Something I've become acutely aware of during this season of my life and ministry is my need to prioritize & get the most out of my time. It's a journey, to be sure, but I'm getting better at it. Something I've gotten in the habit of is preparing checklists, to-do lists for each day. Four actions appear on my list every day:
1. Say thanks to someone.
I'm so bad at this one. There are a lot of people and things I am thankful for, but feeling thankful isn't enough--you actually have to say thanks for it to make any real difference. Verbally, in person is great, but if you think of someone or something you're thankful for and they're not standing right in front of you, don't assume you'll remember to do it later. Sit down at a table and write a thank you note. It doesn’t have to be a literary masterpiece--just a simple note of thanks. A small thing that may just be the encouragement someone else desperately needs right now.
2. Give something to someone.
You have a friend, neighbor, co-worker or organization who need something you have. Maybe it’s a tangible item. Maybe it’s your time. Maybe it’s a connection to someone else. But you have it and it would mean a lot to someone else. Letting go of stuff is one of the most freeing things you can do.
Ganna and I pretty regularly take bags of clothing to Goodwill--not only does it free up some precious space in the 1300 square foot house that our family of 8 people and one dog call home, but it helps someone else.
I've also seen times when the church had a need and received a financial gift from an unexpected source, and what an encouragement and faith building moment it was for all involved.
If you have more than you need, consider giving something away.
3. Be honest about something.
Living a double life is exhausting.
There’s something going on in your life, heart or world that needs to come into the light. It might be a secret or it might be a fear, but if you can be honest about it, you will be healthier and happier.
Honesty does something for the soul. And relationships where you can be totally open are life-giving.
4. Work on something that matters.
We all have to do work stuff that doesn’t fulfill us. It’s just the way it is.
But find as much time in your schedule to work on something that really matters. Whatever it is that brings you fulfillment, make room for it. If it seems too big, too daunting, that's ok-- just do something small today. Push it forward, even if it’s just a few inches.
If you have been considering baptism, please take a moment to review the following information about this important next step.
1. To follow the example set by Christ.
“At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Gailee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” (Mark 1:9)
2. Because Christ commanded it.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20)
3. It demonstrates I am a Believer.
“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.” (1 John 2:3)
It illustrates Christ's death, burial and resurrection.
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day…” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4)
“Having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12)
1. Because Jesus was baptized that way.
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.” (Matthew 3:16a)
“As Jesus was coming up out of the water…” (Mark 1:10)
2. Every Baptism in the Bible was by immersion.
(for example) “Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water…” (Acts 8:38–39)
3. The word “baptize” means “to dip or immerse”.
4. It best symbolized a burial and resurrection.
“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:3–4)
Baptism is an important step of obedience that shows others that someone has personally trusted Jesus for their salvation. Every person who believes in Jesus should be baptized. Having decided to trust Jesus alone for their salvation, they follow Him in baptism as a symbol of their new life in Him.
"Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (Acts 2:41)
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19)
All instances of baptism follow an individual’s decision to trust Jesus alone for their salvation. At Grace Christian Church, we wait until children are old enough to believe and understand the true meaning of baptism before we baptize them. When a child makes a decision for Christ, we gladly baptize them as a symbol of their faith in Christ.
“But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” (Acts 8:12)
“’Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’ So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.” (Acts 10:47-48)
In the Bible we find parents bringing children to Jesus. He held them and prayed for them and told us to welcome them. But He did not baptize them, and he did not tell anyone to baptize them.
Baptism is a public profession of salvation (as the Bible teaches), and only people who have intentionally received salvation should experience baptism. If you have not experienced adult baptism, even though you have experienced baptism as an infant, the full meaning and significance of baptism has yet to take place in your life. We strongly encourage you to be baptized as an adult believer in Christ.
As soon as you have believed in Christ for salvation.
“But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” (Acts 8:12)
The Bible teaches that baptism should follow your decision to become a believer. There is no reason to delay. If you wait until you are “good” enough, you will never feel ready for baptism. Since baptism is not a part of your salvation but a symbol of it, it is ok to wait until the next scheduled baptism.
If you have not yet been baptized by immersion after salvation, baptism is your next step. However, you do not have to wait until you are baptized to begin serving. We want you to schedule your baptism, but we also want you to get plugged in and begin to serve in some way. There are, however, certain roles and positions within the church which require you to be a member, and baptism is a requirement for membership.
