Attitudes Essential to Evangelism

Title: Attitudes Essential to Evangelism

Bible Book: Acts 8 : 26-40

Author: Mark Adams

Subject: Evangelism; Soul Winning



One of my favorite true stories centers around a chapter from the life of the colorful nineteenth century violinist, Nicolo Paginini. It all happened toward the end of one Paganini’s concerts. He was accompanied by a full orchestra and was playing a very difficult piece of music before a packed house. Suddenly in the middle of the piece one string on his violin snapped and hung down from his instrument. When this happened, beads of perspiration popped out on Paganini’s forehead. He frowned but continued to play-improvising beautifully. Then to the conductor’s surprise, a moment later a second string broke. And shortly thereafter, a third. Now, there were three limp strings dangling from Paganini’s violin but amazingly the master performer was able to complete the difficult composition on the one remaining string. The audience jumped to its feet and in good Italian fashion, filled the hall with shouts and screams of, “Bravo! Bravo!”

Then, as the applause died down, Paganini asked the people to sit back down. And-even though they knew there was no way they could expect an encore-they obediently sad back into their seats. When they did Paganini held the violin high for everyone to see. Then, with a twinkle in his eye, he nodded at the conductor to begin the encore and shouted, “Paganini…and one string!” Then he placed his single-stringed Stradivarius beneath his chin and played the final encore piece on ONE string, as the audience-and the conductor-shook their heads in silent amusement. What an attitude this man had! I mean, was he an optimist or what!

I decided to share this story with you today because I think it illustrates a very important truth-and here it is:

When it comes to accomplishing overwhelming tasks, ATTITUDE is everything.

This is a principle that we must remember because the fact is, as Christians we have been given an overwhelming task to accomplish. Remember? In Matthew 28 Jesus commanded us to “…go and make disciples of ALL NATIONS.” This should be familiar to you because for the past couple months we’ve been studying about how the first church began to accomplish this colossal task.

And, those early Christians obviously had the right attitude because they did a phenomenal job! As we noted last week, in just 27 years they had taken the good news of the Gospel all the way to Rome! But the fact is, WE’VE still got a LONG way to go before this task will be done. There are still millions of people who have not heard of Jesus’ love-and it’s our job to tell them!

Billy Graham once said:

“The evangelistic harvest is ALWAYS urgent. The destiny of men and of nations is ALWAYS being decided. EVERY generation is strategic. We are not responsible for the PAST generation, and we cannot bear the full responsibility for the NEXT ONE; but we do have OUR generation. God will hold us responsible as to how well we fulfill our responsibilities to this age and take advantage of our opportunities.”

Did you get that last part? Dr. Graham said, “God will hold US RESPONSIBLE as to how well we fulfill OUR responsibilities…” And he was right! We-right here and now-we are the current stewards of the Gospel-it is our job to take it to our generation! I don’t know about you, but when I think of this GREAT unfinished task, I feel like old Paganini holding a one-stringed violin! It seems impossible! If you feel the same way-then pay close attention to this morning’s study-because as I said a moment ago, when it comes to overwhelming tasks, ATTITUDE is everything. And, as Charles Swindoll points out in his book, Strengthening Your Grip, this next text from Acts contains six attitudes that helped the early church to spread the Gospel throughout the then known world, the same six attitudes we must embrace today if we are to do our part in fulfilling the Great Commission our Lord has given us.

Okay-you’ll remember that last week we looked at the first part of Acts 8 and we saw there how Philip had gone to Samaria and shared the Gospel. We learned that when he arrived and began to preach and minister, a great revival broke out. God richly blessed this part of Philip’s ministry. Thousands came to faith in Christ through his preaching. Think of him as “the Billy Graham of the 1st century.” I mean, the work in Samaria couldn’t have been going better-and that’s where this morning’s text picks up. Take your Bibles now and follow along with me as I read Acts 8:26-40.

