11.13 Last Words


I hope you have enjoyed working through the book of Nehemiah from the perspective of maintaining your sexual purity. And I hope that you’ve gained at least a handful of strategies to turn back the Enemy at the gate.

The most important thing to take away from this reading is that God loves you no matter where you are at. If you are still stinking in your sin, knee-deep in the muck, God loves you as much as He ever has. He could never love you more. He could never love you less. As Max Lucado has said, “God isn’t loving. He IS love.”

Don’t believe the Enemy’s lies. Rebuke him when he tells you that you are unworthy of God’s love, grace and mercy. Never allow him to shame you for your struggles. Shame is a sin, for it says, “I am unworthy” when God says differently. He says you have the righteousness of Christ and that you are His son. Even if you’re a prodigal son, you are still God’s son. What you DO can never change WHO YOU ARE in Him.

With that assurance, build your walls and guard your gates. Go at the pace that the Holy Spirit establishes for you. He has started this great work, and He will complete it in His time. God bless you, men. May you experience the success of Nehemiah.

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11.12 Give It To Them Straight


In addition to these gate-keeping precautions, I recommend that you talk honestly with your kids (your boys, in particular) about your struggles. My thirteen-year-old and I have had many discussions about how bad XXX videos are. One day, as we passed a XXX theatre, he said from the backseat, “Dad, you would never watch one of those movies, would you?”

I could have lied. Maybe he was too young to really understand. Maybe I should save this confession for later. If I was honest, it might undermine his view of all the admonitions I gave him about living purely. But I realized that it was important for him to know. It was important that we have a relationship of integrity where he knew that Dad had real struggles, which sometimes required him to repent and recommit to walking purely. So, I said to him:

“Son, I’ve seen those movies before. In fact, I’ve seen more of them than I could count or would really want to tell you. I’m ashamed that I’ve watched them, and I’m committed to never watching them again, but the truth is that I’ve made lots of mistakes in this area. It’s because of my mistakes and because I know how truly evil those movies are that I want to protect you from them. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I’ve made.”

I’m not sure what he thought about my confession. He never said. He just absorbed the information. Dad’s not perfect. Dad makes mistakes. Dad’s done some pretty bad stuff.

If you are afraid of letting your son see your dark side, you may not be able to save him from his own. Your secret life is the Enemy’s most powerful stronghold in your life. Confess it, and your vulnerability leaves him nothing to hold against you. There is no danger that your son will one day stumble across your journal and be shocked at what he sees there. He’ll know that his dad is a real man with real struggles, and maybe that is more to be admired than the superhero our son’s thought we were when they were knee-high.

It’s a more mature admiration that won’t fall victim to disillusionment. It sees us, warts and all, and recognizes that we are warriors in a battle with a powerful Enemy. Sometimes the Enemy wins a battle, and he may have even carried on a long campaign against us, but we aren’t done fighting yet. We know that our Savior has won the war and that all we have to do is keep getting up every time the Enemy knocks us down.

Be honest with your kids in age-appropriate amounts of disclosure. It will strengthen them for the fight.

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11.11 Protecting Our Kids


So how do we build walls and guard gates for our kids? Build their walls by making sure they practice spiritual disciplines, and take time to talk about spiritual markers with them. Guard their gates by teaching them what is inappropriate and dangerous in computers, video games, magazines, T.V., movies and other media, and then hold them accountable for guarding their gates as best they can. Here are a few gate-keeping practices we’ve adopted in our family.

Computers

With all the junk that’s out there and the scary marketing tactics of the pornographers, it’s essential that you have a porn filter on your computer. If you don’t already, review the resources in the Appendix. Accountability reporting is great, but by the time you get the report, the damage will have been done.

In addition, I recommend putting the family computer in a high-traffic area of your home. Computers in kids’ rooms make it difficult for you to monitor their activity. Setting a password on your administrative sign-in ID is also a good idea. If you are really concerned, there are “big brother” software packages that track keystrokes, sites visited, chat streams and other information.

