Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Religion, Faith and Worship - are they the same thing? Part II - Faith & Worship

Faith, true worship, and understanding who God can be to us have nothing to do with the outward trappings of man-made denominational “religion.” Faith and true worship must be in the heart. See Part I on Religion here.

About Faith
In arguing against God’s existence, people often say, “I only have faith in what I can see.” Yet, they’ve never seen the Big Bang happen, or seen an ape turn into a man.

In general, faith is believing in what we can’t see…no different for belief in God than the Big Bang.

Hebrews 11:1: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Humans are spiritual seekers. From the beginning of time we’ve sought the comfort of spiritual beings or objects representing them. We see it in cave drawings, parchment writings, temple remains, and modern houses of worship.  Some rely on crystals or statues to find strength and inner peace. Improving “karma” is very popular right now. Some folks believe in multiple gods. And some pray to a single God that others say isn’t there. 
   
What triggers this or puts this craving inside us?  Is there really an “empty place” that can only be filled by a Divine Presence?
   
Sales of books like “The Purpose Driven Life” and the “Left Behind” series wouldn’t go through the roof if people weren’t searching for a spiritual center. Doctors say their religious patients are healthier. Even Good Housekeeping Magazine has cited that people who have spiritual beliefs experience less depression and anxiety, and those who pray are 50% more likely to live longer.
   
If a person trusts God, does that make them weak? What is faith if we don't believe in something by courage? We can’t see God like we can see houses or cars. But those things can be gone in a flash.

God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). This basic message, found many times in both the Old and New Testament, has lasted in peoples’ hearts through centuries, storms, fires, and wars. Unfettered by interpretations, denominations and regulations, faith can be our greatest hope.

About Worship
Many churchgoers think of “Worship” as only the music part of a church service. Worshipping God means everything we do for Him. Church attendance, listening to sermons, singing, praying, reading the Bible or scripture-guided books; giving our money or time to church, missions or charity work; visiting sick people, running errands for someone—these are all forms of “worship.”

What’s not worship? All the memorized prayers said at certain times of day, for certain events, or for supposed cleansing of sin, mean nothing to God if all they are is head-memorized and not heart-felt (see Part I).

We can speak to God without formalized, fancy words and without memorization. We can cry out to Him in our own words, whether in desperation or happiness. He wants that!

Jesus may not have meant for His example of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 to be followed word-for-word, memorized to the point that we don’t think about what we’re saying.

He might have meant just to be sure we include all those steps:
-Praising (acknowledging) Him for who He is;
-Asking for what we need daily without greed;
-Praying that we are as forgiving to others as He is with us;
-Asking that He protect us from giving into sin;
-And lastly, acknowledging that all this is for His kingdom.

That’s what faith and worship are.

Did you know that you can be sure of going to Heaven?
Ask the Lord to come into your heart in a prayer similar to this: Lord, I’m a sinner who needs you. Come into my heart and help cleanse me. Give me the life You know is best for me. In Jesus name, Amen. 

This is partially excerpted from the book, What Every Christian Should Know about the Jewish People: Improving the Church’s Relationship with God’s Original Chosen Nation. See info in column at right, or Amazon link here.

Unless otherwise noted, all verses used herein are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
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Religion, Faith and Worship - are they the same thing? Part I - Religion

Sometimes we interchange certain “religious” words to mean the same thing when in reality they’re completely different: Religion – Faith – Worship – Customs – Beliefs – Tradition – Culture

A person may do all the customs of a religion out of habit or respect for their family. But that doesn’t mean they have true faith. It’s just part of their culture and tradition. They may not really worship God with their heart or really believe in their mind.

We probably get the first three confused most often – religion, faith and worship.

The word “religion” is only used or implied in five passages of the standard Bible; once in the Old Testament (also the Jewish Torah), and four times in the New Testament. Only three of these passages define “religion” as an activity.

By contrast, “faith” and “worship” are each mentioned hundreds if not thousands of times, often as God’s command to worship Him.

We often say “religion” causes many world problems. That’s because certain people take what they believe into their own hands for their own agenda, and for unintended purposes. Then, other people who aren’t reading the Bible for themselves follow blindly.

This results in the deadly atrocities of madmen, terrorists, narcissists and cults.

So what’s the real definition of “religion”? And why is it different from “faith” and “worship”?

Real religion is defined in James 1:27: Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
   
1 Samuel 16:7b says: The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

The first Commandment is the most important of all Ten Commandments for both Christians and Jewish people:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD
your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall
teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your
house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up (Moses in Deuteronomy 6:4-7, NKJV).

Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.  And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment (Jesus in Mark 12:28-30, NKJV).

God reminds us over and over that he doesn’t care for rituals if we don’t love him straight from the heart (Isaiah 1:13, 17, 1 Samuel 15:22, Matthew 7:21, Romans 9:32).
 
Do we go through the motions of “religion” without thinking about what we’re doing? That’s just ritual.  Good works minus true faith are meaningless.

See Part 2 here.

Did you know that you can be sure of going to Heaven?
Ask the Lord to come into your heart, and acknowledge that you have fallen short of His glory – even into sin. Don’t pay attention to what the world says about “organized religion.” Allow yourself to “…be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2). Empty traditions, denominational differences, grudges and hatred of our fellow man - these keep us from knowing true inner peace and having one-on-one relationships with God.

This is partially excerpted from Sheryl's book, What Every Christian Should Know about the Jewish People: Improving the Church’s Relationship with God’s Original Chosen Nation. See info in column at right, or Amazon link below.

Unless otherwise noted, all verses used herein are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. 


