March 2009

Monthly Archive

Biblical Humility

Posted by on 30 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: Humility, Jonathan Edwards

humility

Humility Equals Dependence on God

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

1 Peter 5:6-7 (NLT)

Humility is seeing yourself as God sees you: dark yet lovely (Song of Songs 1:5), weak yet strong (2 Cor. 12:9), and poor yet spiritually rich (2 Cor. 9:8). Humility is not thinking less of myself, but thinking less about myself. Humility is not denigrating myself by making myself out to be less than the total person that God has gifted and called me to be as his servant. Humility is admitting my weaknesses, calling out to God for help, and depending completely on his strengthening grace. Humility is surrendering myself to God the Father by allowing him to do in my life whatever he pleases irrespective of what others might say about me or do to me.

God is brilliant, yet he speaks to me in simplicity and with great tenderness. God is all-powerful, yet he waits for a response from me to his love. God is perfect, yet he does not expect perfection from me. God is all knowing, yet he never grows impatience with my ignorance and inability to understand. God is truly humble: he became God incarnate in human flesh in order that you and I might know him.

A truly humble man is sensible of his natural distance from God; of his dependence on Him; of the insufficiency of his own power and wisdom; and that it is by God’s power that he is upheld and provided for, and that he needs God’s wisdom to lead and guide him, and His might to enable him to do what he ought to do for Him.

Jonathan Edwards, Christian Quote of the Day, January 16, 2007; available from http://www.christianquote.com/.

Today’s Humility

Posted by on 28 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: G.K. Chesterton, Humility

chesterton

Today’s Humility Doubts God

So humble yourselves before God.

(James 4:7 NLT)

What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert-himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt – the Divine Reason. . . . The new skeptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. . . . There is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it’s practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. . . . The old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which makes him stop working altogether. . . . We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957), 31-32.

Apostolic Succession: Is It for Real?

Posted by on 26 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: Apostolic Succession, Catholicity, Church Fathers

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Apostolic Succession Defined

Apostolic succession is historic continuity with the apostles imparted through the laying on of hands in ordination; thereby, receiving the apostles’ authority while simultaneously experiencing the Holy Spirit’s anointing to embody apostolic character and teach apostolic doctrine.

This ancient succession grants to the bishops the same authority, commission, and responsibility as the apostles. Also, an apostolic anointing extends special grace and authority to the clergy from the Holy Spirit to advance the gospel throughout the world. Succession is a gift which must be lived as well as believed.

As our blessed Lord ordained the twelve to be his representatives when He left the earth, so the apostles chose others to take their place when they in turn were withdrawn by death.  . . . During this long period, successors of the apostles, first receiving, and then in turn handing on the divine power and authority which Christ gave to the twelve, have never been wanting. The apostolic succession is the link or bond that connects the Church of the 20th century with that of the 1st century.

Vernon Staley, The Catholic Religion (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Press, 1983), 15.

The doctrine of apostolic succession has both Petrine and Pauline qualities. Petrine in that the bishop’s consecration and ministry must be in historic continuity with the church catholic and Pauline in that the bishop should be governed by the Holy Spirit and has an individual (not individualistic) walk with the Lord exemplified by the “faith that works through love.” If a bishop is not Pauline then he is not apostolic. In other words, no matter the fact of his ordination, he is not a representative of the church if he is not living a holy life and does not believe the historic doctrines of the apostles. However, when a bishop is Pauline and not Petrine, he lacks authority in his ministry. That deficiency keeps him from speaking from and to the church. As one presbyter stated,

When I received Christ, I discovered the grace of God. When I received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, I discovered the power of God. When I received the laying on of hands in apostolic succession of the government of God, I discovered the authority of God.

Ed Wills, “Sensitive to the Holy Spirit,” Sursum Corda (November 1994), 2.

Yes, the doctrine of apostolic succcession is for real: not magic, just the gracious work of the Holy Spirit empowering his church to be the Church.

The Cross-Filled Life

Posted by on 23 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: Holy Eucharist, Robert E. Webber, Servant

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The Table Reminds Us of Christ’s Sacrificial Life


But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

(Matt 20:26-28 ESV)

The one true fulfilled and meaningful life is not the life of acquisition, power, fame, sexual freedom, consumerism, or materialism but the cruciform life. The spiritual life is lived out of the crucifixion. It is a willing, voluntary choosing to give oneself to others, to endure suffering for the needs of others, even, if necessary, to the point of death. Table worship (i.e., Holy Eucharist) nourishes this commitment because it discloses the meaning of life as the act of giving up self in order to do the will of God for others.

Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), 143-144.

HT: Webber Quote of the Week

By His Permission and Appointment

Posted by on 22 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: F.B. Meyer, God's Sovereignty, Keswick Convention

christ_pantocrator

God’s Permission

Does not the Most High send both calamity and good?

Lam. 3:38 NLT

Now it seems to me as if you and I are enclosed in God. An arrow comes from the enemy’s bow. A man hates me writes an anonymous letter. Someone defrauds me. Some woman sets an unkind story afloat about me. The evil travels toward me. If God liked, He could let the arrow pass this way or that. But if my God opens and permits the evil to pass through His encompassing power to my heart, by the time it has passed through God to me, it has become God’s will for me. He permits it, and that is His will for my life. I do not say that the man will escape his just doom. God will deal with him. I am not going to worry myself about him. In early days, I have taken infinite pains to avert the evil that men wished to do me, or perhaps to repay them, or to show that the evil was perfectly unwarranted. I confess that I have ceased to worry about it. If you silence one man you will start twenty more. It is ever so much better for peace of mind to accept the will of God, to accept His permission and His appointment, to look up into His face, and say, “Even so, Father.”

F. B. Meyer, The Christ-Life for Your Life (Chicago: Moody Press, no date), 121.

Isn’t the Christian Life Suppose to Be Easy?

Posted by on 19 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: John Stott, Keswick Convention, The Cross

the-cross

No Pain, No Gain

And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

(Rom. 8:16-17 NLT)

Why should we expect our Christian life and service to be easy? The Bible never gives us any such expectation. Rather the reverse: the Bible says again and again, no cross, no crown; no rules, no wreath; no pains, no gains. It is this principle which took Christ through lowly birth and suffering death, to his resurrection and his reign in heaven. It is this principle that brought Paul his chains, and his prison cell, in order that the elect might obtain salvation in Jesus Christ. It is this principle which makes the soldier willing to endure hardship, the athlete discipline, the farmer toil. Do not expect Christian service to be easy.

John Stott, “God’s Man: Studies in 2 Timothy” in The Keswick Week 1969, ed. H. F. Stevenson (London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1969), 83.

HT: Langham Partnership International

The Story in Bread and Wine

Posted by on 16 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: Holy Eucharist, Robert E. Webber

robert-webber

“With the Eyes of Faith”

When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body.

(1 Co 10:16-17 NLT)

While the Bible discloses the story of the world in words, the same story is enacted at bread and wine. Rationalism cannot embrace this, for it only sees bread as food that is eaten and wine as drink that is imbibed. But when we come to the Table with the eyes of faith, we experience the burning conviction that we live in a supernatural world. . . . At bread and wine we see creation, fall, incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, church, the kingdom, and the promise of the new heavens and new earth and our own transfiguration accomplished through God’s union with us established through Jesus by the Spirit.

Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), 141.

HT: Webber Quote of the Week

Oh No, Not Me! I Didn’t Do It.

Posted by on 14 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: Exchanged Life, Forgiveness, Jerry Bridges, Justification, Martin Luther, My Sermons, Roy Hession, Sin

repentance

The Human Heart (Chapter Ten)

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jer. 17:9 KJV).

Our Hearts

Chapter ten of Roy Hession’s’ The Calvary Road addresses the human heart. A heart affected by the Fall is deceitful, conniving, prideful, and defensive (Mark 7:21-22). We protest as innocent when God reveals, convicts, and corrects the foolishness conceived within our hearts. We deny, obfuscate, and protest when our actions manifest our selfishness to others. “How often have not we, too, protested our innocence on the many occasions when God has been convicting others, and when He has wanted to convict us too” (pg. 108). We cover up our sinful struggles assuming that if we do not confess our moral failings, then God will not know about our sinful indiscretions (Ezek. 21:24).

Cover-Up

We do not confess our failures. We worry that if others know, then God will know, how terrible we really are on the inside. We assume that God will reject us if our secret sins are exposed. We avoid being honest with God and ourselves for fear that love and forgiveness will not be found if the true condition of hearts were known. We wrongly assume that God’s love is conditional based on our good behavior. Therefore, we do not call sin, “sin.” We protest our innocence even though we know that our lives do not measure up to God’s holy standards. One more sin, one more failure, one more shortcoming, we cannot and will not admit. Our failures overwhelm us for we did not have the willpower or the energy to fix it (1 John 1:8).

