October 20 One Year Bible Scripture Digest

 

The actions and reactions of the Jewish people and of King Jehoiakim to God’s messages in Jeremiah 35:1-36:32 are reprehensible at the least, total folly at the most.

 

In chapter 35, God tells Jeremiah to gather the descendants of Recab together and offer them wine. When he does, the Recabites tell Jeremiah they cannot drink it because Jehonadab, their ancestor, strictly forbade it. If they didn’t drink and followed his other instructions, they would live long, good lives in the land. Proverbs 25:26 warns against the godly compromising with the wicked. The Recabites refused to compromise.

 

What God says about the Recabites’ obedience and man’s disobedience is a sad commentary on mankind: “The families of Recab have obeyed their ancestor completely, but you have refused to listen to me! Therefore, the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Because you refuse to listen or answer when I call, I will send upon Judah and Jerusalem all the disasters I have threatened’.” We find further evidence of this refusal by the king’s actions in chapter 36.

 

God then instructs Jeremiah to write down all the messages He has been given, and present them to the people. Jeremiah does as instructed, then asks Baruch to read them at the Temple during the time of the fall Harvest Festival. News of their reading came to administration officials, who then asked Baruch to read them God’s messages. Badly frightened, these officials went to the king. As the messages are read to him, the King takes out a knife, destroys the scrolls and throws them into the fire. “Neither the king nor his officials showed any signs of fear or repentance at what they heard,” even when some of his officials begged him not to burn the scrolls. To this God said He would punish Jehoiakim severely: no heirs would sit on the throne, his body would be “thrown out to lie unburied,” and God would “pour out” all the disasters He had promised on the people of Judah and Jerusalem (36:21-31).

 

Even though the king destroyed the original scrolls and sought Jeremiah’s death, he couldn’t fight against God. God had Jeremiah re-write the scrolls and preserved Jeremiah’s life…and Jehoiakim met the fate God had decreed.

 

This should be a vivid warning to us: regardless of what leaders, governments, officials, zealots or others do in an attempt to thwart God, they will not succeed in the end. Like the Recabites, those who believe in God cannot compromise in being obedient to Him and His word.

 

The primary focus of I Timothy 5:1-25 is “who should go on welfare rolls?” The basic answer is “Very few!” In God’s eyes, “welfare” – the care and feeding of those unable to care for themselves – is first and foremost the responsibility of their family members. While many will argue that the “nuclear family” of New Testament days is not the norm today, our contemporary culture does not repudiate God’s word and will.  In His will, men and women marry, raise a family, do not divorce but stay together. They study His word and are obedient to it. If a family member has a need, the family takes care of that need. If someone is truly a “widow,” with no known family members, then that person becomes a responsibility of the church (or community). Some who have studied the problem say that if God’s plans had been followed, fewer than 2% of those on our nation’s welfare rolls would require public assistance. That, too, is a sad commentary on how far we have drifted from what God intended for mankind.

 

Paul also discusses our courteous treatment of everyone (verses 1-2), then in 17-22 returns to the subject of congregational elders which he had begun in chapter three. Paul says that elders who “work hard at preaching and teaching” should be paid well. Some denominations designate only the pastor or other ordained staff members as “elders,” but verse 17 would indicate there are others in the congregation who meet the qualification of “elder.” He closes out the chapter by suggesting wine for medicinal purposes, and reminding us that some sins are seen openly while others are known only to ourselves. However, at the judgment, both “overt” and “covert” sins will be revealed.

 

Psalm 80:14-37 opens with these words: “Your (God’s) throne is founded on two strong pillars – righteousness and justice.” That was God’s plan for us from Adam onward through eternity. We cannot return to the past to right old wrongs, but we can – and should – go forward from today doing our best to put righteousness and justice into practice!

 

Selah!

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October 19 One Year Bible Scripture Digest

 

The Lord said, “I have made a covenant with David, my chosen servant.
      I have sworn this oath to him:
  ‘I will establish your descendants as kings forever;
      they will sit on your throne from now until eternity.’”

