Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: Faith

Volume 3 No. 171 September 26, 2013

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Autumn Season Scene
Waiting for the Fall (Autumn) Season
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Foreword

Bible Readings for This Sunday (September 29)

Bible Readings For the 3rd Sunday After Sleebo Feast
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_3rd_sunday-after-sleebo.htm

Sermons for This Sunday (September 29)

Sermons for the Third Sunday After Sleebo
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_3rd-sunday-after-Sleebo.htm

Inspirational: Napoleon Hill's Twelve Riches of Life

Featured: On Being Faithful in a Few Things Before Being Ruler Over Many Things

The Lord Jesus gives a penetrating analysis of the state of the sinner and some very sobering advice to us, would-be saints, in today's Gospel. Let's look at the Gospel in two stages: The Analysis of the Sinner and the Advice to the Saints....

A Life of Faith - Papal Theologian on the Grace of Faith

Every time we make an act of faith, the power of God comes out of God and fills us. The initial act of faith comes from God, but it still requires a response from us. ...

Dependence of Faith on Free Will

Faith based on external experience has little value; it's actually not faith but ordinary knowledge. True faith is born of inner experience; it demands sensitivity, a spiritual up-lifting, and, therefore, is worthy of praise. ...

Three Irreducibles of the Christian Faith

The following are non-negotiable, irreducible, most basic aspects of the Christian faith:
- To follow Jesus means change, change and more change.
- The best way to know we will "fit" in Heaven is to love the things of the Lord now in this life.
- The only way into Heaven is through the Door, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Unseen Force Of Faith

your faith should be based on the word of God. Paul calls it the word of faith. That means you could say, If ye have the word of God as a mustard seed... . The word of God is designed to change things. The word of God is the original force of all forces. ...

Walking Your Faith

Being a true Christian means living with a passion for God, and a willingness to go the extra mile. It means living with vision, and not settling for the bear minimum your faith requires. It's seeking to know an unfathomable God, and realizing that He will always have something new He wants to teach you. ....

Support Your Faith Not Your Fear

The next time panic tempts to stretch your faith beyond what you think you can bear, rely on God's support. His truths provide the strength and stability you need to do more than conquer your fears. It will empower your faith. ...

Family Special: Four Battles of the Single Christian

Singles deal with many battles on various platforms, some of which are the same as the battles of  married friends. However, many battles are unique to singles. Here are a few.

The View from Inside Syria

In my city of Homs it was a very beautiful peaceful city. We were Christians, Muslims from many religions living together. My best friend was a Suni. And other one was an Allawi. We never thought about religion except for marriage. And now my peaceful city is almost dead. ...

From Bad to Worse: Syria's Christian Dilemma

When American troops overthrew the secular (but murderous) regime of Saddam Hussein nearly a decade ago, Muslims took advantage and began persecuting Iraq's Christians, forcing many to flee (ironically, to neighboring nations such as Syria). Today, only about a third of the Christians of Iraq remain in that country. A similar pogrom could await them and their Syrian brethren. ...

Foreword
This issue of Malankara World Journal was prepared almost entirely during my return trip from India to USA in the plane. As such, it was prepared offline and then will be added online. Although I will try to correct any formatting errors, it is possible that there may be still few left when it reaches you. I apologize for them in advance. Although we try for perfection, it has to be tempered by practical considerations.

The last three weeks had been quite hectic. I had to make an emergency trip to Kerala to send my mother to her eternal home. I felt that time was frozen from the time I heard the news to the time I reached Kerala. The grief of losing one's mother, tempered by our belief that she has completed her journey and has gone to her eternal home; spending time with the mother's body vs. interacting with people who have travelled great distance to attend the service and to covey their condolences; comforting the other siblings as the eldest son - these were the conflicting emotional state when I arrived in Kerala. HG Abraham Mor Severios gave a very touching eulogy highlighting the role of the Mothers in our lives. Although I listens carefully to all the sermons, I cannot recall a sentence of the sermon. My brothers and sisters and others commented highly about this sermon. Catholica Bava's eulogy was short and to the point.

I want to thank specifically Rev. Fr. Roy Paul and V Rev. Moolayil Corepiscopos, Board members of Malankara World and Rev. Fr. Stephen, who had been associated with the founding of Baselios Church in Ohio - for their coming to the funeral in spite of a very busy schedule. Rev. Fr. Kadavumbhagam, previous vicar of Marth Mariam Cheriapally, E. Pampady - my home parish - and Rev. Fr. Kizhakedathil of Manaracadu Church and previous diocesan secretary of Kottayam Diocese were two priests who organized the whole program at great personal cost and sacrifice. I also thank all the bishops and priests who came and helped us heal.

As we march towards the end of the church liturgical year, and concentrate on the second coming of the Jesus and end of times, this issue of Malankara World Journal looks at our faith and what that means to us. Bible is quite clear that we need to Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. Faith and belief are Required and not optional.

John 3:16-18
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever BELIEVES in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He who BELIEVES on him is not condemned: but he who does not BELIEVE is condemned already, because he has not BELIEVED in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Romans 5:1
Therefore being justified by FAITH, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

John 6:47
(Jesus Christ said) He who BELIEVES in me has everlasting life.

Acts 16:31
BELIEVE in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved

Acts 10:43
Every one who BELIEVES in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

John 11:25-26
(Jesus Christ said) I am the resurrection and the life. He who BELIEVES in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and BELIEVES in me will never die. Do you BELIEVE this?

