January 2013

God’s Purpose is in the Present

As a young mother, I endeavored to “train a child in the way he should go,” so that, “when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). A decade later, however, I wasn’t reaping the results I had expected. Angry, I said to God, “But this isn’t the way it was supposed to be! This isn’t the way it went for this family here or that family over there. And this isn’t the way it was supposed to be for my family!”

Like a little girl who doesn’t get what she wants, I threw a spiritual tantrum. I used my time and energy kicking, screaming, and battling God. Then one day, when I took a breath during my rantings to listen, God seemed to say, “But, Elizabeth, this is the way it is. Now what are you going to do about the way it really is?” I realized I had to quit fussing, get up, and go on. I needed to embrace God’s presence for my present rather than wistfully denying the reality that was before me.  After all, it wasn’t helping anything.

You see, because of my unmet expectations, I was postponing any action. Because I didn’t like what was on my plate, I was failing to do anything to try to improve the situation. I neglected to deal with the circumstances. And as long as I had that attitude—as long as I didn’t accept reality—no progress or solution was possible.

Other people struggle, too — I know many women who refuse to face reality when it comes to their marriages. It seems that our fantasies, expectations, and dreams about what marriage will be are usually quite different from the truth.

So, the question that faces us is, “Now, what are you going to do about the way it is?”  What does God want me to pursue as a solution, a remedy, a plan. You see, once we accept reality—the reality of the condition of our marriage, our family, our job, whatever—we can then use our time and energy to make that reality better.

Your challenge is to accept what is real and acknowledge again that God oversees and has overseen every detail of your life (2 Timothy 1:9) —your singleness, your marriage, your family, your relationships, your job, your every situation and your every circumstance. This knowl­edge will help you to act on what is true and real today (Philippians 4:8)… rather than resent reality and idly wait for fantasies to magically materialize.

Beloved, with a heart full of faith and hope, with God by your side, and by His great grace, you can love Him… even more, no matter what has—or is—happening to you.

Question: What action are you postponing by denying the reality of a specific circumstance in your life? Or, can you share an example when you faced reality and positively changed the situation that was holding you back?

You will find more about God’s wonderful character in my book, Loving God with All Your Mind.

The Secret of a Holy and Happy Life: Prayer!

It’s one thing to read about prayer, to talk about prayer, to dream about being a man or woman of prayer. But, it’s quite another thing to actually pray! Here’s a thought I want you to consider,

“He who has learned how to pray has learned the greatest secret of a holy and a happy life.” – William Law

Did you catch the word “learned?” Yes, we can learn how to pray, just as we choose to learn other skills for a hobby, for the home, or at work. And prayer is truly the queen of all of the habits we could aspire to as people of faith. I hope you also caught the pay-off to all of your learning and all of your efforts and perse­verance in prayer—”a holy and a happy life”! And the beautiful miracle is that a holy and a happy life can be yours each day, one day at a time, as you answer God’s call to pray on a daily basis.

So Step 1 is this: Start today! Grab a kitchen timer or clock, and go somewhere you can shut the door or be alone. Then pray for five minutes. Use these initial golden minutes to share with your heav­enly Father your heart’s desire to answer His call upon your life to become—and be!—a woman of prayer.

Step 2: Meditate on Jeremiah 33:3 and revel in the fact that the God of the universe will hear and answer you.

Step 3: Look ahead—Look over… and pray over… the next week on your calendar of events. Mark appointments on each day the exact time you will designate as your prayer time each day. It can be the same time each day, or it can be tailor-made to fit the demands and schedule of each indi­vidual day. Then be sure you keep them… just like you keep your dental, medical, beauty, and lunch appointments.

Step 4: Get organized—Round up some kind of notebook. It can be a spiral pad, a legal pad, a three-ring binder, a section in your daily planner, a leather-bound journal. Don’t worry about your choice being permanent. Just choose something that will aid you and inspire you to take your first beginning steps down the path of your journey into prayer. Write out your praises and requests to God each day in your notebook.

Step 5: Finally — Just pray it—daily! Keep a record of the fruit of your commit­ment to pray faithfully by checking off your appointments each day. If you’d like, I have a one page “Quiet Times Calen­dar” you can print out from the Free Resources section of our website.

