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Faith Imagined: April 2010

Faith Imagined

Alisa Hope Wagner: Christian Writer

April 28, 2010

Transitions in the Road

My newest devo on GBD Ministry Site. Check out the other new ones here. If you would like to submit, go here!

I had to put my rollerblading on hold for about six years while my husband and I were growing our family. I enjoyed rollerblading a lot in my twenties, and it was so nice to finally be able to strap on my blades and hit the pavement. It took me several days of skating for my body and mind to remember how it was done.

I also noticed that I was a lot more carful skating than when I was in my twenties. I have a lot more responsibilities as a wife, mother and Jesus disciple; and I have people counting on me. Though I know life will go on as usual even if I did get hurt, I wasn’t going to purposely jump into any life-halting accidents.

As I rollerbladed, I was very careful during the transitions in the road. When the sidewalk gave way to the street, there were lots of bumps and rocks on my path. I had to focus my eyes directly on the path in front of me and slow down so I wouldn’t fall. Once I crossed the street and continued back on the sidewalk, I was able to look to the horizon and skate faster. Right before skating through another intersection, I felt the Holy Spirit say, “Be careful during the transitions in the road.”

God knows me so well. I tend to get an idea of God’s vision for me and charge full-steam ahead. However, when my life is in transition, I need to be cautious. I must pray about every detail, because the Enemy puts out many stumbling blocks when he thinks we are not looking. The Enemy doesn’t want us to change. He wants us to fall flat on our faces and give up. Transitions in our spiritual walk are very special. They signify a growth into Christlikeness; however, they are a bit chaotic.

As God entrusts us with more, we need to take great pains to seek God’s will more. As Christian leaders, people are looking to us for guidance. If we see a transition in the road, we need to slow down, stay clear of the bumps and rocks and keep our eyes focused on God.

Memory Verse:
“He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.”
- Proverbs 2.7-8

Prayer Prompt:
“Father, please guide me every day, especially during seasons of transition in my life. I want to continuously cling to You, Lord, so I do not absently fall into the Enemy’s schemes. I know that You will protect me if I stay obedient to Your guidance. And If I do happen to fall, You provide me with grace and mercy to get back up and continue on my path. Reveal to me areas of my life that I haven’t sought out Your will, including…”

Contributing Writer:
Alisa Hope Wagner

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April 25, 2010

Kingdom is Here

As I was studying the Scriptures tonight about what I feel the Holy Spirit is calling me to write, God humbled and enlightened me. I wanted to write about the criminal on the cross who hung next to Jesus. Out of everyone who was with Jesus during His ministry, this man was the only one who got it.

Jesus' disciples, the religious leaders and the current culture of the time were waiting for a new King David to free the Jewish people of their oppression. They were looking for a warrior king to establish their earthly kingdom. They didn't realize that Jesus was establishing an eternal kingdom (Matthew 25.34 NIV), which came straight from the paradise of God (Revelation 2.7 NIV). This kingdom is far greater than the kingdom the people fervently desired. They just couldn't see it...but the criminal did.

The criminal reached out to Jesus in the shortest salvation prayer that I've ever heard:

"Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23.42 NIV)

Jesus is so amazing because this man took one tiny step of faith toward Him, and Jesus made up the difference. Jesus confirmed this man's timid request with a mighty promise:

Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23.43 NIV).

I was going to write tonight that the reason this criminal hanging on his cross next to Jesus was able to get it -- why He was able to understand that the new kingdom was not of this earth -- was because he was on his deathbed. Nothing gives us more clarity about eternity then when we are about to enter it. However, the Holy Spirit told me otherwise.

For us to believe that we will enter the Kingdom of Heaven only after we die is extremely egocentric. It would be like saying the Kingdom of Heaven's existence is dependent on us. But it is not. God gave Jesus the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, and Jesus already opened it with His death and resurrection. The criminal on the cross knew the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand not because he was about to die, but because Jesus was about to die.

The Kingdom of Heaven was established and is in existence now. We are walking in it, breathing in it and living in it. We received our place in this kingdom when we prayed for Jesus to come into our hearts and forgive us of our sins. Since our sinful flesh prohibits us from entering this kingdom physically, God placed the kingdom into all Christians (Luke 17.21). Our souls are redeemed by Jesus' sacrifice for our sins, and they are now resting on a hammock on the shores of Paradise.

What does this mean for us? How do we conduct ourselves knowing that our souls are already dwelling in the Kingdom of Heaven? The following verse gave me some clairty.

"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind (declare to be improper and unlawful) on earth must be what is already bound in heaven; and whatever you loose (declare lawful) on earth must be what is already loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16.19 AMP).

