Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tuesday's with Jesus #119

#119 "Believing is Seeing"
October 30, 2007
"...and He asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" "Yes, Lord," they replied." (Matthew 9: 28) 
Scripture Reference: biblegateway.com
How do blind men follow Jesus? I'm not too sure, but it must've been a real sight to see (pardon the pun). Jesus was moving from place to place, calling disciples and healing many people. The Bible tells us that two blind men followed Him. Just imagine..talk about the blind leading the blind...literally. Picture this...the crowds are big. News was spreading about this man Jesus. It was noisy and close. Here come these two men. Hanging on to one another for dear life. They were probably depending on each other to move in and out of the crowd. They were depending even more on their sense of hearing to keep up the pace with Jesus' movements. Arm in arm they bump into the people, jostled back and forth as they go. All the while, calling out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" Bump...push...shove..."Have mercy on us, Son of David!" Long before Peter ever declared, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16: 16), these men knew that the Messiah had come. They may have had physical blindness of the eyes, but their spiritual sight was acute and perfect.
Following Jesus so closely that they knew He went indoors, He asks them a question that begs for an answer. "Do you believe that I am able to do this?"  If they had not believed so strongly, I don't think they would've ever followed Him all the way through. The blind in Jesus' time were outcasts and usually beggars. They must've endured some verbal insults along the way. But they were persistent in following Him. They were stumbling around in their physical darkness but they were pushed along by a greater, inner light. They were compelled by their belief that their eyes would soon be opened by the only One who they believed was able.
It's hard to be blind. Physically, of course. But what about when you're blind in your situation? Circumstances and situations are pressing in hard and you have no idea what to do. You are blind. You go to the Word. It spelled out your next steps for you last time, didn't it? But this time...this time...there's no clear word. No clear chapter and verse to fit your problem. It's what you might call a gray area. On Monday, you think you've got the page with the right instruction, but on Tuesday, there seems to be something different on another page. Which is it? What do I do? "Have mercy on me, Son of David!"
Fumbling around in the darkness of a personal situation in my life, the Word did give me an answer. It wasn't a three step plan or a six point program for enlightenment. It all began with that same question that Jesus asked the two blind men..."Do you believe that I am able to do this?"  I have never heard the audible voice of God, but as sure as I'm sitting here typing, I heard God ask me, "Donna, do you trust me?" God's Word truly is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path (Psalm 119: 105). Don't ever think it's not in the Book. Gray areas are in the Book....under Trust!
This was me and it may describe you today: "Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, (is that you?) trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God." (Isaiah 50: 10) How much plainer can it get? If you're still not convinced, try this: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3: 5-6) The Message says, "don't try to figure out everything on your own." My analytical, organized mind doesn't accept that too well, but if God says it , that settles it. If the Lover of my Soul tells me to trust, then guess what? I need to trust. And I can't trust what I don't believe. Back to the same question....Do you believe that He is able?
Can you trust Him even in the darkness? Try this on for size: "even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you." (Psalm 139: 12) Even if you can't see the way...it's not dark to God! He knows the way. On another day, in a place called Bethsaida, there was another healing of another blind man (Mark 8: 22-26). The Bible says that Jesus took that man by the hand and led him to where his healing would occur. There is light out there somewhere. Let Jesus take your hand. Hold on tight and let Him lead the way.
I'm going to give you more Word. I hope you don't mind, but when we're groping around in the darkness, the only thing that's solid, the only thing that we can cling to, is the truth of the matchless Word of God. Psalm 19: 8 says that "the commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes." The world and some people and the devil will only tell us lies. We need truth to walk in the darkness. Isaiah 60:1 says, "Arise, shine, for your light has come." Psalm 118: 27 tells us that "The Lord is God, and He has made His light shine upon us."  That light shining is Jesus Christ according to John 12: 35-36 and in John 8: 12 Jesus Himself says, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." "God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all." (1 John 1: 5)  
That darkness you're in today may be heavy. It may feel oppressive. I know, I feel it too. But let's, you and I, call out to Jesus...the Light Himself. Let's come to Him believing that He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all that we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). Let's trust Him. Let's go hand in hand, together, in spite of the crowds, in spite of the noise, in spite of what people say. Let's follow Jesus until He takes us each by our own hand and leads us to the place where the Bright and Morning Star dispels all of that darkness around us. It is said that it's always darkest before the dawn. But if you look up at a clear pre-dawn sky, you'll see that bright, morning star shining. Let that star always remind you that Christ is there, in the light and that your darkness is never too black for the light to shine through. "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands." (Psalm 19: 1)  
There is no darkness that the "Light of the World" and the "light of the Word" cannot penetrate. If you can't see today, listen. I've heard it said that if you are blind, your sense of hearing becomes more acute to compensate for vision loss. I don't know if that's really true, but I think it makes good sense that when you can't see your way clear, listen. Listen to the voice of God, the voice of Truth.  I pray that I have helped you in some small way today to see a glimmer of light in the distance because of the word that I have shared. The honor and privilege that I feel in doing so becomes a light in my own darkness. Right now, with tears, things don't seem so dark after all.
