One of the things that comes up from time to time in pastoral ministry is frustration with people. This is especially true when we have put a lot of time, thought, prayer and effort into something and no one rocks up to it or people are late or drop the ball etc.One of the things that I want to do when this happens is challenge the person who I am frustrated with. I want to say things to them about letting the team down and not being committed enough. Now these things may be true, the person we are frustrated with might not be committed enough and they may be letting the team down. But will having this conversation achieve what you and I want it to achieve?I have been reading a book called Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson who was a coach in the NBA who coached guys like Michael Jordan, Shaq and Kobe Bryant. He tells a story where Jordan is getting frustrated with the players on his team because they were letting the team down and they weren’t being committed enough. In true Jordan fashion he would try harder showing them what he expected of them and willing them to do it. He would scowl at them and tell them what they were doing wrong. But it wasn’t working.A trainer named George Mumford said this to Jordan:“It’s all about being present and taking responsibility for how you relate to yourself and others,” says George. “And that means being willing to adjust so that you can meet people where they are. Instead of expecting them to be somewhere else and getting angry and trying to will them to that place, you try to meet them where they are and lead them where you want them to go.”When I read this quote I had a aha moment because I realised I expect the people whom I am frustrated with to be where I think they should be, I get angry and I try to will them to be where I think the should be instead of trying to meet them where they are at and lead them slowly where they should be.When I am frustrated with people I forget two things:1. How patient and gracious God is with me2. That ministry is measured in years and decades and not days and weeks.Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
There are four things from this passage that guard against frustration in ministry.Firstly, when we preach. We preach in season and out of season. We preach when things are going great and when things aren’t. We preach when fruit is coming and when it isn’t. There are going to be times of fruitfulness in ministry and times where we will see hardly any fruit. This is to be expected but we preach knowing that God gives the growth.Secondly, we are to preach with great patience. We preach knowing that spiritual growth takes place over long periods of time and therefore we don’t get frustrated if we don’t see instant spiritual results. Ministry is not an instant thing. In ministry we see growth not over days and weeks but over years and decades. Therefore we know God is working if we are proclaiming his word and so we are not frustrated but patient.Thirdly, we see the tragedy of people turning away from the truth. This passage reminds us that people want to believe things other than the gospel so when we are ministering to people and they are turning away from the gospel we are not surprised but we carefully and lovingly instruct and remind them of the gospel over many conversations hoping to win them back to the gospel and sound doctrine.Fourth, Paul is real about ministry. He says we endure hardship. The hardship we endure is not through long hours, although there may be long hours. Nor it is from tiring work, although the work is tiring. I think the main hardship in ministry is a broken heart. We see people come close to Jesus and reject him, we see people fall away, we see people do stupid things, we get hurt by people, people don’t grow like we want them to. All these, and many more, break our hearts. But Paul says we endure through this. How can we endure though all this? We endure through all this not because we are strong and tough but it is God who is strong for us. He is the one who energizes us and gives us strength. He is the one who reminds us that he loves us no matter how great or how poorly our ministries are doing. We endure hardship because he first endured the cross for us.Brothers and sisters, ministry is tough and hard work and we need to remember that the course is long and the cost sometimes is high but the reward is eternal! So let us not get frustrated. Let us love the people that God has given us to lead and let us encourage them in the gospel and wait for God to give the growth.You may also like:
as a brother in Christ (and I do believe you when you call yourself a Christian) I was discouraged to see how you answered our brother in Christ on Q&A last night. I was discouraged for the following reasons:
Firstly, I was discouraged by the way you handled the scriptures. You said that the Bible condoned slavery and if we take it literally we should have been fighting for the confederacy in the American Civil War and your point (I think) was that just because the Bible condemns something that doesn’t mean the Bible is right. This argument makes it quite easy for people who don’t believe the Bible to be bolstered in their opposition to the Bible and I’m sure, as a Christian, you wouldn’t want people to oppose the Bible but to love reading it as they hear God speaking to them through it. As a Christian brother, I wish you defended same sex marriage by not firstly attacking the Bible which, as a man with your intellect and learning, you could have easily done. The Bible is under enough attack from people who aren’t Christians without having Australia’s most prominent self confessed Christians trashing it.
