Truthful lips endure forever

sign post with Truth and Lie

Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.

Proverbs 12:19 ESV

The fruit of a lie is always bitter. Marriages can be destroyed by a single lie. Friendship can be shipwrecked by a single act of deception. Relationships built with lies are like houses built upon sand, they never survive hard times.

Truth Has Been Redefined

The odd thing about truth is that it appears to be so simple, so unassuming, so innocuous. Still, Jesus told us to boil the truth down to even less than what we know. He said, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37 ESV)

I’ve discovered that within my lifetime the meaning of “truth” has been redefined. Several lengthy conversations with people from younger generations have confirmed to me that “truth” is no longer recognized as a “factual thing”. Rather, truth is now believed to be subjective, situational, and malleable. However, I’ve also discovered that there is a hunger within most people for unambiguous, unaltered truth. That’s good news.

Truth Is A Liberator

The personification of truth is Jesus. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV) Truth is the device by which holiness is attained. Jesus prayed to His Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Holiness should be the material from which our moral character is built “since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)

Truth is a liberator. So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) As we just read in John 17:17, God’s word is truth, and we see the Divine power of God’s Word in Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Ten things we learned about Truth

  1. Truth appears unassuming
  2. When answering binary questions (yes/no, true/false, etc.) we should answer simply. We should not try to bolster or expand upon the truth.
  3. When we talk with other people we need to understand that our definition of truth may not be the same as their definition.
  4. Truth finds its genesis within Jesus Christ.
  5. It is God’s requirement for us to be holy. The only means by which we can become holy is through truth.
  6. Truth sanctifies us (sets us apart), and this truth is found in the living Word of God which includes the Old Testament.
  7. Speaking to Father God, Jesus said, “Your word is truth.”
  8. If we live in God’s Word then we are truly disciples of Jesus.
  9. If we do remain in Jesus then the Holy Spirit (i.e., the Spirit of Truth) will reveal truths to us that are in God’s word which will set us free from “the sin that so easily entangles.” (Hebrews 12:1)
  10. We learned that the Word of God is living and active, discerning the thoughts and intentions of our hearts.

Prayer 

Father, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, John 14:26), who leads us into all truth. Thank you Jesus for communicating Your will and intent to us through the Holy Spirit (John 16:13), and making Your Word alive, active, and powerful. Spirit, thank you for abiding in us, teaching us the truths of the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:13) as well as coming along side us (John 14:16-17) to guide and provide for us. And, Holy Spirit, thank you for filling believers who ask you for more. Oh, my God, how marvelous you are.

Father, I ask that you keep us, Your children, aware of the danger that lives inside every lie. Remind us continually that even though truth may appear inadequate, Your power is contained in truth, and Your power is released by Jesus when we ask within your will. Guide us into holy lives I ask. In all of these requests, I pray in the name of Your beloved Son, Jesus. Amen.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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Brave New World

a man holding an open Bible in a crowd

Acts 4:32-37 (ESV) 32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

This passage of Scripture is, perhaps, the most threatening in the whole of the New Testament. Over the years, I have heard innumerable Pastors and Evangelists manipulate or even desecrate God’s message contained in these few verses. And I understand why. They appear to fly in the face of Capitalism and they most certainly cut the legs out from under any leader in God’s kingdom that has set their heart upon constructing a magnificent edifice (building).

I’ve been praying to understand what God is doing in the world today and I think I see three things. I’ll save the best for last.

One

Christians were first, and horribly, targeted for persecution as a group by the emperor Nero in 64 AD. A colossal fire broke out at Rome, and destroyed much of the city. Rumours abounded that Nero himself was responsible. He certainly took advantage of the resulting devastation of the city, building a lavish private palace on part of the site of the fire.

Perhaps to divert attention from the rumours, Nero ordered that Christians should be rounded up and killed. Some were torn apart by dogs, others burnt alive as human torches. Over the next hundred years or so, Christians were sporadically persecuted. It was not until the mid-third century that emperors initiated intensive persecutions.

