The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘pride

The dark art of self-promotion

with 21 comments

The reason will become apparent shortly, but I have had cause recently to consider the dark art of self-promotion (see also here and the links from Kevin DeYoung here).  I have tried to plot out what seems to be the standard approach:

  • Want to read a book?  How about mine?
  • Want to give someone a book?  How about mine?
  • Looking to recommend a book?  How about mine?
  • I know someone reading my book.  Read about him reading my book here.
  • If you want to read about reading my book, you can read about it here and here and here.
  • I will be writing at some length about writing my book in coming days.
  • Then I will write about reading my book.
  • If you want to read my book – everyone who is anyone is reading my book – you can buy it here, here, here, here, here and here.  Or here and here.  Or even here.  Oh, and here.
  • Writing a book is a very humbling experience – I want everyone to know just how humbled I have been to have everyone talking about the book that I have humbly written.
  • You should read this book.
  • I would never wish to boast about my book: that would be wrong.  Instead, let me offer some links to people boasting about me: here, here, here, here and here.  Look at me humbly pointing to people telling you how great I am.
  • Here are some further endorsements: Chief A said, “Great book.  Everyone in my tribe should read this book.”  Chief B said, “What a book!  Are you in my tribe?  Read this book.”  In fact, I went to all the chiefs, and now if you consider yourself part of their tribe, you should read this book, otherwise you’re not a very good tribesman.
  • Really, if you had any sense you would be reading my book.
  • Why aren’t you reading my book?
  • Everyone else is reading my book.  What are you, Billy No-Mates?

I find it hard to reconcile the wise man’s advice – “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (Prv 27.2) – with such shameless self-advancement.

At the same time, I am obliged to dip a toe at least into that foetid pool of self-promotion, because I have a book being published (a very humbling experience, etc.).  I have an obligation to the publisher and my co-author to at least make my readers – both of them – aware of this, and to do what I can to advance the cause, so to speak.  Therefore, expect at least a trickle of the unpleasant fluid from the foetid pool over the next few months.  I will try not to make it too repugnant, honest.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 17 March 2010 at 10:17

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High-minded vs. humble-minded #3 Destroying high-mindedness and developing humble-mindedness

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[ Dissecting high-mindedness ~ Describing humble-mindedness ~ Destroying high-mindedness and developing humble-mindedness ]

How do we go about clearing the wilderness of pride and planting and nurturing the garden of lowly-mindedness with the flowers of humility?  How do we destroy spiritual blight and nurture spiritual beauty in this area of our thinking, feeling and doing?

(1) Dwell much on the character of Christ Jesus himself (Phil 2.5-8; Mt 20.26-28; Jn 13.14-17).  Christ’s church should have Christ’s mind: by his humbling himself he secured our new life and provided us with a perfect model, emptying us of all excuses and contentions.  This is both the foundation and the capstone of the pursuit of humble-mindedness.

(2) Reckon with God’s determination to humble the proud and exalt the humble (Lk 18.14; Mt 5.2; Jas 3.13 – 4.6).  Pride flies in the face of God’s Word, sets self against God, and assaults the body of Christ.  God will work conformity to his Son in us, and has a multitude of means at his disposal to advance holiness in us and protect the church.

(3) Remember what you are – a creature and a sinner (Rom 3.27; 9.21; 1Cor 4.7).

(4) Think accurately and honestly (rather than morbidly and despairingly) about your own gifts and graces (Rom 12.3).  Take counsel from spiritually mature believers if need be.  Make a prayerful, careful, sober self-assessment.  Much ruin and neglect comes to Christ’s church because of over- and under-estimation of what God has made us.

(5) Pursue joy and satisfaction (rather than frustration and resignation) with what God has made you (1Cor 15.10; Eph 1.3 ff.).  Remember what you are in Christ first of all, and then how you have been equipped to serve.  You will be insecure and hesitant or jealous and unappreciative until you accept what God has made you, and what he has not made you.