Secondly, I was discouraged by your statement that the Bible was about “universal love, loving your fellow man”. This statement has an element of truth in it for the Bible does speak of God’s universal love for everyone and that Christians should love our neighbour as ourselves. But we can say true things in a way and in a context that misconstrue the truth and can give people a false impression of what the truth is and this is what you did last night. Saying the Bible is about “universal love, loving your fellow man” is true if God’s universal love is couched in the fact that this love is not given to us all because we are beautiful little Vegemites who deserve God’s love but quite the opposite. God’s universal love is given despite ourselves. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and therefore God can justly judge us and condemn us to hell. But God, in his great universal love for all mankind, becomes a man and takes the punishment that was ours as he dies on the cross so that if we trust in him we can be saved from his right and good judgement. This sacrifice is for everyone and therefore this love is given to all. This is the context in which the Bible talks about God’s universal love. And loving your fellow man therefore is not saying to people “live however you want” it is about seeking their best and if the best thing for them is lovingly telling them about Jesus so that they would repent of sin well this is how we love.
My fear is that people heard your statement that the Bible is about “universal love, loving your fellow man” they heard that God loves me for who I am and doesn’t want me to change. Brother, we both know, Jesus clearly asks people to repent or change their ways as they come to know and love him. I fear that your statement about what the Bible is about will allow people to misconstrue the love of God and duck Jesus’ tough and yet loving call for everyone to repent and follow him.
And finally, I was discouraged by the way you treated a brother in Christ. I am fine with passionate disagreements (I think we need to have them in order to have a truly tolerant society). But I have not read one person, Christian or not, who didn’t think you were angrily dressing down the brother in Christ who asked you a very legitimate question. Your tone was off brother and as someone whose tone is off a lot of the time I know how hard it is to keep your cool when answering an intense and and passion fueled question. We all screw up, we all make mistakes and forgiveness is there for us all.
You are usually very cool when answering all kinds of questions and so your answer last night made me think if you are passionately answering this question not because you are passionate about it but for political expediency in that you wanted to show people who are passionately for gay marriage that you too are in their corner. I hope I am wrong.
Kevin, as a student of the scriptures you know how short lived our lives (especially political ones) are. You also know that one day we will have to give an account for the words we uttered. I can assure you when you stand before Jesus on that last day you will not say “I wish I was more unclear on what the Bible says so that I will get more votes”. No I think you will say “I wish I had been clearer and stronger on what the scriptures say.” Because on that last day you it won’t matter how many votes you received when you were on earth it will only matter if one person votes in your favour and whether that one person says to you “Well done good and faithful servant” or “away from me I never knew you”.
You and Mr Abbot are in my prayers.
Your Brother in Christ,
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Aussie theologian Graham Cole has a new book coming out in a few days called The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of Incarnation. I recently interviewed Graham about the book. Here is the transcript:
Most books have a back story behind the author writing the book what is the story behind you writing this book?
I made an observation to a friend, Don Carson, how the Old Testament speaks of God as though God were incarnate. Language about God’s eyes, heart, arms, fingers, hands etc. Technically put, this is anthropomorphic (human shaped) language. Next thing I know I have a book contract to explore the observation from one end of the Bible to the other.
What is the main idea you are trying to capture in this book?
The big idea is that God providentially in his Old Testament revelation of himself provides the conceptual framework such that when the incarnation takes place it can be understood. This was not seen in advance by Old Testament writers. They expected Yahweh to come to Zion and an agent of God’s kingdom to deliver them but an incarnation of the God of Israel? In Paul’s terms it was a mystery ( a secret now revealed as in 1 Timothy 3:16). But in retrospect the divine groundwork comes magnificently into view.
