Archive for the ‘Hebrews’ Category



December 22, 2014

“As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” Matthew 13:23

Two days past the solstice, my heart has returned already to thoughts of gardens.

While I relish my garden’s production of vegetables and fruits, they do not inspire winter dreams. For me, a preoccupation on production leaves gardening in the language of prose.

A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space — a place not just set apart but reverberant — and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.Michael Pollan

While the world could greatly benefit from more who turn a spade in the simple prose of production, a plot of soil takes on that unique designation of garden when the production of that plot harvests emotions, feelings and meaning beyond the yield of any farm.

Garden poetry emerges through careful crafting of landscape elements with the intent to evoke an emotion. The unique gardener’s vision of selection and placement creates the sense of a privileged place which differentiates a garden from a plot of productive soil.

My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.Claude Monet

Water Lilies

Garden poetry inhabits my winter contemplation.

These contemplations have been revolving around a garden inspiration which came from a recent visit to Monticello. Monticello’s West lawn has a winding path bordering between the lawn and Thomas Jefferson’s various botanical plantings. Jefferson walked along this path as his mode of daily exercise.

Monticello's West Lawn

Monticello’s West Lawn

Jefferson’s path is the inspiration for my North lawn.

While I currently do not need a pathway for physical exercise, I do need a pathway for spiritual exercise. I struggle for consistency in the spiritual discipline of prayer. Therefore, the privileged space I hope to create of my North lawn is a deeply personal masterpiece for my soul.

I’ve been dreaming and planning; drawing and erasing; researching and mulling over a prayer walkway. I hope to create a pathway that will lead me through a secession of prayers. As I walk along the pathway, there will be a variety of stations to lead me in my prayers for the various aspects of my life. Therefore, the selection of plants at each station of the pathway is essential to evoke the recollection and intent of the station.

I have been mulling stations for the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit; governments of the world, the United States, Idaho, and my county; the Church universal, ministries of the seven continents, my local Church; my immediate and extended families; others – friends and associates; sources of enmity and enemies; work and provision; deliverance from temptation – seven deadly sins; and the concerns of self.

The selection of plants and structures which will produce the desired recollection has been a delightful way to pass the dormant season. However, I have encountered a hindrance common to many a gardener. Many of the plants that I would like to select will not be happy in the environment that they would be forced into. I do not have control over the climate and only limited control of the soil. Therefore, my plant selection must be subservient to the climate and soil of the planting.

My mind always seems to wander back to the parable of the sower when I think about gardening.

Example soil horizons. a) top soil and colluvi...

Have you ever wondered the composition of good soil?

How much nitrogen or phosphorous does it have?
What is its optimum pH range?
Is it free draining or does the clay content need to be high?

Jesus tells us that good soil is that in which the seed of the Word of God has been planted and the person hears the word and understands it. This person then grows in that good soil to produce fruit and yields a hundredfold, or sixty fold, or thirty fold.

But is the soil the same for everyone?

Just has God has created a variety of plants that thrive in different environments; I believe He has created variety in His children specifically suited to the environments He intends to send them.

God has gifted some to specifically thrive in intense heat of lifting their candle high;

Others flourish in the deep shade of ministering to the oppressed, abused and depressed;

Some blossom in a free draining flow of new thoughts and opportunities;

Others bloom in the saturated conditions of single familiar passages.

English: Soil types by clay, silt and sand com...

The seed of the Word is the same for us all. However, I believe the characteristics that constitutes good soil varies as widely as the personalities of God’s children. We make a mistake when we assume there is a prescribed formula that ensures the Spirit’s work of sanctification in our lives. We can end up trying to force ourselves into an environment into which we were never created to flourish.

Sanctification’s wonderful discovery is learning the soil or soils that God has specifically designed us to flourish in. It is why some produce a hundredfold in foreign soil as missionaries. It is why some people can bloom in a calling that I could not comprehend participating. It is why some need new soil free from a polluted past.

Every Child of God has a bountiful place in our Maker’s masterpiece garden.  We just need to find the soil that is best suited for our soul.


PRAYER: Father, thank you for the variety that you have created in plants and people.  Thank you for creating and calling your people to all the environments of this world.  Lord, lead us by your Spirit to those soils in which we were designed to produce in the masterpiece of your redemptive plan.  Father, you are the Master gardener.  You have created a poetry in creation that we so often overlook.  All of creation proclaims the intent of you, the Master Gardener.   Open my eyes to see.   Help me to display you in all that I do and produce.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen


















December 17, 2014

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14

Weight and height are used in computing body m...As a year’s end rapidly approaches, I get a little retrospective. I was looking over my 2014 resolutions and was disappointed in the general lack of accomplishment. I was particularly disappointed with the progress toward my body weight goal.

I was 200 pounds at the beginning of 2014. My goal was to be 186 pounds at the close of this year.

I exercised more consistently this year than I have in my entire life. I ran more miles than I have ever run. I pedaled over more asphalt than I have ever cycled before. I followed the black line in my pool lane, lap after lap, for more laps than I thought possible (for me). I did the Jilian Michaels Body Revolution and P90X3.  I took a fitness test and it said that I have the fitness level of a 21 year old.

Yet, I was 204 pounds as of November 1st.

I know  I have put on muscle but that only explains a portion of my weight gain. My bathroom mirror exposes a lot of things, including the myth behind my rationalizations. The reservoir of fat that accumulates above the dam of my belt has persistently survived through the drought that I sought to subject it to. The reality is that the drought was not as severe as it needed to be. I no longer have the metabolism of a twenty-nothing. I can’t eat whatever I want and just workout a little more to stay lean.

My weight is a frustration because I do not eat excessively. I don’t drink carbonated-sugar colas or snack on junk food.  I have only an occasional dessert. My only meal of substance is dinner. Yet, the weight has persisted through a year of consistent exercise.