My wife and I aren’t cutting edge techies, but we try to keep up with new online trends that would impact our kids. MySpace is one of the more recent phenomenons we’ve been watching. We’ve seen personally how the medium can be abused, so I recommend restricting your kids from setting up a space. With all the predators and pornographers out there, it’s just too risky.

Video Games

I’ve found that it’s helpful to review games before you buy them. (There are some good websites for this listed in the Appendix.) You can also rent the games to get a general idea whether the rating is reliable, or you can talk to other parents who have already purchased the game.

A few years ago, one of my kids was playing an E-rated game that we had rented and that seemed fairly innocuous. I was barely paying attention, but my eye caught a glimpse of a billboard in the background graphics. It showed a nude woman with huge breasts. Her nipples were obscured by a building, but it was clear what I was looking at. I’m still angry about that one, because the image was insidiously placed so that kids would see it without necessarily registering what it was that they were seeing. It showed me that the ratings aren’t always reliable. You have to be familiar with what your kids are playing.

Another time, I made the mistake of purchasing a game named “Red Steel” for my son without checking it out first. He played it for several days and talked to me about some of the challenges. Something he said made me curious, so I had him play while I watched.

He was in a building, going from room-to-room killing bad guys. Though the game didn’t announce it, I realized his character was in a brothel. The women in the rooms were fully dressed, but each room had an adjoining room with a one-way mirror and camera equipment behind it.

My son had no idea what this meant, so I told him (he’s a teenager, and I’ve been fairly candid with him about the need for sexual purity). We agreed that the game wasn’t appropriate and exchanged it for a better one at the game store. Lesson learned.

Magazines, Comic Books & Other Periodicals

When my oldest son gets a gaming magazine, his mom goes through and pulls all the inappropriate pictures out. I follow-up and pull out the ones she missed, because she doesn’t always see things the way I do after years of struggling with sexual impurity.

None of my kids are much into comics, but if they were, I would review these, as well. I once tried to give my son some of my old comics from when I was a kid, and I was amazed at how sexually provocative they were. The women were drawn like super-charged Barbie dolls, wearing tight, skimpy outfits that showed everything that God had blessed them with. Pay special attention to the messages and images in the comics your kids read.

Television

When an explicit commercial comes on T.V., I tell my kids to turn their eyes, and their mom tells us when it is okay to look again.

If I walk past the living room while my oldest son is watching cartoons, I often ask him if what he is watching is appropriate. He’s into anime now, and some of what’s out there is garbage. He’s come to me several times and confessed that he saw a cartoon that had inappropriate themes or images in it. We talk about the cartoon and agree that he should not watch it in the future.

Recently, we had this talk about a show called Naruto. I walked in on my youngest son while he was shielding his eyes and desperately trying to change the channel without looking at the buttons he was pushing on the remote. Since the show was recorded, I watched it to see what had bothered him. It featured a character who lusted over women’s rear ends (with several full-screen shots of the women’s rears in skimpy shorts). In one scene, the title character changed himself into a naked girl to catch the perv in his lust. You could only see the girl from the shoulders up, but the show made it clear that she was fully naked.

If my oldest is doing a sleepover at a friend’s house, it’s likely that the rules are going to be more lax about inappropriate content. He has learned that he has two main strategies for avoiding these images: ask his friends not to watch the program or leave the room during inappropriate scenes. I don’t want to take him out of the world; I want to equip him to survive in it so that he can still be a light in a dark place.

Movies

We regularly review the movies our kids see before we rent them or head to the theatre. If we decide not to go to one that they were interested in, we tell them why (in age-appropriate ways). Occasionally, we will be surprised by a steamy scene in a video that we thought was appropriate for the kids. Mom fast-forwards through these scenes, and I can’t remember even one time when it interfered with our ability to understand the storyline.

