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There is currently a great deal of discussion among many churches across the country revolving around the issue of abuse of women in the home. There are, for example, instances where the abuse of one’s wife is “tolerated” (if not condoned) in “christian” homes (as anti-Christian as that seems to me), this tragic fact has a bit to do with the general lack of dialogue due to what some consider to be “none-of-your-business” for anyone outside the immediate family. But it is also more than that.

It is not just the result of a lack of conversation or even a lack of understanding by men, but rather a sinful disposition in the heart and the working out of rebellion against God. It is therefore necessary for us, if we are truly committed to a right relationship with God, to confront it, confess it, and repent of it. God maintains an expectation that men be the antitheses of “misogynists” and no woman should bear the ungodly burden of fear for her life and well-being. If a woman is in actual danger because of abuse, the Church has the responsibility of being an agent for her safety.

Let us be clear on this: abuse (mistreatment and/or harming of another, especially one entrusted to you relationally such as a spouse or a child) is unacceptable at all times, under all circumstances. No one “deserves” to be mistreated even if the Church seems, in many people’s experiences, to not only be vague about this, but to endorse certain forms of it.

Perhaps one of the chief sources for confusion on God’s expectations of how husbands and wives treat one another is found in the mishandling of Ephesians 5. A crass and superficial reading of some verses in the passage notwithstanding, the point and premise of Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”

Clearly, the idea of love here is personified in Jesus’ tender regard and whole-hearted pursuit of the welfare of His people, the Church (which includes you and me through faith). The welfare of His people and His laying down of His life was and is paramount in our understanding of how men and women are called to relate to each other. Accordingly, this principle should completely eradicate any illusion of an excuse for men to mistreat women (wives or otherwise).

Nor are men licensed to maintain a condescending and “superior” mentality to women or their gifts and callings. Even though the Bible consistently implies different roles and callings typically associated with men and women respectively, only a mishandling of 1 Peter 3 would be interpreted to mean that men are “more important” in the grand scheme of things than are women (just as it is not correct to assume the opposite either!). After all, wives “are heirs with (husbands) of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).

Too often, we inflate our own sense of importance and use distorted interpretations of Scripture to support it. In the case of men and their attitude and behavior towards women, this has too often been true.

To my sisters in Christ, I am sorry for the ways that you have suffered abuse and that the church has failed in hearing you, supporting you, and protecting you. I am also sorry for those moments and occasions when even well-meaning Christians downplay your value in the Kingdom of our Savior and Lord. Your presence matters. Your calling matters. Your voice matters. The Church must learn to appreciate your role and your contributions. The Church must learn to recognize your many areas of gifting and serving, valuing you as dear daughters of God. I hope that I, as well as my other brothers in Christ, will uphold you and support you, believe in you and in God’s working through you.

We are not only blessed by you, but through you as our Heavenly Father has pressed forward in the building of His kingdom. Thank you and thanks be to God for you.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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The days that followed Jesus’ rising from the dead, glorified and victorious, were undoubtedly overwhelming to His closest friends and followers. How they initially responded to it is very telling in regard to their humanity and, perhaps, to our own as well – especially when we consider how we react when we begin to truly grasp the miracle that God lavishes upon us the moment we become His children through faith in His Son.

“On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:1-6 ESV).

The disciples’ response to Jesus’ not being where common sense predicted He would be was predictable in itself. They were confused and then startled by the presence of those supernatural witnesses who God appointed to present them the news that the One Whom they thought as being dead and buried, was not a victim to tragic circumstance and human hate, but the victorious slayer of death itself.

Their difficulty was primarily rooted in the limitations that all their experience had taught them. They were well-schooled in seeing people rise up to do and/or say the right thing being silenced permanently as either the Jews themselves would squelch what they perceived to be religious opposition or the Romans who were at best only ever tolerating them and were always too-ready to kill anyone who dared to stand up to them in very public ways.

In a similar way, a newly-saved Christian may initially have difficulty in knowing how to live life from the framework of God’s forgiveness and Holy Spirit power because he is still mentally entrenched in old ways of looking at things and old ways of dealing with problems or coping with pain. But as he becomes immersed in the reading, exploring, and discovering of the promises of God and the principles of His Kingdom, he begins to discover, as those disciples of the first century church did, everything is changed and he moves forward by shaking off the chains of old assumptions, sins, fears and habits.

As the reality of Jesus’ resurrection became more “real” in the minds and hearts of His followers, the qualities of wonder, worship, joy and courage began to take root and germinate in the hearts of His followers that ignited the hearts of multitudes beyond them.