Donna Schultz
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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tuesday's with Jesus #118

#118 "Can You Hear Me Knocking?"
October 23, 2007
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me." (Revelation 3: 20)
Have you ever gone to someone's home and knocked on the door or rang the doorbell over and over again, and no one came to answer? You could hear their dog barking, music or the TV playing, and you knew they were in there, but no one ever opened the door?
Our verse today comes from the message that Jesus Himself had for the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3: 14-22). This was a church that He called "lukewarm...neither hot nor cold". They thought that they were all that. They imagined themselves to be rich, wealthy and in need of nothing. They had it goin' on. Or so they thought. But in contrast, Jesus said they were poor, blind and naked. This message was not for those who didn't believe in Jesus. It was, and still is, a message for believers. It is just as much a message for the church of 2007, and for you and me, as it was for the Laodicean believers in their day.
Dramatically Christ pictured Himself as standing outside and knocking on a door. You may have seen the familiar painting of this scene where the latch is not shown, but is assumed to be on the inside. Christ's appeal is for those who hear, to open the door and let Him come in. To those who open the door, He promises to "go in and eat with him and he with Me." 
When Jesus says, "Here I am!", notice the exclamation point. He's trying to get our attention. In essence He's saying, "Hello, Hello, is anyone in there?" But we are preoccupied with so many things. We're too distracted to hear the knock. Do we hear Him? Or are we even listening?
This door is one that only we can open. The latch is on our side of the door. Jesus is knocking at your heart's door. What is so wrong is that Jesus is standing on the outside, excluded from all of our activities and programs and the business of our lives. We have, in effect, shut him out. We've become self-sufficient, complacent and only marginally Christian. 
The tense used in the words of Christ reveal that He is continually standing and knocking. He doesn't go away. He doesn't just knock a couple of times and leave. He is patiently waiting for you to answer the door of your heart to His gentle knocking. I say gentle because He's not beating your door down. He lets you know He's there even if you're not paying attention. The knock may come in the sweet song of a bird in the morning. He's calling you when you see the morning star in the dark sky. He's whispering your name when you hear the laughter of a child. A sunrise, a rainbow, a cool breeze on your face. Good news from a friend. An answered prayer. Or maybe in the realization that you had the strength to bear your problem without having a nervous breakdown. You know it wasn't your strength, but His strength was made perfect in your weakness.
Are you listening? Can you hear Him? Are you ignoring the knock and the call? We can ignore Him when we don't confess our sins. When we aren't praying. When we aren't reading and meditating on His Word or going to church. Do we hear His voice at all? Like He said to His people in Matthew 23: 37, Jesus says to you..."how often I have longed to gather [you] together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." He wants to be close to you. He wants to be where you are. He wants to eat with you. Are you willing?
Sharing a meal is a time of close fellowship. Great business deals are made over dinner. Romantic dinners strengthen relationships. Secrets are shared when friends meet for lunch. Jesus says He wants to eat with you. He wants that time of fellowship with you. That time of closeness where it's just you and your Savior. Sharing secrets, talking things out, including Him in every minute detail of your life. He's knocking. He's calling. Can you hear Him? Are you even listening?
We need more than just our experience of salvation to get us through this world that we live in, with all of it's problems and circumstances and half-truths and chaos. Yes, we'll make it to Heaven someday, but we will miss out on the fullness of life here...in the land of the living...that a closeness with Christ will give us. Slow down, my brother or sister. Listen. Do you hear the knock at the door of your heart? The latch is on your side. It's up to you. Hear His voice and open the door. Today.