Music

I let my kids listen to any genre of music they want as long as it is from a Christian artist. My oldest prefers heavy metal and rap, which is fine with me as long as the message is positive and honors God. I know this is more extreme than many families will want to get, so I recommend going online to review the lyrics of whatever music they are hearing. Music can program our brains and change our worldview, and we don’t even recognize it much of the time.

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11.10 Frog In a Pot


You’ve probably heard the metaphor about boiling a frog in a pot. If you put him into a pot of boiling hot water, he would jump out immediately. But if you put him into a pot of cold water and gradually increase the temperature, he will be boiled before he realizes what happens to him.

We are the frog. Pornographers have been turning up the heat since the 60’s, but we haven’t taken a strong enough stand for sexual purity. We allow the world to embarrass us and tell us we are over-reacting. Sex researchers tell us that we are repressed and that we should loosen up a little.

As the Church, we can’t seem to come up with a good argument to counter the “consenting adults” line of thought, but even if it were true that we should let the world do what they are going to do, it’s not just consenting adults who are being impacted. The pornography industry has an insatiable appetite for revenue, and consenting adults aren’t a big enough market. They are coming after our children and anyone else they can reach whether we like it or not.

While pornographers may be working for individual gain, there is an undeniable coordination to the whole affair. Behind the pornographers is our Enemy, and while pornographers might think that they are autonomous, they are really serving him. Satan is seeding us. He’s seeding our children. He knows if he can get us to view it once, our curiosity will often lead us back. When we see how easy it is to find, we are more likely to try it again. A small taste leads to a meal, and before long, our appetite increases beyond what we can get on the free sites.

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11.9 Pornographer’s Marketing Tactics


No one knows marketing better than the pornographers. They have somewhere between $2.5 and $10 billion reasons to get their product to us.2 A friend of mine once went to a workshop on a prominent college campus, where the speaker extolled the genius of the pornography dealers. He talked about how cutting edge their marketing strategies were and encouraged everyone present to study their lead. Let there be no mistake – there will be more pornography, not less, in the coming years. It’s hitting the mainstream.

Their marketing strategy is ever-evolving and increasingly effective. Here are just a few of the tricks they use to reel us in:

  • Using innocent keywords in their websites to trick you into clicking on them while you are working on something else
  • Buying expired domain names (even Christian ones) and using the sites to publish porn
  • Purchasing domain names similar to popular sites (e.g., NASA.com instead of NASA.gov) and posting porn on them
  • Piggy-backing on popular children’s site searches – sites like Disney, My Little Pony, Action Man or Nintendo
  • Giving away free material hoping that you will get hooked
  • Daisy-chaining sites so that clicking out of one only opens another, and another, and another…in an endless line of sites from which it is very difficult to extricate yourself (the technical terms for this are “circle-jerking” or “mousetrapping”)
  • Hijacking you to a different site than you intended to visit (i.e., they own both sites, but the front site is just a façade to get you interested)
  • Advertising in the margins on Google and other search engines when you do a keyword search
  • Automatically making a site your home page
  • Adding spyware, cookies and Trojan horses to your hard drive
  • Sending pornographic spam to random email addresses (If you’ve visited a questionable site, this may not be completely random.)
  • Offering “starter” videos (commonly referred to as “soft porn”) at your local video store
  • Using bait and switch tactics (Recently, I was in a foreign country in a hotel that had a card advertising a movie popular in the United States. But when I turned to the channel where the movie was supposed to be, it was twenty-four hour porn. I was never able to find the real movie.)
  • Sending friend requests using spam robots to MySpace patrons shortly after they log in

The pornographers have the dollars and the bright minds to invest in new technology. They know how to get the pornography to you. They are master marketers, who continually look for ways to make pornography low-hanging fruit.

