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“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing! Look, your house is forsaken. Truly I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Luke 13:34-35

God’s judgment was about to fall upon Jerusalem. The time of mercy — the people’s opportunity to repent and turn to their Messiah and Savior — was almost gone. In fact, judgment was much closer than any dared to think. Why? Because the people had rejected and stoned the prophets sent to them in the generations before Christ, and they were rejecting their Messiah and Savior who had been sent into this world to redeem them.

Elsewhere, too, Jesus warned of Jerusalem’s coming destruction under the hand of the Roman armies (cf. Luke 19:41ff.; 23:27ff.) because the people did not recognize the time of their visitation and believe in the name of the only-begotten Son of God and their Savior.

Did Jesus desire Jerusalem’s fall? No. He wept over Jerusalem. He had compassion for its people, and He desired that all repent of their evil ways and turn unto Him for mercy and forgiveness. But because they would not repent and turn to Him for pardon and life everlasting, judgment was coming — and it did come in 70 A.D. when the Roman armies laid siege to the city, broke down its walls and burned the city, killing or taking captive the city’s inhabitants.

As Jesus said, “How often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing!”

Once again, God’s Word in Ezekiel 33:11 had application: “As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why will you die, O house of Israel?“

These words, as well as the words of Jesus, also have an application to you and to me. Jesus first and foremost desires that we repent of our evil ways and turn to Him for forgiveness and life everlasting. He seeks to gather us to Himself as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.

The people of Jerusalem would not come to Jesus, and God’s judgment came upon them. But what about you and me? Will we too stubbornly resist God’s call to repentance and faith? Will we refuse to be gathered under the safety of Jesus’ wings?

If we will not come to Jesus, God’s judgment will fall upon us as well — both now and in eternity! Our Lord Jesus, who first and foremost desires to deal with us in mercy and forgiveness, will have no choice but to deal with us as we deserve on account of our rebellious and sinful ways.

As Jesus said to Nicodemus, “He who believes in Him is not condemned. But he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

But if, by the grace of God, we turn to Jesus and are gathered unto Him, we will not be condemned but have everlasting life (cf. John 5:24). Under the wings of His mercy, we will find forgiveness and life eternal.

Dearest Lord Jesus, grant that I not turn away from You and Your mercy but repent and look to You for forgiveness and life eternal. I ask this for the sake of Your holy life and innocent sufferings and death in my stead. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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“For we have not followed cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when a voice came to Him from the majestic glory, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we ourselves heard this voice, which came from heaven, when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And we have a more reliable word of prophecy, which you would do well to follow, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of the Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation. For no prophecy at any time was produced by the will of man, but holy men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” 2 Peter 1:16-21

The Christian Faith is not built upon cunningly devised fables. It does not rest upon the visions of one or two founders (such as the faith of Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists or Islam). The Christian Faith, unlike other religions, is a religion based on historical fact — witnessed by not only a privileged few but by 12 apostles, numerous prophets and hundreds and even thousands of eyewitnesses.

The Apostle Paul could testify in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8: “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: how Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and was seen by Cephas, and then by the twelve. Then He was seen by over five hundred brothers at once, of whom the greater part remain to this present time, though some have passed away. Then He was seen by James and then by all the apostles. Last of all, He was seen by me also, as by one born at the wrong time.”

If people had doubts about the resurrection of Jesus, there were ample numbers who had witnessed Jesus’ death and had seen Him alive again after His resurrection. They didn’t have to take the word of one or two witnesses. The events surrounding Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were witnessed by so many they were undisputed. If you notice in the Gospel accounts, Jesus’ enemies didn’t dispute the things He had done; they disputed by what power He had done them.

Peter himself was a witness to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. And, as he says in this epistle, he was there on the mount of transfiguration with Jesus (cf. Matthew 17:1-9) when God the Father spoke from heaven and said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him” (Matt. 17:5).

And we Christians have far more proof and documentation upon which to build our faith than just Peter’s testimony. As he writes, “We have a more reliable word of prophecy, which you would do well to follow, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of the Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation. For no prophecy at any time was produced by the will of man, but holy men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Pet. 1:19-21).

As Christians, we have the testimony of Scriptures, written over a period of about 1,600 years by approximately 33 different authors – though, in fact, it has only one author, and that is God, who moved these men to write and put into their hearts and minds the words which they wrote so that all of Scripture is God’s own inspired or God-breathed Word (cf. 2 Tim. 3:15-17).

It is as David said in 2 Samuel 23:1-2: “Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David the son of Jesse, the oracle of the man who was raised on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the favorite psalmist of Israel: The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue.”

