, evangelizing, etc. One of my favorite tips I received re: avoiding abuse is being honest and respectful. I don’t act sure of something (that I sense God is saying or doing) if I’m not. Most often these things–even the ones that turn out as powerful acts–feel just like a hunch at first, not a hard conviction. We have to have a way to follow these hunches with respect and humility, but still act on them.



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T

posted September 25, 2009 at 11:27 am


Jim,
“what do you think about the idea that missional practice ought to entail praying for the sick non-believer?”
Yes! But as you said, we’re concerned about the risk to ourselves and to God if there is no healing. In theory, this isn’t a reason to keep us from praying for someone’s healing, but in practice it’s nothing to sneeze at. I don’t think faith in this context means that people always get healed, but I do think it means we often take the risk.



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Jim

posted September 25, 2009 at 12:01 pm


Dont’ mean to be super-commenter today but this topic hits me where I live:
First, I wonder how much of the rational/emotive split can be laid at the feet of the fact that at least American men are not known for their emotional expressiveness (or only in circumscribed situations..e.g. sports or the expression of anger) and have also been at the forefront of “leadership” in the American church.
Second, I think neuroscience has demonstrated that we are only fully rational when we are well-connected emotionally. People who do not “feel” do not “think” as well as those who do. i.e. we are a total package and do ourselves no favors on either score (emotionally/rationally) when we bifurcate ourselves like that.
Third, one of the things I have tried to do in ministry is to have a broad understanding of healing. (Might be helpful for Scot to weigh in here on the matter of the broad understanding of “salvation” in the New Testament). e.g. my addict example: while my prayer may not in the moment “deliver him from his addictions” the fact that someone is there with him in them seems to be a step toward healing. The healings of Jesus not only “cured” the disease, they also rejoined the sick to the community in some very thick and important ways.
I hope you all will keep posting on this…I need to hear what you have to say.



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dopderbeck

posted September 25, 2009 at 12:08 pm


Jay (#7) — fascinating story! Please don’t take me to be saying that all charismatic or pentecostal people are manipulative and such. That’s not what I meant. I absolutely love Amos Yong’s work, BTW — I think Yong’s pnuematological perspectives on world religions and the faith-and-science conversation are brilliant contributions. I was just trying to raise the difficult (for me) question of authenticity.



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Joan Ball

posted September 25, 2009 at 12:09 pm


I think the word “practice” gives me pause as it could lead one to believe that one might make a decision and take the lead on activities that I believe should only be acted upon at the prompting of the Holy Spirit (and even then with great caution and discernment). Despite a lifetime of skepticism regarding the supernatural (I was an atheist for the bulk of my adult life) I have come to believe in a life of the Spirit – both light and darkness. How easy it is for ego to infuse such work, even when people embark upon it with the best of intentions. In the same way that faith the size of a mustard seed can be used to great good by God, I believe that ego the size of a mustard seed can lead to great peril, especially in this context.



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RJS

posted September 25, 2009 at 12:15 pm


Jim (#10)
What would you do if you were praying for the healing of someone with a broken leg instead of an addiction? What would constitute a healing and why should the two be any different?



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JIm

posted September 25, 2009 at 12:42 pm


RJS @ 13…
Good question…although I’m not sure that someone with a broken leg feels all that connected to the community. I didn’t mean my comments to sound either/or. I pray for people’s healing all of the time but cannot honestly say that I do so with the expectation that perhaps I should. e.g. Would I expect the person with the broken leg to rise up and walk? Honestly, probably not… But then that’s not to say that he wouldn’t or that God couldn’t.
Seems to me a big issue in all this is the freedom of God…whether or not we can honor that as easily as say God’s faithfulness.
What about you?



