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What Jesus looked like has been a subject of endless speculation and artistic representation. Almost inexplicably the most popular article I have written for this blog has been Colton Burpo’s “Real” Heaven, Akiane’s Jesus and New Christ Images I suspect its popularity could be involved with its inclusion of an attempt to make theological sense of certain biblical claims about Jesus’ appearance and go some way to “identikit” a true image of him aided by the true and still working astrology for Jesus I claim to possess.

But something was absent from that exercise because I didn’t know it until recently. And because I believe the heavens do “utter knowledge” as per Ps 19, do tell us the truth and help to reveal real mysteries, I have to add the following to my perception of the subject.

There are many asteroids in the heavens and many will be irrelevant to us because they are just names that must land somewhere. Even so, name, place and concept asteroids when significantly placed in a birth chart repay our attention. Accordingly I believe the following fact has some value. It tells us something about the appearance of Jesus and even supplies clues to the nature of incarnation because the relevant celestial factor was within conjunction of his ascendant (the body, the personal style) at the time of birth.


The relevant asteroid is the almost untranslatable wabi-sabi, a key concept in Japanese aesthetics, especially Zen aesthetics, and of chado, the related tea ceremony. It involves beauty of a special kind, unconventional and sometimes, though not necessarily including what might seem almost ugly or at least a little rough because it can include imperfection. Yet it can be elegant – the tea ceremony and raked sand and stone Zen garden obviously are. Overall and typically however what is wabi-sabi is modest, unpretentious, muted, evocative, rustic or rooted in nature, intuitive, intimate and inward, unstated or understated. It is often accidental, muted, more shadowy than light, perhaps incomplete, faded or asymmetrical, more interested in the detail than the grand plan.

Wabi-sabi is almost the complete opposite of the West’s typically measured, idealized and idealizing, rationalized, finished, explicit and “solar” Apollonian beauty which aims to shine like the midday sun rather than lighten with the beginning and ending of things as of early dawn or evening twilight. Within the West something like desire for wabi-sabi is expressed in Robert Herrick’s famous poem, Delight in Disorder which begins “A sweet disorder in the dress…” and after enumerating examples like a loose shoe lace finishes, “Do more bewitch me than when art/ Is too precise in every part”. Yet, if we examined the “precise” figures and proportions of the Apollonian up close we would find that they too were imperfect. The perfect circle is never perfectly circular nor the perfect square square. It is only a matter of degree and perspective. The perfect circle is a Platonic idea.


In the Colton Burpo article, I suggested that Isaiah’s prophesied Messiah who “has no beauty that we should desire him” (Is 52:3) means most essentially that he won’t manifest the style and appearance of the hoped-for conquering hero, himself perhaps a Hebrew militaristic version of the radiant, Greek Apollonian male ideal. While I still believe that is the main and original idea (especially as no Messiah could be ugly since even just a priest was required to be without blemish and note that anyway modern translation like the NRSV’s may substitute majesty for beauty), wabi-sabi can still enlarge upon and illuminate the original prophetic claim. It can extend it into something more positive and spiritual than just a declaration rejecting a type of historical or cultural bias in a people’s expectations.

Wabi-Sabi involves a beauty that reveals itself essentially to the trained, teachable and alert mind, these being essentially humble. The tea ceremony is not the Last Supper or Holy Communion, but practitioners of the ritual must prepare themselves and even (like entrants to Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity) bend beneath a low door to enter. They must also dress and act simply, because in the ceremony all become equal. Only given the right mood, attitudes and gestures will the beauty of the ceremony reach into awareness and become an epiphany of existence.


Surely something of this attached and attaches to the Jesus of the incarnation. His appearance is elusive. He does not immediately impress in the Apollonian fashion and he does not aim to. Speaking of perception generally, the Jesus of the parables, citing Isaiah, warns the people will look without seeing, will hear without listening (Matt 13:14).

