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Why does God allow suffering?

Posted by Terry Aaron, PhD on February 27, 2014 at 12:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Why does God allow suffering? If he is all-good and all-powerful couldn’t he stop injustice? We’ve all asked this question. For all of human history people have wrestled with question of why does God allow suffering.

 

Much of the pain and suffering that we experience or see others going through is undeserved. It’s hard to accept. Let’s consider what the Bible says about suffering. But first we need to consider the appropriate context to study this issue.

 

The Context for the Question

If you share your suffering with someone it hurts to be told things like, “God works all things together for good” (Romans 8:28). If you’re talking with someone who is hurting physically or emotionally don’t use this Bible study to give them advice! If you are personally going through a painful struggle right now don’t try to fix things with these Bible teachings.

 

These Bible verses on the topic of why does God allow suffering are generally not helpful as comfort for those who are hurting. They are best used for study and meditation prior to going through suffering. Once you find yourself in a crisis whatever is inside of you will come out. During a time of desolation we’ll get through it with whatever faith and character we had at the start. In the midst of intense emotion and extreme stress it’s hard to learn a new worldview or develop a more mature faith that will help us at that time. Of course, we can grow through times of trial, but the learning pays of later.

 

The hope is that prior to a crisis we grow in our understanding of God and his ways, our trust in his constant goodness, our submission to his Lordship in good and bad situations, and our readiness to delight in his heavenly kingdom which is always in our midst. Then in pain and suffering we have a deep foundation of mature faith and an inner strength of character to help us deal with things.

 

The Real Question

Why does God allow suffering? We’re going to consider a number of aspects to this issue. But as we do, keep in mind that the most question is not why! Throughout the Bible people in suffering like Job, the Psalmist, and Jeremiah ask the Lord why. God understands this. He doesn’t condemn them or us for asking why he lets us suffer. But he doesn’t directly answer this question. Not even when Jesus Christ asks the question on the cross.

 

We ask why does God allow suffering because we need to express our emotions. This is how we come to understand our experience and to receive comfort and strength from those who listen and care for us. But with time — and it may take us a long time — we need to get to the place where we stop asking why and ask what. What is good for me to do in my trial?

 

The Lord Jesus shows us how to deal with suffering and injustice by loving God with our whole person and loving our neighbor as ourselves, including those who are difficult or mistreat us. Of course, this requires maturity and strength and that’s a main reason why we need to go through hardships and tribulations — to learn about ourselves and how we can become more like Jesus.

 

Bible Verses on Pain and Suffering

What does the Bible teach on pain and suffering? (All Bible verses are from the NIV84 unless indicated otherwise.)

 

We all Experience Troubles and Need to Learn to Find our Peace in Christ

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

 

In Pain we Often Struggle to Feel God’s Love

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1, )

 

Generally we Suffer Because We’re Separated from God and His Glory

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:20-21)

 

Our Choices Lead to Pain or Blessing

“The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:8)

 

To Sin or Be Sinned Against is Destructive and Painful

“When tempted, no one should say, `God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:13-15)

 

Because He Loves us God Disciplines us when we Sin

“In your struggle against sin… you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: `My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.’” (Hebrews 12:4-6)

 

God Uses Trials to Help Fruit-Bearing Christians Bear More Fruit

“Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:2)

 

God Allows Undeserved Tragedies as Agents of Spiritual Change

“Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them — do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:4-5)

 

God Allows Undeserved Disabilities to Display His Glorious Work

“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, `Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ `Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, `but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’” (John 9:1-3)

 

God Allows Undeserved Sicknesses to Reveal His Grace

“There was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, `My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

 

Choose the Pain of Denying Lesser Desires to Follow Jesus and Gain Real Life

“Then he said to them all: `If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.’” (Luke 9:23-24)

 

When in Pain Look to be Embraced by God

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” (Matthew 5:4, Msg.)

 

When We’re Hurting we Need God’s Love through People

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love each other, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:12)

 

It’s Through Pain that God Makes us Glorious

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

 

Growing Spiritually Can Bring Joy to Those in Pain

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4; See also Romans 5:3-5)

 

Trials Bring Grief and the Glorious Joy of Growing Faith

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6-9)

 

Pain can Strengthen us to Resist Sin and Choose God

“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:1-2)

 

To be Mistreated for Being a Christian is a Blessing and a Witness for Christ

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” (Matthew 5:10-11; See also 1 Peter 2:19-20)

 

God Comforts us in Pain so we can Comfort Others

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

 

Rely on God to Resist Sin

“And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

 

Try to Avoid the Pain of Being Sinned Against

“A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 22:3)

 

We’re to Confront Christians who Sin Against Us

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along.” (Matthew 18:15-16; see also Leviticus 19:17, Ezekiel 3:18-21)

 

We’re to Entrust to God your Anger over Being Sinned Against (Don’t Get Resentful or Seek Revenge!)

“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: `It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

 

Rely on God for Help with Forgiving

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

 

Christ on the Cross is the Best Answer and Comfort for Pain

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit… It is finished!” (Luke 23:46, John 19:30)

 

 

God's Glory In Word AND Deed

Posted by Terry Aaron, PhD on June 25, 2011 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (1)

Posted on 6/24/2011 by Dr. Terry Aaron -

Is biblical counseling exclusively about passing along theological information from one person to another?

