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Posts Tagged ‘Christian living’

Day 53: A Day in the Life of a Branch

Posted by undergroundchurch on May 23, 2011


Scriptural Nuggets Daily DevotionScriptural Nuggets Daily Devotion

We have a bad habit in America of adding layer upon layer of fluff to the Good News as told in the Bible.

When you think “Good News” (a.k.a “Gospel”), you might have visions of love and acceptance and peace… and you’d be right! However, the path of love, acceptance and peace takes us through some pretty rugged roads.  It is not a tiptoe through the tulips, nor is it for the faint of heart. The path the Father has laid out before us is fraught with trouble and pain, and it is the hope we have in Christ that helps us endure.

There are scores of scripture that attest to this… so here’s a quick example:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” – John 15:1,2

A straight-up interpretation is as follows:

  1. God takes care of his garden
  2. His garden is his Son, Jesus, and the branches are the believers that dwell in Christ
  3. He (that is the Father) cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit – in order to preserve the vine
  4. He (that is the Father) cuts back every branch that does produce fruit – in order to produce more

I guess you can summarize it this way, “The Gardener is going to apply the sheers to every believer – both fruitful ones and non-fruitful ones. It’s just going to cut a lot deeper if you aren’t fruitful.

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Day 9: The Power of Confession

Posted by undergroundchurch on January 9, 2011


Scriptural Nuggets Daily DevotionScriptural Nuggets Daily Devotion

 

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. – Psalm 32:5

King David’s writings pre-date the Apostle John’s by about 1,000 years, yet one could argue that they were contemporaries.

John writes on this same matter:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9

The theme of confession runs through the Bible.  It is the foundation of our salvation (Romans 10:9,10) and our forgiveness (1 John 1:9), and even though God required sacrifices, the sacrifice alone did not express a heart of forgiveness. God required the sacrifice to pay the “penalty” of sin, but true forgiveness can only be found when the heart of man goes before the offended God and confesses (acknowledges) the sin.

John the Baptizer’s ministry focused completely on this aspect of confession (Mark 1:5). He didn’t instruct people to offer sacrifices but confess their sin, repent and turn to God.  This set up softened hearts that could receive the Messiah who followed his ministry.

Confession does not stop with our sins and God.  We should…

Confession shows accountability and demonstrates a willingness to accept responsibility.  This first step leads us to a place of humility where God meets the offender and then lifts them up. (Proverbs 28:13, Isaiah 59 (esp. vs 20), James 4:10)

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Day 8: What does God Want Out of You?

Posted by undergroundchurch on January 8, 2011


Scriptural Nuggets Daily DevotionScriptural Nuggets Daily Devotion

“He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

Every word in these verses completely reflects the thoughts of God except one… “Require”.

The word require in our language really fails to convey the intent of this thought.  The Hebrew word used here translates to “seek out”.  It literally means “to thresh out” or “trample with the feet”. This word shows just how to examine or study something out.  Why the big deal?

If God simply required something of you, it would mean that “you better do it first and then He will accept you.”  Instead, God uses the word that brings the thought “to chase after”. The word occurs twice in 1 Chronicles 16:11 where he says of us, “Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek the Lord continually”.

So how does this apply? God seeks in you continually to find these qualities.  He won’t leave you alone to find them on your own, but participates in building them in you if you open yourself to His Spirit.

God want to bring out of you…

What is Good?

Remember Jesus said that no one is good except God (Mark 10:18). Only a Good God can make you good.

To act justly

God’s shows little tolerance for injustice.  He is just, and brings the best means for you to become a just person and in the process, act justly toward others.

Love Mercy

A person who loves mercy seeks to apply mercy wherever possible.  If you don’t love mercy, you tend to only show it when it benefits you, or you show it only after the person needing mercy is beaten down. Mercy needs to come early, even before the suffering begins, and only a heart of mercy, the kind that God has, works.

Walk Humbly before God

If you could obtain all these things God seeks in you without God, you would no longer be humble.  Humility recognizes your inability to do it and yields to the work of God in your life.

 

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Day 4: A New Creation

Posted by undergroundchurch on January 4, 2011


Scriptural Nuggets Daily DevotionScriptural Nuggets Daily Devotion

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

When you see a “therefore” in Scripture, it signifies that a statement follows, which takes the previous verses to the next level.  The first class conditional clause “if” could be translated “since”, which makes the sentence that follows an guaranteed result when meeting the conditions laid out.

