The Ethiopian Eunuch Trusts Christ

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The Ethiopian Eunuch Trusts Christ

Acts 8:26-40


If you have your bibles this morning, follow with me as I begin reading in Acts 8… Acts 8:26-40…Acts 8:26-40.
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

I’d like to begin with a question this morning. Let me put it on the screen…
Powerpoint

When the topic of personal evangelism comes up, I feel…


I realize that’s really not a question but what goes on inside you when someone begins to talk about personal evangelism? What is it that you feel when the topic of personal evangelism comes up?
You might say… you feel challenged… you might say you feel guilty….conflicted….nervous afraid….unqualifiedunequipped.

(get audience feedback)
Well I’m trusting the Lord to use his Word this morning to help us address some of the issues that we’ve mentioned. I know that God wants us to get beyond the reluctance we sometimes have when it comes to personal evangelism. Perhaps God will use His word to challenge us to be the witnesses He would want us to be.

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As we continue in Acts 8 this morning, we come to a second story about Philip the evangelist. It’s interesting that there are two stories about Philip’s evangelistic efforts side by side in the book of Acts; and it’s interesting that they are so very different.

Last week we looked at the first 25 verses of Acts 8 where Philip--one of the scattered believers that fled Jerusalem at the persecution after Stephen’s death--went north into the region of Samaria and preached to crowds. His preaching was fruitful and it was accompanied by signs… unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed.1 And as a result many Samaritans put their faith in Christ and were baptized. But the interesting thing about it is that we never really see any of the Samaritans close up—except I guess the nefarious character Simon who wanted to purchase God’s power with money. But by and large individuals weren’t the subject of the story about Philip and his evangelistic efforts.

In the second story about Philip in Acts 8 this morning, in contrast, an unsaved black African ‘minister of finance’ from the 1st century country of Nubia (modern day Sudan)comes clearly into focus. He is returning to his home country from Jerusalem and God through the Holy Spirit launches Philip like a heat seeking evangelism missile to intercept him with the gospel. It’s a wonderful story and the longer you ponder it, the more stunning God’s sovereign purposes are shown to be.
Here’s the map we used last week.
POWERPOINT

Philip’s Early Ministry
In our story from last week, Philip left Jerusalem and went north to “the” city of Samaria. We took that to be the capital city of Sebaste in the region of Samaria. The map shows him returning to Jerusalem from which it is assumed that he leaves for his mission today. The bible never really says Philip returned to Jerusalem although verse 26 could lead us to think that he did.
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place.
Notice the initiative begins with the angel of the Lord here. Down in verse 29 it will be the Spirit who gives Philip direction.
Arise and go toward the south2 to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.

You can see Gaza on the map. In the Old Testament it was one of the five cities of the Philistines. If a traveler was going from Jerusalem to Egypt, Gaza was the last watering place before the desert. Prior to the first century, Gaza had been destroyed and subsequently rebuilt in a different location.3 So in essence, at the time of our story, there were two ‘Gazas’—the old city that remained ‘desolate’ and the new city. It could be that Philip is told to head toward the “the old deserted Gaza”
4 which adds a bit of mystery to the directions given by the ‘angel of the Lord’.

Arise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.
Pretty general instructions I would say… It’s kind of like the Angel of the Lord coming to me… “Barry, get on I-20 and head west to Dallas!” Would I go? Would you go? Sometimes God’s leadership is that way. He gives us just enough information to get us started. Will we obey? Will we follow His lead?
One of the principles that this passage teaches us about personal evangelism is obedience…witnessing is obedience.
In Genesis 12, the call of Abram is quite similar… Go Abram….Go where? to the land that I will show youAbram start walking… If I put myself there would I have started walking? Would you have started walking?
Bill Hybels’ book on personal evangelism is called “Just Walk Across the Room”. In it he challenges readers to leave their “circle of comfort” and enter the “zone of the unknown”. But he argues that it’s as simple as just walking across the room.5 Will I start walking? Will you start walking?
27 And he rose and went. And (beholdfor some reason the ESV doesn’t translate the word ‘behold’) Behold there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot,
Out in the middle of nowhere, to Philip’s surprise, is an Ethiopian…“Ethiopia” here refers not to modern-day Ethiopia but to ancient Nubia, which is today part of Sudan.6

In Old Testament times this was the land of Cush. (see Esther 1:1, 8:9, Isaiah 11:11)”7

Let me show you Sudan on the map.

