You Are Chosen! Sample Chapter: Time to Gear Up

Chapter Nine

Martin Mawyer and Jerry Skirvin

It may be difficult to visualize Christians decked out in suits of heavy armor—with military grade helmets, breastplates, shields, swords and other combat equipment.   Paul’s description of the armored Christian calls to mind a Roman soldier marching off to meet Hannibal. This is in stark contrast to characterizations of the modern-age Christian, frequently portrayed as meek, nerdy, feeble and sissified, like the children of Ned Flanders on the cartoon The Simpsons. Today’s prevailing notion of Christians would seem to have them collapsing under the weight of such heavy armor.

It brings to mind a poster I once saw slapped to a wall in a church hallway. It depicted a Christian man who was small, frail and wimpy holding the hand of a very tall, muscular-looking and forbidding nonbeliever and leading him into a church building. I found the poster nauseating. 

Why, I wondered, do Christians insist on depicting themselves as weak and spindly human beings, mere antlike figures in front of the nonbelieving world or at best a kind of Mr. Rogers, if you will? Is our history not rich with warrior heroes—Moses, David, Samson, Joshua, Gideon, Joab, the New Testament apostles, not to mention Jesus Christ himself?

The Apostle Paul understood this and believed Christians should never project themselves as timid weaklings who are prone to fainting spells and panic attacks at the mere thought of a confrontation.

Instead, he expects us to suit up with the “whole armor of God” and go into battle fully prepared for victory.

Paul tells us God’s armor includes a belt of truth, a breastplate of righteousness, shoes for the preparation of the gospel of peace, a shield of faith, a helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit. This armor is designed to help Christians achieve victory in the evil day over the “wiles of the devil” and “having done all, to stand.”  (Eph. 6:13)  

What is important to know about this armor is that every component is needed to achieve that victory.  

So let us gear up. We have at our disposal:

The Belt of Truth

It is fitting that the belt of truth should be the first armor mentioned: a leather strap encircling the waist. The waist reveals all that we have consumed. It reflects what we have digested. In this spiritual analogy, the waist is a repository of the eternal truths we have absorbed from feeding on God’s word.  

Knowing the truths of God keeps us from being brainwashed and sinking into a cesspool of falsehoods that the liberal left is constantly keeping full for us. We are continually bombarded with such lies as: There is no God. If there was a God, he is now dead. There are no inherent differences between men and women. Individuals can freely determine their own sex and race. An unborn child is not yet a human with the right to live.

Homosexuality is normal and harmless behavior. Gay marriage is equal to marriage. Sin and Satan do not exist.  

Readers of this book might regard these untruths as hard to miss, but for many Christians that simply is not the case. Large numbers of Christians—and churches and denominations to boot—promote homosexuality and gay marriage as normal and even question the very existence of God.

The Rev. Gretta Vosper stood in the pulpit of her United Church of Canada and told her congregation, “I don’t believe in supernatural powers, or Heaven or Hell.” After she made this stunning announcement, many congregants told her that they, too, had their doubts about God’s existence. According to Vice News, which published the story, “They carried on without God.”

The Rev. John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister in Elizabethton, Pa., also says he does not believe in God. “God is a symbol of myth-making and not credible as a supernatural being or force,” he told Charisma News. There is no “afterlife,” and the “Bible is a human product,” he added. 

Megachurch Pastor Michael Walrond Jr. told his Harlem, N.Y. congregants that believing Jesus is the only way to heaven is “insanity.”

“If you don’t believe in Jesus you are going to Hell. That’s insanity in many ways because that is not what Jesus even believes,” Pastor Walrond said.

There is even something called “Christian atheism” infiltrating churches. It consists of people who like the overall teachings of Christ but reject the idea that He is supernatural or has redemptive powers. Most Europeans would consider themselves Christian atheists.

According to Lifeway Research, an organization that “equips church leaders with insight,” only 24 percent of Christians surveyed in America could agree with this statement: “Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.”