2014 has conclusively taught me that if I want to be lean then I have to watch both the quantity and quality of what I eat.

Therefore, my wife and I decided to treat ourselves to an early Christmas present – a Vitamix  and  Dr Oz’s two-week cleanse. My diet has been replaced by fruits and vegetables with a little bit (6 oz.) of protein for dinner. That is not very much.

However, this initial phase has been enlightening as to how much our grocery shopping has had to change. Our refrigerator crisper is now overflowing with produce that is actually eaten before it has a chance to rot; frozen fruit and Greek yogurt has replaced the ice cream.

When we made this concerted effort to refrain from our normal diet, we were able to access how many compromises were being made in what we consumed. They had not been huge compromises, but they all accumulate – right above my belt to be precise.

In general, we have been consuming the better rather than the best.

So far, I am very pleased with the results of our Christmas present. I am down to 196 lbs and 186 lbs seems possible by the time the 2015 triathlon and cycling season starts.

As I stared into my bathroom mirror and giggled in frustration the deposits that I hope will be gone by spring, I wondered about the fitness level of my soul. I live in a world with many very good things, a lot of neutral things, and a whole plethora of bad things. I take into my mind a regular diet that feeds my soul.

I believe that we can be spiritually fit with chunky souls.

We may know the basic principles of God.
We may be secure in the elementary doctrines of Christ.
We may  be steadily maturing in our faith.
Yet, we still retain that persistent “baby fat” of an immature follower of Christ.

Is your soul lean? Mature faith is lean faith

What is the diet of your soul?

Are you feeding your soul the solid food of the mature believer or the milk of the immature?

Is your diet filled with the things of the Spirit or the compromises of the flesh?

I believe it is good to do a periodic spiritual cleanse. When we make a concerted effort to refrain from the normal diet of what we allow into our minds, we are able to access how many compromises we make in our soul’s diet. These compromises might be sinful, but they don’t have to be. We may have merely substituted the better for the best. Compromises don’t have to be huge but they can accumulate to pull our eyes off of Christ and make us spiritually fat.  I believe that this process of stepping back and assessing what we let into our minds is instrumental in allowing the Spirit to train our souls to discern between good and evil.

Let us not settle for the better. Let us push on to the best. Let us push on to maturity with a diet that will feed a lean soul, fit for the work of our Lord.

PRAYER: Father, you have been so good to me.  Thank you for my faith.  Thank you for the maturity that you lead me in through your Spirit.  Father, teach me discernment.  Show me the difference between good and evil, better and best.   Lord, give me a desire to have a lean faith.  Give me an appetite for the things of you rather than the things of this world.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen


















March 24, 2014

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

I have entered the world of Strava.   Strava is an app that tracks your running and cycling activity. It maps your route and calculates your average speed / pace and elevation gain.  You can post those results to Strava and compare your activity to other athletes.

Image representing Strava as depicted in Crunc...


Strava (Photo credit: Patrick’s Velolog)

Upon joining this community, I have discovered that I am slower than I had thought.  I have reviewed the top performers, the segment kings, of my cycling routes and marvel at some of the times posted.  There are individuals out there performing at a whole other level than I am.

I ride these routes in my little individual world and feel really good about my fitness.  My imagination conjures up fantasies of crossing finish lines and standing on podiums as I pedal away in solitude.  It is easy to become over-confident in one’s abilities when you only perform in solitude.

My confidence was rattled a bit  this weekend.  I am planning, Lord willing, to compete in the Tour of Ontario cycling race next weekend.  This weekend they had a pre-ride to allow local competitors to get familiar with the course.  I tried to hang onto the lead group but got dropped on a corner about two miles into the road race course.  I slowed a little too much through the corner and then did not have the legs to close the gap as the group accelerated away.  Once a gap formed, the slight head wind made it impossible for me to catch them.

Philippines - Hitch

I hate getting dropped.  I had an equal earnestness of wanting to catch the lead group and not wanting to be caught by the chase group.  So, I tried to stay as aerodynamic as one rider can be and pedaled on.  I ended up making the rest of the ride solo since I stayed in no-man’s land between the two groups.

When I finally finished the ride, I stopped the Strava app and was immediately prompted as to whether I wanted to record or discard the ride.  I was tempted to hit discard due to my lackluster performance.  I think of myself as a 20 mph average rider (I rarely hit that number so I don’t know why I have that expectation) but I had only averaged only 17.4 mph over the 32 mile route and had been dropped on top of that.

However, I sucked up my pride and hit record.

Later that day, I noticed several others from the pre-ride had posted their rides on Strava.  They were from the lead group that I could not catch.  I was surprised by the fact that none of them had average speeds over 20 mph.  They had smoked me, but not by the degree I had thought.  They had ridden in a group and I had gone solo.  Maybe, I had not done as bad as I had thought.

I could never have put my ride into perspective if I had not been willing to suck it up and actually be part of a community.  Being part of a community means that sometimes we will be embarrassed by our performance, but it also means that we can put our performance into perspective and be encouraged to push farther than we thought possible.  It means that we are challenged by those who are stronger and we can encourage those who are weaker.

I know many folks live their Christian lives like a solo ride.  They enjoy their spiritual experience but they don’t really share their personal relationship with God with their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  They keep their spiritual lives very private.

The problem with going solo is that we can convince ourselves that we are doing much better than we actually are.  We can become over-confident and unchallenged to go deeper in our faith and we can never stir up our brothers and sisters in Christ to love and good works.

True Christian community means that we meet together and are transparent with those we can trust about all of our activity – the good and the bad – the embarrassing and the triumphant.  It means that we are challenged by those who are following Christ to pursue greater love and good works and we encourage others to continue.