In a similar way, as Jesus’ forgiveness and lordship become more “real” in our minds and hearts, we too discover those qualities and we too may influence those around us towards the Savior we celebrate. Not because we are suddenly so charismatic or convincing in rational arguments, but because the presence of God is real to us and, therefore, real to others through us. We are genuinely and beautifully different because we have truly encountered Jesus Christ in our hearts and experience through faith.

The question then for you and for me is whether or not we have really met the risen Lord. Have we personally encountered His holiness and forgiveness? Are we engaged by how deserving He is of our love and adoration? Are we changed by the fact of His love? Are we gripped by His glory? If not, then let us turn our eyes to the Jesus of the Bible. Let us drink deeply of His promises for us and of His soul-saving and life-changing presence. Let us reconnect with Him through the reading of His Word, the fellowship of worship of Him in the community of His people at a local Bible-teaching church. Let us meet with Him again and again in the quiet place of genuine communion that prayer grants us.

If you have never encountered this wonderful Savior in a personal way, then waste no more time. Connect with someone who has and ask how you too can be saved. There is too much at stake to waste any more time. And Jesus Himself is waiting to welcome you into a personal relationship with Him that turns your destiny from spiritual death to eternal life.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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There is a myriad of opinions among Christians as to what it means to be the church and what it should look like for a believer to live in the world today. For some, the church is a social gathering and an opportunity to find meaningful connections with others. For too many, it is nothing more than a rally to find empowerment to live a happy, successful life. At times the church is seen as a duty and an obligation that one must attend to in order to “qualify” as a good person, yet in no way channels into that person’s life any quality that makes of his or her life anything significant for eternity. For some, church is only a tradition or is viewed as a way to perpetuate a culture in which we have become comfortable.

God’s Word, however, presents the church otherwise. For instance, it is the bride of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:32, Revelation 21:9) as well as a divine response to the forces of evil (Matthew 16:18). One particularly powerful purpose for the church, however, is found in Ephesians 3:21 in which the church is declared to be the means for the awesome glory of God Himself to be revealed to our lost and dying world. The revealing of God’s glory happens when the church functions as it should. And it functions as it should when it is in all practical ways the body of Christ at work in the world today (Colossians 1:24, Ephesians 3:6, Romans 12:4, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13).

Don’t be duped into thinking that the church is a building. A building is only a meeting place. The church itself is where the presence of God is made real in the lives of individual Christians knit together into one body, serving Him in a way that is so different from the way the world operates that only God could have done it.

The evidence or proof of His presence is found when godly qualities come to the surface of people’s lives. It appears when it changes them and moves them to interface with others the way that Jesus did during the years of His earthly ministry. Those qualities are poignantly portrayed in Galatians 5:22-23 and are referred to as the “fruit of the Spirit” and can only truly be present when God Himself is present. 

The presence of God in the people of God brings to the world the love of God in practical ways. The hands of God are never idle (see John 5:17). His hands are always clearing, tilling, sowing, weeding, watering, nourishing, and pruning His handiwork in order that there will be a harvest of His glory… real life experiences of God in the lives of “regular people” like you and me. Where He is, fruit will grow. If He is alive within you, then there will be the fruit of His presence.

The Bible tells us what those fruits are. If He is living in us, we will bring love, feel joy, practice peace, choose patience, treat with kindness, pursue goodness, value faithfulness, handle with gentleness, and find strength for self-control.

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, the fact of His resurrection from the dead and the power of His Spirit alive within us, He has made it possible for His divine power and presence to be actualized in you and me.

Let us therefore listen and obey the Scriptures that teach us to “walk in His Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 25), for when we do, the fruits will come and lives are changed and God is glorified.

“… Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh….  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:16, 22-25 ESV).

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Today, Friday, March 23rd, marks my wife’s and my anniversary. Having been married to her for almost three decades has been a privilege that I find hard to explain or even describe, yet it profoundly represents to me the grace (and hard work) of long-term commitment and the joy and blessing that can be found in it, not to mention the miracle of God’s presence when Jesus is made the center of the relationship.

The friendship that I have with her has been something that I have found warrants constant nurturing and is worth every effort and sacrifice that may present itself. I am particularly grateful to the long-suffering grace and patience that she has shown me over the years. I recall more occasions than I care to admit in which she has endured less-than-ideal challenges with me, yet she has hung in there and been for me a constant companion and partner through various trials, sorrows, as well as blessings I could not begin to count.

