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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #4080 - 09/22/19 at 05:27:49
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Philippians 4:13 (KJV)
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.


Growing to Know

“You’re going to be an exchange student!” I was seventeen and thrilled to hear I was approved to study in Germany. But it was only three months before my departure, and I had never taken a class in German.

The days that followed found me cramming—studying for hours and even writing words on my hands to memorize them.

Months later I was in a classroom in Germany, discouraged because I didn’t know more of the language. That day a teacher gave me wise advice. “Learning a language is like climbing a sand dune. Sometimes you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. But just keep going and you will.”          

Sometimes I reflect on that insight when I consider what it means to grow as a follower of Jesus. The apostle Paul recalled, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” Even for Paul, personal peace didn’t happen overnight. It was something he grew into. Paul shares the secret of his progress: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12–13).

Life has its challenges. But as we turn to the One who has “overcome the world” (John 16:33), we discover not only that He’s faithful to get us through but also that nothing matters more than closeness to Him. He gives us His peace, helps us to trust, and empowers us to go the distance as we walk with Him.


Reflect & Pray
In what ways will you focus on Jesus today? How can you encourage others to draw near to Him?

Thank You for the peace You give me as I turn to You, Jesus. Help me to stay very close to You today!


Insight
In Philippians 4:7–19, Paul describes a paradox. On the one hand, he lived each day with peace and a sense of having “enough,” confident that God would give exactly what was needed (v. 11). On the other hand, Paul describes believers’ complete dependence on God and others and urges them to honestly name and prayerfully lift up their needs (vv. 7, 9, 19). The apostle also alludes to a further paradox: despite having all we need in God, His abundance and peace is best experienced in community, with fellow believers who share in each other’s joy and sorrows. Despite maintaining that he was not "in need” (v. 11), Paul was profoundly grateful for other believers’ willingness to share in his struggles (vv. 10, 14). Elsewhere he elaborates on these ideas by describing the believing community as an interdependent body where each person is needed (1 Corinthians 12:12–27).
  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #4081 - 09/23/19 at 05:18:52
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Psalm 3:3 (KJV)
But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.


A Shield Around Me

Our church experienced an agonizing loss when Paul, our gifted worship minister, died at the age of thirty-one in a boating accident. Paul and his wife, DuRhonda, were no strangers to pain; they had buried several children who hadn’t made it to term. Now there would be another grave near the small graves of these little ones. The life-crushing crisis this family experienced hit those who loved them like a knockout blow to the head.

David was no stranger to personal and family crises. In Psalm 3, he found himself overwhelmed because of the rebellion of his son Absalom. Rather than stay and fight, he chose to flee his home and throne (2 Samuel 15:13–23). Though “many” considered him forsaken by God (Psalm 3:2), David knew better; he saw the Lord as his protector (v. 3), and he called upon Him accordingly (v. 4). And so did DuRhonda. In the midst of her grief, when hundreds had gathered to remember her husband, she raised her soft, tender voice in a song that expressed confidence in God.

When doctors’ reports are not encouraging, when financial pressures won’t ease up, when efforts to reconcile relationships fail, when death has left those we cherish in its wake—may we too be strengthened to say, “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high” (v. 3).


Reflect & Pray
How did you respond the last time you found yourself in an overwhelming situation? How does knowing God is a shield around you help?

Heavenly Father, help me to see that though life can be uncomfortable, I can find comfort in You.


Insight
The book of Psalms is Israel’s poetry and songbook that captures the human experience and emotions of the psalmists as they seek to trust God in the midst of life’s struggles and pains. Psalm 3 is the first of fourteen psalms that David wrote in response to a specific event (7; 18; 30; 34; 51; 52; 54; 56; 57; 59; 60; 63; 142). The superscription to Psalm 3—“When he fled from his son Absalom”—tells of David’s crisis when his son usurped the throne, forcing the king to flee because he’d be killed if he remained in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 15:13–14). Despite the danger and threat to his life, David was fully confident of God’s protection, deliverance, and sustenance: “I lie down and sleep. . . . I will not fear” (Psalm 3:5–6). David experienced the “perfect peace” promised in Isaiah 26:3 that comes through trusting God.
  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #4082 - 09/24/19 at 05:50:24
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Genesis 6:9 (KJV)
These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.


