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Are We Selling God Short?

To say my spirit is grieved these days is an understatement, given all the hate, discord, fighting, and arguing in our world. I think most of us will agree that the division we’re seeing in the U.S. has mostly surrounded political issues, and – if you’re like me and have lived several decades – seems to have grown exponentially over just the last few years. I have personally noticed that even in the last twenty years people have become simultaneously more open in their own opinions and less tolerant of others opinions/beliefs. Sometimes that lack of tolerance comes out as absolutely hateful and condemning. To me, it just seems like during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s people seemed to have retained a measure of respect for others and their wellbeing as well as some basic manners to keep peace in social interactions. My husband recalls that both his dad and his grandfather were state political party chairman, and yet they were able to communicate their beliefs without degrading others. Frankly, I’m not sure where we got the idea that people need to hear our opinions at all. I suppose it has a lot to do with the Internet and the perceived anonymity that it brings, but that’s a topic for later on. The point is that right now hateful political partisanship is rampant in our country, and seeing it both saddens and embarrasses me.

As a follower of Christ, I have to wonder how this came about. How in the world did politics so infiltrate our churches that now some Christians hold it above everything, including the Truth of what God is saying? I mean, thirty years ago, if you had said that in the future there would be a growing discontent over certain concrete biblical doctrines in the church, I might have said, “Well, that makes some sense.” But, instead, its politics mostly divorced from doctrine. People have actually tied their “religion” to a political party, such that anyone not of that party is thought to be heretical – or worse. And, perhaps even more disturbing, we’ve lost touch with our own basic Christian tenets while waging this monstrously stupid “culture war.”

Let me give you an example. It’s a fundamental pillar of the Christian faith that God is in control. We might speak of this notion in terms of divine attributes, such as His omnipotence and omniscience or through his comprehensive divine providence. There is not a single thing that gets past Him and that does not conform to his overall purpose. Proverbs 16:4 says, “The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” Lamentations 3:37 states, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?” Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purpose.” He knew us before we were born and has numbered the hairs on our heads. There’s not a single thing that happens – not even the fall of a single sparrow, as it says in the Bible – that has not been designed to fulfill His plan. Think about it; every single thing that has happened so far in the world and every single thing that will happen in the future is part of God’s plan for the universe. Why, then, do we sell him short?

How do we do that, you may ask? By thinking that somehow His plan cannot be realized without our constant, vocal, and increasingly hateful attempts to push forward mere humans to eliminate sin or to create some new Christian revival. We think, quite erroneously, that things simply cannot happen without our getting involved – loudly involved – at any cost, including the cost of violating various other core biblical principles. Worse, we think we know His plan, and we violate His law in trying to force it to happen. Basically, to win, we don’t act anything like true Christians.

On our trip to Israel, prominent Old Testament Professor Knute Heim said it was a “uniquely American” notion not to trust God in these matters. He simply didn’t see the same thing happening anywhere else in the world, and he has ministries on something like four Continents. It appears to be Americans, alone, who think they need to run the show.

So, I’m bothered by the fact that we don’t seem to follow what we say we believe, which is that God is in firmly control. But I think I’m more bothered by the fact that in doing so we’re also missing God’s overall will or purpose, which is to bring people into the Kingdom. Ever since a large segment of the church aligned itself with a particular political party in the late 1970s and early 1980s, we have had a difficulty in being biblical referees in the political arena. As followers of Jesus, we are in a unique position based on our alien status to reflect and communicate what is right and wrong about society in a neutral way. Like a referee. It shouldn’t matter who does or says what; if it doesn’t line up with God’s word, we are supposed to be there to illuminate it. When that is done, people say, “Look at those Christians, they’re always on the side of right.” Instead, what I’ve seen lately is a tendency not to call out sin, but to justify it because, for the most part, calling it out would benefit that party with which we do not agree.

That’s too bad, because people in both parties are doing bad things, and by not calling those things out as we see them, we are misrepresenting our beliefs, God, and the Bible. I’ve always personally believed that the worst possible supernatural judgment will come to those who thwart people from seeking God. And we do that every day by not calling out anything that is not Biblical. Indeed, these actions make people think that we believe God is not in control. They make people think that it’s okay to demean and degrade people for sake of winning a political issue. They make people think that followers of Jesus are just massive hypocrites, who have no idea what the Bible even says.

