Facing The Fire

Understanding How To Overcome Fear In Difficult Times

Tim Lundy
Mar 14, 2020    36m
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How can we overcome fear in difficult times? As Christians, we can stand steadfast in our faith that God is in control and trust Him. Today's message will look at the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and how their faith delivered them from the fiery furnace of King Nebuchadnezzar. Video recorded at Los Gatos, California.

Transcription
messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Tim Lundy (00:00):
Well, hello Venture. It is certainly different for us to be engaging online like this. And I wish that we were together this weekend. But I am so thankful that we live in an age with this kind of technology that we can worship together, that we can continue to connect, that we can continue to go to God's Word and be the people of God. And we've always said, the church is not a building. The church is the people of God and what Christ is doing in it. And so this is our opportunity to live that out right now. You know, it's changing every day. The mandates are changing every day, how many people can gather together. I'd encourage you, continue to monitor online as we send out new updates, ways that you can connect. Want you to use wisdom, want you to be in prayer about it and want you to know that as a church, we want to serve you. We may not be able to do some of the things we would normally do.

Tim Lundy (00:56):
But as pastors, as staff, we are looking for ways that we can pray for you, connect with you, serve you and serve our community as well. And so before we start this message, I thought we'd take just a few minutes and let's go to God in prayer. Will you pray with me? Father, I thank you. I thank you for how you have blessed us. I thank you for just the protection that we have, that you have given us medical care, that you've given us opportunities that ages past people just didn't have. And so while this current pandemic scares us, while there's certain things about it that we don't understand and we feel totally out of control at times, we just want to stop right now and just declare together, we know you're in control. We know that you are God. We know that you were not caught unaware by this. And so that's why we turn to you.

Tim Lundy (01:57):
Lord, I pray for those who are watching. Maybe some are watching, they're struggling with illness themselves. I pray that you'd be with them. Lord, I pray for those who feel just waves of anxiety and fear right now. I pray, would you meet them where they are? Lord, I pray for your church, not just our church, but your church around this planet. Would you use your church during this time to step forward, to move into it, to be the hands and feet of Christ reaching out to those in need? Lord, I pray that we would be a people of prayer, that we would recognize the power of what we're doing right now, that there's nothing more powerful we can do than go to the God of the universe and cry out for your help. Lord, I pray you'd speak through this message, use your Word. I thank you that what you've done in the past, you continue to do and will do in the future. And we pray these things Christ's name. Amen.

Tim Lundy (02:59):
Well, if you've got a Bible, I would encourage you to turn to Daniel 3, Daniel 3. And it's interesting. When we laid out this series months ago, you know, we laid out preaching through Daniel, we had no clue what was coming. But it's interesting to me how God's Word is living and active and it speaks to our times. And so we're going to look at a story today that happened 2,600 years ago. It happened in human history. It happened with some other followers of God and in their circumstance, in their crisis, we see God work in a way that gives us hope for our current crisis. Now we're facing different circumstances. We're looking at three guys that we know is Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. This is a pretty famous story in the Bible in Daniel 3. And in it, a lot of times we teach it to children.

Tim Lundy (03:54):
We teach it in Vacation Bible School. And I think sometimes we lose the power of what God did in these circumstances. If you're new to this series, we're looking at Daniel and his friends. They've been taken captive from Jerusalem. The nation of Judah has been destroyed. And these young men were taken to Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar is the ruler of the world at that time. Babylon is a greatest kingdom and they're part of that household. And God keeps meeting them there as they're serving in Nebuchadnezzar's court. And last week we looked at it as Nebuchadnezzar, this great, powerful ruler. He's brilliant in some ways, but he's very narcissistic. And he also has, his ego gets out of bounds. And so he'll do rash decisions in it. And in the chapter this week at the beginning of Daniel 3, you'll see as Daniel is not in the picture. We don't know where he is.