Paul established in the previous verses the following:

  1. Vs 13 – Since the world considers us crazy for chasing after God, know that the intended result of that “insanity” benefits the church.
  2. Vs 14,15 – Christ’s love compels us to live for Christ alone and not ourselves
  3. Vs 16 – We don’t care what the world says about us, we must remain in Christ

Verse 17 flows out of a deep heart for Christ that desires to abide in Christ, living for Christ and denying ourselves and the world.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. – Matthew 16:24-25

Paul says that since we exist in Christ, that old rotten flesh is dead, and we should now bury it.  Christ brings new robes of gladness, joy, salvation and life. Stop putting on the old habits and old ways.

Part of the salvation experience reveals itself in a changed heart.  Christ comes in and replaces your dead heart with a heart that yearns for Him.

The idea of “taking up your cross” means that you must make a death march.  The cross signifies death, not some burden to bare.  You must die to self so that Christ can live through you.  Stop living for Christ in your own strength.

The only course of action that produces in you a reflection of Christ comes in the form of denial of yourself.  God is more concerned about your character than your comfort. Ironically, your discomfort brings a greater release of the power of God in your life because only in your weakness can Christ be strongest (2 Corinthians 12:10).

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Encountering Jesus

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 11, 2010


What does Jesus mean to you?

The way you answer that question directly correlates with your encounter with Jesus.  It’s the Christmas season, so I’d like to use a few examples from those that encountered Jesus as an infant and young child as an example of how we encounter him and what we get from that encounter – the shepherds, the magi, and Anna and Simeon.

The Shepherds

Let’s call this the Accidental encounter.  There was nothing in the shepherds actions that would lead you to believer that they were looking for Jesus or any real encounter with God.  In fact, their own words indicate quite the opposite.

“”Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” –  Luke 2:15

They didn’t know anything was about to happen until they were told.  They had an accidental (though orchestrated by God) encounter.  In other words, they weren’t looking for Jesus; Jesus found them.

Millions of Christians take this approach to their Christian walk every day.  They go about their duties and wait for the “Sunday” encounter or for God to do something first.  If he doesn’t, then they just keep on keeping on. They don’t really chase after God, they let God do all the chasing.

Not a very rewarding relationship, but like any relationship, you will get out of it what you put into it.

The Magi

The Magi encounter was unique in this one respect; they weren’t looking for the Messiah, just a king.  It was Herod that actually figured out that this king was the promised Messiah.  The Magi were just doing what they had done for years, seek out kings. Let’s call this the unintentional encounter.

A king had not been born in Judea for almost 500 years, now all of a sudden a king was to be born.

The Magi were looking for something real, they just didn’t understand completely what the were seeking.  They were at least chasing after truth, they discovered the truth of God because God honored their endeavor.

They were non-Jews, but because they were coming to Israel looking for a king, which they hadn’t had for 500 years, God let them find the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

Many people in this world seek after truth.  Some find half-truths and deceptions, but those that seek God in the right context more often than not, find him.  God is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him – Hebrews 11:6

Anna and Simeon

These are the only two in the story that really get it.  Simeon had been promised well in advance that he would not die before seeing the Messiah.  Anna spent her days and nights worshiping God for almost 60 years at the Temple.  Both of these dedicated people knew what they were looking for and chased God in pursuit of it, and God honored them in a special way.  Let’s call this the Intentional encounter.

These two didn’t just bump into Jesus, they actually blessed him.  Look at the words of Simeon:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” – Luke 2:29-32

And Anna:

Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. – Luke 2:38

Both of these were people that could testify to the truth of the savior with understanding from the truth of Scripture.

This is the most fulfilling encounter.  When you chase God and catch him, the reward is not only that you find Jesus, but you are also fulfilled because the investment you made in seeking him returns to you 100 fold.

Note: This is a revisited post from 2009, but the content is timeless.

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Know Your Enemy

Posted by undergroundchurch on November 1, 2010


Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.- 1 Peter 5:8-9

Some suffering is self inflicted.  Choices we make that come back and bite us.

Other suffering is a direct result of an enemy that is out there that wants one thing… your destruction!

Know your enemy

He is not nice or thoughtful nor does he have your best interest at heart.  He will do whatever it takes to bring you down. His best weapon is your ignorance.  So here are some steps to stay on top and overcome.

Be Self-Controlled

We live in a culture with no control.  We eat too much, play too much, complain too much and don’t spend enough time on things that really matter.  We need to prioritize and become more disciplined.

Be Alert

Don’t look for a devil behind every bush, but do be aware that in every situation there is the potential for the enemy to come in.  We are in the last days, and Satan knows it.  He is more active today that perhaps anytime in history, and every believer needs to be vigilant.

