Saturday 29 August 2020

All or Nothing

God would rather us be totally indifferent towards Him than half-hearted for Him. We are either in or out, hot or cold, against Him or for Him. There is no middle ground with God.

Last week one of our friends told us about a rebuke he had had from the Lord. He said that when he was working and juggling his time between home and work, he would seek God, he would hear from Him and rely on Him for everything, but since he had retired, he had become more comfortable, enjoying the lockdown, enjoying being home with his wife and had almost got into a kind of ‘holiday mode’. He said he was still reading the word, studying it with his wife and praying, but not with the same vigour as before. He said God reminded Him of the scripture in Revelation 3:15 in the letter to the church in Laodicea which says:  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!

This got me thinking about something that came to me some years back, about how we can treat Jesus as just a good neighbour. With a good neighbour, you know he is there when you need him. You are aware of his presence in the house next door but you won’t disturb him unless it’s absolutely necessary. When he comes and knocks the door and we are in the middle of something we deem important, we will maybe have a short polite chat and try not to look impolite enough to show that we want to get back to what we were doing, before he turned up. Sometimes we may let him in, we may give him a cup of tea and a cake, we may have a chat with him, even a heart to heart, telling him our innermost fears, but then he goes home again until the next time. Jesus doesn’t want us to treat Him like that.

We live in a time when many people think they are Christians when they just give the Lord a few hours a week. They think they can do what they want for the rest of the week. However, when Jesus tells us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” He did not mean it as a suggestion–but a command. As someone has aptly put it, "Christ must be Lord of all or He is not Lord at all." In Matthew 6:24 Jesus said: "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" 

W.J Sparrow-Simpson puts it like this in the hymn:

All for Jesus, all for Jesus,

all our talents and our powers,

all our thoughts and words and actions,

all our passing days and hours.

Going back to the letter to Laodicea in Revelation 3:16 it says: So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. I wish you were either one or the other!” 

God would rather us be totally indifferent towards Him than half-hearted for Him. We are either in or out, hot or cold, against Him or for Him. There is no middle ground with God.

We might think that half-hearted devotion is better than no devotion at all, but it isn’t. If we’re cold we are cold, if we are hot, we are hot, but, if we are lukewarm, we think we are doing enough but we are not. If we are lukewarm, we can be a bad witness. If we are cold, we are not claiming to be a Christian. We may not be living a life pleasing to God but at least we are not leading someone astray by claiming to follow Christ. But if we are lukewarm, we are probably living a lifestyle that doesn’t reflect that. We can’t sit on the fence. It is distasteful to the Lord. Christianity isn’t for bargain hunters. It is not for people who want all the blessings of heaven, but with the least amount of sacrifice possible.  It’s for people who are willing to surrender all. 

Surrender is an act of will. Oswald Chambers says we must deliberately commit our will to Jesus Christ.  He says it is a transaction of the will, not of emotion. We have to choose whom we will serve. It is all or nothing with Jesus. He demands to be our number one priority. When we consider what He did for us on the cross, doesn’t He deserve to be first in our lives? Romans 8:32 says: Since He did not spare even his own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else? Imagine you gave away to a friend an item you found valuable and immensely useful and then found out they only used it on the odd occasion. How disappointed you would be. How disappointed God must be when we are not using what He gives us to its full potential.

Matthew 10:38-39 says: Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

At the end of the same passage in the letter to Laodicea, Revelation 3 20-22 says: Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

This passage has often been used as to depict Jesus knocking on the heart of non- believers and asking to come in, but in the bible, it is at the end of a passage where the church of Laodicea is being told it is neither hot nor cold. He is knocking on the door of those who are lukewarm and saying, ‘Let me in and I will eat with you’ He wants to be in our hearts at all times not just some of the time. Obedience to God is the only way to experience true blessing. Let us heed the rebuke that the Lord gave our friend, as he has done, to open the door and let our Lord in, to eat with us, for ever.

Author: Thelma Cameron 

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday 23 August 2020

If we want the Victory, there's only One WAY.

There is only one church. God's. If He hasn't built it then He's probably not in it. It doesn't matter how big or small the church congregation is, if God hasn't built it then it's mans, not His.

In the hymn 'Abide with me' the third verse says:

I need Thy presence
Every passing hour.
What but Thy grace
Can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like Thyself,
My guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine,
Lord, abide with me.