In fact, pornographers don’t always care if you actually view their sites. If they can show their advertisers that their sites have more hits, they can drive up ad revenue. Just getting your computer to hit the sites helps them make more money…hence the popularity of some of the strategies listed above.

They know how powerful words are, so they changed their industry terminology to make it less offensive. “Soft porn” sure seems more palatable than regular pornography. “Mature” movies are for consenting adults. “Adult” movies even more so. Adults can do what they want, right? “Gentlemen’s clubs” seem much more high scale than striptease bars.

Pornographers know that by changing their vocabulary, they overcome some of our inhibitions. They confuse the lines between normal and abnormal, between morality and immorality. Because we don’t know where we should draw the line, we don’t know what to make of it when they call porn and sexual immorality something different than we’ve always thought it was. While we are trying to figure it all out, they push the line further back.

A few years ago, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake had to apologize for allowing Timberlake to remove a patch covering Jackson’s breast at the end of their Super Bowl halftime show. I never heard them or anyone apologize for the indecency of the rest of the event. The dance moves were bumping and grinding and very sexual in nature, but we all forgot about that when we saw the closer. That’s how Satan works. He shocks us so that we forget everything that came before. The shocking action is simply a diversion so that he can slip the rest of it under the radar.

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11.8 Build THEIR Walls – Guard THEIR Gates


What if your son were kept free from this draining fever in the first place, and all of his spiritual energy could be spent on God’s call in His kingdom?

~ Every Man’s Battle

I can’t conclude without talking about our responsibility to our children. If you’re a dad, your job is to build the walls for you kids and to guard their gates from the vile and vulgar stuff that’s out there. Unless they are older, they don’t know enough to do it themselves yet.

The pornographers particularly want your boys. They know that if they can get your sons exposed to pornography early, they create life-long customers. I’ve seen a statistic that says that the average age a boy is exposed to pornography is between thirteen and fifteen.1 Pornographers are even willing to give away free samples if it means that they can hook your kids.

Remember when you first were exposed to pornography? Don’t think it was an accident. You didn’t just stumble across that magazine, or that filmstrip, or that video collection. It was strategically planted there for you. You were led to it by the Enemy.

My first exposure to pornographic material happened when I was seven. My mother had allowed a man to stay with us for a few months after he moved to Texas, because he had been a good friend of my sister before she died. One night after I was supposed to be in bed, I went walking into his room. While I was there, he showed me some magazines with pictures of nude women in them. I don’t think he meant any harm. In his eyes, he was initiating me into the things of men.

While there was nothing exciting about the pictures to me at that age, I believe seeds had been planted that dramatically changed the way I thought about women. What began as curiosity about the female body became fascination and then preoccupation.

As the hormones of puberty began to change my body, I was again exposed to pornographic material while visiting my older brother’s house one summer. He and his dad (we had different fathers) had dozens of “medical research” books with page after page of pictures including every imaginable sexual act. They even had reel-to-reel pornographic movies. Fuel was added to the fire, and preoccupation became addiction.

I began looking for new ways to view pornographic material. If left unsupervised, I found late-night movies on cable T.V., magazines stashed under a mattress at a friend’s house or sexual story lines in my mom’s racy novels (always three-fourths of the way through the book, a friend told me).

It wasn’t hard to find, and that was over twenty years ago. Today, it’s so much easier to find porn. You don’t even have to go looking for it. It will find you.

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11.7 Diluting the Garbage


I did an object lesson once in a men’s group that illustrated this principle. We started with a small cup full of water and talked about how the clear water in the cup represented our minds as God created them.

Unfortunately, we allowed the vile and the vulgar to get beyond our gates. (I recognize that for some of us, this was involuntary at first, but at some point, we began making our own decisions about what to allow in our gates.) I demonstrated this by dropping in some red flood coloring and giving examples of the types of things we allowed in (sexual images, lyrics, sounds, text and fantasies). With each drop, the water became murkier and murkier until it was dark with the sin.

