A new Reformation song with Bob Kauflin

I’ve written a new song with Bob Kauflin to express some of the key truths of the Reformation. It’s a song that can be sung at any time, but this October is the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 theses so we hope it might serve to mark the occasion.

The truths of the Reformation are often summarised as five ‘solas’ (from the Latin word for ‘alone’): Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone and to the glory of God alone (soli Deo gloria). Each verse takes one of these solas as its theme with the fifth sola (glory to God alone) forming the basis of the chorus. There’s also an optional fifth verse which can be sung on Reformation Sunday – the nearest Sunday to the 31st October.

The lyrics are below. Here’s a link to a lead sheet and chord chart. Bob has also recorded a demo which you can download here.

 

Your word alone is solid ground,
the mighty rock on which we build.
In every line the truth is found,
and every page with glory filled.

2. Through faith alone we come to you,
we have no merit we can claim,
sure that your promises are true,
we place our hope in Jesus’ name.

     Gloria, gloria, glory to God alone.
     Gloria, gloria, glory to God alone.

3. In Christ alone we’re justified,
his righteousness is all our please.
Your law’s demands are satisfied,
is perfect work has set us free.

4. By grace alone we have been saved,
all that we are has come from you.
Hearts that were once by sin enslaved,
now by your pow’r have been made new.

     Gloria, gloria, glory to God alone.
     Gloria, gloria, glory to God alone.

Optional final verse for Reformation Sunday:
And on this Reformation day
we join with saints of old to sing;
we lift our hearts as one in praise:
Glory to Christ our gracious King.

Tim Chester and Bob Kauflin

© Copyright 2017 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI). Sovereign Grace Music, a division of Sovereign Grace Churches. All Rights Reserved.

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Q&A on Exodus for You

I was recently did an email interview on Exodus for You.

  1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Exodus?

I had been doing some working on the theme of new exodus in biblical theology so it was a great opportunity to explore the foundations of that theme in the original exodus. But I was also keen to get into the detail of the building of the tabernacle – the (large) section of the book of Exodus that is so often ignored. In particular I had some hunches about its link to creation that I wanted to pursue. Above all, I love preaching Old Testament narrative because it allows you to preach Christ in fresh ways.

 

  1. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

I think of the God’s Word for You series as ‘expository guides’, although there is a commitment to cover every verse. I guess my two main audiences were Christians wanting something to guide their personal reading of Exodus and pastors wanting help as they seek to preach Christ from the Old Testament.

 

  1. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to the study of Exodus?

The commentary reflects a strong commitment to Christ-centred biblical theology. That means looking forward to the fulfilment of exodus, law and tabernacle in Jesus. But it also involves looking back to creation and Adam to see how exodus, law and tabernacle function as a blueprint for the renewal creation in Christ.

 

  1. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

I particularly enjoyed working on the descriptions of the tabernacle and seeing their connection back to creation and on to Christ. It was great to be able to rehabilitate the best of an older tradition of exposition in this area. Also, the meal of Exodus 24 connected with previous work I’ve done in my book, A Meal with Jesus (IVP/Crossway). I also loved working on the parting of the Red Sea and making the connections to the ‘baptism’ of Jesus at the cross and to Christian baptism. It allows us to present salvation as moment of high drama.

 

  1. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Surprising as it may seem, it was probably description of fixtures and fittings! The fixtures and fittings of the tabernacle signal God’s intent to dwell among his people in a new creation and they point to how Christ will accomplish this. I loved tracing the connections between the cloud that shrouded Mount Sinai and the altar of incense – which was basically a cloud-making machine in the tabernacle – both of which are designed to shroud the consuming glory of God. This then sets the scene for the ascension of Jesus in which he passes through that cloud into the presence of God on our behalf.

 

  1. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Exodus?

The technical commentary I found most helpful was Exodus by John Mackay, published by the Mentor imprint of Christian Focus. It’s a good introduction to the meaning of the Hebrew text without expecting you to know Hebrew.

 

  1. What’s next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I’ve written 2 Samuel for You so that will be coming out soon to accompany my book, 1 Samuel for You. And I’m in the middle of working on Revelation for You. I have a couple of other books coming out soon. Rediscovering Joy is an introduction to the message of the Reformation in the form a three-way conversation between the Reformers in 16th-century Europe, Paul in 1st-century Galatia and us today. It’s published by IVP in the UK and Crossway in the US. The second book is Bible Matters, an introduction to the doctrine of Scripture with a particular focus on the relational nature of Scripture as the place in which we hear God’s voice. It’s published by IVP in the UK and InterVarsity in the US.

