Jan 11

What Are Your Goals in 2014?

The Right Premise 

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An old saying tells us if we don’t know where we’re going, we won’t get there. It’s also true if we don’t look where we’re going, we’ll go where we look. I guess that’s why many of us see January as a good time to either make new goals or renew our commitment to accomplish goals we let slip from previous years. Goals help us know where we want to go and help us stay focused in the right direction.

We all need to set goals and stick to habits and routines that help us live good, productive lives. Otherwise we can let life distract us. This is one of the reasons people get to the end of their lives and wonder why they didn’t accomplish as much as they wanted to when they were young and idealistic.

Goals are only as good as the premise from which we operate. If someone lives from the premise that wealth is the only important objective, the steps taken to reach that goal may land him or her in jail, or stuck in a lonely, frustrating life. The right premise produces good goals and the success that leads to contentment and joy.

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So what is the best premise from which to live? Opinions about this are many and varied, depending on the age, gender, culture or religion of the one you’re asking. Even Christians, who all read the same Bible, offer differing viewpoints. Some operate from the premise that the body is evil so everything they do is geared toward punishing and keeping the body in submission. Others believe in predestination, which colours how they live, either as one of the chosen, one of the damned or one who doesn’t know and can’t do anything about it, so let’s eat, drink and be merry. Some are preoccupied with bringing others to Christ and some live as monks, with any and everything in between.

The Bible does give an answer and it’s found in 1 John 4:8: God is love. This is the starting place for learning who God is. If we don’t start there, reading the Bible can be confusing and lead us down wrong paths about his nature and his intentions toward humanity. Without this basic premise about God, life doesn’t make sense. Difficult circumstances and crushing trials can turn us against him and others. If we don’t believe he loves us, what’s the point? Life can seem futile.

God is love is also the best starting point for daily life. Waking up each morning knowing we are loved and that he is always for us changes our whole outlook on what’s ahead in the day. We see everyone else as loved by God too, which changes how we treat them. With God’s love as the basic premise of life, any goal we set will be for our own good and the good of others.

Make God is love your starting point for the new year – for each new day – and watch what happens to your goals, your relationships and your life. It’s the right and best premise and the only way to live.

Tammy Tkach

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=311

Dec 23

New Sermons added. “Who is Jesus?” series

How do you picture Jesus in your mind?  The image we carry around of him has a great effect on how we see God and how we view ourselves and others.  In this series we look at various popular and traditional images of Jesus Christ, and look at what we can learn from them, and what we need to be careful about.

 

We will look at “The Divine Jesus”, “The Conquering Christ,” “Christ the Judge,” “The Accepting Jesus”, and finally, “The Transforming Jesus.”

We hope this series will serve as a good lead up to and through Advent and Christmas.

Our annual Carol Service is also available.

We wish everyone a very meaningful and peaceful Christmas and thank you for visiting our website.

We hope you can come and visit us at one of our church services is you live nearby or are visiting at any time!

 

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=308

Nov 07

Soldiers or Children of God?

God’s Greatest Work

To me, one of the more frightening movie scenes occurs in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, where the Orc army is assembling. They are being readied to march out to accomplish the evil lord’s purposes. The image of all those mean, beady-eyed creatures heading out to kill their enemies in cold blood makes my own blood turn cold.

When I hear people talk about God using us to accomplish his purposes, for some reason my mind turns to those Orcs, who are simply tools in the hands of their maker. They are expendable, relentless and mindless, not participants in any way except to do the bidding of their master, which is to kill as many of the good guys as possible so he can take over the world without getting his own hands dirty.

 Are Christians simply God’s army, marching as to war, as depicted in the song, “Onward, Christian Soldiers”? Are we here solely to help him accomplish his purpose on earth? And what is God’s purpose, after all?

