Tweets on The Gospel

While these upcoming tweets are scheduled for July release on my feed, I thought they should have a home here early. (Thanks, Scot). Happy head-messing!

Christopher

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The Gospel is the proclamation of all that Jesus is, not what we get because of who he is.

Saying the Gospel is all about personal salvation is like saying a car is all about its tires.

One reason many grow weary with our version of the Gospel is bc we talk more about an escape plan than we do about reformational living.

Corporate submission to the King trumps personal freedom.

Loving Jesus because of salvation is like loving your mom because she does your laundry.

Discovering that the Gospel is not about me and all about Jesus is one of the healthiest things an American can embrace.

Jesus is not your life coach. He’s King. Serving him invites the Holy Spirit, and he’ll lead you into all you need in his kingdom.

Our allegiance is pledged to King Jesus, not to a self-help menu.

If you want help, yes, embracing the Gospel will undo you.

Jesus didn’t die to give you personal freedom, he died because he’s the King who comes back from the dead. And he loved freeing you.

Proclaiming salvation is the Gospel is like saying that the scoreboard makes teams win games.

We must return to making the Gospel more about Jesus’ reign (which brought us salvation), not a self-help regiment.

The Gospel is not a gateway drug to lifestyle change. It is the message that Jesus is Lord and nothing else is, including our needs and wants.

Salvation is one benefit of the Gospel, but it is not the Gospel.

We do a disservice to Jesus and to people when we proclaim that the most significant part of the Gospel is salvation.

Emmanuel, God with us, astounds me.

“Jesus is Lord” should upset every balance in your life.

I don’t love Jesus because he saved me, I love Jesus because he’s God. That he does anything else for me at all is unspeakable wonder.

Overcoming Selective Perception – Where National Geographic’s Camera Got It Right But The Comment Got It Wrong

Jennifer and I often find ourselves driving down a road that we’ve traveled thousands of times (literally), when we notice a new house, an old building gone, or a large change in the landscape.

“Woah, I never noticed that!”

The more frequent the road for us, the more startling the change to us. Sometimes we just look at each other, incredulous.

“How are we so blind that we didn’t notice that?

Just this week, one of us (I won’t say who) noticed that an entire nursing home, complete with out buildings and an admin wing, had been torn down.

For eight months.

If you’re chuckling right now, it means you’ve had similar experiences, which means none of us are alone in this condition.

This same effect, however, can also play out on much more meaningful subjects.

People.

A National Geographic photo posted on their Instagram account this morning is a prime example:

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I felt compelled to comment:

@find_ch forget climate change; what about the immediate caustic effects of those walking through it?

@wiccat Agree to you!!

@wiccat thanks for the kind comment. I think sometimes we can get so caught up in generalizations, especially if they suit our own ambitions, that we fail to notice (or comment on) the thing that’s staring us right in the face. This is a perfect example. The climate’s changing? OK, the jury’s still out even as to why. But right now, I see a beautiful girl who’s walking through carcinogenic smoke—and that’s not the lead line? [sigh]

Exclusive perception.

We tend to see what we want to see. The object of our passion becomes the blinders to our perception by distorting reality. We don’t notice the obvious because in our own distorted reality, the obvious thing literally isn’t there. We’re induced into a state of virtual blindness.

We need healing.

Usually this comes in the form of a good coach (some who “sees” more than we do), an epiphany from God (a revelation found in spiritual awakening), or a jarring life experience that snaps us out of our stupor (a visit to Cambodia, let’s say).

Such “wake up calls” help us then divest ourselves from a singular passion and reinvest in a passion that is itself inclusive—that has many passions within it. But, since we can’t be poly-sighted in every scenario, we must make a values call by becoming passionate about the right issues.

What are the right issues, you ask? Aren’t those utterly subjective?

The right issues are those that always place the needs of hurting people, all people, above politics and policy, no matter how revered. A politic that itself has missed the care of a person is a flawed politic, and therefore a flawed virtue. Because the needs of hurting people are always the right issue to champion.

