Thursday, July 30, 2009

Defining "Christian Mindfulness"

The Eloquent Light

Image by TW Collins via Flickr

"... he who is spiritual appraises all things..." 1 Cor 2:15 (NASB)

Imagine that I invited you to worship and told you that I was going to pick you up in my car.  You would not necessarily care what the make and model of my car was, but rather where we were going to worship.  Using this analogy mindfulness is the vehicle that takes us to greater awareness and connection to the object of our worship and the world around us.  There are some distinctions between eastern mindfulness and Christian mindfulness which I will do my best to point out.  Just as prayer and meditation are a part of other world religions, I believe mindfulness legitimately holds a place as a mode of worship within the Christian faith.

Christian Mindfulness at its core is contemplative awareness by the Spirit (note: links to Scripture references).   This is contrasted with Eastern mindfulness which is non-judgmental awareness.  Contemplation is an act of the will which requires that we be fully engaged in the present moment and dependent on God's Holy Spirit, not passively experiencing the moment as eastern thought would suggest.  Contemplation is where what we know meets what we experience.  It is the process of wisdom. 

Mindfulness for the Christian necessarily involves some level understanding of the scriptures.  Without scripture our knowingness is based on experience and feelings which can lead to all sort of problems.  In order to grow in Christian mindfulness a person must develop a habit of regular meditative study of God's Holy Word.  It is His Word that makes mindfulness "Christian."  Mindfulness is a type of worship  and His Word will lead you to worship Him.  Absent of this your worship and mind will be directed at some other object (this can easily become idolatry).  Perhaps this is why we see many objects of worship (Idols) in the eastern traditions. 

Mindfulness as we already mentioned is awareness.  This is an awareness of God, others, and surroundings.  This awareness is much deeper than knowing these objects exist or are there.  This mindful awareness occurs when there is a deeper connection to the thing that one is becoming aware of.  There is a danger (especially with awareness of God) of knowing about something without knowing it.  This level of awareness is knowing the thing that you are being mindful of (intimacy).  When we know about God we are studying some theological truth;  on the other hand when we know God we experience the riches of His wisdom and the Glory of his presence.  It is the deeper sense of knowing that is mindfulness.

Mindfulness is acting out of intention rather that reaction to the world around you.  We have integrity in what we know, say, and do.  It is an acting out of God's love for you and others.  It is fulfilling moment by moment the purpose that God has for you.  It is acting without ulterior motives, but out of sincerity of heart.

Mindfulness is being filled.  This is a sharp contrast from eastern mindfulness which teaches emptying.  Emptiness is not a virtue in the Bible.  Emptiness is consistently pointed out as a danger.  So then for the Christian mindfulness is being filled with the things of God as you go through your day.  First and foremost it is being filled with the Spirit.  Then God's love and grace.  The list goes on and on as to what can fill you.  This filling comes from the Word of God and the things that he reveals to you through study, prayer, and meditation, so that is a good place to start.  Note: any meditative practice that teaches you to empty should be a red flag.  This is not Christian and can be quite dangerous in light of God's Word.

Mindfulness is the peace and contentment of God.  It is a quietness of soul that allows you to face uncertain circumstances.  It is the time when you stop wrestling with life and quietly accept the peace that God desires to give you.  It is a joy that is present regardless of external circumstances. 

Mindfulness is unreservedly giving yourself to the will of God.  Most people think of God's will as something that He wants them to do some day.  Mindfulness is accomplishing the will of God in this moment.  It is forgetting what is behind, it is letting go of future worries, and living for God in the present.  Often we imagine ourselves doing some great thing for God.  We plan on doing it "someday."  Unfortunately someday never comes for most of us and the ideas of fancy never become reality.  Mindfulness allows us to accomplish the will of God in the present moment.  At this moment you are accomplishing the will of God if you are willing.

Christian Mindfulness necessarily involves knowing Christ.  It is hearing His voice.  It is being identified with Him, His power, His ministry, and His purpose.  It is placing your faith in Him and understanding the power of His resurrection.  Interestingly it is actively striving to take hold of what God has given you.  This striving continues as long as you continue to live.  Striving is contrasted with "letting go" concept in eastern thought. 

Christian Mindfulness is Spirit Mindedness.  Romans 8 has the best description of this that I have found.  Understanding this passage of the Bible will help you grow in this area if you study it and meditate on it day by day.  Essentially Spirit mindedness is setting the mind on the Holy Spirit of God.   Contrasted with eastern thought on mindfulness which involves emptying the mind with the goal of unconditioned perfection and transcendent happiness, Christian mindfulness finds joy when the mind is set on (and dependent on) the Spirit and puts to death the things of the flesh. When cultivated this Spirit mindedness becomes moment by moment awareness of God's Holy presence and acting out of faith.  In this way Christian mindfulness comes full circle with greater (spiritual) awareness leading to increased awareness of God's Holy Spirit, leading to stronger faith, leading to increased action based on this faith, leading to greater awareness.  This process is ever growing and will become a completed work in heaven. 

Christian Mindfulness is deeper awareness of the world around you and what God is doing in you and in your surroundings;  then you taking intentional action based on faith in God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit. 

 

Next Topic "Being Unmindful"

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Christian Mindfulness

I am going to start a series of posts on the subject of Mindfulness. This started nearly a decade ago when I was at a training for Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT is a treatment approach dealing with people who have identities that are forever seeking validation in unhealthy ways. The core of DBT has the concept of mindfulness. This mindfulness is steeped in eastern thought and religion. This is not explicit to the therapy itself, but is readily recognized in the referenced and supporting literature. For the Christian adhering traditional faith this presents some problems. As it did for me as I went through the training. I came to a place where I accepted the technology of DBT, but kept its spiritual underpinnings at an arms distance.

