Archive for December, 2012

top-10This is my 369th post for 2012 and here are the top ten in terms of views.

But wait, before the big reveal… Here’s the blog’s new Facebook page. LIKE ME!


10. Jonathan and Charlotte – a Parable of the Kingdom

Here are some other responses to cultural phenomena:

What Jimmy Savile, Jeremy Forrest and Lance Armstrong teach us…

Living beyond the end of the world (a reflection on the Mayan apocalypse)

Bert le Clos’s “Behold My Son!”


9. What is sin? Falling short? Rebellion? Something else?

This was probably my favourite post of the year.  I had a pop at some other evangelical shibboleth’s in these:

It’s not about rules it’s about Working Hard at My Relationship With God…


 “God’s work and our work”?

Grace is not a cheese sandwich

Idolising idolatry

Genesis 12: Key to the OT?

Memorialist Communion (in church and in marriage)

Memorialist Preaching

Memorialist Prayer


8. Five minutes on the bible and slavery

Here were the others in that series:

Five minutes on the bible’s sexual ethic

Five minutes on the conquest of Canaan

Five minutes on the bible and gender equality


7. 321 – The Story of God, the World and You

Exciting things happening with 321, I’m looking forward to developing them in 2013.  Here’s some of the philosophy behind it:

The importance of explaining Trinity and original sin and “union with Christ” in evangelism

321 and the Gospel EventsCreation, FallRedemption and Repentance (part onepart two)


6. The Road to Emmaus – Sermon on Luke 24:13-35

On the subject of preaching, here are posts on my three favourite preachers

Paul Blackham

Mike Reeves

Steve Levy


5. Legal recognition of marriage and the way of Jesus – by Paul Blackham

Paul wrote some other excellent guest posts for me this year:

Translating “Son of God” – Paul Blackham

The Insider Movement (a series of 4 posts) – Paul Blackham

Paul Blackham: A Sermon on Fear


4. Bible Read-Through in 120 Days – wanna join?

This read-through was very popular and Matthias also organised a Greek audio bible too. Download it for free:

Free Greek Audio Bible


3. A Trinity Sunday / Jubilee Sermon

Other more thematic sermons of mine:

Five Talks on Isaiah

Does God exist? How does He fit with Science?

What happens when we die?

Why is there so much suffering?


2. Stephen Fry offers good advice on depression – by ditching his atheism

This was a provocative post looking at the interaction between pastoral care and evangelism. If your “gospel” can’t help you deal with life it’s no gospel. And if you have to borrow Christian convictions in order to care for people, that might point you to the good sense of Christianity.

On the theme of pastoral theology, here are some posts that were close to my heart.

“This woman you put here”

Jesus is Utterly, Horrendously, Maddeningly Infuriating

Death because resurrection

Helping the Helpers


1. Fear and Faith: Derren Brown undone in 60 seconds by his own subject

I’m a big fan of Derren Brown but his claim to have shown God as the ultimate placebo was just silly.  Here are some more posts about atheism:

Not the God story, the Hero story

“Just show me the evidence”

An introduction to humanism – transcript and comment

“A universe with a god would look very different to a universe without one.”

Beginnings and Before Beginnings


There you have it.  Thanks for making blogging so enjoyable.  And don’t forget to LIKE ME, LIKE ME, LIKE ME!

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rowlanddLanguage slightly updated…

“Christ took our nature upon him that he might sympathise with us.  Almost every creature is sympathetic to its own kind, however ferocious to others. The bear will not be deprived of its cubs without resistance: she will tear the aggressor to pieces if she can. But how great the jealousy of the Lord Jesus for his people! He will not lose any of them. He has taken them as members of himself, and as such watches over them with fondest care. How much will a man do for one of the members of his body (like a hand or an eye) before he suffers it to be cut off? Think not O man, that you would do more for your members than the Son of God. To think so would be blasphemy, for the pre-eminence in all things belongs to him.

