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Posts Tagged ‘Savior’

recommit

After finishing the project to rebuild the walls and gates of Jerusalem, the people of God spent a considerable amount of time praying, fasting, confessing, repenting, worshiping God, and looking intently at God’s law.  They were thankful for his mercy and providence and ashamed of their disobedience.  God used Nehemiah – the great, godly leader he had called to help them – to spur them on to rebuild not only their city and their homes, but also their very own lives.

After their time of reflection and repentance, the leaders drew up and signed a covenant with God.  The people all took an oath of commitment to carry out the terms of these promises.  They also risked a curse if they would fail to obey.  Matthew Henry notes that, “Every oath has in it a conditional curse upon the soul, which makes it a strong bond upon the soul; for our own tongues, if false and lying tongues, will fail, and fail heavily , upon ourselves.”  In other words, if we would make a promise to God or man, we best be prepared to do all within our own power to keep it.

With all this consequence for failing to keep such a pact, why did these people seem so forward to sign up?

The answer is that these people had been failing.  They had been in sin.  They had been exiled, enslaved, and their home had been devastated, destroyed, and left desolate. Yet God had burdened a man named Nehemiah to come and help them.  God had brought them back to rebuild and re-establish themselves.  Now, they recognize both their guilt and his grace and they feel obliged to make these promises and strive to keep them.  Here is a group of people who truly want to be right with God.  These are God’s people.

So, what was it that they bound themselves to do?

The people promised not to intermarry with foreigners as they had been doing, they promised to observe the year of jubilee and forgive all debts in the seventh year, they promised to tithe all they had to God first and to give him the very best of their possessions to use in his house.

What did they commit to God?  Family; money; food; assets; only…everything.

That is the kind of commitment we must make to Our Lord if we would seek to truly repent and follow him.  WE are the ever failing, exiled from the garden, living in the  broken world we call home, sinners.  When we recognize the things he has done for us in sending a Savior to rebuild and recenter our very lives around the truth and His righteousness, we cannot help but to commit our everything to the building of His house and His kingdom.  If that is not our attitude and desire, we have not yet seen him and we do not yet know him. Therefore, let us repeat the words of these restored sinners and do as they committed to do saying, “We will not neglect the house of our God.” ~Nehemiah 10:39b

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thor

My family and I saw the new film, “Thor Ragnarock” over the weekend.  I am not a diehard superhero fan, but I have to admit that Thor has always been my favorite comic book personality.  I mean, what more could you want?  He’s virtuous, selfless, committed to righteousness, and he’s a courageous, powerful warrior.  The parallels between he and Our True Savior are many.  At the end of the day, Thor often ends up looking a whole lot like a type of Christ.

There were three main elements in this third movie in the series that Christians today would do well to recognize.

Firstly, Thor will stop at nothing on his quest to save his people.  No matter how difficult the odds are, no matter how personally dangerous or costly his journey and fight become, Thor is ever and always running toward battle and reaching to save and serve his people.  My favorite line in the movie is when he finds himself in a seemingly hopeless situation and he is speaking to a girl who has all but forsaken her own call, her values, and her fight out of defeat.  She has spent the past number of years drowning her sorrows and just trying to forget her pain.  Thor calls her back to the fight for justice and righteousness as she adamantly resists.  Finally he tells her, “I choose to run toward my problems, not away from them.  Because that’s what heroes do.”

She ultimately follows him and fights valiantly, and, this time, victoriously.

If there is one thing we must take away from this movie, America, it is this.  Our country is operating on the false premise that if one simply ignores, avoids, tolerates, and pretends not to see well enough, problems that must be dealt with will simply go away on their own.  This is nothing short of cowardice.  Failure to stand for and defend truth as we passively keep false peace out of fear and self-preservation is going to be the ruin of us all.  People of God must make peace, and, more often than not, doing so is mutually exclusive with this coward’s practice of keeping peace.  Christ did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  Little wonder why we are told to count the cost.