My heart goes out to families that do not have this experience and feel that God’s plan for marriage is so derailed by conflict and attempts to circumvent the demands of genuine commitment that few couples experience the joy of it. Many people will talk about “committed relationships”, but even this falls short of “covenant relationships”: the former can withstand many challenges, but the latter, by God’s working in them, can withstand anything.

My hope for families today is that the covenant of marriage, as God has intended it, recaptures the sense of holiness which God instilled in it whenever it is pursued under the auspice of His authority, approval and blessing. Marriage, when it is framed from the perspective that it was God’s idea (as being His creation and not merely a social construct, an invention by people to be whatever people want it to be), regains some of its sense of divine sacredness and is therefore revealed as a noble pursuit and not just a relational afterthought.

And marriage, when it is viewed as being His provision for shoring up the united effort to bring the home under His lordship (as being an institution He ordained and not just a social contract subject to the ebb-and-flow of popularly accepted mores), is upheld as the front line of social engagement as children grow up in a home that demonstrates the biblical ethic of loving God first, loving others second, and finding that how we treat others is as important as how we are treated. Notice that I said, “biblical ethic” as opposed to the “religion’s ethic” which, historically, has distorted and maligned God’s design for marriage.

When I look upon the landscape of broken homes today, I cannot help but consider the devastation that is wrought through the cumulative effect of more and more betrayals, more and more broken promises, and more and more division in homes that divide the hearts of our young and vulnerable because parents have become divided.

Marriage should be a place where both husbands and wives agree to pursue with one heart and one soul the glory of God, the gift of each other, and the good of the family. Abuse and neglect aside, divorce is not good and foils God’s purpose for family. It is not easy. On some occasions, it is costly and even painful. But the reward of perseverance isn’t just in a wonderful friendship or a fun and rewarding experience; it is in a union that physically illustrates the spiritual dimensions of God’s union with His children.   This is a huge mechanism in perpetuating the conviction that hope in God and faith in His Word are rightly placed for the one who trusts Jesus as his or her Savior.

I am thankful for my wife and for the help she is to me. I am thankful for our friendship and how God has continually taught me about love through her. I am thankful for the story of our years (so far) together and for the story yet to come. I hope that story encourages others in their marriages and, more importantly, strengthens their call and commitment to trust Jesus as Savior and Lord.

If you are married (or are thinking about becoming so), consider the joy of pledging together, under God, your lives as you seek to become one. Let God’s Word be your standard for your relationship and the standard for your home.   “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:31-33 ESV).

If you have been married, but it was lost to you through divorce, consider the great and cleansing healing of Jesus. Jesus gives you the salve of His presence to mend your broken heart. If you were not faithful to promises that you made, allow Him to lift burden of guilt and shame and flood your heart with forgiveness and hope. Jesus’ death on the cross is sufficient for any and every sin we’ve fallen into or allowed to fall into us. It is good to get a new start and have a clean conscience. Let Him make you new and make you clean. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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This week saw the passing of a renowned man of God, Billy Graham. The man, referred to as “America’s pastor” and described by some as “the most significant religious figure of the 20th century”, was a person with a single-minded view of humanity’s need – collectively and individually – that of peace with God through Jesus Christ.

It cannot be doubted that his well-established sense of integrity and personal humility were traits that model for us today the gentle, yet passionate spirit of one called of God. For one who spoke in person to over 100 million people and countless more over television, satellite, film and internet, and for being the “friend and confidante of popes and presidents, queens and dictator” (according to Randall Balmer, Columbia University historian), he was approachable by anyone and everyone and received them as though they, too, were royalty.

And perhaps that is because he knew their Kingdom potential in Jesus as well as his own poverty apart from Christ. It is hard to imagine what our world would be like today without him and hard to imagine what our world will be like now that the Lord has called Billy to his eternal home.

Having said that, I remember about twenty years ago a conversation I was having with a woman about the Lord in general and about Billy Graham, whose name had come up as we talked.

I remember her sadly shaking her head at the time as she said, “I don’t know what we’re going to do when he dies.” She was imagining all sorts of horrible directions for our country and having a hard time recognizing any hope for our nation once this man of God was taken home.

My response to her was that “Just as God raised him up for this season to share the hope of Jesus to our world, He will raise up others to share that same hope. Our hope is not in Billy Graham, but the Savior to Whom he bore witness.”

