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There Is No Middle Ground (Biblical Christianity vs. Liberal Christianity)

I was listening to Dr. Albert Mohler interviewing historian Matthew Bowman over his book, The Urban Pulpit: New York City and the Fate of Liberal Evangelicalism.  The book focuses on the early 20th century and the showdown between conservative (or fundamentalists) and liberals in the heart of New York City churches.  It it worth listening to the interview.

What I found interesting was that Dr. Mohler points out that what we learn from the book is that there is no middle ground between biblical Christianity and liberalism.  Men such as Harry Emerson Fosdick (of Riverside Church in New York City) and Robert MacArthur (of Calvary Baptist in NYC) showed us that they can’t be unified when the Bible is cast aside.  Fosdick longed for the “spirit of fundamentalism” but he decried their doctrines.  MacArthur stood firm for the truth of God and would not give an inch in his preaching of the cross.  Riverside Church today is a liberal church in New York City that does not preach the gospel but instead is a liberal church focusing on liberal issues.  Riverside struggles whereas Calvary Baptist remains a strong church in the heart of New York City that is still preaching the gospel all these years later.

There can be nothing gained by trying to find middle ground between liberalism and biblical truth.  The emergents tried but they failed (as Fosdick before them).  Emergents wanted to find common ground between what they saw as the best of fundamentalism and the best of liberalism.  Yet one must choose sides.  The emergents (like those at Riverside church in NYC before them) have chosen liberalism.  And they should.  Like Fosdick, emergents were not biblically following the Lord.  They claimed to follow Jesus but in reality they viewed Him as nothing more than our example.  Few of them talked about saving from sin (after all we must save the world from humans who are destroying our “mother”) and they didn’t speak of Jesus as revealed to us in the Bible.  I know of no emergents who preached the death of Christ for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3) nor did they preach His glorious resurrection (Acts 1:3) but instead they made Jesus and His work a “spiritual” work where we learn from it and apply it to our lives (as in “God wants to resurrect our dreams as well”).

Emergents followed Fosdick and Riverside church and embraced what they believed in: liberalism.

What we can rejoice in is that God will be vindicated.  Calvary Baptist Church is still preaching the gospel nearly 100 years after Fosdick and MacArthur.  The work of Christ is still saving sinners.  The gospel is still being preached in the heart of New York City.  Truth always wins.  The truth of God cannot be stopped.  Jesus said that nothing would be able to conquer His Church (Matthew 16:18).  Jesus said that He would always be with His disciples (Matthew 28:20).  Nothing has changed that.  For 2000 years the Church of Jesus Christ has stood firm.  We have seen countless false apostles arise (Revelation 2:6), we have seen people turn from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1) yet the truth of God still goes forth.  Faithful men and women of God have taken the truth of God from the time of Christ and it comes to us still to this day in the pages of the Bible (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

We it comes to the truth of God, there can be no middle ground.  We cannot hold hands with those who want to “change the world” but without preaching the gospel of saving sinners from their sins (John 3:3).  We cannot preach good works apart from preaching that good works do not save us but flow from a truly saved heart (Ephesians 2:8-10).  We cannot preach in some impersonal God when we believe that we can know God through His Son (John 17:3).  We cannot join hands with those who deny the virgin birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:23), the sinless life of our Lord (1 Peter 2:22), His miracles (Acts 10:38), His death on the cross (Mark 15:37), and His bodily resurrection from the dead (Luke 24:38-39).  We must stand firm for the truth that Jesus shed His blood for sinners (Ephesians 1:7).  This is why He came (Luke 19:10).  Jesus didn’t come to just give us an example (1 Peter 2:21) but He also came to save sinners from their sins (1 Timothy 1:15).  Jesus said Himself that He came to do the will of Him who sent Him (John 4:34).  Jesus finished His saving work on the cross (John 19:30) and God raised Him from the dead to prove His saving work was complete (Romans 1:4; 4:24-25).  We are now saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 15:11) and not by works (Isaiah 64:6; Titus 3:5-7).  Jesus said that the work of God is to believe in Him (John 6:29).  When a sinner believes the gospel, they are justified before a holy God (Romans 4:5; 5:1; 10:9-10).