If you have not been baptized since asking Jesus into your life, your next step is baptism. If you have been baptized since asking Jesus into your life, there is no need to be baptized again.
Dress in clothes you don’t mind getting wet! You should wear a dark shirt and shorts. Remember to bring a change of clothes to wear home. There is a changing room available. Please bring a towel. Arrive 30 minutes before the service is scheduled to begin for some last-minute instructions.
Register online via our contact form, in person at our welcome center in the church lobby, or via the connection card in your bulletin.
"These were his instructions to them: "The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields." Luke 10:2
Dick and Connie Miller know a thing or two about the Second Saturday ministry. As members of Fox River Christian Church in Wisconsin, they've seen firsthand how important and effective a hands-on volunteer ministry is to the growth of a church and it's people. When they began attending GCC, they were eager to bring the Second Saturday experience to the community of Kendallville.
Taking part in Second Saturday may mean pumping gas, walking dogs, assembling shelves at the library, doing yard work for the elderly, or a myriad of other simple tasks. This month we will be sending the bulk of our volunteers to rake leaves as well as serve a local food bank. While the actual work varies from month to month, the mission is the same. As Dick puts it:"volunteers meet every second Saturday of a month and go out into the community to help, comfort, and lift up. We believe this helps our attendees (particularly new ones) connect with the church and lift up Grace Christian to our community."
Don't miss the great opportunity to fellowship and "get your feet wet" in service ministry. Be at the Mitchell St. campus by 9:00 am Saturday, November 9th (and bring a rake if possible). If you cannot attend, follow the Lord's instruction from Luke 10:2 and pray that He send more workers into his fields.
Crucifixion was not only one of the most painful and disgraceful forms of death, it was perhaps the most dreaded methods of execution in the ancient world. In the four gospels, the crucifixion of Jesus is described in a very subdued way. Consider the Gospel of John:
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
On the surface, it seems odd that something so dramatic would be described so simply. However, in modern America, we’re so removed from the brutality and reality of ancient execution methods that we need it explained—in the New Testament environment, there was no need to describe the event further. Even when we do execute the most brutal of criminals, our methods are sterile, impersonal, and humane. The ancients were not nearly so civilized, nor so squeamish. For the vast majority, life was brutal, painful and short. Executions were carried out in public, with the crimes of the convicted well publicized, and the executions purposefully painful and bloody. The beatings, scourging, and torture that Jesus endured were common practice. There are some who have tried to claim that Jesus really didn’t die on the Cross, and therefore His resurrection wasn’t real. Serious historians know better: The Romans knew exactly how to kill someone, and you can be certain, He was dead. When someone was crucified, nails were driven through the wrist so that the person would hang by outstretched arms. Some scholars believe that the condemned would eventually die of exposure, or dehydration. Others believe that death came from asphyxiation as the pressure from hanging by the arms in this way made it impossible to breath properly. Nails were driven through the feet, so that the victim could push themselves up to take a breath, which was of course extremely painful, and only delayed the inevitable and made the punishment of death even more excruciating. In fact, the word excruciating comes from the Latin out of a cross. This is why the legs would be broken: to prevent the condemned from pushing up to take a breath, and hasten death. The Romans had raised punishment and execution to an art form, using the spectacle of death as both a way to entertain the masses, and keep them in check. By terrorizing conquered peoples, they hoped to prevent any challenge to the Empire. When Cassius put down the slave rebellion led by Spartacus, he had 6000 of the former slaves crucified as a warning against any others who would dare to challenge Rome’s authority. This makes what the Jewish Leadership did to Jesus even more horrid. Jesus really was no threat to them at all. He was totally righteous, and they knew it. They could bring no charge against him, and yet they demanded Pilate not just execute Jesus, but to crucify him. Their willingness to have Jesus treated in this way reveals a bloodlust that is difficult to understand, but betrays their moral bankruptcy.
The great triumph of Christianity is that this Jesus, who was crucified and buried, is now alive. His resurrection from the dead is a precursor of our own. We can be sure that some day WE will be resurrected, because we can be sure that HE was!
Titus Flavius Josephus was a
Jewish Historian who lived during the time of the Apostles. He was born a few
years after Jesus’ death in 37 AD, and died around 100 AD. His father was a
member of the priestly families and his mother claimed to have royal ancestry.