The obvious answer is to save mankind from their sins, which he can and did do all by himself, thank you very much. And of course, he does want us to participate in helping others see his goodness and acknowledge his grace by sharing the good news of the gospel. But his purposes go a bit deeper than that. He saved us when Jesus the Son went to the cross. When we accept that as a fact in our lives, he begins the process of sanctification through the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit. And Jesus invites us to share in the relationship he has had with the Father and the Spirit from eternity.

Sharing in that relationship means we are not simply tools in his hands. We are not an army raised up merely to do battle and then go on to our reward. We aren’t expendable or mindless, although some might seem to be sometimes. No, we ourselves are God’s great purpose. The transformation of a carnal, greedy, self-centred human being is his most amazing work and it happens as we participate in his risen and ascended life.

When we see ourselves as only tools in God’s hands, I think we forget this. A tool is made for a specific purpose, is expendable and valued only as long as it fulfils its purpose. I’m sure God doesn’t see us that way. He sees us as his beloved children, whom he is transforming into the likeness of his Son, who is the radiance of his glory. He delights in us when we are worn out or broken or even when we can’t lift a finger. He doesn’t throw us out when we can no longer function and he doesn’t value us only if and when we are useful to him.

I’m not sure if the Orcs had names, but we certainly do and God knows each of his unique, marvellous children by name. A craftsman doesn’t name his tools and he replaces them when they are old. God cares for us as a mother cares for her babies, never using us but loving us and calling us his own.

Tammy

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Oct 10

Unanswered Prayer?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Joe and TammyWe believe that prayer is vital to a life of faith. Skeptics may view it as merely talking aloud to an imagined deity, but that is not our problem. The problem we face with prayer is when it seems to go unanswered. When I think of biblical examples, two come immediately to mind. The first is found in the prophet’s prayer in Habakkuk 1:1-4. Perhaps you’ve prayed using similar words:

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.

hab-prayerGod answered Habakkuk’s prayer, but not in the way he expected.

Having prayed for the injustice in Judean society to be corrected, Habakkuk was stunned when God’s answer was that the nation would be invaded by the Babylonians and carried into captivity. Instead of hearing what he hoped would amount to divine justice, Habakkuk was told that he would have to endure even more injustice. He didn’t complain nor did he deny God’s existence for not answering in the way he expected. Instead, Habakkuk received God’s answer and carried on—he was changed by prayer.

gethsemaneThe second example of seemingly unanswered prayer is that of Jesus praying in Gethsemane. There, in agony, anticipating the painful sacrifice that lay ahead, Jesus pleaded with God the Father: “Is there no other way?”

Jesus returned to this prayer after checking on his disciples, his closest friends on earth. They were asleep and after waking them, he returned to entreat God with the same question: “Is there no other way?”

Jesus then went again to seek the comfort of his friends, but they were still asleep. Then the cycle repeated itself once more.

Copyright 2013, Tim Davis. Reprinted from Leadership Journal.

My perspective is that when Jesus saw his disciples sleeping the third time, he realized the answer to his seemingly unanswered prayer. That his closest friends could not comply with his request to merely stay awake, showed Jesus that all humanity ultimately fails due to its brokenness. Thus the answer to his prayer was clear—there was no other way. Though his coming death, resurrection and ascension were not the answer that Jesus sought at that moment, he willingly submitted and carried on. He did so even with joy, anticipating what would be accomplished for his disciples and for all humanity (Hebrews 12:2).

As you know, Jesus added a supplemental clause to his prayer. To borrow from the world of insurance terminology, he added “a rider.” He begins with the words, “If there be any way that this cup can pass from me…” and then the rider: “…yet not what I will but what you will.” Jesus’ prayer was not simply a request, much less a demand. Rather it showed his complete trust in his heavenly Father. His prayer demonstrated faith lived out in action.

Though we tend to see prayer as what we say with our voices, God views it as what we do with our  whole lives—all that we say, think, hope, love, believe and desire. God’s answer to our prayer thus addresses all that we (and, ultimately, all humanity) are and need to become in relationship to him. Wouldn’t any answer from God less than that be superficial? I’m sure we’re all thankful that God has not said “Yes” to all of our requests!