We must not lay down these precious truths of God’s Word.  We cannot join hands with those who do not believe (James 4:4).  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17).  The gospel alone will transform the world (Psalm 110:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17).  We can preach the goodness of mankind all we want to but it will not save sinners.  We can feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and provide money for them but we will not be saving sinners from hell.  We can pray for peace and fight for peace but until the gospel of peace is preached, we cannot know true peace (Romans 5:1).  Until we see our depravity before God and see our miserable state, we will know the blessing of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus (Romans 7:7).  The work of Christ on the cross becomes glorious when we see it in light of our sinfulness.

We must preach Christ and Him crucified.  This was the motto of Robert MacArthur and Calvary Baptist.  The gospel is what saves sinners.  It is what saved me.  Christ is the One who is worthy to be preached.  Christ is the One who is worthy to be glorified.  Paul said that he preached Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23).  This was the great Apostle’s message and must be our own.  The glory of Christ.  The wonder of Christ.  The work of Christ.  The priestly work of Christ.  This is our passion.  This is our duty.  This is our delight.  This is what will endure (see Fosdick as an example when it does not).

May the truth of God go forth in the name of Jesus!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/18/2015 at 12:35 PM

Why the Secular World Has No Answer For ISIS

I recently watched a video on the Islamic State or better known as ISIS.  The video was not produced by Christians so the video simply wanted to tell the story of ISIS and why they do what they do and what is their goal.  The reality was that ISIS members were not murderers bent on simply killing infidels in the name of Islam but they are simple, normal Muslims who truly love Islam and are seeking to follow the ways of their Prophet.  These Muslims fill their day with learning from the Quran, with prayer, and with seeking to imitate the life of Mohammad in every way possible including jihad.  Their passion is simple: they want to do the will of their god as it gave it to their prophet.

The secular world simply cannot fathom this devotion.  They look at ISIS and see a people who must be mad at the West for something.  Perhaps its our morals (and that is part of it) or our freedom (they see it as bondage because the will of their god is not being followed).  The secular world thinks it’s about land or oil or money or even sex.  The reality is that the members of ISIS and especially the leadership are well-educated Muslims who are bent on being true to the Quran and to their prophet.  This is not about a fight for land.  This is not a fight over the US involvement with Iraq or Afghanistan per se (though ISIS hates the Americans for being in Muslim lands).  This is not about Jews or Christians (though they despise them both for their “false worship”).  This is about their god.  And the secular world has no answer.

The reason is simple why the secular worldview has no answer: they have no god.  The “god” of the secular is themselves (Romans 1:22-23).  The false god of Islam is not much different other than that the Muslim believes in a god outside of themselves.  Their god is still a false god.  Either way, the secularist has no answer for Islam.

The Christian reply is that the Muslims are worshiping a false god.  A comparison of the God of the Bible with the god of the Quran shows a god who is much different in Islam.  Even a comparison of the life and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ with Mohammad shows worlds difference between the two.  The Lord Jesus was perfect, sinless and He never struck down those who attacked Him (1 Peter 2:21-24).  Jesus even prayed for those who were killing Him (Luke 23:34).  The Bible even says that we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48) and Paul the Apostle advocated the same (Romans 12:12-21).  Jesus did teach His disciples to advance His kingdom (Acts 1:8) because of His authority (Matthew 28:18-20) but this advancement is not with weapons of warfare (2 Corinthians 10:3-4) but with the gospel.  The gospel will conquer the nations (Psalm 110:1; Daniel 7:13-14; 1 Corinthians 15:24-26) and the Lord will redeem sinners from every nation (Revelation 5:9-10).  Yet Jesus, unlike Mohammad, never called His followers to advance His kingdom by force or power.  The gospel alone can transform a person and this comes from above (John 3:3; cf. Luke 17:20-21).

