Patience In Suffering

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. 1 Pet. 2:18-25

The Swahili version of verse 19 reads: “For this is true goodness, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.”

There it is, just in case you were wondering at the exact meaning of the word “thankworthy” in this verse. In other words, there is what we could call ordinary goodness; and there is true goodness. Ordinary goodness is the goodness that responds only to like goodness but cannot endure opposition to self. This goodness is of our carnal nature and it does not please God for it does not respond well to Christian suffering.

True goodness can only be of God. That means that the bar for true goodness is set very high. Remember the girl in Philippi who had a spirit of divination in her and who followed Paul and his team and proclaimed after them:

“These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17)?

Our God is the Most High God and his standards are equally high. True goodness cannot therefore be the feel-good stuff that our flesh craves. As a matter of fact, true goodness can only be something that the flesh detests, and which it desires to run away from.

In the world, our hearts automatically warm towards those who will us no ill. But when we meet people who would do us harm, we close our hearts. It is the easiest thing, even in church, to align ourselves with the people whose hearts are open to us. But we tend to close our hearts to those people who will not open their hearts to us, or to those who criticize and torment or persecute us. And if this is the case in the church, how much more so when this suffering comes from the world? The Apostle Peter here puts his finger on what is probably the most difficult thing for a believer to do: to suffer wrong patiently and to maintain a pure heart when in that situation.

Notice, again, “… but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”

The word “acceptable” here again attests to the high standards of God. “Acceptable” means what is right with or pleasing to God. If it was me, what Peter describes here is not what would be acceptable with me. But this is what is acceptable with God.

On the flip side, it means that if we suffer when we do well and are unable to take that suffering “patiently”, this is not acceptable with God. We have a long way to go in pleasing God!

But the Apostle Peter gives us the example of Christ Himself. Christ endured suffering from sinners, although He Himself was sinless! In that way, Christ did that which was acceptable with God. But even more so, the Bible tells us, it was through this endurance that Christ became the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.

If we are selfish, we cannot take evil, and for that reason can never be of value to anyone from God’s perspective. Jesus said,

“24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” (Jn. 12:24-25)

Hence the need for the revelation of the cross in our lives, where “Christ crucified” becomes the foundation of our Christian lives. It is only through a crucified life that we can live this kind of life, the life that pleases God.

[In the midst of suffering may it be well, Lord, with my soul.]

Deception vs the Cross

I don’t know when this video was taken. Nevertheless, I thank the Lord Jesus Christ so much! The people in this video are men and women whom I would not, in a million years, have the faintest chance of matching in terms of brainpower, power, status or worldly wealth. (There are people here being asked for a single donation of 10,000 U.S. dollars!)

And yet, thanks to the grace of God, even though I am light years away from their class, I cannot imagine being scammed on the massive scale that these people are being scammed. Not that I am judging them. On the contrary, my heart goes out to them. These are people who had not the revelation of the true gospel of Jesus Christ – “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2) – in their hearts. They probably had never heard it preached. But, again, in their day, there probably was no teacher of the gospel who taught this revelation.

But, today, God has brought to light the gospel of the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ and it is spreading all over the earth. And yet, even today, there are equally level-headed people – God’s people – who are being conned on an even bigger magnitude than what we witness in this video clip.

I have no words to express my gratitude to God, who delivered me from gospels of preachers such as these, who do not have the revelation of the cross in them; to whom, I hasten to add, I was once enslaved.

“(The Lord) brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” (Ps. 40:2)

It is a sad tale, the tale of where today’s men of God have taken the church to. They have taken God’s people back into the miry pit.

Sadly, everything in this video clip – the beautiful piano music, the soothing voice of the man speaking in the background, the preacher’s well-modulated intonations – are all used to euthanize the minds of the people this preacher is targeting.