Tim Lundy (04:49):
And all we have is Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And Nebuchadnezzar has decided to unify his power by building this huge statue in his honor. And so the statue's described. It's 90 feet tall. It's made of gold, about nine feet wide. He places it right on the Plains of Dura it says, and that's right near the capital of Babylon. And he brings leaders and rulers from all throughout the kingdom and he assembles them there. And he set it up in a way like they have their own national anthem. He says, when you hear the music play, I want everyone to show their allegiance to me by bowing down. And so the music plays and everyone bows down. And as you think about this, I mean probably an easy way to picture this would be like a totalitarian regime that we've seen throughout history. I mean if you think of the rallies that that Hitler would have where they'd line up all the people, and as a sign of allegiance called them to say, hail, Hitler there or see the same thing in North Korea. There were several rallies like this or in Soviet Union in times. That's the picture here. It's a pretty dark picture here as this one ruler is declaring everyone needs to worship him. And he's also declaring allegiance to the kingdom.

Tim Lundy (06:11):
Now, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they refused to bow. They're still honoring God despite the fact that they're in another kingdom. And the first of the 10 Commandments declares you'll have no other gods before me. Second one declares no idols before me. And so in allegiance to God, they find themselves in the circumstance where they cannot obey their ruler. And so they don't bow down. And some of the other officials see it. In fact, they are jealous of these guys because of the ways that God's been blessing them. Look at it in verse 12, as they point it out. They run to Nebuchadnezzar and notice how they highlight them. They say there are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon. These Jews that you put in charge, we wouldn't have done it, but you did. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, these men, O king pay no attention to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. Notice how they highlight them. These certain Jews. You see a certain amount of antisemitism here.

Tim Lundy (07:19):
They're pointing out their race. You know, when things go into crisis or when things are difficult, you see the worst of humanity. In fact, we see it right now in our current crisis. It's been interesting to me as we're dealing with this worldwide coronavirus/COVID-19 and yet different circumstances where people are blaming Chinese or people are blaming Asians in it. I've seen circumstances where people have been attacked. And I look at that and I go, it's the worst of humanity. It's absolutely opposite of what Christ has called us to do. He doesn't look at people that way. And yet you see this. It's as old as time as people point this out. So they bring this to Nebuchadnezzar's attention. And Nebuchadnezzar's furious. I mean he's determined. If you don't bow down, the punishment is you're thrown into a fiery furnace. And you can see a picture. They excavated. This is what the furnace would be like. This opening here is about 10 feet tall. Give you an idea how big this is. It was usually built into a hillside. This was a furnace that was excavated from that time period. And so we can see exactly what it was like. The hillside here, where they would go and put material in the top of it that they wanted to burn. And then the ashes here could be removed or they could see what was happening through this opening. And so Nebuchadnezzar brings these young men and he points to the furnace and there's a fire raging. And he gives them one last opportunity. Man, he looks at him. He goes, all right, guys, I'm going to make sure it's clear.

Tim Lundy (08:54):
Look at verse 15. As he says, now if you're ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, the pipe, the lyre, the trigon, the harp, the bagpipe, he's got all these instruments. They're about to play the music. And when you hear this, every kind of music, I want you to fall down and worship the image that I've made well and good. I'm giving you the last shot. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning, fiery furnace. And I like this line. He throws it out almost as a taunt at them. And who is the God who will deliver you out of my hands? You hear his ego? This narcissism, this power. And he goes, hey, I'm in charge here. I'm in charge of your life. I'm in charge of your death. And I'm giving you one last opportunity. You either obey me or you're in the fire. Now, how would you respond in that circumstance? It's easy for us because we know the story. We've taught the story. But if you're where they are on this side of the furnace, you're looking at a raging fire and I've got this raging leader, this narcissistic man, who's looking at you going, either bow down to my image, my statue or I kill you. What do you do in this circumstance? How do you prepare for time like that?

Tim Lundy (10:22):
You know, we've been looking at Daniel and his friends, and we don't know where Daniel is in the story. He's probably traveling in another part of the province. And so now it's these young three and their leader's gone. Notice how they prepare for it. Look at their response. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this manner. In other words, they're saying to him, hey, tell the band to put their instruments down. Nobody needs to play any music. You don't need to give us another opportunity. We've already determined what our decision is. And here's what I'd say for all of us as we face this circumstance or as you face other trials in life. Notice from their example, and this is what I take away from it, you've got to decide your convictions in advance. You have to decide where you stand before you get there.