Today we remember Billy Graham as a faithful servant of the Lord. We can celebrate what God has done in and through that faithful life and thank the Lord for the anointed witness he was. What God has done through that humble servant’s life is incalculable.

I am sure that his family and friends grieve the immediate loss of their loved one, but that they are greatly encouraged by the assurance that comes from knowing that their father, grandfather, friend or mentor is standing now in the light of the glory of the Savior for whom he lived. Not only that, but they are doubtless encouraged, too, by knowing that he is again reunited with his dear wife who had gone on before him to meet their Savior in the place He prepared for them.

But even in death, by which Billy now is “more alive than ever before”, his life’s message is still one that challenges us. Are you prepared? Do you have peace with God through Jesus Christ? Are you still trapped in sin without any hope for change for your future, no clear purpose or identity?

Jesus is the solution to that. While it is true that each of us is a sinner by nature and by behavior (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23 ESV) and that the result of our sin is death – spiritually, socially, and even physically (“The wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23a), it is also true that God’s desire is for you to be given new life: forgiven, made new, and given a new destiny (“…But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23b).

Because it is a gift, it cannot be earned. It can only be received. It is received through faith in Him (“By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” Ephesians 2:9 ESV).

And how do you lay hold of this awesome opportunity? How do you step into the grace of “saving faith”? “…If you confess your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:10 ESV). In other words, you repent of your sin and turn from your old life and turn to Him, wholly committing yourself to following Him. Then you can trust His promise to save you and establish your eternal destiny in heaven with Him.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13 ESV).

That is what I believe that Billy Graham would have you know and what he would have you find hope in. It is true that he will be greatly missed, but we can look forward now to new things that God will do in and through His people in the days ahead – no matter how challenging they may be.

But please settle things with the Lord today while you have the opportunity.

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Ever been hurt by someone? Ever been dealt an emotional, mental, or spiritual pain that may or may not have accompanied a physical hurt? You know the kind of hurt I’m speaking of… a soul-searing ache that shoots into your heart and mind, eliciting responses of fear, anger, and hate as well as the temptation to react with fight or flight. For those who try to run away, pain has a way of pursuing them relentlessly, like an awful hound of anguish keeping them constantly looking over their shoulder in dread. Or the pain slyly disappears from view for a time, hidden in the waters of busyness and life, only to resurface unexpectedly, laying hold of its victim with its icy fingers and tempting them to either hide from life or lash out even at those who love them.

Perhaps you’ve tried to numb yourself to such pain, burying it with pursuits of other things that promise to mask the hurt as you medicate yourself with activities, accomplishments, pleasures, drugs or faulty relationships. Maybe you reason that such vices are better than violently seeking revenge on those who have hurt you. Still, in time the pain one buries has a way of taking root and shooting forth tentacled vines of regret, suffocating you and even controlling you like some alien weed that makes you something you never dreamed you could be – even in your worst nightmares.

At first, such strategies seem to work. You have a “respite” and so you buy into the lie that ignoring what hurts you, closing your eyes to the pain and locking memories in a closet of denial, will somehow make the hurt go away. But the problem with masking painful hurts, running from painful memories, or avoiding painful situations is that the pain remains. It’s still there, all the while injecting the poisons of bitterness, fear, and despair into your spirit. You can neither live fruitfully nor fellowship fully with others as long as pain is allowed to control your choices. Nor can you enjoy God and what it means to be His child as long as your pain is unaddressed. Consequently, you cannot be all you could be because of the control that unsurrendered pain has over you.

Let’s not oversimplify things, but let’s recognize that addressing pain victoriously begins with engaging the source of the pain itself. Acknowledging the pain and its source is essential to recovering from it. As you admit and “own” your hurt and what it is or was that hurt you, you can move on to the healing act of forgiveness.

Letting it go through the grace of forgiveness has less to do with letting someone else “off the hook” then it does with letting yourself “off the hook” of keeping score of what others deserve and the weighty obligation of taking them to account for their sins against you. And as you forgive, hearkening to God’s admonishment to forgive others (Matthew 6, Mark 11, Luke 6, 2 Corinthians 2, Colossians 3, etc.), you then trust in God’s forgiveness of you (1 John 1:9) and finally begin to find the holes in your soul beginning the process of healing.

