A Sidekick's Blog

By the Book

July 9, 2014
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We Sidekicks are not at liberty to decide how best to serve our Hero. My Hero has written a Book that He expects me to understand and put into practice.  Most Sidekicks have supervisor/mentors that have been in the service of the Hero for many years before, and who have learned to know His will and apply His teachings. They are commonly called Pastors. But once in a while a Pastor becomes enamored with all the “feel-good” fluff and excitement of being in the service of our Hero, Jesus Christ. That’s easy to do, of course. I’m guilty of that myself sometimes. But when that “feel-good” stuff becomes an end in itself, or a higher priority than faithfulness to the Hero’s Book, it’s big big trouble.

A former pastor rebuked me thusly after the umpteenth time I brought him a bunch of questions about the Book:


Oh, doctrine, doctrine, doctrine! You and that doctrinal stuff, Robin. Enough already! Can’t you just love the Lord?

Oh. Wow. I was stunned! Had I missed the whole point of all that bible study? Was I too concerned with my Hero’s teachings so that I missed out on just enjoying my role of serving at His side? Maybe… so I really worked hard at trying to “just love the Lord” and not being so concerned about “minutia,” as my pastor had called it. But I discovered something in the process of “trying to love the Lord” that really freaked me out:

1. – If you love the Lord, you’ll do what He says (John 14:15).
2. – You can’t do what He says if you don’t know what He says and what it means.
3. – Knowing what He says and what it means is – omygosh… DOCTRINE!

Uh-oh, how did this happen? But as it turns out, there’s no way to “just love the Lord” without studying doctrine! Dr. John Gerstner says this better than I can. Clicky here: Everyman Must be a Theologian Excerpt:

If a theologian is a person who knows God, then by reverse reasoning a person who is not a theologian does not know God. There is no shame in a layman‘s being told that he does not know carpentry, or plumbing, or medicine, or law, or teaching, or the ways of a housewife; but there surely is the greatest of shame in a layman‘s being told that he does not know God. Furthermore, there is more than shame; there is very great danger. The Scripture says that to live apart from God is death. And just as the text quoted says it is life eternal to know God and Christ, another passage in the same book says that they who do not believe in Jesus shall not see life and, furthermore, the wrath of God abides upon them: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

I was even more confused after I went back to my pastor to seek an answer to this riddle:

Robin: Pastor, how can I love the Lord without doctrine? Can you tell me about Him without referring to doctrine?
Pastor: Oh, you again… you and your book. Um, sure. Tell you about Jesus without doctrine? Well lemme see… well, He loves us, so…
Robin (interrupting): Wait, pastor, that’s doctrine! “He loves us” is doctrine! Try again, please, I really need to know.
Pastor: Oh, yeah, well, okay. Um, okay. He is building His kingdom here, and…”
Robin (interrupting again): Doctrine. Please try again? I really want to just love the Lord!
Pastor: Love is a feeling, Robin! Can’t you just feel His love and be satisfied?
Robin: Not if I truly love Him back. See here where He said… (turning to John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” – you gotta know what they are!)
Pastor (interrupting): Put that book down! It’s not a matter of doctrine! It’s a feeling! Feel the love! Let go and let God be God!

Was it just that I didn’t get it, or had my pastor just told me to put the Hero’s book aside for a good feeling? I actually got scared. I wondered if I didn’t really love the Lord. I wondered if I was guilty of being one of those “head knowledge only” Christians that were so scorned in our church.

Only one thing to do: Go straight to the Hero for His advice.  He sent me to a new mentor, and shortly thereafter He removed my former mentor from his position. Wow. Y’see? My Hero takes good care of me!

An Oft-told Tale

June 25, 2014
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This is a rant, written by the mother of a US soldier. An Army veteran herself, she must have seen the same tragedy played out more than a few times during her service, and yet even then, she could not help her son avoid the very same tragic trap.

And we couldn’t help our son avoid the very same fate. And we did try, as far as any parent can, to warn our son and at least try to equip him emotionally for the incredibly heart-rending psychological warfare he endured for almost two years.