Exodus for You is available here from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. as well as thegoodbook.comthegoodbook.co.uk and  thegoodbook.com.au.

This interview was conducted for the up-coming website http://www.bestbiblecommentaries.com.

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The Easter story in four paintings: #4 The return to mission

I’m telling the story of Easter in four paintings of the Emmaus story. Our second and third paintings highlighted how Christ is known through his word and around the table. Our final paitning draws attention to a key implication of this: the call to mission.

Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In 1601 Caravaggio, the Italian artist, also painted this scene. This portrayal of Christ is unusual in that Christ is beardless, perhaps representing the disciples’ failure to recognise him at first. The picture is bold and dramatic. The man on the left of the picture is in the act of pushing his chair away in astonishment.

But there’s also a sense in which he is pushing his chair out towards us. A tear in his sleeve draws our attention to this. It’s as if he is pushing his chair back to create space for us to move into the picture. Jesus’ arms are extended, notionally in blessing, but in fact inviting us forward. And the disciple on the right hand side has his arms fully extended in the most dramatic of postures. The lines of the painting all converge to beckon us into the picture. And as if that was not enough, a basket of fruit is teetering on the edge of the table, demanding that we leap into the picture to catch it. Caravaggio is trying to lure us into the scene as active participants. Christ’s outstretched arm is inviting each us to sit with him at the table.

The encounter with Christ is a call to action, to involvement, to participation. You can’t remain a passive observer. For these two disciples it means a radical change of plan. Look at verse 33: ‘They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem.’ They literally retrace their steps by returning to the city.

Think how significant that is. They do what they had urged Christ not to do – they take to the road at night with all the dangers that involves. But more than that, that morning they were the ex-followers of an executed traitor, full of disappointment and fleeing arrest. In the evening they return to the city. They return to mission. It’s a mission with threat and danger attached. But they return because now everything has changed.

This material is adapted and expanded from a chapter in my book, A Meal with JesusA Meal with Jesus is available here from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.


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The Easter story in four paintings: #3 Christ is known around the table

I’m telling the story of Easter in four paintings of the Emmaus story. Our second painting highlighted how Christ is known through his word. today our third painting highlights how Christ is known around the  table.

Luke 24:30-31: ‘When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him.’ Christ is known around the table. Christ is known through the Christian community. That’s why church planting is so important.

Now this might be stretching a point where it not for the fact that meals feature so prominently in Luke’s Gospel. Someone has said that in Luke’s Gospel Jesus is always going to a meal, at a meal or coming from a meal! And meals the message of Jesus. As he eats with tax collectors and sinners – God’s enemies – he embodies God’s grace. Meals are the way Jesus enacts community and mission. So it’s entirely appropriate that he reveals himself through a meal.

Not only that. There are echoes here of the feeding of the 5,000. Both take place as the day is ending (9:12; 24:29). Both are preceded by other suggestions about the identity of Jesus, including that he might be a new Moses. Both involve the same sequence of Jesus taking bread, blessing it, breaking it, giving it. And the meal for the 5,000 was the means in Luke’s Gospel by which Jesus is known as the Messiah. Peter’s confession comes immediately after the feeding – this great meal that Jesus provides. Now the meal at Emmaus is the means by which Jesus is the known as the suffering Messiah.

Jesus is known at the breaking of bread, at the meal table, sharing food with friends and enemies. The first image of church that comes into my head is always a meal table with bread and wine. Christ is known in community.

We mustn’t separate Christ known around the table from Christ known through his word. We’re not talking about some kind of mystical knowledge, but the word embodied in a meal. The two disciples immediately connect the word and the meal. Look at verses 31-32. ‘Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked to us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”’ Their eyes were opened around the table because the Scriptures were opened to them on the road.

This is my experience. I have plenty of moments when Christian community wears me out, winds me up, drives me crazy. But I also have moments when I look at my brothers and sisters and know the presence of the risen Christ. There are moments when you see him incognito among the rag-tag people sat squeezed round the table. You see it in our diversity – a diversity that has no explanation except the work of God. You see it when someone ‘gets it’ or hearts are melted. You see in the love people show to one another.

 

Paolo Veronese [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s Paulo Veronese’s version of the Emmaus story. It feels a bit lop-sided because on the left we have a space for the first part of the story – the initial encounter of the road to Emmaus. More significantly, it feels to me almost like two paintings, one on top of another – a painting of the Emmaus story super-imposed on a painting of a 16th-century Venetian family. At one point in his career Veronese got into trouble with the church for including too many features of daily life in a depiction of the Last Supper. The religious world and the domestic world were not supposed to overlap.

