As The World Burns

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Baltimore is on fire.

Nepal is suffering.

Maybe things aren’t so great for you either.

You don’t need to hear someone’s opinion as to how things got the way they are. You don’t need advice at the moment. What you’d really like is peace.

God, in his grace, makes it available to you.

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.

Psalm 131:1 (ESV)

When pride convinces you that you can pull through on your own, grace reminds you that it is those who humble themselves before God who will be lifted up (1 Peter 5:6-7).

When entitlement tells you that you have the right to know the details behind everything that God is doing, grace reminds you that any god who can be totally figured out isn’t much of a god (Romans 11:33-36).

So instead of trying to figure God out, will you be content with simply knowing him?

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

Psalm 131:2 (ESV)

A weaned child wants nothing from his mother. He is content just being with her. Content isn’t the best word. David uses a better one in this Psalm. Calm.

David’s life was anything but calm. He fought wild animals, crazy kings, blasphemous giants, and hell-bent family members. He knew what it was like to be wronged. He knew what it was like to wrong others. He was far from perfect and he too was living in a world that was on fire.

But his soul was calm. His calm wasn’t due to apathy. It was because of presence. The presence of God was enough for him. No answers to all of life’s questions. No gimmicks. No manipulation. Just God. And that was enough.

The presence of God was enough for David but he still couldn’t keep it to himself. Great hope is meant to be shared.

O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore. 

Psalm 131:3 (ESV)

The world is burning. And we should pray for God to fix it. We should pray for the people of Nepal. We should pray for peace in Baltimore. We should pray for our own tragedies that may seem comparatively small to others but are on the verge of crushing us.

But we should pray for something else as well. Something bigger.

We should pray that the millions of families impacted in Nepal and Baltimore would put their hope in the Lord.

And we too should keep our hope in him. From this time forth and forevermore. It is the only way to know true peace.

Even as the world burns.

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A Word To Christian Teachers

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You are overpaid.

The only reason why you are a teacher is because you wanted summers off.

Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.

You’ve heard all of that. You know that it’s wrong. But ignorance never stops some people from sharing their opinion, even when that ignorance is embarrassingly on display for all of the world to see. Like when a guy goes on a Facebook rant telling us that, “Teachers need to mind they’re on bisiness,,,,,,”

Apparently, his did.

But you don’t. As you see it, the kids in your classroom are your business. And business is tough these days. But you press on. That’s because you are more than a teacher.

You are a missionary.

Missionaries go to places that the rest of us don’t. They work their way into cultures that some of us like to pretend don’t exist. And, to the best of their abilities, they try to leave that culture better than when they found it. All for the glory of God.

Read the words of Jesus Christ.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16 (ESV)

Jesus mentioned salt because of its preservation qualities. In the days before your LG refrigerator, salt is what kept meat from going bad. It prevented decay. Jesus’ point is direct. The world is decaying.

Teacher, you know this perhaps more than anyone.

If you teach at a public school, even a really good one with a great principal and school board, you are still in a broken system. There are some politicians and bureaucrats in authority over you who know more about manipulating the system for personal gain than they do teaching. As a result, they make foolish decisions that negatively impact you, your students and millions more. Each year you attend endless meetings about some new curriculum that you are told will be much better than last year’s curriculum. But you know that the state will change it all again next year. It always does.

Still, you press on.

In a system that is decaying because of corruption and government bureaucracy, you are the salt that Jesus spoke of. In your own little way, you are slowing the decay, maybe not for the entire country but certainly in your classroom.

There is another implication in Jesus’ words when he says that, “You are the light of the world.” The world is dark. It could use some light.

Teacher, again, you know this perhaps more than anyone.

You know the nine-year-old who has to play the role of father and mother to his three younger sisters. You’ve held your sophomore math student’s second baby. You’ve cried with students who have lost friends in yet another car accident. You come home burdened for the kid whose only meal for the day was whatever he got in the cafeteria.

Your students come from a dark world. Darker than most of us will ever know. And you are the only light they ever get to see.

Preaching the gospel is important. There’s an old saying that says, “Preach the gospel, use words if necessary.” That’s garbage. The gospel must be spoken. But sometimes it can’t be. You’re probably not allowed to share John 4 and how Jesus’ grace has impacted you with your geography class. So instead, you are doing the next best thing.