WARNING: “Adult” language follows, so either stop reading now or just brace yourself and accept the fact that there are sometimes appropriate occasions for strong language:

To ALL male Soldiers
Please watch out and beware.
Theres many girls out on the hunt
And they’re scattered everywhere!!!
They fill your head full of lies
And expect you to believe That they’re full of sugar and love for you,
A notion easy for you to conceive.
They say all of the right things
And use their feminine charm,
But deep inside they’re figuring ways
To cause you emotional harm.
Like this girl I know who used my son
For everything she could get.
She’s sneaky, wretched and full of crap
And she claims she isn’t finished yet.
What means the most from what shes shown
Is money and new tattoos.
Oh yeah, we cant forget to add
The weed and all the booze!

While my son was at work one day
She made a statement with a twist:
Before he came home to an empty house
She sold everything on Craig’s List!
All the furniture and most of his clothes
She disposed of everything
Like his 50+inch flat screen TV
And even his wedding ring!
When he came home the rooms were bare
No traces to be seen.
That conniving heifer took it all
Even the damn T.P!
The thieving cheating stinking whale
Apparently thought she had balls
She came back once more while he was in the field
To ensure she got it all.
An act of pure evil is what she is
She’s Satan’s spawn for sure!
It angers me every time I think
Of what my son tried to endure.
In another jab, to solidify her status
As a heartless, spineless twit,
She even took his ENGINEER RING
That he was so proud of and happy to get.
I wish I could go back in time just once
To put a stop to all of this.
I’ve got a mean right hook and an upper cut
I promise you I will not miss!
Karma is a bitch they say.
You’ve shown that you are too.
To harm a young mans military career
There’s nothing you wouldn’t do.
But I’ll be damned if I allow
You to break another’s heart
I felt that you’d be trouble alright
Right from the very start.
The game you play with young mens emotions
Shows you have no class.
You’re nothing but a selfish witch
So Honey, kiss my ass!!

Written By: Randie Parker,
Louisville, Ky
Proud Army Veteran,
Proud Army Momma
used by permission


An Irenic Conversation

June 24, 2014
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What DIDN’T happen at this year’s PCA General Assembly matters too.

Originally posted on Green Baggins:

by Reed DePace

Last year after GA I made a post expressing concern about the apparent unwillingness to discuss differences. Here is a post from TE James Hakim making the same point in a gentle and peaceful way:

An Irenic Conversation

Husband: as you know, I like to hear your concerns and address them.
Wife: I’m so glad, because I have this list of concerns, based on our current situation
Husband: I’ve reviewed your list, and note that we addressed some of these things 37 years ago and others 15 years ago. Since we said the correct things at those times, it would be out of order for me to reaffirm similar things again. Besides, if we talk about it again, I might get into trouble for saying the wrong thing this time.
Wife: Oh… well… I’d really still like to talk about
Husband: [interrupting] I’m…

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Two Down, Six to Go

June 21, 2014
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I aced English Composition last semester, and just knocked out “Technology for Educators” yesterday. That’s two down and six to go for my Associates degree in history. I’m still plodding through a remedial mathematics course for no credit though, as a prerequisite for two more math classes. :’(

That “Technology for Educators” class would be better named, “Microsoft Technology for Educators” though. I really don’t get that, since there are so many other technologies out there. Suppose when I finish college, that the Lord sends me to teach on an Indian reservation, or a poor rural school, or a third-world country. Just suppose for a sec:

These are economically depressed areas where the schools can scarcely afford to pay for the high-powered computers needed to run the supported Windows® operating system and all the bloatware needed to maintain it, much less the expensive proprietary Microsoft Office software. Granted that Microsoft offers it’s operating system and Office suite for “free” to many schools, they will only work on machines with four times the power of the Windows XP machines they now have to throw away since support for XP has ended.

