In His Garden

“He comes to His garden to enjoy its fruit.” – Chuck Smith

 

The Christian is saved by believing and trusting in God. This produces fruit in their life. GardenYet so often I get confused and think my producing fruit is what saves me or gives me a better standing before God and others.

But think of a tree, this tree produces fruit faithfully every year. Its fruit does nothing for the tree, if it depended on its fruit it would die. The fruit is only good for the enjoyment of others and for producing more trees. So what then saves the tree? The water and nutrients in the soil, the tree did nothing to put them there, nor can it maintain them there, it only connects itself to them and trusts that they will give it all it needs and by them it is able to produce fruit.

wp_20160503_018Before coming to School of Discipleship I struggled often with wanting my works to be recognised by others and by God. I wanted to be noticed and known. I still do; I see pride creeping up in my heart, probably every day. But the months I’ve spent away from home in this community environment have taught me a few things.

First God showed me the ugliness of my sin, that there was nothing good in my heart, and though I longed to change, I could not. He also taught me that He still loved me, no matter how sinful I was and that He wanted to change me if I would let Him. I was humbled over and over again in watching the selflessness of others, the way they loved God and served me as well. wp_20160505_015I knew I wasn’t like them, but I wanted to be and as I strive to be more others-focused I find a greater joy.
St. Paul says, after boasting in his flesh to the Philippians, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” Philippians 3:7-9

I know I’m not there yet. I haven’t lost all things for Christ; there are many things I hang onto, thinking and hoping they will do me some good. But as C.S. Lewis says, “Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.”

I pray that I can give away all things and be able to say like St. Paul, “I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ.”

I want to be “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.” Psalm 1:3, and in this way may the fruit that my relationship with Christ produces bring glory and enjoyment to God.

Written by a Discipleship Program Student

My Life, His Spirit

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Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

Romans 6:13

If you look at the human body, it would not be able to function the way it was created to without its individual parts. If the leg is broken or the arm removed then the body will not be able to fully participate in daily activities with as much ability as one with the fully functioning body parts. Someone with one leg would not be able to run as fast as someone with two. Or someone born with not all of their fingers on a hand would not be able to pick up items as fast as someone with all five. This is the same idea when it comes to our spiritual effectiveness for the Lord. Often times He has to strengthen what we have allowed sin to weaken; He has to restore what we have not been exercising in order to make us effective in fulfilling His purposes.

Upon my arrival to Discipleship Program I came as someone who was used to gaining recognition from the world in order to bring glory to myself. Pride and self-righteousness had completely infected my body to the point that I would only use it for selfish gain. When it came to serving my roommates in the household or the staff at the Gospel for Asia office, it was if I had to learn to walk all over again. My body was so unfamiliar with it and my heart was very distant. Yes, I would serve others and walk in a way that represented my status as a Christian, but when it came to doing it for Christ’s name and not mine, I realized how weak my hands and feet were. They had been powered by a love for self and not a God empowered love for others. That was my root problem, and no amount of Scripture reading or memorization revealed it to me. It was only when I was challenged to lay down my life in service to others that the Holy Spirit would bring to light the selfish character that I had nurtured all my life.

God has mostly challenged me through the lives of the 5 female students and our house mentor that I have lived closely with this year. When I imagined a house with 7 girls, I automatically thought that there would be a power struggle. Someone was bound to think that the way they wash dishes, do laundry, make their bed, or even sleep at night is the right way and everyone else was wrong. When everyone comes from different backgrounds and lifestyles this is usually bound to happen, and it is the very thing that can eventually cause division in the home. To be quite honest this is what I expected upon my arrival at the door of the house I would be calling home for a year. My confidence in my expectation caused me to stay awake, waiting to hear the one who would be blamed for keeping everyone awake because of their loud snoring. Unfortunately I was the one keeping myself awake, as I eventually realized that I had been blessed with roommates that sleep pretty peacefully. Not only did He bless me with roommates that don’t snore, but with ones that He had handpicked to die to self and exemplify His love and grace. It has been a learning process, but we have faced and conquered the challenges together. A house that I expected to be emotionally chaotic is where we cook, clean, laugh and even cry together creating some of the most precious moments of my life.

As much as I love these girls, God has been using them in my life to challenge me in ways I’m sure they are not even aware of. I never knew that God would have a plan to use them to reveal parts of my character that have been holding me back from fully reflecting His image and very likeness. They have been assigned by God to strengthen my legs so that I can walk in love, patience and self-control. As I have had countless opportunities to give up and shrink back in the battle, they have stood by my side and lifted me up in prayer. Now my desire to serve them stems from love and not selfishness.

