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A Dwelling Place For God


in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
(Ephesians 2:21-22 ESV)


In today’s passage Paul continues to use the metaphor of a building to describe the eternal family that God is creating through the human race. The “in whom” refers to Jesus who we saw yesterday is the one upon whom God is building, for He (Jesus) is the cornerstone.

The words translated “being joined together” are one word in Greek: συναρμολογεο (pronounced: soon-ar-mol-og-eh’-o). In the original language this word implies skill and intention. God does not work haphazardly. He has a plan and He is working towards that plan. That plan is to create a family that will last for all of eternity.

The interesting thing about this building is that its construction never ceases; new stones (believers) are constantly being added. Jesus was the first stone – the cornerstone. The rest of the stones began to be added on the day of Pentecost when God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, indwelt the first New Testament believers [Acts 2:1-4]. Construction continues today and will not end until God raptures His children from the earth sometime before Jesus returns to earth.

We know from elsewhere in the Bible that every believer is a temple in which God physically resides [Romans 5:5, 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19 et. al]. Today we read that the entire structure (i.e. family) that God is building is symbolically like the Temple that existed in Jerusalem. It was in the Temple that God resided and met with His people. So, too, does God reside among His family of believers and He will do so for all eternity. We are being built into “a dwelling place for God by the Spirit”.

God will dwell with us in the form of (“by”) the Holy Spirit. Here is another verse in Scripture that clearly equates God with the Holy Spirit. There is only one God. He manifests Himself in 3 forms (i.e. “persons”): God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Many faiths including Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, and Scientology (to name just a few of the more recognizable ones) deny the Trinity.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, deny the Holy Spirit is God but if you read their website, they offer no rationale as to why they think this way other than to imply that since the Trinity can’t be understood it must not be true.

Just because a concept is difficult to understand does not mean that it is false. Just like young children cannot understand much of the adult world, we cannot understand everything about the spiritual world.

How God indwells the human body of a believer is inexplicable. But that does not mean it isn’t true. We can’t reject the teachings of God (the Bible) just because we can’t understand it all. Frankly, if we could understand everything about God then He wouldn’t be God – we would be.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Don’t Live In A Condemned Building


So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
(Ephesians 2:19-20 ESV)


The word “because” in today’s passage indicates that what follows is the explanation of what was written prior. Yesterday we read how Gentile believers became part of God’s family just like Jewish believers. What brought these two people groups together was not political solutions, or the United Nations, or bumper stickers exhorting them to coexist. They were brought together by Jesus Christ.

From the very moment Adam & Eve sinned God had a plan to reconcile the now wayward human race to Himself through a messiah [Genesis 3:15]. As this Old Testament verse attests, His entire plan is based on the person and work of Jesus, the incarnation of His only son.

The goal of God’s plan is to create an eternal family, metaphorically referred to as a building in this verse and the ones to follow. The “cornerstone” of that building is Jesus.

Before modern architectural practices, a cornerstone was the first stone laid when building a masonry structure. It had to be precisely cut and placed, as every other stone in the structure would be placed in relation to it. If it was not correct, the entire building would be compromised.

Likewise, the family that God is building is based on the work and person of Jesus. The foundation (the teaching of the apostles) and every stone (each believer) has Jesus as its reference point. By design, therefore, every member of God’s family is in a relationship with Jesus.

This is extremely important because it tells us that any attempt to be with God eternally apart from Christ will fail. All belief systems that don’t have Jesus as the reference point – atheism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and all the others – can’t deliver on their promises.

But we must also be careful about some churches which claim to be built on Christ but are not such as Mormonism, Unitarianism, and Catholicism. Jesus is the truth [John 14:6]. Everything He said – about Himself, about us, about God, about heaven and hell – is true. If any church takes away from Jesus’ teachings or alters them in anyway, as these (and others) have, they are not building God’s eternal family. They are actually keeping people out of it.

To know if the teaching of a church is true, all we need to do is see if it confirms what God has told us through Christ. And we find that out in the Bible. Jesus is the Word – He is the incarnation of God’s written truth (the Bible) [John 1:1,14].

Any church that denies any part of the Bible – such as homosexuality being sin or hell not existing – is a false church. Following their teachings will lead a person away from God [Proverbs 14:12, 16:25; Isaiah 55:8-9; Matthew 7:21-23].