(6) Think graciously and warmly (rather than bitterly and critically) about the gifts and graces of others (see how Paul recognises this in writing almost all of his letters).  We can praise others easily when secure in God’s love and in our own skins.  Pray for God’s grace to be poured on others: you will find it hard to complain at the blessings for which you yourself have asked!

(7) Willingly embrace God’s providential dealings with you (Gal 4.15; 2Sam 21.17; Warfield).  God governs the distribution of our gifts and our opportunities to use them.  Physical sickness, advancing age, singleness, marriage, parenthood, all direct and constrain our service.  There is no shame in being no more than God intended!  In today’s society, mothers especially need to reject the attitude that views children as obstacles and obstruction to serving: pour yourselves into your children!

(8) Do not wait to obey: press on irrespective of the relative obedience of others (Phil 2.12-18; Mt 24.46).  The great obstacles will be your own pride, and the pride, ignorance and delusion of others.  Leave God to deal with others – strive to be all you can be to his glory!

(9) Remember that God sees all things, and your reward is with him (Col 3.22-24; Phil 2.9-11).  God is a debtor to no man.  Follow in the footsteps of Christ, and you too shall enter your reward (Mt 10.42; 25.21, 23).

We are to mirror Christ, being conformed to his image.  It is counter-natural and counter-cultural, but not counter-productive, for as Christ’s servant community lives out its humble life, Christ is honoured and his kingdom unfailingly advanced (1Cor 1.26-31).

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 8 March 2010 at 10:13

High-minded vs. humble-minded #2 Describing humble-mindedness

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[ Dissecting high-mindedness ~ Describing humble-mindedness ~ Destroying high-mindedness and developing humble-mindedness ]

Humble-mindedness is a counter-natural, counter-cultural habit of thought that sees oneself as ‘low-lying’ and therefore sincerely and genuinely esteems others better than oneself.

The world despises such an attitude: it is something to be avoided or overcome.  Paul invests it with gospel honour and calls us not just to accept it, but to pursue it.  The wilderness of the proud heart is to be cleared of the weeds of pride; the flowers of humility are to be planted in their place.

I  What is it not

(1) NOT morbidly despising and ignoring one’s own God-given gifts and graces (1Cor 15.10; Rom 12.3-8).

(2) NOT dishonest pretence with regard to plain distinctions of gift, grace, calling, experience, and spiritual maturity (1Cor 12.18-21).

(3) NOT despairing renunciation of hopeful and holy labour and ambition (1Cor 15.10, 1Cor 11).

(4) NOT a practical impossibility.

II How, positively, is it manifested?

(1) In attitudes and actions primarily regarding others.

  • Sincere joy at the gifts and graces manifested and rewarded in others (1Sam 18.8 cf. 20.31; Barnabas).
  • Imputing the best motives to others and believing the best of them (1Cor 13.7).
  • Speaking well rather than ill of others (Eph 4.29; 2Sam 1.17-27).
  • Patience with the faults, sins, weaknesses and ignorance of others (as they must bear with us).
  • Recognise, acknowledge, commend and encourage the gifts and graces given to and revealed in others (see how Paul opens his letters).
  • Readiness to relinquish what promotes my ‘glory’ for the advancement of others; a willingness to make room for the gifts of others.
  • Thoughtful willingness to promote the good of the whole body at one’s own expense, if need be (Phil 1.23-4; 1Thes 2.8-9).

In brief, a servant (not servile) attitude to others.

(2) In attitudes and actions primarily regarding oneself.

  • Patient waiting for your gifts and graces to make room for you (Prv 18.16; Paul).
  • Readily receiving warnings and counsel about genuine specks in your eye, even when delivered – often inexpertly – by someone with a beam in theirs.
  • Searching for the beam in your own eye when you see a speck in another’s eye.
  • A comely reticence to put yourself forward, not thrusting yourself to prominence and demanding attention, with a modest and cheerful silence if overlooked and underestimated (Acts 16.1-3; Prv 27.2).
  • Pursuit of transparent consistency between how we wish to be thought of and appear publicly and how we truly are privately.

In brief, a servant perspective on oneself.