You are salt in a decaying world.

You are light in the dark places.

You are a missionary.

You might not ever get to explicitly share the gospel with a student. But you can still be salt and light. When a kid lives in a house filled with violence, uncertainty and heartache, you have no idea what it means for him to walk into your classroom and see your smiling face and to hear your calm voice. You have no idea what it does to that student when you say, “I’m proud of you.” Even when you have to discipline that student, you have no idea what it means to him when you do it in love and with self-control for his ultimate good.

Here’s another familiar saying from Jesus.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (ESV)

The light that you are sharing is not your own.

It is Christ in you.

So you may not ever get to preach to your school about Jesus.

But everyday, as best as you can, you show your school Jesus.

Jesus has something else to say about that.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:34-40 (ESV)

Teacher, it’s the end of the year. It’s that time when you’re questioning your career path. Hang on. Your students need you to stand in the gap for them. You might just be the only thing standing between them and absolute darkness and decay.

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8 Things I Learned At The Christian Bookstore

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On Monday morning, I went to a Christian bookstore. Here’s a quick survey of what I learned.

1. The guy who wrote a book with a weird title about the secret to America’s future is back. This time he has a new book with a new weird word in the title that somehow has something to do with America’s future. I don’t know what either word means but, judging from the way the words sound, it ain’t looking to good for the USA.

2. A bunch of different kids died and went to heaven. They’d like to tell you about it.

3. Apparently there is a tremendous market for pink waterproof Bibles.

4. Beth Moore’s marketing strategist is the hardest working man in America.

5. The Christian film industry is thriving. Even in the glory days of Blockbuster and Crazy D’s Hollywood Movie Hut, I’ve never seen so many movies for sale in one room. But, despite the wide selection of Christian films, they all fall into one of the following categories.

 Category One: A heartwarming tale about a blind and/or crippled and/or dying kid and her horse. The horse always has a name like Shadow. The movie is always called something like Shadow’s Girl or Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Category Two: A heartwarming tale about a really bad football team that turns things around and wins the state title once they find out that the coach’s daughter was seriously injured while riding on her horse named Shadow. This type of movie always has a title like In the Shadow of the Goalpost.

Category Three: A heart wrenching tale about the secret of America’s future and the end of the world. Spoiler alert: It has something to do with a very sick little girl and her horse, Shadow. This type of movie usually has a name like The Shadow Harbinger.

Oh, one more thing. Hundreds of years ago, at one of the church councils, after they got done discussing the Trinity and the full deity of Christ, the church fathers wrote a law for all churches. It says that every Christian movie must have in its cast Louis Gossett Jr., Kirk Cameron, Kevin Sorbot or the guy from Forrest Gump who lost his leg. To date, the Christian film industry has faithfully obeyed this edict. Athanasius would be proud.

6. You won’t find a restroom cleaner than the one at your local Christian bookstore. Never, ever walk into the bathroom at Home Depot.

7. You know that coach of that team that you hate so much? Well, it turns out that he’s a Christian and he has a book out detailing his magical championship season that involved humiliating your favorite team on national television.

8. You didn’t buy enough. You’ll be reminded of this at the checkout counter when you’re told that you can have a pack of Testamints, the Christian breath mint, for only three dollars more. You’ll politely decline. And then you’ll be told that for only another $12 you can get the book written by that couple who almost won The Amazing Race a few years back. You will politely decline. But the cashier will not take no for an answer. It’s then that you determine that this guy is probably Beth Moore’s marketing strategist.

Finally, you leave.

But not without your newly purchased book detailing the future of America and the DVD about the sick girl and her horse named Shadow.

And a Christian breath mint, of course.

Hey, it’s only three extra bucks.

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They Grow Up Fast

My kids are growing up fast. Watching it happen is both fascinating and frightening. It’s fascinating because I’m watching them become men who use their whole being for the glory of God. It’s frightening because I know the kind of evil that awaits them.

Andrew Peterson writes songs as good as anyone. In his song, You’ll Find Your Way he pinpoints what it’s like to live with that fascination and fear.

Here is Andrew’s explanation of the song.

And this is Andrew’s video for the song.

 

Don’t Blame The Devil, Creflo!

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Pastors have to deal with quite a bit of criticism. Some of it is unfair. Like when they don’t show up to visit a person in the hospital who hasn’t been to church in 20 years. Some of it is deserved. Like when Creflo Dollar went on the Internet to ask people to buy him a $65 million private jet.