26 – Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road-the desert road-that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”

27 – So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship,

28 – and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet.

29 – The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

30 – Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 – “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 – The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so He did not open His mouth.

33 – In His humiliation He was deprived of justice. Who can speak of His descendants?

For His life was taken from the earth.”

34 – The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”

35 – Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 – As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”

37 – Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch answered. “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

38 – And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.

39 – When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.

40 – Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.


Now, as I said, this text begins by describing an unusual time of blessing on the early church. The revival in Samaria was growing and spreading. Since he was the chief evangelist Philip was an important part of all this. Peter and John had been sent to inspect the work, but they had then gone back to Jerusalem to report. So Philip was alone now-the front-line man in this great revival. He seemed to be utterly indispensable. But at that moment God called him away-and this is where we see our first necessary evangelistic attitude:

I. The attitude of SENSITIVITY.

Think of it. Seemingly out of the blue, God told Philip to take off for the desert. No reason was given. No arrangements were made for someone to take his place in Samaria. There was just a command to go. How easy it would have been for Philip to be so caught up in the excitement and electricity of that Samaritan revival-where God was obviously at work-that he wasn’t sensitive to a new direction. But, not this guy! No, he was alert and ready. He was sensitive to God’s leading. He had walked with God long enough to know that He has the right to throw a surprise curve-and in fact often does.

I mean, Philip could have said:

“All right, Lord, I’ll go-but NOT NOW. We’ll get to that region but later in the proper time. Things are going great here now. It’s not the time to leave.”

Or he could have said,:

“NOT ME, Lord. I’m needed here. What about the 12 apostles sitting up in Jerusalem? You gave them the Great Commission too. Send one of them.”

Or he could have said,

“NOT THERE Lord. Not that desert area. Nobody even lives down there, plus at noon it’s 135 in the shade. No one ever travels that road-especially at this time of day God. I need to stay here because this is where the action is.”

But Philip didn’t say anything like this. He was mature enough to trust God’s leading. He knew that God knows more than we know, that as God says in Isaiah 55:8 says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are My ways your ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” And if we are to complete this great task of evangelizing the world then we too must embrace this attitude of trusting God’s perspective-being wise enough to be sensitive to His leading. We must always keep our spiritual “ears” perked up and tuned so as to hear God’s instructions.

At the Building A Contagious Church conference Bill Hybels talked about this principle of always being sensitive to the Spirit’s leading-even when it doesn’t make sense. He shared that like all husbands, one of his responsibilities is to take out the garbage. Apparently being the pastor of a mega-church doesn’t get him out of this husbandly chore so every Tuesday night he can be found dragging the cans out to the curb. One cold January Tuesday evening he was hurriedly doing this chore. In fact, he hadn’t even bothered to put on shoes. His plan was to drag the can out as quickly as possible and then run back in before his toes froze. I’m sure you men have done the same thing. I know I have. Well, as he started tip-toeing quickly down the driveway he noticed that his new neighbor from across the cul de sac was taking the garbage out as well. As Hybels left his own can at the curb, made the quick turn, and started to sprint back up the driveway, he heard God’s voice say, “Go walk across the cul de sac and introduce yourself to that guy.” Hybels said, “It’s cold God-my toes are freezing off. I’m sure he’s cold too. I’ll do it another time.” But God said again, “Go walk across the cul de sac and introduce yourself to that guy. Welcome him to the neighborhood.” So, somewhat reluctantly Hybels did. He walked across the cul de sac and said something like, “Hi, I’m Bill Hybels, your neighbor across the street. Welcome to the neighborhood.” And in return his neighbor said, “Nice to meet you, I’m so and so. I own the new car dealership.” And then they both pivoted and returned to their respective homes.

