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Weakness + Grace = Power

In my last post, we looked at God’s answer to Paul’s weakness.  It’s something we need to apply to our own lives today.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

It all comes down to the grace of God.  We have to understand that this grace is everything God is working in us.  It’s the power He bestows on us whether we realize it or not.

What I also need to hear is that His power works perfectly in my weakness.  That goes contrary to what many people believe.

We sometimes get the idea that my weakness diminishes how God’s power can work in me.  That’s a lie we need to fight against.  If I had no weaknesses, I could never see the power of God at work in me.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10

What Paul is saying here comes from years of experience walking with Christ.  He’s found that all of these challenges are really good things.  They’re invitations for the power of God to show up in your life.

Later on in this letter, Paul explains it in more detail concerning Christ.

For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power.  Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you.
2 Corinthians 13:4

Here Paul equates the crucifixion with weakness.  That tells me that all the challenges we face are a part of the dying process in our flesh.

Spiritually speaking, we need to take them to the cross of Christ and leave them there.  Then, we look to the Lord with expectancy that His power will show up at just the right time.

That’s also why I need my mind to be renewed by the Word of God.  Instead of fear and doubt clouding my vision in times of trouble, I need to see things the way Paul does.  I must realize that problems and weaknesses are the preludes to my most powerful victories.

This means that I have to rely totally on the Holy Spirit of God at work within me.  After all, that’s why God chose to place Him in our lives.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
Romans 8:26

Nothing can replace time spent praying in the spirit.  It will change our attitudes and ultimately our situations.  It gives God permission to change our weaknesses into His power.

Question: How do you view the challenges of life?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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God’s Heart

Continuing in our look at Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, we can understand Paul’s motives.  The church had some challenges.  Paul wrote to them with instructions.  Titus went to check on their progress and reported back to Paul.

So even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are.  By all this we are encouraged.  In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you.
2 Corinthians 7:12-13

Paul’s letter to them (1 Corinthians) was a test.  God was challenging them to step up to a new level.

Paul was following God’s heart when he wrote to this church.  You can see it in his comments.

He didn’t write the letter because someone was sinning.  He didn’t even write it because someone was hurt or offended.  He sent it because he wanted the church to see how they had grown and matured in the Lord.

We have to understand that this is why the Lord allows tests and trials into our lives.  God isn’t wondering how we’ll respond, or if we’ve grown or not.  He already knows what’s in our hearts.  He knows how we’ll react.

God allows these challenges so that we’ll see just how far we’ve come.  Many times I’ve gone through a problem only to say something like, “Five years ago I would have never made it through that.  I must be maturing.”

God wants us to see how far we’ve progressed in Him.  But it’s not just for our sakes.

I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me.  But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well.  And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling.  I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.
2 Corinthians 7:14-16

That is an example of God’s heart as well.  He wants to “show us off” to the world and to the enemy’s kingdom.

The Holy Spirit is working in us.  He’s changing and maturing us into the image of Christ.  More than that, the Lord wants everyone to know it.

This is the wisdom of God.  He’s doing this so that we can walk in His glory (1 Corinthians 2:7).

We need to stop looking at our challenges as a bad thing.  God allows them into our lives for our benefit.  They’re producing His goals in our lives.  They’re paving the way to our destiny in Him.

Question: What is a past trial that you can see how a positive result came from it?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2020 in Encouragement, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Hard Truth of Ministry

I’m now getting back to my view of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s continuing his description of how he’s affected by the call to minister the Gospel.

…through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
2 Corinthians 6:8-10

This is the side of ministry that not many people want to talk about.  It’s the price that you pay for obeying the call to preach the Good News.  At times it can be tough, but it’s definitely worth it.

The apostle talks about glory and dishonor.  That’s hard to deal with.  Most Christians don’t ever see it.  They sometimes view ministers as some sort of celebrity.

