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1 When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. 2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, 6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. 7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. 8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. 9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. 10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour. Matthew 8:1-13

How should we pray? Jesus said, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7).

In Matthew 21:21-22, after the disciples saw a fig tree which Jesus had cursed wither away, Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”

James writes (James 1:5-8): “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

But what is it to pray in faith? Today’s Gospel provides two excellent examples.

In Matthew 8:2-3, we read: “And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”

In this first example, we see the faith of this leper in the person of Jesus and in His power to heal. He had confidence that Jesus, if He was willing, could cleanse him of his leprosy.

This reminds me of the words of Jeremiah in chapter 32, verse 17: “Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee.” Jeremiah prayed with the confidence that the God who created the heavens and the earth could certainly answer his prayer.

And thus we pray in faith, not that God will grant our every desire and request but in the confidence that God is able to do so and will as a loving heavenly Father answer our prayer in a way that is best for us.

We ask this in the Lord’s Prayer when we pray: “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). We pray in the confidence that God hears and is able to grant our requests but also trusting that God’s perfect will is best for us.

It could have been God’s will that the man with leprosy not be healed, and the leper was willing to accept that. He prayed in the confidence that Jesus’ will was best for him — “not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Consider the Apostle Paul who prayed three times that God would remove his thorn in the flesh, and God’s answer to him. He wrote: “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:7-9).

There are, however, many things for which we need not pray, “If thou wilt,” for we already know from the Scriptures that God desires such. This is true when we pray for God’s mercy and forgiveness, for stronger faith, that God would keep us in the true faith through His Word and Sacraments, etc. And, since Jesus gave to us the Lord’s Prayer, we can certainly pray each petition in the confidence that we are praying in accord with God’s perfect will.

Then, in Matthew 8:8-9,13, we read of a Roman centurion who prayed to Jesus on behalf of his servant: “The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. … And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.”

The centurion, though he was praised and counted worthy by the Jewish leaders in Capernaum, recognized his unworthiness to come before Jesus, the eternal Son of God in human flesh. He sent elders from among the Jews to Jesus to request His help (cf. Luke 7:1ff.) and then, before Jesus arrived, sent friends to Jesus acknowledging his own unworthiness and professing faith that Jesus could just say the word and his servant would be healed. “And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.”

So also, we are unworthy sinners. We deserve nothing but God’s wrath and eternal punishment (cf. Rom. 3:23); and yet, for Jesus’ sake, God hears and answers our prayers.

Jesus made full atonement for our sins when He suffered and died on the cross and, through faith in Him, we have God’s pardon and forgiveness (Rom. 3:21-26). We are counted righteous and holy and acceptable in His sight (Col. 1:19-23; Eph. 1:6-7; 1 John 1:7 — 2:2). Through faith in Christ Jesus, we become God’s children and can come before Him with our prayers and praises (Gal. 3:26ff.; Heb. 10:19ff.).

Dr. Martin Luther, in his Small Catechism, explains the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven,” in this way: “God would by these words tenderly invite us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that we may with all boldness and confidence ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.”

John writes in his first epistle: “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him ” (1 John 5:11-15).

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, grant that we hear Your Word and learn of You that we might acknowledge our sinfulness and trust in You as our Savior and pray to You in faith and with confidence. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“And God said, Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness … So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.” Genesis 1:26, 27

The LORD God created the first man and woman in His own image and after His likeness. Since God is a spirit, the image and likeness spoken of here refer not to a visible likeness, but to a spiritual likeness. We learn of this image of God in the New Testament.

Colossians 3:10 says of the new man or new nature in Christians, that it “is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him.” Ephesians 4:24 says of this same new nature that it “after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

Therefore, we see that the image of God is to know God and His perfect will and also to be truly righteous and holy. Adam and Eve were created with perfect knowledge of God and His will and, in the beginning, had only holy and pure thoughts, desires, words and deeds.

Of course, the fall, recorded in Genesis 3, changed all that and the image of God was lost! Man’s knowledge and understanding of God and His perfect will became darkened so that he now comes up with his own ideas and beliefs about God and even worships and serves the creature (what God has created) rather than the Creator.

