Archive for July, 2013

Cutting & Pasting the Bible: What Are We Missing?

Bible Study 2

Bible Study 2 (Photo credit: DrGBB)

We cut and paste the Bible all the time.  How many verses can you quote from memory?  I don’t know nearly as many as I should.  And the ones I do know I often don’t recall where they are found.  But one thing I am discovering as I have been making my way through the Bible for the 2nd time is that many of the verses we use as our go-to verses are taken out of context, or at least not used with the full context intended.  We miss the full meaning by doing this.

Let me give you 3 examples from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, all in the same chapter, too yet:-)  As a side note, I have learned that Paul likes to make one-liner points, but throws them in the midst of a bunch of other wording.  I think we often miss the true point, so I will show you what I have seen this morning.  Watch for those italics and bold markings.

Philippians 4:4-7 (NCV) – Be full of joy in the Lord always.  I will say again, be full of joy.  Let everyone see that you are gentle and kind.  The Lord is coming soon.  Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks.  And God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

I saw 3 verses, or part verses, that are quoted all the time.  I’m sure you caught them, too.  There are two things I want to point out in this passage.  Let’s look at the bold print first.  There is a definite link between what we do, and what we receive.  What are we to do?  Do not worry.  Pray.  And give thanks.  What do we receive?  The peace of God.

Second.  Did you notice the italics?  What is that doing in there?  It totally doesn’t fit…does it?  Yes!  It absolutely does!  In fact, it is the overall point!  Allow me the liberty of expanding on Paul’s words, if you will.

Be full of joy in the Lord always.  I will say again, be full of joy.  The Lord is coming soon.  Let everyone see that you are gentle and kind.  The Lord is coming soon.  Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks.  The Lord is coming soon.  And God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  The Lord is coming soon.

In other words, the Lord is coming soon!  Keep your attitude in check.  Be joyful, don’t worry, pray, give thanks, and experience God’s peace…because…the Lord is coming soon!

Passage number 2:  Phil. 4:8-9 – Brothers and sisters, think about the things that are good and worthy of praise.  Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected.  Do what you learned and received from me, what I told you, and what you saw me do.  And the God who gives peace will be with you.

Point?  This is not just “the God who gives peace will be with you.”  There is a condition to that.  First you must “do what you learned and received from me, what I told you, and what you saw me do.”  Now the example Paul set for us to follow…”think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected” (obviously not all-inclusive, but a good place to start…with our minds).  [I swear, Paul writes backwards!  From bottom up!]

Passage number 3:  Philippians 4:11-13 – I am not telling you this because I need anything.  I have learned to be satisfied with the things I have and with everything that happens.  I know how to live when I am poor, and I know how to live when I have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens, when I have enough to eat and when I go hungry, when I have more than I need and when I do not have enough.  I can do all things through Christ, because He gives me strength.

There it is folks, the secret to happiness…contentment.  But contentment why?  BECAUSE CHRIST GIVES US EVERYTHING WE NEED  (as He sees it) FOR EVERY SITUATION!  Contentment that stems from total reliance on God.  When we are relying on God for everything we need in every situation, good and bad, we are content…and happy.  There is so much more in those verses than just a moral booster!  It is a lesson, an attitude, a way of living, and what happens when we follow it.

The next time you see a verse on a shirt,  or a framed picture, or hear it quoted, I encourage you to pull out your Bible and read the verses surrounding it.  What more is there to glean from further study?  And what message from God will you be able to carry with you for the next time you hear that verse?  God’s Word is such an amazing blessing!  But it is so important to read all of it, not just single verses that we cut and paste into our lives when we think they fit.  That is like trying to put the pieces of two puzzles together to make one picture.  Our picture and God’s picture.  It doesn’t work that way.  Take the pieces from God’s puzzle and see what picture He makes.  

May God reveal Himself to you in His Word today!

