is a quarterly magazine published by the
LEAGUE of the CANADIAN REFORMED WOMEN'S SOCIETIES
|VOLUME 14 NO.
2 DECEMBER 1998
|Editorial .. Living In Christ||.
Horizon Home Page
LIVING IN CHRIST
At the moment of writing this it is Reformation Day, and Christmas seems far away, especially with the warm fall God blessed us with this year. However, the reality of the Christmas rush is already showing its eager face as we are reminded of the shopping days left before Christmas, and plans are being made again to celebrate with family and friends. May this issue of HORIZON help to bring in focus the celebration of Christmas. Are we like the Israelites of Amos' day as we prepare for Christmas this year? Do we become overtaken and preoccupied with the trappings of a secular Christmas? Or do we take on the Spirit of Christ in humility and love, striving to think of others first and ourselves last? This Christmas I pray that we will not lose sight of the meaning of God's gift of His Son. May we consider the magnitude of God's giving to us and perhaps reflect that in our own giving. I pray we draw nearer to God this season in preparing our hearts and lives for His coming, that we become more like Him as he was and is.
The beatitudes or blessings of Christ we read about in Matthew 5:1-12 show us how to live more like Christ. Each blessing Christ gave reflected the person He was, during His time on earth and now in heaven. He was poor in spirit, He mourned those who sinned against God, He was humble before God and man, praying "Thy will be done." He hungered and thirsted for righteousness, He did not return evil with evil, He was pure of heart, He was the peacemaker bringing peace between God and man. He was persecuted, and continues to be persecuted whenever His children are persecuted. May we take our example from Christ and live as He lived on earth, knowing that when we do so we will be comforted, we will inherit the earth, we will be filled, we will be shown mercy, we will see God and be called Sons of God, and the kingdom of heaven will be ours in the end.
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Throughout chapters 3 - 5 of the book Amos, we notice that Amos increasingly becomes a prophet of doom and gloom, continually warning and admonishing those within his listening area. In these days of Israel's prosperity and glory, the people continually hear this pessimistic man droning on about the day of the Lord. Even the fat ministers of the church get tired of him and finally ask him to take his complaining elsewhere. Why is this farmer coming to the cities to harangue these good people about their sins and judgement day? Isn't the LORD showering Israel with his blessings, and are they not faithful in their ceremonies, alms and worship? Despite this deceptive optimism, let us take a closer look at this luxuriousness and prosperity. We shall see that all is not well.
Like a whitened sepulcher, clean and beautiful on the outside, but inside dirty beyond recognition, so is Israel outwardly beautiful and wealthy, but inwardly their hearts are not right with God. The poor of the city walk the streets until they fall down with the weakness of starvation, or worse, are sold to the highest bidder for a minor debt. The bustling marketplace is ridden with false weights, inferior goods and grasping hands. The wheeling and dealing barely pauses for the day of rest "imposed" by the church leaders. The hungry gleaming eyes do not look down in humility while God's law is being read in the place of worship. This greedy people is dreaming of how to gain yet more wealth while the sermon is being preached. Even the church leaders are affected for they demand their due. They grow fat and complacent in their duties for the LORD.
Again, we hear Amos' voice piercing the din and clatter of money changing hands. "The LORD has spoken; I will not forget your deeds! The earth shall tremble in fear, the ground undulate like the waters of the Nile during flood time! The LORD shall halt your daily dealings! He will cause utter darkness to fall in broad daylight! Your sumptuous feasts and self-serving worship in God's house shall become times to mourn and wail with terror!"
Imagine the earth moving beneath the feet, and the sun's warmth and life-giving rays darkened! Surely these images are enough to strike terror into the hearts of the listeners! Are they listening? No! Their clamour rises up to drown out these warnings. Oh, there is that miserable man again! Cannot someone make him go away? Wait a minute! He's talking about those things we heard as children at our mother's knee! Remember the story of wandering for forty years in a deserted and barren wilderness? Did not God take care of us then? He sent food from heaven, and made sure that our sandals never wore out! So, why is Amos saying that we will wander again, in fact, he says we will run to and fro aimless, lost and forsaken Listen, he's talking about famine! Famine?? here among all the stalls of delectable, bright, tasty food? Here amid all the lovely smells of spices, and the glitter of Oriental silks being handled in the sunlight?