I am so thankful that the Lord has handpicked us to go through this journey together. I treasure the moments that we get to worship and glorify the Lord together in this life, but I rejoice knowing that we will one day be before the throne of God in eternity. It is where we will use our hands to forever worship the God who has set us apart, pursued our hearts and called us to surrender every part of ourselves as an instrument for righteousness. We have a goal to have an intimate Father-daughter relationship with God as we grow to be His hands and feet in this fallen world. Together we pick each other up and persevere to grab a hold of our hearts desire.

Written by a Discipleship Program Student

Growing Pains

1 Cor 12:12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” I am learning what it is like to be part of the body of Christ and it all started when I began my journey in the Discipleship Program of Gospel for Asia. Though it has been challenging at times I am finding it to be worth the growing pains, with that I will begin to tell how this came to be.

Imagine with me if you can…

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Being rudely awakened by an alarm going off at 5 am across the room, knowing it’s not your own, you are somewhat annoyed. Then having the person hit snooze who knows how many times or not even hearing the alarm at all; but now you’re awake when you wanted to sleep till 5:55 am, which would have given you enough time to grab your bible and run up the stairs in time for family devotions at 6:00 am. But now you’re wide awake because she didn’t turn it off herself, what will you do? Be upset or extend grace and take the opportunity to spend more time with the Lord? You lie there thinking: If this is how the first few days are, what will it be like for eleven months and will you be able to handle it??

After a few months of getting to know each other and living together you start to realize just how blessed you are and how much you have grown in your character, your walk with the Lord, love for each other and how God has used each lovely lady to shape your life.

Though it may have been a scary thought at first to think of living with six other ladies it has turned out to be a growing experience, filled with both joys and sorrows. Who would have known that living in close quarters with people who were strangers at first could have become sisters and friends? These precious sisters have helped me to become more like Christ by their lives and examples of love and grace.

By living in a community setting I am learning what it is like to love, forgive, and extend grace. There are many opportunities to spur one another on toward love and good deeds, like it says in Heb 10. Daily we can learn more about God, each other and ourselves and what it is like to be the bride of Christ in one body with many different parts. I am truly grateful to be part of Gospel For Asia’s Discipleship Program. I have seen how the staff lives out what we have learned in our books and messages; they have shown me what it is like to be a unified body of Christ as each one fulfills their role in Christ. Col 3:12-15 has taken on new meaning as I’ve seen it lived out and I’ve been able to be part of it too.

Written by a Discipleship Program Student

Life Together

stocksnap_9alghavfd6 togetherThis year is coming quickly to an end… It’s only a couple more weeks and grad will be here. I am sad to see this year come to an end, I have made many new and close friendships and I will miss them as we part ways.

Many people have asked us how it is possible to have seven girls living in the same house and still get along, and I too have often wondered the same thing. Before coming here and knowing I would be living with six other girls frightened me a bit because in my home I had six brothers and only one sister (who is twelve years younger than me) so I really didn’t have experience relating to other girls. I did have a lot of friends but I never had to live with them!

Looking back over this year I am amazed at how well it has worked living together! There was no need for me to be worried. I do not believe it would have been humanly possible for so many girls to live together except for the grace of God and the fact that we are all believers and came here for the same common goal and that was to grow in our relationship with the Lord.

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been always easy… The first few weeks were very hard, I often felt alone and out of place with everyone being so different than what I was used to. I had never been away from home for more than a month and so that also made it hard because I missed my family a lot.

Some of the best times this year have been sitting around the supper table, having conversations about how our day went to what we learned in class that morning to many other random, funny topics that get us all bursting with laughter. I have also enjoyed Saturday cleaning, with seven ladies the cleaning gets done super-fast as we work together and have music playing. We have also done many weekend activities as a group that are always fun but for me it’s the random small things that I have enjoyed the most; like staying up late doing homework together, watching silly movies on a more free weekend, or going grocery shopping at 9pm with my domestic coordinator partner and having an Iced Capp with espresso to try and stay awake only to realize half hour later what a bad idea it was!

I think though that it has been through the difficult times that we have grown close to each other the most. Times where we lift each other up in prayer, whether it is because someone is not feeling well physically or someone is going through a difficult time spiritually. It has been a real blessing to know that if I am going through a hard time and need prayer or someone I know needs prayer I can ask the girls and they will stop what they are doing and take the time to pray.