When criticism comes his way, the pastor can deal with it and move on.

Or, as in the case of Creflo Dollar, he can address it in a sermon where he blames the whole thing on the devil.

“The enemy, like he always has, is trying to stop the preaching of Jesus. And we’re not going to stop.”

Creflo is right. Satan is always trying to stop the preaching of the gospel. But at World Changers Church International, the devil’s work is already done. The gospel isn’t preached there. At least, not the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in a sovereign God who came to kill sin and give new life to his people. The gospel of Bentleys, mansions, seed offerings and claiming away cancer is preached at World Changers International Church.

And Satan is not bothered by that.

The prosperity gospel of health and wealth, no matter how passionately it is preached, is no threat to the kingdom of Satan. Satan will let Creflo fly all over the world and tell people about Jesus, as long as it’s the version of Jesus that died to make us rich. As long as it’s not the real Jesus.

Preachers don’t scare the devil.

Jesus does.

So to the devil, a preacher without Jesus is an easy target. Or, more likely, not a target at all. Why bother. What’s the threat?

I have no doubts that Creflo will get his plane. But it won’t be a gift from God. The devil will do anything he can to stop the spread of the gospel, whether that means cutting off the heads of Christians or funding the spread of Creflo’s gospel. So if Creflo wants to give the devil credit for anything, it should probably be that new plane when it finally arrives. It will just be another one of Satan’s tools that he will use to turn people away from the real Jesus.

Creflo goes on to say that his dreams don’t stop at a private jet. No, there might be life on Mars. And those people will need the gospel too, which will require a space ship costing somewhere near a billion dollars. No, I’m not making this up. I’ll let you know when a GoFundMe account starts up for Creflo’s space ship.

“Just ’cause the world don’t have it,” Creflo told his congregation, “Don’t mean you can’t have it. You are children of the Almighty God. Dream! Dream!”

In the Bible, genuine faith is never connected to space ships and Mars, Rather, it is marked by action (James 1:27; 2:14-25). It is seen in a suffering servant who draws his strength from Christ, not himself (2 Corinthians 12:1-10). And it is demonstrated by a poor evangelist who has learned the secret of hanging on, no matter what the bank statement says (Philippians 4:10-13). That’s a lesson that Creflo would do well to learn.

So Creflo, if you’re reading this, stop blaming the devil for your love of money. Instead, repent.

Repent for misleading so many people.

Repent of the sin of trying to reduce the Sovereign Creator of the world to an ATM.

Repent for leading that money cult that you call a church.

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:2-10 (ESV)

A Little Boy’s Diary

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Safe. That’s the first feeling I can remember. It was like waking up. I was confused. I didn’t know hardly anything. But I knew one thing. I was safe.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

But it’s okay.

I’m safe now.

From everything I could tell, things were looking good. My mother was active. And she was compassionate. There was always some rally we were going to. Most of them had to do with saving the environment or helping other women. It was stuff that I didn’t understand but I at least knew that she was working for the good of others. With a mom like this, I felt, life was going to be good.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

But it’s okay.

I’m safe now.

There were a few visits to doctors. From what I could tell, they did a real good job of taking care of my mom. And they took real good care of me. They were always talking about vitamins, diet, exercise and even classical music. I know that it sounds crazy but there’s something to all of that. To this day, I still love Bach.

I can remember the thrill of hearing the doctor tell my mom the date. June 23. It was coming soon. Obviously, I didn’t understand calendars too well at the time but I could still somehow sense the excitement. I grew even more excited each time that I thought about what was waiting for me. I couldn’t wait for my mom to hold me. I couldn’t wait to match faces to the voices I kept hearing. I was pretty nervous but everything was good. Life was about to be amazing.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

But it’s okay.

I’m safe now.

The last visit was different. The doctor’s office was different. At the old place, I could feel the the happiness. Not at this one. It seemed cold. And everyone was quiet. The doctors seemed to be taking care of my mother but that didn’t keep her from crying like she did. I had heard her cry a lot but never like this. Surely everything would be okay. The doctor would fix whatever was wrong so that we could go back home and wait for June 23rd to get here. Me and my mom.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

But it’s okay.

I’m safe now.