Instead of being holy and righteous and wholly devoted to the service of the Almighty God, man has become turned in and focused upon himself and his own desires and ambitions and lives in disobedience and rebellion against God’s holy commandments.

In believers, those who acknowledge their utter sinfulness and trust in the shed blood of Christ Jesus for their salvation, the image of God is being restored. They have a new nature, created in them by God the Holy Spirit, that is being “renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created” them, a nature that “after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” They, “with open face beholding as in a glass [a mirror] the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).

But believers in Jesus will not achieve sinless perfection here in this world. They will not perfectly reflect the glory of the Lord. The Bible plainly tells us that “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8); and we are encouraged to confess our sins and receive God’s forgiveness in Christ Jesus and for the sake of His propitiating sacrifice on the cross for the sins of all: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. … if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 1:9; 2:1-2).

And, when the Last Day shall come, all who have trusted in Christ Jesus will be raised up with a perfect knowledge of God and in perfect righteousness and holiness.

The Scriptures speak of this when they say: “As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness” (Psalm 17:15); “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2); and “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Cor. 13:12).

And so, dear friend, you and I were created in God’s image, created to know God and His perfect will and created to serve God in accord with His will and design. Adam’s sin took from all of us this image of God. Instead of reflecting the holiness and righteousness of God our Maker, we have each gone our own way, seeking to gratify our own fallen and sinful nature and to glorify ourselves. The image of God was lost and we are born into this world dead in our trespasses and sins and are under the wrath of God (cf. Eph. 2:1-3).

In Christ Jesus, God’s own dear Son made man, God provided a sacrifice for our sins and offers to us pardon and forgiveness through faith in the Son. God the Holy Spirit, working through the good news of forgiveness in Christ, regenerates us, bringing us to faith in Christ and then working in our lives to restore the image and glory of God which we lost. And, when Christ returns and the dead are raised up, then all who have placed their hope in Him will reflect His image and serve Him in everlasting righteousness and holiness!

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that my life does not perfectly reflect Your holiness or Your glory. Wash away my sins in Your shed blood and create in me a new heart and nature which loves You, seeks Your will and lives for Your glory. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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Saturday, January 22, marks the 49th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which opened the way for legalized abortion in the United States; and I would have to count that day to be the saddest in American history because, since that day, almost 63.5 million babies have been murdered in this country through legalized abortion, according to figures from the National Right to Life Committee.

It is, as I’ve said before, America’s holocaust because we have killed — or stood by and done little or nothing while it happened in our own land and communities — 63.5 million of our own children inside or partially inside their mothers’ wombs. If God graded on a numbers-based curve — and He doesn’t (one abortion brings His wrath) — Adolph Hitler and his Nazi regime would come out looking like saints in comparison to us.

And why have we done it? The argument we usually hear is that it is a woman’s right and her freedom of choice. But the truth is that it is selfishness. People want to be free to indulge in sexual promiscuity outside of Biblical marriage but do not wish to be burdened and inconvenienced with the responsibilities of giving birth to and raising a child. They place themselves and their own desires and plans above the needs of another human being and choose to kill their children rather than being responsible and giving of themselves to care for them.

Science itself tells us that the unborn child in its mother’s womb is a human being — a heartbeat at 3 weeks, a highly developed brain by 8 weeks, thumb sucking by 9 weeks — and yet we still legally kill each day in our land thousands of human beings for the convenience of mothers and fathers.

We are alarmed at the death toll from the coronavirus but still murder far more babies each and every day through abortion. Perhaps the illnesses and deaths from the coronavirus are but a first step in God’s judgment upon our people and the people of the world who murder their children or support and encourage it! According to The Christian Post, abortion was the leading cause of death worldwide in 2021, killing 42.6 million people, three times more than those who died of communicable diseases, the second-leading cause of death last year. You can’t say our nation and the world are not ripe for God’s judgment. The four horsemen of Revelation 6 are riding!

The Bible clearly forbids us to murder human beings (Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17). And the Bible also clearly teaches that it is God who creates life in the womb and appoints to that life a number of days on this earth: “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:13-16; cf. Psalm 31:15).

