Blessing the Food?

June 26, 2017 at 9:43 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: Before we eat, we ask the Lord to “bless this food.” Why do we do that? What does it mean to “bless” the food?

Answer: Not everybody prays that way. Sometimes people just thank God for the food, but, yes, asking God to bless the food “we are about to receive” or asking Him to “bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies” are very common pre-meal prayers. Sometimes, we even call it “saying the blessing” or “saying grace” instead of “praying” before we eat.

I suppose if we ask God to “bless the food” we are asking Him to make it good for us, or to put it to work in the strengthening and health of our bodies. Sometimes, we are asking Him to “bless” it in a way that would supernaturally make it taste better! I once saw a video where a Christian comedian was joking about asking the Lord to “bless this food” before eating a Cheeto. He said, “Lord, miraculously change this Cheeto into a carrot as it travels down my esophagus…” Pretty funny, since it does seem a little hypocritical to ask the Lord to bless our own unhealthy eating choices, although we should certainly be grateful for everything that He provides for us. It is very important to think about what we are saying when we pray, rather than praying out of habit or repeating something vain and meaningless (Matthew 6:7), so good question!

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The Problem with Pecuniary Parenting

September 29, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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In a previous lesson I critiqued the style of parenting in which parents make decisions concerning their children based on the popularity of the decisions. Getting input from our children, and listening closely to what they have to say, is certainly wise, but we recognize that our authority as parents comes from an authority higher than our children, and even higher than us.

Another parenting category may be called “monetary parents.” These parents tend to try to buy their children’s obedience, respect, or even love. The common parlance for this method is called “spoiling” your children. This is sometimes triggered by feelings left over from our own childhood that perhaps our parents were not as generous with us as we would have liked them to be. It helps to remember, as a counter to this temptation, that materialism breeds its own set of problems. Remember, your children are not an outlet for any lingering childhood resentments of your own, and you are not commanded in the Word of God (although you might be by society or pop culture) to give your children “all the things you never had.” Using bribery as a replacement for training, nurture, discipleship, and discipline is a recipe for rearing greedy, covetous kids.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

Philippians 4:11

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Matthew 6:25-33

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

I Timothy 6:10

It is not wrong to give treats to our kids, and special presents from time to time, but it is wrong to rob them of the spiritual and practical disciplines of self-control and wise stewardship. Some of the poorest families I know are really the richest.

Next time, we will take a look at a third parenting category.

The Trouble with Treasure

June 20, 2016 at 12:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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There is a sense in which great wealth is thought to bring a certain amount of worldly freedom. The rich man, not saddled down with the need to work, can travel. If he finds himself inconvenienced, he can purchase some modern contraption to make things easier. He may not feel the stress of wondering whether he will be able to eat or whether he will have a place to live. Or so goes the “common sense” wisdom of our age.

The Bible has a different view:

Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.

Proverbs 15:16

“Better” can be a subjective description, but, when we see it in the Bible, we understand that what is being revealed is an objective, absolute, literal “better.” A person who has a righteous and blessed fear of the Lord will find His contentment, peace, and fulfillment in the Lord Himself, and not in earthly treasure, which, although it promises freedom, can in reality only provide a “limited freedom” (an oxymoron). Since the Lord Himself is of unlimited value and worth, we might say that “a little of the Lord” is far better than the “great” trouble that can accompany great treasure.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6:19-21

Double Vision, Divided Vision, and Darkened Vision

May 11, 2016 at 2:51 pm | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, Matthew | 1 Comment
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It’s been nearly a month since I’ve posted on The Deep End. The reason for this is that I recently had eye surgery, and the recovery period – in which I’ve been gradually regaining enough vision to be able to read and type comfortably again – has taken longer than I thought it would. I must praise the Lord and thank Him for being with me during the surgery, and for the healing and results He has given me by His power. I have, by His grace, been learning not to take His marvelous gift of eyesight for granted. If the Lord decides to take away my eyesight or allow it to be taken away at this point in my life, I would have no reason to complain. I have seen enough wonderful things so far in my life – things that I never deserved to see – that I would (hopefully, again, by His grace) be forever grateful.

