< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: February 2008

Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Year

I was reading Guidepost online today and a woman shared that for all those who always said they could get caught up if they ever could have an extra day - got it today! I hadn't thought about it like that, but we had an entire extra day in the year today! I hope everyone made the most of it!

The youth group at our church got together tonight to do "29 things on the 29th". My husband and I were surprised (and honored) that "caroling for the Geigers" was one of the 29 things! About 35 people showed up at our door to sing "Leap Year" carols to the tune of well-known Christmas carols! What fun!

Even if you didn't get more caught up with your extra day today, I hope you had some bright moments and I hope you shared them with people you love.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council

My husband and I went to hear Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, speak at Lake View Baptist Church this morning. I’ve heard him often on Focus on the Family, but it was a treat to see and hear him in person.

He was in Hickory for a Pastor’s seminar (tomorrow) where they are expecting 207 pastors. He says it’s time for churches to take a stand because our nation isn’t heading in a good direction. The church needs to move into intercessory prayer to beseech Heaven to move and have mercy on our country.

He told how President Eisenhower’s administration added “One nation under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 and the same administration added “In God we Trust” to our coins two years later. He said everyone rallied around doing it because we were in the midst of a cold war against Russian, an atheist nation, and we wanted to make it clear we were on God’s side – that there was a difference between the US and Russia.

He went on to say, we are now facing an even worse foe and we are taking God out of our country. Doesn’t sound too smart to me!

Here’s The Family Research Council’s site: http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?c=ABOUT_FRC

They are doing good work.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Habakkuk 3:16-19

Habakkuk 3:16-19 I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.

He’s trembling in fear because he knows what’s coming. Their primary economy was livestock and agriculture, so he’s seeing he will lose everything. This would be like us saying we lost our job and the unemployment insurance has run out and we’ll have to declare bankruptcy. But worse. because back then no income meant starvation and death, with the weakest dying first.

And that’s what happened. 18 – 20 years later when the Babylonians surrounded Jerusalem for 2 solid years the people inside the city wall starved to death.

So first he sees everything being taken away, but then he says he will rejoice. He doesn’t lash out at God in anger. He doesn’t pretend it’s not going to happen. He doesn’t say he’ll keep a stiff upper lip and try to stick it out. He says he will rejoice!

And the reason he can do this? “Because the Sovereign Lord is my strength, he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”

Back then the high places were difficult challenging places: people didn’t climb mountains for recreation in those days! They only went up them when they had to. But, Habakkuk said God gave him feet fit like a deer’s feet. Deer’s feet are designed to climb and also run over rocky fields. So Habakkuk might be saying God enables him to walk in high places where he couldn’t go without His help. He wouldn’t choose to be there, but whatever happens, it’s God’s plan and He knows what He’s doing!

Habakkuk made a choice. He would live in faith and rejoice in God Himself. God, not circumstances, would be his strength. Living by faith means loving God instead of loving God’s gifts.

You can obviously love and be thankful for God’s gifts, but if they disappear, you must still love God above all. There is a great difference between "I love what You do for me" and "I love You"!

When trials come, God will be exalted by our joy in the midst of sorrow and He will get us through one way or another. It’s important when we’re in those high places to know God has guided us there and He will enable us to endure and to rejoice. We just need to trust Him and love Him with our whole heart and soul and mind and strength.

God’s love for us is the one thing we can never lose!

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Habakkuk 3:1-15

Habakkuk 3:1-2 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth .
LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.

Habakkuk prayed that God would again work in Israel’s behalf. He expected judgment, but prayed it would be tempered with mercy.

Habakkuk 3:3-15 God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. SelahHis glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden.

Plague went before him; pestilence followed his steps. He stood, and shook the earth; he looked, and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed. His ways are eternal.

I saw the tents of Cushan in distress, the dwellings of Midian in anguish. Were you angry with the rivers, O LORD ? Was your wrath against the streams? Did you rage against the sea when you rode with your horses and your victorious chariots?

You uncovered your bow, you called for many arrows. Selah You split the earth with rivers; the mountains saw you and writhed. Torrents of water swept by; the deep roared and lifted its waves on high.

Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear. In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations.
You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one. You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, you stripped him from head to foot. Selah

With his own spear you pierced his head when his warriors stormed out to scatter us, gloating as though about to devour the wretched who were in hiding. You trampled the sea with your horses, churning the great waters.

Habakkuk recounts what God has done for His people. In all of the accounts, he reveals that his understanding of God is based on these historical events. The God he describes is one who intervenes in extreme, supernatural ways on behalf of His people.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Habakkuk Chapter 3

Chapter 3 is a prayer. As Habakkuk listened to God’s revelation of His righteousness, His majesty and the inscrutability of His ways, he believed God and he began to pray.

He begins humbly, acknowledging God’s greatness before he begins to petition God. This is a model prayer for us. We learned this from Nehemiah’s prayer and from the Lord’s Prayer: we start by acknowledging God and His greatness.

That will put everything else in perspective!

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Habakkuk 2:4

Habakkuk 2:4 See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright, but the righteous will live by his faith.

The verse, “the righteous shall live by faith” has been quoted three times in the New Testament (Romans 1:17) (Galatians 3:11) and (Hebrews 10:38)

But look at the sentence before that because the entire verse shows the two ways you can live and one is not the right way! “He whose soul is not upright in him shall fail”. Some Bible translations say, “His soul is swelled up within him”. That means he’s puffed up with pride and it’s how the Babylonians were described: everything was for their glory. They thought they could run their lives themselves. But, God hates pride. In Isaiah it says, “For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty. Against everyone who is lifted up.” Pride was why Satan became Satan. In Proverbs we’re told pride goes before the fall.

And we see here that the Babylonians will fail. They will be punished. And in fact we know from history that their great power only lasted about 70 years before they were conquered by the Medes and the Persians. 70 years may seem like a long time to us, but it’s a dot in eternity!

The second part of the verse tells us how as Christians we should live. By faith! The revelation God gives Habakkuk is not just that the Babylonians are going to destroy Israel, or even that the Babylonians will be punished. Look ahead to verses 14 and 20:

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.

The revelation is, “I am working all things together with perfect timing so that my name is exalted over all the earth. Every creature will bow before me in silence.” The response to the revelation is, the righteous shall live by Faith. We become righteous by believing God, not by “being good.” By believing all His promises. By reminding ourselves of God’s character and by waiting on His perfect timing.

This answers two very important questions:

1. How can I become right with God? Live by faith!
2. How can I live a life worthy of God’s calling? Live by faith!

One of God’s promises most people turn to is Romans 8:28 “We know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”

We remember God’s character and ask how an action or trial is consistent with God’s character. In this case, the Babylonians will reap what they sow. More then them losing all they gained and being disgraced, God was working all things together for His glory. This event was then added to the Bible to show how God was using them to show how it meant to live by faith and to not live by faith. That we need to value God’s promises and His Word. That we need to trust His character, even when things don’t make sense and believe His timing is perfect.

God lets Habakkuk know (and therefore us, because Habakkuk wrote it down for us, remember) that God is in control. That He’s bigger then the Babylonians. Bigger than anything.

This story teaches us to wait confidently on the Lord. We’re going to find out at the end of this book we can even be joyful in what we know the Lord will do. That even when we go through bad times we should worship God and recognize His strength. It gives us new understanding of God’s power and love.

We learn that evil will get its due in proper time. God’s time. And in the meantime we don’t sink down to the level of evil. Our job is to be concerned with our own encounter with God and worship and praise Him through it all. We learn that it’s ok to ask God questions. And in fact Habakkuk didn’t sit around complaining to people, He went straight to God. We also learn an encounter with God can change our perspective on life. Habakkuk’s circumstances didn’t change from that encounter, but God removed the doubt and confusion.

All of these things taught to us by the book of Habakkuk give God glory. God uses stories and people in the Bible to teach us things. He doesn’t just say, “You must forgive.” He gives us the story of Joseph and the story of the Prodigal Son.

Romans 10:17 says that faith, comes by hearing or reading God’s Word as though it truly is God speaking to you.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Habakkuk 2:2-3

Habakkuk 2:2-3 Then the LORD replied: "Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.

God’s going to answer the 2 questions Habakkuk asked.