These attitudes and actions give birth to most happiness when others are most exalted.  Humble-mindedness is “a genuine and sincere selflessness that seeks out how best to serve and promote the good of others and willing undertakes whatever service comes our way – high or low, public or private, esteemed or despised by men – with pure motives and earnest desires for the good of others.”

A church characterised by humble-mindedness grows in love, peace and unity: it is a community of servant-hearted men and women all esteeming and watching out for the best for one another, striving without internal jealousies and rivalries for the glory of Christ, the crowned head of the whole body.

Paul brings Christ to bear upon all excuses and obstacles: we have good reasons in our creatureliness and sinfulness for a lowliness of mind that esteems others better than ourselves; Christ is the holy Creator, who nevertheless stooped to the point of the cursed death of the cross under the wrath of God, demonstrating and displaying that very attitude and disposition that should characterise all his people.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 4 March 2010 at 08:36

High-minded vs. humble-minded #1 Dissecting high-mindedness

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[ Dissecting high-mindedness ~ Describing humble-mindedness ~ Destroying high-mindedness and developing humble-mindedness ]

It is utterly inappropriate to think in terms of a pecking order in Christ’s church, but all too common.  In Philippians 2, Paul presses upon believers a unity of mind that works itself out in lowliness of mind.

He contrasts two attitudes: one carnal, one Christian; one earthly, one heavenly; one of spiritual blight, one of spiritual beauty.

High-mindedness is the selfish pursuit of empty glory out of a desire to advance and exalt oneself.  High-mindedness esteems self better than others, provoking bitterness in oneself and frustration in others.

How does it often manifest itself in Christ’s church?

  1. A blatantly or subtly critical spirit, happy to advance over the grave of another’s reputation (2Cor 11.5 ff.; 2Sam 15).
  2. An unwillingness or inability to acknowledge one’s own ignorance, inability, faults, weaknesses, and sins – often makes excuses and rejects rebukes (1Sam 13.11-12; 1Kgs 22.8; Jn 8.9; Mt 7.3 cf. Paul in 2Cor 4.7).
  3. A desire for praise that issues in acting to be seen by others – performance for recognition and applause (Mt 6.1-2, 5, 16; 1Cor 11.19).
  4. An envious and bitter spirit of rivalry because of gifts and graces recognised in others (2Sam 19.13; 20.9-10; Lk 15.29-30; Mk 10.41).
  5. By a making known of one’s attainments, and a readiness to praise oneself if others fail to do so (Prv 27.2; 2Cor 3.1).
  6. By a proud and angry response to counsel, or being crossed or rebuked – sulking, sourness or wilful rejection (1Kgs 21.6; 22.24; Ahithophel; Jer 19.15 – 20.2).
  7. Fishing for compliments and rewards by means of self-promotion, flattery, or false self-denigration (Jude 16; Jn 12.43; Acts 12.20 ff., 2Sam 6.10-11; 15.3-6).
  8. The exercise of particular gifts and graces to the shame, detriment or exposure of others (1Cor 13.1; 14.12, 20).
  9. An unhealthy willingness and desire to stand out from the crowd – loving to have your voice heard and presence known (Lk 14.7 ff.; 3Jn 9).
  10. An unwillingness to serve in unseen or menial ways (Lk 19.17).
  11. Dissatisfaction with the extent and degree to which your gifts and graces are currently recognised – you believe you deserve more than you receive (1Sam 18.7-8; Lk 15.29; 17.9-10).
  12. A dishonest disconnect between what you are in private and what you wish to appear in public (Acts 5.2; Mt 23.3, 25).
  13. An unbalanced pre-occupation with how others perceive you (Jn 12.42-43; Rom 14.4; Mt 23.5).
  14. Speaking of that which you do not know; pretending to an expertise that you do not possess (Gal 6.3; Paul’s exposure of false apostles in 2Cor 11 – 13).

Some of these things are outwardly evident; others are matters of the heart, known primarily to self and to God.  This is the way of the world, but it creeps into the church when Satan whispers in our ears a prompt to advance our own cause.