Therefore, this widespread practice of passivity, complacency, and indifference when problems arise is not only cowardice, but it is the polar opposite of what the Bible teaches us to do in the midst of adversity, disagreement, and falsehood.  No matter how personally dangerous and daunting, we must run to the battle as David did!  Real warriors for Christ face their fears head on and do all they can to reconcile what is amiss in their own lives and the lives of everyone around them, and this, for the ultimate good of all.  (**See the list of scriptures at the end of this article which point to us all to this end.)

Secondly, the movie is built around a framework that comes together in the end wherein the father instructs the son about his duty to save.  He reminds Thor that he is not saving a place, but a people.  The prophecy in which Thor becomes the main actor, is for bringing salvation.  As he ultimately learns, the whole plan was never intended to save his planet.  It was intended to save only his people.  The Asgardians learn that they are connected to no specific place, rather, Asgard itself indicates only a people group. Wherever they are is home.

Christians, note this.  The church is not and never has been a place.  It is a people.  The church has never, ever been a place.  It has always been a people.  If you have fellowship, scriptural truth, worship, and prayer with others, you have the Holy Spirit presiding over your people, that is, your church.  The church is not a place; it is a people.

Finally, Thor’s selfless, sacrificial fight for the good of others – unlike his complacent, indifferent, self-serving brother, Loki, and his tyrannical, ambitious, evil, self-loving sister, Hela, shines through and proves him the loving, righteous Savior of his people.  He protects and defends his people from evil, corruption, and death for no reason other than to serve the people he loves and obey and make proud the father he esteems.

Thor is picture of Christ in many ways.  He will always be my personal favorite.  Bravo!

**It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict and Christ will ultimately judge, but that fact does not suggest that His people do not have a role as a means to his end -which is to convict, bring ppl to godly repentance, and save them. We are part of his means. The entire bible points to this fact. 

Love and admonition are not mutually exclusive. Rebuke, correction, exhortation, and admonition are all part of one anothering in the New Testament church.  Loving people well is not relegated to only praising, encouraging, and approving of their actions at all times, or, when we do see sin just not saying anything about it.  That’s not what the Bible calls or teaches in the least.  Loving others well includes both encouragement and rebuke as needed, all the time.  It always helps me to think about how biological sisters and brothers are called to interact according to the Bible.  If we love someone, we tell them the truth when they are doing well and when they are messing up.  It’s because we love them.  Here’s some scripture to consider when thinking on these matters:

2 Corinthians 7:8-12 – Here, Paul talks about how he wrote an entire letter of rebuke to an entire church (1Corinthians) and how he wasn’t sorry about it even if it made them upset.  It was for their good.

Hebrews 3:12-13 – We are called to exhort one another daily – every. single. day. and the reason given here is so that none of us will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Proverbs 27:17 – iron sharpens iron.  We have to interact and be honest even when it is difficult because one anothering is one of the very means God has prescribed in order to mold and shape us into his spotless bride.

Galatians 6:1-2 – Here, we are called to go to anyone who is sinning and try to restore them to repentance.

Matthew 18:15-17 – Here, again, we find a call to go to one who has offended him and seek reconciliation with the goal of repentance.

James 5:16 – Here we are called to confess our sins to each other (not just to God) and pray for and with each other.

James 5:19-20 – Here, again, we are called to go to anyone who has strayed off course away from truth.  

Ephesians 4:25 – Here, we are called to tell the truth to one another  – not just when the truth is easy, but at all times.

Colossians 3:16 – Here we are called to admonish one another.

Colossians 4:17 – Here, Paul called a whole church to admonish their own leader and hold him accountable.  

Luke 17:3 – Here we are called to rebuke brothers in the faith when they sin.

Proverbs 24:24 – Here we are promised a good blessing if we rebuke wicked men/wicked deeds.

1 Corinthians 5:1-13 – Here, Paul speaks very harshly to a church who passively allowed sin to remain and did not correct or rebuke those who were practicing it without remorse or repentance.