The answer to this survey question alone demonstrates the pitifully meager knowledge many Christians have of God’s truths. They have belts made of cloth rather than of leather and metal.

In another shocking survey, conducted by the Barna Group and the Seed Company in 2018, it was revealed that less than half of American churchgoers are familiar with the “Great Commission,” a term used to describe Jesus’ call to evangelism found in Matthew 28:18-20. 

The belt, in Paul’s analogy, is truth positioned as the centerpiece of God’s entire armor. Satan can easily distort our ideas of Christianity and what it means to be a Christian if we lack knowledge of the truth. We will in fact be rendered naked before our enemies.

His truth shall be your shield and buckler. (Ps. 91:4)

A Breastplate of Righteousness

Knowing that you have right standing before God is critical to being a Christian warrior.  When engaging the enemy, a lack of confidence that God is on your side, or feeling that you are too unworthy and sinful to be of any use to God, will diminish your ability to confront what Paul describes as the “wiles of the devil.”

It is important to understand just what it means to be righteous. It has nothing to do with the sins, failings and struggles in your life. If it did, no one would ever qualify as being righteous before God.

The first account of anyone having righteousness before God can be found in Gen. 15:5-6. God told Abram to look toward the heavens and count the number of stars, promising him that if he could do so, “so shall your descendants be.” Abram believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. As a seal of that righteousness, God commanded Abram to be circumcised.  

To fully appreciate Paul’s armor, this must be completely understood.

First came righteousness due to Abram’s faith in God and then came circumcision as a seal of that righteousness.  (Romans 4:11)

Being righteous before God has nothing to do with going to heaven. It means that you are right before God because you have faith and belief in His promises. Abram didn’t need to perform any special act to earn that righteousness other than have faith in God’s promise. Christ did not exist at the time of God’s promise to Abram, so there was no redemption for sin available. Nevertheless, Abram still had right standing before God because of his faith.

This is why Paul makes a distinction between a “breastplate of righteousness” and a “helmet of salvation,” which is mentioned as a separate piece of armor later on. These are not interchangeable pieces of armor.

Having a breastplate of righteousness when confronting God’s enemies is imperative because the enemy will hurl accusations at you for the sole purpose of discrediting your integrity, morality, honesty, trustworthiness and honor. They will dredge up past and current sins. They will attempt to drive a wedge between the Christian and his or her brothers and sisters by pointing out any flaws, indiscretions, and mistakes. They will use exaggerations, lies and rumors to attack your dignity and competence.  

Some accusations may be true. Some may not be. Some will be distorted, usually exaggerated. Their goal is to rip the heart out of the believer’s chest and separate him from God, which is exactly why “righteousness” is depicted as a breastplate covering the heart.

None of us, by his own merit, is worthy to be right before God. We cannot attain such worthiness through anything we do. Because of our faith and belief in God, though, we are considered righteous before Him and nothing can ever separate us from Him or His love—neither persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword!  (Ro. 8:35)

There is no question that the enemy will lash out with accusations, condemnations and spurious denunciations to marginalize Christians and expose them to public condemnation. Liberal activists, the media, “educators” and celebrities, to name just a few, will work for your demise. But the Apostle Paul asks, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? Who is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns?”   (Ro. 8:34 NASB) The answer is: Only God justifies and condemns. It certainly is not these enemies of God.

Often, though, it will not feel that way when one is serving as a Christian warrior. I personally have been accused of being a white supremacist and a fascist (I am neither and act like neither). I have been accused of stirring up violence and vengefulness and even of inspiring others to commit murder. None of this is true. But like all other Christians, I have past sins and current struggles that cause me to fall short of the glory of God. I go into battle each day knowing that these lies and sins can—and will—be used as daggers to pierce my heart and kill my message and make me feel unworthy to be God’s warrior.