Making Enemies

Nothing makes an enemy faster than seeking God.  A Christian can be a Christian and coast through life with nary a problem.  La-de-de, la-de-da, life goes on.  Until they make the decision to commit fully to God.  Then WHAM!!!  They get broad-sided by a speeding locomotive!  I like trains, so I hate to compare them to Satan, but what else moves as hard and fast as a train, and can completely demolish something in its path?  Turning your eyes toward God can be like standing on the railroad tracks with a blindfold on and ear plugs in.  You are perfectly fine until you are smashed to pieces.

Is this any reason to not turn your eyes to God?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  But you better be prepared when you do.  Unfortunately, far too many of us don’t recognize the risk and are sucked into the devil’s schemes.  Nothing makes him happier than stealing our God-given joy, hope, love, peace, contentment, and strength, and leaving us crumpled in a heap wondering what in the world happened.

When we are in that crumpled state, what do we do next?  Do we turn to God and ask why?  Don’t we often expect to be continuously filled with His joy when we are walking in HIs ways?  And when we are digging into God’s Word, studying, learning, praying without ceasing, don’t we expect life to be easier?  So what happened?  Satan.  As long as we are coasting through life, not really giving God the time of day, except on Sunday morning, the devil could care less what we do.  We are not a threat to him or his plans.  He does not consider us his enemies.  That in itself is a very scary concept.  If we are not enemies to the enemy of God, than what are we to him?  Yikes!

As soon as we realize that we want more from our relationship with Christ.  As soon as we decide to truly to commit to God and seek His ways.  As soon as we dust off our Bibles and get on our knees, red flags go up in the enemy camp.  Satan sits up and takes notice.  He sends out the troops with their battle plans tucked under their arms, and weapons at the ready.  LOOK OUT!  His goal is not to slow you down, or stop you.  His plan is to obliterate you.  He wants to destroy you so that your faith is derailed permanently.  He takes no prisoners.  He is an executioner!

In many of my posts I have encouraged you to read your Bibles and spend time in prayer.  Do not view the imminent attack as reason to neglect your relationship with God.  Don’t think that God is unable to defeat Satan in this battle for your loyalty.  God has always been mightier.  The battle was won on the cross as Jesus died.  At that moment the victory was secured.  I don’t know if Satan knows he doesn’t have a chance in the world, or if he believes his own lies and thinks he can still win.  Either way, he is going to take down as many people as he can, and praying, growing Christians are top on his list.

I want you to pray.  I want you to read God’s Word.  I want you to desperately seek Him, to learn His ways, to recognize His will, and to strive to live in obedience to Him.  But I want you to do it with eyes wide open, and prepared for battle.

Ephesians 6:10-13 (NCV) – “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His great power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can fight against the devil’s evil tricks.  Our fight is not against people on earth but against the rulers and authorities and the powers  of this world’s darkness, against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world.  That is why you need to put on God’s full armor.   Then on the day of evil you will be able to stand strong.  And when you have finished the whole fight, you will still be standing.”

If you are like me, the first thing you will want to do on your new journey to seek out Christ’s will in your life, and deepen your relationship with HIm is to read through the whole Bible.  This is admirable, and a worthy goal.  Absolutely aim to do this.  There is so much to be learned about our Father in every part of the Bible.  But be sure to pray for protection (recall the “deliver us from evil” part of the Lord’s Prayer).  Pray for wisdom and discernment so that you will know what is truth, and what is a lie from the devil.  And make sure you spend some of your Bible reading time looking up Scripture verses and passages that will help you to fight against the devil’s attacks.  A lot of Bibles, and Christian web-sites and apps, offer lists of verses to read in particular situations (when you are depressed, when you are afraid, etc.).  These are great places to start finding verses that will help.  Write them down!  Keep them close at hand.  (Thank you to my spiritual Auntie for this suggestion that has helped me so much;-)  Speak them out loud when you are under attack.  I have taken to reading several aloud after I post a blog because Satan attacks me immediately afterward.  I go back to prayer.  Seek the presence of the Holy Spirit as you pray.  The presence of the Spirit is a mighty, mighty force.  That is why Satan cannot attack me as I write.  The Holy Spirit of God Almighty is so strongly present in me during that time, that Satan can’t come near me.  But afterward, I have to be very careful to not let my guard down.  I need to continue in prayer, and speaking God’s Word in defense.  Reminding myself, and Satan, of the power of the God I serve.  CHRIST IS THE VICTOR!!!  PRAISE, GLORY, AND ALL HONOR BE TO HIM!!!!