Amos' words begin to make sense. As much as the people would like to dismiss and ridicule him, they cannot. The LORD's anger is an ever-growing force. First, He will warn them, before he takes away everything that has captured their hearts. Only without the trappings of an energetic, opulent lifestyle, will they realize that they have lost their special status as God's chosen people. In God's eyes they are now the same as the world, as Ethiopia, Philistia, Syria. God will withdraw his Word from them, their candlestick will be snuffed out. They will hunger and thirst after righteousness, but will not find it, for God has removed it forever. Forever? No, Amos says, not forever. There is hope. After God has sifted his people, leaving a small, but faithful remnant, he will send his salvation, repairing the broken house of Israel. Out of the stump of the once mighty tree, He will cause a shoot to grow. Out of the desolation and destruction, He will bring grain and wine for his people. And where are they to seek these restored fortunes? At the foot of the cross, where God's Son gave up his life for them.
The majority of the house of Israel did not listen, and the nation as God's chosen people became replaced with His church, not bound by one place. His church founded on the resurrection of God's own Son on Easter Sunday.
May we conclude that Amos' work is done? No, indeed, his warnings still apply for us today, as God's chosen people. God in his mercy continues to warn his people of impending disaster. If God could cut the original branches of the vine out and throw them into the fire, would he not do so as well with the engrafted branches? Does the echo of Israel's busy-ness in materialistic gain not ring in our ears? Are we not also engaged in much the same activities as Israel was? Listen to the words of the Lord Jesus as he warns in Luke 2 1: "Nation shall rise against nation, there will be great earthquakes and in various places famines and pestilences; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven... And there will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars, and upon the earth great distress in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of heaven will be shaken. (vs. 10,11,25,26) Jesus rebuked his listeners when he said, "You can see what season it is by the leaves on the fig tree, and you cannot see that the kingdom of God is nearby these signs?" (vs.29-31)
We have so much more than Amos' words to be warned by! Therefore, when the Lord returns, will He find us awake and faithful? Or will we quake in terror at His coming because we have been preoccupied with our lives? In Noah's time the people were also busy, being married, and giving in marriage, eating, drinking, and being happy. Are we laying up treasures for ourselves on earth, or are we seeking first God's kingdom and His righteousness? Let us walk in righteousness before His face, so that with all believers we may be caught up with Christ on the clouds when he returns. Maranatha, Lord Jesus.
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" He Shall Come Again..."
On that first Christmas, great love prevailed,
our Father in heaven, His plan, unveiled...
The GREATNESS of His love, He called us to heed
in so doing, He manifested our very Great Need,
Christmas, a need? More than we dare conceive -
For at Christmas, God's children, a gift did receive,
which keeps us aware of God's tremendous Majesty,
as in unfathomable love, He gave His Son, to set us free.
The shadow of the cross, eclipsed our Lord's manger,
as prophesied, the Father did send a Saviour.
He laid aside glory, for a time, to ensure - we'll receive glory
which will eternally endure.
His life was cut short -- so our life would be free,
through Him we are redeemed and may live Eternally.
When by faith, we understand this marvelous grant,
all other gifts received, are clearly insignificant.
Through this great love, our love can shine,
and must illumine our lives, until His perfect time.
To this King of kings, we bestow honour and acclaim,
until that glorious
day ... when He shall come again!
Elisabeth M. Dykema
Ora et Labora, Attercliffe
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TRUE HAPPINESS IN DISCIPLESHIP
In Matthew 5: 1-12, Jesus begins to preach and tell the crowds how they can translate the faith they experienced while witnessing His miracles, into a faith of obedience to His commands. We are clearly shown in this sermon that what many today consider faith, is not real faith. Many people have some vague notions about faith and believe everyone is entitled to believe what they will, in the manner they choose. Preaching faith has no bearing because each person can believe how he wants to.