This seemed to work for a few years. DBT has proven to be very useful in treating some fairly serious emotional and behavioral issues for clients that I have met with. In fact there is a growing body of literature that indicates that mindfulness is a powerful tool in addressing the dividedness of mind and emotional reactivity that tends to plague those suffering from mental illness.

Every time I come to this issue of mindfulness I felt deeper conviction against the philosophical and religious underpinnings. So there I was stuck between something that works and conviction that it was unchristian at best and antichristian at worst. I shared this dilemma with some trusted colleagues. One said, "BJ I think that was has happened is that Buddhists have tapped into something that is built into the way that God has made us." This interesting insight along with some encouragement from others led me to keep pressing on.

I did some research into the concept of "Christian Mindfulness" and became disappointed. There are many interesting ideas about Christian Mindfulness, but it seems that whenever I dug deeper that I ended up with "baptized Buddhism" or Christianized eastern meditations. Frankly this was very unsatisfying to me. I also was not interested in blending. This concept of blending is abhorrent to Yahweh (Lord God). So I was faced with the very real possibility of throwing it all away.

I recall praying to God asking Him (in earnest) "God if there is a Christian mindfulness please show me." Immediately several Psalms came to mind.

I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well. Psalms 139:14 (HCSB)

Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all you shining stars. Praise Him, highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens. Let them praise the name of Yahweh, for He commanded, and they were created. Psalms 148:3-5 (HCSB)

Praise the Lord from the earth, all sea monsters and ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and cloud, powerful wind that executes His command, mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, creatures that crawl and flying birds, Psalms 148:7-10 (HCSB)

The trees of the Lord flourish, the cedars of Lebanon that He planted. There the birds make their nests; the stork makes its home in the pine trees. The high mountains are for the wild goats; the cliffs are a refuge for hyraxes.
He made the
moon to mark the festivals; the sun knows when to set. You bring darkness, and it becomes night, when all the forest animals stir. The young lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The sun rises; they go back and lie down in their dens. Psalms 104:16-22 (HCSB)

In that moment I knew that God had shown me several things. First there is "Christian Mindfulness." Second, many of the Psalms are personal mindful reflections of a spiritually minded person inspired by God. Third, this type of thinking leads us into worship and appreciation of God and His divine attributes. Forth, mindfulness (in Biblical form) is far from being ungodly, but can actually deepen our connection with God.

In response to what God had shown me I dutifully thanked Him for what He had given to me. Yet He was not yet done. I packed up my stuff and walked to my car. As got near to my car I noticed a small tree. This may seem insignificant, but I had been parking by that tree for several months now and I had never noticed it before. Interesting to me I had used mindfulness as a technology for helping people and all the while lacking mindfulness in the simple activity of walking from my car to my office for months. Yet when I approached God and asked Him to show me mindfulness for the Christian He gave me the knowledge and then proceeded to give me the experience of mindfulness. At that moment I wondered how many other things I had missed along the way, but not wanting to live in the past I thanked God for that moment and committed to better understand "Christian Mindfulness."

In the next posts I will share with you what I have learned and more importantly what God has shown me over the last several months.

Next Post Defining "Christian Mindfulness"

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

My Burden is Light

Bow yokes on a bullock team

Image via Wikipedia

"Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."Matt 11:28-30 (HCSB)

He said, "Why is following Christ so hard?"   I had to agree with him at the time, but God has been showing me a different way of late.  If your walk with the Lord is difficult then something is missing in light of this verse above.  So what is missing?

Think about a yoke for a second.  What is a yoke for?  It is used on some beast of burden (Horse, Ox, etc) to pull a heavy load (cart, plow, wagon, etc).  Sometimes these are single and sometimes as a team.  The yoke purpose is to harness the power of the animal to accomplish the task of the one leading the animal. 

There are many yokes that we can burden ourselves with in this life.  Debt, work, bosses, partners in business, family members, sickness, rebellion,  and fear are a few among many burdens that we yoke ourselves with.  These burdens become our master of sorts as we try to pull them along.  In some ways they are cumulative.  Each adding to the stress of our life. 

I cannot recall my feelings when I was saved whether I felt lighter or not, but I have had others who  have come to Christ tell me that it was "like a burden lifted away."  So then what happens? 

It is my firm belief that we take these burdens back on.  However, that is not the biggest issue.  The biggest problem is that we are not willing to take on the yoke of Christ.  The beast of burden must submit his will to accomplish the work of the person leading.  As Christians we have to submit our will to the plan an purpose of Christ if we are to take on His yoke. 

The choice is simple when we realize that self-will leads to being burdened by the worries of the world and this life, and submission (taking on the yoke of Christ) leads to rest.  God will call you to work, but He will give you what you need to accomplish His work, His yoke will be easy and His burden will be light.  It just takes willingness.   A willing heart will move the difficult walk to a blessed walk every time. 

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Devil's Grammar Lesson

image 1 Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You can't eat from any tree in the garden'?"

2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. 3 But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, 'You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.' "

4 "No! You will not die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate [it] ; she also gave [some] to her husband, [who was] with her, and he ate [it] . 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

The title of my sermon this morning is "The Devil's Grammar Lesson." As I have already mentioned this morning's sermon is going to be a bit technical so if it feels more like a lecture than a sermon than forgive me. I do have a purpose in tackling this passage in this way though. You see our biggest barrier to personal holiness is sin. I believe that looking at the original sin that we can learn something about the nature of temptation and falling that we then can apply to our own lives and work on the sanctification (that is personal holiness) that God desires from his children.

