The Eminence Of The Cross – Part 2

Firstly, in 1 Cor. 1:17-18, Paul states,

“17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

Notice what verse 18 is telling us. It is making a difference between being saved and taking up your cross and following Christ. These are two completely different things. In other words, you could be saved but not be under “the preaching of the cross”. You could be a believer who panders to his or her carnal lusts. One who is not fulfilling the righteousness of God in their lives. But the Bible declares that to those who have accepted salvation, the cross is “the power of God”!

In other words, when we are allowing the cross to work in us, the power of God is revealed in us! The power to do what? To defeat sin and to work the righteousness of God in our lives.

The Apostle Paul feared lest the cross of Christ should be made of “none effect” in the lives of believers.

Wow! What a mighty revelation!! But Paul goes even further and writes similar words in Philippians 1:29:

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake”.

The believer has two mandates. Actually, one – salvation – is not our mandate. The work of salvation has been wrought by God Himself; we were dead in sin, and God resurrected us in Christ Jesus. A dead person cannot resurrect himself, so we were not involved in any way in our salvation. Salvation is all of God’s grace (Eph. 2:5).

The singular mandate that we have been given is to crucify our flesh. God calls us, by the Holy Spirit that He has given to us, to crucify our fleshly lusts and desires. Galatians 5:24 puts it thus:

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

Again, this is of grace. According to His great mercies and love, God has decided to make us co-workers with Him. He makes us co-workers with Him in His fight against His enemies. And, pray, how do we fight God’s enemies?

It is not by screaming at the devil, as most believers have been taught. Nor is the believer’s victory in the thousand and one “steps” that fill most charismatic teachings.

On the contrary, there is only one way to defeat the enemy. It is by crucifying the flesh! God gives us His Holy Spirit for the express purpose of crucifying the flesh. Once we have crucified the flesh, we are done. Done, I said. That is what it says in Ephesians 6:10-20. Here, it is well documented how our spiritual warfare is waged solely on the battleground of the flesh. Just look at our armor (vss 14-18).

Truth. Righteousness. Peace. Faith. Salvation. The Word of God. Prayer. All these things require a denial of self.

It is all about crucifying the flesh! Once we crucify the flesh, the devil has nothing in us (Jn. 14:30). The devil fears a dead Christian! But when he meets a ‘live’ believer (i.e., one who is living for himself), the devil has a powerful weapon. We do the devil’s work when we fulfill the desires of the flesh.

Hence the cross. This mandate that we have from God – to crucify our flesh – was the reason the Apostle Paul held the cross in such esteem. You can see in his epistles that the singular thing that the Apostle Paul defended was the cross. Unlike many preachers in his time (but more so today), Paul did not boast in the great works that were done through him; nor in visions and heavenly visitations, all of which he had in abundance. On the contrary, Paul boasted

“in mine infirmities” (2 Cor. 12:5)

What does Paul mean by “infirmities”?

We shall see that in the next chapter of this series.

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A Reward Awaits!

Do you know that, right now, as you sit there reading this, something awesome is going on in heaven. In fact, many unimaginably marvelous things are happening in heaven just about right now. Let us read about a few of them.

“1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:1-2)

Wow! Notice the second part of this scripture. It is informing us of an incredible fact. That right now, as we speak, Jesus is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Right now. Wow! How truly awesome! But the reason for this, as we shall be seeing shortly, is due to something that Jesus did while He was here on earth.

But let us read on further about what is going on in heaven with Jesus. Bear in mind this is happening real time.

The Apostle Peter, talking about Jesus, says:

“Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers made subject unto him.” (1 Pet. 3:22)

Wow! Jesus is not only seated at the right hand of God; but angels and authorities and powers have been made subject to Him. As we speak, Jesus wields power and authority over every angel, power and authority, whether in heaven or on the earth.

Wow!

Let us read a little bit further.

In Acts 7:55-56, as the Jews were stoning Stephen, he lifted up his eyes in the Spirit, and the Bible declares:

“55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”

Again, Wow!

Jesus was not only now seated; He had stood up. He stood for this man Stephen.

