Recent: Pastor’s Journal Posts

Learning Contentment

Originaly Posted on May 2, 2014

By Rockne Dahl, Interim Pastor

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength,” Philippians 4:11–13.

Feeling contented (or satisfied) is a great problem in our day isn’t it? We are told to “love people and use things” but the stress to get ahead persuades many to “use people and love things” instead. Costs keep going up, rents keep going up and wages remain stagnant—if you can get a job and then dodge the waves of layoffs. Life is a rat race and the rats are winning! Who can rest contented or be satisfied with the way things are?

Paul says he learned how to be content in any and all circumstances. He was content even though he was chained to a Roman guard day and night in a cold, damp prison called the Mamertine, which was actually a huge water cistern. We would expect that being a prisoner with a serious threat of execution hanging over his head would have left Paul feeling the opposite of everything the word “contentment” might mean. And how could he possibly be content while cold, hungry, and without benefit of friend or companion? But, some how he had learned the secret of being content in all circumstances. Of course Paul knew that he could do anything through the One who gives us all strength.

In the most recent issue of Scientific American, I read a thrilling article entitled “Is Anybody in There?” The article, written by Adrian Owen who is a cognitive neuroscientist, details the latest successes in communicating with patients who appear to lack consciousness. In recent years improvements in trauma care, roadside care and intensive care has led to more people surviving serious brain damage, alive but with no evidence of preserved awareness. However, Owen and colleagues at Western University in Ontario have found a very difficult but revolutionary way to communicate with patients who are in deep levels of unconsciousness.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging which measures blood flow (and portable EEG units), researchers found that two tasks unconscious patients could perform mentally were playing a game of tennis or walking from room to room in their home. If an unconscious patient is instructed to imagine a game of tennis, brain activity shows up in the premotor cortex. If the patient imagines touring from room to room in their home, brain activity is activated in a deep brain region containing the parietal lobe and the parahippocampal gyrus. If the physician asks a question that the patient wants to give a “yes” to, the patient is asked to play a game of tennis in his imagination. If the researcher wishes to ask a patient a question and the patient wishes to respond with a “no” answer, the patient is instructed to imagine walking from room to room. Remarkably, the first time this technique was tried with a seemingly vegetative female patient, she responded perfectly. The researchers concluded that

although she was unable to respond physically to external inputs, she was in fact, conscious. Patients have been able to answer multiple questions about their lives.

Now for the amazing conclusion to this report: “A 2011 survey of 65 patients with locked-in syndrome—a condition in which consciousness is intact, but the body is paralyzed—suggests that people have a surprising capacity to adapt to extreme disability; most expressed satisfaction with the quality of their lives.” If patients who are completely paralyzed can find satisfaction with their lives, what about you and me?

I suggest that even patients who appear to be deeply unconscious can be aware that caregivers and family care about them and love them. The “unconscious” can hear us even when they cannot respond to our presence and words of love. Hugging the unconscious loved one is not a wasted effort. The conscious need to bask easy in the truth that other people care and love us. We need to know that our community of faith has our back just like Paul knew that the churches were praying for him. If somebody loves you, don’t sweat the small stuff. Even in the deepest darkness or life or consciousness, people can still feel the presence of God and his love.

And good memories help, too. The patients could recall playing tennis and walking around in their homes. Right now this moment may be anything but pleasant. But praise God Jesus gave his life for us. Recall the good old days when you were happy like the lambs out on the hillside. Those days will come again if you are conscious of God’s love, or, even if you are unconscious and only can feel a gentle presence.

Peace,
Rockne 

 

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Reflections on the Resurrection

Originaly Posted on April 25, 2014

This week, we’re sharing quotes from significant theologians reflecting on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What do you think?

“The point of the resurrection is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die. What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it. What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

“Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ. This is something that anyone who knows me could tell you, and I am not afraid to say it publicly, no matter what some people may think…

I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.

However there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed.”

