Don’t Tell

Mark 9

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Have you ever felt like you’ve been burdened with a task that doesn’t make any sense at all, and yet you have to do it anyway? A completely unreasonable duty that requires you lend trust that you may not be ready to give? I know I sure have, in fact just about every day. Through life, there are so many times that we’re required to give our trust over to God and have faith that He will take control. This can be really difficult to do, and Mark, chapter 9 can help give some insight into why we need to be prepared to do so.

It’s not every chapter that we’re blessed with multiple examples of both proverbial teachings and unfathomable biblical spectacles. In Mark 9, however, we see exactly that—there’s the transfiguration of Christ, holy expulsion of a demonic spirit, and, of course, wise parables from Jesus. It can be difficult to lump so many fantastical and seemingly unrelated events into one central theme, but as is always the case, there’s a lesson to be learned through all of it. Let’s travel through this chapter through the eyes of the disciples.

The disciples, although justifiably righteous, are still humans and still feel the same emotions that we feel—both good and bad. It can be difficult to relate to some of the things that happen in the Bible, especially when they come from the mind or mouth of a literally perfect person (Christ), so trying to see the events of the Bible as the disciples would have seen it can provide a unique lens of interpretation.

The chapter begins with the transfiguration of Christ, where he takes Peter, James, and John on top of a mountain. There, he is mystically clothed in the brightest white on earth, and his face becomes like the sun. He’s accompanied by Moses and Elijah, before the voice of God comes from a cloud proclaiming “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!” – Mark 9:7. The disciples are of course terrified by this experience, because that’s a pretty terrifying thing to experience! But as they’re coming down the mountain, Jesus gives them the super cryptic message “not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. “– Mark 9:9.

Firstly, that’s a very difficult thing to ask of anyone; not to speak of literally hearing the voice of God and visions of prophets. Secondly, that’s a very ominous thing to say to people whom you love. It not only means they’d have to wait to share what they’d seen until Jesus dies, but also until He comes back to life. Would you be able to heed the requests of Jesus when they, at the moment, seem so unreasonable?

After this, in verses 14-27, Jesus expels a demonic spirit from a boy who had been plagued by this spirit from birth. He then takes the disciples away and tells them that “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill Him, and after three days He will rise.”—Mark 9:31. Again, we get a cryptic message prophesying the death and resurrection of Christ. Imagine what the disciples must have been thinking when they heard this, knowing that even they were afraid to ask Him about it (Mark 9:32).

Ultimately, the disciples were too afraid, and denied Christ, thus not putting their trust in Him. They were not able to abandon their understanding of what they thought would or should happen—opting instead to their own paths away from Jesus. It is up to us, as believers, to learn from their humanly mistakes and recognize that what we want, or what we think should happen, is not always what’s best for us, or simply may not be in the plans God has for you, and that we need to put our whole faith and trust in the only constant in life—God. 

-Mason Kiel

Application Questions

  1. If you had been one of the 3 disciples who witnessed the Transfiguration, and then were told not to tell what they had seen until Jesus rose from the dead do you think you would be trustworthy to follow Jesus’ instructions?
  2. What instructions of Jesus do you have a hard time following? Why?
  3. When have your plans not matched God’s? What did you learn?
  4. Reading through Mark 9 what do we learn about Jesus’ view of children?

Yellow Skittles and Suffering

Job 2

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Do you like skittles? It seems like everyone has a favorite color and a color they dislike. For me, I dislike the yellow ones. If someone were to give me a pack of skittles, I would simply pick out the yellow ones and eat the colors that I do like. Life, however, is not like this. We cannot pick and choose what we like and don’t like. Our lives are not as simple as pulling weeds out of a garden.

In this chapter of the book of Job we find him in the aftermath of losing everything. To make matters worse, Job is now being afflicted with painful boils. Destroying everything in Job’s possession did not persuade him to curse the name of God, so Satan has now turned to physical attacks.

