< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: October 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

God and Harry Potter

Our local college, Lenoir Rhyne University, is having its 3rd annual Potter Fest this week. I went over today to hear one of the speakers, Danielle Tumminio, author of God and Harry Potter at Yale: Faith and Fiction in the Classroom.

Tumminio got her undergraduate degree in literature and then studied theology and became an Episcopal priest. She started reading the Harry Potter series as a sophomore in college and finished as a grad student at Yale.

She began teaching her popular God and Harry Potter class at Yale as part of their College Seminar Project and eventually from that was approached about writing her book.

She was a joy to listen to. I love people that love theology and want to get others excited about it too!

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Monday, October 29, 2012

The Ovilet Discourse

Mark 13:1-13 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

This teaching, called the Olivet Discourse, because it took place on the Mt. of Olives, occurred on Wednesday of Jesus’ final week on earth. He had spent much of the first part of the week in the Temple; teaching and healing.

The Olivet Discourse is the longest answer to any question in scriptures. This discourse is recorded in Matthew 24:1 - 25:46, Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-36.

Jesus had spoken to the Pharisees concerning judgment. And when Jesus was leaving the temple a disciple asked Him about the temple buildings, seemingly so that Jesus could explain how the judgment of which He spoke related to the temple. Herod, who built the temple buildings that existed during the time of Christ's earthly ministry, built them to last. Here Jesus tells the disciples that not one stone of the temple would be left on top of another. This is what occurred in A.D. 70 when Rome, led by Titus, destroyed Jerusalem.

The Jews had rebelled against the Romans and the Roman army surrounded the old city where they hid for 5 months. The Romans beat against the walls, but the Jews had a lot of supplies, the walls were strong and they kept holding them back. Eventually they ran out of food and the Romans scaled the walls. Titus wanted to save the opulent Temple, but the Jews burned it to the ground.

The things made of gold that resided in the temple melted as the temple burned, and the gold ran down into the cracks between the stones. Every stone was toppled from its place as people searched for the gold. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

This temple was probably 10 stories high. One stone was 37 ½ ft by 12 ft by 18 ft! The foundation stones were even larger! The temple was amazing! Huge! And beautiful! But Jesus said not one stone would be left. Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled word for word. In fact He said in Luke 19:41-44 41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

As they went over the Mt. of Olives, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked Him when this would happen. The Jews were confused about the coming Messiah. In all the prophecies in the Old Testament there wasn’t a clear differentiation between Christ’s first coming and His second coming. In fact they didn’t really understand that there would be 2 comings. Jesus answers the disciple by giving two prophecies. The first: the crushing of the temple. The second “when will we see the end of the age?”

Jesus lets them know this would be a different time then the crushing of the temple. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. And something had to happen first: Verse 10  And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Verses 4 – 13 give the description of the church age.

 Jesus first warns them about things that would happen that should not be interpreted as signs:
 Some would claim to be Christ; deception.
 There would be wars and rumors of wars.

Then Jesus identifies the beginnings of birth pangs, a metaphor for 'false alarm'
 Nations rising up against nations, and kingdoms against kingdoms.
 Fearful events

 Next He described more birth pangs which would lead to the coming Kingdom:
 False prophets
 Persecution of the followers of Jesus
 The spread of Jesus' message (the gospel) around the world.

These things are all happening and have been happening. 100,000 earthquakes are felt every year. There is famine in many countries. In World War II alone 72 MILLION people were killed. Pestilence – the Black Plague in Europe lasted 2 years and killed 100 million people! Believers are persecuted.

Jesus knew it all! He knows the beginning and the end. He will get us through!

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Monday, October 22, 2012

End Times. What people think and why they care.

Pastor Kurt is starting a sermon series on end times! One of my favorite studies!

Eschatologyis the study of the End Times. And there are many ways people have looked at this time. There are 4 views regarding the return of Christ:

Postmillennialism – believes life on earth gradually improves as the kingdom of God fills the earth through more and more Christians bringing His will down from heaven. Christ reigns now in our hearts. We are in the millennium. Christ overwhelms the world with increasing influence and ushers in a golden age through preaching that reaches the ends of the world. This is optimistic eschatology.