All of this seems especially important today simply because so many in the church seem to believe that unless they “destroy” whoever is in the “other” party, the world will decay and end. They believe that personal insertion into politics at any cost is the only way to save the universe. Well, guess what? God doesn’t need you to save the universe. He’s created it, and he’s already saved it. And, moreover, it will end on God’s timing with the creation of a new heaven and earth. What people do in this life is important with eternal consequences, but that’s exactly why they need to stop and assess the costs of getting “their” way.

Now, people might think that having their chosen person in political office is the key to a religious revival. That’s apparently what Texas politician Rick Perry believed not long ago, when he told the current President that he was the “chosen one.” But let me remind you that the Bible does not end in a revival, but in tribulation. God’s choice of someone to lead any particular nation may be, in fact, designed to bring that particular end to pass.

So, practically speaking, what do we do? This question can get complicated pretty quickly when one starts talking about determinism, open theism, and middle knowledge, but I think the key is for followers of Jesus to start acting like the biblical referees they are called to be and to cease doing things at any cost. Yes, there will come a point when people will be asked to vote for a particular person for political office. So, they should vote. But they shouldn’t tear the entire house down – demeaning others, misinterpreting the Bible, spewing hatred, spreading false prophesies – trying to get that person elected. Above all, they should begin acting as though they actually believe that God is in control. How people vote may have some secular consequences, but whether they follow biblical principles in how they vote, for whom they vote, and why they vote is far more meaningful to God. His will is going to get done no matter what they do.

So, do remember, Saints. God IS in control. He has always has had a plan for this world and that plan will happen likely completely outside of our human wills and desires. For those of us fervently seeking Him, seeking His ways, and to trying to know Him better, remember also that we’ll always find provision and peace in uncertain times, so if we’re not at peace, we must press in. Prayer is the supernatural force that unlocks the heavenlies and calls the angelic into action and must be a part of our daily worship. So, when in doubt, pray. But pray knowing that His will is perfect and always gets done.

Personally, I’ve been spending more time in the Word and in quiet time asking God to show me things I need to change in me to make myself more pleasing to Him. For what it’s worth, I was instructed to spend less time watching the news, and far less time thinking about politics, the virus, or any variety of unwholesome informational sources in order to clear my spirt so I can hear and see Truth in what is happening in our world. Trust me when I say that I still have a long way to go, but the Lord quickened in me that I am accountable for how I spend my time and He has told many of us that this COVID time is to be a time of preparation for what comes next. I don’t spend every moment in the Word, but the more I read, the more I recognize how little I truly know about my Father in Heaven. That knowledge, in turn, makes me ravenous for His Word, which really is a good example of a virtuous circle. All of this has given me a tremendous amount of peace right now – in fact, I have more uplifting peace that I can remember!

My heart’s desire for you, my brothers and sisters, is for immeasurable revelation of Truth, knowledge, and wisdom as well as a personal relationship with our Lord to embrace you and your own hearts. I pray for open minds to see and discern the lies and deceptions of the enemy, and to recognize his work in dividing our nation, families, friends, and churches. I pray for that spirit of evil to leave any and all followers of Jesus so that we can grow in Truth and purity. I pray for eyes to see and ears to hear this Truth and to open ourselves for change to take place in Christians who are feeding on the “world” agenda rather than on the “Word” agenda so that they will be ready, strong, and fortified for what’s coming next. I pray for the Church to mend itself, to stand on the Truth of the Word, and to work to properly train and equip its people to bring the light back into the world. Finally, I pray that we all recognize that, despite being the creator of the universe, that God cares deeply for each of us; as stated in Matthew 18:14, that He “is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”

We all need to re-examine our actions, beliefs, and words each day. We need to see if the enemy has worked a finger into a crack in our armor or started to sow seeds of discouragement, bitterness, hatefulness, depression, hopelessness, and/or doubt. We need to ask Father to reveal this to us and, if necessary, to burn it out of our hearts so as to ready us to receive His Truth and His will. We must become more discerning of God’s will. But, most importantly, we must remember that God is in complete control and that, therefore, we should not to sell Him short

“Evangelical Christians”

I recently saw a post on Facebook about “those Evangelical Christians in Washington, DC.”  I started to reply, but I ultimately erased it. Still, the whole thing bothered me. That’s because more and more I hear this phrase – “Evangelical Christians” – used liberally on all media, and it’s never used in any kind of a good way. The more I think about it, the more I’m disappointed and distressed by the current use of both the words “Evangelical” and “Christian.” So, I want to address each term separately, but then together to indicate how I feel.

