Tim Challies

Free Stuff Fridays (Reformation Heritage Books)

This week’s giveaway is sponsored by Reformation Heritage Books.

Glorifying and Enjoying God (written by William Boekestein, Jonathan L. Cruse, and Andrew J. Miller) is a new devotional on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. These fifty-two short lessons teach us how reformed theology affects our daily lives. Click here to listen to a series of podcasts with the authors on the major themes of the WSC.
Enter the giveaway below for your opportunity to win one of five copies of Glorifying and Enjoying God.
To Enter
Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. When you enter, you agree to be placed on Reformation Heritage Books’ email list. The winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes on December 17, 2023.

My Picks for the Top Books of 2023

As another year draws to a close, I wanted to take some time to consider the books I read in 2023 and to assemble a list of my top picks. Apart from the first book, which I consider the best I read this year, the rest are in no particular order. In each case I’ve included a brief excerpt from my review. (You can read my reviews of these books and many others here.)

Reforming Criminal Justice: A Christian Proposal by Matthew Martens. I rank this as the best largely because it got me to think about things I’ve never really considered before and pushed me to think about them in a distinctly Christian way. Most of us probably assume that the criminal justice system in our country is generally sound. We may believe that it needs some tweaks here and there. We may understand that because it exists in a fallen world it will in some ways reflect the sins and weaknesses of the people who control and oversee it. But rarely do we pause to ask questions like this: If we had to design a criminal justice system from scratch and do so in a way that is consistent with Scripture, what might it look like? What principles would we embed within it? And how closely would it resemble the system we currently have? These are the question this fascinating book answers from a distinctly Christian perspective. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books; read my review)
Digital Liturgies: Rediscovering Christian Wisdom in an Online Age by Samuel James. Samuel James’ Digital Liturgies is meant to help you think about digital technologies and the social internet they enable. For these are not harmless or inconsequential tools. Neither can they be exactly compared to any tools that we have previously experienced in human history, for they alone provide a “disembodied electronic environment that we enter through connected devices for the purpose of accessing information, relationships, and media that are not available to us in a physical format.” Our use of these technologies and our increasing immersion in them essentially brings us into a whole new kind of world in which we leave aside so much of what makes us who we are. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books; read my review)
David Livingstone: Missionary, Explorer, Abolitionist by Vance Christie. There are some historical figures whose every sin seems to get overlooked and whose every virtue seems to get amplified. Conversely, there are other historical figures whose every virtue seems to get overlooked and whose every sin seems to get amplified. I would place the modern understanding of David Livingstone squarely in the latter category. Though he was most certainly a flawed individual, it seems that today he is known only for those flaws rather than for his many strengths. It’s for this reason that Vance Christie’s weighty new biography of Livingstone is so timely and so important. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books; read my review)
Timothy Keller: His Spiritual and Intellectual Formation by Collin Hansen. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did. I enjoy reading a good biography as much as anyone, but was perhaps a bit skeptical about a book that, instead of focusing on an individual’s life and accomplishments, instead describes his spiritual and intellectual formation. Yet what could have been a mite dry was actually very compelling. Whether you have been influenced by Keller or not, whether you admire him or not, I believe you will enjoy this account of his life framed around his intellectual and spiritual development. Told through the pen of an especially talented a writer, it is a fascinating and compelling narrative. It may just get you thinking about who has formed you and compel you to praise God for the people, the preachers, the books, and the organizations that have made you who you are. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books; read my review)
The Gender Revolution: A Biblical, Biological and Compassionate Response by Patricia Weerakoon, Robert Smith, and Kamal Weerakoon. This is a book that has been written to provide a biblical, biological, and compassionate response to the modern day gender ideology that has been flooding our world and sweeping away so many victims. It is written by a fascinating combination of authors: Patricia Weerakoon who is a now-retired medical doctor, counsellor, sex therapist, speaker, writer and academic; Kamal Weerakoon (Patricia’s son) who is a missions director at a Presbyterian church; and Robert Smith who is a long-time lecturer in theology, ethics and music ministry at Sydney Missionary & Bible College. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books; read my review)
Remaking the World: How 1776 Created the Post-Christian West by Andrew Wilson. The book’s big idea is that the year “1776, more than any other year in the last millennium, is the year that made us who we are.” In this case, the “us” refers to those who live in what we might call the modern, industrialized West. I very much enjoyed reading Remaking the World. It is an enjoyable book, a well-paced book, and one written with verve. It takes on an audacious thesis and, as far as I can tell (even while admitting I’m entirely unqualified to judge), one the author defends well. I think you’re likely to enjoy it just as much as I did. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books; read my review)
Memorable Loss: A Story of Friendship in the Face of Dementia by Karen Martin. This is Karen Martin’s account of the days from immediately prior to her friend Kathleen’s diagnosis of dementia all the way to her passing. It explains Alzheimer’s and dementia and shows how though they necessarily reduce the patient’s capacities, they do not reduce her personhood. It tells of some of the trials that caretakers must endure and some of the agonizing decisions they need to make on behalf of the one they love. And it does all of this through the highest quality of prose. It’s an achingly beautiful account that leaves the reader groaning with the sorrow of this world but rejoicing in its delights and longing for the day when death and mourning, when crying and pain, will have passed away. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books; read my review)
You Are Still a Mother: Hope for Women Grieving a Stillbirth or Miscarriage by Jackie Gibson. There is no path through this life that does not involve hardship. There is no path through this life that does not involve sorrow and loss. One of the most common sorrows, the most common losses, is that of a child who dies through miscarriage or stillbirth. So many parents are familiar with the agony of losing a child they never truly got to know, yet loved with their whole heart. Writing specifically for mothers who have become members of a club that no one wants to join, Jackie Gibson’s message to them is this: You are still a mother. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books; read my review)