Psalm 89:3-4

 

In Jeremiah 33:1-34:22, God continues conveying His message through Jeremiah that He will turn Jerusalem and Judah over to the Babylonians, that the land will lie barren for a time, but that He will restore it in the future. This He does after their seventy years of exile are completed, but His complete promise will not take place until Christ returns to sit on His throne. We know this from 33:14-18 when God says He “will bring to the throne of David ‘a righteous Branch’.” You will recall Paul’s comment in Romans 11 that we are “wild branches” grafted onto the root of His “olive tree,” that “root” being the Jews. Just as the Jews were lopped off, they can be grafted back in. Jesus is that “righteous Branch” of the “tree.”

 

Chapter 34:8-11 should be a stern warning to us about obedience. King Zedekiah had ordered Jewish slave-owners to release fellow Hebrews held as slaves – “No one was to keep a fellow Judean in bondage.” At first the officials and people complied, but later reneged on their promise. This greatly angered God. He said that because they had disobeyed His command, He would allow them to be destroyed by war, famine and disease. When God gives a command, He means for us to keep and obey it!

 

In I Timothy 4:1-16, Paul’s basic concern is “religiosity versus Christianity” (1-4). Even though asceticism and self-denial sounds like a noble form of worship – “don’t eat this, don’t marry,” Paul says that is contrary to what the Holy Spirit teaches. Instead, “everything God created is good” (4), “made holy by the word of God and prayer” (5).

 

In addition to asceticism, Paul tackles “physical fitness” taken to the extreme. He says that “physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is more important” (8). Regular exercise, including “pushing back from the table,” helps keep our bodies (God’s temple) fit for service in His vineyard. But “all pushups and no sit-downs” in front of one’s Bible won’t help when it comes to eternal things.

 

Here are some of the tasks Paul says we need to become more “fit” for the kingdom:

 

  • Work hard at teaching God’s truths (11). Focus on reading the Scriptures to others to encourage them (13)
  • Our age is not an issue (12)
  • Be an example to others in our lifestyle (11)
  • Don’t neglect the spiritual gift the Holy Spirit gave you (14) (I Corinthians 12)
  • Give complete attention to that spiritual gift and throw yourself into the tasks you are given (15)
  • Monitor yourself and your teaching (16) – stay true to what is right.

 

This may seem like a tall order, but it is what God desires of Christian workers.

 

Finally, in Proverbs 25:23, Solomon deals with the matter of “gossip.” Sometimes gossip even creeps into prayer requests when a person says, “Pray for Joe and Mary, they are having marriage difficulties,” something meant to be kept private. We need to guard against gossip in two forms: either in creating it or passing it on.

 

Selah!

www.copsonthestreet.com

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October 18 One …

October 18 One Year Bible Scripture Digest

 

For the most part, Jeremiah 31:27-32:44 looks forward to the millennial reign when Christ will be on His throne in Jerusalem. While many of the prophecies currently are true – Israelites living in and around Jerusalem in prosperity and relative peace, it is not the time God describes to Jeremiah. We know that from sentences like “…they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their family…for everyone will know me” (31:34).  The chapter closes (40) when God says Jerusalem never again will be captured or destroyed. Again, while much of 32:37-44 could be used to describe the return of the Jews after their 70-year exile or again in 1948, the wording that they will “live in peace and safety” (37) and “I will put in their hearts a desire to worship and never leave me” (40) has not yet taken place.

 

The portion of chapter 32:6-25 pertaining to Jeremiah’s buying a family field from Hanamel does relate to the forthcoming rout of Jerusalem, the beginning of their captivity, and then their return seventy years later. God promises that the Jews will return to their homeland, and once again buy and sell property.

 

Verses of note include 31:33 – “I will write my laws on their hearts,” quoted in the New Testament in Hebrews 8 & 10. Also, 32:17: You have made the heavens and earth by Your great power. Nothing it too difficult for You! This is something we need to remember when days are tough and the going gets hard. Again in 32:35, God mourns over the sacrifice of innocent children by the Jews. Many present day believers feel strongly that abortion is no different than that sin.