Resist Him

Every believer is endowed with the power of Christ, which is the Holy Spirit.  We are bought and owned by God, but because we live in “battlefield Earth”, we are targets of the enemy.  The greatest power God gave us is the power of choice.  We can say, “No!” We can run; we can turn from the enemy and in doing so, stand against him.  He may attack us, but he cannot own us.

Stand Firm in the Faith

Do not doubt, but trust God.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

By standing firm you will gain life. (Luke 21:19)

You are not Alone

One of the hardest things to remember when you are suffering is that you are not the only one.  There are literally thousands and perhaps millions around the world suffering for their faith.  Just hang in there because the hope we have in Christ is not like that of the world.  We have a guarantee from the Lord that we will one day be with the Him and every tear, pain and trouble will be wiped away! (Revelation 21)

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The Source of Our Dilemma

Posted by undergroundchurch on October 22, 2010


“Original Sin”, some call it “Ancestral Sin“, is a more pervasive dilemma to our current state than we might even fathom.

Original Sin, as understood for this article, is the sin seed that is passed on to every human because of the original sin committed by Adam in the Garden.

Original Sin effects us today because there are multiple components to it…

Original Sin is about Love

The point of God planting a tree in the middle of the Garden then telling Adam not to eat from it was not to tempt Adam, but to see if Adam would choose to love God or love himself.  When Adam sinned, it separated him and us from the direct connection with God.  Remember that God walked with Adam in the garden, something God has not been able to do since Adam sinned.

The most powerful words God ever utters in the Bible are the ones He says right after he says the word, “Now” as in Revelation 21:3

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

This event takes place after everything is made new.  God is looking forward to the day when He can once again “walk with man in the garden” as it were.

It is all about Love because God reached out to us when we couldn’t reach out to him. (c.f. John 3:16, Romans 5:8)

Original Sin is about Penalty

We are still paying the price for the sin Adam committed that fateful day.

Penalty of Death

  • God told Adam, “In the day you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16,17)
  • All have sinned, and the wages of that sin is still death (Romans 3:23, 6:23)

Every time someone dies, we are reminded of Adam’s original sin. If Adam’s sin only applied to him, we wouldn’t have death, sickness and sin in the world today.

Penalty of Pain in Childbirth

Every time a woman gives birth naturally, she is paying a price for Eve because she listened to the serpent and not her husband. (See Accountability and Original Sin below)

Other creatures in God’s kingdom don’t go through the pain of birth that humans do; ever heard a dog or cat scream like a human?

Penalty of Snakes

Part of the curse is the form of the snake, which crawls on its belly.  Each time I see one, I am reminded of the curse. (Genesis 3)

Penalty of Thorns and Thistles

Ever been scratched by a thorn? Or have to pull a weed out of the garden? Thank Adam.

Penalty of Gardening

Yep, gardening is a result of the curse.  Makes you wonder how it was before Adam sinned. (Genesis 3) God was going to provide all our food.

Original Sin is about Accountability

Genesis 3 tells us what went down.

Eve ate of the tree first; Adam, who was with her, but didn’t speak up during the entire event, ate it once she gave it to him.

However, you have to go back a chapter to see the setup.  You see…

  1. Adam was created first
  2. God then planted the tree in the Garden.
  3. God tells Adam that if he eats from it, he will die.
  4. Later, God creates the woman from the man’s side.

In chapter 3, we see the man and woman at the tree, she is telling the talking serpent (which should have been a clue) that if they ate from it OR TOUCHED IT they would die.

How did she know about eating it, and where did she get the extra restriction?

We have here the first case of legalism in the Bible, which always adds to God’s word.  God said Adam would die if he ate it; Eve added (probably because Adam told her) that if they touched it, they would die. She ate it first (eyes were not open), and then Adam ate it (eyes were opened to their nakedness after this).

SPECIAL NOTE: The extra rule didn’t help them abide by the command God gave them. (Legalism doesn’t help you be a better Christian.)

The problem in the story is that God told Adam the rule, and Adam told his wife the rules, but Adam did not defend God’s word, nor his wife as she was talking to the serpent.

It was not her fault, it was Adam’s!

Had Eve eaten, and Adam not, there would be no sin today because she was not responsible to God. Adam should have been the one talking to the serpent and saying something like, “Get thee behind me Satan!” He was her covering, and he failed her.

Accountability and the Original Sin Seed

The Original Sin seed does not pass through the woman, it passes through the man because of accountability.  Adam was accountable to God, Eve was accountable to Adam (God never told Eve the rules, that was Adam’s job).