The Catholic church currently has a well meaning but often contradictory Pope who has surprised many by proposing that atheists can be saved although it’s a biblical dictum that no one can please God unless they have faith (Heb 11:6) ). If one accepts that statement then in line with its claim I would suggest one might always need to have a degree of faith for the eyes to be sufficiently opened to perceive just what the beauty of Jesus was and is. I suggest that (again a bit like the tea ceremony principle!) the beauty would be integral, something that would satisfy and express at more than one level…

The biblical tradition is much opposed to the idol and by association somewhat the image too, often the psychological cum spiritual servant and equivalent of the idol. The idol/image can paralyse and confine the mind especially if it seems very ideal because then appreciation becomes essentially intellectual. There is no identification with it because we are not and cannot hope to be like it. Even in just everyday life men especially can pursue the perfect woman in terms of appearance though she may not in any sense be a soul mate or even someone who could gratify authentic erotic desires. She is desired as a possible possession, the token of an ideal to be seized or won. However, as said, true beauty is and needs to be integral, satisfying and fulfilling at more than one level – the psalmist even suggests we “taste” and see that the Lord is good (Ps 34:8). As the poet Ben Johnson suggests in “Still to be Neat” and in agreement with the mentioned Herrick on the charms of simplicity and occasional disorder:

Such sweet neglect more taketh me
Than all the adulteries of art:
They strike my eyes, but not my heart (Italics mine)

And of course in religion and for its devotion the heart must be struck. The eyes easily deceive and mislead.

There is no grounds with heretical and culturally blinkered Gnostics to maintain that Jesus was necessarily ugly and stunted or even to think of him as what the French in their own a nod towards wabi-sabi values would call un beau laid (a beautiful ugly person). As already indicated, the assumption is not even strictly possible in terms of traditional Jewish culture and values, nor could it fit any more Christian theological notions of Jesus as “A Second Adam” free from the effects of anything like original sin. Jesus would have to have been attractive and even ideal in some fashion but just not in any merely standard and obvious way. Humanly any beauty would be somehow elusive and inclusive as indeed might even be the heavenly kind too – I think of one alleged afterlife experience of Christ in which the person describes Jesus’ face and person always slightly changing as he gazed at it.

Certainly at the level of teaching, but doubtless too in some respects as regards his appearance, with Jesus one is always invited and required to see more and beyond. One needs to reach into a spiritual world beyond the material and everyday rather as an aim of wabi-sabi is to reach into “the Invisible” (even if for disciples of Christ the Invisible is not a revelation of a world that evolves from nothing only to transform back into nothing as per strict Buddhist philosophy).


Wabi-sabi is relevant to and has coincidental affinities with Christianity in terms of its revelatory style rather than core philosophy because for Christianity there is creation of something that will return to something. What is mysteriously revealed in Christ – hidden in plain sight wabi-sabi style but often missed by almost everyone from liberal Christians questioning incarnation to Hindus teaching Jesus as one of numerous “avatars” to Muslims proclaiming a non-composite Oneness that denies God can have any “Son” – is “The Angel of the Lord”.

This figure is the “form” or visible manifestation of deity and for early Christians the pre-incarnational Christ. This person appears to humans as a human even while it is declared at Sinai that no one may see God (the Creator) and live (Ex 33:20). Thus a judge of Israel, Gideon, encounters this person, first as a man in the field then suddenly panics because he realizes he has somehow encountered God and so fears to die. (Jdg 6:22). The slower father of Samson is at first just puzzled by sight of an angelic man whose name he eventually asks only to be told it is too wonderful to be said, (again a bit like the wabi-sabi revelation that can’t quite be stated, the YHWH name revealed to Moses was not to be pronounced or taken in vain by Jews).

It follows that the eyes of Jesus’ disciples need to be opened to see who and what Jesus is – and to initiated disciples he and it can of course even be perfectly “solar” as at the Transfiguration. A solar, regally messianic Jesus exists – as such he is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah: (the lion is always symbolically solar) and the figure of apocalypse itself. But within time and towards his era, to this age which is the age of grace, the age of Pisces which Christ’s birth introduces and which is now drawing to a close as belief declines (perhaps in line with Jesus’ question/forecast of Luk 18:8), Jesus is more hidden and simply evocative of many things. He is so like the symbolic ruler of Pisces, Neptune.

It is crucial, expected and a proof of correctness of any major issue in astrology that everything must agree and be mutually enlightening. Thus, if we presume to say that Jesus is the very essence of Neptune, hidden ruler of the era as astrologers maintain, then it is appropriate that the eminently “Neptunian”, inclusive aesthetic of wabi-sabi be complemented and echoed in the asteroid that musteriously rises at the birth.