Defensive

God has said that we are self-centered, prideful, and dishonest, yet we continue to defend ourselves. Not only are we dishonest with God, we defend our friends, and loved ones from the Holy Spirit’s conviction as well.

There is yet another error we fall into, when we are not willing to recognize the truth of what God says of the human heart. Not only do we protest our own innocence, but we often protest the innocence of our loved ones. We hate to see them being convicted and humbled and we hasten to defend them. We do not want them to confess anything. We are not only living in a realm of illusion about ourselves, but about them too, and we fear to have it shattered. But we are only defending them against God – making God a liar on their behalf, as we do on our own, and keeping them from entering into blessing, as we do ourselves (pg. 110).

Righteousness of Christ

We assume that our performance of the Christian life is the measure by which God accepts us into his kingdom. We are sure that we have forfeited God’s acceptance by our disobedience. Our hearts condemns us, therefore we assume that we are condemned by God. However, one truth stands forth above all others for us as believers: the only righteousness that exists in our lives is the righteousness of Christ. Christ’s righteousness was imputed (and imparted) to us when we believed that Christ’s terrible death on the Cross was punishment for our sin (Gal. 3:10-14).

Christians are not made righteous by doing righteous things, but being made righteous by faith in Christ, they do righteous things.

[Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, CD-Rom (Simpsonville SC: Christian Classics Foundation, 1996), 3:11.]

The Great Exchange

We received God’s forgiveness and Christ’s righteousness not based on our personal performance, but because of Christ’s beautiful performance on the Cross. This beautiful exchange of my sin for his righteousness is the Gospel (2 Cor. 5:21).

The simple truth is that the only beautiful thing about the Christian is Jesus Christ. God wants us to recognize that fact as true in our experience, so that in true brokenness and self-despair we shall allow Jesus Christ to be our righteousness and holiness and all in all – and that is victory (pg. 107).

This wonderful exchanged is the one-sided trade of my sins, inadequacies, and numerous failings for Christ’s forgiveness, life-sufficiency, and overcoming victory. Ultimately, the greatest of all exchanges is Jesus Christ, the one who is fully man and fully God, truly innocent and without sin, taking upon himself at Golgotha all my selfishness, rebellion, brokenness, and hatred by substituting his righteousness, forgiveness, restoration and love. We can live the exchanged life because Christ by his gracious grace made the Great Exchange of my sin for his righteousness on the Cross (Gal. 2:20).

Abundant Grace

Because of the Cross, our lives are lived in a state of grace. We receive all the blessings of Christ’s obedience as if these great acts were our own. Because of grace, the Christian life is not a performance based on moralism and legalism, but a life lived in God’s acceptance.

No one can understand the message of Scripture who does not know the meaning of grace. The God of the Bible is ‘the God of all grace’ (1 Pet. 5:10). Grace is love, but love of a special sort. It is love which stoops and sacrifices and serves, love which is kind to the unkind, and generous to the ungrateful and undeserving. Grace is God’s free and unmerited favor, loving the unlovable, seeking the fugitive, rescuing the hopeless, and lifting the beggar from the dunghill to make him sit among princes.

[John Stott, Understanding the Bible, Revised (London: Scripture Union, 1984), 127.]

Since we are saved by grace and not by our performance, we are now free to be brutally honest with God (Eph. 2:8-9). We can say with David,

Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight, that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest and be clear when Thou judgest” (Psalm 51:4 KJV). Let us not fear then, to make such a confession where God convicts us that we must, thinking that it will “let Jesus down.” Rather the reverse is true, for out of such confession God gets glory, for we declare Him to be right (pg. 112).

The Gospel for Everyday

We learn to apply the gospel not only to my salvation experience, but also to my on-going growth in Christ (Rom. 8:1-4). As Jerry Bridges has noted,

The gospel applied every day to our hearts, frees us to be brutally honest with ourselves and with God. The assurance of His total forgiveness through Christ’s blood means that we don’t have to play defensive games anymore. We don’t have to rationalize and excuse our sins. We can say that we told a lie instead of continuing to blame others for our emotional distress. We can call sin exactly what it is, however ugly and shameful it may be, because we know Jesus bore that sin in His body on the cross. We have no reason to hide from our sins anymore.

[Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day by Day (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2008), 25.]

Brokenness Though the Cross

Thank God, we know longer have to pretend, cover up or hide from our sins and failures. We no longer have to fake a victory that does not exist. We no longer have to act holy when we know that we are behaving badly. Because of the Cross, we can come to a place of brokenness–a place where all my sins can be washed away by the blood of the Lamb.