This is of course the dialog between Eve and Satan in the garden of Eden. This conversation though only a few verses in length has had a profound affect on the whole of creation and the lives that we live today. At this point in the account of God's creation of the world we have seen that God has created everything and that it was good. Sometimes that word good seems so plain. I think that in the age of super, fantastic, perfect, outrageously fun, hot, excitement, wonderful, superb, blowout, greatest things competing for our attention and for the money in our pocketbook, we miss out on the good that God has to offer. Frankly God's goodness is incomparable to the wealth and wonderment that this world has to offer, and blessed are those that find it. So His creation was good. We also have seen that God has created a woman to be with man and that they have a perfect bond of love with no shame. Then enters the serpent into this land of God's goodness.

Here is an aside. Isn't interesting that the Devil and the angels that follow him seem to insert himself into our lives when we are experiencing God's goodness. Have you ever noticed that. The scriptures rightly call him a thief. He does in fact come to rob, kill, and destroy. His target is God's goodness.

So we have the devil enter this scene. I am going to use a word for word translation from Greek to aid in our discussion. Word for word translations are useful when looking at the grammar in Greek since English translations do not always capture the nuances of the original languages. The draw back of word for word translations is that they sound very choppy since we are not accustom to the grammatical structure of Greek.

The devil starts out by saying, "Indeed! that He Elohim said.." There was no formal introduction, no building up to the presentation. No chance to warm up. He right out of the gate begins his criticism of God's word. Indeed. "Af" in the original language. My interpretation would "Aw, Did God really say..." His criticism was not really from a place of understanding what God had said, but rather the intent was to call into question what God had said. We have this happening with regularity in our modern times. Every where we look we find people actively criticizing the Bible and what it says, not because they want to understand it better, but rather because they want to call it into question. There is a process of understanding the Bible called textual criticism which the primary goal is to challenge the text and press to see if the text is really saying what we think that it says. Don't get me wrong. I believe that we should wrestle with God's word until though His Holy Spirit we arrive at a deeper and more meaningful understanding, but when we call into question the things that are plainly understood in the Bible then it is not a new understanding, it is the old rebellion that was initiated by the devil himself.

He says next, "Not you shall eat from any tree in the Garden." I would like to compare this to what God said and note how the Devil works in distorting the word of God. Remember the power of Satan is not is some magnificent awesome forcefulness to inflict pain and suffering, but rather deception. Deception is the most powerful tool that the devil uses against people. What God really said was "From any tree in the garden to eat you shall eat." Notice that the serpent states God's provision in the negative. I believe that the serpent is trying to get Eve to look away from the generous provision that God has given. God said that from any tree to eat you shall eat. This double eat is a statement of abundance and blessing. God's goodness was an abundant blessing, but that is not what the serpent wanted Eve to focus on, so he starts out by saying God's provision in the negative. If she were facing some uncertain medical crisis he might say, "Surely God didn't say he would heal you?" If she were facing some finical crisis he would say, "Come on, God couldn't have said that he would give you abundant life." If a person was facing a relationship crisis he might say, "Surely God does not intend for you to love him?" The devil loves to state God's provisions and commandments in the negative. He causes Eve (and us when we buy into his lie) to question our own understanding of what God has said.

Notice Eve's response. "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we are eating." She nailed it. Her understanding of what God had provided was right on target. Notice she said "we are eating." This makes me believe that Adam is right there with her. Often times much is made of the woman being the first to sin, but Adam actually made the first mistake by not protecting his bride from this deceiver. Anyway, if she got it right then what happened? For starters she did not state the double provision that God had given them. That is to say she missed that God was not only fulfilling her need, but he was doing it abundantly. But her straying from what God has said goes further.

Notice what she says next, "but from the tree which in the midst of (literally center) the garden he said Elohim not you shall eat from it. Let's compare that to what God really said. "and the tree of the lives in the midst of (center) the garden." Notice how by introducing the thought of what God was withholding from her by stating his provision in the negative, how the devil has replaced the center of attention from the tree of life. God says that the tree of life is at the center of the garden and mention the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as being there. Eve now refers to to the tree of knowledge of good and evil as being the center of the garden and does not mention the tree of life.

How often we focus on the one thing that God has not given to us. We are unaware of the wonderful blessings that He has poured out in our lives and we choose instead to center our attention on the one thing we do not have, or that God has told us in not for us. Every tree was available and the tree of life was at the center, but now the center of her universe was the forbidden tree. Sad really to think about how much of our joy is robbed from us when we choose to focus on the forbidden. In short the devil's deception has worked. Eve is no longer has a clear understanding of what God has said; instead it has been replaced with a distorted understanding of who God is, namely He is withholding something from you.

Continuing on she says, "and not you shall touch it." No where did God say that Adam and Eve were not to touch this tree. Eve is adding on to what God said. You see adding on to what God has said can be as dangerous as taking away from what He has said. In some respects we see the roots of legalism in this statement. Legalism is a set of rules designed to keep a person from offending God by preventing unholy action. It sounds like a good idea at first, but the reality is that Legalism does not produce holiness. The only thing it accomplishes is a sense of self-reliance in that it creates a false belief that we through our actions independent of God can please Him.

Next she says "lest you shall die." When we compare what she is saying to what God has said we find the other mistake of taking away from God's word. God said "in the day of to eat of you it to die you shall die." The difference is subtle but it is very important. God states the certainty of death by saying "to die you shall die." Eve on the other hand state the likelihood or possibility of dying. I mentioned last week that we do not fear the God of the New Testament and that in fact God is the God of both Testaments. He has not changed. Like Eve I think we toy with the possibility of judgment rather than the certainty of it. Let me make this clear unless you repent of your sin you will face God's judgment! That is a certainty not a possibility. Parable?