Are there any controversial theological issues regarding that incarnation that you are trying to address in this book?
I address a number. For example, would the incarnation have taken place if sin had not entered the world? Another is this. Is the missional centre of gravity in the New Testament the incarnation or the cross?
If you were going to preach a 4-6 week series on the incarnation what passages would select to preach on and what would you want to be getting out of each passage?
The series would explore ‘The Purpose of the Incarnation’
Week 1: To Reveal the Father to Us (John 1:1-18)
Week 2: To Redeem the Enslaved (Galatians 4:4-7)
Week 3: To Defeat the Devil for Us (Hebrews 2:14-15)
Week 4: To Represent Us Eternally (Hebrews 7:11-28)
What do you hope that readers get out of reading this book?
God so loved the world he did not send a surrogate (e.g. a wise person or a prophet) but His own beloved Son who in becoming one of us knows the human condition from the inside. At the tomb side of Lazarus he wept a human tear (John 11:35). I hope that the book leads to doxology: the praise of God at the wonder of the incarnation.
And finally, what do you miss most about Australia?
I miss our children, grandchildren and great food.
Sometimes the Bible seems like a great book which tells us a lot about God and what he has done but the direct application to our lives from the text we are reading is sometimes hard to come across. This wont be a problem for this month as we dive into the book of Proverbs. The book of Proverbs is a book of wisdom. It is a book that has nuggets of gold for direct application to our lives in every few verses. Read, it meditate on it and change your life in response to what God says to you through the book of Proverbs. As always the instructions for using this reading plan are below. If you want a hard copy of this reading plan you can download it here Bible Reading Plan For August
Read the Bible passage that is assigned for the day of month (e.g. read 1 on the 1st of August and 15 on the 15th of August) and meditate on what hits you from the passage about God’s love. Thank him for his love for you and then pray the prayers below for yourself and two other people at Resolved. Tweet what you are getting out of these readings using the hashtag #thegodofallwisdom
- Proverbs 1
- Proverbs 2
- Proverbs 3
- Proverbs 4
- Proverbs 5
- Proverbs 6
- Proverbs 7
- Proverbs 8
- Proverbs 9
- Proverbs 10
- Proverbs 11
- Proverbs 12
- Proverbs 13
- Proverbs 14
- Proverbs 15
- Proverbs 16
- Proverbs 17
- Proverbs 18
- Proverbs 19
- Proverbs 20
- Proverbs 21
- Proverbs 22
- Proverbs 23
- Proverbs 24
- Proverbs 25
- Proverbs 26
- Proverbs 27
- Proverbs 28
- Proverbs 29
- Proverbs 30
- Proverbs 31
Pray the 1st prayer for yourself and pray the 2nd prayer for two others at Resolved every day for the month of August.
you have mercy on all,
take away from me my sins,
and mercifully set me ablaze
with the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away from me the heart of stone,
and give me a human heart,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and enjoy you.
you have mercy on all,
take away from ______ their sins,
and mercifully set them ablaze
with the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away from ______ the heart of stone,
and give them a human heart,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and enjoy you.