Well, Hybels said that, amazingly enough pretty much every Tuesday night for the next year, whenever he took his garbage out, his neighbor just happened to be doing it as well and they began to talk a little each time. To make a long story short, every time Hybels’ did his garbage duty, God’s Spirit would prompt Hybels to talk a little more to this guy. And through these conversations around the garbage can they became close friends. Hybels learned that is neighbor was not a Christian. His neighbor learned that Hybels was a believer and pastor at Willow Creek. And eventually Bill Hybels led him and his family to Christ.

Understand, it all began with his attitude of being sensitive to the leading of the Spirit of God. Like Philip, Bill Hybels knows that God sees more than we see. He knows more than we know. And if we let Him, He will guide us to people who need to hear the good news of the Gospel. Now let me ask you. “Is there a ‘cul de sac’ that God has been prompting you to cross?” “Is there a hall at work that God has been saying, ‘Walk across there and talk to that new co-worker.’” Perhaps you have a neighbor you’ve never talked to but you heard he just had open heart surgery and God said, “Take him a fruit basket. Encourage him in his recovery. Offer to help.” If we’re going to win this world for Jesus, we all need to be sensitive to these kind of promptings because if we are, God will direct us to hurting people-people who need to hear about Jesus. This leads to the second attitude we must embrace…

II. The Attitude of AVAILABILITY.

Think of availability as sensitivity’s siamese twin because it doesn’t do us much good to be open to hearing God’s call if we’re not willing to follow it. And the fact is, when we ARE willing and able-when we make ourselves AVAILABLE, exciting things happen-as we see here in this example from Philip’s life. Look back at verses 27-28:

“…there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship. And he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah.”

Now, let’s be sure we all understand exactly who this Ethiopian was. This guy was a very high-ranking official in the Ethiopian government. He worked for the “candace,” which is another word for “queen” so he reported to the Queen of Ethiopia herself and was in charge of the entire nation’s treasury. This desert traveler was the second most powerful person in Ethiopia. You see the kings of this African nation were thought to be incarnations of the sun god and as such the every day affairs of running the country were beneath them. So the real power lay in the hands of the queen mother and this eunuch worked for her. Now, back then Ethiopia was much larger than it is today. It’s borders covered a huge chunk of Africa south of Egypt-the whole region of the upper Nile-from Aswan to Khartoum. And-this is the same nation from which the Queen or “candace” of Sheba had come back in the days of King Solomon. So there had already been a link between that area and Judaism. The Bible tells us that the Queen of Sheba had been greatly impressed with Solomon. Perhaps he had shared the Scriptures with her. Maybe that’s why this man came to Jerusalem. I don’t know. But for some reason he had gotten it in his mind that in Jerusalem, 1200 miles away, there was a religion that he should investigate if he was serious about finding God. He was probably like many people of his day who were weary of mankind’s worship of multiple “man-made” gods and the loose morals that go with that kind of false worship. So understand. This guy wanted to find truth. He yearned to fill the emptiness-that God-shaped hole that is in all of us-so he traveled many hundreds of miles from his home-all the way to Jerusalem. And, the fact that he could afford to make such a long journey is another indication of the fact that he was indeed a wealthy, influential man in his country.

Now, I don’t know about you but I can’t read this text without sensing a note of disillusionment. This guy had come all this way to investigate the Jewish faith but he is going home dissatisfied. He had no doubt discovered that he could not enter the temple. After all, Deuteronomy 23:1 said, “No one who has been emasculated…may enter the assembly of the Lord.” So he was left out-and he was going home empty-handed-but not completely empty-handed. You see, while in Jerusalem he apparently purchased a copy of the book of Isaiah. Perhaps he was drawn to this particular book because Isaiah 56 speaks to his situation saying:

“Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from His people. And let not any eunuch complain, ‘I am only a dry tree.’ For this is what the Lord says, ‘To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, who choose what pleases Me and hold fast to My covenant, to them I will give within My temple and its wall, a memorial and a name. I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.” (Isaiah 56:3-5)

In any case as he traveled along he was reading out loud from this scroll. This was the custom. Luke tells us he was reading from chapter 53-that foundational text that prophesied Jesus’ birth, life and ministry, substitutionary death and victorious resurrection. But these powerful words puzzled this Ethiopian-and just at the precise moment that he began to yearn for an answer to his questions, Philip came walking by and God said, “Go to that chariot Philip and stay near it.” He did and as he drew near he heard the man reading from Isaiah. Is God’s timing perfect or what!

