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Death does not have the final say

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In this post I want to speak about a subject that we all try to avoid thinking about: the subject of death. As I am sure you would agree, there isn’t a more unlikely or unwelcoming topic for a blog. Yet because death affects us all, and it has been front and center with me as of late, I felt it important enough to address in this post.

Over the past few days I have found myself in the unenviable position of having to deal with the subject of death far more than I care to. From the recent deaths of three brothers in Christ to the impending deaths of a couple more, it would seem that death is running unabated among my small circle of influence.

One of the men who recently passed was a millionaire many, many times over. His homes and incredible possessions spoke volumes as to his great wealth, and the exorbitant medical care costs associated with prolonging his life for a few months more meant little to him.

The other two men were about as far from wealthy as one could get I suppose. For these two, there were no millions of dollars from which to buy expensive medical treatments in the hopes of buying a little more time. The only thing they had to look forward to was to be released from the excruciating pain of an incurable disease.

It’s a peculiar thing, this thing called death and dying. It spares no one. It does not discriminate according to your wealth, or lack thereof. It plays no favorites. Leaving this life a pauper or a multi-millionaire makes no difference in the end, for death has a 100% success rate.

Should the Lord delay His coming, everyone reading this post will have their date with death. There’s no use in pretending otherwise, and while it is certainly not an uplifting subject, death is nonetheless coming for us all.

When it does, the only thing that will matter then will be whether we have prepared ourselves for what waits on the other side. You see, the Bible makes it clear that after we pass on, there is a judgement from which no one is excused. [1]

How we have lived in this life will dictate where we spend eternity. If we have lived our lives in service to the Lord, we know that Heaven and all of its splendor awaits us. Conversely, if we have rejected the Lord and chosen instead to live our lives selfishly without regard for others, we will spend eternity separated from God in a place of unimaginable suffering.

The greatest news of all however is that although death awaits us all, every born again child of God is assured that upon our last breath here on earth, we will take our first breath in Glory. In other words…death does NOT have the final say!

Jesus paid it all. His blood redeemed us from every curse, even the curse of death. For you see, whom the Son sets free is free indeed, and that includes freedom from the bondage of death. [2]

All of the men I have spoken about in this blog loved the Lord. All of them had made their preparations for eternity and are now enjoying a peace that I cannot even begin to fathom.

That’s what real freedom is. It’s knowing that death has been defeated at Calvary, and that life eternal awaits all who have surrendered their hearts to Christ. A life free of pain, discouragement, depression, tears, and any other thing that would not bring joy to us.

Sounds like the life for me, how about you?

Ron

[1] Acts 17:31, Hebrews 9:27

[2] John 8:36

In spite of the insanity, God still has a plan

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For the past several weeks I have been preoccupied with a certain thought and I’m wondering if it’s just me, or if there are others who are wrestling with these very same thoughts.

Watching the riots and violent demonstrations unfold, it seems to me as though this nation is teetering on the brink of insanity. How else could you describe the systematic dismantling of a society in favor of anarchy?

Does anyone else feel this way, or am I all alone on this island of misfits?

Consider the following if you will:

  • Municipalities are discussing the defunding of their police departments. Yes, some prefer the words “reallocate resources”, but the meaning is the same. [1]
  • The city of Seattle WA. is under siege as violent protesters have taken over city hall. [2]
  • Christopher Columbus statues are being taken down across America.  [3]
  • NASCAR has ordered that no more Confederate flags may be flown at it racetracks. [4]

As I said, we are teetering on the edge of insanity as a nation. OK, maybe the NASCAR thing isn’t such a big deal in the big picture of things, but you get my point.

Granted, we have many areas in this country that are in dire need of attention. Racism, bigotry, hatred, and rage are but a few of them. These issues are brought about by man trying to elevate himself above his fellow men, which is what men do when they no longer submit to the moral authority that God has ordained.

These issues however cannot be solved with another brick through a window. A better place to start would be with a conversation with the Lord.

Along with the inequalities and injustices now making headlines worldwide, I’d personally like to see the same amount of “focus” being placed on child hunger, child sex abuse, and affordable health care.

And while we’re at it let’s not forget the systematic murder of 60 million babies in the womb. Which, by the way, makes Hitler look like a Sunday School teacher. But I digress…

Now, lest you have started to wonder if I’ve lost it, consider this if you will.

No matter what is going on around us, God is still commanding the sun to rise in the East every morning, and every evening just like clockwork I get to watch the spectacle of the setting sun in the Western sky.

