from the headmaster


“Idiotic” perseverance

May is the season of perseverance.

John Piper shared the following excerpt from the book Passion, by Karl Olsson, who tells a story of remarkable perseverance among the early French Protestants known as Huguenots. If only our perseverance could be regarded as “idiotic” by our generation.

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In the late Seventeenth Century in … southern France, a girl named Marie Durant was brought before the authorities, charged with the Huguenot heresy. She was fourteen years old, bright, attractive, marriageable. She was asked to abjure the Huguenot faith. She was not asked to commit an immoral act, to become a criminal, or even to change the day-to-day quality of her behavior. She was only asked to say, “J’abjure.” No more, no less. She did not comply. Together with thirty other Huguenot women she was put into a tower by the sea…. For thirty-eight years she continued…. And instead of the hated word J’abjure she, together with her fellow martyrs, scratched on the wall of the prison tower the single word Resistez, resist!

The word is still seen and gaped at by tourists on the stone wall at Aigues-Mortes…. We do not understand the terrifying simplicity of a religious commitment which asks nothing of time and gets nothing from time. We can understand a religion which enhances time…. but we cannot understand a faith which is not nourished by the temporal hope that tomorrow things will be better. To sit in a prison room with thirty others and to see the day change into night and summer into autumn, to feel the slow systemic changes within one’s flesh: the drying and wrinkling of the skin, the loss of muscle tone, the stiffening of the joints, the slow stupefaction of the senses—to feel all this and still to persevere seems almost idiotic to a generation which has no capacity to wait and to endure. (pp. 116-117)

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Clear and Compelling

Let me invite you to consider three excerpts that, taken together, provide a clear and compelling reason for Christian parents to embrace Christian education for their children. That embrace entails sacrifice and perseverance and devotion, but its eternal consequences are worth it.

Regents Academy can partner with parents with many purposes in education, but we partner most fully with those parents who read these passages and conclude:

  • that Huxley’s proposal is horrifying, 
  • that Van Til’s assertions are inescapable, and 
  • that Moses’ words are binding but ultimately freeing. 

Here are the excerpts in order:

Sir Julian Huxley, advocate and founding father of evolutionary humanism:

Education must be concerned with man’s place and role in nature, and its raw material is man himself . . . a lot of cargo will have to be jettisoned [from the historically Christian model of education, in order to commit to evolutionary humanism] . . . man was not created in his present form a few thousand years ago. Mankind is not descended from Adam and Eve. . . . Children are not born with a load of original sin derived from the Fall. . . . There are no Absolutes of truth or virtue, only possibilities of greater knowledge and fuller perfection. . . . How should the new humanism’s evolutionary approach take effect in education?. . . . [It needs to be] comprehensive, in dealing with every aspect of life; it must have a unitary pattern, reflecting the unity of knowledge and the wholeness of experience. It must attempt to give growing minds a coherent picture of nature and man’s role in it, and to help immature personalities towards integration and self-realization.  (from Essays of a Humanist).

Reformed theologian and professor Cornelius Van Til:

Non-Christian education puts the child in a vacuum. The result is that child dies. Christian education alone really nurtures personality, because it alone gives the child air and food. Modern educational philosophy gruesomely insults our God and our Christ. How, then, do you expect to build anything positively Christian or theistic upon a foundation which is the negation of Christianity and theism? (from “Antithesis in Education,” in Foundations of Christian Education).

Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Do you find these compelling?

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The Gain of Serving God

We had a wonderful BIG Serve, with well over 200 students, teachers, and parents going to more than 20 sites around Nacogdoches to serve our neighbors in love. Our school chaplain, Pastor Bryant Tyre, reminded us in Morning Assembly that “It’s not about you!” Instead it’s about serving God, side-by-side with one another, because we want to share the love He has shown us. It is at the core of our mission as a school to train students to serve God and their neighbor, and the BIG Serve is one key way we live out that mission each spring. I am so thankful for the spirit of service, selflessness, and grace that fills our community.

I ran across some good words from Pastor John Piper that remind us all how needful and grace-filled it is to serve the Lord God. This is why we serve Him and why we serve our neighbors at Regents Academy. What we call “Blessed In Giving” is what Pastor Piper calls “The Gain of Serving God.”

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The Gain of Serving God 

By John Piper

“They shall be servants to him, that they may know my service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries.” (2 Chronicles 12:8)

Serving God is utterly different from serving anyone else.