The noise that I heard sounded familiar. I had heard it before when my mom was cleaning the house. At the time, I didn’t understand what she was doing. I just knew that she was moving around a lot and there was a loud noise that I didn’t like too much. I preferred the sounds of Bach to the sound of that old vacuum cleaner. This vacuum cleaner was louder. And closer.

Too close.

I’ve never been strong. I’ve never gotten into a fight. Well, just once and it was more than I could handle. I was no match for that doctor and his loud vacuum machine. My arm was gone is seconds. And then I felt a pull on my head.

And then nothing.

And then, instantly, safety like I had never known before.

I’m with my Creator now. It’s good to finally be wanted. Forever. I don’t know why my mom would do something like that to me. But I’m not mad at her. I’m not bitter. There is no bitterness here. And no one here worries. I often join the martyrs when they say, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth.”

That will stop when my Creator returns to earth to fix everything forever. Then it will all make sense. Somehow.

I thought that no one could love me more than my mother loved me. I thought that her world would be paradise.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

But it’s okay.

I’m safe now.

Safe in the arms of Someone who really loves me.

Hopefully one day, my mom will be rescued from that dreadful world she lives in so that she can come here and be safe too.

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Pastor, Stop Preaching Against Gay Marriage

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The Bible is clear. Homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). And so is gay marriage (Matthew 5:31-32). But pastor, maybe it’s time for you to quit preaching about that.

Stop preaching about the evils of so called gay marriage if you’re not also preaching against the evils of serial divorce (Matthew 5:31-32). In some churches, a sermon against gay marriage will get you a lot of Amens while one against divorce will have a moving truck parked outside of your house on Monday morning.

And if you do preach against divorce pastor, remember to use a scalpel, not a shotgun. Not every divorced person got that way from being a drunken, God-hating heathen (1 Corinthians 7:15). Many of them fought with everything they had to save their marriage. Many didn’t have much of a say in the matter. And many of them feel the weight of the world on their shoulders when they walk into your church. They don’t need you adding more weight. They need to hear of the one whose yoke is easy and burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

Stop preaching about how marriage is under attack in this country until you’ve come to realize that it’s also under attack in your own home. Satan didn’t wait until governments or churches were established to start his stealing, killing and destroying. No, the first institution he went after was the family (Genesis 3). And he hasn’t stopped. Pastor, you would be foolish to believe that he’s going to leave your marriage alone. Yes, biblical marriage in this country is dying. But your marriage will die too if you don’t fight. Before you cast the speck out of the culture’s eye, examine the 2×4 in your own (Matthew 7:4-5).

Stop preaching against gay marriage and divorce if you’re not ready to do it with grace. Remember, Jesus moved toward sinners. Sinners like the woman at the well (John 4). Sinners like the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43). Sinners like me and you (Ephesians 2:1-9). And, contrary to what some in the church who value being hip and accepted more than the truth may try to tell us, Jesus didn’t come to affirm our sins or tell us that sin is no big deal as long as we mean well. He came to confront sin. He came to kill it. But he came to give new life to the sinner. Remember pastor, no one can be too gay, too divorced or too perverted to be captured by God’s grace and forgiven of sin.

Pastor, your church needs you to preach the truth. They need to hear from you what the Bible says about marriage and sexuality. But, no matter how good you preach it, they’re not going to hear your sermon if you’re just preaching it on a Sunday morning. They need to see you living that sermon with grace and repentance on Monday too.

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Soccer And The Art Of Fatherhood

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Being a dad will change you.

Back when I was single, I thought that soccer was one last attempt by the communists to take over America. Now that I’m older and a family man, I’ve learned that such an idea was absurd. Clearly, the communists are trying to take over America by getting elected as congressmen and senators.

Soccer is just a sport.

It’s a sport that my kids play. So now I love it. I even coach it. I use that term coach loosely. Seeing as how I didn’t play growing up, I have no idea what I’m doing. I basically just throw balls at kids. Coincidentally, I just described every Georgia Tech head football coach.

Wednesday night I watched soccer. By myself. For some reason, my cable provider is having it out with Fox Sports so the match between the US and Mexico wasn’t on our TV. Until I found the Spanish station. So there I was, late at night, watching a Spanish language soccer broadcast. And I loved it. Especially this part.

“Goooooooaaaaaaaaal!”

