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Discipleship in a Broken World pt 3

Part 3 of How Following Christ Transforms Everything and Discipleship in a Broken World

“So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it–to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.
Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.
Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

– Philemon 1:17-25 (ESV)

In verses 17 to 19, Paul talks about how a disciple sacrifices for broken relationships. In these few verses, we see that he (Paul) is asking Philemon to set aside his rights as a Roman and accept Onesimus and consider the higher calling to be like Christ. Paul points that, when you get involved with helping and living for Christ, it does cost. Sometimes you, as the offended party have to stop up first and forgive. God sent his son to be among flesh, he paid the debt we could not pay. He intervened, because we could not. This is the appendix of the Christian teachings.

When Paul wrote the letter to Philemon, he left a P.S. In this, Paul said, I will repay you. He also says an “I owe you” to Philemon – as Philemon owes Paul his life.

Forgiveness and intervening is costly, and the reason disciples like to intercede is because it is refreshing and healing, and it works. All the skinless–bloody–knuckles are worth it.

In the last set of verses (verses 20-25), Paul makes the point that a disciple is confident that Christ can heal broken relationships. In the original text (Greek), “refresh my heart” was written as (excuse the bad spelling and unknown ‘pronunciation’) “shplankma,” which means “refresh me.” It is refreshing and rewarding when a person’s heart break – and when I say break I don’t mean in the “love sick” like break. I mean a heart breaking, like a when someone is breaking a horse and the horse gives in, it is a happy moment.
Paul is sure that Philemon will do the right thing, he is also confident that Philmeon will go above and beyond. There is a great deal of creativity we do when we forgive; there just isn’t one standard way of forgiving. When we forgive, we are also accountable to others. We do not live in a vacuum; unlike a vacuum and how it only sucks things in and not out, the way we live our live does affect others.

A root of bitterness in forgiveness and stubbornness in willing to let others in affects the whole body. You can either shatter the faith, break it down, or pump life into it. People will see it and see the grace of God. People will see the spirit working in you; God has dumped his grace on us, and we need to do the same for others.

Forgiveness is one of the most god-like acts we can come close to doing or perform. When we go the extra step; intercede and help out, people will see it – they will see that we have hope, and love, and grace, it is through the grace of God that we are able to show these ‘characteristics.’ The world’s hope – that people will forgive. The reason we still have so many broken relationships is because someone isn’t willing to step up and forgive.

Each one of us here is in debt to our parents, teachers, and obligations to repay, though they don’t expect it, it is our duty to forgive whether or not they have blatantly wronged us or didn’t mean to wrong us. When we don’t forgive, we thwart the plan of God.

“Prayers are the nerves that move the muscles of God’s powers.” – Unknown

Before you close the tab or go back, take a minute to answer these questions. And please answer them full-heartedly, not a third, or half, or five-sixths heartedly – make sure it’s 100% full-hearted. There are only two questions, and one I wrote down an answer, but see if you can come up with your own.

– What is the nature of forgiveness?
It is promising that you will not take revenge on the person who wronged you. It’s saying I won’t bring it up to you, myself, and other people.
– As a disciple, how far should I go to intercede in a broken relationship?

Some relating verses:

– Isaiah 2:4

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Discipleship in a Broken World (pt 2)

Part 2 of How Following Christ Transforms Everything

“Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you–I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus– I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Formerly he was useless to you but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. I would have been glad to keep him with me in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.
For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved bother–especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.”

– Philemon 1:8-16 (ESV)

In these verses, Paul is talking about how a disciple intercedes in broken relationships. When Paul wrote the letter, he put the greetings and who was sending it at the top – that’s how people sent letters then. Unlike us, where we sign a letter at the bottom. Paul has the heart of a forgiven man, if you don’t know what this means – he knows what it’s like to be forgiven and is able to forgive and have grace. If you’re still unclear what this means, read part one of this series.

Paul, as we see, loved Philemon as a brother. He (Paul) has a high regard for Philemon, as he was an established man of power in the Roman Empire. Paul knew that Onesimus, Philemon’s slave, had run away and he had met him.

When Onesimus ran away from Philemon, Paul realized that he wasn’t running away from Philemon, but from God. Paul told him that he could go on and try to run away from God for all of eternity, but it’s useless, because God will always call and chase after us, only to pick us up in his arms and reassure us that we cannot live without Him.

