The Holy Spirit – Our Power Source

Could you imagine being one of the disciples that actually hung out with Jesus while he was on earth?  Talk about being mentored.  And not only was he their teacher, he was their very close friend. He loved them, and they loved him.  He was their King. Their Savior. They depended on him. They needed him. And when he was snatched away from them and brutally executed, their whole world changed. Then imagine him returning to them in the middle of their mourning. Raised again, just as he said he’d be. There he was, in their midst once again. And he had a whole new mission for his friends. Go and tell everyone!

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭28‬:‭18-20‬ NLT)

His disciples felt empowered by all they had witnessed and they were sure of Jesus’ redeeming power – but could these “normal” people go out into the world on their own and talk bodly about Jesus, even in the face of persecution and death? Fortunately, Jesus was aware of their fears and shortcomings and he didn’t intend to leave them on their own.  When he left this earth for the last time to take his rightful spot in Heaven, he promised to send them a “helper”. He promised to send them the Holy Spirit. 

It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ You are witnesses of all these things. “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” (‭Luke‬ ‭24‬:‭47-49‬ NLT)

So after they watched Jesus ascend into Heaven they waited, just as Jesus had told them to. Do you think they wondered how they would know when the Holy Spirit arrived? They had seen all of the amazing things Jesus had done, so I’m sure they figured his arrival would be amazing. But I wonder if they really knew how amazing it was going to be. Well, when the Holy Spirit showed up, he left no question as to whether it was him or hot.  He arrived with a bang (so to speak).

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers. They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages!…They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other. (‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭2‬:‭1-8, 12‬ NLT)

Some of the people that saw what was happening figured that the believers were crazy, or drunk. But Peter quickly reminded them that they what they were witnessing was fulfillment of a prophecy from long ago. 

No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike— and they will prophesy. (‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭2‬:‭16-18‬ NLT)

And then little old Peter, who had failed miserably when he publicly denied Jesus … and who was often known for speaking out of turn … began to boldly proclaim the message of salvation. Sure, he was empowered by all that Jesus had done for him and he knew first hand that his message was true. But he was also filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, and nothing could stop him now. 

“No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike— and they will prophesy…People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip…Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today…So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” (‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭2‬:‭16-18, 22-24, 33, 36‬ NLT)

And what happened next laid the foundation for all future believers.   

Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away —all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. (‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭2‬:‭37-41‬ NLT)

The same Spirit-filled results are possible today.  We have the same Jesus, the same salvation promise, the same baptism and the same Holy Spirit. So what are we going to do with our God given power source?

It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭1‬:‭21-22‬ NLT)

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy…And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭21-24, 30‬ NLT)

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Love your neighbor

So many things about the story in Ferguson are tragic. When scenes like what we are seeing happen here play out, God’s heart breaks and the devil smirks with satisfaction.  

First of all, it’s very sad that this young man had come to the place in his life where harassing a store owner and stealing from him were just something he and his buddies did. And that being confronted by law enforcement after committing a crime didn’t cause him to regret what he had done, but that rather he decided to lash out at police as if they had no right to enforce the law. 

Secondly, it’s sad that this police officer came to a place in his day-to-day job that pursuit of an unarmed suspect led to a barrage of bullets. I don’t doubt that this officer feared for his safety at points in the pursuit, and that some level of force was likely possible. But with a gun and a badge was it not possible that he could’ve gained control of the situation without firing so many gunshots?  What happened to the “off” switch in his mind?

And finally, the crazy response to the outcome of the indictment is beyond understanding. People protesting the violence of a situation choose to make their point by being violent?  What change will be brought by breaking the windows of stores owned by your fellow citizens and stealing their livelihood? More mistrust, maybe. And what will running through the streets throwing things at police, swearing and shouting random declarations of anger do? Fuel further ignorance about one another, no doubt. 