Who do we stand for, anyway? We stand for those who are worthy of our respect: the elderly; and those who have accomplished something worthy of our honor. In athletics, as the winner comes round the last bend of the final lap, we all stand to cheer. It is what took us there in the first: to experience the thrill of victory. We cheer wildly for the victor. We cheer wildly for someone who has done well.

I remember one time, during a great football match, that the great master of football, Ronaldinho, playing for the great team of Barcelona, played such a fine game against another great team, Real Madrid, that, at the final whistle, not just the Barcelona fans, but all the Real Madrid fans stood up to honor him. They stood up to honor an opposing player. That was the great maestro, Ronaldinho. He and Pele are the greatest pair who ever touched a ball.

But the Christian believer runs a different race altogether. All these great worldly accomplishments by earthly people are nothing when it comes to what we are called to do in the Spirit. Nevertheless, they are there for us to imitate in the Spirit.

As the man great man of faith, Stephen, made his final victory sprint across the finishing line of eternity, Jesus, seated at the right hand of God, could not bear it; and He stood up. He stood up to cheer Stephen, and to honor him. When the Bible says that Jesus stood up, that means all heaven stood up. All heaven stood up to applaud and honor a great athlete in the Spirit.

Back to Jesus. The Bible firmly affirms that Jesus is set at the right hand of God in heaven. But, as I said earlier, the reason Jesus is seated at the right of God in heaven was because of something He did while He was here on earth. Yes, Jesus did something right here on this earth that earned Him such a great reward from God. What, pray, could one do on this earth that could give one such a mark of distinction in the presence of God? The Bible has the answer. It tells us that Jesus:

“… endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

While He was here on earth, Jesus endured the cross and despised its shame. For this reason, He is seated at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities and powers subject to Him.

You cannot have your cake and eat it. That is a worldly saying; but then God has given men the wisdom to coin such sayings, for their own good.

When He was here on earth, although He was God, and although He was Lord of all and had all power and authority both in heaven and on earth (Mat. 26:53); yet Jesus

“7 … made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:7-8)

Did we read the word “humbled himself” there? Yes, Jesus humbled Himself. He made Himself of no repute. He willingly surrendered all He had. He gave His body to sinful men, to do with it as they wished. And they rent all their anger and rage upon that body. He stood silently as they did so. He did not lift a finger to defend Himself.

This is what the cross is all about. That was Jesus, who was God and who was Lord of all. He endured the cross.

How much more we? How much more ought we to humble ourselves under the cross? How much more ought we to count ourselves as dung in this world, that God might lift us up in the Spirit? How much more ought we to confront situations (and wilful men) with grace in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit in us? For this was exactly what Jesus did.

For this reason God has greatly exalted Jesus.

“9 Wherefore God also hath exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Again, Wow!

What a great calling we have! Yes, right now. What an incredible opportunity we have! What an incredible grace, to be able to follow Jesus in His sufferings and death, that we might enter victorious in heaven, and to be equally exalted?

What is our reward, anyway?

It is to live with Him forevermore. To behold the face of God forever! The Bible in Psalms 16:11 says:

“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy: at the right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”

We normally associate the word “pleasures” with the worldly pleasures that we know of. But I sure am glad to read that with God there are “pleasures”; which are no mere worldly pleasures! We have no business pursuing worldly pleasures, which are so temporal. God has in store for us eternal pleasures.

The problem is that when our spiritual eyes have not been opened we do not see these things and we therefore live largely for the flesh and its desires.

But if we see these things in the Spirit, we will deny ourselves as Jesus did. That in effect means we will have no rights to fight for. We will endure the cross, and despise its shame.

[The athlete goes to great lengths to achieve his/her goal]

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Kishapu!

I have been AWOL! That means I left this blog without saying so much as a goodbye. Again! And that was almost two weeks ago. For this reason I feel extremely indebted to ask my faithful readers’ forgiveness. You have been extremely kind to me. These days, though, much of the time I travel without my laptop, which ends any writing plans I might have – until I get back home.