Is God’s purpose for you firmly fixed in your heart and mind? Be sure to look to Jesus and allow Him to serve as your perfect model for knowing God’s plan, for focusing on it, and living it out. As you steadily make prayer a habit, you will discover God’s plan for your life unfolding as He leads you. As you pray, your days will become pointed rather than pointless, full rather than empty, hopeful rather than hopeless, vibrant rather than vacant.

There is no right or wrong way to pray… except not to pray! So, take up your quest for a holy and happy life afresh today and you will learn more about yourself, your God, and His answers to prayer.

 

5 Ways in 5 Days to be a Closer Couple

Make 2013 the best year ever for your marriage!

Elizabeth and Jim just released their new book, “A Couple After God’s Own Heart,” which teaches secrets to a great marriage by learning from biblical couples, such as Abraham and Sarah, Boaz and Ruth, Joseph and Mary, etc. Get started by taking their fun free challenge, “5 Ways in 5 Days to be a Closer Couple.”

Goals Before Us

It may seem late in the New Year to be talking about goal setting. But, if you are like me, January seems to go by in a blink of an eye. And, it’s sometimes February before New Year’s plans and schedules fall into place.

There were times when I was aimless in many areas of life. But, today I can’t imagine a day (or a life) without goals. Goals give me a target. As I rise each morning and take aim at my day, the arrow I shoot may wobble and weave, but at least it’s in flight and headed some­where. Just as goals help us in the day to day, goals are also an aid when it comes to our spiritual growth.

Goals provide focus— It’s definitely true that if you aim at noth­ing, you’ll hit it every time. So when I was a mom with preschool­ers, I aimed at something—reading one book a year. I asked myself, “If I could read only one book this year, what would it be?” I read a suggested parenting book that helped me deter­mine the road I wanted our family to head down. I read it in bits and pieces, remembering that something is better than nothing. I set a goal—and reached it.

And that one book I set out to read went straight into my heart—and my life. As time— and years—went by, my list of books grew to include a variety of other titles, all of which have contributed to my personal and spiritual growth and to my ministry to others.

Goals provide an opportunity for specific measurement—Setting goals that are specific helps you move forward in the direction you want to go. So when it comes to making goals for your-self, stay away from the vague. For example, the goal “to be a godly woman” or “to walk with God” is honorable but hard to measure. It’s far better to be specific.

Answer the question “What does a godly woman do?” and let your answer give you specific and measurable behaviors (i.e. Bible study, prayer time). Write down steps you can actually take toward those behaviors (baby steps count!) and mark them off as you accomplish them. I’m often asked about my writing, including questions like “How do you do it?” and “What must I do to write a book?” My answer is always the same. I have a goal to write five pages each day. Now that’s specific. There’s nothing vague about that.

Goals provide encouragement—When a week, or month, or year is over, do you ever wonder, “Wow, what did I do? Where did it go?” As I began to write down specific, measurable goals and keep track of my progress in my planner, I could see firsthand the growth that had taken place, the number of books that had been read, the vari­ety of classes and seminars taken, the women I had shared God’s truths with, the number of family reunions and birthdays celebrated, and even the pounds lost. Believe me, as you keep track daily of your efforts and God’s grace, you will be able to celebrate the progress made, and give God thanks.

Question: What accomplished goad have you been able to celebrate in your life? Or, have you’ve been stirred to set a new goal today? Share here so we can celebrate and encourage one another toward God’s good goals.

From Jim’s heart for husbands…Money Management Is a Spiritual Issue

I’ve heard it said that you can tell the spiritual maturity of a man by looking at his checkbook or his credit card statements. Well, how do yours look? What do they reveal about you… and your spiritual maturity? What would another person see if they were allowed a peek at your checkbook? Would they see checks written to missionaries, to your church, or to charities? Would they see checks written to cover the necessities of life, the needs of your family, and your children’s education? Or, would they be staring at a long log of checks written for indulgences, excesses, frivolities, fun… you know, toys? To prevent money from controlling your life more than it should, try these six little things that can make a big difference:

1. Give to God first.

In the Old Testament, God’s people were commanded to offer the first portion of their crops to God as a tribute to His abundant provision. In the New Testament, too, we are to give according to how we “prosper” (1 Corinthians 16:2). But the principle of “giving off the top”—the firstfruits—is a good way you and your wife can acknowledge your trust in God’s provision for you and your family, not only today but also for the future. (And, considering the weakness and selfishness of man-kind, there probably won’t be anything left to give God from the “bottom”!) So give to God first. Then trust that “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

2. Have a budget.

Most financial experts say the starting point for money management is having a budget. Without a budget, you and your wife will probably buy things that are not essential. A plan for saving and spending gives the two of you boundaries and defines what’s important. Just purchase a standard “Household Budget” workbook and start following the directions. But the real key to a budget is making it together with your wife and being in agreement as to what’s in and what’s not in your budget. Then you can hold each other accountable and celebrate and enjoy the benefits that having—and sticking to—a budget brings your way.

3. Pray over major purchases.

Since the money you are to manage is really God’s money, shouldn’t He be consulted as to how you spend it? Hopefully you and your wife have already committed your budget to the Lord. The two of you have prayed about what should be included in your monetary plan. Therefore, if something is in the budget, you don’t necessarily need to pray about it again (although that’s a good practice). So this point of praying over major purchases has to do with non-budgeted purchases. You and your wife will want to pray for answers to questions like, “How will this purchase impact our budget? Can the purchase of a newer car be delayed by fixing the ‘clunker’ just one more time?” These are the kinds of prayers and questions that are necessary when making decisions about major purchases.

4. Get organized.

Finances are complicated, even with the simplest of incomes. You and your wife should institute a financial filing system to keep track of important documents and financial statements. So purchase an accordion file folder with slots for each month of the year. Then drop your bills into the month they are due. As the bills are paid, drop in the receipts. At the end of the year you have everything handy in one place that you need for tax purposes.

5. Declare a “day of fasting” from spending money.

In Bible times, fasting usually applied to food and was a religious exercise. Because those who fasted were not eating, their interests were diverted from the physical realm to the spiritual life. Similarly, when you implement a money-fast, you allow your interests to be turned from the “stuff” of life to the “staff of life.” And, as an added benefit, you and your wife come one day closer to staying within your budget. Now, that’s a praise! So take calendar in hand, pick a day, and proclaim it “a day of fasting.”

6. Make a list of ways to cut expenses.

You and your wife should realize that your finances are a reflection of your spiritual condition. Isn’t self-control a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23)? And aren’t you a steward of God’s money? Whether you have enough money or not, then cutting expenses will do you good. If you don’t have enough money, trimming your costs will give you back some of what you need. To get started, take your new budget in hand and together see what you and your wife can lop off and live without. If you have a sufficiency of money, cutting expenses to give more to God will help you and your wife to “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).

Question: Which of the preceding six financial ideas would help you and your family the most?

 

5 Ways in 5 Days to be a Closer Couple

Make 2013 the best year ever for your marriage!

Elizabeth and Jim just released their new book, “A Couple After God’s Own Heart,” which teaches secrets to a great marriage by learning from biblical couples, such as Abraham and Sarah, Boaz and Ruth, Joseph and Mary, etc. Get started by taking their fun free challenge, “5 Ways in 5 Days to be a Closer Couple.”

Live Your Priorities

One picture is worth a thousand words and God has given us such a picture in Proverbs 31:11-31. Here He paints a portrait of a woman living out her priorities. Have you ever noticed that none of her words are recorded? No, only her example survives.

Have you ever wanted to influence in such a way or help other women, but feel limited by time or lack of bible knowledge? Well, another vital way of influencing and teaching others is available to you no matter what your stage of life. By living out your priorities you will teach and disciple many women—without saying a word. The best way to teach prior­ities to others is to model those priorities.

By God’s grace and in His power, you can encourage others just as the “wonder”ful woman in Proverbs 31 encourages you. Simply concen­trate on being who God wants you to be and doing what He wants you to do. Concentrate on mastering your priorities. Don’t worry about organizing your thoughts, preparing a lesson, and getting up in front of a group. Just walk among the women at your church and in your neighborhood doing with all your heart what you are supposed to do.