Well, the fact that Philip was sensitive to God’s Spirit and obediently made himself available for this assignment made it possible for him to be involved in a truly exciting Divine encounter. Now-think of it. Like his Master, Philip was willing to leave the cheering crowds in Samaria and deal with one lost soul. And, that’s God’s way. He not only cares about the masses and throngs. He cares about the individual. That means that out of all the billions of people on this earth, God knows YOU. He knows your name. He knows all about you. He cares about you. We see this same quality of love in Jesus’ ministry. Remember? There was A demoniac who needed soundness of mind and Jesus went to him. There was A teacher-Nicodemus-who needed birth from above and Jesus spent an entire evening talking with him, answering his questions. There was A prostitute by a well who needed someone to guide her out of the shadows and Jesus ignored the prejudice of the day and initiated a conversation that led to her salvation. There was A thief on a cross who needed His redemptive promise in the hour of his death and Jesus gave it to him. Jesus never neglected the ONE for the crowds. He was and is the Great Shepherd Who isn’t satisfied with ALMOST all of the sheep in the fold but goes out searching for the one who is lost.

And He calls us to this same individual-one-on-one-type of caring ministry.

By the way, let me remind you once again that this is the most effective type of evangelism-one-on-one. Surveys show that nearly 90% of the people who come to faith in Christ come not through a massive church visitation program or a great evangelistic crusade but through a friend…a Christian who is sensitive to the leading of God and makes himself AVAILABLE for God to use to reach out to ONE lost soul who is seeking God.

You know, people have often asked me:

“Mark if Jesus is the only way to Heaven, then what about those who never hear the gospel-those people groups who live and die in remote regions where missionaries have not yet come? What about them?”

Well, I don’t understand all of how God will deal with this, but I trust His love and I trust His justice-PLUS I think we see here at least part of an answer to this question. You see, like this Ethiopian all human beings have an inborn longing for God. And when they respond to that by seeking God they find him. God sends Christians, like He did Philip, to tell them about His great love. As God says in Jeremiah 29:13,“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

What about you? Are you making yourself AVAILABLE to God? Do you embrace an attitude where you say as Isaiah did, “Here am I Lord. Send me. I’m ready, willing and available to go where you need me to go.” This leads to a third attitude all effective evangelists must embrace…

III. The Attitude of INITIATIVE

God told Philip to stay near the chariot and he did. Then when he heard what the man was reading, he took the initiative to run up to the chariot and ask, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Now-doing this took a lot of courage because there were probably soldiers guarding the Ethiopian. He may have even had huge bodyguards armed with razor sharp swords close at hand. So, running up to this chariot was dangerous-the troops could have interpreted it as an attack but Philip bravely did so anyway. He trusted God’s guidance so he didn’t worry about the guards. Plus, he didn’t wait for the man to lean out of his chariot and holler, “Excuse me but do you happen to be an Old Testament Scholar?” No, he saw his God-given opening and he took it. He was sensitive enough to God’s Spirit to see that God had been there before him, preparing this man for his visit.

We need to realize that as well. God does go before us in every witnessing encounter so we can confidently take initiative like Philip did here. This is important because there are still people like this Eunuch today. They hunger for God but they don’t know how to find Him. You’ll find them experimenting with cults or drugs or false religions, listening to radio and TV evangelists. Or even reading their Bible but not understanding what they’re reading. These kind of people are everywhere-and the same Spirit Who sent Philip to this Ethiopian wants to direct you to them as well. They need somebody like you or me to care enough to have the initiative to chase down their “chariots” and tell them about Jesus.