God is extremely jealous that we understand this — and enjoy it. For example, he commands us, “Serve the Lord with gladness!” (Psalm 100:2). There is a reason for this gladness. It is given in Acts 17:25. God is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”

We serve him with gladness because we do not bear the burden of meeting his needs. He has no needs. So, serving him can’t mean meeting his needs. Instead we rejoice in a service where he meets our needs. Serving God always means receiving grace from God to do what we have to do.

To show how jealous God is for us to understand this, and glory in it, there is a story in 2 Chronicles 12. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, who ruled the southern kingdom after the revolt of the ten tribes, chose against serving the Lord and gave his service to other gods and other kingdoms.

As judgment, God sent Shishak, the king of Egypt, against Rehoboam with 1,200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen (2 Chronicles 12:2–3).

In mercy God sent the prophet Shemaiah to Rehoboam with this message: “Thus says the Lord, ‘You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak’” (2 Chronicles 12:5). The happy upshot of that message is that Rehoboam and his princes humbled themselves in repentance and said, “The Lord is righteous” (2 Chronicles 12:6).

When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, he said, “They have humbled themselves. I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance, and my wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak” (2 Chronicles 12:7). But as a discipline to them he says, “They shall be servants to him, that they may know my service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries” (2 Chronicles 12:8).

The point is plain: serving the enemy and serving God are very different. How so? Serving God is a receiving and a blessing and a joy and a benefit. Serving Shishak is exhausting and depleting and sorrowful. God is a giver. Shishak is a taker.

This is why I am so jealous to say that the worship of Sunday morning and the worship of daily obedience is not at bottom a burdensome giving to God, but a joyful getting from God. That is the true service that God demands. In all you do, trust me as the giver.

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Re-Evaluating the Liberal Arts

In a society in which education is routinely confused with a truncated form of vocational training or as secularized ideological indoctrination, the liberal arts have gotten a bad reputation.

A book on the top of my stack these days helps to clarify the liberal arts, revealing them as the center of a powerful paradigm for classical Christian education. The book is The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education by Kevin Clark and Ravi Scott Jain. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Philosopher and author Peter Kreeft, in the book’s forward, argues that liberal arts education is no longer “mainstream” education. Rather, “the educational establishment feels deeply threatened by it.” Then he lists what he calls “eight silly objections to [liberal arts education] that are really advertisements for it.” These objections are well worth considering. They take us to the heart of what Regents Academy is striving to accomplish.

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1. It’s “divisive.” It’s not what everyone else is doing. It marches to a different drummer. It cultivates excellence rather than conformity. Yes it does. And this is actually sometimes used as an objection rather than as a selling point!

2. It’s old, outdated, unfashionable. Yes it is, like honor, courage, integrity, and honesty. It doesn’t try to tell the truth with a clock; it doesn’t practice chronological snobbery. In an age which has embraced every novelty, the true rebel is the traditionalist.

3. It’s not in line with modern philosophies: skepticism, cynicism, subjectivism, relativism, naturalism, materialism, reductionism, positivism, scientism, socialism. That’s exactly right. It’s not. It’s countercultural. It harnesses teenagers’ natural proclivity to rebel and turns that force against “the bad guys” who are now the “establishment” instead of against “the good guys.”

4. It’s “judgmental.” It believes there really is good and bad, true and false. The typical modern education is judgmental only against being judgmental, and skeptical of everything except skepticism.

5. It’s small. It’s private. It’s grassroots. It’s implemented mainly in small schools, not big ones. This is true, and it’s another plus rather than a minus. “Small is beautiful.” The bigger the school, the more standardized it has to be and the more the person tends to get lost in the system and get identified with his or her race, economic class, gender, sexual orientation, or political party.

6. It seeks the truth for its own sake, not primarily for pragmatic uses. It aims at wisdom, not wealth. It makes its graduates philosophers instead of millionaires. This is also true. But it’s not a fault. As Chesterton says, “Man’s most practical need is to be more than a pragmatist.”

7. It’s not specialized. It doesn’t include courses on underwater basket weaving or pickling and fermentation (which was actually a major at Ohio State). It doesn’t teach you clever ways to outguess Microsoft Word, or the government, or lawyers, or your professor, or the standardized tests. It just teaches you how to think and how to live. But businesses, law schools, and government agencies don’t want specialist drudges and drones; they want people who can read and write and think logically and creatively.

8. It’s religious. It’s Christian. It doesn’t pretend that the most important man who ever lived never lived, as our public education now does. It assumes that the supernatural is not the enemy to the natural, that “grace perfects nature rather than demeaning it,” as light perfects all colors.

Kreeft closes his forward with these words: “It’s precious – because children are precious.” Amen.

