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Name: jm
Date registered: March 10, 2012

Latest posts

  1. Disciple Dojo - Thayer Thursday – the Lone Voice — July 24, 2014
  2. Disciple Dojo - The single most effective way I know of to study the Bible in our digital age — July 22, 2014
  3. Disciple Dojo - Check out this 2-part World Radio feature on my art and ministry! — June 25, 2014
  4. Disciple Dojo - United Methodists and LGBT ethics — June 21, 2014
  5. Disciple Dojo - Bible & Science: Friends or Foes?? (Free audio sessions!) — June 17, 2014

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  1. Disciple Dojo - Dojo Discussion: Gay wedding cakes, discrimination and religious freedom — 4 comments
  2. Disciple Dojo - Guns, Satan, mental illness…who do we blame? — 2 comments
  3. Disciple Dojo - Questions for Chick-fil-A supporters and opponents alike… — 2 comments
  4. Disciple Dojo - Christians and same-sex discussion – Round 2: My response (continued, 2) — 1 comment
  5. Disciple Dojo - Grabbing a guy’s package = Off with her hand?? (Part 1) — 1 comment

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Jul 24 2014

Disciple Dojo - Thayer Thursday – the Lone Voice

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Chris Thayer is the Director of Discipleship at Good Shepherd Church in Charlotte, NC where he oversees adult life groups and Biblical education. On Thursdays I share his weekly “Thayer’s Thoughts” for small group leaders, which are based on the previous Sunday’s sermon. Click HERE to watch or listen to the accompanying sermon.

My son’s namesake is a prophet from the Old Testament who only appears twice in the Bible: Micaiah.

His story is told in 1Kings 22 and 2Chronicles 18. Only two chapters in all of scripture – and they both tell the same story. He was the only prophet who was willing to speak the truth to King Ahab when 400 other false prophets were telling the king a lie. He was alone, yet remained faithful to the One True God. My prayer for my son since before his birth and through today has been that he would always follow God and speak the truth even if, just like the prophet Micaiah, everybody else around him deserted him and God.

So when I read the story from 1 Kings 18 about Elijah and the prophets of Baal – something inside me bubbles to the surface: an excitement and a challenge.

16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”

18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

But the people said nothing.

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”

Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”

25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.

Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”

34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.

“Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”

I’m excited as I read the account because Elijah not only stood in the face of adversity at the risk of his life and reputation – but God came through and tangibly revealed Himself to be the One True God in the face of a throng of people who cried out otherwise. It forces me to stand in awe.

I’m also challenged, however, by the trust in God that Elijah (and Micaiah after him) showed. It forces me to face myself in the mirror. If everybody around me were to stop following the one true God, and follow another god (be it an idol of old such as Baal or a modern one such as fame, money, power, or sexual identity) – would I stand firm in my foundation? Would I be willing to place my life and my reputation on the altar – knowing that the one true God would come through to show Himself for who He is?

I’m glad that I have a community of believers, a “…great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) that surround me and encourage me; that I don’t have to walk this journey of faith, of trust in God, alone. Praise God that He gave us this community to encourage us and help us run our race with perseverance. However, my prayer for my son, for me, and for you is that when we are faced with any circumstance in which we must choose between the gods we make or the God who made us is that we would risk all we are for the One who is. Because ultimately, it is not our name or reputation that is on the altar – it is His.


Chis Thayer

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Jul 22 2014

Disciple Dojo - The single most effective way I know of to study the Bible in our digital age

Original post at

Hi Dojo readers,

I was watching the kickstarter video for the new Bibliotheca project that is in the works (which you should go check out HERE if you haven’t already seen it!), and it got me thinking about something I’ve shared for years with folks in the classes I teach, but have never shared in a blog post.

We live in an age where the technology we have just in our PHONES alone gives us more access to Biblical studies than every person in the history of God’s people COMBINED had access to in the history of mankind. Think about that for a minute and let it sink in.

It is simply staggering when you actually realize the implications.

And while the rise of modern telecommunications and the digital/computer age have produced many new ways for evil and sin to flourish, it has also produced the ability to study and understand Inspired Scriptures in ways that are revolutionary…and no, I’m not talking about those silly “Bible Code” approaches some people seem so fascinated by (spoiler alert: they’re bogus!).