Let’s review some examples of how you might “run up” o some modern “chariots.” Let’s say your children play with the next door neighbor’s children. Well why not “run up to your neighbor” and say, “My child is singing in a musical at our church. It’s based on a best-selling book called Experiencing God. Why don’t you bring your family to hear it?” Then when they come take the initiative to ask them, “What do you think about that song they sang about God being like a Father to us?” Or go to another neighbor and say, “How would you like a few hours of peace and quiet a few mornings a week this summer? Our church is holding sports camps in the mornings. We could drop the kids off and then go shopping.” Then, ask them what they think about the devotional their kids heard that day.

We need to take the initiative to find God-given openings like this and use them. Remember Romans 10:13ff says,“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of Whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone telling to them?” Christians, we need to take the initiative to TELL THEM.

The fourth essential evangelistic attitude Philip displayed was…

IV. The Attitude of TACTFULNESS.

I mean, as you look at the things he said and the way he said them you can see that he was completely unoffensive. He didn’t pull out his text book on apologetics ready for an argument.

He didn’t swagger up with his thumb in his suspender toting his concordance under his arm. He wasn’t out to impress or convince. He came graciously with only one simple question. “Do you understand what you are reading?” There is no hint of offense or put down in his approach. He genuinely wanted to know if the stranger in the chariot understood those words. Plus, he listened without responding as the man confessed his ignorance. Philip wasn’t pushy. He graciously awaited an invitation to climb up into the chariot before doing so. He started where the man was, rather than cranking out a canned sermon. Not once did he put the man down or pull rank, or attempt to impress. He gave the stranger space to think it through without feeling foolish. In short, he displayed courtesy and tact. It is important for us to do so as well. We must remember that it is the CROSS that will be offensive, not the one who witnesses.

Evangelism isn’t some sort of assault by the God squad or some spiritual mugging mission where we shove the gospel down people’s throats. Those in-your-face tactics never work. No-to fulfill our part of the Great Commission we must be polite-tactful-gracious. In her classic book, Out of the Salt Shaker and Into the World, Rebecca Pippert tells of a time that tactfulness helped in her efforts to share her faith. She writes:

“One person who was quite hostile to what she perceived was Christianity once told me in anger, ‘I can’t stand those hypocrites who go to church every Sunday. They make me sick.’

‘Yes,’ I responded, ‘isn’t it amazing how far many people are from TRUE Christianity! When you think of how vast the difference is between the REAL thing and what they do, it’s like worlds apart. Every since I’ve discovered what Christianity is REALLY about, the more mystified I am.’ ‘The real thing? What do you mean by that?’ the woman asked. We then talked for an hour about faith because her hostility had been changed to curiosity.”

Pippert’s conversation illustrates the fact that tact means that-rather than arguing we try to find a way to agree. Rather than attacking we show genuine concern. We always uphold the dignity of the individual. That’s what Philip did-and then when the time was RIGHT he came to the point, which leads to a fifth attitude we must embrace….

V. The Attitude of PRECISENESS.

In response to Philip’s tactful question, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” the Ethiopian said, “How can I unless someone explain it to me-so tell me please, Who is the prophet talking about, himself or Someone else?” And then Philip began with that passage and began to tell him the good news about Who? Jesus!

Right! Philip didn’t give the man any highfalutin philosophy; he didn’t issue any “turn or burn, forsake or bake” threats or scary prophetic charts about seven-headed apocalyptic beasts. He didn’t even give him any irresistible promises of cloud-nine peace or answers to all of life’s problems. He just told him precisely what he needed to hear, the news of Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death on our behalf.

We must practice this same precision in our evangelistic endeavors. If we don’t, people will pull us down the rabbit trail discussions of evolution or the latest church scandal. We must remember, that like Paul, we are called to PREACH one thing: CHRIST CRUCIFIED! This is the news people need to hear. This is the message they will respond to.

