Faith

young woman shaking hands with boss after business presentation

Windows of Opportunity

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On rare occasions 😉, my wife and I have had this argument while traveling: “Turn here!” she says. “It’s the wrong exit,” I say. “No! Turn!” she says. They miss the turn, and then I dejectedly say, “I’ll turn around.” “No, you won’t!” she says. “I’ll turn.”, I say. “It’s too late!” she says. This isn’t fun. We read about the Israelites making the same kind of mistake:

But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God… Then you replied, “We have sinned against the Lord. We will go up… But the Lord said to me, “Tell them, ‘Do not go up and fight, because I will not be with you. You will be defeated by your enemies.'” – Deuteronomy 1:26, 41-42

Obedience has a lot to do with timing. We have “windows of opportunity” to act on God’s direction. Acting too soon or late has the same effect; you will not be blessed.

Missing Your Window of Opportunity

We usually miss these windows because of fear or lack of faith. Like the Israelites, we want to send spies ahead of us to “find out” what we’re getting into. Then, when we learn what we’re facing, we lose heart. It’s too big for us to handle. Well, yes, silly rabbit, that’s the point. It’s a God-sized task. It’s God’s work, not yours.

Now, many times, God will have us wait an extraordinarily long time before He provides us with a window of opportunity. The birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah (Abram and Sarai) is a good example. These times often are for the development of our character. God didn’t call Moses until he was eighty years old. Moses didn’t spend eighty years practicing to lead a nation. He spent those years learning how to lead and care for sheep1. Then, when the opportunity opened, Moses was ready for his call! Even then, Moses wasn’t quite prepared, but he was obedient.

You may be in a holding pattern, waiting for God to open a window of opportunity. Don’t just “wait.” Practice obedience. That’s the key to hearing and acting in God’s “window of opportunity.”

Photo by Casey Callahan on Unsplash

three crosses

Three

I’ve just returned from a trip to Germany to visit my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughters. It was a wonderful visit, and the travel went well, all but the last ten seconds!

Every connection was stress-free. My seats were in perfect locations; well, I didn’t get business of 1st-class seats. I flew for free, using the last of my frequent-flyer miles. I could not have hoped for a better trip, except for those last ten seconds.

I was sitting on a bench at “Arrivals” when I spotted my wife; actually, I spotted her car and then her. As she searched for a place to stop and let me get in, I hurried to the car. That’s when it happened. I fell. Yet again, I fell hard on the pavement, but I have good news! Three men ran to where I was, working together to get me back on my feet. What an incredible blessing! Instead of me laying there like a turtle on its back, I was swept up to my feet and helped into my car. Wow! I love stories with surprising endings, so now I have one! It was nothing less than extraordinary.

In the car, as we pulled away, this verse ran through my mind:

And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

1, 2, 3

In the Hebrew language, the meanings of one, two, and three are:

One: Oneness, Unity, Primacy, First, Beginning. Single and not plural, not subject to multiplicity or division. (1×1=1) One remains one, it does not change. God is One. (Dt. 6:4) There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, one Father. (Eph. 4:4–6)

Two: Divide, difference, oppose, judge, discern, witness, conflict, blessing, abundance, building, couple, dying to self. It is also related to the Hebrew word shanah, meaning change or repeat. Context determines meaning (as with all numbers). Ideally, two should mirror one, as in the “two shall become one (echad) flesh.” Thus, making a true “pair” that works together like one’s ears, eyes, nostrils, hands, and feet.

There are two great commandments (love God/love neighbor), two houses of Israel, two sticks, two sisters, two olive branches, two silver trumpets, two leavened loaves on Shavuot, two cherubim guard Ark of the Covenant and the entrance to Eden, two good spies (Joshua and Caleb), and two witnesses mentioned in the Bible.

Three: Seeds, trees, fruit. Revelation, resurrection, gathering balance, equilibrium, pattern, counsel, witness, and strength. New life, sprouting, resurrection, fruitfulness, words of life (counsel), unity, and the foundation of the Temple/House are all signified by the number three. Three brings harmony and unity to opposites like one and two. Three creates a solid or a foundation and makes the first geometric shape (triangle). The sequence of three makes a chain of continuity: three patriarchs, three pilgrimage festivals, third day, three primary manifestations of the Godhead, three-ply cord, three witnesses, three kings of united Israel, three primary missionary journeys of Shaul (Paul), three woes of judgment (Book of Revelation). In tradition, Moses ascended and descended Mount Sinai three times.