But, that aside, I have been to the most awesome place ever. For one, it is the hottest spot on earth; or, to be fair, certainly the hottest place I have ever been to. Here, the sun comes up earlier than normal and, by 8 a.m. the walls are already hot to the touch. By mid-day, when the sun is supposedly hottest, you are already toast. Everything is white and you cannot see clearly. If someone is coming towards you, say, a hundred meters or so away, they seem to be floating on air. Much like the preacher whose video has been circulating on the net, if you’ve had the misfortune of seeing it.

You would think things couldn’t get worse. But late afternoon, evening and the entire night brings even hotter tidings, and you go to sleep simply out of fatigue.

The town is called Kishapu. It is a small place in the municipality of Shinyanga. It is dirt poor. And it is far from any form of civilization.

But there are God’s people here and this was the reason we chose to host our regional ZGACT ladies’ conference here. Our regional churches comprise those in Shinyanga and Singida. We had ladies from both these regions attending.

We also had an outdoor crusade, which was held late in the evenings. The preachers were Majura and Boni Mkami, both renowned evangelists within our church. Pastor Eli Mpule was the key speaker at the ladies’ meetings, together with the women leaders.

At night, Evangelist Mwakitalu showed Christian films to large crowds.

The conference and crusade ran for a whole week. Far from what you might be thinking, what made Kishapu interesting was not the heat; rather, it was the presence of God. God’s presence was incredibly powerful in these meetings. God was at work, saving and healing people’s bodies and hearts. I, for one, was so blessed I did not want the meetings to end in spite of the unbearable heat.

Every day, during the crusades, people gave their lives to Christ and many souls were added to the Kingdom of God. And the ladies’ meetings were so full of the presence and anointing of God. The teachings were solid teachings meant to bring God’s people to maturity in the Spirit. The key to spiritual maturity? Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Christ. It was a message meant, not just for women, but for every man and every young person also.

The resident pastor, Pamfile, had also invited the local pastors, many of whom attended the outdoor meetings for every one of the seven days that the meetings ran. On the last day, we had a get-together dinner with these wonderful men of God and their wives, where Pastor Mpule had the opportunity to introduce the gospel of the cross to these great men of God. It was poignant to see such men declaring they had never heard such words in their lives! And humbly pointing to the deep divisions that existed in their midst. It was the first time ever for them to come together. Some were even not on talking terms with each other!

Kishapu was the place we ALL ought to have been!!

Below, in pictures.

  1. The ladies’ conference was powerful and edifying. Pastor Eli and Mrs. Boni ministering the gospel of the cross

2. The outdoor meetings were packed to capacityImage21184

3. And the praise and worship team was simply awesome

4. Many pastors from neighboring churches came to share in the blessingsImage21199

5. The incredibly gifted man of God, Boni, prepares to go to ministerImage21070

6. Every day, souls came forward to receive JesusImage21044

7. All the pastors who attended were at hand to minister to the sick and needyImage21119

8. Sometimes the meetings went way deep into the nightImage21154

9. Only God knows what could have been going in the heart of this little boyImage21113

10. “Let the little children come to me.” Appropriately enough, the children heard the gospel while seated on Jesus’s donkey cartImage20992

11. In the evenings, it was time to watch Evangelist Mwakitalu’s awe-inspiring filmsImage21061

12. The only way to escape Kishapu’s sizzling heat was to stay buried inside the church building… or six feet under

The Battle Against The Flesh – Part 1

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. 1 Cor. 1:25-31

I grew up hearing the term “The Bishop of Canterbury”, and I recall being awed by the power that was attached to this title. The church has turned the word “bishop” – a Biblical term meaning “servant” – into a title that brings the greatest glory possible to men in church. And this has now crossed over into the Pentecostal church. Today, if you own a church (which nearly every preacher does), then you also own the top position, which is that of a bishop; a worldly bishop, I hasten to say, for in the Bible, the bishop is a person appointed by men to run the day-to-day affairs of the flock in a local church. He is a helper to the pastor. He is nowhere near the top rung of the Godly order of church leadership.