He fought as the head of Jewish forces in Galilee during the first Jewish-Roman
War and was captured by Vespasian in AD 67. Josephus ingratiated himself to
Vespasian, who held him as a hostage and interpreter. After Vespasian became
emperor, he granted him his freedom. Josephus then defected to the Romans and
took Roman citizenship. He was present during the siege of Jerusalem and the
destruction of the Temple, which he chronicled in detail. His two most
important works were The Jewish War, which
was published in about AD 75, and recounts the Jewish revolt against Roman
occupation, which lasted seven years, from 66 to 73 AD and Antiquities of the Jews, published around ~AD 94, and is a history of
the world from a Jewish perspective for an ostensibly Roman audience. These
works provide valuable insight into 1st century Judaism and the background
of Early Christianity.
The Jewish War is a description of Jewish history from the capture of Jerusalem by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 164 BC to the fall and destruction of Jerusalem in the First Jewish–Roman War in 70 AD. Josephus’ description of the Fall of Jerusalem and the Destruction of Herod’s Temple is especially graphic, and provides a stark picture of what Jesus meant when he said “not one stone will be left on another.”
Now as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to
plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury (for they
would not have spared any, had there remained any other work to be done),
[Titus] Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and
Temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as they were of the
greatest eminence; that is, Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne; and so much
of the wall enclosed the city on the west side. This wall was spared, in order
to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison [in the Upper City], as
were the towers [the three forts] also spared, in order to demonstrate to
posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman
valor had subdued; but for all the rest of the wall [surrounding Jerusalem], it
was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the
foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe
it [Jerusalem] had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came
to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great
magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.
Further, according to Josephus, over one million Jews perished when Jerusalem fell.
The slaughter within was even more dreadful than the spectacle from without. Men and women, old and young, insurgents and priests, those who fought and those who entreated mercy, were hewn down in indiscriminate carnage. The number of the slain exceeded that of the slayers. The legionaries had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination.
In the later work, Antiquities of the Jews, several New Testament characters are mentioned. Modern scholars almost universally agree that these references are authentic (not added by later scribes in an attempt to legitimize the biblical text), and describe easily researched and verifiable events and people. His writings provide a significant, extra-Biblical account of the post-Exilic period of the Maccabees, the Hasmonean dynasty, and the rise of Herod the Great. He refers to the Sadducees, Jewish High Priests of the time, Pharisees and Essenes, the Herodian Temple, Quirinius' census and the Zealots, and to such figures as Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, Agrippa I and Agrippa II, John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, and a centuries-long disputed reference to Jesus. Josephus represents an important source for studies of immediate post-Temple Judaism and the context of early Christianity. The fact that some of the details in Josephus do not agree with the biblical account is evidence for acceptance as what Josephus really wrote, rather than the opposite. If someone had later wanted to insert this information to somehow lend credence to the Bible, they surely would have made sure all the details agreed.
One of the more compelling passages in the works of Josephus is this one that mentions Jesus almost in passing. The text is not actually about Jesus himself; but rather his brother James, who wrote the New Testament book of James, and was a leader in the early church:
And now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus... Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.
The astute Bible reader will immediately recognize the name Festus as well, before whom Paul stood and gave testimony in Acts 25, at which time Paul appealed his case to Caesar, and thus was transported to Rome in chains to stand trial.
Another key figure mentioned by Josephus is John the Baptist:
Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man... Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people, might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion... Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death.
Again, the astute Bible reader will notice that both the gospels and Josephus refer to Herod Antipas killing John the Baptist, but differ on the details and the motive. While the gospels present this as a consequence of the marriage of Herod Antipas and Herodias in defiance of Jewish law (as in Matthew 14:4, Mark 6:18) Josephus refers to it as a pre-emptive measure by Herod to quell a possible uprising. There is no reason to suppose that both accounts can’t be true. Like any event, motives and details are difficult to interpret; and it’s certainly possible that Herod would give an “official account” of his reasons for putting John to death, rather than the real reason listed in the Gospels, especially given the sordid circumstances described there. If you don’t know this story, you should go read it.
Without doubt, the most striking passage from Josephus, and the most controversial, is called the Testimonium Flavianum, (Testimony of Flavius):
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.