GRACE in TORAH

Threes

As we just read, three or triplets in God’s Word are often used to communicate intensity, completeness, or something good. Jesus told Peter that the rooster would crow after he had denied Jesus three times (Luke 22:34) and Jesus later restored Peter by asking him three questions (John 21:15–25) When looked at as a whole experience, we see that Jesus knows we will fail and when we will do it. Afterward, He doesn’t abandon us but offers to restore us completely.

More Threes

Jesus declared in the book of John, chapter two, that if the temple were destroyed, He would raise it again in three days (John 2:18–20). He was referring to His death, burial, and resurrection, though the Jews thought He was speaking of the temple in Jerusalem.

A few more threes are when “Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish.” (Matthew 12:40). The three patriarchs of the Jewish people are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 22:32). At the birth of Jesus, the Magi presented to Jesus three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2). And the ultimate three is the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19–20)

Good News

Since three stands for completeness, then 27, or 33 (3 cubed), is even more complete. So, it should not surprise us that there are twenty-seven books in the New Testament. Let’s all take a moment and marvel at God and His Word. Do God’s will and enjoy Him!

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Picture of Jesus with crowd of people.

Yes, I’m a Believer

With the continuing pressure to change the English language to diminish any sense of guilt, I began to think about how believing is interpreted in today’s culture. What does “believe” mean in today’s culture? For centuries, believing was a profound message for Christians.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

John 1:12

No Simple Matter

This keystone verse ties us to the God of all creation. Those “who believed in his name.” That name is Jesus. The Greek for “believe” is pisteuousin which means: Credit; by implication, to entrust.

Believing is no simple matter. It is an overt action by us to entrust Jesus with our past, present, and future. Believing means faith, trust, confidence, commitment, and betrothal. For, as believers in Jesus Christ of Nazareth, our Belief is, through His Church, our betrothal to Him. What it is not is a feeling.

So, when we, as born-again believers, use the word “believe,” we mean it as Paul wrote it:

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9

The Greatest Love

Belief is our confident commitment to the one, true, unchanging God (the Father) and His eternal Son, Christ Jesus. To believe is not a transient, emotional response, fanned into flames by misled peers who want to cover their guilt, assuage their fears, and pull people down who are not anchored to the Rock of our Salvation.

As we are pummeled and punished for our use of “the king’s English,” let’s not become confused by what “believe” means. To believe in the Son of God is the greatest love we can show to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We Know

Known what you believe and believe what you know. Your soul longs for Belief in Jesus, and your eternity counts on it.

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Rock climbers

Do We or Don’t We?

Some will look out at the ocean
But never set foot past the shore
While others set sail and never look back
And go where no man’s gone before

Anything’s possible if you have faith
Just keep your head up and stay in the race
Others before have known this is true
And now it’s time for you
To know anything’s possible, too

Gary Chapman, youtube.com

I love that song. It taps into a struggle we often go through in life; do we or don’t we? Sometimes we overthink a thing we know God wants us to do. At other times, we pray too little, seek no counsel, and throw around theologically inaccurate memes to whip up our human confidence while giving little attention to God’s will and our lack of effort to know it. Humans are a strange creation.

Anything is possible, but not all things are God’s will. Right now, I’m in my deer-in-the-headlights pose. It happens to me when God puts something in my hands to do, but I lack any natural ability to do it. Though I am in one of those problems right now, I keep reminding myself what the apostle Paul wrote:

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:8–10

The man Gideon had this same problem. Gideon was the poster child for weakness. Yet, God made him into a military leader for a battle to deliver the Israelites from the oppression of a neighboring country. Here is God’s first message to Gideon:

Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!’

Judges 6–8

God doesn’t see us the way we are. Rather, God sees us as how we will be when He steps into our story. We do not exist because of some mistake, some carnal act in the backseat of a car, or some foolishness. No, you and I exist for a divine reason. We exist to do some specific works that God planned before His Creation. God made a plan, and He is working His plan, and now it is your turn and mine. It’s time for us to do the things God created us to do.

You and I are part of God’s will that He planned for you before He created anything[1]. He isn’t going to let anyone or anything spoil His plan.

While writing this post, my heart has been changing. I have been frozen by what Christ Jesus has given me to do. But now, not so much. Writing this post has reminded my worried mind that I’ve been here before. Just as David said, “Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.[2]” I pray the Holy Spirit also reminds you.

