What is the Perfect Present?

Woman Opening Red Gift BoxWell, there’s not many more shopping days left until Christmas and people all over are feeling the stress which comes with the self-inflicted demands of finding the right gift.  How much should I spend?  Should I get something practical or merely gratifying?  Does a gift exist which keeps on giving?  This site gives 31 gifts which keep on giving… 31 Gift Ideas – Enjoy! and I have to say that #20 is a real memory maker!

We have to admit, we get caught up during this time of year with buying gifts for so many people who fill our lives.  It’s not something we struggle with all year long, just at this time.  What is the perfect gift?  Really, what we want to know is how to give the best gift ever which eclipses all other gifts that person will get….c’mon, just be honest…it’s true!

As you’re looking for that perfect gift for that special someone, don’t forget the greatest gift you can give all year long but especially at this time of the year – Jesus.

What if we were as determined each day to resemble Jesus to those around us as we are obsessed with finding the right gifts at Christmas?  What if we were so committed to recognizing opportunities to relate who Jesus is?  How about becoming intentional about sharing not only our faith, but our reason for it?  (1 Peter 3:15)

We have devoted so much time to making sure we give the best gift we can give, but it is a temporary gift.  We all know…..nothing lasts forever, let alone its expected lifetime.  Things break, get lost, lose their allure, and they may even be……wait for it……re-gifted!  Yet, the Jesus we each serve never fails, never forsakes, and He is always relevant to what lives need most – salvation.

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, and we have the opportunity to share with others our generosity and love which comes in the form of many different types of gifts.  Yet, let’s not forget to give what matters most – Jesus.  He’s a gift which can change a person’s eternity.  He’s a gift which can change the life and outlook of someone today.   More than any temporary gift I can give, Jesus will be a gift which keeps giving again and again to those who receive it – hope, joy, love, salvation – He can give what is needed most!

 

 

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How Should I Know?!?

Questons And Strategy SolutionsEveryone alive has been wrong at some point in time no matter how right you think you are.  We make errors in judgment, there’s oversights, and sometimes we just didn’t know.  Yet, many times we “don’t know” because we actually failed to take the time to become familiar with what we could have known or even should have known.

If I apply, am interviewed and take a new job then I’m going to receive a copy of the policy manual..  This manual will cover how I’m to interact with others in the company, who I am accountable to and various other areas of protocol.  I’ll most likely be given a job description which outlines my position and what I’m expected to do within this position.  It is essentially the plan for my employed life at the company.  If you are ever wrong in anything or need to be corrected as an employee then the documents that will always be referred to are the policy manual and your job description.  It won’t be (at least it shouldn’t be) based on someone’s personal expectations of you apart from those two documents or their case against you will be invalidated.

How can a believer know he is effective as a believer?  I guess it should be stated that an effective believer is not one who just attends church every Sunday.  Being part of a body of believers is good and even necessary  (Hebrews 10:24-25), but it is not everything.  Our lives must be compared to two things:  The policy manual (God’s Word) and the job description (Jesus).  If we are not following the policy manual and job description we’ve been given as believers then we are less effective than we could be if we obeyed fully or we may not be effective at all.

It’s not up to each of us to decide what is good or bad, right or wrong, in the light or of the darkness.  Just as you can’t re-write your own job description or unilaterally modify policy, the believer cannot revise or change the type of life he is to lead or what God expects.  If God’s Word says not to steal then the believer won’t re-write policy and say it is wrong except for anything under $5.99.  When he is corrected, his efforts to justify himself based on his personally revised policy will be overruled by the actual policy found in God’s Word and Christ’s life.  When God’s Word speaks of seeking Him first, the believer can’t one day say that he will seek God and some other preoccupation first.  You can’t put two priorities first….you can only have one first priority. God’s policy clearly states He must be first, so to do anything less is failing to live by what we were handed (His Word and the life of His Son) when we accepted Him.