Notice that the Bible does not teach that the writers of Scripture were inspired — though God indeed did move them to write — it says, “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). The Scriptures themselves are God-breathed and inspired.

Though recorded by so many different men and over such a lengthy period of time, the Scriptures agree completely and throughout. There are no unexplainable discrepancies. The message is the same from beginning to end: man has sinned and fallen short, but God provided redemption in His Son and there is forgiveness and eternal life for all who trust in Him.

And so, our faith rests upon solid truth — upon the witness of so many eyewitnesses who were so convinced of the truth they gave their lives for it, and upon the witness of God Himself who gave us the Scriptures and has preserved them down through the centuries as a witness of the truth that we might be made “wise unto salvation through the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15; cf. Matt. 5:18; 24:14).

Yes, the Scriptures reveal the holy will of God and our utter failure to live up to His law, but the same Scriptures assure us that “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2). The Scriptures assure all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ that they have eternal life. Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has eternal life and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).

We would do well to pay heed to the Scriptures “as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts” (2 Pet. 1:19). When we read our Bibles, attend church where the Scriptures are faithfully taught and listen carefully to God’s inspired Word, the Scriptures are like a light shining in a dark place — they reveal our utter sinfulness but also reveal to us Jesus, God’s Son and our Savior, the Light of the world!

Again, the Scriptures themselves say: “The giving of Your words gives light; it grants understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130).

It is as Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth (2 Cor. 4:6), “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

And so, unlike other religions and faiths, our faith rests upon the witness of many chosen apostles and prophets recorded for us by inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the Bible. It rests upon the witness of God Himself, recorded for us in His inspired Scriptures.

God’s Word shines like a light into a dark place — it shines into our hearts to reveal to us our sinfulness and our deserved just punishment, but it also reveals to us Christ Jesus and the salvation God provided for us through faith in His name! It tells us that through faith in Christ Jesus we have forgiveness for all our sins and a living hope — the everlasting joys of heaven — because Jesus shed His holy and precious blood to redeem us and make us His own and is risen again in victory (cf. 1 Pet. 1:3-9, 18-19).

God grant that the light of His Word shines in our hearts and reveals to us Christ Jesus and salvation through faith in Him. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.” John 1:17-18 (Cf. Deut. 18:15-20)

When the Children of Israel stood before Mt. Sinai and heard the voice of God Himself as He gave the 10 Commandments, they were terrified and told Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen, but do not let God speak to us, lest we die” (Ex. 20:19). And which one of us could stand in the presence of the holy God and not fear death and eternal condemnation?

But God, through Moses, spoke to the people, saying, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet from the midst of you, of your brothers, like me. You must listen to him” (Deut. 18:15).

And that’s what God did. He sent His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to redeem us from our sins and rise again and to speak to us the good news of forgiveness and life through faith in Him as our Savior. On the Mount of Transfiguration, God the Father testified of Jesus, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him” (Matt. 17:5).

Jesus is the eternal Word, the creator and life-giver, God Himself in human flesh, come into this world to fulfill the holy commandments of God which we have failed to keep and to suffer and die in our stead to bear the punishment we justly deserve (cf. John 1:1-5;14-18,29; cf. 14:8ff.).

Though none of us could endure the thunderings of God’s law because of our sinfulness and failures to measure up to all that God’s holy commandments require, yet He comes to us in Messiah Jesus with pardon, peace and forgiveness for the sake of Christ’s holy life and His innocent sufferings and death for our sins and the sins of the world.

It is as the Bible says, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and all the world may become accountable to God. Therefore by the works of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets. This righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all and upon all who believe, for there is no distinction. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith, in His blood, for a demonstration of His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins previously committed, to prove His righteousness at this present time so that He might be just and be the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:19-26).

Do you want to know God? If you seek to know Him only through the Law given on Mt. Sinai, you will be terrified and afraid of Him.

If you want to know God, learn of Jesus and know Him. He is God in the flesh. He came into this world to redeem you — to die for your sins and rise again. In Him, you will know God as your loving and merciful Father. Through faith in Him, you will have forgiveness and life everlasting!

Dearest Jesus, Son of God and son of man, thank You for revealing to us not only our sinfulness but Your grace and mercy for the sake of Your holy and perfect sacrifice for our sins. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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“This, the first of His signs, Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and He revealed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” John 2:11 (Read John 2:1-11)

Jesus’ presence at a wedding feast in Cana and His turning water into wine has troubled some. Why would Jesus attend a wedding feast where wine was served? And why would Jesus turn water into wine, making some 120-180 gallons of it for the wedding guests to drink?