I know that there are times when we find ourselves in a spiritual no-man’s land and our path lead us through very solo stretches.  I am currently on one of those stretches.  However, that does not mean we accept the solitary Christian life as the norm; the norm should be community.  We should not neglect meeting together in real, honest community.  We should earnestly desire to be a part of real Christian community and not to be caught by the lackluster activities of former times.

We should appreciate it when we’re in it and seek it when we aren’t – you just might find it in very unexpected places.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for giving us community. Forgive me for having taken it for granted.  Forgive me for not seeking it like I should.  Lord, give me an earnestness to be a part of a Christian community that I don’t really feel at this time.  I know that it is important.  Sustain me through this period of solitude.  Father, give me a community where I will be challenged and encouraged and where I can do the same for others.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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November 28, 2013

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”  Hebrews 12:28

Mr. T in DC / / CC BY-NC-ND

The countdown has begun.  In a few hours, my family and I will be seated around a large table surround by my extended family.  We will have before us an enormous amount of food.  Enough food will be splayed on that table for three families to have enough left-overs for days to come.

Our tradition of thanksgiving is to begin the dinner with each member giving a word of thanks.  This time of designated thanksgiving can be poignant, humorous, sappy, heart-warming, and awkward.  Although this time is forced upon us by my mother, it allows a brief moment of sharing all that has been received into our family over the long year.

Emotions of gratitude are best conveyed by those who have received a gift of great value, unearned.  Our gratitude tends to be somewhat muted when our hand is perceived to have had a role.

Gratitude comes from receiving.
Gratitude flows from taking that which is freely offered.

The gratitude expressed at my thanksgiving table will be tainted in some respect because very little of what we have received is perceived as freely given.  We are compensated in our jobs.  Healthy relationships are a mixture of give-and-take.  The delight of children comes through the woes of parenting.

I know in my mind that all things are a gift from God and that true gratitude should be expressed for that even which our hands have contributed.  However, there are times when my heart does not feel what my mind tells it.  Gratitude is an emotion that must be felt; the greater the gratitude the deeper the emotion.  True gratitude should be more than mere words around a thanksgiving table.

To remind myself what true gratitude feels like, I recall the greatest of gift that I have received, unearned.

I am grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.  (Hebrews 12:28)

I am thankful for receiving the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  (Romans 8:15)

I am appreciative for receiving Christ, to believe in His name, and to be given the right to become a child of God, born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, but of God. (John 1:12)

I have been unborn again in Christ, unearned.

My gratitude for being saved cannot be expressed in mere words.  I can only express this deep gratitude that I feel in acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.  That is what true gratitude feels like.  Gratitude for all that we have to be thankful for is best expressed in praise to the God who saves the lost and perishing.

May that feeling flow throughout this day of thanksgiving into all the blessings we have received by the work of God’s hand.

PRAYER: O Lord, thank you.  Thank you for all the blessings You have shown me.  Thank you for all the unearned favor that you have lavished upon me.  Thank you for saving me.  I praise you of Lord.  I revere you, O Lord!  I am in awe of you my Lord and God.  Your grace still amazes me.  Your love is still a mystery to me.  May my tears of deep gratitude glorify your name. (Your Grace Still Amazes Me)  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.



October 24, 2013

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:24-30

English: Cycling Club A Cycling club out on a ...

English: Cycling Club A Cycling club out on a training ride, here heading toward Dufftown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have known about a local cycling club for some time but never joined them until yesterday.

My first introduction came during a ride with a friend.  We were at the tail end of a ride through the countryside.  As we followed a narrow, rural, road through fields of hay and wheat, a blue Jeep Cherokee crept past us, while the driver eye-balled us.

The glare of a perturbed driver thrown toward a spandex clad cyclist has been known to occasionally occur.  This incident was memorable because this driver proceeded past us to the next intersection, stopped and got out of the car.

This was disconcerting.

I really didn’t want to bump chests with a guy whose chest was a good six inches higher and appeared to be larger than my own.  As we slowed in our approach to the intersection, I started to think through what we might have done to instigate an altercation.  I had no ideas as to what we might have done other than trying to coexist on the same road.

My concerns began to deflate when we got close enough to the Jeep to see a cycling bumper.  This guy might be a member of the cycling tribe; that’s good.  They were completely diminished when the driver rounded the end of the vehicle with body language that did not indicate a pending throw-down.  He quickly explained that he was looking for riders to join his riding club and just wanted to introduce himself and welcome us to join them in the future.  I took his card and subsequently signed up for their Google group email.  I never did join them for a ride that season.  However, I continued to watch their community through the group emails.  I was intrigued by how active they were.

The following season I continually bumped into cub members.  I rode with many them at several of the events that I have blogged about ( PACK RIDING, CLIMBING METHODS).  The conversations at these interactions always ended with the same exhortation, “you should come join us”.

I always had an excuse for why I could not make it.  Most excuses were time related.  However, that was never the main reason.  You might remember my introvert issues that I have blogged about.  The whole idea of showing up, imposing myself upon a group of strangers was a high barrier that kept me riding alone or with my friends for most of the summer.

I am not sure what happened on Tuesday.  No one at work could go riding with me and I really did not feel like riding alone.  So, I sucked it up and headed over to the group ride meeting place.

I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.

The bicycle in the back of my pick-up clearly revealed my intentions as I pulled into the parking lot.  I had barely gotten out of my vehicle before someone from the group was walking over to introduce himself and welcome me.  By the time I had my kit on and the group was ready to roll-out, I had met every member of the group on that ride, had exchanged pleasantries and names.

ludovic / Foter / CC BY-SA

Throughout the ride, several members pulled along to chat with me.  They included me throughout the ride.  I felt completely accepted and welcomed.  They invited me to future rides as we said our farewells and seemed genuinely excited for a new cyclist to join their group.

It was clear that this group simply loves to ride bicycles.  Their enthusiasm for cycling was evident in their acceptance of someone of a kindred spirit.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I will probably join them for another ride; today, in fact.