Please remember and pray for the Christians being persecuted in the middle east for their faith. Everyday we hear stories of atrocities committed to our brethren. The whereabouts of the two abducted bishops are still unknown. Please pray and talk to your representatives about helping to find them.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (September 29)

Bible Readings For the 3rd Sunday After Sleebo Feast

Sermons for This Sunday (September 29)
This Week's Features

Inspirational: Napoleon Hill's Twelve Riches of Life

by Napoleon Hill

1. A Positive Mental Attitude
2. Sound Physical Health
3. Harmony in Human Relationships
4. Freedom from Fear
5. The Hope of Achievement
6. The Capacity for Faith
7. Willingness to Share One's Blessings
8. A Labor of Love
9. An Open Mind on All Subjects
10. Self-Discipline
11. The Capacity to Understand People
12. Financial Security

We can become complete masters of ourselves, if we so desire. The main thought to bear in mind is first to gain the knowledge, and secondly to apply it.

Source: You Can Work Your Own Miracles. Fawcett Books, Random House. 1996. Excerpt from pgs. 79-85.

Featured: On Being Faithful in a Few Things Before Being Ruler Over Many Things

by Msgr. Charles Pope

The Lord Jesus gives a penetrating analysis of the state of the sinner and some very sobering advice to us, would-be saints, in today's Gospel. Let's look at the Gospel in two stages: The Analysis of the Sinner and the Advice to the Saints.

I. ANALYSIS OF THE SINNER

The Lord Jesus describes a sinful steward in the opening lines of this gospel. Let's look at the description:

A. DELUSION (of the sinner)

Jesus said to his disciples, "A rich man had a steward" – Notice he is called a steward not an owner. God is the owner of everything, we are but stewards. A steward must deal with the goods of another according to the will of the owner. This is our state. We may have private ownership in relation to one another. But before God we own nothing, absolutely nothing.

Part of the essence of sin is to behave as though we were the owner. We develop an arrogant attitude that what I have is really mine to do with as I please. We think, "It's mine, I can do what I want with it…..I call the shots…..I can do as I please with my own body…." and so forth. But the fact is everything belongs to God.

Scripture affirms, The earth is the LORD'S, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein (Ps. 24:1). Even of our bodies which we like to think of as ours, Scripture says: You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Cor 6:19). And old song says, "God and God alone created all these things we call our own. From the mighty to the small, the glory in them all is God's and God's alone…." So the Lord defines the sinner as a steward, though the steward acts as if he were an owner.

B. DISSIPATION (of the sinner)

Who was reported to him for squandering his property. The Lord here describes the essence of many of our sins: that we dissipate, we squander the gifts of God. We waste the gifts we have received and using them for sinful ends.

For example in greed we hoard the gifts he given us to help others. Instead of helping, we store them up only for ourselves. Yet all the goods of the world belong to all the people of the world and they ought to shared to the extent that we have excess.

Other examples of squandering the things of God are in gossip, lying and cursing wherein we misuse the gift of speech; in laziness wherein we misuse the gift of time; in all sin wherein we abuse and squander our freedom. This is dissipation, this is the squandering of God's goods.

God has given us many good things, and instead of using them to build the Kingdom, we squander them and dissipate the kingdom.

C. DEATH (of the sinner)

He summoned him and said, ‘What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.' – Here the Lord teaches and reminds us that someday we will all be called to account and our stewardship will end. Elsewhere scripture reminds us So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body (2 Cor 5:9 ).

We have an appointed time to exercise our stewardship but our stewardship will end and the books will be opened. Here too Scripture reminds: And books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. (Rev 20:11)

While it is true that many pay little heed to the fact of judgement Scripture warns Say not, "I have sinned, yet what has befallen me? For the Lord bids his time. Of forgiveness be not over-confident, adding sin upon sin. Say not, "Great is his mercy, my many sins he will forgive." For mercy and anger are alike with him; upon the wicked alights his wrath. Delay not your conversion to the Lord, put it not off from day to day. For suddenly his wrath flames forth; at the time of vengeance you will be destroyed (Sirach 5:4).

Every steward (us) will die, our stewardship will end, and we will be called to render an account. It thus follows that we ought to listen to the advice which the Lord next gives.

II. ADVICE TO THE SAINTS

After analyzing the sinner the Lord has some advice for those of us sinners who want to be saints. He gives Four principles we ought to follow:

A. Principle of INTENSITY

The text says, The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.' He called in his master's debtors one by one. To the first he said, ‘How much do you owe my master?' He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.' He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.' Then to another the steward said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?' He replied, ‘One hundred kors of wheat.' The steward said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.'And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting shrewdly. For the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. –

The Lord is telling us here many of the worldly are more crafty in what matters to them than the Spiritually minded in what (supposedly) matters to them. The fact is many of us are very intense and organized when it comes to worldly matters. We spend years of preparation in college training for careers. We work hard and are dedicated to climbing the company ladder.

In worldly expertise many are dedicated to developing skills, and becoming incredibly knowledgeable. In earning money and holding a job many display great discipline, getting up early to go to work, working late and hard to please the boss.

But when it comes to faith many of the same people display a third grade knowledge of things spiritual and show little interest in advancing in the faith or of praying. They will please the boss, please man, but not God. Parents will fight for scholarships for their children to get into the best schools. Students will compete for scholarships. But when it comes to saving truth, the pews are empty, Sunday School is badly attended.

To all this, the Lord says to us here that the spiritually minded ought to show the same intensity, organization, dedication and craftiness that the worldly show in their pursuits. We ought to be zealous for the truth, for prayer, for opportunities to sharpen our spiritual skills and increase our holiness. We ought to be as zealous to be rich in grace as we are to be rich in money. So the first principle the Lord gives us is intensity.