Jesus’ presence at this wedding — and we do not know precisely why He was invited — shows His respect for the divine institution of marriage between a man and a woman (cf. Gen. 2:18ff., Matt. 19:4-9). And His making wine, as well as drinking it, shows that drinking wine or alcoholic beverages is not of itself sinful, nor is one holier or more righteous through abstinence.

What is sinful is the overindulgence in it and drunkenness (cf. Matt. 11:18-19; 1 Tim. 5:23; Eph. 5:18; Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:19-21).

But far more important in this account is what His miracle teaches us about Jesus. Even though it was not yet His time to be revealed as the Son of God in human flesh and the Messiah and Savior of the world, Jesus used the divine power He possessed to come to the aid of a wedding party in a potentially embarrassing situation — they had run out of wine. And not only did Jesus turn water into wine; it was the best wine served at the feast.

And this miracle, of which many at the feast had no knowledge, revealed the glory and power which Jesus possessed as the Son of God to a few — to Mary, to the servants who drew the water, and to Jesus’ disciples.

The result was not only a wedding feast without the embarrassment to the hosts of running out of wine; it was a revelation of His person to His disciples, causing them to believe that He indeed was and is the Son of God and the promised Messiah and Savior of Israel.

The Apostle John, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, records this miracle for us that we too might see and believe that this same Jesus who humbled Himself and lived among us as a true man is more than just a man or even a great prophet and teacher.

Jesus was and is Jehovah God Himself in human flesh! And this was necessary in order for Him to pay the price required for the sins of the world!

This miracle is but one proof of that fact. He also healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, fed the multitudes, raised the dead, and rose from the dead Himself after being crucified! Through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit reveals to us Jesus’ divine glory and might; and through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit reveals to us that Jesus redeemed us and all mankind from sin and death by His own innocent sufferings and death in our stead. Jesus’ resurrection is proof that atonement for our sins has been made — we’ve been redeemed by the blood of “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)!

And, through faith in Christ Jesus, God the Son and our Savior, the forgiveness and life He won for all when He paid the price for our sins upon the cross becomes our own. Through faith in Christ Jesus, we have forgiveness of sins and life everlasting!

O that all would see and believe that Jesus is God the Son and that He has paid the price and redeemed us from all our sins!

I cannot reveal Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world to anyone. All I can do is preach the Gospel and tell those terrified by the threats of God’s Law of the comforting promises of the Gospel — the promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who look to Christ Jesus and His cross in faith (cf. John 3:14ff.). Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, reveals Himself to those whom He wills (John 6:44,63; Matt. 11:27; John 1:10-14).

It is as we confess in the Unaltered Augsburg Confession (Art. V, Of the Ministry): “That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.”

As we think about this miracle worked by our Lord Jesus, I invite you to also think about Holy Baptism. I, of myself, can’t wash away sins or give the Holy Spirit to anyone by pouring or sprinkling water on them. But when water is used in connection with God’s Word, Jesus does wash away sins and give His Holy Spirit (cf. Matt. 3:11; Acts 2:38-39; 22:16; Titus 3:3-7; Eph. 5:25-27).

Think about the Lord’s Supper, of which we are about to partake. I can’t turn water into wine, but Jesus can and did. And, I cannot cause Christ’s body and blood to be present, distributed and received in the Supper (in, with and under the bread and wine), but Jesus can and still does through His words of institution spoken on the night when He was betrayed (1 Cor. 11:23ff.).

Through His words of institution, He offers and gives to all who eat and drink of His Supper to partake of His sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world — of His body which was given into death for our sins, and of His blood which was shed for the remission of our sins. And, through faith in Christ’s life-giving words, we receive the blessings He won for us when He was sacrificed for our sins. We are assured of and receive forgiveness for all our sins and life everlasting for Jesus’ sake!

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, grant that I see your divine glory and believe that You indeed are my God and my Savior and place my trust in You for forgiveness and life everlasting. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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The Baptism of our Lord

Matthew 3:13-17

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 But John prohibited Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, He came up immediately out of the water. And suddenly the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending on Him like a dove. 17 And a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

What if Jesus were to walk into our church today and ask to be baptized? What would we say?

After all, Baptism is a means of grace whereby God offers and gives forgiveness of sins to sinners for the sake of the new covenant established by Jesus’ blood, shed upon the cross for the sins of the world! Cf. Heb. 9:11-15; 8:7ff.

John baptized those who came to him confessing their sins and seeking God’s pardon and forgiveness for the sake of the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (cf. Matt. 3:1ff.; Mark 1:4-5; Luke 3:1ff.; John 1:29). And, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter urged his hearers to “repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

And Jesus? He was and is sinless! He “was in every sense tempted like we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). “He is holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and is higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26). “He committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Pet. 2:22; cf. Isa. 53:9).