Next the devil says, "Not to die you shall die." This is a direct contradiction of God's words. He goes on to say that if she eats of the fruit that her eyes will be opened. Open your eyes. This reminds me of the arguments that people give in protecting our children. You might hear things like, "You can't shelter them forever." or "That is old-fashioned." Don't get me wrong opening your eyes is a good thing, but what is it that you are allowing into your soul? Luke 11:24-36 says

34 Your eye is the lamp of the body. When your eye is good, your whole body is also full of light. But when it is bad, your body is also full of darkness. 35 Take care then, that the light in you is not darkness. 36 If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, the whole body will be full of light, as when a lamp shines its light on you."

That phase take care then that the light in you is not darkness. This tells me that there is false light. In this case there is false openness that leads to your whole body, your whole life being filled with darkness. The devil was not lying when he said your eyes will be opened, but he was deceiving her by making is sound like a good thing.

Satan goes on "that one knowing Elohim that in day of to eat of you from it and they are unclosed eyes of you and you become as Elohim ones knowing of good and evil." Interestingly the devil is not lying here technically, but he most certainly is deceiving. The serpent is hinting at omnipotence (that is knowing all things). They will become like God knowing all things. In fact what was the truth is that they were already made in the image of God. They were already like God. However they had not yet experienced evil.

The difficulty of this passage arises from the issue of God's sovereignty versus man's free will. God placed in us an ability to chose for ourselves moral right and moral wrong. It was not until Adam and Eve chose the moral wrong that a full understanding of good and evil really comes into awareness. Think about opposites for a moment. Let's say you are from a desert where it is always hot. If you only know hot and never experience cold then your awareness of cold being the opposite of hot is not full. You might know something of warm and hot. In this case warm would be your idea of cold.

Up to this point Adam and Eve only experienced good. God's creation was good, His provision was good, His fellowship was good, His word was good. There was only an understanding of good. That is to say an knowledge of good. By choosing that which God had prohibited using their free will they awaken a conscious awareness of evil that was not understood before. The possibility of evil existed in man's ability to chose something that God did not want them to have, but the awareness was not. Using the hot cold example; we have the ability to feel extreme cold, but until we experienced it then we do not have an awareness of cold. Interestingly this awakening aroused a moral sense of right and wrong that they instantly reacted to. The shame of evil can be quite profound.

I think that if we could have full awareness (and then not be distracted) of the consequences and destructive nature of sin before we acted I think that we would not choose it. Distracted by what? The belief that sin holds something better than what we already have in Christ, the belief that we are missing out on something when we choose not to sin, the desire for the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the desire to be great.

These last three are seen in the text. Back to the word for word translation it says "She is seeing, the woman that good the tree for food (lust of the flesh), and that yearning it to the eyes (desire of the eyes) and being coveted the tree to make intelligent of (Coveting greatness)." When we move beyond God's word, when we are unrestrained by His truth, When we cast off the desire of right living when we become a slave to lust of the flesh, desires of the eyes, and a coveting greatness. Eve had reached a point were her focus was no longer on God's provision, life, or His word, but rather on the forbidden, lust of the flesh, desire of the eyes, and coveting forbidden wisdom. Sin had a death grip on her and so she ate. I could continue on about the consequences of sin, but I do not need to. We live it every day. Sin is the most destructive force in our lives today.

So how can we apply this lesson to our lives today? First we must recognize the power of Sin rests squarely in the deception that God is not really good, nor does he have our best interests at heart. The reality is that God is abundantly good. Secondly there is a danger in adding to or taking away from God's word. I believe that the best prevention for this is regular and intentional Bible study. If you are not reading your Bible then start, if you are occasionally reading your Bible then make and effort to start reading it every day. If you are in the word everyday then continue with consistency. Understand the Word of God like prayer is essential to the Christian walk. Third, the tree of life (Christ) should be the center of our garden. True the forbidden fruit is available in our lives, but when the forbidden becomes our focus over Christ then we are more likely to fall into sin. On the other hand when Christ is the center of our life we are protected from sin. Forth, we need to have a healthy fear of and respect for God's judgment. We presume too much on His longsuffering. Fifth we need to be very careful what we allow into our lives especially through our eyes. God's word says, "Take care then that the light in you is not darkness." If we do not protect then our lives will be filled with darkness. Finally if we are waiting until it becomes and issue were we are fighting against the lust of the flesh, desires of the eyes or the coveting greatness, then we will lose to sin every time. If you are at the point of wrestling with desires this morning there is only one cure. Repent and turn fully and purposefully to Christ. If you have never given your life to Christ and are wrestling with the possibility then in a moment while I stand up front, come forward and I will share with you how you can enter into this relationship. If you need to commit to reading the Bible and Praying daily please do not wait another day start now. If you find yourself caught up in sin's grip, then please seek God.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In His Image

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26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness..." So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.  Gen 1:26-27 (HCSB)

That we are created in the image of God is one of the most precious truths of the Genesis story.  Think about it.  We are in the image of goodness, love, kindness, grace, mercy, longsuffering, righteousness, every quality that is God's is ours by image.  Bearing in mind that sin had not yet marred the nature of man God's conclusion was that it was "very good!" 

image "Let Us make man in Our image." "So God created man in His own image."  This passage also gives us a glimpse into the nature of the God head.  Note the plural and then the singular in reference of whose image we were created in.  This is the Trinity at work.  God the Father, God the Son (see John 1:1-5), and God the Spirit (See Genesis 1:2) were all present and involved Man_Made_in_the_Image_of_God (2)in creation.  Also the passage describes the God head as plural (three) and singular (one).  This is a difficult concept to understand, but God is Three in one.  This is the trinity.  And we see this truth right here at the beginning of the Bible. 