Pete Rollins, “My Confession: I Deny the Resurrection”

“We call the name of the One before whom the evil in us cringes, before whom fear and anxiety must themselves be afraid, before whom they shake and take flight; the name of the One who alone conquered fear, captured it and led it away in a victory parade, nailed to the cross and banished it to nothingness; the name of the One who is the victory cry of the humanity that is redeemed from the fear of death—Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified and lives. He alone is the Lord of fear; it knows him as its Lord and yields to him alone. Therefore, look to him in your fear. Think about him, place him before your eyes, and call him. Pray to him and believe that he is now with you and helps you. The fear will yield and fade, and you will become free through faith in the strong and living Savior Jesus Christ.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is In the Manger

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The Day God Died

Originaly Posted on April 18, 2014

By Dannon Rampton

Today is a unique day. Many of our worship services focus on the life of Christ, the life that God is breathing into our world and the lives we live as Christians in this world, but today on Holy Sabbath we commemorate the day Christ was in the tomb.

One common criticism of Christianity is that we tend to put on cheery faces most of the time, hiding the darker side of life away out of sight. “We have this hope,” you see, and we want to encourage each other to overcome life’s trials. “Don’t worry,” we say, “God is in control. God works everything out for the best.” We stand on the promises of God, asking for the Divine Power to help us prevail. We celebrate the positive things we see God doing in our lives, and dream of a better world to come.

But some 2,000 years ago, God died. I can only imagine how his followers must have felt that weekend. They had left everything to follow Jesus. For three years they had traveled with him, watching him do miraculous things and listening to him teach about the Kingdom of God. But in the span of two days, all their hopes and dreams came crashing down to earth. God was dead. Their world was shattered. They were broken, numb.

Sometimes we feel that way too. Let’s be honest about this. Life isn’t always sunshine and flowers. Sometimes our dreams are shattered, leaving us broken, numb. We call to God for deliverance and all we hear is silence. It feels like God is dead.

Typically, at this point Christians too often say, “Cheer up. All is not lost. God works in mysterious ways—your prayers will be answered; you just have to wait on God’s perfect timing.”

…But not today. Today let’s acknowledge the emptiness. Let’s give space to our feelings of loss and despair. This Holy Sabbath, let us listen to the silence. Let us open up the raw, bleeding parts of our lives and admit that we have felt hurt, abused and disappointed. There are things that have not gone as we’d hoped. All of our dreams have not come true. Where is God in this?

Our scriptures give precedent for this. With the Psalmist we cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I find no rest” (Psalm 22).

God understands these emotions. 2,000 years ago, part of Godself was tortured and crucified. In Christ, God walked the way of suffering and defeat. God has felt the pain of rejection, the dark cloud of hopelessness. That weekend, all of the Divine wept with Christ’s disciples. When it was done, God rested.

My prayer is that you too can experience God’s rest. When life seems hopeless and dark, know that God feels that with you. When you feel rejected or defeated, know that God understands. And when it feels like God is dead, may God give you the courage to rest awhile. There is peace in the silence. Sometimes what we most need is to simply rest in God’s silence.

Peace,
Dannon

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Living The Berean Life

Originaly Posted on April 11, 2014

LIVING THE BEREAN LIFE
By Andrew Froemming

“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:15–16.

Last week—and really for the whole year—we are focusing on the overwhelming theme of the Bible: Love. This week I challenge you to join me in a quest to love people back to life while living a Berean life.

What do I mean by a Berean life? Acts 17 says, “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.” Living a Berean life is about an eagerness to learn and grow while studying teaching and scripture to best follow God’s directive to love Him and our fellow man as He loved us.

In Matthew 7 Jesus rebukes what the Jews were taught by their religious leaders. Jesus also teaches us to see God’s view of genuine and pure religion. In Matt. 7:1–3, Jesus tells us that genuine followers of God will not see themselves as above anyone. Don’t think it’s your responsibility to judge others because God will judge you like how you judge others. Besides, as a sinful person yourself how can you try to correct someone else’s insignificant issue when your own perspective is askew from the gargantuan weight of your own sin?

Jesus then reminds us that God’s call to us is a call to love. “Do to others as you would have done to you for this is the essence of the directive I have given you.” Jesus then explains in three different ways that not everyone will will get into the Kingdom of Heaven because it is much easier to follow a selfish path instead of God’s directive of love. Jesus concludes by saying “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.” But those who build on their own accord with fall flat on their face when the storm comes.

