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31  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: February 19, 2018, 07:30:00 AM
Emblems of the Holy Spirit

“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.” (Matthew 3:16)
There are several beautiful symbols of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. The first is that of the dove, here mentioned in the very first New Testament reference to the Spirit. It was the dove, of course, that first assured Noah that the earth had risen out of the death waters of the great Flood, just as Christ now rose up out of the baptismal waters to receive the dove-like Spirit.
The water itself is also an emblem of the Spirit in its cleansing efficacy and life-sustaining virtue. Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). This could also be translated “born of water, even the Spirit.” When He promised “rivers of living water” to those who believed on Him, “this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive” (John 7:38-39).
Then, there is the wind: sometimes a gentle breeze, sometimes a mighty hurricane, and this also symbolizes the Holy Spirit. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
John the Baptist said, “I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh. . . . he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (Luke 3:16). The Holy Spirit is God; “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). The Spirit of God is a gentle dove and living water; He is the blowing wind and a consuming fire; He is our “Comforter” (John 14:26), “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17), and “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2). HMM
32  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: February 18, 2018, 07:36:33 AM
Watch and Pray

“Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.” (Nehemiah 4:9)
Prayer is a powerful weapon, but the wall-builders in Jerusalem also were careful to set a watch against their enemies “with their swords, their spears, and their bows” (Nehemiah 4:13). They were ready to fight if necessary, but at the same time they were confident that “our God shall fight for us” (Nehemiah 4:20).
This is a sound biblical principle. God expects us to make appropriate use of whatever physical means are available for a needed ministry rather than to rely simply on prayer and divine miracle. The Lord rebuked those who came asking Him to perform a miracle merely to test Him or to see something curious. “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe” (John 4:48). Neither does He condone prayer in lieu of work, for “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). The same holds for prayer in lieu of obedience. As Joshua was praying for deliverance from the enemy, “the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them” (Joshua 7:10-11).
But as prayer without working is dead, so watching and working without prayer are futile. “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2). “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain” (Psalm 127:1).
The biblical principle is not only to watch or only to pray. Both are essential. “Watch and pray,” said Jesus, “that ye enter not into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). HMM
33  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: February 17, 2018, 07:06:43 AM
Faith in All the Ages

“And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets.” (Hebrews 11:32)
Hebrews 11 is a thrilling catalog of the faithful servants of God in all the ancient ages. There were Abel, Enoch, and Noah before the Flood; then Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph in the patriarchal age; followed by Moses, Joshua, and Rahab in the time of the exodus and conquest. Finally, today’s verse summarizes the periods of the judges (Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthae), the kings (Samuel, David), and the prophets.
All these were men and women of great faith, though each had to endure great testing. They, as the writer says, “stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword . . . had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder . . . destitute, afflicted, tormented” (Hebrews 11:33-37).
In every age, men and women of faith were more often than not despised and persecuted by the world (even by the religious world!), but the Bible notes, parenthetically, that it was they “of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38). In God’s sight, they all “obtained a good report through faith” (Hebrews 11:39), and this is worth more than all the world, for it is the entrance into a far better and eternal world.
Note that faith is not a sentimental wishfulness but a strong confidence in God and His Word, through Jesus Christ, who is Himself “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Like those of past ages, we can also “run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1) through the faith He offers us. HMM
34  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: February 16, 2018, 05:54:10 PM
The Call of the Twelve

“And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach.” (Mark 3:14)
Early in His public ministry, Jesus gathered around Himself those to whom He would eventually entrust the Christian message. Many others had also been attracted to Him and His works, as indicated in the previous verse: “And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would [emphasis in the Greek is on he; the choice was His alone]: and they came unto him” (v. 13). Of those He invited, He “ordained twelve.”
Such a momentous selection could not be taken lightly, and we should not pass over it either. Luke gives us further information: “He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12) before choosing the twelve. As a sidelight, it bears mentioning that if God the Son so relied on the wisdom from God the Father before making an important decision, how can we neglect prayer as we so often do?
Four purposes are listed for these appointees, but the last three flow from the first: “That they should be with him.” They would see Him in action, learn truth from Him, assist Him in His work; but most importantly they would see His character and habits, and would never be the same.
Part of their training included being sent out to put in practice what they had learned, “that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils” (Mark 3:14-15). He gave them a message to preach and the ability to authenticate that message.
A study of these disciples as revealed in the gospels makes one wonder if Jesus made a proper choice. However, in the book of Acts, once He was gone and the Holy Spirit empowered them, we recognize that their training was complete. We are the result of their effective ministry. JDM
35  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: February 15, 2018, 08:30:04 AM
The Lively Oracles

