Monday, October 20, 2008

A Letter From Donna

Precious Friends,
There are some changes coming for "Living the Word Ministries" and I want to share them with you.  I also would like to update you on a few others.
Boy, when I think back to the beginning of 2008, I am amazed at what God has done during these last 10 months. I can recall the prayers that I prayed. I can remember the dreams and visions that I had for the new year. And I have to say that God had His own plans, plans that never even entered my mind when the world was singing Auld Lang Syne. I am convinced that God loves surprising His kids.
The first few months of the year were spent preparing for the first ever "Living the Word Ministries" conference. Branching out on my own, without the support of any local church or organization, was no small leap of faith, but God was faithful. The conference was held in May and while the numbers wouldn't have packed Madison Square Gardens, I believe that those in attendance were touched by the awesome presence of God. The debut of the "LTW Band" was awesome and those sweet folks ushered us right into the throne room of our God. I thank each and every one of you who were in attendance. My heart was filled with overflowing joy and thankfulness to my God as I looked out and saw all those beautiful women, praising and seeking His face with every inch of their precious hearts.
The month of March brought the birth of our first granddaughter. I don't have to tell you what a joy this lovely little girl has been. I'm sure if you've talked to me, I've told you a million times.
With the spring, came an opportunity to teach the book of Ruth to the Women's Bible Study group at my local church. I have always considered myself more of a preacher than a teacher, but again, God had other plans. He has stretched me beyond what I considered my ability to stretch. I never dreamed of being involved in women's ministry. I had the honor and privilege to lead those same women, and many more, through the "No Other Gods" study by Kelly Minter this summer. I know that people overly use this phrase, but this study was life-changing for me and for each woman who set themselves apart this summer to seek God and tear down some golden calves and Asherah poles.  No small feat. Each and every week I witnessed relationships forming, countenances changing, and a real love for God and for His wonderful Word develop in these sweet gals, right before my eyes.
On October 2, we began our fall Bible study - Esther - A Woman's Bible Study. If you live in the Detroit metro area, we would love to have you join us on Thursday nights as we travel to ancient Persia and watch a peasant girl become a queen and save a nation. We are marveling at the providence of Almighty God, as He teaches us that no event in our lives is random, and that we have been created to be used by God, for just such a time as this. We are believing that we have been anointed and appointed to walk right into our God-ordained destiny. (For times and directions:
Chuck and I, and our family, have experienced many changes this year. We have certainly had our share of laughs, but we've cried our share of tears as well.  We have received abundant blessings from the Giver of every good and perfect gift. We have also been on the receiving end of the devils schemes to derail us. Every blessing He's poured out, we return to Him in praise. And we've attempted to bless His name right in the middle of the hard times too.
So, all this to say that life is ever-changing. But bless God, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. And as life changes, so do ministries. After a lot of prayer, after a whole lot of seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, after talking it over with Chuck, and after not a few tears, I have made the difficult decision to indefinitely suspend "Tuesday's with Jesus".
All of the changes and doors that the Lord has opened for me have made it increasingly more difficult to write "Tuesday's" each week. After three years of writing to you, I feel the season of my life changing just like the falling leaves outside my window. I know that there are real faces on the other side of my trusty laptop. I see you in my mind's eye. I feel your love in my heart. And because you have been faithful to encourage me and bless me with your e-mails, I know that "Tuesday's" has been a blessing to many of you as you open your e-mail on sometimes not so sunny Tuesday mornings. Let me assure you that it has been nothing short of an honor and a privilege to serve you in this way over the last three years.  I will treasure it in my heart forevermore. As I treasure each and every one of you.
Every single "Tuesday's with Jesus" is archived on the web site and I encourage you to go back and read them. Copy them, hand them out, forward them, use them as you wish in Bible Study...they belong to God... and to you.
In this season, I hear the Lord calling me to face-to-face my family first. They are my most important ministry. Chuck loves me as close to how my heavenly Father loves me as any person of flesh ever could. My daughters  are grown up girls, but in many ways they still need their mom. And I wouldn't have it any other way. My sons need to be well-nurtured plants...they need tending...tending with my love and with the Word of God. And I need to be "Grammy" to Miss Ashton and all of the other grandbabies coming in the future.
In this season, I hear the Lord calling me to face-to-face women. Pray for me as I spend not a small amount of hours trying to hear from God what He would have me say in this Esther series. I so want it to be God-breathed and excellent. And I'm praying that God will open more doors of opportunity for me to communicate to His precious daughters, wherever He may lead, how much He truly loves much worth and value they have in His sight, and what an awesome plan He has for their lives.