A La Carte (December 8)

I’m wondering if I have any readers in Croatia. If I do, and especially if you’re in or near Split, would you mind getting in touch?

Since Eerdmans is offering 80% off the Kindle editions of all of their books, I spent a long time yesterday scouring their rather extensive catalog. I came up with a long list of books that may be of interest.
Westminster Books has some favorite ESV Bible editions discounted up to 63%.
The Antipsalms We Sing
“Our heads may love the psalms from 20,000 feet—the passionate pleading, the glory in God’s grandeur, the praise of his perfect providence. It’s a captivating landscape of raw emotion and spiritual vitality. But our hearts sing plenty of antipsalms.” Pierce explains and provides an example here.
Don’t Lose Hope – God’s Writing a Story of Redemption in Your Life
Sarah Walton: “I have been increasingly convicted by my attitude of entitlement and discontentment. Entitlement to health, success, financial relief, and God’s favor in ways that make sense to me. And yet, the truth is, he doesn’t owe me anything. He’s already given me more than I deserve and increasingly, I believe that God is pouring out his favor on me – and most likely you – as he strips away the lesser things that we measure his goodness by and sows in us a deeper, more settled faith that praises him in the darkness and rejoices in what he will do, even when that hope is yet to be realized.”
Seeing What You Have as Something That Doesn’t Belong to You
This is a brief reminder that the things you have don’t actually belong to you and, therefore, must be treated accordingly.
7 Tips for Loving “Those” People in Your Church
“If we’re to love our enemies, surely we’re to love ‘those’ people at church. Even the ones who drive us crazy. So how can we do that?” Jamie Dunlop offers a few ways.
A Lavish Love
This is such a sweet celebration of grandparents and grandparenting.
Light Overcomes the Darkness
“When we read of ‘people walking in darkness’ or a ‘land of darkness’ it’s not hard to relate. That’s our reality. We feel the burden of the world’s evil daily—injustice, political upheaval, heinous crimes, greed, spite, dishonesty, exploitation, outrage, slander. And that’s all just in the morning’s headlines and a scroll through social media.”
Flashback: The Legend of the Battle-Weary Crusader
Each of us who is in Christ is tending a little garden in which heavenly seeds have been planted and begun to thrive—seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The coming of Christ is not only a magnificent spectacle; it is a personal welcome. And the welcome is supremely to himself. —John Piper

A La Carte (December 7)

May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you today.