The first line is so true. For us to survive this world and to be victorious we need His presence. However, the song talks about God abiding with us, but what about us abiding with God? I believe that as we begin to abide with God, we will start to understand more, that He was first abiding with us.

Here are a few thoughts of how we can draw near to Him in this way. (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

* To take time out in our day to sit quietly with the Father and enjoy His wrap around presence.
(Psalm 6:1-7 May he be enthroned in God's presence for ever; appoint Your love and faithfulness to protect him.)

* To stay focused on and surrender your heart to Jesus and then to let Him move you into His domain and will for your life, and to walk wherever He may take you.
(Job 22:21-22 'Submit to God and be at peace with Him; in this way prosperity will come to you. 22 Accept instruction from His mouth and lay up His words in your heart.)

* To remain in His presence, sit and relax in His peace to breathe in the freshness of the Holy Spirit and breathe out the stress, anxiety and all that is self and to let the Holy Spirit wash over you.
(Titus 3:4-6 But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, 5 He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour)

(John 7:37-38 Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.')

* To submerge yourself in His Word, to embrace the truth of the gospel as a light to guide you through this life and be a witness for Him and a light to others. 
(Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man  who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.)

* To understand that Almighty God has you in the palm of His hand and will not let you go, you are precious to Him and you can trust Him because He has written the story of your life, and it's the best adventure you could ever wish to be on.
(Jeremiah 29:11-12 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.'

God is looking for a people who are surrendered to Him, who's hearts are given completely to Him, to mould and transform into what He wants so He can build His church in to a mighty force of truth and love in this dark world.

Are we that people? or are we just wanting to build our own churches and fool people into thinking we have all the answers because we've been to bible college or have been Christians for many years, so know what we're talking about. We can even act all super religious and organise meeting after meeting and keep ourselves busy in God's work.  But let me ask, 'is it God's work or ours? is it God's will or ours'? We can have as many churches together meetings and events as we like, but all that is just a smoke screen for our inability to surrender to Him and rest in Him so we can discover His will for us, and then do it. 

There is only one church. God's. If He hasn't built it then He's probably not in it. It doesn't matter how big or small the church congregation is, if God hasn't built it then it's mans, not His. The church that He builds will know Him and listen to Him they will have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. 

It's my belief that we're in the last of the last days and we need to stop building our own empires and let God build His church.
Psalm 91:1 says 'Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty'.

John 15:7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

We need God's grace and His presence in our lives every singe hour of every single day.

'I need Thy presence
Every passing hour.
What but Thy grace
Can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like Thyself,
My guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine,
Lord, abide with me'.

Victory in this life, is in Christ alone.

May you know God's blessing and peace as you draw nearer to Him each day.

Author: Anonymous 

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday 16 August 2020

Faith to Feelings

Jesus understands.  He overcame His fear by confessing and submitting the feelings to His Father and deciding that His only desire was to fulfil the plan God had for Him and to trust God for the rest.

From Fear to Trust 

Recently in the blogs, we have had lots of different insights into what the Lord has been saying to his people.  The wonder is everyone has been different, everyone unique and everyone very relevant both to the person who wrote it and, by the revelation of the Spirit, very relevant to the church.  I hope you don’t mind but I would like to pass on what the Lord has recently been speaking to me about, in the hope it also blesses someone else. 

I was having my quiet time with the Lord this morning and currently I`m reading through the book of Mark.  Mark is not one of the Gospels I read a lot because it feels often a bit factual for me, I prefer John because he unlocks a lot of the character of Jesus and gives insights into Jesus personality and love that we don’t often get from the other gospels.  So I was amazed when I read the account of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane just before he was arrested. 

(Mark 14:32-34 NLT) They went to the Olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said “sit here while I go and pray” He took Peter, James and John with him and he became deeply troubled and distressed.  He told them “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.  Stay here and keep watch with me”.

The Passion Version puts it like this:  He told them “sit here while I pray a while” He took Peter, James and John with him.  An intense feeling of great horror plunged his soul into deep sorrow and agony.  My heart is overwhelmed with anguish and crushed with grief.  It feels as though I`m dying.  Stay here and keep watch with me.  