            Even Job’s wife believes that Job should give up. His wife has also lost everything. The children whom she carried in her womb are dead. The life she knew- gone. She was in great turmoil as well. Her grief causes her to go out to her husband, who is sitting among the ashes, and plainly tell him to curse God for the calamity that has befallen them. And then she says that Job should die. For all that Job has endured certainly there is no reason to continue. No reason to attempt treating himself for boils, which is what he is attempting during this conversation.

            Job’s response is a great reminder. He says in verse 10, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”

            Such an attitude can be extremely difficult to cultivate in times of such pain. Even Job’s friends, when they first see him in this chapter, weep at the sight of him. Even amongst his pain Job refuses to curse God. Job was unable to cherry pick what was happening in his life. It was out of his power to dispose of his yellow skittles in life.

            It is impossible for us too. We are not promised a perfect life in this fallen world. As a result of the fall of man and sin entering the world, we live in a corrupt world where bad things happen. We are given many good skittles, but that does not mean we will never have taste of a yellow one. But we have hope that one day if we put our trust in God that we will taste eternal life. Every tear and pain from this fallen world will be wiped away and what was imperfect will be made perfect.

            So, until that day comes, let us trust God and know that the taste in our mouth that the yellow skittle leaves is not forever. Remember Job’s words, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”

-Hannah Deane

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What have been the yellow Skittles in your life? How did you respond to them? More like Job did? Or his wife? The next time you encounter a great trial or suffering how would you like to envision you will respond? What could you do now to prepare for this response?
  2. What good have you accepted from God? Thank Him for them!
  3. How does keeping an eternal perspective give you strength and hope through the difficulties?

When God says Go

When God Says Stop

Acts 9

April 27

Acts 9:17 – Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

A few days ago, I shared thoughts on becoming sensitive to the Holy Spirit, instead of clinging tight to traditions of the Law.

And yesterday, I shared my thoughts on evangelizing. 

In Acts chapter nine we have an example of a new believer being asked to do what some might describe as a dangerous mission – go visit the Jewish leader who is known to breath out murderous threats against followers of Jesus. 

May I be honest? If I had been Ananias, I would have been second guessing this new gospel message and all that God was asking me to do. I may have even been tempted to just flat out disobey and tell God “no”. 

Thank goodness Ananias chose to believe God and responded in obedience. Thank goodness Ananias trusted in God’s faithfulness, even when it didn’t make any sense. Thank goodness Ananias is an example we can turn to when we are also asked to do things that take us way out of our comfort zone. 

Ananias is called a disciple – so it’s not too much of a stretch to think that he was a devoted man of prayer and scripture study. Ananias was most likely in a spiritual posture to notice when the Lord was speaking to him. He wasn’t so wrapped up in his daily routines that he didn’t know when the Lord called to him in a vision. 

On the other hand, Saul, one who was devoted to the Law, had to be struck with blindness in order for the Lord to get his attention. 

The dichotomy of how the Lord spoke to these two men is striking, but both were startling. One was approached in a vision, the other lost his vision. One was told “go”, the other was told “stop”. One had to overcome doubt and act in faith, the other had to be humbled and overcome pride. 

This story of Saul’s conversion and Ananias’ part in it, shows us that God will use whatever method necessary to get us to stop and listen in order to make an impact for His Kingdom. 

-Bethany Ligon

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Have you ever done something for God that was a reach out of your comfort zone? What was the result? Would you do it again? Would you do something even more daring – for God?
  2. When was a time God probably wanted you to GO? When was a time God probably wanted you to STOP? Ask God if He is currently calling you to GO or to STOP. Then do it.

Bad Timing?

John 11

April 8

Have you ever questioned God’s timing? How about feeling like maybe God isn’t as concerned about you as you wish he was? Have you ever felt let down by him?