Forgiveness, as opposed to running away from your pain or taking revenge out on those who have wronged you, allows you to move on to the new things in your life that God has in store for you. You let go of the former things (even your broken dreams) and press on (Philippians 3:13) allowing these new things (and new dreams) to fill up the empty spots in which your past experiences try to keep you trapped. This applies to even your own mistakes, failings, and sin… you set right what you can but you know that all the rest is covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Walking obediently with Him (in even your attitudes as well as actions) allows His healing to become effectual in your experience. The more of God in your mind, heart, and experience, the less room for the bitter fruits of the past.

Healing takes time, by the way, and only the faithful and patient application of “waiting on the Lord” (Isaiah 40:31) allows you to experience the reality of recovery from the powerful grip of pain.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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I had thought that I would be writing this week on the matter of Thanksgiving or perhaps an admonishment to beware, this Black Friday weekend, the frenzied lures of greed and covetousness that turn relatively sane and civilized people into barbaric hordes terrorizing retail establishments (all to the liking of those same retail establishments).

However, the explosion in the news of stories of men in power who have reportedly sexually harassed and/or assaulted women, using their position and affluence to force compliance and then to buy silence, underscores the urgent need for dialog among Americans in regard to what it means to be a man and whether or not a man can be a man without also being a sexual predator.

Ultimately, sexual harassment and sexual assaults emanate primarily from what the Bible refers to as sin, a condition that is essentially intertwined with what it means to be human. From this tragic, but intrinsically human quality, flow thoughts, attitudes, actions, habits and lifestyles that erode what God intended for what was in the beginning the crown of God’s creation, humanity which alone among living things bears the image of its creator (Genesis 1:26).

Sexual sin, in all its forms, but certainly including those occasions when a man views and subsequently treats women as mere tools to expedite his own pleasure, is a deviation from God’s purpose and plan. In His plan, men treat women with dignity and honor. What some call “old fashioned”, “gentlemanly” behaviors did not come from out of nowhere nor are they merely quaint notions of how “cute couples” get along, but are born out of a biblical worldview. Holding doors open, standing in a lady’s presence and so forth were specific behaviors that expressed a man’s regard for God’s gift of woman.

So the question arises, is it “normal” for a man to sexually harass women? Is it “okay” and/or “natural” and therefore something we should all just overlook and learn to live with? I most certainly maintain that it is not. In fact, it is an insult to God for men to behave so towards women and an insult to God for us to accept it as a “necessary evil” in regard to men.

Happily, God grants provision for men to rise to a holier (and healthier) attitude towards women. First, there is the gift of His Word, the Bible, the lens of which He bids us view ourselves, our condition, and our need for His help in changing our hearts so that we are not merely at the mercy of any and every compulsion that besets us.

“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!… How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your Word” (Psalm 119:1, 9 ESV).

Secondly, there is the promise of God’s indwelling Spirit. It is, in fact, the Lord’s design for us to live life in cooperation (and in trusting obedience) to His Spirit which then empowers us to avoid the snares and promptings of flesh when our flesh is attempting to commandeer our lives.

“But I say, walk in the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:16-17 ESV).

Thirdly, we have the potential for cultivating relationships with others that would encourage a nobler and higher regard for women. There are those men in our lives who have not settled for the lie that men can be assumed to be perverts or predators and therefore strive to remain sexually pure, be maritally faithful, and respectful of women.

These men are placed in such a proximity to your life that they challenge and encourage you to live like men should, courageously and faithfully complementing the work that God does through women who also follow God’s leading for their lives.

Like Paul the Apostle, their lives say, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Philippians 3:17 ESV).

They can see the snares of adultery and sexual promiscuity. They have recognized the dangers of pornography and the travesty that it is and how it relegates women to the role of objects of pleasure and how it enslaves men to the pursuit of physical pleasure. Many men have failed at some point but have repented (and not just because they were “caught”) and now seek, with God’s help, to live out the higher calling of viewing others, including women, the way God views them, precious and empowered co-laborers in His kingdom. These men have come to the place where they have taken their sin (not just sexual sin) and placed it under the cross of Jesus Christ and found the forgiveness of God. Seek out such men. Spend time with them. Imitate them but learn, through God’s Word, to imitate Jesus, Who is the ultimate Man.

“… Let us… lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising its shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:12b-2 ESV).

If you have failed in the past, take it to the Lord and seek His forgiveness. Seek, where possible, to make right what wrong you have done. And then forsake that hellish mentality that not only turns women into “things” in your heart, but also chains you to a small-mindedness and small-heartedness that makes us look more like Satan than it does our Savior. And finally, seek to walk with God so that you find power to live above lust and pride and live out the love and kindness of Christ.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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