Ezekiel 33:7 – Here the prophet Ezekiel is dubbed a watchman over God’s people and instructed to warn them of coming judgment if they’d not repent.  

The entire Old Testament is full of God calling prophets to speak hard truth to His people in hopes that they’d repent and avoid judgment.  The entire New Testament is full of God calling the entire church to a community of one-anothering honesty, encouragement, accountability, and even rebuke if needed.  God uses people as a means to accomplish his purposes. Just as he uses pastors to shepherd others, he calls each one of us to be keepers of one another.  Exhorting and holding one another accountable is not the same as passing judgement.  Making judgements about all things at all times is what Christians are called to do – is this right or is it wrong? That’s making a judgement.  If it is deemed wrong according to our authority, the Word of God, we must act to reconcile that person or our wrong perception back to the truth.  

Passing judgement is entirely different.  Passing judgement is when a person makes a judgement about an action and then proceeds to attribute their wrong action to a particular motivation (which they could not know) and then begins to treat that person in an unloving or condescending way.  The truth is, we all sin and therefore we all need correction sometimes. Correction is loving.  Passing judgement and condescending someone in a personal and unloving way is not our call ever. 

 

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Have you ever felt all by yourself?  I have.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I picked up my Bible first thing and read Isaiah 59.  Instead of giving me life, I allowed the Enemy to steal the encouragement of the Word and accuse me with it.  If I had just stopped at verse 1 and meditated, I think I would have had a different kind of day.

Behold, the Lord‘s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
    or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; ~Isaiah 59:1

It’s verse 2 that did me in.

but your iniquities have made a separation
    between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
    so that he does not hear. ~Isaiah 59:2

The condemnation I felt as I read this was overwhelming.  Being in a place where justice is not evident and wrongs have not been righted personally, it was easy for the Enemy to use that against me and bring accusation and discouragement.

Despite the fact that we all sin, to feel as though God is not hearing or acting on our behalf because we are separating ourselves by our own sinfulness is quite a place of despair – especially when you’re not really sure what sin it could possibly be.  Still, this is the reality for us all until Christ saves us.  After we are made right with Him, however, he hears us.  He acts upon on behalf.  He forgives our sin and he guides us in all truth.

The people Isaiah is speaking to here are not right with God.  They may be His covenant people, but they are not acting in accordance with his order.  Verses 3-8 describe their sin in detail.  They are speaking lies, making trouble, harming one another and they are failing to call for justice and plead for truth.  They are doing wrong and they are refusing to do right.  These are the reasons God will not listen to them or bring justice to them.

Therefore justice is far from us,
    and righteousness does not overtake us;
we hope for light, and behold, darkness,
    and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. ~Isaiah 59:9

Therefore – because of these reasons and all your wrongdoing, lack of concern for righteousness and justice – because of this, justice for you is far away; righteousness is not with you.

Truth is lacking,
    and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.

The Lord saw it, and it displeased him
    that there was no justice. ~Isaiah 59:15

Truth is lacking.  That is a powerful statement.  When truth is lacking, much evil follows.  Even those who sought truth and stopped sinning had a hard lot.  They became prey for those who did not repent.  The Lord saw this.  The Lord was greatly concerned for this particular society of people.  The most offensive thing to God was perhaps not even the sin itself – it was that there was no justice.  There was no judgement.  No repentance.  No reconciliation.  God longed to be made right with these people but there was not even a shred of repentance.  Their hearts were as hard as ever.

He saw that there was no man,
    and wondered that there was no one to intercede;
then his own arm brought him salvation,
    and his righteousness upheld him. ~Isaiah 59:16

Here is most powerful verse in the entire chapter.  God saw that there was no one – no man fit, no one righteous, no one who cared.  God did not throw up his hands or shrug his shoulders.  God did it himself!!!  How glorious!  Sin abounded, yet grace abounded all the more!!!  Matthew Henry says it this way:

“Since magistrates and societies for reformation fail of doing their part, one will not do justice nor the other call for it, God will let them know that he can do it without them when his time shall come thus to prepare his people for mercy, and then the work of deliverance shall be wrought by the immediate operations of the divine Providence on men’s affections and affairs.”