B. Principle of INVESTMENT

I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. -

As to what the Lord means by "dishonest wealth", read here: What does the Lord mean by "Unrighteous Mammon"

The Lord tells of how the dishonest steward made use of the money at his disposal to make friends who would help him in the next stage of his life. How about us? Are we willing to use our money and resources to bless others, especially the poor, who can bless us in the next stage of our life?

On the day of your judgment will the poor and needy be able to speak up on your behalf? Will they be among the angels and saints who welcome you to eternal dwellings? I don't know about you, but I am going to want the poor to pray and speak to God on my behalf the Day I am judged. Scripture says that the Lord hears the cry of the poor and needy.

In this world the poor need us, but in the next world we are going to need them. In this world those with money and power get heard, in the Kingdom it is the poor and suffering who get heard. It is a wise investment to bless the poor and needy.

In effect the Lord Jesus tells us to be wise in our use of worldly wealth. Just as the world tells us to take our wealth and invest it wisely so that it will reap future rewards, so the Lord says the same thing. He says, "Use your money wisely. Invest it well." How? By storing it up it up in up in heaven. How do we do that? By giving it away! Then it will really be yours.

You can't take it with you but you can send it on ahead. Scripture elaborates this elsewhere: Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Tim 6:17) Notice how the passage says that through their generosity here the rich lay up treasure in heaven.

This is the scriptural principle and the great paradox in the Kingdom of God: that we keep something eternally by giving it away. We save our find our life by losing it, we keep out treasure and store it in heaven by giving it away.

So invest my friends, invest wisely! Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matt 6:20)

C. Principle of INCREASE

The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?

What is the "small matter" of which the Lord talks and in which we can prove trustworthy? The small matter is money. We make money the most important thing in life. But Spiritual matters are more important.

Scripture attests to this clearly: The Book of 1st Peter says our faith is more precious than fire-tried gold. The Book of Psalms (19:10) says The words of the Lord are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.

So God says let's see how you are in the small but significant matter of money, then I'll see if you are able to able to handle bigger blessings. Do you think you can handle heaven and the spiritual blessings of holiness? Well let's see, if you are trustworthy with worldly wealth, God will give you true wealth. If you're trustworthy is what belongs to God, he'll give one day what is yours.

You want more even here? Use well what you've already received. Then God will know he can trust you with more. You want increase? A gospel song says: You must faithful over a few things to be ruler over many things. Be faithful unto death, and God will give you a crown of life.

D. Principle of INDIVISIBILITY

No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.

Pay attention. To serve, means to obey. Most people obey money, affluence and worship the American standard of living before they obey God. They meet their world obligations first and then give God what is left over.

But we are called to obey God alone, to have an undivided heart. The wording here is strong You CANNOT obey the world (money) and think you're also going to obey God. You have to choose what will be more important.

Now don't tell me we don't need a lot of grace and mercy here! Money and the lure of the world is very powerful. It's to get on our knees and pray for a miracle to prefer God to the world.

Source: Archdiocese of Washington

A Life of Faith - Papal Theologian on the Grace of Faith

By Edward Pentin

Since around the time of the Reformation, too much emphasis has been placed on providing answers for the faith generated by science and reason, and not enough on how a life of faith begins.

This is the view of Fr. Wojciech Giertych, O.P., the Pope's theologian, who shared his opinion on the all-important aspect of the beginnings of faith which he sees as especially crucial during this Year of Faith.

Fr. Giertych explained how St. Thomas Aquinas, in his definition of the virtue of faith, says this virtue has a dual function. "He uses the expression 'beginning of eternal life', and so begins the eternal life within us, and it adapts our mind to accept that which is not evident."

But he added that from about the 16th century, with the Reformation and the Enlightenment, a major focus was placed on the second part of that definition – eternal life. The Church had to react to scientific and rational enquiry, but as a consequence, the beginning of a life of faith was hardly examined.

"This wasn't denied," he said, "but in some sense it wasn't brought to the fore, it wasn't developed." Citing the late American theologian, Cardinal Avery Dulles, he likes to call this the "first installment of grace."

"When we make an act of faith, which is possible when we've received the grace of faith, immediately there is a contact with God," explained Fr. Giertych, who teaches at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. "So we can say this first movement of faith is like a spark plug in a car engine which issues the spark, ignites the petrol and gets the car moving."

But he stressed it is important to understand and recognize that faith is a supernatural gift of God. "It's a tool given by God, infused in our reason and, in part, the will, and which enables our mind to go beyond the limits of reason, towards the mystery."

To illustrate his point, he recalled the story told in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke of the sick woman who touched Jesus cloak as he was travelling to Jairus' house.

The woman had been subject to haemorrhaging for twelve years, suffered greatly and spent all she had on medical care. But instead of getting better, she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

"At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him," reads the passage in Mark 5:30-36. "He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"

"You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?' "

The apostles, noted Fr. Giertych, believe Jesus must be crazy not to notice that all the crowd is touching him as he's in the middle of the throng of people. "But Jesus says no. She touched Jesus' coat with her finger, but she touched his heart with her faith." Jesus knows this because he says "power came out of me."

What this means is that every time we make an act of faith, "the power of God comes out of God and fills us," Fr. Giertych explained. He agrees that the initial act of faith comes from God, but it still requires a response from us. "The possibility of making the act of faith comes from God because faith is a grace," he said, "but the lighting of the sparkplug is up to us. We make these acts of faith because we've been enabled by God to do this."