Since, as I said before, God does not grade on a curve, even one abortion is a terrible tragedy and heinous crime. But the crime goes on in America’s death camps; and the judgment of God, who created and gives life and values each life so much He gave his Son to redeem it, will fall upon our nation and people for all the innocent blood that is shed in our land, whether in abortion clinics or doctors’ offices and hospitals (cf. Deut. 21:1-9; Gen. 9:5-6). And don’t think our nation’s rulers and judges who either support abortion or do nothing to stop it will escape the wrath of God!

Some would argue and say, “What about cases of rape and incest and those pregnancies which endanger the life of a mother?”

The fact is that they are only a very, very small percentage of the pregnancies which end in abortion. But in cases of rape or incest, why should the child be put to death for the sins of another? Why not put to death the guilty rapist and the sexual predator? Yet, we destroy the innocent and let the guilty off with minimal punishment. And even when medical professionals determine the life of a mother could be at stake, is abortion the right answer? I’ve known of mothers who, without medical warning, gave their lives to deliver a healthy child and of many who’ve been told they would die if they gave birth but went on to have several children and with few complications.

My point is simply this: Pray for God’s mercy upon our people and an end to legalized abortion in our land, use your voice and your votes to protect human life whether young or old, encourage and teach Biblical morals to children and youth regarding God’s design for marriage and bearing children, and stand up for the protection of life against those who would urge us to tolerate their wickedness and ongoing slaughter of the innocent.

This is especially important now as our federal government leadership has promised to defend and further enable this merciless slaughter of children in our land. Unless they repent, they will pay the price, along with all who placed them in power.

And, speaking of repentance, there is a solution to this great sin against God. It is to repent – to acknowledge our sins and look to God for mercy in Christ Jesus and the sacrifice He made on the cross for the sins of all. And where there is true repentance, there will also be a change of heart and a sincere desire and effort to save and protect the lives of our children rather than destroy them.

O Lord, open our eyes to see our great wickedness and repent before Your full judgment falls upon our land and people! Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from The King James Version of the Bible.]

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“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” John 15:1-8

Can a man do good works in God’s eyes without having saving faith in Jesus Christ? Many would say yes to this question, but Jesus says no.

In the Parable of the Vine and the Branches, Jesus teaches us that only those who abide in Him – those who are connected to Him through saving faith – are able to produce fruit acceptable to the LORD God; and God the Father will cut off those branches which produce no fruit for Him. He also prunes and purges those branches which do produce fruit that they might bring forth more fruit for Him.

Those who through faith are joined to Jesus Christ have forgiveness for all their sins and evil works. They are clean through the Word of the Gospel spoken to them – all their sins are washed away by the precious blood of Jesus which was shed on the cross for the sins of the whole world!

As long as they have true and saving faith in Christ and His redemptive work, they will be fruitful and do works that are acceptable and pleasing in God’s sight. This is so because Christ, by the indwelling Holy Spirit, abides in them and empowers them to live for Him, and because the sin and impurity yet in their works is forgiven and not held against them.

Apart from saving faith in Jesus Christ, one cannot do good works in God’s sight, for one remains spiritually dead to God and unable to truly love Him and honor Him with pure and holy works. He is like a branch that has been severed from the grapevine. It will not produce grapes but will wither up and eventually be thrown into the fire and be burned.

So also, the one who does not trust in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice for forgiveness and life will not only be unable to do good works in God’s sight, he will be gathered up on the Last Day, together with all others who were unbelieving and fruitless, and be cast into the eternal fires of hell!

Abide with richest blessings among us, bounteous Lord; let us in grace and wisdom grow daily through Thy Word. Abide, O faithful Savior, among us with Thy love; grant steadfastness and help us to reach our home above. Amen. (“Abide, O Dearest Jesus,” quoted from The Lutheran Hymnal, #53, Verses 4,6)

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.” John 2:11 (Read John 2:1-11)

Jesus’ presence at a wedding feast in Cana and His turning water into wine has troubled some, especially those who are teetotallers for “religious” reasons. “Why would Jesus attend a wedding feast where wine was served,” some wonder? “And why would Jesus turn water into wine, making some 120-180 gallons of it for the wedding guests to drink?”