Ephesians 6:14-18 – “So stand strong, with the belt of truth tied around your waist and the protection of right living on your chest.  On your feet wear the Good News of peace to help you stand strong.  And also use the shield of faith with which you can stop all the burning arrows of the Evil One.  Accept God’s salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  Pray in the Spirit at all times with all kinds of prayers, asking for everything you need.  To do this you must always be ready and never give up.  Always pray for all God’s people.”

Never forget how very much God loves you!  He will not leave you.  He will not let you fight this battle alone.  But you must fight it, if you are to draw closer to Him.  The battle is worth it, my brothers and sisters.  Knowing God in a deeper and more intimate way is worth any battle I have, or will face.  I pray that you will find that, too.  May God be your strong tower today!

The Secret Is…Plan B is really Plan A!

In my previous posts, “The Replacements” and “Sharing the Blessings,”  I encouraged you to support the Jewish people today because there is a clear distinction made (in Romans) between the believers and God’s chosen people, the Jews.  It is only by the grace of God that we, as believers, are allowed to receive the blessings that rightfully belong to the Jewish people.  In gratitude for that grace, we should financially support the Jews.  But there is more to this, and I don’t want to leave the topic until I make it clear that we are not Plan B.

I know, I know.  It sure can seem that way.  God hand-picked the Jewish people to be His own.  He cleared city after city of other people just so that His people could have the best land, the Promised Land, filled with milk and honey.  He promised to be with them, fight for them, protect them, and bless them.  For a long time I had a difficult time reading the promises of the Old Testament (like Jeremiah 29:11 – “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you.”)  I did not believe they were for me.  God spoke them to His chosen people.  Even though I am a believer in Christ, I did not believe that the promises for the Jews were the same for me.  It would be really easy to read Romans 11 and 12 and use it to support this notion.  The problem is that this notion is not true!

Even though the Jewish people are God’s chosen people.  And even though we as believers receive the blessings of salvation only because God graciously extended that to us through Christ.  We are not Plan B.  God did not decide that the Jews had turned their back on Him for the last time.  He did not wash His hands of them and turn to us as His second best choice.  We were never the understudies who were there just in case things didn’t work out for the stars of the show.  WE ARE PLAN A!!!  It was always God’s plan to open up the doors to the blessings given to the Jews for all  people.  From the very beginning, He intended to offer salvation through Christ to the Jews and the Gentiles.  We are meant to stand on equal footing with the Jews, as adopted children of God, not to be loved less, or blessed less, but equally.  We are joined together with them to be one family of God.

Ephesians 3:8-9 (NCV) – “I am the least important of all God’s people, but God gave me this gift–to tell those who are not Jews the Good News about the riches of Christ, which are too great to understand fully.  And God gave me the work of telling all people about the plan for His secret, which has been hidden in Him since the beginning of time.”

Step back to Ephesians 3:6 – “This is that secret:  that through the Good News those who are not Jews will share with the Jews in God’s blessing.  They belong to the same body, and they share together in the promise that God made in Christ Jesus.”

Do not misunderstand.  This is not a backtrack of my support of the Jewish people!  That is something we must do out of gratitude for God’s grace, and respect for His chosen people.  But I do want to assure you that God loves you as much as He loves the Jews, and all of His blessings are for you.  So when you read these words from the Lord, believe them!  They are for you!

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NCV) – “I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord.  “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you.  I will give you hope and a good future.  Then you will call my name.  You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will search for me.  And when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me!”

The Prime Directive

The Prime Directive is the primary guiding principle in Star Trek.  In short, it prevents any one who is a member of the United Federation of Planets from involving themselves in any alien race in a way that would change the course of history for that species, and any who comes in contact with them.  If an alien species is set on a path to destruction, and the Federation has technology that can put a stop to that, they still may not involve themselves to save that race.  How many episodes have I watched in which an alien culture requested technology to improve their lives, or save their people, but were refused by a star ship captain because that species should learn and develop as a race and come up with the solutions on their own?