As practitioners of God’s Word are we to only occupy ourselves with doctrinal understanding or scriptural application as it regards the sin and sufferings of others?  While theology and doctrinal acuity are essential components of biblical counseling, wisdom guides us to understand that, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18, ESV).  

In the end, we serve others well to remember that “knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up” (2 Corinthians 8:1).  Knowledge that excludes love for God and others may have the power to puncture souls, but it is impotent in its capacity to change hearts!  Rather than heal, it only destroys.  It is important for us to consider how Scripture directs us away from such patterns as we grow in knowledge to the glory of God?

 

Remember Our Ambassadorship

One of our primary identities as biblical counselors is that of ambassadors.  We see this illustrated by the apostle Paul when he writes, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20, ESV).  Paul understood the call of God upon his life as a messenger of the Gospel (Ephesians 6:19-20); as a representative of Another.  He also understood the grandeur of the message he was given.  This awareness must perpetually shape the mind of anyone participating in the counsel of God’s holy Word.  If we are to avoid the pitfalls of arrogance and pride, we must never forget we are mere ambassadors of another Kingdom, representing Someone else, and responsible for a profoundly important message centered in calling believers and non-believers alike back to God.

 

Refuse To Be An Obstacle

His awareness of being an ambassador of the Lord, Jesus Christ, invoked a passion in Paul’s ministerial conduct that prompted him towards integrity, perseverance, endurance, purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, love, truthfulness, and honesty all for the sake of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 6:1-11).  He knew the score.  He was formerly a blasphemer and murderer who now had the privilege of representing the King of Kings.  Paul never failed to remember the valuable honor that had been divinely placed upon his life.  He had been chosen by God to be a mouthpiece of eternity, and therefore took seriously every detail of his interactions with others.  There was no relational carelessness in him.  He was careful not to mistreat others though he possessed incomparable theological knowledge that could have easily fostered such behavior.  As such, he was able to claim, “We put no obstacles in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way…” (2 Corinthians 6:3-4a).  Are we as sensitive as Paul in our relationships (be they counseling or otherwise)?  Consider the questions below:

When you meet with others, do you seek to exude the love of Jesus? Do people see the joy of the Lord in your demeanor? Do you exhibit hope even when things are not going well? Do you illustrate faith in Scripture over and above circumstances? Do you speak truth in love? Are those you serve convinced that you are passionate to serve them? Are you more concerned with your ability to help than you are your commitment to love? When people resist your counsel, do you make it about you? When change comes slowly, are you patient and kind or judgmental and condemning? Do you minimize the uniqueness of people as though they were cloned personalities, or do you take time to get to know and understand them individually (i.e., their maturity in the faith, fears, resentments, etc.)? Are you willing to inconvenience yourself for the sake of another? Do you stay on time with your meetings or sessions? Are you prompt in returning emails and phone calls? Do you keep your commitments?  Do you seek to conduct your life by the same counsel you offer others? Do you take seriously the concerns or criticisms of those you counsel? Do you truly listen? Are you honest about your own struggles?  

Removing All Restrictions

Paul was zealous for the Corinthians.  They were an infirmed church that desperately needed his leadership and counsel.  Since he took his role as an ambassador of the Gospel seriously, he was motivated to operate with them in a way that omitted any obstacle attempting to impede his message.  The end result as he began to instruct them in counsel was, “You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections” (2 Corinthians 6:12, ESV).  Paul’s diligence in meticulously glorifying God in his behavior, attitude, and commitment to the Gospel set the stage for effective counsel.  The people of Corinth could not blame him for misconduct, laziness, inconsiderateness, lack of consistency, or selfishness.  His precision in ministerial excellence afforded him the position to point the Corinthians to their own hearts as being the primary hurdle in receiving his message.  Since he took great care to thoroughly honor the Lord in his relationship with them, he could highlight, with confidence, that their problem was the restrictions imposed by their own affections, and nothing else.  Unbeknownst to them, his conduct provided a context of protection from their own tendencies of rationalization and excuse making.  He removed all obstacles over which he had direct control so as to clear a path of understanding for the message he was commissioned to give.

Counseling goes far beyond providing knowledge in a relational vacuum.  Paul offers a vivid explanation of this in his ministry to the Corinthian church as it seems he left no stone unturned in order to maximize the effectiveness of his preaching, teaching, and counsel.  He is an exemplary model of what it means to do ministry well, and we would all be wise to emulate him in how we are developing as counselors and ministers of the Word!

 


The Wonderful Counselor

Posted by Terry Aaron, PhD on August 11, 2010 at 11:21 PM Comments comments (0)

"The Wonderful Counselor"

Isaiah 9:6

 

 

One of the tasks that confront every parent is the job of coming up with a name for their new baby. I remember that struggle. Some names are immediately dismissed because they don't sound right. Some names are dismissed because you associate them with certain people who are weird, people you don't like, or because the names have certain stereotypes that go with them. Finding the right name is something most parents agonize over.

 

As much as we care about names, the people of the Bible cared even more. Names were most often picked because of the meaning of the name. We read several places where people had their names changed as a result of their new relationship with God (Abram became Abraham; Jacob became Israel, Simon became Peter, and Saul became Paul). Other people were given names that were to represent various truths (consider the zany names of the children of Hosea, or the symbolic names of the children of Joseph). So when we read names in the Bible have not been selected simply because they "sound cool".