To whom shall God perform this goodness?  This mercy?  To whom will he bring justice?

“And a Redeemer will come to Zion,
    to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord. ~Isaiah 59:20

The Redeemer will come to those who turn from transgression.  Those who turn!  Those who repent!  Those who turn their eyes upon Jesus!  Amen!  God makes a way for sinners!  He does not cast us out!  He does not shun and avoid us!  He does not condemn and accuse us!  He saves us!  That is encouraging!

And the promises are laid upon Christ and his bride.  The church will continue always until the end of time and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!  Amen!

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churchmouse

I’ve been reading Aesop’s fables with my little girls and I thought it might be fun to make some adaptations.  The Country Mouse and the City Mouse was one of my all-time favorite childhood stories.   Maybe it’s because I’ve always been a country mouse afraid to venture into the unknown.  Anyway, here’s my story…

Once there lived two mice.  One was a poor, cursed mouse and the other was a rich, blessed mouse.  The mice were brothers, but they hadn’t seen each other in some time.  Church Mouse was always inviting Country Mouse to come over and meet all of his great friends, but Country Mouse felt poor and dirty.  He was afraid Church Mouse and his friends would laugh at him and make him feel bad for being so poor.

Finally one day Church Mouse dropped in to see Country Mouse.  “You look so shiny,” Country Mouse told his brother.  “Do tell me how you became so rich!”

“Thank you,” said Church Mouse.  “Do come and see!”

Country mouse thought for a while and finally decided to go to Church Mouse’s home.  He still felt quite backward and afraid, but he really wanted to be rich and clean like Church Mouse.

When Country Mouse arrived at Church Mouse’s home, he was met by many other rich mice.  One after another they greeted him, all in the same, almost rehearsed manner.

“Hmmmm,” Country Mouse thought.  “I wonder why these rich mice are so strange.  No one ever talks much to me except other dirty mice.  They seem nice, but I wonder if they’re just being polite.  I’m sure they don’t really want someone like me here in their perfect, shiny home.  I’m so dirty and ragged.  They probably want me to leave so I don’t ruin anything they’ve cleaned up so nicely.”

Country Mouse stayed a few days while Church Mouse and his friends served him hand and foot.  Country Mouse could hardly believe it!  He was being treated like a king by a bunch of mice he didn’t even know!

It soon came to an end, though.  Country Mouse had lice.  When all the church mice came down with church lice, they stopped being nice to Country Mouse.  They became angry at him.  The church mice didn’t like suffering.  They loved comfort.  Country Mouse’s poverty was ok as long as it didn’t affect them.  But now their shiny church was dirty and bug-infested.  The church mice wanted Country Mouse to leave.

Church Mouse was the leader of all the church mice, though.  He couldn’t send Country Mouse away after he’d invited him so many times.  He loved his brother despite his filth.  He wanted to make his brother clean.

Besides, now all the mice needed cleaned.  They were all dirty.  Somehow their riches and comfort couldn’t save them from being the rodents they really were underneath.

Church Mouse did not call a meeting.  He did not ask advice.  He saw the pain and suffering of his friends and he decided to do what only a very brave and noble mouse could do.  Church Mouse sat down at the front of the church and told all the mice to form a line.  One by one he sat with each mouse and he washed their fur.  He picked the nits out and he spoke softly into their ears about forgiveness and grace until they were only angry at themselves for how they’d treated Country Mouse.

Then the mice were finally actually clean.  They were truly shiny now – inside and out.  Church Mouse blessed them all individually and told them to play nice with the poor mice they were sure to meet outside.  “Invite them all,” Church Mouse instructed.  “Don’t be afraid.  I will clean them like I cleaned you.  I don’t want anyone to miss the feast I’m preparing!”

