Does sincerity make a philosophy real?

 

A farmer noticed a fresh grave being dug in his friend’s back yard. Saddened, he notified the neighbors and they gathered around the open grave. They sang and prayed. Then a stranger appeared, explaining that he was there to install a new septic tank. . . . . .Similarly, many in man made philosophies and man made religions are equally sincere but have the facts wrong. Each one has his own opinions but Truth is absolute, unchanging. All genuine Christians agree on the salvation essentials or they could not be saved. On the endless non-essential issues, Christians have never all agreed.

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Is deeper intimacy with God achieved by protracted singing one song? Does musical massaging of one’s feelings enhance fellowship with God?

“Worship can be feelings manufactured without thought. If you repeat a thought long enough you think you can manufacture the right thought to engender the feeling. . . .  I think we are flirting with a lot of issues that are very dangerous here.” -Ravi Zacharias.

“God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4.24).

In worship should my primary focus be on God himself, His truths, His attributes, His awesome deeds, His salvation, His marvelous provisions or on  my feelings? We can worship God when our emotions are high or when we are down. In the Psalms, David seemed to often be down when he spilled out his hurts, his guts, before God.

I would view worship options including: (1) treating singing as a Christian mantra-like atmosphere where  the same song/ word/phrase is repeated over and over. Feelings are massaged, protracted urging, pushing them. This I presume is supposed to lift the person to some advanced spiritual plane, a deeper intimacy with God?  Feelings not truth  or intellect appear to be driving  this elongated worship approach. Are massaging feelings the way to  a deeper worship experience with God?;

(2)  well known, spectator worship—mouthing words with the mind often disconnected to what one is singing. This is not difficult to spot looking around a congregation. Minds are wandering. Perhaps most of us can relate to this temptation, this tendency. I can. Worship takes concentration, effort.  Especially when we don’t feel like it. Is it disrespectful to be talking to some one while our mind is wandering?;

“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord . . ” (Eph 5.19)

(3)  Conventional congregational worship can often be dutiful, cerebral but lacking in heart-felt zeal and compassion. True worship is talking to God—adoring, glorifying, praising, thanking, honoring, fellowshipping.

“O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with a voice of triumph” (Psalm 47.1).

(4) Joyful worship where worshipper is focused–telling God what he thinks of Him by singing rich, edifying, doctrinal truths or uplifting heart felt lyrics. Hymns, scripture choruses and songs are used to glorify God and delight man’s heart —Davidic, Psalmic singing. Hand raising,  hand clapping and shouts may be in order in some churches.

Because so many churches have flat, uninspiring worship, one hesitates to discourage any display of emotion. Yet whipping up emotions seems different to me than simple worship grounded in Spirit and in truth.

“O, come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation” (Psalm 95.1)

 

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Ravi Zacharias Lists Challenges Facing Churches Today

 

Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias lists  challenges confronting American churches today. They are recovery of Scriptural exposition in a relevant way. Secondly,   a disconnect with our youth. Finally, pastors today face increased pressure from within and without.

Ravi affirms how good expository teaching can hold the attention of young [and old] listeners. He offers teacher John R. W. Stott as an example. Two teachers can address the same text. One man can exposit a verse and apply it to the hearers’ world. Another fails to do so. One is anointed, Spirit-filled, endued with power. One is not. Is the speaker touching their lives, scratching where they itch?

(2) Many churches are losing their youth.  Ravi sees the need to develop deeper relationships with them through really listening to them. He says that they are asking vital questions, perhaps not in adult terms but pertinent issues nevertheless. If we don’t listen and include them  atheistic college professors will; unhealthy influences in the public arena and social media will. It is crucial to do more than throw them a left over chicken bone of our time and attention, in my view.

(3) Pastors are facing   increasing pressures today. They can be pulled between the  perspective of the older members and the rush of fresh options appealing more to the younger set (different music, new methods,  polity, more casual dress and commitment and so forth). Often the decision makers are the older members. They hold sway. So younger members and youth depart. People vote with their feet and money. Established churches shrink or close. New churches arise. Pastors need grace, encouragement and the wisdom of Solomon. -Ravi Zacharias Atlanta Banquet Q&A CD contributed to this

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Is Romantic love more than a feeling? Quick words?