Side Note: You may be thinking – running away. It’s not that big of a deal. I beg to differ. In the Roman world, running away as a slave was a huge deal, as it was punishable by death if you were caught, and you could be put to death right then and there. It also often meant that the master was cruel and such. It was quite a big deal and a huge demeanor to the master in the social realm. Philemon was no such master, he was kind, gracious, and caring towards his workers. But because Onesimus ran away, Philemon was ridiculed and mocked; he was put down by his fellow Romans. Philemon was willing though, to be a teacher. For when Onesimus returned, he was not going to punish him, but teach him.

God asks us, despite being ridiculed and mocked (etc.), to minister to the people who want to be taught. We need to pray for those who do not want to be taught – that their hearts would soften and they’d be willing to hear God’s word.

In verse 11, there is a play on words that the English translation misses. “Onesimus” means “useful” — and in verse 11, Paul said he was once useless to you, but now he is useful. In verse 13, Paul talks about not wanting to send Onesimus back, as he wants Onesimus to serve him while he is imprisoned, and in verse 14, Paul said, “but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.”

Paul is saying we need to look from God’s perspective, forgiveness is the key to restoring a relationship. When we accept Jesus, it changes our life, and though you may not feel like their life is changed, God is working in you and you have to have faith and trust and obedience. A kind of forgiveness, the highest form, is when we have to forgive someone, and they know not what they have done. In Luke 23:24, Jesus cries out something similar like this as he is dying on the cross. Bloody, in pain, and suffering the world’s sin, as well as processing the emotional pain of his father turning his back on him, he said these words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

A lack of forgiveness impeded your joy as a Christian, if you hold back forgiveness you will not enjoy the forgiveness God has given us. Letting go of a wrong someone has done against you – whether intentionally or unintentionally – means more than just the words “I forgive you.”
A lack of forgiveness impedes your joy with other Christians – you lose the joy of fellowship.
A lack of forgiveness assumes against the role of God. In Matthew, Jesus says, “Do not repay evil fro evil.”
A lack of forgiveness makes you unfit for worship.
Lacking forgiveness misunderstands the nature of trials.
We need to have a good perspective of ourselves, and it is pride that often gets in our way – “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” (Proverbs 16:18 ESV).

Before wrapping up this post, I want to impose on you a few questions.

– Is it worth being miserable for the rest of your life because of the lack of forgiveness?
– How should you counsel someone who was finding it difficult to forgive someone else?
– What biblical principles apply?

Don’t just read through the questions and answer them in like a three-second answer. Take time, think about it. Write the answer down, if needed to help you truly answer in a truthful and honest way.

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How Following Christ Transforms Everything (Part 1)

“Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy, our brother,

To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from you love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.”

– Philemon 1:1-7 (ESV)

In this verse, Paul is writing to fellow believers. His topic is on trusting God. In verses 1 to 3, he talks about how it causes us to trust God in our own broken circumstances.

Helpful Note: In many circumstances, take family relationships for example, when someone hurts someone, they apologize; they mend that bond that was broken and they take care of it tenderly, making sure they are more careful.

What Paul is talking about is when we are in broken circumstances – or situations the first relationship that must be mended is ours and God’s. A forgiven heart will seek forgiveness and reign in the heart. So if one person apologizes and the person who was hurt forgives, the person who apologized will be forgiving and more lenient themselves.

In our broken circumstances when we mend our bond or create one with God, our situation doesn’t magically get all better and our lives become easy and perfect. God does not immediately release us from our circumstances when we become followers. This is important to remember, because many people who convert or who are skeptical look around and pick out people whose lives do not seem changed. People are aware of the wonderful and mysterious things God does, and they want that to happen to them. God does provide and miracles happen, but they are often small, yet important, or they will happen in time. God is not predictable.

In the last remaining lines of the verse, verses 4 to 7, the apostle explains that even when we are struggling, it causes us to love and appreciate others even if they are in broken relationships.

Life changes when you meet Jesus Christ.

It just does, when you first meet Him, there may be a noticeable change in your life, a small change, or a feeling of fulness. It depends on the person.

When the light of the gospel break through on your own struggles, it shines in other place, too. These other places can be the darkest depths of your heart, or in areas of your life that you weren’t open to changing. It is different for everyone.