Jesus shows us in His sermon on the mountain, that this is not right. True faith means that we live in a manner pleasing to God and we submit our whole life to him in obedience to his commands.
Jesus' sermon has been used to support disarmament, oppose nuclear weapons, support aid to Third World countries, and oppose capitalism. The Anabaptists use it to deny the legitimacy of authority and military might. Ghandi felt that Jesus proposed to introduce a new society by advocating passive resistance and pacifism. However, many times texts are taken out of context and misinterpreted to support a particular individual's or group's ideals. Studying the first twelve verses of Matthew 5 will tell us whether such ideas can really be supported.
Jesus begins His sermon with eight beatitudes, or blessings. Some commentators state that "happy" is a better translation of the Greek than "blessed", happy meaning someone whose place in life is an enviable one. Jesus is thus starting his sermon telling his disciples how to find true happiness. Each beatitude has two parts; the first part indicates who is happy, and the second indicates in what their happiness consists.
The first beatitude speaks of "the poor in spirit," and is one of the most well-known exhortations of Scripture. Jesus does not tell us here to give away all our money and be poor. He uses a word which indicates a destitute beggar, and He refers to a spiritual poverty. The poor in spirit are those who humbly trust God, who acknowledge that He is all and they are nothing, and are empty before Him, always in want of His grace. It was necessary for the multitude, which streamed behind Jesus, with pitiful cries for help and mercy, due to their physical weaknesses, to realize that it was more important to beg of Jesus' mercy because of their spiritual ailments. The true happiness that comes from having God's grace and Spirit will come "only to those who constantly and with heartfelt longing ask Him for these gifts and thank Him for them." (L.D. 45, Heidelberg Catechism).
The second part of the beatitudes states, "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Several commentators suggest this could be better understood as, "of such is the kingdom of heaven." In this interpretation we can see that Jesus indicates who are the citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Only those who empty themselves completely and live entirely out of the grace of God belong to this kingdom. This beatitude shows a theme which runs through all the beatitudes and the whole Sermon on the Mount, namely, that God's grace or favour reigns supreme in the kingdom of heaven. The citizens submit in faith to this grace, accept it, and live by it alone. The second line of this beatitude show that the blessing, or happiness, is not just in the future, but is also now on earth, as the present tense is used here. The second line of the last beatitude, in verse ten, is exactly the same as that in verse three, and would seem to indicate a fullness or completeness of the eight blessings.
The second beatitude speaks of "those who mourn. " This is not just those who grieve for a loved one, although it would certainly include those also, but, those who grieve because of their sins, and who live a life of repentance. According to Matthew Henry, in his commentary, the blessing also includes those who look to God's honour and mourn the sins of others, looking with compassion on souls that are perishing. All these people will be comforted by God Himself, for He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
The third beatitude, speaks about the meek, those who do not demand their rights and avenge themselves rather than wait for God's good timing. The meek wait for God to vindicate them. Though they may appear to be the underdogs in this world, the second line of verse five shows us that they shall receive the true inheritance of this world, which is eternal life given to them by God.
The fourth beatitude deals with "those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." This does not mean a desire for social justice, although it would seem as though many people are working towards that goal, but rather a personal righteousness. These people hunger and thirst for true obedience and trust in God, and desire to become new people in Christ. Jesus proclaims that their hunger shall be satisfied.
The fifth, sixth and seventh beatitudes deal with our attitude to our neighbour. The merciful do not return evil with evil, but as they show acts of mercy to others, God will show mercy to them. The purity of the heart referred to in verse eight is more than just a moral purity. It refers to a heart which loves God with its whole being, having been purified by faith from the pollution of the world, and does all things out of love for God, with no selfish interests. The necessity of a pure heart is emphasized all throughout Scripture. The seventh beatitude speaks of the peacemakers. We notice the word "peacemakers" is used, not just "peacekeepers." It is more difficult to make peace than it is to keep the peace. The peacemakers are the sons of God. just as God is the supreme peacemaker, His sons will also require that quality.
The eighth beatitude tells us that those who are persecuted for their righteousness will receive the kingdom of heaven. When a disciple of Christ obeys the previous beatitudes, his righteousness will be noticed and he will be persecuted for it. The repetition of the second part of verse three completes the series, and shows that the beatitudes are a unity.