In fact, one of the absolute most effective ways to study the Bible that I have ever found is available absolutely free for any Christian in the world with internet access and a word-processing program. And that is what I want to share with readers today. Because it’s the way I prepare for Bible studies I lead when I really want to understand a book in Scripture as a whole and the flow of thought within it.

You see, the original Scriptures in their original languages did not have verse numbers.

They didn’t have chapter numbers.

They didn’t even have spaces between the letters originally!

Here’s an example of what a New Testament text looked like when it was first being circulated among the early churches:

greek text


Now of course modern English (which you speak and/or read if you’re reading this post!) has things like spaces, punctuation and paragraph indentations, all of which help us determine the writer’s intended message. But sometimes, due to printing/cost constraints, it is not feasible to print the Scriptures for modern English readers in ways that make the best sense literarily. In the past, publishers would print each verse as a new paragraph for some translations (see the old KJV or NASB for example). With the demand for thinline and pocket-sized Bibles, publishers often use the two-column approach which allows more text per page…but doesn’t accentuate reflective, thoughtful reading to many English readers.

And the presence of chapter and verse numbers in most printed Bible translations end up dominating the page (see the print version of the NET where each verse also include the chapter number right beside it, for instance) and break the passage up in ways that the original Biblical authors never intended–such as the unfortunate chapter break between Genesis 1 and 2.

On top of that, the decisions as to where paragraphs should begin and end are 100% made by the translators/editors/publishers of the various printed Bible translations rather than being part of the original Inspired text itself. Most of the time this doesn’t make a huge difference…but sometimes it definitely does!

So with all of this in mind, one way I have found to be TREMENDOUSLY helpful in really reading and studying the Bible in detail and understanding the literary flow of Scripture’s library of texts is by using a simple process that forces me to interact with the text in a way that no printed version ever could. I invite you to try it for yourself and see if you don’t gain so much more from ANY book of the Bible than you ever have before.

Step 1: Choose a translation

If you don’t have the ability to read or translate the text from its original language/s (Hebrew, Aramiac and/or Greek) then you’ll need to choose a translation that you can work with. There is no “best” or “most accurate” translation in modern English. EVERY translation is an interpretation. Period. Anyone who claims otherwise is being dishonest or is ignorant of how Bible translation works in real life. For the purpose of study, I suggest choosing a translation that is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between word-for-word and thought-for-thought (for more on these and the issues involving translations, I highly recommend the Disciple Dojo resource “The Bible for the Rest of Us“…and not just because I produced it! :) )

Fortunately, most English translations are available for FREE online! There are many places you can go, but I recommend in particular Bible Hub,, or Bible Gateway (Bible Gateway is nice because it has the RSV and NRSV, which many critical scholars prefer and which I grew up with as a good Methodist!)

Step 2: Choose a book of the Bible

This is based on whichever book you want to understand better or whichever one you are studying in small group, Sunday School or seminary/Bible college. For this example, I’m going to use the book of Jonah since I’m an OT guy and it’s one of my favorite books to teach.

Jonah example 1

Step 3: Open a blank word processor document

I’m not a hipster, so I’m using PC. But if you’re a Mac user, I’m sure you can find an equivalent to this step! :) For this example, I’m using Microsoft Word, but the open-source Word-like programs out there all do the same thing basically so it shouldn’t be a problem if you’re computer savvy enough to have found this blog in the first place!

Step 4: Copy the text of your Bible book

In your online Bible resource noted above, go to the first chapter of the book you’re studying and use your mouse/touchpad/touchscreen/whatever to highlight the entire text of the chapter. Then copy it by either selecting “copy” from the edit menu, right-clicking and selecting “copy” from the pop-up menu, or just hit “CTRL + C” (my preferred method).

Jonah example 2

Step 5: Paste the UNFORMATTED text into your blank document

Here’s the key to the whole thing! Go to the Word document you’ve opened and paste the text into it. But make sure to paste the text UNFORMATTED. In Word, you do this by choosing “Paste Special” from the “Paste” menu at the top left of the screen. When you do this, it removes any text formatting and hyperlinks and paragraphing. If when you paste the text there are still paragraph breaks in the passage, just delete them so that you are left with a block of text.