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[1]: Ephesians 2:10 NIV – For we are God’s handiwork, created – Bible Gateway.
[2]: 1 Samuel 17:34–36 ESV – And David said unto Saul, Thy servant – Bible Gateway.

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What Do You See?

I typically start my day in our den. It’s a type of sanctuary for me in the mornings. As I began to walk into the room this morning, I noticed that the pin in one of the door hinges had begun working its way out of the hinge knuckles. I made a mental note to get a hammer and tamp the pin back into place, which is why I’m writing this account here. Both our Lord and my wife know that I’ll forget all about this bit of maintenance if I don’t write it down!

Wired to Notice

I’m wired to notice things that need maintenance. I nearly always look at the tread on our tires as I walk to get in our cars. I look at our roof when we’re pulling into our driveway. When I log in each morning, I check how much free disk space I have on my laptop’s drive. I see these things because I look for them. But if you ask me how much milk we still have or what we received in our mail, I’ll give you a blank stare. I don’t look for these things, so I don’t “see” them.

These thoughts today led me to what the apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:11 NLT where he quoted from Ps 34:12–16:

Turn away from evil and do good.
   Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

Searching Takes Effort

It’s striking that Peter wrote “search” for peace. We are encouraged by the Holy Spirit to search, to notice situations that need peace. Within the context of what Peter was writing about, this peace is with the people around us and with government officials. Peace is not like a door hinge or tire tread; it is more like searching for why your dishwasher is flooding your floor with water and fixing it. Often peace cannot be found without great effort.

God calls every believer to be a peacemaker. Jesus taught us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God1.” We may call ourselves God’s children, but if we want to be called children of God, we need to walk into trouble and use God’s wisdom, faith, and grace to transform trouble into peace. But we will never do this unless we are searching for peace. It’s a matter of sight.

Paraphrasing one of the times when Jesus healed a blind man:

Jesus asked the blind man, “Do you see anything?” The blind man said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly..‘’

Mark 8:22–25 NLT

Seeing Clearly

Searching for Godly peace is way beyond seeking inner peace through some sort of meditation. We are entirely unable to see clearly the situations that need peace. Even then, we cannot bring true peace into those problems without the Prince of Peace2, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, living in us. But…

Good News

The word “but” is marvelously powerful. It tells us that times and circumstances change. But, when the Prince of Peace is alive in us, we receive spiritual gift(s) from God to search for peace with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then the outcome from our searching will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ3.

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[1]: Matthew 5:9 NIV – Blessed are the peacemakers, for they – Bible Gateway
[2]: Isaiah 9:6 NIV – For to us a child is born, to us a son – Bible Gateway
[3]: 1 Peter 4:11 NLT


Girl Mud Run Slope Help Challenge Woman Tough

Look After Each Other

One of the first events in the Bible is when God asks Adam’s son Cain the rhetorical question, “Where is Able, your brother? 1” God knew that Cain had murdered Able, but in God’s grace, He was allowing Cain to confess his sin and seek God’s forgiveness. Instead, Cain’s foolish answer was, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”

Cain’s question has a clear answer – yes, you are responsible for your brother. Many mothers and grandmothers have asked similar questions to older siblings: “Where is Andy? You know it’s your job to keep an eye on your younger brother.” The term “keeper” in this context means to act as a protector or guardian.

Look After Each Other.

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”

Turning back to the Bible, we find in the book of Hebrews the command, “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God2.” God’s grace saves us, and it is through His grace that we are productive citizens of His kingdom.

As believers in Christ Jesus our Lord, each of us carries a personal responsibility to be protectors of our brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s easy for us to build a wall around the meaning of this verse. If we narrow down this verse’s significance to solely spiritual aspects, we can claim that we have done everything in our power to safeguard our fellow believers from missing out on the grace of God. But how can others tell if we have? 

It may be difficult for believers to know that we failed God’s command, but we know, just as Cain knew his brother was dead. You and I have the responsibility to help fellow believers from falling back into worldliness; that’s not an easy job. 

Real Faith Produces Real Actions.

A 20th-century Chinese Christian and martyr said, “When two Christians happen to meet, their time together should be a time of mutual refreshing.” We should be a blessing to fellow believers, as they should be to us. When we part company, we both should be strengthened in our relationship with Jesus and in our determination to produce good deeds to show our faith in God to ourselves and others.