He is still in control. Man may tear down and destroy in his feeble attempts to rewrite history, but God’s plan for man cannot be altered. What is this plan of his?

God’s plan is for man to be saved. Plain and simple, God wants to save you and me from an eternity separated from Himself. Despite man’s best efforts to destroy himself and the community he lives in, God Almighty has given us his only Son Jesus Christ as full payment for our personal salvation.

Even while this nation is ablaze with hatred and violence, Jesus is still fulfilling God’s plan of salvation because God, not man, not any “movement”, but God alone is still on the throne.

Our ideologies, apart from God’s plan, are just that…ideas. 

God, however, has a plan for your life, and as part of that grand plan he has created you to soar above the ideologies of mankind. You were not created to rob, kill, and destroy. Those are the works of the devil, not God’s grandest creation. You were created in the image of God to excel!

God has a plan for you that includes you and your loved ones spending eternity with Him. Yes, the heathen may rage. Nothing about that will take God by surprise. Trust me, He’s seen it all before!

Take heart, for despite the insanity enveloping our nation, God still has a plan, and that plan my friends includes the saving of your soul. You belong to Him, and don’t ever let the devil tell you otherwise.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

 

[1] For a look at what happens to communities that defund their police force, look no further than Camden NJ. While some call it a model for police reform, the facts speak differently.

 [2] Demonstrators have since set up occupancy in a six-block section of downtown and renamed it “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ).

[3] It seems Christopher Columbus, he of the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria fame treated indigenous peoples he encountered rather poorly. Who knew?

[4] What is odd about this decision is that NASCAR has its roots deep in the South, where there are a great many people still flying the Stars and Bars. One wonders if NASCAR will not boycott Coca-Cola next. After all, its founder was Lt. Colonel John Pemberton, he of the Confederate Army’s 12th Calvary.

 

Whom Shall I Fear?

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This morning I was asked to deliver the message in both the 8:45 and 10:45 services because our pastor was ill. Thankfully, he is not suffering from the current virus that has afflicted so many, nonetheless he will be requiring medical attention as soon as possible. Please keep him in your prayers.

It just so happens that I was recently reading the 27th Psalm, and I thought it was appropriate to speak on the subject of “Whom shall I fear”, taken from the first verse of this particular Psalm.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

I think these are legitimate questions considering the current state of near-panic being exhibited by so many in our communities. Fear is a natural reaction to adverse situations beyond our control, and it takes a great deal of faith to remain calm in times like these.

I mentioned this morning how that Paul told Timothy that “in the last days, perilous times shall come“, and that whether or not one agrees that we are in the “last days” one thing was for certain and that was that we are living in dangerous times. [1]

When you really think about it, none of this should take any of God’s children by surprise. Yes, it is a shock to our system to see how that life as we have known it is changing by the day. Yet throughout the Scriptures God has warned us of a time when we would be inundated with wars, famines, pestilences, lawlessness, and a myriad of other unsettling events. [2]

My message this morning centered around the fact that while many things are out of our control, God remains in full control. Because He is in control, we have nothing to fear. How, you may ask, can I say this?

I can say this with 100% confidence because I am persuaded that there is “nothing that can separate us from the love of God“. [3]

I am not naive. I fully understand that this latest health pandemic has the potential to reach a level beyond anyone’s expectation. I also know that this will not be the last major crisis we have to deal with.

I do not say this lightly, but I say it in earnest consideration of the days we now live in, and the days that lie ahead of us.

The adversary will attempt to use this crisis to divide the church and to isolate us. This is already taking place as more and more churches are cancelling services. Because of this I strongly urge all of us to guard our hearts. Read your Bible daily, for in it you will find strength and encouragement for the journey. I also think it would be wise if we were to watch less TV news and read more of the Good News instead.

I also urge all of us to find time each day to pray. Stay in communication with the Father. I cannot begin to tell you how important this is, especially if you cannot attend church services. As I mentioned, the enemy desires to isolate us so that his voice alone is the one that garners our attention. Please do not allow that to happen in your life and in your family!

As to the questions from Psalm 27, we have no one to fear or to be afraid of. May God give you a peace that passes all understanding as you remember that the Lord has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind. [4]

I trust the Lord to watch over each of you,

Ron

[1] 2nd Timothy 3:1

[2] Matthew 24:5-7

[3] Romans 8:35-39

[4] 2 Timothy 1:7

 

 

In Times Like These

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Does doctrine still matter today?

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In today’s post I’d like to address the issue of doctrine. Specifically, whether or not it really matters to the church today.