We Are One

26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:26-28
An argument was brewing up in church. Somebody had come to church with their sick child and another child had gone to play with him. The mother of the second child rushed up and hustled her child away from the sick one with the words, “Watch out! He is going to infect you!”
The mother of the sick child overheard the words, and she did not take it well. She came to the defense of her child – and her dignity.
Thus began a very ugly spat right inside the church grounds. The cross of Jesus had been thrown overboard.
Inside one of the cars going home after the service sat the mother who had snatched away her child from the company of the sick one. She was a well-educated and well-groomed lady.
The car had four other passengers, all equally well-educated. Still smarting from the unpleasant exchange she had had with her sister-in-Christ, the sister remarked: “Couldn’t she have had the sense to leave her child at home? How can one bring such a sick child to play with other kids?”
To which one of the company replied, “The problem is that that lady is not educated.”
From that point onwards, the conversation inside the car revolved around the merits of being educated and the disadvantages of being uneducated. Not one person who spoke made any reference to taking up their cross and following Christ. Instead, they all came to the support of the sister who was with them in the car.
This is not a story that I have made up. It is an actual incident that occurred in a certain church.
The first words in the Bible are:
“In the beginning…” (Gen. 1:1)
In everything we must start in the beginning. Where were you before you got educated? Where were you before you became rich? What were you before you became the self-made man or woman you have become? Where were you before you became white or black?
The cold fact is that you were nothing. You have no idea of your origins because it was God who ordained you to come into this world. And even after you were born, there was a time you did not know your left hand from your right hand.
Education, riches, status, cultural background, etc. – all these are things that we stumbled upon in this world. These things are of this world; they are not of God’s heavenly Kingdom. As spiritual people, therefore, we cannot boast in them. Nor can we allow them to divide us as children of God.
Rather, we are to desire to take up our cross and humble ourselves and realize that we are what we are simply because we are in Christ. Without Christ, we are nothing.
The Jew, the Greek; the bond, the free; the male and the female: all these are qualities that are of this world. They set the boundaries for us in the flesh. But in the Spirit, we are one. There is none of these things that divide us.
To be honest, I have a problem with being a man. There are certain inborn traits and expectations that come with this attribute which, in the Spirit, are more of a hindrance to me than the positive qualities that the world makes them out to be.
That is why I need the cross. The cross of Jesus Christ in my life will deal with the mind of the flesh that is inherent in these qualities. The cross of Christ will mould in me the mind of Christ, whereby I can have the grace to consider my wife a fellow heir with me of the grace of life (1 Pet. 3:7), rather than as just a woman.
The grace of God in me will make me to lift men of low estate and cause them to become my equals in the Spirit instead of looking down on them.
The grace of God in me will cause me to give the respect due to my superiors in life, not out of fear, but because I love them; they are my brothers and sisters.
The grace of God, that we receive as a result of the cross working in our lives, will make us truly one, the true Body of Jesus Christ.
God’s grace in us will make us to effectively do the will of God, which is “good, and acceptable, and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).

The Need For Sound Doctrine – Part 2

Sometimes the problem is not the mega-church and all it entails. Paul also told Timothy:

“1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” (1 Tim. 4:1-3)

Sometimes the problem is “seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils”. Imagine… God’s people literally being led by demonic forces! And when you hear the devil, don’t expect to see him in horns. Oh, no. What you will see is a priest or pastor or preacher who has probably even been to Bible school. And, actually, when you read this particular scripture, you will realize that the Bible is talking about mainstream denominations!

Take, for example, a ‘church’ that forbids people to marry, or one that forbids people to eat certain foods. The Bible here states that both these doctrines are doctrines of devils. And yet… false denominations and cults use these same teachings to deceive their members.

The Bible calls these doctrines of devils because they aim to found people’s faith on something else other than the sound doctrine of Jesus Christ.

The second thing – which is the subject of the second part of this series – is that you would think, as I had always thought, that the culprits in these modern-day charades are the greedy, worldly (and sometimes demon-possessed) preachers. We love talking about how these preachers are ripping off God’s people and how they are leading them into error. But lo and behold… the Bible has news for us! According to 2 Timothy 4:3-4, the real culprits are not these preachers. The real culprits are the people themselves, who have given these preachers the platform to deceive them. That is what the Bible says right here:

“…after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers”.