But, in today’s usage, the term “bishop” is a title carefully calculated to bring honor and respect to men. Fact is, generally speaking, the Biblical terms which otherwise denote the wonderful ministries of Jesus Christ in the church are today being used to bring glory and respect to men in the flesh. The five-fold ministry designations of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher, having been stripped of their spiritual power and authority, have been turned into an outfit for men seeking after worldly glory. It is generally accepted that when you wear one of these titles you should be accorded respect and honor.

But the gospel of Jesus Christ was never meant to bring worldly glory or respect to any man or woman. The church of Jesus Christ is the last place any man should seek glory. Neither the gospel nor the church were crafted for that. Where the true gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, it does only one thing. It does exactly the one thing no man would desire for… it crushes man and his pride. It comes to shame and crucify the flesh. The authority that the gospel has was crafted crafted to do exactly that.

The Bible says that God has chosen the foolish things and the weak things of this world. Think carefully about that. For what reason?

“to confound… to bring to nought the things that are”.

Just think about that for a minute. Don’t think about the proud people of this world; think about yourself. You might be surprised to realize that this scripture is talking about you!

We all think ourselves as being something. But, as much as this goes against our thinking, I have to say that thinking of ourselves as something is the one thing that God is against. The Bible says so right there.

Who or what are we? That is a question we would all love to answer in the affirmative. But God thinks otherwise. Thinking of ourselves as something comes from the flesh, and the power of the flesh is revealed in the fact that it is the most difficult thing to think of ourselves as nothing. In fact, we cannot. That is why we need the cross of Jesus Christ.

Notice verse 28:

“… yea, and things which are not (hath God chosen), to bring to nought things that are”.

God desires to bring to “nought” things that are.

This is something we should meditate upon. Unfortunately, man thinks too highly of himself, and he has always been fighting against the authority or rulership of God.

All the things we run after in this world are calculated to bring glory to the flesh.

Of Apostles And Prophets – Part 1

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit (Eph. 3:1-5)

There are certain ‘Christian’ cults that look down on the ministry of the Apostle Paul. They will say, “Talk to me about anything, but not Paul!” For reasons known to them, they just ‘do not like’ his doctrine, and they read his letters just in order to get something to criticize.

Well, I cannot help but feel sorry for them. They are not going to get anywhere with God with that kind of attitude. No one is really going anywhere in the Spirit without at least trying to understand Paul’s doctrine. You cannot make light of someone who wrote more than half the New Testament and hope to understand the littlest thing about the God the Bible is all about.

You cannot make light of someone who made the sacrifices that the Apostle Paul made for the sake of the gospel. He even forsook taking a wife and experiencing the unthinkable pleasures of holding a woman to his bosom. (The Roman Catholic church has tried that and it failed miserably. There are some things you cannot do without understanding what Paul understood).

But the real fact about the Apostle Paul is that it was he who came to reveal, more than anyone else, the end of the writings of the Old Testament and the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the life of Paul, as in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, the writings of the Old Testament and the words of Jesus Christ came to be fulfilled. Paul followed hard on the footsteps of his Master.

Jesus told Simon Peter,

“These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.” (Jn. 16:25)

But it was the Apostle Paul to whom the heart of the Father would be revealed to the fullest. The Apostle Peter himself acknowledged this fact.

“15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2 Pet. 3:15-16)

In verse 16 the Apostle Peter reveals that many would rise up to oppose Paul’s doctrine of the cross.

In the following two posts, I intend to show, through one example each from both the Old Testament and the words of Jesus, how the central message of scripture – to take up our cross and follow Christ – came to be fulfilled in the life of the Apostle Paul.

[Taking a walk in the bush is my favorite pastime. Here, with my friend Dude]

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Confirmed

4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;

5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:

7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Cor. 4-9

 In Romans 1:28-29 we read:

28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. 29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

Verse 28 is talking about the Israelites. Verse 29 is talking about the Israelites and us. Both these scriptures are talking about God’s stand with regard to these two groups of people.

These scriptures reveal the paramouncy that the gospel has over even the gifts and calling of God.