Of the three passages found in Josephus' Antiquities, this passage, if authentic, would offer the most direct support for the crucifixion of Jesus. The general scholarly view is that while the Testimonium Flavianum is most likely not authentic in its entirety, but that it originally consisted of an authentic nucleus with a reference to the execution of Jesus by Pilate which was then subject to interpolation. There is broad consensus among scholars that Josephus actually wrote most of the passage. The passage further illustrates that the details about Jesus were well known among various Jewish and Roman sources at the time.
Why should we care or be interested in Josephus? It is important for Christians to be aware of these works from history. There are many who believe that the only evidence for early Christianity is the Bible itself, which is in fact, not true at all. The writings of Josephus not only contain extra-biblical information about the New Testament environment and the people mentioned in the Bible, but they also indicate that many of the events and characters from the Bible were known to the contemporaries of Jesus, Peter, James and Paul. The claims of the Gospels and the Apostles were easily researched and verifiable (cf. 1 Cor 15:6-8). This is even more compelling when one considers that Josephus was definitely not an apologist for the Christian faith; he was only interested in explaining Jewish society to the average Roman.
Our Monday night Men’s Group is currently in a study of the Book of Philippians. In this letter, Paul is responding to some unsettling news from Philippi. He has a great affection for the church at Philippi, and has had a long and fruitful relationship with them. They have shared in his troubles, and once again, this time while he is in prison, they have sent one of their own to provide comfort and take care of his physical needs. But, it seems a troubling report has reached Paul’s ears. It seems that two of the congregants in Philippi have lost their focus on Christ and have had a sharp disagreement. These two are evidently in some kind of leadership position, and their disagreement is affecting (and infecting) the entire congregation. We aren't told what the problem is between them, and it’s not really important. We can be certain that it is not a doctrinal dispute, as Paul makes no attempt to address, or correct, a doctrinal issue. Our only clue is his repeated admonishment to not act “out of selfish ambition.”
Paul provides his readers several examples of what selflessness looks like, reminding them of people they know who act not only for their own good, but also for the good of others: Paul himself, Timothy, Epaphroditus, but the most potent example is the example of Christ. In one of the most poignant sections of scripture, he recites what many think may have been an early Christian hymn:
Christ Himself gave us the greatest example of selflessness that mankind has ever known. The Word, Who was the very essence of God, equal to God, actually WAS God, made a choice. He gave up His rights as God, and put on the cloak of flesh. If God valued His relationship with us enough to empty Himself of His god-ness in order to repair it, and strengthen it, how dare we allow personality clashes (or selfish ambition) cause rifts in our interpersonal relationships within the Church!!??
The Pilate Stone is the name given to a block of limestone with a carved inscription attributed to Pontius Pilate, the fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, (AD 26–36). As prefect, he served under Emperor Tiberius. Of course, he is best known as the judge at Jesus' trial and the man who authorized the crucifixion of Jesus. The stone is significant because it is the only universally accepted archaeological find with an inscription mentioning the name "Pontius Pilatus" to date. It was discovered in June 1961 while excavating an ancient theater (built by decree of Herod the Great c. 30 BC), called Caesarea Maritima in the present-day city of Caesarea-on-the-Sea. Other ancient sources also mention Pilate, including Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived in the 1st Century. Items like the Pilate Stone remind us that the Bible is written about real people from history, and are not just made up stories as some contend.
Why The Harvest Party
Written By: Pastor Nate
One thing we've been trying to do over the last few years as a church is to look at the calendar and say "Why do we do this event every year? Is there a good reason other than that we've always done it?" Let's face it--life is busy enough without being cluttered with the unnecessary.
One event that almost got cut, until we looked a little closer, was the harvest party. We can make all sorts of arguments for and against it (Does Pastor Chris need another knee surgery? How many porkburgers can a person really eat anyway? ) but is there a biblical reason for it?
Churches have had some sort of fall celebration dating back to the earliest days of the church. One obvious reason is that the world was more of an agricultural society then, so the harvest was a big deal. However, there may have been another reason.
Leviticus chapter 23 lists a series of festivals that God ordered Israel to keep. Each event points toward a moment in the prophetic calendar.
The final three are the Feast Of Trumpets (what the Jews call Rosh Hashanah), The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles (or Feast of Booths). Without going in to too much detail, basically you've got a series of events announcing the coming day of the Lord, the return of Christ, an finally the reign of Christ over His kingdom.