How long would evil prevail?
Why was Babylon chosen to punish Judah?

And the answers would be for all of Judah and all people because He told Habakkuk to write it down. God’s answer to Habakkuk is the same He gives us today “Be patient, I will work my plans in my own timing.”

To trust God fully means to trust Him even when we don’t understand why things happen. We are a faith-based religion. If we had all the answers it wouldn’t be faith!

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Habakkuk 2:1

Habakkuk 2:1 I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.

When you ask someone something you expect an answer, right? Habakkuk isn’t just ranting to God, he’s talking and he puts himself in the position to receive God’s reply, as we should.

I always have to laugh at the story in Acts when Peter was in prison and the Christians were praying for him. God supernaturally got Peter out of the prison and Peter goes to the house where they’re praying and the maid who answers the door shuts it in his face because she didn’t believe it was him! If they were praying for Peter’s release, didn’t they expect him to show up?

Coty Pickney wrote, “When God is confusing, we must live by faith in the future grace of the God who hears. So wait! Feed on His Word and expect Him to speak to you through it.”

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Habakkuk 1:12-17

Habakkuk 1:12-17 O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die. O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish. Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?

You have made men like fish in the sea, like sea creatures that have no ruler. The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks, he catches them in his net, he gathers them up in his dragnet; and so he rejoices and is glad. Therefore he sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet, for by his net he lives in luxury and enjoys the choicest food. Is he to keep on emptying his net, destroying nations without mercy?

These verses are a great example of how we should react when we don’t understand what God is doing. Habakkuk is telling us, it’s ok to ask God questions. He shows us we should remember the promises of God, to remember the character of God and he asks God how His use of the Babylonians is consistent with His character.

Look at each one: Promises – “We will not die.”

How does he know that? Because of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David. God said in Genesis He would bless all the nations through Abraham’s seed. And in 2nd Samuel He said that the throne of David would be forever.

Habakkuk first knows these promises. And then he says them back to God.

God’s character – Habakkuk says God is eternal, sovereign and a rock. He is pure.

God is everlasting. That’s important. God won’t change and He cannot lie. He made promises to the Israelites that will still come true. We see things like a TV show or a movie or a book; where there’s a beginning, middle and an end, in a set period of time. But, our life and history so far is only a piece of God’s story. God’s very answer to Habakkuk was to write it down – the significance wouldn’t be fully realized until the appointed time. The Israelites will be around in end times.

The last one; how can what God is doing advance God’s purposes?

That’s something we can only understand by knowing God’s promises and His character. And we only know that by reading the Bible. And meditating on what we read! Then we can think about a trial we’re going through and try to see how it can be used for God’s Glory. And we can certainly ask Him to help us understand. So,when something bad happens and we go through trials we should already know the Bible, so we can remember God’s promises, remember His character and ask God how this trial can advance His purposes.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Habakkuk 1:5 - 11

Let’s see how God answers:
Habakkuk 1:5 Look at the nations and watch — and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.

He says, “Look around! I am doing something! And it’s BIG!” For a minute maybe Habakkuk thought, “Great! Maybe the Messiah is finally coming! Or maybe we’ll have a huge revival…”

But, then the next verse:
Habakkuk 1:6 I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own.

God’s not sending the Messiah yet! He’s sending the Babylonians! (Chaldeans) And He clearly says He’s the one sending them!

OK, so God heard the prayer, that’s good, God answered the prayer…and He showed He is concerned about injustice and violence. That He can do something about it, and will, but it wasn’t exactly an answer Habakkuk wanted to hear was it?

To get a feel for what this might have been like: picture Christians in America praying for the nation to turn back to God: to stop abortions, get rid of pornography, put prayer back in school, stop the political corruption and the oppressing of the helpless and all of a sudden God answers saying, “Watch! I’m going to do something so big you won’t believe it. I’m going to raise up a group of Muslims and have them crash 2 planes into your World Trade Center, which will crumble to the ground before the world’s eyes.”

How might we respond? “I know we’re in bad shape, but don’t You think that’s a little drastic?”

Here are the unbelievable things Judah would see:

1. Their own independent and prosperous kingdom, Judah, would suddenly become a vassal nation.
2. Egypt, a world power for centuries would be crushed, almost overnight.
3. Nineveh would be so ransacked that people would forget where it had been.
4. The Babylonians would rise to power.