Living together has allowed me to live out and practice the things I learn through the books we go through. I get to practice humility in not always having to have my own way, I get to learn how to be a servant and serve my sisters by washing the dishes, making dinner, or by surprising them with homemade cookies, etc. I have opportunities to show grace and love when someone does something that irritates me, and I also learn to forgive and ask forgiveness when I fail in any of these areas. Corporate living has not only been helpful and a blessing as I have gone through this year, it is also preparing me for what the Lord calls me to in the future, whether it be going back home and serving my family, serving in ministry, or serving at a secular job. It has taught me to work together, serve others and to think more of others than myself.

Going through the book, Jesus Style has also been very helpful in showing me how to live and interact with others. It talks a lot about the lifestyle Jesus had while He was here on earth and how He humbly served all those that came to Him, Mark 10:45 says: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” And Philippians 2:6,7 “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”  And so as Christ served so we are called to serve. Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”

I am so thankful that the Lord allowed me to come to Gospel for Asia’s Discipleship Program and to learn what it means to live as Christ and to give myself to serve others. I am also thankful for the staff that I have the privilege of serving with and the example they have been in showing me how to serve and love others as they willingly serve me and each other.

Written by a Discipleship Program Student

Tuned to Christ

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
-Acts 2:44-47

This is what living in community with other believers looked like for the early church, but is it really possible to experience today? We lead such individualistic lives, each person is focused on what is happening in his or her own world, that it seems almost impossible to experience the kind of fellowship that we read about in the book of Acts.

Before coming to Gospel for Asia’s Discipleship Program I had no idea what it would look like to spend a year with a group of believers who take community living based on the book of Acts seriously. The family here at Gospel for Asia is passionate about loving Christ and that naturally results in a lifestyle of servanthood. John 13:35 says “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

So what does love actually look like lived out in practical everyday terms? True love means being willing to sacrifice. It is looking beyond your own interests, wants and needs to see how you can invest in the life of another. Christ-like love demonstrated through a lifestyle of servanthood is what I have experienced during my time in Gospel for Asia’s Discipleship Program. I have had the privilege to be a part of a family whose one supreme focus is Christ and that results in a close and precious fellowship with each other.

At first I wasn’t sure how to receive this kind of love. These people seemed so radical I wasn’t sure if they could be for real. Who is actually willing to leave behind all that they are comfortable and familiar with, sacrificing relationships and their own dreams and desires along the way in order to be obedient to the calling God has placed on their life?

Who is willing to invest in other people’s lives and be an example of what it means to follow Christ?

It is people who have experienced the call of God on their lives. It is a radical call to live for something different than the rest of this world. It is what has brought each one of us here, staff and students alike, and it is the reason why we can live together in fellowship with one another, showing the same kind of selfless love that Christ did.

Every day I have the privilege to do life together with my family here. It isn’t always easy but on the difficult days we hold onto and encourage each other to continue pursuing Christ and remain steadfast in Him. My experiences as a part of this community will impact me for the rest of my life.

I have had the opportunity to learn from older brothers and sisters who have walked with the Lord for many years and don’t just talk about having a radical faith, they actually live it out. Their passion to reach the lost, dedication to a life of prayer and commitment to following God’s call on their life is what I desire and have now begun to experience in my own life.

I’ve realized that as a part of the Body of Christ I wasn’t meant to do life on my own. Just as my physical body is designed in such a way that each part is important and relies on the other parts to function, so it is with the Body of Christ. Eph.4:16 says “From Him (Christ) the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

This living in community has required of me a level of openness and honesty that I never had before. I’ve been learning that I don’t have to keep all of my struggles and failures on the inside. My family here truly cares about me and not just because of how I appear on the outside. They are willing to walk with me through good and bad times and care most of all about how I am doing on the inside. As I am learning to open up to the people around me I have also begun to realize my need to be totally open before the Lord. Close relationships both with the Lord and other people are developed only through trusting enough to reveal who I really am, even if it’s not always pretty. It’s definitely not easy but it is bringing me closer to the Lord which is right where I need to be.

What a journey this year has been, one that I wouldn’t trade for anything! My goal for this year in Gospel for Asia’s Discipleship Program was to become more like Christ. Being a part of this community of radical believers has shown me what that looks like and helped me tune my focus to Christ.

“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same images communityfork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”

― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Written by a student in the Discipleship Program

Eyes on the Enemy

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On August 16th 1812, after only one day of bombardment and a mere seven casualties, General William Hull the commander of the American forces in fort Detroit surrendered his command to a British force of approximately half the size of his. With the greater size of his force, he should have been able to win the battle. Why did He give up so easily?