But that’s exactly the message of the resurrection. Christ is present in your gospel communities. This painting is in some ways too crowded. It’s chaotic. At the front the two girls are playing with their dog while a boy plays with a puppy. But here in the middle is Jesus. It’s as if Jesus has turned up in a Venetian family home.

And that is what happens each in your gospel communities. They can be crowded and chaotic. But the story of resurrection is being played out as you meet. Christ is hidden in our world. We don’t yet see his resurrection glory. But he’s present in your gospel communities. He’s revealed in your love for one another. Never under-estimate the power of the Christian community to communicate the gospel message.

This material is adapted and expanded from a chapter in my book, A Meal with JesusA Meal with Jesus is available here from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.


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The Easter story in four paintings: #2 Christ is known through his word

I’m telling the story of Easter in four paintings. The story our first painting highlighted our culture’s loss of transcendence. But we said the Emmaus story suggests two ways in which Christ may yet be known in our world. Here’s the first … 

The second painting is by James Janknegt is a contemporary Catholic artist from the Unites States. The key thing about his painting is the way he captures the connection to the Bible story in bubbles depicting Moses raising the bronze snake, Jonah being thrown to the whale and so on. Jesus is known through his word, through the message of the Bible.

In Luke 24 we’re told three stories that all take place on the same day: early morning at the tomb, afternoon on the way to Emmaus and in the evening in Jerusalem. And all three stories have a similar pattern:

  • People are bewildered, disappointed and fearful (4-5, 18, 21-22, 37)
  • People are rebuked (5-6, 25, 38-39)
  • People are taught Christ’s words or the Scriptures (6, 8, 27, 44-45)
  • People are taught that the Christ must suffer and die (7, 26, 46)
  • The result is they go and tell others (9, 33, 47-48)

The message of these three stories is the same: the disciples should not have been bewildered or disappointed because they should have realised from the words of Jesus and from the Scriptures that Jesus had to suffer and die.

Here are the angels at the tomb. And the women come along, confused and bewildered by the empty tomb. You might have expected the angels to say, ‘You foolish humans, you haven’t got a clue have you. We could tell you and thing or two. We’ve seen his heavenly glory. We’ve followed the story. Let us tell you what happened.’ But no, what do the angels do? They remind them of Jesus’ words.

Here is Jesus himself, the Word incarnate, freshly risen from the grave. Surely he would simply speak and the world would listen. But instead he conducts a Bible study. The Risen Christ on that first Easter Day made himself known through the Scriptures. And we can make him known in the same way. Only the exposition of the word will cause people to say: ‘were not our hearts burning within us’ (32)

No-one in the Easter story has a clue what’s going on until Jesus explains it from the Bible. No amount of human wisdom or philosophy or contemplation will tell you the meaning of the Jesus’ resurrection apart from the Bible.

In Luke 16 Jesus tells the story of a beggar called Lazarus who lives at the gate of a rich man. When they die Lazarus goes to heaven with Abraham while the rich man goes to hell. The rich man wants Abraham to send Lazarus with water to cool his pain. When he is refused, he makes a second request. He asks Lazarus to be sent to his brothers to warn of God’s judgment. Abraham replies: ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead’ (16:31). In other words, God’s word is enough. God’s word is all we need. Nothing else will persuade us if God’s word does not persuade us – not even apparitions of the dead.

When we get to Luke 24 we read of someone who has come back from the dead – just as the rich man requested (16:30). But what he does is proclaim the word of God. Look at verse 31: ‘Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.’ Jesus disappears, but his word remains. This is Luke’s message to us.

How do we make Christ known? Through the Bible.

This material is adapted and expanded from a chapter in my book, A Meal with JesusA Meal with Jesus is available here from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.


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The Easter story in four paintings: #1 Our loss of transcendence

I want to tell the Emmaus story of Luke 24 in four paintings. Here’s the first …

The Spanish artist Diego Velázquez depicted this scene in 1618 in a painting called “Kitchen Maid with the Supper of Emmaus”. Jesus and the disciples are portrayed in the top left corner. But the picture focuses all our attention on the kitchen maid. The astonished look on her face as she overhears their conversations suggests she has just realised that a dead man has eaten her food!

The meal is hinted at, but it is all washed and tided away. The central item is a piece of rag. The supernatural world has collided with the ordinary world. That’s what happens as a result of the first Easter. God’s coming world invades our dying world.

One of our problems is that we know the end of Easter story so well. We know that Jesus is risen. And so we find it hard to enter into the disappointment, grief and loss of the disciples on the Emmaus road. ‘We had hoped,’ they say.