There are those people who only see the part of your life where God has not worked yet or is working on, and it can be hard as they will judge you. But we have to live a higher standard – not judge them or pity them – but show mercy. In Matthew, Jesus says, “Judge no, that you be not judged. For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you,” (Matthew 7:1-2 ESV). Pretty straight forward, huh? But also, as a Christian you are a representative of Christ. You need to be an image of Christ – just like a child looks up to his/her father and tries to do as he does, we need to look up to our Heavenly Father and try to match and follow his example.

All of us have residual sin and we can see it through the products of our culture.

Those who truly seek to follow Christ understand that God has control of our situations, and he has control of our lives and brokenness. Of all human qualities, forgiveness is the closest thing to God. The God who is forgiving, and all abounding in love, as well as slow to anger and fair in judgement.

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What Is Love?

There’s a verse in the Bible that talks about love.

It talks about how love is essentially perfect – or the love shown by Christ and how Paul explains it in its true context.

People today think love is envious – that we are to envy those in love or love itself. Some people think they need to boast about their love lives and how they’ve found “that perfect person” (at age 16), when in reality they haven’t. They become full of pride and their hearts turn haughty — “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall,” (Proverbs 16:18 NIV).

These days you see so many people – young people broken and ruined. They chase after lust, not love. Their “love” is self-seeking, it seeks to please them and only their desires. It becomes dishonorable. Their love doesn’t seek to protect or look out for the other person’s interest or their own.

You may be thinking, This is  all ridiculous – outrageous. Where on earth are you getting these ideas – this verse?

Well, were am I getting all these ideas — these references? By simply looking around the halls of the high school and even in public. Social media is also a good source of information. Pictures, videos, even songs. Examples of the type of fake “love” I’m talking about in pictures can be seen on these two:

A few examples of the type of fake “love” I’m talking about in pictures can be seen on these two: Make Them Hate Us (found on Tumblr.) and Make My — (found on We Heart It). Examples of these in songs — Well I could make a huge list, but some artists I’m sure you all are familiar with are Rihanna, Neon Trees, Justin Timberlake, Maroon 5, Karmin, Krewella, and so on. And videos are pretty self explanatory – or their covers and title are.

“This verse” is Corinthians 13:3-8. I’ve used this verse before in a previous post – but it was about God’s love. For Bible translations, the two primary translations I use are ESV (English Standard Version) and NIV (New International Version). I tell you this because for this verse, though both translations are good, the prefer the NIV, as the wording is better – or more meaningful to me, at least. Here’s the verse:

If I give all I possess to the poor and I give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It doesn’t not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

It’s a beautiful verse. The part that jumps out to me, personally, is the last verse – verse eight. It’s the first sentence, though it’s short, it’s powerful.

“Love never fails.”

Or in the ESV version:

“Love never ends.”

I don’t know what part may have jumped out at you – or if anything did – but I encourage you all to read it over a few times, memorize it even. It is an amazing verse, and to me it is one of the verses that I treasure in my heart.

In the book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris, Josh talks about this topic – love – he talks about it very seriously, too. In chapter 4 (or 5, depending on which version of the book you have), the chapter’s title is: Looking Up “Love” in God’s Dictionary. And in the chapter, Josh mentions the verse I just told you about – 1 Cor. 13:3-8 – but he also talks about what true love is.

“God’s definition [of love] can be as startling as an unexpected slap in the face.

The world takes us to a silver screen on which flickering images of passion and romance play, and as we watch, the world says, ‘This is love.’ God takes us to the foot of a tree on which a naked and bloodied man hangs and says, ‘This is love.’ 

God always defines love by pointing to His son,” (pg 64).

Amazing, isn’t it? When I first read this, I had to do a double-take. It really was – is – a slap in the face. You know on the second page, Josh writes, “Christ taught that Love is not for the fulfillment of self but for the good of others and the glory of God.  True love is selfless. It gives; it sacrifices; it dies to its own needs,” (pg 65).

Guys, girls – “as we seek to love according to God’s design, we must pursue sincerity.’Love must be sincere.’ – this brief command given in Romans 12:9 leaves no room for misunderstanding,” (Harris 67).

Love these days isn’t sincere, it’s actually a joke. Rarely do you see people saving themselves for marriage – protecting their purity. Rarely do you see (unmarried, young) couples protecting one another’s purity and hearts.