Most western representation of Jesus, even including through the early icons, is more or less Apollonian at very least in being fixed rather than elusive and evolving. This corresponds to the fixity of some early creedal statement and Apollonian models in earlier pagan and imperial art rather than the element of fluidity in biblical narrative which carries such information as that Jesus “increased” in wisdom and favour with God and man. (Luk 2:53).

Through participation in life Jesus’ wisdom is increased and I think it would be true to say, though many would disagree, we can perceive some enlargement in Jesus’ realization of his person and mission as his work continues. Thus in the apparently early Sermon on the Mount Jesus’ programme seems largely to be perfectly living out the life of the Jew in a Jewish society still under the Law whereas later realization of purpose and destiny seems more absolute, mystical and universal. And whether that impression owes more to Jesus or to those recording his words, there are undoubtedly some gaps, puzzles and apparent contradictions in the gospels with which commentary has been wrestling ever since. Wabi-sabi style the reader is not permitted the luxury of the completely finished work (with Mark’s gospel absolutely not!) but must instead work and live with the material to grasp some of its elements. The gospels have their real and distinctive literary style yet they are also rough edged or etched like a chado cup. Sometimes the problems of reading can be resolved by scholarship and background awareness of historical factors, but not infrequently resolution may come with something like a Zen flash of insight. Regardless, any tensions inherent in the understanding of the gospels, Jesus and incarnation are not usually sensed or expressed through western religious art of the standard kind.

The test and drama of Jesus’ life was that the divine nature and characteristics are present but condensed. They needed to be claimed, realized, taken with faith so that Jesus struggles like an ordinary mortal unaware, (unless by vision and faith), that his being cannot fail in ordinary human ways when faced with ultimate challenges of his fate. (I endeavoured to stress this point in my poem The Hidden Deity, human Jesus, though theoretically and in the long term his Second Adam nature could always be renewed, is still temporarily subject to exhaustion, stress, hunger, frustration, temptation. The divine is neighbour to the human in Jesus, there is a rather wabi-sabi blending of effects, including that of time.

Wabi-sabi is about a beauty subject to time and gesture rather than one that aims at a timeless transcendence. Jesus is “perfected through suffering” (Heb 2:10) because as long as he is within time he (on the human side) is in some sense incomplete, developing and growing into the potential he has. To that extent Jesus might be called “imperfect” or unfinished; certainly he is in a position where he can become “sin for us”, something which outside of time in eternity he could not strictly be. Once out of earth time he is seen fully for what he is more divinely as in the visions of Revelation which conclude the biblical record.


Can we draw any comparisons at all with anyone known who has wabi sabi near the ascendant? Assuming a correct birth time, one instance would be the poet Walt Whitman of the once notorious Song of Myself. In this his rough (but almost deliberately assumed) persona is offered to the world like an incarnation of something – in his case the new democratic American or even the new gay male. The essential point amid the obvious difference with Jesus is that there is the same distinct sense of “This is my body”, the self in some fashion offered, very exposed to and for everybody and yet still a mystery.

The matter is beyond present scope, but with Whitman in mind I imagine (thinking of Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae and her provocative but meaningful statements regarding gays and the formation of the West’s crucial Apollonian aesthetic which almost dominates in Christianity) that wabi-sabi might be a clue for analysis of aspects of gay aesthetics and desire. These don’t as often imagined all readily correspond to the Apollonian. They can be also be more shadowy and even murky (as in, say, the erotics of leather, bear or grunge cultures, the glamorizing of industrial settings or docklands as sites of desire. These zones belong more to the elements of earth and water than the fire and air through which much spiritual imagery customarily tends to translate). Anyway, if the Apollonian is considerably gay perhaps we might say that wabi-sabi at the secular level was closer to the concept of queer.



Reverting to specifically images of Jesus as I discussed them in the mentioned Colton Burpo feature with its “identikit” work on Jesus’ figure, practically I think the wabi-sabi finding could encourage one to place a bit more emphasis and focus upon the exampled Virgoan images as they contributed to the exercise. One needs for Jesus an appearance not ultra-special but just generally pleasant, healthy, open and attractive in an almost country boy way, not notably dramatic, alluring or shining forth like his ancestor Solomon – noticeably Jesus prefers the lily of the valley to the glories of Solomon! I illustrated this earthy, almost plant-like attractiveness through the late Virgo screen actor Paul Walker and a Walker-like portrait of Jesus from artist Richard Hook.