Yet many people today are following their own version of the Emmaus road. They are walking in disappointment. They are walking away from hope. For many this involves walking away from the church.

It’s striking that Jesus does not begin with a resurrection pronouncement. He begins with a question: ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’ (17) Luke captures the drama of it. ‘They stood still, their faces downcast’ (17) They’re walking along the road, but they have to stop, stand still, pause before they can begin.

Jesus gives them space to tell their story, to share their pain, to speak their disappointment. We may need to do that as well. The more we understand people’s struggles, the more our message of resurrection will connect with them.

But it’s not just individuals who are walking their version of the Emmaus road. Our world is between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. “We had hoped,” our culture says. Our world used to be full of hope, full of visions of progress – capitalism, socialism, scientific progress, liberalism. All shared a common sense that history was an onwards, upward march (all distorted forms of Christian hope). But our postmodern world has a strong sense that progress comes at a cost: poverty, terrorism, pollution, social fragmentation. ‘We had hoped.’ But now hope is disappearing.

We increasingly live in a world in which the Bible story seems out of place. People are not interested in our message. Christianity is passé. People today no longer think they need God. We’ve written God out of the European story. He didn’t create the world and he won’t bring it to an end. God is part of our history, but not part of our future. We’ve grown up and no longer need the faith in God that primitive people or children need. We can live without God. Our culture is on the Emmaus road, heading away from Jerusalem.

What’s interesting about Velázquez’s painting is that sometime after it was finished, the painting was altered by its new owner. A few centimetres were cut from the left-hand margin (so that one of the disciples is missing) and the Emmaus scene was covered over. The original version was only rediscovered in 1933 when the painting was cleaned.

Not only that, but I can show you what it used to look because there’s a second version without any reference to the Emmaus story. We don’t know whether it was by Velázquez himself or someone copying him, but the second version has edited out the Easter story.

Diego Velázquez [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Picture #1. Our world has lost transcendence

It’s a symbol of our culture. This is what we’ve done. Our culture has removed the divine. We’ve edited out transcendence. And what are we left with? Rags! In Velázquez’s original painting there is a wonderful collision of eternity and time that transforms everyday life. The rag is elevated. It has just been used to serve God. all of life, everyday life, is full of God’s glory.

But when you take away transcendence, when you edit Jesus out of the picture, you’re just left with rags.

Christ is hidden in our world. He has ascended into heaven to receive all authority and glory. But we don’t yet see that reality on this earth. Colossians 3:3-4 says: ‘For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.’ The return of Christ is more often described in the New Testament as a manifestation. The reign of Christ is now hidden. But one day it will be revealed. All the earth will see his glory and every knee will bow.

In a world in which Christ is hidden, how is he known? The story provides two answers – each of which will be represented by another painting.

This material is adapted and expanded from a chapter in my book, A Meal with Jesus. A Meal with Jesus is available here from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.


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Explore the Reformation in your daily devotions

A review of 90 Days in Genesis, Exodus, Psalms & Galatians: Explore by the Book with Calvin, Luther, Bullinger & Cranmer, edited by Lee Gatiss (The Good Book Company).

2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Last year I published Why the Reformation Still Matters with Mike Reeves and in June I have another, shorter introduction to the Reformation coming out from IVP entitled Rediscovering Joy: The Dynamic Power of the Reformation in Galatians.

Meanwhile my wife and I are half way through 90 Days in Genesis, Exodus, Psalms & Galatians. This follows the pattern of the Good Book Company’s Explore notes. Each day there is a reading with notes based on a work by a leading Reformer. The editor, Lee Gatiss, has made some lights edits of the test to avoid archaic language as well as adding reflection questions, application and prayer idea (although to be honest we have been ignoring most of these). The result are genuinely helpful devotional readings in bite-sized portions that also give you a flavour of Reformation theology. I highly recommend it, whether nor not you read them 2017.

90 Days in Genesis, Exodus, Psalms & Galatians is available from TheGoodBook.co.ukThe GoodBook.com and The GoodBook.com.au.

 

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Crosslands Press Release

Launching today (3rd April 2017), Crosslands aims to provide excellent in-context theological training and resources for churches and church leaders in the UK, Europe and 10:40 window in order to:
  • Make and mature disciples of Jesus Christ;
  • Equip Christians and Christian leaders in partnership with local missional churches;
  • Nurture a culture of multiplication and church planting; and
  • Invest in the next generation of missionary theologians.

Formerly operating as the Acts 29 Oak Hill Academy, we are passionate to see the cross of Christ reigning over these lands and our students crossing-lands for the gospel.