John Bisagno, pastor of FBC, Houston, tells a story about an evangelist he invited years ago-back during the cold war-to lead his church in revival. For the first three nights the evangelist preached hard-hitting messages about the evils of communism. Each night when the invitation was given, no one came forward. Finally the evangelist said, “I don’t understand why people aren’t responding to the invitation.” Bisagno said, “What do you expect them to do? Come down and join the FBI?”

JESUS-and JESUS ALONE-must be the focus of our evangelistic message because faith in Him is the only issue that matters. This reminds me of the story of the little boy who returned home after his first Sunday School class. His other asked, “Who was your teacher?” And the little boy answered, “I don’t remember her name, but she must have been Jesus’ grandmother because she didn’t talk about anyone else.” Now, let me ask you. Could you be that precise? I mean, could you do like Philip and take that Scripture from Isaiah and tell this Ethiopian about Jesus. Could you do that? Remember, as Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.” Well, do you know your Bible well enough to do this? Could you take it and use it to point someone to Jesus? If not-then learn how. Get active in Sunday School and a good Small Group Bible study. Commit yourself to a daily quiet time. Train yourself to use the Sword of Truth.

So to review. If we are to do our part in completing the Great commission we need attitudes of sensitivity, availability, and tactfulness. We need to always be ready to take initiative and must be able to tell people about Jesus with Scripture-laden precision. But one further attitude Philip modeled was…

VI. The Attitude of DECISIVENESS

As they rode along and looked at the Scriptures-as Philip told Him of Jesus’ life and ministry and death and resurrection-I think Philip finally came down to the point that he told the Ethiopian about Jesus’ ascension and of His final command to, “Go make disciples of all nations, BAPTIZING them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” About that time I think they came upon a pond of some sort-a wadi in the desert-and at that point the Ethiopian said, “Well, look, here’s some water. I want to be a disciple. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”

Now, later manuscripts include a verse 37 where Philip says, “If you believe with all your heart you may.” and the eunuch answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Some scholars don’t think this verse was in the original manuscripts but I disagree because after his experience with Simon the Sorcerer who had feigned a faith in Jesus-and then just gone through the motions of baptism, well, Philip would have seen a need to make sure about the Ethiopian’s faith. He didn’t want the Simon deal to happen again so he explained to him that belief precedes baptism. He made sure this man understood how to become a Christian before he baptized him. And we, need to be just as decisive. We must be careful not to assume. There is a point in every evangelistic encounter when we must encourage people to make the decision to confess their faith in Jesus. Well, Luke tells us that they went down in the water and Philip baptized the Ethiopian. And the moment he brought the man up out of the water God’s Spirit suddenly “took him away.”

Interestingly enough, this is the same word we find in 1st Thessalonians 4:6-17 where it says that when Jesus returns we will be “caught up” to meet Him in the clouds. So basically, Philip was raptured here-but instead of ending up in the clouds with Jesus, God took him to Azotus, his next evangelistic assignment. Sometimes when we’re shopping I think my wife has been raptured. I’ll turn my head and she’ll be gone. I’ll look and find her all the way across the store!

Well, tradition says that this Ethiopian then went home and shared the Gospel with his nation.

And prophecy foretold the results. Psalm 68:31 says,”Ethiopia will quickly stretch out her hands to God.” So understand, by witnessing to a single person, Philip had an impact on an entire continent, further proof that the attitudes he embraced are important-vital if we are to complete the Great Commission.


Now as we always do, we are going to sing a hymn of invitation-to give you the same opportunity that Philip gave the Ethiopian-an opportunity to decide to believe in Jesus and to make that decision public by walking the aisle. Christians present-I would encourage you to be sensitive to God’s leading as we sing. Is He calling you to a decision? Is He telling you of a “cul de sac” or a hall at work or a yard you need to cross? Is He telling you that you need to join this church and serve Him here? Come now and share the decisions God has laid on your heart.

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