Such an attitude robs us of pleasure in our serving, our brethren of the profit of our serving, and God of the glory of our serving.  To think in terms of a ladder to climb, a pecking order in which to advance, will end with our seeking to topple Christ from his throne.

Paul makes plain that high-mindedness has no place in the kingdom of the crucified and risen Christ (2Cor 8.8-9; Phil 2.5-11): nothing is to be motivated by a spirit of selfish ambition or conceit.  These are weeds that make the heart a wilderness: they are not to be controlled but destroyed, and the opposite cultivated in their place.  High-mindedness is to be searched out, identified, repented of, and mortified, for we have nothing of which to boast (1Cor 4.7).

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 3 March 2010 at 12:35

More on humility

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A magnificent, pointed, accurate rant from Carl Trueman.  Pointing out that self-applause is “behaviour that was previously the exclusive preserve of politicians, Hollywood stars, and chimpanzees,” he goes on:

This is madness. Is this where we have come to, with our Christian use of the web? Men who make careers in part out of bashing the complacency and arrogance of those with whose theology they disagree, yet who applaud themselves on blogs and twitters they have built solely for their own deification? Young men who are so humbled by flattering references that they just have to spread the word of their contribution all over the web like some dodgy rash they picked up in the tropics?  And established writers who are so insecure that they feel the need to direct others to places where they are puffed and pushed as the next big thing?  I repeat: this is madness, stark staring, conceited, smug, self-glorifying madness of the most pike-staffingly obvious and shameful variety.

Hooray!  Good form!  Ouch.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 30 January 2010 at 20:03

Posted in Christian living

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In a couple of weeks’ time I am preaching at a ladies’ conference in Northern Ireland on High-minded or humble-minded?  Cultivating the mind of Christ.  With that in mind (and perhaps more later), I found the following two posts at 9Marks stimulating and convicting.  They are taken from a book called From Pride to Humility by Stuart Scott.

Is pride in your heart?

Some likely indications are:

1. Complaining against or passing judgment on God (Numbers 14:1-4, 9, 11; Romans 9:20)

2. A lack of gratitude (2 Chronicles 32:25)

3. Anger (Proverbs 28:25; Matthew 20:1-16)

4. Seeing yourself as better than others (Luke 7:36-50)

5. Having an inflated view of your importance, gifts and abilities (Acts 12:21-23)

6. Being focused on the lack of your gifts and abilities (1 Cor. 12:14-25)

7. Perfectionism (Matthew 23:24-28)

8. Talking too much (Proverbs 10:19)

9. Talking too much about yourself (Proverbs 27:2; Galatians 6:3)

10. Seeking independence or control (1 Corinthians 1:10-13; Ephesians 5:21)

11. Being consumed with what others think (Galatians 1:10)

12. Being devastated or angered by criticism (Proverbs 13:1)

13. Being unteachable (Proverbs 19:20; John 9:13-34)

14. Being sarcastic, hurtful, degrading, talking down to them(Proverbs 12:18, 24)

15. A lack of service (Galatians 5:13, Ephesians 2:10)

16. A lack of compassion (Matthew 5:7, 18:23-35)

17. Being defensive or blame-shifting (Genesis 3:12-13; Proverbs 12:1)

18. A lack of admitting when you are wrong (Proverbs 10:17)

19. A lack of asking forgiveness (Matthew 5:23-24)

20. A lack of biblical prayer (Luke 18:10-14)

21. Resisting authority or being disrespectful (1 Peter 2:13-17)

22. Voicing preferences or opinions when not asked (Philippians 2:1-4)

23. Minimizing your own sin and shortcomings (Matthew 7:3-5)

24. Maximizing others’ sin and shortcomings (Matthew 7:3-5; Luke 18:9-14)

25. Being impatient or irritable with others (Ephesians 4:31-32)

26. Being jealous or envious (1 Corinthians 13:4)

27. Using others (Matthew 7:12; Philippians 2:3-4)

28. Being deceitful by covering up sins, faults, and mistakes (Proverbs 11:3; 28:13)

29. Using attention-getting tactics (1 Peter 3:3,4)

30. Not having close relationships (Proverbs 18:1-2; Hebrews 10:24-25)

What does Christ-exalting humility look like?