 

 

In the Bible according to Naves Topical Bible there are more than 250 different names for Jesus! You'll be glad to know that we are not going to look at all of them! But we are going to look at a few of them. We are going to spend the four weeks of Advent reflecting on the four (some would say five) names of Jesus given in Isaiah 9:6. We are going to look at these names like a person might look at a diamond, turning it to try to better grasp the richness of beauty.

 

 

For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, 

Mighty God,

Everlasting Father,

Prince of Peace.

 

There is some debate on this first name. In the King James Version Wonderful and Counselor are two separate names. Some of us are used to hearing them that way from the song, "For Unto Us a Child is Born" from Handel's Messiah (based on the King James Version). But in contemporary versions of the Bible they are listed as one name. Why? The answer isn't very complicated. The thought is that Isaiah was being uniform in his structure. Each of the other three names consisted of two words so it is believed that Isaiah meant the first to be two words. Either way, this is quite a title.

 

 

The word used for wonderful is the same word used in Judges 13:18 "He replied, "Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding." The words "beyond understanding" is from the same word as the word translated "wonderful" in Isaiah. In other words, Jesus would be a Counselor that was greater than we could begin to comprehend.

 

 

But who cares? Why do we need a Counselor? Let me suggest three reasons why the world (and we) needed a "Wonderful Counselor":

 

  1. The world is often a confusing and overwhelming place. We need someone to help us get through the fog.
  2. We have a sin problem that we cannot handle by ourselves. We may try to be good but we fail. We need someone who can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
  3. We need someone who can lead us to salvation and new life.

We yearn for a relationship with God. Some people don't realize it but they are searching for meaning and purpose in their life. They are seeking the Almighty. We need someone who can lead us to Him.

 

 

With these things in mind I want to address an important question. Why is Jesus a 'Wonderful Counselor"? Let me give you a few reasons.

 

 

ACCURATE DIAGNOSIS

 

The first characteristic of a good Counselor is someone who is able to rightly identify the problem in the one they are counseling. We have all had experience with people who tried to counsel us but didn't have any idea what we were going through,

  • The single person counseling on marriage
  • The Childless couple counseling their friends on parenting
  • The person who doesn't understand depression who tells a depressed person to "just straighten up"
  • The person who has never experienced loss who tells a grieving person to "get over it."
  • A person who has never struggled in life trying to counsel someone who has struggled all his/her life.

 

When you are on the receiving end of counsel from one of these counselors we become exasperated and frustrated because it is obvious that the person doesn't understand. Their information is coming from books. It's plastic and inappropriate. These are not wise counselors.

 

 

It is tempting to think that Jesus might fit into this category. He wasn't married, He was God's Son, He had never sinned. But Jesus does understand. This is what makes Christ so special. Listen to the Bible's testimony,

 

Hebrews 2:17-18

 

For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

 

Hebrews 4:15

 

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

 

 

Do you understand that this is what Christmas is about? God becomes man to face what we face, to walk in our shoes. He knew what it was like to suffer. He knew temptation. He understood the desire to strike back, to give up, to despair. The only difference between our experience and the experience of Jesus is that He got through the tempting times without giving in. He was without sin but that doesn't mean He was without struggle.

 

Isaiah 53:3

 

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

 

 

Jesus wasn't born in a temple. He wasn't born as royalty. He was considered the illegitimate son of a carpenter and his teenage bride. In Matthew we read, "Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." (Matthew 8:19-20) Jesus knew what it was like to face rejection and ridicule. He knew what it was like to be poor.

 

John 2:25

 

He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.

 

Jesus understood (and understands) the hurts, the needs, and the rebellion of men. The Lord understands our tears. Take your best friend, the person who listens when no one else will, the person who understands your deepest need, the person who will not jump on you when you make a mistake but will help you get back up . . . . Jesus is like that, only extraordinarily better.

 

 

APPROPRIATE PRESCRIPTION

 

A good counselor is not just sympathetic. You can hurt with others and still not be able to help them. A good counselor must know how to help. They must know the appropriate prescription for the problem.

 

Don't you love it when you tell someone that you are feeling anxious and they say, "Well, don't think about it" or "Don't worry about it." Don't you want to say, "Wow, what extraordinarily empty advice that is. You make it sound like I want to be anxious."

 

 

There are examples of a number of poor counselors in the Bible. In the Garden of Eden Satan acted as a Counselor and told Eve to eat what God had forbidden. He counseled Jesus to make stones in to bread and to test God's love. The wife of Job told him to "Curse God and die!" Job's friends told him to repent because he must have done something wrong if bad things were happening to him. All were foolish counselors giving bad advice.

 

We also see several examples of good counsel. Jethro advised Moses to delegate authority. The prophets were constantly advising the Kings to "trust God". And then there is this great story about Solomon,

 

1 Kings 3:16-27

 

Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. One of them said, "My lord, this woman and I live in the same house. I had a baby while she was there with me. The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.

"During the night this woman's son died because she lay on him. So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn't the son I had borne."

 

The other woman said, "No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours." But the first one insisted, "No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine."And so they argued before the king.

The king said, "This one says, 'My son is alive and your son is dead,' while that one says, 'No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.'"

 

Then the king said, "Bring me a sword." So they brought a sword for the king.He then gave an order: "Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other."

 

The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, "Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don't kill him!" But the other said, "Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!"

Then the king gave his ruling: "Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother."

 

This is wise counsel. Solomon read the situation correctly and found a way to bring the best resolution.

 

Jesus is the wisest Counselor because His wisdom if from the throne room of Heaven.

