The House of God
On Saturday, March 12, 2005, Dave Harris will give the sermon, titled, “The House of God.”
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream
Have I Been A Good Man?
by Rene Messier (Canada)
This question was asked at the end of the Motion Picture, “Saving Private Ryan,” which was released a few years ago, depicting war in a graphic and realistic way. Private Ryan asked this question of his wife in a very emotional way during a visit to a cemetery of World War II soldiers — while the movie camera focused on thousands upon thousands of casualties of war, identified by white crosses.
Private Ryan’s mother used to have three sons. The War Department had already informed the family that two of her sons had been killed in war. When the fate of her third son — Private Ryan — had become uncertain, the War Department sent out a group of soldiers to locate Private Ryan and to bring him home safely. It was felt that losing two sons in war was a sufficient sacrifice for any family. The soldiers who were sent out to locate Private Ryan were all killed in the process of saving him. They sacrificed their lives to save him. This was the reason why he asked his wife whether he had been a good man. Was he really “worthy” enough for the ultimate sacrifice these men had made for him by paying with their lives so that he could live?
The question for us today is this: Have we been a good man or woman in our lives? As in the case of Private Ryan, someone was willing to die for us so that we could live. That Person was a Righteous Man Who was willing to die for our past sins so that we would not have to suffer eternal death. This Righteous Man was more than just an ordinary person; He was our beloved Savior, the God of the Old Testament Who gave up His Divinity to become a Man, so that He could die for us.
When Christ gave His life for us, we were NOT good people. None of us were. In fact, we were His enemies, deceived by the god of this world–Satan the devil–following the carnal lusts of the flesh. We were most certainly not “worthy” to receive the opportunity for eternal life through the Sacrifice of Christ.
But we CAN become good people. It is interesting what Christ said about being a good man in Matthew 12:35: “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things.” On another occasion He said: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). He recognized that it was God the Father, living in Him, Who made Him good. This is true of us also. David said, in Psalm 119:172: “For all your commandments are righteousness.” We too can be righteous if God’s Spirit in us is leading us and we are obedient to His commandments.
Very soon now we will be keeping the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread. This is a special time for us, both to examine ourselves and to work on putting sin out of our lives. While we meditate on these things, let us never forget the tremendous sacrifice Christ made for us, willingly giving up His life as a God being, and subsequently His physical life, to make available to us eternal life. As we reflect on these things set before us, let us ask ourselves the same question which Private Ryan asked: “Have I been a good man?”
This Week in the News
Germany and the Arab World
On March 10, 2005, www.wsws.org published a remarkable article, titled, “German Chancellor Schröder’s business trip to the Gulf States.” The article pointed out:
“US President George W. Bush had hardly finished his four-day European tour when German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder began a seven-day tour of the Arabian peninsula. He travelled to seven Gulf States, five of which had never before received a visit from a German head of government. Schröder’s journey casts into sharp relief the reasons for the INCREASING TENSIONS between the US and Germany, which were barely concealed during Bush’s stop in Mainz. At stake are naked ECONOMIC and STRATEGIC interests — not peace, stability, liberty or democracy, as the official propaganda of both sides would have one believe.
“The Gulf possesses the world’s largest supplies of oil, the most important strategic raw material for the economy of the twenty-first century. Moreover, thanks to the billions of dollars that flow into their coffers as a result of the high price of oil, those in power in the Gulf States are among the biggest international investors and purchasers of Western products. Schröder’s journey was aimed at cashing in on German reservations towards the Iraq war and US policy in the Middle East. To some extent, the German chancellor was acting as a poacher in what is usually considered Washington’s preserve — a region that the US endeavours to keep firmly under its influence economically and politically. The billion-dollar contracts for the reconstruction of war-torn Iraq went nearly exclusively to American companies and, to a lesser degree, British firms… According to Ulrich Schäfer, writing in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Schröder’s message read: ‘Our vacuum cleaner can do everything. The German economy sucks up everything.’
“America’s aggressive actions in the region have UNSETTLED many Arab regimes. They fear the loss of their power if the US further DESTABILIZES the region or brings about further ‘regime changes’ — as is presently being attempted in Lebanon, Syria and Iran. Washington’s close collaboration with ISRAEL is also a cause of constant tension.
