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No, You Can’t . . .

17 Aug

Psalm 101:5, 6: “Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.
Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.”

While I am not a king, like David who penned the above, and therefore I don’t have anyone “serving me,” I can resonate with this passage.

Anonymous denunciations and private slander are wicked. Any Bible believers need to be convinced of that?

Exactly one week ago yesterday I sat in my son’s academic advisor’s office at his special needs college and talked to the two of them about what they term “self advocacy.” Joey will be given more and more opportunities to self advocate this year.

While the college, like everyone everywhere else, does not tolerate bullying, the people there also realize that bullies operate in the darkness, in anonymity, and in one-on-one situations where it is just your word against theirs. Therefore, we all need to learn self advocacy skills. How to say “You need to stop that now.”

I have learned a host of life lessons from this special needs college. They have been faithfully working with the special needs population for almost 60 years. They have quite a few things to teach all of us about interpersonal relationships. We are all the same, at heart, whether special needs exist or not.

Thus it was that over the last 48 hours I told a cyberbully to stop it . . . and got the expected response that bullies usually make. More threats.

This man pastors in another state and had intruded on the affairs of our local independent church by writing a private note to another member telling him to “mark and avoid Mary” due to an accusation that I “teach men and usurp authority over them.”

False accusation and, even if it were true, it would be up to the pastor of our local church and the dean of our local church’s seminary to sort that out. Not a pastor three states away who has never laid eyes on me.

Talk about presumptuous!

Hopefully we can let this die down now. A bunch of threats were made but none that we think he can make stick.

It was telling that he was livid with my friend for telling me the contents of the private note. There is a simple rule for that: If you tell me something private about yourself, I will keep your confidence. If you make a private accusation against another, I don’t owe you confidence.

Private, written accusations used to be called poison pen letters. They have been a bane of our existence in Baptist churches (and probably in all other churches, too) for at least 100 years.

If you get a poison pen letter, expose it. Tell someone. Preferably your pastor.

Don’t let bullies operate in secrecy and impunity.

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You Can Ignore these Three Critics!

29 Jun

You Can Ignore these Three Critics!

Good thoughts about what is important in criticism and what is not . . .

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Shame, Part II

29 Apr

Shame, Part II

I used to love this song by Sonny Bono when I was a teen.

I think all of us occasionally face people in life whose way of gaining control involves mocking others.

It may not even be a personal thing.  It so often is not.  That person feels so diminished, so voiceless that she mocks someone else for the attention it brings!

Or . . . someone can honestly hate something about us that is not evil.  She just hates our laugh, or the way we stand, or the way we bounce up and down when we get excited . . .

Whatever that characteristic is that gains us mockery, if we are not sinning, we need to just let the mockery go.  It doesn’t diminish us.  It diminishes the person who sees the need to be a mocker.  People get that.  Oh, yes they do.

I was stunned not long ago when someone who has been a close friend for years made an age joke at my expense in front of a crowd of people.  In fact, I was so stunned, I asked for clarification.  And, yes, it really was about 55-year-olds acting in an “age appropriate way.”

Just what is that?, one might ask.  Her take was that we should be slow and sedate.  At least slower and more sedate than I am, apparently.

Well.

I don’t think, with my tendency toward ADHD, that is gonna happen.  And I don’t think I am gonna try to conjure it up to please my friend and her definition of age appropriate behavior.

Sometimes ya just gotta let it go.

I trust that anyone in that crowd who laughed at me will reconsider when they see me living in integrity toward them, despite the jokes at my expense.

If not, mockery can function as an awfully good filter, to show you who your true friends are!!!

 

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Using World Vision as a Litmus Test for Spirituality!

26 Mar

Using World Vision as a Litmus Test for Spirituality!

Exactly!  If you break fellowship with me over the fact that I support other worthy organizations instead of World Vision, how do you justify calling yourself progressive?  No one insists on everyone giving to just one charity to prove their Christian faith.  We’re all different and there are many places, people, and organizations that need our support.