Prior to the bombardment, Sir Isaac Brock, the British General, through several ruses caused General Hull to believe that the British force was significantly larger than his own. As General Hull focused on the perceived size of the enemy and the barbarities that he believed the Native allies of the British were capable of, he was destroyed by fear. Because of the fear in his heart, he gave up with almost no fight.

Lately, as I have been perusing my social media accounts, I have been noticing that people are worried about the Moslems doing this, the government doing that, and churches compromising Christ all over the place. As the reports are pulled together in the news feed, I have the tendency to believe the problems are greater than they are.

This isn’t limited to social media, when we get together with our friends how often do we discuss that the world seems to be taking over and Christian influence and freedoms seem to be diminishing? This is focusing on the enemy and his work. When we do so, we run the risk of being paralysed by fear as General Hull was. When we are focusing on what Satan is doing, we may miss what God is doing. In the past month or so, God has opened my eyes to what He is doing just in my own circle of friends.

Through the course of the year, we in the Discipleship Program, have an opportunity to go home for a week of holidays. I recently returned from my said week. While I was home, I was greatly encouraged by what I heard and saw God doing. On the day I returned home, a young lady from my Church was leaving Canada to serve God as a nurse overseas with BIC Canada Global. The first Sunday that I was home, I was talking with a young man from my college and careers group and learned that he was going through NTMC’s training. I had the opportunity to meet with my pastor and during the course of the conversation he shared with me a bit about what is happening in the Church. During the year and a half plus, that I have been part of the Discipleship Program, God brought a family into the Church who then went on to Bible College. I never had the opportunity to meet them, however it is quite encouraging to know how God is moving among those at home. He also shared how the Church has begun to focus on revival. Because of this focus, a member of the congregation suggested that they start a prayer meeting and currently about a sixth of the Church is meeting once a week for prayer.

Take a moment to think about those around you, how is God moving among the people around you? Then think if God is doing all this just among those we know, what is He doing in the areas we don’t know about? When we hear about discouraging things and our world seems to be falling in around us, we have a choice. We can either focus on what Satan and his servants are doing and be overcome by fear, or we can look to God and realise that there are more with us than the enemy and in Him we triumph. In the battle for Detroit, General Hull could’ve won if he had have been taken in by a bluff. We are more than conquerors in Christ, let us purpose not to be taken in by Satan’s bluff.

—School of Discipleship student

When Conviction Comes Knocking

I heard a knock that I didn’t like the sound of. The entity knocking was persistent and very pointed on certain matters. However, you can’t ignore a knock like that forever, and when you answer, be prepared for change.

I’m talking about conviction; particularly the conviction that pricks the conscience.

Earlier this year I came to the awareness that I was not willing to follow God. If that sounds really bad, it is. I followed God to School of Discipleship, but He was asking me about next year. I became aware that there were choices laid before me that didn’t fit with my idea of what I would do next year. God asked me, “what if I asked you to take that path”. My answer was that I wasn’t willing.

That answer didn’t take very long to scare me. Being in the place where you would tell God no is a very bad place indeed. When I realized where my heart was at, I asked for prayer from the guys I live with. This attitude was wrong and needed to be put to a stop, fast.

My housemates prayed for me. That same week we were having an emphasis on solitude; spending an extra amount of time with the Lord in prayer, the Word, and meditation. As I was alone with God that day He worked in my heart. I told Him, “If that’s the path you want me to take, I am willing. I don’t say that I like it, but I’m willing to follow You on that path.” His response was immediate and decisive. He told me, “Good, do it.”

The story doesn’t end there. As time has passed I am looking forward to my next year; I’m even a bit excited about it! If you knew me, you’d know that I don’t really get excited, certainly not easily.

God changed my heart when I asked Him to, during that time of conviction and repentance. It is testimony of His care, love, and power that He can change my heart like that and be changing it still.

 

School of Discipleship US

Gospel for Asia

Evidence of My Love

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There are many points in my life where I hear the question that Jesus asked Peter “Do you love me?” As much as I eagerly respond with a confident yes, I begin to wonder if my life verifies my answer. Jesus responded to Peter’s answer by giving him the responsibility over His flock, appointing him to serve in the kingdom of God, but He also warned Peter of the death that was to come along with it:

 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-19)

This was the verse that the Lord used to turn my solid heart into a heart of flesh. He revealed to me the transformation that must take place in my life if I truly want to follow Him and make my life a display of the love that I have for Him. As I grow into Christian maturity, I can no longer pursue my own desires and clothe myself with pride and self-righteousness. I can no longer hold onto my life and surround myself with comfort in order to avoid suffering. As He sends me into the world I need to put to death my flesh by daily stretching out my hands in complete surrender, and allow Him to clothe me with His Holy Spirit so that I will be able to say yes to wherever He chooses to send me.

