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Posts Tagged ‘Choices’

                                                         Part Two

                                   SLICING, DICING, AND BURNING

Someone much wiser than me said, “It only takes a generation for a nation to turn away from God.” And the Book of Jeremiah gives the absolute proof certain of this proclamation.

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King Jehoiakim ruled in Judah from 609 B.C. until 597 B.C. He was the son of King Josiah who reigned from 630 B.C. until 609 B.C.

Josiah was a man after God’s own heart, but his son Jehoiakim, was bad-to-the-bone. Josiah cleared the land of idols, destroyed their places of worship, and found God’s word, which had been lost in the temple. (Can you imagine the Word of God being lost in the House of God? Still happens today in some churches, doesn’t it?)

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When Josiah finally heard the Word of God, he tore his clothes and commanded priests and scribes to inquire of the Lord concerning the words of the Book. His story is found in 2 Chronicles 34 and 35 and is so worth the read if you don’t know about this last good king in the land of Judah. God blessed Judah because of Josiah’s obedience. But generational sin lurked like a shroud of judgment, because Josiah’s father, King Manasseh had been the worst of the worst and that gene pool washed like a tsunami over his grandson Jehoiakim.

God sent Jeremiah the prophet, during the days of good King Josiah to remind the priests, rulers, and people of their refusal to listen and obey His Word. To remind them of the judgments He had pronounced against the granddaddy, and remind them of their urgent need to listen and repent.

When Jehoiakim inherited the throne, Jeremiah’s obedience to do what God called him to be and do, proved to be a perpetual pain in this king’s back-side. And the prophet ended up confined, unable to deliver God’s word to the people. But Jeremiah’s work was far from finished. So, the Lord told Jeremiah to take a scroll and write on it the words God spoke to him. God said, “Perhaps the house of Judah will hear all the calamity which I plan to bring on them, in order that every man will turn from his evil way; then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin.”

Even while they were back at their idol worship and evil ways, God was ready to hear and forgive their sins. Just like today, over twenty-six hundred years later, God’s message is still the same. And so is every man, woman, boy and girl—the same. Full of sin without the wisdom to see their great need for salvation through Jesus Christ or the ability to save themselves from God’s judgment.

Well, Jeremiah called Baruch, the scribe, and dictated to him all the words the Lord had spoken to him. We’re not told how long the process took, but remember, God called Jeremiah to be His prophet in 627 B.C. It’s now 606 B.C. That’s a bunch-a-words folks. Written by hand, in pen and ink, on a loooong roll of parchment.

What happened next is worth reading in the 36th Chapter of Jeremiah, verses 10-21. But picture this, the king is sitting in his winter house and there’s a fire burning in the brazier in front of him.

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Jehudi unrolled the scroll and began reading—one column, two, three, and four columns. Imagine the scene, the king is obviously incensed and grabs the scribe’s knife and slices the scroll and pitches it into the fire. Then he sliced and diced the whole scroll containing the Words of God and burned it all in the fire until it was consumed!

“Yet the king and all his servants who heard all these words were not afraid, nor did they rend their garments” (Jeremiah 36:24 NIV).

I’m waitin’ for the lightning and goose-bumps raced across my body as I read this and then again as I’m typing these words to you. Remember his daddy’s reaction when he heard the Word of God? He feared and tore his clothes. Jehoiakim and his crew? Not so much.

I have every Bible I’ve ever owned and if there were a fire at my house, my Bibles would be the first thing I’d race to save. Wouldn’t you? But to cut them apart and watch ’em burn?

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Yet before we cluck our tongues and look down our noses at King Jehoiakim, don’t we reject God’s Word when we leave it in the back of the car from one Sunday ‘til the next. Never thinking about where our copy of the Word is ‘til we leave for church the following week? Or worse yet, we leave it on the end table by our chair, right next to the HD remote. Which gets more use during the week—the Word of God or the remote?

But God didn’t wring His holy hands. No, He told Jeremiah to get another scroll and repeat the process. Which Jeremiah and Baruch did, because we have the words God spoke to Jeremiah in our Bibles today. But listen carefully to the words God spoke concerning King Jehoiakim.

“You will have no one to sit on the throne of David, and your dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and frost of the night. (He wouldn’t receive a proper burial. The birds and beasts would pick his bones.) I will also punish him and his descendants and his servants for their iniquity, and I will bring on them and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the men of Judah all the calamity that I have declared to them” (Jeremiah 36:29-31 NIV).