Pastor Jared Wilson has written anew book entitled The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry coming out tomorrow. Jared was gracious enough to let me ask him a few questions about the book.1. Why did you want to write this book?I wanted to write a book for pastors that a) wasn’t mainly about “tools” or methodology, which most books for pastors seem to be about, and b) applies the finished work of Christ to the never-finished work of ministry. As a pastor myself, I find that I cannot share the gospel with my congregation or the people in my community very effectively when I am not centered on the gospel myself.2. What is the main idea in the book?That a pastor’s approval, validation, and success is not found in church growth, congregational feedback, or the achievements of ministry or public recognition. Pursuing those things for justification is a dead-end trek that reeks of condemnation. The book’s primary aim is to help its reader find his satisfaction in God’s grace in Christ alone.3. The book is called The Pastor’s Justification, is this a book for Pastors only? If not who else should read it and why?It is primarily for pastors, yes. I do think, however, that others could learn a lot about pastoral ministry and particularly how to encourage their pastors and even protect them from pastoral and congregational idolatry.4. In conversations with other pastors what is the biggest pressure that churches put on their pastors and how can churches help to relieve this pressure?I’m not sure if there’s a single biggest pressure but there are a lot of little pressures that all together amount to this: the pastor works for the congregation. He is their employee. In one very valid sense, this is true, of course. But pastoral ministry is not work for “professionals.” A pastor is both responsible for and responsible to his congregation, and this puts him in a very vulnerable position sometimes. Churches would do well to seek understanding on the particular fears pastors (and their families) face on a weekly basis — fears of not measuring up, fears of not being available enough, fears of not pleasing people, fears of only being as approved of as your last sermon or visit. Also, more specifically, it is rare for a pastor (or his wife and family) to be able to truly be themselves — warts and all, in total honesty and transparency and confession — with members of the congregation because the unspoken standard is that he must be “better.” This can be hugely damaging to a pastor, and by extension to his congregation.
5. What should pastors do so that their justification is not found in ministry success, but rather the finished work of Christ?Remember to not simply study the Scriptures in order to teach and preach them but in order to be shaped by them oneself. Too often we are dealing with spiritual matters simply as an act of vocational responsibility and not more specifically as an act of spiritual worship.6. What would you say to a young pastor who wants to become the next Chandler, Deyoung, Driscoll, Piper etc?It’s not possible. Nobody can be the next anybody else. You can only be you. But you can be the next *you*, if you take time to study, grow, pray, invest, love, serve, and trust in Jesus. I would say this to anyone granted the privilege of a public platform/ministry, be it from publishing or speaking or both — Remember that local ministry ought to be the source of legitimacy for a public ministry, *not* the other way around.7. What has been the hardest time you have had in ministry and what ideas from the book helped you in that time?I would say that losing friends either through conflict or church discipline has been the hardest. Thankfully, it has not happened but a couple of times. In general, I deal most difficultly with just a profound sense of failure and “not measuring up” on occasion. It doesn’t often arrive from a recurring event but is the result of having failed in some way or other or simply disappointed myself or others. The whole book addresses this kind of thing, but more directly there is help in Chapter 1 (The Free Pastor), Chapter 4 (The Confident Pastor), and Chapter 6 (The Justified Pastor).Thanks Jared for your time!Make sure you buy Jared’s great book The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and MinistryYou may also like:
God has made us to value or treasure things or people more than others. This instinct that God has given us can be our greatest strength or our greatest weakness. It just depends on what we treasure. This is no different in pastoral ministry as Paul Tripp notes in his great book Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry:
Let’s begin by unpacking the concept of treasure that Christ uses. Treasure is a provocative word. Imagine I am holding a twenty-dollar bill in front of you. Why is it worth twenty dollars? It’s not because it is made from twenty dollars’ worth of paper. That would entail a stack of paper. It’s not because it is made up of twenty dollars’ worth of ink. That would entail a pail of ink. You see, the value of the twenty-dollar bill isn’t intrinsic value but assigned value. Our government has assigned to that bill the value of two thousand pennies. Thus it is with most of the things that we treasure. Few of them have intrinsic value. No, most of them have assigned value. What does that mean? It means they have value because we have named them as valuable. This is something you do all the time. You are constantly value-rating the things in your life. That’s why the old proverb says, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” You are constantly naming things as important and other things as not so important. You are always attaching your inner hope and contentment to something, and when you do, those things take on life-shaping value. Let’s return to our twenty-dollar bill and see how it will shape our lives once that value has been assigned to it. Once my bill has the value of twenty dollars, the number of those you offer me will determine whether I will take that job or not. The number of those I have will determine the size of my house, the neighborhood I live in, the kind of car I drive, the quality of clothes I wear, the cuisine I eat, the level of health care I have, the vacations I take, and my hopes for retirement, and it may sadly even determine the kind of people I want to hang out with. Once something is our treasure, it will command our desires and shape our behavior. So there are two practical conclusions that immediately flow from Christ’s teaching on treasure. I want to state each conclusion in the context of pastoral ministry. First, in pastoral ministry it is very hard to keep what God says is important, important in your heart. What always happens to each one of us is that things in ministry rise in importance way beyond their true importance, and when they do, they begin to command our desires and shape our behavior. Also, it is critical to understand that your ministry will always be either propelled by or victimized by what you treasure. When you treasure what God says is truly valuable, your ministry will be protected and enhanced by the treasure commitments of your heart. But when you treasure things that God doesn’t say are important, you find yourself in the way of, rather than part of, what God is doing in your ministry at that moment.