Tim Lundy (11:23):
See, it's when you're in the circumstances, when you're under the pressure, when life is unraveling, when it gets hard, that's when your convictions are going to be tested the most. And you don't want to wait until that moment that you go, am I really going to follow God or not? Am I really going to obey or not? These three look at him and they go, you don't have to play the music. You don't have to give us another opportunity. We know where we stand. We know that fundamental to our lives is our relationship with God. And God has told us, man, you don't have any other gods. You don't have any other idols. You don't worship anything else. And so we know where we stand on that. You know, during this current time is that I think about we're going through this as a church and I think about it individually, personally, with my family. The one thing I hold onto the most is my relationship with God. I mean for us as followers of Christ, we know because of Christ, we have God is with us and God is going through this in it. And we hold on to that relationship. I think about some of you, maybe some of you that are watching this. Some of you are trying to go through this current time and these are scary times. And if you don't have that relationship with Christ, if you don't know Him, if you don't have that conviction to be able to stand on, man, I feel for you that much more.

Tim Lundy (12:58):
See, for each of us, here's what we believe. We believe what Romans 10 tells us that if you confess with your mouth that He's Lord, if you declare man, He is God, He's in control. And you believe in your heart that God rose Him from the dead. And what I say is you actually believe, you know what? Christ died on the cross and He rose again so that I could have relationship with God, so that I would know that that is forever sealed no matter what I face. If those things are true about you, you know what the verse declares? You'll be saved. Your life's in His hands. You could rest in the fact what Jesus said that you don't have to fear those that can kill the body. You need to have your life in the hands of the one who controls our souls. I just want to encourage you, maybe during this time, you're trying to do life alone. Maybe you don't know that's true about you. Maybe you've never had that relationship with Christ. I can't think of a time that's more important and more timely for you to make that decision, that you would declare man. Jesus is Lord. He really is God. You know what? He died on a cross and He rose from the dead. I want to know I have that relationship.

Tim Lundy (14:25):
I'd encourage you, if that has not been your conviction, make it your conviction. If that's not been your declaration, make it your declaration. Know that that's true about you. They look at him and they go, we're not changing our convictions because here's what we know about our God. Look at the next verse. If this be so, even if you throw us in this fiery furnace, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. Our God is able. They have this absolute confidence. And again, here's what I take away out of this, that we have to trust in God's power no matter what we face. Trust in God's power no matter what you face. They look at him and go, we see the furnace, but we trust God more. We know our God is powerful. We know how He's worked in the past. We know what He's able to do. We know He's the creator of this universe. We know what He's done, bringing the children of Israel and bringing them into the land. We've seen miracle after miracle in our history. And so we know that God is able and we're trusting His power today. And again, we know how the story turns out. That's a pretty bold declaration when you're standing where they are on this side of the furnace, when you're standing as the one who's about to be thrown into it.

Tim Lundy (15:49):
What a powerful act of faith. And I want to call you, especially those of you who do know Christ as your savior, those of us who do have a relationship with God, some of us need to grab this verse, we need to grab this principle and hold onto it with both hands. Trust that God's in control. Trust that God is powerful. Trust Him during this time. No matter what happens this week, no matter what happens with the markets, no matter what news comes out, no matter what happens around the world in this. We as the people of God can still make the declaration God's in control and we trust Him. And these three make it, they look at him and they go, we trust that God's able to deliver us no matter what. But then look what they say in verse 18. And this may be the most powerful verse in it.