I became disillusioned with the term “Christian” many years ago as I noticed how often people would utter it with disgust. At the time, I had to admit that this particular word came with a lot of baggage. Centuries of “Christian” elitism, laws crafted by Christians dictating the acceptable religions of the day, the Crusades, Manifest Destiny, and other atrocities or otherwise immoral acts perpetrated by groups claiming to be Christians tend to cause a repulsive reaction to a word that people think sums things up. My husband grew up in a neighborhood in which his famous neighbor – a self-proclaimed Christian – used to fly flags and banners saying, “God Hates Fags.” You’ve probably heard of him, and there wasn’t an ounce of love inside of him. Yet, everything he did was done in the name of Christianity.

By the way, the term “Christian” (from Christianos – followers of Christ) appears to have been coined fairly early on as a way to designate this new group and differentiate them from other Jews. It’s first seen in the Acts, and gradually replaced what the Christians themselves preferred to be called, which was “saints,” “brethren” or “disciples.” One researcher has noted that the infrequency of the term “Christian” in the New Testament indicates its non-use then, and has surmised that because the word “Christos” and its ties to anointing meant little to outsiders, those outsiders, instead, settled on calling these people descriptors based on the word “Chrestos,” which meant virtuous, good, or moral, and seemed to be an apt description for the people who so often showed a different sort of moralistic, sanctified behavior. His theory is that as the term Chrestos caught on, often with some scorn and perhaps even as a pun, the followers of Christ felt pressured to adopt and emphasize a more accurate word to reflect who they were and who they were following. This should not take away from the fact that Christians, as a group, have been vilified, often due to the message, but just as often through their own behavior. It also means that we aren’t necessarily wedded to the word.

And the baggage continues to pile up today. I’ve seen my share of “Christians” in the public eye not appearing to live according to the words of the Bible. Indeed, we seemed to have reached a fever pitch with this stuff in the last few decades with so many televangelists falling due to their immoral, hypocritical, and often criminal behavior. At its very basic level, a “Christian” should be one who allows the Holy Spirit to tell them when they’ve done something wrong, willingly asks for forgiveness, and then makes serious amends for his or her mistakes. But there have been so many “Christians” that don’t even appear to follow the general thrust or themes of the Bible that I have discarded the name altogether. In my heart, I know that most Christians are not immoral hypocrites, but even a small percentage of people can do a great deal of damage to a label over hundreds of years. Accordingly, while I’m not ashamed of being a Christian, I tell people outwardly that I’m a “follower of Jesus” or a “follower of Christ.”

And by doing so, I’m not doing anything that Jesus might not also have done. When Jesus was with us in the flesh, he continually denounced the hypocrisy of those in the church. Dr. Stanley D. Toussaint of the Dallas Theological Seminary often said that, “The Lord’s strongest words of invective were not against murderers or thieves or sexually immoral people. His strongest words of invective were against hypocrites.” To Dr. Toussaint, hypocrisy is a sin that affects every single person today, but also a sin that is “particularly loathsome to God.” And yet, despite the clear theme (see, e.g., Matt: 23) we see so much hypocrisy today that we take it for granted. In politics, we’ve grown to expect it.

The bottom line is that lots and lots of people have used (and still use) the term “Christian” to describe themselves, and yet they act in overtly non-biblical ways. This, in turn, causes people to stop even seeking God. And stopping someone from seeking God has got to be one of the worst possible things you can do to someone on this Earth.

In addition to “Christian,” the word “Evangelical” is rapidly evolving into a term having at least the same amount of baggage. And, similarly, I find I need to distance myself from what would ordinarily be – and used to be – a great descriptive word.