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One Example of People Flooding the Twittersphere with Inaccurate Comments

27 Feb

One Example of People Flooding the Twittersphere with Inaccurate Comments

Like a giant game of Telephone from our childhood, things sometimes go around the Internet so far and for so long that their meaning is totally twisted.

I called out a liberal this morning for commenting on piece from a “newsmagazine” like the Onion (made-up satirical stories) that “that story could have been true, given the outrageous attitudes of some conservatives right now.” Nobody wants to be a caricature, and I told him so.

Let’s not play into that, folks. If you don’t have time to read a piece with attention, fine. Just don’t comment on it or forward it. If you do, you might be making a false conclusion and bearing false witness with your forward. Ya know?

“You Brought it On Yourself” or another Queen of Mean Statement We Christians Say . . .

26 Feb

I was caught up short by a younger friend a couple of years ago.  

Someone had made a very bad decision to jaywalk. 

He was struck by a car and died.  

I stated, “Well, he brought it on himself . . .”

My friend responded, “Then you think that jaywalking is a capital offense and should be punishable by death?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Yes, you did.” 

(Ulp!)  She was right!

I have remembered that ever since.  I remember it when someone cuts me off in traffic and I find myself fantasizing about the next person not being able to stop and slamming into him, with disastrous results.

Cutting someone off in traffic is not a capital offense either.  Most things are not.

The first sign that we are giving way to unrighteous anger is that desire for people to be punished in ways far disproportionate to their offenses.

There is a judge in heaven.  But it is not us!  

I need to remember that quite often, so I don’t dishonor the gospel by presenting if from lips that are cold and unattractive and mean in their message.

God gave me mercy.  I can do no less for my fellow fallen humans.

“You Made Your Bed, Now Lie in It” or How Christians Became Known as the Queen of Mean

25 Feb

I John 2:11, “But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.” 

I don’t mind doing damage control with nonbelievers after other Christians have come through and done their worst.  That is life. 

But it is altogether too predictable.  For every nonbeliever who either refutes the Word of God or is angry with a God who would be sovereign and God-like over His own creation, there is at least one Christian who ran roughshod over a human heart.  

Folks, we are meaner than God.  

I say that reverently.  God is not mean.  He is love.  We Christians are, sometimes, just plain mean.  To nonbelievers, to each other.  Just plain mean.

Okay, our hearts hurt sometimes, too.  But when we hurt, God has shown us the constructive thing to do–come to Him for comfort.  He never gave us permission to live from a center of hurt and bitterness, to lash out against the entire human race.

When Christians become active politically, we can show our worst side, too.  

American Christians can end up mixing up the American Dream with the gospel of grace and giving people a laundry list of self-help tips instead of a Saviour who is big enough to fulfill their every need.  

An example is our attitude toward single mothers sometimes.  

Let’s say a girl gets pregnant at 16, decides not to abort her baby, has to live through abandonment by the baby’s father, lives with her parents, is trying to go to college while working a minimum wage job, and then . . . shows up at our church.  

If we happen to lead that girl to Christ, what then?

Any number of Christians will present a strong case against government aid for this young lady, even temporary government aid.  And I understand their hesitancy to create a situation of dependency for this young lady and her child.  

However, what is the alternative?

Those of us who are uber wedded to the American Dream would speak of the individual and his determination to make a better life for himself and his family.  But they would end his obligation to the human race at his front door.  

Okay, fine.  No one is obligated to help this single mother and her child.  But what does the law of love say?  If we think the government should not assist her, are we willing to do it as individuals?  To step outside of the framework of our own family and our own home and to give sacrificially so this young lady might finish college and make a better life for herself and her child?

Is that a risk?  Sure it is.  If we pay her tuition for her, she might become lazy and flunk out.  That is a risk every college student runs.

Or she might get her degree, get a better job, and forsake the church.  People forsake the church all of the time, almost always having received something from the church that was given with no price tag attached.  Another risk we run.

Or this young lady might make good, become a strong church member (and tither), and raise her child in the ways of the Lord.  She might later marry and raise several more children for Him.