Since Jesus' death on the cross already established the Kingdom of Heaven and that kingdom -- which comes from the core of God -- has already been placed in each of us, shouldn't we be living like it? I try to imagine that I'm always at the foot of the throne, even if I can't see it with my human eyes. There are no secrets from God. He sees everything. God desires to love us, and He's willing to pour out His grace on all of our mistakes so He can hold us near to Him. All we have to do is allow God to embrace us and not try to wiggle free from Him. When we draw close to God, we find ourselves in complete joy (Kingdom of Heaven), and we realize that the worldly happiness we begged God for was counterfeit (Earthly Kingdom).

My soul at this very moment exist in God's established Kingdom. I'm sitting on a swivel chair, typing on a computer smack-dab in the middle of Paradise. I just need to get my flesh to wake up to that fact. I want to yoke myself to Jesus every moment, so He will anchor my soul-awareness in His Kingdom. I don't want to wander off and realize that I've stumbled yet again into the Kingdom of this earth which is controlled by the Enemy.

I choose life. I choose joy. I choose paradise.

Because Jesus already gave them to me, I claim them now.

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April 21, 2010

Blogging: A Higher Purpose

It is interesting to me that so many Christians feel led to blog. We don't blog because we have so much spare time on our hands. Most of us sacrifice a lot of personal free time in order to keep our blogs updated. We blog because we have a God-given desire to share. God is calling us to write about our experiences. Our words might not seem interesting or even relevant, but we obediently punch away on our keyboards.

Are we wasting our time? Or is there some higher plan that God is organizing behind the scenes of heaven?

I don't think God is surprised by the number of Christian bloggers. I think He's the reason.

I opened my home to a Bible study last night. It was nice seeing all of my friends; but when the study started, I quietly went back upstairs. I had some writing to do.

When it was over, I helped clean up and said goodbye to all of the women. I also walked my new friend, Michelle, to her car. She has the spiritual gift of prophecy, and she told me many of her stories about ministering in the spiritual realm. She has had visions, dealt with evil spirits, prayed for healings and much more. She obviously is gifted, but I could tell she was uncomfortable talking about it. She didn't want me to think she was weird.

On the contrary, I was excited to hear about her experiences. The Bible speaks so much about the spiritual realm, but it seems that Christians say so little of it. Paul says, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6.12 NIV). I'm sure most Christians have had some experience dealing with spiritual forces, but like Michelle, they fear being labeled as "weird."

Then Michelle went on to share some of her prayer request to me -- one of which was to journal. For several years God has been calling her to journal, but she didn't understand why and she never took that step of obedience.

From my perspective, I could easily understand why God would want her to journal. God calls us to teach our children the ways of the Lord (Deuteronomy 11.19 NIV), but I fear the current generations have dropped the ball. There is a new crop of Christians that have the Bible and the Holy Spirit, but they are completely lost about how to draw closer to God, serve their purpose and live victoriously.

Don't get me wrong, I know the Holy Spirit will teach them and the Bible will form their foundation, but the Bible says that "many advisers make victory sure" (Proverbs 11.14 NIV) and that "A matter becomes clear after two or three witnesses give evidence" (2 Corinthians 13.1 NIV).

How much easier would it be to confront the unknown when you have many Spirit-led Christian experiences to glean from? We have to remember that God uses the Bible, the Holy Spirit and others to achieve His perfect will. We are designed to need each other. We can't expect to be victorious if we isolate ourselves. We each make up a piece of the Body of Christ (church) according to our design and purpose. We have a much better perspective of God when we can see Him through the eyes of a multitude of Christians.

I finally told my friend, "You need to journal so you can empower the next generation. You can provide them with a tool that will help them to battle against and with spiritual forces."

She was shocked by my reply. She had also told the Bible study about her prayer request. She felt like God was telling her that if she didn't journal, she would be harming herself and others. The women didn't understand. How could Michelle harm others if she didn't journal? Without her journal (brimming with amazing victories in the spiritual realm) many Christians will be facing battles without "advisers." God wants to make sure His children are prepared.

I'm discovering that God is calling Christians to produce media that will empower and teach the following generations how to live for Christ. The line between what is holy and common is dividing, and lukewarm will disappear. Christians are going to jump over to the holy side, but they are going to need help. Some day the church will be called away from this earth, and all that will be left of us is our music, movies, books and blogs that we felt called to produce. It is imperative that we leave as many bread crumbs leading to the cross as possible.

So continue to diligently write on your blogs. You will never know how many people you will lead to Christ once you are gone.

"Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, "How can I help?" (Romans 15.1-2 The Message).