Yes, he is acquainted with all your temptations, because he was in all things tempted as you are. Are you tempted to deny God? So was he. Are you tempted to kill yourself? So was he. Are you tempted by the vanities of the world? So was he. Are you tempted to idolatry? So was he; yes even to worship the devil. He was tempted from the manger to the cross. He was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief. The head in heaven is sympathizing with the feet that are pinched and pressed on earth, and says , ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’”

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I’ve finally got my act together.

Scriptural Devotions all indexed and referenced here.

Sermons and talks all indexed and referenced here.

Bit cross-eyed now…

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Happy Friday

What is the deal with the observational comedy??

Some classic Seinfeld for you.  Most polished stand-up ever?

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What does the phrase “Jesus is Lord” mean? And how does it relate to evangelism?

Sometimes, when I hear about the Lordship of Jesus, I fear I could easily swap the phrase “Jesus is Lord” for “God is big” and there’d be no material change in the meaning.

So go and ‘do evangelism’ because God is big.  And He says so…  Remember Who’s Boss!

Of course I caricature.

But what does ‘Jesus is Lord’ mean?  And how does His Lordship relate to evangelism.

Well first of all, “Jesus is Lord” literally means “‘Yahweh-to-the-rescue’ is Yahweh”.  Which is a statement worth meditating on!  Yahweh-to-the-rescue is Yahweh!

And now meditate on its implications for evangelism!  To abbreviate the above (at the risk of causing misunderstanding): Our God is Jesus who is Rescuer.  Therefore the Lordship of Jesus and His saving passion are not two different things.  And obedience to this Lordship is not so much to be submissive to an edict as to be swept up into this passion.

Second of all, it means the true God of Israel and the true Lord of the universe is Jesus.

Therefore if you hadn’t already seen it, you need to go back and read the Old Testament properly (ie in the way it was intended).  And also, if you haven’t already, you need to revisit your notion of God.  He is entirely Jesus shaped.  That Nazarene who bled for me is Lord.  Not some ancient explosion or some foreign god.  Not even some familiar theistic god of popular understanding.  And certainly not little old me.  No if we’re going to talk about God, let’s talk about Jesus.  He is Lord.  This will mean very different gospel conversations to the regular “Let’s first agree there’s a Higher-Power” chats.

Thirdly it means that the universe I’m in and the universe my friend is in is Christ’s universe.

Imagine you and your friend have been teleported into the tabernacle (and no-one’s said “Oi, goy, get outta here!”).  But you’re surrounded by goats and bulls being slaughtered and priests with special clothes and holy spaces specially demarcated and furniture arranged just so.  Imagine you lived there.  Imagine you’d never lived anywhere else.

Your friend couldn’t help but be fascinated by some aspect of the tabernacle.  Perhaps she’s besotted by the 12 precious stones in the high priest’s breastpiece.  Or the cherubim woven into the curtain.  Or the fire burning on the altar.  It’ll be something.  And she’ll no doubt have some ridiculous notions about what these things are all about.  But whatever you talk about with your friend you’re actually in a gospel presentation.  And the very terms of your discussion and the raw materials of her values, hopes and fears are derived from that gospel.

If you didn’t know how to “have a gospel conversation” in that environment it could only be because you yourself hadn’t grasped the gospel meaning of the tabernacle.  You’d need to study the Scriptures more, understand the gospel more.  In short you’d need to see how the whole tabernacle proclaims “Jesus is Lord.”

Well you know the application.  We do live in a gospel presentation (Psalm 19; Rom 10:17ff; Col 1:23).  And if we don’t know how to bring a conversation about a bullying boss or a wayward teenager or ongoing depression or state education or economic inequality or marital troubles or politics or mid-life crises around to the gospel then we need to take the Lordship of Jesus more seriously.  We need to go back to the Scriptures and in His Light to see again.