This is why the breastplate of righteousness is so vital. You must know that regardless of your past and present sins and struggles you are right before God, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” (Phil. 3:13 NASB)

If only they with perfect, stainless lives could publicly promote and defend God’s truths, then no one would qualify for the job. Sadly, even Christians rail against their brothers and sisters as soon as they discover a sin in those people’s lives, even if that sin happened years or even decades ago.

Our breastplate of righteousness stands as a defense against anyone trying to destroy our ministry. Bear in mind this truth: “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Ro. 11:29 NASB) No one, be they Christian or non-Christian, can take away your calling or gifts.

Shoes of the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace

This has nothing to do with the actual preaching of the gospel, but rather with its defense. Remember that Paul is telling Christians to put on armor that will provide protection against the wiles of the devil. So each part of the battle gear should be viewed as an item needed for protection. The key word in the name of this piece of armor is “preparation.” We must be preparedto defendthe gospel of peace.

Paul makes this clear when he tells the church at Thessalonica that he is “set for the defense of the gospel.” (Phi. 1:7) He is ready to answer any question, defend any scripture and uphold any doctrine in the face of any adversary. He warns that there are those who would “trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.”  (Gal. 1:7)

As discussed previously, Satan has sown the Kingdom of God with weeds, those who want to distort the Holy Scriptures and reject their most fundamental teachings. We see this in daily assertions that homosexuality is healthy and normal, gay marriage equal to actual marriage, abortion is morally acceptable and without cost, the Trinity does not exist, non-Christians go to heaven, that there is no real difference between God and Allah. Such biblical distortions occur both outside and insidechurches, on an ongoing basis.

Adherents of Islam, for example, claim theirs is the one true religion and that Allah is the one true God. Islam in fact finds its roots in the Judeo-Christian Bible. Muhammad said that Allah wanted to make corrections to these Holy Books because they are full of errors and he claimed that an angel named Gabriel appeared to him in a vision. Gabriel told him, Muhammad said, that the real “gospel” of salvation is a story of purification by doing good deeds—prayers, almsgiving, fasting and righteous living—which may or may not get you into heaven.

Interestingly, the Apostle Paul foretold such lies when he said, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8) Take that Muhammad.

A warrior must be prepared to defend what he believes; otherwise that soldier will be susceptible to lies, propaganda and deception. Such was the case during World War II, for example, when many German soldiers and citizens alike were convinced that Jews, the physically handicapped, homosexuals and the mentally disabled were subhuman and worthy of actual extermination. This occurred even though nearly 100 percent of the German population claimed to be either Protestant (66 percent) or Catholic (33 percent). Quite obviously, the majority of these “Christians” of Germany did not have their feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace and failed to make a defense of the gospel message.

Not only do we need to know the truth (the belt), but we need to prepare ourselves to defend the truth (the shoes).  

The words of the Apostle Peter are instructive here: “Always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Pet. 3:15 NASB) That is being prepared for the gospel of peace.

Bottom line: “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Cor. 16:13 NASB)

The Shield of Faith

We know where faith comes from:

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  (Ro. 10:17)

And we know what faith is:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  (Heb. 11:1)

Paul also tells us that faith is a shield that can quench the fiery darts of the wicked one.  (Eph. 6:16) Above every other piece of equipment with which we gird ourselves, Paul says, the shield is the most important. Without it, the rest might as well be made of papier-mâché.  

The rest of Paul’s armor is found attached to the body itself—the helmet, breastplate, shoes and belt. A shield is something quite different. It is intended to protect the entire body. It is the first, mobile mechanism of defense that must be defeated before the other elements can be successfully attacked. Also, it is the only armor Paul specifically mentions as having a single, direct enemy: “the wicked one.”

If Satan can break down our faith—make us feel hopeless, insignificant, worthless, confused, exasperated—it is easy pickings from then on to whittle away at our defense of truth, our relationship with God, our efforts to defend the Gospel.

We immediately picture the shield as something we hold, a heavy piece of equipment that must be swung from side to side and up and down with incredible, superhuman dexterity. The slightest error, the slightest hesitation could mean a fiery dart to the head or heart.