Many well meaning people are angry about the way this entire situation has played out, and yet have refrained from partaking in crazy violent protests where the whole point of their cause is being lost in fire and smoke. The problems that lead to situations like this stem from so many places and if we really want to see an end to this, we have to start at the beginning. 

We have to teach all of our children to love their neighbor. 

For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭14-15‬ NLT)

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Step One – Repent

“Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭2‬:‭38‬ NLT)

Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. (‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭3‬:‭19‬ NLT)

When, by the grace of God, we are finally ready to acknowledge our sinful condition and the fact that we have no hope in saving ourself, the first thing we must do is repent.  The dictionary definition of repent says it all.  – To feel sorry for past conduct. And for that sorrow for sin to lead you to decide to change your “life for the better. – Repentance involves a conscious decision to change. To turn away from life as you’ve been living it and be ready to start fresh with Jesus. 

Throughout scripture God has provided warning after warning for people to repent. He also created us with free will which essentially leaves the ball in our court.  Don’t ignore the messages you sense from the Holy Spirit saying.  “Hey. This message is for you. Look at your life now. It’s time to turn away from your lost condition and let Jesus offer you eternal salvation.” If you continually choose to ignore these messages, your heart will get harder and harder until one day it won’t matter to you anymore. You will be officially comfortable with life the way you’re doing it and you won’t feel the need for a Savior. 

I’ve heard it said, “God wants you just as you are, but he doesn’t want to keep you that way.”  Some people mistake the idea of repentance with the idea that they need to reach some certain level of righteousness on their own before they can turn to God. But that is not what repentance means. Once you turn around and take the first step in a new direction, God will begin his work in your life. You cannot change your life on your own. It’s a partnership that will only work if you decide to change and then allow God to work in your life. 

Don’t wait until it’s too late!  Take the first step and repent.

“God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.” (‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭17‬:‭30-31‬ NLT)

So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. (‭Mark‬ ‭6‬:‭12‬ NLT)

“Therefore, tell the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent and turn away from your idols, and stop all your detestable sins. (‭Ezekiel‬ ‭14‬:‭6‬ NLT)

Jesus ministry begins — From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. ” (‭Matthew‬ ‭4‬:‭17‬ NLT)

I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” (‭Luke‬ ‭5‬:‭32‬ NLT)

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.” (‭Luke‬ ‭15‬:‭8-10‬ NLT)

I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus. (‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭20‬:‭21‬ NLT)

LORD, you are searching for honesty. You struck your people, but they paid no attention. You crushed them, but they refused to be corrected. They are determined, with faces set like stone; they have refused to repent. (‭Jeremiah‬ ‭5‬:‭3‬ NLT)

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns where he had done so many of his miracles, because they hadn’t repented of their sins and turned to God. (‭Matthew‬ ‭11‬:‭20‬ NLT)

For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭7‬:‭10‬ NLT)

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.  (‭2 Peter‬ ‭3‬:‭9 NLT)

People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭28‬:‭13‬ NLT)

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What are you waiting for?

During Jesus’ teaching ministry, he told a parable that illustrated the finality of choosing our own way rather than acknowledging the fact that only God’s redemption plan has a happy ending. (Luke 16:19-31). I wrote my own little story based on his words. 

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Once upon a time there was a rich, successful man that wanted for nothing. He had all of the latest gadgets, a summer home on the lake, and enough disposable income to wine and dine as he liked. One day as he relaxed in front of his wall mounted flat screen television, he was disturbed by a noise coming from behind his house. Irritated, he went to see what the commotion was and there he found a poor, homeless bum, stinky and dirty, searching through his garbage for scraps of food. The rich man shook his head and went back into his house thinking to himself how much better he was than this bum. Presuming that he had it all figured out. 