 

 

He never sought the counsel of man, and He never asked for the advice of man. "For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?" (Rom. 11:34). God has no counsellor. The Lord Jesus Christ never called His disciples together and said, "Now, fellows, what do you think I ought to do?" You don't read anything like that in Scripture. The Lord called them together and said, "This is what I am going to do, because this is My Father's will." And Christ has been made unto us wisdom (see 1 Cor. 1:30). Most of us are not very smart. We must go to Him for help.[1]

 

 

Our Lord does several things when we turn to Him.

 

First, He tells us the truth. He tells us what is really wrong with our lives. He points out that we are rebelling against God. We are like sheep who have gone astray. He tells us that we need to repent of our sin.  He is like a Doctor who tells someone suffering from emphysema that they need to stop smoking cigarettes and stop hanging around with people who smoke. Understanding what is causing the problem is essential before you can solve the problem.

 

 

Second, Jesus tells us to trust what He has done for us. In Matthew 20:28 we read,

the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

 

Jesus understood that we could not save ourselves. Something needed to be done for us. Jesus didn't just tell us that we needed help. He provided the help we need.

 

Did you see the story on television recently about the young girl who received two organ transplants at once? She received a liver and a kidney. Her father and her Grandmother both willingly provided for this girl they loved. Without their provision, without their sacrifice, this girl was going to die. All the good intentions in the world could not change the disease that was inside of her. It is somewhat like that for us. We can want to be forgiven but we can't do anything about defeating the disease of sin that stalks us and enslaves us. Jesus provided what we could not provide for ourselves. He gave His life as payment for our sin. The prescription of our wonderful counselor is "Trust me and take what I have provided."

 

 

Third, our Counselor gives us a prescription for life that will help us continue to live a spiritually healthy life. This prescription is found in the Bible. In John 14:21,23-24 Jesus said, Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.". . . "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

 

People who have had heart surgery are given a prescription. They are told to walk regularly, to watch their diet, to take their medicine and to get their regular check-ups. If you do those things, you will get better and be able to enjoy your life. But if you ignore those prescriptions you will not regain your strength or vitality and will probably die much sooner.

 

 

Our Lord has given us His prescription for joyful living. He told us to resist the morality and advice of the world and to follow God's directions. Practically, that means

 

  • We are to trust Him rather than trusting ourselves
  • We are to love rather than take advantage of one another
  • We are to forgive rather than be bitter
  • We are to be holy rather than profane
  • We are to store up treasures in Heaven rather than on earth
  • We are to be generous rather than selfish
  • We are to seek to serve rather than be served

The counsel of Jesus is superb. He understands our situation and has addressed with love and wisdom. However, most people don't know this because they haven't given His counsel a chance.

 

 

APPRECIABLE RESULTS

 

 

The best test of a good counselor is whether the people who go to that counselor are helped. And if you know anything about the Bible you know that Jesus was the most effective counselor that ever lived. Consider,

 

  • Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:2) who was delivered from seven demons
  • The Gedarenes Demoniacs (Matthew 8:28ff) who were so violent everyone was scared of them Jesus delivered them and they were made normal.
  • The Samaritan woman (John 4) who had been married and divorced five times and was currently living with a man – Jesus turned her into a Missionary
  • The woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8) was saved from death and sent on her way transformed.
  • Zacchaeus was a despised tax-collector (Luke 19) and after meeting with Jesus vowed to repay anyone he cheated with interest
  • The fisherman were turned into missionaries
  • The religious leader, Nicodemus became a Christian even though it was very unpopular to do so.

 

And it is not just those who were in the Bible. Jesus is still changing lives. Consider,

 

 

  • St. Augustine was a womanizing man who ran with the wild crowd before becoming one of the greatest eders of the church
  • John Newton was a drunken slave trader before he wrote "Amazing Grace"
  • Johnny Cash was a hard living Country Singer before coming to Christ
  • Chuck Colson was a convicted Watergate Conspirator before he met Christ. The Lord led him to begin Prison Fellowship and he has become one of the prophetic voices of our time.
  • Alice Cooper was a wild and drug crazed rock singer before coming to Christ where he sits under the teaching of RC Sproul and others.
  • George W. Bush was known for his parties before He met Christ

 

And if you look around there are many other names we could add to the list. Some of you have stories that would surprise the people sitting around you. Jesus Christ has made an impact on millions of lives over the years. For some, the progress has been slow and steady. For others it was a dramatic turnaround. But anyone who has come to the Savior willing to submit to His leadership in their life has found Him to be sufficient for their needs.

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

 

What I hope you see is that when Christ came into the world as a baby in Bethlehem, it was not some historical event that is irrelevant to you and me. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem the Wonderful Counselor was born. He is one we have been looking for all our lives.

 

  • He is the one who understands when no one else does
  • He is the one who stands by us when everyone else turns away
  • He is the one who really can help us confront the past and begin again
  • He is the one who can help us find the God we knew was present but couldn't reach.

But let me remind you that even the Wonderful Counselor cannot help you unless you are willing to be helped. Is it possible that Jesus is the one you have been looking for all your life? Maybe it is time to stop running faster and instead stop and listen to the Wonderful Counselor. Maybe it is time to stop hiding from the things that haunt your life. Why not take your hurts, fears, and failures and bring them to Jesus?

 

 

You don't have to hide the truth about yourself. He already knows what you're like. And He loves you anyway.