Jonah example 3

Step 6: Repeat for the remaining chapters of the book

Obviously if you’re studing 3John or Jude or Nahum this will be a very quick process. If you’re studying Psalms, Jeremiah or Acts, then you may want to break this step up and do it for 5-10 chapters at a time. With Jonah, it’s just 4 chapters so it only takes a few minutes

Step 7: Save your Word file

Now that you have the entire text of the book in a single, unformatted word-processor file, save it to your computer/device with a filename that will let you identify it easily. For instance, I would save mine as “JONAH_TEXT.doc” or something like that.

Step 8: Add spaces, paragraphing, punctuation and notes

THIS is where the real payoff is! As you read through the text in your word document go through and begin adding your own formatting. Decide where the paragraph begins and ends and indent/space it accordingly. As you go, I recommend either deleting or making into superscripts the chapter and verse numbers. Delete any cross-references or footnotes you may have copied (though take note as you go if some of the footnotes are insightful or important and if so, note them either in the side margin or in brackets or some other way that you find helpful). And be sure to delete any paragraph headings or subject headings that your translation may have put in the text at the beginning of various passages (i.e. “Instructions about the Tabernacle” or “Jesus heals a blind man” etc.)

I usually set up the margins of my Word document so that there is a good 2″ or 3″ margin on one side of the page (usually the right, since I’m right handed). In that margin, I create a text box by selecting “Text box” from the “Insert Shape” menu and I use that for adding any notes, alternate translations, cross references, or quotes from commentaries I come across as I study the book. This is not a necessary step, but I find it especially helpful and recommend doing it if you can.

Jonah example 4

During this process of formatting the book on your own, you will likely be forced to make interpretive decisions that you would have never thought about by simply reading a printed/formatted text. You may find that a train of thought runs all the way through a number of verses and they all belong to the same paragraph after all. You may find that a new thought beings in the middle of a verse and the text should be separated there instead. You may come across a list of things that are hard to keep in mind when read in paragraph format and so choose to put each one on a separate line to create the list feel that the text gives (this is especially helpful in genealogies!) and to see the importance of the number of items listed that you might have otherwise missed (this is ESPECIALLY helpful in Matthew’s opening genealogy!).

The important thing is not that you get it “right”, but rather that you are forcing yourself to interact with the text at the literary level and really absorb its content and how to best present that in terms of clarity of reading. You will find yourself reading and rereading a passage and perhaps realizing that it could legitimately be read two different ways depending on how it’s spaced/punctuated, etc. This is exactly what this type of studying is supposed to do! To get you to not just read the text…but to actually READ the text. To THINK THROUGH the text. ON YOUR OWN before consulting any commentaries, study guides or study Bible notes.

You won’t end up with a “perfect” formatted text. Rather, you’ll end up with a text that you have genuinely worked through and thought through and are so much more familiar with after having done so!

Step 9: Save your formatted book file

Once you’ve formatted your book of the Bible (or actually, having done so multiple times along the way so that you don’t accidentally lose your file due to a power outage or accidental keystroke or any of the other things that make us want to throw our computers across the room when they happen!) save it with a different name that distinguishes it from the unformatted version. For example “JONAH_EDITED.doc”. And if possible, save a copy of both versions on a flash drive or memory card as well! That way, you can share it with others or on multiple computers/devices.

Step 10: Use your new formatted digital book file alongside your various Bibles when studying or teaching

As you continue to study the book, you may find that you need to go back and re-edit parts of it. You may come across other translations that you think work better in certain passages of it. No translation is perfect and the beauty of this whole process is that with a simple cut-and-paste you can create study notes, alternate translations, insert footnotes, underline, highlight, make bold, or change font color in ways that help the text make better sense to you.

For example, when I was doing this with the book of Revelation, I found it helpful to put all of the quotes or references to passages in the Hebrew Bible in bold italics and to indent them. This allowed me to easily see just how much Revelation draws from the Old Testament and the frequency with which John does so. I also put in small paretheses beside each one the actual verse reference being alluded to or quoted. This allows me not only to easily identify which books John is quoting throughout, but it also helps to instill in my visual memory the passage in the OT that is being referenced each time I read it.