Doctrine is one of those words that many of us in the church don’t like because the very word brings to mind rules, regulations, and irrefutable, unarguable dogma. To some, doctrine takes all the ‘fun’ out of church.

What is “Doctrine”?

Doctrine is the belief or set of beliefs and principals that make up the essence of the Christian faith. These include (but are not limited to) the Virgin birth, the Incarnation, The Crucifixion and Resurrection, and the necessity of Salvation, among many others.

From these essential truths come the various creeds and theological positions that have evolved into the essentials of our faith. From as far back as the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy to the New Testament book of Revelation, doctrine has always been a critical component of our walk with the Lord. [1]  [2]

What “Doctrine” is NOT

Doctrine is not a list of rules and regulations that a particular church or denomination has put together in order to regulate your behavior. Some examples of this include forbidding the wearing of jewelry and makeup, forbidding members to attend movies, even requiring a specific dress code that includes the length of your hair.

None of this falls under the heading of essential church doctrine necessary for salvation, but rather this is Legalism. What Legalism does is attempt to exert control over people, rather than permit them to enjoy the freedom they have in Christ. [3]

Now, you may be asking why any of this is important. It is important because proper doctrine in essential in the defense of the faith. This means that what you and I believe matters. It matters because it matters to the Lord.

For example, in speaking to the church at Pergamos in the 2nd chapter of the book of Revelation, Jesus is speaking to them about the issue of doctrine. Specifically, he told them that because they tolerated the doctrine of Balaam, a false teaching that led Israel into idolatry and fornication, it would be held against them.

They also had among themselves those that held to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. This false belief was one of compromise, rejecting the idea that complete separation between Christianity and the practice of occult paganism was necessary.

I find it incredibly interesting that doctrine was so important to the Lord Jesus that he actually called out those that were permitting false doctrine in their midst. This mindset is completely opposite of many in the Church today where doctrine has taken a back seat to belief systems developed to appease the mind of guilt and raise one’s esteem.

It has become a common thought today that while core doctrines were necessary for the development of the infant church, 2000 years later we have moved beyond the need for such rigidity.

For proof of this consider the church you attend today. Does it hold to the Biblical standards in it core doctrines? For that matter, does it still hold to its original doctrinal statements? Going a step further, does your church still officially hold to these truths yet never speak on them?

I believe we do the Lord a huge disservice by not proclaiming the essential, core doctrines of the Christian church today. I am firmly convinced that this lack of solid Biblical instruction is a large part of why the church isn’t the powerful voice it once was in society. Specifically, many of us have no idea why we believe what we believe. How then can we tell others, especially those outside the household of faith?

The answer to the question “Does doctrine still matter today” is a resounding YES!

Be blessed today,

Ron

 

[1] Deuteronomy 32:2

[2]. Revelation 2:14-15, 2:24

[3] “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed”.  John 8:36.  NKJV

Does it really matter what you believe?

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According to some people it doesn’t. After all, don’t all roads lead to Heaven? And at the end of it all, isn’t God going to give everyone a free pass into Heaven? Or at the very least, give us another chance after death to make things “right enough” to earn a spot in heaven?

That actually sounds nice doesn’t it? I mean, if God is love and all, why wouldn’t He let everyone into Heaven? What kind of God would exclude good people anyway?

I used to believe this, every last word of it. You might say my “religion” was built upon the premise that if God was who people said He was, at the end of the game all of our scores will be added up and guess what?

We all get in because God is a swell guy that sees all the good works we’re doing. You know, working hard to get to Heaven and all that.

Being raised as I was without any religious or Bible education, I was simply doing what everyone else who was raised in similar circumstances was doing; I invented my own religious belief system. A system built upon my own works and good deeds.

And I was doing fine until…

One day someone told me that Jesus was the only way, that He loved me, and that He died just for me, and right then my “religion” was exposed for what it was: just another frail attempt by a sinful man to justify his own sinful behavior.

When I started going to church and reading the Bible for myself, I soon realized just how far off the mark I had drifted. As a matter of fact, reading the Gospels alone was enough to convince me that what one believes actually did matter.

You see, what I discovered was that according to the Bible, there was such a thing as right and wrong. Not only that, but I also discovered that my opinions about it didn’t really matter all that much, because you see the Bible confronted me with a TRUTH that rendered my own opinions pretty much worthless.

This is why it grieves my soul today when I hear people say “there’s good in all churches” (not true). Or when I hear people say ”well, they may not teach it just like the Bible says, but its close enough” (no, it’s not). Or my all-time favorite: “I know they say some things that don’t line up with the Word, but I just take the good stuff and throw away the rest”.