POWERPOINT

The Eunuch was from Modern Day Sudan


The Ethiopian is described with a host of phrases…
He is a eunuch…which meant he couldn’t have children.8 It also meant, according to Deuteronomy 23:1, that he couldn’t fully participate in Jewish worship and that he couldn’t be a proselyte or a convert to Judaism. In his state he would be considered physically blemished and in a permanent state of ritual impurity.
Josephus, the historian, reflects the attitudes of some Pharisaic Jews toward eunuchs…
Let those who have made themselves eunuchs be (detested); and…avoid any conversation with them who have deprived themselves of their manhood… let such be driven away, as if they had killed their children, since they have lost what should procure (children).”9
Continuing in verse 27…he was …a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians.
Now when we hear the name Candace as English-speakers we think of a personal name. Perhaps we know someone named Candace. But Candace was a title then--“Kandake actually is the transliteration of the Nubian word for queen.10 And so the term “Candace” is a lot like the term “Pharaoh” in describing Egyptian kings.
Among the people of Nubia, governmental power rested in the hands of the queen mother because the royal son (s-o-n), who was worshiped as an offspring of the sun(s-u-n), was above such mundane activities as ruling over a nation.

So the Ethiopian was a eunuch, he was a court official of the queen of the Ethiopians and he was in charge of all her treasure. In modern terms, that would mean he would be something like the Minister of Finance for the country or the Secretary of the Treasury for the country.

And he had come to Jerusalem to worship. Perhaps he traveled to Jerusalem for one of the three annual feasts—Passover, Pentecost, or Tabernacles.
So where was this African spiritually? Because he was a eunuch we said that he probably wasn’t a proselyte—in other words he probably hadn’t converted to Judaism.11 That would put him in the category of a Gentile ‘God-fearer’…a category of persons that we’ll see again several times in the book of Acts. ‘God-fearers’ were sympathetic to the Jews and sympathetic to worship in the synagogue. Perhaps they attended synagogue worship as Gentiles even though they never converted to Judaism.
But how did the eunuch become acquainted with Judaism? “There is ample evidence of a Jewish presence in southern Egypt beginning in the second century B.C. and extending through the second century A.D. So there were Jews in southern Egypt at the time of our story. If the man traveled extensively (as it seems that he was accustomed to) he may have come into contact with Jews anywhere in Egypt.”12
Now he had come to Jerusalem to worship and verse 28 says he was returning seated in his chariot and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
When you and I hear the word ‘chariot’ we think of a two-wheeled vehicle used in war. But the word here was also used to describe a traveling carriage,13a wagon. And we know that whatever it was it could hold at least three people—the eunuch, the driver, and Philip when he joined the Eunuch.

Now the journey to Jerusalem and back was an incredible journey for this man to undertake. One author suggested that the round trip would have taken between 3-4 months. 14 Another author suggested a round trip could take up to 10 months.15 However many months it was, it was a significant investment of time and resources.

Clearly the eunuch was a man of means. For him to have his own copy of the scroll of Isaiah is evidence of that. Each scroll was made by hand. One author says this, “It’s a measure of his enthusiasm and wealth that he possessed his own copy of a biblical book. His journey to Jerusalem left him with a hunger to know the scriptures better, but with no one to guide him.”

Now as we’ve been reading through Acts we’ve emphasized the idea of fulfilment, or at least the first steps toward fulfillment, over and over. The coming of Jesus fulfills a host of Old Testament scriptures.
As we imagine this incredible scene where this African eunuch is traveling away from Jerusalem reading the prophet Isaiah, many have highlighted the point that a host of Old Testament scriptures are beginning to be fulfilled. The ultimate fulfillment I believe will occur in the millenium.
Let me give you a taste of a few of those…
POWERPOINT

Isaiah 56:3-5
3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to (Yahweh) say, “(Yahweh) will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” 4 For thus says (Yahweh): “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, to the faithful eunuchs…5 I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.
POWERPOINT

Psalm 68:31
31 Nobles shall come from Egypt; Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God.