The whodunnit in this crime are the believers who attend churches where the cross of Christ has been stripped of its power (1 Cor. 1:17)!

False preachers’ tentacles reach far and wide. I have a brother right here whom I one day found letters in his office from a famous American preacher directing the brother to send to that preacher’s ministry a large sum of money in exchange for an upgrading of his status in the ministry’s roll of honor. He was told he would be sent a gold-edged certificate.

The letters had come in thick and fast. With each succeeding letter the demands got more strident. The last letter was an actual threat. Luckily, our man got to hear the gospel of the grace of God just in time, and he and his family were saved from an impending catastrophe.

Countless other people have not been so lucky.

Now, when we see or hear of these people being deceived and fleeced by these mega-preachers and other demon-possessed cultists, we are prone to sympathise with them. But God’s outlook is radically different. God’s outlook is that a blind man who accepts to be led by another blind man will fall into the same pit that his blind leader fell into. In other words, they shall both perish. It is not a matter of God pitying them or not. God has given them the freedom to choose the path they wish to follow.

And when you come to look at it in light of scripture, there is really no excuse for a person who has been born again by the Word of God to be deceived. God’s Word has the power to hold and to keep! We get deceived when we reject the truth of the cross.

That is why Paul charges Timothy to:

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”

There is nothing ‘good’ about God’s Word. Notice the words Paul uses here:

“reprove, rebuke, exhort…”

The word “exhort” here means “warn”. There is nothing good about being reproved, rebuked or warned. They are all hard, difficult things to bear. But these are the things that constitute the sound doctrine of Jesus Christ. That is exactly what the cross comes to do in our lives!

When you accept to listen to a different gospel than this, it means you have changed course and you have begun chasing after other things. When you hear a gospel that does not lead you to deny yourself and to take up your cross and follow Christ, you are being deceived and you ought to ask yourself how you arrived there in the first place.

[In a homestead deep in central Tanzania, dinner is served!]

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Seeking God’s Attention

1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. Mat. 6:1-4

What a joy it is to do things in the presence of God! What an incredible grace to have a relationship with the living God! We have no idea what we are missing when we seek to be seen by men rather than God. To be seen by men: that is the most desolate place to be.

Actually, Jesus talked of a few other things that we should do in secret, so that only God, and not men, would see. My favorite is the one about fasting.

16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” (Mat. 6:16-18)

“…when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face.”

Try and visualize that. There you are, fasting for one, two, three or even five days. And every day you wake up and wash your face, comb your hair and, if you are a woman, put on the best make-up possible – just to hide from men the fact that you are fasting!

I absolutely love that. Here you have someone who has a living relationship with God. He has no hypocrisy in his heart, and he does not seek for attention from men. Not that he despises men, no. On the contrary, he understands the ways of God.

Sometimes we are so carried away with what men think of us we forget that God is bigger than men – and that His ways are far removed from the ways of men.

Then there is the one about prayer:

“5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” (Mat. 6:5-7)

I have been in towns in our country where preachers wake up every morning to pray on big loudspeakers. The problem with such kinds of prayers is that, unless you are perfectly in the Spirit (which means you have been led by the Holy Spirit to do such a thing), you are more likely to pray to be heard by men rather than God. Yes, there is a place and a time for public prayer. But the way things are in our day, you would think the church is competing with the world!

But our Lord’s instructions are clear:

“… when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

But is it that God does not want us to be seen by men? Hardly. It is a small thing with God how we carry on on the outside. God looks upon the heart of man. What God is all about here is that He wants to pummel the flesh and to deny it that which it seeks most – self-glorification.

When you do anything to be seen or heard of by men, you are seeking to be glorified by men. But faith sees God and it looks up always, to the heavenly glory. A man of faith will absolutely despise the cheap glories that men would heap on him. He will seek the glory that can only be seen by faith. This is a man who understands that God does not do business with the flesh.