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April 18, 2010

Swimming in Canals

I was jogging down one of my neighborhood main streets, which bridges over a canal. I felt God telling me to stop at a point on the sidewalk that looked over the middle of the water. I looked down and watched the canal curve and stretch before me. It was going in a different direction than my current path, and it lead into a part of the bay that I didn't quite know.

God said, "You're about to jump."

Of course, I knew God didn't mean for me to physically jump, but He was alluding to some kind of change in my life. A change that I was going to have to jump into. I was excited. I have several God-promises on the back burners just waiting to be served. I couldn't wait to find out what life circumstances God was going to shake up.

A day later, I read a book that has changed my life. As I read each chapter, it felt like a door was being opened in my mind -- a door that I had closed and forgotten about. While reading, I had to take little naps because the Holy Spirit was doing a lot of rewiring in my mind and spirit, and I was exhausted.

I didn't understand what was going on, but I knew it was special. My entire outlook on who I was in Christ and my relationship with Him began to focus with clarity, but this focus shot me into the depths of the unknown. After finishing the book, I realized that I had jumped from the bridge into the canal. I found myself flaying about in the water not knowing what to do next. I thought God was going to change my circumstances. I didn't know He was just going to change me.

What do you do when you jump into a canal? You swim. I'm determined to swim in this knew awareness that God has given me, and I know that it's part of my route to Jesus in Zion. I'm excited and intimidated about growing into this new stage of Christlikeness, but I'm ready for the challenge. I want to know God on a deeper level, and I'm willing to make the sacrifices to do so.

I'm realizing that this change is more important than any change in my circumstances. I know that God can and does use circumstances to change us, but I'm eager to try out a change that can't be seen with the human eye. I want a spiritual change; one that is initiated by my obedience.

I'm still learning, but I'm figuring out that Jesus is the core of all existence. He is the seed of life. If I can grow into my awareness of Him and into the fullness of who I am in Him, I believe that I'll be on the right path.

"For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross" (Colossians 1.16-20 NIV).

What about you? Have you ever experienced a book, conversation, a situation or a moment that changed your life? Were you able to take the plunge into the canal or did you keep jogging on your current path? How did this change effect who you are in Christ and your awareness about God's purpose for you?

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April 13, 2010

Formula for Spiritual Growth

October 8, 1998

"I know God wants me to be a writer, but it is not going to happen over night. I am trying to be in God's will, but it is getting me nowhere. I've stopped socially drinking. I go to church, pray, read the Bible; but I think it is time for me to stop taking and to start giving. I want to give myself to God as a vessel for spreading Christ. I just do not know where to start...."

I wrote this in my on-and-off again journal when I was twenty-one. I had such a desire to follow God, but I didn't know what I was doing. I had no previous Spirit-led example to fall back on. I desperately grabbed onto Christian disciplines, hoping they would force me to have a better relationship with God. After about a year of getting "nowhere," I fell back into a common life of social normality. The spiritual disciplines I had been taught did nothing to help me. What was I doing wrong?

Spiritual disciplines are part of the spiritual formula that equal a growing relationship with God. Jesus Himself fasted, read Scripture, prayed, sought solitude, worshiped, served, fellowshipped, submitted, abstained and sacrificed.* He did many of these spiritual disciplines in the private sphere of His life; so that when He entered the public sphere, He was able to do amazing and beautiful acts of love.

On my blog, I explore many spiritual disciplines. I desire to draw closer to God, and I know that emulating Jesus' private life will help me to emulate His public life. However, spiritual disciplines are merely Christian motions that have no lasting effect unless we understand the formula of why we do them. Spiritual disciplines are only half of the equation. The other half is made up of three components: the product, the purpose and the push.

The product of spiritual disciplines is two-fold. First of all, spiritual disciplines humble us. We must be broken if we want to give the Holy Spirit access to mold us. Spiritual disciplines remind us that we are nothing without God, and they give us a healthy perspective of who we are in Christ. There is nothing like an empty belly, a dwindling bank account or a silent prayer closet to remind us that we are not the kings and queens of the universe. We are dependent on the Creator for everything, and we should have great joy that we have a spirit to soak up God's glory.

Second of all, spiritual disciplines make us available to gain the knowledge of God: "and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God" (Proverbs 2.3-6 NIV). God has knowledge He wants to give us, but we need to be seeking it. Spiritual disciplines are like tools that help us dig for godly insights. The more we wield our tools, the more we find treasures.

The purpose of spiritual disciplines is love. Just like a mathematical formula, if a student doesn't understand the purpose of why she is finding "x," she won't fully understand the equation. Love is the root of spiritual disciplines. We do them because we love God, and we desire to have an intimate relationship with Him.