Eventually this rich man and the homeless bum both met their fate and came to the end of their life on earth. Having put all his faith in his success and his wealth, this man had never felt the need to acknowledge that he needed a Savior.  After all, he was a decent guy and he was certainly strong enough to handle life without any help.  He even went to church every now and then.  But he never let the message of salvation change him. He didn’t decide to put his faith in the Jesus he heard about. He had determined that he was just fine on his own.  So you can imagine his surprise  when he was suddenly face-to-face with Jesus and none of the things he valued and depended on mattered anymore.  Instead of patting him on the back and applauding his accomplishments, Jesus sent him away saying, “I never knew you.”  And in a moment the rich man was cast away to a place of eternal torment. 

As he suffered in anguish he caught a glimpse of another place, a wonderful place where there was no suffering or sorrow. And there he recognized the bum that he had seen digging through his garbage. The bum looked different. He was all cleaned up and he did not look miserable, hungry or lonely anymore. The rich man recognized others that he had known on earth, too. All the “Jesus freaks” that he thought were so weak, needing the crutch of religion to give them hope. He recognized a pastor that had once given him a Bible and had tried to warn him of his fate if he continued to deny Jesus. The rich man cried out to him – “Sir, it is unbearably hot here and I am burning up. Could one of you please just sprinkle some water on me to cool me?”

The pastor replied, “I know you loved all the good things you had on earth and pitied this homeless man when he searched garbages for food. But it is different now. All of those things you lived for belong to someone else and can do you no good where you are, and this man will never be hungry again.  And even if we wanted to offer you some comfort in your endless anguish, we cannot. There has been placed a large chasm between your eternal resting place and ours that no one can cross through.”

It was too late. No regret or longing to go back in time was going to change a thing.  In his despair, the rich man was suddenly concerned that his family would one day suffer the same eternal fate and he begged.  “Well then can you please send someone back to my family? You must tell them how horrible their fate will be if they don’t repent and turn to Jesus.  I can’t bear the thought of them ending up in this place of eternal torment, too.”  

The pastor replied.  “They are being warned just as you were – through people God places in their lives and through the Word of God, the Bible, that sits collecting dust on the shelf.  If their hearts are too hard to believe the message of salvation through Christ alone, then us going to them won’t make a difference.” 

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The definition of parable is “a story told to illustrate a truth”. Jesus didn’t just tell these stories to entertain his audience. He told them in order to make them understand his message. He told them so that they could see themselves in the scenarios and clearly see what they needed to do. Do you see yourself in the scenario above?  Whether you like it or not, you’re going to end up on one side of the chasm or the other.  Are you 100% sure that whatever it is you’ve chosen to put your faith in is going to get you where you want to be?  Are you sure you’re good enough?  And what if you do fall short because you are, after all, human?  Is there any way to make up the difference?  Odds are you know the answer to that. Someone has told you somewhere along the way.   

Salvation is available because Jesus paid the price for our sins when he died a sinners death on the cross. And he conquered death when he rose again. He did all that for you!  What are you waiting for?

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. (‭Romans‬ ‭3‬:‭23‬ NLT). As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one. (‭Romans‬ ‭3‬:‭10‬ NLT)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (‭Romans‬ ‭6‬:‭23‬ NLT)

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. (‭Romans‬ ‭5‬:‭6-9‬ NLT)

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved…For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” (‭Romans‬ ‭10‬:‭9-10, 13‬ NLT)

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (‭Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭38-39‬ NLT)

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Why Baptism

Let me start by saying that I am not a theologian. I am not an expert on Biblical doctrine. But I believe that through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God can answer our questions if we read it in context and don’t try to make it say just what we want to hear. When I am looking for answers in the Bible, I simply try to read what it says and not try to infer some deeper meaning that I don’t have a full understanding of. I’m sure many scholars far more versed in this area have expounded on the purpose of Baptism. I have no desire to challenge or debate them. I simply searched out passages that spoke of Baptism and what they said seemed pretty clear to me.

Do we have to be baptized to be saved?  The Bible doesn’t say that baptism redeems you. It is only through the blood of Jesus and his atoning death that we are made righteous before God. If we do not acknowledge that Jesus is our one and only Savior, then the act of baptism or any other outward thing we do will not make us pure. But the Bible does command that once we have accepted Christ as our Savior and have repented of our sinful ways we must be baptized. 