 

True story. A church couple asked their teenage girls class what subjects they wanted to talk about? All 13 replied in a survey–love and marriage. The teacher asked them, “suppose your boyfriend said, “I love you,” how would you feel?” Smiles all around. Then he asked, “Now suppose you heard your boyfriend, the next day, tell some one else that he loved them. How would you feel? Frowns replaced the smiles.

Is romantic love more than a feeling? Does real love also include exclusivity? Faithfulness? Commitment? – -after Ravi Zacharias Q&A CD

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Should I loan money to friends and relatives? How do I best protect that relat ionship? Is a loan what some need the most?

 

 Endless are the tales of friends and loved ones who loaned money but did not get it back.  My father was a good business man. He advised  against loaning to friends. Collecting overdue business debts from  friends especially gets awkward. Hot words can erupt. Long term friendships can be strained, ruptured.  There is no joyful time to foreclose on a mortgage or say your time is up. What is the wise policy? Below are some insights from the Bible and others. 

Biblical categories of loans. gifts:

To my knowledge the Bible recognizes these three  types of lending/borrowing:

  • ‘mercy’ loan to a poor person at no interest – Exodus 22.25-27
  • commercial lending institution can legally, morally make loans, Matt 25.27; Luke 19.23
  • personal loans /co-signing notes for neighbors, strangers are warned against three times in Proverbs. It’s can be unwise, hazardous. “A man lacking in sense  pledges, And becomes surety in the presence of his neighbor.” (Prov 17.18 NAS)(Prov. 6.1-5; 11.15)
  • A fourth option is to give the money to a person, worthy cause or charity. This would not usually refer to business loans of course. Be generous to the poor and needy

Loans to friends/loved ones incur great risks for both borrower and lender! Many, many personal loans are never repaid. We know how unexpected setbacks or cost overruns can arise hindering repayment of the loan and or interest. The borrower can assume that as circumstances have changed, he should not be held accountable to fulfill  the agreement he signed in good faith. They thank the lender upfront then blame him if they cannot repay on time–or at all. Should he  have not lent in the first place?

God knows that   unforeseen circumstances do often arise! We are not able to predict the future. Our knowledge is limited. So what is the answer? We should respect the advice of the One who can foresee the future. God knows what can lie around the corner. So what is His wisdom? Avoid debt in the first place! And obviously avoid excessive debt.

Borrowers often violate this principle, this warning to avoid debt. Then when the dubious loan goes bad some get bitter, blame God or the lender for their predicament, their decision. Too many Christians learn the hard way about personal loans to relatives. I’ve heard two sad stories this month involving bad personal loans to siblings.

“Due payment of debts (Rom_13:8): “Owe no man any thing”; that is, do not continue in any one’s debt, while you are able to pay it, further than by, at least, the tacit consent of the person to whom you are indebted. Give every one his own. Do not spend that upon yourselves, which you owe to others.” The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again, Psa_37:21. Many that are very sensible of the trouble think little of the sin of being in debt.” – Matthew Henry Commentary.

Charles Spurgeon, J. Hudson Taylor and some Christian organizations have policies not to go  into debt. “Certainly no one should get into unnecessary debt,  or sign contracts he cannot maintain. “Thou shall not steal.” But to make Romans 13.8 (“Owe no man any thing”) apply to all  kinds of legal obligations involving money is, to me, stretching a point.” – Warren Wiersbe. I agree with Wiersbe.

Admittedly living in the debt controlled USA economy, espousing a different perspective may seem odd. Yet personal bankruptcies abound. Debt seems normal, natural. Does the Bible agree?

Borrowing can be addictive. Can one’s balance sheet, credit rating, cash flow and asset reserves justify borrowing/ loaning the money? some businesses  can demand large and untimely infusions of cash. Lacking cash reserves or cash flow, additional loans become a downward spiral of necessity. Joseph wisely used the seven good years to pile up wheat for the seven bad years. He built up his ‘cash reserves’ for the worst of the worst of conditions.