All of life is a risk.  Only God knows who will be a loyal church member and Christian in the end. But we miss a huge chunk of living when we stay risk averse . . .

And God help us if we not only refuse to help this young lady but try to excuse our refusal by engaging in pre-emptive meanness.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say the equivalent of “she made her bed, now she can lie in it” . . .

Really?

She made a bad decision, even a sinful decision, at age sixteen so we think the appropriate penalty is for her to spend the rest of her life not able to move beyond the consequences of that decision?  

Aren’t we glad God never uses that line on us!

He freely offers us grace.  Yes, there are physical consequences to sin and some of them can be lifelong.  But I think God can figure out how to use natural consequences to the best advantage without us trying to assist in that.  

We don’t help Him reach the lost by holding out a stony coldness to them!

Sure, most of us are not independently wealthy.  There might not be much we can afford to do.  

But to throw the phrase “She made her bed, now let her lie in it” out there is unconscionable.  If we can’t help financially, so be it.

But we must still hold out the gospel of grace and of love.  

Then when someone comes along who can afford to help and wants to help, they won’t have to spend lots of time undoing the damage our meanness has done to a new believer . . .

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The Hipsters, who Distance from the Fundies, Review Ken Ham through their Lens of Christianity

5 Feb

The Hipsters, who Distance from the Fundies, Review Ken Ham through their Lens of Christianity

Disclaimer: not all young Christians are hipsters and not all hipster Christians spend their time acting like they would like to hide the fundamentalist folks in Christianity in a broom closet, along with their hardworking old grandmother who makes them feel ashamed in front of their friends by her terminal lack of coolness.

But there are enough young hipsters like that in Christianity to be ironic.

Ironic because they denounce fundamentalists for hating them and trying to make them go away.

They denounce us while using these same tactics against us.

Enough already. Mom here! I don’t care who started it. Let’s just stop it. We are all part of the same Christian camp.

The above post doesn’t address many things theologically.

If you want to be a hipster Christian and defend marriage as being other than Christ defined it (one man, one woman, for life), then show me where the moral authority comes from to do that.

If you want to believe in theistic evolution, explain to me theologically how death came along before Adam and Eve fell.

If you want to reconcile a world that is millions of years old with a Saviour who was born of a virgin, explain to me how a God who wasn’t capable of creating an old universe in the Old Testament (with starlight already in progress, since stars that we can see are millions of light years from earth) suddenly became capable of creating a virgin birth in the New Testament.

There are lots of things that need to be addressed theologically by the above post. They were not even attempted. The writer merely did some terminally cool posturing. I throw a flag on his play.

And just sneering at fundamentalists does not count as a logical argument. In fact, that is called an ad hominem argument, for anyone who is truly looking to learn the fair rules of debate.

Just sayin’

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Learning to Lay Down our Preferences . . . For the Greater Good!

31 Jan

Learning to Lay Down our Preferences . . . For the Greater Good!

It remains one of my greatest joys to see the Church of Jesus Christ working together and loving each other, despite the vast diversity therein.

It remains one of my greatest puzzles to try to understand how, sometimes, people can sit one seat away from each other in church, then spend the week savaging each other behind each other’s backs.

What is worse, sometimes people can equate their snarkiness and sarcasm with spirituality. Well, it is spiritual all right, but not of the place we strive to enter at life’s end . . .

But at the end of the day, I will take my church and its people, warts and all. God knows what He is doing there and why He put us together.

I am not the only person who has a familymember struggling with OCD or another life-dominating condition. It is easier to struggle alongside others who understand what it is to struggle . . . and might even have suggestions that help in my struggle.

It is better to be around people who remind me that nothing is too hard for God, even when it is too hard for me.

Who encourage me to come back to fight another day!

I am convinced that the biggest killer of fellowship and, really, of hope itself is comparisons. Especially within the Body of Christ.

God told us not to compare ourselves to others but the human race is blighted with this tendency.

I am learning, as I age, that I can’t stop that happening. I can gently point it out. I can gently refuse to join the conversations that start that way. And I can gently just leave people alone when they pick at me or others, realizing that it is not really all that important to stop them from comparing themselves to others and trying to come out favorably. Does that really harm me? No.