From a BBC article by Dr Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe titled Christianity and the Roman Empire

Note that the date is 64 AD. This persecution occurred after Acts, chapter four. What God did for the early Church, He has repeatedly done for the Church down through the ages. He gives times of rest and refreshing and then He leads the Church into battles where many die a martyr’s death – the greatest growth is during the battles.

Therefore, my first point is that God gave the Western Church a respite but we turned it into a lifestyle.

Two

No doubt, for the early Church, it was from the wealth of the members selling their possessions that funding for the great dispersement provided. This dispersement was triggered by the stoning of Stephen. We find this in Acts 8:1, And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 

There are no times when we can be cruise-control Christians. If God is building the Church’s wealth then a battle is just around the corner.

Three

Throughout all of the history of Adam, God has used peculiarity (i.e. set-apart) to draw the attention of God’s elect to Himself. God’s people have prepared for a flood when none was visible, prepared for a baby when age cried “Impossible!”, birthed a nation from a baby floating in the Nile, trusted God when surrounded and vastly outnumbered by their enemy. Yes, I have Scripture for this and it’s best seen in the KJV, 1 Peter 2:9, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;” (emphasis added)

God’s people don’t try to be peculiar, it’s just what happens when we follow God. Peculiar doesn’t mean crazy. As I wrote, it means “set-apart” but being set-apart often makes a person seem peculiar. A good example of peculiar was “Mr. Rogers” on PBS. As an ordained Presbyterian minister, he was certainly peculiar within the staff of PBS. Fred Rogers is quoted as saying,

“I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there was some way of using this fabulous instrument to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen.” My guess is that we have rarely, if ever, taken a job because we thought we could turn the employer from bad to good.

We, as true believers, are peculiar people. That is God’s way. People living in the world must notice us, and notice that there is something different, a good difference, between the children of God and the children of the world. As true believers, we quickly surrender our possessions, surrender our rights, surrender our lives, to demonstrate the character of Jesus to people who remain under God’s curse.

A missionary once told me that every missionary had to able to do any one of five things at a moment’s notice: 1) preach 2) pray 3) teach 4) sing 5) die. We all should hold our lives as a gift of service to Jesus our Savior.

However, for decades now, while we’ve been living the lifestyle of Christianity, we have continually moved the Church closer and closer to the world. We justified these actions as attempts to remain relevant in a changing world. 

It is Christ Jesus who makes His Church relevant; it’s never within our ability to accomplish this.

God Stopped the Whole World

Never in my lifetime has the whole world stopped. Until now, the closest it came was in 1969 when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. If you are old enough to remember that then you remember how TV networks cut to locations all across the globe, showing people gathered around TV sets, all gobsmacked. 

Well, this pandemic is more profound than Neil’s history-making step. Trust me on this, God did this out of His great love. You may ask, “How could God allow this to happen to good people?” The answer is simple and painful; there are no good people. And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18)

God stopped the world so we all would consider what life is about. For His Church, we face profound changes, not in the Gospel but in our lifestyle. Comfortable Christianity is not God’s intent. Jesus said, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:38)

Yes, we are told by the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.” We are to have this goal but we are also told to “take up our cross” and told by the Apostle Peter that we are a peculiar people. These messages are from the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit. These messages do not conflict. We are not faced with a dichotomy. So, what does God want from us? 

What does Obedience Look Like?

What Jesus said to His disciples is that He wants us to be obedient, and if we are, then our joy will be full. (John 15:9-11) So, obedience is not something we can choose. Our decision is to either be a Christian, or not. Choosing not to obey is choosing not to love Jesus. (John 14:15)

The Point

I’ve written a lot of words to lead us to the following thoughts, and they are: 

  1. God has prospered the members of Western churches for one hundred years. And countless churches own behemoth buildings that, overnight, have been rendered useless. This is not a mistake, rather it is God’s “bank account.”
  2. God’s blessing of an accumulation of wealth has not been for “us” to look like the world. That wealth is not ours.
  3. God’s people do not overcome the world by being a twin of the world. “And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.” (Revelation 12:11)

No revival, no world movement by God, can start or continue without the Holy Spirit moving and igniting souls. When we are full to overflowing of the Spirit within us then the oil of God’s anointing splashes into the fire of the Holy Spirit and we burst forth with power, testifying to the world the things of God.