Our Lord Jesus was perfected in faith. Never once did He do something (“something” here talks of incredibly remarkable miracles) and seek to be seen by men. We read, for example, the story of Jesus and the blind man that He healed in Bethsaida. Below is the account.

“22 And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. 24 And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. 25 After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. 26 And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.” (Mk. 8:22-26)

The Swahili version of this scripture sheds more light on exactly what happened. Verse 26 reads: “He took him to his own house…” In other words, Jesus literally took the man by the hand and led him straight to his house.

Now, just try and imagine that. Jesus had something about Him which the flesh cannot understand nor comprehend: Jesus shunned human attention and, by extension, human glory.

But, today especially, men of God are used to the media. We are used to the public eye – men’s eyes. This is a big trap for the man who seeks to be spiritual. But the gospel of Jesus Christ does not come cheaply. On the contrary, it is the most demanding thing on earth. It demands total surrender, or death, to the flesh.

People have a saying, “East or west, home is best”. In the case of the true believer, east or west, north or south, he has no option: the cross is his home. He must bring his life to the cross. He must crucify the flesh. The flesh, the devil and the world are all in league against God. And they work together. As a corporate body, they are God’s enemy No. 1. We must put on the armor of righteousness and blast them off to Neverland.

Thank God that you are alive today. If you have not placed your life on the altar of sacrifice, this is your day. Do not bother with the flesh, nor what men think or do not think about you. Serve God in the Spirit and, the Bible says, God will reward you openly.

What does it mean that God will reward you openly, anyway? It means God will bless you, and men will see it. In the course of serving God in the Spirit, you are bound to be shamed, despised and treated as nothing. But God allows that for a time. One day, whether on this earth or in heaven, God will repay you, and men will see. Many, who had been waiting for you to sink, will be surprised to see you rejuvenated, exalted and blessed.

In Pentecostal churches today, there is much talk of being “uplifted” by God. Unfortunately, many want to be uplifted to the level of the world – to prosper materially, etc. But true uplifting can only be in the Spirit and it will only come if we humble ourselves and crucify the flesh. You can uplift yourself, but God will never be involved in the uplifting of the flesh.

Today is a day for us to choose. May we choose wisely. May we choose to crucify the flesh and serve God in the Spirit.

[Below: Today is a time to praise the Lord]

 

Spiritual Warfare

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints… Eph. 6:10-18

Many believers believe that spiritual warfare consists only of prayer. Or, more specifically, confessing the Word and prayer. But notice, in the scripture above, that these two are just a part of the spiritual armor that we are to put on; they are not the whole.

Even more importantly, notice that prayer and the Word are mentioned last in this long list of pieces of armor. Before he mentions “the word of God” and prayer, Paul first lists more important things: the things of the inner spirit. In other words, therefore, we see that there are things we need to do before we pray or confess God’s Word. We need to sacrifice the things of the inner man before we pray. Our Lord Jesus Christ said:

“23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;

24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Mat. 5:23-24

Fasting, prayer, overnight or mountain vigils, giving of offerings, singing – all these are good and desirable before God. But Jesus said, “first be reconciled to thy brother” before you do any one of these things!

We all know that any sinner can pray. Even a drunkard can pray. But he cannot have his “loins girt about with truth”, nor can he have “the breastplate of righteousness” on him.

This is one of the most important revelations that comes with the revelation of the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ in our hearts. When we get to know the singular message that the Apostle Paul preached concerning the cross, all of a sudden we realize that we have a responsibility, a responsibility to live a life of denying self, taking up our cross and following Christ.

We cannot and we should not hide behind prayer. We should instead go out and surrender our lives. Forgiving your brother is infinitely harder, but more important, than prayer. So is repenting. But these are the things that constitute the gospel that is needed to bring unity and true love to the Body of Christ. Without this work in our hearts, we shall remain fragmented in the Spirit. and the notion of Christ’s universal church will remain only in some church’s name plate.

The gospel always takes us back to square one. The true gospel of Jesus Christ takes us to follow Christ in His sufferings and death.