It will involve:

1. Recognizing and trusting God’s character (Psalm 119:66).

2. Seeing yourself as having no right to question or judge an Almighty and Perfect God (Psalm 145:17; Romans 9:19-23).

3. Focusing on Christ (Philippians 1:21; Hebrews 12:1-2).

4. Biblical praying and a great deal of it (1 Thessalonians 5:17; 1 Timothy 2:1-2).

5. Being overwhelmed with God’s undeserved grace and goodness (Psalm 116:12-19).

6. Thankfulness and gratitude in general towards others (1 Thess. 5:18).

7. Being gentle and patient (Colossians 3:12-14).

8. Seeing yourself as no better than others (Romans 12:16; Ephesians 3:8).

9. Having an accurate view of your gifts and abilities (Romans 12:3).

10. Being a good listener (James 1:19; Philippians 2:3-4).

11. Talking about others only if it is good or for their good (Proverbs 11:13).

12. Being gladly submissive and obedient to those in authority (Rom. 12:1-2, 13:1-2).

13. Preferring others over yourself (Romans 12:10).

14. Being thankful for criticism or reproof (Proverbs 9:8, 27:5-6).

15. Having a teachable spirit (Proverbs 9:9).

16. Seeking always to build up others (Ephesians 4:29).

17. Serving (Galatians 5:13).

18. A quickness in admitting when you are wrong (Proverbs 29:23).

19. A quickness in granting and asking for forgiveness (Colossians 3:12-14).

20. Repenting of sin as a way of life (Colossians 3:1-14; 1 Timothy 4:7-9).

21. Minimizing others’ sins or shortcomings in comparison to one’s own (Matthew 7:3-4).

22. Being genuinely glad for others (Romans 12:15).

23. Being honest and open about who you are and the areas in which you need growth (Philippians 3:12-14; Galatians 6:2).

24. Possessing close relationships (Acts 20:31-38).

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 30 January 2010 at 19:44

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What are you building?

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Good counsel from Barry Keldie at Resurgence that applies to all pastors, not just church planters:

Many planters also get caught up in building their influence instead of building their church. So they blog more than they study, they travel more than they should, and their church suffers. Stay focused on the task God has called you to, and build your church, not your influence. Don’t blog in the first years unless it has missional value. Don’t travel in the first few years unless it has missional value. Early on, you cannot afford to spread yourself too thin.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 4 April 2009 at 08:30


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‘Thomas Goodwin’ draws our attention to this character.  Suffenus was an exceedingly incompetent poet, eloquent on the subject of other men’s faults and blind to his own.  He was thus a self-flatterer, making a fool of himself by his ill-founded conceit.

John Owen described young theologians who think they know it all as “Suffenuses.”  Owen writes:

It has been the presumption of some, and especially of youths who profess to have dedicated themselves to this study but who have hardly gone further in evangelical studies than the reading of three or four volumes, to behave as if they alone were experts, and to consider that they are deserving of a glorious reputation among the great scholars.  Such arrogance!  Better it would be if such Suffenuses did not also go on to despise those who are truly endowed with the wisdom that they so foolishly boast of having attained to.[1]

Owen spends a good deal of his time in his Theologoumena warning students of theology of the many dangers pufferfishthat arise from the attainment of knowledge.  I believe it was also Owen who commented of his undergraduates (and I am paraphrasing from memory) that they are doctors in their first years, masters in their second, and students only in their third.  His thrust is how long it takes the young to realise how little they know, and so come to the point at which they are ready to be taught and to learn (not necessarily the same thing!).

Goodwin himself has some pointed things to say to the young and arrogant in Three Sermons on Hebrews 1:1-2[2]:

In Christ are treasures that will hold digging to the end of the world; men would be weary if they had the same light still, therefore God goes on to discover, though the same truth, yet with new and diverse lights.  Thus God reveals himself by piecemeals.