I used to think evangelism was inserting trite presentations into trivial conversations.  But ‘Jesus is Lord’ changes all of that.  Jesus is not a foreign intruder into a conversation that’s about something else.  He is the One who makes sense of it all.


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HT Jonathan Black and his excellent blog


Glory be to God on high,
And peace on earth descend;
Now God comes down, He bows the sky,
And shows Himself our Friend!
God the invisible appears,
God the Blest, the Great I AM,
He sojourns in this vale of tears,
And Jesus is His Name.

Him by the angels all adored,
Their Maker and their King;
Lo, tidings of their humbled Lord
They now to mortals bring;
Emptied of His majesty,
Of His dazzling glories shorn,
Our being’s Source begins to be,
And God Himself is born!

See the eternal Son of God
A mortal Son of Man,
Now dwelling in an earthly clod
Whom Heaven cannot contain!
Stand amazed, ye heavens, look at this!
See the Lord of earth and skies
Low humbled to the dust He is,
And in a manger lies!

So do the sons of men rejoice
The Prince of Peace proclaim,
With Heaven’s host lift up our voice,
And shout Immanuel’s Name;
Our knees and hearts to Him we bow;
Of our flesh, and of our bone,
See—Jesus is our Brother now,
And God is all our own!

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It’s twelve years since I first heard this. Think it’s still my favourite sermon:

The full 20 minute sermon.

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Luke 1:26-38 Sermon

Luke 1.26-28Sermon Audio

Sermon Text

This is Jesus: The Son of Mary. Our Brother in every way. A pure gift of the Father. God the Son entering our Family that we might enter His. A true Joshua bringing us rest. A true David crushing our Enemy and setting the world to rights.

And He’s for you.

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I’ve done you a mix tape.  Yes.  I know.  This relationship is getting serious.

Here are 12 of my favourite carols to accompany your present wrapping…

If it doesn’t work in your browser, go here.

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wedding cake topper

Click for source

On Thursday I wrote a piece on Emma’s blog about how I coped through her illness.  I hope it might help others too.  Here are the headings…

The Priesthood of Christ is vital for you both

You are their vicarious hope-r

You must believe in the bondage of the will…  

A theology of the cross is vital…

A theology of the cross is not the same thing as “Misery loves Company”…

The goal is not getting back to how things were…

That feeling of impotence is inevitable, it’s good and it’s bad…

You will need to change…

Giving an addict what they want is not love…

Firm, buoyant love is the tone to strike…

Don’t do it alone…

Headship means being a prayer warrior…

This is not a distraction from real life, this is it…

Read the whole thing…

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The Mayan Calendar has run out, giving tweet-fodder to wits all over the world. Some of the better ones:

And perhaps my favourite…

What’s it like to live beyond the end of the world?  What’s it like to find yourself on the other side of judgement day unscathed?

Well Christians ought to know.  We are 8th day people.  Through Christ we’ve been taken through the history of the old world, beyond the limit of the old Adam and into a whole new calendar.

From creation, the week has proclaimed God’s work in giving life (cf Exodus 20:8-11; Deut 5:12-15).  Day 6 is the pinnacle of His work – the Day of Man.  Day 7 is the Day of Completion.  On this day, the finished work of giving life is celebrated and rest is brought.

When Jesus died on the 6th day, He was summing up Man and the death he must die (“on the day you eat of it you will surely die” – Gen 2:17).  On the 7th He rested in the tomb.  The 8th day was the first day of a whole new week, a whole new world.

And ever since, the Lord’s people have been 8th day people, celebrating His resurrection into new creation life.  We don’t live like old covenant people, with the day of rest and completion yet future.  We have no work to do in order to arrive at the end of the world.  Christ has taken us through our death and judgement – through the End and out into a New Beginning.

“Worldly” people are 6th day people. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we’re dead.

“Religious” people are 7th day people.  Appearing in their own person at the End and hoping to be let through.