And God’s Words became reality for King Jehoiakim, the priests, and the people when Nebuchadnezzar and his great armies killed, captured and burned Jerusalem, and carried many from Judah captive to Babylon for seventy years. Why? Because they did not listen to the Words of God to obey them!

God’s Word is the same yesterday, today and forever. Neither Jehoiakim nor any of his descendants will be present in the coming kingdom. His choices brought the consequences of separation from God then, now, and forever. No more chances. His doom was sealed and God’s wrath on him was executed by the King of Babylon. Done. Finished. Forever.

But God’s mercy and grace are still available to us. How will the recount of Jehoiakim’s foolish choices and consequences resonate in your life? The words “…but they didn’t listen…” echo in my ears from 606 B.C., through the corridors of time, to today…

Am I listening? Are you listening? What choices will we make? Will we choose rewards or consequences?

“And He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death’” (Revelation 21:6-8 NIV).

 

Part Three: Weak, Deceived, Can’t Trust – Jeremiah 37 – 38

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Darkness obscured the noise.
Glass crashed and shattered across the floor.
A brick wrapped in brown butcher paper, decorated with hate speech scribbled in black and tied with a string, fell to the floor.
Unable to move, a frightened boy gawked. His saucer-sized-eyes reflected the horror exploding inside him.
Torched by a man saturated in hate, a flaming match ignited the gasoline he’d doused on a cross, illuminating a black football jersey with his brother’s number 22—hung there to fry in hell’s fury.

I sat in the shadows and shook and sobbed as the above scene flashed across the wide screen. Unable to restrain the gush of anguish. Transported fifty years in the past—my early teens—to a street corner in Jacksonville, Florida, just after dark. Where A gang of unruly men in white robes with pointed hoods. Shouted death threats. And burned another cross.

My brother and I were glued to the horror, but unable to look away. Daddy explained these were evil men. “But that’s what America’s all about,” he offered. “Freedom to demonstrate and say whatever you think, even when it’s wrong and folks don’t agree.”

I didn’t believe those words then and I don’t believe them now. Hate is not an acceptable synonym of freedom. If your actions harm another person, those actions aren’t legitimized because you live in America. Those actions testify of the perpetrator’s bondage to lies, hatred, and sin. But like Daddy, many in the 50’s and 60’s rejected the Klan’s evil, but hedged ignorant suspicions on the side of prejudice about anyone not like them. And the black community did the same.

Racial prejudice knows no boundaries.

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Unaware of the imprint those images etched in my soul, I watched this true story played out in HD in the movie, Woodlawn. Those turbulent years in our nation’s history, and the vile words and actions of then governor of Alabama, George Wallace, echoed off the screen and through the years.

I saw again the faces of those satiated with hate on that street corner so long ago, but I also heard and remembered the words of justice and peace spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King. And the maker of this film told the true story how six words transformed the lives and futures of the Woodlawn football team, the school, and the town. One afternoon in Birmingham, Alabama, the entire team of integrated, but deeply divided, angry young men uttered those life-changing words—I choose Jesus and I forgive you.

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Thousands of years ago, in the Book of Deuteronomy, God recited before the people the blessing and the cursing and allowed them to likewise choose.

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it…I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him” (Deuteronomy 30:15-16, 19-20 NAS).

The same God who created the heavens and the earth, is the same God who spoke through Moses to the nation of Israel, and is the same God this nation has worshiped and served over two hundred years. This same God who blessed America would have continued to bless our nation had the people of this land chosen life and blessings and obedience, rather than death and cursings.

King Solomon was right when he said, “Behold there is nothing new under the sun.”
And here we are in 2015 having crossed that same despicable threshold. Again.

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The fabric of faith has been contorted and twisted and shredded across America by the continual lies and rebellion of the enemies of God and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

I listen to the continual words of this president, and those who surround him, and the media, who, like those KKK men of the past, spew their divisive, hate laced words, dividing, vilifying, and separating Americans. Daily choosing death rather than life.

And we see this consequential death displayed in each major city in America every day. We have been sucked back in time and have allowed days of the hideous history of hatred to rekindle and reproduce in our land. Fueled by a willful ignorance of God’s Word, people of every race and creed, deceived by the times and tunes chanted by Satan and his vicious demons, dance to the melody of deception.