All truth points back to Jesus. If one is not believing everything Jesus said and stood for then that person is living in a condemned building that is destined to collapse.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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God Is Creating A Family


So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
(Ephesians 2:19-20 ESV)


As a pastor in Toronto likes to say, the overriding message of the Bible can be summed up in one sentence: God is creating a family and He wants to adopt you into it. Initially this family consisted of the nation of Israel. God chose Israel to be the people through whom He would demonstrate His greatness and His love to the rest of the world, thereby encouraging others to join His family too.

Throughout the Old Testament we see a few non-Jews intentionally joining God’s family including a few Egyptians who left Egypt with Israel during the Exodus [Exodus 12:38] and Ruth, a Moabite woman, who comes to realize that the God of Israel is the one true God [Ruth 1:16] as well as some others. But for the most part Jews and Gentiles did not mix either socially or spiritually.

By the time we get to the New Testament there is tremendous animosity between these two peoples. The Jews had forgotten that they were chosen by God not for anything inherently good within them, but simply because it was God’s choice [Deuteronomy 7:6-8]. Instead they saw themselves as superior over other peoples and looked down upon those who were not Jewish.

This is not surprising. Despite what our culture thinks, having pride in our differences does not make for a better world. The human race has a great tendency to use disparity to create discord.

However, as a result of Jesus taking on the punishment for sin there is only one group now. There is no more difference between Jew and Gentile. No one is excluded. Everyone is welcome.

Once Gentiles were “foreigners and non-citizens”. They were on the outside looking in. The Greek word for “foreigners” is ξενοσ (pronounced: zen’-os) which means “an outcast; one without a share”. It is the word from which we get our English word “xenophobia”. Until Jesus came along, Gentiles could not partake in any of God’s blessings. But now they can have citizenship in heaven and are also “members of God’s household”. Any Gentile who believes is part of His family with the same standing before God as any Old Testament Jew.

Its all quite simple: those people who believe in Jesus’ name are part of God’s family [John 1:12]. Those who don’t are not. It doesn’t matter what their background is, or what their religious upbringing was, or what or how many sins they’ve committed (we’ve all committed too many to count). All that matters is the person realizes his/her sinfulness and need to be forgiven.

The biblical word for that is “repent”. If anyone repents and turns to God for forgiveness then God – true to His word – will wipe their sins away, never to be brought up again [Acts 3:19, Micah 7:19]. That person will then be part of God’s family for all eternity.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Jesus Removed The Barrier To Peace


And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
(Ephesians 2:17-18 ESV)


Over the past few days we’ve learned that Jesus is peace [Ephesians 2:14] and that He makes peace between Jew and Gentile possible [Ephesians 2:15]. Jesus also removed the hostility between God and man [Ephesians 2:16]. Jesus was all about peace.

While here on earth Jesus’ primary ministry was to the Jews [Matthew 10:5-6, 15:24] though he did, on occasion minister to Gentiles [Matthew 15:25-28; John 4:1-42]. And subsequently through His apostles (the original 12, plus Matthias and Paul) Jesus has preached peace to the entire world.

The Greek word for “preached” here is ευαγγελιζο (pronounced: yoo-ang-ghel-id’-zo). This word gives us our English word “evangelize” and means “to announce good news”. Jesus’ entire life had one goal: to announce to the world that peace was not only possible between God and man, but was (and still is) available.

It is sin that separates man from God. God is much more holy than we can even begin to comprehend. He is so holy that He cannot even be in the presence of sin. This includes all the sins that human beings euphemistically justify as not being sin, like a little white lie. Anyone who is separated from God is one of God’s enemies and is, in fact, in the servitude of Satan [Ephesians 2:1-2; Romans 5:10].

The only way peace between God and man can happen is for man’s sin to be removed. And that is exactly what Jesus accomplished. Not with His life. But with His death.

While on the cross Jesus became sin [2 Corinthians 5:21]. All the punishment due sinful man was placed upon Jesus on the cross in order to remove the barrier that had existed between God and man since Genesis 3. Once that barrier was removed, peace with God was now available to every human being.