Christians are 8th day people.  We’ve burst through to the other side.  The old calendar is gone.  The old code is gone.  The old man is gone.  There’s nothing ahead to judge or condemn us.  It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

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Happy Friday

And some festive Trigger Happy TV (some swear words):

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All the Johns agree:

But let us inquire who this Angel was? since soon afterwards he not only calls himself Jehovah, but claims the glory of the eternal and only God. Now, although this is an allowable manner of speaking, because the angels transfer to themselves the person and titles of God, when they are performing the commissions entrusted to them by him; and although it is plain from many passages, and especially from the first chapter of Zechariah, that there is one head and chief of the angels who commands the others, the ancient teachers of the Church have rightly understood that the Eternal Son of God is so called in respect to his office as Mediator, which he figuratively bore from the beginning, although he really took it upon him only at his Incarnation. And Paul sufficiently expounds this mystery to us, when he plainly asserts that Christ was the leader of his people in the Desert. (1 Corinthians 10:4.) Therefore, although at that time, properly speaking, he was not yet the messenger of his Father, still his predestinated appointment to the office even then had this effect, that he manifested himself to the patriarchs, and was known in this character. Nor, indeed, had the saints ever any communication with God except through the promised Mediator. It is not then to be wondered at, if the Eternal Word of God, of one Godhead and essence with the Father, assumed the name of “the Angel” on the ground of his future mission.

He is expressly called an “Angel” Exod. 3:2 – namely, the Angel of the covenant, the great Angel of the presence of God, in whom was the name and nature of God. And He thus appeared that the Church might know and consider who it was that was to work out their spiritual and eternal salvation, whereof that deliverance which then He would effect was a type and pledge.  Aben Ezra would have the Angel mentioned verse 2, to be another from him who is called “God,” v 6: but the text will not give countenance to any such distinction, but speaks of one and the same person throughout without any alteration; and this was no other but the Son of God.

This redemption was by Jesus Christ, as is evident from this, that it was wrought by him that appeared to Moses in the bush; for that was the person that sent Moses to redeem the people.  But that was Christ, as is evident, because he is called ‘the angel of the LORD’ (Exodus 3:2).

Given such unanimity among our reformed forebears (who themselves appealed to ‘the ancient teachers of the Church’) our modern reluctance to identify Him who dwells in the bush is deeply concerning.

From the 18th century onwards we’ve gotten ourselves into a position where even Christians find themselves thinking about “God” in the abstract.  In our thinking, ‘Trinity’ has become a gloss on a supposedly more ‘basic’ understanding of ‘God.’  The Son has been relegated to a theological luxury – a very good window onto the divine life.  He is no longer the one theological necessity – the Word, the Image, the Representation of God.  We find ourselves able to speak christlessly and, essentially, unitarianly about three quarters of God’s revelation.

And somehow we get ourselves to the position where the question “Who is in the burning bush?” seems odd or irrelevant or uncomfortable or a trap.  And many people hurry past the issue.  In so doing they hurry past the great I AM who defines Himself throughout the OT as the One who brought His people up out of Egypt.  ‘Who is in the bush?’ is a key question not merely for the passage, but for all the Scriptures and a litmus test of our theological convictions.  So what do you say?  Do you agree with the Johns?

My sermon on Exodus 1-3 is here.


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Martian came down, down, down
With a dirty frown, frown, frown
Pointed his ray gun in our face
Said “We don’t like the human race
Forces in the sky don’t wanna be friends
Nothing you can do to make amends.”

“So take me to your leader now
We’re gonna make him bawl and bow
Then cry, cry, everybody cry.
We are waging warfare from on high.

Angel came down, down, down,
Shining all around, round, round
Telling us “Please don’t be afraid,
Heaven is coming to your aid,
Jesus in the sky, He wants to be friends
Born to you to make amends”

“So take our lovely Leader now
Heaven’s Present has come down
And sing, sing, everybody sing
Christ is waging peace on everything.”