ISIS is not following Jesus.  In fact, ISIS hates Jesus and the true and living God of the Bible as all sinners do (Romans 1:18-19).  ISIS, like other forms of Islam, cannot convert one person because they have no gospel, no power.  Islam offers no forgiveness of sins because they reject sin.  Islam offers no assurance of salvation but to martyrs.  Islam offers no hope that their god loves them but only that it is merciful.  Islam has no concept of individual salvation but with only submission to their god.  The very name “Muslim” means “one who submits.”  Yet ISIS views all forms of Islam false who also do not follow sharia law (or the laws put forth by various Muslim clerics about how to follow the Quran and the life of Mohammad).  If a nation or person does not follow sharia law as set forth by ISIS, they are deemed infidels and must repent and come back to the true religion.  This is not a religion of peace but one of submission.

ISIS’s goal is clear: to raise the black flag of ISIS over every nation.  In the video I watched, ISIS promised to raise the flag over Turkey (if they did not open a dam to allow water into Syria) and over all the Middle East (including Iran and Israel whom they both hate).  ISIS even promised to raise the flag of Islam over the White House in the United States.  This is not a religion of peace but as the name states – of submission.  Sharia law is to be the law of the land wherever ISIS comes.

What can the secularist say to this?  They have no solution.  No answers.  The President of the United States will not even see that they are true Muslims but he views them as false Muslims.  Any simple reading of the Quran and the Hadith would show otherwise.  Some secular religious scholar is giving the President of the United States bad advice.  I agree that warfare is not the total answer.  ISIS wants war.  ISIS would love to face the United States to the battlefield (though they would probably lose in my estimation).  ISIS believes that their holy war is from their god.  The US military would just view it as another war with terrorists.  While the US could defeat ISIS in battles, the hearts for the people living in Muslim lands must be won with the gospel.  And the US (and other nations) would not get that part.  Until they do, they would have to continue to fight Islamic fighters for years to come.

The answer for combatting ISIS is this: send missionaries.  You could (and I think should) fight ISIS on the battlefield for they continue to kill people who are simply in their way.  ISIS must be stopped and stopped by a strong military force (just as the European nations sent the Crusaders in the middle ages not to take over the Middle East but to combat the spread of Islam into European nations).  After stopping ISIS on the battlefield, we must turn the work over to the gospel.  Muslims need to freely hear the gospel.  One ISIS soldier even said that he hated seeing the Americans in Iraq because they would build Christian churches.  This is what we must do.  We must send forth the gospel.

The gospel can transform the Middle East.  It did in the first 600 years after the resurrection of Christ until the false prophet Mohammad sought to build a cult off the teachings of Judaism and Christianity.  Since then, the gospel has struggled against the false teachings of Islam.  Islam is not merely another religion from Christianity but it is the antithesis of Christianity.  Islam doesn’t merely teach against Jesus but another Jesus altogether to pervert the true Jesus of the Bible.

Thank God for the reports of Muslims hearing the gospel through the Internet and through radio.  ISIS will kill whoever converts to Christianity and ISIS will kill whoever is found with a Bible or listening to Christian programs.  This is not about peace but submission.  Yahweh is sending forth His truth against the false teachings of Islam.  Yahweh will be glorified through His Son in all nations and the promise is that all nations will bow to His dominion (Psalm 72:8-9).

I pray that ISIS will repent.  God saved a Jew bent on killing disciples of Christ in Acts 9 and He can do the same with members of ISIS.  I pray that nations will see the threat of ISIS and see that the answer is not found in secularism.  It is not found in money or sex.  The answer for ISIS is the gospel of the Jesus Christ.  I pray that members of ISIS will turn from their sins and the Spirit of God would bring deep conviction upon them (John 16:8-11).  Jesus is able to save even the worse of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  May we intercede for this (1 Timothy 2:1-7).

The Cycle of Calvinism From A Biased Arminian

I enjoy Church history.  I enjoy reading the story of how the gospel flowed from the book of Acts to the nations.  I love reading how people have taken great steps of faith to take the gospel to the nations.  It blesses me to see Psalm 110:1 being taken to the nations.