There are a couple of Kindle deals to look at today, including Like a River, Granger Smith’s memoir.
(Yesterday on the blog: You Will Never Regret The Sins You Do Not Commit)
Behind the Tragic, Instagram-Perfect Life of an Ex-Disney Executive
This is such a tragic story that tells about the life and death of Dave Hollis (husband to influencer Rachel Hollis). “When Dave Hollis quit his plum Disney job to join his wife Rachel’s self-help empire, the pair built a business around sharing some of their darkest feelings on social media. The reality was even worse.” (I attempted to use a free link from WSJ so hopefully you’re able to open it properly.)
Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Our Constantinian Moment
Brad Littlejohn has written an especially fascinating article. “It is a timely moment to reflect on the conversion of Constantine, because our civilization stands at a similar crossroads to that which confronted this Roman leader at Milvian Bridge. And many of our own seasoned leaders are making a similar gamble: Christianity alone can provide the glue to hold us together, the spiritual resources to revive our peoples.”
Don’t Think About Pink Elephants: When Gay Conservatives Go Rogue on Orthodox Christianity
On a somewhat similar note, Stephen McAlpine writes about the growing rift between gay conservatives and conservative Christians.
Do You Have Advice for Someone Who Is About to Enter Seminary?
Sinclair Ferguson offers some advice for those about to enter seminary.
The Long, Forgotten Reformation in France: A Brief History of the Huguenots
If you’re not familiar with the Huguenots, you should be! This longform article from DG is an excellent primer.
Blessed Be the Name of the Lord
“The funeral is over. Robyn’s earthly tent has been laid to rest. Family and friends have dispersed. Left over food and flowers have been brought home. A season is over. A chapter is done. Life will change. But now it’s time to rest and reflect.” And even at a time like that, Andy is praising the Lord for his love and faithfulness.
Flashback: Talk About Jesus, Not Celebrities
We will be a blessing to the world around us if instead of obsessing about people we fix our hearts on Christ. So take this as my call to you and to me and to all of us: Let’s stop the gossip. Let’s stop the gossip and instead make it our delight to speak about who our God is and about what our God has done.

Jesus…never promised to build a campus ministry. There is only one institution on earth that Jesus Christ promised to build, and that’s the church. If you want to be into what Jesus is into, you’ll get into a church. —Kevin DeYoung

Catechisms: A Map to the Christian Faith

This week, the blog is sponsored by Reformation Heritage Books’ new devotional on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Glorifying and Enjoying God (written by William Boekestein, Jonathan L. Cruse, and Andrew J. Miller). Enjoy this brief article explaining the history and benefits of studying this precious document.

Glorifying and Enjoying God is intended not only to increase knowledge but to stoke love for God. We believe that the heart and mind are intertwined; that we will love God more the better we know Him. Thus, as pastors, we chose to explain the Westminster Shorter Catechism and its biblical underpinnings not only that you might understand the truth better but that the truth would set you free (John 8:32). Better theology, better knowledge of God, leads to deeper discipleship and richer doxology.
What is a catechism?
A catechism provides written instruction in the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. It should be based on Scripture, even a kind of paraphrase of Scripture’s content. Catechisms have been called maps that survey the ground of Scripture and help a person to navigate the Bible. It can and should be read alongside the Bible, which itself uses the question-and-answer format so often employed in catechisms: “Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory” (Ps. 24:10; 119:9; see also Amos 3:3–6). Clearly, while law schools today may utilize the Socratic method of teaching by asking and answering questions, the origin of this method is far more ancient.
Why should we use catechisms?
Learning the Christian faith via catechism pays great spiritual dividends. Not only was Timothy taught the faith in his family (2 Tim. 1:5), but Apollos was a catechism success story: 
Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed [katecheo] in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord…. He greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 18:24–28)
Despite our antihistorical, individualistic modern society that echoes the Athenians’ continual thirst for something new, this catechism, though hundreds of years old, continues to remain relevant and helpful because it reflects God’s Word, which is still living and active (Acts 17:21; Heb. 4:12). It reflects the pattern of sound words passed down for our edification (Acts 17:11; Gal. 1:11; 2 Thess. 2:15; 2 Tim. 1:13; Jude 1:3). The Shorter Catechism questions also foster new love: “The people of God show their love as they confess the doctrines of the Bible and as those truths inform their conduct, all to the glory and love of God,” writes J. V. Fesko. To this end, this book provides devotional theology; the catechism’s objective statements of the truth are paired to practical and doxological explanations.
B. Warfield reported that when a child explained “What is prayer” to Dwight L. Moody using the Shorter Catechism, he declared, “Thank God for that Catechism!” We pray that you, dear reader, would be able to echo that exclamation.
Pick up Glorifying and Enjoying God to instruct your family and inform your faith!