They fail to understand fear of The Ku Klux Klan was just another wicked lie established in the South by deceived Democrats intent on keeping the black populous from voting. Democrats controlled the South during those years. The word Republican was whispered, but not on the ballot. And did you know one of the oldest Democratic members of the U.S. Senate was a past Dragon of the Klan? Who knows how many other leaders swore allegiance to the Klan?

But that was the way of the south in the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s—or so my Daddy believed.

And if we don’t discern and aren’t diligent to seek God’s guidance, 2016 will be the same song, umpteenth verse of this ditty of deception.

God has answered our prayers and raised up a trio of godly patriots, well qualified to seek the office of President. Men who aren’t ashamed of their faith in Jesus Christ. Men who have the courage to speak the truth. But, it’s hard to fight free stuff. Because we’ve raised a generation of folks who believe their have a right to free, refusing to care or comprehend someone has to pay for their free. Scripture instructs, “If you do not work, you do not eat.”

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What’s the point, you ask? The Klan no longer exists.

Really? Are you sure?

Jesus tells us, “If we say we love God and hate our brothers, we are liars and the truth is not in us.”

Anyone who hates another human enough to kill is like a current-day-member of the Klan. Just as despicable and evil. And God says we’ve murdered them in our hearts first. Anyone who chooses the lie of the father-of-lies, rather than obeying the commands of the Lord God, will inherit the eternal consequences of their choices.

Make no mistake, for there to be a heaven, there must be a hell. But God sends no one to that eternal place of torment…they choose hell because they refuse to acknowledge and believe and choose Jesus and refuse to forgive others.

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I highly endorse the movie Woodlawn. And would suggest it for family viewing and discussion.

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For years I’ve heard folks, presumably wiser than myself, utter this statement, no doubt repeated to them by their parents. ThenDSCF5456 our daughter died—thirteen years ago. No warning. No time to say goodbye. Just gone. And time did nothing that remotely resembled healing.

So I sought GriefShare.

We’ve looked at proverbial sayings by our parents and grandparents for several weeks now, and up to this point the sayings have been filled with wisdom and truth. This week and DSCF5457next week we’ll look at two often repeated statements that need to be removed from our vocabulary.

Whether a loved one dies suddenly or after a long illness, our hearts are ripped open and shredded. We need emergency care. If an x-ray could print a picture of our emotional and spiritual heart injuries we’d be rushed by ambulance to the operating room.

But the God of all creation can treat and mend such horrific injuries. And He’s promised to do just that, if we seek Him and determine to trust our lives to His care. But it takes work, hard work, to make it to the other side of grief. And part of that learning is the ability to shut off endless tapes that attempt to play non-stop in our minds.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18 NAS).

Physical wounds take time and a treatment regimentation to heal. Emotional and spiritual wounds require God’s comfort and hand of healing together with our cooperation to work through the gut-wrenching pain under the guidance of the Word and the Holy Spirit of God. The key words are “our cooperation to work through…”
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Yes, you play a very important role in your own healing. You have a choice. A loss of anything rarely brings out the best in us, but when death strikes we are rendered helpless and often hopeless. Our analysis of life changes. We come face to face with the reality of our mortality.

An additional ingredient causing the pot of grief to boil is pain held onto from the past. The enemy of our soul is always swift to stir this pot, bringing all our ugly, unresolved injuries from former years into the present. You see, he never forgets. He goes for the jugular, and your heart is prime real estate. He is determined to inflict as much damage as is necessary to snare you in his net of deception.

The first fiery dart zinging toward the bulls-eye of your heart murmurs, “I can’t handle this today. I’ll think about it tomorrow.” Yes, Scarlet, and all the tomorrows after that if you refuse to deal with the pain of your grief now.

“Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief” (Psalm 31:9 NAS).

Picture a huge back-pack filled with heavy stones, each one labeled. The first stone we pull out is marked sorrow—it weighs a ton. One similar in size is anger. Then abandonment and despair are twin hunks off the stone of hopelessness. Buried under that terrible trio is dread, but there are more stones, and they seem to multiply.

A stone lays face down in the bag and we almost drop it as we read the label—guilt. Even thinking the word causes emotions to swirl and grow. Fear, confusion, and denial tumble onto the stack, threatening to topple the heap. But the enemy isn’t finished. He tosses the stones of envy, rejection, distrust, loneliness, and anxiety at you.