God has His own Prime Directive.  Did you know that?  Thankfully it is not the same as the Federation’s directive!  Imagine that the Federation Prime Directive applied to individuals, and each individual was headed for complete destruction.  Their prevailing way of life was a one-way ticket to complete annihilation.  We try to correct the problem on our own, but just don’t have the means available to us, so we seek the assistance of the Federation.  And we are refused.  They have the answers, but we can’t have them, and there is no way possible for us to save ourselves.  How frustrating, and scary!!

God’s “prime directive” is the opposite!  Here we are, floundering in our own efforts to save ourselves from the sin that leads to certain, and eternal destruction.  But we are not doomed to find our own way to salvation…and ultimately fail!!  Hallelujah!!!  God waits for us to call on Him.  When we ask Him to show us the way, He does!  The way is Jesus Christ, and God planned on Jesus being the answer from the very beginning.  He is just waiting.  

Today I am just grateful that God answered my cry for help, and gave me Jesus to change the course of my personal history.  More than that, I am so grateful that the help God gave to change the direction my life did not end once I put my faith in Jesus.  He continues to offer that help daily, moment by moment even, through the direction of the Holy Spirit.  There is never a day I need to feel helpless in this life!  All I need to do is ask for help, and the Holy Spirit of God will direct me.  What a relief to know that I am not out here spinning out of control on my own, but am held steady in the hand of God.

Father, I thank you today for your guidance each day through Your Holy Spirit!  I thank you that, no matter what I am going through, or what any day holds, You are in control!  I don’t have to figure anything out on my own in this world that is beyond my understanding, because I have you to direct my paths.  Thank You, my Lord, and my God!  Amen.

Back To Square One: Starting over with God

Do you ever wish you could have a do-over?  You made the wrong choice, said the wrong thing, some how just really messed things up, and you want nothing more than to turn back the hands of time and do it over, but differently.  I don’t know about you, but I experience this several times a day!  Of course, no matter how badly I want that do-over, I am not going to get it.  I did what I did.  Said what I said.  The mess I made is here to stay.  And I will just have to deal with the consequences the best that I can.  This imperfect life, and its constant battle with sin is so frustrating!

Have you ever noticed there are some interesting parallels between the beginning stories of Moses and Joshua?  That is because there is a do-over played out in the history of the people of Israel.  Let me show you.

Moses began his call to service when God spoke to him through the burning bush.  He was told to remove his sandals because he was standing on holy ground (Exodus 3: 1-6).  Joshua had a similar experience soon after Moses died and he took over leadership of the Israelite people.  The Commander of the Lord’s army (Jesus pre-incarnate) stood before Joshua.  He told Joshua to remove his sandals because the place where he stood was holy (Joshua 5: 13-15).

Under Moses’ leadership, the Israelites left Egypt during the night after they celebrated the first Passover Feast.  Forty years later the Israelites had entered the Promised Land and celebrated the Passover Feast before beginning their conquest.  The very next day they began eating the produce of the land, and the manna stopped coming.

God used the parting of the Red Sea to instill trust in Himself and Moses (Exodus 14: 21).  Again, forty years later, God used the parting of the Jordan River to show God’s great power and to demonstrate that He was with Joshua as He was with Moses (Joshua 3: 7, 15-17; 4: 23-24).

When the people started out from Egypt with Moses, they messed up, and messed up big.  They grumbled and complained, and ultimately demonstrated that, in spite of everything they had witnessed, they did not trust God.  The consequences left them wandering in the desert for forty years, unable to receive the land promised to them by God.  But when all of those Israelites died, and only their children remained, God gave the nation a do-over.  He brought up a new leader and started him off in the presence of the holy God.  He parted the waters of a great body of water and led the Israelites from an old way of life to a new one, full of hope and promise, and the power of the Almighty God.  And God reminded the people of His faithfulness to them, past, present and future, through the Passover Feast, which marked the beginning and end of their journey to Canaan.  It was like God saying, “Okay.  You made a mess of things, but that is over and done with.  It is the past, and now is the time for a new beginning.  I’m starting you over from square one.  It’s your chance to get it right this time.”