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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Citizens of Richmond, Virginia fight to keep their 'Christmas' Parade

Once again this year, the battles over Christmas in U.S. public places are raging. But the citizens of Richmond, Virginia have already won without being dragged into court.

Richmond residents were joined by other people around the country to make a big enough uproar that their city listened.

The annual Richmond Christmas Parade was to be re-named the Dominion Holiday Parade. Word got out that Richmond’s volunteer parade planners felt pressured by this year’s biggest parade sponsor—an energy company called Dominion—to take the word “Christmas” out of the Christmas parade.

A letter on the parade website's home page stated as of October 5 (although it may be re-worded with an update) that a decision was made by the city to change the name to a “holiday” parade in order to make everyone feel welcome.

It accomplished the opposite, by making Christians feel unwelcome.

When the change to “Dominion Holiday Parade” was announced, citizens immediately rallied and the news extended outside of Richmond. Thousands of e-mails and phone calls poured in to Richmond’s city offices and into cities and states where Dominion offers services. According to a story at Richmond’s NBC12 (WWBT-TV), the volunteer parade committee changed the name back to “Christmas” due to this outpouring. Dominion did not object further.

NBC12 also took a poll about this issue. As of October 8, results showed 95 percent of respondents had a problem with the name being changed to “Holiday” parade in the first place.

What’s the big deal over Christmas?

Year after year, cases against Christmas in United States public venues reach the courts because of misinformation—that if a city or state allows a Christmas celebration, they are “establishing a religion.”

And year after year, lawyers fighting to retain religious rights in America, must go to court to prove that the First Amendment says this:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

This is often argued case-by-case from circuit court to the U.S. Supreme Court, using lots of court time and defendants’ money. However, there is nothing in the entire Constitution that prohibits “free exercise” from taking place in public, especially on peoples’ own time—not at their jobs, not at their schools. The Richmond parade committee were volunteers. Anyone who attends the parade does so voluntarily. No one is forcing them. It’s taking place on a Saturday (December 4), when the majority of people don’t work.

This Richmond case shows that people can make a difference.

For Christians who object to “Christmas” being omitted at parade and party-time:
-Stop silently going along with the changes.
-Stop attending your employers’ parties which have now been re-named “holiday parties.”
-Send letters to legislators and organizers.

For those who object to public celebrations of Christmas, Hanukkah or other joyful religious undertakings in December, perhaps the following suggestions would work:
-Stop taking the “holiday” days off that your company offers at this time of year.
-Refuse to accept gifts at this time of year.
-Refuse to accept bonuses at this time of year.
-Remember that if it weren’t for Christmas traditions, it’s doubtful you would be garnering those benefits or getting asked to participate.
-And remember…it’s your own rights that may be removed next.


Interested in helping to defend Christmas? Go to Liberty Counsel's Save Christmas Campaign.

Photo: 2009 White House Blue Room Christmas Tree being erected. In public domain at Wikimedia Commons as a work of the U.S. Government.

(cmp.ly/0 - This writer has no connection to, and has not been compensated, for referring people to the Liberty Counsel site).
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Interfaith Marriages are Increasing due to watered-down beliefs

Interfaith marriages are on the rise. In 1988, a General Social Survey showed 15 percent of couples were married to someone of a different religion. The statistic rose to 25 percent by 2006.

Currently (2010), various surveys show that approximately 50 percent of Christians and Jewish people are intermarried to people of another faith.

The figure drops dramatically for those who are regularly and vitally involved in worship services, ministry and reading their Bible or Torah, such as Orthodox Jews and evangelical Christians. These people are more likely to marry within their own belief system.

Christianity and Judaism run the risk of becoming watered down, hybrid faiths when people intermarry or stop religious observances. It is harder to decide how to raise children. Sometimes it’s not even discussed before the wedding day. The answer unfortunately often becomes “we’ll do both and let the kids decide for themselves.” The next step is dropping all traditions, holidays and Bible study because it’s too hard to keep up, or confusion among the children becomes obvious.

In today’s society where whatever we want to do is tolerated and even applauded, the Bible (both Old and New Testament) has become politically incorrect, and people aren’t learning the principles God had in mind. So couples are already entering marriage with a so-so understanding of obeying God's word, or none at all.

In the Old Testament, God commanded the original Jewish generations to remain separate and not intermarry with people who worshiped other gods (Deuteronomy 7:3, Joshua 23:12, Ezra 9:14). In the New Testament, Christians are not supposed to be unequally “yoked” or bound together with non-believers (2 Corinthians 6:14). Yoked comes from two oxen strapped together to carry water or goods.

The result of intermarriage becomes a wishy-washy relationship with God that determines how we live, and it’s because we have our traditions confused with real heartfelt love for God. So pretty soon, there is no true worship left. The next thing to be left behind is a moral compass.

Deut 6:4-9: Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Proverbs 22:6: Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

(Scriptures taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.)

Photo: Wedding rings, in public domain at Wikimedia Commons.
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Friday, September 17, 2010

House Churches Growing in Popularity in the U.S.

A recent USA Today article reported figures from the Barna Group and Pew Research Polls that both indicated more Americans are attending small house churches.

Some possible reasons:
-They may still be members of larger churches looking for smaller, less formal groups to meet with on other days.

-They've left “organized church” completely for what they consider to be a more intimate and more genuine form of worship.          

-Many Americans feel that similar persecution of Christians (as well as a surge in anti-Semitism) to that which is taking place in other countries is starting in America, and that it's time to get used to worshiping in smaller, less obvious places.

What are some differences between mega, small and house churches?
 
The majority of churches in America are small (50 to 300 members), with a minority of “megachurches” over 1,000 members.
 