As discouraging as it is to realize how we have damaged the purity of the gift of our minds, there is hope. As we think about true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy things, God dilutes the negative effects of the garbage in our head (this was demonstrated by pouring in fresh water). Unfortunately, it takes much more water to purify the murky water than it does food coloring to darken it.

The hard fact is that walking in sexual purity is difficult and a life-long struggle. The good news is that it gets relatively easier the more we dilute the vile and vulgar that we’ve let in our gates. Satan can still call up old images, but we are stronger, and the struggle to “ferret out criminals and free the city of the LORD from their grip” becomes easier.

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11.6 Ferret Out the Criminals


In those days I saw men in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day. Men from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise and selling them in Jerusalem on the Sabbath to the people of Judah. I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this wicked thing you are doing—desecrating the Sabbath day? Didn’t your forefathers do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity upon us and upon this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath.”

When evening shadows fell on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I ordered the doors to be shut and not opened until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my own men at the gates so that no load could be brought in on the Sabbath day. Once or twice the merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods spent the night outside Jerusalem. But I warned them and said, “Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do this again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on they no longer came on the Sabbath. Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy.

Remember me for this also, O my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love. (Nehemiah 13:15-22)

Would you believe it? The people broke the fourth and final commitment they made in Chapter 10, because they didn’t honor the Sabbath. That’s serious stuff, because it is a large part of the reason why they got to take a 70-year field trip to Babylon. God instructed the Hebrews to take a weekly Sabbath starting Friday evening. He also told them to give their land a Sabbath rest every seven years. When they didn’t do it, He gave the land its rest by allowing Nebuchadnezzar to conquer them and take them away.

Nehemiah gave the merchants both barrels, even threatening to lay hands on them (not for prayer this time). He was either big enough or wild-eyed enough to make the threat credible, because he didn’t have to warn them twice.

Whenever the Holy Spirit points out sinfulness of any type in your heart, follow Nehemiah’s example. Kick it out of your city. Psalm 101 makes a good pledge for keeping your heart and mind pure. I encourage you to make it part of your memorized Scripture arsenal.

I will sing of your love and justice.

I will praise you, LORD, with songs.

I will be careful to live a blameless life–when will you come to my aid?

I will lead a life of integrity in my own home.

I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar.

I hate all crooked dealings; I will have nothing to do with them.

I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil.

I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors.

I will not endure conceit and pride.

I will keep a protective eye on the godly, so they may dwell with me in safety. Only those who are above reproach will be allowed to serve me.

I will not allow deceivers to serve me, and liars will not be allowed to enter my presence.

My daily task will be to ferret out criminals and free the city of the LORD from their grip.

I use this psalm to remind me of my responsibility to God as His steward over my body, my mind and my heart. As a child of the King, I am not allowed to sin without consequence. I commit to protect my eyes from the vile and vulgar. I reject perversity, which is the distortion of what God has made beautiful. I will not play with sin. I’ll be careful about who I associate with. I will join together with other believers and hold them accountable for their walk with God. I will protect my heart from those (including Satan and his demons) who lie to me, and everyday, I will take every thought captive before Christ until my heart and my mind are pure.

The criminals for us are the sexual thoughts and images that hide in the deepest recesses of our minds. Satan enjoys having these emissaries on the inside, because he can call them up whenever it suits him. They readily join him in the battle to get within our walls, and they are usually the ones holding the gates open for him.

Each time you allow a perverse image, thought or sound into your head, it sets up permanent residence. I can vividly remember images of nude women from when I was in 2nd grade. I can remember an old, discarded filmstrip of a woman taking a bath that I found on the street when I was about ten. I can remember the text from just about any sexually explicit storyline that I’ve ever read. I can remember all the sexual scenes in the movies I’ve watched, the audio clips I’ve heard and the magazines I’ve looked at.