What do you treasure more than anything? It will shape your life for glory or for failure.
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I have blogged about Definite Atonement before here. There are significant pastoral implications and reasons why we should hold to Definite Atonement. Don Carson lists two:
(1) This approach, I content, must surely come as a relief to young preachers in the Reformed tradition who hunger to preach the Gospel effectively but who do not know how far they can go in saying things such as “God loves you” to unbelievers. When I have preached or lectured in Reformed circles, I have often been asked the question, “Do you feel free to tell unbelievers that God loves them?” No doubt the question is put to me because I still do a fair bit of evangelism, and people want models. Historically, Reformed theology at its best has never been slow in evangelism. Ask George Whitefield, for instance, or virtually all the main lights in the Southern Baptist Convention until the end of the last century. From what I have already said, it is obvious that I have no hesitation in answering this question from young Reformed preachers affirmatively: Of course I tell the unconverted that God loves them.
Not for a moment am I suggesting that when one preaches evangelistically, one ought to retreat to passages of the third type (above), holding back on the fourth type until after a person is converted. There is something sleazy about that sort of approach. Certainly it is possible to preach evangelistically when dealing with a passage that explicitly teaches election. Spurgeon did this sort of thing regularly. But I am saying that, provided there is an honest commitment to preaching the whole counsel of God, preachers in the Reformed tradition should not hesitate for an instant to declare the love of God for a lost world, for lost individuals. The Bible’s ways of speaking about the love of God are comprehensive enough not only to permit this but to mandate it. [Footnote 4: Cf. somewhat similar reflections by Hywel R. Jones, “Is God Love?” in Banner of Truth Magazine 412 (January 1998), 10-16.]
(2) At the same time, to preserve the notion of particular redemption proves pastorally important for many reasons. If Christ died for all people with exactly the same intent, as measured on any axis, then it is surely impossible to avoid the conclusion that the ultimate distinguishing mark between those who are saved and those who are not is their own will. That is surely ground for boasting. This argument does not charge the Arminian with no understanding of grace. After all, the Arminian believes that the cross is the ground of the Christian’s acceptance before God; the choice to believe is not in any sense the ground. Still, this view of grace surely requires the conclusion that the ultimate distinction between the believer and the unbeliever lies, finally, in the human beings themselves. That entails an understanding of grace quite different, and in my view far more limited, than the view that traces the ultimate distinction back to the purposes of God, including his purposes in the cross. The pastoral implications are many and obvious.
Taken from The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.
If you want to more on definite atonement check out the forthcoming book by David and Jonny Gibson From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective
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Leaders in all walks of life need to hold the people they lead accountable. But holding people accountable is hard because there is usually an emotional and sometimes a relational cost involved in the act of holding people accountable. But to not hold people accountable is ultimately an act of selfishness as Patrick Lencioni shows in his awesome book that you should buy and read The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business:
At its core, accountability is about having the courage to confront someone about their deficiencies and then to stand in the moment and deal with their reaction, which may not be pleasant. It is a selfless act, one rooted in a word that I don’t use lightly in a business book: Love. To hold someone accountable is to care about them enough to risk having them blame you for pointing out their deficiencies.