There is no more noble cause, no more clearer lens through which to view the world, than to empathize with another individual and meet their need. It is precisely what King Jesus did for humanity, and it’s the lifestyle lens that helps us overcome bureaucracy with benevolence.

The only set of flawless virtues that I know of are not those of any present nation or civil contract; though there are plenty of good working models, even the best is far from adequate. For even a system that proves idealistic for one people group turns out to be hostile for another, since there is nothing in civil contract that can inherently transform the condition of the human heart.

The kingdom lens.

The values of the kingdom of God are universal (they are best for all mankind, everywhere, regardless of race or culture), they are eternal (they have everlasting effects on the individual), and they are inherited (not earned, but gifted, sometimes even to those who aren’t aware of the Gift Giver—such is the largess of grace). The kingdom is in fact the superior and supreme ideology and methodology in serving humans out of our collective depravity.

It’s how we see.

It’s how we perceive.

When our passion becomes Jesus, our values become kingdom ones, and our empathy becomes action. Because, for the first time, we don’t see a mission. We don’t see a cause or a campaign.

We see a face.

Christopher

“But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”

James the Just

Arresting Our Perspectives

Sometimes our perspectives need arresting. The out-of-control, self-centric world view that plagues those of us who live amongst the earth’s most affluent societies is a beast that needs constant taming.

The fix is quite simple really: force your sane self to show your perspective-less self the images and stories that your bad attitude conveniently missed.

Like this one, posted recently by one of my friends:

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Hey, you there. Reader. You had a really good day today. Now go find someone to encourage.

Emotional Comfort or Divine Peace?

What many of us are referencing when we say we need or want “peace” about something is actually not peace at all.

It’s emotional comfort.

Peace that passes understanding is just that—something that surpasses out ability to comprehend it. What we want is for everything to make sense, and then, because we understand it all, to feel good about what we know. That’s cerebral. That’s emotional comfort. Divine peace, on the other hand, says, “I don’t understand it all, and yet in spite of that, I’m at one with God.”

It’s not the absence of conflict, it’s knowing who’s at the helm of the ship when the seas are up.

If we’re focused more on personal happiness than we are with ongoing spiritual maturity, we’ll misinterpret trials as judgements instead of invitations to become Christlike.

Sail on.

Weight

I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure. While I can’t see it, I can feel it.

Weight.

Something pressing’s down on me. Many things, actually. And they’re not bad things. They’re good things. In fact, they’re God-ordained things.

Serving my wife, stewarding my kids, taking care of our home, investing into people, building the local church, growing kingdom businesses that influence communities, creating art that changes hearts.

Every one of these topics have high price tags of time, energy and money. And they each have severe ramifications if I make mistakes.

Legitimately.

And yet they weight me down.

So is the weight something I’m to be afraid of? To fear?

How about to avoid? That seems to be the most common advice I give myself. That’s the advice most well meaning people give. Avoid the weight. Look for ways to offload it. It’s unhealthy. It’s not God. If you’re not at peace with it, look for where you’re being disobedient.

But what if not giving myself to any of those things is the disobedience?

I’m also inspired by a quote form one of T.D. Jake’s famous sermons, The Weight of Glory:

The conduit from laity to leadership is discomfort.

What if the discomfort of my life is the very thing that qualifies me to lead? To stand in front of my family, my friends, my church, my businesses, and say, “Follow me as I follow the Lord.”

I’m inspired by the life and letters of the Apostle Paul, knowing that affliction is the gateway for glory.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

What if the very tactic of the enemy is to get me to believe the “burn out” lie? To subtly convince me to “take it easy.” To “quit” one thing or another “because it’s hard, and I’m so tired.”

If anxiety and burdens are the enemy of the first-world Christian, how can I consciously avoid lines like this in what most scholars believe is the first written text of the New Testament?

And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:28

I can feel the loving eyes of the Father staring at me as I complain about my circumstances. As I moan about one issue or another. About how hard I have it. The past several days, it’s been a minute by minute awareness. He’s checking me. Testing me.