Amillennialism - A system for understanding the church and end times that believes that this age is the millennium. There is no literal thousand year bodily reign of Jesus Christ on earth until the eternal state.

Historical Premillennialism - A system for understanding the church and end times that believes Christ will come back after a period of trouble followed by Christ’s thousand year reign. The issue of the return of Christ whether future or not is difficult to determine. Preterism, a popular example, is a form of historical Premillennialism that says that Jesus returned in 70 AD.

Dispensational or Futuristic Premillennialism - A system for understanding the church and end times that believes that Christ’s return is definitely future and occurs in two phases separated by the tribulation. Christ’s reign on earth will be bodily and will graft national Israelback into the vine of salvation.

There are 3 basic views regarding the rapture and its timing in God’s plans:

Pre trib rapture - The rapture occurs before the tribulation begins.

Mid trib rapture – The rapture occurs before Jacob’s sorrow in the midst of two sets of 3 ½ years

Post trib rapture - The rapture and the second coming are immediately before the millennium.

We are dispensational premillennialists who anticipate the pretribulational rapture of the church. We are in the church age. The next event will be the Rapture of the Church (this is not Christ’s second coming as He will call us from above and we will rise to meet Him in the air.) Next will be the 7 year tribulation, THEN Christ returns to end that and He will reign for 1000 years while Satan is bound. Satan will break out, people will sin and Christ will once and for all end sin, cast Satan in the lake of fire and reign on the new Heavens and Earth forever.

The tribulation is described in Mark 13 and Revelation. It is a time of profound trial on earth.

Studying end times is important because almost 1/3 of the Bible is prophecy and 1/3 of the prophecy in the Old Testament points to Jesus’first coming and 2/3s to His second coming! 62 or the 66 books mention it.

It’s also important because it induces a healthy fear of God, makes us realize we need to starting living right and that we need to evangelize more.

1 John 3: 1-3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

We see from this passage that we are blessed when we study end times because:

1.      We become overwhelmed by the love of God.

2.      We realize that we are misunderstood by the world and our lives must be different from the world’s.

3.      We know we are possessed by God. We are now His children!

4.      We see we will be glorified in His image. “When He appears we will be like Him.”Our relationship with Him will be increased a thousand fold at that time.

5.      We will be purified when we stand before Him.



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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mediterranean Cruise Group Travel Opportunity

Here's another port we'll be visiting on the Mediterranean Cruise meant to entice you to join us! 

Cruise ships dock at the Port of Piraeus, about seven miles from Athens. An important port since antiquity, it's actually made up of three harbors: Megas Limani is where cruise ships come in. The harbor is located right in the center of Piraeus and there are plenty of low-key diversions there: shops, some upscale boutiques and some offshoots of chains like Britain's Marks and Spencer, the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus and plenty of tavernas.

But we will want to see the famous city of Athens, Greece, the birthplace of civilization.

If you don’t want to do an excursion (although if you’ve never been to Athens before this is one place you should) you can take the metro into the city for about 1.40 euro each way. Once you're in Athens, you'll find it a wonderfully walk-able city. You’ll want to see the Acropolis and the iconic Parthenon (perhaps the region’s most recognizable historic monument.) Athens is a city of neighborhoods all pretty much centered around these two national treasures.

Start at Syntagma Square in Athens Central (where you can also watch the changing of the guards every hour on the hour – where else can you see guys carrying guns wearing skirts with pompoms on their shoes!), from there, wander into my two favorite neighborhoods; the Plaka, (in the shadow of the Acropolis Plaka is like a village within the city), and Varvakios, which is the home of a huge food market for any foodies coming along. The neighborhood surrounding the Kotsa Plaza is a "locals" part of the city -- it's also the sight of some ancient ruins, such as coffins, which were dug up by developers by mistake. The developers were then required to stop digging, but the coffins were just left there! The plaza itself has lovely, lush gardens.