Actually they don’t have to simply discard and replace those perfectly good computers. My 12-year-old Dell runs amazingly fast and nimble using a wonderful free Linux operating system and the wonderful free LibreOffice suite that does almost everything that Microsoft Office® does. Better, in fact, than M.O. in some cases, as I just discovered when preparing my final project for the “(Microsoft) Technology for Educators” class:

My final project was to create a PowerPoint presentation on one of the planets in our solar system for a third-grade class. Just for giggles and grins, I created one using LibreOffice. I had wicked cool animated gifs and video clips that played perfectly and made for a particularly spectacular presentation on my favorite planet, Jupiter:

I had wicked-cool transitions (with sounds like “whoosh” and “pewwww” and laser beam stuff) too! But the animated gifs became inanimate when I tried to save my work in Microsoft ppt format, and the embedded video refused to play. My super-cool transitions and sound effects were gone too. Saved in Open Document format, they were all there and beautifully displayed in all their glory. Oh well, I figured I would have to do it all on a borrowed Windows computer using Microsoft Office anyway, so I did. It was nice, but none of the animated gifs played and the embedded video was useless and had to be removed. Thanks to a wonderful partner who gussied up the powerpoint with fancy backgrounds, “smart art” and some pretty cool (but silent) transitions, I turned in a decent final project. But not as cool as it could’ve been. Imagine my surprise at finding the free office software actually easier and better than it’s expensive Microsoft counterpart! But this class requires that only Microsoft format be used. And you know what else gets me… LibreOffice is available for free to Windows users too! If the professor simply installed LibreOffice on her own computer, she would have enjoyed a much cooler presentation on Jupiter than the one she has to settle for. Since it’s free anyway and runs on Windows as well as Linux anyway, why insist on the expensive proprietary format? It’s just plain dumb. Perhaps they’ll listen if I cry “Racism” because poor disadvantaged people can’t afford “the rich white man’s expensive software…” ;-)

Churches, missions, charities, and many businesses could surely benefit from using free and open-source software (FOSS) instead of having to spend charitable contribution money to feed a corporate monster who requires them to throw away perfectly good hardware and buy powerful new machines just for their operating system.

I’m glad that stupid “Tech for Educators” class is behind me. But I won’t forget the lesson it taught me about locking people into proprietary tools and imposing unnecessary hardship on millions of people who don’t even know they have an alternative (besides Macintosh, which is equally expensive and proprietary). Having to muddle through that dumb class has made me an even more ardent advocate for FOSS and for GNU/Linux.


Prof. Tom Nettles at the Metropolitan Tabernacle

June 17, 2014
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A welcome invitation:

Originally posted on Martin Marprelate:

Nehemiah 8:2. ‘So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding’

The annual School of Theology at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London takes place from July 1st to 3rd. Its theme this year is ‘Rightly dividing the Word.’ I am delighted to be able to attend for the first two days. The main guest speaker this year is Prof. Tom Nettles who has recently retired from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, U.S.A.

The probable main reason for Dr. Nettles invitation is that he is the author of a new biography of C. H. Spurgeon entitled ‘Living by Revealed Truth.’ I understand that this book has greatly impressed Peter Masters, pastor of the Met Tab. That is also the title of his keynote address on the Tuesday night, though he is also speaking on ‘Spurgeon’s Interpretive Approach’…

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The Stupidity of Atheism- Mathematically Proven

June 13, 2014
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There are many more reasons for objective, intelligent people to question the conclusions of so-called “science” than there are reasons to question the existence and rule of a Creator,

Originally posted on Martin Marprelate:

The Stupidity of Atheism- Proven Mathematically

Romans 1:22. ‘Professing to be wise, they became fools.’
1 Corinthians 1:20. ‘Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?’
Ecclesiastes 10:6. ‘Folly is set in great dignity….’

‘Nothing comes of nothing;
Nothing ever could……’ (Rogers & Hammerstein)

‘Life can only come from preceding life.’ (Pasteur’s Law, never disproved after 160-odd years)

Christians know that atheists are stupid, because the Bible tells them so (Psalm 14:1). However, I am going to prove this to you mathematically.