When all is done, when death and Hades are done away with, there will be a time when God’s people are gathered together, to live in such a way that they can look upon Him with nothing obscuring their view:
Rev 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,
So when we're fellowshipping together, eating hot dogs and listening to people complain about their injuries from the football game, take a moment to look up and thank God and reflect on the fact that one day we'll look up and clearly see Him, with nothing in the way.
There are several Hebrew and Greek words used in the Bible to describe God. The most common is the Hebrew Word el which is used regularly throughout the Old Testament to refer to God the Father, as well as other gods. Often with God the Father, the Hebrew has the plural form of el which is elohim. Other names of God in Hebrew are Adonai translated lord, El Shaddai translated God Almighty, and other variations of these terms. When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, Moses asked “Who should I say has sent me? What is your name?” God answered, “Tell them ’I am who I am’ sent you.” This rather strange phrase is very difficult to translate into English, but God is saying, in effect, “I am the one who is.” or “I will be whoever I am.” or even, “I am the one who exists.” In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible called the Septuagint (more on that in another article), the Greek reads: “I am The Being.” God tells Moses that His name is YHVH. This is the most important name in the Hebrew bible for God. No one knows for sure how to pronounce the name, since the Jewish scribes considered the name of God so sacred, they would say Adonai whenever reading from the Hebrew text and they encountered the name.
These four letters are referred to as the “tetragrammaton,” which is Latin for “four letters.” It appears that the Name of God is closely related to the Hebrew verb for “to be,” which is logical, given God’s statement to Moses that he is the One Who Is. In many English bibles the tetragrammaton is written in small caps as LORD. So, whenever you read this in your Bible, you can know that this is where YHVH appears. In other bibles it is written as Yahweh or Yahveh. This is probably the closest to how the name was originally pronounced.
Originally, Hebrew did not have any vowels. It wasn’t until the middle ages, when Hebrew scholars realized that the Jewish people were in danger of losing the ability to properly pronounce Hebrew words that vowel markings were added in the form of dots under and above the letters. At this time, the vowels for Adonai were placed on the letters for YHVH, which eventually produced the improperly transliterated name Jehovah in various English translations. (The rules of the Hebrew language dictate that the letters of Adonai placed on YHVH cannot really be pronounced properly).
Jesus, when speaking of God, calls Him something somewhat unexpected. Evidently, He’s not nearly as concerned about addressing God by His proper name as the Jews were. While the Jews wouldn’t pronounce what they considered God’s name, Jesus referred to God as Abba. This is an Aramaic word for Father. However, a more accurate translation in English would be Daddy!
- Ben Franklin
While the Bible is the inspired Word of God; it didn't simply fall from the sky at the feet of King James in 1611, already written in flowery English script. God, in His wisdom, chose men suitable for their place and time to record His message to mankind. It has been said that while the Bible wasn’t written TO us, it was written FOR us. Written over a span of approximately 1600 years, and divided into 66 different books, its authors are as varied as a shepherd boy who became a King, to simple Galilean fishermen, to government officials in one of the most powerful empires in history. The various books contain historical narrative, prophetic warnings, wise sayings, beautiful poetry, and letters of exhortation. The Bible is divided into two large sections: The Old Testament is written in Hebrew, with some sections in Aramaic, and contains the laws, history and literature of the Ancient Jewish people, beginning with the Creation of the Universe to the Return of the Jews from Babylonian Captivity in around 400 BC. The New Testament, written in Greek, covers the birth of Jesus Christ in approximately 30 BC, and the beginnings of the early Church. While none of the original copies (called autographs) still exist, we do have thousands of hand made copies: you couldn't just run down to Kinko’s in those days! In addition to these various manuscripts in the ancient languages, there are thousands of copies of translations into other languages, and quotes of sections of the Bible by pastors and teachers from the early church. Scholars of ancient literature are constantly researching these and other ancient manuscripts to find better and more accurate translations of the original texts. This work is undertaken with the utmost seriousness and we can be assured that the text we have today is as close to the original text as is possible. There’s a tendency to question why it is that we have to rely on copies of the manuscripts to discover the original texts. Why didn’t God preserve the originals for us? A more awful situation can scarcely be imagined. Who would own them? Where would they be kept? They would become an OBJECT of worship. We would end up worshipping the creation rather than the Creator.
By Ben Franklin
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