 

I Timothy 3:1-16, together with Titus 1:5-9 provide the definitive requirements for leaders in the New Testament church. If you examine closely what is required of elders and deacons you will notice that they focus on two sets of criteria: personal habits, such as self-control, life-style, family relationships, and personal attributes; and their knowledge of, experience in, and practice of the Christian faith.

 

Both elders and deacons are to be “the husband of one wife.” The most conservative churches will not consider either a divorced or a single man for elder or deaconship based on that statement. Also, since a woman cannot be a “husband,” only men can serve as elders or deacons in conservative congregations. Many translations say the leaders must have children who are believers. This rules out married men without children, those with children “below the age of accountability,” and those with older children who are non-believers. While some feel this is harsh, verse says “If a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?” In addition, verse six says leaders should not be “novices” or new Christians. Why? Because they need a solid foundation in the faith and in life. Finally, it states that before being named as a deacon, a man should have accomplished other tasks in the church “as a test of their character and ability.” Isaiah 40:31 speaks of those who “wait upon the Lord.” The word “wait” means “to serve,” like a waiter or waitress. Before being named to church leadership, the individual should have been “waiting upon the Lord.”

 

Psalm 88 is considered to be the most mournful all psalms. However, unlike other psalms where the writer cries out to the Lord, this one seems not to be from emotional rather than physical pain. Heman, writer of this Psalm, says: “My life is full of troubles” (3), “Your anger lies heavy upon me” (7), I plead for Your mercy and help (8 & 13), “Why do You turn your face away from me?” (14) It would appear the writer’s anguish comes from his personal sin, and he feels cut off from God. Still, he recognizes that the Lord is “God of my salvation” (1).

 

How does one get out of such a dilemma as described here? First is to do as Heman did, acknowledge sin. Next, repent or turn from it, and then set our feet on the right path. James 4:8 says “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” That should be our answer to every issue and problem.

 

Proverbs 25:20 says that “Cheerful songs” are out of place when a person’s heart is heavy.  A heavy heart perfectly describes Heman in his time of despair, and cheerful songs would have been of no help. In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon wrote “there is a time and place for everything.”  One of our challenges as believers is to learn how to “read people,” then adjust our demeanor and behavior to the need at hand – sympathizing, encouraging or cheering as the situation dictates.

 

Selah!

www.copsonthestreet.com

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October 17 One …

October 17 One Year Bible Scripture Digest

 

In the last verse of Jeremiah 30:1-31:26 we learn that the vision described in these two chapters was in a dream, and “very sweet.” Not being reviled and yelled at during the dream must have brought great comfort to Jeremiah. In his dream he sees Israel and Jerusalem during the Millennial Reign, peaceful and secure, ruled over by King David in the presence of the Lord (30:9). All of Israel’s enemies will have been subdued, and descendants of Israel will have been gathered from around the globe. The only blotch on the dream is found in 31:15 – “Rachel weeping for her children.” This is the prophecy (quoted in Matthew 2:17-19) predicting Herod’s murder of infant boys under the age of two in his attempt to kill Jesus.

 

Psalm 87:1-7 also is millennial in nature. Verse five looks forward to when “Everyone has become a citizen (of Jerusalem), and the Most High personally will bless this city.” In spite of the world’s continued hatred against Israel and the Jews, they are God’s “wife” and His “children.” (God often uses dual, apparently opposing terms, to describe something, such as calling Israel both His “wife” and His “son.”) In Jeremiah 31:20 He asks, “Is not Israel still my son, my darling child? I had to punish him, but I still love him. I long for him and surely will have mercy on him.” This verse reminds me of the saying that within a family, members may be harsh with one another but, when the family is attacked from outside, all come together. The Jews STILL are God’s beloved, and we need to stand firmly with them.

 

I Timothy 2:1-15 covers two main topics – prayer, and the subdued modesty of women. (As a side note, let me say that “subdued modesty” is a virtue for both men and women!)