Qualified in God’s Eyes

A technology-consulting firm hired me after college although I couldn’t write a line of computer code and had very little business knowledge. During the interview process for my entry-level position, I learned that the company did not place high value on work experience. Instead, personal qualities such as the ability to solve problems creatively, exercise good judgment, and work well with a team were more important. The company assumed new workers could be taught the necessary skills as long as they were the kind of people the company was looking for.

Noah didn’t have the right resume for the job of constructing the ark—he wasn’t a boat builder or even a carpenter. Noah was a farmer, a man comfortable with dirt on his shirt and a plow in his hands. Yet as God decided how to deal with the evil in the world at that time, Noah stood out because “he walked faithfully with God” (Genesis 6:9). God valued the teachableness of Noah’s heart—the strength to resist the corruption around him and to do what was right.

When opportunities to serve God come our way, we may not feel qualified for the work. Thankfully, God is not necessarily concerned with our skill set. He prizes our character, love for Him, and willingness to trust Him. When these qualities are being developed inside us by the Spirit, He can use us in big or small ways to accomplish His will on earth.


Reflect & Pray
What character qualities do you need God to develop in you? Why is your character so important to God?

Dear God, give me a heart that’s willing to serve You in any way. Equip me in the areas where I lack experience, and fill me with Your Spirit.


Insight
The words “he walked faithfully with God” describe Noah’s life (Genesis 6:9). The Hebrew word translated “walked faithfully” (some versions have “walked” nkjv, nasb) is used to describe one’s lifestyle or conduct. Twice it’s said of Enoch that he “walked faithfully with God” (5:22, 24). In Genesis 17:1, Abraham was commanded by God to “walk before me faithfully.” Interestingly, we find in Hebrews 11:5–8 that all three of these men—Enoch, Noah, and Abraham—are commended for their faith. Theirs was a genuine faith that compelled them to honor God by the way they lived.
  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #4083 - 09/25/19 at 06:24:10
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Mark 1:15 (KJV)
And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.


False Places of Safety

When our dog Rupert was a puppy, he was so afraid of going outside I’d have to drag him to the park. After getting him there one day, I foolishly let him off his leash. He sprinted home, back to his place of safety.

That experience reminded me of a man I met on a plane, who began apologizing to me as we taxied down the runway. “I’m going to get drunk on this flight,” he said. “It sounds like you don’t want to,” I replied. “I don’t,” he said, “but I always run back to the wine.” He got drunk, and the saddest part was watching his wife embrace him when he got off the plane, smell his breath, then push him away. Drink was his place of safety, but it was no safe place at all.

Jesus began His mission with the words, “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). “Repent” means to reverse direction. The “kingdom of God” is His loving rule over our lives. Instead of running to places that entrap us, or being ruled by fears and addictions, Jesus says we can be ruled by God Himself, who lovingly leads us to new life and freedom.

Today Rupert runs to the park barking with joy. I pray the man on the plane finds that same joy and freedom, leaving behind his false place of safety.


Reflect & Pray
What false place of safety do you run to in times of fear or stress? How will you leave it behind today and place yourself under God’s freeing rule?

Jesus, forgive me for running to anything but You in search of life and happiness. I turn away from those things now, and turn my life over to You. Lead me to real freedom.


Insight
Why would Jesus go to John to be baptized? (Mark 1:9). Mark records that John came “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (v. 4), and Matthew records that John baptized “with water for repentance” (3:11). Jesus was the only sinless person to walk the earth, so He wasn’t in need of repentance or forgiveness. Some have argued that Christ’s baptism was part of His identification with humanity in its sinful state. Others have said it was the inauguration of His ministry. Perhaps Jesus was identifying with us in His surrender to God and to the Father’s will. That’s what those confessing their sins were doing—surrendering to God—and in that vein, Jesus was doing the same thing.
  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #4084 - 09/26/19 at 05:06:22
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John 19:40 (KJV)
Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.