•••

This past Sunday was the most frustrating tech Sunday at New Life. Ever. Four days before, our building was struck by lightning, so by Sunday, my tech department was finding more and more ghosts in the systems. Lights stopped working, lyrics stopped going up on screens, audio sends weren’t feeding. And I have no hair left to pull out.

Meanwhile, on stage, Jamie Wright was talking about victims of sex trafficking and how The Exodus Road is working covertly to rescue them.

Could God be speaking any more loudly to me?

•••

I think I’m mining gold now. I think I’m arriving at a divine conclusion. I feel God forging it deep within me. And I’m becoming profoundly certain of a heavenly truth.

The best way to keep from spoiling our position is to correct our attitude.

And what is my attitude to be?

That I live like a king. That pastors dream about having the “problems” I do. That since I’ve been given so much, much is required of me (Luke 12:48). Anything less than my very best not only belittles my calling and my position, but mocks the one who knew I can stand here and lead. And serve.

I’ve never met a grateful person who was burnt out.

Keep going today.

Don’t give up.

Tomorrow will take care of itself. You just be obedient today.

Souls are waiting on the other side of your obedience.

Ultimately, it’s obedience that the Holy Spirit is looking for (Psalm 40:6, 1 Samuel 15:22).

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Prosperity: Threading the Needle

[Title change courtesy of reader Ernie Zimmerman]

Jesus addressed every American living in 2014 when he said:

“To whom much is given, much is required.”

When even my nation’s poorest citizens still rank among the wealthiest people in the world, we have much required of us as a nation.

Writer Matt Ridley put it this way:

“Today, of Americans officially designated as ‘poor,’ 99 percent have electricity, running water, flush toilets, and a refrigerator; 95 percent have a television, 88 percent a telephone, 71 percent a car and 70 percent air conditioning. Cornelius Vanderbilt had none of these.”

I want to be a man who’s found faithful with my station at life. I want to use every gift over every second through every opportunity to exploit every possibility of blessing others. I want to be a proven steward of being an American, not because of America, but because of what’s required of me as a Christian living amongst so much “given.”

I want to do all things as if I were doing them for Christ himself. And do all things knowing the expectations placed on me—by virtue of the fact that I live in America—require me to rise to the greatness of my own blessing.

Any lesser living shames providence, provokes God and insults humanity. Death to the entitled self; resurrection to the selfless whole.

May frustrations ebb, complaints cease and comparisons die. I was born to be a child who leads like a king, not a king who acts like a child.

ch:

On Romans 12:12

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12 ESV)

There are some hard truths in the Bible in that they are difficult to get away from. Impossible, in fact. They’re non-negotiables, ones in which we cannot expect to find favor with God over, or even favor in life, without engageing—without wholly adopting them on as our own.

Many of these divine realities happen to but heads with the American Dream quite severly, therefore making a First World man’s task at incorporating them more challenging then others. Namely, that they require us to resist the urge to emerge from the warmth of the womb and come kicking and screaming into the cold, dry air of reality.

To “rejoice in hope” means we must first have a hope superior to the vehicles we see as our “immediate hopes.” If there is a need, financially, let’s say, then our hope of meeting it must see beyond the next pay check, the next side job, the next bonus. If it’s an emotional need for the desire of a spouse, or the verbal encouragement of esteem, it must be fulfilled beyond that of the earthly persons we expect it to come from. Ultimately, all such hopes must rest in the person of Jesus.

The “rejoicing” we engage in then directly betrays the true measure of our hope, not in a system, but in him. Of course, if a people can’t rejoice, it’s systemic of having little to no hope in him. But can you blame them? Our hope has been conditioned to radiate from our comforts. The very freedom and high-living that we’ve been raised to expect has become our greatest adversary on a Sunday morning.