Proverbs admonitions protect both the lender and the borrower. Proverbs warns in effect against co-signing a note for some one, “going surety.” (Prov 6.1-5; 11.15; 17.18). Three times Proverbs addresses this. This implies that borrowers do not always deserve a loan/are a good risk/have good credit. It assumes some borrowers do not qualify for a loan.

It is wiser, safer and less stressful to simply avoid loans to friends and relatives. Our priority is to protect friendships and resources. Leave loans to the lending institutions. They have more objectivity and experience. Lenders usually do no favor getting one into debt.

But at best debt is debt. Debt enslaves. Avoid debt. Many young people want to start out in life with all the materials possessions their grand parents took decades to buy. Learn to be patient.

Better to have an older car paid for than a newer one repossessed when one loses  his job. Cheaper housing can save tons of money each month. Keeping up with the Jones can drive your broke. Live above peer pressure, social pressure and pride.

Not a few prospective borrowers need financial counseling more than a loan. Some people are not living within their means. They need to develop patience and self control.  Another loan is not going to solve their deeper issues. And if they feel free to ask me for a loan I feel free to discuss how they got in this situation! Yes.

Some do not save for emergencies. Others are job-challenged and some are in trouble through no fault of their own. One size does not fit all. Ergo, a loan should not be option one.

If one is desperate enough to dodge the biblical warnings to avoid debt, should they be desperate enough for some financial counseling? Before a potential lender gets one into debt, should he first help him think through other options? If one cannot make it without debt in good times, how will he fare in the hard times?

King Solomon in Proverbs takes the perspective of the lender–don’t loan. Protect your funds, preserve the relationship and hopefully help them into a new way of thinking. Debt is unwise both for the borrower and the lender! Avoid debt. Extending money to one who needs financial counseling or addiction recovery is not helping them. It is hurting them. Be part of a creative solution. Help them get the recovery counseling/program they need. Do not enable a bad habit.

Key question: Ask if they already owe other money and about how much. If others have not been repaid why/when would you be? Run. Flee. What more do you need to know? End of  talk. Done.

Some come to a friend or relative to get more relaxed terms than a loan company would give them. They want a Sugar Daddy loan. This attitude might be made clear if they are asked what they are putting up for collateral (tools, lawn mower, car, boat, gun collection)  to secure a loan? If they have no assets that can be a warning light. Asking for a reasonable interest rate, late fees, balance sheet, credit score dispel the Sugar Daddy attitude. Some will say, “never mind, just forget the loan” at this point. You are not the soft touch they imagined.

Is it wiser to reply?: “Tom,  Sally, brother-in-law, fellow deacon, golf partner, you know I love you. I want to place higher priority on our relationship than my entering the banking business. Many  loans just don’t work out. They harm close relationships. Despite the best of intentions, things happen one cannot control.” ( Those deserving of loans  have no shortage of lending institutions available to them.)

 

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Dangers of loaning/borrowing money from friends

“A man lacking in sense  pledges, And becomes surety in the presence of his neighbor.” (Prov 17.18 NAS).

The Bible warns individuals against putting  money at risk/personal loans to neighbors. The Bible affirms certain types of loans but not others.

3 Categories of loans:

To my knowledge the Bible recognizes these three  types of lending/borrowing:

  • *’mercy’ loan to a poor person at no interest are OK- Exodus 22.25-27
  • commercial lending institution can legally, morally make loans, Matt 25.27; Luke 19.23
  • personal loans /co-signing notes for neighbors, strangers are warned against three times in Proverbs/can be unwise, hazardous.

This post is focused strictly on the third category of loan, personal or business loan to a friend/neighbor/loved one. As the Bible does not spell out whether to loan/borrow from those close to us I am offering some hopefully not totally unrelated,  common sense thoughts.