 

 

When Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem it was God's way of sending us the help we needed. It was God, getting off the throne of Heaven to become a baby, so that He might come into our world, take our hand, and lead us home.

The "Put Off - Put On" Dynamic.

Posted by Terry Aaron, PhD on August 11, 2010 at 12:47 PM Comments comments (0)

The "Put Off - Put On" Dynamic.

 

. Christians often fail to change because they try to change solely by breaking bad habits. However, change that lasts will not take place until one replaces the bad habit with a godly habit. Ephesians 4:22-24 explains this as the "Principle of Replacement." This process of change is described in the Bible by the terms Put-Off, Renew, and Put-On. Christians are to Put Off the old sinful way of life, renew their mind with Biblical truth, and Put On the new godly way of life.

 

The process of change is not complete by simply telling God or others our regret or asking forgiveness. It is not enough for a habitual thief to tell God he is sorry every time he steals. For true change to take place, the thief must now become a habitual laborer and gift giver (Ephesians 4:25). It is not enough to Put Off the old man; you must also Put On the new man for true and lasting change to take place (Ephesians 4:24).

 

God intends for Christians to pursue the Putting On of the biblical alternatives to whatever they are trying to Put Off. Concentrating on what needs to be Put On is necessary in overcoming sinful tendencies (Philippians 3:12-14; 4:8). These sinful tendencies, i.e., habits, are patterns of learned ways of living. Therefore, they must be unlearned and replaced with new biblical habits, patterns and tendencies (Hebrews 5:14; 1 Timothy 4:7; Philippians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Romans 6:16-17). This change is a gradual process that takes place as one puts into practice the new biblical principles for living. In time, old sinful ways will begin to disappear.

 

The Process of Renewal

 

Ephesians 4:22-24 describes the biblical process of change. Christians must be "be Renewed in the spirit of your mind" (v.23). This speaks of an inner renewal. The "spirit of your mind" is the inner person - the core of our being: our motives, desires, attitudes and thoughts. It is that inner disposition of the heart which influences our outer behavior, actions, reactions, choices, decisions and words. (Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 12:35; 15:19; 23:25-26; Luke 6:45.) The Scriptures teach that sin begins in the heart and works outward. A change in behavior begins with a change in the heart. It is the heart which rules our actions and behavior. How does this inner renewal take place?

The primary tool God uses is His Word contained the Bible. Personal transformation is the process by which the Spirit of God uses the Word of God and changes us to become like Christ. This is a lifelong process. We are being renewed by:

 

1. God's work of illumination in our heart (Ephesians 1:15-18).

2. We are renewed when we continually grasp and appropriate the truths of God's Word (John 17:17).

3. We are being renewed when our desires, motives, attitudes and thoughts become more Christ-like. Each time we choose to replace a sinful desire, motive, attitude or thought with a more biblical one, we are being renewed. This inner renewal will lead to Putting Off the old way of life and Putting On a new way of life that is pleasing to God.

This is a process that takes time and the exercise of our will in the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Timothy 4:7; Romans 6:11-14, 16-19).

 

It is not easy to change sinful patterns and habits that have been practiced for years. A great struggle can be expected at first. However, as we persevere with a desire to please God, eventually the old ways will fade and become less and less dominant in our life.

Get Specific

 

Personal transformation will take place in our life when we identify specifically what it is that God wants us to change. We will not make much progress if we are general or vague. We must have a clear understanding of exactly what should be put off.

 

Here is a Put Off/Put On list with Scriptures that apply to each. Identify the Put-Offs: sinful habits, patterns and tendencies that God wants to change. Identify the Put-Ons: habits and patters that God wants you to be, do or become. Do not be overwhelmed if you find that you have many put-offs / put-ons to work on. Concentrate only on two or three at a time. Select a verse that describes the incorrect and incorrect behavior. Make the verse your "Stop Sign" and commit it to memory. In time, change will come and God will bless your for it. (James 1:21-25).

 

Terry Aaron, Ph.D.

Real Cost of Credit Cards

Posted by Dennis Wagner on August 4, 2010 at 11:54 AM Comments comments (0)


Hello,

 

There is so much media coverage on the trillions of dollars of debt that America is in. Although it is important to cover this massive amount of spending, what about your spending? What about your debt? Are you someone who thinks that you are doing the right thing by paying off your credit cards by just paying the monthly minimum?

Below is an example of what paying the “minimum” really amounts to.


THE REAL COST OF CREDIT CARDS

Beginning Credit Card Balance $3,000

Initial Minimum Monthly Payment $60

Period of Time Before Bill Is Paid Off 35 Years

Total Amount Paid in the End $ 24, 117


Can you believe it? By just paying the minimum of $60 per month to pay off $3,000 you are actually going to pay over $24,000 and it will take you 35 years! Why so much and why so long? One word – INTEREST!

You need to pay attention to your finances, especially in the fast changing world we live in. One minute you have a job and the next minute you don’t. You need to be prepared not just for retirement anymore; you need to be prepared for everything from medical expenses, car repairs, mortgage, college and more.

What does the Bible have to say about our money and finances?


Actually, the Bible has a whole lot of scriptures about our money and our finances. There are over 800 scriptures about money! In fact, of Jesus' 39 parables, over half of them use money or work as a teaching tool.

So the handling of money must be important!

How you handle your money will determine your future. So please if you are in debt and don’t know what to do,seek counsel. Seek out good Christian leaders that can help you find your way out of the dark abyss of debt.