But … that is not the case. As God told Abram, “I am thy shield.” (Gen. 15:1) King David stated, “The Lord is my strength and my shield.” (Psa. 28:7)

The shield is God and it is not something we wield with our hand and forearm. It is an all-encompassing shield of protection of a Divine nature. It cloaks our entire human body, not just the outer flesh, but the mind, soul, spirit and emotions as well. We cannot see it, but we know it contains the substance of things hoped for—victory over Satan, his downfall under our feet, the knowledge that the gates of hell shall never pull us in.

To the Christian warrior, cracks in one’s shield can be devastating. Make no mistake, Satan and his army of principalities, powers, rulers and spiritual hosts have no other goal than to achieve complete victory over God’s people and to win their capitulation. For Satan this is not a part-time job. He does not get depressed, sullen, lethargic, ambivalent or even frustrated about it. He is not a quitter and you can be sure he has no intention of surrendering. He will find any crack in your shield and exploit it to the fullest.

This battle is not for the faint-hearted. Yet we are all called into this confrontation from the moment we accept Jesus Christ into our lives, for we have been told that, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”  (Ro. 16:20 NASB)

Those are yourfeet being referred to, the feet of Christians. That is our goal—crushing Satan and freeing his captives. We have to do it while “fiery darts” are being launched directly at us.

Faith allows us to see victory despite outward signals and appearances of defeat. Who would have predicted, for instance, that after the death of their leader (Jesus Christ), eleven poor, uneducated and politically powerless men could turn that fallen leader into a revered household name over the entire globe that gave birth to the most sought-after religion known to mankind.

That is faith in action—the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

The Helmet of Salvation

As mentioned earlier, the armor of salvation is different from that of righteousness.  Righteousness makes us rightbefore God. Salvation, however, is our gateway to heaven.

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Ro. 10:10)

Righteousness and salvation are clearly two different things.

Abram’s righteousness was sealed through circumcision. For us, righteousness is sealed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Eternity is our hope, which gives us confidence and security even in the face of death—an ever-present possibility in every place on Earth.

This is no less true today than it was a thousand years ago. According to Open Doors USA, a nonprofit organization that focuses on persecuted Christians around the world, one in twelve Christians alive today now faces “high, very high or extreme persecution for their faith.” As recently as between the years 2005 and 2015, 900,000 Christians were martyred, an average of 90,000 Christians each year. It is something you do not hear much about in the mainstream news media, and it is highly unlikely to be discussed even in church.

Through righteousness we know we are acceptable to God and no one can destroy His love for us—not with words, actions, violence or even the taking of our lives. With the helmet of salvation protecting us we know that even if the worst befalls us, we will rest in the loving arms of God and Jesus Christ for all of eternity.  

It means a lot that this armor of salvation is on the head, protecting the whole head—eyes, nose, mouth, ears and brain. Regardless of what we see, hear, say, think or even inhale (think about the Christians in Syria who have been targeted with chemical weapons) we know that with the helmet of salvation there is nothing man can do to us.

In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:11 NASB)

Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  (Matt. 10:28 NASB)

Of course we all hope and pray never to be placed in such situations. But as we know, many Christians and Jews already have been and still are.

The surest means of preventing such deadly encounters is to make sure society never plunges into a moral abyss, into total human corruption or paganism. Throughout history, the combination of man-made ideals, fabricated laws, godless social norms and false religions have steered society into direct and violent conflict with those who hold and cherish biblical beliefs. The story of Lot is an excellent example. The Sodomites wanted to rape Lot, possibly kill him, for trying to protect his male visitors from the city’s violent sexual predators. The citizens of Sodom were far beyond any words of reason, respect or godliness. They wanted sex with God’s holy angels, even if it meant killing Lot. Such environments lead straight into deadly encounters for the righteous.