I’m not going to point out the obvious fallacies of atheism: the amazing complexity and wonder of the Universe and especially of the earth, which could never have arisen by chance. Nor shall I bother with the many refutations of evolutionary claims that have arisen over the years. For example, Sir Thomas Huxley, known as ‘Darwin’s bulldog,’ claimed that the thyroid and pituitary glands had no…

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Some Thoughts on General Assembly

June 12, 2014
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Though no longer in the PCA, I share this as a brother with deep roots in the PCA and the Reformation. I am still surprised at how a denomination with such a specific and detailed Confession of Faith can even consider some of the ideas being proposed. “Federal Vision” is one threat to orthodoxy that remains inadequately addressed by the PCA. Now see what is being added to it! “Translating” the bible and omitting any reference to the Sonship of Christ so as not to offend Muslims; the ordination of women to ecclesiastical office; the independence of a committee with no accountability to the General Assembly (potentially disastrous!), and theistic evolution (also very prevalent now in the PCA). Another “float” in a long parade of examples of why we need to pray for our leaders, and why “ruling” elders must not be content to “defer theological matters” to the “experts” who – in every single case – are the ones who invent and spread these ridiculous, unbiblical ideas.

Originally posted on Green Baggins:

These thoughts are not in any particular order. But I did want to address some of the issues, and try to explain them in such a way that the average ruling elder in particular would be able to understand and follow the important things that are going on.

First up is the evening of confessional concern and prayer being held on Monday night. One thing I had not noticed about it the first time I read it was that it is an RSVP event. So please remember that and RSVP if you are planning to attend. The second thing I want to say about this (a thing which isn’t entirely clear in the Aquila Report) is that this evening of confessional concern and prayer is a shot across the bow of the PCA. This is not merely a discussion of the major issues facing the denomination at the General Assembly…

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Debian vs Ubuntu

June 5, 2014
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I’m truly puzzled by some of the comparisons between Debian and Debian-based Linux distros and their Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based counterparts. I know this is an old debate and that it is complicated by rants from rabid fanboys and zealots on both sides. I don’t care. What I care about is what works for me, on my computers.

On the Linux forums I lurk in, both sides appear to agree that Debian + the Xfce desktop is a hundred zillion times faster on modest hardware than even minimal Ubuntu + the Xfce desktop. This is supposedly because of the Ubuntu changes to the Debian system. The trade-off of making Debian “easy” and “user friendly” is a loss of speed and efficiency. That’s what they say, frequently on both sides of the debate. This makes the debate more about simplicity-vs-efficiency, and users of older, modest computers have to choose between them.

My experience has been exactly the opposite!
I have tested all of the Ubuntu variants including derivatives like Mint, and Debian proper and several direct-compatible derivatives from AntiX and MX-14 to Mepis, SalineOS, and Crunchbang Linux. They are all delightful in their own way, and all are supported by large communities of users. But even in their most light weight configurations, Xubuntu and Mint Xfce were much faster than Debian and it’s Debian-compatible spin-offs on my computer. In my own experience with this very modest 12-year-old Dell with its Celeron 2-GB processor and half-gig of RAM, every single instance of Xubuntu, from 10.04 through 14.04 has been much snappier than any Debian-compatible, non-Canonical counterpart – even with the same desktop environment and applications. Linux Mint Xfce, from 10 to 13 also ran faster and more elegantly than Debian, AntiX, Crunchbang, and MX-14.

I dodn’t know what Canonical does to the Debian kernel, but in my experience it has had two effects:

On one hand it makes the Ubuntu family largely incompatible with it’s parent distro. Software from the Debian repositories may or may not actually run on Ubuntu derivatives and vice-versa. It’s a crap shoot, and potentially bad for whichever OS you’re using.

On the other hand, Ubuntu’s changes make Debian not only easier, but also more responsive and compatible with a wider range of hardware. It seems that the trade-off of speed for ease is a myth – at least for this user, on pretty old hardware. And I bet I’m not the only one.