According to Websters, the definition of “evangelical” is “of, relating to, or being in agreement with the Christian gospel especially as it is presented in the four Gospels.” I once visited the National Association of Evangelical’s website and, in addition to other statements of belief, saw that it said evangelicals are “serious” about the Bible. Unfortunately, I increasingly see people who claim to be evangelicals who are decidedly not serious about the Bible. In fact, and quite unfortunately for me, I consider myself to be an evangelical and so I see lots of social media posts from other so-called evangelicals. And lots of times those posts really upset me. For example, how – and, I’m really serious about this – how in the world can an evangelical post something about God one minute and then turn around and post something showing hatred, judgment, or scorn on someone the next? I actually saw someone post a picture of Jesus and something about love, followed within minutes by a post wanting to kill all “liberal democrats.”

I suppose you can see where this is going. The term “Christian” is a goner for me. It’s got too much baggage and suffers from extreme hypocrisy. I choose the term “follower of Jesus,” because at least then it’s a more direct line toward holding up my behavior to the ultimate moral model. The word “evangelical,” on the other hand, doesn’t have centuries of problems, but it has become a gigantic problem today with so-called evangelicals – people proclaiming to be serious about the Bible – showing so much hypocrisy and politicization that the term itself is almost uniformly uttered with scorn. Again, like Christian hypocrites, evangelical hypocrites do more to harm the Kingdom of God than anything else of which I can think. How do you stop a child from wondering about God and perhaps beginning a search toward finding God? The best way (likely devised by Satan himself) is to show him or her various vocal “Christians” or “Evangelicals” who simply do not follow the Bible. Show the child an “evangelical Christian” who hates people. That’ll do it. I think God hates hypocrisy so much because it keeps people from even beginning the journey that might lead to his Kingdom.

Today, we unfortunately hear the two words together: “Evangelical Christian.” Two perfectly good words – indeed, words that used to fully describe me – ruined by hypocrisy and politics. Whenever you hear them together you can hear the scorn and disgust. And, you can almost assuredly envision some child somewhere saying, “Well, whoever they are, I’m not going to be like them when I grow up.”

Of course the world hates “Christians.” Of course it hates “evangelicals.” Who wouldn’t, given some of the things I’ve seen? But being scorned for hypocrisy is a whole lot different than being scorned for righteousness. Personally, I hate the fact that I can’t even use these two words anymore. Moreover, the world doesn’t hate these labels because all Christians and evangelicals are bad. Nope, the people of the world simply do what is entirely human to do, which is to watch those who identify with the labels most vocally as they behave in a decidedly un-Biblical manner, and then brush off the whole lot. And I don’t blame them. As a one-time evangelical Christian, I’m just sorry about the whole thing.

So, what do we do? Well, in my case I tell people I’m a follower of Jesus and that I have a Biblical worldview. But I do more than that. I now go out of my way to say, “Please realize that I am nothing like those people who claim to be evangelical Christians but who demonstrate hatred, judgment and immorality.  If my introduction to people were in the form of a document, it means that I’ve added a paragraph – an aside – to try to distance myself from a group that I call “political Christians,” a group that, sadly, keeps people from God because it has pushed a world agenda ahead of God. If it weren’t so sad, it would be ironically funny – evangelical Christians, the group who would tell you (these days quite vocally and with some amount of political fervor) that they’re only trying to bring more people to Christ – are actually driving people away from Christ. More and more each day.

Still, there’s always hope for the world and even hope for the most hypocritical and politicized members of our churches. But it means taking a hard look at how far we might have moved away from God. If we hear someone talk about God, and the first thing we think about is the Supreme Court, then we should realize that we need to get back to basics. God is real. Satan is real. God hates hypocrisy. Satan will try to turn you into a hypocrite. It’s a battle for good and evil that we’re losing, and in losing we’re actually dissuading other people from seeking God. And, by the way, if people hear this warning and don’t heed  it, then they shouldn’t be surprised when they’re called to account for willingly turning people away from God for some short-term, often political but always worldly, gain.