What will the Church look like, now that we’re in a post mega-church building era? Perhaps, in cities, we will be those peculiar people that sold our cars and gave the money to churches in Syria and Egypt.

Perhaps we will now flood mass transit systems – and the world will take notice. Perhaps, in the new world, the Church will unwaveringly speak what we know as true even if our testimony costs us our homes, our liberty, or even our lives. Perhaps, we, as God’s children, will choose Truth over political correctness, and not allow God’s Truth to be bridled by godless people.

Brave New World

I don’t know what this new world holds of us. I don’t know if we have the will to rise to the occasion of becoming peculiar to our family, our friends, our workmates, our employers, our community, our country. Will we be a “Fred Rogers?” Will we carry Jesus into places we hate? I just don’t know. However, I do know that God is watching to see how we respond to this brave new world.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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Make No Provision For Sin

1 + 1 ≠ 2

childrens wooden blocks

It’s easy to look at something and see what we expect while missing what can be discovered. Those of us who regularly post blogs know the value of “fresh eyes.” If we can put aside a post for a few hours or a day before we need to publish it, we will almost always find something unexpected – errors to fix and better ways to communicate.

When 1 + 1 Does Not Equal 2

Let me give you a simple example of revealing something unexpected. We were taught very early in our lives was that 1+1=2. This math is learned so early in a child’s development that it becomes organic; it’s an axiom that’s not to be questioned. Nevertheless, right now, I’m going to prove that 1+1 does not always equal 2.

What I’m going to show is shockingly simple and staring us right in our faces. (By the way, the ≠ symbol means “not equal.”) Now here’s why 1 + 1 ≠ 2.

Let’s imagine that we have a tub full of children’s wooden building blocks. Each block has either a number, zero through nine, or the mathematical symbols + or -.

Now you reach into the tub and pull out a block that has the number one on it. You repeat and pull out another block that has the number one on it. Finally, you reach in and pull out a block that has the plus symbol, which represents “addition.” So, how many blocks do you have? Yep, you have three blocks. So, 1+1=3. 🙂

Promises

The one true God, the Triune God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, has given promises to us throughout God’s Word, from Genesis through Revelation. They are there to be used. We use them for comfort, and we use them in our prayers to keep our prayers within God’s will. The following Psalm is one to which I hang on.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah – Psalms 46:1-3

The Holy Spirit inspired the Psalmist to write, “We will not fear though the earth gives way.” Right now, many people think the world is collapsing. They predict that economies will fail, populations will be decimated, and our creature-comforts will be lost. But they don’t see with fresh eyes. We, as believers, aren’t to fear any of those things.

We have a hiding place, a place where we can be covered; that place is in God, and Jesus is the only gate (John 10:9) through which we can enter God’s refuge. Sure, bad things may happen, but we serve a good God (Mark 10:18) that will help us through them.

As we walk through each day that God gives us, let’s ask Him for fresh eyes. There are too many wonderful things that God has in store for those that trust Him.

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Do you need a heart check-up?

If you genuinely want to know your spiritual condition, then listen to the words that you spontaneously say when something disagreeable happens. What are the first words out of your mouth when you drop a bag of groceries, or someone cuts you off in traffic or someone cuts in line when you’re boarding Southwest Air 🙁 not a problem right now )? What you will hear is the condition of your heart. Your spontaneous reaction is revealing.

Matthew 12:33-37 (NLT), “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.

What’s in our Hearts?

Good intentions are good, and reading your Bible is good. These indeed appear to be good fruit, but you verbalize what is in your heart when you don’t have time to engage your mouth-filter.