Those thoughts don’t go away. They might go into hiding as you work to become sexually pure, but as soon as Satan senses that you’re susceptible, he’ll call them up. They weaken our resolve like nothing else.

At this point, it’s important to say that there are things we can change and things we can’t change. In response to your petitions, God may purge your mind of all the filth you’ve allowed to enter, but I’ve never met a man who could say that this happened. It has to be very rare. More often, though God forgives us and delights in our commitment to become sexually pure, He allows us to suffer the consequences of our sin (e.g. David after the Bathsheba incident). What’s in there is in there. This is what you can’t change.

Instead, focus on what you can change. Work on diluting what is in your brain by adding in “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8 )

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11.5 Rich and Lifeless


In Israel, there are two major bodies of water: the Sea of Galilee (a.k.a. the Kinneret) and the Dead Sea (though both are really lakes).  Although they are in the same country and connected by a common river (the Jordan), the two couldn’t be more different.  The Sea of Galilee is fed by the Jordan River and teaming with life.  It contains 27 species of fish, some found nowhere else in the world.  Its sweet waters serve as the heart of the water supply system for Israel.  Its shores are lush with vegetation.

The Dead Sea, on the other hand, didn’t get its name for nothing.  There are no fish, no fishermen, no vegetation on its shores…  It’s twice as wide and almost four times as long as the Sea of Galilee, but the Dead Sea is toxic and bitter – so much so that there is no life in it or around it.

Why?  The Sea of Galilee receives nutrients and water from the Jordan River.  It then empties back into the Jordan River, which begins again at the lake’s south end.  The Jordan then takes the nutrients throughout the Jordan River Basin, snaking 200 miles before it reaches the Dead Sea.  But that’s where it all ends.  Nutrients from the Dead Sea stay in the Dead Sea.  It doesn’t share any of its wealth with the valley below it.  Seven million gallons of water evaporate from the lake daily in the hot desert environment, and the water that’s left is so mineral-rich that it can’t support life.  Scientists estimate that it has a mineral concentration between 26% and 35%.

The two bodies of water serve as a good metaphor for a natural law.  When you share your gifts and resources freely, you receive much more in return.  Whatever you jealously clutch and keep for yourself stagnates and eventually chokes the life out of you.

“Sea of Galilee people” have an abundance mentality.  They know that if they give freely, there will always be more coming their way.  They never worry that the supply of blessings will dry up.  “Dead Sea people” have a scarcity mentality.  They fear that sharing their riches will make them poorer.  What they don’t understand is that the only reason they were given the gifts and resources in the first place was so that they would pass them along.

If you want to keep it, share it.

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11.4 Nehemiah Cleans House


Some time later I asked his permission and came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God. I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense.

I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and singers responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields. So I rebuked the officials and asked them, “Why is the house of God neglected?” Then I called them together and stationed them at their posts.

All Judah brought the tithes of grain, new wine and oil into the storerooms. I put Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and a Levite named Pedaiah in charge of the storerooms and made Hanan son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah, their assistant, because these men were considered trustworthy. They were made responsible for distributing the supplies to their brothers.

Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services.

(Nehemiah 13:6-14)

Nehemiah was the John Wayne of Jerusalem. He didn’t mess around with sin; He dealt with it decisively. He threw Tobiah out, bleached the place and restocked the room with what was supposed to be in there. When he found out that the people weren’t tithing and that the Levites and singers had to resort to farming to feed their families, he brought in new leadership.

Now we know why the temple storerooms were available for Tobiah. The people had stopped giving to the house of God. (That’s broken commitment #3 in case you’re counting.) There’s a message here for us. If we aren’t giving to the Lord, our flesh will take up that space in our heart. I’m talking about all three tithes – time, talent and treasure.

You might as well give them to the Lord. If you keep them for yourself, they won’t bless you. There will never be enough time. You’ll be frustrated in your talents, and your treasure will evaporate. God’s only asking us for a small amount, and He lets us keep the rest.

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