Jesus himself told us, “Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.” (‭Mark‬ ‭16‬:‭16‬ NLT)

On the day of Pentecost, not long after Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit came to the believers just as Jesus had promised and many saw the impact of his arrival. As the onlookers struggled to understand what this power was that had suddenly come upon these average people in their midst, Peter explained to them that they were witnessing the fulfillment of God’s promises made through their prophets. 

“But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip…God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today. “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” (‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭2‬:‭23-24, 32-33‬, 36 NLT)

This news hit home with the devout Jews that he was speaking to and they asked him what they should do.

Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” (Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭2‬:37 NLT)

Peter’s answer echoed Jesus’ own words and is one that I believe applies to each of us…

“Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭2‬:‭38‬ NLT)

There it is. Clear instructions for each of us. Repent, turn to God and be baptized in the name of Jesus. And I think it bears noticing that baptism comes after repentance and faith. Clearly this indicates that baptism is a conscious choice that must be made by someone who has decided for themselves that Jesus is the way. 

So what does baptism signify?  I believe that the Bible answers that, too. It signifies the fact that our decision to follow Christ has changed us. Our old, sinful lives were crucified with Christ on the cross. Washed away in the waters of baptism. And we have emerged, washed clean by the blood of Jesus. Our baptism is our outward demonstration that we have been made new. 

Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. (‭Romans‬ ‭6‬:‭3-4‬ NLT)

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.  (‭Galatians‬ ‭3‬:‭26 NLT)

And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. (‭Galatians‬ ‭3‬:‭27‬ NLT)

Another picture of baptism was illustrated through Peter when he spoke to the Jewish believers about how Noah and his family emerged from the flood, saved by God. He again reminds them that baptism by itself has no saving power, but that it is our response to God — made effective because of Jesus’ resurrection. 

And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (‭1 Peter‬ ‭3‬:‭20-21‬ NLT)

And, of course, one of Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples reminds us of the importance of baptism along with our faith. First we must become a disciple (follower) of Jesus. Then we must be baptized.

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (‭Matthew‬ ‭28‬:‭19‬ NLT)

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Lessons from Proverbs – Trust in The Lord

I have written thirty sayings for you, filled with advice and knowledge. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭22‬:‭20‬ NLT)

…Let those with understanding receive guidance by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭1‬:‭5-6‬ NLT)

Proverbs is full of verses that layout the way we should be living life as children of the one true God. And each lesson is solidified throughout Scripture through the commandments of The Lord and stories of the faithful.  As I read the Proverbs once again, I paid attention to these lessons and thought about the other ways God has shown them to me as I’ve read the Bible.  And my hope is that they will sink deep into my heart and that the way I live my life will show it. 

Lesson:  Trust in the LORD

Trust in The Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭3‬:‭5-6‬ NLT)

We can make our own plans, but the LORD gives the right answer…Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭16‬:‭1, 3‬ NLT)

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭16‬:‭9‬ NLT)

We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭16‬:‭33‬ NLT)

No human wisdom or understanding or plan can stand against the LORD. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭21‬:‭30‬ NLT)

There is a definite theme throughout scripture teaching us that we must trust in The Lord. That on our own we are sure of nothing, but that in him we can be sure of what matters most – salvation. 

From Abraham.. Who trusted God to provide the sacrifice in place of his son. 

To David.. Who spent years running from King Saul and put all his trust in The Lord to keep him safe. 

To Paul.. Who devoted his life to traveling through any and all circumstances with The Lord as his guide to tell as many people as he could about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. 

To missionaries today.. Who live each day with the threat of torture and death simply because they love Jesus. 

To each and every one of us that trust in The Lord every day in our own struggles, knowing that we can rest in the truth that God has a plan for us and that his plan for his children is for ultimate peace and joy with him for eternity.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (‭Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭6‬ NLT)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (‭Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭28‬ NIV)

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