Friends, like Jesus we are living in times of polarizing rhetoric. Even though we have different points of view sometimes God calls use to love one another. Any teaching that does not call you to love others is a teaching that is not from God. To those that have fallen victim to or have been hurt by such teachings keep seeking after the God of Love. This next week, let’s knock on the door, sit at Jesus’ feet, and ask Him to create a clean heart and renew a right spirit in us.

Peace,

Andrew

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Loved to Life

Originaly Posted on April 4, 2014

By Andrew Froemming

“…we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as he commanded,” 1 John 3:23.

This week I titled the journal “Loved to Life” because I want to take a few minutes to reflect on the idea of spiritually and emotionally loving someone back to life. I don’t believe that this concept is really new to us here in Hollywood but to others this idea can be scandalous—even causing them to make all kinds of claims about those that practice this principle. However, the Bible has a lot to say about love. So let’s see what insight we can gather from our guide book.

Loving people back to life is never an easy process; it calls for commitment to the long haul and can require deep sacrifice on the part of the lover. The Bible says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). In this verse Paul makes sure to point out the scandal that God’s love for us is by saying while we were still sinners Christ died for us. By the time Jesus came to this earth the religious community thought that they were better then everyone because of how meticulously they kept all the laws that they had developed. Then Jesus in came to this earth and showed us a scandalous way to live. Jesus said, “Listen, adding more laws and restrictions to your life and meticulously keeping them does not make you more pious than anyone else. In fact, let me make it really simple for you: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments’” (Matthew 22:37–40).

God’s message to us is all about love but because of sin we have lost the knowledge of how to love. Matthew 24 says, “Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.”

What is the good news of the Kingdom that the Bible talks about? It’s explained in the verse we read in Romans. The Good News of the kingdom is that while we were “still dead in our sins” Christ came to this earth to love us back to life. We didn’t deserve Christ’s love but He came and loved on us anyway. After God melts the ice on our undeserving hearts, Christ says, “Now go and do for others as I have done for you.” This next week let’s look for opportunities to love on people without expecting anything in return.

Peace,

Andrew

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The MIA Christian

Originaly Posted on March 28, 2014

By Andrew Froemming

“All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on himself the sins of us all,” Isaiah 53:6. 

What happens when, like this passage from Isaiah says, you go spiritually missing in action? When you follow your own path? This week let’s take a few minutes to explore the nature of God’s unfathomable love for us.

Throughout the Bible we see that if we trust anyone other than God in the same way we would trust God, we are going to be let down and hurt. However when we put our trust in God He is the only one that will not let us down, leave us or hurt us. When we trust God things may not go the way we would have liked or planned but that does not mean that God has left us. In fact God says in Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or terrified because of them [your adversary], for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”

So what will Jesus do when you go missing in action? To find the answer to that question let’s look at a story Jesus told in Luke 15:

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

This story illustrates so beautify the tender and caring heart of God. Many people have an idea of a god that is waiting for them to do something wrong so that he can strike them down and put them in hell. In contrast with a vengeful god, Jesus shared with us the true heart of God: that while we are still lost, wandering without God, He seeks us out. When He finds us, God picks us up and caries us home on His shoulders.

God loves me deeper than anything I have ever experienced. Jesus loves me so much that He was pierced through for my transgressions, He was crushed for my iniquities; the chastening for my well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging I was healed (Isaiah 53:5).  Friends, it doesn’t matter who you are, what you have done, or where you’re at. Jesus is out calling your name, looking for you. When you answer Him, He will pick you up and carry you home and have a party because you are home. This next week let’s be intentional about sharing the love that God has bestowed on us.

Peace,

Andrew

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Claim the Word

Originaly Posted on March 21, 2014

By Rockne Dahl, Interim Pastor

“Claim the Word,” Rockne Dahl

“No weapon formed against you will prevail.” Isaiah 54:17. 