Tim Lundy (16:44):
They say God's able to save us out of the furnace. Look at these three words. But if not. But even if He doesn't, even if we go in and God's decided today we burn up. But if not, look what they say to him. Be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. Man, I love the power of this, especially those three words. They go we absolutely trust that God has the power to save us. But if not, and here's the principle for us today. We also have to trust God's plan no matter what He decides. We have to trust the God who's in control, the God who can save us also has a plan that we might not understand in this circumstance. That's the thing, as you read through Scripture. You know, one of my favorite books in the Bible is the book of Hebrews and Hebrews 11 in particular because in it, it walks over and over again, stories like this story of people who stepped out by faith, the people who stood up for God, of ways that God answered and the miracles in it.

Tim Lundy (18:02):
If you look at the summary in Hebrews 11:33 through 38, the writer just says, he says, I don't have time to tell you all the stories of people that overcame giants, of people who shut the mouths of lions, of circumstance after circumstance of women who received back their children from the dead. But then it makes a turn. It says, there's all the ones that received the miracles. But then there were others who were stoned, who were sawn in two, who faced the power of fire, those who lived in caves. See there's an honesty in the passage that at times man, God acts and moves with these awesome miracles. And then there's other times where He calls His children, He calls believers to go through really painful and hard circumstances. And Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego show us the attitude of three as they're stepping into it not knowing what God would do. They look at it and they go man, our convictions are resolute. We're not going to waiver in them. Our trust in God's power is absolute. We know He's in control. But we place our lives in His hands that even if He decides that today's the day that we die, we'll trust Him. Guys, there's been people all throughout history that have had to make this same decision, to make the same kind of stand.

Tim Lundy (19:43):
You know, about four years ago, I don't know if you remember a story, this tragic story. There was a group of migrant workers, guys that were from Egypt, about 21 of them and they were Coptic Christians, group of Christians. And in order to support their family, they were working in Libya and they were kidnapped by a cell of ISIS. They were taken out and lined up on their knees and they went down the line on all 21 of them. And with each of them, they looked them in the eye and they say, is Jesus your Savior? If you will deny Him today, if you'll deny that Jesus is God, we'll let you live. They literally went down the line with a sword and killed them one by one as each of them declared Jesus was their Savior. There was one guy in the group who as they described it, he wasn't from Egypt. He wasn't with the rest. They think he was from Ghana, a young man named Matthew. And up until that day, he had never identified as a Christian.

Tim Lundy (20:47):
And as they came to him, as he kept watching these people dying for their faith, one by one by one, when they came to him, they said, is Jesus your Savior? Will you deny Jesus is God? And his last words were, their God is my God. And they killed him for it. Incredible faith, incredible courage. I like the words of G.K. Chesterton when he describes courage like this. He says, courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. Every one of those guys wanted to live, but they were willing to die for something. And Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, they look at Nebuchadnezzar, they want to live. They don't want to die. But they want to live standing on truth. They want to live knowing their convictions that they stood for and the God that they trust, that they've placed their lives in His hands and they trust Him with it.

Tim Lundy (22:02):
The answer so infuriates Nebuchadnezzar. Look what he does in response with it. Because the king's order was urgent, he tells them, throw them in immediately. And the furnace was overheated. They had too much fuel in it. The flame of the fire killed those men who took Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Remember they take them up the hillside and as they went to throw them in, there was too much fuel in there, too much of the flame and the heat of it as it came out of the top of that furnace, it killed the soldiers that were throwing them in. And as they threw them in, these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego fell bound, they were tied up and thrown into the fiery furnace. So Nebuchadnezzar loses his temper. He wants them burned and he wants it done immediately. But look what happens in the next verse. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, did we not cast three men bound into the fire? And they answered and said to the king, true, O king. And he answered and said, but I see four men unbound walking in the midst of the fire and they're not hurt. And the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.

Tim Lundy (23:25):
So as he's looking, he can see into the flame. He's looking there and suddenly he's confused. Threw them in bound, but instead of burning up, there they are. They're walking around unbound. And they're not alone. He sees one, he says, it looks like the son of a god. And theologians debate about this. Was it an angel that was sent? A lot of times, you'll see this in the Old Testament, the angel of the Lord. And this is what's called a theophany. That is an appearance by God, second member of the Trinity, Jesus, before He became incarnate, before He took on a human body. He'll show up at different times throughout the Old Testament. And so I believe this is a theophany. It's from God. And He's there with them in the furnace. The picture of this is so powerful, guys. And I think it's so timely for us. And I hope some of you will grab onto this. Here's what we see in it. Look at the first thing. Recognize He's with you. He's with you. God is with you. When you have that relationship with Him, when you know Christ as your Lord, here's what Jesus promised us. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.