Jesus could only be born as a human, not because Mary was “immaculately conceived”, but because she was a woman and there was no man involved in conceiving Jesus.

The promise was to Eve that the savior would come…

And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your seed and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.” – Genesis 3:15

Men and woman are equal in every way relationally with God except one, accountability. Eve was cursed because she was deceived, and did not listening to her husband, but we have sin in the world because the man of the house refused to be the man of the house. (c.f. 1 Timothy 2:14)

Original Sin is about Redemption

Paul states that through one man, Adam, sin and death entered the world (Romans 5:12-21). It is through one man with no Original Sin seed connection through man to Adam that sin is broken  and we can live. Our only hope is in the “Son of God” who became the “Son of Man” without losing his claim as “Son of God”.

His Father is God, born of a woman, which allows him to be fully man and fully God and gives us hope that the power of sin and death is broken for those that receive the gift of life. This only comes through the power of the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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How to Defend the Gospel

Posted by undergroundchurch on October 4, 2010


NOTE: This article contains strategies for believers and is not intended for those of you that do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ because it contains strategic information (trade secrets).  If  you wish to establish a relationship with Jesus prior to reading this article, shoot me an email and I’ll be glad to talk with you. Then you can read the article and get more out of it.

Call me a pacifist, if you will, but I do believe that there is a right and a wrong way in which believers defend the good news (a.k.a. the Gospel) of Jesus Christ and that for the most part, we get it wrong.

Do our methods hinder the message?

Personally, I am appalled at the way the world treats the God who came and died in their place, took on their guilt and shame, and made a way back to himself.  I mean, what did Jesus ever do to deserve the bad rap He gets from unbelievers?

The answer to that question may lie more with His followers more than in His own life.  While it is true that Jesus saidthe world would hate us because of him, we aren’t making that attitude any better with our public pulpit indiscretions, our internal disputes played out on the world’s stage where we are mocked, our church splits, and even how poorly we drive when we cut off another driver while we flash our “I love Jesus” bumper sticker.

We can learn from Paul in Philippians 1:7 that there are three basic ways to reflect the good news: in chains, defending and confirming.   We spend a lot of time on the second, and not much on the other two.

In Chains or In Battle

What does it mean to be in chains for the Gospel?  And more importantly, what does that look  like in America?

Paul represented this aspect of his testimony by being shipwrecked, beaten, imprisoned and stoned all of which only reflected Jesus attitude on the Cross when he forgave his killers while they were killing him.  This is a lost art with the Christian world in America.  There is a proverb that reads, “in doing so (being nice), you will heap burning coals upon their head”.  Our tactic tends to display defensive aggression and not much offensive conversion.

We followers of Jesus need to follow Jesus.  We need to understand that the world is lost and they don’t need to Adopt godly standards, they Need God.

I was reading an article about an artist showing his “art” where he depicted Jesus in, shall we say, non-biblical ways.  Now here is the question for all the believers reading this article; how should followers of Jesus respond?

A) We can respond the way the Christians are reported on in the article and protest.  What does this do though to the witness for Jesus? If we get them to take it down, then what? Do people come to Christ because the art is not longer there?

B) We use the opportunity to show people what Jesus was really like. Oh, you might need to turn the other cheek, but in so doing, you may make them look away long enough to show them a better way.

What is the intent of our defense?

I guess it comes down to this.  We can make noise and protest the world’s…. uh, worldliness. In so doing, we might even change the look of things… less strip clubs, less bars, less cheesy art exhibits, but are people coming to Christ, or have we just won moral victory that makes us feel better, but really does nothing for the advancement of the Gospel?

I’m not saying that we should just let the world do their thing and build strip clubs on every corner.  We have an American right to live in a place that reflects morals (Constitutionally backed), but the dilemma we face is that moral legislation, moral victories, moral indignation, does not bring people to Christ.  Sometimes, we need to put on the chains for Christ in order to set people free. Through our chains, we confirm Jesus’ good news.

What does our testimony reflect?

Is our testimony to the world reflecting Christ or leaving a bitter taste that becomes a stumbling block to the message?When they think about the church of Jesus, what image comes to their mind?  Is it the image of a group of zealots that want to change their laws and restrict their freedoms?  Is it a group of holier-than-thou people that live paradoxical lives?  Is it a church that burns books from other religions, protests funerals of soldiers or removes evolution from text books in public schools?

Or… should it be the image of a church that first and foremost ministers to widows and orphans and feeds the hungry, helps the needy?  Is it an image of a church that has hope for eternity and knows where they are going and knows how to show them the way?  Is it an image of a church that spends less money on their buildings, parking lots, sound systems and salaries than they do on their outreach to communities through helping others and ministering Christ to a lost and dying people?