I will also continue to minister the Word face-to-face to those who come every other Saturday to my church's food pantry. I have been doing this for a little over two years and I cannot even express to you my love for these folks. We have watched God's transforming power at work, through His living and active Word, changing lives, lifting burdens, and drawing so many close to His heart. I wouldn't miss them for the world and it is not yet the season to say goodbye. They bless me so.
My availability to minister to any group, meeting or conference for women has not changed. I would be honored to come and share my heart and God's Word wherever He may choose to send me. I leave that in His hands and will follow wherever He leads. His Word burns in my heart and I can scarce keep it in. Please check back to the web site often. In the next few weeks we are going to post "Esther-A Woman's Bible Study" as an online lesson. I will also be preparing another "Living the Word Ministries" Conference for the early part of 2009.  Also, be sure to check out the LTW Blog ... I will no doubt occasionally have something to say.
I apologize from the bottom of my heart if you are disappointed. I have been so honored and privileged to serve you in this way for so many years and I will miss it deeply. I will miss you deeply. Thank you for every prayer that you have prayed for me and mine. Thank you for every word of encouragement you have sent. Thank you for loving Jesus right along with me through the good times, through the crazy, chaotic times, and even through the hard times.
Pray that I will always be satisfied with nothing but the unfailing love that Jesus Christ has for me. Pray that I will cling to no one or nothing but Him. And I will pray the same for you.
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven". (Ecclesiastes 3: 1)
I love you,

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday's with Jesus #169

#169 "You've Got To Be Kidding Me!"
October 14, 2008
"When His family heard about this, they went to take charge of Him, for they said, "He is out of His mind." (Mark 3: 21)
In the midst of chaos and confusion, uncertainty and fear, worry and crisis, it's refreshing to get a good laugh once in a while. The state of our world, and many of our lives, seems to make the old saying true that "if it weren't for bad news, we'd have no news at all."  I think I have something funny to share with you this morning. From a most unlikely source. God! He does have a sense of humor, you Robin Williams used to say...just look at a platypus. Anyway...I digress.
I started my reading this morning in the gospel of Mark. Well into the third chapter, I came across a verse that you and I have probably read hundreds of times. When I went back to it, I saw something new that I'd never seen before. [Isn't it awesome how alive and active God's Word is?] Mark 3: 21 says this: "When His family heard about this, they went to take charge of Him, for they said, "He is out of His mind." Seriously, I laughed out loud! (LOL)  
They went to TAKE CHARGE OF HIM? You've got to be kidding me?!?!? THEY went to take charge of HIM?!?!?!? If any of my neighbors were out at the crack of dawn this morning and heard me laughing, I would've been thought to be out of mind right along with Christ!
Who are we talking about here? Talk about not being in someones right mind! How do you take charge of the Prince of Peace, the Mighty God, The Holy One? We're talking about the One and Only Lord God Almighty, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Word of Life, and the Author and Finisher of our faith. How do you lay hold of The Way, The Truth and the Life? Did they actually think that they could stop the Lord of All, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior, the Chief Cornerstone, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Head of the Church, the Morning Star, the Chief Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, the Alpha and the Omega, the Lord Jesus Christ.... and the great I AM? Come've got to be LOL with me right now! Or maybe not...
Wouldn't you agree that we sometimes do the same thing? We try and take charge of Christ when we give Him our 5-point plan for how He should solve our problem and expect Him to follow it point by point. We try and take charge of Him when we come up with bright ideas for ministry, and with no patience, no prayer or seeking His guidance, we want Him to bless what we've conjured up in our minds as "doing His will". We fight His hand of discipline over our lives. We fight obedience to His Word when our way seems to be best, and the ways of the upside-down Kingdom of God seem foolish. We cry, we make excuses, and often we blame the devil. We try to manipulate Christ with patterns and principles that we've heard will surely get our prayers answered the way we want them to be. We try that new method of prayer that we've heard really moves the heart of God.  His ways and thoughts are not our ways and thoughts, because they are much higher (see Isaiah 55), and maybe we think Jesus is just a touch out of His mind at times. Like His earthly family, we want to take charge of Him. Seriously, how ridiculous!!
We need to let Christ take charge of US, not the other way around.  He is in His perfect mind. And who are we to question that? "Who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him? Who has instructed Him as His counselor?" (see 1 Corinthians 2: 16, Romans 11: 34 and Isaiah 40: 13) He doesn't need our help. I've heard it said that He is God all by Himself. His will is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12: 2), and when we let Him take charge of our lives, He will take us places that we've never even dreamt of! He will lead us to pleasant places (Psalm 16:6), spacious places (Psalm 18:19), and do for us exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20) For gosh sakes, who do we think we are? And more importantly, how do we not fully understand who HE is? Take charge of HIM? Yeah, right!  
