Jun 082015
 

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

Psalm 115:3

Today is Primary Day in the State of Georgia. Many will go to the polls today to cast their vote for different governmental positions in the primary elections. I pray that God’s people will go and vote, and not only that, but will confront boldly the moral and cultural decay we see all around us. The late Carl F.H. Henry wrote a book called The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, where he tells evangelicals that it is NOT an option to be disengaged from the critical issues of our day. He’s right!

Christians have a dual citizenship. One is in the City of Man and one is in the City of God. Augustine wrote his book, The City of God, during the collapse of the Roman Empire. As Christians we know that our ultimate concern must be for the glory of God. The City of Man is soon passing away and only faith, in Jesus Christ, in the Gospel, will translate a sinner to be a citizen of the City of God. But, Christ’s call for us to love our neighbor compels us, not only to promote the glory of God in this world, but also to promote justice and righteousness in the City of Man.

We know that the City of God is the eternal Kingdom and has primary importance. But that does not mean that the City of Man is unimportant. Christians are not permitted to forfeit our love for other citizens even in the City of Man. Our love of neighbor, grounded in our love for God, requires us to work for good in the City of Man. Christians bear responsibility in both cities. We should avoid the extremes of either neglecting the City of Man or making too of it. As believers, we know that we are temporary citizens in the City of Man.

Love of neighbor, grounded in the supreme love of God (our loving of God), provides a philosophy that strikes a balance between disengaging in politics or idolizing politics. As evangelicals, we must engage in political action, not because politics is ultimate (the City of Man is certainly not ultimate), but because our Redeemer commands us to love our neighbor. We love by speaking the truth! We do not love when we run and hide! If we truly love our neighbor, we should speak out against those things that are working to destroy our neighbor. Abortion, the re-definition of marriage, financial irresponsibility, and a host of other things are working to destroy our neighbor, and we should not be silent. Ultimately, we desire that our neighbors would be delivered from the god of this world and become citizens of God’s eternal Kingdom.

I am thankful today that God’s sovereignty is not up for a vote. No one can remove Him from His throne! He reigns supreme. But remember, when trouble hits the City of Man, the citizens of the City of God should spring into action. Our chief allegiance is to his Kingdom, but our love for neighbor calls us to fight for righteousness in the City of Man. Let’s not confuse the City of Man with the City of God, but faithful citizens of the City of God do not neglect their duty to the City of Man.

Remember in all of this that God is sovereign and He is working His plan. (See Romans 13).

The polls are closed (they were never opened)! God always has been and will be Sovereign!

Pastor Bill

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Feb 242015
 

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

Hebrews 10:36 (ESV)

What occurs every four years and is just as popular, if not more so, than the Olympics? You guessed it: the World Cup. The World Cup is an international soccer tournament with 32 countries participating. Nations compete over a long period of time to qualify for this soccer (football) tournament, years of work culminating in a 64-game tournament watched by the world. In 2010, it was estimated that 3.2 billion people watched at least one minute of the World Cup. Over 1 billion people watched the final match between Spain and the Netherlands in 2010. The event with the largest viewership in history was the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The sport of soccer has been a big part of my life since the age of 8. I played in high school and college and have even played on teams as an adult. I have coached teams for many years and I am presently the new middle school girls coach for Union County.

The objective of a soccer game is really simple: score more goals than the other team! Playing it, however, takes years of practice, coordination, skill, touch, and yes, endurance and speed. A team will not finish very well if they lack endurance. During a soccer match, a player runs anywhere from 4-7 miles, depending on his/her position. A soccer player runs virtually non-stop for 90 minutes. When I played, I happened to have one of those positions that ran about the 7 mile mark. Why would anyone put themselves through that much torture, you might ask? Score one goal for your team and you’ll understand why! There is something amazingly addicting about putting the ball in the back of the net. You want to do it over and over again. The training becomes a joy and not drudgery. One wants to get better and better so that one can score more often.

In the text above, the writer to the Hebrews exhorted these believers to remember the days in their early Christian experience when they faced many trials. They endured hard struggles with suffering (v. 32), publicly humiliated and afflicted. Some were treated as criminals and were thrown in prison. Christian brothers and sisters risked the plundering of their property to provide for and care for those in prison. You must remember that the Romans didn’t provide 3 meals a day, showers, weight benches, TV’s, and air conditioning. Any meals these believers received came from caring brothers and sisters in Christ.