Unfortunately, it is far more natural, and common, for leaders to avoid holding people accountable. It is one of the biggest obstacles I find in preventing teams, and the companies they lead, from reaching their full potential….
Many leaders whop struggle with that (again, I’m one of them) will try to convince themselves that their reluctance is a product of their kindness; they just don’t want to make their employees feel bad. But an honest reassessment of their motivation will allow them to admit that they are the ones who don;t want to feel bad and that failing to hold someone accountable is ultimately an act of selfishness.
After all, there is nothing noble about withholding information that can help an employee improve. eventually that employee’s lack of improvement is going to come back to haunt him in a performance review or when he is let go. And i’m pretty sure there is nothing kind about firing someone who has not been confronted about his performance.
Patrick LencioniThe Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business, 57-59
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This is sheer brilliance by Ajith Fernando on anger:
Sometimes we hear people say, “He’s such a saint, he never gets angry.” This is because we have come to value an understanding of tolerance that is far from the Biblical lifestyle. True, in the past we may have seen upright religious people who were unpleasant to be around because they were always ranting and raving against evil. Nothing pleasant came from their lips. We must surely avoid this extreme, but we must also avoid the opposite extreme.
I have come to realize that my failure to get over wrong is a reflection of my fallenness rather than by godliness. I may have often sinned against my children but not expressing wrath concerning things in their lives that dishonored God. When we do not show anger against our children when they do wrong, we may be opening the door for serious insecurity in their lives. Unconsciously we may be sending them the message that their wrong actions are not serious enough to merit an angry response. that in turn communicates the idea that they are not significant to be taken seriously. Many children grow up to be delinquents, and through their wrong deeds try to grab the attention they were deprived of in their childhood.
Ajith Fernando,Acts (The NIV Application Commentary), 252-253
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The Book Of Revelation is a a very misunderstood and quite a daunting book. It is a book where so many crackpots have gone to justify insane theories about pretty much everything. The first verses of the book actually gives us the key to understanding the whole book. It says:
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it,because the time is near.
Did you see what the book of Revelation is about? It is about Jesus. If you keep asking yourself “what does this reveal to me about who Jesus is and what he has done?” you will have a great time reading the book. If you ask who is the beast or whatever the book will confuse you. Anyway the Beast is obviously Justin Bieber. I haven’t got anything to back that assertion up other than the fact that I can’t stand him!
As always the instructions are below. and make sure you tweet what you get out of it!
Read the Bible passage that is assigned for the day of month (e.g. read 1 on the 1st of July and 15 on the 15th of July) and meditate on what hits you from the passage about God’s love. Thank him for what you have learnt from Revelation and then pray the prayer below that is based on 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 for yourself and two other people at Resolved. Tweet what you are getting out of these readings using the hashtag #comelordjesus
- Revelation 1:1-8
- Revelation 1:9-20
- Revelation 2:1-7
- Revelation 2:8-11
- Revelation 2:12- 17
- Revelation 2:18-29
- Revelation 3:1-6
- Revelation 3:7-13
- Revelation 3:14-22
- Revelation 4
- Revelation 5
- Revelation 6
- Revelation 7
- Revelation 8
- Revelation 9
- Revelation 10
- Revelation 11:1-14
- Revelation 11:15-19
- Revelation 12
- Revelation 13
- Revelation 14
- Revelation 15
- Revelation 16
- Revelation 17
- Revelation 18
- Revelation 19:1-10
- Revelation 19:11-21
- Revelation 20
- Revelation 21
- Revelation 22:1-6
- Revelation 22:7-21
Pray this prayer based on 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 for yourself and two others at Resolved every day for the month of July.
please make ______ love increase and overflow for you and for everyone else, just as your love does for her. May you God, strengthen ______ hearts so that _______ will be blameless and holy in the presence of you our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
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