Can you imagine what would happen if you decided to change your job description by being determined to do something else you felt was important and then defend your effectiveness?  A child of God cannot live however he pleases and then expect God to accept it.  If you are ever going to be truly effective for the Kingdom of God and follow after the life of Jesus, you are going to have to stick with God’s policy and description for your life (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

As believers, we may be need to be corrected at times.  I find the Spirit of God correcting my life continually because there is much about my life which is ungodly.  It’s God’s desire to refine this from my life, and I can speed up the process by absorbing the policy manual (God’s Word) and apply it to my life, so I can live like Jesus (Job Description).  Let’s not forget either how God does use His people to lovingly correct us too.  We can be offended at correction, or we can embrace it as a process which brings about a healthy result and is able to assist our grow, so we can mature in our faith.  That choice is always ours.

We aren’t perfect, and no one will be until they come into eternity with Him.  For now though, rather than have an, “How should I know?,” attitude, let’s be people who read God’s Word intentionally, so we can know it, and follow after Jesus so we can live it!

 

A Giver or a Getter

Asgive a believer, you live each day out like most other people.  You have your ups and downs like anyone else.  You work hard, deal with various difficulties,  have a hectic schedule, and even do much more than anyone ever seems to notice.   The difference between you and anyone else comes down to whether you feel life owes you something or you owe something to life.  Maybe, better yet, God owes you something, or you believe you owe something to God.  It’s really a matter of perspective which basically develops from a matter of thanks-giving.

Let’s be honest but many people always want to know what they are going to get and are very unconcerned with who gives.  It’s simple – people like free wifi and its something very expected when they enter stores, restaurants, or stay in a hotel.  Yet, its not free.  Someone has to pay (give) so you can have it (get) wifi without any expense to you.  We go to stores and expect sales and deep discounts (get) but the store has to be willing to compromise the price (give).  Without even realizing it, we easily get into this mindset of making sure we are getting what we deserve without giving any consideration to our responsibility to give so others can get.

Do this for me, do that for me, help me work on this project, take out the trash, give me a ride to the store….get, get, get….and we give little consideration to when we give back.  If we’re not careful we start to bring this mentality into the church and we’ll only give sufficiently for what we feel we are getting while forgetting our giving is to be based on our attitude towards God rather than the leaders of the church, other people in the church, or what we think the church offers us in particular.

Is it worth my while….

to give?  Worth is a funny thing because we establish value three ways to decide what something is even worth.  First, we have an idea of what something is worth dependent on its reputation….it’s a matter of what I’m willing to pay for that type of item, but my value for differing brands of the same item can fluctuate where I’ll pay more for one brand over another because its ‘better’.  Two pairs of sneakers can be priced the same, but you view one brand as more favorable than the other and you’re willing to pay that amount for that pair.  Secondly, worth or value is established by what I want.  I may be willing to pay much more for something than you may choose to pay because I have a particular interest whereas you don’t.  So, what I want will change the value of what I pay for something.  Lastly, there is need.  I may not want to pay $3 for a gallon of gas but because I’m about to run out of gas, and driving is always better than walking, I’m going to pay for it so I can get where I’m going.  Whether I like it or not, I’ve established to that gas station that there are people who value their gas enough to pay such an exorbitant price over other competitors and they won’t feel the need to change it.  The brand doesn’t have a good reputation, and I don’t want to pay it, but I do because I need it.

Do you need Jesus?  Each of us does, so why would we withhold anything from Him dependent of what we feel He should give to us.  Nobody likes the church talking about money, but Jesus did and He was clear how those who could handle earthly riches would be found worthy to handle spiritual riches.  Most believers I know would like to have spiritual depth, but its difficult to become spiritually deep when we cling to money so tightly and desire to get so much more of it rather than just be faithful as God has asked.  No one likes to talk about tithing, and many want to argue it away for the believer but in the end God has left 90% for us and asked for only 10% to invest in His work, or rather to prioritize His work.

He’s the Creator and I’m created, so who am I to say He’s not worth my giving?  I’m sure there are many excuses I could come with as to why I shouldn’t have to, or better yet, why I choose not to, but the work of God must be worth something to me.  It must be important enough for me to give as He has desired.  It’s not overwhelming or even oppressive, but I know as I give, His work can be better equipped to reach the lost.  Are not lost souls worthy my faithfulness to Him?