Cush was the Old Testament name for the land that the eunuch was from. Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God. The NIV says “Cush will submit herself to God.”

POWERPOINT

Isaiah 11:11

11 In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.

When is that day? The context I think would point to the future Milennium, the day of the Messiah’s triumph but even here in Acts we get a glimpse of the beginning of the gathering of God’s people….
Well let’s continue in verse 29
29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” Philip is given very specific encouragement that he should approach this high ranking man from a different culture…30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
It was common for people to read aloud in those days both because of the way the text was written (there were no word divisions or punctuation…the words were jammed together16) and to aid the memory.17
31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
If you’re familiar with the story in Luke 24 after the resurrection—the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus where Jesus came out of nowhere and walked with the disciples and opened up the scripture—this story echoes that story in several ways, even in the way Philip quickly disappears at the end.18
It might seem remarkable that the eunuch who didn’t know Philip from Adam would invite him into his carriage. Perhaps the man could tell from Philip’s accent and clothing that he was a Jew and that he could possibly help him with what he was reading. Perhaps he was so eager to understand God’s word that he would even welcome a stranger into his carriage.

32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.”

The eunuch is reading verses 7 and 8 from the famous passage in Isaiah 53 on the Suffering Servant. You couldn’t find a chapter more appropriate from the Old Testament for explaining the work of Christ than Isaiah 53. And they were a clear sign of God’s providence
“These verses belong to the larger context of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 which speaks of a servant of Yahweh who suffers intense humiliation and affliction, who is deprived of justice and is treated like an outcast. He suffers willingly, silent like a lamb about to be slaughtered, without complaint. He is killed before he can have descendents, and he is buried. However he is eventually vindicated by God and exalted and honored even by kings.”19
34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?”
What an incredible moment!
Major Ian Thomas, a Christian preacher, tells of a time when he got on an airplane so tired that he planned to just curl up and sleep. But then he heard a ‘pssst’ and then another ‘pssst’ Looking in the direction of the sound, he heard a man say, “I am reading the bible about Nicodemus in John 3, and I do not understand it. Do you know anything about the bible?”20 Wow!
Divine appointments await us if we are obedient to God’s leading. Well Philip knew the scriptures and he launched…
35 Then Philip opened his mouth…that’s kind of a funny phrase isn’t it? Something important is coming… and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

Philip shared the gospel. No doubt, other scriptures were shared from Philip’s memory. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

Now if you’re using the NIV or ESV you notice that your bible goes from verse 36 to verse 38—verse 37 is missing.
Here’s the issue. The most important early manuscripts do not have verse 37.21 But notice what’s missing in the story. Has the eunuch expressed his faith in Christ? In verse 35, he hears the good news about Jesus. In verse 36, they come to water and the eunuch wants to be baptized But has the eunuch expressed his faith in Christ? No.
And that’s where verse 37 comes in, in the KJV ….And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart you may.” And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God.
I guess the idea is that a well meaning scribe wanted to make sure that we don’t baptize someone who has not put their faith in Christ so he sought to bring clarity to that issue and added verse 37.
38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
Now at first glance, one might think that verse 38 clearly teaches immersion as a mode of baptism. But that’s not necessarily the case. They both could have entered the water and Philip could have poured water on the eunuch’s head.
In the early centuries of the church, paintings do show water being poured over people’s heads while they stood in ankle deep water.
A pastoral manual written in the first century or early second century, The Didache (pronounced ‘did-a-kay’ or ‘did-a-key’), gives us a picture of how the early church practiced baptism:

About baptism, baptize in this way: After first repeating all these things, baptize in living (running) water, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. If you have no running water, baptize in other water, and if you cannot use cold water, use warm. If you have neither, pour water on the head three times in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.

The reasons that we practice immersion are: 1.) Immersion is the primary meaning of the Greek word baptize used in the New Testament, 2.) The normal understanding of the prepositions “into” and “out of”, used to describe baptism in the New Testament best fit immersion. And 3.) Immersion best pictures the significance of baptism which is death to the old way of life and resurrection to the new life (Romans 6:1-4)
39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away…once more the focus is on the sovereign action of the Spirit….the Spirit seized or took hold of Philip and moved him to a new place…interestlingly enough the verb is used with reference to the rapture of persons to heaven by God…., and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
One more look at the map…
POWERPOINT

Philip’s Ministry
You can see Azotus on the map… the next major town north of Gaza on the coast road. From this point on there were settlements and Phillip preached in them as he made his way northward to Caesarea where he apparently settled down. We meet Philip again in Acts 21 in Caesarea.