Sometimes we only do it "once in a moment," he said, "but the issue for the new evangelization is to learn how to make these acts of faith every day - when you're preaching, when you're teaching, when you're praying, or engaged in a conversation with a difficult teenager who's going through a difficult phase. In every situation before we open our mouths, we [need to] make an act of faith and believe that that faith has the power of touching God."

Then, he said, "the spark plug is lit and the grace of God is then within us, and we can call as an ally to our conversations the Holy Spirit who is living in the hearts of those to whom we are speaking, or writing, or those who are listening to us as we're speaking."

"We need to believe in the supernatural quality of the virtue of faith that has been given to us, as a tool, so that we can encounter God," he reiterated. "Then there is a divine fecundity in what we do, the fruitfulness of grace. "Sometimes that might involve something very simple, such as saying "God loves you."

But must all these acts be done with the conscious awareness of God? "The act of faith is something that is conscious," he said. "We cannot feel grace, but we can psychologically perceive the fact that we are making an act of faith and there are situations where sometimes reason and emotions, the whole context, may suggest going against faith: To love our neighbour when our neighbour is difficult, we need to make an act of faith, to believe that God is here to invite the charity of the supernatural love of God into this difficult relationship, into this difficult situation."

Moreover, Fr. Giertych stressed that as each person grows in faith, these acts of faith "become an almost spontaneous habit of inviting God into every situation." But he stressed that each person "must learn that" through contemplative prayer and when kneeling in front of the Blessed Sacrament and "believing that he's there."

"It becomes a habit in the psychological sense of being sort of automatic, but in moments when we forget about this, we have to call ourselves back and make these acts of faith," he said. "And that's why this Year of Faith is great, because it reminds us we have to learn how to make these acts of faith and trust in the power of faith, which is a gift of God."

"Since the supernatural life is a life, and the internal dynamism of that life is the source of its growth, we should not think that, with our new techniques, ideas, words, new training or whatever, that we will bring life to the Church. We won't," he said. "The life of the Church is divine, and since it's a divine life, life has within itself the dynamism for life, but it grows when we live out that life, when we live out that faith."

Source: Zenit.org

Dependence of Faith on Free Will

by Bishop Alexander (Mileant)

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me" (Rev. 3:20).

With these words our Savior tells us that He offers to each of us the gift of faith, but it is up to us to accept or to reject this gift.

The Lord is merciful to those who doubt not from obstinacy but due to spiritual weakness and inexperience. Those who seek the truth and lament their lack of faith receive Divine help to acquire faith. Thus, for example, Christ took pity on the despairing father of the possessed youth who cried out: "Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24) and healed his sick son. He likewise had compassion on the apostle Peter who, having become frightened of the storm, began to sink. Giving His hand to Peter, the Lord gently rebuked him, saying: "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matt. 14:30). Nor did the Lord reject the doubting Thomas, who wished to be personally convinced of the miracle of the Resurrection. The Lord, having condescended to Thomas with His appearance, did not, however, praise him for becoming a believer on the basis of an obvious proof but said to him, "You believe because you have seen; blessed are those who do not see and believe" (John 20:29). In other words, faith based on external experience has little value; it's actually not faith but ordinary knowledge. True faith is born of inner experience; it demands sensitivity, a spiritual up-lifting, and, therefore, is worthy of praise.

However, we see the complete opposite of such a searching faith in the Jewish scribes and Pharisees of Christ's time. They obstinately and stubbornly refused to believe in Jesus Christ as the God-sent Messiah. Neither the fulfillment in Christ of the ancient prophecies, nor His count-less miracles and raising of the dead, nor signs in nature, nor even His Resurrection shook their unbelief. On the contrary, with each new miracle they became still more embittered and hostile towards Him. Thus if even Christ was unable to awaken faith in those who did not want to believe, is it any wonder that in our time there are conscious and adamant atheists? They claim that they do not believe because they see no miracles. But the real reason for their unbelief lies not in a lack of miracles, which occur daily in different parts of the world, but in the negative direction of their will. They simply don't want God to exist.

The problem of unbelief is closely tied to the sinfulness of human nature. Because the subject of faith is not an abstract theory but a positive teaching that demands certain behavior and imposes definite responsibilities, not everyone is willing to change his life around to adapt to its high moral standards. Faith puts a check on a person's greed. It calls him to overcome his selfishness, to live moderately, to do good to others, even to sacrifice himself. When a man prefers his passions over the will of God and places his own good over the good of others, then he will do everything he can to repudiate arguments in favor of faith. The Savior indicated that an evil will is the chief cause of unbelief when He said: "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God" (John 3:20-21).

Being capable of suppressing faith within himself, man is also capable of strengthening it. Turning again to the Gospel, we find in it striking examples of ardent faith. Inspiring in this regard are the examples of the Roman centurion, the Canaanite woman, the woman with an issue of blood, the blind men of Jericho, and similar others. The Lord repeatedly called for His listeners to imitate the faith of these people. Consequently, it lies within our power, with God's help, to gather and direct our spiritual capabilities towards a greater faith. Faith, as everything good, demands effort. That is the reason a reward is promised for it: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16).

Source: Faith - Key to God's Treasury, Edited by Donald Shufran

Three Irreducibles of the Christian Faith

by Dr. Joe McKeever

"God is faithful" (I Corinthians 10:13).

1) If you do not like change, you do not want to start following Jesus.

Jesus Christ has great plans for your life, and if you hand "you" over to Him-and continue doing so every day of your life for the rest of your earthly journey-you will find that involves change, change, and more change. We may call it growth or something spiritual like "sanctification," but it's all about change.

He loves you the way you are, but loves you enough not to leave you that way.