When I’m out in the world, interacting with society, it’s a different story.  When meeting new people, they usually ask what you do for a living.  They have a normal response to a doctor, teacher, or plumber.

When you tell them you’re a pastor or minister you get mixed reactions.  Sometimes they’re positive about it.  There are other times when they react as if I told them I was an illegal arms dealer.

The whole dynamic of the conversation changes.  They begin to apologize if they think they said something inappropriate.  If someone new joins the group, they’re warned, “He’s a pastor.  Watch what you say.”

Paul also understands about good and bad reports.  As a minister, you and your family live under a microscope.  Everyone watches everything you do; expecting you to live perfectly like Jesus did at all times.

Then, when they find out you’re human like everyone else, they write you off as an imposter.  In one sense you need to grow a “thick skin” to people’s attitudes.  While at the same time, you must keep an open heart to love everyone you meet.

That’s all a part of what Jesus talked about with His disciples.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
John 10:11

Many people expect a lot from their ministers.  They look for encouragement, hope, healing, and counsel.  What they don’t realize is that ministers need those same things.  Usually, it means that they need to be very proactive or they’ll end up burning out and leaving the ministry.

Please don’t think that I have a bad view of ministering for the Lord.  I wouldn’t choose anything else.  The rewards are overwhelming.

My point is this: never cease praying for your pastors, ministers, and church leaders.  They need encouragement and support just like anyone else.  Seek to bring them joy in the ministry.

Question: What do you see as the rewards and challenges of the ministry?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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A Mature View of Pressure

As we continue through the epistle of Second Corinthians, we’re seeing Paul’s attitude toward the ministry.  He views the challenges that he faces as a way to see God’s power at work in his life.

This power then becomes a source of life for those he ministers to.  He stays focused on the benefits rather than the struggles.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18

What really speaks to me about his attitude is the first part of his statement.  He describes the pressures as light and momentary.

From my perspective, some of his troubles seemed to linger on and on.  How could he call them momentary?

I believe it was because he turned them over to Christ daily.  He let them go.  So, each new day was viewed as a brand new pressure.  We need to follow that example.  I think that it would go a long way toward changing the bad attitudes that we get sometimes.

Instead of the problems, Paul focused his attention on the glory that was being accomplished in him.  He makes an interesting comparison.  Temporary troubles; eternal glory.  Light pressure; far heavier weight of glory.  The apostle found that it was worth the trade-off.

The question is; how does this really work?  The answer to that question is a little hidden in the English translations.  By adding the word, “so”, it sounds like we fix our eyes on the eternal because of the glory.

That’s not really what it says.  The original is all one sentence.  It says, in effect…

Our pressures are working in us an eternal glory, not as we look to the seen, but the unseen.

That tells me that the only time pressures are working for my good, is when I focus on the eternal.  When I keep looking at the troubles, they’re wearing me down.

We need to take this truth to heart.  Keep the Word of God before you.  That’s what works God’s glory in you during the challenging times.

Problems and challenges are going to continue to come my way.  But the realization is that if I can see it, then it can be changed.  It’s the unseen things – the things of the spirit – that remain eternal.

The Apostle Peter understood this as well.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
1 Peter 5:10

Look to the unseen, eternal truths of God’s Word.  That’s what will sustain and strengthen you during these challenging times.

Question: How do you stay focused on the eternal?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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God at Work

As we’ve been studying Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, we’ve seen that God wants His glory to reside in us.  He wants the world around us to be drawn to Christ by watching how we live.  This is an awesome responsibility.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
2 Corinthians 4:7-8

This brings us to the greatest question of all.  Why would God ever want to place His glory into clay pots?  We may never fully be able to answer that.

But the truth is the truth.  God has placed His glory in us for a reason.  He wants all of creation to see His glory at work.

More than that, it’s proof that God’s power is at work in us.  The word translated as all-surpassing is a Greek word that means to throw beyond.