Just like the Israelites, when we mess up, we bear the consequences.  They lost an entire generation to the wilderness.  We lose relationships, the respect of our children, opportunities to help others and do what honors God, our witness for Christ.  Sometimes the damage can be repaired.  Sometimes the consequences are permanent.  But God loves us.  He understands more fully than we do ourselves that we are not capable of living up to His standards.  And He loves us.  Did I say that already?  I’ll say it again.  GOD LOVES US!!!!  Every time we sin, He gives us the opportunity to repent; to confess and turn away from what we did wrong, and get it right the next time.  So no, we don’t get do-overs.  But thank the God of grace and mercy that we do get one chance after another, unlimited, until the day that His work in us is complete!!!  

TO GOD BE THE GLORY IN ALL THINGS, FOREVER!  AMEN

Moses Died and HE Buried Him: What can you take away from Moses’ death?

English: Moses views the Promised Land, by Lor...

English: Moses views the Promised Land, by Lord Frederic Leighton, relief print from Illustrations for “Dalziel’s Bible Gallery”, engraved by the Dalziel Brothers and published 1881 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are so many prophets in the Bible.  Good ones.  Lots of good ones.  Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Hosea…the names of the books of the Old Testament is a litany of prophets.  They were God’s messengers to His people.  It was what they asked for.  When God gave the 10 Commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai, God was present there.  The Bible says there was thunder, a trumpet, lightening, and smoke rising from the mountain.  The people of Israel were terrified!  “They shook with fear and stood far away from the mountain” (Ex. 20:18).

Deuteronomy 5: 4-5; 23-28 (NCV) – “The Lord spoke to you face to face from the fire on the mountain.  (At that time I [Moses] stood between you and the Lord in order to tell you what the Lord said; you were afraid of the fire, so you would not go up on the mountain.) …. When you heard the voice from the darkness, as the mountain was blazing with fire, all your older leaders and leaders of your tribes came to me.  And you said, ‘The Lord our God has shown us his glory and majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire.  Today we have seen that a person can live even if God speaks to him.  But now, we will die!  This great fire will burn us up, and we will die if we hear the Lord our God speak anymore.  No human being has ever heard the living God speaking from a fire and still lived, but we have.  Moses, you go near and listen to everything the Lord our God says.  Then you tell us what the Lord our God tells you, and we will listen and obey.’  The Lord heard what you said to me, and he said to me, ‘I have heard what the people said to you.  Everything they said was good.'”

The people of Israel didn’t want to speak with God face to face, out of fear and reverence.  So God spoke to Moses instead.  Every message He had for them came through Moses.  It was an amazing time!  God was physically present with them day and night!  He was in the pillar of cloud traveling before them during the day.  He was in the pillar of flame traveling before them at night (Ex. 13:21).  When Moses met with God in the Meeting Tent, God was present in a cloud that lowered over the tent (Ex. 40:34-35).  Moses was not un-effected by this.  Remember how we are told that his face shown so brightly after talking with God that he covered it when he wasn’t speaking with God, or sharing God’s message with the people (Ex. 34: 33-35).

Moses had a relationship with God that fills me with awe and wonder!  While God spoke to other prophets through dreams and visions, He spoke face to face with Moses.  He didn’t show Moses visions that needed to be interpreted, He spoke clearly, straight forward, with no hidden meanings (see Numbers 12: 6-8).  God said exactly what He meant to say, and there was no mistaking the message.  God trusted Moses to lead Israel.  God even allowed Moses to see His glory (Exodus 33: 18-23).

But Moses disobeyed God.  Exodus 20: 6-12 tells us that Moses was told to speak to a rock and water would come out for the people.  But Moses was angry with the people for their complaining, and he struck the rock, not once, but twice.  Moses’ punishment for this sin was that he would not be allowed to cross over into the Promised Land.  God told him the punishment was because he didn’t believe God, and because he didn’t honor Him before the people.