Is God so wishy washy that he considers close enough or good enough to be sufficient? I mean seriously, is this kind of like horseshoes, where close enough earns you points?

Do we really believe that close enough or good enough is really “good enough”? Is this really something we want to leave to chance? Isn’t it serious enough to want to know for certainty?

Can someone even define “good enough” or “close enough”?

And can we of our own making devise a religion that will make us good enough, much like I thought I had done?

Well, not according to God’s Word we can’t!

As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;  Romans 3:10

So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.  Mark 10:18

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Prov. 16:25

It DOES matter what you believe! It matters because it matters to a Holy God, and it is only because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ that we are saved today.

Good enough? Not me. The only good in me is HIM.

And that’s all that matters!

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where does the time go?

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Do you ever ask yourself “where does the time go”? ru_wasting_time2

Are you one of those who easily lose track of time, and before you know it a couple of hours have passed?

I admit it. I’m really bad about letting time get away from me, especially now that I’m retired. Where I once had my days planned out in 15 minute increments and often had to settle for 10 or 15 minute lunches, now I rarely even glance at my watch.

If I get interested in something I tend to get lost in it very easily. I always hoped that such a trait was a hallmark of genius, but obviously not!

I’m always reading a book, whether a real ‘hold it in my hands’ book or an eBook. I can’t go into a thrift store without looking for another book. Even my email inbox delivers a daily selection of pre-selected books from which to choose.

Like many people, I have several Bibles. In fact, I just picked up another one Friday. I have no idea how many electronic versions I have, too many would be a good guess. Like any of us really need this many Bibles.

Maybe I need an intervention?

Speaking of wasting time, I rarely miss watching the evening news, though I find most of it terribly depressing. Honestly, I think all news reporting is just about the same; agenda driven half-truths designed to sway public opinion to one side or another.

Can I just have the facts so I can make my own decisions please?

I spend so much time online that I think my iPad has become an appendage!

I also watch my share of Christian music or preaching videos on YouTube, which are both a blessing and a curse. It is, however, light years ahead of the WOF prosperity blather constantly being regurgitated on TBN.

What I am coming to realize is that my attention is diverted in so many different directions that I find it difficult to stay focused on any one of them for very long. Maybe you can relate?

hourglassI am also realizing just how quickly time is slipping through my fingers. Like sand thru the hourglass, as the saying goes, every day represents a little less time that we have to accomplish whatever it is we have been called to do.

The Apostle Paul understood this all too well. Paul was all about running his race in order to receive the prize at the end. He also knew that time was something that each of us has a predetermined amount of, therefore he cautioned the church at Rome not to fall asleep on the job.

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.    Romans 13:11

Additionally, when he was preaching at Ephesus, Paul spoke about “redeeming the time”. What he was saying to them was that as Christians we ought to make the best, most efficient use of the time we have.

In other words, stop wasting so much time!

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.   Eph. 5:15-16

God’s word cautions us to walk carefully, living our lives with honor, purpose, and courage. We are urged to be diligent to wake out of our sleep, make the most out of the time we’ve been allotted, and clarify our priorities.

Maybe the question isn’t “where does the time go”, but rather how much time are we allotting to the really important things in our lives?

Be blessed!

Ron

God,the lifter of my head…

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All of us need encouragement from time to time, so I thought I’d share one of my favorite Psalms with everyone today.

Psalm 3

O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people!

It’s even more powerful when it’s sung. Enjoy!

Ron

 

 

Create in me a clean heart,O God;

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Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.   Psalm 51:10-12

This was the prayer of David after he had fallen into deep sin. This once humble shepherd boy turned giant killer, the apple of Gods eye, has been knocked off of his lofty throne by pride, arrogance, and lust.

Having committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then having her husband killed in a vain attempt to hide his sin, King David found himself in bitterness and anguish of soul. As you read Psalm 51, the depths of this anguish nearly jumps off the page, and no doubt many of us can empathize with his sorrows.

For the rest of his life David would pay a tremendous price for his moral failures. Not only he, but his family as well would suffer the consequences of “the pleasures of sin for a season”. Indeed, his own son tried to take the kingdom from him, and never again would David know complete peace and contentment in his life.

thou-art-the-man_peter_rothermel_david_nathan_b

Thou Art The Man- by Peter Rothermel

There are several lessons to be gleaned from this tragic episode in the life of Israel’s beloved king, not the least of which is that none of us has to be a murderer or an adulterer to have need of a clean heart and a right spirit within us. All of us are in need of these things.