“Schröder’s offering of German products, investment in German companies and the redenomination of foreign currency holdings out of dollars and into euros represents an attempt to lure the Gulf States with an alternative strategic orientation — AWAY FROM THE US and TOWARDS GERMANY. The German government attaches ‘great strategic significance’ to the region, according to the correspondent of Germany’s leading financial daily, the Handelsblatt, who accompanied the chancellor on his journey. A comment in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung makes this even clearer. ‘The chancellor is using the economic power of German enterprises for a second mission,’ the newspaper writes. ‘He wants to entrench the Federal Republic of Germany as a CENTRAL POWER IN WORLD POLITICS…'”
The article concluded with the following remarks:
“Schröder’s journey to the Gulf States makes clear that his demands for more power and influence for Germany, which he aired at the Munich Security Conference last month, were meant seriously… [T]he growing rivalry between the great powers in the struggle for markets and economic influence must inevitably lead to INCREASING INTERNATIONAL TENSIONS AND THE GROWTH OF MILITARY CONFLICTS.”
The Bible reveals that there WILL BE a confederacy between Germany and certain Arab nations in the Middle East. It is also prophesied that that alliance will be in competition, BOTH ECONOMICALLY AND MILITARILY, with the United States of America, Great Britain and the state of Israel. Mr. Schroeder’s business trip to the Gulf States could be a step toward the fulfillment of those Biblically prophesied developments.
Old and New Europe
The International Herald Tribune reported on Friday, March 4, 2005, that “‘New Europe’ renews its links with the old.” The article stated: “Frustrated by travel restrictions and uneasy about the war in Iraq, citizens of Central Europe who once pledged allegiance to the United States are now recalling their European roots and looking to a united Europe for their economic and political futures… A decade ago, Central Europe was heavily focused on getting into the U.S.-dominated North Atlantic Treaty Organization and assuring their security in the region. At that time, Hungarians, Poles, and Czechs spoke worriedly about the possibility that Russia might be a menace to its neighbors again.
“But now, Central Europeans are paying attention to building their economies and making their mark in a united Europe… Western Europeans are buying Budapest real estate, and the local newspapers are owned largely by Swiss and German interests… The cultural and political differences between Europe and the United States are present as well. Europeans in general are at odds with Americans on matters such as the death penalty, the environment and the roles of international institutions and religion… Hungarians and Czechs overwhelmingly oppose the war in Iraq, despite the support from their governments. Polish popular opposition to the war, muted at first, has grown.”
Based on Biblical prophecy, we can safely say that “old” and “new” Europe will unite and that they will, in time, develop a mighty power bloc in competition with and hostile to the United States of America. For further information, please read our free booklet, “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.”
Israel’s New Sanhedrin
On March 8, 2005, www.israelnationalnews.com reported about startling developments within the state of Israel. The article stated:
“The reestablished Sanhedrin has concluded extensive deliberations on the disengagement plan, rejecting it as a contradiction to the Torah of Israel. The current format of the Sanhedrin is the renewal of the historic Sanhedrin, Judaism’s highest legal-religious tribunal during Holy Temple times. The 71-man assembly convened in one of the Holy Temple chambers, and existed from several decades before the Common Era until roughly 425 C.E. The renewed body was launched last year in Tiberias, and convenes in Jerusalem.”
This renewed body, which might gain strong influence in Israel, issued the following proclamation on Monday:
“The disengagement plan, involving the uprooting of Jewish communities in Gaza and Samaria and the abandonment of these areas to a foreign entity, is in direct contradiction to the Torah of Israel, and is null and void. Future governments of Israel will have to re-conquer the areas in question… The Government of Israel and the Knesset, in their present form and power structure, are institutions that have no authority according to Jewish Law to render decisions that contradict the Torah of Israel… Any Jew–including a soldier or policeman–who supports the uprooting, whether directly or indirectly, whether by voting in its favor, or by giving counsel, or by supplying vehicles or materials, and certainly anyone who actively participates in the uprooting, thus transgresses a large number of Torah commandments, such as not standing idly by one’s neighbor’s blood (Lev. 19,17)… By this declaration, the Sanhedrin, as the link of continuity of the Torah received by Moses at Sinai, hereby expresses the stance of Israel’s Torah… The Sanhedrin, as the representative of the Jewish people throughout history, hereby affirms that the Jewish people — regardless of this or that government — does not relinquish, and is not entitled to relinquish, so much as the span of a solitary man’s foot of the Land of Israel according to its Biblical boundaries, for it is [God’s] land.”