“This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.” (Acts 7:38)
This pungent expression, “lively oracles,” is the felicitous King James translation of zao logion, “utterances that are vibrantly alive.” In Stephen’s address, he was referring, of course, to the tables of the law, “written with the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18) and received by Moses on Mount Sinai directly from the Lord.
The Greek word logion is derived from logos (“word”) and occurs just four times. In the other three references, it appears in the phrase “oracles of God” (Romans 3:2; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11). These “oracles” are living words precisely because they do come from God. They include not only the Ten Commandments but all the Holy Scriptures.
The word “lively” is the Greek zao, occurring over 140 times and translated variously (depending on context) as “alive,” “live,” “living,” “quick,” etc. It is significant that it occurs, first of all, on the lips of Christ Himself when He said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). We are truly alive only through the life-giving words of the living God! “For the word [that is, each individual saying] of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword . . . and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
The Bible is not just a book but the Book. Its content is “for ever . . . settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89), “able to make thee wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15), and is “given by inspiration of God” (“God-breathed”) (2 Timothy 3:16). Its words must guide our very lives! HMM
36  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: February 14, 2018, 08:39:13 AM
Love in the Old Testament

“And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.” (Genesis 29:20)
It is well known that “love” in the New Testament almost always means unselfish agape love. The Greek word for sexual love or romantic love, eros, is never used at all in the New Testament. Even marital love is ideally agape love in its main expression, as in Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”
In the Old Testament, on the other hand, there are about a dozen different Hebrew words used for “love,” and these often have wide variations in meaning, depending on context, often including romantic love as one of them. For example, Jacob’s willingness to work for Laban seven years in order to obtain Rachel for his wife clearly must have involved a high degree of romantic love on his part. He also loved her sister Leah, after Laban insisted he marry her first, but “he loved also Rachel more than Leah” (Genesis 29:30).
Several different “love” words are used in the Song of Solomon, as Solomon and his bride frequently speak of their romantic love for each other. There is no doubt that God approves of such love when it is pure and true and involves self-sacrificing agape love as well. “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4). The word for “whoremonger,” incidentally, is also often translated “fornicator” and can refer to any kind of sexual activity (some may call it “love,” but this is a caricature) outside of monogamous, man-and-woman, lifelong marriage.
The greatest love of all, of course, in both Old and New Testaments, is God’s love for the men and women He has created and redeemed. HMM
37  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: February 13, 2018, 08:48:33 AM
Seven Days

“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.” (John 8:56)
Jesus spoke to the Pharisees about “my day”—a day that Abraham had “seen” 2,000 years before. This evidently referred to the time when Christ would be on Earth, which God had enabled Abraham to see in prophecy.
But of all the days when He was on the earth, the most glorious was the great day when He rose from the dead. “He hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” (Acts 13:33).
As a result of His death and resurrection, “behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). The day of salvation is any day in this age of grace when a person believes on Christ for salvation. He then receives “the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). This great future day of redemption evidently is the same as “the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6), when He comes again.
Following this is the fearful day of the Lord, when Christ will punish and judge and reign. “The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night . . . and they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). It is also called “the great day of his wrath” (Revelation 6:17).
This day of the Lord will culminate at God’s great white throne. This will be “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5).
Finally will come the eternal “day of God” when this present earth will be purified with fire and “we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). That day will never end, “for there shall be no night there” (Revelation 21:25). HMM
38  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: February 12, 2018, 08:36:51 AM
The Gospel of Prosperity

“Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.” (Romans 1:10)
This mention of the word “prosperous” is the first of the only four occurrences of the Greek word enodoo (meaning literally “good journey” but translated “prosper” or “prosperous”) in the New Testament. Here, it is actually rendered “prosperous journey.”
It is obvious that Paul was not praying for his journey to prosper financially, for the next verse indicates his long desire had been to “impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established” (Romans 1:11).
However, the word has come to include any kind of prospering, as in 1 Corinthians 16:2, when Paul urged Christians to provide financial help for other Christians in need. “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him,” he said.
The term can also refer to physical and spiritual health. Its two other occurrences are in 3 John 1:2: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” Unfortunately, certain teachers of these latter days have taken the biblical teaching of spiritual prosperity to mean financial prosperity, which they teach is the right of every Christian. But this “prosperity gospel” is so clearly unscriptural that it is merely a testimony to the cupidity of the Christians who believe it. “They that [desire to] be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts,” warned Paul (1 Timothy 6:9). And to whatever extent God does prosper us financially, it is strictly for the purpose of helping others, not to indulge ourselves. “Charge them that are rich in this world, that . . . they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute” (1 Timothy 6:17-18). HMM
39  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: February 11, 2018, 08:48:39 AM
Fruit-Bearing Christians

“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” (John 15:2)
As Christ emphasized in His parable of the vine and the branches, it is vitally important for a Christian to bear fruit. There are, in fact, many types of spiritual fruit mentioned in Scripture.
Perhaps the most important fruit, produced in one’s life by the Holy Spirit, is that of a Christlike character. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22-23). “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9).
Holiness—the seal of a life dedicated to God—is a particular spiritual fruit. “Being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness” (Romans 6:22) and are “filled with the fruits of righteousness” (Philippians 1:11). This entails also the fruit of good works performed in the name of Christ, “that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work” (Colossians 1:10).
The habit of giving thanks and praise rather than complaint and criticism is a valuable Christian fruit. “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15). Generosity is another important fruit. Paul commended the sacrificial giving of the Philippians, “not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account” (Philippians 4:17).
Finally, one vital fruit of a Christian witness is fruit borne in other Christians’ lives. Paul’s great desire was “that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles” (Romans 1:13). HMM
40  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: February 10, 2018, 08:09:02 AM
Not Yet

“These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.” (John 8:20)
This is the last of seven times in the gospel of John that the phrase “not yet” is used in reference to the forthcoming death of Christ. Although this was the very reason He came into the world, the event itself could not be hurried.
When His mother wanted Him to provide wine for the wedding, He said, “Mine hour is not yet come” (John 2:4). When His brothers urged Him to show His mighty works in Jerusalem, His answer was “My time is not yet come” (John 7:6, 8). When His enemies tried to take Him at the feast of tabernacles, “no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come” (John 7:30). Even when He preached His great promise of living water, John noted parenthetically that “the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39).
But His hour did come, and they did lay hands on Him and put Him to death. Then He was glorified, and the Holy Spirit was given. And now we await another great time that has not yet come. John speaks of this also: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but . . . we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2).
In that great time to come, all things will be made subject to Christ. “But now we see not yet all things put under him” (Hebrews 2:8). These great promises and others associated with them have not yet been accomplished—the world is far from being in subjection to Him, and we are far from being like Him. But the hour will come, just as the first one did, and it will be glorious. For “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). HMM
41  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: February 09, 2018, 07:49:39 AM
Greetings from Peter

“Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.” (2 Peter 1:1-2)
All too often we skip over the introductory verses of greeting in a Bible book, but many times these verses contain rich information. Such is the case in today’s verse.
We first notice the strange paradox in Peter’s identification of himself. He is both the authoritative “apostle,” the officially commissioned ambassador of Jesus Christ, as well as His “servant,” or bondslave. Historically, we know that Peter was one of the inner circle of disciples in whom Christ placed great responsibility, but he was also the one who denied Christ at His trial. Christ had bought him with His blood as a slave would be bought, forgiven him much, and had sent him out on a lifelong mission.
The letter is written to those “that have obtained like precious faith,” i.e., the same kind of precious faith possessed by the apostles, implying equal standing and privilege before God, obtained through His righteousness.
Peter uses two descriptive names for Christ, calling Him both “God and our Savior,” referring to His dual divine/human nature and role. Peter’s prayer for us (possessors of like precious faith) is moving. He desires the sanctifying and sustaining grace of God for us, the peace of God that brings joy even in the face of adversity, and that both would be multiplied. These traits would come “through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus, our Lord” (today’s verse). Much of the rest of the book deals with false teachers and false knowledge, but Peter would have us grow into “full knowledge” (literal translation; see also vv. 3, 8) of God through the walk of grace and peace. JDM
42  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: February 08, 2018, 10:16:57 AM
The “I Wills” of Christ