The next verses describe the Babylonians. They were wicked people:
Habakkuk 1:7-11 They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like a vulture swooping to devour; they all come bent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand. They deride kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; they build earthen ramps and capture them. Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—guilty men, whose own strength is their god.

“Whose own strength is their god": So different from a Christian isn’t it? Our strength is the God who created us.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Habakkuk 1:1-4

Habakkuk 1:1-4The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received. How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.

An oracle is a message from God. Remember, 15 years before God had told the prophet Jeremiah that the wicked people would be punished.

Habakkuk can barely stand to see all the violence and wickedness. Just because we know God is in control doesn’t mean we don’t care or have compassion for what’s going on. Jesus wept over Jerusalem when He foresaw its destruction 40 years in the future. He also wept when Lazarus died out of compassion for Mary and Martha’s grief, even though He knew He was going to bring Lazarus back to life. And that story is the perfect example of God’s perfect timing: if Jesus had gotten there 5 days earlier, it would have been just another healing in a series of His healings, but by waiting and bringing Lazarus back from the dead God was glorified even more so. God’s timing is always on time for His purpose.

We see murders on TV, read about crimes in the papers, hear the numbers of aborted children, hear the huge numbers of people living with Aids, the numbers of people who are homeless or without food – and we get a little callous, don’t we? It’s hard to get upset every time about every thing!

But, Paul says in Roman 12:15Weep with those who weep.” A pastor wrote, “All of this evil should cause us to cry out to God, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, Here, Now, as it is in Heaven.”

This is what Habakkuk was doing. He cared. He had seen enough. In these verses Habakkuk listed 6 different problems going on in the world, which sound a lot like our times: wickedness, destruction, violence, no justice in the courts and the wicked outnumber the righteous. At the end he says, “the law is ignored.” God’s word was no longer standard.

Today it is illegal to have the 10 commandments hanging in many places. People are fighting over making same sex marriages legal…our world is not so different!

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Some Background to Habakkuk

One of your children tells you, “It’s not fair!” because someone in their class gets away with everything. Your spouse gets passed over at work by someone who lies, brown noses and doesn’t even do a good job. You’re standing at a bus stop in Israel and a man walks up and blows himself and 10 other people up. A drive by shooting kills a 5 year old watching cartoons.

It’s the age-old question, “Why do all these bad things happen?” and “Why do they happen to good people?”

Habakkuk, who was both a prophet and a poet, was troubled by the evil in the world and he sought answers. His name itself means “to embrace” or “wrestle”. And he’s wrestling with a difficult issue. “Why is there evil in the world?” “Why do the wicked seem to be winning?”

Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. And there was much to weep about. There was major upheaval in the world. He lived in Judah during the reign of Jehoiakim between the fall of Nineva (the capital of Assyria) in 612 BC and the Babylonian invasion in 588 BC.

The last 4 kings of Judah had been wicked men who neglected God and oppressed their own people. About 15 years before Habakkuk wrote this book, Jeremiah wrote that God intended to punish the people. That they were wicked and had turned from God.

Now, 15 years later, Habakkuk is crying out, “Where is the God who promised to punish the evil in this land?”

He must have been praying a long time because he says, “How long will I call for help and You will not hear?” So it seems like an unanswered prayer. But, most unanswered prayers are really answering, “wait” aren’t they?

This time as Habakkuk asks his questions of God, God answers. And the questions and answers are recorded in this book. God tells Habakkuk to watch and be utterly amazed because He will do something so astounding people won’t believe it.

And we’ll see that what He does is even more troubling then the original evil Habakkuk saw. God lets the Chaldeans (or Babylonians) punish the Hebrews by taking them into captivity.

It happened. And it was brutal. Many people died in the process. And they were in captivity a long time. God’s solution didn’t make sense or seem fair. At least Judah was God’s people! Why would God use a nation even more corrupt then Judah to punish Judah…some people think America was punished on 911 by really bad people…and we’re going to see parallels in this book over the next few posts.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Noah's Ark - Conclusion

(Genesis 9:1-7)

The first 7 verses are instructions God gives Noah. Starting with verse 8 – is God’s covenant with Noah. Another word for covenant is testament. Some of God’s covenants are conditional. This one was unconditional. None of the unconditional ones are breakable. They don’t depend on anything man does, just on God’s promise.