So all of this brings up another mystery for me: If Debian wants to be “the universal operating system” and “ready for the desktop” by users other than the geekiest of us, why wouldn’t they adopt some of the huge improvements that the Ubuntu developers have made? The Ubiquity installer, for example. Highly graphical and wonderfully simple, it makes installing the ‘buntus and Mints, Zorin, Pinguy, UberStudent, WattOS, and countless other Ubuntu derivatives fast and easy. While Debian’s new graphical installer is much easier now, it’s still confusing and clunky by comparison. Why make it harder on Debian users? Why not adopt some of the changes Ubuntu has made to the kernel and firmware to make Debian run better?

Because it’s “pollution from downstream,” perhaps? It reminds me of an old boss I used to work for. The only way to get an idea past him and applied to the workplace was to make it look like his idea. If it was his idea, it was brilliant. If it was anyone else’ idea, it was bad, not well thought out, poorly designed, too costly, whatever. And it never got implemented, period. Yeah, that’s pretty bad bossing, and if it hadn’t been a government job he wouldn’t have lasted as long as he did.

This is all free software, Debian. Take it! Use it! Make Debian better! Why not?

It it because Debian wants to remain aloof and “superior?” Is it because Debian doesn’t want ordinary mortals in it’s community since they don’t write code? As if code is all that matters. Debian and Ubuntu even share many of the same developers and coders! So you would think they’d still be compatible and both would be awesomely fast and super-efficient, elegant, easy, simple, and beautiful. All I can conclude from all this is that Debian is a haughty, nose-in-the-air snob that has nothing but disdain and contempt for her most popular and successful child. Debian is simply jealous of Ubuntu. And for good reason.

MX-14 – Mepis Magic in a Lightweight Xfce Distro!

May 19, 2014

Most of my readers know how technophobic I can be. I need my computer’s operating system and software to be rock-stable and trouble free as well as simple and unburdensome on my old, modest hardware. As a starving college student I can hardly afford to buy a new computer, and I’m finding that I have to use a few techno-tricks to get away with using Linux for school when they want Windows. So far saving Libre-Office work in Microsoft format (docx or rtf) has worked, as has changing my browser’s useragent string to make the school’s web site think I’m using Internet Explorer. So far so good.

An update to my Xubuntu 12.04 disabled my printer and sound last week and I fixed it by re-installing Linux-firmware, but it scared me enough to Google in search of lightweight Linux distros (preferably with the wonderful Xfce desktop) based on Debian Stable. Now before you go chiding me for not just using Debian, let me remind you that I’m a technophobe! I actually did successfully install and configure Debian once, but it took weeks to get it working and it was still wild and buggy. One of the reasons that Debian is “the granddaddy of distros” is that others have to “tame” it for ordinary casual users like me. Ubuntu does it, for example. Mint does it, Crunchbang kinda-sorta does it, and Mepis does it. Another reason that there are a zillion and twelve derivatives of Debian, is that Debian Linux is just awesome, period. Huge, vast, worldwide, and wonderful. Just still not quite tame enough for a technophobic sidekick, and too difficult to share with the other Teen Titans.

So Google comes up with one I never heard of before: MX-14,  “a special edition of AntiX” in collaboration with the Mepis community! Based on Debian Stable (not Testing, which is great, because as a true technophobe, the word “Testing” gives me more than a little pause), it’s an Xfce Linux distro that bills itself as “mid-weight” even though it’s lighter and faster than most of the Xfce distros I have tried. Also a huge plus for me, it still fits on a CD! Here’s what MX looks like from the LiveCD:

Ain’t it pretty? The panel appears on the left by default, but you can put it anywhere you like. On rectangular screens it’s a cool space-saving idea to have it on the left or right. My screen is a flat square so I moved the panel to the bottom and added my favorite little applets and most-used applications to it for quick one-click access. I removed the Notifications from the bottom panel and put them on a top panel which is only visible when I mouse over it. This Xfce desktop is wonderful because it is infinitely customizable and stays out of my way. And the new Whisker menu is similar enough to the old familiar one that it was no challenge to adapt to. The only little bug was that I couldn’t add Screenshooter (the screenshot applet) to the panel:

The trick is to treat it like an application instead of an applet. Create a launcher first and then specify Screenshooter. But on this desktop, I can bring up the screenshooter with the PrtScr button on the keyboard! So I just skipped the launcher thing after learning that little trick.