It’s an athletic term.  In a competition like a javelin throw or the discus, all the competitors achieve about the same distance.  Then someone throws far beyond all the others.  That’s what this term all-surpassing means.

The power that God wants to work in us is so far beyond anything we could accomplish on our own.  It becomes obvious that there’s a God who loves us and operates in us.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Paul talks about the evidence he sees of God’s power at work.  Everyone faces difficulties and challenges.  It’s what results from these times that makes a difference.  He lists four proofs of God at work.

Hard-pressed but not crushed.  That literally means that sometimes we seem to be crowded, but we cannot be boxed in.  Nothing the enemy does will be able to stop God’s plan.

Perplexed but not in despair.  This means that sometimes there seems to be no way out.  Yet even in those times, we don’t give up.  We expect God to make a way through, and our faith is rewarded.

Persecuted but not abandoned.  This means that sometimes it seems like we’re being pursued, chased, or hunted.  In our society, during times like this, it’s every man for himself.  But, in God’s kingdom, we’re never deserted or forsaken.  We can always run into God’s presence to receive His grace.

Finally, struck down but not destroyed.  This is just like it sounds.  I think about the Rocky movies.

The enemy gets in a solid punch.  We go down and it looks like the fight is over.  Then, before the count reaches 10, we’re on our feet again.  That must totally frustrate the enemy.

Never give up your trust in the Lord.  Even when things look the worst, God is at work in you.  Expect to see the power of the Holy Spirit bringing you through the tough times.

Question: How have you experienced the power of God work in you?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Grace Under Pressure

Right now, the world is reeling under the threat of the Corona Virus.  People are scared.  Whole sections of grocery stores are sold out.  All public venues are closed down.  How do we respond to all of this?

The Apostle Paul had pressures in his day as well.  Listen to his insights.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia.  We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.
2 Corinthians 1:8-10

It’s my hope and prayer that you’re never in a life-threatening situation.  I’m also trusting God to keep us safe and healthy in spite of all that’s going on around us.

I know, however, that weather, accidents, and natural disasters can come when least expected.  It seems like every day there’s something going on in the United States that could have tragic results.  If and when that occurs, you will be faced with a choice – do you despair and give up or do you continue to put your hope in God?

I’ve been in that kind of situation.  I know what it feels like to be trapped by an unforeseen incident with no way out and no help in sight.

At one point, I was on a solo hike in the backwoods of Maine.  I had an accident that resulted in a severe sprain.  I could barely walk and I was miles from the nearest road.

At about the same time, a huge thunderstorm hit the area.  I can tell you that at a time like this there’s a great temptation to just give up.

I praise God that the Holy Spirit within me was there to encourage me.  I continued on, even through the pain, and was miraculously brought safely out of the wilderness.  I say “miraculously” because this was before I had the use of a cell phone.

It’s truly in those times of need that God proves Himself faithful.  I can say, without hesitation, that God has never abandoned me to my problems.

We’re facing many challenges right now in our society.  The question is; how will we respond to the pressure?

The key to making it safely through a problem, either present or future, is to make the choice now, that whatever happens, you will not abandon your trust in God.  You’ll find that He’s always there with you to help you in your time of need.

The main thing that helped the apostle was the ability to look back and see how God had been faithful in the past.  As you remember what God already accomplished in you, it’s easier to trust Him with your future.  Because God showed Himself strong in my past challenges, I can expect Him to show up in my present situation.

In your prayer time today, reaffirm your trust in the Lord to take you through the hard times.  Place your life fully in His hands.

Question: What challenges has God already brought you through in the past?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2020 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God

 

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Coach it Forward

I’m continuing my look at Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  He was talking about the way we can help one another in the same way that we were helped in our troubles.

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:5-7

The first thing Paul tells us is that Christ suffered the same challenges that we face.  The Lord is aware of what we’re going through.

The important thing to know is that through Christ we have an abundance of comfort.  But just what does that mean?  The word, comfort, means a lot of things to different people.