Fear Not

Posted by Yvonne Madison on July 16, 2010 at 9:36 AM Comments comments (0)

Fear not I am with You

I will help you

I am your God

Fear not I will not fail you

I have redeemed you

I am your God

You never need to tremble

You shall be made ashamed

You need never be confused

And do not be dismayed

Fear not I will favor you

I will strengthen you

I am your God

Fear not I will uphold you

I will shield you

I am your God

I am your God and you are Mine

I have called you by My name

Peace, My peace

Peace be unto you

Fear not.

These are lyrics to a song I recently recorded. I wrote it years ago while going through a difficult time. These words are ministering to me once again. As I write about my situation, I pray you are ministered to also.

About a year ago God had given me a dream. It was of a very personal nature so I cannot share exactly what it was about. But it is very important to me and I became very passionately invloved in prayer, study and following God's lead as I waited for Him to bring the dream to it's fulfillment. After investing months of nurturing and caring for this dream, what seemed the impossible happened. God required me to lay it down.

I struggled with this and even had a hard time believing I had heard from God at all. Then He put me in remembrance of Abraham and how He instructed him to lay his promised son, Isaac on the altar and sacrifice him. So yes, It was God I was hearing from. He also showed me that all my "works" concerning this dream were to be "burned" and all I would see is ashes. But what I couldn't see is that was truly of Him would be refined as pure gold.

I recently read a book by Pastor Jentezen Franklin ("Believe That You Can") and in it he wrote that every God-given dream goes through three stages- birth, death and resurrection. I had seen the birth of my dream. Cirsumstances surrounding the dream now make it look like it is dead- completely dead. I have even doubted there could be any resurrection of this dream. But God is speaking again. He has shown me that a resurrection of the dream He birthed in me, and then brought to a death, is coming.

Here is my dilemma. Afer all the emotion and pain this has put me through, I am almost afraid to believe for it again. I now fully understand how the father of the boy with the mute spirit (Mark 9) felt. He asked Jesus to help him and the answer was, "If you believe, all things are possible to him who believes." The father responded, "Lord, I believe; help me with my unbelief!" I fully believe this dream is from God and that He can do anything...but after all that has happened it is difficult to believe it will happen. Can anyone understand what I am saying?

I am no longer actively pursuing this dream, (remember my works in it are ashes). I pray only as God directs me too. Waiting is not easy, as it hasn't been for the past year. God spoke to me again this morning," Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait I say on the Lord." (Psalm 27:14). So, difficult as it is, I do choose to believe that God will bring my dream to pass. Hebrews 10:23 reads, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. "

If you are believing for a dream and maybe in the same place I am. Don't lose hope. God is working even when we can't see it. I am not giving up. Don't you give up either. Fear not!

Oh, remember that ultimately Abraham did not actually have to sacrifice Isaac, he only had to be willing to and trust God. I am waiting for my ram in the thicket!

Making Disappoinments Work for You

Posted by Yvonne Madison on July 16, 2010 at 9:34 AM Comments comments (0)

Let's face it- disappointments are rough. They hurt. I have had my share lately. Several big things I had hoped for have turned out for the worse. What is hardest is that they are stiuations in which people have let me down or betrayed me. Friendships lost. Associations ended. And not by my own choice. Not something I would have done or chosen yet it happened. And it is disappointing, to say the least. So what do I do? Get angry? Find fault? Get revenge? Just stop trying? Feel sorry for myself? Give up? All choices that crossed my mind, I have to confess. But honestly, except for appeasing my flesh, what is the benefit in any of those reactions? Romans 12:17 reads, "Repay no one evil for evil". And in Romans 12:19 we see,"Vengence is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord." So much for revenge.

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to practice Ephesians 4:26,"Be angry, and do not sin". Someone I was depending on let me down at a very important time. I was mad. I was hurt also and the combination certainly did not make for anything good. I excused myself from where I was, took my phone out to my car, and had this person's number up on my phone. I was going to let them have it good! Fortunately I hesitated just long enough to hear the Holy Spirit say, "Don't do it. Don't do it". Then this verse rose up out of my spirit." Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." (Romans 12:14). Then "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." (Matthew 5:44). You mean I have to pray for them, God? So completely by the grace of God, I sat there and prayed for this person and forgave them. At least this time I was able to do the right thing and not make a bad situation worse.

I have to admit I am still dealing emotionally with the disappointment and rejection I have felt through this stiuation. And this is just the latest one. There have been at least three other big disappointments I have faced in the past year. Now don't get me wrong. My life is not a total failure. I have had many joys and triumphs the past year also. Why does it seem though, that the disappointments seem to stand out so much more? Could it be we have an enemy who wants to steal our joy? Who wants to distract us and make us feel there is no hope? Who wants to make us feel that the whole world is against us? Well, we do. But praise God, we also have a Savior Who has already defeated that enemy! John 10:10 reads, "The theif does not come except to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly".

What this means is that disappoinments do not have to stall us. They are not the end of anything and do not have to affect our vision. I like to remember Romans 8:28 at these times. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose". There is nothing God can't turn around for us if we just trust Him. In fact, if we allow ourselves to be moldable clay in the Potter's hands, we can even learn from these situations and come out better and stronger that we were before. There are lessons in everything we go through if we are just open to see them. In my case, there was a change I could have made months before that could have helped me avoid the sudden incident I experienced. This how we grow. And this is how we become more sensitive to the still, small voice Who is always speaking, guiding us along our way.