Now, of course, hated of the followers of Christ has been foretold, and people will occasionally try to justify their unbiblical actions by claiming that the public’s scorn is just a part of the overall persecution of Christians predicted in the Bible. Even Jesus said, “Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved,” and “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.”  (Mark 13:13; Luke 6:22). But – and this is really big – Jesus did not mean, “They’ll hate you when say you follow me but act in a completely opposite, worldly manner.” No, he meant “they’ll hate you for doing exactly what I have told you to do, acting exactly as I have told you to act. And I told you to love God and love others as yourself.”

There will be some who, on their last day, will say, “But, Lord, I’ve been a Christian all of my life. In fact, I’m an Evangelical Christian.” And on that day, the words of Scripture will truly come true, and just has he said he would, Jesus will reply, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).

“I never knew you.” (Matt 7:22-23).

Seek God. Follow Christ. Read the Word. Remember the commands. Focus on love for God and others.

Your Spiritual Footprint

Some time ago, I was studying the Word and I was distressed over our climate and how we seem to be gradually destroying our environment. In particular, I was thinking about those articles that talk about reducing your carbon footprint to help out the environment. Now, I try to be a good citizen and neighbor and I’m constantly trying out more energy-efficient and earth-preserving things, like fancy light bulbs (and solar power for the house, which we have), recycling, growing food, pesticide-free gardening to help the bees, but it all seems overwhelming. I mean, after all, who am I but just one person? Do I really make a difference?

Then I heard the Lord say, “Okay, I get what you’re thinking about your carbon footprint, but what about your spiritual footprint? What are you sowing for others in our kingdom? What are you doing to spread my love and my word?”

This got me thinking hard about the term “spiritual footprint”? If our actions, in this world, create a physical “carbon footprint,” doesn’t it make sense that our actions, thoughts, behaviors in the world also create a “spiritual footprint?” More importantly, our spiritual footprint affects not only the supernatural aspect of things, it can also definitely affect how you continue to participate in the natural world. Think about it, spirituality is largely invisible and so is the supernatural world, and so, of course, what we do spiritually is going to have some effect there. But we also see the manifestations in our physical world of things we do in and for the spiritual world. In fact, there’s a huge overlap. For instance, prayer is activated in the physical world and the spiritual world at the same time when we pray out loud or silently, but then the answer to prayer, which might be immediate in the supernatural, becomes part of our natural world manifestation of the whole act. Thus, our spiritual footprint is affected in both realms.

We create our spiritual footprint by everything we do in the world, — whom we touch, whom we are kind to, how we act toward all of God’s people (saved and unsaved), how we share the pearls of wisdom given to us by God, whether we act selflessly instead of selfishly. In fact, every seemingly insignificant thing can affect your spiritual footprint. Moreover, each of those things can have enormously good or devastatingly bad consequences. By the way, watch out for the bad stuff – it’s like throwing a tiny cigarette butt out of a car window that can’t even be seen from the road, but that leads to an enormous forest fire. Every tiny, seemingly insignificant action forms at least a part of our spiritual footprint. Because these actions can be positive or negative, it’s up to us to constantly see what we’re doing in the natural world and thinking about ramifications in the spiritual world.

And sometimes it’s not the action itself, but the motivation behind it. I might give to the homeless, but if my motivation is one of glorifying myself, then I’ve messed up my spiritual footprint even though I’ve done something that the world might say or think is good.

Lately I’ve been taking an inventory to write down what I’ve done for others or when I’ve shown or talked about God to others, along with my motivations. Also, I’ve been writing down the instances when I can remember being unbecoming of a follower of Jesus. I try to do it daily, and then I ask, “Which list is bigger?” When I have things on the negative side – the list messing up my spiritual footprint – I ask the Lord to forgive me and to bless anyone on that list whom I have harmed. Then I tear it up. That’s how I remind myself of God’s forgiveness, which is a reminder of God forgetting our sins as an act of grace.

One day we’ll meet the Father and we’ll become instantly aware of the entirety of our spiritual footprints. Let’s work together to make sure they’re the kinds of footprints that reflect our belief in God and our following of Jesus Christ.

What Does Your Lake Look like?