I have also been meditating on passages of Scripture dealing with eyesight, such as:

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

Matthew 6:22

During the past few years, as I have struggled with bouts of double (and triple!) vision, I can certainly attest that I much prefer “single vision.” Just as God has given us the gift of light, and the gift of amazingly complex biological organs and anatomical processes that allow that light to place accurate images of our surrounding reality into our brains, so has He given us the opportunity to be “single” rather than “divided” in our devotion to Him. If I am “double minded,” I will be unstable in all my ways. If I have “double vision,” letting the false and vain things of this world blur together with the things of God and His Kingdom, then my body will begin to fill up with the evil deeds of darkness, and I will stumble about, alternately frightened, confused, and depressed, dishonoring God and veering toward danger and destruction.

But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

Matthew 6:23

May the Lord help me, with the gift of eyesight He has given me, to fill my mind and body with thoughts and deeds of glorious light. May He help me to be united in vision and purpose, seeking to do His will, and to reflect His life-giving light in a dark and blinded world.

Purity, Prayer, and Possessions

March 9, 2015 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Matthew | 2 Comments
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Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

Matthew 5:17

The Pharisees had placed a crust around the seed of God’s Word. Jesus broke the crust, but He did not destroy the Law. He fulfilled the Law. A seed can stop being a seed through destruction, or through fulfilling its purpose. Remember, Jesus came onto the scene of public ministry after working for years as a carpenter, and His job has always been that of a builder.

In Christian maturity we move past rules and regulations (outward), and get directly to the attitudes of the heart (inward). Imagine if I dug a well, attached a faucet, and filthy water came out. Would I just change the faucet? No, I’d dig a new well. The hearts we were born with can produce only sin and evil. When we trust Christ, He removes the old heart, and replaces it with a new heart, from which can flow God-pleasing purity.

Matthew Chapter 6 deals with prayer, fasting, and money. Have you ever thought about why God commands us to pray when He already knows our needs? One reason is that prayer is the God-appointed way for getting those needs met. Here’s how it works. You pray to discern God’s will (“Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”). God allows needs to come into your life, and you draw close to Him in prayer (Psalm 50:15). God shows you that all you really need is Him (II Corinthians 12:7-10). You become thankful to God, even about your needs, and you stay in an attitude of prayer and ongoing communication with your God (I Thessalonians 5:17-18). Prayer prepares us for the proper use of what God already knows we need.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

Matthew 6:19

Materialism is when we stop possessing things, and things start possessing us. Idolatry of things enslaves. It enslaves the heart.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6:21

It enslaves the mind.

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

Matthew 6:22-23

What you say is what’s in your heart; what you look at is what’s on your mind.

It enslaves the will.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Matthew 6:24

Imagine: Your heart, your mind, your will – all enslaved to a bass boat or a TV set or a retirement account or a Cadillac. It’s not a pretty picture. However, in Christ, we can win the victory over our idolatrous desires to be rich, to own property, to possess things. Even worry about the basic necessities of life needn’t ensnare us.

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Matthew 6:25

“Things” used for God will bring glory to God, but things used for me cheapen the things, and cheapen me as well.

The Power of Prayer

October 8, 2014 at 10:40 am | Posted in Do You Know the Way? | 4 Comments
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Do You Know the Way? (John 14)

I. The Prepared Place (John 14:1-3)
II. The Particular Path (John 14:4-11)
III. The Power of Prayer (John 14:12-14)

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

John 14:12-14 (emphasis added)

The power to do the “greater works” which Jesus promised was conditional. There was a reason for it. “Because I go to My Father.” The power to do the works that Jesus did can – and must – be accessed by prayer. This great truth is conditioned on praying in His name. This means praying according to the authority of His will.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Romans 10:13

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Matthew 6:9

The name of the Lord is more than just an identifier; it is the expression of Who He is and what He has commanded. “In Jesus’s name” must be more than the tag-line or the closing salutation on our prayers. It is a way of asking Jesus to intercede for us before the throne of God, of conforming our will to God’s will. The false belief that we can coerce the Lord into doing our will should not be comforting at all. Such a thought should be horrifying. However, trusting the Lord with my heartfelt desires is extremely reassuring.