The strategy the enemy uses towards those who are willing to suffer is clearly visible in the life of Jesus. Throughout His ministry Satan tried to prevent Jesus from suffering death on the cross because he knew that it would lead to his destruction. He tempted Jesus in the desert before he began His ministry. On the cross, through the mouths of the rulers he reminded Jesus of the power He had to save Himself from bearing the pain and agony. It was not selfish ambition that kept Jesus on the cross, but rather His love for the Father and willingness to endure anything that came with fulfilling His will.

Brother K.P, in his book “Against the Wind” reminds us that Satan will also tempt us to avoid the cross we are to carry daily, because just as Jesus defeated the enemy through suffering, we also can defeat his evil forces by having a mind to suffer. I should expect to be tempted into living a life free from suffering and surrender in order to walk the easy road, but that will not prove my love for the Father. I must surrender my will, embrace the cross and follow Him into a life of victory wherever it may lead me.

—School of Discipleship student

Time for Harvest

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It’s September and Harvest season is upon us. Many farmers are busy on the fields harvesting their crops. It is a busy time of year when the farmers work hard and long to get their crops in before the cold weather comes. The Bible also talks about a harvest, a harvest not of crops but of souls.

Matthew 9:37 He (Jesus) said to His disciples “The harvest is great but the workers are few.”

Jesus is talking about the harvest of souls; there are so many people in our world today who are without hope. They are desperately waiting and longing for someone to tell them of hope and salvation, but as Christ said, there are very few people who are willing to go out and tell them.

In class we are going through the book by K.P. Yohannan called “Against the Wind”, Chapter 11 talks about being a diligent servant. K.P. gives the example of a farmer, how he must be diligent and work hard in order for his farm to be successful, in the same way in order for us to be effective in our personal lives as a servant of God we must have the same kind of commitment. I have been really challenged by this, it is so easy for me to work hard at a task I know needs to get done or at a job where I know I am expected to work hard, but when it comes to doing things for God I tend to be more lazy or give excuses of why I don’t have time.

The parable found in Matthew 25 gives examples of different attitudes when it comes to working hard. Two of the three men were willing to work hard with what their master had given them to do and their master, pleased with their work gave them more responsibility in his kingdom as their reward. The third man was lazy and did nothing with what was given him, he did not take his master’s command seriously and he received a very harsh punishment. In the same way that the master in the parable gave a command, Christ has given me a command and He is returning soon to see what I have done in regards to His command. As the master was pleased with the two hard workers so God is pleased with those who diligently serve Him.

As I see many people all around the world living without hope, never having heard the good news of the gospel, it is my prayer and desire to do all that I can. To work diligently rescuing souls until Jesus returns.

—School of Discipleship student

Power in the Tongue

What a precious gift the Word of God is; in it we find hope, healing, courage, comfort and strength for each day. We also find things in there that we might not like so much at first; but it is good for us in the long run, like the verse in Heb 4:12 which talks about what God’s word can do.

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“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

As you can see the Scriptures are full of promises for us and they are also filled with convicting and challenging verses that have the potential to cut swiftly and directly as we apply them to our hearts. My desire is to ingrain the Word of God deeply in my mind and heart so that when it is needed, the Holy Spirit can bring it to mind.

A passage I’ve been trying to memorize is James 3 and God is using His word to cut away the unnecessary and hurtful words that come out of my mouth. Our words have the potential to destroy someone and once they are spoken they can either crush or build up. I desire that the conversations I have with people be uplifting and encouraging, not damaging. It is by the grace of God that fresh water will come out of my mouth which will refresh the recipients.

There are a few verses that talk about how no one can tame the tongue and that it is a restless evil, this really caught my attention. It seemed discouraging at first to think that our tongue cannot be tamed. As I kept reading it become clear why that cannot be done. I, in and of myself or “trying” harder cannot tame it; God can through His Holy Spirit. As my as my body becomes the instrument of the Holy Spirit, life will flow out to those around me.

James 3:8-11 “but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?”

—School of Discipleship student

School of Discipleship CA

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