“What kind of faith is saving faith? James’s question3 is rhetorical; the obvious answer is that faith without works cannot save. Faith that yields no deeds is not saving faith. The New Testament does not teach justification by the profession of faith or the claim to faith; it teaches justification by the possession of true faith.”

R.C. Sproul

What Are Good Deeds?

You may ask, “What good deeds can I do to show true faith in Jesus?” This starts with encouraging fellow believers to stay faithful to their calling. Remind Christians that are going through a rough patch in their lives what Peter wrote: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you4.”

We should be more generous than any unbeliever and love more sincerely than all nonbelievers. In our conversations, we should have the mindset of elevating Jesus instead of ourselves. We need to speak about the mercy and grace that God has made available to humanity through Jesus, the only true Savior. 

Don’t Come Empty Handed.

When our day comes to stand before Jesus and explain what we did with the life He gave us5, we should be ready to tell of things Jesus did through our faith in Him. “Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works6.” Therefore, in this life, we give by faith, help by faith, pray by faith, suffer by faith, encourage by faith, defend the Gospel by faith, do the impossible by faith. 

Our Calling

Jesus, God’s Messiah, calls us to do what Cain failed to do. We must be our brothers and sisters’ keepers.

Image by madsmith33 from Pixabay


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[1]: Genesis 4:9 ESV
[2]:Hebrews 12:15 NLT
[3]: James 2:14 NLT
[4]: 1 Peter 5:10 ESV
[5]: Romans 14:12
[6]: James 2:26 NLT

See

Currently, I’m in the midst of a tornado. Not a windstorm, but a manmade one; I’m that man. As a side project, I’m designing some electronics and software for one of my sons. This is a radical departure from my typical, sedate office environment. It’s causing me to learn new things, which is good but rough on this old brain of mine.

A few days ago, my 3D printer arrived, and from the moment I flipped the power on, my world became a tornado; it’s not gone well. After many frustrating hours, I still couldn’t get it to work correctly. (still doesn’t). But I realized I needed to “cool my jets” and watch and see what that beast was doing.

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.

Henry David Thoreau

Often, our lives are human-made tornados as we juggle dozens of urgent demands on our time. We may even allow our tornados to expand into destructive vortexes that carry us to a point where we fail to see what God is showing us. Instead, we watch our lives play out, numbed by demands and needs.

God is a jealous God1. Ten of our top ten priorities belong to God. Yesterday, I became so busy watching that 3D printer that I didn’t respond to a priority of God’s. Today is too late, and that hurts. Jesus said:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:33

Christ’s command to seek is not a one-and-done action. Seeking God’s kingdom is our way of life as Christians. We can get so busy “doing” that we don’t see God’s answers to our prayers. Our hearts may belong to Jesus, but the cares of this world draw our attention away from Him2. Our hearts become distant from God, not because He has moved from us but because we are not seeing; we are only watching.

I pray that you allow yourself to see, to look through the grey windstorm you’re in, and see God’s extraordinary will at work in your life and rest in God. And I pray that you “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;” (Isaiah 55:6)”.

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1: Exodus 34:14
2: Matt 6:25–26

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Us, Not They

As I was praying this morning, I noticed I was praying as if I was somehow separate from the people I was praying for. I had built a mental fence between them and me. I was praying “they” when the Holy Spirit wanted me to pray “us.”

My thinking was wrong because I recognized them as generic believers in Christ Jesus. I understood a small part of their struggle, so I carried their need to our Father. And I was confident that the Holy Spirit had led me to pray for them in the name of Jesus. That was proper and good, but I saw their problem incorrectly; my thinking was wrong. Now I understand that “us” is an object pronoun while “they” is a generic third-person pronoun, so why was I praying for generic Christians?

God stopped me and corrected me. He does that for those He loves (Hebrews 12:5–7). Within the Body of Christ, we are all brothers and sisters. We are blood relatives by Jesus’ shed blood. Like our bodies, there are many members in Christ’s Body, and they aren’t all the same. We have many parts: eyes, ears, heart, liver, and so forth.

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.1 Corinthians 12:12

Shaquille O’Neal is 7’ 1″, so his nose is a long way from his toes, yet both are members of the same body. All believers in Christ Jesus are blood relatives; only distance separates us. When we consider Christ’s Body, it’s a long way from Indiana to Hunan Province in China, yet Christ’s Body is in that province and Indiana.