The church mice listened because they knew their leader loved them.  The poor mice became rich and the dirty mice became clean.  And they lived happily forever after.

Church Mouse’s name was Jesus.

The End

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In Job chapter 37, Elihu goes on to expound upon God’s greatness.  His goal?  Help Job recognize his own ignorance, the right, and the reign of his Creator in all things.

“At this also my heart trembles
    and leaps out of its place.
2 Keep listening to the thunder of his voice
    and the rumbling that comes from his mouth.
3 Under the whole heaven he lets it go,
    and his lightning to the corners of the earth.
4 After it his voice roars;
    he thunders with his majestic voice,
    and he does not restrain the lightnings when his voice is heard.
5 God thunders wondrously with his voice;
    he does great things that we cannot comprehend. ~Job 37:1-5

Elihu begins by stating carefully his own fear of God.  He describes the hand of God in nature – in humanity, in the animal kingdom, in the weather.

But didn’t Job know this already?  Hadn’t he displayed a great and holy fear of God in his own life through faithfulness, service, and obedience?

He had.  But Elihu points to what was lacking in that faithfulness, service, and obedience.

“…he does great things that we cannot comprehend.”

Job, in his misery, had exchanged his fear of God for a desperate desire to understand.  He knew God was sovereign.  He believed God was in control.  Job just couldn’t stop questioning God’s methods.  Job wasn’t sure if the God in whom he wholly believed was wholly believable.  He wondered where God’s compassion for him lie and he raised more than a little doubt about the goodness of the motives underlying God’s providence.

Guilty.  Guilty.  Guilty.  Guilty.  Guilty.  On all charges, I’m with you Job.  I have spent my entire life wondering where God really is, who he really is, and what he is really doing.  Of course I believe in him.  Often, I just do not believe him.  That’s a problem.  Father, forgive me, I know not what I do, or worse, I do know.

“It is good for us to be made sensible of our own ignorance,” once said Matthew Henry.  Elihu is good for that.  Thank God for people like him.

In verses 13-24 of Job 37, Elihu cross-examines Job.  His speech goes a little something like this: God has a plan, Job.  Sometimes it is to correct men.  Sometimes it is to bless them.  Sometimes it is simply to display his great love.  How could you possibly know what God is doing all the time?  Do you know how he commands the clouds?  Do you understand how he makes lightning?  Can you do all that he does?

No. No. No. No. No, you cannot.  So why do you think #1. you deserve to and #2. you are able to understand what God is doing to or through your own life?  You are a debtor, Job, but God loves you anyway.  All that he does is out of love for you.  You neither deserve nor are able to understand these things.  Stop trying.  God opposes the proud.

He loved me ere I knew him, and all my love is due him.  Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.  Despite all I do not know, this is enough.  Understanding can wait for glory.  Right now, I have an all-consuming call from and an insurmountable debt to my Savior concerning love.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6C4_hp7RG8

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“Where do you look to find the right answers?” asked Sunday school teacher Daddy.

“The Bible or Mommy’s notebook,” replied my firstborn.

Later, that same eight year old took me sled-riding.

“Come on, Mom.”

“I’m scared to go down that hill,” I teased.

“Don’t worry.  If you’re scared, just trust Jesus.”

Confidence.  Encouragement.

I am humbled once again by a baby – a baby I received into the world what seems like yesterday.  Help me become more like her, Lord.

I am reminded of how I felt the day I found out she existed.  I remember the vulnerability and humility brought on by the unexpected newness of her presence within my body.  I recall the prayers giving grateful thanks and acknowledging utter inadequacy.  I remember the voice of a husband’s steady reassurance knowing he had the very same fears.

I listen as that same husband opens his day with that same baby.  He reads aloud the story of another baby.

” Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). ~Matthew 1:18-23

God with us.  Do not fear.  “All glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.”  Samuel Rutherford’s famous words echo as I call upon my savior.  Sometimes the greatest gifts come in the most unexpected packages.