I love the verse that tells us to agree with our adversary on the way lest worse things happen than her accusations. I am learning to do just that. If someone is picking at me, I ask for specifics. There may be some. Or maybe not. But I won’t know if I don’t ask. And if there are specifics, God can show me whether they have some validity or are just a figment of the other person’s imperfect imagination.

What do we have to lose, other than our defensiveness? And isn’t that a good thing in the end?

I love the Body of Christ.

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Eleven Reasons for the Soaring Distrust of Pastors!

21 Jan

Eleven Reasons for the Soaring Distrust of Pastors!

My poor pastor–having to maintain his godly ministry in the midst of these image-destroying stereotypes!

I totally identify with the one about an entitlement mentality having entered the church, too. I find most negative statements about my pastor (and other pastors) have much to do with people who expect the pastor to either be their best friend or at least to be there 24/7 at their beck and call. They get disillusioned when they don’t get all of his attention, all of the time.

Like it’s a competition or something. Many people seem to have never considered the idea that serving in the church is good for us, not just a way to get the pastor’s attention. Sheesh!

Arab Spring: Replacing One Autocrat with Another . . .

19 Dec

Taking a break from the endless Duck Dynasty controversy in the U.S. (yes, it is a first world issue, as the worker bees of this world have to work hard to make a living and don’t have time to get into endless arguments about who could have said “homosexuality is sin” in better words than Phil Robertson did), I tuned to BBC World News coverage of the Arab Spring and of one country where homosexuality is still regarded as sin, without much debate on the issue.  Egypt.

Interesting that the analysis being presented shows a pattern in Egypt that prevails no matter how much the people want change:  Egypt is always, always ruled by an autocrat.  Mubarak was one, Morsi was one, the current general who is running the country and looking good to be freely elected in the next round of elections is one . . . As the BBC said about Egypt and about other countries involved in the Arab Spring, they have only changed autocrats.  No one has ever yet achieved democracy.  

Why are we surprised?  Those raised without freedom don’t know how to handle it.  So, when given a chance, they will vote against it and “dance with the devil that brung them.”  Or, rather, they won’t even run any candidates representing true democracy.

If a country wants to develop democracy, they need help over a number of years, if not decades.  

And maybe they don’t need help from the likes of us, as we only seem intent on stifling opposing viewpoints over here these days . . .

Rather than turn back to Duck Dynasty (urp!), let me turn to a group I know pretty well.  

I turn to my friends, the IFB (Independent Fundamental Baptists) and their next generation, many of whom are anti-IFB.

This is my beloved denomination, by the way.  It has warts, both nationally and in each local church.  But which body of humans does not?

What I have been seeing that is disheartening though is that the “next generation” of pastors and theologians who are rising up to rebuke the simplistic thinking and the sound bytes that have been issued from IFB pulpits over the decades (we are not a denomination known for writing or even reading many books–to our great shame, I am afraid) are falling far short of any scholarship of their own.  

Many are reading the New Reformers (Young, Restless, and Reformed) and either accepting Calvinistic thinking in one swallow (not thinking it through first) or rejecting Calvinism but pasting the rest of the New Reformed thinking over their current theology.  

Can you think of anything more convoluted and confusing?  I honestly have not reached conclusions about many areas of doctrine as taught by Calvin, Spurgeon, etc.  But rather than just start spouting words which I don’t fully understand yet, I leave the issues on the backburner of my mind and heart and read more about them . . .

That is how reasoned theological stands are formed.  That is also how reasoned (and reasonable) debate takes place.  People who merely quote sound bytes they heard from people who were much more educated than they were (and who took the time to think through their stands) do much violence to the cause of Christ by not really knowing what their theology is at all. It is so unnecessary to be this way, too. Rather than sniping at the Old Guard, these guys could be engaging in some scholarship of their own!!! 

But, ironically, rather than work on forming a solid theological understanding, these are the guys who spend their time rebuking their elders for inconsistent theological stands based on sound byte theology.  