Its important to note that Jesus was the only one capable of removing the barrier between God and man. It is only “through Him” that anyone can have “access” to God. No one can have a relationship with God through any other means [John 14:6]. Anyone who tries to get right with God through penance, or good deeds, or chanting, or pilgrimages is trying to earn eternal life through their own efforts. None of this will work.

Notice in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that it was God who made Jesus become sin. God had a plan from the time Adam & Eve rebelled to conquer sin through His son [Genesis 3:15]. He did this for the purpose of reconciling (i.e. making peace between) Himself and His recalcitrant creation.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Everyone Can Have Their Relationship With God Restored


For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
(Ephesians 2:14-16 ESV)


With His death on the cross, Jesus removed that which divided Jew and Gentile – the Old Testament ceremonial laws – and in the process created a “new man” that was neither Jew nor Gentile. There was no more barrier between them and hence the possibility of peace among all men was created. We learned this yesterday.

But Jesus’ death did something more than that. It not only reconciled Jew and Gentile, it allowed the human race to be reconciled with God.

People are born separated from God due to our inherent sin [Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8, et. al] and we are powerless to do anything about it [Romans 5:6]. However, we have no more important need than to have our relationship with God restored.

The restoration of this relationship can only happen “through the cross”, although many try to achieve this through other means, notably human effort. Certain groups within Hinduism, for example, believe that sins can be removed by reciting the Hare Krishna mantra.

But the Bible makes it clear that reconciliation is totally the work of God. Our sinful state prevents us from bridging the gap between us and our Creator. So He took the initiative to do so by sending His son to become sin in our place [Romans 5:8, 10] so that, through faith, we can have peace with God [Romans 5:1].

The sad truth is the vast majority of people think they have the power to reconcile themselves to God or, worse, don’t realize they need to be reconciled to God. They think they have good standing with God that will result in them being in heaven one day. But this is not true.

We are enemies of God due to our sinful nature [Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 2:1]. No amount of chanting, or praying the rosary, or facing Mecca, or good deeds can restore the relationship between man and God that was broken in the Garden of Eden. Only God can do that and the way He made that happen was to send His one and only son to die in our place.

In an ironic twist, Jesus gave up His relationship with the Father and died a human death so that we could have a relationship with God and not have to die a spiritual death (i.e. be separated from God forever – a state known as hell).

God could have left us to die in our sins. But instead, through the cross, He offers us reconciliation. It is now possible for each and every human being to be right with God if they accept, through faith, the work of Jesus on the cross on their behalf [John 3:16].

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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The Only Place To Find Peace


For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
(Ephesians 2:14-16 ESV)


One of the results of Jesus’ death was He made it possible for both Jews and Gentiles to live in harmony by breaking down that which divides them. There was an actual wall in the Temple in Jerusalem that separated Jews from Gentiles, but Paul is most likely referring to a spiritual “dividing wall” between these two groups of people. In fact, Paul was in prison in Rome at the time he wrote this letter for allegedly bringing a Gentile past this barrier in the Temple [Acts 21:27-36].

In the Old Testament God gave Israel many laws that made them unique – and therefore separate – from everyone else (the Gentiles). God did this in order to draw attention to Israel and, hence, to Himself so that people would know that He was the one and only true God. Up until Jesus went to the cross, Israel was the only conduit to God.

But Israel’s uniqueness lead to problems. Overtime Israel came to look down upon the Gentiles and would have nothing to do with them lest they become defiled. The Gentiles thought the Jews were weird due to the ceremonial rituals they practiced at God’s command.

But, as we all know, when people are different from us, there is animosity and there certainly was animosity between Jews and Gentiles at this time. But Jesus removed those divisions. When Jesus died the ceremonial law died with Him. The entire “law of commandments expressed in ordinances” – the Old Testament ceremonial laws – expired. These laws were only meant to be temporary anyway [Galatians 3:19]. Their purpose was to point out people’s sin and need for a savior [Romans 3:20].

The major theme of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is what it means to be “in Christ”. This phrase (or similar ones like “in His flesh” and “in Himself”) is used over 30 times. One of the results of being in Christ is that there is now peace available to God’s children as there is nothing to divide us, unless it is of our own making.