Jesus’ presence at this wedding — and we do not know precisely why He was invited — shows His respect for the divine institution of marriage between a man and a woman (cf. Gen. 2:18ff., Matt. 19:4-9). And His making wine, as well as drinking it, shows that drinking wine or alcoholic beverages is not of itself sinful, nor is one holier or more righteous through abstinence. What is sinful is the overindulgence in it and drunkenness.

St. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (1 Tim. 5:23); and he wrote to the Ephesians, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18; cf. Matt. 11:18-19; Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:19-21).

But far more important in this account is what His miracle teaches us about Jesus. Even though it was not yet His time to be revealed as the Son of God in human flesh and the Messiah and Savior of the world, Jesus used the divine power He possessed to come to the aid of a wedding party in a potentially embarrassing situation — they had run out of wine. And not only did Jesus turn water into wine; it was the best wine served at the feast.

And this miracle, of which many at the feast had no knowledge, revealed the glory and power which Jesus possessed as the Son of God to a few — to Mary, to the servants who drew the water, and to Jesus’ disciples.

The result was not only a wedding feast without the embarrassment to the hosts of running out of wine; it was a revelation of His person to His disciples, causing them to believe that He indeed was and is the Son of God and the promised Messiah and Savior of Israel.

The Apostle John, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, records this miracle for us that we too might see and believe that this same Jesus who humbled Himself and lived among us as a true man is more than just a man or even a great prophet and teacher. Jesus was and is Jehovah God Himself in human flesh! And this was necessary in order for Him to pay the price required for the sins of the world!

This miracle is but one proof of that fact. He also healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, fed the multitudes, raised the dead, and rose from the dead Himself after being crucified!

Through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit reveals to us Jesus’ divine glory and might; and through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit reveals to us that Jesus redeemed us and all mankind from sin and death by His own innocent sufferings and death in our stead. Jesus’ resurrection is proof that atonement for our sins has been made — we’ve been redeemed by the blood of “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)!

And, through faith in Christ Jesus, God the Son and our Savior, the forgiveness and life He won for all when He paid the price for our sins upon the cross becomes our own. Through faith in Christ Jesus, we have forgiveness of sins and life everlasting!

Oh, that all would see and believe that Jesus is God the Son and that He has paid the price and redeemed us from all our sins!

I cannot reveal Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world to anyone. All I can do is preach the Gospel and tell those terrified by the threats of God’s Law of the comforting promises of the Gospel — the promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who look to Christ Jesus and His cross in faith.

I can repeat the words of Jesus, such as those found in John 3:14-18: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth 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 that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, reveals Himself to those whom He wills. It is as Jesus said in Matthew 11:27: “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (cf. John 1:10-14).

Jesus also said in John 6:44,63: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day”; and, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”

It is as we confess in the Unaltered Augsburg Confession (Art. V, Of the Ministry): “That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.”

As we think about this miracle worked by our Lord Jesus, I invite you to also think about Holy Baptism. I, of myself, can’t wash away sins or give the Holy Spirit to anyone by pouring or sprinkling water on them. But when water is used in connection with God’s Word, Jesus does wash away sins and give His Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:38-39; 22:16; Titus 3:3-7; Eph. 5:25-27).

John the Baptist said in Mark 1:7-8: “There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost” (cf. Matt. 3:11).

Think about the Lord’s Supper, of which we are about to partake. I can’t turn water into wine, but Jesus can and did. And, I cannot cause Christ’s body and blood to be present, distributed and received in the Supper (in, with and under the bread and wine), but Jesus can and still does through His words of institution spoken on the night when He was betrayed (1 Cor. 11:23ff.).

Through His words of institution, He offers and gives to all who eat and drink of His Supper to partake of His sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world — of His body which was given into death for our sins, and of His blood which was shed for the remission of our sins. And, through faith in Christ’s life-giving words, we receive the blessings He won for us when He was sacrificed for our sins. We are given and receive forgiveness for all our sins and life everlasting for Jesus’ sake!

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, grant that I see your divine glory and believe that You indeed are my God and my Savior and place my trust in You for forgiveness and life everlasting. Amen.

[Scripture quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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