If we dive into the original Greek, we learn the inference from an “evil person produces evil things.” The word produces or brings ἐκβάλλει (ekballeiStrong’s Greek 1544: means to throw (cast, put) out; I banish; I bring forth, produce. From ek and ballo; to eject. The wording indicates the spontaneity of what comes from the heart.

If your words show that your fruit isn’t appealing, then it’s time to ask Jesus for help. God is ready to transform us by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). Don’t ask God for a better mouth-filter. Instead, ask Him for the renewal of your mind, for your transformation will change you, which includes your heart. Good things will be in your heart, so good things will spontaneously come out of your mouth.

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I wanted to use this picture (I love coffee) but it didn’t connote today’s message. Still, I couldn’t pass up that opportunity to use it!

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Is It Dusty In Here?

a car kicking up dust

“…By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” – Genesis 3:19

Today my in-laws are attending a funeral for a middle-aged man that, over a number of years, became something of a son to them. They recently visited him one morning, and later that same day, he unexpectedly died. It’s been a big blow to them, like burying one of their children.

One of the things I’ve become acutely aware of, as I’ve aged, is the increasing frequency of funerals of people I love, people I know, people I know of. This observation has caused an awakening within me of how brief our time truly is for our walk within God’s Creation.

Stories of Dust

At birth, we each step into a story that has already begun. Siblings, cousins, parents, grandparents, friends, all are in our story, but we also step into their story. Wars, famines, conflicts, and more were all underway before we were a twinkle in our mothers’ eyes. Yet when we come upon the stage of life, we somehow feel that we “own” our time, not appreciating that our time is on loan from God. 

Within God’s divine plan, spanning thousands of years for the progeny of Adam, most of us are simple accouterments to His design. Dust we are and dust we shall return to. 

Our story in human history will close. Nevertheless, we are much loved by God. We are offered eternal life in God’s kingdom through Jesus. And out of His love, we are given and provisioned with a role designed just for each of us. How wonderful is our Father, how faithful is our Savior, how trustworthy is the Holy Spirit! Indeed, even as dust, we are greatly blessed.

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My Beloved Son

elderly hands folded in prayer

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:16-17 ESV

Prayer is a Healing Activity

Prayer is a healing activity for us. As believers, we pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But when we get alone with God (Matthew 6:6) and pray to the Triune God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, hears us, consoles us, and acts on our behalf.

As part of our healing, before we pray, we need to settle any matter where someone has something against us (Matthew 5:23). As we enter into prayer, we believe that God is and that He answers prayers (James 1:6), knowing that “if we worship God and do His will, God listens to us (John 9:31).

Preparing for Prayer

Entering prayer, we draw near to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). We are entering our prayer time with confidence (1 John 5:14-15). We give thanks to God (Matthew 6:9-13). We confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9 ) and forgive anyone that has wronged us (Mark 11:25). As we pray, we should take time to be at peace (Philippians 4:6-7).

We Ask

Praying, we go before our Father, praying in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18 ). We pray on behalf of others that are in need (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We ask our Father for spiritual things, material things, emotional things, human things. We ask because our God has told us to ask (Matthew 7:7) and we remember that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37)

We pray to our Father, trusting that the Spirit leads us as we pray, and we know that Jesus is our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5 ) between our humanity and God’s divinity. Most importantly, we pray for the will of Jesus, our Lord. That is what Jesus meant when He taught us to pray in the name of Jesus (John 14:13).

God’s Beloved Son

So, whether we begin our prayer in the name of Jesus or close our prayer in His name, when bringing His name before our Father, I think it’s good to acknowledge that our petitions are in the name of God’s beloved Son (Matthew 3:17).

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The Problem With Dads

Dad hugging son

Matthew 3:16And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

The Problem With Dads

Not everyone has a meaningful relationship with their dad. Within the complexities of our society, many dads are absent from their children; many more remain in their family but are unapproachable or disengaged or outright damaging to their kids. These Godless actions of dads result in children and adults who are unable to relate to Father God.