Ministerios Cash Luna / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

As I drove home after such an encouraging experience, I reflected on my experience of joining a church.  A year and a half ago, the church plant, that we had attended, closed and we started the search for a new church home.  From my experience, this cycling club was more welcoming than many churches  we visited.

I realize that many will initially not relate to an unfriendly church.  However, those who have attended their church for years need to careful about too quickly dismissing the possibility that they might not be as friendly as they think because the concept of being a newcomer can easily become mere theory.

I have sat through several services hearing the pastor talk about the closeness of their congregation.  I have listened to testimonies of the love people feel for their church family.  They talked at length about the warm and friendliness of their fellowship.  I listened to these words with skepticism as I sat in a pew that only the usher had welcomed me to.  I have risen after these services to have no one engage me in conversation.  I have walked from the building without being invited to Sunday school, the prayer group, or even someone’s home for lunch.  The conversations that I have had rarely seem to end with the exhortation, “you should come join us”.

SalFalko / Foter / CC BY-NC

It is good for us all to remember that the friendliness of a church is not defined by the feelings of the long-time members.  The degree to which a church is welcoming has to be gauged from the perspective of those being welcomed.  I would hope that someone who has been involved in a group for decades would feel familial emotions for that body.  The body feels friendly to them because they actually have friends there.

What about the person who knows no one?  What do they feel when their shadow crosses your church’s threshold?  That is what defines the friendliness of your church.

There is a lot that can be learned from the friendliness of this local cycling club.

When was the last time you invited someone with clear spiritual interests to your church?
Are you genuinely excited when someone new visits you church?
Are you eager to introduce yourself to the stranger walking through the church door?
Do you persistently invite newcomers to Bible studies, Sunday school, prayer groups, and other activities the long-time members frequent?
Do you end conversations with newcomers in exhorting them to “come join us”?

Consider that if we were to consistently be doing these acts that the church would not be better than a cycling club.

How can you encourage a person if they do not first feel welcome?

Where is the motivation to continue to meet with a group that is not inclusive of them?

The enthusiasm of our faith is often evident in our acceptance and inclusion of those we don’t know but who share the same Spirit.  The church should exceed any sort of secular cycling club in being welcoming and accepting.  We have so much more to be enthusiastic about than pedaling molded carbon across asphalt.

May the enthusiasm in our faith surpass all the other joys of our lives to make us joyfully welcome and encourage those who are seeking true fellowship.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for giving me a faith that stirs enthusiasm within me.  Thank you for giving me a desire to fellowship with those who have the same hope.  Forgive me for allowing a bunch of cyclists to out-do me in demonstrating my enthusiasm.  Forgive me for making excuses for being reserved.  I want to be a part of making my church a friendly and welcoming experience to all those whom you send through the doors.  I want those in my community to be drawn to you by the joy of my salvation overflowing into all aspects of my life .    I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.



October 18, 2013

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”  Hebrews 12:28

VinothChandar / Foter / CC BY

All of life should be worship gratefully offered to God for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.  I consider how many hours of my day that I live in a manner that will probably be determined as unacceptable.  I hate to think of the times I have stood in Church singing “How Great Thou Art” with a wandering mind.  Acceptable worship does not just happen by the action.  The motivation for worship determines whether it is acceptable to God.

We continually develop opinions regarding moral motivation.  I try to discern the motivation of people all the time.  We strive to know a person’s motivation because it deeply matters to most of us.  It matters because our response to an action is often weighed based on the actor’s moral motivation.

I respond to the disobedience of my kids differently depending upon whether they are willfully being disrespectful or just being a kid.

I will take an elbow to the head if it is an accident.  I will respond differently if it was flung with intent to hurt me.

I have different opinions regarding a person who steals to feed his family and the one who steals to buy crack.

BrittneyBush / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Most of us have experienced that our actions stem from both belief and desire.  Belief is insufficient to get us off our couch.  In addition to belief, we need a desire to open the door to action.  This is why we seek so diligently to try and understand a person’s moral motivation when their actions seem to contradict their belief.  Actions that are inconsistent with our belief stem from a failure in desire.

I believe that consistent exercise is fundamental to my health; however, my desire to relax often keeps me on the porch.

I believe that overeating will give me a pot-belly; however, my desire to have a full belly often keeps me at the table.

I believe that hell exists; however, my desire to look sensible often keeps my mouth shut.

I believe that obedience to God’s commands, living according to the Spirit, is necessary to please God; however, my desire to please my flesh often keeps me at the trough of all sorts of iniquities.

The Humean view of moral motivation holds that beliefs aim to fit the world, desires aim to change the world. (Moral Motivation)  Our beliefs reflect how we see the world.  My beliefs reflect a world view as revealed in the Bible.  I have experienced the Bible to be true and trustworthy.  Therefore, my beliefs fit the world as I understand it to be.  It is a mind-to-world direction of fit.

On the other hand, desires have a world-to-mind direction of fit.  Our desires attempt to change the world to what we want it to be.  This is where our actions often become inconsistent.

Severin Sadjina / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

My desires will vacillate from wanting the world to make much of God to wanting it to make much of me.  I still have sinful desires that effect what I want the world to be.  Those sinful desires result in acts that are inconsistent with my beliefs.

Inconsistent actions are why we will develop opinions of a person’s moral motivation.  When two people do the same action based on two completely different beliefs (worldviews) but the same desire, the result is differing moral motivations.  Two people can have the same action based on the same belief but vastly different desires.  The result is differing moral motivations.

God requires that both our beliefs and desires to be aligned with His will for our actions to be pleasing to Him. Therefore, acceptable worship only comes when both our beliefs and desires are aligned with God’s will.

A person can do many righteous actions but if they don’t believe in the God of the Bible then their works are like filthy rags.