From my experience, members of small churches tend to stay put in their church, as they are satisfied with the fellowship, care and attention from the small staff, giving and receiving care and love from each other and discovering ministry opportunities.

A drawback to this which I’ve seen often is that small congregations are more unlikely to be receptive to changing methods and styles to draw in new people and younger, more technically savvy and “attraction-thirsty” generations. Not that it’s the best thing to do, but it’s an outreach tool to draw people in, and then let God work on everyone’s hearts to blend together in worshipping the Lord.

Megachurches also offer many ministry opportunities, or at the opposite end, anonymity to those who want to worship quietly and just do a weekly observance.

One drawback to megachurches is that, without attending some of their smaller group functions or Sunday school, you won’t get to know other members of the congregation. But if you get involved, you’ll find many smaller church “families” within the family.

House churches generally concentrate more on delving into and discussing God’s word together rather than just listening to the person in the pulpit.

House churches are different from home Bible Study groups in that a house church may contain all the aspects of a church worship service, but in a home setting rather than a formal building.

As with any church, there is a danger of being pulled into the house church leader’s own agenda (if he/she has anything in mind other than biblical) if you are not reading the Bible for yourself. “Test the spirits,” says 1 John 4:1 – there are many impostors who want to draw people in.

In the early days of Christianity, most original believers in Jesus attended small house churches. However, in Acts 2, “all were gathered together in one place,” and about two thousand people accepted the Lord as their Savior.

I guess you could call that a megachurch!



Photo: Center Church on the Green, New Haven Connecticut. Photo is in public domain as Historic American Building, Library of Congress.

(Extra source for house church growth info: Florida Baptist Witness, 8/26/10, p. 19.)
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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Travel as Entertainment - step away from the TV!

Looking for a new form of entertainment besides the garbage on most TV stations? Want to get the kids away from video games? Consider some Travel. It doesn't have to be as expensive as you think.

Having been blessed to do some traveling, I've put together an article of "Eight Great Historic U.S. Homes You Can Visit," complete with photos. Since they are in various parts of the U.S., you may live close enough to one of them to make a day trip.

There's fun for romantic couples, American history buffs, or students who need ideas for class papers. There are mansions and humble abodes. Some familiar spots and some you've never heard of are included.

So step away from the television set and video games, start saving your pennies for a Holiday vacation tank of gas or next Spring Break, and come see one of these remarkable spots. Plus, each city offers a lot more to do. 

Check this article out, and other great travel ideas, at the BootsnAll Travel Network. Have fun!

Pictured here: The House of Seven Gables in Salem, MA. Taken by...me! © 2009, Sheryl Young

NOTE: The article linked herein is now copyrighted by the BootsnAll Travel Network. Permission to use is required.

(Disclosure of Material Connecton: http://cmp.ly/3. the author received one-time remuneration for the article mentioned herein, but this is not a paid advertisement, nor has the author been compensated by any of the locations mentioned in the article at the travel site).
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Author's Corner: "Cancer Journey: A Caregiver’s View from the Passenger Seat" by Cynthia Siegfried


When your spouse is diagnosed with cancer, you quickly realize that—even though it's not your body—it's your disease. With honesty, strength, and humor, Cynthia Siegfried presents a first-hand account of the struggles and triumphs in a cancer battle—from the viewpoint of the caregiver.

Cancer Journey: A Caregiver’s View from the Passenger Seat offers hope and help for the overburdened caregiver. The author shows that it is possible not only to cope but to find joy in the overwhelming circumstances of life. Follow Cynthia as she travels through unfamiliar terrain and learns that God doesn't waste our suffering. He is our faithful Driver along life's roughest roads. 

Cancer Journey offers hope, support, and spiritual guidance for those who provide care for the millions of Americans who are living with catastrophic illnesses. Cynthia recalls:

“On the day my husband, Jim, was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, we began a journey that changed us forever. I was just a passenger, along for the ride, but I was profoundly affected by the illness. Being caregiver to a seriously ill person has problems different from, but equally as serious as, those of the patient. 

Unfortunately, support for the caregiver is often lacking. Taking care of my husband while caring for my aging mother and preschool grandchildren, I sometimes felt as if I would crumble under the stress. Hopefully, my book will provide a shortcut for those of you on similar journeys, taking you from the terror of diagnosis, through the fear of recurrence, and finally to a place of peace and acceptance.

Jim frequently says cancer is harder on the caregiver than on the patient. I don’t believe that for a minute. One thing, though, is certain. The view from the passenger seat is different, and bound to be more difficult—if you don’t know the Driver!”

Cynthia has published articles in Nostalgia Magazine, In Touch, Significant Living, Today’s Christian, and Chicken Soup for the Soul's "Cancer Book" volume. She and her husband are co-founders of a support group, f.a.i.t.H.—facing an illness through Him. They are available to share their story for groups, classes, and events.

You can get Cancer Journey: A Caregiver’s View from the Passenger Seat here at Cynthia’s site where she also has store locations listed; or through Wine Press Publishing or at Amazon.com.

For some extra fun, visit Cynthia’s Blog, Caregiver Banter.
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Friday, August 13, 2010

New Abortion Pill "Ella" being approved faster than you can say "FDA"

The latest “Morning After” pill, “Ella” from France, is being considered for approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the fast-track with a minimal period of testing. Touted as a contraceptive drug, good for up to five days after intercourse, Ella can actually perform as an abortive drug and follows the earlier and dangerous RU486 onto an aggressive marketing path.

“Ella” (medical term ulipristal acetate) has the potential to become available on doctor’s prescription to girls as young as 16, but done at home with little to no medical supervision.