Martha, Mary and Lazarus were friends of Jesus. They knew that he was tuned into God’s will and that he was God’s Messiah. So when Lazarus fell seriously ill his sisters sent for Jesus. Instead of coming right away, Jesus waited days to come. He said,

 “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

I have to wonder if, when they found out that Lazarus had died, if anyone who heard him say that questioned. Could Jesus have been wrong?

When he does finally arrive, Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Mary expresses the same disappointment. We’re told, When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” They must have felt a bit abandoned by him in that moment.

But I have to imagine that their joy, their utter amazement, when he raises their brother from the dead had to trump whatever disappointment they had felt. In THAT moment, they knew that Jesus was perfectly attuned to his Father’s timing.

In Isaiah 55:8-9 God tells us:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Maybe you’ve questioned God’s timing in those situations where you just know what needs to happen for things to work out. Maybe you’ve had things not work out the way you had planned, or hoped, they would.

The thing about God is that we can trust him even when we don’t understand.

-Susan Landry

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  1. Martha and Mary were Jesus’ friends, and they addressed him pretty directly when he shows up after their brother died. Does it seem that Jesus is mad at them for sharing their disappointment, their not understanding, with him?
  2. Do you think we can tell God that we are disappointed with him, or do you think that is inappropriate?
  3. When you are unsure of God’s timing in a situation in your life, what are some ways you can surrender that to him and trust him in the midst of your uncertainty?

Who Do You Talk to First?

Nehemiah 2

March 25

When the main character starts the story in tears and depression, you typically know you are not reading a comedy. And Nehemiah is not one for sure. Today’s reading (Nehemiah 2) starts with Nehemiah despondent, having been in tears the chapter before when he learned the news that Jerusalem’s wall and gates had been destroyed and the remnant of Jews who had survived the exile were in disgrace. Approximately 150 years prior to Nehemiah, King Nebuchadnezzar had violently charged through Jerusalem destroying the city, its walls, and countless Jewish lives, leaving it the heap of rubble and ruin Jeremiah had warned Judah about. Those still there were in affliction.

Sometimes we can mask our pain and sorrow. Sometimes we blast it on social media. And sometimes it is just too raw to hide from those closest to us. In this case, Nehemiah was at work and he was not himself. Many of us have had those days. He was working as cupbearer to the king which was the interesting career of being an entrusted, royal official charged with serving the wine, protecting it from those wanting to poison the king, at times tasting it first to ensure it was safe. And in this story,  the king, who was close enough to him to recognize a broken spirit, asked what was wrong. Nehemiah explained,

 “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” (Nehemiah 2:3)

And then the king asks what he wants of him. All in all, it seems like the king was acting like a pretty good boss on this occasion. I’ve had the privilege of working for some wonderful bosses over the years, and it is so nice when they do recognize when things aren’t okay, listen to you, and ask how to help. Same with teachers, family, and friends. I was struck with Nehemiah’s response being a little different than I had remembered though.  For some reason what had stuck with me from different sermons and lessons on Nehemiah over the years was how Nehemiah had been willing to ask for specific things, and how he was bold yet humble, and how he rebuilt walls. All of those things are true and noteworthy in Nehemiah. But, what I forgot were the incredibly important few little words tucked away at the end of verse 4.

The king said to me, “What is it you want?”

Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king,

I personally don’t think it matters as much what Nehemiah said after that or how he said it, but rather what he did prior to making the request. He prayed to the God of heaven. Before expressing his own highly emotionally-charged thoughts on the subject, he prayed to God.  And in the chapter prior, when he learned of the state of Jerusalem, he wept and prayed to God.  Nehemiah is remembered for rebuilding walls, and our chapter today is the start of his journey to rebuild and restore. But, Nehemiah knows it wasn’t possible because he put on the just-right-amount-of-depression-and-attention-seeking face and earned the king’s sympathy, nor was it because he was very concrete in his request and willing to ask for just what he wanted. Nehemiah gets it. 

“And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests” (v.8).