What does it say to Him if I don’t want to give to Him because I’m too busy giving to other interests in my life I’ve decided are more important?  As a believer, I can be so focused on being a getter (I know, I made up the word) but since He gave so much, and saw me worth the giving of His life, surely I can give Him mine, and even be faithful with my finances.  New TV’s, cars, hobbies, are not evil in and of themselves, but if my involvement in any decreases my ability to be faithful then I have an issue with my priorities.  Jesus put me before Himself…in other words, He put my need for eternal life and restoring my ability to have a relationship with God before His own physical welfare.  After all, He doesn’t demand it all, but He does desire my faithfulness, and I should too.

What I received because of Jesus’ death wasn’t free.  He paid the price for my sin, so I could have eternal life in Him.  Are you saved because you give faithfully?  No, that’s not at all what is being said or implied here.  Yet, faith and works do complement one another and illustrate the right priorities of a believers life.  Even then, its not just about finances, but about my whole life being His.  Let’s remember, the servant serves the master, and each of us are His servants, so let’s serve Him well.

Live it out….

I will be a thanks-giver; making it a matter of my will to give out of a thankful heart.

 

Practice for Thanksgiving

thanks 6If there is something you want to get better at then you have to practice.  If you want to run faster, you have to practice the mechanics of running.  If you want to be a better salesman, you have to practice techniques of sales.  Anything which needs developed will remain undeveloped until we begin a practice routine.

Practice develops skill and reflex.  Thanks to practice, a person deepens their skills and when a situation arises which requires that skill, my first reflex will be the skills I’ve invested the most time into.  I find people practice the art of being critical more than being thankful.  If you disagree, just think about how many times you complained this week, especially about inconsequential issues as opposed to being thankful or even expressing thanks.  That would tell me I practice the skill of being critical far more than the skills which lead to thanksgiving.  So, if I’m going to be thankful I have to learn what to practice in order to develop and maintain a thankful life.  Philippians 4:4-9 will help to guide us.

Do Rejoice! (vs. 4-5)

Have you ever noticed how much of what you do in life is conditional?  If certain conditions are met, then you respond one way, but if they aren’t met, then you will respond another way.  If someone is nice to you, then you are nice back, but if someone is harsh towards you, rather than be nice to them also, you probably react in the same manner towards them.  See?  Conditional.

I have to learn to stop thanking God, or being thankful in general, only when certain conditions are met.  Conditions like….everything working out as I want, my happiness, my idea being accepted and so on.  Paul and Silas show us the power in rejoicing as they were jailed in Philippi unjustly, but chose to pray and sing hymns to God.  As they chose to practice a thankful principle of rejoicing God sent an earthquake which opened all the jail cells. The guard and his family are saved, baptized in water, he washes their wounds and feeds them, and they are released the next day.  Let’s not miss this was all made possible due to their reflex and skill to be thankful in all situations regardless of the conditions.

If I allow conditions to dictate my mood or state of mind then I will find it difficult, or even impossible, to live the thankful life.

Do Pray! (vs. 5-6)

Prayer guarantees my trust in God and guards me from anxiety.  Anxiety is paralyzing, debilitating, and keeps me from thankfulness.  When Jesus said there was enough trouble to deal with today and to stop worrying about tomorrow, He mentions that pagans (unbelievers) run after the needs of what they will eat, drink, or wear.  Jesus couldn’t be clearer how the believer shouldn’t be chasing after what unbelievers seek because they should know better…..God is in control.  Maybe they don’t, but that would be due to a lack of prayer.

It’s difficult to remain thankful if you fail to have open communication with God.  Anxiety will keep me from acting in prayer because I will start to think prayer doesn’t make a difference, but it does.  Prayer keeps me close to God, so I don’t lose contact with Him.  Prayer keeps me focused on God, so I don’t forget He’s in control.  If I am aware and confident in His control then I won’t feel like my life is out of control!  Thank God for stability.

Do Whatever! (vs. 8-9)

Don’t you just love this word?  If you were to ask someone where they wanted to go eat, and they said, “Whatever,” you’d think they didn’t care.  We generally feel like whatever is a nondescript word, lacking meaning, and expressing a lack of interest.  It can be, but it isn’t always.