 

Verses 1, 3, 5  and 8 concern prayer. Paul says we are to “pray for all people,” including our leaders, and to pray to God “free from anger and controversy.” I believe that “praying to God” – not to Jesus or the Holy Spirit – is the norm. Three times in the Gospel of John, Jesus told His disciples they could ask of the Father “in my name.” In 1 Timothy 2:5, Paul wrote: There is only one God and one mediator who can reconcile God and humanity – the Man, Christ Jesus.  One can argue that since the Father, Son and Holy Spirit all are one, it doesn’t make any difference to Whom our prayer is directed. However, for me, I am comfortable only when directing my prayers to God through Jesus.

 

Verses 9-15 discuss women’s dress, adornment, lifestyle and comportment in church services. Christian women – teens, wives and mothers, grandmothers, etc. – are to “wear decent and appropriate clothing,” “not draw attention to themselves with their hair, jewelry or expensive clothing,” listen quietly in church, and not teach or have authority over men. The Bible does not speak against women having a career, but the “model” is centered around the home – bearing children, living “in faith, love, holiness and modesty” (15). Many conservative Christian congregations have separate classes for boys and girls starting about the time they enter middle school, having male teachers for the boys and females for the girls. If boys and girls are kept together, the teacher is a man. That practice continues on through senior adulthood in honor of this passage of Scripture.

 

One of the most hurtful things Jeremiah endured was the hateful lies his enemies told about him. Proverbs 25:18 says that lies “wound like a sword” and are like “shooting with a sharp arrow.” As children, many of us learned the little rhyme: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me!” In spite of that rhyme, hateful speech, especially untruthful hateful speech, can undermine a person for the remainder of life. We need to make certain that everything we say about another person is utterly true. If we do not know it to be true, or cannot verify its truthfulness, it is best left unsaid!

 

Selah!

www.copsonthestreet.com

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October 16 One …

October 16 One Year Bible Scripture Digest

 

Today’s reading in Jeremiah could have been written for believers today and in every generation. In chapter twenty-nine Jeremiah sends a letter to the Babylonian captives telling them to build houses, plant trees and gardens, raise children and grandchildren, and plan on being there for 70 years. Not only that, but they were to pray for the peace of Babylon, for “if Babylon has peace, so will you” (29:4-10).

 

Folks, allegorically Babylon represents the fallen world in which we live today as “foreign citizens” for 70-80 years (see Psalm 90). While on earth, we are “ambassadors for Christ” on temporary assignment. We may worry about the future of our children and grandchildren, but we need to consider Jeremiah’s advice to the captives of his day: “Multiply! Don’t dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of “Babylon” (29:6-7). We can find strength in Jeremiah 29:11-14:

 

I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me. I will be found by you, says the Lord.

I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and bring you home again to your own land.

 

“Our homeland” is heaven, and God will have a great banquet for us when we all get back home where we belong!

 

Chapter twenty-eight of Jeremiah and 29:24-32 are vivid examples of those who either do not believe what God says or who twist His word to fit their own agendas. In chapter twenty-eight, Hananiah stands in the Temple, telling the priests and the people that Jeremiah is wrong, that the captivity will end in two years. For this lie, God ends Hananiah’s life two months later. In 29:24-32 Shemaiah writes a letter from Babylon back to Jerusalem in an attempt to have Jeremiah silenced. God’s response is to say He would punish not only Shemaiah but also his descendants. This should serve as an example to us to be very careful in our obedience to God’s words and not to make statements which contradict what He has said.

 

“Wrong doctrine” is one of the problems the Apostle Paul is dealing with in I Timothy 1:1-20. Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus to put a stop to those who were interspersing Law with Grace. Paul points out that the Law is good for who it is intended, the unsaved.