Tim Lundy (24:49):
And some of us during this time especially, we have to hold onto the fact that God is here, especially in the hard times, especially in the furnace. Sometimes you don't even see Him until you're in the furnace. I mean if you look in this story, you never saw Him going up the hill. You never saw Him when they grabbed them. You never saw Him as captives. Where do you see Jesus the most? You see Him show up in the furnace, that He's with us. And what is true in that story, I've seen it play out so many times over the years, especially as a pastor. Guys, I have been with people in some of the hardest circumstances. I've sat in hospital rooms and cried with people as they hear bad news or bad diagnosis or they're in their last days. I remember sitting with a godly couple one night when the state troopers had just left and we just sat in the dark of their home because they found out that their daughter who was driving home from college was it a car wreck and she was killed. And we just sat there, crying together and praying together.

Tim Lundy (25:52):
I've seen spouses who sat in my office, some of them weeping because the marriage was over and their spouse had walked out on it. And I've seen it in circumstances over and over again, sometimes really hard, really painful. But I'll tell you what's true in every one of them. God was there. He was there with us. He's here today. He's here with you. Hold on to that. Don't let go of that trust in that. And as you do that, you need to believe this as well. He's not just with us. Believe God is for you. Believe God is for. I mean when He showed up in the fire with them, notice they went in bound. But Nebuchadnezzar looks up and they're unbound now. The only thing the fire burned away were the ropes that tied them. The only thing that touched them at all, it says when they came out of the fire, they didn't even smell like smoke. That in those circumstances, God was with us. And a lot of times we don't see it until that moment. We don't believe it until that moment. Sometimes we don't even experience it until that time. But we have to trust Him in it.

Tim Lundy (27:22):
You know, John Lennox writes in his book, Against the Flow, of talking to a man who served time in a Siberian concentration camp, the Gulag. And the reason he was sent there is he had been teaching his children the Bible and it was against the law. And as he went there, he describes some of the horrors that he faced in that camp. And as he's describing it, Lennox kind of was pulling back. And the man looked at him and he said, you wouldn't be able to cope with that, would you? And Lennox admitted, no, I don't think I could. I don't think I could handle that. And the man smiled at him. And he said, I couldn't either. He said, I was a man up until that time that even the sight of blood would make me faint. And yet when I went there, here's what I learned about God. Listen to what he said. He said, God does not help us to face theoretical situations but real ones. Like you, I couldn't imagine how one could cope in the Gulag. But once I was there, I found that God met me exactly as Jesus had promised His disciples when He is preparing them for victimization and persecution. Lennox adds these words, we can be confident then that the Lord will give us sufficient amount of grace to handle whatever comes our way whenever it comes our way and not necessarily a moment before.

Tim Lundy (28:50):
Guys, there's things about this current circumstance, we don't know what will happen. And maybe you look at it today and you go, I'm scared. I don't know that I can handle it. We don't know that we can go through it. Here's what you can trust. God's with us and He's for us. And He uses these processes in our life, He uses the fire in our life. You know, there's a term they use when they're shaping iron. I've always liked it. It's called extrusion, the extrusion process. And this is where they take iron ore and they put it deep in the fire and they heat it up. And they do it for two reasons. One, by putting it in the middle of the fire, it burns away all the draws, all the impurities. But then it makes that iron ore moldable, shapeable. And they can reshape it to a usable form. See, often when we go through the fire, often when we go through circumstances like this, it's an extrusion process.