That’s why we sing
Our Brother is King
His peace to bring
To everything.


Verse: Em B

Chorus: Em C G D

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Reading Acts 14 and 15 this morning. The interplay of mission, theology and grace really struck me.

Paul and Barnabas go throughout Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Pisidia, Pamphylia and Perga, preaching “the word of God’s grace” (14:3); “the gospel” (v7); “good news” (v15); “the gospel” (v21); “the word” (v25).  When they return to Antioch they call the church together for a mission report: “they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” (v27)  Everyone’s thrilled.

But… you knew the next chapter had to begin with a but… “But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”  (Acts 15:1)

Familiar pattern eh?  Good news of great joy is preached to all the people.  But the people of God are the biggest obstacle to the good news.

Paul and Barnabas are incensed and trace the rot right back to Jerusalem.  When they get there some believers of the sect of the Pharisees repeat the heresy “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.” (v5)

Here’s my question: How long would these Judaizers have remained preaching their false gospel if it wasn’t for the missionary activity of Paul and Barnabas?  The Gentiles come in and force the Jewish believers to rethink what it means to be saved and belong to God’s people.  It stirs things up.

Now it’s true that once the matter is raised in Jerusalem, the council is quick to denounce this theology as “a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear.” (v10)  But before the agitation of missionary activity and new converts, it was a yoke they all seemed to be tolerating.  Legalism had become a comfortable yoke while-ever they remained ‘at home.’

But once the disciples saw the good news spreading and giving life they saw their anti-gospel living in a new light.  When they saw the nations rejoicing in the Lord – even these unwashed Gentiles – they were forced to see the radical simplicity of the Lord’s salvation.  In the light of a life-giving gospel their life-sapping theology was seen for the legalism it had always been.

Here’s an application that springs to mind… the best way to fight slave-making legalism within the church is to preach the life-giving gospel outside the church.  When those who are far from God come in, only the true gospel can cope.  The law can never handle the mess of radical conversions.  Evangelistic churches need to be gracious churches.  In this way theology is refined in the fires of mission.

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Tweets – the Saga Continues

WARNING: In this episode of “Tweets” I occasionally attempt Being Funny.

#halfheartedlovesongs  I feel it in my fingers I feel it in my toes. This love is a peripheral, strictly surface-level sensation

#halfheartedlovesongs  I just called to say this is my new number, update your contacts

#halfheartedlovesongs  If u fall I will catch u, I will be waiting, but I kinda feel u’ve been taking advantage, time after time

#halfheartedlovesongs  Mild thing, you make my heart sink

#halfheartedlovesongs  IIIIIII’d love to love you baby… it’s just…

#halfheartedlovesongs  I got flu babe

#halfheartedlovesongs  Shh hon, Deal Or No Deal’s on, And I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing

#halfheartedlovesongs  Every little thing she does is tiresome

#halfheartedlovesongs  Am I only dreaming, or is this burning, in-di-gestion pain?

#halfheartedlovesongs  With or without you, With or without youuuuu, I could live, with or without you

#halfheartedlovesongs  Don’t want to close my eyes, Don’t want to fall asleep, But does this story have a point??

#halfheartedlovesong  I wanna hold your handbag

#halfheartedlovesongs  I can’t see me lovin nobody but you for all my life. #doublenegative#brilliantloophole

#halfheartedlovesongs  On the day that u were born the angels got together… Committee projects are always tricky

#halfheartedlovesongs  “Whoaaaahhh, this sex is quite dire.”

#halfheartedlovesongs  Your love is like a roller-coaster baby, baby – a big let down

Britain: where “Can’t complain” is itself a complaint.

Something tells me this “Street Compliments” project wouldn’t work so well in England… Very cool though.

“I desire mercy not sacrifice” is one way of putting it. “God doesn’t need your good works, your neighbour does” is another.