Every Christian woman needs models and examples—and I am no different. I remember being a new Christian and going to church, looking for models. I carefully watched other Christian women. I observed how they behaved in church and even what they wore. I noted how they treated their husbands, if they showed respect, how they behaved as a couple in public. I also watched the moms with their children, noticing how they disciplined, the tone of voice they used when they spoke to their children, and even the expressions on their faces as they looked at their little ones. Nothing slipped by me because I knew I needed help!

As an experienced observer of other women, I know that every­ thing you do and don’t do teaches. Gossip may seem like a little thing, but when you don’t gossip, you teach other women the beauty of obedience. When you say, “I’ll have to check with my husband about that,” you show other wives how to make their husbands a priority. When you plan your day around your children’s schedules, you model for other moms respect and care for their children.

If you are in a phase of life that doesn’t allow you to formally teach or lead or participate in a women’s ministry, you’re still teaching! Think about it this way—perhaps your very absence from those functions is teaching something about your priori­ties. Maybe some of the people who are in attendance shouldn’t be there either.

A favorite quote of mine from Charles Ryrie states, “We [must] say ‘no’ not only to things which are wrong and sinful, but to things pleasant, profitable, and good which would hinder and clog our grand duties and our chief work.” I trust that your investigations into God’s truth and observation of other godly women are leading you to a full understanding of how grand your duties and chief work as a Christian woman, wife, mother, home manager, and worker in the church are. We are in constant process of seeing more clearly each day what God says is most important. Being what God wants you to be—being a woman after God’s own heart—is a power­ful ministry. Others can simply watch you and be encouraged in their own quest to follow God.

Question: What priorities do your activities and actions model before other women, even without you saying a word?

Find further study of God’s priorities for women in my book, Woman After God’s Own Heart.

Purpose to be Filled

If you take time to sit at Jesus’ feet and be filled by God’s Spirit as you study the written Word, and if you focus on overcoming inter­nal obstacles to doing God’s work, you will never lack for minis­try. God’s fullness in you will naturally overflow into the lives of others. However, sometimes God calls us to something that requires growth in skills as well. I think immediately of two women who increased their ministry potential when they overcame their shyness.

Evangelist Corrie ten Boom had a problem with shyness. Determined to overcome it, she enrolled in a Dale Carnegie course so she could learn to talk to people. If she could talk to people, then she could witness to them about Jesus Christ. Developing herself in this way led to greater ministry.

Mrs. Howard Hendricks is a pastor’s wife who also had a prob­lem with shyness. Like Corrie ten Boom, Jeanne enrolled in a helpful organization, Toastmasters for Women, to learn how to talk with people individ­ually and in groups. Twice I’ve attended women’s retreats where Mrs. Hendricks was the retreat speaker—speaking each time to more than 500 women. Developing herself led to more capable ministry.

Ministry and service to others is stimulated when we take the time to develop our skills and overcome our weaknesses— and that makes sense. After all, how much can a teacher teach, a counselor counsel, an administrator administrate? Only as far as each has grown!  As each of us grows, each of us finds power and knowledge for overcoming personal weaknesses and for more effective ministry in Jesus Christ.

You’ve heard it said that, “You cannot give away what you do not possess.” And, the Bible tells us that the words that we give away should be seasoned with grace and acceptable in God’s sight (Colossians 4:6, Psalm 19:14). After learning of these commands from God, I considered that the best words I could give away would be God’s words. Therefore, I would have to know them before I could offer His truth to others.

At this time I fretted, “I can’t memorize Scripture! It’s too hard.” Then I visited a friend’s home whose pet parrot sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” in its entirety for me. As I stood there amazed at what I was hearing, I thought, “Well, if a parrot can learn ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ I can learn to memorize Scripture!” Surely each of us can develop a way of remembering significant verses from God’s Word, no matter what our perceived intelligence. If you do, your filled heart will be a source of encourage­ment to many.

Jesus Himself said, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself'” (Luke 10:27). You will always have more to give to your neighbor if you regularly place yourself before God and let Him grow you, strengthen you, transform you!