And a voice whispers, “No wonder I feel so awful. Poor me, I deserve to be angry. I’ll never laugh again. There will be no joy. Why, oh why, did God allow this to happen?” And you pick up each stone and place it lovingly back in the pack, zip the flap shut, and pick up the burden. “Oh these stones are so heavy, but it’s my cross to bear.” And you carry the weight of anguish with you each day, all day, everywhere, until you face another crisis and the grief you’ve stuffed will be resurrected and it won’t be convenient or pretty.

“My sorrow is beyond healing. My heart is faint within me. …Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?…For I will restore you to health and I will heal you of your wounds, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 8:18, 22; 30:17 NAS).

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The stones become heavier and anger turns to bitterness. You’ve bought the deception. Fear, guilt, anxiety, and loneliness become boulders. And you’re stuck in grief, and don’t know there’s a solution. But you chose to pack ‘em up and take ‘em with you.

The good news is when you’ve had enough of carrying a load you were never meant to bear, you can bring that pack of pain to Jesus. Confess you were prideful and wrong. Pour out your heart to the Lord who loves you with an everlasting love, and leave your disaster there. Allow Him to heal what time could never accomplish.

“The Lord heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3 NAS).

There’s help available to all willing to take that first step toward help, hope and restoration of joy. Choose GriefShare today.

Go to http://www.griefshare.org to find a group near you.

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The quiet voice echoed through the sad, lonely corridors of my heart and soul—“Is Jesus Enough?” I sniffed back tears that had become a way of life for the past few weeks and blew my nose as the voice inside me asked again—“Is Jesus Enough?”

DSCF1479I slumped in my chair, Kleenex in hand, forced to examine the implications of this question and where I had drifted and what had brought me down this treacherous road.

Even as I write this morning, my mind retraces the rabbit trails I allowed to lead me away from abiding in the light of the Word into the murky, stagnant puddles of lingering grief. And the moreDSCF3280 time I spent wandering in this swamp, the more impossible it became to extract myself.

Self-pity clutched its slimy tendrils around every thought and drug me toward the pit of depression as I counted, recounted, and added to what I didn’t have.

Trapped in a snare. Two weeks before Christmas. The tree wasn’t trimmed, the house was a mess, but the state of my heart and mind needed emergency medical care. And, thank God, the Great Physician was on-call.

Jesus tells us:

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 14:5 NAS).

I could indeed do nothing. The last few months I had lost focus on the important and allowed the urgent to shove my time with the Lord each day to those last few moments before exhaustion cemented my eyelids and brain shut for the night.

My disposition cranked to critical and I neglected to put on God’s armor each morning. I gave the enemy of my soul numerous opportunities to shoot his fiery darts into the chinks, resulting in great pain, loss of joy and my ability to focus on God’s miracle of Jesus. Immanuel. God with us.

But the good news is Jesus left a message for me and all who struggle in this battle:

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29 NAS).

DSCF3521I heard—Is Jesus enough? And I understood the question and all the associated implications.

Regardless of the loss, trouble, or pain God allows to touch our lives we must ask ourselves—Is Jesus enough?

Jesus was enough for ancient Christians forced into an arena filled with hungry lions. Jesus was enough for the Apostle Paul when he faced his executioners in Rome. And Jesus is enough for Christians in countries where living their faith means persecution or death.

Will Jesus be enough for you and me as we walk through turmoil, distress and heartache during our lifetime?

Jesus also told us:

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19 NAS).

The hours of 2013 are slipping away and 2014 will arrive a week DSCF3551from today. Will we replay the trials, pain, and grief of past years or will we quake when difficult times arise in the future? Or will you guard your heart and mind, abide in the Word and in prayer, and confirm with me, “Yes, Jesus is Enough!”

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Every day, flush after flush, Americans attempt to rid their lives of three troublesome Christian character attributes like they were dung. The chain is pulled, over and over, sending these necessary principles swirling down the drain as if they were contaminated sewage. Sound ugly? Offend your senses? Sorry. It’s truth. And it’s DSCF2349happening throughout American and within the church. Day after day after day.

We don’t fear God.

We haven’t taught our children to fear God. We’ve danced a little two-step, ever widening the theology around this instruction for years. And now our children fear nothing. Respect nothing. And believe nothing.

We have rebelled against God.

“Fear God? He’s a God of love isn’t He? Why should I fear Him? I just need to show Him a little respect—right?”