Here is how the Apostle Paul put it: "But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (II Corinthians 3:18).

That is the plan.

You don't like change, you say?

Then, do not come after Jesus.

He's all about change, both throughout our earthly years and at the consummation of this age when the most massive change of all will take place. Again, the Apostle Paul: "We shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet…. and we shall be changed" (I Corinthians 15:51-52).

How come so much change there at the end? Because "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, neither does the perishable inherit the imperishable" (15:50).

Therefore, "This perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality" (15:53).

So, get used to it, pilgrim. Change or die. Those are and have always been the two choices.

Don't like change? Find yourself resisting innovations? Something inside you rebels when your leader (a pastor, your boss, the teacher) introduces a new approach, a different formula, an unfamiliar technique?

That's actually fairly normal.

Since "He Himself knows our frame" (Psalm 103:14), the Lord knows this and accepts it as a fact of human existence. In fact, Jesus said, "No one after tasting the old wine prefers the new, for he says the old is good enough" (Luke 5:39).

It may be human, but it's a trait of our fallen nature which we have to work against.

Those who follow Jesus Christ have to resist the deadly urge to stand still, to settle for the status quo, to resist growth, to resent innovation, to lay down speed bumps inhibiting new ways.

Remember, it was rebellious, faithless Israel that wanted to return to Egypt (Numbers 14:4).

Anyone following Jesus Christ will find out in a New York minute what He meant in saying "New wine must be put into fresh wineskins" (Luke 5:38). The "wine" of the Holy Spirit-that is, this new thing Jesus is doing-requires a flexible container, one able to give, to change and adapt and grow and expand.

Follow Jesus faithfully and a year from now you will hardly recognize yourself, you will have changed so.

Note to pastors: You will never ever have a church made up of one-hundred percent change-lovers. There will always be those resisting innovation and growth. And, since the Lord knows this about us, you must know it about yourself and your people and not let it throw you. However, as pastor and shepherd of the flock, your task will be to continually educate your people in this regard, to keep pushing growth and advancement, and not let the nay-sayers talk you into camping out on the status quo.

"Behold, I make all things new" (Revelation 21:5).

Second note to pastors: When members tell you they do not like new things, smile broadly and tease them about that, because they do not mean it. Repeat: They. Do. Not. Mean. It. All you have to do is look in their driveways (they are not driving 1948 Pontiacs but something much more recent), look in their living rooms (they have computers and HD televisions), and look in their closets (they are not wearing their grandparents' clothes, but new and attractive clothing).

Clearly, they enjoy change and love new things. What they mean to say is they like change to be manageable, something they can deal with, and not all of it at once.

Rick Warren says Saddleback Church is always tweaking things, always introducing new ideas and programs, but they do not use the word ‘change.' "I tell them we're going to experiment with this," Rick says. "Experiment is less threatening."

2) If you do not love Jesus, enjoy fellowship and worship with God's people, and appreciate serving the Lord, you would not like Heaven. So, God will not make you go.

Now, no one is saying Heaven will be an endless 11 o'clock worship service. Even the preachers would not want that! (Okay, especially the preachers!)

On the other hand, if you enjoy serving the Lord, we have good news for you. Revelation 22:3 says, "And His servants shall serve Him." In Heaven, you will serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you don't like serving Him, well then, the news is not so good for you.

Furthermore, the centerpiece of Heaven is Jesus Christ (Revelation 21:22). If you love Him here, you'll love Heaven. Otherwise, not.

The primary activity of Heaven seems to be reigning with the Lord, plus worship and praise of the Lord (Revelation 19:6-7 and 22:4). I think you get the idea now.

Bottom line, if you love God's people, are devoted to God's Book, and doing His work in the world is your great joy, you should be right at home in Heaven.

And, if you do not love the Lord Jesus, if you do not care to read His Book, and if doing His will is not something that appeals to you, you probably should not be making plans to go to Heaven.

It would be hell for you.

So, we have good news for you. God is not going to make you go to Heaven.

Heaven is for the redeemed, the ones God has declared righteous (see Matthew 25:34-36), those who "have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb," who is Jesus Christ (Revelation 7:14).

Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people (John 14:1-6).

A convention-goer stood on a street corner in downtown New Orleans, waiting for the bus which would take him to his hotel. He had over-imbibed that day and was having trouble thinking straight. When a bus stopped for the traffic light, he stepped on, not realizing he had joined a busload of preachers and their spouses in town for their own annual convention. As the drunk took his seat, he noticed the fellow beside him reading the Bible. In front of him, two people were praying out loud. And behind him, a number of preachers and their wives were harmonizing on a favorite hymn. The man stood, lurched to the front of the bus, and asked the driver to let him off at the next corner. Later, telling a friend how he found himself on the bus among a bunch of Christians, the drunk said, "It was hell."

C.S. Lewis' book "The Great Divorce" makes the same point, that the hell-bound would be miserable in Heaven for the simple reason that they do not fit. Given the choice of staying in the Celestial region or leaving, the group in Lewis' story choose hell. Profound truth.

3) If you are not willing to enter Heaven through Jesus Christ, you will not be going at all.

"I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved…." (John 10:9).

"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).

"Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Are we clear on that?

In Matthew 22, Jesus told a parable which ties this together as well as it can be done. A king gives a wedding feast for his son. When the invited guests reject his invitation, the ruler sends his servants out with instructions to "go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding."

"So those servants went into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests."

When every seat was taken, the servants informed the king who entered for the festivities. He surveyed his surroundings, looked over all his guests, and then spotted something out of place.

Jesus said, "He saw there a man who did not have on a wedding garment."