It may humble young Christians, that think, when they are first converted, that they have all knowledge, and therefore take upon them to censure men that have been long in Christ; and out of their own experience they will frame opinions, comparing but a few notes together.  Alas, ye know but a piece of what you shall know!  When you have been in Christ ten or twenty years, then speak; then those opinions which you have now will fall off, and experience will show them to be false.  They think themselves as Paul, that nothing can be added unto them; but what says Paul, 1 Cor. 13:11?  “When I was a child,” He takes a comparison from a child, as being a man, but raised up to his spiritual estate, and thou also wilt then “put away childish things.”

If God in former ages did reveal himself but by piecemeal, and if that piecemeal knowledge, which they had by inch and inch, did make them holy; for how holy was Enoch and Abraham that had but one promise; then how much more holy should we be, that have had so full a discovery!  If one promise wrought so much on their hearts, how much more should so many promises on ours!

Paul told all believers not to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think, but to think soberly (Rom 12.3).  It is a sin to which young men are particularly prone.  We ought to spend more time picking up the promises and pondering them than parading and pronouncing upon them.  The best platform for instruction is the credible holiness and spiritual maturity that comes from having been a good and humble learner in Christ’s school.

[1] Theologoumena, Book VI, Ch. 1, p. 1. / Biblical Theology, 591.

[2] Works 5:529-30.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 25 November 2008 at 19:13

A throne for Self

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James Henley Thornwell somewhere speaks of the desire to serve the living God with all one’s heart and soul and strength, and then speaks the chilling words: “. . . but self is a powerful idol.”  I recall hearing Pastor Ted Donnelly preaching on justification, and speaking of self-righteousness and self-congratulation, and the horror of finding – even in the very outward act of exalting Christ – a little voice whispering in the minister’s own mind, “Didn’t you do that well?”

I was first and most powerfully struck by this when reading a biography of the Baptist missionary, Adoniram Judson, called To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson (Judson Press).  At one point (382-3), the biographer is seeking to describe a seminal moment in the ministry of Judson, a time of extreme trial (many grievous deaths in his family).  It was his father’s death that brought poignant memories to the missionary of the “glowing ambitions” his pastor father had had for him.  Anderson writes that,

Reliving these memories, Adoniram began to realise that no matter how he had rebelled, his father had succeeded in instilling in him, consciously or unconsciously, a goal of earthly ambition, an intense determination to surpass his fellows.

Judson began to search his heart, and discerned that his fundamental desire in being and doing what he had sought to be and do was not “genuine humility and self-abnegation but ambition . . . [to be] . . . first in his own eyes and the eyes of men.”  Courtney continues thus:

He had always known that his forwardness, self-pride and desire to stand out were serious flaws in his nature.  Now he began to suspect that they were more than flaws.  They made his entire missionary career up to now a kind of monstrous hypocrisy, a method of securing prominence and praise without admitting it to himself.  He had deluded himself.  But he had not deluded God.  Perhaps here was the intention in all these deaths: to teach him true humility. . . . No wonder it took death itself, by wholesale, to teach him better.  For Adoniram’s mission, God had approval; for Adoniram and his self-love, a harsh lesson.

How truly awful to have the pall of such a conclusion hanging over the scene of one’s ministerial labours: “a kind of monstrous hypocrisy, a method of securing prominence and praise without admitting it to himself.”  Such pride and self-elevation is an act of wicked folly on the part of any child of God, but how much more so for one whose very existence calls him to decrease, that Christ might increase?

Few of us need to be taught earthly ambition by our parents; we inherit it from our first parents.  The idol-factory of the heart has a great forge in which is constantly being hammered into shape a fearful throne for that most insistent god, Self.  How often do we need to pause and ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this?  What is my true goal?”  Behind the facade of righteous endeavour, of generous effort, do we hide a drive to excel not for the glory of Christ, but for our own reputation?  Are we driven by love to self, or love to God?  How much, how often, we need to examine our hearts, to search our souls, remembering always that “self is a powerful idol” and that God may approve the work but condemn the motive.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 3 October 2008 at 09:49

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