A person can do keep all of the commandments but if their desire is for a love other than God then those works are worthless.

My worship problem is not an effort problem.  My worship problem is a moral motivation problem.  I don’t want to waste my life.  I don’t want my works to be worthless.  I want my life to be a pleasing fragrance to the King.

For those actions to happen, I need to know my problem.

I need the Spirit to help me through my unbelief in all its forms. 
I need a heart that loves God more than anything else.

Fortunately, the Spirit will complete both of those works while I am walking with Him and setting my mind on the things of the Spirit.  Then my steps will be acceptable worship to the consuming fire who is my God.

PRAYER: Lord, you know that I struggle with a worship problem.  Forgive me for all the time that I have wasted in doubt, worry, and unbelief.  Forgive me for all the time that I have wastes loving other things more than you.  Thank you for welcoming me to a kingdom that cannot be shaken.  Thank you for sending your Spirit to help with my worship problem.  Help me in my unbelief.  Help me to love you more and more.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.



October 13, 2013

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

My comprehension has very distinct limitations.  It has to stretch when I contemplate that which is beyond my experience.  Thoughts of eternity prove to be especially challenging.

My life’s experiences have all included beginnings and endings.

I do not know how a complete story can be told without a beginning.

Without an ending, stories are forced to conclude with an unsatisfying  “to be continued”.

I do not know if a finite mind, born and raised in a terminable land, can truly grasp the infinite.

Inherit in the explanation that Jesus is the same, yesterday and today and forever, is the premise that He is infinite.  He is the same throughout all of time.  He does not change and is without beginning or ending.

Jesus Christ is infinite. 

tj.blackwell / Foter / CC BY-NC

My limited familiarity with the infinite probably resides in the number Pi.  Pi is an infinite, non-repeating number whose value is the ratio of any circle’s circumference to its diameter.  It is an irrational number, which means that its value cannot be expressed exactly as a fraction.  Consequently, Pi never ends or repeats. It is also a transcendental number, which implies, among other things, that no finite sequence of algebraic operations on integers (powers, roots, sums, etc.) can be equal to its value.(Urban Dictionary: Pi)  Pi is infinity unique.

.sarahwynne. / Foter / CC BY-NC

What if our lives could be expressed as the result a mathematical equation such as Pi?  Consider if every moment of our existence were represented by a Pi like digit.  If our individual existences could be expressed as a mathematical equation, would it be considered rational or irrational?

As a rational number, there will be a final digit.  The long series of digits will come to a calculated end; one last digit and then no more.  There are many people who believe their life is rational.  It has a beginning and it has an ending.  They believe that their experience on this world is all that there is.  They believe that the digits of their life are merely a sequence of statistically random events.  If you were to convert those digits in into ASCII text, there would be no names of loved ones, no dates of significance, and no purpose in death.  They hold that there is no purpose to be found within the finite string of the digits of our lives; life is random and rational.

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However, what if there is more to our existence than our experience?  What if there is an infinite existence beyond our experience of beginnings and endings?  We know that the infinite exists.  We have the irrational number Pi.

The infinite is irrational.  Rational sense cannot be made of the irrational.  However, just because something is irrational does not mean that it does not exist.

We are told that Jesus Christ is infinite.  That statement is beyond my rational understanding.  So often, we hold the irrational at arm’s length because it troubles our rational sensibilities.  We like to be able to explain things.  We stretch our comprehension and try to grasp an understanding that is beyond all that we have known.  I accept reality that there is infinite existence by faith but that does not mean that be I grasp the full range of mysteries within the statement or that I can relate.  I cannot relate to the infinite.

By faith, I believe what the scriptures tell us.  We are irrational numbers.  The digits of our lives will continue without end, just like Pi.  All of mankind was created as unique irrational numbers.  Just because our bodies may die does not mean that our unique calculation does not continue to generate another digit.  Man was created for eternity with a brief period spent on earth with purpose in every digit.

Consider when Christ  took on flesh.  His life on this earth had a singular purpose – to be the lamb.

He came to fulfill the law.
He came to call sinners to repentance.
He came to be the light in a dark world.
He came to do the will of Him who sent Him.

Every digit of Christ’s life had purpose.  The ASCII text of the digits of Christ’s life would reveal the names of all He touched, all He showed love, all He condemned, the date of the cross, His resurrection and His ascension.  Christ’s digit would show a string of purpose and intent that is without end.  The prophesies fulfilled throughout Jesus’ life demonstrate that His existence was not the result of chance and happenstance.  There was purpose and intention in every digit of Christ’s life.

If God created the equation of Christ’s life on earth with precise meaning and intent in every digit, then why would we think that our lives are random and purposeless?  We were created to be uniquely irrational.  We were created with purpose; a string of digits full of meaning and intention.

We are the product of the great Mathematician.  He created the uniquely irrational equation that describes you and me.  He prescribed in us every digit, in the precise order that He intended.  We were created for the infinite.

I often forget that reality. 

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I often don’t live for the infinite.

Everyone who is in Christ has to come to that point in time when they relinquish themselves to the irrational.  We call it faith.  Our hope resides in the irrational mysteries of Christ.  Our hope is in infinity; that there is more to the life than what we experience.

We need to let our hope be a reality in our daily lives.  Our hope should lead our lives.  We were created for a purpose-filled infinity.  Christ came to do the will of Him who sent Him.  As irrational creations, we were created for the same purpose; to do the will of Him who has called us.

Let’s start living the irrational lives that we were created to live!

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for creating a world that is beyond my comprehension.  Thank you for giving me purpose in world that appears chaotic.  Father, keep infinity in my mind.  Help me to accept the glorious irrationality of faith.  Help me to live in the hope of eternal life.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.


“ENDURING FAITH: Breathing” – Oct 6

October 6, 2013

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.””  Hebrews 10:36-38

Walking in the Spirit is not a sprint. 