These early believers endured these hardships since they knew they had a better possession and an abiding one: They were looking to the real goal – heaven! This is why the writer to the Hebrews tells them in verse 35-36, “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. You have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God (that is, lived your life of faithfulness to God until the end), you may receive what is promised (the completion of their salvation in heaven).

Do you need endurance today? I do. For one, I can’t run like I did 25 years ago in a soccer match; but secondly, I have many struggles that are difficult to fight. Sometimes I simply want to throw in the towel. So I need this word from Hebrews because I need endurance too. Holy Father, please help us to keep our eyes on the only goal that matters. Grant to us enduring grace. I am so thankful that your people are not of those that shrink back and are destroyed (v. 39). You preserve and keep your own in your mighty hand. Amen.

Watch a World Cup match, even if you care nothing about soccer, and notice the endurance of the players. It really is amazing how they run. Let us fix our eyes on the prize and run with endurance the race set before us.

Running for the GOOOAAAALLLLLLLL! (That’s how the announcers of a soccer match say “goal” – they just stretch it out a little more!)

Pastor Bill

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Feb 112014
 

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 10:37-38 (ESV)

You may or may not know that I am the son of a German immigrant. My father came to this country (legally!) in 1956. President Eisenhower opened the way for 100,000 European refugees to come to America and work. My father was one of them. In 1944, my father (at age 7), his two sisters, his aunt and his grandmother, escaped their village by night as it was surround by Russian soldiers. Others in the town escaped also, but very few survived. My father ended up in a refugee camp in Denmark, and was there until Christmas of 1946, already a year and a half after the war. The stories he tells about his life before and after the war are simply amazing. Right now, I have the privilege of editing his autobiography entitled A Home to Call My Own. It is getting closer to completion and, Lord willing, will be published by the end of this year.

In the book, my dad tells a story that reminded me of the verses above. We cannot “half-way” come to Christ, can we? He is either first in our lives or He is not. There is no middle ground for a disciple of Jesus. To illustrate this, my dad tells of the moment he received a letter from his aunt, who came to America after World War I and would open her home to take in my dad and his sister in Cincinnati, Ohio. Working with the American consulate in Frankfurt, the visas were approved and my dad had a choice to make: do I leave my father and mother, two brothers, and my entire homeland – do I leave it all and come to America? My dad talks about how difficult it was to make this decision. But he knew that this was his only opportunity to escape war-torn Germany and pursue a better life.

Well, on December 20, 1956, at 1:10 PM, my dad set foot on Pier 86 in New York City, welcomed by the Lady of Freedom (Statute of Liberty). It was not long after, when they arrived in Cincinnati, that my dad heard the Gospel at a German youth group meeting in Cincinnati. God saved him on that night and his life really changed forever! Jesus took first place, and I was blessed to watch this man live as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

The cost of discipleship is great, but there is no better life in the world. When we evangelize, one thing we don’t always make clear is that Christ is to be received by faith – not as a “pain in the neck” or to “cramp our style” – to be received, rather, as our greatest treasure! He is the Great Reward. My dad came to America because he knew there was no better nation on earth. We should call people to come to Christ because He is the greatest treasure! Being a disciple of Christ is not a “pain in the neck”, but is the greatest joy in the universe. It reminds me of the chorus, “Knowing you, Jesus, knowing you. There is no greater thing. You’re my all, you’re my rest, you’re my joy, my righteousness, and I love you, Lord!”

So let us remember to call the lost to forsake all and follow Jesus, knowing that He is greatest treasure of all! When you have the greatest treasure, you will have no regrets that you left the world behind!

Happy in Jesus,

Bill Schakat

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Jan 232013
 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.

1 Peter 5:6-7 (ESV)

Last September, RBC began a new ministry called WeCare. The ministry was wrought in the hearts of Rebecca and Doug Collins following many years of giving constant care for Rebecca’s mother. Rebecca journaled her experience and published the work under the title, Diary of a Mad Care-Giver. It is a wonderful book and certainly encouraging for all who are experiencing the struggles of giving full-time care, or to prepare those who will in the future.

Our desire at WeCare is that the time would be a haven of rest and encouragement from the daily demands of care-giving. Most care-givers rarely get a break. They pour out their lives selflessly for a loved one and very often, to them, it seems no one really cares about them. It seems that no one really cares about their struggles with physical handicaps, doctor visits, cooking, and all that’s involved in daily living – not to mention the vast array of emotions that come into play. At WeCare we invite care-givers to come and enjoy a meal that they don’t have to fix! They can come and be strengthened and encouraged from the experiences of others and learn more of patiently trusting in our faithful God.