I don’t want to make it seem like I’m campaigning against the literal meaning of the text in John 14:14. Jesus is not limited in power, and we certainly can ask Him for anything that would not violate Scripture, and even have faith that it will come to pass. What I’m trying to do is guard against what is called “prosperity theology” or sometimes the “prosperity gospel.” According to this false doctrine, God must give us what we want if we name the name of Jesus in our prayers.

Why would preachers teach such a thing when it makes it seem like every cancer ward, orphanage, broken marriage, and even cemetery plot is a monument to unanswered prayer? The answer is that, it is because people don’t spend money without a guarantee. Prosperity preachers are promising material blessings in exchange for money. It’s sort of a baptized Ponzi scheme. And this is their “out” when they can’t produce the results: “You didn’t have enough faith.” So when you give Benny Hinn $1000 and your back is still killing you, it’s not his fault (and it’s obviously not God’s fault). It’s just that you didn’t “mean it” enough when you asked in Jesus’s name. You need to show you “mean it” more by giving another $1000 – or better yet $5000.

I don’t want to be standing near the proponents of this false Gospel at the Great White Throne judgment, because Jesus takes His name very seriously. The power of prayer is attached to Jesus’s name, and Jesus’s name is never disconnected from His will. He is your LORD, not your genie. That’s why John 14:16 seems so out of place if you don’t understand this context.

If ye love me, keep my commandments.

John 14:16

Next time, we will see how John 14:16 leads us into the next subject: the promise of the Paraclete.

Beware the Feeble Fortress

March 26, 2014 at 11:02 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, The Fives | 3 Comments
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When we talk about Job’s “friends” we have to put quotation marks around “friends” because it’s questionable just what kind of friends they were. Job had suffered, and was suffering greatly in Chapter 5 of the book that bears his name, when his “friend,” Eliphaz, went on the offensive.

Eliphaz’s (wrong) assumption was that Job’s suffering must have been caused by Job’s sin. Eliphaz’s support for this argument was partly his own experience, because he claimed to have seen men who were prosperous and well-established for a long while in their sin, when suddenly and without warning judgment befell them.

I have seen the foolish taking root: but suddenly I cursed his habitation. His children are far from safety, and they are crushed in the gate, neither is there any to deliver them.

Job 5:3-4

This not-so-oblique reference to his children must have cut Job to the quick, since all his children has recently perished in a devastating catastrophe. (Unbeknownst to Job, his children had actually been killed through the machinations of Satan, with God’s permission, but not in any way as a consequence of Job’s alleged sin.)

However, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, and Eliphaz stumbled upon a valuable nugget of truth when he pointed out the futility of trying to protect our earthly possessions and wealth to the exclusion of our spiritual well-being.

Whose harvest the hungry eateth up, and taketh it even out of the thorns, and the robber swalloweth up their substance.

Job 5:5

In ancient times landowners would sometimes intentionally grow hedges of thorns or briars around their crops, fields, and property to keep out trespassers and to discourage thieves. However, those who are truly hungry or who are bent on taking what does not belong to them will not be deterred by such security measures. This is a good reminder to us today that whatever dominion we think we exercise over our earthly possessions is ultimately subject to the will of God. Therefore, we are better off investing in the spiritual and the eternal than in the material and the temporal.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6:19-21

The Trap of Losing Long-Sightedness

August 2, 2013 at 10:54 am | Posted in Traps of Lawless Living | 1 Comment
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The birth of Samson is recorded at the end of Judges Chapter 13, and the next three chapters tell the story of his life. As his deeds are being described, the phrase “and it came to pass” is found seven times.