If I talk with someone about a family member, I say “we” or us,“ not ”them“ or ”they.“ If asked if there are other Christians on my dad’s side of the family, my answer would be, ”In my family, we have many believers in Christ. God has blessed us with many who are pastors or missionaries.“ Our hearts and minds need to say ”us,“ not ”they.”

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Faith Is Expressed in Love

When I was a young Christian, more than once, I’d hear someone in our local church, complain that so-and-so was so heavenly-minded that they were no earthly good. In those early years, I learned to identify people that had ignored the admonition from James,

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

James 2:18

Expressed Faith

Something didn’t feel right when I heard those comments. Well, that was because I was ignoring 1 John 4:20-21 NLT, “if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see.”

This leads me to today’s thought, found in Galatians 5:6b NLT, “What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” The answer to thousands of questions about faith is found in those few words.

When asked the question, “What should you be doing with your life?” most people think of occupations, some think of recreation, and a few think of some sort of ministry.” I’ll hazard a guess that only a handful would reply, “I want to allow the faith God has given me to be expressed in my love.” But faith expressed through love is the right answer and the most difficult answer.

Good News

Because we were born in sin, people are wired to harshly judge people and live faithless lives. But we left this way of life behind when, in Christ Jesus, we entered God’s kingdom. I pray that we all remember that if we can’t love someone we see, how can we expect to love God, whom we’ve never seen? And what greater good can come from our faith than to allow our faith to express itself in love? My prayer for all of us is that we are so heavenly-minded that we are of immense earthly good.

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

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Steep Mountain Road

Practical Faith

In the opening paragraphs of 2nd Corinthians, the Apostle Paul tells us something surprising. Here’s what he wrote:

8 We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9 In fact, we expected to die.” 

2 Corinthians 1:8–9a NLT

Practical Faith

We would have lost much of the New Testament if Paul had died. But God brought them through what appeared to Paul and his companions as certain death. We may be tempted to discount Paul’s statement since he is an Apostle, but we would miss God’s message for us. We find God’s intent in the following verses.

9 But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again.” 

11 “And you are helping us by praying for us.” 

2 Corinthians 1:9b–11 NLT

Paul found God to be reliable. This is practical faith. It’s easy for us to pray and trust God to help the orphans in Syria, but when it comes to our life-or-death situations, we quickly find out how well we’ve learned to trust God for immediate and practical matters. 

My Telephone Poll Story

Once, when I was a missionary in Eastern Europe, I was in the back seat of a very old Mercedes Benz full of people. The driver had little experience driving, but he decided to drive up a small mountain to get a telephone pole-sized log.

We strapped it to the roof of his car. As I sat down in the backseat, I had a bad feeling about this adventure. The Holy Spirit often prepares me for bad situations. Oh, I forgot to tell you the car had a manual shift (stick shift) transmission. Our driver started the car and immediately began going backward – he put the car in reverse – and he didn’t stop!

As the car sped faster and faster in reverse, we passengers began yelling instructions. Our frantic instructions accomplished one thing; the car stalled. This might have been good, but the driver held down the clutch while trying to start the vehicle.

So, as we free-wheeled down the side of a mountain, backward, with a telephone pole strapped to the roof and passengers screaming in multiple languages, my trust in God didn’t waiver; the driver was another matter!

We had picked up quite a bit of speed as we rapidly approached a jam-packed highway. Oh, the road was on the side of a high mountain. The lane we needed to end up in was the one that would take us down the mountain to a small village at the bottom. 

It was as if we were in a 1930s Laural and Hardy movie. Cars were whizzing down the highway while we bumped and bounced toward it. And just like in the film, a gap opened right when we sprung upon the pavement. Thankfully, the driver steered us, so the front of the car pointed down the mountain.

Praying for Others

Sitting in a dead car on a busy highway is not the time to learn how to pray. It’s time to pray. We made it to the village – that’s another story – and we all lived to tell our versions of what happened.

For me, the most important verse in today’s Scripture is verse eleven: “And you are helping us by praying for us.” Praying is very practical; it is based on practical faith. When we pray for the orphans in Syria, God hears us, and with the measure of faith we have, He measures out His help. You see, God answers our prayers, no matter how small or far away the need is. So when it comes to practical faith, remember this verse:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Philippians 4:6

Photo by Henry Lo on Unsplash

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