You Will Never Regret The Sins You Do Not Commit

There are a few little phrases I think about and repeat to myself on a regular basis. One of the simplest but most frequent is this: You will never regret the sins you do not commit. It’s basic. It’s easy. It’s obvious. But I need to hear it again and again.

Like you, I know that dreadful sick-to-my-stomach feeling that follows a sin, and especially one of those sins I am particularly committed to battling and overcoming. Though I had promised myself that I would never again commit that sin, though I had prayed for the Lord’s help, and though I had addressed the pattern of temptation and attempted to nip it in the bud, still I had caved and blundered into it once again. And I understood: I failed to take hold of the grace the Holy Spirit offered in that very moment of temptation. I sinned only because I chose to sin, only because I wanted to sin, only because sin was more attractive to me in that moment than righteousness.
And so I know the flush of heat that creeps up my neck and over my face, the sweat that beads on my forehead when I acknowledge that, yes, I did it again.
I know the deep feeling of failure and am familiar with having to go before the Lord to confess it again and to admit that I’m far more of a spiritual infant than I care to admit.
I know the sense of disappointment in myself and the necessary hardship of having to tell a friend or tell my wife that I messed up.
Like you, I know what it is to regret a sin and to wish that I hadn’t committed it. Hence, I often repeat to myself that little phrase: You will never regret the sins you do not commit. It reminds me of the obvious fact that regret comes when I succumb to temptation and joy comes when I resist. I’ve never once regretted resisting a temptation, never once mourned turning away from a sin, never once felt guilty for obeying God’s Word. To the contrary, I’ve felt such satisfaction when temptation has given way to righteousness, when I’ve slammed the door instead of opening it, when I’ve fled the devil instead of welcoming him in. Regret and sin are close neighbors, but regret and righteousness exist a world apart.
And so in the moments when sin seems attractive and righteousness seems burdensome, in the moments when doing what God forbids feels like it will deliver joy and doing what he commands feels like it will make me miserable, I stop, I consider, and I repeat this little phrase: You will never regret the sins you do not commit.

A La Carte (December 6)

The Lord be with you and bless you today.

Today’s Kindle deals include a number that are worth checking out. You’ll find several by John Stott, David Wells, and so on.
Pain Needs Interpreting
“Rather than just react to pain, the Bible calls us to act towards it. We’re not to just be subject to our pain, blown about in every direction by it. Rather we’re to respond to it, and subject it to the light of God’s word.” In other words, we need to carefully interpret it.
Your Love for Jesus Is Measured by What He Asks of You, Not by How You Treat Christmas
Stephen offers some level-headed thoughts here about Christmas, and about the fact that some Christians celebrate it while others do not.
Is Predestination Unfair?
“A common objection to unconditional election is that it’s unfair. Isn’t God unfair to choose to save only some humans not based on any human condition but solely on his sovereign good pleasure? Isn’t there injustice on God’s part that some people are not elect?” Andy Naselli answers the objection.
9 Biblical Methods for Encouraging One Another
This article by Caleb Davis traces 9 ways that Christians can encourage one another.
Wise Friendship Is Unwaveringly Committed
Al shows that wise friendship is committed friendship. “Fast food is OK if you need a quick hit of sugar and fat, something to give you just enough energy to do what you need to do.  But we all know it isn’t good for us, it doesn’t nourish us, it doesn’t build us up.  Fast friendship is the same – it has no depth, provides no nourishment, and doesn’t give us life.”
Themelios 48.3
If you are interested in some slightly more academic reading, you may want to take a look at the new issue of Themelios. It offers plenty of articles and book reviews.
Flashback: What Matters Is Not the Size of Your Faith
What secures us in our trials is not the magnitude of our faith, but the power of the one in whom we have placed it. The smallest bit of faith in God is worth infinitely more than the greatest bit of faith in ourselves, or the strongest measure of faith in faith itself.