Lebanon and Syria
On March 8, 2005, The Associated Press reported about most recent and unsettling developments in Lebanon. The article stated: “Hundreds of thousands jammed a central Beirut square Tuesday, chanting support for Syria and anti-U.S. slogans in a thundering show of strength by the militant group Hezbollah–a rally that greatly outnumbered recent demonstrations against Syria’s presence in Lebanon. The demonstration came hours before Syria began redeploying its troops within Lebanon to an area closer to the two countries’ border. President Bush, who rejects this as a half-step, said Tuesday that ‘freedom will prevail in Lebanon’ and demanded that Syria withdraw completely. But that was not the sentiment among the protesters in Riad Solh square.”
Hezbollah has been labeled as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Administration. They are a Shiite group, while the former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, who was recently murdered, was a Sunnite.
Some have claimed that the above-mentioned demonstration was a hoax. The WorldNetDaily stated on March 9, 2005: “The giant Hezbollah rally that drew nearly half a million purported supporters of Syria’s occupation of Lebanon actually was a staged hoax with non-Lebanese citizens, Syrian workers, students and municipal employees coerced into joining the protest, former Lebanese Prime Minister Michel Aoun told WorldNetDaily in an exclusive interview this morning.”
Whether WorldNetDaily’s report is correct or not, it is clear that Hezbollah — a militant Shiite group–is supportive of Syria, and it can be expected that they will not stand idly by, if Syria should withdraw its troops.
Which Ten Commandments?
On March 8, 2005, www.msnbc.com and Newsweek published a controversial article about the public display of the Ten Commandments. As the article pointed out, “The state of Texas has a statue of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the capitol building, similar to thousands of Ten Commandment plaques hanging all over the country. An Austin lawyer challenged the Texas display as a violation of the First Amendment’s rejection of government sponsorship of religion… Last week, the Supreme Court finally heard the case, along with a suit against two Kentucky counties that have been displaying the Commandments. During the oral arguments, the Bush administration and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott argued that the Ten Commandments is such a fundamental part of our national culture and heritage that they are, effectively, non-religious. Even Justice Antonin Scalia, who openly expressed his support for public displays of the Commandments, mocked Abbott’s argument. ‘If you don’t believe that it sends a religious message, you’re kidding yourself’, he said. (The Supreme Court’s decision in the cases is pending).”
The article then pointed out the crux of the matter, by stating:
“I also found that nobody knows all 10 of the Ten Commandments. ‘Honor your parents, don’t covet your neighbor’s wife, don’t lie, don’t kill, don’t steal, um, um, how many is that’ said Kristen, a woman from Brooklyn. ‘Don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, and honor your parents,’ said Olga, who was smoking a cigarette outside her office. ‘Don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t covet thy neighbor’s stuff, don’t steal, and honor your parents,’ said Dan, who rents out a six-seat ‘party bike’ in Times Square. No matter whom I interviewed, the same five or six commandments kept coming up. And no matter whom I interviewed, I heard the same thing: ‘They should be displayed,’ said Dan. ‘They’re just the basic rules that everyone can agree on.’ And then I reminded them about the other four or five commandments. One: I am the Lord thy God. Two: Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Three: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Four: Keep the Sabbath. And then people started changing their minds… Besides, there’s hardly any unanimity about what the Ten Commandments even are. The Protestant and Jewish decalogue is basically the same, but the Catholic Church got rid of the ‘make no graven images’ commandment…, so the Church split the 10th commandment–don’t covet your neighbor’s wife or stuff–into separate commands.”
Of course, even the Protestant and Jewish Decalogue is not the same! It may READ the same, but Protestants and Jews have totally different ideas as to what it says. Most professing Christians, Catholics and Protestants alike, have replaced the Fourth Commandment (instructing us to keep the Sabbath holy) with their human tradition to keep Sunday holy. Sunday, however, was never a day which was holy to God. It was set aside by pagans to worship the sun god Baal and other sun gods. The Bible calls this practice an abomination. For more information, please read our free booklets, “Don’t Keep Christmas,” and “God’s Commanded Holy Days.”
When we hear the argument that this country must publicly display the Ten Commandments, let’s ask the question first: “Which Ten Commandments?”
There has been much discussion over the years on the question of homosexuality, and particularly recently with the ordination of a homosexual bishop in the USA. What is your Biblical understanding on this issue?
The Bible must always be the last word on all doctrinal matters, not the personal opinions of man. Unfortunately, there can be an attitude of “pick and mix” where doctrines can be summarily dismissed that may not suit someone’s personal life-style; that are “uncomfortable,” or “not acceptable” in today’s society; or that don’t fit in with someone’s general approach. On the other hand, if the Bible purportedly backs up personal opinions and beliefs, then Biblical teaching is readily accepted. This means that there are those who, because of their own personal behavior, amend their understanding of Scripture in order that their practices can be (in their own eyes) accommodated by the Word of God. The subject of homosexuality is just one example.