Installing MX is as easy as installing Xubuntu, but it is less familiar which is why it seemed more difficult for the first few minutes. Just slow down and take time to read the prompts and it’s effortless. The only bugaboo was trying to eliminate a 1.2 GB “unallocated” partition on my hard drive that appears right in between “/” and “/home.” I don’t even know how it got there for goodnessakes. I never did figure it out (I’ll do it later when I don’t have a lot of school work to do), but on an 80-GB hard drive I’m not too concerned about it. So after a complete back-up I installed MX on my existing partitions, overwriting Xubuntu. Yeah, I know. I’m still a Xubuntu fanboy, but the Pangolin scared me with that last update, and besides:

It doesn’t get any more stable than Debian Stable. We technophobes need ultimate stability!
Mepis magic! Mepis has “tamed wild Debian” for me without all the high risk, and
Every Xubuntu user is a Xubuntu tester, like it or not. I never could get why the developers put Beta software in a distro intended for Linux novices. Many like me have just been lucky, but it’s still unforgivable in my opinion, to make Linux newbies unknowingly into unwitting guinea pigs.

Mepis has gained a reputation for making Debian usable by ordinary mortals, but without all the drama, the hype, and the unpredictability of the Ubuntu family. So as soon as I found MX in a Google search and learned it was from the same people who develop Mepis and AntiX, I was anxious to try it. The result:

High-contrast icon theme, and a wee bit of compositing enabled just enough to make the panel background invisible. Simple wallpaper and none of the busy screenlets I had before. They’re cool if you want them, but I’m looking to conserve resources. And Xfce has the “goodies” in the panel where I can see them at a glance instead of minimizing something just to read the weather or see the clock behind my school project. Pft.

Now let me tell you about the default browser, Qupzilla! This is pretty darn cool. It’s as fast as Midori but without the font-rendering issues and crashing. It looks and acts very much like a slightly older version of Firefox, but cleaner and much faster. And Ad-Block by default in MX. Ha! I can even do my useragent trick in Qupzilla.

This is Debian Stable with up-to-date applications from the Mepis repository. And remember what I wrote before about choosing distros? One of the things to consider is the repositories. Choose a distro and you’re also choosing it’s repositories. Y’wanna talk about huge, vast, ginormous, mondo-mucho gargantuan repos? Debian has the biggest and richest repositories in the entire universe! And installing software in MX is easy with the Synaptic Package Manager. I always used Synaptic anyway rather than that slow, bloated Software Center, so again, this has been an easy transition from Xubuntu so far.

And when I need support, Mepis has forums where lots of wonderful people make themselves available to technophobes like me. On my first day they helped me solve two minor problems (one just by browsing the topics and reading, and the other in reply to my screenshooter issue).

I’m a happy li’l sidekick today. My technophobia has not stopped me from trying out yet another Linux distro, and this one looks like it could well take Xubuntu’s place in my heart, becoming the distro I would always “run home to.”

Debian’s awesomeness.
Mepis’ magic.
And none of Canonical’s relentless, unpredictable drama.

Praise be.

The New Vampirism

May 6, 2014
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What we sow, we shall surely reap.

Originally posted on Martin Marprelate:

Deuteronomy 12:29-31. ‘When the LORD your God cuts of from before you the nations which you go in to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from being before you……..For every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.’

A helpful, though depressing article on the Archbishop Cranmer blog:


I suppose we set off down this road way back in the ’60s when we decided that unborn children were not fully human and therefore expendable. It would be nice to think that this is our final destination, that the wickedness can progress no further, but somehow I doubt that is the case.

As Dr. Peter Saunders of Christian Medical Fellowship has…

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