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Three points of application….
POWERPOINT

Three Points of Application


HIT ENTER--■The mission of the church is to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.22
In our story this morning, as we said, the gospel made its way down to present day Sudan.
I found it interesting that to the Greeks and Romans, this would have been the end of the earth.

Homer in writing about the Greek “God of the Sea”, Poseidon, and his trip to Ethiopia said the Ethiopians lived ‘at the world’s end’. Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian, claimed that Ethiopia “stretches farthest of the inhabited lands in the direction of the sun’s decline.”23

So here in Acts 8, Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8 are beginning to be fulfilled—You will be witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
And I got to thinking about us as a church. As we’ve been praying for nations in the world over the last two years and continue to pray for them, we are owning this idea—we’re owning the idea that we have a responsibility to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
It might seem a bit counterintuitive, but prayer is a great first step. Jesus in Luke 10 said this… “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. (In other words the task is overwhelming and there aren’t enough folks to do the job) Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
It’s the Spirit of God who will call us out in His perfect timing. It’s the Spirit of God who leads the way.
I also began reflecting on how good God has been to give us opportunties to send the gospel all over the world.
We support a host of missionaries. You know that. Through October of this year, over $33,000 has been given to support these missionaries. On top of that, through October, over $12,000 has been designated to mission efforts. We’re asking the Lord to launch another missionary couple by the end of the year, the Owens, and Maria Harding is in training seeking to go overseas.
Through our Proverbs reading in October, over 160 bibles will be given away in India, over 650 ‘Bibles on CD’ will be given away to Muslims all over North Africa and 13 bibles will be given away in Bolivia.

The 40 shoe boxes we just packed and sent off as part of the Operation Christmas Child effort could end up potentially in several of 130 different countries. This year, for the first time, the boxes are traced and we’ll get to see where they end up being given away.

On top of all that, each summer we take mission trips to places like Tahlequa, Oklahoma, Cortez, Colorado, and Kentucky, Bolivia, Guatemala, and many years back a team went to Eastern Europe. We’ve sent dentists to Belieze. We’ve sent a doctor to Fort Stuart, Georgia, a pastor to Togo, Africa. I know I’ve left some of our mission efforts out. This year a team may go to Haiti.
Locally we share the gospel through the Saturday bread outreach and each Wednesday we labor to reach many children for Christ.
The mission of the church is to take the gospel to the ends of the earth and God has given us many opportunities to do that. The future is bright. As a church we are more focused on the world than ever before. We have children in our congregation who are thinking missions. Thank God for what He’s doing in our midst!
Secondly…

HIT ENTER--■The mission of the church is directed by the Spirit of God
Our passage this morning clearly communicates that the Spirit of God directed the evangelistic encounter between Philip and the eunuch.
And that’s a comforting thought when we think of evangelism—we really have a bit part when it comes to evangelism. God is the key actor in the whole process.
As I thought about this principle in the life of our church--that it’s the Spirit of God who directs the mission of the church--I reflected on the process we go through to discern the Lord’s will for our summer mission trips. Tom and PJ Beets do a great job of letting the Spirit speak and lead and initiate. I don’t know if we’ve ever publicly talked about the method that we use to discern the Spirit’s leading in coming up with a trip each summer but it illustrates this second principle.

In our mission planning meetings, we typically do a lot of prayer before each meeting. Then individuals are allowed to share what’s on their heart, things they would like to see, things they are passionate about, conflicts in their schedule, a host of issues. The unspoken assumption in the process is that God is leading us through the inputs of each individual--all of our preferences, choices, needs, and desires--to guide us along and the trip begins to take shape.