Loving your neighbor as yourself, when the category of neighbor includes everyone you meet, including your enemies, is a supernatural action, and it is an action that is the proof of our salvation. —Alistair Begg

Would You Consider Becoming a Patron?

I have been blogging at Challies.com on a daily basis for over 20 years now. That long commitment has allowed me to write thousands of articles and hundreds of book reviews while also sending millions of visitors to other sites through the daily A La Carte feature. While I’ve also written a number of books, through it all the blog has remained the “main thing.” Much of the blog’s content is now also translated into Spanish, French, and a number of other languages.

One of my great desires has always been to freely give away as much as possible. I intend for it to always remain entirely free for all who visit. While for obvious reasons this can’t happen when it comes to books, I’ve made it my goal to ensure that everything else has been freely and widely distributed. This has been possible largely because of advertisers, but there is also a key role for the generosity of individuals.
This is where patrons come in. A service called Patreon provides a convenient means of linking content producers (like me) with supporters (like you).
To that end, I would like to ask those who regularly read this site to consider supporting me by becoming a patron. By supporting me with even a modest monthly gift, you will be able to be part of this ongoing work. You will also receive Patron-only monthly updates on what I have been doing in the month that has passed and what I plan to do in the month ahead. Funds donated will be used to support my family and to help create great content or to otherwise improve, support, and enhance Challies.com. In one way or another, they will all be used to allow me to continue to do what I have been doing for these past 20 years.
I’m also sometimes asked about one-time gifts. If that is of interest to you, they can be made by credit card via PayPal or forwarded by check to this address:
Tim Challies1011 Upper Middle Road East, Box #1214Oakville, Ontario L6H 5Z9Canada
Please understand that I intend for Challies.com to always remain entirely free. In fact, patrons help ensure that it always remains that way.
Thank you for considering becoming a patron of Challies.com. Your support means so much to me. And this is the end of my once-yearly mention of this subject!

A La Carte (December 5)

Users of Logos will want to take a look at this month’s deals. You will find a Christmas Sale and also the usual series of free and nearly-free books. You can also get a good discount on the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries and the Bible Speaks Today series. And then there’s a flash sale on the Focus on the Bible commentaries which are excellent.

(Yesterday on the blog: Who Are You When Only Your Family Is Looking?)
Answering Six Objections to the Virgin Birth
Mitch addresses six common objections to the virgin birth. “Holy Scripture teaches that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. This is the doctrine of the virgin birth—or, to be more precise, the virginal conception. This teaching has encountered objections over the years, and there are good responses to each of them.”
The Beauty of Difference
“As I listen to the Western culture around me I hear a mixed message regarding difference. It is celebrated, but not really. Slogans like ‘be yourself’ or ‘find yourself’ surround us. The culture speaks loudly about the value of diversity. Yet at the same time we constantly hear an equally loud message of reaching your full potential through what is deemed normal and desirable. So in the search for fulfilment, what we actually end up with is the unspoken slogan of ‘be what we expect you to be’.”
Shoplifting and the Rise of Shame
It seems that shoplifting is increasing in many different places. Matthew Hosier suggests one possible explanation (and solution).
The Pastor’s Salary and Martin Luther
This article uses Martin Luther to help Christians think well about compensating their pastors.
25 Ways to Provoke Your Children to Anger
Paul Tautges: “How much of the anger in my home is caused by me? That’s a painful question. As parents, fathers in particular, we must heed God’s Word from Ephesians 6:4.”
Tribes, Trolls, and the Power of Technology
There is lots to ponder in Jason’s article about tribes, trolls, and the power of technology. “While technology can be, and is, often used for good in society, these benefits are often outweighed by the deleterious impact of these media on our public square. Social media is not uniquely dangerous, and is by no means inherently bad, but the ways in which our sinful hearts use and misuse these tools can be especially harmful to matters of politics and social order.”
Flashback: Stopping An Affair Before It Begins
Affairs do not begin with sex. Falling into bed with a man who is not your husband or a woman who is not your wife is simply one step in a long chain of events, one decision in a long series of poor decisions.