So how do we deal with the setbacks that often come with disappointments? God gave me a phrase a few months back that has greatly impacted me. He said, setbacks are nothing more that opportunities to overcome. See, it's all in how we look at it. We need to keep in mind that we are overcomers through Christ. He has already won our victory! I have found that when a setback comes, if I trust God and be obedient to Him, He not only beings me back , but He moves me past where I was before!

So yes, disappoinment hurts...but rejoice! You are positioned to advance in victory! And if it was another person who brought the disappointment...let God deal with them. He does a much better job than we could anyway. Forgive them, pray for them and let God work. Romans 8:31 reads,"What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" God is on our side. No matter what things look like, He will not let us fail! Hallelujah!

Counseling Philosophy: Overview by Terry Aaron, Ph.D.

Posted by Terry Aaron, PhD on June 24, 2010 at 11:00 AM

Counseling Philosophy: Overview by Terry Aaron, Ph.D.

 

I have adopted an interpersonal therapeutic approach as my theoretical framework for counseling. While I see value in all of the various approaches, theories, and techniques of counseling, I believe that an interpersonal process is an effective people-oriented approach that seeks to address the core issues of the heart. I believe that everyone has been created uniquely and there is much truth to be taken from other therapeutic frameworks. Therefore, I integrate elements from other techniques when applicable to the needs of my clients. For me, this approach to counseling would be incomplete without my Christian worldview regarding the nature of life, people, problems, change, and helping. Both are key components in counseling, and together they provide a powerful opportunity for healing in the lives of others. When counseling individuals I always explain my approach to counseling and open discussion regarding my Biblically based approach. I have worked with many clients who do not share my Christian beliefs and I never try to impress my way of living on them.

 

Counseling Philosophy: Nature of Life

 

My view of the nature of life is grounded in the theological notion of “creation, fall, redemption, glorification,” as found in God’s holy Word. I believe that all of life has been - and continues to be - created by God, the giver of life (Genesis 2:7; Deuteronomy 32:6). All of creation was created “good” and life was originally intended to be enjoyable and glorifying to God. However, when man chose sin over obedience, every aspect of life became corrupted (Genesis 3). The negative affect sin had - and continues to have - on creation and life is drastic; it encompasses our relationship with God, our relationship with others, and even our own self. Ever since the fall of man, mankind has chosen to worship the creation rather than Creator (Romans 1:25), which has caused a wealth of problems for humans spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Suffering is now inevitable (1 Peter 4:19) and earthly death is the ultimate result of our sin (Romans 6:23). Sin has not only negatively affected relationships, but the nature of persons, problems, change and helping; nothing has escaped sin’s touch.

Fortunately, life does not stop at the fall of man. God’s faithfulness to His creation is revealed in His redemptive nature. Immediately after the fall of man and the ushering in of sin into the world, God steps in and redeems aspects of man’s sin. For example, in Genesis 3 God seeks out His people, proclaims justice, and mercifully makes them clothes to cover their nakedness and shame (Genesis 3:21-24). Throughout the Old Testament we see a God who redeems all things (Psalm 111:9). In the New Testament, we see an ultimate act of redemption when God sends His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross and to overcome death in His resurrection as a means of final atonement for His people (John 3:16). These truths are a testament to the fact that everything was created to be good and to glorify God, everything has been plagued by and suffers under the affects of sin, and that everything is redeemable by God. It follows, then, that the nature of life currently contains a tension between knowing what ought to be versus what is. In other words, one can clearly see the “Echoes of Eden” throughout life. While glorification is a process that has already begun in the life of man, it will not be fully realized until after Jesus has returned to earth for the Second Coming and ushered in the full glorification of the world and of mankind. One could say that we are currently in the “now and the not yet,” meaning that we are only getting a taste of what this full glorification will be like.

 

Philosophy of Counseling: Nature of Persons

 

I believe people were created by God and in His image (imago Dei) to be good and to glorify Him (Genesis 1:27). Though humans are very complex creatures, one way to look at the nature of persons is within the structural, functional, and relational domains of their lives. Every individual has been created with a unique body, personality, and skill set, has been created for a unique purpose, and has been placed in a unique relational context. Since the fall of man, each of these areas has been disrupted. Everyone is a sinner and falls short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Persons have responded to this altered state in a variety of ways, however, at the fundamental level most (if not all) individuals respond to their sinful state by attempting to protect themselves as a means to cover their fear, shame, guilt, and anxiety (Genesis 3). Ultimately, persons try to gain control over their helplessness and strive to create for themselves the safest environment possible, often in maladaptive ways.

Where humans have not been able to save themselves from this sinful state that is contrary to how they were created to be, Jesus Christ has. As a result of Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, all mankind’s sins have been atoned for (Romans 5:6-8). For those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God and accept Him in faith as their Savior, they will have eternal life. For those who reject this notion, they will not have eternal life, but death (Romans 6:23; John 3:18). Jesus Christ came to die for all, which is a testament to the fact that everyone has inherent worth and is redeemable (John 3:16-17). Additionally, persons have been created with the freedom of choice (Joshua 24:15). Because Jesus is the only sinless human who fully reflected God’s glorious image, we must look to him as our model for what we are to be as persons. As people grow closer to modeling Christ and move closer towards being what they were created to be, God’s image will be more fully revealed in their structural, functional, and relational domains.