He created them male and female.  There is intrinsic value in every human being regardless of gender, race, or class.  Genesis tells us that we have equal footing before God.  We are in His image and He created us and it was "very good."  Think about it with the removal of sin (accomplished by receiving the gift of salvation) God looks down at you and says "very good."  The praise of a loving Father is powerful indeed.  God says "very good" when he looks at you and that is a blessing.

God also establishes the purpose of man in this account.  We are created to...

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Rule the fish

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Rule the birds

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Rule the livestock


Rule the Earth and all the creatures

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Be fruitful

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Fill the earth

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Subdue it

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Steward every plant

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Harvest food to eat

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Feed everything that has breath in it

It was very good!

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tamin Derek: What is in a name?

Some may wonder why I call my site by the name of Tamin Derek. Tamin Derek is a Hebrew to English transliteration. The Hebrew is in the picture to the left. I came across this when I was preparing for a Bible study a few years ago. Derek is the way or a journey. Our walk with the Lord is a journey of sorts. I think of Enoch. He walked with God and then God "took him." We now that God took him because Enoch's faith had "Pleased" God.

Walking with God is an image that is carried through out the Old and New Testaments. We walk with God along the "way" and it pleases Him. There are so many ways to go now days. There are many ways to god according to our march toward tolerance and pluralism. We accept good and evil alike (as long as it does not offend). If it does offend then we put our foot down and say no more. Unfortunately the journey that most are on is about as stable as a rope bridge. Also there is no basis on which we can say what offends us is wrong. We have become god's of our own destinies.

Tamin is the key word in this respect. God's way is "perfect (Tamin)." The modern English use of perfect has skewed our understanding a bit. Since the industrial revolution the word perfect has emphasized without defect or extreme precision. Most mechanical things need to have very low tolerance for error if they are going to work and continue to work. The perfect way though carries more of a sense of integrity, wholeness, and completeness. I believe that these carry deeper spiritual significance when compared to the strictly mechanistic idea of precision. Also integrity, wholeness, and completeness tend to agree with the origin of the word perfection.

"The Way of Integrity" to me is the best description of a walk with God. Integrity occurs when what I believe matches up with what I say, which matches up with what I do. In other words what I believe (faith) is what I say (proclaim) is what I do (good works). God's way is a path in which all of these align perfectly.

You can study the way of integrity through studying God's Word (click on links to see the Bible verses). God places us on the way of integrity when we make Him our refuge and garment. The way of integrity requires diligence, and integrity of heart at home. The way of integrity involves fellowship with like minded followers of God. The way of integrity is happiness in following God's instruction. Righteousness of this way clears the path so as to remove stumbling. The way of integrity is a "delight" to our Lord. The way of integrity is narrow. Jesus is the way of integrity. The way of integrity involves traveling lightly in this life. The Devil desires to pervert the way of integrity. False teachers will abandon the way of integrity. The early church was called "the way." The way of integrity is a better way which is the way of God's Love.

Let me ask you are you on the perfect path, the way of integrity, the road of wholeness, and the narrow route of completeness? If not then why don't you take a few minutes to pray that God would show you His way. If you are on the way then are you doing so with diligence and integrity of heart. Guard the way and keep on it all the days of your life!

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Creatures of the Earth

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Then God said, "Let the earth produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that crawl, and the wildlife of the earth according to their kinds..."  ...And God saw that it was good.

That in one day God created the creatures of the earth is awe inspiring.  The diversity of life each according to it's kind.  What is more amazing is that He built within them genetic code (the instruction book for biological life) creating a perpetual diversity of all creatures that would ever live.  Stated a different way tigers of today are connected by an unbroken chain of variations in the instruction book (genetic code) to the life of a cat created by God.  God did that.  It is truly amazing to think about. 

The creatures are also deeply connected to the earth.  Note God said "Let the earth produce living creatures,"  They are brought forth from the earth and they are sustained by the earth and it's produce. 

Save the Earth

God created the connection of generation to generation, life to life, goodness to goodness.  We can celebrate this and worship Him for his Goodness. 

He created some to be domesticated animals

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Some to be livestock

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He created some to be creepy crawly :-)

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He created some to be wild

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Some to live on the mountains

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Some to live on the sea

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Some to live in the desert

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Some in the arctic cold

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Some Small

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Some Large

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and some to be cute

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Let us praise God for his wonderful Creation.  It was Good and I think we can agree.  God bless you.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

It was really Good

 

j0182515[1] ... Let the water swarm with living creatures and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky. 

I was blogging before there was a blog.  Every couple of days I would post a statement or short story on the bulletin board at my work.  I was working on campus iKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAn a carpentry shop.  I remember one time I posted, "Today I listened the the birds.  They praised God and I heard what they said."  Shortly after posting this someone asked "What did they say?"  I replied, "You will have to go listen for yourself to find out." 

 

 

j0227564[1]God's creation is "good."  The sea-creatures and the winged birds are here on the earth as evidence of God's goodness.  We rarelyTwin Rocks at Rockaway Beach spend anytime considering these.  My family recently went to the beach.  While we were there we saw crabs, clams, and starfish.  We also picked up   some broken up seashells.  It was yet another experience of connecting with my own origins.  With my dad we picked out the old beach house that used to belong to my grandfather.  I remembered that when I was young I would walk just a block and be on the beach.   I remember as a child going to the beach with my dad and grandfather.  And now my own children having the same experience was very j0185229[1]special.  Thank You God for creating the creatures of the sea that my family may have this special experience of looking for seashells.  Now the creatures have touched four generations that I am aware of in my family.  I look forward to the fifth generation should the Lord tarry long enough for my children to have children.  ...it was good!