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Pursuing Accreditation

The Apostle Paul wrote, “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Cor 10:12). It is indeed unwise to compare yourself to yourself and then commend yourself. But consider the converse of Paul’s words: it is wise to seek to compare yourself using an objective standard outside of you; then you can allow someone else to commend you rather than simply congratulating yourself. “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (Prov 27:2).

This principle of objective evaluation is the reason for school accreditation. Accreditation is a process by which schools are examined by an independent organization who evaluates the school’s philosophy, leadership, faculty, academics, and culture to confirm that the school has integrity and is truly excellent. Once a school is accredited, then it can point to the accreditation process as a confirmation that it is doing an excellent job at educating its students and serving its constituency.

Regents Academy already holds accreditation through the Texas Alliance of Accredited Private School (TAAPS). But now we are seeking to be accredited by the Association of Classical Christian Schools (ACCS). This is the gold standard of accreditation and a goal that our school has desired to attain for many years. 

In short, this is a big moment for our school. Our administration and teachers have worked very hard to prepare for the ACCS accreditation visit, and now we will spend two days undergoing a thorough examination that seeks to insure that our school is meeting a high standard of excellence in classical Christian education.

On Monday and Tuesday three gentlemen, all fellow classical Christian educators, will be on campus observing classes and interviewing staff, students, and board members. We have intentionally planned these days to have as regular and uneventful a schedule as possible. Please join us in encouraging your children to make these days smooth and helpful (and hopefully less stressful for teachers!) by being well-rested, in uniform, and ready to learn and obey. In fact, these are good goals for every day!

Thank you, parents, for allowing us to serve your family in this highest of callings – the call to provide a Christ-centered education for our children. Thank you for praying for us, too – we certainly covet your prayers. With the Lord’s help, we will attain this worthy goal of ACCS accreditation.

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Classical Education: A Few Simple and Direct Words of Explanation

Classical Christian education is a new and exotic animal for many Regents Academy parents. I always appreciate finding simple and direct explanations of many of the concepts, otherwise unclear or unknown, associated with our school’s philosophy of education. Below are a few questions and brief answers by Douglas Wilson that get right to the heart of several of these issues. I hope they are a help to you and also a way for you to be able to share what you’ve found with others.

What is classical education and how does it benefit the student?

Classical education refers to two principal things. The first is the structure of the curriculum, which follows the medieval Trivium. This consists of grammar, dialectic (or logic), and rhetoric. In her wonderful essay “The Lost Tools of Learning,” Dorothy Sayers observed that these three stages of the Trivium correspond nicely to three basic stages in child development—what she called the poll parrot stage, the pert stage, and the poetic stage. Classical education instills the elements of the Trivium at the ages of the student when acquiring that element is most natural. When the process is over, the student has acquired the tools of learning. The second aspect of classical education refers to the content of the curriculum, which emphasizes the great works of western civilization—Homer, Virgil, Herodotus, Augustine, Beowulf, and so forth.

Some parents may be put off by classical education because Latin is a central element and they’ve had no background in the language. Why is the study of Latin important? 

Over 50% of English vocabulary comes from Latin. Learning Latin is a wonderful way to strengthen English vocabulary skills, not to mention learning how grammar works. I learned some things about English grammar when I first learned Latin. Latin is also the foundation of modern Romance languages—it is a wonderful platform from which to learn Spanish, French, Romanian, Italian, and so on. And then there is a literary element. Many of the great works in English literature presuppose a knowledge of the classical world and, to a lesser extent, a knowledge of their languages. Finally, Latin is a great mental discipline, which carries over into other subjects. The study of Latin certainly enriches a student.

Because of its emphasis on “intellectualism” and because works from the pre-Christian era are part of the curriculum, some people may view classical education as incompatible with the Christian faith. What is your response to these concerns?

It is quite true that students should not be simply “turned loose” in the thickets of pagan literature. The Greco-Roman world was incompatible with the Christian faith—until the Christian faith overthrew it. Now that this has happened, we simply must take into account the nature of that battle. The New Testament cannot really be understood without understanding its context, which happens to be the context of the classical world. Jesus was born in the reign of Caesar Augustus. Gallio threw the apostle Paul out of court—and Gallio was the brother to the famous Stoic philosopher Seneca. Paul cast a demon (lit. a spirit of a python, a snake that was sacred to the god Apollo) out of girl at Philippi, and the story suddenly makes more sense. So classical education, rightly understood, rejects a cold intellectualism and rejects any attempt to combine Christian and pagan categories.

Many jobs in today’s society are specialized, especially those in technology and the sciences. What is the value of a classical education in light of such an environment? Is classical education for everybody?