Question: Is there a skill that you have hesitated to develop because it is new, hard, or out of your comfort zone? Share the blessings that might come from utilizing that new skill to encourage yourself and others to take that next step.

Find more encouragement for your soul in my book, A Woman After God’s Own Heart.

From Jim’s Heart for Husbands…Reaping the Blessings of Work

“Work,” in all its uses, is mentioned over 350 times in the Bible. It is God’s will that you and I work. And whatever career you and I believe to be the will of God for our lives will demand hard work to be successful.

Charles M. Schwab, the great steel tycoon, is famous for his “Ten Commandments of Success.” What was number one? Mr. Schwab put hard work at the top of the list. He explained, “Hard work is the best investment a man can make.”

Thomas A. Edison, the great inventor, denied he was a genius. Instead, he attributed his success to dedicated work. He rarely slept more than four hours a night and was often seen catching a nap or two during the day. Too much sleep, he claimed, “makes you dopey. And you lose time, vitality, and opportunities.”

Today, our culture has different ideas about work than in years past. Not only has society slipped in its moral fiber, but it has also slipped in its commitment to excellence in the workplace. Many people either want everything given to them without working for it, or they don’t want to work very hard to get it. You, however, as a man after God’s own heart, are different. You understand God’s purposes and priorities for your life. You are working hard for God and His glory, and not for men. And what kind of blessings can you reap from this kind of obedience in your work?

First, you will be blessed in knowing that you are fulfilling the will of God in your life. That alone should be blessing enough, but there’s more…

Second, you will be blessed in knowing that your wife shares God’s blessings with you. Think about this: As the head of your home, your obedience or disobedience affects your wife’s life as well. That’s why your obedience is so critical.

Third, you will be blessed by knowing that you are doing your best as you do your work unto the Lord. You will know the fulfillment that comes from taking pride in the excellence of your work.

Brother, if you work hard, understand the will of God, and live out His purposes and His priorities for your life, you will provide for your family, you will be the best at your vocation, and you will progress in your career. You will be a “light on a hill.” And you will fulfill the will of God for your life. These blessings and more will be yours… when you tend to your career God’s way.

Question: What other blessings have you experienced by seeing your job as a way to glorify God?

 

5 Ways in 5 Days to be a Closer Couple

Make 2013 the best year ever for your marriage!

Elizabeth and Jim just released their new book, “A Couple After God’s Own Heart,” which teaches secrets to a great marriage by learning from biblical couples, such as Abraham and Sarah, Boaz and Ruth, Joseph and Mary, etc. Get started by taking their fun free challenge, “5 Ways in 5 Days to be a Closer Couple.”

From Jim’s heart: A New Year focus for teens…Training at “Camp Home”

Who do you think was the greatest leader who ever lived? Most people would probably name some famous general or a great statesman. But I’m sure you, like me, would accurately name Jesus Christ as the greatest leader who ever lived… and still lives today.

Why? Not only because He is the Savior of all who put their faith in Him, but also because He inspired—and is still inspiring—young and old, men and women, black and white, rich and poor, to follow Him. Do you recall what Jesus said was the most important characteristic of anyone who wants to be a great leader? A quality that Jesus Himself possessed and liberally demonstrated throughout His life? The answer is a servant’s heart. Jesus said be a servant and you will be great. And where better can you be trained as a servant than in your own home?

If you’re a young man, ask your parents and your brothers and sisters the four little words of a servant—”How can I help?” Develop the sincere habit of using these four words at home, and one day you will be great—you will be a great servant-leader. And you will be a man after God’s own heart.  Here’s what one leader of a large church writes about being a servant—about the humility that it fosters and the strength that results:

If you want to be great according to Jesus Christ, be a servant. Humility shifts our focus outward, on others and off of ourselves. Humility calls us to serve God, our ultimate CEO, by serving others… Humility will enhance your leadership at every level.

And friend, it all begins at Camp Home. How’s your combat training going so far? Camp Home is a little tough; isn’t it? Well, I’m sure you know what the coach always says: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” And besides, no one said it would be easy. In fact, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

Preparing to turn your life into an extreme adventure by living for God, whether at home or away from home, is a challenging task. But it’s one that must be mastered if you are going to be successful in life, if you are going to be a man after God’s own heart. God has provided the perfect place in Camp Home for you to get the basic training you need.