What happened to the idea that “safe, legal abortions will prevent back-alley abortions?”
Another Morning After pill, “Plan B” is also on the American market as an “emergency contraceptive” for after sex. It administers high doses of a progesterone-like hormone. This inhibits ovaries from producing eggs. Some experts state it can also prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb, a near-equivalent to abortion. According to one online birth control store (yes, you can buy this online), it is not to be taken if pregnant.

“Ella” is closely related to RU486 (mifepristone), an abortifacient that actually kills the fetus. RU486 roared onto the pharmaceutical market in around 2000 after being approved by the FDA without the usual battery of pre-approval tests – probably due to strong lobbying from abortion advocates and Big Pharma money-laden sources. It has caused the death of at least 7 American women, others abroad and over 1,000 reported incidents of injuries, infections and suffering.

Life-threatening infection comes when the woman expels portions of the dead, unborn baby at home after one to two weeks of symptoms, bleeding and pain. RU486 is administered by a doctor, but the miscarriage process is medically unsupervised at home, just as some women gave themselves illegal abortions at home prior to the passage of Roe v Wade in 1972.

If parts of the baby remain in the woman unexpelled, this can cause toxic blood (sepsis) from bacteria and possible death.

Trials have already indicated that “Ella” may cause miscarriage if a pregnancy has already started, or birth defects on babies that survive the process. In Europe, adverse effects were also found on the liver.

There is also talk of touch-screen computer ordering of “morning after” pills…as easy as pie at any pharmacy. And if kept in medicine cabinets at home, who knows what child may get hold of them. 

“…shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Micah 6:7, KJV



Photo: Foetus in the Womb by Leonardo Da Vinci, in public domain at Wikimedia Commons.
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Teens, Young Adults Still Leaving Churches in droves

A survey done earlier this year for Lifeway Christian Resources found that teens and young adults are continuing to exit the formal Christian Church setting in large numbers. This has been happening for over ten years.

The phone survey, with 1200 people between 18 and 29 years of age, found the following, and more:
  • 65% rarely or never pray with others. 38% almost never pray by themselves either.
  • 65% rarely or never attend worship services.
  • 67% don't read the Bible or sacred texts.
  • 50% are unsure Jesus is the only way to Heaven.
A different study of the Millenium generation by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life revealed 68% did not mention faith, religion or spirituality when asked what was important in their lives. However, 31% pray by themselves once a day. 

Who are they praying to? They say they are "more spiritual than religious." Is their God full of grace and forgiveness, who gives them what they need, or is it some type of Answer Guy who’s there if they want to ask Him for something good that they want?

Reasons for the trend may include:
  • Technical advances in computers, special effects, and methods of communication have sped up so quickly since 2000 that most churches just can’t keep up with what would attract teens and young adults in order to draw them into the message of what Jesus did for us (John 3:16).
  • Gen X, Gen Y and the Millenial kids are being taught eight hours a day in school about diversity - you must tolerate everyone and everything they do; but also the contradictory message that “it’s all about you.” Take care of number one.
  • They’re constantly hearing the Bible is taboo and that if Christians disagree with anyone else’s choices, we are acting “hatefully.”
  • Their college professors are 53-75% liberal atheists by most expert accounts, and some even outwardly criticize Christian students.
  • They're being told they don't need to listen to their parents' ideas.
  • They see people in church being “human” – i.e., having faults or even sinning, which they’re being told by the world makes Christians “hypocrites.”
  • They’re fed watered down sermons to attract seekers with shallow messages.
  • Their church leaders’ concentration has been on making the music more attractive than the message is convicting.
  • They’ve never been faced with negativity, criticism or losing, because the pop psychology of the past 30 years has said “don’t hurt children’s egos,” so we’ve built a bunch of egomaniacal, narcissistic kids who go ballistic at their first rejection.
But the Number One reason:
Is that they haven't been taught “religion” and “faith” are not the same thing. Faith and true worship, and understanding who God can be to them, have nothing to do with the outward trappings of man-made denominational “religion.” Faith and true worship must be in the heart.

Families have dropped the ball on biblical, faith based training in the home, because many of the parents are still young enough to have been through the same education system as described above; and older parents feel threatened by the new concepts of “Children’s Rights.”

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 says: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up..."

And Ephesians 6:1-4: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2"Honor your father and mother"—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3"that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." 4Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

(Verses are NIV, bolding mine).

Source of Phone Survey statistics: "72% of Millennials more spiritual than religious" Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA Today, 4/27/10.
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Author's Corner: "Escaping the Cauldron" by Kristine McGuire


What would prompt a woman who had been a Christian for twenty-nine years to abandon her faith and embrace the occult?

Escaping the Cauldron reveals the view of a former Christian Witch and Medium.

Part biography and part biblical study, Escaping the Cauldron is author Kristine McGuire's testimony of how God saved her from eight years of a “Christian” occult lifestyle. The book offers a clear Biblical viewpoint throughout its short, riveting chapters.

Kristine explains:

"I went from being a committed, although perhaps legalistic, Christian to becoming a witch, medium, and ghost hunter until God restored my faith and life. The book is also a Biblical study which examines the current pop-cultural interest in the occult (in particular ghosts, hauntings, and mediums), and how this interest is affecting Christians and their beliefs about the supernatural."

Why call it Escaping the Cauldron?

"This is actually the first book in a series, “What Christians Need to Know About the Occult”—a series of collections written from my former experiences as a witch, developing psychic abilities as a medium, and ghost hunter. Although the book includes ghost hunting and other paranormal activities, I chose "Escaping the Cauldron" as the main title because witchcraft was truly my entry into the arena of the occult."

What do you think is the most important chapter of the book?