Everyday events can drain us, leaving us discouraged and feeling so lowly that we have to reach up just to be able to touch the bottom. Life, for all of its joys and triumphs, also brings with it incredible heartaches and disappointments. For these, we need the security of knowing that God is working “all things together for our good”.

Who among us doesn’t need renewal from time to time? Contrary to popular opinion, there certainly is no shame in acknowledging our own inabilities to “fix ourselves” by calling upon the Lord. As a matter of fact, He tells us to “cast all of our cares upon him, because He cares for us.”

I don’t know where you are in your walk with the Lord, but I’m craving a deeper walk with him. So many things in this life cause division and separation between us and God. Even good things, in excess, can come between us and our relationship with him.

The last thing I want is to be found like David, far from God, yet I know that if I don’t pray and study his word that is exactly what will happen. Our prayer then should always be like David’s; “Lord, cast me not away from your presence.”

In perilous and uncertain times such as we are living in today, all of us need the strong hand of the Lord to sustain us, to keep us pointed in the right direction. Let’s face it, we need Him!

David understood that even though he had committed horrible sins before his God forgiveness, albeit at a cost, was available to him. The son that was born to him out of the illicit affair with Bathsheba for example, would become sick and die. No amount of fasting and prayer for him could save his life, yet this event served a greater purpose in turning David’s heart back to God.

Having done that, he began the road back to once again having a clean heart, a right spirit, the joy of the Lord, and a restored relationship with God. Yes, there were consequences for his actions, however with God’s help; David was able to persevere in spite of them.

The grace of God is truly amazing isn’t it? A God that would forgive David is just as quick to forgive us for our own shortcomings. It really is as simple as calling upon Him to forgive us and create in us a clean heart.

Be blessed on this Lords day!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

What are you settling for?

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God has called us to live an Abundant Life, just as Jesus describes in John 10:10.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

I’m thinking that we are settling for far less than an Abundant Life, especially as Christians, the Body of Christ. For example…

By all appearances, we are content to go to church, listen to a few songs, settle in for a nice sermon that was designed to make us feel better about ourselves, then head quickly for the door in order to get a seat at our favorite restaurant.

Mediocrity Green Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds, Sun Rays and Sky.Content to leave exactly as we came.

Content to settle for yet another dry, lifeless, powerless church service.

 

The only thing worse than this is doing it all over again.

Every

Single 

Week

Surely, the enemy of our souls is watching all of this, gleeful in that we have succumbed to the spirit of slumber. This, in spite of Paul’s warning to the church at Rome:

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” Rom. 13:11

This is what settling does to us. It allows complacency to overwhelm our senses to the point that we no longer are even aware of what we don’t have!

Our churches have all kinds of musical talent for example. From keyboards and guitars to drums and full orchestra’s. Music fills the rafters. Yet it’s one lifeless, cold, ritualistic note after another, void of any anointing that might sear the conscious or break through a heart hardened by sin.

So we settle. And we clap. And we sing. And we clap some more.

And leave exactly the same way we came.

We have learned to be OK with settling. In fact, settling is now normal.

Our ministers now have access to scriptural knowledge like at no other time in history. Thanks to the Internet, entire volumes of reference materials are at our fingertips. Huge libraries containing thousands of works published by sold out men and women of God are accessible via a click of a computer mouse.

Yet for all of this available knowledge and wisdom, what we are presented on Sunday mornings are short sermonettes containing tidbits of scripture, but filled with stories about being a better you, or how to live your best life. To more than a few, this is a great time to take a nap!

bored_in_church-300x270

charleyreeb.com

These sermonnettes are nothing more than pulpit cheer-leading. They prompt us to feel the “rah rah rah” of the moment, but cannot prevent the euphoria from draining away when life suddenly interrupts our version of “churchianity”.

For that, we need the whole counsel of the meat of God’s Word.

Do you want to know the secret to living your best life, and how to be a better you? The secret is to die daily. That’s right, draw nigh to God and in the process you will crucify this flesh that demands more and more of the pleasures of this world.

Would it shock you to learn that God isn’t the least bit interested in whether or not you are living your best life? Would it surprise you to learn that what He is really interested in is that you submit your entire life to Him?

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  Matthew 6:33

Give Him all of you FIRST, then the things you desire will come. Anything less than this is settling. Yes, seeking the kingdom of God first is a costly endeavor. It will cost you your WILL.

Nothing worth having is free, nor does it come easy. The rewards however, are priceless.

Why then do we settle for less than the Abundant Life Jesus spoke of?

What exactly are you settling for?

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

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