How different the world could be if we each prayerfully considered our words, our requests, and our actions. If we trusted God most and sought God first. If we went to God with our concerns and problems before others, prayed before answering others, and lived a life consistently casting our cares on Him rather than casting judgment or personal opinions so flippantly.

Nehemiah was a rebuilder, a cupbearer, and he did ask for something specific in a humble way. But, let’s also remember that he was a man of prayer.  As was our Messiah.

-Jennifer Hall

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Can you think of a time (or two) when you didn’t stop to think – and more importantly – pray before speaking and your words caused problems or weren’t received as you had hoped. How could pausing a quick moment to pray have changed what you said, how you said it or the response you received? How can you remember to pray next time?
  2. What do you generally do when you are in pain and sorrow? What helps? What does not?
  3. How can you be more aware of those around you who are hurting? What do you have that you can share with those in pain and sorrow (both material -a cup of coffee and a spot on my couch – and spiritual encouragement and support)?
  4. Would others know you to be a person of prayer? Does God consider you a person of prayer like Nehemiah? Any changes you want to make? How?

Taking it By Yourself

Numbers 14

February 18

How many times do you think something at work or school is off and you need to take things into your own hands? The Israelites didn’t like what was going on in Numbers 14. They didn’t put their trust in him. They felt like they had to go beyond him and figure things out on their own. That is probably one of the worst things you can do as a Christian.

There’s so many times in a day where you just feel lost and hopeless and you just feel like you need to take a minute for yourself – but don’t be by yourself. Go into a room and pray, when everything feels wrong or off, talk to God about it. If you take a look at how the Israelites portrayed themselves in this passage., they were lost mentally, physically, whatever you want to say. They started losing trust, they started losing faith. They started believing and acting like God didn’t know what he was doing.

I find myself sometimes needing to take a step back from school and even my family and just be by myself in a room turning off my phone and just having an OutLoud conversation with God. Because when all else fails, I know I can always go back and just figure it out with God. I wish the Israelites did that in this passage. If they took a minute and had a conversation with God trying to work through everything, maybe they would’ve found what they were looking for.

Take a look at what Joshua said, which is in verses 7-9.

“The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”

He was brave to go in front of everyone and say what he said. He saw the land that God wanted him to see and he understood if God was pleased with them, He would lead them into this land.

-Genesis Dylewski

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How well do you feel you trust God when faced with difficulties? When you are in the minority? When you feel like a grasshopper? When you are in a scary situation or unsure of the outcome? How do you think more time calling out to God could help boost your faith in each of these situations? What else could help build your trust?
  2. Can you think of a time you went your own way and tried to take care of a situation on your own (perhaps the “safe” way) rather than joining God where He wanted to lead you? What might you have missed out on?
  3. Which was actually the bigger threat to the Israelites – facing the scary heathen foreigners who didn’t know God (with God at their side) or siding with the majority report from the people of God (who were not trusting God)?
  4. What were the consequences of the Israelites choosing to not go where He was leading when He was leading?

Knowing to Trust

Exodus 32

February 14

When the people didn’t know what was going to happen with Moses, they turned to Aaron to create new gods. God was very angry.

We have struggled with plenty of fear just in the past few years. Not knowing is a great fear of mine. I struggle with not knowing which college I should go to or what I should do with my life.

The people were dancing and worshiping a golden calf. It says in Exodus 32 that the people are prone to evil. They asked for gods that will go before
them. Do we all struggle with evil or dirty desires? Most likely, but how we handle those desires is what matters the most.

Just because you can’t see what has gone over a mountain or you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t push for greatness. The kingdom is our goal. It is our motivation. We must trust in what we can’t see or can’t understand at the moment. We must understand that just because God sent Moses over a hill and we couldn’t see him and his plan – we must know there is one.