Wow, there’s so much happening in the U.S. and the world these days it is hard not to succumb to the prevalent negative mood and attitude. But this week my Pastor talked about how we need to silence the noise. He said we need to get into a quiet place to detox from the things that are polluting our minds and hearts with the natural world view and to obscure our Christian world view. I was pleased that he reminded me that words themselves have spirits behind them that are either good or evil and that promote life or death, health or illness. Watching the words you allow into your brain is key.

So, as an exercise, think about going to a crystal-clear lake in which you want to take a swim. You can see to the bottom and the water is blue and clear and smells fresh. This embodies an environment of kind, loving, healthy words circulating in our atmosphere. Then think about going to a lake that is polluted, putrid smelling, filthy, with scum floating on the top and dead fish washing up on the shoreline. This is a lake of hatred, unhealthy words. Is this the kind of lake in which you want to swim? Well, if you surround yourself with hate, ugly talk, negative thoughts, misinformation, and an overall lack of love, you may as well be swimming in exactly this sort of scum.

I don’t know about you, but I want the clear, beautiful, fresh smelling lake as my environment, and so I’m making a constant choice to keep my lake (home/environment) clean and clear. I admit, though, that sometimes I have to take a net out and scoop out some leaves or the occasional dead fish, but overall, I want to keep my environment welcoming and loving. I want the kind of environment that glorifies my Lord and makes Him smile and proud of me as His child.

Take a look at your individual lake – the environment in which you swim each day. Close your eyes and try to notice how you feel when you envision your lake. Do you feel anger? Do you have vengeful, ugly thoughts or feelings about a person or topic? Do you feel depressed and hopeless? If yes, your lake might need a good scrubbing.

If so, take a break from social media and the news and pick up your Bible. Look up the words “blessing” or “hope” in the back and read the scriptures it references. Then remember who you are (a child of God, a saint) and how much our Lord loves you. I pray that all of us who follow Christ as our example will have clear, clean lakes. If enough of us do, then others will want to be around us and use us as an example. Together, we can make a real difference.

You already know that love conquers everything. As Philippians 4:8, encourages us, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” That passage is especially relevant today, and if you think about and focus on those more positive things, your lake in life – the place where you do all your spiritual swimming – will be a clear one.

What’s Up? Week of 6/9/2020

During this time of being “quarantined,” I have absolutely LOVED having extra time not commuting to work and, instead, using that time to really press into our Lord, to ask Him to show me His ways and revelations in his word and the supernatural Kingdom. I’ve found tons of resources, by the way – from YouTube videos, to scholarly writings, to television and radio shows – that you can also find to help you with your own walk.

I personally see this time in my life not as a burden or restriction for me; instead, I see it as a way to work with our Lord to cleanse and heal my soul, open my spiritual eyes/ears and senses to see/understand what is really going on in the natural and supernatural realms. Between you and me, I’ve actually been praying that my office will allow me to keep working at home for a while longer. I counted it up, and I have a total of three extra hours each day by not driving to and from work. That’s three hours to spend working on the most important relationship in my life (don’t worry, Tim knows he’s second banana in this sense, and he’s working on his relationship with God, too!).

Tim and I tend to go different directions with our time – he spends a lot of time reading about philosophy of religion and I’m more attuned to the softer, “walking in the spirit” types of teachings. But it’s always amazing how often those paths cross. The other day, I found out he was deep into the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and I was, too! He was dutifully reconciling some seemingly contradictory statements from R.C. Sproul and William Lane Craig had (he managed to do it) and I was doing exercises designed to learn about the supernatural action/interaction of the Holy Spirit in our lives and how to get to know Him and free Him to work more and reveal more to us.

When I wrote my book, I said something like, “God will talk to you in the way that you listen.” I might have even used the example of a billboard, saying that if you’re likely to seek messages from God by looking at billboards, don’t be surprised when one of His messages pops up on a billboard. If you’re thinking about how better to hear from God, remember that He’s already trying to speak to you in the ways in which you are comfortable. If that’s through videos, then watch more videos. If it’s through reading scripture, then do more reading. But my point is that I encourage you to try to find the same silver lining to this quarantine that I have found. If you suddenly have more time due to skipping other odds and ends, like driving, consider pressing in and seeing what all God would like to say to you today.

Keep pressing in, Saints!

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