Paul uses this word to bring definition to the life of the believer.  Verse 7 speaks about the peace of God, and people do want peace.  There’s not one person you know who wouldn’t like to have more peace in their lives.  The only issue is this…..the peace Paul speaks about is of God and is for those who are from God.  If you’re a believer, His peace is for you.  Let’s be clear, though, you have to live the right life…..the whatever life.

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you. 

If I want God’s peace, then I have to live in line with whatever is according to God’s character.  What God views as right, pure, lovely, etc.., is how I must live and be or His peace cannot be mine.  This is why when you lie peace is evasive because lying isn’t noble.  You won’t find genuine peace in lust, hate, or anger because it’s not what God defines as lovely.

I think many Believers want to be thankful, but you have to start rejoicing, praying, and doing whatever is according to God’s character and desire.  Then you will have God’s peace, but live a thankful life!

Live it out….

I will practice the principles of thanksgiving and live a thankful life.

 

Do I Need a Second Opinion?

smiling Doctor holding stethoscopeIf you’ve ever been to the doctor, you may hear a diagnosis you don’t like or feel uneasy about, and the natural decision at this point is to seek a second opinion.  You probably want to check and make sure what you’re being told is absolutely correct, or pretty much correct, at least.  Honestly, there are so many times in our lives where we gather information from various resources or individuals and then we come to a decision.  If you do this with God’s Words to you, you will find yourself making one poor decision after another.

When God speaks…

….it establishes what He says.  We see in the creation account in Genesis that God spoke and so it was.  He speaks into existence light, a gathering of water so land would appear, the production of vegetation, life in the form of animals on the land, sea, and in the air, and of course, man and woman.  When God speaks it will be.

So, why do we not just accept God’s Word when He speaks to us?  Why do I struggle so much with the accuracy or the legitimacy of God’s Word?  God said it, but I’m not sure if I believe it, can count on it, or if it will even come to pass, and the problem is we fail to grasp the one thing which happens when God speaks – it always comes to pass.  Yet, I’m unsure if what He said is going to happen in MY life……here is my issue.  Somehow, I have some kind of ability to automatically deter God’s Word from being as He said it would be in my life.

Do we have free choice?  Of course, but what I’m saying is God’s Word is His Word and no one, not even you, is going to stand in the way of what God intends, so don’t second guess Him.

I Second Guess God…

….because I need a second opinion.  Do you know a spiritual second opinion can be fatal when God has spoken? This is proven in Genesis 3.  After God has spoken and established and shown His Word is true, Satan comes along and speaks to Eve who is open to second opinion, and if you know the story you know it doesn’t end well.

After God speaks, the enemy is quick to come along and try to get you into a debate over, “Did God really say?”  If we entertain this discussion we will begin to doubt God’s Word and it’s authority and power over our lives.  We will think God doesn’t intend to do for us what He said, we are undeserving, or it just can’t be realized in this lifetime.  Or just as bad will be the thinking God didn’t mean what he said, and we can start compromising God’s Word and even our relationship with Him.  What happens is we begin to deceive ourselves and our relationship not only suffers because we don’t trust Him, but the relationship is liquidated as we check out to listen to another voice.

One Last Thing…

….that needs to be said.  God cursed the serpent and He cursed the ground but He didn’t curse Adam and Eve.  There were and are consequences to the fall of mankind, and we readily see those same consequences today.  The ultimate judgment for their sin is death.  Yet, for those who repent and return to Him they will find victory over death through Jesus Christ (John 11:25-26).

You may have doubted God, rejected Him, run away from Him, but be assured of this…..Jesus died for you.  If you will accept Him, receive Him, repent of your sinful ways and commit to the LORD and abide in His Word, you will have new life.  New life to come, but new life now.  You don’t need any second opinions when you have the only one which matters!  Trust God!

Confidence Driven Thanksgiving

Confidence word destruction

It is in my experience that many believers talk much about God but have difficulty living in a manner which expresses or validates the talk.  One area this is found is in the area of confidence.  I’m not going to make an argument for self-belief, self-esteem, or even self-enablement.  What I want to illustrate is a level of living which is borne from confidence in God in such a way that my actions express to God how thankful I am for His Word so that I live with His Word as my guide and my rock.  A great passage to illustrate this is Deuteronomy8:1-11.

Release it….