That said, I will confess that this post is very biased.  I am not writing from a position of having studied many hours over Church history books.  I did listen to a podcast by Dr. Curt Daniel on hyper-Calvinism.  If his views hold, we will see cycles of Calvinism in the church.  This seems to be the view of Dr. Daniel and my own as well though I have not lived through them.

Dr. Daniel views the cycles of Calvinism as follows.  These points are my own:

1.  Initial Revival of Calvinism

2.  Cage Staged Calvinism

3.  Apologetical Calvinism

4.  Hyper-Calvinism

The first is the embracing of Calvinism followed by the cage stage where the young Calvinist is zealous for all things Calvinistic.  I have noticed that in this stage the Calvinist often will not necessarily read the works of Calvin or Spurgeon or Edwards or MacArthur or Sproul but will write and talk as if they have.  In this stage, Calvinism is the gospel and the point of agreement.  If a person is not a Calvinist, they are viewed as wrong, perhaps heretical, and even unsaved.  I have been declared as all three!

From the cage stage the Calvinist turns to apologetics to defend Calvinism.  This often leads to men such as James White or R.C. Sproul.  I have found the younger Calvinists to prefer to download White than to read Sproul.  The apologetics stage is where the young Calvinist goes on a witch-hunt for anything and anyone that is against Calvinism.

The final stage is hyper-Calvinism.  I praise God that not many have found their way here yet.  Even R.C. Sproul, despite agreeing that Romans 9:22-23 does teach double predestination, admits he cannot go on to being a hyper-Calvinist.  Most stop at point #3 and many turn back either to being biblical Arminians or some reject the faith altogether.

If Church history can teach us anything then according to Dr. Daniel, we will see a rise in hyper-Calvinism over the years to come after we have watched Calvinism explode onto the scene the past 15 years.  I pray that godly Calvinists will fight against hyper-Calvinism as hyper-Calvinism always leads to loss in missions, loss in unity even among disagreeing brethren, and leads to dead faith.

This is just the views of a very biased Arminian.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/10/2014 at 11:05 AM

What Did the Founding Fathers Believe?

I would encourage you to listen to this lecture on what the founding fathers of the United States believed about God, about the Lord Jesus Christ, about Christianity, about salvation?  Dr. Gregg Frazer is a teacher of history at The Master’s College and has written a book (that I plan on reading but have not at this point), The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders: Reason, Revelation, Revolution.  

I have seen some have already begun to reply to Dr. Frazer.  However, I believe his case is strong that the founding fathers were not in fact biblical Christians but were, as Dr. Frazer says, theistic rationalists.  They often made statements full of Bible verses, about God, about Christianity but in their private writings, they were not disciples of Jesus at all.  They believed Christianity to be full of good morals and good for society (how different from liberals today) but they were not believers themselves.  In fact, Dr. Frazer points out that they always referred to Jesus as “Jesus of Nazareth” and never to “Jesus Christ” or any acknowledgement of His deity or His Lordship.

You can find Dr. Frazer’s lecture here.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/23/2014 at 10:50 AM

History is Full of Sin

One of the temptations for some today is to take historical figures and make them into saints.  We either make people into saints or events into proofs of reverence.  For instance, I have seen books that seek to make the various Presidents (such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Ronald Reagan) into Christians.  Some seek to make the founding fathers of the United States into saints.  Others take events such as the American holiday, Thanksgiving, into Christian holidays.  Christmas is taught as a Christian holiday with roots even found in the Bible.  Even some historians try to make Civil War people into saints from Robert E. Lee to Grant, from Jefferson Davis to Lincoln and to events such as the Emancipation Proclamation as Christian moments.