The point of classical education is to teach the kids how to think, giving them the tools of learning so that they can reason things through themselves. The point is not vocational training primarily, and this is why it is such good vocational training. This is not to say that classical education is for everyone (I do not believe that it necessarily is). But I do want to say that a classical Christian education should be available in every community, so that it is at least an option for every Christian household.

Douglas Wilson is the author of Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, The Case for Classical Christian Education, and many other books and articles associated with classical Christian education. You can find his books on Amazon.com and many of his materials on line.

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The Lesser Known Demon

Here are some wise words from teacher and author Josh Gibbs at the Circe Institute blog: “The Lesser Known Demon.”

There are two kinds of demons. Nearly everyone is familiar with the first kind. Almost no one is familiar with the second kind.

The first kind of demon is simply the demon of folklore. He comes to tempt, to whisper lies, to deceive a man into rejecting God. The first kind of demon is a Baal or a Dagon, who con men and distract them from the truth. Such demons betake themselves to bridges and cliffs and invite innocent passersby to leap off for no good reason. These are the malevolent beings who suddenly fling foul thoughts into a man’s head so that he will needlessly question himself, form a base opinion of himself, and act accordingly. We have read of such demons in Scripture, for they throw children into fire or water, or incite a man to cut himself with stones. These demons are commonly known by every nation of the world, Christian and heathen alike.

However, there is another variety of demon whose work is wholly unlike the first, for he is not a tempter or liar. The first kind of demon is highly intellectual, and, as Milton suggests in Paradise Lost, has been meticulously studying mankind for nearly eight thousand years now. The first kind has a file on you which is several feet thick. He knows your weaknesses, your strengths, and perpetually strategizes on how best to snatch your love of God. The second variety of demon is not so cunning, though. The second variety of demon does not labor to trick a man into sinning, but simply helps him get away with the sin he has already committed.

This demon has a name in the infernal kingdom. He is known as a cellar demon, for any sin which a man gets away with is cellared in his soul to ferment and grow rich and heady. While not all demons are of one mind on the matter, a great many fiends would prefer a man not commit a certain sin than that he commit that sin and immediately be found out. Demons are not so impatient as you might have been led to believe. For instance, if a demon has the chance to tempt a man to drunkenness on a Friday night, yet knows the man will be caught, or the demon can wait until Sunday evening to do his tempting, and knows the man will not get caught then, well, the average demon will wait. Many thousands of years ago, the much-celebrated demon Belial wrote a highly influential book entitled Stored Up Wrath. The very famous first line of that book is, “I play the long game,” and to this day, lesser demons encourage one another with those words on a daily basis.

You see, nothing mucks up the work of a demon quite like his subject getting caught, for getting caught leads to punishments, self-reflection, witnesses, the loss of anonymity. Contrary to what most human beings think, getting caught usually restores community and reinforces crumbling bonds of unity. There is little which is truer in a man’s soul than his deep-down yearning to be found out, for a man cannot be known until he is found, and every man wants to be known.

Cellar demons are not free, and tempters must hire them at exorbitant rates. A cellar demon is like an insurance policy which is taken out after a successful round of temptation. The cellar demon comes along and covers over a fellow’s tracks, brushes evidence under the rug, alerts the sinner to remove certain clues, directs the attention of the authorities to different matters. Teenage boys often believe themselves far more clever and sneaky than they truly are— it is rarely their own craftiness which allows them to get away with sin, and far more often the work of cellar demons. Cellar demons charge more to conceal the sins of teenage boys than they do the sins of housewives or the elderly, but tempters always pay up. Cellared sin is simply that valuable in the teenage soul. 

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Why Christian Education?

“Why Christian education?” This is a question that we need to ask and answer again and again. You and I sacrifice to send our children to a school that forthrightly exalts Jesus Christ as Lord. Here at the beginning of a new year, it is good to be reminded that we are doing so for excellent reasons. So in that spirit, here are “10 Big Ideas to Consider” from the website discoverchristianschools.com that are great reminders of just how important it is to commit ourselves to providing our children with a Christ-centered education.

1. There are basically two kingdoms: a kingdom of light and a kingdom of darkness. It seems strange to have those who walk in darkness educate children of light. It doesn’t fit.

2. If Jesus Christ is Lord, then He is Lord of all. We cannot divide things into secular and sacred.

3. All truth is God’s truth, and God’s Word sheds light on our path. Only in His light can we see light. Education is not focused on possibilities but on certainties found in God’s Word.

4. Deuteronomy 6 tells parents that, in all they do, they should provide a godly education 24/7.

5. Three key institutions that shape a child are the home, the church and the school. Children are served best when all three institutions point them in the same direction.