Consider yourself as one of God’s “special forces” soldiers, as being on assignment from God. And major on following this advice that the apostle Paul gave to another young soldier: “Endure hardship… like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3). I urge you… be willing to pay the price that is required of you at your home:

  • Obey your parents.
  • Follow their leadership.
  • Learn from their wisdom.
  • Seek their advice.

By developing your character at Camp Home, you will grow into exhibiting the kind of conduct in life that honors God… and your parents.

Question: If you’re a teenage guy or the parent of a teenage son, what are some character development examples that are modeled in your home?

Find more encouragement for your teen in our books, A Young Man After God’s Own Heart and A Young Woman After God’s Own Heart.

From Jim’s Heart for Men: A Heart That Worships

We often focus on the personal side of worship when we note what marks a man after God’s heart. God’s man is marked by prayer, praise, and personal worship. As he reads, memorizes, and meditates on God’s Word, he develops a deep reservoir of strength that, in time, issues forth in praise and prayers of gratitude for his God.

But there is another aspect of worship—the public side. From the very beginnings of the church, believers have gath­ered together to worship God through singing, studying the Word, and celebrating the Lord’s resurrection. In fact, the day the early church gathered together was called “the first day of the week” or “the Lord’s Day” (Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10).

On calendars, Sunday is the first day of the week. And for Christians, there are several reasons it is an important day. Hear what my friend and author Dr. Richard Mayhue of The Master’s Seminary believes are good reasons for us as men after God’s heart to participate in corporate worship:

  • It provides the only opportunity during the week for the entire flock to hear the heart, mind, and voice of the Senior Shepherd.
  • It’s the only day during the week for God’s flock to join their hearts together in unified worship.
  • It’s the only time during the week that the flock can blend their voices together in praise to God.
  • It’s the only time during the week to join hands in giving sacrificially to the Lord.
  • It’s the only opportunity during the week in which the congregation (both young and old) can have a common shared experience.
  • It’s the only time during the week in which the large body can be in a position to encourage and stimulate one another to love and good deeds in accord with Hebrews 10:24-25:13

You and I—as men aspiring to godliness—should be as excited about going to church as David was about his visits to the house of God. Hear again how David, a man who had a heart for worship, expressed his yearning for God’s house. This longing ought to be ours as well:

I love the house where you live, O LORD, the place where your glory dwells (Psalm 26:8).

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple (Psalm 27:4).

An additional reason church attendance is important is your family. Your wife and children need spiritual stimulation as much as you do!  Therefore you must take leadership in this vital area. It’s not your wife’s responsibility to make church attendance happen. It’s your responsibility as a husband and father and the God-ordained spiritual leader of your family. God holds you accountable for nurturing your family’s spiritual needs, and church attendance is a key part of that nurturing.

God did not intend for church attendance to be merely cultural ritual devoid of meaning and joy. He infused the benefits of community interaction and corporate praise into Christian gatherings when He said “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).

If this New Year is the time for you to begin (or return to) gathering with fellow Christians, bring it before the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to guide you to the community where you can both serve and be served… both learn from others and share your own wisdom… and worship the Lord in spirit and truth (John 4:24).

For more encouragement pick up a copy of A Man After God’s Own Heart by Jim George.

Who, not What, is My Purpose?

Ladies, you may already be pursuing God’s purpose in Titus 2:3-5, which we discussed in our last post. But as a follow-up, you might also want to ask yourself, “Who, not what, is my Purpose?” Am I faithfully serving those in my path who are part of my purpose—my family, my church, my co-workers and acquaintances? Am I willing to follow in Jesus’ faith­ful steps and make the sacrifices faithfulness requires? Growing more like Jesus awaits you on the other side of these answers and actions.

Take time today to consider your answer these questions and your willingness to serve the Lord in the manner He is calling you. For further guidance and encouragement visit the Free Resources section of our website. Or devote this New Year to discovering your purpose through my helpful book, A Woman After God’s Own Heart.

© Copyright 2017
Elizabeth & Jim George


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