"I think there are several important chapters, but Spiritual Warfare and How Should Christians Respond are the two which bring together everything discussed in the previous chapters, in the hope of helping the reader understand their authority in Jesus Christ. This leads the way to a ready defense and response for any kind of paranormal or supernatural event they may experience in their life as a Christian."

What do you hope to accomplish?

"I hope to equip Christians with information about the occult. I pray the church will acknowledge the presence of this spiritual world around us, and listen to people with stories or claims of paranormal experiences without dismissing them immediately. When the church refuses to listen or offer any Biblical assistance, many people are forced to seek help elsewhere. This generally means seeking out ghost hunters, mediums, and psychics...

I also hope to encourage Christians who may be questioning their faith to seek a deeper relationship with God, especially if they are stuck in a form of legalism. Our answers truly can be found in Jesus Christ."

Escaping the Cauldron is available in paperback and Kindle editions at Amazon, or can be found in paperback and E-Book editions at Kristine’s blog site: Kristine ReMixed and Lulu Publishing.

Kristine is a Christian wife and mother who works with her husband, Thom, through Big Fish Ministries. Beside writing for her blog, she’s a Biblical Counselor and featured columnist for the website Positively Feminine.


The writer of this blog, 20-20 Faith Sight, Sheryl Young, has also written a book, What Every Christian Should Know about the Jewish People. See right sidebar for info.
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

ACLU caught red-handed in Free Speech case

ACLU attorneys in Florida have been naughty. They’ve pursued the defendants in a Santa Rosa School District case, while hiding the fact they had no plaintiffs to represent.

The court should have been informed, because having no client would make the ACLU’s position moot and could have changed the outcome of the case.

The case: The ACLU had approached the Santa Rosa School District on behalf of two atheist students who alleged that Christian teachers were forcefully witnessing during class time and within class lessons. 

“Evidence” of this was subjective and sorely lacking. Still, the School District was persuaded to enter into a “Consent Decree” forcing school personnel to sign the Decree saying they would cease and desist any Christian free speech - anywhere on school grounds, even free time. The case could have ended there. 

But the ACLU then demanded that the Christian school personnel should not even be able to pray at off-campus, privately sponsored events.

Soon, two school administrators found themselves facing a lawsuit for praying at an off-campus event. They were criminally charged for being "in violation" of the decree.

A school district employee who asked her husband to pray at an event, because she wasn’t allowed, was still included in the suit because – after all – he was her husband.

The three were cleared of all charges, but...
The unlawful ordinance was still being enforced. It was so worded that the ACLU and School District could keep trying to find charges against teachers, other school personnel, students, volunteers and even outside associates for not following demands like these:

-The school board could tell local pastors how to seat audiences for church services or events involving any school faculty or students.
-Students couldn't use faith expressions like “God Bless” in any situation.
-School personnel couldn't be seen praying, even to themselves – anywhere in public. Even on their own time.
-Teachers couldn't answer parents’ e-mails if anything about God was in the parents' text; nor could parents and teachers have faith-led conversations.
-School volunteers couldn't answer any questions regarding religion.
-Christian groups weren’t allowed to rent school facilities for private religious functions if it involves benefiting the students in any way.

A snag in the case for the ACLU:
By this point in time, the atheist students had graduated, and therefore no longer had legal standing as plaintiffs. Without clients, by law, the ACLU should have been barred from continuing litigation. But the ACLU never informed court officials.

Attorneys for the defendants found out and brought it to the court's attention. In March, the Court demanded that the ACLU explain why they continued pursuing enforcement of the Decree.

The defendants now have a case against the Santa Rosa School District for illegalities in the decree and violations against the students’ and teachers’ First Amendment freedom of religious expression.

An injunction against the further persistence and enforcement of the Consent Decree has been requested.

As these types of things happen more and more around the country, we as Christians can stand firm and pray. While peacefully exerting the avenues we have to petition the government with our grievances (another First Amendment right), we can know that God is with us.

"When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say" (Luke 12:11-12, NIV).

More information with links to the case can be seen in my previous articles at The Underground Online Magazine, here and here.
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Author's Corner: "Do Babies go to Heaven?" by Jack Wellman

What happens to babies, infants, young children and still borns if they die before having a chance to know Jesus?

When several of Jack Wellman’s friends, including a pastor, experienced losing a baby, his heart was stirred to research the Bible on this topic and then write a book to help them and other people everywhere cope with this unimaginable grief. 

The resulting book, Do Babies Go to Heaven? also examines whether mentally challenged people, kids with special needs, even pets and people in vegetative states can experience Christ – and also Why God Allows Suffering (the book’s secondary question).

“The answers are in the Bible,” Jack says. He was already a writer when this was laid on his heart.

“I actually began writing from an interest in Apologetics. But then I wanted to establish evidence for Creation and indisputable evidence backing Jesus Christ and His resurrection. I wanted to do this through the disciplines of history, biology, archeology and other logical, philosophical avenues.”

Wellman, a father and grandfather, desires for children to come to know Christ as their Savior. He knows that approximately 84% of children drop out of church once they leave home. So one way he tries to instill a love for God and Jesus is by being a longtime Sunday school teacher of third and fourth graders at his church.

After writing his first book to debunk evolution, (Blind Chance or Intelligent Design?, Empirical Methodologies and the Bible), he gave copies to all his former students who were about to graduate high school and go off to college. Most public colleges are nearly wholly devoted to the theory of evolution and the discrediting of creationism. 

But he also just has a general desire for people of all ages to know the one true God and find their way to Him. He works with the homeless, helping to provide all kinds of services, and is passionate for telling people the Gospel in every situation possible. 