Make sure to check out Ermou Street off Syntagma which has designer goods and boutiques. For souvenirs and handicrafts, there is a flea market street off Monastiki and the Plaka area as well.

Here’s something for you to work on between now and April; when entering shops and restaurants, it's considered polite to say "kalimera" (kal-ee-meh-ra) for good morning, "kalispera" (kal-ee-speh-ra) for when it's not morning, and "efharisto" (ef-har-is-to) for thank you.

For all pricing and info see:

We've only got several more weeks where I can sell from this block of cabins. After that the price goes up. We'd love to have you join us!

Nancy Geiger

Phone: 828-324-8399 

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

God must be king.

Our Pastor, Kurt Gebhards, always gives us lots to think about and work on with his sermons. Some more then others though! And this was one of them:

God must be king of our life. He must be big and we must be small: this is the only relationship that will give us security in this life and peace for all eternity.

In the Old Testament book of Amos we have an example of people not treating their king properly and how it cursed them in the future. (The devastating aftermath of following a king of their own making.)

During King David and King Solomon’s time Israel was prosperous. During the next king’s reign in 931 BC the 12 tribes of Israel divided into the two tribes of Judah and the 10 tribes of Israel. Amos prophesizes about 200 years later: 28 years before Israel is taken into captivity by the Assyrians.

Amos was a shepherd and farmer near Jerusalem, so he was from Judah, but called to prophesize to Israel. In chapter one of Amos, he prophesizes against seven other nations surrounding Israel. Since seven is a complete number in the Bible, the Israelites probably thought he was done and they were in the clear. But in chapter two they are shocked by an eighth prophesy. Against them! And this one is the most scathing! It was all about how they had sinned against God.

Amos 2:6-8 6 Thus saith Jehovah: For three transgressions of Israel, yea, for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have sold the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes- 7 they that pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek: and a man and his father go unto the same maiden, to profane my holy name: 8 and they lay themselves down beside every altar upon clothes taken in pledge; and in the house of their God they drink the wine of such as have been fined.

Israel had always been an oppressed people, but now they were oppressing people. Especially poor people. “They sell the righteous for silver.”

Matthew 11:29 is the only place in the Bible where Jesus describes Himself. And He says He is meek and lowly. The Israelites had chosen as their victims people who were meek and lowly. In their self-righteousness they were showing that they hated God. Look how they treated Jesus when He showed up! They oppressed Him too! If Jesus was meek and lowly then we have to be even more so!

The king always mixed justice and righteousness. For instance, if someone was in debt it was the law they had to give their coat as payment toward debt. But at night they were given their coat back to use as a blanket against the cold.

The Israelites were so puffed up in their pride they didn’t follow the king’s ethic and were only about justice. The Israelites were prosperous, but they weren’t honoring God with that prosperity. They had forgotten who blessed them. The king’s ethic is to pass on the care they had received to others. But they didn’t. So God would stop the flow of prosperity.

God blesses a person so they can be a blessing to someone else! God wants to funnel His grace through a person. Today He does this through the church.

Amos 2: 9-11 9 Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath. 10 Also I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, and led you forty years in the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. 11 And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazirites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? saith Jehovah.
Verse 9 is about God’s preservation. God tells them He had been there for them all along. He had brought them the grace of deliverance. And in verse 10 the grace is His presence. God brought them out of Egypt, yes to deliver them from bondage, but Exodus was also about His desire to live among them! God wants to be near us!
Amos 2: 12 12 But you gave the Nazirites wine to drink, and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.
A Nazirite was someone of integrity and the Israelites were defiling them and not following their good example. They also weren’t listening to the prophets. They weren’t using God’s righteousness, justice and mercy as He intended. They were living in rebellion against God.
The same thing is going on today. Instead of prophets warning us, the Bible warns us. If we turn to God He will bless us and give us grace. But if we don’t it won’t go well.
Amos 2: 13-16 13 Behold, I will press you in your place, as a cart presseth that is full of sheaves. 14 And flight shall perish from the swift; and the strong shall not strengthen his force; neither shall the mighty deliver himself; 15 neither shall he stand that handleth the bow; and he that is swift of foot shall not deliver himself; neither shall he that rideth the horse deliver himself; 16 and he that is courageous among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, saith Jehovah.
There are many reasons for repercussion by God, but one of the main reasons is because He will protect His mission. When we go on our own path for our own pursuits, God is not going to fund us for that. The mission for God’s people is and has always been to become a blessing to the nations.
There were eight condemnations in chapters one and two of Amos because we are all under condemnation from God. It’s not just one people. But Israel got greater condemnation then the other nations because they knew better!