There are great risks for both borrower and lender! When the loan period ends and borrower is unable to repay the personal loan an interesting dynamic can arise. A common view is that because unexpected circumstances have arisen the borrower should not have to keep his end of the agreement. Perhaps he has lost his job, his wife has high hospital bills or one of a hundred unexpected circumstances. The borrower can go to some lengths to assert why he should not be held accountable to fulfill  the agreement he signed in good faith.

Unforeseen circumstances do  often arise! We are not able to predict the future. Our knowledge is limited. So what is the answer? We should respect the advice of the One who can foresee the future. God knows what can lie around the corner for us. So what is His wisdom? Avoid deep debt in the first place! And certainly excessive debt.

“Due payment of debts (Rom_13:8): “Owe no man any thing”; that is, do not continue in any one’s debt, while you are able to pay it, further than by, at least, the tacit consent of the person to whom you are indebted. Give every one his own. Do not spend that upon yourselves, which you owe to others.” The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again, Psa_37:21. Many that are very sensible of the trouble think little of the sin of being in debt.” – Matthew Henry Commentary.

Former British pastor Charles Spurgeon, J. Hudson Taylor, some Christian organizations have policies not to go  into debt. “Certainly no one should get into unnecessary debt,  or sign contracts he cannot maintain. “Thou shall not steal.” But to make Romans 13.8 (“Owe no man any thing”) apply to all  kinds of legal obligations involving money is, to me, stretching a point.” – Warren Wiersbe.

We know that sin has consequences. Once one gets into drugs or crime it can lead to very unexpected consequences. A fellow robber might shoot some one and we are also imprisoned for that killing. Sin is like a car going off the road  down the mountain side. Once off the road the driver loses control. The car can tumble over and over. Unforeseen consequences happen. We control whether or not to sin. But once in it sin’s consequences are not in our control!

Similarly when we personally loan or borrow money we are great risk. I am not saying loaning/borrowing money is always a sin. I am saying it is unwise, risky. We can be digging a hole for our self. God knows the unforeseen consequences waiting around the bend. God does see the future. He is trying to warn us . .  . and to  help us avoid them. Don’t get  into debt–especially borrowing more than we can easily repay even in bad times. Loaning or borrowing money from loved ones is doubly unwise if the borrower  lacks the income or disposable assets to cover a loan if it goes bad. Don’t give bankruptcy/poverty/damaged family relationships a stick to hit you with.

Borrowing can be addictive. It can become an easy way out rather than wait and save up the money/review one’s monthly budget/spending patterns.

Proverbs warns in effect against co-signing a note for some one, “going surety.” (Prov 6.1-5; 11.15; 17.18). Three times Proverbs addresses this! This implies that borrowers do not always deserve a loan/have good credit. Proverbs has a balance between mercy and protecting the lender. Proverbs warns to avoid risky personal loans. Warning buzzers should be sounding. Limited exceptions to this may apply—like helping a teenager buy his first car IF Dad has reserve funds to cover the loan if it goes bad.

And if it is one time emergency why not just give them the money–mercy gift? This way the relationship is not put at risk. You have no expectation of getting the money back.

Some unexpected circumstances can prompt some borrowers to feel they are being treated unfairly if they are still expected to honor their word, their repayment commitment in bad times as well as good. Did they have a back up plan before borrowing the money? Are they suddenly a victim of unfairness? Or, are they reaping the woe of ignoring biblical warnings? Have they been caught off base? Some borrow beyond their ability to pay it back out of their assets if needs be.

Some borrowers seem to want it both ways.  (1) They ignore God’s warning to avoid unwise/excessive debt then (2)  blame the lending friend/loved one’s  lack of fairness and mercy  when consequences overwhelm them.

  1. Should the lender be expected to keep his word—to fulfill the agreement he signed in good faith? Is his character, his integrity, on the line?
  2. Should  lenders feel morally obligated ( mercy) to extend a defaulted loan as long as borrower has a need for it? In other words, at some point does mercy  shift control of funds to borrower?–“As long as  I still have a need are you, lending friend, morally obligated to meet it?”
  3. What is a  mutually fair, mutually merciful, balanced, specific formula that could be included in a loan document to spell out exactly when an overdue loan should proceed to default and  collection?