Usually, when people think of comfort, they’re talking about something soft and familiar – like a favorite easy chair.  Unfortunately, soft and comfortable is not what this word means.

Comfort, in Scripture, usually comes from a Greek word that means to call alongside.  It’s what a coach does when he or she is dealing with their athletes.

A good coach is not concerned with how comfortable the athletes are.  Instead, their goal is to make sure that they’re successfully completing their training routine.

Actually, that’s the job of the Holy Spirit in our lives right now

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 14:26

Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will be our Counselor.  That word, counselor, is the same as comfort in the above verse.  In other words, the Holy Spirit is to be our Life-Coach.

It’s His job to come alongside us and call out the instructions we need to victoriously face the challenges that come our way.  We need to be listening for His voice.

So, as we receive coaching from the Holy Spirit, we can pass on what we’ve learned.  When we see others in that same situation, we can share what our Coach told us.

According to Paul, the result is patient endurance.  It’s the ability to remain in your calling without giving up.  That comes from the expectation that God will work through you for His glory.

Then, as we pass on this coaching, the body of Christ will be built up.  This is especially what we need in our generation.

In the world, there’s so much uncertainty right now.  But in Christ, we know that the Lord is working out all things for our good.

Question: How has the Holy Spirit coached you recently?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2020 in Encouragement, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Thanksgiving Victory

Today in the USA, it’s the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday.  So, I’m writing this post to talk about thankfulness.  In my next post, I’ll continue talking about our spiritual armor.

As believers, we need to live a life of thankfulness to God.  What most people don’t realize is that walking in thankfulness actually places you in a position of spiritual power.

…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:20

This is actually a poor translation of what the Apostle was saying.  Paul literally said we should be always giving thanks…OVER everything.  We need to understand that in the name of Christ we are over the situation.

This verse tells me that giving thanks raises me over any situation that I happen to be in right now.  We see the problems and they look so big.

It’s just like the Israelites who spied out the land.  Most of the spies only saw that there were giants living there.  They announced to Israel, “We were grasshoppers in our eyes.”

But Joshua and Caleb, on the other hand, were looking through eyes of thankfulness.  They were thanking God for giving them the land.  Their attitude was, “Thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory.”

It doesn’t matter how big the mountain is.  Thankfulness puts you over it.  How does that work?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:6

You’re told not to worry about the situation you see before you.  Listen to the response of God’s will.  We are to go before God’s presence, then we bare our hearts before Him, and finally, we lay our needs at His feet.

Look at the outcome that’s promised to us.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7

When you offer up thanksgiving in a worrisome situation, then the peace of God will begin its work in you.  This verse says that it transcends your understanding.  Do you know what that means?

The actual Greek word is Huperecho.  It literally means to hold oneself above.  So, when you present these challenging situations to God, with thanksgiving, God’s peace will hold you above all your human understanding.

This same peace of God will also be a guard, like sentries, around you.  We need to see that it’s the peace OF GOD that will hold you above the circumstance.

But it’s the giving of thanks which results in the peace of God.  Then, that peace is activated to hold you above the circumstance.

This holiday season, allow the peace of God to work in you.  Yes, thank God for all that He’s done in your life.  But don’t stop there.  If there’s anything that you’re facing that’s challenging or causing you to worry, thank God for the victory over it.

In faith, take the high ground this Thanksgiving.

Question: What future victories do you need to thank God for right now?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2019 in Encouragement, Faith, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Courage Under Fire

How bold are you when you see trouble coming in your future?  Are you willing to stand your ground and face it head-on?  Or, like so many, do you simply ignore it and hope that it goes away?

As we look at the life of Christ in the Gospel of Mark, we see His time with the disciples at the Last Supper.  Keep in mind that because this is the first of the gospels to be written, the Holy Spirit only inspired Mark to give the “bare bones” of what happened at this meal.