Every time I play with our dog, Daisy, she gets excited, wags her tail so hard that her whole body shakes, and waits for me to throw her favorite toy for her to go get and bring back to me.  She’ll run, get her toy, and run straight back, but won’t give up the toy.  What ensues is a wrestling match to get the toy out of her grip, so we can play.  What she fails to understand is we can’t play ball if she won’t release it to me to throw.

So many times we want God to deal with the issues of our lives, but we won’t release our grip from dealing with those issues.  We say we want His intervention, but we are too busy micromanaging our lives that God is really given no place to be God.  When I can release my plans to the LORD, I will find Him to be dependable and sustainable.  Not only does God use the very issues of our lives to remind us (if we want to be reminded!) that He is able and willing, but He sustains so many other areas of my life which are not needs because God is supplying those needs so readily.  Unfortunately for us, we see the one issue we are dealing with and may begin to wonder about God’s faithfulness all the while forgetting how God is sustaining so many areas of our lives.  God really is good!  It’s hard to be able to declare that unless you’ve learned to stop worrying, stressing, and managing all of your life and learn to turn over control to Him.  Do that and you will see God do only what God can do.

Remember Him….

We easily can get discouraged in life.  Discouragement sets in when I fail to understand what I should have been sure of.  A runner knows the course, the beginning and the finish line, and he knows the length of the race.  If he were to ever become discouraged, he could remember how far he had already come, know exactly where he is, and know how much further he would need to go.  Rather than get discouraged with unknowns, he could continue on because of what he knows to be true.  The same is with God.  We ought to be able to look back and remember how God has been faithful in our lives – how He has led you, guided you, provided for you, given you strength and hope – and we should be encouraged God will not change from who He was towards us before.  Even more so, we can look at our present condition and be able to see how God is moving on our behalf today.  The Israelites could see their clothes had not worn out all the 40 years in the desert and their feet never swelled.  That was a present day faithfulness of God they could remember and press on.  Lastly, let’s not forget what is ahead.  Jesus said He would go ahead of us and prepare a place for us.  We may never experience heaven on earth, but we will experience eternity with Him as we continue to run the race with perseverance and finish strong!

Revere Him…

In our passage we read the phrase, “the LORD your God.”  When I read this, I’m reminded of my relationship with God.  My relationship isn’t based on another person’s relationship with God, but I have my own relationship with Him.  He isn’t the LORD God of another person’s life, but He is the LORD my God!  In each passage we see this phrase (vs. 2, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11) it reveals how a personal relationship of reverence for God should look like.  First, I remember His faithfulness to me.  I can praise Him for His faithfulness to others, but I have my own testimony of God’s faithfulness towards my life!  Second, I will serve Him.  When God is another person’s God, I have no obligations to Him, but He’s my God, so I will serve Him.  Third, I will obey Him.  Since He is the LORD my God, I am compelled to obey His Word.  Fourth, I choose to allow Him to lead me because He is the LORD my God.  Fifth, I praise the LORD my God.  Lastly, I will not forget the LORD my God.  I can’t reduce Him to acts of faithfulness, but He is personal to me, and my love is for Him, not for what He does.

When a believer has a confidence driven thanksgiving, we won’t just have something to talk about, but our living will reveal the validity of our claims.

Live it out this week….

I will show God thankfulness by living confidently in His ability, faithfulness, and for His glory.

 

 

The Overcomer

overcomerYet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us – Romans 8:37.

With reading that passage, I can just imagine the mass of believers saying, “Amen!” to this passage and thinking how true it is, but possibly never really experiencing the valid truth of it all.  If I haven’t experienced the overcoming nature, is it because of my circumstances, some person standing in my way, my upbringing, culture, or maybe its not my gift!?!  No matter what the excuse, you’d be wrong whichever way.  To be an overcomer isn’t a matter of what is hindering me as much as it is about who’s enabling me to live in the reality of this passage?

Make a critical decision…..