Or when doing this with the book of Romans, I would put spaces between each rhetorical section of the book so that I could more easily see when Paul is changing voice/character in his diatribes throughout the letter. Of course there are points at which it is heavily debated whether or not he is speaking as himself or as his rhetorical interlocuter, but that is what you learn as you continue to study the book throughout your life and further develop your Biblical-theological views.

When doing this with a book in the Hebrew Bible, you are forced to note and figure out a way to better communicate visually the structure and patterns of Hebrew poetry (which is practically EVERYWHERE in the OT!). Many passages that are formatted in most translations as simple paragraphs are actually poetic. So, for example, on the 6th “yom” (day) of Genesis 1, when God creates “adam” (human), we come across the first poem in the Bible in v.27. The tri-partite structure of the verse provides a MAJOR clue as to how we understand the concept of the “image of God” that might otherwise be missed by just reading it as a prose paragraph (I’ll let you study that verse on your own to find out what I’m talking about). In some books, such as the Song of Songs (aka. Song of Solomon) it is impossible in places to identify exactly who is speaking. This is when using colors can be especially helpful–as I’ve done here in the Dojo, in fact!

It also becomes very helpful in narrative portions of Scripture where there is dialogue. Instead of reading it all in a block paragraph, you can format the dialogue like modern English dialogue reads in novels or plays, thus more easily keeping track of who’s speaking and how the conversation is going.

Another really helpful thing is the ability to add punctuation. All punctuation in any Bible translation has been added by the translators…and often they don’t do justice to the tone of the text. There are times when an exclamation point (or three!!!) are needed to convey the force of the passage. There are times when USING ALL CAPS can help bring out the emphasis when the author seems to be “shouting” (in modern digital lingo). These are all things you can decide and add to your formatting to help bring out the meaning of the text.

And if you don’t have a tablet or mobile device that you can take with you to Bible study/Sunday School/class or wherever it is you want to read and study at the time, you can print out the word file and take it with you. That way you haves something to scribble notes on, highlight, underline or whatever else you may want to write on it which you can then easily edit into your digital file when you get back to your computer.

“But what if I get it wrong?? Isn’t this “adding to” God’s Word??”


You are not producing a translation to take the place of your Bible! You are doing an exercise in study…and it’s okay to be wrong when you’re studying! That’s part of the learning process. Part of the wrestling with God’s word that we are all called to do in whatever ways we’re able.

In the 1700s, John Wesley would read and reread Scripture in multiple languages and produce copious notes on nearly the entire Bible. I believe he would’ve been astounded and overjoyed if someone had given him the ability to format, copy and paste. I believe Bible readers throughout the millennia would be thrilled if they had the ability to digitally read, study and analyze the syntax and structure of the sacred texts in the ways we are able to now…even on our phones!

In the end, remember, the journey IS the destination. The purpose of this exercise is to get you to think through–to REASON through–the flow of the book as a whole. “Memory verses” are fine, but they don’t give you context. Doing the process I’ve suggested above is the single best way I have personally ever found to grasp the overall context–and thus the overall foundational teaching and “big idea”–of the various books that make up this library we call the Bible. In fact, in my DVD study “Revelation: A Guided Tour of the Apocalypse” I include in the workbook (which is available to download for free HERE!) the entire book of Revelation that I have translated and then formatted in this way if you’d like to see an example.

I invite you to give it a try, Dojo reader, and see if it doesn’t deepen your understanding and appreciation of whatever book you choose to study next.



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Jun 25 2014

Disciple Dojo - Check out this 2-part World Radio feature on my art and ministry!

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Hi Dojo readers,

Last week I did an interview for World Radio’s program “The World and Everything in It” for their series on visual artists in the church. Christina Darnell spent the afternoon talking to me about my art, my martial arts involvement and how it all shapes the ministry of Disciple Dojo. It was a great experience and the bit just aired this week.

Here are the segments below. Please listen and share them with anyone you know who might have an interest in the ministry or artwork I do!

Part 1 – Ministry, Art and Martial Arts

Part 2 – Can Christians watch or participate in MMA?

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Jun 21 2014

Disciple Dojo - United Methodists and LGBT ethics

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Hi Dojo readers,

I just got back from the 2014 Annual Conference of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. For those who aren’t UMC-savvy, Annual Conference is the yearly gathering of representatives and clergy from all the UM churches in the Western NC district. It’s a mixture of worship services, denominational business, ordination and commemoration of those who are retiring or have passed away. It is held at the gorgeous Lake Junaluska camp in the mountains near Ashville.