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AprilK

posted September 25, 2009 at 12:55 pm


I am one who definitely believes in miracles, etc. However, I avoid Charismatic churches and gatherings for the most part. I feel like often people go hear a prophetic speaker for the “ooooh” and “ahhhh” factor someone mentioned above. It’s as if people begin to search after the intense experiences instead of seeking after God himself. I think sometimes we western Christians consumerize the gifts and outpouring of the Holy Spirit, seeking after “more” and “more” just for the sake of having “more.” But no one’s life is really transformed by it.
The only context I’ve felt 100% comfortable hearing a prophetic speaker was at the first Anglican Mission in America winter conference in 2000. Mike Breen was speaking and had a team present who were ministering to people. The Anglican setting seemed to temper some of what I was complaining about in the paragraph above.
I wish miracles, gifts, etc would become as “normal” to Christians as singing or reading their Bibles. Someone is sick? Let’s just pray for them. Someone has a word for another person? Just share it without making it all sensational. You speak in tongues? OK. That’s cool. etc., etc. Just normal — like praying, or breathing. Then maybe we’d quit chasing these prophetic/healer speakers who travel around. I don’t think these people are fakes, but I think that part is not natural and maybe even wrong.



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RJS

posted September 25, 2009 at 1:17 pm


Jim,
It is a complex situation. I was responding primarily to your first comment asking what would constitute healing. For a broken leg I would pray, seek assistance, make sure the person was able to do what needed to be done to heal (including perhaps physical therapy), and would consider the final result healing. Healing could be instantaneous – but I wouldn’t really expect it. Probably addiction should be treated the same way.
Restoration to community adds another wrinkle though. Clearly this was an important component of many of Jesus’s healings and other actions.



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rebeccat

posted September 25, 2009 at 1:40 pm


The talk of miracles in the bible does tend to make me uncomfortable for a couple of reasons. First of all, they are so common that it really does make me wonder what is going on in the church now. Why were so many of the apostles able to work this way then and today it’s so uncommon? I don’t really understand it.
The second reason comes out of my own experience (which is the same as many other people’s, I’m sure) with prayer and miracles. There was a period of my life when there were things I or others I knew really needed. And, having read scriptures, I was familiar with how common miracles were in NT times and with Jesus’ teachings about faith and miracles, etc. So I would pray intensely for what I or someone else needed. It never worked. For a while I thought it must be due to a lack of faith on my part and I would try so hard to really, really believe when I prayed. Still nothing ever. After a while I came to see these prayers as a form of magical thinking; if I just believed enough, put enough intention behind the words, etc. then what I asked for would be granted just like the bible says. Of course, at the time I was much, much younger in my faith and didn’t understand nearly as much about working in and with the Spirit as I do now. But I still don’t think that miracles are something that I can facilitate at all. To even try to go there opens up some real hurt and disappointment that at one point came very close to damaging my faith.
OTOH, I do seem to have some gift for the prophetic and a way of knowing that comes from the Spirit. So, it could be that healing and such simply aren’t my gifting. The thing which holds me back in this area is related to my fears and experiences in the more physical domain: what if it doesn’t work? What if I’m wrong?



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T

posted September 25, 2009 at 4:08 pm


AprilK, thanks for mentioning the Anglican Mission. Even in the West, these things are routinely, intentionally practiced in a non-hyped way by traditions outside of classic pentecostal/charismatic denominations, just not at many church communities.
I’m glad folks have shared some of their own stories with these things as well. It highlights an important facet of this: while it’s helpful to “earnestly desire spiritual gifts” and be explicit about them so that we can grow in understanding and willingness, these obviously aren’t things we unilaterally control, even if we play a part. Sometimes we want and ask God to act in a certain way, and get what we ask for. Other times we ask but don’t get it. Still other times (as with Jay’s initial story) God just acts unilaterally. Those realities are common, though, in every relationship.
Several folks have raised concerns about praying for someone to be healed and nothing happening. If we accept, though, that even people who are healed will eventually pass on, isn’t this inevitable? I say this to alleviate some pressure. Not even Jesus got everything he asked for from the Father. We can ask and still respect and even embrace God’s right and qualifications to rule. We can also ask for/with others with respect and love toward them, regardless of what God does. Finally, we can develop more of a servant-at-the-ready attitude and posture where we are looking less for the particular healing or prophetic acts we want and more for whatever good thing God has in mind, including healing and prophetic acts.
By the way, I’m only able to get to a computer every so often today. If anyone wants to email me, my address is freemanlaw AT bellsouth(dot)net.