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Certainly, we can verbalize our prayers to God. But since God’s relationship with us extends far beyond just listening to our words, his answers to our prayers involve more than just a snap judgment of “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait.” In prayer, we not only talk to God but also seek to discern how God is responding to us—trusting that his every response is one of loving us towards maturity in Christ. So while God may say “No” to one of our particular requests, that “No” always comes out of his wisdom and compassion for us as whole persons and so should not be regarded as a rejection of us, but as an affirmation of us as his children. Our heavenly Father is wiser and more loving than we are and so are his answers to our prayers.

I’m not suggesting here that God’s answers to our prayers only involve what he does to change us spiritually and never involve changing our circumstances, relationships and physical conditions or those of others. God is omnipresent and sees and knows the needs of everyone before we observe them. He already has his plan of redemption in motion that includes everyone, even the whole of creation. Prayer is our way of joining him in what he is doing in us, in others and in our world. However, we must be the first to understand that we do not always know what is best for all concerned, or just how he is going to accomplish all that he is doing to bring about his redemptive purposes. God’s answer to prayer takes into consideration all of time, all of space and all of creation. So we entrust all our prayers to him, trusting him to exercise his loving wisdom in his every answer. We can count on his answers to always exhibit the same wisdom and compassion we see lived out in Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnate, crucified, resurrected, ascended and coming again in the glory of his kingdom.

Rather than becoming weary in prayer and well-doing, we can carry on as did Habakkuk and Jesus. A life of prayer offered to the living, redeeming God will always remind us that our own efforts will not bring the ultimate solutions to humanity’s problems. We need God’s saving, redeeming and transforming power. We acknowledge that we lack the wisdom and all-encompassing compassion that God exercises in deciding just how he will realize his saving purposes. Incorporating our prayers into his loving and wise purposes, God will use them to help us become the Christ-like person he intends for us to be. With that perspective, we will pray more and more like Jesus—from the depths of our hearts, gladly echoing his rider, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Yours in Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach

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Sep 17

New article added: Holy Spirit; Person or Power?

You can find a new article on the nature of the Holy Spirit, “Holy Spirit; Person or Power?” on the “Pages” menu to the right.

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=293

Sep 05

The Favour of the King

The Favour of the King

Like many others, I enjoy keeping up with the British royals. The birth of the newest prince in July was exciting, not only because of the happiness of the young parents, but also because of all the history behind that little boy.

The new prince

The new prince

As I’ve read about kings and their courts and watched historical television shows and movies, I’ve noticed not only does the head that wears the crown lie uneasy (Henry IV, Shakespeare), but so did the heads of many in close proximity to the king. Anyone could be enjoying his favors one day and be on the chopping block the next. Even those closest to a king weren’t safe. In the days of Henry VIII, heads rolled with alarming frequency.

In times past, kings arbitrarily decided whether or not someone pleased them. They often used people to further their own agendas. The court and sometimes the whole country held their collective breath when a king died, as they didn’t know if they were better off with the tyrant they knew or the one to come.

It’s easy to see why legalism came about and why we confuse God’s nature with characteristics of leaders, fathers and others in authority. To those living under a monarchy, the king was almost on the same level as God. What he said was law and everyone was at his mercy, even if they thought they were too far away to be noticed.

When we misunderstand who God is, we might think he also makes arbitrary laws, that we are at the mercy of his wrath and if we stay far enough away, we can fly under the radar. After all, he’s probably too busy to worry about everyone. He’s way off in heaven somewhere. Or we think if we can just stay in his good graces, we’ll be safe. For many, it’s all about gaining his favor by being good enough.

But God isn’t like human kings. He rules the universe with love, mercy and grace. He’s not arbitrary in any way and doesn’t play games with our lives. He values and respects us as the children he created. He doesn’t decide who lives and who dies on a whim, but allows us to live out our lives and make our own choices for better or for worse.