-Genesis Dylewski

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. The people were quick to take (sinful) action when they felt like they had been abandoned by God and Moses. Have you ever felt (even for a moment or a day) like you were abandoned by God and/or those who have represented Him to you? What options did you have in how you reacted? What would have been the best course of action?
  2. How can you build your trust in God so that even when He is harder to see, you know He and his plan can be trusted?
  3. What false gods or unhealthy practices are you tempted to turn to when you battle fear? What consequences are there in these actions or attitudes?

Like a Child

Matthew 18

January 18

Sometimes, looking at today’s world it is apparent that people work so hard to gain acceptance, money, and higher position in jobs or in social groups.

I have experienced this when I was younger in middle school and high school. Let’s be honest, when we were all young teens, we all strived to achieve something like this. Whether that be within sports, a club, or our friend group. I have seen this today as an adult. We all want to have a good job, get good pay, and have a great reputation. We all want to grow up and be great in this world, to have our name remembered by society.

But look even further back. Look back to when we were young children. Young kids playing on the playground, digging in the dirt, or catching butterflies. That is what God wants us to be like still! Not that he wants us to dig in the dirt and catch butterflies, but he wants us to live life care free. He wants us to live life to the fullest, to have an almost childlike faith, full of wonder and love!

This weekend I had attended Refuel as a young adult and I experienced this concept. During our recreational time we went out to the lake behind Sarah Major where we had our worship sessions. I was out there with a few friends and we were just in awe of the beauty of the ice on the lake. We sat by the lake while talking and laughing, but it felt like we were children again reveling at the beauty of God’s amazing work. This is how life should feel everyday. It should feel exciting, beautiful, and full of love.

When Jesus’s disciples asked him who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, they were asking him about how they would be viewed in the kingdom. They wanted to know what positions they would have in the kingdom. Jesus responded saying, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3).

Jesus did not come to set up a political order, or put anyone first. He came to suffer and die for our sins because of his love for us.

To be like a child is not about being mature, and wise. To be a child is to know that we are not in control of our own lives. To be a child in Jesus’s eyes is to depend on him and receive everything through him and his Father.

So, the greatest is to be the one who is a child. To be humble, aware that we all lack power, and depend on God to provide what we need. Love one another and live as children loved by God.

-Hannah Eldred

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Is there a place in your life where you are trying to control your circumstances? What is it, and have you talked to God about it? How can you let go of that thing or circumstance? How might humility play a part?
  2. What is your favorite memory from your childhood? Focus on that throughout the day and remember what it was like back then. Are there any qualities you had back then which Jesus would commend that you have since “grown-out-of”? How can you bring some of that back?
  3. In the Parable of the Lost Sheep Jesus shows the Father’s love and concern for the little lost sheep that has strayed from the shepherd’s care. Who do you know who has strayed and how can you pursue them with God’s love this week?

Wait on You

Psalm 129-131

Today, we will be reading Psalm 129-131. I immediately resonated with Psalm 129 where the author expresses being attacked for their youth. All of us understand the feeling of being underestimated. It’s humiliating. Assumptions are made before you have the opportunity to be heard. We are placed into boxes before we get the chance to prove ourselves. Honestly, it’s frustrating. 

Isn’t it amazing that God values young minds? He is righteous. This makes him just. He is able to cut through every stereotype and see the man or woman that you are made to be. 

However, being a young mind myself, I have a tendency to be impatient. This idea takes us to Psalm 130. 

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,

    Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you,

    so that you may be revered.     Psalm 130:3 

While we are bogged down by our own shortcomings and societal stereotypes, God stands for us and forgives. Instead of trying to rush my life to measure up to the world, shouldn’t I wait on the LORD? 

That is so much easier said than done. This author of Psalms says “My soul waits, and in his word I hope”. Our souls should be steady in God. As we eagerly hope for the Kingdom to come, we should have settled patience now. 

But, in this waiting, should we sit with our hands behind our backs doing absolutely nothing? Of course not. Waiting on the LORD means trusting and relying upon his wisdom in our lives, and understanding that he knows what is best for us. 