…..to be an overcomer.  I know, you’re thinking, “Seriously?”  Yes, I’m serious.  To overcome begins with a decision to be what God’s Word says, and in addition to this, you have to make a decision on how you are going to view circumstances.  You can look at all the successful people around you and say they have it easy, or something worked in their favor which is not available to you, but you would be mistaken.  All people face circumstances and those who overcome have chosen, at first, to overcome the issue.  Those who haven’t made a decision to overcome at some point decide to lay down and die…RIP!  Are you a believer who is struggling with living the overcoming life?  If so, you need a new way of thinking through your challenges.  You need to see them not as issues to discourage you, but they can be your greatest motivator.  Maybe you’re not following completely yet, but just keep reading!

Get a Transformed Mind…

…..if you want to start succeeding in faith.  Romans 12:2 tells us this, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  What does this mean?  Well, it’s as simple as being disciplined enough to think……Godly!  If you are praying and wanting God to just drop the overcoming life, or a transformed mind on you then you’re missing your responsibility to have your mind transformed by Him.   You’re going to have to get into God’s Word and spend some time with your LORD in the pages of your Bible and allow that living Word to find a place in your thoughts, heart, and your life.  It will take more than just a five minute prayer life, and you need to start spending some quality time talking and also listening to your Father.  Yes, you need to spend some time communicating with Him, and you’re going to need to draw near to Him, so He can draw near to you.  I can’t imagine hoping a complete stranger who has the keys for my life is actually going to help me if I never develop a relationship with that person, but we do this with God.  We think we are close to Him just because we attend church, or follow some basic Christian disciplines, but we’ve failed to know Him.  Even so, we’ve failed to become known by Him as His child, and His servant.  The more time you spend with God and experience who He is, what He thinks about you and His love for  you, and what His plan is for you…..this will increasingly transform your mind from, “I can’t ever….”, to “With God, all things are possible.”

My Response should be like…

…..King David’s.  He had to come face to face with the champion of the Philistines, Goliath of Gath.  (1 Samuel 17:23-27)  David shows us what the response of an overcomer is and how it is practiced or lived out in our lives.

1.  Overcomers respond to the challenge, not the problem.

How many times has someone said something about someone else and that person, to stand up to what was said, chooses to say something derogatory about that other person?  It’s a real low blow and pretty immature.  David was better than that because the situation wasn’t really about him.  He didn’t respond to Goliath as if he were his problem but as if his words were a challenge to the God of Israel and he was right!  Goliath was challenging God and David knew his God was up for the challenge.  It’s critical how you perceive the problems in your life and how you perceive God.  If all you can do is focus on problems then it’s hard to focus on your God who is up for the challenge.  When obstacles come, the challenge for you is this…..how much do you know God and trust Him to be faithful and able?

2.  Overcomers don’t allow themselves to be shaped by circumstances, criticism, or the opinions of others.

In 1 Samuel 17:28-33 we see David’s older brother, Eliab trying to deflate David’s champion attitude into some kind of defeatist attitude.  He was embarrassing and belittling David and even went as far as questioning his integrity.  In the same way, the enemy is always trying to tear you down, insert doubt, and give you reason to focus on your own powerlessness.  The enemy may be right that you can’t do it on your own, but you aren’t on your own!  We allow others to overly influence us, and we focus on their words rather than God’s Word about us.  When the circumstance or opinions say, “YOU CAN’T!” is when you have to know what God has said and go with that instead.

3.  Overcomers live by what God’s Word says, not by what they see, hear or imagine to be true.

Before David even took up his sling there was a battle of words and Goliath was shouting at the top of his lungs and intimidating the armies of Israel with his boasting.  It was Goliath’s word against God’s Word!  David responded with a word from God…”I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied….”  David didn’t get in a shouting match, He spoke what God put in his mouth to say and then he let the stone fly and God did the rest!  Speak God’s Word over your situation, call on your God to come to your aid, ask Him for insight, help, and strength, and you will see God’s hand move in your life.

4.  Overcomers respond with courage to seemingly impossible challenges.

We each face incredible opportunities that are camouflaged as impossible situations.  Your problems are not unsolvable, impossible, or unfair.  It’s here where your thoughts have the ability to guide you….your thoughts about situations, your thoughts about your God and His love for you, and even God’s availability to you and His ability.  We all have Goliaths, but how are you going to respond?  Each of us can be like David, draw on God’s courage within our spirits and rise to the challenge because God is with us and we never stand alone!

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