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Sunday, October 07, 2012


Mark 12:38-44 38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

The only standard that matters is God’s standard. Jesus is putting condemnation on the teachers of the law (the scribes) here. They were focused on external appearances and they were constantly coming out against Jesus because He was undoing their authority and their appearance.

The Pharisees and the scribes were at the top level in the Jewish world back then, but they were creating the standards that put them there. Then after they set the standards they judged everyone else by those standards.

Now Jesus is judging them. They dressed to impress. They expected people “in the market place” to recognize them and treat them with honor and respect. They wanted the people to realize they (the people) were lower then themselves. They weren’t about glorifying God at all. They were prideful.

Where Jesus mentions, They devour widows’ houses, the Pharisees would come to a new widow and become her financial advisor and convince her to give over her money to the Synagogue.

This passage shows us that if you strive for just the world’s approval you will get God’s condemnation in the end. The first word Jesus says in verse 38 is “Beware”. We must beware too because just like the scribes we will be tempted to put ourselves first: to want the world’s approval and to be tempted to judge other people. Christ is the only judge.

Next Jesus sits opposite the treasury and observes the people giving. A widow puts in the two smallest coins there were at that time. The penny mentioned is our equivalent of the least coin.

The temple was opulent! Would 2 pennies toward their budget make a difference?

Not by man’s standards. But by God’s it was massive. He knows what we are able to give and God judges on proportions. God sees our hearts.

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Friday, October 05, 2012

Jesus tells us who He is

Mark 12:35 –37 35 And Jesus began to say, as He taught in the temple, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself said in the Holy Spirit,
The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet.”’
37 David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; so in what sense is He his son?” And the large crowd enjoyed listening to Him.
The first time you read this it doesn’t make any sense at all!

But in this passage Jesus tells us exactly who He is! This verse quotes from Psalm 110, a messianic psalm written by David, “by the Holy Spirit”. Messianic psalms are about the coming Messiah.
Psalm 110 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” 2 The Lord will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies.” 3 Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew.
4 The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” 5 The Lord is at Your right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath. 6 He will judge among the nations, He will fill them with corpses,
He will shatter the chief men over a broad country. 7 He will drink from the brook by the wayside; Therefore He will lift up His head.
In the parallel verses in Matthew to the Mark passage Jesus actually asks the people He’s teaching, “42 “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” They said to Him, “The son of David.”