In this waiting, you can hear his voice more clearly. You can see him move in your life with clarity. Resting your heart on God means that you will be more available for him to intercede on your behalf. 

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

    like a weaned child with its mother;

    my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.  Psalm 131:2 

Allowing yourself to be filled with peace is what leads to spiritual maturity and growth. It places you one step ahead of the people who underestimate you unjustly. 

Today’s song is Wait on You by Maverick City Music. Listen to all 9 minutes and 24 seconds. It’s worth it. 

Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength… that’s what happens when you wait! 

-Leslie Jones

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Psalm 129-131 and Ezekiel 41-42

Masterful Maker – Stubborn Clay

Isaiah 45-46 and 1 Timothy 4

Hello everyone!

Thanks for taking a journey with me this week!  It has been a different challenge for me to focus on a book in the Old Testament, so I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have 😊

We see the phrase “no other than/like/except/but Me” ten times out of the 38 verses in the two chapters of Isaiah we just read.  That is over 25% of the message that has been written in these texts.  Do you think God was trying to make a point that there is no other like Him???  Seems like something He may want us to understand…

Since there is no other God than our God, it makes sense that we acknowledge His power and authority in our life.  He has been identified as the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and everything that lives in it.  We know that He created the world with a purpose of filling it with good things (Isaiah 45:18).  This tells me that everyone, including you and I, has a purpose in their life according to the One True God.  God likes to use analogies to help His people understand His truths.  In Isaiah 45 we see the analogy of God being the potter, molding the clay, His people, to be great works.  In this analogy, God uses some rhetorical questions to help us identify how silly it sounds when we try to take control of our own life from Him.  It’s like the clay asking the potter “What are you making?” or saying “This looks wrong…” (v. 9).  I know I am guilty of being the clay that asks those questions and makes those comments when looking at my own life. 

Depending on where our life is in each season, it can be hard not to question the plan God has laid out for us!  And yet, Isaiah 46:10 reminds us that God knew everything that would happen in our lives from day one.  It doesn’t matter how much we think we have control, because God tells us that “My plan will take place and I will do all My will.”  This can be confusing, but I find it comforting as well.  No matter how badly I think I have screwed up my life, I can have faith that God still has a plan and purpose for me, not necessarily because I am someone that is insanely special, but because I am God’s creation and He has a purpose for ME!

Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes it can be easy to feel like my life is supposed to have an extravagant testimony or grandiose plan to fulfill.  God’s purpose has to be one of great achievement, right?  That message is easily pushed by modern day Christian messages, especially those targeting youth and young adults.  While I don’t think it’s bad to set big goals to achieve, I also think it is just as important to recognize that God uses everyone in impactful ways that may not lead to fame and glory on this earth like we can get the image of at times.  When Paul is writing to Timothy he does not encourage Timothy to gather a bigger following or perform any miraculous wonders that will be spread throughout the land.  Instead, he encourages Timothy to train himself in Godliness (1 Tim. 4:7) and to be an example in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity (v. 12).  None of those things scream popularity or magnificent plans!  But all of them are important for fulfilling the purpose that God has set aside for those who follow Him. 

We were made by an omniscient Creator who wants His people to understand who He is so that they can be strengthened as they fulfill the purpose He has for their life.  We may not always know what that purpose is, but we can trust in our God who does.  We may not always understand the journey we are taking, but we can trust in our God to continue to mold us into what we should be.  So if you have questions about your purpose, I encourage you to lean in to the Potter’s hands, open yourself to the not-so-extravagant, and see what amazing things God has already planned for you.

I hope this week was one that made you think, encouraged you, and grew you in your faith!  Thank you for allowing me to be part of your daily readings this week, I certainly have gained a lot from it as well.

Grace be with you all.

Sarah (Blanchard) Johnson

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 45-46 and 1 Timothy 4

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