In reality, history is full of sinners.  Sinners sin.  In the history of the world, there has been only one perfect person, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus alone never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22).  Every other person born has sinned.  We are all guilty of sin whether it be a farmer living in present day Vietnam or a soldier who fought in the Civil War, we all are guilty before God.  There are no perfect people and history testifies to this fact.  From the barbarian acts of the Germans in World War II, the treatment of the people under communist rule in the former Soviet Union with their gulags, or to the treatment of the Indians by the white settlers here in the United States.  In fact, during World War II, Japan merely copied the plan of the whites in the United States in taking lands from the people of China and other southeast Asian nations.  The Japanese responded to American criticisms by pointing out the hypocrisy of the American government in their own treatment of the Indians and the Africans.  History is full of sin.

For the child of God, history shows us that despite the sinfulness of man, we see the sovereign hand of God.  God has not abandoned the world.  He is actively in control.  In the future, time will be no more and the Lord will reign forever and ever.  The history of Germany, England, France, Sudan, or India will not matter in eternity.  The people will.  The plan of God is to save all who call upon His name (Romans 10:13).  The gospel is to be preached to all people (Mark 16:15-16).  The gospel is able to deliver sinful people whether they be sinful people living in Kansas City or sinful people living in Moscow.  Paul wrote that Jesus came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  Jesus Himself said this was His mission, to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  We should not view people living in the United States or South Africa different from the poor sinners living in Iran or Haiti.  All people need the gospel.  None can be saved without the gospel.  Religion does not save.  Works do not save.  Being a “good” person does not save (Romans 3:23).  Only Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross saves.  There is no hope for salvation apart from the grace of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 10:1-4).  This is why we must preach to all (Matthew 28:19) and to pray for all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:1-6).

I pray that you and I would do as much as we can for the lost.  Pray.  Give.  Evangelize.  Pass out gospel tracts.  Preach the gospel.  Share Jesus one-on-one.  You only have this one time on this planet and then you are dead and will stand before God (Hebrews 9:27-28).  Now is the time to be active in preaching the gospel.  The gospel, and not our heritage, will save sinners (John 3:13-18).  Now is the time for the Church to preach the gospel and allow the Holy Spirit to draw sinners to the Savior (John 6:44; 16:8-11).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/13/2013 at 4:29 PM

Pray For Those Whom You Disagree

Jesus taught us in Matthew 5:44 to pray for our enemies.  He said, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Adam Clarke offers sound advice about this when he writes,

This is another exquisitely reasonable precept. I cannot change that wicked man’s heart; and while it is unchanged he will continue to harass me: God alone can change it: then I must implore him to do that which will at once secure the poor man’s salvation, and contribute so much to my own peace.

We Christians have not always obeyed this verse very well.  Like other humans, we can want revenge or to gloat over the fall of our enemies.  We enjoy watching people fail.  We enjoy it when we see people fall into sin.  This should not be but it is the truth.

Church History is also full of the evils we have done toward others.  Whether it be Martin Luther’s hatred for the Jews and his call to attack them or John Calvin’s treatment of the heretic Michael Servetus, we have a history of persecution.  During the Reformation, the reformers often called for the persecution of the Anabaptists.  Arminius was more charitable toward the Anabaptists though he disagreed with them.

After the infamous Synod of Dort, the victorious Calvinists took to persecuting Arminians.  Arminian pastors were forbidden from preaching, their churches were either burned or closed, and one Arminian at the Synod of Dort lost his head for his faith.  The persecution was intense against the Arminians.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Pentecostals faced persecution from other Christians.  Baptists and even Holiness churches persecuted the Pentecostals.  In the South, the KKK tormented the Pentecostals and burned their churches.  Men such as G. Campbell Morgan called the Pentecostal movement, “the vomit of Satan.”

Again, we have not done a good job in history of living out Matthew 5:44.

My first advice in living out Matthew 5:44 is to pray for those whom you disagree.  How often do you pray for those whom you dislike because of their beliefs?  How often do you pray for Muslims or for Hindus to be saved?  Do you pray for the Islamic terrorists to come to faith in Christ?  Do you pray, like Paul in Romans 10:1, for the Jew to be saved?  Do you pray for all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:1-6)?  Do you cry out for the glory of God to be revealed through those whom you disagree such as other disciples but different from you theologically?  For example, I disagree with Calvinism but this does not keep me from praying for and loving Calvinists.  I pray often for open air preachers I know who are Reformed in their theology and perhaps would not even sit at a table with me for my Arminianism but I pray for them and ask our Father to use them for His glory.