God used the rainbow as a reminder of this covenant. In Revelation 4:3 the Apostle John sees the throne of God and there is a full circle of the rainbow around it. Ezekiel, in his vision of God saw the same thing. Ex.1:28. We only see parts of rainbows, every so often. God sees a full one, all the time. And it’s meant to remind Him of His covenant to us. Christ is called the new covenant. Remember what is said in communion? “On the night in which He was betrayed He took bread and breaking it, said “take, eat, this is my body broken for you, and then taking the wine said, “drink, this is my blood shed for you, this is a new covenant, do this in remembrance of me.”

Just like the rainbow is a reminder of one of God’s covenants – every time we participate in communion we are to remember God’s new covenant – that Christ died for our sins – that if we believe in Him, we will not perish, but have eternal life.

God knew we would still sin and this would sometimes cause us to doubt our salvation – so He gave us this reminder – the sign of Christ’s broken body and poured out blood. The next time you take communion, remember God loves you. He has forgiven you. He is committed to you for eternity! You are saved! Forever!

And that’s good news!

Father we thank you for Your promises, and for the reminders of your promises. Because You understand us so well You know exactly what we need. Help us live each day as a living sacrifice to You. And as always we come to You through Your Son, Jesus Christ and it’s in His name we pray. Amen.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Noah's Ark Part 5

(Genesis 8:6-19)

Even though the water had gone down, the earth wasn’t dry enough for Noah and his family to go out. There may have been mudslides, things shifting and settling, dead bodies decomposing (we’ve seen the Katrina pictures). Even so I’m sure the family was ready to get out of that boat with all those animals!

So Noah sent a raven out. Ravens actually feed on dead things and it really wasn’t a good choice because a Raven will land on a dead floating body to eat and rest – so that wouldn’t tell Noah if there was land yet. So next, Noah sends out a dove. Doves don’t eat dead bodies and they would never land on one.

There are a lot of thoughts about the bird part of this story. One is, they were unnecessary because God was the one who would tell Noah when it was time to come out. Another is; Noah had been waiting on God for so long he was looking for signs of encouragement, maybe he was just checking things out for his own enlightenment, maybe he was showing God he was eagerly seeking the change of his life that God had promised.

Biblical hope is not an “I wish” kind of attitude. It’s a confidence that although you haven’t received what God has promised yet, you know you will.

When the dove returned with an olive twig, he was encouraged. Olive trees can survive under water and the twig showed it was alive and growing. Noah wasn’t going to walk out onto an empty, destroyed earth. It probably still looked like it had been through a flood though – and the warm moist air they were used to was now bitingly cold in the part of the world he had landed. Explorers who have tried to hike up those mountains found them to be extremely cold and harsh.

But, everyone got off the boat. And we’ll see that the first thing Noah did was worship God.

(Genesis 8:20-22)

This is the first time an altar is mentioned in the Bible, although there had been sacrifices in the past. And remember all sacrifices in the Old Testament pointed to Christ’s sacrifice. God was teaching the people that sin is awful, that the wages of sin is death; something had to die for atonement. So that when Christ died for our sins we would be able to understand that He was the perfect and final sacrifice. This verse says the odor of the sacrifice pleased God. I think this means God appreciated the sacrifice – not “wow that smells good!”

God still appreciates our sacrifices for Him, if they really are sacrifices. What’s the saying, “a sacrifice isn’t a sacrifice unless it’s a sacrifice”? Romans 12:1 and 2says we’re to give Him all of ourselves – be living sacrifices.

Everyday we should get up and offer our lives to Him, give Him the best of us. God doesn’t want or deserve leftovers.

God tells Noah here that even though the earth has been washed clean by the flood, man’s heart still has evil tendencies in it. When we are measured against God’s Holiness we fall way short. But, in spite of that God promised Noah He wouldn’t destroy every living creature again. Noah wouldn’t have to jump every time it started to rain! God is not just our creator and judge, He is our Savior!

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