“And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.” (Mark 1:41)
When the Lord Jesus makes a promise, that promise is sure to be fulfilled. When He made the above promise to the leper, “immediately the leprosy departed from him” (Mark 1:42). The promise may not always be carried out as rapidly as this, but it will come.
Look at some of the wonderful “I wills” of Christ. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19) is His promise to all His true disciples (that is, those who follow Him). But first they must come to Him, and to those who come He promises, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
Another gracious promise to all who come: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). He also promises special love to those who obey Him. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, . . . shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21).
There is a tremendous promise in John 14:13: “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” He even emphasized it in the next verse: “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14).
He has also promised to come back again, and we can be certain He will do as He said: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). But probably the greatest of all His promises was given in His intercessory prayer. “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory” (John 17:24). HMM
43  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: February 07, 2018, 06:36:27 AM
Hating Knowledge

“How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?” (Proverbs 1:22)
This ancient question by the wise man Solomon was posed almost 3,000 years ago and is still relevant today. “How long?” he asked. How long will men continue to scoff at true knowledge? “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).
The answer to your question, Solomon, would have been 3,000 years at least! Peter prophesied “that there shall come in the last days scoffers . . . saying, Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Peter 3:3-4); and Paul said “that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be . . . boasters, proud, blasphemers. . . . Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:1-2, 7).
Throughout history men have scorned the true knowledge of God and His creation. Peter says they “willingly are ignorant,” and Paul says they are “without excuse” (2 Peter 3:5; Romans 1:20), but they “delight in their scorning” nonetheless.
It is remarkable that their hatred of God’s true knowledge is cloaked in a robe of scientism and evolutionary pseudoknowledge that even deceives many professing Christians. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22), despising the true wisdom and instruction of God’s Word.
“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Those who scorn God’s Word have no light of their own, despite their scientific pretensions. “Wise men lay up knowledge: but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction” (Proverbs 10:14). HMM
44  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: February 06, 2018, 08:35:25 AM
Tithes and Offerings

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10)
Today there is much talk of financial security. The biblical formula in today’s verse, given to Israel but applied to all, begins with a scathing indictment. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings” (v. 8). What a terrible thing, to rob God. The result of their thievery, in God’s eyes: “Ye are cursed with a curse” (v. 9) such that their financial state was much worse than it would have been had they been obedient. This teaching and promise has not been rescinded (Luke 6:38; 1 Corinthians 16:2; etc.).
God’s charge to us as given in today’s verse is in three steps. First, we are told to obey; i.e., “bring ye.” This cannot be considered an option. Secondly, God proposes a test. “Prove me,” He says, give and see if He lives up to His promises. Thirdly, trust His promise to meet our needs.
Note that His promise is also threefold. It abundantly covers present needs, for He promises to “pour you out a blessing” unmeasurable in quality or quantity. Likewise, it covers the threat of future loss. “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field” (v. 11). Most precious is His promise to reward obedience and trust with a special relationship: “All nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land” (v. 12).
Thus, we see that with less than 100 percent of our income at our disposal, we will have greater financial security than if we had kept it all to ourselves, thereby robbing God. JDM
45  Theology / Bible Study / Re: A Daily Devotional on: February 05, 2018, 08:53:37 AM
From Darkness to Light

“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:3-4)
The initial aspect of God’s newly created world was one of darkness in the presence of the all-pervading waters. Since “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5), the darkness had to be specially created (Isaiah 45:7) before God could then call for the light to appear in the darkness.
This would later serve as a striking picture of the entrance of light into the darkness of a soul born in sin. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). The light enters our soul by His Word. “The entrance of thy words giveth light” (Psalm 119:130).
This great theme, contrasting the darkness of the soul without Christ to the glorious light He brings when that soul receives Him by faith, is found often in Scripture. “[Christ] hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). “The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth” (1 John 2:8). Jesus even called Himself that true light that divided the light from the darkness. “I am the light of the world,” He claimed. “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).
And because we have received the true light, we should henceforth live in the light of His truth. “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). “Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (Romans 13:12). God’s light is good. In the Holy City, “there shall be no night there” (Revelation 22:5). HMM
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