 

Is there a place for the Law today? Yes. As Ray Comfort (Way of the Master Ministries) has pointed out, we use the Law to convict the lost and bring them to Grace. Who are these people? Paul says they are those who are “disobedient, rebellious, ungodly and sinful, consider nothing sacred, defile what is holy, are murderers, sexually immoral, homosexuals, liars and oath breakers,” and “who do anything else that contradicts right teaching” (I Timothy 1:9-11). Those who are saved no longer are “under the Law written in stone, but now are under the law written on our hearts” (Romans 2:15). Paul wrote that God had mercy on him because he was disobedient from ignorance and disbelief, and that Christ came into the world to save sinners. Just as God was patient in awakening Paul to his need for a savior, He was patient with us, as we need to be with the lost (verses 13-16). Paul completes today’s reading by saying that in order to have confidence in fighting the Lord’s battles, we need to “”Cling tightly to our faith in Christ, and always keep our conscience clear” (19).

 

Psalm 86 is a prayer from David for the Lord’s guidance and protection, especially important while “living here in Babylon” and ministering to the lost. Verses 11 and 16 are especially important: Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to Your truth! Grant me purity of heart that I may honor You.(11) Look down and have mercy on me. Give strength to Your servant; yes, save me, for I am Your servant. (16)

 

There is a great deal of wisdom in Proverbs 25:17, “Don’t visit your neighbors too often.” We are to be available when requested, but we must respect the fact that each of us needs time for privacy.

 

Selah!

www.copsonthestreet.com

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October 15 One …

October 15 One Year Bible Scripture Digest

 

As we look back in the Book of Jeremiah, we find he has been told to “stand” in various places before a variety of people and be involved in a variety of acts for specific purposes God has commanded. In this I see a similarity between Jesus’ command to “go ye unto all the world.” Jesus could have said: “Build buildings, hold services at specific times, then bring the world there to hear the message.” Instead, he told us to “go,” and He’d let the Holy Spirit “bring men” to Him.

 

Jeremiah’s “assigned location” in Jeremiah 26:1-6 is “in front of the Temple.” God knew that people going there ought to be the ones most receptive to His warnings to repent and return to Him. Instead, after hearing the message God had given Jeremiah, in verses 7-11 the people, priests and prophets mobbed him and said “Kill him!” When the “officials of Judah” heard what was going on, they rushed to the scene where Jeremiah gave his defense (10-15). After hearing that, the officials told the people Jeremiah did not deserve to die.

 

Interestingly, another man – Uriah – had been prophesying the same disasters against Jerusalem and Judah. King Jehoiakim located Uriah in Egypt, brought him back to Jerusalem where he was killed with a sword. You will recall that when God called Jeremiah to be His prophet, God said don’t be afraid, for He would take care of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:8). We have no record of the same promise to Uriah. I point this out because of the beliefs some people have that what worked for someone else will work for them, i.e. a “special diet” cured one person of cancer, so it should cure everybody. There are specific promises for us in the Bible, but no promise of “skies always blue.” Even though Uriah didn’t have the “blessing” Jeremiah had, he still was faithful to the Lord and now is with Him in glory.

 

In 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18, Paul asked his readers to pray that “the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and be honored,” and that he (and all of God’s faithful messengers) “be saved from wicked and evil people, for not everyone believes in the Lord” (1-2). As we saw what happened to Uriah in Jeremiah, there are many who hate God and His messengers, and will do evil things to keep the Lord’s message from being spread. The prayer Paul requested in this Scripture applies equally today.

 

In verses 6-10, Paul continues with his message to “follow the tradition of hard work we gave you.” Being lazy, refusing to work and seeking handouts are attributes Paul felt are not fitting for a Christian. He says he was never lazy, even working full-time as a tent-maker when necessary. He goes so far as to say in verse 10 that “Whoever does not work should not eat,” and in verse 14b, to “stay away from them so they will be ashamed.” As I’ve said before, obviously this does not include small children, those who are ill, the aged and infirm, but it does include the rest of us. As boys on the farm, my brothers and I had some sort of responsibilities by the age of three or four. Even though Ruth and I are retired, we still work hard at the first assignment God gave to Adam, to “keep and dress the earth.” (For us, that is our own home and property.)

 

Psalm 85 has several verses which directly relate to the above Scriptures. In verse six the writer asks the Lord to “revive us again.” In verse eight he says “listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying.” If people won’t, the psalmist says to God “let them return to their foolish ways.” And in verse nine, he reminds us that “salvation is near to those who honor Him, and our land will be filled with His glory.” Realizing these truths, many Christians are praying for revival in our land so that once again our nation will be filled with God’s glory.