These special moments are there for the taking.  They are low fruit that we can pick if we only take the time to do it.  God's creation is filled with j0202223[1] goodness whether it is listening to the birds sing, three generations walking at the beach looking at sea creatures, or any other amazing revelation of God's creation.  It is his special gift to us.  I pray that I make the most of the special moments as I celebrate God's Goodness as I celebrate His Creation.  Take a moment to experience it and then spend some time thanking Him for His Goodness.  Do it today!

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Monday, July 13, 2009

The Lord of the Harvest

They say, that you shouldn't be out on a plain...

I would like to talk with you this morning about something that deeply stirs the heart of Jesus Christ. I pray that we are ready to be moved by what moves our savior. I hope that we can share in his compassion that he feels for a lost and dying world. I pray that if you don't have a relationship with Christ that you would consider today whether Christ may be holding open arms ready to receive you and heal your physical, emotional, and spiritual brokenness. Lets read from Matthew 9 verses 32-38

32 Just as they were going out, a demon-possessed man who was unable to speak was brought to Him. 33 When the demon had been driven out, the man spoke. And the crowds were amazed, saying, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel!"

34 But the Pharisees said, "He drives out demons by the ruler of the demons!"

35 Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. 36 When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." Matt 9:32-38 (HCSB)

I was moved as I learned what moved the heart of our Savior. Looking at verse 36 we can see into the heart of Jesus. He say that he was moved with compassion. Compassion is a wonderful emotion that we do not often experience. We are not moved nor do we typically see it as a quality in others. There is something deeply spiritual about compassion. There is a strong connection between the person feeling the compassion and the object that compassion is felt for. Jesus looked out at the people as he was traveling from village to village town to town city to city and was moved with compassion.

Jesus saw how they were weary, worn out, and like sheep without a shepherd.

Weariness is a hard place to be. The Greek paints the word picture of being flayed, troubled, or harassed. Life is filled with conflicts that lead a person to feel weary. At times it may feel like you are being cut up by the world around you. Maybe some other person is tearing you apart. There is trouble in this life. We all face difficulties (some more than others), but I think that we all can understand trouble. Harassment is weary when it does not stop. The devil likes to harass. He continues on and on and on. He gets a foothold in your life and mounts a harassing attack that is difficult to recover from. Sometimes other people can harass. They keep on bugging you with distractions, interruptions, or with words you do not want to hear. We all can relate to the weariness. I have good news for you Jesus sees your weariness.

As if weariness is not enough then we can become worn out. There are some here this morning that are worn out by life. It has become "too much" You are cast down, flung out, and tossed about in this life.

Jesus looked out and saw that they were like sheep without a shepherd. I know this is not going to sound pleasant, but I become more and more convinced that people are like sheep. We need a shepherd to guide us through life. Give us freedom and we certainly make the worst of it and get ourselves into all kinds of trouble. The people were starving for Spiritual truths with no one to guide them to green pastures. They were lost without hope. And this moved the heart of our savior. He did not say pitiful creature. He was moved with compassion. Pity and compassion are similar. However pity is the sorrow and regret that is felt toward another's misfortune. It is possible to feel pity and not be moved. It is possible to feel pity and keep on walking by. It is possible to feel pity and do nothing. Compassion is different in this way. Compassion is an awareness of another's suffering with a deep desire to relieve the suffering. You are moved with compassion. It is not possible for compassion to walk on by. It is not possible to feel compassion and do nothing.

Jesus felt compassion for these that were weary, worn out, and like sheep without a shepherd. This morning Jesus feels compassion for those that are weary worn out, and like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus does three things when he is moved with compassion in this passage. First he heals. There was a man possessed by a demon. This demon caused the man to be mute. When the man was brought to Jesus he cast out the demon and the man talked. The ailment was cured. Jesus also would heal various sickness and diseases. His compassion led him to act and bring healing to those people. I have recently come to understand that miraculous healings are given to us as a sign of authority of Christ. These healing were no doubt amazing to behold, but they were not an end to themselves. They were a sign to give audience to what he was saying.

Jesus taught. Everyday Jesus was teaching the Word of God. He was enlightening the people with wonderful and uplifting teachings. He also was confronting error and sin with his teaching as well. Jesus brought hard teachings as well as explaining that His yoke was easy. At first this might seem a contradiction. It has to be received by faith. You see everything that Jesus taught was hard if it was not received by faith. But if it was believed then it becomes the most glorious truth that one can experience. It brings peace and comfort to the weary, worn, and lost soul. The whole of this book the Bible is filled with the wonder of God and if we receive it by faith then we ourselves will certainly be blessed.

Jesus preached the Good News. The good news is the Gospel. It is the message. It is the path from this life into eternity with God. Good news is the path of peace. Good news is the power of spiritual victory and life. Good news is to all, but only some will receive it. Like Jesus' teachings it also must be received by faith. It is Good news to those that receive it. Jesus preached the Kingdom of heaven when he shared the good news. John 3:16 is the good news summed up.

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (HCSB)

God loves you so much that he sent his son (Jesus) to die for you. Why did Jesus have to die? Sin. Your sin, my sin, the world's sin. Sin means that we miss the mark. Let's face it we all miss the mark. We cannot even live up to our own standards let alone God's standards for life. We fall short. When we fall short then we are helpless without any hope of entering into a relationship with God. That is until God sent His Son Jesus Christ. It is not enough that He sent Him though. There has to be a response. We have to believe in Christ to be saved. When we believe in God's son Jesus then we have eternal life. We will live on with God in Heaven in His Kingdom. What must one do to believe in Christ. We have to turn our lives over to Him. We are sheep without a shepherd at best, but we are sheep with doubting, hateful, hurtful shepherds at worst. We need a shepherd. You may not want to admit it, but we need to be shepherded in this life. Believing in Jesus is allowing Him to be the Shepherd of our live. If you have never submitted your life to Christ as the shepherd of your life would you be willing to do that today. He is moved with compassion for you and is willing to bring you peace. Are you willing to receive it? Jesus preaches the good news.