There are many good theological institutions in the UK and Europe already; we praise God for the work that they do.  However, Crosslands is a new kind of organisation, a Flexicademy™ that offers flexible learning and rigorous training, leaning on the extensive church planting experience of Acts 29 and the exceptional theological training expertise of Oak Hill.

Steve Timmis, CEO of Acts 29 said: “The launch of Crosslands is exciting, timely and strategic.  Exciting because we want Christians to be stirred for Christ as a result of theological education.  Timely as Crosslands equips for mission those who can’t train at great institutions like Oak Hill for all sorts of reasons.  And it’s strategic because it will connect people for gospel collaboration in the UK, Europe and 10:40 window.”

Dan Strange, Acting Principal of Oak Hill Theological College said: “In our too-often fractured evangelical sub-culture, it’s been a really encouraging and positive experience to be partnering with Steve Timmis, Tim Chester and the rest of the Acts 29 team. We are very different organisations but share the same vision and values for the kind of gospel training that Crosslands will provide”.

For aspiring leaders, ordinary congregation members and even new Christians, Crosslands wants to serve you with gospel training when and where you need it.

About:
Crosslands™ is registered as a UK charity, number 1167211 with hubs in the English Midlands and Dublin.
It offers a three-year seminary-level theological education for aspiring church planters, assistant leaders, apprentices and even those already in ministry out of hubs in the English Midlands and Dublin.  Currently there are 45 students on the course, with plans to open hubs in French- and German-speaking Europe soon to meet demand for next year.
Its foundation-level courses for congregation members, small group leaders, interns and elders are available through its partner Biblemesh in English and are currently being translated and contextualised into ten European languages to serve the 400+ students currently being trained.
Entry-level courses for new Christians are being produced this year.
Acts 29 is a diverse, global family of church-planting churches, characterized by theological clarity, cultural engagement and missional innovation.
Oak Hill Theological College is a long-established UK provider of full-time and part-time residential accredited evangelical theological training for Anglican and Independent churches, mission, and youth and children’s work.

When Christians annoy you #3: remember Christ died for us

In our first two posts on how to respond when other Christians annoy you, based on Romans 14-15, we saw that we’re to remember Christ died for them and Christ died for us. In this final post we consider the importance of remembering that Christ died for us.

3. Remember Christ died for us (Romans 15:7-13)

The church in Rome was probably planted by, and among, the Jewish Diaspora. Then the Jews, including Jewish Christians, were forced to leave Rome. We know this from Acts 18:1-2: ‘After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome.’ Overnight a Jewish-dominated church became a Gentile-dominated church.

But when Claudius died his decrees died with him. So at that point Jews (like Priscilla and Aquila) could return to Rome. Again, we know this because in Romans 16:3 Paul says: ‘Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow-workers in Christ Jesus.’ In other words, by this point Priscilla and Aquila are back in Rome.

Now, can you imagine what conflicts this might create? A Jewish-dominated church suddenly becomes a Gentile-dominated church. And then all the Jews come back. Actually we don’t have to speculate. We know what they were arguing about. We know there were tensions over eating meat offered to idols and observing the Jewish Sabbath.

So how does Paul respond? Look at verses 7-9a: ‘Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.’

Christ became human, became a servant, died on the cross for the Jews – to rescue the Jews, to fulfil God’s promises to the Jews, to redeem the Jews so they could be his people again.

But Christ also became human, became a servant, died on the cross for the Gentiles – so the Gentiles might receive mercy, so the Gentiles might become God’s people, so the Gentiles might join the Jews in praising God.

Look how Paul continues in verses 9b-12:

As it is written:

(And, by the way, is Paul’s way of saying, ‘I didn’t invent this. This has been God’s plan all along.’)

     ‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;
I will sing the praises of your name.’
Again, it says,
‘Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.’
And again,
‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles;
let all the peoples extol him.’
And again, Isaiah says,
‘The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
in him the Gentiles will hope.’

God’s plan has always been that through the death of Jesus Jew ad Gentile would come together to form one people of God, one choir singing God’s praises.

And not just Jew and Gentile, but people from every ethnic, social, economic background are brought together through the death of Christ. Christ died for us, to create us as God’s people, to break down divisions.

Christ didn’t die to create a divided church with Christians fighting one another. He died to create a united church with Christians singing with one another – with all our diverse voices coming together in harmony:

  • together glorying God for his mercy (verse 9).
  • together singing the praise of his name (verse 10).
  • together finding hope in the reign of Jesus (verse 12).

Instead of moving apart through arguments, we’re to come together in worship.

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