The shepherds in the fields & the Good Shepherd in the manger were the same: drawing near to the sheep no matter the cost #EnjoyYourDay

“The world was made so that Christ might be born….” David Fergusson

He has entered our flesh, our frailty, our failures. U don’t have to lift yourself an inch. He’s come all the way down. #EnjoyYourDay

Me: What would u say if Channing Tatum walked in & asked u to leave with him? Emma: I’m sorry I’m married. Me: In what sense r u sorry?

U don’t have 2 become anything ur not. Cos at Christmas He took hold of all that ur & brought it into everything that He is. #EnjoyYourDay

AC Grayling on the census findings that 25% have ‘no religion’: “1 in 4 people aren’t looking at the world through a pair of spectacles” lol

Through the cross (Ps 22:1-21), Jesus becomes your Priest (v22-31). First He bears yr sin, then He bears u b4 the Father #EnjoyYourDay

A good verse for the prayer meeting: “You don’t know what you’re asking.” (Matt 20:22). Very true. But Jesus wants to hear it anyway :)

I have no faith in faith. Unless it’s Christ’s faith.

Jesus saved a people out of Egypt – so say the earliest and best manuscripts for Jude 5.

Our leisure has become work. That’s why we have to “Catch Up” on our televisual obligations.

Is God ok with u? Look to the manger. There’s the Son laying hold of u forever: “And he shall be their peace” Micah 5:5 #EnjoyYourDay

Jesus showed up among the slaughter of the innocents, unarmed and defenceless. He became the true Innocent slaughtered.

The Bible’s a cathedral, so many sermons are “visitors’ centres”.

Jesus enters the world defenceless, not using ‘holiness’ or ‘transcendence’ as protection. He’s yours if you’ll have Him #EnjoyYourDay

When it comes to the Bread of life, all we can aspire to be is a gourmand.

#Baptistchristmassongs Last Christmas I gave Him my heart

#BaptistChristmassongs “Christian children all should be, mild obedient good as He… but still not full members of the body.” ;-) #loveyall

Convictions about “grace” will soon dissipate unless anchored to convictions about *God*

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“Rachel Weeping”

Rachel Weeping For Her Children.
Click for source




Full Text

In the light of the news from America you may be asking, What can Christmas possibly say to Newtown, Connecticut?  Isn’t Christmas now inappropriate?  How can we dare to teach these children about the joys of Christmas when children just like them were gunned down in a school on Friday?  After all that’s happened, how can talk of Christmas go on?  After these events Christmas has been cancelled for scores of families.  How can we speak of Christmas??

I suggest to you that the real question is: How can we not??  How can we NOT speak of Christmas when the evil and suffering of this world is unmasked in such a horrific way?  How can we NOT speak of Christmas?  Christmas is FOR Newtown, Connecticut.  Christmas is precisely FOR this evil and suffering world.

If we feel that Christmas doesn’t fit with the horrors of Friday’s shooting, I suggest we’re thinking about the wrong Christmas. I hope you know that Christmas is NOT about elves and tinsel and warm cocoa and X-Factor number ones.  It is NOT about wandering blank-eyed through shopping malls and maxxing out the credit cards. It’s not even about sweet Carols and even sweeter Nativity plays. There is NOTHING sweet about the real Christmas.  There is NOTHING sentimental about the true Christmas story.

Matthew chapter 2, verse 16:

16 When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under… 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18 “A voice is heard in [the region of] Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” {Jer. 31:15}

That’s the real Christmas. Christmas happens in the dark…

Full Text of sermon


Audio download


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Happy Friday

A real smorgasbord for you today…

First Snoop Dog jumps on the Anti-Santy bandwagon

“You took the Christ outta Christmas and just added more mass!”

Jon Gomm with more jaw-dropping skills:

Some good moments from Will Ferrell…

An excellent analysis of British comedy as theology of the cross…

And as Hanson might have said…. MBond:



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