Every day, it seems, there is something new to contend with. You get plagued with gnats of misfortune all day long. Read your email and jumping into your face is some really annoying news. Turn your key and the car won’t start. The neighbor gets her jumper cables but the engine refuses to budge—must be the alternator is out. And your roommate has splattered up the bathroom mirror again! How many times have you told that person? If you are like me, when everything that can go wrong does go wrong your mood won’t be mellow. My spiritual move is to claim the promise of Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon formed against me will prevail!” I predict that when you claim the Word of Isaiah 54:17 your mood will change towards the upside because you will enter a God reality. No problem, big or small, will prevail over you if you receive, or claim, the Word.

What do I mean by “claim the Word”? Jesus told us to “Ask, believe and receive.” I usually ask for the same things every day: “Lord, please bless my plans, my grandchildren, bless all the sick people I know, and help me get my exercise in because I need to be fit.”  Of course I believe that God will bless—that is, send good things to me and the people I pray for. But “receiving those blessings” is where the bafflement usually comes in because so often I ask and seem to receive not. Claiming the Word means that I believe that I have received the hoped for blessing whether or not I actually see it, whether or not I can empirically say, “I have received it.” And this is the most significant part of receiving the Word—I must act as if I have received the promised blessing and act on it.

Jesus told the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda, “Rise, take up Thy bed and walk.” The man was not healed until he started to get up in response to Jesus command. He believed first. Then, he claimed the Word by acting in response to the Word and he was made whole. Ten lepers came to Jesus for healing. He told them all to go and show themselves to the priests. As they went, says the scripture, they were healed. By starting towards their hometown priests, even though they did not feel healed, they were healed in the very act of beginning a journey of faith.

If we truly believe that “no weapon formed against us will prevail,” then appearances to the contrary, we can claim a God reality. A God reality is knowing that God’s will shall prevail and nothing any enemy or weapon can do will defeat His purpose.  Our hopes may be realized or not. But God’s purpose will stand.

Last year I was invited by a wonderful church friend to anoint her mother who was at the very door of death due to the enemy’s attacking her with a weapon called “stroke”. A huge crowd of family and friends crowded the hospital hallways. Her mother lay quiet and still, non-responsive. Three pastors were present. We prayed and anointed. We believed. We claimed God’s Word on her behalf. And she did pass. But the enemy’s weapon did not prevail because we entered into a God reality where the only thing that matters is that God’s will might be done. Yes, she took a blow from the enemy’s weapon but that weapon shall not prevail because she will rise again. That is the reality that we claimed for her and for ourselves.

Peace,

Rockne

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The Unfair God

Originaly Posted on March 14, 2014

By Andrew Froemming

I hope that the title of this journal caught your attention. This week I want to play with the concept of “God’s nature of fairness.” Now before you get concerned that I am sacrilegious take a moment to hear me out. I believe that the Bible shows that God is both Fair and Unfair. Let’s take a few minutes to dig into Scripture and reflect on the nature of God.

The Bible has lots to say about God’s fairness and justice. Romans 6:20–21 says, “For when you were slaves of sin, you lived without regard for righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.” The Bible is very clear that God allows us the freedom to choose who we will serve and what we will believe. He is also very clear that our sinful life earns us an inheritance of death.

In Genesis we find the story of Eve and the serpent. The serpent told Eve if she ate the fruit of the tree that God said not to go near her eyes would open and she would be like God knowing good and evil. Prior to eating the fruit we were programmed to have free choice with our default nature drawing us to a relationship with God. We are told that God personally meet with Adam and Eve each day. After eating the fruit the couple became aware that they were no longer clothed with God and were reprogramed to be gods themselves with the awareness of right and wrong.

The Bible talks about the unfair part of God in Genesis 2:17, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” A fair God would have said, “Okay, you knew the rules—ZAP!” He could have killed Adam and Eve or anyone who sinned. But God is not fair in that after we sin he offers us a gift. “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

I have learned that God loves me and that love causes Him to be on my side. He does not want me to accept the wages that I earned. Instead he wants to give me a new dress clothes and bring me into the wedding party that is heaven—but he can’t make me accept his gift. Friends, the odds are ever in your favor with God! All you have to do is accept the free gift and trade in your wages of sin for a free ticket to eternal life. This next week let’s take time to thank Jesus for the odds ever being in our favor and let’s spend time getting to know him more.