 

Proverbs 25:16Do you like honey? Don’t eat too much of it, or it will make you sick. The key thought here is “moderation.” Whether it’s food, how we spend our time or money, or whatever, we need to keep life in balance. The “major elements of life” are God, our families, what we do to earn a living, and everything else. There will be occasions when one takes precedence over everything else – a family crisis or having to work overtime. But as soon as possible, we need to get things “back to normal.”

 

Selah!

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October 14 One …

October 14 One Year Bible Scripture Digest

 

“False prophets” dominate today’s Old and New Testament Scriptures. In Jeremiah 23:21-25:38, Jeremiah warns against false prophets, saying they are “prophets of deceit, inventing everything they say” (23:6). Those prophets were saying to ignore Jeremiah’s warnings, and speaking “flagrant lies that lead My people into sin” (32). God tells Jeremiah to remind the people that He is “everywhere in the heavens and on earth’, and He knows what is going on (23:23). In comparison with His word, God says the predictions  of false prophets are like “chaff” found in wheat (28). “My word ‘burns like fire,’” He says, and is “like a mighty hammer that smashes rock to pieces” (29). It still has that power today.

 

In chapter 24 God uses the illustration of “good figs” and “bad figs.” The “good figs” represent those who God spared from destruction by sending them to Babylon, and the “bad figs” are those who have remained in Jerusalem and continue to rebel against God’s warnings.

 

Chapter 25 should be “an eye-opener.” In verse 3 Jeremiah says he had been giving God’s messages to the Israelites for 23-years, but they had not listened. Even so, he had been faithful in his service and would remain so for years yet to come. Centuries later, the Apostle Paul warned Christians not to “grow weary in well-doing.” On occasion I hear people say, “Even though God’s word has been preached faithfully in the U.S. for many years, the percentage of Christians continues to shrink every year. Perhaps we’d be better off to spend our dollars and efforts elsewhere.” I certainly believe in and vigorously support foreign missions, but we must be like Jeremiah and not give up on our own nation.

 

The “cup of anger” mentioned in verses 27-38 is imagery used by other Old Testament prophets, and appears in Revelation 14-18. It refers to the fact that God’s judgment is not confined to Israel alone, but is to be worldwide. Dr. J. Vernon McGee says that “man’s sin and continuous rebellion against God is like a wine cup which is filling up with God’s anger. When it is full, the judgment of God will break upon the earth.” Dr. McGee’s observation is confirmed in Jeremiah 25:29-36, which refers to the total destruction of nations during the Tribulation period and when Christ returns.

 

In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17, false prophets were telling the believers in Thessalonica “that the Day of the Lord has already begun” (2:2). However, Paul warned them not to be easily shaken and troubled by those (false prophets) for “that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God, and the ‘man of lawlessness’ will be revealed (3). Now, 2,000 years later, there is “great rebellion against God.” However, “the man of lawlessness” usually is equated with the Anti-Christ, who will manifest himself during the Tribulation period. Paul goes on to say in verses 7-12 that “lawlessness already is at work secretly, and will remain secret until the One who is holding it back steps out of the way.” Most agree “the One” is the Holy Spirit, Who indwells each believer. When the Rapture takes place, much of the restraining power of the Holy Spirit will accompany believers when they ascend into heaven. “Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed” (8). In Psalm 84:1-12, the writer muses at “how lovely is Your (God’s) dwelling place,” and how he “fainted with longing to enter the courts of the Lord” (1-2). In fact, the psalmist said “I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the ‘good life’ in the homes of the wicked” (10b). Even though that should be our longing, until then, Paul advises us to “stand firm and keep a strong grip on everything we taught you” (2 Thess. 2:15).

 

Proverbs 25:15 mentions “patience” and “soft speech.” These are qualities we need to apply as we wait for the “day” to come, and as we continue to witness for the cause of Christ.

 

Selah!

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