The more society adopts falsehoods in place of God-given truths, the greater the risk to Christians and Jews—something both religions have painfully experienced in the past and are currently experiencing in lands where Muslims and Hindus dominate. Do not be misled: America—the land of ultimate religious tolerance—is no exception. The United States is currently witnessing an ever-growing and vitriolic hatred toward Christians, spurred on by secularists, humanists, atheists, relativists, agnostics and radicalized Muslims.

This was on display in 2018 In Jupiter, Fla.  

Corey Johnson, a 17-year-old Muslim, watched an online video produced by the terror organization ISIS which told him to kill non-believers. After being invited to a sleepover at a friend’s house in the gated community of BallenIsles Country Club, Johnson slit the throat of Jovanni Sierra, a friend of the family, while she slept. When the mother in the house heard Sierra’s screams she went to investigate. Johnson was waiting for her at the top of the stairs and stabbed Elaine Simon a dozen times. When Simon’s son, Dane Bancroft, ran to her aid and attempted to rescue his mother, Johnson attacked the 12-year-old and stabbed him thirty-two times. The young girl died, but the mother and son were rushed to the hospital where, miraculously, both were expected to recover.

The police report read: “In his statement, Johnson advised he stabbed the victims because of his Muslim faith.”

Examples such as this are why Paul encouraged us to “take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” (Eph. 6:13 NASB)

This is also why the Hebrews author praised the mighty men of God—David, Gideon, Samson and others—who through faith “quenched the violence of fire.”  Which brings us nicely to the final piece of God’s armor for Christians.

The Sword of the Spirit

This is not a literal sword, of course. Paul identifies the sword as “the word of God.” It is a sword that is keen for many reasons. 

It is sharper than any human-made, two-edged sword and can pierce the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and can discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)

It is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training. (2 Tim. 3:16)

It gives both light and understanding to the naïve. (Ps. 119:130)

It is right and true. (Ps. 33:4)

It is Jesus Christ in the flesh. (John 1:14)

But what makes this sword really remarkable is that the word is already written into the hearts of man. When you speak the word of God to people, using this powerful sword, you do not need to convince them you are right. They know that you are right, whether they want you to be or not. The truth is already there, absolute and pristine, accusing or excusing their deeds.

For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another …  (Ro. 2:14-15, emphasis added)

Just as penicillin works by getting into the body and bursting deadly bacterial cell walls, the Word of God works by getting into the hearts of men and bursting their falsehoods and evil plans. It is sharp and surgical. It penetrates marrow and joints, spirit and soul.  It exposes thoughts and intentions that are not in alignment with the Word of God.  

For those who are simply naïve in their wayward thinking or wrongdoing, the Word of God gives light. It helps clarify the law already written in their hearts. For others, who are determined to reject the word of God, it brings out hatred, wrath, violence and evil.  They would rather “work around” their sin than obey God’s Word—figuring they can negate the effects of sin using science, medicine and medical procedures, or they can simply reinterpret God’s Word to fit their own preferred behavior. They might, for example, say that since Jesus never personally and explicitly condemned homosexuality, gay sex must be okay.   

There is little doubt that such willful refusal to walk according to God’s Word and His salvation is leading a rapidly growing number of Americans into what sociologists now call “deaths of despair”—deaths by drug overdose, alcoholism, murder and suicide. Sin engenders depression, illness, psychosis and even death to those who let themselves be immersed in it. Sin breeds despair, hopelessness and, most fundamentally, separation from God. In 2017, U.S. hospital admissions for opioid overdoses increased by an astounding 30 percent over the previous year, with the young being hit hardest. It is impossible to find true happiness, peace and comfort without God, but drugs have unfortunately become the predominant way for people to ignore, forget, obscure or simply reject the Word written in their hearts.

When the sword of God is used to impart truth, you are thrusting Jesus Christ into the life of that individual. Jesus is the Word and that Word has power.

Pastor Julius Zant of St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Salisbury, Md. understood this when a gunman entered his house of worship in December of 2017. Pastor Zant said the attacker burst through his church doors during a Bible study and demanded cash and cell phones.  