So how did the people respond? Some by faith! The people that witness the miraculous healing of the mute man were amazed. The recognized that nothing like this had ever been done before. I have to say that in my work as a counselor I have the opportunity to be amazed. Jesus now works through the Holy Spirit of God to bring healing into people's lives. I see it every day where God is working to bring some kind of healing. Unfortunately not everyone was amazed. The Pharisees doubted. Some respond by faith others by doubt. The Pharisees took their doubt to the next level. They accused Jesus of casting out demons by the ruler of demons. Their doubt was not a lack of faith, but rather an out and out rejection of the person of Jesus Christ as well as profaning the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about these miracles of God. They were rejecting the sign of Jesus' authority given by the Holy Spirit's Power!

Jesus asked the disciples to pray. He was a man and could only be in one place at a time. As he looked out at the people he saw a task that was greater than his humanity. While on earth Jesus limited himself to dwell in the flesh as we are in the flesh. Imagine a God sized compassion bound to live with the limit of the flesh. The sheer agony that he must have felt as he looked upon those people. So he asked the disciples to pray that the Lord of the Harvest would send out workers. So they prayed.  Consider this story.

One Sunday morning after preaching, I was standing at the exit of our Church shaking hands and thanking people for coming. A young man who was a first time visitor began to exit with tears in his eyes. He paused as if to ponder something over deeply and then walked in my direction. He extended his hand towards mine and with a firm handshake began to tell me that he had made a decision to take a different course for his life. "I know that I will be all right now," he said, "I have carried this too long and now I have made up my mind to live." He did not want to speak more . . . just thanked me and shook my hand once more as he left.

I have often received things in a hand shake. People have "palmed" me money for special needs within the church. But, I have never received anything like what that young man gave me as he shook my hand and left the church. Inside a folded up one dollar bill was a live round from a 38 caliber hand gun. The young man had been pondering committing suicide and with the encouragement found in God's word -- had changed his mind.

Every now and then, I take out this little "treasure" that I keep in a drawer of my desk. It helps me to focus on how important the work of the Lord is. My prayer is that each Christian could realize the impact that they can have -- and treat each day as if it might just be -- somebody's last. (My Little Treasure, Rev Shelton Cole, http://www.sermon.org)

Is it possible for us to be moved, filled with the compassion of Christ to make a difference in somebody's life?

Some responded with faith, Some responded with doubt and some looked on with compassion and awareness of the size of the task before them.

We have the same choices this morning as the people present before Christ did on that day.

Are you weary this morning? Have you been flayed by the circumstances of your life? Good news Jesus sees and is moved with compassion!

Are you worn out, cast down? Have you been flung out like trash? Do you feel tossed about? Good news Jesus sees and is moved with compassion.

Do you feel lost? Has your life lost direction and purpose? Are you looking for something someone to believe in? Have you become hardened by the lies and deceit of the politicians and grieved by the infidelity, lack of morals, absent integrity of our leaders? Good news Jesus sees and is moved with compassion.

So how will you respond? Please do not harden your heart as the Pharisees did. Jesus wants to bring healing and hope into your life, but he cannot do this unless you receive him by faith. You need to turn your life around! Why not make today the day you turn around and received the gift of salvation that God is providing right now. Don't wait. We don't have any guarantees of how long we might live. Tonight your soul may be required of you. Can you meet Jesus knowing that you have trusted in him? Please do not wait until it is too late.

The workers continue to be few. As I look at the task of rescuing souls I am personally overwhelmed at the task. One of the reasons I feel it is so important to teach faith evangelism class is because I see a harvest of souls that is way beyond anything I could hope to reach in a billion life times. And I only get one. We need workers. We need them now. We are nearing one of the saddest times in the life of the Body of Christ. If we continue the path we are on now there will be a tipping of Christians here on this earth. That is to say more people will be going to meet Jesus in heaven than those who are being reborn by faith. This is a desperate time. Every generation of the churches has experienced growth in the Body of Believers. Ours is a time of decline. In the last decade in the United States there was a 9% decline in church membership. There was an 11% growth in the population over that same period. Taken together that would a 20% total swing in just the last ten years. Could it be that we now stand at one of the most infamous moments in church history a decline in the Body of Christ? I say no! I say we take our stand here! I say no more walking though life with pity and no compassion! I say no more lost souls never hearing the Gospel on our watch. Will you stand with me. Will you look on the people with the eyes of Christ. Will you dare to be moved with compassion to reach the weary, worn out, lost souls. The harvest is ripe! Pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out workers to bring in the harvest. Pray that God would fill your heart with compassion, that he would move you, that you would take action to bring light to a lost and dying world. The time is now, the harvest is ripe. Let's pray!

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thankful for VBS

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I remember the very place that I received Christ as my Lord and Savior.  I had just finished the third grade and one of the neighbor kids invited me to Vacation Bible School.  we sang songs, played games, did crafts, and heard stories.  I remember the feeling of love and peace in that place.  Even now as I am thinking about it I can feel those feelings again.  It was a very special time.  I remember when someone asked if anyone wanted to learn more about going to heaven.  I of course thought it sounded great.  Who would not want to go!  Right?  Sad to say there are some that are more concerned about this life than then next that they miss the opportunities to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Where I was saved

Then a girl took me up the stairs (I think she must have been a youth).  She presented the Gospel to me and at the end asked If I wanted to receive Jesus Christ so that I could go to heaven with God when I died.  I said "yes."   We prayed and I was reborn on that day.  I thank God for that ministry of Vacation Bible School.  I thank God for the vision of that early (Southwest Hills) church meeting in a house (pictured above) and now meeting here.  How different my life might have turned out if I never had that opportunity.  I thank God for divine appointments.  They are those life changing moments in which God supernaturally steps into your world and radically changes your life.  It starts with a commitment to Him.