The more we dwell where the cries of Calvary can be heard, where we can view heaven and earth and hell, all moved by his wondrous passion—the more noble will our lives become. —Charles Spurgeon

Who Are You When Only Your Family Is Looking?

One of the customs of our church is to thoroughly evaluate the men we call to be pastors and elders. Once we identify a candidate for the office, and once he has indicated his interest, we complete a thorough evaluation of his life and character. We work through a document that describes the qualifications the Bible holds out and asks whether he meets them or falls short. The prospective elder and his wife complete this evaluation first before the existing elders and the entire congregation do the same. By the end of the process we feel confident that the men we call are also qualified. (And, to ensure those men remain qualified, we repeat this process every six years or so.)

It never fails to fascinate me that when the Bible describes the qualifications of an elder, its focus is almost entirely on character. There is one qualification related to skill (he must have the ability to teach) and one related to desire (he must want to serve in this way), but beyond that, there is an extensive list of traits of character: he must be gentle, he must be hospitable, he must be generous, he must be devoted to his wife, he must be a faithful father, and so on. Where we are so easily swayed by accomplishments and raw ability, God’s foremost concern is for character. When it comes to the leadership of the church, God demands they be men of upstanding character, men who are above reproach in the eyes of their family members, their church, and even their community.
I recently took some time away from being an elder—a sabbatical that followed more than a decade of constant service. Upon returning, the members of the church re-evaluated me in light of those qualities, a process that is humbling but also encouraging, for Christians love to identify strengths more than weaknesses and graces more than faults. It was a blessing to receive their affirmation that they believe I am qualified to continue to serve among them. Meanwhile, we have just gone through the process of identifying a new elder and examining his suitability for the office. Through those two contexts, I found myself pondering character.
I have often heard it said that character is who you are when no one is looking. This is a well-worn phrase that communicates an essential truth: You tend to be on your best behavior when you are in the public eye. But if you wish to know who you truly are, and if you wish to know what your character is really made of, you need to look at yourself in those times when you are alone and those places where no one is present to spot your behavior or stand in judgment of your actions. You need to consider the situations in which your mind is free to wander and your hands are free to act. The truest gauge of your truest self is known ultimately only to you. Hence, character is who you are when no one is looking.
But as I considered the character of an elder, I also found myself challenged with this: Character is who you are when only your family is looking. I consider this equally important when gauging strength of character, for family knows who you really are just as much as solitude does. After all, when no one is looking, you are not being challenged by other people, you are not being sinned against, you are not being forced to practice courteous conduct and gentle speech. You are not practicing or neglecting discipleship through Word and prayer, you are not failing or succeeding to lead others through trying circumstances. It’s just you and the silence, just you and the screen, just you and your own thoughts. In that way, you learn a lot about yourself when only your family is looking.
One of the elements of my life that concerns me most is my ability to be on my worst behavior around the people who are most important to me. You would think I’d always be at my very best before the people I love the most. Yet somehow I can put on airs before strangers and then let down my guard before my family. Somehow I can live to impress people I barely know while being apathetic toward people I know the best and whose lives are deeply intertwined with mine. There is something about home life that can breed arrogance and apathy, entitlement and hostility.
But before God calls me to serve the church he calls me to serve my family and before he calls me to love the people of my local congregation he calls me to love the people under my own roof. Long before I think about laying down my life in service for my brothers and sisters, he calls me to lay down my life in service for my wife and children. My family knows who I really am in a way neither the crowds nor the solitude do.
Who am I? What kind of man am I? What kind of character do I possess and display? I will learn that in the darkness, in the solitude, in the times when no human eyes sees me. But I will equally learn that when I am before those people who see me constantly and up close, for character is who I am when only my family is looking.

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