Sadly, people are very good at dividing themselves, even within the church. The only way we can have unity with each other is to remember that we are no longer our old selves [Romans 6:6]. We are now “in Christ” and that is the only place where there is peace and harmony.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Sin Creates A Lack of Peace


For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
(Ephesians 2:14-16 ESV)


Referring to Jesus, mentioned in yesterday’s passage as being the hope of all mankind, both Jew and Gentile, Paul writes that He “is our peace”. Jesus didn’t just come to bring peace. He is peace.

Many people wonder how Jesus brought peace when our world is filled with so much violence and unrest and is seemingly becoming less peaceful every day. The lack of peace in our world is a common objection of those who doubt or deny the existence of God. These people believe that if God exists He could (and should) make this world a peaceful place. While this argument seems to make sense on a human level, we know that God does not think the way we do [Isaiah 55:8-9].

The root cause of the lack of peace is sin. Sin prevents man from having peace with God. It also prevents us from having peace with each other. The root cause of sin is pride. It is very difficult, if not impossible, for peace to exist between any two people, or any two groups of people, who are holding onto their pride.

We saw this during our study of Philippians earlier this year. One of the main themes of Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi was humility for the sake of creating peace [Philippians 2:2, 4:2]. People cannot have peace when they are focused on themselves. Peace only comes from denying oneself.

The human race loves to place people into categories based on their nationality, race, gender, etc. and then inspiring pride – the cause of all sin – in having membership in such divisions. But by doing so we eliminate the possibility of peace. While we know that perfect peace between all human beings will not happen on this earth [Romans 12:18], we know that we cannot have any peace at all except through Jesus.

This is easily proven by looking at the way the world, notably the western nations, have worked feverishly in recent years to remove all references to Jesus from culture. There is no doubt that we have seen a direct correlation between this strategy and the rise of conflicts across all the man-made categories of people on this planet. When we remove Jesus, we remove peace.

The only way to create more peace on this earth is to invite Jesus back into our lives. As a well-known bumper sticker says: “No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace”.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Death Without God Is Hopeless


Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
(Ephesians 2:11-13 ESV)


In light of the great truth we’ve read in Ephesians 2:8-10 – that God rescued us from a hopeless and tragic eternity for no other reason than He wanted to – we are commanded to “remember” where we were before God saved us.

Before God stepped into history and paid the penalty for our sinfulness we were “separated from Christ” and “alienated” from God’s family. We were unfamiliar – and couldn’t care less – about the promises of God. In conclusion, we had no hope because we didn’t have God. This is not a good place to be.

Life without God is difficult enough. But death without God is hopeless. Those who die without choosing to join God’s family will get exactly what they think they want – an eternity without Him in their life. We call this hell. Simply put, hell is the complete absence of God. And if anyone thinks life is tough on earth, where God is present, they will find that hell is infinitely worse because God will not be present there at all. In hell, the evil that is in human beings will not be checked – it will run rampant.

As the United States eliminates the one and only true God from our culture we get a taste of hell right here on earth. Over the past several decades, and even more so in recent years, we’ve removed God from government, business, education, entertainment. Accordingly, we’ve seen a rise in violence and crime during this time. This is no coincidence. Life without God – on earth or in eternity – is not good.

Such is the future that all of us were headed for. But God offers a different path. He offers us an eternity with Him, in heaven, enjoying the many blessings that He desires to give us [Ephesians 1:3-14]. This offer is made possible “by the blood of Christ”. Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for our sins thereby allowing us to enter heaven as holy and forgiven creatures. There is no other way to heaven [John 3:16, John 14:6 et.al].

Our future was made possible by nothing other than God’s grace. He rescued us from an eternity of suffering because of the unconditional love He has for us. There is nothing about us that caused God to send His son to die on our behalf [Ephesians 2:8-10]. We are not worthy of such a sacrifice.

God commands us to “remember” all this. Remembering where we came from keeps us humble. Remembering where we are headed makes us thankful.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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We Are God’s Masterpiece


For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)


People are saved from the penalty of their sins, which is eternal separation from God (we call that hell), not by living a more-or-less good life but having faith in God’s grace. Our so-called good deeds don’t count for anything towards our salvation. We’ve learned this over the past few days. But that does not mean there is no place for good works in our lives.