None of us, no matter what choices we make, have to worry about whether or not we are in the good graces of our King Jesus. We live in God’s grace – constant, loving and complete. He doesn’t put limits on his grace. He doesn’t give it one day and take it away the next.  We don’t have to earn it. Grace is always available, always abundant and unconditional, just like God’s love. Under the love and care of our King, our heads can rest easy on our pillows, for we always live in his good grace.

Tammy

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Aug 15

Retreat – Camp Clayton October 21-27, 2013 “The Psalms”

We are holding our annual retreat/festival at Camp Clayton, Claytons Rd,  Bass Highway, just east of Ulverstone, starting at 3:30pm on Monday October 21st, and concluding Sunday October 27th at lunch time.

This year we have chosen the challenge of exploring the Psalms.

We plan to take an overview of their nature and how we can read and benefit from their profound and authentic approach to life, God, good and evil; life at its best and its worst.   We will then explore some specific psalms and invited participants who would like to, to share their favourite psalm, and to have a go and writing a psalm themselves.

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So why not join us for a week of rest, inspiration, fellowship, and time wandering through, wondering at, and learning from the Psalms.  Come for a morning, a couple of days or better still, the whole week.  This is a great opportunity for those on their own to find friends and encouragement, and for couples to have a time of retreat and rejuvenation.
Sessions are held each morning at 9:30am in Parkdown, except Thursday, when we have a 7:15pm session.   Saturday has morning and afternoon sessions. Cost are very reasonable.
If you would like more information please email Phil Hopwood at phopwood@internode.on.net or phone 0407 566987.

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Aug 15

Healing

Divine healing or deliberate hoaxing?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I believe that God heals. Healing was a significant part of Jesus’ ministry. It is one of the gifts of the Spirit mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12. Sadly, the Spirit’s “gifts of healing” (v. 9) have often been corrupted and distorted by opportunists and charlatans. We need to be careful.

I recall watching a 1991 ABC Primetime Live television program that exposed as fake the “healing” ministries of Robert Tilton, E.V. Grant and Larry Lea. One of the practices exposed was leg-lengthening. The evangelist would “diagnose” the person’s physical problems as related to one leg being shorter than the other, then ask God to lengthen the shorter leg. Lo and behold—before our very eyes—the shorter leg would began to grow. Wow!! Except that, as the program showed, this was just an old carnival trick masquerading as a miraculous healing.

The first time I experienced this trick, it was performed on me by my chiropractor as a joke. He had me sit in a chair and firmly grasped my legs and then held them together to reveal that one leg was two inches longer than the other. I marveled at how quickly he healed my leg by pulling and talking to my legs. I knew there was some kind of trick to this. I had been to medical doctors on a couple of previous occasions with sprained ankles and sprained knees. I’d had x-rays and MRIs and I knew that my one leg was not two inches shorter than the other. So I said, “Okay Doctor, show me the trick.” He quickly explained that it was an old trick used at carnivals. The more you practice it, the better you become at duping unsuspecting people.

There are plenty of videos that expose this practice. In one, former faith healer Mark Haville discusses his use of fakery and hypnotic manipulation (http://youtu.be/BCohlCPSLlo). Another shows two examples of the leg-lengthening hoax (http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=JC229FNU).

Over the years, I have met quite a few people who had been deceived by this hoax. I marvel that so large a number of people needing their legs lengthened did not sound an alarm in medical circles (actually, most people’s legs are slightly unequal in length, a condition that generally produces no significant physical ill effects).

The Primetime Live program showed that bogus leg-lengthening was only the tip of an iceberg of fraud. The investigative reporters examined every aspect of the three ministries, using hidden cameras and multiple interviews with experts and witnesses. They even examined the ministries’ trash bins and dumpsters, finding thousands of prayer requests that had been discarded (after removing the donations, of course). What masqueraded as Christian ministry was shown to be a racket that was making millions of dollars a year by preying on gullible people.