Far as I can tell, extremists in both groups have done exactly the same thing. They have resorted to sound bytes in order to rebuke everyone who disagrees with them.

One group of autocrats replacing another.  Mubarak (the IFB elders) being replaced by Morsi (the anti-IFB young bucks).  

Thank God the living, breathing, loving IFB pastors whom I know locally are not of that ilk. They study, they teach, they preach the gospel tirelessly. Bless them.

The others, the extremists, will just stand there rebuking each other for the next several decades while a world of lost people slides closer and closer to hell . . . 

Know-it-alls are often autocrats.  Autocrats are often know-it-alls.  Neither are people in a position to lead us in evangelizing a lost world . . .

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Three Questions to Ask Before Weighing in on a Controversy . . .

16 Dec

Three Questions to Ask Before Weighing in on a Controversy . . .

My First Clue that I am Backsliding . . .

12 Nov

Backsliding is a very old-fashioned word, but it is a Biblical and a descriptive one.

There are as many ways to tell that you are starting to backslide as there are sins (probably).

For me, my first clue is not one that others might suspect.

My first clue to backsliding is not lustful thoughts about people or greedy attitudes about things.

It is, 95% of the time, a hardening of my heart toward a person or a group of people.

There is a surefire test I have found for it, too.

It is usually related to longterm discouragement, seeing a person or a group of people who claim to be Christians but who very much live by the law (i.e., spend their time judging others rather than reaching the lost for Christ).

What happens is I have a sinful response to the sin of that other person/group of people and start mentally holding my breath, waiting for God to set them straight in some dramatic way.

Fact is, sin usually does wind up with some pretty dramatic conclusions. Those who set themselves up as judges of others often have the most dramatic, painful falls as a result (probably that is a natural consequence of their sin that God allows rather than causes. He said our sin will find us out eventually, right???).

But it is sinful for me to hold my breath, awaiting such an event. It discloses the negativity of my own heart toward a brother or sister in Christ whom I should be urging to run to the cross (with everyone else who claims Christ).

In fact, that is the remedy for my backsliding. To let God soften my heart toward that person so that I grieve, rather than secretly rejoice, when he or she publicly falls into painful circumstances.

God says that throughout His Word. Sin will bring natural consequences. Sometimes it brings God’s chastisement, if the natural consequences don’t get the person’s attention first.

But He also tells us not to rejoice or to enjoy it when someone encounters those painful circumstances. It is very bad for our hearts to allow that kind of emotion to rule us. The Germans call it schadenfreude. Rejoicing at someone else’s fall.

It is utterly the mark of my sinful heart when I allow myself to engage in it. No other explanation for it. It is a mark of my sinful heart when I engage in schadenfreude.

As it is the mark of a sinful heart in anyone who does it . . .

God wants us to bear each other’s burdens. That would include being there for each other when we fall, for we all struggle with sin as long as we are in this body here on earth . . .

Breaking Fellowship with Someone (a Joel Osteen Discussion)

26 Sep

Romans 16:17, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”

The other night I entered into what became a heated exchange between about a dozen people on Facebook about some statements recently made by Joel Osteen.

Some of the participants in the discussion believed the statements reveal that Osteen is not orthodox in his Christianity–that he is a “false prophet” who is not even truly a Christian.

Others believed that the statements were quoted out of context.

I don’t know either way. Joel Osteen doesn’t matter that much to me to even look them up. I don’t listen to him anyway.

However, what came next was telling.

One woman quoted the above verse as a proof text that anyone who listened to Joel Osteen was also not truly a Christian.

That was where I entered into the discussion. Two of my young friends had been defending Joel Osteen. Unlike me, they have listened to him. But, unlike what this woman was saying, I believe that my young friends are truly born again Christians.

And I believe that woman on Facebook was taking the above verse out of context.

The verse, in context, is about causing unnecessary divisions in the Body of Christ. That would be divisions over fine points of doctrine. On those, we are allowed a conscience clause.