Peace,

Andrew

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All You Need Is The Right Kind of Love

Originaly Posted on February 27, 2014

By Andrew Froemming

“Love one another in the same way I love you, you love one another.” John 13:34

This week I had several conversations with people about the word love, so I decided to research the topic. I know that we often tend to use the word love to mean different things but it had never really occurred to me that there are different kinds of love. In C.S. Lewis’ book The Four Loves, I read that we can express four different kinds of love: storge (affection), philia (friendship), eros (romance) and agape (unconditional love).

Jesus tells us a story in Luke 15 of a father and two sons—and unconditional love. The youngest son ask his father for his portion now of his father’s wealth that he should get when his father died. After receiving his inheritance he skips town and goes to a different country. There he makes friends that love living the high-roller life-style his wealth affords them. Soon the money dries up for this young man, and his “friends” leave him. Left with nothing the son is forced to work for a farmer. Because there was a famine in the country not even his work could keep him from going hungry. One day he thought, “I have hit rock bottom. If I stay here I will die from hunger. But if I go back to my dad’s place

I could ask to work as a servant on his farm. I know I don’t deserve to have any favors after the disgrace I put our family through but as a servant at least I will have food to eat.” So the son headed home. While the son was still a long way off his Father saw him and ran to him, hugged him and kissed him. He ordered that the finest clothes in the house be brought for his son and a party to be thrown in his honor.

Jesus told this story so that we would know how he sees us. We are like that son: we have often treated God as if God were dead. Despite such disrespect, God spends His days searching the horizon waiting to see a glimpse of me. When He does, God will run to us and tells His secretary to get the Gucci and Chanel that He had made for me in my size and God will call the event planners because I came home.

Each and every day God offers unconditional love to the world—and to you. God has laid His cards on the table. He sent His son to the world to pay the bill for all the damage that we have done. This was a death sentence for Jesus: He died so that we could receive the free gift of salvation. The Bible challenges us with these questions: What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us (Romans 8:31). If God is who God says He is then no one can be against us. With our struggle already won we are called to love each other as God loved us. What a joyful task! This next week, let’s live in victory and share God’s love with someone.

Peace,

Andrew

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Out of the Pit

Originaly Posted on February 8, 2014

By Rockne Dahl, Interim Pastor

One of my favorite scriptures is found in Psalm 40:1–3: “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” Verse 4 adds: “Blessed is the person who makes the LORD his trust.”

Many people struggle to get out of their own personal slimy pits such as drug de- pendency, depression, illness or chronic debt. A friend of mine, Pastor Jeff, felt called to the ministry so he enrolled at Pacific Union College. He and his wife had little money so they found a chicken coop which had been converted into a rental house. It was all they could afford. Jeff’s wife became very depressed. Maybe it was the fragrance of the chickens which had lived in their rented accommodations; maybe it was the distance she felt from her family home or their lack of money; no one ever knew exactly why she became depressed. But with severe depression comes a fall into helplessness. My friend’s wife became incapable of doing anything for herself. For an entire year he had to

feed her each and every meal. She was in a deep psy- chological pit.

Pastor Jeff tells the story of how he found the pas- sage quoted above in Psalm 40. He claimed this scripture as God’s very own promise to him and his wife. Every day he read it. Every day he prayed over it and claimed it as God’s word to him. Every day he took care of his wife. He fed her, bathed her, helped her get dressed and loved her the best he could even though despair sometimes crowded into his own heart—and gradually she got better. Gradually she got well as God lifted her out of the mud and mire and set her feet on a Rock.

The next time you meet someone stuck in a slimy pit read this scripture to them. Tell them that God will turn and help lift them up if they wait patiently and trust him. God may lift them up by means of earnest prayer, or a therapist, or self-help books, or the love of a friend or a support group, but he will lift them up—it’s a promise! Ellen White said that “God has a thousand ways to help us of which we know nothing.” The point of Psalm 40 is hope. God wants to help us find firm standing on the Rock. He wants to put a new song in our mouths.

Corrie Ten Boom wrote: “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”

Peace,

Rockne

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