Finally, the push of spiritual disciplines is our obedience. Obedience is the only thing in this life that we can take credit for. God gives us everything: our bodies, brains, passions, talents and plans. However, God does give us free-will. We can choose to obey Him or not. I have learned that I can give people credit for their obedience, but the rest of the glory goes to God. Without obedience we have no momentum to move us into Christlikness. We can love God all we want; but if we do not have obedience, our spiritual growth will lag behind.

When I was twenty-one, I think part of the formula that I was missing was humility. I did not have a good example of how beautiful and beneficial the product of humility is in our lives. I saw people doing spiritual disciplines, but I didn't see many people humbling themselves. Humility gets such a bad rap. Humility is actually the precursor to a bounty of blessings: wealth, honor, wisdom, life (Proverbs 22.4, 15.33, 11.2). I've realized that when I'm being humbled, I'm not being humbled to others. I'm being humbled to God. God just happens to use others to humble me. If I can get over my pride and my fear of others, humility wouldn't be so painful. I desire to make the process of humility look good.

For you the formula might be missing something else. Maybe you saw plenty of spiritual humility but not enough push (obedience). Or maybe you saw lots of obedience, but the purpose of love was never evident. Whatever the case may be, Christians need the entire formula to experience accelerated spiritual growth.

(product + purpose + push) * spiritual disciplines = spiritual growth

I was horrible in math -- especially algebra -- so if you have a better formula, by all means use it!

* Spiritual disciplines and explanations can be found in The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard.

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April 11, 2010

Gap between Common & Holy

The gap between the Land of Common and the Land of Holy is widening. Christians will no longer be able to straddle the fence. What is common in this nation will become and is becoming so anti-God that Christians will have no choice other than to leap over to a life sanctified, set-apart and made holy by God or be swallowed up by a tide fueled by the Enemy's hatred of God.

Revelation 12.9 says that the Enemy (Satan or the Devil) leads the whole world astray. Pray and ask God to see our world mirrored by God's holiness, and you will be shocked at the ugliness that surrounds you. Everywhere in our culture sin is glorified and God is mocked. Our country is overflowing with the Enemy's deceit, and Christians are unknowingly consuming his lies. Ignorance is robbing our lives of God's best.

For this reason, Christian media is becoming more prevalent. That is why Christian music, movies, magazines, shows, books, etc. are being produced at a rapid rate. Christ-followers will no longer be able to live comfortably in Lukewarm Haven, feeding on the atrocities that the Enemy serves up. God is enlarging Christian culture in preparation for when masses of Christians leave the Land of Common.

The Land of Common is becoming godless, but thankfully God is providing us alternatives. Seek out Christian alternatives to the music, movies, shows, books and other resources that you are consuming. Media is one of the main sources of information consumption (meditation). Ensure that your media meditation is pleasing to God.

I've created an interactive online Bible study called Media Meditation. This study can be done online or it can be printed out. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to be your guide, and He will start grooming your media meditation. There are worksheets available at the end of the study. Pray over each one before you complete it and ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart to what He wants you to learn and do.

God is raising up His faithful. Let us live lives worthy of heavenly applause. Be on the lookout for the second part of the series, Master Meditation, in a couple months!

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April 8, 2010

Internet Cafe: Boats & Promises

My family and I went to what we call “Angel Island,” which is a small patch of dirt in the middle of the canals on North Padre Island. We like this little island because the kids can’t wander off, and we can watch the boats and the skiers as they jet on by. On the other side of the canal on this particular day were two dogs. Their owners landed their boat on the strip of land adjacent to us, and the dogs enjoyed running up and down the length of the shore.

Whenever a boat or jet skier would drive by, one of the dogs would chase it until he ran out of land. He would start at one end of the strip and run the distance of a football field to the other side. The boats were going about 35 mph, and this dog kept pace! I couldn’t believe how fast he ran and how excited he looked chasing these boats.

I felt kind of bad for the dog, though. He never caught the boats. The land would run out and the boats would zip on past him. The dog didn’t seem to mind because he would go back to where he started and wait for another boat to come. I think the dog loved the thrill of chasing the boats. He didn’t really need to catch them.

This made me think of God’s promises to us. I’ve realized that God always puts His promises to us way out in the distance. They are almost never within our immediate reach. In order to claim these promises, we have to get our running shoes on and chase them.

“Why do you make it so hard, God?” I asked Him.

God whispered into my heart: “Those promises mean very little to me, but you mean everything to me. I place those promises away from you so you can move from Point A (old selfish nature) to Point B (Christ-likeness). I want you close to me, so I place promises along the way to draw you near and to teach, encourage and bless you.”