Donna Schultz
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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tuesday's with Jesus #117

#117 "Humble Pie"
October 16, 2007
"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." (Romans 12: 3)
A young woman asked for an appointment with her pastor to talk with him about a besetting sin about which she was worried. When she saw him, she said, "Pastor, I have become aware of a sin in my life which I cannot control. Every time I am at church I begin to look around at the other women, and I realize that I am the prettiest one in the whole congregation. None of the others can compare with my beauty. What can I do about this sin?" The pastor replied, "Mary, that's not a sin, why that's just a mistake!"
The Bible instructs us not to think of ourselves "more highly than [we] ought."  The New Living Translation puts it this way: "Don't think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves." And the Amplified Bible: "[Do not] have an exaggerated opinion of [your] own importance."  The Lord Himself says, "I hate pride and arrogance" (Proverbs 8: 13), and that He "opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6)
Pride is an insidious sin that is inherant in each one of us. You know as well as I do that it is so easy to think that we are all that and a bag of chips. We puff ourselves up over our accomplishments, our possessions, and even our service to God. The simple fact that we are Christians and "they" are not, can cause us to walk in pride. When God says that He "opposes" the proud, the Greek word, "antitassetai" is used, and it means that He battles against the proud. I think that the Almighty started a little skirmish with me this week. Not a full out battle but just enough to humble me.
I was humbled when I heard about a husband and wife who have taken in two children, one who is autistic and the other who has attachment disorder. This young couples' love for two little ones who would have no one without them, humbled me. I was humbled when I heard about another couple who take people into their home, and most recently provided a hospice in their living room for a dying friend. They love and give, even when they know that their hearts will be broken. I was humbled when my community group leader got down on her knees last night and washed the feet of every person there. She wanted us to know how much she loved us and to let us know that she was our servant. I was humbled when I learned that my pastor was walking the streets of the eastside of Detroit, at night, praying and talking to the young men who hang out on the street corners. I can no longer think more highly of myself than I ought.
The world would call things like this "random acts of kindness". I submit to you that there is nothing "random" about them. Compelled by the love of Jesus Christ, they love. Compelled by His forgiveness, they love much.
We might become discouraged when we look at what others in the body of Christ are doing. But let me say to you that humility is not humiliation. Humility is having the proper perspective on who we are and on our service to God. We become discouraged if we do not read the next verses in Romans 12. "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully."
Look at that. We don't all have the same function. We have different gifts. We are not all called to take unloved children into our home. We are not all called to set up hospices in our living rooms. We are not all called to walk the streets of the inner city. We are not all called to preach and teach. But we ARE all called to wash some feet. (see John 13: 14-15) We are called to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. (see John 15: 16) We have different gifts and callings but one Savior who will lead us to exactly where He wants to go. And He wants to go many places. To companies, to hospital rooms, to homes and schools and neighborhood porches. He wants to go to churches and soup kitchens and jails and homeless shelters. We are a body with many members. We are the hands and feet of Christ. He can't go unless we go. We are His Body!
Don't be so proud of your service that you look down on others who don't share the same vision. They're not supposed to! God has gifted each one of us uniquely. He allows our individual hearts to break over different things. He endows us with different gifts to serve Him in different places. In just that way, fruit is born from the neighborhood to the farthest reaches of the world. One gifted believer at a time ... one submitted life at a time. Stay away from pride!
On the flip side, don't be discouraged by those you think may have a greater gift than you. We belong to one another. We are all individual parts of the same Body, with the same purpose and the same Head. "...those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. ...God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." (1 Corinthians 12: 22-23a, 24b-26) Be humble, but not humiliated. Your gift is vitally important to the Body, no matter what it is. It was given to you, tailor made, by God Himself.
Balance is the key. A quote from Guideposts put it this way, "God wisely designed the human body so that we can neither pat our own backs nor kick ourselves too easily."
Proper perspective is found in the realization that we can do nothing apart from Christ Himself. (John 15: 5) He is the Vine, we are the branches. We must remain in Him, abide in Him and obey Him. Wherever it is that He leads, to whomever He leads. You're going to go places I will never go. I will speak to people that you never will. But that's what it's all about.