Many of these damaged souls hate God, for they resent God, feeling abandoned by Him. These people need us, for we have personally experienced the love of God and have marveled at the beauty of the relationship between our heavenly Father and His Son, our Savior, and God’s Spirit abiding in us.

God’s Beloved Son

God can use us to bring the Good News of God’s beloved Son to those around us that are hurt and damaged by a dysfunctional relationship with their dads. 

Perhaps, you, too, have only bad experiences with your dad or no experience with your dad. Recovery starts with Jesus, with forgiveness, with studying God’s Word to see how the Father loves the Son, and how our loving Father embraces us and desires to bring renewal into the hearts for those that cringe at the thought of fathers. 

Lean In To God

Be bold. Lean in to “Our Father which art in heaven.” And when you pray, pray in the name of the Father’s “beloved Son” with whom He is well pleased.

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Secrets In God

a closet

If you are going to tell a friend a secret, Starbucks is the wrong setting. In fact, no coffee shop will work because everyone is listening to everyone else’s conversation. No, to tell your friend a secret, you need to go someplace private. That is what Jesus told us to do when we pray:

Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you”. – Matthew 6:6

Alone With God

I’ve found that the time I spend alone with God works just like regular friendships; it deepens with time. And with consistency, I don’t have to spend very much time on housekeeping. That way, we have time to intercede in prayer for people, pray for our leaders, our country, our pastor, and so forth. But then there needs to be a time when I speak with my God.

If God should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares his secrets, we ought to accept this gladly. – Saint Teresa of Avila

I need to hear from God, feel His presence, and share our secrets. What secrets? Well, if I told you… 😉 The truth is that in our intimacy with God, He will create secrets. “Give Joe an extra big tip next time.” Don’t tell anyone what you did. Or, “Tell Sue that you will bring her name before the God of all Creation.” It’s just between Us/us.

Profound Secrets

Sometimes God’s secrets are much more profound. They may deal with your relationship with the Holy Spirit. God may be planting a call to foreign missions in your heart. I personally knew a man that, during his prayer time, God promised to carry him through a difficult time. Less than a week later, he was diagnosed with cancer. God brought him through the medical process, and he is a cancer survivor.

If your prayer time tends to be a “shopping list,” carve out a little extra time to strengthen your relationship with the one true God. You may be surprised at the secrets He shares with you.

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Ask God for More

picture of a dove

Since God is Spirit, let us do as the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write in 1 Corinthians 14:15 (ESV): I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.

Let Us Be Bold When We Pray

Because we serve the God of all Creation, the One who declares the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), let us be bold when we pray and ask God for things that are beyond our abilities. Be confident because, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV)

We must always remember our purpose. Our purpose is to point people to Jesus. Jesus is the hope for all who are lost (Luke 19:10 ESV) and the living hope for all who are saved (1 Peter 1:3 ESV). 

God desires to use us, to use you, in ways you may never have considered. The Holy Spirit does wonderful works through God’s servants. If you want more, if you hunger for people to see Jesus, then pray and ask our heavenly Father for more of the Holy Spirit in you. Ask God for all that He desires for you.

Aligned With God’s Will

As the Holy Spirit of God fills you to overflowing, remember He never asks anyone to do or say anything that contradicts the Bible. And as you grow, keep yourself aligned with God’s will, as the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV):

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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13 milliseconds

an eye

The human brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds. – MIT NEWS That’s nearly eight times faster than a blink of an eye.  Admittedly, we don’t know how long Jesus looked at Peter when Jesus was on trial, but it was enough time for both of them to know that Christ’s prophecy about Peter was fulfilled.

Luke 22:61 (ESV), And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”

I can’t think within 13 milliseconds, so I need to be so full of the Holy Spirit that He’s continually leaking out of me, through my eyes, through my words, through the way I carry myself, through my facial muscles. I need all of those working for God if I only have 13 milliseconds for someone to see Jesus in me. 

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