The Calling

As a church, we are called to take on the image of Christ and to reflect Christ to each other and to the world.  When we defend the good news He brought us through the cross, does our defense become an offense to those that need to know the news?

A lost world is lost and trying to find their way in darkness.  By default, they are going to do things that repulse believers. It is the nature of the world.

We carry the light of Jesus Christ and have to use that light to bring people to Christ FIRST. If we change the heart, we change the world.

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Where Faith and the World Collide

Posted by undergroundchurch on September 29, 2010


With all these ridiculous “religious knowledge” surveys going around, I got to thinking about “faith” and just what it is.

I think there are two primary pieces to the “religious” experience with which some just don’t understand– Faith and Hope. I will address faith here.

There are two facts about faith that must be understood:

  1. True faith is not blind
  2. True faith is not void of substance

Those that steer clear of faith in God tend to do so because they see it as a futile, wishful-thinking belief system empty of reason, understanding and wisdom. However, this could not be further from the truth.

Faith is not a childish look into a fantasy world, but a childlike trust in a revealed reality.  The goal in faith is to connect with God through relationship.  The problem is that if you try to prove God to yourself first, you fail to take the path God intended for you to take to produce faith in you.

Faith follows a specific path – Obedience to Jesus first, revelation of Jesus second and finally faith in Jesus is born.  Notice that all three have their source in Jesus.

God calls us to a path that begins with him.  Faith is not based on my understanding but His understanding.  I have to trust Him first, demonstrated through obedience, and then I can receive a faith that comes from God, for He rewards those that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6).

Abraham is a perfect example.  He walked with very little faith for most of His life.  Yes, he followed God’s leading and that was out of obedience, but never really trusted him.  God said, “leave your family”, but Abraham took his father.  God promised him that his children would be plentiful, but he lied about his wife to protect his life.

It wasn’t until Abraham was challenged to give back to God the only son he had been given by God, through a black and white act of obedience, that Abraham achieved the level of obedience to God that God was looking for.  Just as Abraham was about to plunge the knife into his son as a sacrifice to God, and angel stopped him and said these powerful words, “Now I know that you fear me, for you did not withhold your son from me.” (Genesis 22:12). It was during the trek to the altar that Abraham answered his son’s question concerning what they were going to sacrifice with, “God will provide”. (Genesis 22:8)

The scriptures say multiple times that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom“. Strangely enough, the path to faith comes through a fear in God which produces in us obedience.

Once we obey, God can then respond in building up our faith.

You see, if the faith you have is your own, it is bound to fail.  But if the faith you have comes from God, then the source is solid and produces in you a revelation of God that makes Him real in you.

Nature cries out that there is a God, but it doesn’t tell you how to establish relations with Him.  Only when God reveals himself to you through faith, do you discover that your faith is a sure foundation.

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Wisdom from Mistakes

Posted by undergroundchurch on September 16, 2010


Tests aren’t my strong suit, mainly cause I over think them.  However, one thing is constant with me and tests… I learn more from what I get wrong than what I get right.

Yep… it’s that nagging feeling that comes from the frustration of getting a question wrong that brings out a standard response that goes something like this…

  1. The test must be wrong
  2. I know I studied that
  3. I misread the question
  4. Oh, that’s what they meant
  5. OK… I will concede

Because I put so much effort in fighting the fact that I got it wrong, the right answer has somehow embedded itself in my gray matter, so in the end, I learn more from what I got wrong than the questions I got right.

My life is like that in general…. but that is for another blog… or an autobiography

Biblical Application

When I read Corinthians, I get that same feeling.  Yes, the church at Corinth had problems, but we have what I believe is the most practical letter from Paul about how church should operate because that one church had such problems.

We can learn a plethora of good “church tips” from Paul’s corrective instruction.  

  • All those gifts are given for the church’s benefit
  • The most gifted church is nothing without love
  • Just how do we facilitate a healthy atmosphere for correction in the church
  • What should be done about those living in sin in the church
  • The church is all about unity in Christ
  • Can we be Christians and live like the world
  • How do we deal with freedom
  • What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the church
  • How can we obtain balance between order and spirit leading
  • What is our ministry
  • What is our treasure
  • And so much more

So much good comes from so many mistakes.  When you make mistakes, you have two choices

  1. Let the mistake lead you into more mistakes and eventually down the road of despair
  2. Learn from the mistake, and use that knowledge to gain wisdom

I choose the latter.

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