In Judges 14:11 he was about to celebrate the feast at his wedding to a woman he had no business marrying. In Judges 14:15 his wife was being persuaded by Samson’s enemies to betray him by revealing the answer to his riddle. In Judges 14:17 he gave in to her. In Judges 15:1 he bickered with his father-in-law. In Judges 15:17 he had just finished making up a silly little song to celebrate killing 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. In Judges 16:4 he made another bad choice in romancing a forbidden woman. In Judges 16:16 he was annoyed with her for trying to coax another secret from him. Sinful partying, illicit lust, gambling, fits of anger, marital squabbling, family bickering, and pointless word games. Judges 15:20 tells us that Samson “judged” Israel for 20 years. You would think, in that length of time, a man with Samson’s tremendous supernatural strength and Holy Spirit-anointing would have been able to make more progress in delivering his people from Philistine oppression.

Alas, it appears that he was more preoccupied with the here-and-now than he was in accomplishing the long-term objective assigned to him by the Lord. If you are a Christian – especially a Christian man – are you thinking about (and living) your life with the “eternal” or the “temporal” in view? Are you planning mainly for the next weekend or for the next generation? Are you building your Heavenly Father’s eternal kingdom or playing games in the personal little kingdom you have constructed around yourself?

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

II Corinthians 4:18

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Matthew 6:33

It is important to take a “long-term” view of our lives in light of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in light of the fact that what we do here on Earth, during the brief time we are given, does matter.

Here is the last time the phrase “and it came to pass” is used in the account of Samson:

And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars.

Judges 16:25

Samson, who had lived much of his life as if it were one big joke, was now being made the butt of his enemies’ joke. Will you and I pass through this world lightly skimming the surface, seeking shallow entertainment and amusing distractions? Or will we plunge in with a determination to make a lasting impact, with the ripples from our lives spreading on into future generations, and even into eternity, to the glory of our great God?

Over a Barrel

July 18, 2011 at 9:26 am | Posted in Common Expressions | 3 Comments
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The common expression “over a barrel” means that someone is in a compromising position. The phrase comes from a time when the method for rescuing a person who had almost drowned was to pull him from the water and start rolling him back and forth over a barrel. Sometimes this treatment did more harm than good!

https://i0.wp.com/www.sandiegohistory.org/journal/76summer/images/p41.jpg

The Bible application for the expression “over a barrel” comes from I Kings 17. The widow at Zarephath wasn’t drowning, though. She was starving. She only had enough meal and oil for her and her son to have one last little cake, after which she was planning on dying. Then, on top of that, the prophet Elijah, the man of God, stopped by and told her to get him some water – and to bring him a little cake while she was at it!

The lady could have become exasperated and angry, but instead she exercised her faith. She went and did according to the saying of Elijah. She heard the Word and heeded the Word.

As you read this, you are probably not starving to death, but does someone have you “over a barrel?” Financially, your creditors may have you over a barrel. Time-wise, your employer may have you over a barrel. When it comes to being starved for affection, your spouse, your family, or your friends may have you over a barrel.

The Word of God to the widow lady of Zarephath was, “Take what little you have, and by faith give it to Me.” We might say she was “scraping the bottom of the barrel,” but, sometimes, we have to get to that point in order to realize that we need God. Her barrel, which held the “meal” needed to make bread, was empty, but she herself was not empty of faith. As Christians, even when our material barrel is empty, we can still be filled with the Spirit of God, so we have no reason to complain. (Warren Wiersbe likes to say that empty barrels make the most noise.)

Elijah told the lady that the Lord had fixed it so that her meal and oil would not be completely exhausted. From that day on she never had more than one handful, nor less than one handful.

Certainly God was capable of filling her barrel of meal to the top and overflowing her cruse of oil, but, in a time of famine, word might have gotten out, and she might have been robbed. God is often gracious not to overburden us with superfluous blessings. We are in a battle and we need to travel light when we fight Satan. The armor of God has a sword for our hand, but there are no pockets or pouches in the armor for holding supplies.