I can't sum this up in a better way than this: Corrie Ten Boom writes in "Each New Day", "When I saw Sadhu Sundar Singh in Europe, he had completed a tour around the world. People asked him, Doesn't it do harm, your getting so much honor?" The Sadhu's answer was: "No. The donkey went into Jerusalem, and they put garments on the ground before him. He was not proud. He knew it was not done to honor him, but for Jesus, who was sitting on his back. When people honor me, I know it is not me, but the Lord, who does the job." 
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last." ...Jesus
Donna Schultz
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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tuesday's with Jesus #116

#116 "Pitching Tents"
October 9, 2007
"Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters [tents]--one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.""  (Mark 9: 5)
(Scripture Reference -  Mark 9: 2-8)
We have all experienced times on the mountain top. We've all had times of intense exhilaration and happiness over the blessings of God. Maybe it was on our wedding day, when we looked into the eyes of our one true love and anticipated our future together. How about the feeling of holding your child in your arms for the very first time. What a rush!  Maybe we got the job, or the check came in the mail. What about the day that the doctor said all the tests were negative? Seasons where all is right with the world.
Peter, James and John had one of these experiences with Jesus on the top of Mount Hermon. In their presence, Jesus was transfigured. This means that He was changed into another form, not merely a change in outward appearance. For a brief time Jesus' human body was transformed and the disciples saw Him as He will be when He returns visibly in power and glory to establish His kingdom on earth. And if that weren't enough, they were able to see Moses and Elijah with their very own eyes.
Impulsive Peter says, "This is awesome! Let's pitch some tents and stay here!" He wants to prolong this glorious experience. And aren't we just like Peter? During those times when everything is as it should be, when all the facets of our lives are in perfect alignment, when the pieces all fit....we want to make our home there. We want to pitch a tent and never leave the mountain top, where we know we've heard the voice of God and our prayers have been answered and we take up residence on the sunny side of the street. 
Fortunately for us, tent pegs are easily removed from the ground. It's fortunate because we were never destined to stay in those types of moments. We need those times of exhilaration. We need those times of inspiration and divine blessing. We need to see the glory of God manifest itself in various circumstances in our lives. But we were not destined to stay there. Our destiny and our purpose is for the Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays of life. Where we get up and go to work. Come home and make dinner. Do some laundry. Put the kids to bed. Get up and do it all again. Oswald Chambers puts it this way, "We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the beautiful attractions in life--those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength." As awesome as this event was for Peter, James and John, when it was over, they were led by Christ to the reality of living, to a demon possessed boy, and a world living in the absence of Jesus. We must come down from our mountains to the drudgery, to menial tasks, and to the moments which the mountain top experience prepared us to face. Most of life is lived right there.
Might I also add a word of caution right here? I would dare to say that it is harder to live close to Christ on the mountain top than in the valley. Say what? You heard me. It's harder to live close to Christ on the mountain top than in the valley. I'm sure you'd agree that when your needs are huge and tears are streaming down your face, you run to Jesus. You pray, you give, you obey....thinking that if you follow the rules, your prayer will be answered. Nothing drives us to Christ like a crisis. We make promises. We bargain. We seek Him with all of our hearts. But what about when times get good? We must be careful not to allow good times to lead us into sloppy living.
This was obviously a problem inherent in all men. God addressed this issue way back in Deuteronomy 8: 10-18 when He said, "When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe His commands, His laws and His decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your forefathers, as it is today." 
Reading between the lines, God knows we have a penchant for forgetting Him in the good times. All of a sudden we think we can get away with sloppy living. We don't obey Him or walk as closely with Him. He says that we have a tendency toward pride and toward thinking that we accomplished everything that is good in our lives, on our own. We may even praise God for our blessings, but mistakenly believe that we were blessed because we obeyed, or because we prayed enough or walked blamelessly enough. Don't ever forget that you are on the mountain of blessing because He gave, He brought you out, He led, He supplied, He enabled. We must live close to Christ on the mountain and close to Christ in the valley.
Today, if you are on the Mount Hermon of your experience, enjoy it, but remember that it is rare. Don't pound your tent pegs in too firmly. You will be moving. Soak in the inspiration, fill yourself with the fresh air of God's presence and be inspired and strengthened by Him. Remember that it was He who led you there. Every blessing you enjoy has come from His gracious hand. Hide this moment in your heart as a reserve to draw on when Jesus says, "It's time to go down from here."