Quite what we might want from (western) painters is still hard to say. All religious art, not to mention the image of Jesus, is having a hard time. Modernism hasn’t helped and probably never will. It is itself becoming repetitive and tired. Probably we need a new romanticism in art with elements of Caspar David Friedrich, Turner and Blake to convey a different, more fluid, growing essence of life and hence in Jesus too as “Lord of Life”. Perhaps it is an oriental or a new form of East-West art which is needed; the one certainty is that new inspiration and some change is required.

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Posted by on June 17, 2015 in aesthetics, religion


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On the 27th of July at mass in Rio de Janeiro Pope Francis declared the need for Christians to go to Mary – to whose “immaculate heart” he consecrates the world on Oct 13th – for their spiritual guidance. But is this implied demotion of Christ’s role as guide appropriate for Christians and the idea not oddly incongruous for a Pope otherwise assured against the imperative of faith that all and any good unbelievers are heaven bound? Who and what is Mary for believers?


Apparelled blue and milky white, to bless or pray
She stands upon her pillar set apart. Her gaze is pity,
She appears demure. Within her gentle hands
She holds a rosary and her whole being speaks repose;
Light from the window rests its shaft upon the youthful image
Of “God’s mother”, “Daughter of her Son”, The Spirit’s “Bride.”
Devout believers here make busy with their beads
Soft candles flame, sweet incense curls above
Their heads as faith, or simply hope, contend to lodge
Sincere request. If now the haloed image wept or if
By chance this Mother spoke, both church and world would
Hear as though God’s heart and will could be revealed
Uniquely, and more purely through this single one.
But now there’s silence and she remains resigned.

Great is Diana of the Ephesians and greater still
Since murderous Cyril declared a highest Mother, (1)
Is she called heaven and the angels’ queen, great Mary
Of the Catholics. For her unnumbered shrines arose
And everywhere devotion thrives. Regina she is
Rightly called because indeed her rule is wide
For in her name were seized those worldly kingdoms
Christ refused. In quest of glory and her grace, for Mary
Armies marched to conquer peoples and enslave (2)
While orphans and the defenceless child were left
Abused by priestly minions of her cult. For had
Not Dominic, chief saint of faith imposed by force,
Served Mary most, and out of deepest love for her
Taught ways of counting beads and decades so
Each thought of God would honour Mary always Mary?
More humble it was said to go to her than Jesus (3)
And she, the mystics’ patron, she it was who smiled
The mystic’s look of peace while swords were raised,
While prisons filled and fires of Inquisition burned
And all that tyranny unfurled whose consequence
Would be her Son – true conversation with the Word
Quite lost and he become an axiom for philosophies
Of God – would be reviled when not ignored.

The Mary’s look is mild. So it must be to hide how much
As Queen of Heaven and the Church, she has usurped
Christ’s stated headship of those realms (4) and would partake
In what pure omnipresence solely owns, accorded attributes
Bespeaking theft from Wisdom’s house in which reside
The names and character of God.(5) Without full immanence
Of the divine not she nor any saint can hear the voices
Of a million prayers, nor to a human soul deceased
May any soul address their pleas. It is idolatry and this
Is known (6) – familiar as it is ignored – but even if a Pope
Declares that prayers, unless unto the Lord, are made
As though to Satan, he’ll hasten to the nearest shrine
To dedicate his words and rule before an icon of the Mary (7)
Whom he declares the model for the life of Christians.
It’s seeming answered prayers alone will justify
What’s product of pure custom, but surely as
Dark Enki made and then unmade the maladies
He loved to send, (8) Heaven’s queen with all her saints
Delight to post rare message and the rarer cure
That keep the wheel of Hades’ lies in motion.