Still ROTFL (Rolling on the floor laughing),
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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Tuesday's with Jesus #168

#168 "Unbelievable Grace"
October 7, 2008
"But Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor."
(Matthew 13: 57)
Charles Babbington of the AP has this to say this morning: "The gloves are off, the heels are on, and the presidential race is dredging up infamous events from 20, 30, even 40 years ago." I don't think I have to tell you about the nature of television ads these day. Dig up the dirt. Bury your opponent in the hole and heap some more dirt on top of him [or her]. That's the unfortunate nature of politics in the 21st century. And I hate to say it, it's the unfortunate nature of many in the church...then and now.
Christians are the recipients of God's unbelievable grace and forgiveness of their own "infamous events" of days gone by. Sadly, they are not always extended that same grace by people, believers and non-, and they often don't extend that grace to others. Folks would rather shed the light on where other folks have come from, and what they used to be, than to praise God for the transformations that have taken place in people's lives. This ought not to be so!
God's ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55: 8-9) God will choose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. He will choose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chooses the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him". (1 Corinthians 1: 27-29)
God will take a deceiver like Jacob and make him the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. God will take a show-off like Joseph and place him in a seat of power, second only to a Pharoah. God will take a stutterer like Moses and use him to lead 2 million murmuring and grumbling Israelites to the edge of the Promised Land. God will transform a young shepherd boy into a mighty King of Israel . God will forgive his sin of adultery and call him "a man after God's own heart". Amazing, isn't it? God will take Isaiah, a man of "unclean lips" and use those same lips to prophesy to a nation. Jeremiah was afraid that he was too young and inexperienced, but he was used as a prophet as well.  Matthew was a tax collector. Peter was a cursing, angry fisherman. Paul called himself "the worst of sinners" (1 Timothy 1: 15). He stood by as Stephen was stoned to death, "giving approval to his death" (see Acts 8:1). He was "breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem." (Acts 9: 1-2) 
God will use the most unlikely people to do His greatest work and Paul tells us exactly why in 1 Timothy 1: 16. "But for that very reason [being the chief and worst of sinners], I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life." REVELATION: It's not about us...It's about Christ displaying Himself in the lives of the most unlikely people. And to this Paul shouts: "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen."  (1 Timothy 1: 17)
There is a certain Christian recording artist who fell into temptation some years ago and was caught in adultery. His career came to an abrupt halt and he suffered rejection by many in the business, many of whom would not even play his music on Christian radio.  But over time, God has restored this man to uprightness. He has restored his once broken marriage. Because there were some Christ-like Christians who were willing to give him a chance, God is using him once again on television and through music to reach sinners with the good news of Jesus Christ. Foolish, weak, lowly, despised in the eyes of men....but used mightily by God. Watching this guy do his thing often brings tears to my eyes because he is flesh and blood, for-real, evidence and testimony to the redemptive, forgiving, restorative love of God.  
If you are the object of this kind of treatment by people who want to judge you on your past "infamous events", please know that God has forgiven you. You may be a marred pot in His hands but He will form you into another pot, shaping you as seems best to Him. (see Jeremiah 18: 4) You can join those other unlikely people and do awesome things as a new creation in Christ. Your past is your past because it's passed!! Often it's those closest to you that refuse to acknowledge the change that Christ has made in your life. Be encouraged. Jesus went through the same thing that you are. He did fabulous miracles and taught amazing sermons but all people could say was, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren't all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?" And the Bible says that they took offense at him. (Matthew 13: 53-57) Folks may take offense at your new life in Christ. They may only want to remember you those years B.C. But you will shine like a star in the sky, as your life displays the power and glory of God.
And if you are judging and questioning and gossiping about the "infamous events" in other peoples lives....STOP!!  For every former prostitute, every former junkie, every former adulterer, every former slanderer, every former thief,  and for each and every sinner that you see being used by God.... "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." And Amen!
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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesday's with Jesus #167

#167 "Joy???"
September 30, 2008
"You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy....and no one will take away your joy" (John 16: 20, 22).
I may be a glutton for punishment, but I'm kind of a news junkie, and the news isn't so good these days. Today alone, my e-mail box has been clicking over the House debating a $700 billion bailout plan, stocks taking nosedives, and I just got one about a "massive" 7.3 earthquake that just hit New Zealand. FOX News says that the average American is not really aware of the gravity of our economic situation and that we need to take things seriously. I agree. Use a lot of wisdom. Trust God.