It was the only word I could understand. I heard it twice. The only other Spanish words that I know, I learned in high school. There are two of those words. Zapatos and baño. I never heard those words on Wednesday night. But, if I ever need to find a bathroom shoe while visiting Madrid, I’m in good shape.

The US won the game 2-0. Two nil, I think, is the proper way to say it.

The next morning, I talked to my kids about it. It was a quality father and son moment. Take that, communists.

Being a dad has changed me.

I don’t stay up late anymore. 7:00 in the morning is sleeping in for me. The Netflix screen on my TV has been taken over by movies recommended for children. And a soccer ball is no longer what you use to shoot hoops with when there’s not a quality basketball around.

No one will ever accuse me of being a communist.

But you might say that I’m just getting soft in my old age.

That’s okay.

I know that it’s just part of being a dad.

And I like it.

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A Word To Fast Food Workers Wanting $15 An Hour

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Money is important. It matters. Some will tell you that the Bible says that money is the root of all sorts of evil. That verse comes right after the passage where Jesus tells the parable of Johnny beating the devil in a fiddle duel. In other words, that verse isn’t in the Bible. There is one like it.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:10 (ESV)

That’s, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.”

It may not look like a big difference but it really is. To say that money alone is the root of evil is to imply that the rich, not the poor, will fall into one of those evils. The love of money is different. Anyone can be guilty of loving money in a way that leads to sin. The rich banker and the poor cardboard box dweller are just alike in this regard.

Bad theology isn’t the only way that we get our ideas of money wrong. Here are a few others ways.

1. If you are making minimum wage at a fast food restaurant, you are getting paid what you deserve.

You read that right. You don’t deserve to make $15 an hour for dropping fries in a big pot of oil and slapping a room temperature piece of fresh fish between two buns.

2. If you are making minimum wage at a fast food restaurant, you are right, you cannot live off of that money.

Therefore, instead of walking around the street holding a sign asking for more money, you should find another job. Find a job that pays more. Find a job that pays the same but allows you to keep your old job too. Two jobs won’t kill you. There’s a good chance that the evil, greedy boss who is paying you either has or is currently working two jobs. You could also find a way to get into school, any school, and learn a trade. Stop looking for your dream job and settle for one that will pay you enough to actually live off of.

And, whatever you do, don’t listen to Pitbull and Ne-Yo when they sing that song about knowing that their rent is going to be late but going to the club anyway to spend their last twenty bucks. That is one of the most ignorant songs that has ever been written. It preaches a mindset of poverty. Sadly, it has become the anthem for many people today. Don’t make it yours.

3. If you are making minimum wage at a fast food restaurant and you go on strike demanding $15 an hour here’s what you do deserve.

You deserve to be fired.

And your job should be given to that person who is looking for a second job to fund night school.

4. If you are making minimum wage at a fast food restaurant, your boss isn’t making too much money.

Neither is his boss. And neither is the guy who started the business. In fact, as long as they’re getting it legally and ethically, there isn’t a CEO on this planet who is making too much money.

As much as you may hate it, you should want your boss to make a lot of money. If your hard work and good attitude helped to make that happen, there’s a good chance that it will pay off for you. If not, find another place where it will. The last thing you want is for your boss to be broke. But that’s just what he’ll be if you get your way and the government makes him pay you $15 an hour for putting salt on fries.

Here’s a simple math question.

Mr. Smith pays Johnny $7 an hour for cleaning the bathrooms and making fries at The Pig N Suds Laundromat and BBQ Cafe. Johnny would like to make twice that much for doing the same job so he asks the government to make Mr. Smith pay him $15 an hour. The government makes Mr. Smith double Johnny’s salary. After two months, Mr. Smith closes The Pig N Suds Laundromat and BBQ Cafe due to high operating expenses. How much money will Johnny make then?

If your answer was, “The train leaving Dallas,” nice try.

The answer is $0.

The love of money makes us do terrible things. It makes us lie, cheat and steal. It also makes us demand what we don’t deserve.

If you want $15 an hour, make the necessary sacrifices in order to become a $15 an hour employee. That’s what providers do.

Lovers of money are different. They just make demands based on their wants. And those demands are never enough. Eventually, $15 will need to be $20. And then $30. Until Mr. Smith finally has to close up shop.

And you’re left with $0.

And that nagging old love of money.

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