No. That’s not what scripture says. The Hebrew word “yare” means fear, terrible thing, stand in awe, reverence. This verb connotes the psychological reaction of fear. To tremble. Be afraid of Him. Be afraid to disobey Him. Be afraid of the certainty of consequences if you do.

Satan whispers deceptive lies in our ears, just like he did to Eve. He twists and turns truth, misrepresenting who God is and what He has said. And, just like Eve, we choose to believe the devil’s lies.

Proverbs says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7 NAS).

We don’t love truth, because truth is hard. And we don’t like hard stuff. We don’t like change. And we don’t want God to change us. Oh, maybe a tiny bit, but not a radical change. That’s too much.

The truth is, if He doesn’t change us, we don’t belong to Him. God is perfect love, perfect truth, and perfect righteousness. We cannot come into His presence without being cleansing by the blood and the righteous covering of Jesus Christ.

When you walked the aisle and were dunked in the baptismal waters, if there was no change in your heart, your attitude, and your lifestyle, there’s a problem. If you sleep through life, sermons, and grief, never experiencing the transforming power of God’s love in your life, there’s a problem.

At the time of salvation the Comforter, the Helper, the Spirit of God comes to live in our hearts. From that moment we are given all of the Spirit we will ever have. But does the Spirit have all of us? Scripture instructs “do not grieve the Spirit of God.”

How many reading this blog today have children and grandchildren who ignore you? Want no relationship with you? Disobey your rules? Refuse to show their love, respect, and gratitude for your provision and position in their lives? Their actions hurt and grieve your heart, don’t they?

How much more the Holy Spirit is grieved if we have no desire to allow Him to transform our minds, hearts, and souls. When we refuse to study the truths of His Word, choosing to cling to the things we watch on TV, see in the movies and read in many books, things we know offend our righteous God and offend His Spirit—what does this say about our fear of Him and love for Him?

Earth is a training ground. Training for eternal life with God, under the rule and reign of Jesus Christ, in a place of perfect righteousness. If we’re not happy to be with Him now, why do you think we’d be happy with Him, in His kingdom? What have you learned during your journey on earth that will equip you for eternity? What are your life patterns training you for? Do you love Jesus more with each passing day?

Revelation 21: 8 tells us “cowards, unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. These will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

God is not our fairy-godfather, who waves His hand to make our lives perfect. No. He tells us our hearts are wicked and deceitful. But Jesus will transform us to be like “trees planted by the river of waters” that will bring forth spiritual fruit. That’s not for some time bye-and-bye in the sky. It’s right now.

We are to wake up each morning asking for courage to put to death the deeds of our flesh. We are to walk in obedience to God’s principles and precepts, in spite of the trends of our times. Our lives are to bring honor and glory to Him. We are to show others what Jesus looks like.

I have a terrible temper. I’d love to tell you the Holy Spirit waves His cosmic hand and that nasty nonsense disappears out of my heart and mind. No, I have to make the choice, each day, to put this ugliness out of my life every time it flutters and builds walls in my heart.

When I obey, the Spirit helps me. He bolsters my courage to stand against the deception that lurks in the dark corners of my heart and mind. But I have to pick up the spike and hammer it into this evil character trait, as well as all the other behaviors and attitudes I know do not honor God.

Transformation takes a lifetime, but there must be forward progress. And we can’t muscle our way to change. There must be an individual relationship with Jesus. A longing to spend time with Him. An urgency to know His word. And time learning to trust Him.

The end of this age is drawing near. God’s people are to be watchmen on America’s wall. We are to sound the alarm. And who isn’t alarmed by the swift decent of this nation into calling good—evil and evil—good? We are to battle with one hand on the Word of God and the other hand on the pulse of discipleship. Teaching, comforting, and caring for those God places in our circle of friendship. So when the attacks come the Word of God will slice between truth and lies. Are you blowing a wake-up call to all who will listen?
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The battle will be fierce in the days to come. In order to stand firm our hearts must be trained, full of courage, and being renewed and refilled with the truth of His Word, the knowledge of His love, and the power of His Spirit.

We are called to be committed soldiers of the King. Soldiers who have a healthy fear of The Sovereign God of all creation. A good God who takes care of His own people. But a righteous God who will, on a day certain, judge His enemies. Forever.

Today there’s still time to repent. Time for the Spirit to transform your life. Time to learn to fear God, love HisDSCF0983 truth, and stand with courage.

But God’s clock is ticking. The hour is late. And time is short.

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