And what about the situations that don't appear in your e-mail? What about the stuff that pops into your mind the moment you wake up in the morning? Or wakes you up in the middle of the night? The personal stuff? The stuff of life that isn't so public? Things like family problems, illnesses, addictions, job losses, infertility, not enough money to make the bills this month, broken dreams, broken promises and broken hearts? All of this is just about enough to suck the joy right out of you....or is it?
I've heard the letter of Paul to the Philippians called the book of joy. The word "joy" itself is used four times, "rejoice", eight times, and "glad", three times. In his letter, the apostle said that he had learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Did you notice that? "Whatever". He said that he "had learned the secret of being content in any and every situation." (Phil. 4: 11, 12) I believe that because Paul had learned this "secret", he could experience the joy. Maybe if we could learn the "secret" ....maybe we could learn to live on this side of the grass with joy. 
No other verse in my Bible explains the source of overcoming, in-spite-of-my-circumstances joy, better than Psalm 16: 11.  "In thy presence is fullness of joy". (KJV) The kind of joy that we're looking for, the kind of joy that brings victorious living in the midst found in the presence of the Lord. The Hebrew word used here for "presence" comes from the word "panah" which means "to turn; by implication, to face, i.e. to look". When we turn and face and look at God...there is fullness of joy! We can choose to look at our troubles and our circumstances. We can choose to look at what the "experts" are saying on the evening news. We can choose to give attention to the "woe is me" folk around us. Or we can choose to purposefully place ourselves in the presence of the Lord and apprehend joy!
Moses, called the man of God at the outset of Psalm 90, knew the principle. In verse 14 he said, "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for JOY and be glad all our days." Moses faced some pretty difficult situations in his life, but he knew that if God loved him, he could have joy. God loves YOU! Be satisfied with that truth at the outset of each day ("in the morning"), and you will live a life of joy.
David, the man after God's own heart, knew the principle too. In Psalm 63: 6-7 he said, "On my bed I remember you, I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings." God is YOUR help. When you can't fall asleep or when you're up "in the watches of the night" thinking about your problems, turn to, face and look at the Lord. Remember Him and you will sing with joy.
From morning till night, and every moment in between, a life lived in the presence of the Lord is a joy-filled life. That's the secret that I believe Paul had learned. And it's a secret that God has called me to learn and practice on a consistent basis. Can I tell works! You can wallow in your problems or you can meditate on the unfailing love of the Lord. You can feel hopeless or you can be assured and meditate on the FACT that God is your Helper. You can be panicked with the rest of the world or you can live like a citizen of the Kingdom of God, which is a matter "of righteousness, peace and JOY in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14: 17)
There may be tears in your eyes and an ache in your heart today. Sow your tears and your breaking heart unto the Lord and praise Him. Meditate on His goodness. Look full in His wonderful face. Get into the presence of the Lord. "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of JOY. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of JOY, carrying sheaves with him." (Psalm 126: 5-6)
"Jesus, our Savior King, restore to us the JOY of your salvation (Psalm 51: 12). You said in John 16 that no one can take away our joy. You said that we could ask in your name and we would receive. Give us Your joy. You promised that You would give us what we ask and that our JOY will be complete. Give us Your complete JOY. The JOY that You died to give us.  A JOY that nothing or no one can ever take away. Thank you that I am a joyful person. Thank you for your unfailing love. Thank you for being my Helper. I will now sing for JOY and be glad all my days."  
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday's with Jesus #166

#166 "Run...Part II"
September 23, 2008
"...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Hebrews 12:1)
"Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." Well, I can't run. Or maybe I won't run, I'm not sure. All I know is that I don't run. Never have. Never will. So I guess that leaves me in the category of "those who can't...teach." I want to teach you to run. Last Tuesday, we discussed running to Jesus. With everything. Today, in "Run...Part II", we'll unpack a little of the apostle Paul's writings on running this race called the Christian life, through Jesus Christ.
Referencing the Isthmian games, held every two years in the city of Corinth, Paul tells us that "in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize." (1 Cor. 9: 24) It was the custom to have the competitors in a race summoned by a herald. In his letter, Paul summoned the Corinthians, and thousands of years later, he summons us to run the race of life. All run, but not all receive the prize. Paul wanted to receive the prize. And so should we.  We can be winners. We can receive the crown. In the Isthmian games, the crown was a pine wreath...a corruptible crown. How much more ought Christians strive to win an incorruptible one.  