In our first meeting last Sunday, three options for summer mission trips in 2014 were considered. By the end of the meeting one was eliminated. After more input, discussion, and ideas were offered two possible trips began to take shape—one to Kentucky and one to Haiti. In the past few days, dates for the trips have been floated and changed for one reason or another. Today the group meets again after the worship service. What will happen? What further direction will the Spirit give?
The mission of the church is directed by the Spirit of God.
Finally…

HIT ENTER- ■The mission of the church is directed to individuals as well as large groups

You and I are called to be witnesses as we walk through life. One author has suggested eight guidelines for personal evangelism from this passage.24 Let me put them on the screen:



Isn’t it really a matter of being open to how God wants to use us?
Bill Hybels prays a prayer like this every morning…
My life is in your hands, God. Use me to point someone toward you today—I promise to cooperate in any way I can. If you want me to say a word for you today, I’ll do that. If you want me to keep quiet but demonstrate love and servanthood, by your Spirit’s power I will. I’m fully available to you today, so guide me by your Spirit.”25
And then he comments…

Sometimes, the end result of praying this prayer is that the Spirit allows me to have a spiritual conversation that tells of a loving and righteous God who created all things, who has a purpose in mind for all people, and who is actually hoping to relate with them as they walk through life. Other times, the Spirit simply prompts me to serve and love and listen to the needs of those who are far from God. The key is this: my objective is not to contrive ways to ‘get someone saved’; rather my objective is to walk when he prompts me to walk, talk when he says to talk, fall silent when I’m at risk of saying too much, and stay put when he leads me to stay put. If I can lay my head on the pillow at night knowing that I have cooperated with the promptings of the Spirit that day, I sleep like a baby.”26

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By way of encouragement I’d like to read a rather lengthy excerpt from the introduction to Hybel’s book Just Walk Across the Room. It illustrates the very principles we’ve been talking about.
(Read portions of pages 11-16 from Just Walk Across the Room)



1 Acts 8:7

2 Marshall, page 162 The phase could be translated ‘at noon’ None of our English translations translate the phrase that way but Marshall argues that it just might be the right translation adding to the mystery of the command because no one would be on the road at noon Marshall writes, “It helps to make the divine command to Philip all the more unusual and perplexing: at noon the road would be deserted of travelers because of the heat. The road in question went south of Jerusalem to Hebron and then west towards the coast at Gaza.”

3 Schnabel, page 424 “The city of Gaza, the old city of the Philistines in the southern coastal plain, was destroyed by Alexander the Great in 332 BC and sacked by Alexander Jannaeus in 98BC. When the new Gaza was built, the site of the old city remained desolate (Strabo the geographer); Walvoord and Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, The highway is referred to as the desert road. The expression may refer to a desert road or a desert city. Ancient Gaza was destroyed in 93 b.c. and the city was rebuilt nearer the Mediterranean in 57 b.c. The old city was called Desert Gaza. The Greek for the angel’s command could be translated, “Arise and go to the south to the road . . . that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. This is desert.”


4 Schnabel, page 424

5 Hybels, Just Walk Across the Room

6 Peterson, page 292

7 Arnold, page 69

8 He was either castrated or dismembered. This word sometimes is translated as “court official” but the next word means the same thing so probably Luke really means ‘eunuch’ here.

9 Josphus as quoted in Arnold, page 70

10 Arnold, page 69

11 It is not certain whether he was physically a eunuch. The term was also used to speak of government officials who had not been emasculated (Such as Potiphar [Gen. 39:1 LXX], who was married). He likely was an actual eunuch, though, since Luke uses both eunuch and court official to describe him. If that were true, he would have been denied access to the temple (Deut. 23:1) and therefore been unable to participate fully in the Jewish worship services. Further, he would not have been allowed to become a full proselyte to Judaism (Polhill, Acts, 224). He would have been limited to the status of a God-fearer—one who attended the synagogues and read the Scriptures but stopped short of becoming a full proselyte. The Gentile Cornelius was an example of such a God-fearer (Acts 10:1–2).


12 Arnold, page 70

13 Schnabel, page 425

14 Arnold, page 69


15 Bock, page 342

16 Sproul, page 149

17 Arnold, page 71

18 Marshall, page 161 Luke 24:13-35

19 Schnabel, page 427

20 Hughes, page 120

21 Schnabel, page 428

22 These three application points come from Schnabel, page 430-431

23 Arnold, page 69

24 Fernando, page 287-291

25 Hybels, page 37

26 Hybels, “Just Walk Across the Room” page 37





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