I wish I knew who that girl was so I could thank her for giving her time that summer to watch over a bunch of loud obnoxious kids, but more importantly to watch over and care for their young souls.  If you work in VBS I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  And so does every other kid whose life you touch.  That was nearly thirty years ago (for me) but they thank you just the same. 

You have not participated in VBS?  Take some time to have an eternal impact on the souls of the children that live in your neighborhood.  You will not be disappointed (even if it takes 30 years to say thank you; or maybe in heaven;-)

Father I thank you for all the VBS workers.  It is a perfect picture of the Body of Christ working together for the Kingdom of God.  In Jesus Name AMEN

Click here to learn more about salvation (accepting Christ). 

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

In the beginning...

Some people wonder where we have come from. There is a strong connection that we often feel when we are looking at where we have come from. Just today (as I am writing this) I was able to visit an apartment that I lived in when I was just 5 years old. I am sure that my wife and kids were thinking "what is the bid deal." In fact the apartment was noting special. And yet it has a strong connection for me! It is where I have come from. It is special (if only to me). Maybe you have a similar experience as you visit some place from you past or think upon some memory from long ago.




My home

I am also reminded of when we visited the Oregon trail interpretive center with the kids. There is a rich history for people who live in the northwestern United States. We have a heritage of those who gave up so much to settle here. Even if we are not direct descendant of the pioneers we are connected to them as they forged the way for those that would follow. It is a special history. It has a strong connection if we let it.

Connections are very important. We are living in a time that it can be very easy to head down the path of disconnect and never look back until we come up missing. The problem is that we can go so fast and so far that we can not only lose our way, but we can completely forget that there was a way at all. Lost, disconnected, people without a past, and in many ways without a future as a result.

In the beginning...

Those words are words of understanding, connection, history, belonging. In the beginning can be some of the most lovely words to a wayward soul. In the beginning can remind us of our connection to, people, places, the world around us, the universe, and most importantly to God. In the beginning is the third most precious gift that God could give us, first life, second new life (salvation) and then the story of how we got here. That may seem a bit over dramatic to you, but if it does I believe that it is because we have lost our sense of connection to God as the creator of the universe. We have lost our purpose to connect and worship our creator. We should be in awe every time we contemplate origins.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Before that it was empty, formless, without any substance. Before God spoke there was nothing and at his word fullness came. Before God no light after God He said let there be and there was...

...Light. Think about the nature of light. It dispels darkness. It puts an end to the darkness. It penetrates the darkest corner. It gives life. Everything is dependent on light for life. He was the light and the world was in darkness. He brought light to us. He invented light. He spoke light into existence and it was good. What would life be like without light? God is the light of men. He dispels our spiritual darkness and give us spiritual life. God said let there be...

Tehran Sky

...sky. He wrapped the earth lovingly in a very important blanket we call the atmosphere. Oh the wonders that this atmosphere contains. If I were to post them all this lesson would become very long. Celebrate: oxygen (we need it to breath), carbon dioxide (plants need it to breath), the clouds and rain (bringing life giving water), the ozone layer (protecting us from the sun intense rays), on and on. Minor changes in the content of the earth's atmosphere would have life impossible on this planet. God spoke the sky into existence and it was Good. What praise can you give to the Lord for his perfect wrapping of this planet we call home? God said let there be...

...water and land. Land indeed is a very handy thing! Well it is good and it was God's idea. Again like the atmosphere the land was just right for life to exist. It is perfect to produce life and sustenance for life. Praise His great provision. Many are separated from the land. We get our food out of plastic and metal. We are thankful for the food itself (most of the time), but we have lost our sense of connection to the dirt that made that food possible. We are more inclined to think of dirt as an inconvenience than a blessing. The same goes for water. "Rain rain go away come again another day." Bless the Lord for his wonderful provision of water. Thank Him for the earth beneath our feet. Give Him glory for His perfect plan to sustain life on this wonderful place that he has given us to live. He also caused the land to be productive. Food was His idea. We are sustained by God's goodness every time we eat! We are sustained by God's goodness every time we breath in oxygen produced by the vegetation around us. Think upon your favorite fruit and now say, "It is Good!" Thank you Lord for your wonderful provision we praise your mighty hand! God said let there be...

...Stars, moon, and Sun. Up to day 4 it is likely that God was the source of light (see John 1:5; Psalm 104:2; Habakkuk 3:3-4; and Revelation 22:5). On the forth day God created the Sun and placed it just right to sustain life.

The moon to give light to the night sky and to regulate the tides, and months.

The stars to guide the seasons.

Stars

I think we have lost connection with the lesser lights. Our own light (man made light) becomes a barrier to seeing the magnificence of God's created "lesser lights." The next time you are away from the bright city lights stop for a moment and see what the night sky looks like and be amazed. See the hand-iwork of God.

The next time you feel the warmth of the Sun imagine how cold how lifeless we would be without it. It would not take long for life to cease existing if the sun were to stop giving it's light. How dark it would be how that darkness would completely envelop us and surround out with a soul killing darkness. Lord we thank you for the light. Not just the "greater light" that governs the daytime sky, but for the light of Your word. The Light of Your Son. The Light of Your Truth Amen. It was good; And God said let there be...

Next Topic Creatures on the earth.

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