Some might argue that we should then trade such lofty offerings in for a lesser state of living in order to attain a higher spiritual awareness, as more spartan cultures have. To do so, however, means we also abdicate the power of our present position to bring freedom to others while somehow gaining better traction for our souls to rejoice by placing ourselves in a deprived context. This, then, is self-serving as it only has one party’s best interests in mind, chiefly our own. Abandoning a powerful position to a selfless one in the name of self-betterment is still self-focus. While I wholly respect the hard work and production of the Amish family down the street from me, I am equally put off that in their radical embrace of the anti-modern in the hopes of preserving their own families, they have openly abandon the door that would serve me and my family into a similar state of salvation. Invitation is always stronger than intrusion. And they have sent me none.

The only true escape is to be faithful to the position you’ve been placed in by rejoicing in the hope of Jesus within your context. 

And so I must find hope outside of my immediate First World provisions. I battle against them to see clearly into a realm that is far superior. And in that gaze, I rejoice. Loudly. Boldly. Lavishly.

“Patient in tribulations.” And what tribulations do I have that I am not able to mitigate quickly? I have more resources at my disposal than I’m able to count. Even if the resources don’t bring immediate remedy, at least the knowledge that I’m pursuing something constructive does. I search online, call a doctor, consult an app, strategize with a satalite map, move funds, apply for a class, submit a resume, go to a mechanic, order a part online. 

Tribulations? Even a prison sentence in the United States comes with a gym and cable television. I’m even wondering if I identify with Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he wrote to his family from within the Gestapo prison in Berlin, telling them not to worry about him. “Suffering? I don’t think any of us truly endure suffering.” 

If I’m so quick to bypass even the onset of discomfort or inconvieniance with the resources at my immediate disposal, how can I truly be expected to be patient when real tribulation sets in? 

The answer has everything to do with my first reaction, with training my eyes on where to look when the status quo is first ruffled. This type of conditioning builds in an automatic response system of sorts. Since I may never have decades of earth-shattering tribulations, I must treat even my smallest inconveniences as initiators—not to inflate the trivial to a level of the grandiose (and in so doing, insult the plights of those in the world who are actually suffering), but to train my first instinct how to behave. Or better, to whom it needs to look.

If my hope worth rejoicing about is Jesus, then he also becomes my patience supplier, whether the task is a tremor or turmoil. The answer to my “tribulating patiently” is once again not a how, or a what, but a who.

“Be constant in prayer.” Such a state, taken literally (as some of the monastic life have) would say as much passively to the heathen world as my Amish neighbors have to me: “I’m too busy saving my own neck to be concerned with giving a thought to the state of yours.”

This speaks so much more to a state of prayer, or the condition of the praying heart, than it does to the litany of words contained between the prefix “Dear Father” and the suffix “Amen.” By no intention do I mean to discredit the need and extreme importance of verbally praying before the Father on a regular basis; if Jesus himself needed to do so, I need to do so much more. And there are fewer deeper acknowledgements to the human soul that prove the existence of God than that of a man verbally addressing a being who isn’t there, at least according to his natural eyes. 

However, this open-source, constant connection between our deepest spiritual nature and the presence of the Holy Spirit constitutes an intrinsic lifeline that’s reliant on more than just speech. Such integrity is derived from a pursuit of awareness, a God-consciousness, as John G. Lake put it, that invites the Maker of the Universe into the intimacy of every moment of the believer’s day. Whether by verbal invocation, mental assertion, or physical activity, our conduct as a whole is offered before the Father as a holy act of communion, of communicating in seen and unseen realms. So whereas a pious man might ascribe integrity to his spiritual life based on the eloquence or longevity of his prayers, a man who truly understands connection with the Father does so with the backing of his lifestyle of prayer holistically.  

The substance of this single passage of Romans is therefore a clarion call to an immersive indulgence into the person of Jesus Christ. No orthodoxy can summon its energy, no modernism can clarify its importance so much as faith in the person will produce the blind leap needed to land safely in the embrace of Jesus. 

ch:

The Mechanics of Gratitude

Gratitude is a construct of perspective within context. 

The more barren the context, the less biased the perspective, and the more grateful the viewer to any superior offering. 

The more affluent the context, the more the viewer must diligently work to keep his perspective from drowning amidst the waters of apathy. 