Do not miss this. Although unstated, it is a given that when these replacement guests entered, the palace servants equipped each one with a wedding garment of some kind or other. (Bear in mind no one had left home that morning thinking they might be invited to the palace, so "I'd better take along my tuxedo." This was the ultimate come-as-you-are party.)

The fellow sitting in the banquet hall dressed in his own clothing had bypassed a palace servant. He had entered in his own way.

He had not come by the door.

"The king said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?'"

Had he entered by the door, he would have been in good shape.

"And (the man) was speechless." (Matthew 22:1-13) He had no excuse.

There is only one Door to Heaven and His name is Jesus.

You may believe otherwise, and you are free to believe what you please, but not and call yourself a Christian.

These are non-negotiable, irreducible, most basic aspects of the Christian faith.

- To follow Jesus means change, change and more change.

- The best way to know we will "fit" in Heaven is to love the things of the Lord now in this life.

- The only way into Heaven is through the Door, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Unseen Force Of Faith

by Frank Broom

The tittle may sound a little strange, but that's how I want you to view faith. Not just something cute that you keep in your heart, but a force. A force is defined as- Capacity to do work or cause physical change; strength; power. I like that, cause physical change. Let me tell you where I got the tittle, I was watching television one day and I happened to come upon a compass. So, I picked it up and started to move around the room with it and as I moved that compass moved. And the Holy Spirit quickened my mind, there is a force in the earth called a magnetic field. That force is unseen, but it causes something to happen in the seen and that's how faith is. An unseen force causes that compass to move. That gave me greater understanding of what Jesus said, "Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." Let's break this scripture down, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed", now some people say the size of a mustard seed, I don't have a problem with that, but let's look at something else about a seed, if it's not released out of the ground it will not produce anything in the earth. Notice Jesus said, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say" that's how you release it. Jesus said it this way, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh". It's the faith that's released that moves mountains and causes physical change.

Now let's go a little deeper, your faith should be based on the word of God. Paul calls it the word of faith. That means you could say, If ye have the word of God as a mustard seed... . The word of God is designed to change things. The word of God is the original force of all forces. What you see was made of things you can't see, the word. Notice things that are unseen caused things that are seen to change. And we are made in God's image and likeness. We are a spirit just as God is a spirit. So, if we learn how to operate from our spirit we can cause things to change in the natural. That's what Jesus demonstrated over and over again. He spoke to the wind and sea and his words of faith calmed the storm. He spoke to a tree and it dried up from the roots and then he said to his disciples that if they had faith they could do the same thing, change things in the physical by operating out of their spirit and so can we. That's why one of the worst things a child of God can do is to wait for things to change and get better. No, take the word of God and make things get better. God said, his word would not return to him void, but accomplish that which He pleases. God has honored us to be able to release that force on our behalf. So, once again that force is released in the earth now by us.

Scripture: Hebrews 11:3 Matthew 12:34 Romans 10:8 Genesis 1:26 Isaiah 55:11 Matthew 21:21

Walking Your Faith

by Ryan Duncan, Crosswalk.com Entertainment Editor

He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. "– Matthew 17:20

Recently CNN posted an article about a young man's spiritual pilgrimage. When Andrew Domini learned that a friend had recently been diagnosed with stage IV cancer, the 19-year-old college student had traveled 70 miles to pray at the shine of Catholic Saint, Theodore Guerin. Domini could have easily driven the 70 mile distance, but he wanted his journey to be a sacrifice, so he chose to walk instead. The journey took him two days. He arrived with feet blistered and bloody, but as he prayed over the remains of the Catholic Saint, Domini said he finally felt at peace.

Now here's the interesting part, Andrew Domini isn't Catholic, and when asked he admitted to mixed feelings about the Church. Reading this story, I couldn't help but be struck by the boy's similarity to the Roman centurion from Luke 7,

"When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue." So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel."- Luke 7:1-9

I have to admit, I felt pretty ashamed after reading that article. Here was a boy willing to make sacrifices in order to pray to a God he barely understood, while my prayer life consists of a few garbled words before falling asleep at night. Andrew Domini spent two days walking 70 miles to reach a place of worship, while I struggle to make the five minute drive to Church every Sunday. It is so easy to become complacent in our faith, to make it such a part of our daily ritual that we end up forgetting God. But God wants more from us than our hollow actions and lifeless obedience; he wants to be the center of our lives.

Being a true Christian means living with a passion for God, and a willingness to go the extra mile. It means living with vision, and not settling for the bear minimum your faith requires. It's seeking to know an unfathomable God, and realizing that He will always have something new He wants to teach you.

Intersecting Faith and Life

When was the last time you sacrificed something for God?

Further Reading

Romans 3:28

Source: Crosswalk the Devotional

Support Your Faith Not Your Fear

by Micca Campbell

In the midst of a failing economy, declining morals, and a world under attack, it seems there is much to fear. It's easy not to give into worry and despair. Perhaps that's where you find yourself today. You can't help but speculate if things will get better for your family, your ministry, and our world. On top of that you wonder if anybody understands your personal anxieties. God does.

God knows exactly what concerns you. He knows your pressures and your stress. The Lord plans to use those things to strengthen you for a brighter future. In the meantime, you and I find freedom from fear by relying on God's support. What better support do we have then that found in Isaiah 41:10.

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

In this verse, God offers five reasons not to fear by providing us with five pillars of support.

Fear not . . . "I Am with you"
Fear not . . . "I Am your God"
Fear not . . . "I will strengthen you"
Fear not . . . "I will help you"
Fear not . . . "I will uphold you."