Finally, after years of waiting on God to fulfill His promises to me, I understood what I was doing wrong. God’s promises are already fulfilled. If He gave them to me, they are recorded in history as completed and I shouldn’t worry about the timing. What I need to focus on is the chase. How am I running after my promises? Am I focused like that dog with a huge grin on my face and my tongue lolling out to one side? Or am I whining and complaining to God that He is taking too long and He is making it too hard?

I think God wants to us to enjoy the chase. He put promises around us to make life fun and rewarding. He didn’t put them there to make us miserable. My goal for myself now is to enjoy the chase. Chasing dreams is a privilege, and God has given me gifts, talents and the Holy Spirit to help me run to win.

Unlike the dog, if I run out of land, God will teach me to run on water so I can continue to chase my boat. And when I finally catch it, I want to be eager for another promise and another chase! Promises help me to cultivate a deeper relationship with God, so I want to chase after a bunch of them! I desire for Jesus to be my best friend before I meet Him face to face.

What promises has God given you? Are you chasing them with determination, clinging onto Him the entire way? How can you begin to enjoy the chase and feel secure in His love for you?

“I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise” (Psalm 119.58 NIV).

You can also read this at the Internet Cafe!

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April 4, 2010

Sanctified Together Publication

Jumping In

I imagined myself standing next to Jesus, looking out at the world and watching the events of history unfold. I can't wait to jump into my life and shine the glory of God during my short years on earth. Jesus reminds me that I must stand strong in the world -- the roots of the Enemy are everywhere. He explains that I will learn all about faith and that I will no longer be completely surrounded by God's glory. However, I will feel His glory deep within my soul. It is a gift that God planted within me, but that gift is merely a seed. I wll have to cultivate it.

I don't under why Jesus is so emphatic. I won't forget! How could I forget? God is the Creator of the Universe! Jesus introduced us! How could I ever forget the millions of angels singing His praises or how the mountains and the skies cry out His glory or how I have knelt at His throne worshipping Him and filling myself with His love, peace and majesty? How could I forget heaven? Heaven is life; earth is merely a test, a sport, a challenge -- created to teach, strengthen and develop me. I'm playing to win. I want to come back to eterinity a champion!

Jesus gives me a smile. He sees my determination but knows that I have much to learn. He tells me that He will give me three things to help me win on earth and shine the glory of God. He gives me the Holy Spirit. I receive this when I accept Jesus as savior of my earthly and eternal life. The Holy Spirit will be the power of God in me, guiding me through the Enemy's weeds. He gives me the Bible. I must read this Book over and over again because my human heart is naturally sinful and eager to stray. The more I read the Scriptures, the more God's promises fill my heart and take root. And He gives me other people. Jesus said that I will be able to see Him through the lives of other Christians who are walking by faith. They will encourage, motivate and edify me. They will help me win my race, and I will help them win theirs; however, we must live in harmony.

Yes, I know, Jesus! I know! I'm ready to go. I want to be Your hands and feet. I want to show the whole world what they are missing when they reject God. I will be a leader of the Gospel! I will shine Your glory in every crevice of darkness I see!

Jesus' face becomes serious. He stares in my eyes and waits a second before giving me His last words of advice. He tells me that He will have to break me. He will have to beat down every aspect of my flesh, because only then will His glory shine through. He says this process hurts, and it continues until the day I see Him again in heaven. But, if I learn to seperate my spirit from my flesh, I will find great joy. Only when my flesh dies, will my spirit radiate the glory of God.

But I don't have flesh, yet. I do not understand pain, heartache or loss. I've never been without God, so I've never experienced sin. All I've ever known is love, joy and beauty. I start to feel a little homesick, and Jesus wraps His arms around me and strokes my face. He doesn't say these words out loud, but I feel them in my heart.

"When the pain becomes unbearable, and you have lost your way, just look to Me, dear daughter. I allowed my flesh to be dominated by the world, so that God's glory could pour forth. You must fill your life with that glory and shine it brightly. Draw close to me, and I will draw close to you."

Jesus tells me that it is time for me to go. The family, nation, culture and time He has chosen for me is ready for my arrival. I look at Jesus face to face one last time, and I can't help but say these words:

"I promise You, Jesus. I will return to You broken, tired and used up; but I will come back victorious. I will shine Your glory."

John 17.1-5 NIV:

"After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: 'Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.'"

You can also read this article on the Sanctified Together Publication page: here.

The Sanctified Together Publication April Issue - Life as a Vapor is hot off the online presses! I hope you join me in reading all the wonderful writings!

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