Jesus expands on the eighth beatitude in verses I I and 12 to show how greatly the persecuted are blessed. As Jesus Himself was persecuted, as well as the prophets before Him, so will His followers be persecuted. And in their persecution they will know they are truly God's disciples. Jesus commands happiness, not pride, even in persecution, for in the end the persecuted will triumph. In verses 13-16, Jesus tells the listeners what His disciples are to be.
As salt of the earth, they must spread the flavour of the gospel. just as a little leaven leavens the whole lump, so a little salt spreads it savouryness a long way, and prevents corruption. Jesus explains that those who lose their saltiness are good for nothing. His disciples are also the light of the world. Those who spread the gospel are as distinctive and noticeable as light. They are as obvious as a city on a hill. As light is not meant to be hidden, so Christ's disciples may not be disciples in secret. Their good work should shine out attention to God, so all men may glorify Him.
Many people today like to use this passage on the beatitudes, and others like it, to justify nuclear disarmament, oppose capitalism, or to condemn immorality and call for an end to all war. However, we can see that these positions are not supported in Jesus' sermon. Jesus spoke here first to His disciples, and His words are not meant to be taken as binding upon all governments and peoples, but only upon His covenant children who desire to live a life pleasing to their Lord. It is a sermon directed to His disciples and in this first section of the sermon, we can see clearly the demands made on the disciples of Jesus. Those who think they have faith and follow Him, but do not lead a life of thankfulness and obedience as outlined in the beatitudes, will be trodden underfoot and left behind when Christ returns. We can read this in the conclusion of this sermon in Chapter 7, verses 21-23.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you, depart from me, you evildoers."'
Those people do not know true blessedness and happiness. Faith is not just something you can experience in your own way, it is complete obedience to what Christ requires of you. When God's people live in complete obedience they will be the salt of the earth, bringing light to the rest of the world so that others my see and glorify Him.
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THE BIBLICAL FREEDOM OF WOMEN Part II
We Are Called to be Women
God's Word gives great honor to the role of wives and mothers. Proverbs 31 gives a glowing account of the ideal wife. This passage is often misused to show that a wife can be a real estate agent, independent business woman, world merchant and so on, but only if you take parts of verses out of context. One of the overriding themes of the whole chapter is her husband. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not harm, all the days of her life. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. (notice it does not say that she is well known as she sits among the elders). As well, all her endeavors are for the welfare of her household. All of her endeavors are to ensure the well being of her household. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and tasks for her maiden. Her lamp does not go out at night. All her household are clothed. She looks well to the ways of her household. And what are the characteristics of this woman strength and dignity, wisdom and kindness, industriousness.
Perhaps she does dabble in real estate, and she certainly is involved in a cottage industry of planting fields for profit or maybe just for fresh produce, making cloth and clothing for resale. But this passage certainly does not paint a picture of a woman who cheerfully bids good-bye to her family every morning, briefcase in hand, and goes off to fulfil herself in a career. No, her career is her husband and family and to that she puts all her time and considerable talents to good use. And all this she does because she is a woman who fears the LORD. That is why she is praised. A woman who is fulfilled because she fears the Lord, not one who seeks self fulfillment We are called to be such women.
By now the question must be rising into some of your minds "but may a woman not work outside of the home?"
Let us consider a few points. First of all, for single women and women without children, this is not usually a great concern, as long as the career of the wife does not carry more importance than her desire to be helpmate to her husband, or stop or delay her from allowing God to bless the marriage with children.
Where real concerns arise is when mothers go to work outside of the home. The questions we need to ask and honestly answer regarding mothers working outside the home are:
Does it really help her family?
Does it assist her husband in his calling?
Can she still fulfill her primary calling to be wife and mother?
Can she still provide for her young children all that is required to develop physically, emotionally and most important Spiritually?
Can she still give her older children the emotional security they need to explore themselves and the world around them?
Can she still be there when they need the answers to questions of life, which will baffle them, or will they have to find solutions from another source?