A man never comes to this position of brokenness, but God shows him the Divine Lamb on Calvary‘s Cross, putting away his sin by the shedding of His Blood. The God who declares beforehand what we are, provides beforehand for our sin. Jesus was the Lamb slain for our sins from the foundation of the world. In Him, who bore them in meekness, my sins are finished. And as I, in true brokenness, confess them, and put my faith in His Blood, they are cleansed and gone. Peace with God then comes into my heart, fellowship with God is immediately restored, and I walk with Him in white (pg. 113).

With this post, we conclude our study of personal revival as taught by Roy Hession in his classic work, The Calvary Road.

Eucharistic Adoration

Posted by on 10 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: Catholicity, Holy Eucharist

john-paul-ii-with-monstrance

Definition

Eucharistic Adoration is a sign of devotion to and worship of Jesus Christ, who is believed to be present in the consecrated host. The consecrated host is the physical presence of Christ in the sanctified bread and wine which Roman Catholics (and Anglo-Catholics) believe to be the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Transubstantiation

The consecrated host/bread is placed in a monstrance and stationed on the altar for viewing at regular times during the week. The devotional and worship practice of adoring and praying to the consecrated host is practiced in local parishes, shrines, and monasteries. The belief that Christ is physically the wafer/host as displayed in the monstrance and is present in the midst of the congregation is a theological extension of the doctrine of transubstantiation. Without exception, those Roman Catholic (and Anglo-Catholic) churches who endorse Eucharistic adoration accept as true the doctrine of transubstantiation.

The doctrine of transubstantiation is the belief of the Roman Catholic Church that the outward (accidents) appearance of the bread stays the same after consecration, but the host’s inner nature (substance) is changed into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. These categories of accidents and substance are the thought of Aristotle not the theological workings of the Ancient Fathers of the Church or the biblical teaching of Jesus Christ and Paul the Apostle.

Medieval Development

Eucharistic adoration is not an ancient practice; it began in Avignon, France on September 11, 1226. Public adoration of the Blessed Sacrament began as a thanksgiving celebration for the victory of France and the Roman Catholic Church over the Albigensians in the later battles of the Albigensian Crusade. King Louis VII desired that the sacrament be placed on display at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The multitude of adorers brought the local diocesan bishop, Pierre de Corbie, to suggest that the display continue indefinitely. With the permission of Pope Honorius III, the idea was approved and adoration continued mostly uninterrupted until the French Revolution.

Genuine Catholicity?

Eucharistic adoration is not encouraged in the Orthodox churches of the East neither has this form of worship been practiced everywhere for all the time by all churches. For a practice or doctrine to be considered orthodox: it must have been received by the undivided Church (East and West), stood the test of time, and agreed upon by the consensus of the early fathers. This triple test of ecumenicity, antiquity, and consent is called the Vincentian canon and it is the overarching test for genuine Catholicity. In my view, the practice of Eucharistic devotion, that is displaying a monstrance containing a consecrated host for worship and prayer, does not pass the test of the Vincentian canon. Therefore, Eucharistic devotion does not meet the criterion as an acceptable practice within the Great Tradition and is not to be considered a theological conviction of the Ancient Faith.

Russian Orthodox theologian, Alexander Schmemann, states that Eastern Orthodoxy does not practice the elevation of the bread and wine for special adoration.

The Purpose of the Eucharist lies not in the change of the bread and wine, but in the partaking of Christ, who has become our food, our life, the manifestation of the Church as the body of Christ. This is why the gifts themselves never became in the Orthodox East an object of special reverence, contemplation, and adoration, and likewise an object of special theological “problematics”: how, when, in what manner their change is accomplished.

[Alexander Schmemann, The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 1998), 226.]

Eastern Orthodoxy’s Eucharistic focus is not on the change in the elements, but on the presence of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the mystery of faith encountered in the ancient liturgy. Eastern Christians do not adore the consecrated bread outside the liturgy itself.

The Reformation

As would be expected, the Evangelical Reformers of the sixteenth century had grave doubts about the practice of Eucharistic adoration. They decried its use, discouraged participation, and condemned the practice within Reformed churches. John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli and their colleagues in Geneva and Zurich, respectively, issued a statement as to their common agreement concerning the nature of the Lord’s Supper. The document, Heads of Agreement on the Lord’s Supper, was written after the failure of the Marburg Colloquy.