6. Only an education that has the liberty to address the whole child — social, intellectual, emotional, physical AND spiritual — reaches the possibility of excellence.

7. The best preparation for effective service is to be well grounded in one’s mind before direct engagement of the culture.

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A Miscellany of Wise Quotes

Christopher Perrin, from An Introduction to Classical Education:

What makes a classic? The word classic is flexible and ambiguous. It derives from the Latin word classis, which originally meant a “fleet of ships.” It came to refer to groups of people—classes of people. In English it preserves this meaning as in a class of 1st graders. It also has a connotation that means of the highest order—something classy is very good or first class. The Latin word classicus referred to the highest class of Roman citizens. The word classic preserves this meaning of being the very best. Thus scholars like Mortimer Adler refer to classics as books of enduring value. Books that are called “great books” are usually synonymous with “classics.” However, books that are classics are enduring works, meaning they are older works, proven by positive assessment over time. It is possible for a new book to be a great book, but only after wide, critical acclaim and influence. It will take time, however, for new great books to become classics, if indeed they pass the test. Charles Van Doren referred to great books as “the books that never have to be written again.”

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Russell Kirk:

…being educated, they will know that they do not know everything; and that there exist objects in life besides power and money and sensual gratification; they will take long views; they will look backward to ancestors and forward to posterity.For them, education will not terminate on commencement day.

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John Buchan:

Our greatest inheritance, the very foundation of our civilization, is a marvel to behold and consider. If I tried to describe its rich legacy with utmost brevity, I should take the Latin word humanitas. It represents in the widest sense, the accumulated harvest of the ages; it is the fine flower of a long discipline of Christian thought. It is the Western mind of which we ought to turn our attentions to careful study.

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Sir Philip Sidney (1595)

This purifying of wit, this enriching of memory, enabling of judgment, and enlarging of conceit, which commonly we call learning, under what name soever it come forth or to what immediate end soever it be directed, the final end is to lead and draw us to as high a perfection as our degenerate souls, made worse by their clay lodgings, can be capable of.

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What Were You Looking For?

Here’s a good word from a friend, Headmaster Ron Gilley, from Trinitas Christian School in Pensacola, Florida. I hope that if you haven’t already made the same discovery he did, you will one day.

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What Were You Looking For? 

When my wife and I first visited the school fourteen years ago, it wasn’t because we were looking for classical education. We were looking for Christian education to be sure, but we didn’t even know enough about classical education to ask a good question about it. Seeing was believing for us that day though, and one tour of the school during a normal day of classes convinced us that this classical education was worth a try.

The truth of the matter is, we had two things in mind for our children: safety and the best education our town had to offer. Our motives were similar to those of most parents, I think. It is a pretty safe bet that we all want our children in a safe and nurturing environment, and most would agree that a good education is important. At that time, though, we weren’t thinking about education as something that molds virtue into young people as they grow. We were thinking about the kind of education that would help our children get into good colleges so they could get good jobs. As time wore on, however, we began to see that not only was this classical Christian education backing up everything we were trying to do with our children at home, it was also taking them further in some ways than we ever could have taken them alone.

Even in the early years of Grammar School our boys were learning about events and characters from history and literature and the Bible that we had been robbed of in our own education. Their learning about these events and characters and biblical principles was challenging what we knew about the world and even challenging who we were. We embraced the challenges and began to learn alongside our boys, to read books we never knew existed, to dig deeper into Scripture, and to challenge our own shallow assumptions about God. We were amazed at the precision of thought our boys had acquired by the time they had worked their way through the Logic School. They were beginning to question what they saw in the world and to make arguments for and against. In the Rhetoric School, they began to mature in every way. Their thought processes began to be informed by more than just logic, more than simply winning an argument. It was as if they began to slowly realize that some questions were so big that the argument could never be won for either side in this life. They became gracious, aware of the fact that they could do nothing to save themselves, that they were dependent upon Christ. And this way of thinking began to shape the way they viewed others. They began to mature into young men who saw this life as something far more important than a time and place to chase what the world, indeed what their own parents only fourteen years earlier, would call success.

My boys are far from perfect, but they are headed in the right direction in many ways as are thousands of classically trained students who graduate every year. What’s more is that the journey our family has taken through classical education, an unexpected journey to be sure, has left us with a very different reward from the one we set out to get, and a far better one. Oh sure, getting into good colleges hasn’t been a problem, but it’s no longer the primary goal. I don’t know what you were looking for when you first came to our school, but I can promise you this: if you open yourself up to the process of classical education, to the goodness of being marinated in God’s holy Word and learning to view all of creation through it, then your reward will be great, even it is different from the one you set out in search of.

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