These truths assure us that God is not distant, too busy, or absorbed by other challenges. No. He's aware of our anxieties and has given us His promised Presence to see us through.

Therefore, the next time panic tempts to stretch your faith beyond what you think you can bear, rely on God's support. His truths provide the strength and stability you need to do more than conquer your fears. It will empower your faith.

Family Special: Four Battles of the Single Christian

by Kris Swiatocho

Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me. Lord, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them? (Psalm 144:1-3)

As I read this scripture, I can see God preparing David for battle. Maybe he is practicing using his sword or shield. Maybe he is running laps, lifting weights, or eating lots of protein. Maybe God is speaking to him, helping him to remember God's truths. Regardless of what David is doing to prepare, I think God is doing the same for us.

As a single, I deal with many battles on various platforms, some of which are the same as the battles of my married friends. However, many battles are unique to singles. Here are a few:

BATTLE 1: When people always want to know why I never married.

At my age I guess it's too late? "You must have been called to singleness." My question is, why is it even their question? Why is my marital status such a need for conversation with people? Most married people simply cannot understand singles. The first thing they want to do is "fix you up" or suggest online dating. In my flesh I want to say something that isn't so nice, but then God reminds me they are just ignorant. Sometimes they really don't get us and, well, maybe God wants me to educate them in a loving way.

So why haven't I gotten married? Because God hasn't told me to. So I am serving him where I am until he moves me somewhere else. Are you?

BATTLE 2: Being solely responsible for my finances, my home, and my stuff.

I would like to think there is still some wonderful man who is going to marry me and share the expense, the maintenance, and the upkeep of my home... but there isn't right now. And the enemy loves to make me feel defeated, trick me into thinking that it will always be this way.

Recently my mom moved in with me (my dad died a few years ago and she did not like living alone). At first it was hard, as I had to make a ton of adjustments. I also thought, well, if I ever had hopes of getting married, they're gone now. Who would want to marry me knowing my mom comes with the package?

But you know, God whispered to me and said: Your mom being here is my provision to help you with this home, not only in expenses but also in enjoyment! She is here to help you in your battles. She has wisdom and experience. She will help you prepare for what lies ahead. And don't worry Kris; if my will is for you to be married one day, he will love your mom too. How cool is that?

BATTLE 3: Making choices in my life alone.

Should I live here or there? Should I change this in my business or that? Should I cut my hair (maybe going for the Mohawk style)? Should I buy the 50-pack can of peas at Costco because I can save money, or just wait and spend the money buying 3 at a time at Food Lion? I love that I can go to God, asking his Spirit to guide me. I am also blessed that I have a huge network of friends as well as an advisory council to help. I am not alone.

BATTLE 4: The serious battle of loneliness and discouragement.

Life wasn't supposed to be like this.

Don't get me wrong, I presently love my life, but there have been many times I have regretted past mistakes. I know if I had chosen better, I would have hurt much less and maybe had some of the things that others have. But God reminds me that without those mistakes, I wouldn't be where I am today. Because I have Christ, I am not lonely anymore, and I have hope. Because I have Christ, I do not need to be discouraged, as he is in ALL things. He is not only preparing me for battle, he is in the battle ahead of me.

FINAL TRUTHS

God reminds me in the passage of scripture above that he is my loving God (not my mean, hateful, iron clad fisted God-is-yelling-at-me God). He is my loving God who knows every hair on my head, every thought, every disappointment, every hurt and every joy. He is strong so I don't have to be. He is protecting me so I don't have to do protect myself. He is where I take refuge, who I can hide under and within. Whether my battle is my life, my singleness, my health, my family, my income, my job, the lies of the devil, or whatever else you can think of, God is preparing me by teaching me to trust in him first. He will align my steps and put others where they need to be - including the enemy under my feet.

Why? Because that is how he rolls. God created us and he will equip us, anoint us, and provide. Are you allowing God to ready you for battle?

About The Author:

 
Kris Swiatocho is the President and Director of TheSinglesNetwork.org Ministries and FromHisHands.com Ministries. Kris has served in ministry in various capacities for the last 25 years.  She is the author of three books: Singles and Relationships: A 31-Day Experiment (co-authored with Dick Purnell of Single Life Resources); From the Manger to the Cross: The Women in Jesus' Life; and the most recent, Jesus, Single Like Me with Study Questions (includes a leader's guide and conference/retreat of the same name). Kris is currently working on her fourth book: FAQ's of Singles Ministry coming 2013.

Source: Live It Devotional

The View from Inside Syria

by Lama Abboud

In my city of Homs it was a very beautiful peaceful city. We were Christians, Muslims from many religions living together. My best friend was a Suni. And other one was an Allawi. We never thought about religion except for marriage. And now my peaceful city is almost dead.

All the old beautiful ancient Mosques and churches was destroyed. My city has a great history. Her name was Ammessa. And the Roman emperor Karakala was born from a Homsi lady. Her name was Julia Doumna. Same story goes on other cites like Allepo. It is an old Roman city; used to be called Beroia.

The history of my beloved Syria goes back to 4000 BC. This heritage belongs to all Universe; not only to us!!....

Excuse my language and my stress.

My heart is crying and screaming. But what to do alone? I am only one Syrian lady from 23 million Syrians. If I keep fighting with love for peace to spread and peace to return again, will it?

No one is perfect..

I think we should take the opinion of those who are still there, inside Syria waiting for outside strikes. My husband, my two brothers, my mom and dad, my cousins, etc. - all my family and my best friends -are still there.

Foreign leaders say they should use the military attack. Go there or imagine that one of your family members is still there. Will you strike?