Philosophy of Counseling: Nature of Problems

All problems in the world are either an indirect or direct result of sin, the result of a fallen world. Rarely are problems as simple as they may originally appear. They are always interwoven with emotions, underlying feelings, and often other problems that add to the complexity of the presenting problem. Many problems stem from a maladaptive adaptation to much deeper issues that are not necessarily readily apparent. For some, this looks like behavior such as those labeled by Horney as, “Moving Toward, Moving Away, and Moving Against” others. Each of these behaviors originate from deep attachment wounds and are coping mechanisms utilized by individuals to overcome the anxiety, fear, shame, or guilt their problem invokes. Teyber suggests that, “…interpersonal coping styles have become the primary source of their self-esteem and their principal avenue to succeeding in life” (Teyber, pp. 251-255). When these coping styles become rigid and unbending, fully dependent upon the individual’s ability to enact them perfectly, problems inevitably arise. Suddenly the self-defeating or problematic behavior presented is the very thing that provides insight into the individual’s behavior.

Though many problems are unpleasant and cause much distress, problems can bring growth, change, and healing as well (Romans 5:3-5). Throughout the book of First Peter, Paul explains how we should expect suffering, and that suffering can foster godly character. Addressing problems by going through them rather than working around them or ignoring them is ideal. In His graciousness and mercy, God has provided wisdom through His word, through others, and through general and specific revelation to guide us through our problems and closer to Him.

Philosophy of Counseling: Nature of Change

I believe that the process of change is nearly always a slow one, and that there is no “quick fix” for struggling individuals. Because everyone has been created uniquely, change may occur in a different way for each individual. Both short-term and long-term treatment approaches can be helpful in fostering change with surface level and deeper level problems. While I take my responsibility to be the best counselor possible very seriously, I realize that I am limited in the part I play in fostering change. Ultimately the change process is directed by God, and only He is capable of changing the hearts of clients. It is the client’s responsibility to take ownership of their problems and confront the deeper issues of their heart. If clients are unwilling to work on their problems, change will most likely be minimal.

People are created uniquely, and therefore change will look differently for each individual. For many, change means reenacting their past experiences or coping mechanisms within the present therapeutic relationship and working to create new positive ways of interacting and behaving. By helping clients identify their ability to think, feel, and act in different manner, clients can gain a greater self-awareness and a sense of autonomy. Furthermore, this approach to change helps clients take ownership of the change process in their life. Other key components of change include prayer, which can transform a client’s self-focus into a God-focus. Grieving one’s state of sinfulness and absence of full glorification, as well as identifying ways in which God’s grace, redemption, and glorification are taking place can encourage clients to continue moving forward in the change process (Romans 8). Ultimately, change occurs as God transforms the heart of the individual, which often occurs as the client focuses inward and addresses their core conflicts and emotions.

Philosophy of Counseling: Nature of Helping

It is my belief that the nature of helping is best modeled by Jesus Christ, the only sinless human who fully reflected God’s glorious image. From studying the way He interacted with the broken-hearted, we can see the impact and healing power of connecting with others relationally (John 4). People long for and are made to connect with others and the therapeutic relationship can not only provide this connection, but help the client to transfer these skills outside of the counseling relationship. Providing a safe environment and attachment where clients can freely explore who they are is crucial for the change process to occur. What the counselor does, then, becomes far more important than what the counselor says. Often problems are reenacted within the therapeutic relationship, so a counselor’s response to a client’s words and behaviors can be quite a powerful thing. Fostering an environment where the counselor and client work in the moment, a working alliance is established, various issues and recurrent themes are openly addressed and discussed, and where emotions are heightened can all be part of the helping process. Helping clients requires that the counselor grasps what is significant to the client from their point of view (Teyber, pp.50-63).

Loving and helping others well means that the counselor must look for the underlying meanings in a clients’ words and body language and helping them to disclose their innermost thoughts, feelings, and emotions. At times this may require confrontation, while at other times it may require grace. To be most effective, counselors must not separate the scientific, theoretical, and relational approaches to counseling, but rather work to integrate all three aspects. In order to help clients most fully, the spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional aspects must be addressed. In sum, while these techniques may be helpful, ultimately deep healing begins in the context of a relationship. McMinn and Campbell describe this experience well: “The great hope of the Christian life is not disengagement from living in a broken world but establishing an identity in Christ that gives a new vantage point in understanding ourselves and the world in which we live”. For me, this means realistically addressing the ways in which we have been affected by the fall and embracing God’s truth and grace while He transforms (be it slowly or quickly) the client (Romans 5, 8).

Quick tips to deal with workplace stress

Posted by Dennis Wagner on June 16, 2010 at 10:41 PM Comments comments (0)

Stress seems to surround many people today, here are some quick tips in dealing with stress in the workplace....


 

A few practical tips for handling stress in the workplace.


 

 

  • Prioritize and organize work – time management is the key to a stress free work life.
  • Learn to take mini breaks
  • Listen to soft music while working
  • Learn to say “No”
  • Develop healthy habits like sleeping on time, eating on time
  • Learn to balance professional and personal life
  • Know when to quit - sometimes the working environment is just too much - but before you quit make sure you have a new job to go to...
Be blessed in all that you do....

Dennis Wagner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A New Day

Posted by Terry Aaron, PhD on June 5, 2010 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (0)

This is a new day that God has given to me and to everyone that waks up today! I plan to make the best of it and share myself with my family. I hope everyone has a nice weekend!


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