I sometimes read controversial writers because I need to know what they are saying, both to teach a Sunday school class and to write my blog. I often research them so I can state a Scriptural case for why I disagree with them.

I see nowhere in the Bible that we are called to put our heads in the sand and ignore everyone who teaches contrary to what we teach.

We do have to be careful to not endorse teaching that is not orthodox Christianity. But my two young friends were not doing that. They had quietly listened to a few of Joel Osteen’s teachings in the past–they were not pushing them on anyone else.

And the woman on Facebook was making that a litmus test as to whether my two friends could be born again.

That is just wrong.

I have taught Sunday school with the mothers of both of those young gals for years. I have watched these friends grow up and start their families. Both are incredible moms, in church and raising their children to love the Lord. I may not always agree with them or with the people they choose to read, but they might not always agree with me on my choices either. That is what Christian liberty is. The freedom to read and think and pray and work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

And the verse in Romans says the person who causes unnecessary division is the one who is wrong. Like the person who throws a remark out there that anyone who has ever listened to a sermon by Joel Osteen is going to hell. That person allows no Christian liberty to anyone except herself!!!

May God protect us from ourselves! We are our own worst enemies sometimes in the Body of Christ!!!

Food Wars

8 Sep

I Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

I am taking my cues on this post from Doug Wilson, who noticed this trend long before I did.

Have you noticed that, as the world is getting more demanding about everyone’s personal diet being served at communal gatherings, so is the church?

No longer is it okay for someone to make one vegetarian dish or one gluten free dish or one clean-eating dish for a family Thanksgiving.  No, now we all, Christians included, are asking our hosts to change their entire menu to conform to our personal tastes.  

That’s not even polite, let alone kind, in the way Christians are admonished to be kind.

If someone goes to the effort to make us a vegetarian dish, let’s be grateful.  If they don’t, let’s bring our own and go to the communal meal anyways.  

Communal meals were very important in Scripture.  So important that the Apostle Paul gave many, many instructions about them.  Mainly that we are to be kind to each other at such meals and to let the other person be first (in priority, etc.).  

We do that because we are grateful for Christ’s great love for us and realize that, as a result, we can easily give up a few of our supposed “rights.”

Special diets are fast overcoming this kindness we are admonished to show.  

Sometimes research turns up some new data (like high fructose corn syrup being highly addictive to the human organism, which it is) and we seize on that new research and use it as a tool to clobber our fellow Christians over the head figuratively.  

I won’t use high fructose corn syrup.  I have had enough issues with food addictions (read:  sugar) that I know I need to watch out.  

However, is it my job to become a busybody, lecturing mothers who let their teens, or even their preschoolers, drink Coke?  

No, no, a million times, no.

Whatsoever they eat or drink needs to be to the glory of God.  Not everyone has issues with sugar, like I do, and even if they do, it is not up to me to come remove their sugar from their pantry.    

It doesn’t mean they are in active rebellion against God if they use high fructose corn syrup.  

I shouldn’t have to say that, but I can see I must.

Some Christians seize on every new piece of research that comes along and automatically act as if everyone has already heard about it and therefore is in sin if they don’t modify their diets accordingly.

That is not kind.  

Not everyone can afford expensive diets, even if they wanted to do them.  

Not everyone is equally literate, so not everyone can read the latest research and understand it.

Most of all, to imply that we are living in sin if we don’t immediately accommodate every new piece of scientific research on diet is to imply that it is getting harder and harder to serve the Lord.  

We know a whole lot more scientifically nowadays.  To some extent, that implies that God’s standards would change, to include us being responsible for not using products that would harm our bodies (tobacco, marijuana, etc.).  

To another extent, God did not change the sanctification process to make it a whole lot harder to live it out in 2013 than it was in 1913.  

Our attitude is to always be to glorify God by what we eat and drink.  

Simply that.  

We will always disagree about standards, but let’s be kind when we do.  

Let’s still have fellowship meals together, even when one family eats a traditional Southern (read:  fried) diet and another eats Paleo.  

Because our fellowship pleases the Lord, ya know?

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