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When Traveling at Warp Speed at Night

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Have you ever been fooled into thinking something was what it wasn’t? Misjudged motives, fake antiques, fooled taste buds?

Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved driving in the snow, especially at night. I was at the helm of my very own starship, hurtling through a star system at warp speed. I have very early memories of riding in the passenger seat of my parents’ vehicles in snow storms mesmerized by the snow flakes careening toward the wind shield. Like thinking that a parachute actually pulls a skydiver upward (instead of merely slowing his descent), I was convinced the snow flakes were shooting at us at Mach 3.

And why not? The eye has no other reference point at night. Without the Light, it’s hard to have any true perspective. That’s why understanding is just as critical as sight.

Knowing God is with us over seeing God is with us helps preserve our perspective in the dark times. When we’re convinced everything is flying at us, knowledge of Him lets us realize we’re the ones in motion flying toward life.

Knowledge of what we can’t see is what transforms us into those that confidently take ground. Loosing sight of the Light that illuminates our surroundings makes us feel as if we’re being assaulted by snowflakes that are relatively just standing still.

When life seems fast and everything’s coming at us, having our eyes on Jesus gives us the perspective we need to say, “Look out, world. Here I come.”

Here’s to everyone flying a starship at warp speed. Tallyho!

ch:

First World Problems

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This expression is Levi’s, “Oh my gosh, is that an iPhone in front of me? I want it right now. No – I need it right now. Give it to me or I’m going to have a baby-sized breakdown,” face.

He’s 1-year old.

One.

He doesn’t even know what Apple is yet, let alone the amazing technological developments that have been employed to enable what is a modern marvel of personal communication glory.

He knows his high chair, his bottle, pooping, and blankies. And apparently iPhones.

I can’t help feel a little guilty here, as he sees his Daddy and Mommy with one everyday.

(Okay, mostly his Mommy).

(Okay, okay. Sheesh. Mostly his Daddy).

And I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that the iPhone is a pretty amazing device (Levi’s 3-year old big-brother Judah can navigate an iPad better than many adults I know…a testament to iOS genius).

But as much as Levi is utterly convinced he needs to touch an iPhone, the reality is that it’s one of the last things he needs. (Heck, it’s probably the last thing I need! It’s 4:30am and I can’t sleep, so what am I doing? Thumb-typing this on my iPhone in bed).

No matter how bad our personal turmoil, no matter how badly we desire something, remember that you and I suffer from what I call “firstworlditis” – to play off the Greek suffix -itis, which means to suffer from a disease associated with, in my case, the First World. It’s a condition that affects, well, everyone I’ve met personally who lives in a First World nation.

The main symptom is an overt and seemingly nearsighted compulsion to voice disdain for what we don’t have in light of all that we already do have.

Essentially, we’re spoiled brats.

Forget that our toilet water is more drinkable that most human water supplies on the planet.

Forget that the average square footage of the First World home is palatial by comparison.

And forget that earning a mere $1,200 USD a year puts you in the top half of wage earners in the world.

Lost loved ones? My heart goes out to you. Yet welcome to the infinitesimal emotion shared by those who’ve endured genocide in Africa or Asia.

What really bends us out of shape is the hot water heater breaking, the clothing store not honoring the gift card, Starbucks messing up our drink, the fast food fries being cooked in old oil, having to pay for that unexpected vehicle repair, our spouse needing the car, a stain on our new cotton shirt, the lawn mower not starting, the kids scratching the flat screen TV, our sports team loosing by three, the store ran out of wings, and don’t I deserve to just come home for once and no one ask me any questions?

If you or I have any problems at all, I don’t doubt the very real emotions or frustrations we experience…

…just so long as we keep in mind that they are First World problems, because that’s exactly how God sees them too.

“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”

Genesis 12:2

Take your momentary affliction in stride today, and deliberately, intentionally look how you can bless someone around you with what you’ve been blessed with. You’ll honor The Lord as well as your position of privilege more than you can imagine…and take a giant step away from being a spoiled brat like me.

ch:

Diving For Lost Treasures

I lost my anchor yesterday.