So what makes a winner? What are the keys to a successful run? "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training." (1 Cor 9: 25)  Athletes train hard. We see this truth illustrated today in athletic endeavors of track, baseball, football or some other sport. If they want to strive for supremacy in their field, athletes must lead a life governed by personal discipline, or strict training. Paul said that he didn't run the Christian race aimlessly. Every move made in the course of his race was calculated to further his pursuit of the prize. (see Phil. 3: 13-14) He didn't let his body master him. I'd like to say that he didn't follow the leadings of the flesh. Paul said that he "beat" his body. Some translations use the word buffet. Now, for clarification purposes let's use a little phonetics. Paul [buff-i-ted] his body. In the words of Joyce Meyer, he did not [buff-aye] it. No all you can eat for $5.99. He trained himself to run the race by beating his body into submission to the Word and the will of God. He denied himself. He walked according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh.  
We must devote our time to the study and application of the Word of God. We must train ourselves to kill the flesh and feed the spirit. We may have to sweat. It certainly will be painful at times. We may develop a few blisters on the way. We must train and keep on training. Train ourselves to learn and obey.  We must deny ourselves and our own fleshly desires for a greater good. For a greater prize. One of my commentaries says, "Walking with God demands personal sacrifice, sacrifice of things not necessarily evil, but which prevent the full devotion of the soul to God -- such as, pleasures and worldly pursuits. In an age of luxury, like the present time, the words have real significance for the serious-minded servant of Christ." (The Wycliffe Bible Commentary) Athletes often have to deny themselves things that would ordinarily be permissible for the average person.  "Everything is permissible for me--but not everything is beneficial." (1Cor 6: 12) The first key to winning the race is strict training.
As we were driving to church this weekend, we had to make our way through a multitude of runners who were doing a 5K, 10K and 100K race down the road. Who would even want to run around in circles that many times? Kind of like NASCAR...who wants to drive around the track 100 and some times? Or watch them do it for that matter? Anyway, I digress.  What I noticed is that these runners were dressed very lightly. A successful runner will wear only what is necessary for modesty, but will wear or carry nothing that will weigh them down. Excess stuff impedes their running and slows their progress. Hebrews 12:1 tells us that in order to run this race called life that is marked out for us, we must "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles." You can't run a race with weights on. You can't run a race dragging your baggage along with you. Anything...and I mean anything...that you know will hinder your walk with Christ must be thrown off. Things that hinder may be superfluous and unnecessary things that must be cast aside. And only you can decide what those things are. What gets in between you and one on one time with God every day? What things are you doing that aren't necessarily wrong in and of themselves, but are hindering your relationship with Christ from being all that it can be?  [NOG girls: Remember, we called it "making room?" ]
But..."the sin that so easily entangles"...that's another story. Sin allows for no individual choice. It has to be thrown off immediately upon recognizing it. Before it entangles you. A runner cannot run a successful race with his feet tied up. The Greek word used for "entangle" is "euperistatos"  and means "to ambush, to encircle, to entrap." Your running will be impeded when there is sin in your life. The devil will have you, and he'll set up the ambush, and you'll never finish the race, let alone win the prize. Plain and simple.  Confess and repent. Free yourself to run. The Message puts it this way: "Strip down, start running--and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins."
Paul says that we can run with perseverance the race marked out before us.  We can run persistently in spite of influence, in spite of opposition and in spite of discouragement. We will run and keep on running.  We will run when we feel like we just can't run anymore.  If we've trained well and if we've thrown off the baggage, the unnecessary weights, and the sin. "Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." (Hebrews 12: 2) Christ is our Leader. He was the Pioneer who went before us. "For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning it's shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb. 12:2) Jesus kept His eye on the prize. He saw what was set before Him.
Paul saw it too. And at the end of his life he penned these words: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7) He always knew that it was the only race worth running. Because of what was promised in the life to come.  Looking back over our lives, how many of us could say the same thing? Paul could now face His Lord and know that he would be rewarded with the crown of righteousness. And that crown is promised to you as well. And it's an incorruptible crown.
Paul kept his eye on the prize. As he ran he saw the crown. So did Peter. He said that the "Chief Shepherd will appear and you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." (1 Peter 5: 4) Jesus told the church in Ephesus that there is a crown of life to be awarded to those who are faithful, even to the point of death. (Rev. 2: 10)
Jesus Christ paved the way for us. He is our Pioneer. He is our Leader. He is our Chief Shepherd. And in Revelation 3: 11, He said, "I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown."   He obeyed His Father and received the reward. Crown Him With Many Crowns! For the joy set before Him...Run the race, keep your eye on the prize. Your crown awaits. Praise His name forevermore! Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
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