Does the money she earns really provide what is needed to sustain life or does it provide luxuries that could be done without?
Freedom in the Church
In order to bring about full feminist defined equality, changes had to be made to the one institution which had so much control over so many in society - the Church. Secular feminists were appalled by 'maleness' of the Christian Church. A male Father God, a male Saviour who was depicted as groom -husband to the Church. And worst of all, the picture of a woman (Mary) kneeling before her son (Jesus) showing both her inferiority and defeat.
In the 1970's, as the philosophies of feminism gained credibility in society in general, feminist theologians emerged. Since they could not create and present a new Bible, they looked at ways to reinterpret the Bible to favor a more woman-centered doctrine. Many of the feminist views we have already looked at were incorporated into their theology. They started making their case for women in leadership and ruling roles in the Church, and progressed to even changing the language of the Bible to be gender neutral. They reasoned that God, after all, had created man and woman equal, and that in Christ they had equality. Any reference to male headship and female submission was merely a product of cultural bias.
We have looked at and seen already that headship and submission do NOT mean Superior or Inferior. We have established women are equal in creation and salvation and that women are worthy of men. The fact that God clearly gives men, and not women, leadership in the Church does NOT belittle women.
Many men will never serve as minister, elder, or deacon - does that make them inferior? No, of course not. God has depicted the Church as the body of Christ, with Christ as its head. Paul shows in I Cor. 12 that all members of the body have importance and are necessary for the health of the body. God designed the body of Christ to be one unit working together to glorify Him. That is our purpose and calling. Can we improve on God's Perfect Plan?
There are many ministries in the Church of Christ, ministry simply meaning service. They cannot and should not be all done by the minister, elders or deacons. With that in mind, let us look at the freedoms God does give women in the Church.
The second chapter of Paul's letter to Titus gives a good account of how all members of the body of Christ are to act. The verses 3b-5 in particular give women a primary ministry in the church. Paul says: "They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind and submissive to their husbands". The older women in the Church whether married, widowed or single have a duty to train the younger women, to show them through words and action how to live holy lives acceptable to God.
They need to know how to love their husbands. This love is not the warm fuzzy feeling of being "in love", that is a temporal emotion. They need to know how to love, that is a verb, and action. To love is a command that cannot be ignored. Younger women need to be taught how to act out of love towards their husbands, even when the "warm fuzzies" are not there.
They need to be taught how to love their children. They must be shown that love is not just a clean bed, full stomach and lots of hugs. Loving their children also means firm, consistent discipline, which is essential to raising spiritually and emotionally healthy children.
Older women can provide so much practical assistance to the young women in the congregation, especially today when many women are not fortunate to live in the same city, province or even country as their own mothers. Older women can be of great benefit when there is a sick child, or a special needs child or a family crisis. Take for example the case of a special needs child. The deacon of the church will come and pray with the family, offer guidance in financial matters and even provide money to help with the financial burdens that may accompany a special needs child. With the special insight that God gifts women with, a woman will see that what is also needed by the family, is some time out, with no cost child care so that the husband and wife can recharge their batteries. A warm meal for those days of intensive therapy or endless doctors appointments, helping with the housework, perhaps even a card of encouragement, a timely phone call or visits. Helping other women and families in the congregation is a valuable ministry in the church.
Another significant ministry in the church is prayer, not just for women, but men also. We need to pray for our families, each other, the office bearers, missions - the list is endless. While we all need to pray, there are women who have been gifted with free, quiet time in their days, which they could devote to prayer. As well, elderly or homebound individuals should never feel insignificant in the church, because, no matter what their infirmities may be, they still have the ability to pray.
There are numerous other areas of service in the church which can be fulfilled by women: home mission, vacation bible school, organist, choir, mission aid, organizing events, visiting the sick and elderly, welcoming and giving hospitality to visitors. just think of the gifts and talents the Lord has given you and then see how you can use these to benefit the body of Christ so that the church can accomplish its work in the world.
We are called to be women!