One minute I had cleated off the line as I have a hundred times before.

The next minute I’m noticing we’re drifting far from where we’ve anchored.

I step lively to the bow and…

…nothing.

The anchor, chain and 200-feet of line are completely missing.

Such is sailing with four kids on board: they get all your attention and your ship doesn’t.

Being the adventurous pair that we are, my father and I decided to take his boat, Contessa, in search of the missing anchor this morning. We set anchor in the approximate locale of my missing Danforth, and then went to work, zig-zagging over the know area and diving on anything that remotely resembled a white line. We even used his underwater camera. (That’s me in the view-finder above).

While I found an old vase, there was no sign of my missing anchor.

After over an hour and a half of diving in the shallow 15-feet of water, I was about to give up, seriously thinking we were never going to find it. I went a little wider on my last pass, and crossed back toward Contessa, just north of a route I’d run twice earlier.

There was a clear white line, stretching north-to-south about 10-feet below me. My dad and I hooted and hollered, celebrating in Dutch-Seafaring, pirate fashion.

Had I known how much fun I was going to have with my dad, I would’ve had a better attitude about losing my anchor the day before. (Granted, the very fact that I have a boat places my in the top 1% wealthiest people on the planet. Perspective is everything). But sometimes we encounter frustrating circumstances simply so that providence has the room to move.

Jesus’ disciples asked him in John 9 why a certain man was ill, wondering if the sickness was due to the sin of the man’s parents.

Jesus replied:

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”

The Lord never wishes anything to get lost. But he sure has a lot of fun finding us.

ch:

 

Why Doesn’t God Heal People Anymore?

If you’re a Christian you’ve heard the question asked more than once. And probably asked it a few times yourself.

“Why doesn’t God heal people anymore?”

God needs me least of all to defend him; he’s big enough to do that himself. But might I point out a few obvious truths?

The life expectancy of Americans in the 1800’s floated around 40-45 years. Which would mean I have about 10 years left before I’m gone. Scarier still is that that number drops into the 30’s once you hit the 1700’s and the 1600’s.

Advances in science, personal hygiene and food practices have all contributed to the longevity of the populace. But where did those advances come from?

The big bang. I know.

But really?

I’d contend that the Lord has been healing us all along by depositing his “superior ways of doing life” into the hearts and minds of those with a genuine heart to see mankind rise above the adverse affects of sin we donned upon ourselves. He’s been healing us with wisdom for a very long time.

Maybe not the answer you were expecting, but one we must process nonetheless.

Another obvious truth is that not only do we fail to ascribe credit where credit is due, but we’re forgetful.

One of the more depressing segments of human history can be found in the documentation of the Children of Israel and their utter forgetfulness about the miracles that they lived through. I’m not talking headache relief with an Aspirin kind of miracles, I’m talking food falling from the sky everyday kind of miracles.

And yet God chastised them. Because they so easily forgot. In fact, they failed so miserably at remembering all the miracles they had seen that their kids never knew about it all:

“There arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10)

You’ve probably already forgotten about legit healings you’ve heard about in the past. Because you and I are not that far removed from the Children of Israel.

We hear (Hebrews 3:16) and yet forget. And that forgetting provokes unbelief which keeps us from entering in (3:19).

Two years ago New Life started a Twitter account dedicated solely to documenting, in list form, miracles that were breaking out just among our church family. Re-reading it today is staggering, as I forgot about all those wonderful events. Until now.

I think I’ll go update that account.

So we can remember.

So we can give credit where credit is due.

A better question than “Why doesn’t God heal anymore?” is “How do we forget so easily?” And if the Children of Israel had the holy writings of their leaders – arguably more substantial than a Twitter account – how can I possibly do any better?

Simple.

Remembering the works of the Lord in our day is a choice. It’s deliberate. It’s intentionally looking for and acknowledging his work around is every day.

Where is the Lord?

Where is he not.

Where are all the miracles?

Everywhere. All day. Every day. We must chose to see them.

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