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JIm

posted September 25, 2009 at 4:11 pm


Guess you can tell I’ve really enjoyed this today…and benefited so thank you!
Another observation: seems like we often think of “miracle” as presuming a clockwork, Enlightenment world where most everything is predictable. (that is unless we’ve gotten into the quantum, string theory, etc stuff) I mean in the everyday way of living there is this presumed lawfulness (and it’s more than presumed..I know)
We then seem to assume that God somehow sits outside of that and every now and then sticks the God hand in and does a miracle. So, on the one hand, there is this closed system and then, on the other, this God who sits outside the closed system and sticks a finger in every so often.
However, the more I read the Bible the more I see that God is involved and engaged in and with the world from the get go…Of course, that doesn’t mean God is not above it and it sure doesn’t mean God is in in (e.g. pantheism or panentheism) but that God is involved with it/ in it all the time. Always has been…
So what kind of world do we pray in and go missional in? One that has God outside or one in which God is always walking about? And what difference might that distinction in terms of how we think about the world and what is “possible”?
What does it do the lawfulness of the universe when Purpose and Freedom (i.e. the God who is going somewhere) is traipsing about in it?????
And why is it that even after I pray for healing (or other things) I am just about ALWAYS surprised when it happens?



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Jay Wermuth

posted September 25, 2009 at 6:34 pm


dopderbeck,
Thanks for the follow up. I do understand your sentiment, as it is mine as well. I just wanted to make sure it was clear that there are many many Charismatics who are very intellectual. Its interesting that you like Amos Yong, his work is very interesting. He is actually my boss, so I kinda have to say that :) He is a great Pentecostal mind among many.



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Jon P

posted September 25, 2009 at 9:40 pm


T
Thank you for bringing up this topic. I know it can tend to be a very volatile and divisive issue. Let me share my personal story and where I am at with all this.
I grew up in the Assemblies of God, specifically in a church that hosted many of the largest Charismatic figures of the 80’s and 90’s (Tim Story, Rodney Howard Brown, Brownsville Revival…). So, needless to say I was very well versed in the ways of Pentecostalism. But over time I began to see that a majority of it was abusive or inauthentic. This turned me off completely to it and I neglected it entirely for quite sometime, taking up the cessationist position for awhile.
But I finally realized that I couldn’t simply deny it all because of abuse. I mean think of how many times the Bible has been horribly abused, and yet we don’t think of throwing it out!
So where I stand currently is that gifts are still important and vital to the church, but they aid it in its mission and aren’t the MAIN thing to fixate upon. Furthermore, balance and wisdom should rule the day in regards to these beautiful gifts.



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chris

posted September 29, 2009 at 9:45 pm


Good conversation – I’m benefiting from it. As for me…I grew up in a conservative charismatic Pentecostal church. Our church and our organization celebrated many of the gifts of the Spirit, and expected great things from God. However, it’s interesting that, looking back, our success rate in healings and miracles was probably less than 10%. But that never swayed many of us. Now, though, I wonder if the horrendous success rate was the reason that 80% or more of the young people in any given youth generation bailed in their late teens or twenties!
I desperately long for miracles to be a normal part of our walk with God, and a regular part of western Christianity. What do we do to get back to the Acts possibilities?



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ds r4

posted November 5, 2009 at 1:42 am


I agree with your title that”Friday is for Friends”.We have to give one day for our friends for a week.We preferd for that fridat. Behind this big reason are involved that is on the day of friday in all over world films are release.So on that day we can show movie.



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