Freedom in Society
We are called to be women! In the beginning, woman was given the mandate of co-worker in creation. In today's broken and sinful world, the voice of Christian women must be heard. We must drown out the cries of feminist, humanist liberals and special interest groups who demand equality at the cost of children and families, abortion on demand with no moral conscience, sexual freedom without bearing the burden of their immorality, state run day-cares with no guilt for the toll it takes on young lives, and freedom of speech to publish and distribute human degrading pornography.
We can do this not by shouting louder than they do, but first of all by creating Christ-centered homes where men are honoured as the head and children nurtured as covenantal blessings. We can joyfully admit that we are wives and mothers, homemakers who understand that God builds His Church through families. We can react thankfully to our large families, and when other people react in shock at the number of children we have by asking whether we've heard of family planning or birth control, we will tell them that we planned a family and are having it, and we have left the control over birth to God Who is much wiser in these things.
We have the freedom to show our neighbours that we are not ashamed to be women. We do not feel constrained and enslaved by being submissive wives, but we will elevate Biblical Womanhood to the place of honor that God gives it. And we can make a career out of training our children to be honest, respectful, hardworking, dependable members of society who care more for honor and promoting the kingdom of God than wearing designer jeans and $150.00 shoes. We can encourage our husbands to take the headship God gives them, to be mature Christian husbands and fathers. We can be completely honest in all our dealings with those both inside and outside of the Church. Can you imagine a greater witness than a family who, through all their walk of life, portrays with joy the good creation order of God?!
Our first mandate in society is therefore to be free women of the Bible. Once we have understood our responsibilities to God, our family, and the Church, we can work within legal frameworks to show God's good creation and His plan for salvation. This is done by knowing the issues that are destroying the moral fabric of our society. Reading good publications will help you know these issues. We can write letters to the editors and to our elected officials at all levels of the government. We can be involved with pro-life and pro-family organizations. We also can be responsive to simple things that go on all around us.
For example; once, while taking my children to the dentist, my daughter found a copy of Cosmopolitan magazine and brought it to me. When it was our turn, I showed it to the dentist, telling him I did not think it belonged in an office where there were so many children. He became quite defensive, saying many of the women had asked him to carry it and he was just obliging them. It was none of his business what they read, or allowed their children to read. The next day I received a phone call from the dentist. He said he had taken the magazine home, and he and his wife both read it and were appalled. He agreed that it did not belong in his office, which catered to children, and he had removed all of them from his waiting room. He thanked me for bringing it to his attention. I did the same thing with my chiropractor with similar results. Sometimes it takes a bit of courage to confront others regarding moral issues, but we need to do it. We can write to sponsors of offensive advertising and boycott products of immoral companies.
There are many opportunities to work with the handicapped, or troubled young people, or the elderly. The opportunities for service and Christian witness in society are as open and varied as they are in the Church. You simply identify the issues that are at work to destroy society, see again where your gifts and talents lie and apply them.
We are called to be women!
In conclusion, I would like to read to you from Maxine Hancock's, Love Honor and Be Free: "At this period in history, Satan is spearheading a most insidious and hateful attack against the home, motherhood and family love. His temptation to women to rationalize their way out of family commitments and responsibilities to children will ultimately rob womanhood of joy and blessing, as surely as his seduction of Eve robbed her. As in the Garden of Eden, his appeal is to our minds. He invites us to look around and check his statements with empirical evidence. He whispers, "Hath God said?" and mocks our timid acceptance of God's order of things. He invites us to live for ourselves. He doesn't even offer stakes as high as those he held out in the garden. He doesn't need to. We are already fallen creatures, already half ready to give way to his temptaion. To Eve he held out the goal, "Ye shall be as gods." To us, he seems to be making good headway by simply suggesting, "Ye shall be as man". If we listen to his subtle offers, we will find ourselves, like Eve, disinherited of the garden of love."
God does not wish us to be "as gods". He has a far higher calling for us: to be like Christ. And He has never intended for us to "be as man". He has something better for those of us who are willing and obedient. We can be ourselves: WOMEN.
WE ARE CALLED TO BE WOMEN!!!
League Day for Alberta on June 12,1996 Mrs. Audrey VandenHoven Calgary, AB
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