After one parishioner put her cell phone on the table, Pastor Zant stood up and said, “No, we’re not having this. We’re not doing this.” He then walked over to the gunman and said, “Leave, in Jesus name.” The pastor said he immediately saw a change in the gunman’s demeanor, as if “this wasn’t the right thing for him to do,” he told the Christian Post.

After backing off just a bit, the intruder again pressed the muzzle of the gun against the pastor’s neck, saying, “I don’t want to do this.”

Pastor Zant told him, “Well, then don’t do it.  You don’t have to do this.”

At those words, the gunman left.

The courageous Pastor Zant showed how the Word of God cuts deeply into the heart of man. He also learned that other protection is needed as well, however. He immediately beefed up security at the church, started locking its doors and placed a guard at its entrance. 

It is sad and disconcerting that churches, presumably the safest places on Earth, are now under such frequent attack even in America. In only the past few years, examples are plentiful.

Devin Kelly murdered twenty-six people and wounded twenty others at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Emanuel Samson killed a woman and wounded six others at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Nashville. And who can forget the day Dylann Roof walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, S.C. and shot nine worshippers to death.

Simply promoting pro-family values can inspire violence, as the Family Research Council learned when Floyd Corkins walked into FRC’s Washington, D.C. headquarters in 2013 and shot a guard. Corkins said he was angry over the organization’s biblical position on homosexuality.

The situation for churches has become so desperate that local and federal law enforcement agencies have begun hosting forums on how churches can protect themselves. Alabama state legislators even pushed a “Stand Your Ground” law for churches that would permit the use of “deadly physical force” against anyone who tries to physically attack or kidnap an attendee, including anyone attempting to gain unlawful entry into the church.

These attacks serve as reminders to us all to suit up daily with the armor of God and be prepared to fend off attacks both spiritual andphysical.

In Summary:

The belt of truth keeps us from being swallowed up by the lies, illusions and faulty rationalizations of the world. The breastplate of righteousness affirms that God looks on us as being acceptable in His sight, regardless of the world’s efforts to condemn us for any shortcomings we may have. The shoes of the Gospel help us to be prepared to make a defense of the hope that is within us. The shield of faith allows us to see victory in spite of the outward appearance of defeat. The helmet of salvation is our guarantee that regardless of what happens to us, we will be redeemed into the arms of our Lord.  Finally, the sword of the spirit allows us to cut deeply into the hearts of man, illuminating and freeing the Word of God that is already within them. 

Then there is this final note.  Paul concludes by saying:

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.  (Eph. 6:18)

Prayer is the preparation we undertake before putting on our battle gear, with an eye towards being watchful. Who would risk going into battle and being blinded by the plans of the enemy? We must persevere too, Paul says. There are no quick and easy victories.  We must pray continually for our brothers and sisters. The battlefield can be grueling and messy. It can be dangerous and lonely. It can be exhausting and frightening. There is not a soldier in the world who will tell you they do not want or need the support of their friends back home. Our prayers give our front-line Christian soldiers strength, hope and courage as they stand in the defense of the Gospel.

Every morning we must be prepared and dressed for action, lest the enemy devour us.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking who he may devour. (1 Pet. 5:8)

An un-armored Christian will be an easy prey.

Read more in “You Are Chosen!” Click here if you prefer to order through Amazon.

Martin Mawyer is president and founder of the pro-family Christian Action Network, based in Lynchburg, Va. He has written and produced numerous documentary films and books, including the best-selling book Twilight in America. Mawyer began his career as a journalist in Washington D.C. before becoming editor of Dr. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority Report in 1983. 

Jerry Skirvin served as an assistant and political adviser to Dr. Falwell. In 1979 he was appointed regional coordinator of Dr. Falwell’s groundbreaking pro-family organization, the Moral Majority. Throughout his 40-year career he has worked with numerous traditional-values organizations and their leaders, including Col. Oliver North, the Rutherford Institute and Liberty Council. 


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