The Marburg Colloquy was an attempt to achieve a concord between Martin Luther and Zwingli over the nature of the Eucharist. Luther believed in Real Presence of Christ (physical) and Zwingli declared the elements of bread and wine to be merely symbolic. Luther and Zwingli’s disagreement was volatile and very public. Their discord was rending  the Protestant movement at its very heart.

John Calvin felt that Protestantism needed at the very least to declare its unity on some matters regarding the Lord’s Supper. Article Twenty-Six states Geneva and Zurich’s condemnation of Eucharistic adoration:

If it is not lawful to affix Christ in our imagination to the bread and the wine, much less is it lawful to worship him in the bread. For although the bread is held forth to us as a symbol and pledge of the communion which we have with Christ, yet as it is a sign and not the thing itself, and has not the thing either included in it or fixed to it, those who turn their minds towards it, with the view of worshipping Christ, make an idol of it.

The rejection of the practice of Eucharistic Adoration by the Magisterial Reformers continues to be doctrinal belief of all Evangelical churches everywhere.

Idolatry

Many Roman Catholic (and Anglo-Catholics) are sincere in their desire to dwell in Christ’s presence, but it takes very little effort on the part of the Enemy to turn this sincere devotional activity into a form of idolatry. Roman Catholics describe the consecrated host as “the physical Body of Jesus” and that the presence of the host increases the anointing in the sanctuary, because Christ himself is contained in the physical object of the wafer. It is said, if the monstrance is removed, God’s presence is removed. If “the host and precious blood” are returned to the sanctuary, it is said that Christ presence has returned.

To state that God’s presence is contained or limited within a physical object is a form of idolatry (Exodus 20:4-6). Idolatry reduces God the Creator to a material object of creation thereby limiting his attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. The Lord is no longer Spirit, but an object which can be controlled by human beings (Isa. 40:18-23). It grieves me as a believer, pastor, and theologian, that God’s precious gift to us of Holy Communion has been twisted and made into an object of limited worship. I have no doubt that that the adorers are sincere in their desire to be in the presence of Christ. However, it will not take long for the flesh, or the Enemy, to bring misunderstanding about the nature of the Holy Trinity causing much personal sorrow and emotional pain to all involved. Arguments that Eucharistic adoration is a blessing to parishioners by increasing the presence of God in the church building is experiential and subjective without basis in scripture or tradition.

The Ancient Liturgy

Instead of the Table of the Lord being a place of participation in Christ, it becomes a night stand for observing God from a distance. Adoration confuses the physical object with its Author, and the location of God with a material entity, and limits God’s attributes to a place and time. Alexander Schmemann’s main criticism of Eucharistic adoration is that the practice isolates the Eucharist from its purpose: communion with God (pg. 227). The Eucharist is removed from its context in the liturgy as the communion of the Church with Christ and places Christ at a distance, objectifying the Eucharist in a manner not consistent with the whole meaning of the Lord’s Supper.

Holy Eucharist is intended to be place of an encounter with the living resurrected Christ. In Scripture, seven theological images or truths of the Eucharist are revealed: remembrance, communion, forgiveness, covenant, nourishment, anticipation, and thanksgiving. These truths cannot be experienced if we are watching instead of participating.

Summary

Eucharistic adoration as a belief and practice is erroneous: it does not reflect the teaching of the Bible or life of worship found in the Ancient Church. The practice is not promoted in the Orthodox East and is not consistent with full and complete participation in the Holy Eucharist.

Caveat: The views expressed in this blog post are entirely my own and are not necessarily the views of the Central Gulf Coast Diocese, Southeast Province, or the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church (C.E.C.).

The Early Church Fathers: We Are Saved by Grace

Posted by on 07 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: Early Church Father, God's Grace, Salvation

The Fathers Taught Justifying Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Eph 2:8-10

Do not rely on your own efforts, but on the grace of Christ. ‘You are,’ says the apostle, ‘saved by grace.’ Therefore it is not a matter of arrogance here but faith when we celebrate: we are accepted! This is not pride but devotion.

St. Ambrose, On the Sacraments 5.4.19, quoted in Thomas Oden, The Justification Reader (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 108.

Paul says this in case the secret thought should steal upon us that ‘if we are not saved by our own works, at least we are saved by our own faith, and so in another way our salvation is of ourselves.’ Thus he added the statement that faith too is not in our own will but in God’s gift. Not that he means to take away free choice from humanity . . .  but that even this very freedom of choice has God as its author, and all things are to be referred to his generosity, in that he has even allowed us to will the good.

St. Jerome, Epistle to the Ephesians cited in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Volume VIII (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1999), 133.

HT: Of First Importance

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