It struck me that here we have all the evidence we ever needed that Jesus really does know how we feel and how to come alongside those who may be experiencing all kinds of feelings, anxiety, fear and pain. The Lord made me very aware of that recently, but I did not have a scripture to confirm what the Lord was showing me until today.  But could I start by going back to when I was much younger 

For many years one of my favourite verses of the Bible has been 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV) For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love and of a sound mind   I've quoted it in the King James Version because that was the version of the Bible I read when I was 18, during the time I had a nervous breakdown.  It meant so much to me then, because it mentions that God does not give us the spirit of fear (and I was feeling very fearful) but he gives us love, power and a sound mind.  When your having a breakdown the one thing you don’t think you have is a sound mind, because that is the battlefield and that is what feels unstable, so for the Lord to say I had a sound mind because of his spirit in me was revolutionary. As for the fear; I embraced that, because the Lord does not give us the spirit of fear then that was from the enemy and I could overcome it in Jesus name.  Which I did but it took me 2 years of daily trusting the Lord for his grace. I was feeling fearful and at times I found that fear overwhelming and extremely debilitating.  However, praise God I eventually by His power came through and the blessing was I was able to understand others who were going through similar times.

Fast forward to the year 2000 and something else happened in my life that again gave the spirit of fear opportunity to take hold, this time I battled with the crippling feelings of fear for 12 months, by now I had children and couldn’t just crumble and take to my bed so to speak I had to continue looking after them, being Mommy, being a Worship leaders wife, being active in church and school settings while being crippled inside by a horrible sense of fear of everything.  I knew the scriptures and lived on the promises every day knowing that God could deliver me, and of course he did bless Him, but it lasted a year this time.  However, I now realised that I could not keep falling foul of fear, the debilitating fear that robs you of all joy and often the ability to sleep, act normally and look after those around you and function in the world.

So I started to push the fear away.  Every time I had any bad news I would take the news in but bury the fear.  This may sound like a good strategy but eventually you end up not allowing yourself to think or feel anything too much, especially not fear.  You just carry on burying the fear because you are fearful of the effect fear has on you.  And no one knows, except God because He knows everything.

The Lord chose a recent incident to finally get me to face this.  Something happened that put me back into that awful place where I was fearful, guilty and feeling all the destructive feelings anxiety can bring that overwhelm you sometimes.  I was crying out to the Lord and looking at all the feelings stacking up and experiencing that drowning feeling fear brings, when early on Sunday morning during my quiet time the Lord dealt with it. 

He turned me to a daily reading book I have and asked me to read it.  This was the reading for the day:

''Bring Me all your feelings, even the ones you wish you didn`t have.  Fear and anxiety still plague you. Blazing missiles of fear fly at you day and night, these attacks from the evil one come at you relentlessly.  Use your shield of faith to extinguish those flaming arrows. Affirm your trust in me regardless of how you feel.  If you persist your feeling will eventually fall in line with your faith.'' 

But even as this was blessing me the killer line came next,

“Do not hide from your fear or pretend it isn`t there.  Anxiety that you hide in the recesses of you heart will give birth to `fear of fear`; a monstrous mutation.  Bring your anxieties out into the Light of My presence where we can deal with them together.

I know it will not be significant to lots of people but for me it was as if God was standing in the room and talking directly to me.  We then spent sometime talking over how I was feeling and I started to practice not being afraid to feel the feelings and to feel fear, but instead handing them over to Him and bringing them into the light of His goodness and grace.

I knew it was something so real to me that it changed everything.  But it was from a little book and I had no scriptural reference etc.

Then this morning I read those verses from Mark, and realised that Jesus knew all about being overwhelmed by feelings''My heart is overwhelmed with anguish and crushed with grief it feels as though I`m dying.''  Jesus understands.  He overcame His fear by confessing and submitting the feelings to His Father and deciding that His only desire was to fulfil the plan God had for Him and to trust God for the rest. Jesus knows and understands the journey from fear to trust. 

So when we are going through similar things and try to deal with them on our own, cover them up, or pretend they are not happening, instead of drowning under the experience of it all Jesus says you can come to Me because I`ve been there and I know the way through this and the way out of it, the way that brings true freedom.

The writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 4:14 (NLT) `So then since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.  This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses for he faced all the same testing’s we do yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy and we will find grace to help us when we need it most`

God is amazing, his plan and purpose for us is to perfect us (to bring us to maturity) we can`t attain maturity if we hide things away and duck issues in our lives.  During this time of lock down I think a lot of us have had to face issues and circumstances we have never had to face before, often in various places of isolation, either from family, from pastors, from church family but none of us has had to face them without the Lord.  I think He is teaching us to be reliant on Him for all our spiritual needs and growth and to stop hiding our fears etc.  He wants us to be completely reliant on Him because only then when all else is removed our reliance on Him can never be taken from us.  Remember He has travelled the path of being overwhelmed but because of His relationship with the Father He was never overwhelmed, we can trust Him to see us through because He has walked the path and knows the way.