Be not deceived; beneath the stained glass and the candlelight
What looks demure may yet disguise what’s subtle as the serpent.
This maiden mild, it’s said, is God’s own garden, city, world and
Even his magnificence. (9) For which no need to feel surprise
This Virgin tests her visionaries by brief disguise as Satan. (10)
It was the devil’s will to rise above the stars
Of heaven and make the throne of God his own.
In meek and humble guise what else is sainted
Mary’s true intent if in her hands lies
God’s own will, direction of the angelic realm
And distribution of the Spirit’s gifts? (11)
And why did she, who calls herself “Immaculate”
Make her own bearer for the word and miracles
Scrape in the dark and dirt of what the rituals of God
Would set apart as most imperfect and unclean? (12)
Not least because, as though in ignorance of the
Hebrew word, it is for costly shrine, basilica and
Monument, for sites of passionate devotion to herself
She makes appeal amid the abandoned, destitute
And poor, forgetting how by falsities of
Jerome alone she has become repository of grace
To whom all prayer, appeal and reverence may flow. (13)
Faith without truth declares a Pope is none; the soul
Must live by what is true. (14) But vision itself
Outside of God is void.

The age runs on and to its end,
Though Mary’s work is not complete;
Time still remains to serve the plan
That silences and obscures her Son.
The faith she blesses is political,
Rule, ritual and automatic grace
Pietas of ancient Rome reborn
Its gospel less new fellowship with God
Than earning favour by good deeds
And/or imposing laws as Natural Law
Defined by Aristotle. And thus
You’ll hear the leaders say their
God and Allah are the same, yet
Still protest state law on marriage. (15)
So far this house of heresy avoids the truth
It managed to deny its Lord
On even treatment of the child
And call great crime but ordinary sin
Mere errors to counsel and ignore
Whereas the millstone should not lack
To drown the culprits in the sea. (16)
Let night descend on too great sin,
All dire infection must be set apart
And ancient houses should be let to fall.
It’s often better to begin anew –
Even to abort – religion loses right to life
Where righteousness and truth aren’t found. (17)

Now that this faith, more nearly cult ,
Shows steep decline and scriptures play
As ever minor part, the faithful follow any
Whim believing almost what they will,
Yet Mary’s banner leads them still.
So little’s known of Mary’s life
She’s symbol of most things and none
But her new consecrated role
(When not half feminist to the fight),
Is what serves tolerance and unity
In harmony with Faustina’s Christ
Of mercy, heart and pyramid
(Revere it and you can be saved!).(18)
Soon Mary’s Son will be less saviour to
The human race than all humanity itself
In non distinction of belief. All persons
And all creeds will find they’re one
And feel there is but Being to absorb.
And to its mystic door and light
The Mary of the many names will lead.(19)

When Christians bow to Buddha and
They offer praise at Mecca’s shrine (20)
It’s then this Virgin smiles once more
And last, for finally her task is done.
The believer’s work is first and last
Their right belief. (21) For which discernment
Is the greatest gift the Spirit gives
To those bound by illusion here below.