One of the reasons God saves us is so that (the “For” in today’s verse) He can turn us into something else. The Greek word translated “workmanship” is ποιεμα (pronounced:poy’-ay-mah). It is the Greek word from which we get our English word “poem” and was used in the ancient world to describe a work of art. The NIV translates this word as “masterpiece”. Just like an artist takes a slab of dull, ordinary rock and creates a sculpture, God takes woeful, spiritually dead sinners and turns them into something alive and useful.

The result of God’s transformation is good works. Notice that good works do play a role in the life of a child of God, but only after we are saved. We are not saved by good works. We are saved for good works. God saves us and transforms us so that we can do good things on His behalf.

Like a butterfly is no longer a caterpillar, a saved person is completely different after being born-again. That person still sins – sin is still present in our world and our bodies and will be on this earth – but they hate it. They work to eliminate it from their lives. Instead of desiring to live selfishly (the root of sin), a saved person wants to live for Jesus out of thankfulness for the price He paid to free us from an eternity in hell.

All this brings God glory as our sphere of influence – our family, friends, neighbors, coworkers – see our transformation and realize that the change in our character could only come from Him. Our change in behavior supplies proof that God exists and that He does work for the good of people. This will hopefully encourage others to choose to become one of God’s children too.

Good deeds are not proof that a person is going to heaven [Matthew 7:21-23]. Even non-believers do good things. But good deeds do prove whether someone is truly saved [Titus 1:16, 2:11-12; James 2:14-26].

God’s love is a transforming love. The life of a person truly saved will not be the same as it was before. God’s purpose in saving us is not simply to bring us to heaven while we continue to live a rampantly sinful life on earth. God saves us so that He, like a sculptor, can make us more like Jesus [2 Corinthians 3:18, Romans 8:29].

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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There Is No Such Thing As “Good Deeds”


For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)


Yesterday we read that God is a giver and will continue to give to His children [John 1:12] for all eternity. God also gives great things to us while on earth including strength, wisdom, etc [Psalm 29:11; James 1:5 et. al].

As a result of extolling the wonderful and immense riches God gives His children in the previous verses, Paul goes off on an aside to mention the greatest gift of God – salvation – which He offers by His grace as a result of our faith.

Its important to note that salvation is not something we can achieve on our own (“this is not your own doing… not a result of works”). Salvation “is the gift of God”. All man-made religions teach that people can earn their way to the next life through their behaviors. This is the clear teaching of Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism, Buddhism, and every other religious “ism” there is. But these are all false teachings.

Here is another passage in the Bible that clearly proves that Christianity is true. Man does not invent religions that cast him in an unfavorable light or that take his self-determination away from him. These words could only, therefore, have come from God. This passage also proves that we do not all worship the same god. The God of the Bible is nothing like the gods of these religions just mentioned, including Catholicism. If you are a follower of one of these religions, please consider what today’s Bible passage is saying. What you believe will affect your eternity.

Throughout the Bible God tells us that no one can see heaven as a result of doing good things or not doing bad things. We read this in many places including John 3:3, John 3:18, Romans 3:28, Romans 5:1, and Galatians 2:16. But no where is it more clear than in today’s passage. Salvation is not a result of works. It is a gift of God that comes by faith.

It would be boasting for someone to say they are going to heaven because they are a good person. Many people think this way though. They admit just enough sin to convince themselves they are humble while at the same time believing they are “good enough” to go to heaven.

But that clearly contradicts what God has told us in the Bible. In fact, Jesus even tells us that after they die many people, when they come face-to-face with Him, will point to their “good deeds” as justification for getting into heaven. But Jesus will tragically have to turn them away [Matthew 7:21-23].

The sad truth is the vast majority of people who believe in an afterlife are mistaken in their understanding of how to get there. It seems to make sense that “good” people go to heaven and “bad” people do not. But that is a human way of thinking. God does not think like we do [Isaiah 55:8-9].

Jesus tells us that there are two metaphorical gates that lead to the next life in Matthew 7:13-14. One gate is wide and the path on the other side is easy to walk on. Many people will go through this gate thinking it leads to heaven. But He tells us that it leads to hell. The other gate is narrow and the path on the other side is not easy. But, despite its appearance, this gate leads to heaven.

Just because something makes sense to us doesn’t make it true [Proverbs 14:12]. The truth is there is no one who is good [Romans 3:10]. And all our so-called good deeds count for nothing [Isaiah 64:6].

Choose the narrow gate.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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