At WeCare, we desire to point these caregivers to the God who cares more than any of us ever could. From the text above, we see that the mark of humility is seen in the casting of our cares upon our Father. The main verb is “humble” yourselves. The participle, which modifies the verb, is “casting” your cares…” What do the humble do? They cast their burdens on the Lord! They trust the Lord with all their heart and lean not on their own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). They remove all trust in self-reliance and look to our Almighty Father. He is the One who cares for us! And like our text says, His hand is mighty! He can do all things! He grants abundant grace. He grants patience and peace. He provides strength for daily battles. We have His promise from His Word that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He is wise and true and His love will never fail!

God is blessing this ministry! Even now God is opening up several doors for us. Some in other counties are asking if we could record the meetings because they simply have no other support. The need around us is urgent. There are many possibilities of service. Please invite all care-givers to join us on the first Friday of each month. Our next meeting is Friday, February 1, 12 PM, at the church. Those planning to come should R.S.V.P. with Rebecca Collins at 745-2942.

“When I thought, ‘My foot slips’, Your steadfast love held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”
– Psalm 94:18-19

So, dear caregiver, and all the RBC family, let us learn to cast our cares upon the Lord. He cares for you. Let His steadfast love hold you up. His consolations are sweet, so let them refresh your soul.

Pastor Bill

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Dec 122012
 

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

2 Corinthians 9:15 (ESV)

There is no question that Christmas has become a selfish desire for material things. We love our “things”. We love them so much we will even fight for them at a department store. Once again, there were many “Black Friday Brawls” all over the country. When I watch the video clips I am in horror. It is almost like we have become like wild, untamed animals. The corruption of the human heart is so evident. One only needs to watch one Black Friday Brawl video (or brave the crowds in person) to see that humanity has a desperate problem.

The only remedy for sin however, comes from the real meaning of Christmas. I’m not against the purchasing and the giving of gifts. Obviously we have gone way over-board in our culture. But, we have salvation because God gave the greatest gift of all – His Son. The Scriptures reveal to us that it is God who is the great Giver. “Every good gift and every perfect is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). Romans 3:24 tells us that we are justified, by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

The Greek word for “gift” in that passage means “present” or “without cost or cause”. We did not cause our own salvation, neither did we buy (that is, work for it). “Of His own will he brought us forth (gave us new birth) by the Word of Truth” (James 1:18). Salvation is not your doing. Just as no one chooses to be born, no one chooses on his own to be born again. This is God’s sovereign work. Ephesians 2 says that by grace God made us alive in Christ. Then in verse 8 Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

God, by grace, has also given gifts to His Church. Ephesians 4:7 says that “Grace was given to each one us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” And the apostle Peter says that, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

God has been giving to you, even this very second. He gave you life, breath, and other material blessing. He has been gracious to you. Most of all, He gave us His Son! Only through faith in Jesus Christ and His work on behalf of sinners can our hearts be made new. Will you trust Him today? Don’t gain the whole world (“things”) and forfeit your soul. How foolish to put our hope and trust in “things”. Will you make Jesus Christ your great treasure?

If you are a Christian, your greatest joy came as a gift. Embrace Him with joy and share the gift with others. Remember, as Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” No, you don’t have to go over-board, and you shouldn’t, but that does not mean you cannot be thoughtful and generous. There are many ways to give inexpensive gifts that will not take away from the real meaning of Christmas. In all of your purchasing and giving, just don’t forget the greatest Gift of all. To quote Linus, the great theologian from Peanuts, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

Giving thanks for God’s inexpressible gift,

Pastor Bill

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Jan 262012
 

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Romans 8:15-17

Last year, I spoke with a woman that held liberal views regarding abortion. She knew my stance as one devoted to the sanctity of human life. She had heard me speak on the issue before. It was her view that since many babies are unwanted and parents in many cases can not afford them, the children become a burden on society. Therefore, in her mind, it was better that the life of an unborn child be taken than for that child to be born and raised in poverty.

I was horrified. Is life only significant for the rich and healthy? Is it only for the privileged? Is it ethical to destroy life that God created (Psalm 139) simply because the child might be a “burden” on society? I say an emphatic “NO!”

Women need to know that there are alternatives to abortion. The unborn child is made in the image of God. God fashions the child so wondrously and quickly in the womb. By day 5, the child’s gender can already be determined, by day 18, the heart and eyes begin to form and by day 22 the heart begins to beat. By the time a woman realizes she is pregnant, the child’s heart is already beating. This child’s life does not have to end. There are alternatives. One such alternative is adoption. There are thousands of couples either considering or presently pursuing adoption.