Had God suddenly given the lady too much meal, it might have spoiled and become infested with worms. We face the same danger when we have a “surplus” of blessings, but the worm that infests us is called pride. When you find yourself “over a barrel,” by faith reach into the barrel of your eternal spiritual blessings in Christ. Many people are confused – they think the purpose of the Christian life is to get abundant material blessings. Jesus did not teach His disciples to pray, “Give us this day enough bread to last for a year, and a big mansion to keep it in, and a fancy car to drive it around in.” No, He told them to pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread.”

More Strange Weapons: A Stone (God’s Will Is Functional)

June 10, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Strange Weapons | 2 Comments
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In a previous lesson we saw that the weapon of a millstone reminds us that God’s will is like a weapon in spiritual warfare in that stones are foundational.

This time we will see that stones are also functional. Stones do a variety of jobs. In Bible times they not only made up the buildings, they were sometimes the tools for building. Sometimes they were also monuments for remembering. Other times they were weapons for throwing. God’s sovereign will is the ultimate in functionality. It not only creates or allows all circumstances, but it functions and operates in all circumstances.

Under the heading that “Stones are Functional” I want to use the memory device “CPR:”

Career: When you are building a career, will you trust God’s will, and seek out a “vocation” (a calling from God)?

Priorities: When you are considering your priorities, will you trust God’s will and let Him order your priorities and arrange your time? His Word settles the “first things.”

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Matthew 6:33

Things that are “added” are things that come “later.”

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

Revelation 2:5

The best place to get back into God’s will is the place you got out. Do the “first works.” The freedom we have in the Spirit is not freedom to do what we want. Relaxation is not true freedom. True freedom is freedom from the selfishness of sin, and it is the freedom to obey God. The good works that God has ordained for us to do are prioritized by His sovereign will.

Relationships: When you are building your relationships, will you trust God’s will and let Him pick your friends? God has appointed your spouse to be your special friend over and above other people in your life. Beyond that, He has sovereignly appointed who your neighbors happen to be, who your acquaintances happen to be, and even who your fellow church members happen to be. These people are in your life for a reason – they are not “random.” Trust God in your relationships – you need this weapon on your side in spiritual warfare.

The strange weapon of God’s sovereign will can be found in every locality and in every situation, because, in spiritual warfare, the place where you are subject to being attacked is everywhere: at home, at church, on your job, in your relationships, in Bible study, in prayer, in Christian service.

Stones are wonderful weapons because of their functionality. They can roll down mountains and crush cities, or they can fit in your pocket. There is nowhere you will not be able to see the weapon of God’s will at work in the battle.

Stones are foundational, stones are functional, and stones are used for friction.

The weapon used by the woman in the tower to kill Abimelech was a millstone. A millstone is a large stone placed on top of another stone. These stones are usually round, and they are used to grind against each other and smash into powder or “flour” the kernels of different kinds of grain (i.e. wheat or corn) that are fed between them. A millstone works by grinding and crushing, and it produces friction. Do not think that God’s will is not going to involve you in a great deal of friction.

John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:

Luke 3:16 (emphasis added)

Notice that this verse says “and” with fire, not “in” fire. It is speaking of the heat of persecution not a “fiery” emotional manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

I Peter 4:12

And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

Malachi 3:3

Christ the Lord – the Great Refiner – the Great Purifier of the Church – uses heat – friction – to purge impurities out of the hearts and lives of His people. If you have been a Christian for very long, then God’s sovereign will has sent circumstances into your life, sickness into your life, suffering into your life, even people into your life – to grind on you – to scrape away the rough edges and the impurities, so that you may be more conformed to the image of Christ.

The millstone in Judges Chapter 9 – the millstone that killed Abimelech – was the perfect weapon for the time and place of its use. It crushed Abimelech and cost him his life, his reputation, and his would-be kingdom. God’s will is perfect. Will you love it and trust it? Or will you try to resist it and be miserable? It is a weapon which we observe, not a weapon which we yield. The way to take advantage of this weapon is to stay close to God.

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