Obedience is key. Listen to God and the people (committed Christians) around you. Listen to the wise and experienced. Learn from their mistakes, don’t let history repeat itself in your life.

Even if because of selfish or envious love you’ve sinned, God is there, waiting to forgive you. But you have to be willing to change, listen, and repent. There’s still hope and time to truly love again. – Even if you’ve messed up whether it be major or minor.

It’s all by God’s grace and love.

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Face it, we mess up a great deal; people mess up a lot. And when we mess up or someone else who misjudges or didn’t consider others before themself at a moment, which affects us… We find it hard to forgive them if it hurts us. Jesus and his disciples had this situation come up many times, and with Easter just around the corner, Jesus himself forgave us for this wrongs we did; one being when we crucified him on the cross.
Now, in one situation, “…Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?'” (Matthew 18:21 NIV). Peter poses a good question, because we all can admit that forgiving (and apologizing) is hard; as it requires a change of heart and mind, and people tire of it (forgiving) when people wrong them a lot (an example of a character in this senario would be a sibling). So what should we do when people hurt us? Forgive them, right? Yeah, but people, including myself, go by a little saying, three strikes, you’re out. seems appropriate, right? Three chances, then they are out. Peter asks of we should forgive people up to seven times. Well “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times,'” (Matthew 18:22 NIV). “Seventy-seven times” means seventy time seven. If you do the easy math that’s four hundred ninety times. What Jesus is basically saying is “always forgive” there’s no time limit to how many times we should forgive.
Think of this: what if God hasn’t sent his son to die on the cross to save us from our sins? All I can imagine is a war-torn hell as our world. If God had not forgiven us and sent his son, were we’d be is inconceivable. So the next time someone hurts you physically or emotionally and they apologize (or not, reguardless) always forgive them. It’s what Jesus did for us. We are in his debt, here’s to helping us make up for what we never could accomplish. With Easter coming around the corner, too think of how Jesus died a ravaging and painful death so that we could have eternity with him; of how he forgave us for everything we did wrong; he loved us so very much to do something like that… To die a death unknown to us.

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Christians: What People Think of Us

Disclaimer: This is a written as personal essay, as in meaning this is written in my opinion and what I believe to be true and what I’ve heard people say.

You are welcome to agree with it or not. Please no hateful comments. You are welcome to stop reading if you don’t like it.

“Christians as a whole are the most pretentious people ever to walk the earth. And as a whole, they show no contempt for anyone who doesn’t follow their beliefs. As a whole, they find no fault in pointing fingers, pulling out others flaws, condemning those who aren’t like them,” (Anonymous).

“You think you’re so perfect, is that right? And we are all just lowly losers compared to you, hm?” This is what people usually say or think about my religion. “You all are screwed,” is what some people put out there – while everyone is shooting darts at each other as well as shouting accusations back and forth. There are people who have issues. There are also people out there with issues plus more. Everyone has certain issues though – it’s just how mankind is, how flesh is. There are so many stereotypes, but they only exist because there are actual people who act in that certain manner to cause them to arise.

So many Christians are persecuted. Some are hung on a log and burned alive in the forests of Asia on missions. Others are teased for being clean and not drinking or “going all the way” with their girl/boy friend in their own school. Christians are often thought of as being pretentious, as said above, hating homosexual people, and call the people who aren’t of their religion condemned idiots and fools, not to mention being racist. Personally, this hurts. It’s humiliating to the rest of the Christians who aren’t like that. It hurts, though, to know that this is what people think of us as.

I will not deny that there are pious, racist snobs who call themselves Christians. Honestly, I loathe people who are like that – it’s ridiculous. As Christians we are supposed to think of ourselves lowly; be humble, not judging, but reaching out to people. As Christians, we as a people are supposed to be the least racist, in the Bible Jesus tells his disciples in The Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:19 ESV). All nations, in which means or refers to people of every race, gender or skin color. People –Christians– often forget this and though there are few words for this passage, each word has a deeper meaning contained within it. As Christians we shouldn’t go around condemning and cursing whoever the hell we feel like condemning on any given day or on any day, instead we are supposed to “turn the other cheek” and be gracious and gentle.