Faith-Stand

Desmond Doss enlisted to serve in World War II as a non-combatant. Though his religious beliefs prevented him from carrying a gun, Doss ably served as a combat medic. In one battle, he withstood intense and repeated enemy fire to pull seventy-five soldiers in his unit to safety after they had been injured. His story is told in the documentary The Conscientious Objector and dramatized in the film Hacksaw Ridge.

A roll call of the heroes of Christian faith includes such courageous characters as Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Peter, and Paul. Yet there are some unsung heroes like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who risked their standing with the Jewish leaders to take Christ’s crucified body and give Him a decent burial (John 19:40–42). This was a bold move from a fearful, secret disciple of Jesus and another, Nicodemus, who had previously dared to visit Him only at night (vv. 38–39). Even more impressive is that they took their faith-stand before Jesus rose victorious from the grave. Why?

Perhaps the manner of Jesus’s death and the events that immediately followed (Matthew 27:50–54) crystallized the fledgling faith of these fearful followers. Maybe they learned to focus on who God is rather than what man could do to them. Whatever the inspiration, may we follow their example and exhibit courage to take risks of faith in our God—for others today.


Reflect & Pray
In what ways have you lived courageously for your faith in Jesus? What can you do differently that might show your faith to the world?

Courage [is] not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. Nelson Mandela


Insight
Jewish burial customs required that the dead be buried within twenty-four hours. Jewish law dictated that a crucified body must be taken down and not left exposed overnight (Deuteronomy 21:22–23; John 19:31). Jesus would have been buried with the other two convicted criminals in a common grave if Joseph hadn’t asked Pilate for His body (John 19:38). Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy and influential leader of the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish judicial body. He was a good and upright man who was waiting for the kingdom of God. Though he was a secret disciple of Jesus, he wasn’t afraid to disagree with the Sanhedrin’s decision to put the Savior to death (Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50–52). Joseph places Christ’s body “in his own new tomb” (Matthew 27:60). That Jesus was buried in a rich man’s tomb was a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:9.
  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #4085 - 09/27/19 at 14:08:21
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Sorry this is so late but we had internet problems this morning.





Matthew 25:13 (KJV)
Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.


Live Like Jesus Is Coming

I’m inspired by country singer Tim McGraw’s song “Live Like You Were Dying.” In it he describes some of the exciting “bucket list” things a man did after receiving some bad news about his health. He also chose to love and forgive people more freely—speaking to them more tenderly. The song recommends that we live well, as if knowing our lives will end soon.

This song reminds us that our time is limited. It’s important for us to not put off for tomorrow what we can do today, because one day we’ll run out of tomorrows. This is particularly urgent for believers in Jesus, who believe that Jesus may return at any moment (perhaps in the very second you’re reading this sentence!). Jesus urges us to be ready, not living like the five “foolish” virgins who were caught unprepared when the bridegroom returned (Matthew 25:6–10).

But McGraw’s song doesn’t tell the whole story. We who love Jesus will never run out of tomorrows. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25–26). Our life in Him never ends.

So don’t live like you’re dying. Because you’re not. Rather, live like Jesus is coming. Because He is!


Reflect & Pray
How will you live today like Jesus is coming soon? How does knowing He could return any day affect your choices?

Jesus, I look forward to the day You’ll return. May I use the time I’ve been given to honor You and to serve others well.


Insight
What is the “kingdom of heaven” referred to in Matthew 25:1? This phrase occurs thirty-one times in the New Testament—only in Matthew. It’s first used by John the Baptist: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (3:2). Just as these are the first recorded words of John when he begins his ministry, they’re also Christ’s first words after He initiates His own ministry (4:17). Most scholars consider this phrase another name for the kingdom of God. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible defines it as “the sovereign rule of God, initiated by Christ’s earthly ministry and to be consummated when ‘the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ’ (Revelation 11:15).”

  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #4086 - 09/28/19 at 05:07:05
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Ephesians 1:18 (KJV)
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,


“Just the Office”?