I was surprised to read somewhere that the nation of Isarel has one of the highest levels of gays worldwide. Yes, you heard it right: homosexuals. That kind of statistic was something I had never contemplated in my life and this knowledge kind of toned down my cheering for Israel; but I am sure it hasn’t fazed God in the least. The Bible says that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. God will never back down one inch from the promises He made to the nation of Israel.

Any nation which tries to attack Israel in the natural will find itself coming up against the armies of God (angels) – literally. The world has witnessed this countless times. The Six-Day War of 1967 has remained one of the most historic mystery (read miracles) of our modern times.

That is because Israel is the elected nation of God. God, in His wisdom, has put these few people in this world to declare how His election works.

Indeed, wherever the Jew sets foot becomes blessed. America is (or was once) a prime example.

But,

“As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes”.

Hmmm. Yes, the Israelites have become enemies of the gospel in order that we, too, might be included in the mercies of God. And the Bible declares that they, too, have been hardened in their hearts to the end that they, too, just like us, might obtain mercy from God (v. 32).

Notice, they are elected, but ultimately they will need to receive mercy. In the end, both we Gentiles and the Israelites will be products of God’s mercy.

It is clear, therefore that, if it is of mercy, it is not of us. The gifts and calling of God come, not from us, but from God Himself. And if it is so, then, no one has anything to boast of there. Indeed, the wisest person in this regard is the person who recognizes this and daily humbles themselves under the mighty hand of God.

This – the non-repentance of God – explains why preachers and Christian believers in general can continue to witness the grace of God in certain areas of their lives even when it becomes clear they are living in sin. This was true of the Corinthian church as we read in 1 Corinthians 1:4-7:

“4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; 5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

But notice verse 8.

“Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In spite of all the gifts of the Spirit that the Corinthians had, yet it was their confirmation unto the end that was pivotal. Why? Because it was this that would present them blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This confirmation is what we ought to seek for above anything else.

But let us backtrack and ask, What is the meaning of the word “confirm” here?

It means to approve, or to validate. We will not go to heaven on the basis of the gifts and calling of God, but on the basis of our approval by Christ Jesus. Christ will first have to prove us, whether or not we passed through the narrow road that He also passed. If we do not get the stamp of approval from Jesus, we will not make it to heaven.

Jesus’s stamp of approval reads:

“IF ANY MAN WILL COME AFTER ME, LET HIM DENY HIMSELF, AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS, AND FOLLOW ME.”

We become approved when we share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. The Apostle Paul makes that very clear in Philippians 3:10:

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death”.

Are you carrying Jesus’s stamp of approval? Are you denying yourself daily, taking up your cross and following Jesus?

The most important thing for us are not the gifts and calling; rather, it is to be confirmed.

[God’s beloved nation, Israel.]

Marangu!

Two weeks ago, our umbrella church organisation, CTMI (www.ctmi.org) held its 15th regional East African ladies’ conference in the small Tanzanian town of Marangu, situated on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The heartwarming moments, and the inexpressibly beautiful scenery, were priceless.

For most of the wonderful ladies who travelled from Singida to attend the conference, it was their very first time to travel so far from home and to such a beautiful gathering as this, not to mention the paradise-like greenery of the Mt. Kilimanjaro ecosystem.

For unavoidable reasons, I was not able to post this report earlier. But now, here, in pictures, is the story of their experience.

Stepping out.

Ogling at the age-old eucalyptus trees at Marangu-Mtoni.

One of the beautiful services at the conference.

Two of our sisters from Kenya.

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The Singida ladies welcoming their “mother”, Flo (yours truly), who arrived late.

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Some of the Singida ladies braved the early morning cold to catch a glimpse the elusive mountain.

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Mt. Kilimanjaro can just be seen in the background.

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Finally, a moment of rest for Pastor Stephen, sister Frida and the elders from the Lake Region.

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Prior to starting on their journey back home (and fully refreshed in their spirits), a group photograph for the Singida ladies.

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And… here comes the bus. Bye bye little town of Marangu.

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