I do not remember the exact day I believed that Jesus existed.  I do remember the vulnerability brought on by the unexpected newness of his presence within my body, though.  I remember prayers of thanksgiving for his grace when my utter inadequacy and sin became apparent to me.  I remember loving him.  I recall the comfort found in his name, his picture, his hymns, and his church brought to me as a child.  Shamefully, today, I still often fail to properly receive him, though.

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. ~John 1:11

He came to us.  We are his, yet we often fail to receive him.  We are poor and yet we fail to receive his riches.  We are blind and we fail to receive his light.  We are naked and we fail to receive his covering.  We are pitiful and we fail to receive his comfort.  We are wretched and we fail to receive his grace.

Christ was not ashamed to come.  He was not ashamed to cry out.  As wretched, poor, pitiable, blind, and naked as we are, Jesus was never ashamed to call us his own.  No.  The long-expected Jesus came.  Immanuel is here.  God is with us.  I will not miss him.  No.  I – no he – will allow no fear, no pride, no doubt, and no pain to keep my unlikely savior from me.  He did not come this far in vain.

I will listen for his still, small voice; I will wait upon his plainspoken encouragement;  I will fear no man; I will trust in him.

And when I won’t, he will pray;  And when I don’t, he will wait;  And when I do, he will protect;  And when I fail, he will remain faithful.

Oh! How thankful I am for a God that does not give up!  How grateful I am for a God of grace!  How grieved I am over my utter inability to serve him!  How deeply I long to know him!

I will read his blessed story.  I will cling to his holy name.  I will wait for his arrival.  I will pray for the grace to obey.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mAFHiuJqsY&list=PLC7C7400B2381EDFC

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When I read the post about our church’s forthcoming sermon, I have to admit I was tempted to tuck my turtle-head inside Sunday’s list of better things to do and stay as far away as possible.  It read this way:

“This Sunday at 9 & 11 Pastor Chris is teaching on ‘The City that God Builds – The Wrath of the Lamb.’ “

Wrath.  Who could blame me for not buying advance tickets for that one, right?  I envisioned either a strict, I’m-gonna-yell-at-you-until-you-become-incontinent or a fear-instilling, you’ll-never-avoid-hell-being-the-clown-you-are lecture.  You know what I’m talking about.  Anyone who’s ever attended an angry, guilt-inducing church hears me.  Let’s just say I got that message a few too many times.

So, here I was conflicted about whether I was spiritually and emotionally willing, much less prepared, to bear the brunt of that beating again.

After a few strong drinks, (aka orange juice and bottled water) I suited up in my combat boots, (aka army green dress and black heels) sweating all the way (literally – you try getting three small children bathed, dressed, and fed before 8 am!) and I braced myself for the worst.

But the message I heard was not the message I expected.  The message I heard was kind.  It was loving.  It was, amazingly, attractive.

The truth of the coming judgement of God was not shortchanged, but rather, cast in the light of a welcoming, drawing, saving Lamb.  And lamb’s aren’t inherently angry.  Their nature is not hostile.  They are not violent or bent upon beating up their brothers – even when their brothers are nothing less than butt-holes.

Chris captured the person of Christ and successfully preached the truth about the coming judgement and wrath of God not by avoiding the hard parts of the text or glossing over them.  He didn’t do it by being filled with his own wrath and anger.  Chris successfully preached the truth about the coming judgement and wrath of God by showing up with the kindness and love of God; with mercy (Titus 3:4.)

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you, Pastor, for being kind.  I hope I can learn to do as much.

Chris urged us to repent because he loves us; not because he’s angry with or disgusted by us.  He never raised his voice.  He never pointed his finger.  He never pounded his fist on the pulpit.  And, even though he and Jesus may indeed have every right and reason to the latter, he chose instead to highlight the former.  I guess that’s just what a lamb does.

Maybe I really can trust a guy who positions love over top of anger.  Maybe I can trust his Savior, too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m2R6CLkvyQ

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