With John the Baptist, I would have to say, “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” (Matt. 3:14). And, yet Jesus did come to John and was baptized of him in the Jordan River. He told John, “Let it be so now, for it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). Then John permitted Jesus to be baptized.

Why did Jesus come to be baptized by John? He didn’t need to repent of sin! He didn’t need God’s forgiveness! But God did command and establish Baptism as the sign and sacrament by which one becomes a party and partaker of the new covenant He was putting in place by means of the atoning sacrifice of His Son (cf. 1 John 2:1-2; Heb. 10:19ff.; Gal. 3:26ff.; Matt. 28:18-20).

And it was fitting — to fulfill all righteousness — that our Substitute, our Savior, be baptized that He might associate Himself with us, taking our place under the Law to fulfill it for us and then bearing upon the cross the full and just punishment for our sins and the sins of the entire world of sinners. It was necessary to establish the new covenant and to offer to all who partake of it through Holy Baptism the forgiveness of sins and life eternal which Christ purchased and won for all when he suffered and died upon the cross.

Luther writes of Jesus’ Baptism: “Why does He come and seek Baptism, as there is no sin and uncleanness in Him which Baptism would remove? That will be a blessed Baptism. John here is getting a sinner who in His own person has no sin, and yet is the greatest sinner, that has and bears the sin of the whole world. For this reason, He permits Himself to be baptized and confesses with this action that He is a sinner. However, not for Himself, but for us. For He here takes my place and thy place and stands in our stead who are sinners, and since all, especially the arrogant saints, do not want to be sinners, He must become a sinner for all; He assumes the form of our sinful flesh and complains, as many psalms testify, on the cross and in His passion, of the weight of the sins which He bears” (Luther, 7, 691; 11, 2130).

In another reference, Luther writes: “Jesus says: …If that shall be performed that the poor sinners may come to righteousness and be saved, you must baptize Me. Because for the sake of sinners I have become a sinner, must therefore do what God has charged the sinners to do, in order that they may become just through Me” (Luther, 13, 1575; 11, 2139).

And so, our Savior took on human flesh and blood and joined Himself to us that He might be our Substitute and redeem us. Because Jesus was baptized and then went to the cross to pay the price for our sins, all who believe and are baptized receive God’s pardon and forgiveness, a place in God’s eternal kingdom, by means of Holy Baptism.

In Baptism, we who trust in Christ have our sins washed away in Jesus’ shed blood and, as Christ was raised up from death, we are given God’s Spirit and new life in Christ Jesus!

And what happened when Jesus was baptized? We read in Matthew 3:16-17: “And when Jesus was baptized, He came up immediately out of the water. And suddenly the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”

When Jesus came up out of the waters of the Jordan, the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove. And a voice came from God the Father in heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Thus, we have the entire Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — present and participating in Jesus’ Baptism. So also, in our Baptisms, we are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). Though the minister applies water, He does so not in his own name or even in the name of the church he serves. The waters of Holy Baptism are applied in the name of the Triune God, for God Himself accomplished our salvation.

The Father sent His only-begotten Son into the world to redeem us and be a perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins. The Father and the Son give to us the Holy Spirit, who regenerates us, bringing us to faith in Christ Jesus, and washes away our sins in Jesus’ blood, making us children of God and heirs of eternal life through faith in our Savior (cf. John 3:3-6; Gal. 3:26ff.; Tit. 3:3-7).

And John the Baptist, seeing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus (cf. Heb. 1:9; Psalm 45:7; Ezek. 16:9), was assured that Jesus was and is indeed the Son of God and the Lord’s Christ.

We read in John 1:32-34: “Then John bore witness, saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “The One on whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” I have seen and have borne witness that He is the Son of God.’”

So, what does all of this mean for you and for me? It, of course, means that Jesus is the eternal Son of God in human flesh, but it also means He associated Himself with you and me, He fulfilled all righteousness in our stead, and He bore on the cross the full punishment for our sins.

In His Baptism, Jesus joined Himself to us that he might be our Substitute and atone for our sins. And in our Baptisms, we are joined to Christ that His death might be our death and our sins be covered by His blood shed upon the cross for the sins of the world. And, in our Baptisms, we are joined to Christ that we might be credited with His perfect righteousness and be accepted as children of God through faith in Christ, our Savior!

God grant to you through faith in Your Savior the blessings of Holy Baptism — forgiveness for all your sins, a new birth and life worked in you by the Holy Spirit, and eternal life in Christ’s everlasting kingdom.

O gracious God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — we thank You for the blessings made our own in Baptism. Keep us in the true and saving faith, joined to Christ our Savior through Baptism, unto life everlasting. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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