I gazed out at the rolling, green hills in Lancashire in northern England, noticing the stone fences enclosing some sheep dotted around the hills. Puffy clouds moved across the bright sky, and I inhaled deeply, drinking in the sight. When I remarked about the beautiful scene to the woman working at the retreat center I was visiting, she said, “You know, I never used to notice it before our guests would point it out. We’ve lived here for years; and when we were farmers, this was just the office!”

We can easily miss the gift of what’s right in front of us, especially beauty that’s part of our everyday lives. We can also easily miss the beautiful ways God works in and around us daily. But believers in Jesus can ask God’s Spirit to open our spiritual eyes so we can understand how He’s at work, as the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesian believers. Paul yearned that God would give them the wisdom and revelation to know Him better (Ephesians 1:17). He prayed that their hearts would be enlightened so that they’d know God’s hope, promised future, and power (vv. 18–19).

God’s gift of the Spirit of Christ can awaken us to His work in us and through us. With Him, what may have once seemed like “just the office” can be understood as a place that displays His light and glory.


Reflect & Pray
Where do you see God at work around you? How does seeing the world through spiritual eyes help?

Jesus, shine Your light on me and open my eyes and my heart to better understand Your goodness and Your grace. I want to receive Your love.


Insight
Paul’s prayer in the first chapter of his letter to the Ephesians (vv. 15–23) works hand-in-hand with the prayer of the third chapter (3:14–21). Together they show what it takes to sense something of the astonishing, inexpressible, and expansive purposes, power, and love of God. Both prayers remind us that growing in the immeasurable love and boundless scope of God’s plans require more than our desire and capacity to believe (1:17–19; 3:14–21). Such “knowing” is a gift and evidence of the Holy Spirit who is with us and in us. Both prayers give us reason to consciously draw near to God. And both lead us into an understanding of what it takes to prayerfully counter the strategies of our spiritual enemy—by drawing near to and relying on the Spirit (1:15–17; 6:18).
  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #4087 - 09/29/19 at 06:30:57
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Exodus 3:14 (KJV)
And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.


Who Am I?

Dave enjoyed his job, but for a long time he’d sensed a pull toward something else. Now he was about to fulfill his dream and step into mission work. But strangely, he began to have serious doubts.

“I don’t deserve this,” he told a friend. “The mission board doesn’t know the real me. I’m not good enough.”

Dave has some pretty good company. Mention the name of Moses and we think of leadership, strength, and the Ten Commandments. We tend to forget that Moses fled to the desert after murdering a man. We lose sight of his forty years as a fugitive. We overlook his anger problem and his intense reluctance to say yes to God.

When God showed up with marching orders (Exodus 3:1–10), Moses played the I’m-not-good-enough card. He even got into a lengthy argument with God, asking Him: “Who am I?” (v. 11). Then God told Moses who He was: “I am who I am” (v. 14). It’s impossible for us to explain that mysterious name because our indescribable God is describing His eternal presence to Moses.

A sense of our own weaknesses is healthy. But if we use them as an excuse to keep God from using us, we insult Him. What we’re really saying is that God isn’t good enough.

The question isn’t Who am I? The question is Who is the I am?


Reflect & Pray
When has thinking you’re not good enough kept you from serving God? How does it encourage you to look at Bible characters God used despite their flaws?

Eternal God, so often we doubt that You could ever use people like us. But You sent Your Son to die for the likes of us, so please forgive our doubts. Help us accept the challenges You bring our way.


Insight
When Moses asked “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” (Exodus 3:11), God reassured him of His presence. “I will be with you” (v. 12) corresponds to the statement “I am who I am” (v. 14), which identifies God as an existing being. He expanded on this when He called Himself “The Lord” (v. 15), from the Hebrew Yěhovah, which means “self-existing.” Regardless of abilities Moses possessed, the self-existing Sustainer of the universe would be with him.
  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #4088 - 09/30/19 at 05:12:42
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Isaiah 53:5 (KJV)
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.