It is a marathon and we need endurance for a marathon.

This is the third post exploring three principles from physical endurance that seem analogous to our spiritual endurance.  The pervious posts were ENDURING FAITH: The Heart and ENDURING FAITH: Fuel.  Today, I want to think about how proper breathing helps us to endure.


The Cold SmokeBreathing is an essential function of life.  Our lungs fill with air without a conscience thought.  Even while asleep our need of oxygen is satisfied.  In fact, we are incapable of not breathing.  Just attempt to hold your breath for an extended period and you will discover your inherent requirement to breathe.

We all become aware of this essential function when we don’t get enough of it.  A nasty head cold can transform us into the most uncouth of mouth breathers when plugged sinuses force our bodies to seek an alternate air passage.  A prolonged dive into the depths will send us scrabbling to the water’s surface.  An extended note can necessitate a unmelodic gasp prior to the next verse.  An asthma attack jars us to the scary reminder of our reliance upon every breath.

Tired RunnerAs our body’s demand for oxygen increases, proper breathing becomes even more importance.  I have spent my share of time bent over in submission to my lungs’ demand for appeasement.  I have lain on the couch after a long bike ride or run, panting in short, shallow breaths trying to hold off a coughing fit.

Our lungs respond to an activity’s demand for oxygen.  The ability to continue mile after mile relies upon the ability of our lungs to keep pace with that oxygen demand.  We have no oxygen reserves so every breath becomes important as we continue in an endurance event.

Sufficient breathing facilitates endurance.

Recently, I listened to a podcast by Ben Greenfield entitled “How to Breathe the Right Way When You’re Working-out”.  Ben interviewed Dr. John Douillard, who advocates deep nasal breathing while working out.

Dr. Douillard stresses that deep nasal breathing has two primary benefits.  Those deep breaths, particularly through the nose, fills the outer lobes of the lungs, which increases the amount of oxygen pulled into the body and the volume of waste, carbon dioxide, removed in the exhale.

meditationThe other benefit comes when deep breaths expand the lungs.  This stimulates the nerves at the bottom of the diaphragm, which relax the body.  It is why most mediation techniques involve deep breathing.  Dr. Douillard asserts that this sort of deep breathing, through the nose, is the best way for an athlete to get into the Zone.

The Zone is that perfect balance between speed and comfort when you feel like you can just keep going forever.  We flow in the Zone when we have the peaceful feeling of being loose and relaxed and we can stop worrying about technique and form.

Endurance requires that relaxed and comfortable state of the Zone. 

I have been working on my breathing while cycling and running because unnecessary tension consumes energy.  I think that the deep nasal breath does work.  I have found that I am more relaxed and comfortable when I focus on really moving some air deep into my lungs.  However, it is hard.  I have to concentrate on my breathing.  I have to be intentional.  My mind will drift and suddenly I will realize that I am once again not breathing properly.  It takes more work to expand my diaphragm to take deep breaths, rather than the short gasps that I am inclined to do when I start to fatigue.  My natural response is to take quick, shallow breaths through my mouth.  That does the job, since it keeps me from passing out, but I am giving up all the benefits of deep breathing by not being intentional.  Proper breathing is just another skill that has to be developed until it becomes second nature.

There are a lot of Christians who have never learned to spiritually breathe.

Many Christians labor along the narrow path as if they are out of breath and energy.  There are so many uptight inhabitants of pews who struggle under the cares of this world.  The child of God who is loose and comfortable, abounding in joy through all circumstances seems to be the exception.

Worried Man with Debt and BillsAll one has to do is listen and we will discover that worry is the favorite pastime of many.  Conversations abound in our anxiety about our future, spouse, kids, parents, job, retirement, the weather, crime, looking dumb, what someone thinks, and on and on.  There are some who seem to revel in worry.  They use it as a description of their personality, “I am just a worrier”.  They delight in anxiety to the point that they manufacture things to worry about.  That is not hard to do.

The seeds for anxiety are plentiful in this world. 

However, we rarely consider the impact of worrying upon the endurance of our faith.  Worry throws the wet blanket of darkness over the joy of our salvation.  Often, depression is resuscitated by the mouth-to-mouth of anxiety.

Worry consumes spiritual strength because it is unbelief in disguise.

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.  (Luke 12:22-23)

But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown in to the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! (Luke 12:28)

The opposite of faith is unbelief.  When our actions reveal that we are motivated by little faith, then we know that our hearts are a harbor for unbelief.  We cannot run the good race when we are delighting in the unbelief of worry.

Spiritual breathing cures the asphyxiation of a worrying soul.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:5-7)

The Sick Man by Vasili Maximov (1881), portray...Spiritual breathing happens when we come before our Father in prayer and supplication, and with a thankful heart make our requests be known to Him.  Praying fills our faith with the reality of God’s promises and eliminates the destructive waste of anxiety.  Short little gasps of prayer are better than nothing but they are not as effective as deep, meditative prayer.

We receive the peace of God when we come to him in prayer.  It is the peace of God that enables us to live a peaceful life.  It is the peace of God that enables us to abound in joy through all circumstances.

Living in the peace of God is key to enduring faith.

We know that in this world we are going to have troubles and suffering.  We all will have to battle with the anxiety that those circumstances will create.  Therefore, we need to be intentional when we feel tension of anxiety.  It is at those times when we need to concentrate on breathing deeply on the promises of God.

We need to know what God has promised to his children.  We need to have a list of the promises that address our favorite worries.  And then, we need to come to our heavenly Father in prayer through faith.

Enduring faith knows what it believes.
Enduring faith knows what we have been promised.
Enduring faith believes that God will be faithful to keep His promises.

Spiritual breathing keeps us in the spiritual zone where we are relaxed in all circumstance and can just keep walking in the Spirit forever.  The peace that passes all understanding flows from the prayers of enduring faith to our faithful and loving Father.