Why am I bringing this up? Because, although the three fake ministries were exposed, the use of their fraudulent practices continues, and leg-lengthening is having a revival. It is not my purpose to publicly expose those who practice these things; nor is my intent to call into question their sincerity. Some people who use these tricks believe they are performing genuine miracles. However, others know it is a fraud.

But we should and do pray for the sick. While praying we often anoint the sick person with oil and lay hands on them to signify God’s healing presence. However, we need to be aware of the potential pitfall in developing a ministry focused on “miraculous healings.” What may seem to be spectacular demonstrations of God’s power can open the door to profound disillusionment, turning people away from Christ and his gospel.

The gospel proclaims that God has healed our relationship with him and reconciled us to himself. We can begin to live in that new life in relationship with him beginning today. He will one day make everything new and wipe away every tear. That’s the reality. However, for now we have only temporary and partial signs of this coming hope. We have only the “deposit” (down payment, pledge or earnest) of his renewing and transforming Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5).

While God does grant signs, they remain just that—signs. And God grants such signs in ways that are not predictable or controllable by us. God remains wisely sovereign over how and when he distributes extraordinary signs and does not simply hand them over to us to dispense. That being said, we can remain open to the Spirit’s working “as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11).

Jesus is truth personified and he is the one who sets us free. He is our healer who sends his Spirit to work when, where and how he sees fit—for his glory and our benefit. .

Your brother in Christ,

Joseph Tkach

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=267

Apr 02

God of Surprise!

When we survey God’s interaction with mankind; it has always been full of surprises. Full of the unexpected and the amazing.

People have consistently had trouble accepting God and his unorthodox and paradoxical ways. Creating the universe out of nothing still boggles our minds, and those of scientists and atheists. Abraham and Sarah were surprised on many occasions, particularly by the birth of Isaac. There were surprises galore for all involved in the Exodus from Egypt, both the Israelites and the Egyptians.

Many were surprised in the OT negatively as well as positively.  Adam and Eve, and Israel were surprised when their choices to live independently of God turned out so badly, but Noah, Joseph, Moses, and David were hugely surprised by God’s rescuing them from impossible situations in ways they could never have imagined.

In the New Testament Jesus’ birth, its time and place, circumstances and implications was the greatest surprise of all.  Mary and Joseph were totally surprised by what the angels told them.

John the Baptist’s disciples were surprised and put off by Jesus.  Later even John the Baptist himself questioned if Jesus was indeed the Messiah, because he wasn’t doing what John expected.  The disciples were shocked and surprised by Jesus’ actions and teachings just about every day of their time with him.

The religious leaders were surprised and outraged by him.  Pilate was so surprised and puzzled by Jesus, that he washed his hands of responsibility for the decision about his fate.

The crucifixion was a massive surprise and upheaval the life of Peter and the other followers of Jesus.  And what we read about Jesus’ resurrection is one surprise after another.

Saul, who became Paul experienced one of the most profound and transforming surprises of all.  He went on to teach and expound the surprises of Jesus and the Gospel more comprehensively than anyone else.

So it is clear from repeated examples that with God, all we can reliably expect is the unexpected.  When we or others expect the expected, when we think we have God and his future actions all nailed down and circumscribed, then we are sure to be in for a real surprise.

Check out our Sermon Section for a series of sermons on “The God of Surprises.”

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=261

Jan 10

In Search of Knowledge

Author and evangelist Ravi Zacharias tells of being a graduate student when a new edition of Encyclopædia Britannica was released. It was a massive work that had taken 14 years to produce and he remembers being fascinated by the statistics: 200 advisors, 300 editors, 4,000 contributors, over 100,000 entries, 34 million dollars and 43 million words. In the last pages of that work, one of the editors had the audacity to conclude: “Herein contains the entirety of human knowledge.”