Much took place at this AC, but one the final event I was able to attend had significance that will continue to be played out over the next few years in the life of the UMC worldwide.

The Bishop convened a panel discussion over the future of the UMC as it pertains to the recent actions on the part of clergy members and congregations who do not feel they can in good conscience abide by the teachings of the UMC when it comes to the issue of same-sex sexual ethics.

Without going into the full history of the debate, a minority within the denomination have been attempting for roughly the past 40 years to get the church to change it’s view regarding the celebrating of same-sex unions and the ordination of self-avowed non-celibate LGBT clergy candidates.

The issue is one that generates much heat, but often very little light. So our WNCC Bishop will be holding a series of dialogues in the coming year throughout the conference on this issue and the ramifications that might come about if the denomination ends up splitting as a result. The hope is that whatever happens, Methodists won’t have to go through all of the hardships that other denominations (such as Episcopalians and Presbyterians) have experienced when it comes to issues of church assets and properties if such a separation should occur.

My friend and Pastor, Talbot Davis, was on the panel and despite being the only voice representing the current UM stance on the issue, did a good job explaining why it is so important and why it really has to do with much more than just same-sex sexual relationships.

I was hoping to get to ask a few questions during the open Q&A, but due to some “mini-sermons” by others who got to the mic before me, we ran out of time. In a future post I will share those questions perhaps. But for now, I wanted to encourage readers to revisit this exchange I had a few years ago on the subject with a fellow Methodist who disagrees with the denominational stance. He and I engaged in a cordial, respectful, friendly, yet honest debate and I believe it would benefit not just Methodists, but also the entire Body of Christ as we seek to continue living counter-culturally in a post-Christendom culture.

Please read and share the following series of posts with anyone you know, particularly in UMC circles…


Blessings from the Dojo,


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Jun 17 2014

Disciple Dojo - Bible & Science: Friends or Foes?? (Free audio sessions!)

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Hi Dojo readers,

It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks for me so I wanted to get this posted today. I leave this week for the Annual Conference of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church (a yearly UM gathering for worship and church business at Lake Junaluska) where I will be a lay delegate representing Good Shepherd.

After that, I’ll be spending a week in Florida with my family at the beach.

Then I will be leaving from FL to drive out to Las Vegas for UFC 175′s fan expo events, where I hope to connect with fighters, trainers instructors and fans and get my artwork to as many of them as possible. After the event itself, my plan is to drive over to the San Diego and LA areas and visit a few jiujitsu schools I’ve always wanted to train at. It will be a 2-week adventure and for most of it I’ll be camping in the back of my Honda Element and showering at truckstops (or any random swimmin’ holes I may come across!). :)

Before I set out for my Summer travels, I wanted to post the audio sessions from the 6-week “Bible & Science: Friends or Foes??” course I just finished teaching at my church. For those who would like to do the full course, it is available over in the Dojo resource store in DVD format with a free downloadable workbook PDF. But for those who would like something to listen to in the car or while you’re out for a run, 5 of the 6 weeks are available for download:
Bible Science promo

Lecture 1: CLICK HERE to download an MP3 of the audio.

Lecture 2: CLICK HERE to download an MP3 of the audio.

Lecture 3: CLICK HERE to download an MP3 of the audio.

Lecture 4: Unavailable – (Unfortunately, there was data corruption on the audio file from this lecture so we do not have the recording.)

Lecture 5: CLICK HERE to download an MP3 of the audio.

Lecture 6: CLICK HERE to download an MP3 of the audio.



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Jun 09 2014

Disciple Dojo - A ‘stairway to Heaven’ and impressing a shepherd girl (vids)

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Hi Dojo readers,

I’ve been busy working on a number of projects (as well as trying to get my laptop screen fixed) so I haven’t had as much time to post as of late.

However, here are the previous two weeks’ teaching videos from our Tuesday lunchtime Bible Study at Ruth’s Chris here in Charlotte. We’ve moved into the Jacob cycle of the book of Genesis. Many people aren’t familiar with the life of the very person who bequeathed the name “Israel” to the world. This series of videos will hopefully help change that…



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