However, we have to be intentional.  My mind will easily drift from God’s promises and suddenly I will realize that I am once again not really spending time in meaningful prayer.  It takes work to find time to pray.  It takes effort to focus my mind in prayer, rather than the short gasps that I am inclined to do when I start to get anxious.  My natural response is to make quick, short, shout-outs to God in my desperation.  That is good, since it keeps me from completely succumbing, but I am giving up all the benefits of deep spiritual breathing by not being intentional.

Proper spiritual breathing is just another spiritual discipline that has to be developed until it becomes second nature but it is so important for the endurance of our faith.

So, let’s breath deeply.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the peace that passes all of my understanding.  Thank you for enabling me to know joy in joyless circumstances.  Thank you for listening to my prayers.  Thank you for being faithful to all that you have promised me.  Forgive me for acting in unbelief by worrying about the cares of this world.  Lord, you know that I want live by faith.  You know that I want to breathe deeply in You.  Lord, help me in my unbelief.  Help be to live by faith.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.


“ENDURING FAITH: Fuel” – Oct 2

October 2, 2013

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.””  Hebrews 10:36-38

I don’t know of anyone who wants to be a quitter.  Who has aspirations of being the weakest link?  I have never met a person who started their new life in Christ by setting their spiritual thermostat to lukewarm.

Yet, it happens to a lot of us.  I will venture to suggest that it has happened to the majority of us for at least a short period of time in our life.  That is why the Bible is full of encouragement to persevere and to endure.  We would not need to be reminded to fight the good fight if we were not inclined to stop fighting.

Walking in the Spirit is not a sprint.  It is a marathon and we need endurance for a marathon.

This is the second post exploring three principles from physical endurance that seem analogous to our spiritual endurance.  The first post was ENDURING FAITH: The Heart.  Today, I want to think about the fuel we need to endure.


81191-2478-030fMy personal experiences of  “hitting the wall” have never been pleasant and have always made the road home very difficult.  I had thought that the mysterious wall, lurking out at some unknown distance could be eluded with improved fitness.  However, colliding with the wall has little to do with one’s fitness level.  Most of us have seen incredibly fit athletes stumbling against their personal encounter with the wall.  The wall always wins.

Hitting the wall” only becomes a concern when you have developed enough endurance to reach it.  Typically, the wall begins to become an obstacle once you engage in a continual workout that lasts longer than 1-1/2 to 2 hours.  Up until that time, most people are using the energy stored in their muscles and liver.   The collision with the wall happens when your body consumes all of its energy reserves and runs simply out of fuel.

The problems arise when we try to keep going when our internal tanks are empty.  Proper fueling is necessary to avoid this problem for the longer endurance challenges.  I don’t worry about eating anything when I do an Olympic distance triathlon.  I don’t need to bother with eating during the event since that distance is within my reserves.  However, I have to eat throughout a century ride.  I have to supply my body with energy to keep going for that type of distance.

Many people do not approach life like an endurance event.  They live like fueling their souls is optional.  Many professing Christians misunderstand the roller coaster nature of their spiritual lives.  They want to think of their spiritual highs and lows as a normal process when in reality their lives are more like a pattern of repeatedly hitting the spiritual wall.  They endure for a while until they run out of fuel from their last spiritual experience and end up on the curb, feeling horrible and miserable.  At that point, the process of recovery and restoration has to start once again to get them back on their feet.

The long walk in the Spirit requires endurance.  A life-time of good fighting requires fuel.  Just like a long endurance event requires fueling along the way, spiritual fuel must be consumed along the way of an enduring life.  Jesus instructs us about this spiritual food that we need.

Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.  (John 6:27)

Clearly, we are to be laboring for the food that comes from Christ to fuel our endurance unto eternal life.  This food is not one big meal, served at our salvation that has to last us through to the end.  Just like Jesus, we receive spiritual food throughout our duration on this earth.  Jesus explained what this food was.

My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.  (John 4:34)

This was the spiritual food that Christ received to strengthen him.  I think that this is the same spiritual food that Jesus provides to us along our spiritual paths.  Jesus feeds us along our long walk in the Spirit as we are doing God’s will.

BonkThe opposite is equally true.  We are not going to be fed if we are following our own will; if we are walking in the flesh.  Christ will allow us to crash into our personal spiritual walls when our will becomes supreme.  He will allow us to ride the miserable spiritual roller coaster of highs and lows.  There are many professing Christians sitting on the proverbial curb with their heads in their hands wondering why this whole religion thing doesn’t seem to be working.  They have run out of the fuel that they need to endure.  They have “hit the wall” because they have not been properly fueling for a life of endurance.

Fortunately, we have not been left to try and discern what God’s will is for our lives.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification:  that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  (1 Thess. 4:3-7)

God’s will for His children is their personal sanctification.  He has called us all in holiness.  The Spirit accomplishes God’s will in our lives by transforming us from sin and death into holiness.  This transformation changes who we are and how we react.  This means that there will be evidence of God’s will being fulfilled in our lives.  It is called the fruit of Spirit.  God want us to bear spiritual fruit.

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:8)

The fruit of the Spirit only comes by living and walking in the Spirit; setting our minds on the things of the Spirit.  Therefore, God’s will is for us to live in His Spirit and to abide in His love.  When are doing the will of the Father, living in His Spirit and abiding in His love, then He will provide the spiritual food that we need to endure.

Endurance comes from doing the will of God because that is the source of our spiritual food.

There is no short cut.  Our race is too long to endure on our internal reserves.  Disobedience will cause us to “hit the wall” and it will ultimately lead to death because setting the mind on the flesh is against God’s will.

The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  (Romans 8:7-8)

We all have need of endurance.  Therefore, we all have need of holiness.