Do Babies Go to Heaven is available here at Amazon.com, and Blind Chance or Intelligent Design here or as a Kindle book. You can also get to know Jack at EverydayChristian.com, his blogsite or his column at Associated Content.com, which is where we first met and discovered each others’ writing.

The author of this blog, 20-20 Faith Sight, Sheryl Young, has also written a book, What Every Christian Should Know about the Jewish People. See column at near right for information.
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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Condoms for Massachusetts Elementary School Students

This is an opinion editorial related to my exclusive Associated Content News article, Condoms for Massachusetts First Graders - Step Right Up, Kids

The Provincetown, Massachusetts’ School Board decision to give condoms to elementary school students – beginning in first grade – shows how easily school boards are influenced by the political correctness of “Children’s Rights.”

“Children’s Rights” movements started out of concern for child abuse, but have now extended to a child’s “right” to make all their own decisions. Of course, we all know that children as young as five have been around long enough to know what’s good for them. Some "children's rights" philosophies are:

-Kids don’t need to listen to their parents.
-Kids can do whatever feels good to them at any given time.
-Kids shouldn’t allow the influence of older peoples’ attitudes.
-Kids don’t need discipline.
-In fact, discipline should be avoided at every opportunity. No negatives. No criticism. We may hurt their little egos. This is why our children, when they get out into the world of jobs, can’t stand the littlest bit of critique.
-Even crazy statements like the one by Provincetown’s school superintendent stating the condoms must be distributed without parental knowledge to honor the children’s privacy.

Parents are all made out to be ogres who are going to beat and abuse their children. So kids, don’t tell your parents anything anymore. 

Thinly veiled temptations into sexual activity:
This school board decision is an example of the thinly veiled attempt to encourage children into the most dangerous sexual activity. It is a ploy invented by adults at children’s expense to sell more condoms and abortions and promote ultra-liberal sexual agendas—including the move to desensitize society to the dangers of pedophilia and child pornography. 

There is little proof that the last three decades of early sex education has prevented early pregnancy or the spread of AIDS. In fact most studies, like the ones cited in Part 1, show just the opposite. Kids who have taken sex ed courses are more likely to have sex.

The problem is, the school boards across the country are in the grips of outrageously liberal organizations who are allowed to walk in to schools to teach the kids about sex. They’ve bought the theory that kids are having sex younger and younger, and they need protection.

And why are kids having sex younger and younger? Because of early sex education in school! It’s not preventing sex…it’s encouraging it.

A 2010 Survey conducted for Seventeen Magazine, a fairly liberal teen girls’ magazine, interviewed male teens and young men 15-22 (“That’s What He Said…What Guys Think about Sex, Love, Contraception and Relationships”).

Among the things they said influenced them to experiment sexually at an early age was sex education (p. 7 of the study). More than three quarters said there is too much pressure from society to have sex (p. 3).

Carol Everett Shaw, once an owner of six abortion clinics, testified to Focus on the Family* that when she worked with Planned Parenthood, she was trained to go into public schools (in first and second grade level, sometimes even kindergarten) and begin discrediting parents to the children.  

She was trained to teach the children to make fun of the names their parents gave to sexual organs, and that parents were stupid for making up words.

Graduating to third, fourth and fifth grade, she was trained to begin influencing the children that their parents were too old-fashioned to know anything, and that it was okay to experiment sexually.

All this with the goal that Planned Parenthood explained up-front to their trainees: Have this mentality instilled in the children by age 13. If more girls turned up pregnant, more girls will show up at our clinics for abortions.

Pray for your children and grandchildren! They're being attacked from all sides by adults who care only for their own agendas and wallets. Most school boards and school administrators are ill-informed about the various studies mentioned herein. You can get more information to help inform them. See:
Boys and Sex;  
Condoms for Massachusetts First Graders (News version);
Teens, Pre-Teens and the “Hooking Up” Culture.

*Carol Everett Interview: “Sex Education and Our Children”, Focus on the Family taped interview, Dr. James Dobson, Carol Everett and Amy Stephens, cassette tape# CS946/15536, © 1995, 1998.  

Photo: Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
   
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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Supreme Court: Student groups must admit those who disagree

San Francisco’s Hastings College of Law must now force student groups to permit membership to students who disagree with the group’s philosophy and direction.

The Supreme Court made this decision in a 5-4 ruling (Christian Legal Society v. Martinez). It will no doubt set precedent for similar incidents around the country.

This policy means that religious student groups could quite possibly have to admit people of different faiths or even atheists, Republicans would have to allow Democrats, African American groups may have to admit white supremacists, pro-lifers would have to admit pro-choicers, and etc. Imagine a Jewish group being forced to admit neo-Nazis.

The case involved the Christian Legal Society’s on-campus student group. But, according to a report at The Underground Online Magazine, the Supreme Court did not address whether the school was particularly targeting the Christian Legal Society—which would ironically be an act of discrimination in itself.

The ruling states that public universities may supersede a religious student group’s freedom to choose its own leadership.

It’s a ridiculous ruling that shows political correctness running amuck. Our lawmakers and judges are so dense and out of touch that they can’t see this: The only reason people who disagree with a group’s philosophy would want to join that group is to change that philosophy. The person joining really has no interest in that group except to influence from the inside, change or negate the group’s agenda and make the group lose effectiveness in their community.

Case in point: A Christian ministry to the homeless in Tampa Bay, Florida admitted a lady of a different faith on to their Board of Directors. They were forced to do so when she threatened a discrimination suit against them. In the end, they hoped, if she wanted to be on the board, she would help the organization, as she knew from the start it was a Christian group that shared the gospel with those it helped.

This well-known ministry had been feeding, sheltering and clothing homeless people and those with drug addictions for over 50 years. They had a city-wide banquet every year where people they’d helped gave testimony that finding the Lord had changed their lives for the better, and thanked the ministry before an audience of various faiths.