I am not a perfect image of a Christian kid. I yell at people, sometimes swear when agitated enough, and in regards to my patience and tolerance for select kids, it isn’t the best (I constantly have to remind myself: What would Jesus do?). I am not perfect, though I may try to be kind and good, I fail many times more than when I succeed. But it comforts me that when I fall down, He is there to pick me up, dust the dirt of, forgive, and help me move on and to make amends wherever needed and however hard it may be. Some may, and do, laugh at my faith, but it’s what has kept me alive… literally.

When talking to people at school, when I usually say, “Christian,” people make a face that is indescribable, and whether it is just from reaction or on purpose, I don’t know, but it is often funny to see, they make a simple comment of: “Oh.” And sometimes it’s “Oh…me too, but I am not really religious.” This indicates they are just saying that because they honestly don’t know what else to say, for me, but I find it absolutely hilarious, catching people off guard and seeing their reaction. It’s almost like a game. But after discovering my faith, people will most often turn to someone else and start a new conversation and ignore me. Makes me feel a little rejected, but that’s life, and I usually am smiling a few minutes later. Though, there are those occasions where people engage in a debate and I am sent running around in my head looking for the knowledge on such a topic and be able to respond with a reasonable response.

People have blamed me and my friends who are Christians that our morals, actions, and decisions are all based on our Christian beliefs, in which would otherwise be totally different (and more agreeable with them) had we not be Christians. This is partly true, but there are still some people who have a sense and can see where things might otherwise not end so well. I know many people who agree with me on some views and they aren’t Christians, they also have similar views, too. Many of my actions are just based on a process of thought and thinking ahead, some are, as stated before, influenced by my belief, but most are just by thinking through a situation and the society I grew up in earlier parts of my life. Many people are like this, ironically enough, you just have to look harder in this day and age to find people who aren’t stuck up in ridiculous things.

In response to my faith, I have had to stand up, and will stand up for it and my beliefs. I don’t care what people think of me, I am content in who I am. I have friends who care about me and will always be there for me (and I for them) no matter what. They don’t care that I am a Christian, how I look, or even dress. It is what is in the heart – the inside; what the personality is – that counts more so than what the physical appearance is. True friends will always stay by your side no matter what.

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The verse that’ll be looked at in this devotion is found in 2 Corinthians. It’s 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 (NIV):

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Starting out, in verse 1, one discovers that through God’s mercy, we have ministry – the opportunity to preach/tell the gospel to others, so that they may come to know Him and His word. Since we have that opportunity to minister and make it  so other people will have hope in something that’ll last forever, we need not to lose heart.

In the second verse, we see that it talks about our sinful ans shameful nature. We are often lost because of deception and we (as flesh) distort the ways of the Lord. But it’s because of the mercy God gives us, we have no need to lose heart; faith. By telling and recognizing the truth set forward by God for us to see, we gain trust from God to help preserve the truth. When we commend ourselves so that others trust us – mind, body, and conscience – we can then tell them about the word and God, too earns their trust – when they ask him to become their Lord and Savior.

The next two verses, verses 3-4, a discovery, too made here is that for those who try to “cover” the truth; God’s word, they are blinded from it, they are not able to fully see, because thy try to destroy it. For if you blind a driver, they cannot see, ‘nor drive safely. This is the same concept for when people try to hide; cover up, the gospel, they cannot and will not be able to “drive” – live a good safe live without it. It’s like driving without a license – it’s illegal! When you can’t see or understand or accept what Christ has done or see the light of the gospel, life isn’t going to be lived full – even though it may seem like it. Life can only be lived to its fullest with Jesus (the Holy Spirit) living and working in and through you. I can’t say it won’t be easy or anything, in fact life may get harder, but with Christ all things are possible and there will always be a light and reason at the end of each journey.

In verse 5, it’s here one can see -are told- that we ourselves do not preach, for sinful flesh isn’t capable of preaching God’s holy word alone. But it’s through Christ’s work we are able to preach the gospel – God puts the words in our hearts to speak through our mouths about his word. He makes is so that the itch on our heart to go out and serve him, just like Jesus did while he was on earth.

The last verse, verse 6, talks how the God, who made this earth and said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made it so his perfect light could cut through the darkness of our hearts. He gave us the light not only to see on this world, but so that we may acquire the knowledge of how beautiful his love and glory is, in the form of Christ and when he came down, died, and rose we’d fall over in sheer awe and submission to him. Just like servants ready to serve a wonderful master, who treats them like his own children.

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