And if you're in that valley today, feeling like heaven has shut it's doors or that life is just a drudge, remember that He is with you. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." (Psalm 23: 4 KJV)  You will one day hear Jesus say, "It's time to go up." Whether you are ascending to the top of the mountain today or descending into the demon possessed valley, remember that it is He who always leads the way.
Donna Schultz
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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tuesday's with Jesus #115

#115 "Feast or Famine"
October 2, 2007
"Now there was a famine in the land--besides the earlier famine of Abraham's time--and Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines in Gerar. Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him." (Genesis 26: 1, 12)
If you take up residence in the state of Michigan, you woke up Monday morning to the headlines, "Midnight Shutdown". That would be the government of our Great Lakes state. By the time you read this, agreements may have been made, bills passed, everything may be up and running..or not. For days there has been a flurry of activity over a balanced budget. An increase to our income tax has been approved as well as a sales tax on 23 different services. Folks already struggling in their finances, in a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, are understandably shaken. More money will come from pockets already turned inside out and empty. People are angry. Divided. Panicked over what will happen next. How are believers in Jesus Christ supposed to respond at a time like this? Let's look at Genesis, Chapter 26.
There was a famine in Canaan. Isaac's father, Abraham was dead and gone. He had survived the famine of Genesis 12:10. Abraham was the one who Jehovah had promised to bless. But what of his descendant, his son, Isaac, now in a famine of his own? Very simply, the promise would continue right on after Abraham's death. The whole of Chapter 26 stresses that the promise continued to Isaac. The descendants of the obedient servant Abraham would be blessed because of him. The obedience of one man brought blessings to his descendants. And Isaac truly was blessed. He sojourned in the land and enjoyed divine prosperity. His crops flourished and he became rich, right in the midst of a famine! 
The Bible tells us that Isaac was so blessed that the Philistines envied him. They stopped up all of his wells and filled them with earth (v. 15). At that time, wells were tangible evidence of divine blessing. No matter where Isaac dug, and no matter how often the Philistines stopped up the wells, Isaac would reopen them. God's blessing on Isaac could not be hindered. No famine and no jealous Philistines could stop the divine favor of God on Isaac's life. He was Abraham's seed and heir to the promise God had given him. (see Genesis 12: 1-3)
Did you know that you are heir to that same promise? Look at Galatians 3:29. "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." You are Abraham's spiritual seed and heir to spiritual privilege and position. You have God's blessing and divine favor on your life. No famine or tax increase or government shutdown can harm you. You can prosper right in the midst of hardship.
Nowhere is this principle more beautifully portrayed than in Psalm 91. Nowhere is there a more powerful testimony about where we find our true security and protection in life. Here we learn that God is our shelter and our hiding place. He is the sovereign ruler of the world. We can rest in His shadow. Safe in that shadow, we don't feel the full heat of difficulty. In the natural, shade reduces the heat of what we actually feel. As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual realm. You can say, "God is my refuge, my strong protection and my fortress. He is my God and I trust in Him." He draws you close, under the shadow of His wings, like a mother bird protecting her young. He is a shield and a rampart, providing a protective barrier and a wall-like ridge around your life. Verses 5-7 tell you that you need not fear. Though people and circumstances and situations are flying around you by day and by night, and even when everyone around you is in a panic, the trouble will not harm you. You can live in the promises of God, in the midst of it all when you know in Whom your true security lies.
The world is not your source of financial security. "Remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your forefathers, as it is today." (Deuteronomy 8: 18) God is Jehovah Jirah, your provider. All of life is a gift from Him and nothing is possible apart from Him. In the midst of the famine of Genesis 26, your spiritual grandfather Isaac, took care of business, planted his crops and reaped a hundredfold "because the Lord blessed him."  That same blessing is on you today, my friend. In the midst of unemployment, high taxes, economical instability and government shutdowns, take care of business with God and reap a hundredfold blessing in the midst of. Don't let the newspapers and the talking heads convince you that there is no hope. "Make the Most High your dwelling [and] no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent." (Ps. 91: 9-10) 
God isn't broke today. He doesn't have a budget deficit. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:10) All the silver and gold is His. (Haggai 2: 8) He is your source. He is your security. Don't panic. Trust. That's the way believers are to respond at such a time as this! 
Donna Schultz
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