Eventually the people of Israel arrived at the Jordan River.  All the laws had been given.  Those who had not believed in God in the first place had died.  Their children were going to inherit the Promised Land, and they were poised and ready to go.  God called Moses up to the top of Mount Pisgah in the land of Moab.  There he was allowed to see all of the Promised Land, the richness, the beauty.  But there he would die, held back from ever entering what he spent his life working toward.  It must be noted that Moses did not die of old age, even though he was old (120 years).  Deuteronomy 34: 7 tells us that his eyes weren’t weak, and he was still strong.  He didn’t die of a sickness.  He just died.  But he didn’t die alone, either.  God was with him.  Only God.  When it was time for Moses to leave this earth, even though his untimely death was a direct result of his disobedience to God, God was there with him.  God loved Moses so much that He took him in an intimate and personal way, known only to the two of them.  They had shared so many of these face to face times throughout Moses’ life, this must have been the most natural and fitting end.  I wonder how God took Moses’ life.  I can’t see Him striking Moses with a bolt of lighting, or burning him with flames.  Maybe it was just a touch, and He caught Moses’ body in His arms as he fell.  Or maybe God did what he wouldn’t do earlier.  Maybe He showed Moses His glory, and he died struck by the very sight of Holy God.  God Himself lovingly buried Moses there in the valley opposite Beth Peor (Deut. 34: 6).  Perhaps one of the most touching scenes in the Bible, when we see played out before us, the love of God for just one man.  I admit I cried when I read it.  But what are we supposed to take from this?  Is it just another story in the Bible?  Is there a lesson to be learned?  I don’t know.  I am left with this, though, an intense longing to have that kind of relationship with God.  To have His trust.  To speak to Him face to face.  To see His glory.  I want my face to shine from being in His presence!!  What about you?  What has God put in your heart today?

May the God of Moses show you His glory today!

Safe On Base: What to do with chaos and fear?

Remember playing Tag as a child? We always had a base. A place where we could run to and not be tagged. The game got a little wild, or we were perilously close to being tagged, if we could just get to home base, we would be safe.

Sometimes I am home base for my boys. They are busy doing what boys do. And there are some who are quite independent. But even the boy who clashes with me the most, will sometimes need home base. He will just come to me and say, “I need a hug.” And that is all. One quick hug, and off he goes again. He stopped at base, got his bearings, found his safety net, and then went back out. A couple of my other boys need longer hugs. They need to have a few moments of knowing my arms around them. One is small, and I can envelope him in my arms. He feels secure. The other one is bigger than me, and he envelopes me in his arms:-) But I am still home base to him.

When this world is chaotic, and spinning like a tornado, we need a home base. Or when someone writes a post about the end times, we may need a home base. Yesterday’s post may have filled many hearts with joy. But there are some who might have been gripped by fear, too. I have been there. Satan sure knows how to use the best news, the greatest hope, the truest promises of God to instill terror into our hearts. But our God is not the God of fear! The promise of Jesus’ return is a glorious hope, and our hearts should celebrate!!!! Any time we are in that grip of fear. Any time we feel out of control for any reason at all. Any time we need a place to feel safe, and take a breath. God has provided a home base for us. Himself.

Psalm 46: 10-11 (NCV) – God says, “Be quiet and know that I am God. I will be supreme over all the nations; I will be supreme in the earth.” The Lord All-Powerful is with us; the God of Jacob is our defender.

Amidst all of the chaos of life, the fear, the worry, the questions and doubt…hush. Shhhhh. Feel the arms of the All-Powerful God envelope you. Know His strength. Draw courage from the safety of His presence. Quiet. Know, without a doubt, that the one, the only, true God, who is supreme over all the nations and earthly powers, and who is supreme over all the earth itself, and who is supreme over the forces of darkness, is holding you, and is in control! Rest. Soak in all that He is, and you will be ready to move forward again.

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sarsrose

Sometimes faith. Sometimes life. Always whatever's in my head.

THE RIVER WALK

Daily Thoughts and Meditations as we journey together with our Lord.

WANDERING IN HOPE

"all fear is but the notion that God's love ends" - ann voskamp

Jason B. Ladd

Comedy. Tragedy. You decide.

Faith Community Church

Beaver Dam, Wisconsin

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