1) The spirit of violence and intolerance attaches to Marian cult from the first. Saint/Bishop Cyril of Alexandria, notoriously behind the murder of Hypatia, and early developing anti-Semitism (he had the Jews driven out of Alexandria) was particularly instrumental in driving the Theotokos (Mother of God) formula through the Council of Ephesus in 431. The title is ridiculous and mendacious making Mary sound as though she were a Magna Mater Ur Creator. Within the Christian context plainly Mary could not be anything and at most mother to or for God.
2) Christian wars for which Christianity is reviled tend to be Marian wars and especially Latin America became “Christian” through imposition of a Marian faith by armies who imagined they were serving the Mary who aided or even appeared to them. Argentine theologian Marcella Althaus-Reid, though much she says much that seems provocative for the sake of it, is substantially correct to maintain “The religious colonization of the people [of Latin America] was done through the worship of the Virgin Mary and not through Christ. The traditional saying of the Catholic Church in Argentina, To Jesus through Mary... A Cristo por Maria, has left Christ an ambiguous deity, difficult to approach in his identification with God” (Indecent Theology, p.80).
3) It is more humble to go to Mary than Christ according to St Louis de Monfort’s Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin citing various saints like St Bernard of Clairvaux and St Bonaventura. See
4) The NT is explicit Christ is head of the Church. Eph 5:23, Col 1:18.
5) The cult of Mary draws upon Biblical and apocryphal Wisdom literature where Wisdom is presented as a unique female figure who is God’s companion apparently divine. The early church understood Christ, self- identified with this figure, to be the Wisdom as well as the male Logos though in turn failing to recognize the psychological and sexual implications. These are briefly evoked in the concluding Wisdom section of last month’s Songs of Puritania.
6) Contact with the dead is biblically forbidden (Deut 18:11) and attempting to contact the prophet Samuel was the final downfall of Saul. Granted Christians are not under the Jewish covenant and Catholicism argues that the prayers of the saints are offered in Rev.5:8 but this ignores that all believers are referred to as saints in the NT and the 24 elders before the throne are representing the church and transmitting the will and intercession of specific saints as themselves intercessors.
7) Pope Francis declares prayer must be to the Lord but the first act of his reign was to pray before an icon of Mary at Santa Maria Maggiore.
8) Enki is a trickster cum Satan type in Sumerian myth and can cure disease to the extent he withdraws what he sends. I explore this point in my Temple Mysteries and Spiritual Efficiency.
9) Louis de Monfort, Treatise (6). The Virgin is “the magnificence of the Almighty”, Treatise (7) her love “is wider than the world”. Treatise (48), Mary is the City of God and Solomon’s Temple.
10) See for example: On April 14th 1982, Mirjana, a leader of the group of young people receiving Marian visions on a regular basis at Medjugorje while waiting for Mary to appear claimed “Our Lady” arrived “disguised” as Satan. (She says he was ugly though she could only have realized this when Mary later appeared and regretted the necessity of having to see the devil for her own good). It is said the devil can transform into an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14), so why not Mary?
11) Louis de Montfort Treatise (25). St Paul is explicit it is the Spirit distributes the Spirit’s gifts (1 Cor 12:11).
12) St Bernadette of Lourdes was made to find proof and miracle in a filthy grotto called a pigsty (because pigs had been stalled there). Biblically the pig is a non kosher (unclean) animal probably because originally sacred to the rejected moon goddess and while Christianity does not reckon to follow the covenant laws of Israel, it does not and cannot reject all its meanings and symbolism wholesale. It is most unlikely the biblical God would permit revelation in the alleged way. For other reasons the French clergy were perplexed by Bernadette’s claims but papal influence overcame all theological objections. And the local Marian priest almost talked Bernadette into accepting what she originally so believed to be demonic she wanted holy water to throw at the apparition.
13) The virginity obsessed St Jerome did not initiate Virgin cult but his error riddled Latin Vulgate Bible helped seal it by making Mary “full of grace”) rather than just a “favoured one”.
14) Pope Francis’ first encyclical Lumen Fidei insists that faith without truth is illusion.
15) Cardinal Dolan of New York caused controversy both by his criticism of gay marriage and finding God and Allah the same. For Jews and Christians the revealed name of God is Yahweh.
16) Matt 18:6 maintains that those who mislead children in any way would better put a millstone round their necks.
17) It is a scandal that abortion, which is at least sometimes justifiable, and blanket opposition to is encouraged by Immaculate Mary doctrine which has the Virgin free from taint from the moment of conception (Jewish tradition had the foetus quickened by the spirit after 3 months), is occasion for excommunication while child abuse which is more sinfully heinous in scriptural terms may not even be regarded by the church as worth reporting to police. Ritual cleanliness effectively often required “abortion” of evil to the extent if one can take the OT laws literally, many foetuses would have died in assuring holiness via the capital punishment which again modern Catholicism, after centuries of religious war, won’t even countenance. The contradictions in the Catholic position can seem endless.
18) Reference to the cult of the Christ of Mercy picture based on visions of St Faustina of Poland who maintained souls could be saved if they revered the picture. The now popular image has an occult quality in that the beams of light from Christ’s heart shape a pyramid suggestive of new age pyramid power.
19) Mary is becoming focus of interfaith ecumenism. Buddhists, and Hindus who would not acknowledge Christ in any normal way are drawn to Mary and the shrine of Fatima. Islam might be said almost to revere Mary more than Christ whose divinity it denies while it accepts his virgin birth.
20) Ireland’s favourite psychic, Lorna Byrne, surprised many a few years ago with an alleged vision that included Christians worshipping at Mecca. Certainly Chrislam tendencies have been accelerating if not in Ireland, America.
21)  In Joh 6:29 Jesus states, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent”

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Posted by on September 18, 2013 in Uncategorized


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