It didn’t, of course. It has been estimated that human knowledge doubles at least every five years. So in the 14 years it took to produce the encyclopedia, knowledge would have doubled and redoubled itself several times. So where is the “entirety of human knowledge” contained—Google perhaps? No, even with its amazing knowledge-mining capacity, Google can’t keep up.

Used with permission.

The Bible makes no such boast, though it says this about God: “Great is our Lord…his understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:5). The Bible contains many stories of people, who in encountering God discovered the depth of their lack of knowledge and understanding.

For example, when Jacob dreamed of meeting God at the top of a great ladder, his first words upon waking were: “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it” (Genesis 28:16). Then there was Sarah’s maidservant Hagar who having fled Sarah’s abuse was amazed when God spoke to her, telling her to return home. Genesis 16:13 gives her reaction: “She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the one who sees me.’”

We used to say, “the camera doesn’t lie”—but that was before Photoshop. And we used to say, “seeing is believing”—but that was before sophisticated scientific instruments revealed a world beyond the limits of our human senses. No matter how far we probe into the atom or out to the edge of the universe, there is always more. As a result, much of what we now understand to be the nature of physical reality seems so unreal. Therefore, it is pompous to boast that anything we produce contains the entirety of human knowledge. And it is even more ridiculous to claim that we fully understand God, particularly if our knowledge leads in the direction of atheism.

The Christian faith acknowledges and even takes joy in deep mysteries beyond our powers of comprehension. Jesus tells us that “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son…” (Matthew 11:27a). But mystery does not rule out a true knowing of God—an apprehension, if not a comprehension, of who God is. Jesus goes on to say why: “…and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (verse 27b).

The fact that human beings cannot know God on their own power does not mean that God cannot make himself known to his human creatures. The early church had a saying: “Only God knows God, only God reveals God.” The transcendent God of the universe has done just that, personally revealing himself in his incarnate Son. The witness of the Christian church is not that we have found God, but that God has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ.

Karl Barth once wrote: “In our hands even terms suggested to us by Holy Scripture will prove to be incapable of grasping what they are supposed to grasp.” However, as Cyril of Alexandria once said, “when things concerning God are expressed in language used of men, we ought not to think of anything base, but to remember that the wealth of divine Glory is being mirrored in the poverty of human expression.” So we must remember that even the words of the Bible, borrowed from human understanding and experience, refer beyond themselves to divine realities that far exceed the words themselves and the creaturely realities they come from.

Holy Scripture preserves for us a record of God’s acts of revelation, beginning with the prophets of ancient Israel and culminating with the apostles whom Jesus appointed. Those narratives and teachings introduce us to a God who makes known God’s invisible presence, even if now we “see through a glass darkly,” as the apostle Paul described it.

Such revelation does not tell us all that can be known about everything, but it is always profound in what it does proclaim. It is only because of the working of the Holy Spirit in and through Holy Scripture that we are put in actual contact with the living God and can hear this God speak again to our spirits. So, although the Holy Spirit does not speak directly of himself, he nevertheless goes where God wills, to surprise, to comfort and to reveal. Whether in Jacob’s dream or Hagar’s distress, God makes himself known and gathers people who respond to his outgoing love. God told Jeremiah, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do now know” (Jeremiah 33:3).

As we mature spiritually, we realize that there is much we do not know. While this makes us want to know more, we also realize that it is a relief to accept that there is much that we do not and cannot know. Our lack of knowledge and understanding keeps us looking to the One who knows it all, who wills to be known and has made himself known in Jesus Christ.

In this coming year, there will be many unknowns. The world economy will continue to cough and sputter along. Wars and rumors of wars remain a fact of 21st-century life. There will be catastrophes and technological advancements. Scientists will make discoveries, some of which will overturn previous understanding.

I pray that Grace Communion International will grow ever more sensitive to God’s leading in our lives. I pray that we respond as he shows us how he wants us to co-minister with Jesus in new and exciting ways that will shine light into the darkness as signs of the promise that God will make all things new.

With love in Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach

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