My Dad warned me against loaning money to friends. If they can’t pay it back on time it can injure the relationship and  the money is at risk. Often better to say, “Tom, I want your friendship more than I want to go  into the banking business.”

Often when people want to borrow money what they need first of all is  some financial counseling. (1) Living within their means? (2) Would we just be enabling some dubious or unnecessary habit? (3) Got monthly budget? (4) Other loans outstanding? If they can talk to me about a loan, my money, should I be able to discuss their money, their finances with them?

This post is  dealing with sizeable loans not the small nickel and dime issue. Usually I believe it is better to give the money to a loved one or friend rather than do a personal loan.  I refer here to personal not business loans. But where a loan is appropriate it is wise to treat it just like the bank does. Set up terms, interest, late fees and due date. If they balk at this warning buzzers should be sounding! Many people come to a relative because their   credit is bad. They are as poor credit risk. Do they have something to put up as collateral–or do they see  the loved one as an easy touch, Santa Claus, patsy? Don’t expect others to do what you would do. Do not assume!

Some businesses and individuals  have eaten through their resources and are in a downward spiral–free fall. They have no other option it seems but to continue to seek more loans even though their ability to repay them is dubious. They are desperate. Debt is unwise. It can come back to bite us. Drink upstream from the herd.

Guidelines:

  • Good credit risks can get money from their bank. Beware of those who cannot.
  • Friends and loved ones can expect the lender to treat them differently than a bank  would. Do they see the lender as a  relaxed, Sugar Daddy?  Santa Claus terms?
  • Learn from the commercial lenders. Ask to see a balance sheet on a sizeable loan request.
  • Credit ratings are important.
  • Do they have likely ability to repay the loan? Have a steady job?
  • For good reason banks require collateral.
  • One scraping bottom financially is a poor risk. Have savings put back or living hand to mouth? Got emergency fund?
  • It’s wise to treat friends as friends as borrowers as business contacts. This is very difficult to do! We care about our friends and want to help them.
  • Old  saying: a true friend was never lost by keeping accounts straight.
  • Don’t lend more than you can afford to lose.
  • Have they been turned down by lending institutions? Why? Watch out. Are you the lender of last resort?
  • Is this business flourishing, well heeled, making money, in the black? What is their cash flow, working capital, assets?
  • Struggling start up ventures are a different breed of cat. higher risk. Ergo a much higher interest rate is deserved.
  • Use a formal, written loan agreement. Terms get fuzzy over time. If one party dies their survivors/estate need to know the terms.
  • It may take 1-2 loans going bad before these guidelines seem important.
  • Make sure no addictive behavior is present. Don’t enable an addict be it druggie, alcoholic, gambling or out of control spending.
  • Walk through the procedure if and when the personal friendship loan goes bad. Be firm, be clear, on repayment expectations.
  • Loaning money to friends/loved ones is not a good idea. Most of us are not loan experts. Let the commercial institutions do the lending.

 

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Was Jesus a pacifist? For eliminating Second Amendment?

I suspect that  much of today’s  gun control (and pacifism) rationale stems from  a dubious view of man’s nature. The Bible endlessly portrays man as evil (Jer 17.9). Yet some  reject this. They view man as basically good. And if man is good then he should be trusted.  Therefore it would follow that guns are not needed in such a safe, peaceful environment. But if true, gun control advocates should be consistent and not lock their doors or use computer passwords.  Social humanism should have made good on its claims centuries ago! Escapists see earth as a  utopian paradise, Walter Mitty land, Camelot. But if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Reality can be so inconvenient.

As Jesus is departing He tells His disciples to buy and carry a sword (Luke 22.36). Jesus was not naïve. Self defense  is needed in a sinful world. Very evil men would later be allowed to kill Him. Earth is not heaven.  “let the one who is filthy, still be filthy” (Rev 22.11 NAS). In the  end days, battle of Armageddon,  the Son of God Himself, Jesus Christ, returns to defeat the very real enemies of goodness, waging war “in righteousness.” (Rev.19.11-21). Jesus was not a pacifist nor opposed to self defense weapons. I’m thankful for the Second Amendment, protecting us since  December 15, 1791.