A life of holiness is not an option for the child of God.  It is the source of our daily spiritual bread our eternal life depends upon it.

PRAYER: Lord, forgive me for not valuing the work of the Spirit in my life.  Forgive me for not laboring for holiness.  Forgive me for seeking my will above your will.  Father, you have been so good to me.  Thank you for the fruit that has been produced in my life.  Please continue to help me walk in your Spirit and set my mind on the things of  You.  Lord, I need the spiritual food that comes only from You.  Help me to endure well and to eternal life.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.


“ENDURING FAITH: The Heart” – Sept 29

September 29, 2013

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.””  Hebrews 10:36-38

Endurance training requires that you not stop.  The worst thing that you can do when you are trying to build up endurance is to stop.  The mind will always try to get you to stop for just a little while.

Shrinking back is a temptation of every workout that resides at the limits of my current endurance.  The temptation to grab the edge of the pool  for an extra breath rises at every turn past the mile and a half mark.  I almost quit ten miles from the finish-line of my last century ride.  On every run, I have a conversation within my head, in which I have to convince myself not to turn back and shrink the distance.

Endurance comes by continuing.

It is built by incrementally going a little further than the last time.  Endurance does not come by charging out the front door into some unknown distances.  That is just asking for an injury or at best, horrendously sore muscles that will force you to back down.  The best way to build endurance is to add it in increasing increments.

The writer of Hebrews identified a need for endurance in the faith of the early Church.  I think that his call to endurance is still as applicable today.  Many Christians bounce from one ministry to another.  Their quiet times are characterized by re-commitment.  Struggles result in a crisis of faith.

There are not enough brothers and sisters in Christ who demonstrate a faith that can be called enduring.  I think this is a critical issue in today’s Church.

There are three principles from physical endurance that seem analogous to our spiritual endurance; the heart, fueling, and breathing.

I plan to explore how we build enduring faith in the next couple blog posts but I would like to start with the heart.


Pulsometr donnay

Pulsometr donnay (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first started training for triathlons, I wore a heart rate monitor, mostly because I was afraid of dying.  I would watch my heart rate while I exercised and set my pace accordingly.  The key to endurance is to work within the upper end of your aerobic zone.  This is the heart rate at which your body can provide oxygen and fuel to your muscle and remove waste.  If I push my heart rate too high, for too long, I will go into an anaerobic state and my muscles will fatigue in a manner that will cause me to stop.

When I first started to train, I tried to workout at approximately 130 beats/ minute.  Over time I have continued to increase that level.  I can now workout comfortable in the 150-160 range.  That did not just happen.  I gassed out a lot.  I coasted a lot.  It was a constant work in progress of finding that delicate balance between pushing my endurance by enough but not too much.  The trick is to flirt with that line.  I would never have built any endurance if I had not pushed my heart.

Riding the anaerobic edge builds endurance. 

Enduring faith is all about the heart.  We do what we love.  Spiritual activity is of little to no worth if it is done for any reason other than a love for God.  The problem for the Pharisees was religious activity that neglected the love of God (Luke 11:42).

I have seen Christians embark with great intentions of religious and sacrificial living that sputtered to a stop after a period of time.  They can’t keep it up.  They stop because they lack endurance.

Many may have committed to an activity based on the latest book or spiritual leader and not because of a love for God.  When they wear out on one method, they move onto the next.  They are living in a spiritual zone that is perpetually anaerobic.

We must watch our hearts.  We need to monitor our motivations if we are to endure.  Faith is easy when it is what you want to do.  We can keep going for decades when our activities are the demonstration of our true love.  The reverse is also true; we can only sustain activities that we don’t love for a short period of time.

Enduring faith comes from a heart that is doing what it loves to do. 

Now, there are other folks who live on the opposite extreme from the spiritually anaerobic.  They are doing what they love and have been doing it for years.  They are extremely comfortable in their faith but they really have not grown in years.  The depth of their faith and love for God has not changed in decades and sanctification is a strange religious term that they have not really experienced.  They have the tendency of letting their Pastor’s challenges lay at the altar.  They are masters at justifying why they can’t do any more.

These folks are lost in the comfortable  They refuse to allow their hearts to be challenged.  They like the very sustainable religious shuffle of their lives and really don’t want to take any grand leaps of faith.  Their faith has little endurance for anything great.

Endurance comes by riding that ragged edge of the anaerobic zone. 

Enduring faith comes from challenging our hearts.  We follow the Spirit’s leading and the direction of scripture.  We step out in faith and obedience and then we monitor our hearts.

If our faith is getting comfortable, then maybe it is time to pick up the pace a little bit.

Maybe, you feel the desire to go a little deeper.
Maybe, you have become aware of a love that you cherish more than God and the Spirit is calling you to give it up.
Maybe, God’s love has begun to overflow from you into a ministry that you never thought that you could do.

Push your spiritual pace; listen to the Spirit and go do it.

Maybe, you are tried.
Maybe, you are doing ministry from pure obligation to friends and family.
Maybe, you are grinding away in your faith but you hate every minute.

It is fine to pull back on your spiritual pace and catch your breath.  God loves a cheerful giver.  He will not be impressed with great sacrifice that comes through gritted teeth.

The key is to never stop.  Do not pull completely back.  There is no need to drop everything and give up.  Pull back a little bit and monitor your heart.  Allow God time to refresh your spirit at a level where you begin to once again feel the joy of your salvation.

Endurance is comes from this delicate balance of pushing and monitoring the love of our heart.

Our actions always need to be flowing from our love of God.
Sanctification comes from pushing our heart out of its comfort zone.

The combination produces a faith that will endure for the glory of God.

PRAYER: Lord, test my heart.  Show me where I can do more.  Lead me into great depths of knowing and serving you.  Keep my love for you overflowing.  Father, give me wisdom in all that I do.  Create in me a faith that will endure for your glory.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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