But within a year of her membership on the board, this lady exerted various types of pressure within and outside the ministry, and influenced votes in the direction that they should no longer share the Gospel of Christ with the people they helped.

When the ministry announced it could no longer call itself a Christian ministry, and could no longer tell the people of the love of Jesus, they lost at least half their private funding, and the lady did nothing to call the people of her own faith into action. Instead, she shortly resigned her position. The organization became financially strapped and lost half their effectiveness in the community. 

It took about three years for people to rally back around and help the organization financially, but they still can't share news of the Bible.
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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Author's Corner: "Seeing Things" by Tina Yeager, LMHC

A mysterious woman claims to see spiritual entities. She’s admitted to Westbury Hospital's psychiatric unit. Psychiatrist Jordan Reinhardt, an atheist, at first assumes the woman is delusional. But he begins to see the same creatures flashing their eyes at him, even during waking hours. Plus, his other patients begin describing the woman without ever having seen her! Topping that off,  he’s offered a job that makes him question his own scruples.

This is the plot of Seeing Things, a terrific suspense/espionage novel by author Tina Yeager, LMHC. She laces the fictional tale with her own experience in the mental health field to give it extraordinary credibility. With a Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Central Florida,* Yeager counsels and teaches adults, teens, and children in academic, clinical and faith-based settings.

Get gripped by Seeing Things…order it here through Barnes and Noble.

More about Tina Yeager:
As an author, speaker, counselor and friend, Tina reaches from her heart to kindle smoldering souls. Her passion is to guide people across the threshold of healing to access life’s potential. With transparency, humor and wisdom, she addresses audiences in a way they will both enjoy and remember. She writes Christian fiction and nonfiction to help people relate better to others, to ourselves and to God.

Tina’s also a proud wife and mother of two sons, eleven and seventeen years old, and a fellow member of mine at the Tampa chapter of Word Weavers Writers’ Association, where she acts as our chaplain.

…And New from Tina:
Sensing God - "A Spiritual Experience for all Five Senses." Six weekly units for individuals or small groups, blending sensory activities with spiritual wisdom. See Tina’s website for more info and how to order! Or check out her counseling site and blog,too.

*Yeager is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors and Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce.


The author of this 20-20FaithSight blog, Sheryl Young, has also written a book, What Every Christian Should Know about the Jewish People. See near right sidebar for details.
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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Author's Corner: "Barriers" by Mid Stutsman

Mid Stutsman is a writer of poetry, stories, an author of books and an artist who does cover art, portraits and still life. She recovered from a path of self-destruction through the love, forgiveness and mercy of the Lord.

“When God turned my life around, my desire to create returned, and I've been blessed over and above my expectations! Now, I write to glorify the Lord and reveal His Truth to as many as I can.”

Although Mid and I are only “Internet friends,” we have so much in common. We’ve both participated in Theatre Arts and love movie versions of Jane Austen books. But most of all, we share the love of our Ultimate Friend—Jesus Christ—and we both have a heart for Israel and the Jewish people.

We’ve each written a book on the topic of relating Christians, Jews and Israel. Mine, a non-fiction (see right hand column, What Every Christian Should Know about the Jewish People) and Mid’s, Barriers, a suspense fiction.

Barriers is a controversial suspense/love story set in Israel. It follows a woman, Anne, who makes “Aliyah” (a journey back) to the Promised Land. The sequence of events weaves Arab, Jewish, and Christian characters and concerns into a compelling novel. It will impact your view of Jewish people and Arabs, and change your perspective on the conflict in the Middle East.

All the while, throughout the book, Mid gently conveys the elements of faith in God and His promise to those who believe in Him.

Never before has there been such a great need for Christians to understand Israel, the feelings of the Jewish people, and the spiritual battle in the Middle East. Mid does a great job explaining these issues at one of her websites, The Israel Connection: Understanding Israel in the context of these last days/God's End Times economy. You will find:
  • News and truths about Israel
  • Exploring Islam
  • Unveiling Israel/MidEast Prophecies
Mid has 12 children (two more in Heaven) and 10 grandchildren! She lives with her husband, Fred, in Indiana. Her full astonishing story, plus a myriad of her poetry, ponderings and posts can be found at Mids’ Point, where she often puts out little gems of thought like this: 
“When it comes to Love, there is only One who is an expert...the rest of us are just learning.”

Barriers is available through WestBow Press or can currently be purchased at amazon.com, where you can have a peek inside, and other online booksellers.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Da Vinci Probe: What did Da Vinci really know about the Last Supper?

What makes everyone think Leonardo Da Vinci uncovered some big Christian secret?

Author Dan Brown's blockbuster 2003 book, The Da Vinci Code, followed by the movie and all its sequels and franchises, seems to have ignited this particular firestorm.

Speculation began circulating in both secular and theological circles, all the way to the Vatican:
-Did Leonardo Da Vinci write an encrypted code on his famous Vitruvian Man?
-Was Mary Magdalene married to Jesus?
-Is there really a Holy Grail?

Seven years later, even Christian magazines are still asking questions like, “Why weren’t there women in Da Vinci’s Last Supper painting?” (Light & Life Magazine, March/April 2010, pp. 10-11).

I’d like some answers from you, Mr. Da Vinci…may I call you Leo?

How is it that you lived from 1452 to 1519—over 14 centuries after Jesus—yet you have all the secrets of his ministry that not even his contemporaries revealed, and the prophets weren't inspired by God to write?

Surely, a Renaissance man like yourself was able to construct a Time Machine. Did you travel back and do the portrait of Jesus at the Last Supper, hiding at least one woman in the background, as some say?