The name Christ means Messiah and they expected the Messiah would be the son of David. (in David’s royal line.)
Jesus defines Himself in 5 key features from Psalm 110 and the Mark passage.
He’s an amazing teacher and a prophet. In verse 35 of Mark 12 He’s teaching in the temple. The best sentence of this passage says the large crowd enjoyed listening to Him. In a crowd this size many wouldn’t have been saved, but they enjoyed listening to Him because he was a marvelous teacher. Read Matthew 5, 6 and 7 to see some of His teachings.
In John 3:2 Nicodemus said, “We know you are a teacher from God.” In John 7:46 the crowd marveled at His wisdom and truth and understanding. Jesus was a great teacher.
In Isaiah 9:6 He’s the wonderful counselor. When you look for a counselor you look for two things: someone who understands what you are feeling and someone who can help you in your angst! Jesus created us. He knows everything about us, every concern we have, and He has every answer to our needs. He is wisdom and truth personified.
Next he is the anointed Christ. Again in verse 35 where it says “the Christ”, that means the Messiah, the anointed Savior. This relates to His function as a priest.
Look at Psalm 110:4 again, 4 The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
This Psalm is a conversation between God the Father and God the Son. The Father is answering His Son who is the messiah and priest. A priest insures the offering is pure and offers it to God. Look at how Hebrews 10:12-13 ties this together showing that Jesus is the priest talked about in Psalm 110:  12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for]sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet.
Jesus accomplished what none of us could ever hope to do on our own – by His sacrifice.
Hebrews 7:21-22 also refers to Psalm 110: 21 (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, “The Lord has sworn
And will not change His mind, You are a priest forever’”); 22 so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.
Jesus came as a priest in the order of Melchizedek, not Aaron who was corrupt. Melchizedek was both a king and a priest and eternal.
Next Jesus is the Son of David. This highlights that He is King. God promised that David’s royal line would continue forever. The Jews were always looking for the Son of David who would reestablish David’s rule on earth. The Romans were ruling Israel and Judah at this time. But the Son of David would fulfill God’s promise to David.
In this passage Jesus is saying I am the Christ and I am the Son of David. Jesus comes with credentials! In order to completely trust someone we have to know something about them. Their background. We can trust Jesus with our life. Our eternal life!
Fourth is He is the Lord of David. Here’s where the Jews had a problem. They could agree he was the Son of David, they were ready for Him to oppose the Romans and set up an earthly kingdom, but they didn’t necessarily want to serve Him!
In verse 36 it says, “David himself declares by the Holy Spirit”. David wrote his Psalms by the Holy Spirit. God wrote the Bible. He used men to do it, but it is everything God wants us to know. And what David says is The Lord said to my Lord (God the Father speaking to God the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit).
There’s an error today about the Trinity. The Trinity is 1 Godhead in 3 persons: with 3 distinct personalities and functions. The error is that He is 1 God who manifests Himself in different forms. That’s called modalism. So David is saying, “I have 2 Lords and my Lord Jesus is seated at the right hand of my Lord God. So Jesus is the Son of David and the Lord of David.
Hebrews 4:14-16 14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Jesus is seated on a throne of grace.
Finally Jesus is the Victorious Warrior. At the end of verse 36 it says, “until I put the enemies under His feet” Jesus is a victorious warrior! His victory is ensured forevermore.
2 Corinthians 2:14 14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.

He’s already won the battle, we just need to walk in His victory!

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Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Project Conversion Talk by Andrew Bowen

John and I went over to Lenoir Rhyne University tonight for their Institute for Faith and Learning series. Speaker Andrew Bowen spent the year of 2011 immersed in 12 different religions (or belief systems) trying to overcome his hatred of “other” religions.

In picking his 12 he decided they had to be ones he didn’t really know anything about and condemned. He also tried to pick ones that had Holy Days during that month so he could learn more and more quickly.

The 12 were: Hinduism, Baha’i, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism, Agnosticism, Latter-Day-Saints, Wicca, Catholicism, Islam, Sikhism and Jainism. And he had a mentor for each.

Each month was divided the same way. Week 1 was religious practices, worship and ritual. Week 2; culture and art. Week 3; social issues and conflicts and week 4; personal reflection. (What stereotype did he use to have that had changed? What could he take from them and use in his own life?)

After a year he said he was able to “see the humanity in all people” and felt like he overcame his hatred. But he lost his Christian faith. When asked by a member of the audience what religion he believes in now he said, “None really. Sort of a blend that probably leans toward Buddhism."

I found this all somewhat shallow and very sad. I kept thinking how God had kept the Israelites in Egypt apart from others so they would stay strong in their belief and this guy did the opposite and it did just what God said it would.

When he was talking about the mentors he said the only ones who tried to convert him were the 2 from the Latter-Day-Saints.

Good for them!

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