Tim Lundy (29:56):
And I personally believe right now in our world, in our country and especially in the church, I think God's using this as an extrusion process for his church and for His people. And in the fire, I'm praying that He uses it to burn away things, God. Burn away the things that maybe we're holding onto we don't need to anymore. The things we've been caught up in. And then use this process to reshape us to look more like you, to trust you and to believe you. Look at the final part of this verse. I love how it changes Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning, fiery furnace. He declared Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego servants of the most high God. Come out and come here. Look how he calls them servants of the most high God. Few minutes before, he was saying, no god can save you. No god's greater than our gods. Nobody's greater than me. Now he turns it. And he goes, no, no, you guys are servants of the most high God.

Tim Lundy (31:03):
He continues on in the verse. The next verse he says, Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him and set aside the king's command. And they yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Look, he looks at these guys and he said, man, we should worship their God. And why should we worship? Notice how he says it and why he says it. Because of their example. He said, you look at them. They refused to do what everybody else did. They refused to go along with the crowd. They refused and they were willing to even give up their own bodies. And in that process, man, I've discovered something about their God.

Tim Lundy (31:55):
Here's what I hold on to out of this. Not only for that time, but for this time. We need to trust that God can use any circumstance for His glory. God can use anything. He can use a narcissistic ruler who sets up an idol. He can use a fiery furnace. He can use a circumstance like ours. In fact, if you look through human history and Christian history, in particular, Rodney Stark, the church historian points out that oftentimes when epidemics would come, that's when people turn to Christianity the most because of the response of Christians. That Christians were the ones that instead of just looking out for themselves, they were looking out for others. They were willing to serve others. They were willing to place their lives on the line. Guys, I don't know what's coming in the next days and weeks. I wish I had definite answers. But we're trusting God in this. And I think we have an opportunity as His people at His church, instead of just being fearful and pulling back, we would be the ones that step forward and go, yeah, this pandemic is scary, but we trust our God and we know He's here with us. We know He's for us.

Tim Lundy (33:17):
This would be a great opportunity. I would encourage you maybe to serve your neighbors and your friends. Maybe you know somebody who's elderly or their health is compromised and you could call them and offer, hey, do you need me to get groceries? Do you need me to do something to help you during this time? Be a great time as a family to walk through your neighborhood and just pray over your neighbor and do a prayer walk that God would protect. Great time to just reach out to people right now. May come a time that we actually have to share our food and share what we have. You might even have to share some of that Costco toilet paper you've been hoarding. It's great time. Instead of going, hey, it's for us, this is what the church does during this time. We look out and we go, how do we serve other people? Because we're the ones that know that we have a God who's in control and He's with us and for us.

Tim Lundy (34:18):
Guys, the same God who showed up 2,600 years ago for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is here today. He's still on His throne. And as the people of Christ, we even have more than they did. We know how the story ends. We know what God's overcome. And we have a personal relationship with Him through Christ. Let's use this time to be His church. Let's rest in Him and know that He's here. Let's trust in Him and know that He's in control and He's for us. And let's pray that He would use this extrusion process to make us like Him and to bring Him great glory as we reach out and we serve those around us.

Tim Lundy (35:04):
Would you pray with me? Father, I do just pray that the same kind of faith we see modeled with these three young men, we would model in our lives today. Lord, I pray that you would use this time to shape your church, to shape your people. Lord, I pray that you would use this to bring you great glory. We don't know how you will do it. We don't know what your plan is. But we trust you in it. And we know you'll use this in our lives and we know that you'll this in your church. Lord, I pray specifically for anybody who's hearing this today that maybe they don't have a relationship with you. Maybe they've never done what that verse declares, that they've never declared what their mouth that you're Lord, they've never believed in their hearts that Jesus is risen from the dead. I pray would you give them the courage and faith to take that step today? I can't fathom going through this without you. And so I desperately want everyone who hears this to know the relationship they could have with you. Lord, I thank you for your Word. I thank you for your church. I thank you for your presence. And most of all, we thank you for your love. And we pray this in Christ's Name. Amen.

Recorded in Los Gatos, California.
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Venture Christian Church
16845 Hicks Road
Los Gatos, California 95032
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