But God does not play games. As Proverbs 14:12 tells us, there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. The Bible states in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Therefore, all Scripture from the first book of Genesis to the last book of Revelation is valid — irrespective of human traditions, customs or politically correct or incorrect viewpoints.
One pro-homosexual website puts forward the following observations when talking about quotations from the book of Leviticus (which condemns homosexuality, as we will see): “Clearly many of these laws reflect the cultural mores of their time and can have little or no relevance for us. The problem comes when we try to decide when a law or a piece of teaching has relevance today or when it should be rejected or disregarded.”
It is plain from such attitudes that the Word of God is used when supportive and discarded when inconvenient, but it must be remembered that ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God. Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, as Hebrews 13:8 explains. Clear Biblical instructions are therefore not open to alterations or amendments, when cultural views change.
The instruction in the Old Testament on homosexuality is clear. In Leviticus 18:22 it states that: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” This is but one of the instructions on illicit sexual behavior where the Israelites are told that such conduct not only defiles them but also the land (verse 27). Some may conclude that ungodly conduct affects only the perpetrators and those around them, but the lack of righteousness — including sexual immorality — affects the very land on which we dwell. In verse 28, God reminds the Israelites that because the Canaanites (see verse 3) committed abominable sexual acts, the land was going to “vomit them out.” This reveals a very real spiritual law: When a nation becomes sinful, even its land is defiled because sin affects everything.
Two chapters later, in Leviticus 20:13, God again rejects homosexual conduct, when He states: “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.”
If the practice of homosexuality was acceptable to God, why would God mention this practice in condemnatory terms on so many occasions? In Genesis 2:24 we read that “…a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Here, at an early stage of Biblical instruction, we see that the natural union was to consist of a man and a woman — not of a man and several women, and not of two people of the same sex.
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is well known. In Genesis 18 and 19 we read about their depravity. The men of the city (Genesis 19:4), both old and young, surrounded the house where the two angels dwelled as Lot’s guests. They wanted to know them carnally (verse 5). This means, the Sodomites practiced homosexuality. [Today, the word “sodomite” is also used in respect to another form of depraved sexual conduct.] We know from Ezekiel 16:49-50 that the iniquity of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah was not limited to this sexual practice, but it was certainly a hugely contributory factor.
There are a number of references that refer to sodomites, in the Authorized Version (Deuteronomy 23:17; 1 Kings 14:24; 1 Kings 15:12; 1 Kings 22:46; 2 Kings 23:7). Sodomites were the inhabitants of Sodom. As we saw, the term refers to those practicing homosexuality. They were to be banished from the land — hardly a ringing endorsement!
In the New Testament, we continue to find the same condemnation of this practice. We read in the first chapter of Romans: “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting…” (verses 24-28).
While the Western world today seeks to popularize and legitimize homosexuality, the Word of God clearly reveals that it is not acceptable to God. God has set in motion certain laws, and those who misuse their bodies receive in themselves that recompense of their error which was due. The word “debased” in verse 28 means “unapproved” or “undiscerning.” Since they had suppressed the truth of God revealed to them, they did not retain God in their knowledge and consequently, God gave them up (or over) to what they wanted to do all along. The results were and still are disastrous.
l Corinthians 6:9-10 clearly states that neither homosexuals nor sodomites will inherit the Kingdom of God: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”
However, in verse 11 we read: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
Notice what Paul said: “Such were some of you.” This is a telling phrase. Paul cited the fact that there were some in the congregation who were formerly characterized in the catalogue of sinful conduct listed in verses 9 and 10. But Paul makes also clear that there is hope for those who are willing to repent and turn from their evil ways. With the help of God, they can be washed, sanctified and justified — but only on genuine, sincere repentance. This shows, then, that homosexuality CAN be repented of — it is not something men are just born with, and which they cannot overcome, even if they wanted to. Unfortunately today, many have convinced themselves that homosexuality is acceptable to God, or even the way God created some men, merely because it has become culturally acceptable. The Bible clearly reveals otherwise. As was wisely observed by someone: “Fashions may change but standards do not.”