The sad history of the Church has seen too much violence toward those whom we disagree.  We need a time of peace and a time where we show the world the truth of John 13:34-35.  I am not saying that we lay down our theology for some sort of fake love.  I am saying that we need to pray for those whom we believe are damned or simply whom we disagree.  We are quick to write a blog post on a brother or sister but are we so quick to pray for them?   We cast judgment on people all the time but are we praying and interceding for them to know the truth of God?  We say we believe in a God who hears and answers prayer.  Then show it.  Pray for those whom you disagree and ask the Lord to transform their heart (2 Timothy 2:24-26).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/03/2013 at 10:50 PM

Philemon: A Case of Christianity and Its Power Upon Lives

American slavery ended the wrong way.  It ended with bloodshed and with violence.  It ended with whites in both the North and South turning on African-Americans.  The end of the Civil War saw the rise of racist groups such as the KKK and in turn the NAACP.  The terrible end to the slavery question in the United States gave rise to the Jim Crow era laws and would keep African-Americans in “chains” for another 100 years after the end of the Civil War.  The abolitionist movement was successful in getting both Abraham Lincoln elected and in turn passing the 14th Amendment which abolished slavery (with the Emancipation Proclamation before it) but they fueled racism for another 100 years and it is still with us to this day.

Philemon, however, shows how Christianity, when it is truly preached, changes relationships completely.  Tonight we studied Philemon with our boys in Royal Rangers.  Philemon, of course, was written by Paul the Apostle to his friend Philemon who was a dear brother in the Lord (vv. 4-7).  Philemon had a church meeting in his home (v. 2).  Philemon had a slave named Onesimus who had run away from his master.  At some point Onesimus heard the gospel and was saved under Paul (v. 10).  Under Roman law a runaway slave must be returned to his master or face the possibility of getting caught and possibly killed.  Until AD 20 in the Roman Empire, slaves had no rights but the Roman Senate passed a law that gave slaves the chance to purchase their freedom.  Onesimus had bypassed this and fled to Rome where Paul was in prison (v. 9).  Paul knew the law and was sending Onesimus back to his master but Paul pointed to the fact that Onesimus was now a brother in the Lord (vv. 15-16).  Paul asked Philemon to forgive Onesimus (vv.17-20).

Surely also Philemon would have heard of Paul’s teaching from Ephesians 6:5-9 which reads:

5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. 9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Notice the transformation of the relationships between saved masters and saved slaves.  Now we must also bear in mind that slavery in the Roman Empire was not based on race as it was in Europe and the United States.  Slavery was often good for many slaves in the Roman Empire but could equally be cruel as well.  The New Testament does not seek to abolish slavery by the power of men but rather through transformed relationships.  I would think that Onesimus’ relationship with his master, Philemon, was transformed by the gospel and would have been a happy situation for him.  Often slavery provided slaves with food, water, protection, shelter, and medicine.

I do think that slavery is best gone but true Christianity can break the chains of slavery unlike anything else.  The American Civil War is a case in point.  Sadly, the Civil War saw the rise of the State becoming the factor in moral issues.  Take abortion for example.  The Church too often looks to the State to end abortion.  It should learn from the abolitionist movement of the 19th century and see that the gospel is what will end abortion.  If abortion doctors and nurses get saved or if women in our culture hear the gospel and get saved, this transforms the culture.  The gospel can transform the world!  Jesus makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17).  The cultural ills we see in our culture from the sin of abortion to the sin of homosexuality will only end with the gospel being preached and people repenting of their sins.  The gospel can change our world.

The gospel changed both Philemon and Onesimus.  The gospel can change our world as well.  May we be faithful to preach the gospel and see the power of sin broken over people’s lives.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/22/2013 at 10:30 AM

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