David

For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption Act 13:36

When David is mentioned, all heaven stands. That’s a fact. The praises of David in heaven are great and many. David is one of the greatest men we read of in the Bible. Why is he great? The Bible gives us the answer right here in this verse. It says that David served his own generation by the will of God”.

What exactly does that mean?

The Swahili version of that portion of scripture says:

“Because David, after he had served the will of God in his generation, slept, and was laid to rest with his fathers, and saw corruption.”

David served the will of God! The reason that David is such an important figure in heaven is because in his lifetime, he served God’s purpose here on earth. On earth we revere men for many reasons. But God lauds men on account of only one thing – that they have done or are doing His will here on earth. Notice also how many times David is mentioned in the New Testament. It is for no other reason other than he served God by doing what pleased God.

In 1 Kings 15:5 we read,

Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.”

If you put aside the unfortunate matter of Uriah’s wife, the Bible says that David did God’s will fully, and with all his heart.

Do you know how difficult it is for God to find someone who can do His whole will? It is extremely difficult. That is because man has a tendency to do his own will, not God’s. The man who can deny his own will and do God’s will is a truly rare gem. But this is the man who pleases God.

I can see God, in the days of Prophet Samuel, looking for a heart – a heart that trembled at His Word. God exalts Himself in the weak things. That is His nature. Before He ever sets out to do a task, the first thing that God does is to look for a humble heart. God looks for someone who does not exalt himself, for He can only work through such a person. And so, God looked all over Israel for someone with a humble heart. God looked and looked. Everyone was worshipping God all right; but God couldn’t find one person whose heart was humble enough to carry out His purpose.

But then God found David. David’s heart pleased the Lord. David probably did not even go to church, for he was busy tending his father’s flock. David probably did not do many things in the natural that are associated with religion. But in his heart he knew and worshipped God. He had a repentant heart. We can see that in Psalms 51.

And the minute God saw the heart of David, God knew He had found His man.

Many people think David was a great warrior. Yes, he was, but it was not in the natural. At no one time did David depend on his own strength in anything that he accomplished. In the natural, even his own brothers, who in all probability were not aware of his exploits with the lion and the bear, considered him a nobody (1 Sam. 17:28). He was so inconsequential that his father did not even think of him when presenting his sons to Samuel!

But God looks upon the heart, and He saw David had a humble heart. Even when he faced Goliath, we see that David did not depend on his own strength. He depended on God. These are the kinds of people that God is pleased with.

If we want to be used of God we must first examine our hearts. We must make sure there is no pride there. That is the very first step. God cannot deal with a man who has a haughty spirit. That also is God’s nature. In fact, since many impostors are popping up all over the church claiming to be men of God, I can show you right here how to tell a true man of God. A true man of God is humble to the core.

Did I say he is perfect? Hardly. But he is humble. And there are many things to tell you if he is humble. One of the greatest that I have found is that he is a man who easily merges with those that surround him. He does not consider himself more important than they. When you read about David in the Old Testament, you will find he had that quality. Our Lord Jesus also was so simple that you couldn’t tell Him apart from His disciples.

The quickest red flag to finding a person who is not a true servant of God today is a preacher who has bodyguards. A person who walks about with bodyguards is a person who has no idea what the gospel of Jesus Christ is about. If our Lord did not need bodyguards, why should a modern preacher require them?

But someone will say, “But David had his mighty men.”

The answer to that is that we are not living in the Old Testament. If we did so we would be required to go to war as David did. But we are living under the New Covenant. Notice that David “served his own generation by the will of God”. We must serve God in the Spirit of the New Covenant. The Spirit of the New Covenant is a Spirit of love, and of self-denial. Hence the need for the church today to understand the cross of Jesus Christ. It is only through the crucifixion of the old man, self, that we can walk in the perfectness of God, which is LOVE.

That is why Paul would tell the Corinthians,

“And I, brethren, when I came to you… determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

There are great men according to this world. But there are also great men according to God. We must choose the right path to true greatness.

[Below: A young Nyaturu boy in rural Singida]

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