In recent years, there has been a push, and I feel it is a very positive push, for evangelicals to make themselves available to adopt children. We say we desire this alternative to abortion, and refuse to avail ourselves of the opportunity to actually do it? I want to mention two great examples of evangelicals getting involved in this issue.

First, Focus on the Family, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Co., has made an initiative with the state to find homes for foster children. They called the initiative Wait No More, and in Colorado alone, Focus on the Family has moved about 500 of the 800 children in foster care into permanent homes in less than two years.[1] The effort has helped both infertile couples desperate for children and children needing homes. The families are now very often multi-racial and the children are varied in age. When these families come to church, the church then also becomes multi-racial. What a beautiful picture of the Gospel.

Secondly, Dr. Russell Moore, Academic Dean and Vice President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, has written a book to spur on evangelicals to adopt. It is called Adopted for Life. Dr. Moore and his wife Maria, have adopted children. Other professors and administrators of the seminary have done the same. It is a movement that has spread through Dr. Moore’s church, Highview Baptist. In the last 5 years, Highview has brought 140 adopted children into their congregation. Since I lived in Louisville, I know of many couples, directly or indirectly related to the seminary, who have adopted or are in the process of adopting.

Evangelicals understand that adoption pictures the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No one is born a Christian! No one is born into the Kingdom of God by virtue of ethnicity or parents. We are all born sinners. We are all in Adam and hence we are outside of the family of God. But in the Gospel, God has predestined us for adoption as sons (Eph. 1:5). He has given us His Spirit of adoption. By being born again of the Spirit, we are now adopted into God’s family. Adoption is the only way in! By nature we are enemies of God and do not have fellowship with Him. Through Jesus Christ however, we have been brought near. We belong to Him. We are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.

As I write this, I must ask myself, “What about me and my family? Do we need to adopt? Will we make ourselves available to do this? Has God called us to participate?” Tough questions for sure! I do want to be available if God so desires. How about you?

For all those that believe in the sanctity of life and see adoption as a wonderful and necessary alternative to abortion, will we support this ministry? Will we pray for couples seeking to adopt? Remember, adoption is not only for infertile couples, but also for those with natural children. Can we welcome other children into our families and treat them as natural sons? That’s what God does for us, and it’s our only hope.

Pray for the children, both born and unborn. God bless.

– * –

[1] Wall Street Journal, “Adoption Season for Evangelicals”, September 24, 2010.

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Nov 172011
 

Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men.

2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 (ESV)

We had a very special service at our church last week. Our minister of music, Michael Roderick, was ordained for Gospel ministry. It is a special time for the man called to ministry and for the local church that affirms that call. Godly ministers are a gift from Christ, the Lord and Head of His body (Eph.4:7-12). He purchased His bride with His own blood. He will build His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

The Sovereign Head of the church said that, “As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21). And to what kind of world is Christ sending us? In Matthew 10:16, Jesus told his disciples, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” While we at Redeemer were enjoying our special time together, there were churches in parts of the world whose pastors were arrested, beaten, taken from their wives and children, imprisoned and killed. There also were Christians that were tortured, churches that were burned to the ground, a Christian teenager beheaded, and others suffering incredibly. You can read about these instances on persecution.com, the home of the Voice of the Martyrs. November 13 was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Of course, the persecuted church should be in our prayers daily.

An excellent spiritual exercise for a believer is to read and study the prayers of the apostle Paul. I sometimes read Paul’s prayers and then ask myself, “Bill, what are you praying for?” In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul asks the believers to pray for him (and Silas and Timothy, see 1:1), and Paul’s great concern is that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and that it might be honored. You see, as always, Christ sends out his children as sheep among wolves. The wolves lie in wait to devour the sheep. The message of the cross is foolishness to them. They do not honor the word of the Lord, but rather they mock it, and scorn it, and ridicule and abuse those that treasure it. So Paul also asks that the Thessalonians pray that he might be delivered from wicked and evil men.

Nothing has changed in 2000 years in regard to persecution. Evil and wicked men still try to stop the Church from expanding. It is estimated that 171,000 of our brothers and sisters will die at the hands of the enemies of Christ in 2011. The difference in present-day America is that since we suffer so little, those who suffer a lot are often forgotten. Do we pray that the word of the Lord would speed ahead and be honored when we really face little to no opposition? Probably not like we should. We are not constantly being pursued by evil and wicked men. In God’s providence, I have not suffered like many others. Would I be willing to? How about you?