They are waiting for the international investigators to go out of Syria to start the strike !!!!!! Are the investigators only humans and my people are not? I was living there for 37 years and I just came to foreign lands.

We were living in harmony - all of us together- Christians, Muslims (Allawi, Suni, Dourzi) - all of us together as a big family like Damascus mosaic.

Many were very good, honest people. If your personal family is there, will you attack and risk their lives?? Why do they want to kill the Syrian people twice??!!!!!!

Please help to bring peace to Syrian people, not more bloodbath and war. This is a plea from one person but I am echoing the feelings of thousands and thousands of Syrians. You want to fight? Let us fight for a gunless world.

Lama Abboud
Citizen of Homs, Syria

Source: Tamimi; Rev. Fr. John Bryan, Transfiguration Forum

From Bad to Worse: Syria's Christian Dilemma
by Stan Guthrie

Syria's 2 million Christians face an intolerable dilemma. The bad option is for Bashar al-Assad to retain his brutal grip on power. The worse option - for Christians, at least - is for Assad's dictatorship to fall.

As some have predicted, persecution of the country's Christian minority is escalating as the civil war spreads. Islamists, who now dominate the opposition, have embarked on a bloody campaign of genocide against Christians, who constitute about 10 percent of the population.

"As for the larger conflict, the Christians are caught in the middle," says Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom. "The churches have not allied with the Assad regime. They have no armed protector, inside or outside the country, and they have no militias of their own. But they are not simply suffering collateral damage. They are being deliberately targeted in a religious purification campaign - one that the United States government finds convenient to overlook as it supports Syria's rebels and praises Saudi Arabia as one of our ‘closest partners.'"

In a hearing earlier this summer, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights, called on the administration to protect Syrian Christians. Smith said that "Christians are even more fearful for their lives and safety than other segments of the Syrian population."

Shea, meanwhile, testified, "Though no religious community has been spared egregious suffering, Syria's ancient Christian minority has cause to believe that it confronts an existential threat."

In response to historic and ongoing genocides, human-rights advocates are speaking out on governments' responsibility to protect (R2P) the people within their borders. When governments fail to do so - or even commit genocide themselves - then the "international community" supposedly has this responsibility. The Syria crisis vis-à-vis its Christian population, however, seems to be exposing R2P as a mere pious platitude ... like the international ban on chemical weapons.

"Christians can forget about the White House priority of R2P … as it applies to them," Shea says. "… few in Washington are even bothering to ask what impact American strikes will have on Syria's sizeable but defenseless Christian minority."

The impact of the conflict, however, is enormous … and widening.

Shea says that "the Christians of Syria have already suffered massive reprisals. Since [July], attacks against them have only intensified. … the ancient mountainside Christian village of Maaloula, just north of Damascus, has been shelled by rebels from a position of higher ground. Many Syrian Christians have fled to Lebanon, but those who remain report that they fear ethnic cleansing."

At the hearing chaired by Smith, Christian Solidarity International CEO John Eibner said, after he met many displaced Christians and church workers in Syria, "Victims recounted to me the religious cleansing of Christian neighborhoods in Homs and Qusair by armed jihadists who threatened them with death if they did not leave their homes."

If only we could discount these reports as the work of overactive imaginations. Unfortunately, they are becoming commonplace.

"On June 23, Catholic Syrian priest Fr. François Murad was murdered in Idlib by rebel militias," Shea states. She is unable to confirm chilling reports that he was beheaded. "It is apparent, however, that he was a victim of the shadow war against Christians that is being fought by jihadists alongside the larger Syrian conflict," she continues. "This is a religious cleansing that has been all but ignored by our policymakers, as they strengthen support for the rebellion."

Foreign Islamists are particularly targeting Christians in Syria, according to Archbishop Jeanbart of Aleppo's Melkite Greek Catholic Church. "As soon as they reached the city," Jeanbart says, "Islamist guerrillas, almost all of them from abroad, took over the mosques. Every Friday, an imam launches their messages of hate, calling on the population to kill anyone who does not practice the religion of the Prophet Muhammad. They use the courts to level charges of blasphemy. Who is contrary to their way of thinking pays with his life."

Shea notes, "According to the U.S. State Department, Syria now has scores of rebel militias with new ones popping up all the time. Many are extremist." She quotes one source, who says,"he purpose of these groups is not only the liberation of Syria from Assad, but also the spread by force of radical Islam throughout the Middle East and the conquest of Jerusalem."

Such actions and attitudes are not without precedent in the recent history of the region. When American troops overthrew the secular (but murderous) regime of Saddam Hussein nearly a decade ago, Muslims took advantage and began persecuting Iraq's Christians, forcing many to flee (ironically, to neighboring nations such as Syria). Today, only about a third of the Christians of Iraq remain in that country. A similar pogrom could await them and their Syrian brethren.

The recent chemical weapons deal brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin - a patron of Assad - may keep the current regime in power. Whether that will lead to a lessening of Islamist violence against Syria's Christians, however, remains to be seen.

Whatever happens, prayer is essential.

"Hidden in the noise of the current political environment is still an unrepresented issue in Syria - the intentional and systematic persecution of Christians," says David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA. "We are calling Christians on all sides of the political debate to dedicate themselves to prayer for our fellow believers who are targeted for their faith. They've done nothing wrong ... only being bold enough to associate themselves as Jesus followers. Please pray earnestly for protection of their lives, families, businesses and freedoms."

About The Author:

Stan Guthrie is author of the new book A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy: 60 Predictions Everyone Should Know. Stan blogs at http://stanguthrie.com .

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

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