A Ready Remedy

Following the park guide, I scribbled notes as he taught about the plants of the Bahamian primeval forest. He told us which trees to avoid. The poisonwood tree, he said, secretes a black sap that causes a painful, itchy rash. But not to worry! The antidote could usually be found growing right next it. “Cut into the red bark of the gum elemi tree,” he said, “and rub the sap on the rash. It will immediately begin to heal.”

I nearly dropped my pencil in astonishment. I hadn’t expected to find a picture of salvation in the forest. But in the gum elemi tree, I saw Jesus. He’s the ready remedy wherever the poison of sin is found. Like the red bark of that tree, the blood of Jesus brings healing.

The prophet Isaiah understood that humanity needed healing. The rash of sin had infected us. Isaiah promised that our healing would come through “a man of suffering” who would take our sickness upon Himself (Isaiah 53:3). That man was Jesus. We were sick, but Christ was willing to be wounded in our place. When we believe in Him, we are healed from the sickness of sin (v. 5). It may take a lifetime to learn to live as those who’re healed—to recognize our sins and to reject them in favor of our new identity—but because of Jesus, we can.


Reflect & Pray
What other pictures in the natural world do you see of the salvation God offers us? What has the healing He offers meant to you?

Wherever sin is, Jesus is there, ready to save.


Insight
Isaiah 53 gives us the clearest description of the sacrifice of Christ in the Old Testament, describing His rejection (vv. 1–3), His suffering in our place (vv. 4–6), His sacrificial death and burial (vv. 7–9), and His reconciling atonement and resurrection (vv. 10–12). The chapter is the last of four messianic prophecies in the book of Isaiah (42:1–9; 49:1–13, 50:4–11; 52:13–53:12) known as the “Servant Songs” because they prophetically refer to Jesus the Messiah as Servant (42:1; 49:3; 50:10; 52:13), although Jewish scholars tend to identify the Servant as Israel itself.

In the New Testament, Isaiah is quoted or alluded to sixty-two times. New Testament writers unequivocally apply quotes from Isaiah 53 to Jesus Christ (Matthew 8:17; Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37; John 12:38–41; Acts 8:32–35; Romans 10:16; 1 Peter 2:24).
  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #4089 - 10/01/19 at 07:19:24
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Numbers 11:6 (KJV)
But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.


Eat and Repeat

When Kerry and Paul got married, neither one knew how to cook. But one night Kerry decided to try her hand at spaghetti—making so much that the couple had it for dinner again the next day. On the third day, Paul volunteered to cook, doubling the amount of pasta and sauce, hoping the huge pot would last through the weekend. As the couple sat down for dinner that night, however, it was Kerry who confessed, “I’m sick of spaghetti.”

Just imagine eating the same meal as the Israelites did—for forty years. Each morning they gathered the sweet “super food” God supplied and cooked it (no leftovers unless the next day was the Sabbath, Exodus 16:23–26). Sure, they got creative—baking it, boiling it (v. 23). But, oh, how they missed the good food they had enjoyed in Egypt (v. 3; Numbers 11:1–9), even though that nourishment had come at the high cost of cruelty and enslavement!

We too may sometimes resent that our life isn’t what it once was. Or perhaps the “sameness” of life has caused us to be discontent. But Exodus 16 tells of God’s faithful provision to the Israelites, causing them to trust and depend on His care each day.

God promises to give us everything we need. He satisfies our longings and fills up our soul with “good things” (Psalm 107:9 esv).


Reflect & Pray
In what ways has God provided for you in the past? What longing is keeping you from trusting Him more?

Father, thank You for Your promise to faithfully care for me and provide what I need.


Insight
The Hebrew word for manna means “what is it?” Manna looked like white flakes of frost on the ground and tasted “like wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16:14, 31). The poetic language of Psalm 78:24 tells us, “[God] rained down manna for the people to eat, he gave them the grain of heaven.” This image of manna as bread is picked up in the New Testament. In John 6, the people said it was “bread from heaven” (v. 31), then Jesus lifted this bread up to its highest level as a picture of Himself (vv. 32–33)! Christ called Himself “the bread that came down from heaven” (v. 41). Jesus said, “Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die” (vv. 49–50).
  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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