At the very least, we can be a voice. A voice that speaks up for those who are being persecuted. We can pray fervently that God’s word would speed ahead mightily in these very difficult areas and that His Word would be honored and loved and cherished. We can pray that God would deliver believers from evil and wicked men, though we know that according to His sovereign plan, He doesn’t always bring deliverance. We can pray for America and the indifference among the churches here. Let us not forget to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters, and against the callousness in our own hearts. Let’s pray that God’s Word will speed ahead and be honored by all.

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Sep 062011
 

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:7-11 (ESV)

Not only is Jesus the sovereign builder of His Church (Matthew 16:18), but also He is sovereign in providing the necessary gifts for the edification of His people and the display of His power in this world. So, God has created the new community of believers by His sovereign grace, has broken down the wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile, making them one, and He has given gifts to His people for the building up of the body. This is the message of Ephesians chapters 1-4. God graciously supplies His people with all they need for life and godliness. The local church is a precious means of grace that God gives His people, and in the church His varied grace is seen in the varieties of gifts He gives.

My prayer today is that you would be strengthened in the truth that God has given gifts to all believers for the greater good of the entire body of Christ.

A few things I want us to note about the text above:

1. Every believer has been given a gift by God. Peter makes clear in the text that no believer is excluded. Each one has received a gift. The Greek word for gift, charismata, is rooted in the word for grace, charis. God places in His body whom He wills and gifts them as He wills. Young and old are vitally important in the Church of Jesus Christ. No believer should boast in his gift – for it is something that is received – and no believer should think he is better than another. You might ask, “Well, I don’t know what my gift is! Do I need to take a spiritual gift inventory?” I say an emphatic, “No”! Many will use a spiritual gift inventory report as a reason not to serve in certain areas where the Bible clearly tells them to serve. One example would be hospitality. You can’t say that you won’t practice hospitality because you do not have that gift. All believers all called to be hospitable (see 1 Peter 4:9!). Some simply have a greater God-given grace in this area. The same could be said about many other areas of service. Don’t make this more difficult than it really is. Trust the Lord, get involved in the local church, and let Him lead you to places of service. God can use you in ways you would have never dreamed.

2. Believers are to use their gifts for the edification and blessing of others. In Ephesians 4, the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers are said to be given by Christ. Since Christ has won the right to dispense the gifts as He wills (Ephesians 4:7-8, see also Psalm 68:18), and the Spirit apportions to each one as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11), the gifts should be used for the common good of the body (1 Corinthians 12:7). Believers should be involved in each others’ lives and using the gifts they have been given. We should not congratulate each other for the gifts we receive; rather we are called to use our gifts in the service of others.

3. Believers are to be good stewards of these gifts. Being a steward means, again, that the gift does not ultimately belong to us. It belongs to God. We are all called to be faithful servants of our Lord and Master. The Scripture calls the gifts “varied”, meaning that not all the gifts are the same. For the body to function properly, believers should be fulfilling their God-given function. Using our gifts is a responsibility and not simply a privilege. I want us to hear the words, “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”

4.The gifts are separated in two categories: speaking gifts and serving gifts. There is a sense in which all gifts are given for service (verse 10), but functionally the gifts generally fall into these two categories. I could write a sermon on this point – “but those that speak should speak the very words,” or oracles, “of God.” The speaker is not to give his own opinions and use his own wisdom, but should rather seek to speak the very words of God. The one who serves must serve in the strength that God supplies. Do you see that God works here from beginning to end? That is why Peter leads us to the last point.

5. The Giver of the gifts must receive all the glory! All of this is done in God’s design to bring glory to Himself and not to us! Let us be very careful not to become prideful with respect to the things we do for the Kingdom. Peter gives us a very fitting doxology in verse 11. The Gospel centers on Jesus. To Him belongs glory and dominion forever and ever! And all God’s people said, “Amen.”

So dear Christian, be strengthened in this: God’s varied grace has touched your life. He has uniquely called you and gifted you for the edification of His people! What a grand design! What special grace He bestows to us! I want the members of RBC to know what a blessing they are to me. God has been so gracious to put us on this journey together. Let us continue to serve each other in love, and work together to accomplish our mission. We exist for the Proclamation of God in Christ, For the Transformation of His people, and For the Exaltation of God in all things.

Soli Deo Gloria

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