Author: Jan Pearson 

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday 9 August 2020

Give me wisdom Lord!

Where there is no fear of the Lord, there can never be any true wisdom. It’s just not possible.

Wisdom is not simply knowledge or understanding or even discernment. Wisdom goes much deeper than these. For example, you can know how to use a computer without understanding how it works. Even if you understand the workings of a computer you need discernment to know what the best uses for it are. Wisdom is even deeper. For wisdom you need all of the above along with insight and good moral judgement to know how to use it in the best and most moral way and to act accordingly so that choices are beneficial and productive.

Godly wisdom goes further still. 
John Piper says: ‘Godly wisdom is knowing the greatest goal in any situation and the best way to achieve it’
Bill Gothard says: ‘Wisdom is seeing life from God’s point of view. It is getting an inside view of how things really are.’
When God asked Solomon what he wanted Him to do for him, Solomon asked for wisdom. God was pleased with this request. He gave him wisdom and so much more
1 Kings 3:12-13
……Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honour.”

Proverbs has many references to wisdom.
Proverbs 4:7 
‘Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom’
Proverbs 1:20-22 
‘Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?’
To me the one that stands out is this;
Proverbs 9:10
‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.’
That’s where wisdom begins. Where there is no fear of the Lord, there can never be any true wisdom. It’s just not possible.
In James 3:14-16 he says that earthly wisdom is no good at all but then in verses 17-18 he says;
‘But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.’

He breaks down the definition of wisdom into seven qualities.

1. Godly wisdom is pure. Matthew 5:8 says that the pure in heart are blessed and they will see God. If we have a heart that is pure, we will see God! If we don’t have a heart that is pure, we will see all sorts of things that are not of God.

2. Godly wisdom is peace loving. If we have God’s wisdom, we will love peace and have hearts full of healing and reconciliation. Proverbs 14:30 says: ‘A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.’ I have known a few Christians over the years, who exude peace as soon as they walk into a room and make you want to give a sigh of relief and relax when you are with them. I want to be like that. Let us get rid of any bitterness, malice or animosity and live with peace in our hearts.

3. Godly wisdom is considerate. Apparently, the Greek word for this has the meanings of gentleness, non- aggressive or non-argumentative as well as considerate all in one word.  The Lord constantly shows us consideration that we don’t deserve. How much more should we?

4. Godly wisdom is submissive. Earthly wisdom often tends to be arrogant but Godly wisdom listens to the arguments of others in a calm way. Godly wisdom wants to learn from others, learn the truth and shows kindness to people who may think differently.

5. Godly wisdom is full of mercy and good fruit. Often worldly wisdom wants vengeance but Godly wisdom is full of mercy followed by action. James has put these two qualities together as one because there is no point having mercy without that turning into acts of kindness and compassion.

6. Godly wisdom is impartial. It appears that the Greek word for this means holding firm to the same standard, not showing prejudice or favouritism. Godly wisdom does not change its stance on the truth for different audiences.

7. Godly wisdom is sincere. Godly wisdom is not hypocritical. With Godly wisdom, what you see is what you get. 
So how do we get this wisdom? Well, like Solomon, if we eagerly desire wisdom all we have to do is ask. The bible tells us that wisdom is a divine gift that is granted by God whenever a believer asks him. This is clear in James.
James 1:5 says, ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.’

Some people may ask why wisdom is so necessary.  Its importance is obvious, which is indicated by the numerous references to it in the bible. Well at this present time, I would say it has never been more important. We are facing unprecedented decisions and uncertainties in the present and for the future and the only way to get them right, is to ask for God’s wisdom to make the choices that are pleasing to Him and to glorify His name.

Let’s get asking!!

Author: Thelma Cameron 

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday 2 August 2020

Doing the Right Thing

For a few minutes, a battle raged in our hearts and minds between what was right in God’s eyes and what was right in our eyes.

Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Luke 6:3

The discovery…..
A few years ago, my late husband and I purchased a property as a ‘doer upper’.  It was in quite a state, to say the least, and had a large overgrown garden that hadn’t been touched for years.