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.  While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me — one who is eating with me.”
They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?”
Mark 14:17-19

Mark shows us the disciples’ reaction to the revelation that one of their own would betray Christ.  The word, betray, in this verse means to surrender over.  Somebody was going to turn the Lord in to the authorities.

The effect was that they were distressed by this knowledge.  It hurt them.  In one sense, most of them felt that they would never do such a thing.  On the other hand, Jesus had never been wrong in any of His predictions.  The reality of the situation was overwhelming.

The men with Jesus must have felt a great grief come over them.  But in spite of this emotional upheaval, it’s not the disciples that I want to concentrate on.  It’s the attitude of Christ that we need to examine.

“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me.  The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him.  But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
Mark 14:20-21

The Lord reveals that it is indeed one of His twelve closest friends who will do this deed.  It would be someone who is in fellowship, eating at the same table.  In that culture, sharing a meal was one of the most intimate things that friends did.

Jesus makes it clear that this would not turn out well for the betrayer.  There will come a time when he will wish he had never been born.  His guilt will eventually destroy his life.

But it’s the statement Christ makes about Himself that really gets my attention.  He said that He would go just as it was written about Him.

That word, go, in the Greek, means to lead oneself.  He was stating that He was more than willing to walk the road that was laid out for Him in the Scripture.

Jesus knew what was ahead.  The cross was not taking Him by surprise.  He saw it and was progressing toward it with boldness and conviction.  That had always been the goal of Christ’s ministry on earth and nothing would prevent Him from accomplishing it.

We need to walk in that same conviction when it comes to following the will of God for our lives.  Too often we let the problems, challenges, and distraction of life sidetrack us from the straight and narrow path.

We must realize that the spiritual struggle can only be won with the Lord’s strength operating through us.  Time spent in His presence will assure us the victory.  So we won’t need to fret over the challenges we see coming down the road toward us.  Stand strong in the Lord!

Question: How has time in the Lord’s presence helped you to overcome the obstacles of life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Joyfully Thankful

In my last post, I finished my series on the book of Galatians.  Since we’re now approaching the Thanksgiving holiday, I feel like posting some things that would prepare our hearts.

At one point, the Apostle Paul prayed for the Colossian believers to have a knowledge of God’s will with spiritual wisdom and understanding.

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
Colossians 1:10-12

That’s a long sentence, but it has a great message for us.  We’re told that we should live a life worthy of the Lord.  Our lives should reflect His character since we’re called to live as His ambassadors.  But how is that to be accomplished?

It also says that we should please Him in every way.  This is the only place in Scripture that particular word is used.  It means to have the desire to please someone – to want to make them happy.

I realize that sometimes we make big mistakes and fall short of this goal.  It’s good to know that if the desire’s there, then the Lord is pleased with us.

However, it can’t just end with the desire to please Him.  This desire is not just an internal part of me; it has to be manifested in how I live.

According to Paul, it’s shown forth as I bear fruit, growing, and allowing His power to work in me.  And right along with this, I need to be joyfully giving thanks to the Lord.

Please understand that there are two ways we view life when faced with challenges that we can’t change.  The first is to tolerate them with grumbling and complaining.  The other is to come at them with the knowledge that God has full dominion over everything and everybody.

Looking at life’s problems in this last way allows us to rejoice that God’s power will work in us.  Then it will be evident to the world around us that God is still on the throne.

I love that phrase, “…joyfully giving thanks to the Father…”  Thanking God with joy is what we need in in the challenging situations that we face all the time.

But this kind of response will only happen as we spend time with Him.  Being in His presence allows us to be strengthened by His Spirit.  It gives us the knowledge and faith that Christ is in control.

The word translated giving thanks is a part of speech that indicates Paul is not just talking about Thanksgiving Day.  It’s all about a lifestyle of giving thanks to God continually.

Keep your thankfulness to God going throughout the year.  It will change your whole outlook on life.

Question: What are you thankful for this season?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Encouragement, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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