 

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Is God more interested in drawing one into a deep relationship with Him or merely throwing out Q&A answers to satisfy intellectual curiosity?

Without suffering and a crisis in their lives some dear people would never think deeply about spiritual issues. People tend to ask more ‘why’ questions when their world is rocked, when their comfort zone is  shaken or even removed.

“God whispers through pleasure and shouts through pain” -C.S. Lewis.

Jesus doesn’t come for a  visit, He wants to move in. – unknown. Is it disrespectful to treat Him as merely a vending machine— stick in a question and out pops an answer? Certainly He often answers questions to those who are seriously seeking. But is He wanting to entertain or appease the ho-hum, casual passerby who is not interested in salvation or spiritual growth? Some collect facts about God. A few want to obey—serve God—repent—follow Jesus. God may do whatever it takes, answers or silence, to get one’s attention.

I am not suggesting that does not ever answer questions of the casual passerby. He can also delay or withhold answers to prompt serious followers to dig deeper . .  seek Jesus more fully – (Jn 15.4-5).

True God seekers should probably be reading the Gospel of John! Hungry people are found where the food is. Ergo, the hunger for God, the attitude one approaches God with, may determine if and when he receives an answer to some ‘why’ question. And the answer may well have to do with trusting God without receiving a blueprint of your life plan.

“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29.13

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” Jeremiah 33.3

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Reflecting on Hallmark movies

Taste in movies varies widely, even among Christians. As a repeat viewer of many Hallmark films I offer my evaluation of them  as a whole. Exceptions exist! Generally what do I see as their pluses and minuses?

Pluses:

  • little titillation
  • no cursing, violence or nudity
  • upbeat, feel good mood
  • happy endings

Minuses:

  • missing opportunities to impart  timeless, healthy, moral values like: honesty and purity,
  • cohabiting, fornication is treated as normal, healthy, with no moral or spiritual consequences
  • lacks balanced perspective where pros and cons of immoral behavior are both discussed
  • excessive alcohol use
  • lying and deceiving by adults and children is viewed as normal
  • religious trappings usually Catholic, discriminates against some (not all) conservative family perspectives
  • story lines usually evolve around liberal, social agenda: animal shelters not baby-saving, crisis pregnancy centers . . . concerts, school plays not church bus ministry to trailer park kids . . . . marriage decisions based  on feelings-‘love’ not factoring in other vital factors like compatible core values . . . .
  • missed opportunities to weave in solid successful dating and marriage principles
  • repetitious, predictable story  lines
  • Christmas  films: lots of Santa, little of Jesus Christ . .  and it is HIS birthday

 

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Why doesn’t God keep Christians from committing suicide? He is supposed to supply all a Christian’s needs? (Phil 4.19)

Why doesn’t God keep every believer from committing every sin, every bad choice?  Answer: Free will. Freedom of choice is a very serious responsibility. God  chose to give us free will—not make us robots with no option to sin.

Suicide can be a stark reminder to the rest of us that even believers can walk so far from God that they make very bad decisions. Beware.

When our faith is scraping bottom that is not the time to be making big decisions! When feelings are riding high like the waves of the sea, bad choices can flood the mind.

A believer finally arrives at the end zone of suicide only after a lengthy journey. It did not happen overnight. Failure in the Christian is always a slow leak, never a blow out. It may be the consequences of:  wrong friends, drugs, away from God’s powerful teaching, daily Bible reading and talking things over with God.

“So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Roman 10.17). The Word will keep us from sin or sin will keep us from the Word.

The Bible tells us that “there is a sin unto death.” (1 Jn 5.16).  We can get so far from God that death can occur by our own hand or others. This is a fallen, sinful world. Our mind, our emotions are affected. Full release will not occur until we get our glorified bodies. This world is not heaven!

God offers the believer adequate grace and resources (1 Cor 10.13) but sadly a few free wills refuse them to their detriment. . . . .  man’s choice. Let us learn from their mistakes.

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