We hired a lawn mower to cut the grass (which took numerous cuts over a couple of days) and much to our surprise, we discovered the outline of a garden that had once been loved before it became wild and overgrown.  Straight away, we fell in love with this neglected garden but didn’t know where to begin in restoring it.  Renovating the house was a much bigger priority at the time and money was tight!
The dream…..
One day, whilst taking a break from house renovating, we visited a garden centre and one of the highlights of these random visits was to enjoy a treat of tea and cake (mmm delicious!) and to get inspiration of what a nice garden could look like for us in the future when money was no object.

I found a nice table in the restaurant area to sit at whilst my late husband went to order tea and cake.  As I looked around, my eyes spotted a sign on the wall that seemed to jump out at me, ‘If you spend £100 on shrubs or plants we will design your garden free of charge’.  Suddenly, I became all excited at the prospect of having my garden designed by professionals.  My imagination went into overload as I dreamt of what my garden could become.  The only problem was that money was tight and we didn’t have £100 to spare at the time.

Scrimping and saving….
As I couldn’t get that sign out of my head (and the joy it had brought me), I decided to put some money away secretly.  Any spare housekeeping or birthday money was carefully stashed away towards my potential dream garden design.  Amazingly, by the end of 12-months I’d saved £250.00.

One Thursday evening, after we’d had dinner, I told my husband that I’d got a lovely surprise for him.  I explained about the sign I’d read in the garden centre and how I’d secretly  worked hard to save the money towards the planting to enable our garden to be designed exclusively for us, plus a bit extra on the side.  I must point out that the garden centre were not going to be responsible for doing the actual work involved, that would be up to us, but at least they’d be able to design a wonderful garden and provide information on which plants and shrubs would work best together, as at that time we didn’t have a clue about gardening.  I saw my husband’s face light up at my news and we were both very excited.

The dilemma….
However, within 20-minutes of sharing my good news with my late husband, I heard the doorbell ring and wondered who it could possibly be?  To my surprise, it was a relative, who I don’t actually get on with and who I hadn’t seen for a good while.  He was desperate and asked if we could help him out with £250 that night and that he’d repay us in the future.  There was no doubt he was in some sort of trouble as he was very anxious and agitated.  We didn’t ask what sort of trouble he was in, it would have been too humiliating for him.  Note: This person knew nothing about the money I’d saved, it was just a strange coincidence that he turned up. 

As practising Christians what were we to do?  We didn’t have time to consider our options as we were put on the spot?  It was awkward to say the least!  The Bible says, don’t turn anyone away who asks anything of you.  For a few minutes, a battle raged in our hearts and minds between what was right in God’s eyes and what was right in our eyes.  Why had this person turned up unexpectedly wanting the exact money I’d scrimped to save?  Why hadn’t he come the following week when I’d have spent the money and could have honestly said we couldn’t help?  If we gave him the money, he’d probably never pay us back, all these thoughts were going through my head vs what the Bible said we should do. 

The decision….
Although it was tough, we decided to obey the Bible and do the right thing by helping this person out in their desperation.  I had mixed emotions after he’d gone, one half of me knew I’d done the right thing, but the other half of me was gutted as my dream garden now lay in tatters or did it?

What happened next?....
After I’d got over the initial disappointment, something strange happened.  An unexplained joy filled my heart because I knew we’d done the right thing and been obedient to God’s word.

Without trying, my eyes and mind were flooded with garden ideas that I’d never thought of before.  I’m no artist, but I roughly put my ideas down on paper and designed a patio, with a garden wall and beautiful arch (nothing was to scale as that would have been too complicated).  I took my husband outside to describe the ideas that had come to me, showing him my rough sketch, and he was able to interpret it. I then got an unexpected bonus from work and we were able to buy all the materials needed at reduced costs.  Someone from another church lent us their trailer to take rubbish to the tip and fetch slabs, and we worked together to bring my ideas to life.  I then found a discount plant shop and started to buy shrubs and plants bit by bit that looked like they’d work together, and remarkably, they did.  When the garden was finished it looked absolutely amazing, and was a great selling point of the house when we eventually moved.  It also cost a lot less than we ever imagined.

Lesson learnt…
I learnt from this that God can make dreams come true if we simply obey his Word and do what is right.  I found unexpectedly, that I didn’t need someone to design my garden as I already had the creative skills within me to design something beautiful and unique.

Many years later, the person we helped did eventually pay us back, strangely at a time when we were in desperate need ourselves.

Author: Barbara Wilson 

May God bless and enrich your life

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