In the final book of the Bible, this same theme is repeated in Revelation 21:8, pointing out that those who refuse to repent, including the “sexually immoral”–including those who practice homosexuality and other unacceptable sexual conduct–will have their part in the lake of fire and brimstone.
Some might ask the question: Does it matter? Of course it does! It is amazing to observe the lengths that those who support their homosexual practice will go to in order to justify it. If we believe that the Bible is the revealed Word of God, then we should live by every word of God (Matthew 4:4). And the Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, roundly condemns the practice of homosexuality.
At the same time, we must be careful that we don’t lose God’s perspective on the matter of homosexuality, by replacing one extreme viewpoint with another. As we saw, the practice of homosexuality is most certainly a sin which MUST be repented of, if one wants to enter the Kingdom of God. We are told that if we don’t repent and give up wrong habits, replacing them with God’s righteousness, we will not enter the Kingdom of God. Homosexuality is most certainly a SIN that must be overcome — but it is NOT the ONLY sin that must be overcome. Notice Revelation 21:7-8:
“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly [those who know better, but are afraid to change and stand up for what is right], unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and ALL LIARS shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Those who know better, but WILLFULLY and with HATE AND ANGER permanently and irrevocably REFUSE to repent of their evil conduct will end up in the lake of fire. They will NOT enter the New Jerusalem. Revelation 22:14-15 states:
“Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs [compare Philippians 3:2] and sorcerers and sexually immoral [including homosexuals, AS WELL AS those who engage in other sinful sexual conduct, such as fornication and adultery] and murderers and idolaters, and WHOEVER LOVES AND PRACTICES A LIE.”
For some, it is easy to see that homosexuality is sinful. At the same time, it is very difficult for them to see that lying or killing (even in war) is sinful and must be repented of as well. God calls homosexuality an “abomination.” Note, however, what else is an “abomination” in God’s eyes:
“These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an ABOMINATION to Him: A proud look, A LYING tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A FALSE witness who speaks LIES, And one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19).
The Biblical teaching is clear and consistent: EVERY SIN that we REFUSE to repent of — including, but not limited to the sinful practice of homosexuality — will keep us out of the Kingdom of God.
We are pleased to introduce a new feature that will be appearing in both this and future Updates. In response to requests to involve a broader segment of our readership, we have invited young people–and that includes the broadest possible definition of “young”–to contribute brief essays and personal commentaries which they feel might be helpful reflections in living Christian lives.
This column’s first author will also serve as coordinator for future articles. Michael Link (24) may be reached through Email at email@example.com. We welcome your comments and participation.]
A Constant Challenge
by Michael Link
“We’ve all been there.” That’s what the adults say. “We’re all going through this right now.” That is what the youth are saying. I am right in the middle as a young adult and I can say that I’ve been there, and on the same token, I’m going through it right now. I’m talking about peer pressure. We have all been faced with peer pressure many times, but the important thing is how we learn to deal with it.
There are many ways in which peer pressure can affect us. We go through it at school, at work, with our friends and peers, with the opposite sex, when asked about religion, and when confronted with alcohol and drugs. There are many more ways, but these listed are what I have been faced with personally. I’m sure a lot of you can relate to these situations. I’ve been through it at public school when evolution was being taught, or even at a church school (Imperial Schools) when doctrinal changes started happening in the Worldwide Church of God. I’ve been through it at work when the Sabbath became an issue. I’ve been through it with my friends and people I associated with when I was offered a cigarette and even drugs. I’ve been through it when girls outside the Church wanted to date and have a relationship. I’ve been confronted with religious questions and have been on the “hot seat” several times. These are just a few examples, and I have not always dealt with them perfectly.
We have all done things wrong in the past and we have learned from those mistakes. I can say that I have learned and am learning from my mistakes. However, that doesn’t mean that I am still not faced with peer pressure every day. I now have a better understanding of what it is that I have to do when these situations appear. We must remember that we are never alone. Whenever we are in a sticky situation, just remember that when we are willing to do it right, God backs us up.
Preaching the Gospel & Feeding the Flock
Our new booklet on war and related issues will be sent to the printer in England this Friday.
A new member letter was sent out this week. It has been posted on the Web. The letter is signed by the ministry and gives a detailed report about the most recent Church Conference and planned new projects for 2005.
How This Work is Financed
This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.
Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson
Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank
Our activities and literature, including booklets, weekly updates, sermons on CD, and video and audio broadcasts, are provided free of charge. They are made possible by the tithes, offerings and contributions of Church members and others who have elected to support this Work.
While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.
Donations should be sent to the following addresses:
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