What about those who claim you purposefully left women out of the picture?

Before we ask why DaVinci left women out of his painting, we could ask why they were left out of the Bible's Last Supper accounts, when women are mentioned in many other New Testament scriptures.

All four disciples who wrote the gospels stated that women were the first to see Jesus’ empty tomb (Matthew 28:8-10; Mark 16:9-10; Luke 24:8-11; John 20:10-18). John speaks of the Samaritan woman at the well to whom Jesus offers “living water” (John 4:7-42), and the woman whom Jesus saved from punishment for adultery (John 8:3-11).

Matthew 14:21 mentions women as being present, outside of the 5,000-man count at the five loaves and fish miracle. Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, are mentioned in Luke 10:38-41 and John 11:1-40.

Throughout the book of Acts and his later writings, the apostle Paul mentions by name many women who helped spread the gospel. In 2 Timothy 1:5, he credits Timothy’s mother and grandmother for raising the young disciple.

So why, then, would women be left out of the Last Supper? And why would Da Vinci leave them out of his painting?

Simple answers to these questions:
A Boston Museum of Science website  devoted to Da Vinci’s works quotes the artist:
         The most praiseworthy form of painting is the one that most
         resembles what it imitates.

I doubt Da Vinci, having said this, would have put brush to canvas for The Last Supper without first reading Biblical accounts of its occurrence. Therefore, he imitated what he saw in scripture.

He didn’t add women for one simple reason…they weren’t there. And I'd venture to say, he wouldn't think Jesus was ever married, either.

Christians believe that what’s in the Bible was divinely inspired by God through the hands of man, and God knew what books would be canonized.

The New Testament’s writers knew their stories would seem unbelievable and questionable. Luke 1:1-2 states:
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been  fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses.

And 2 Peter 1:16 says:
    We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

Why should Christians stick with what the Bible says?
As Christians, we learn to trust the Lord with all our heart rather than leaning on our own human understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Our faith grows through hearing and reading the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

In other words, the greatest faith in knowing that Jesus was who He said He was, and that things went down exactly as they appear in the Bible, comes from believing the book itself...not through the speculations of man.

The people who write these modern-day things can't prove what they're saying; neither have they yet proven the Bible is false.


This article originally appeared here at The Underground Online Magazine, by the author of this 20-20 blog, Sheryl Young.


Photo: Da Vinci's The Last Supper, grid reproduction, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Personhood Amendments proceed across the U.S.

Mississippi is the most recent state to join 13 others in pursuing a “Personhood Amendment.”

A press release by Personhood Mississippi states they already have enough votes to put their measure on the 2011 election ballot as an Amendment to the Mississippi Constitution.

What is a Personhood Amendment?
“Personhood” amendments are pro-life measures being proposed at state level legislatures. The goal is to recognize, within the States’ Constitutions, that every unborn child has the same inherent rights, dignity and value as every living human from the beginning of their biological development.

Another aspect being pursued in some states is to assure dignity and human rights to every physically or mentally disabled or elderly person; to prevent the notion of involuntary euthanasia.

The “Personhood Movement” is an official nationwide pro-life movement. The website clarifies that Personhood Amendments can also be called Human Life Amendments.

A list of the 14 states that have already constructed and/or proposed Personhood Amendments, and where they are in the process, can be seen here at Personhood.Net – a subsidiary of the Georgia Right to Life Committee. Georgia was the first state with such a proposal in 2007. It hasn’t resulted in being placed on a voters’ ballot.

Approximately 26 other states are taking action to draft similar wording.

Additionally, there are ongoing attempts to get enough petition signatures to file a Federal Personhood Amendment to the United States Constitution. 

Psalm 139:13: "For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.” (KJV)


This report originally appeared at The Underground Online Christian Magazine, where Ms. Young also reported on Florida’s Personhood Amendment movement.

Photo: Fetal sonogram, wikimedia commons. Relese granted for any purpose.
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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

National Day of Prayer carries on

The National Day of Prayer, taking place for 2010 on May 6, was established by the United States Congress in 1952. It was assigned its permanent position of the first Thursday in May in 1988.

"In God We Trust" is still imprinted on our U.S. money. That doesn't seem to matter to some activist judges who are willing to do atheist groups' bidding:

On April 15, 2010, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb handed down a controversial ruling  that establishing a National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. She said it “goes beyond mere ‘acknowledgment’ of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context.”

Crabb’s own statement invalidates her point of unconstitutionality:
The National Day of Prayer encourages people, it doesn’t mandate prayer. It isn’t illegal not to pray. It is a voluntary activity. Nobody will go to jail for not participating.

Although this day is seen by the media and non-religious public as a forceful “Christian thing,” the Official site of the National Day of Prayer Task Force  sites a verse from the Old Testament which can apply to both Christians and Jewish people: "The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him" (Nahum 1:7).

Additionally, there is nothing nationwide demanding that any certain God be prayed to. Anyone, anywhere can use this day to lift extra prayers to their God. 

Justice Department, President Obama will challenge Judge Crabb’s ruling:

The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Justice Department will appeal the ruling, with President Obama as the chief defendant.

On April 30, President Obama also issued the annual White House Proclamation for the National Day of Prayer, although he won’t personally host an event.

The fact that the President will not host a National Day of Prayer event is very offensive to people of biblical faith. In an effort "not to offend" atheists and others, he is instead offending the bulk of the country who do believe in God.


Photo credit: Photo of U.S. Currency showing "In God We Trust" is the work of the United States government, not under copyright. It is in public domain.

Want to know what the Constitution really says about freedom of religion in the First Amendment? Check out this book: 

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