Of Apostles And Prophets – Part 2

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 
5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit (Eph. 3:1-5)

Let us begin with the Old Testament. In proverbs 17:11 we read:

“An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.”

Notice how these words align with what the Apostle Paul went through as he describes in 2 Corinthians 12:7.

“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”

A messenger of Satan was given to Paul, to buffet him in the flesh.

Was Paul an evil man?

It is clear from these scriptures that the “evil man” that the writer of Proverbs 17:11 is referring to is not our human idea of an evil man; on the contrary, the “evil man” here refers to the flesh. In essence, therefore, this scripture addresses all of us, for we are all carnal. If you thought you were good or holy, the Bible says no, you are “evil”. You haven’t become good until you meet with that cruel messenger. If you haven’t met him yet, get prepared; it is God’s will that he be sent… to buffet you!

With regard to his candidacy for meeting the cruel messenger, Paul states in Romans 7:14:

“… I am carnal, sold under sin.”

And again, in Romans 7:21-23:

“21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”

Do we not all experience this? We are at war! And the cruel messenger has been sent our way. Strangely enough, he has been sent to help us win this war.

Who is the cruel messenger then?

The cruel messenger is the cross. The cross was set up against Paul’s carnal nature, for Paul’s carnal nature was evil.

We read in Romans 8:7-8:

“7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

In his case, therefore, scripture had to be fulfilled:

“An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.”

In order for Paul to do the will of God and please Him fully, God put him under this cruel messenger. Unscribed in the ways of God, Paul prayed to God thrice to have this messenger taken away from him, but God told him:

“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

In other words, God was telling Paul, “Paul, you cannot serve me as you are. But that thorn will constantly keep your flesh under, for your flesh only wants to rebel. That cross will produce the grace needed to bear fruit for Me.” (Rom. 7:4)

In 2 Corinthians 4:12, the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians just as much concerning what the cross accomplished in his life :

“So then death worketh in us, but life in you.”

When the cross worked death in the apostles’ lives, life came to the church!

It is the same today. The problem with the church today is that there is a huge number of people calling themselves apostles and prophets. But death is not working in these people! Their condition is exactly as it was with the false ministers of Paul’s day. Paul spoke of the ministers of his day thus:

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:13)

Why?

Paul tells of what they were doing to the church.

“For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.” (v.20)

This is exactly what is happening in church today. These so-called apostles and prophets are doing these same things to God’s people!

“Smite you on the face” means to degrade, to demean, to humiliate. Just as in Paul’s day, today’s false apostles and prophets are doing extremely inhumane things to God’s people. Every kind of evil is being done against God’s people by ungodly men who are in actual fact ravenous wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. The Swahili Bible uses the word “cruel”. It calls them “cruel wolves”.

Indeed, there is probably more cruelty going on in the church than in the world. But, just as in Paul’s day, people are thronging to these crude ‘ministries’. Wonders.

Because the church today is largely under the influence of these false apostles and prophets, there is no life left in much of today’s church. Everywhere, God’s people are suffering terribly, and they are in deep mourning.

Is there no balm in Gilead?

Thank God, there is. Let’s recap again to our key scripture in Ephesians chapter 3 and verse 5.

“…Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit”.

Notice,

“holy apostles and prophets”.

The key lies in the word “holy”. God’s Holy Spirit will minister the true gospel only through holy apostles and prophets. These are they who will preach and live the singular gospel that the Apostle Paul preached:

“Jesus Christ and him crucified” (2 Cor. 2:2).

Unfortunately, the church has always had unholy ministers, and these nearly always outnumber the holy ones. But we are to be on the look-out. Jesus said,

“15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”

Jesus was talking about entering into God’s Kingdom through the narrow gate; and here He declares that false ministers will not live a life that reflects this lifestyle. They will live the high and sinful life.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that these false ministers have not the vaguest idea of the gospel of the cross, which was the singular gospel that the apostles preached. They preach

“another Jesus”; “another spirit”; “another gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4).

They preach the prosperity gospel. I heard one of them say, “I am a billionaire.” A billionaire preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Another has jets (“Jets, with an ‘s’!”, effused the reporter). Etc, etc. Incredible.

Others skirt the prosperity gospel but carry equally demonic doctrines. But any other gospel, apart from the revelation of the cross, is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And Jesus told us to beware of all these fellows.

“Beware of false prophets”.

This is a responsibility the church must bear. You cannot just say of your pastor, “Oh, I did not know his life.” How can you not know your pastor’s life? If you have no access to your pastor, stop going to that church. You should have access right into his bedroom (it could be that’s where he beats his wife).

Jesus gave us the responsibility to know what those who minister to us are carrying in their hearts.

“Ye shall know them by their fruits.”

False apostles and prophets have not been granted the revelation of the cross. They will preach and live other things altogether.

God’s people today need to desire and to heed the gospel of the cross which has been revealed to God’s holy apostles and prophets . Otherwise, there is no end to the spiritual grief they will endure and, in the end, most likely miss heaven altogether because they have been led along the wide and broad way.

[Another of my favorite dishes in the villages: freshly boiled pumpkins]

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The Gospel vs The Flesh

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers… 1 Pet. 1:18

The story goes that an Englishman, a Frenchman and a Ghanaian were flying on a plane and they were required to jump out when they arrived in their respective countries. When the Englishman saw the Wembley Stadium, he jumped out. When the Frenchman saw the Eiffel Tower or the Seine River (can’t remember which), he also strapped himself and jumped out.

The plane crossed the Mediterranean Sea and, upon sighting land, the Ghanaian put out his hand. A short while later, he announced to the pilot that he had reached his country. The pilot asked him what he had seen.

The Ghanaian replied that he had seen nothing; but his wristwatch had just disappeared from his hand.

Sadly, it is true that you can have your watch popped off your hand or your pocket picked at any minute in darkest Africa; and you should be thoroughly shocked.

In a related issue – to put the icing on that story –  the U.S. president, President Donald Trump, has directed that only 15% of aid will go to African countries because they don’t know how to manage resources.

Is he rrrrrrrrright on that one? Of course he is right. The African’s ingenuity in some arenas of life excels even himself.

These are not just stereotypes about the African; these are facts. Broad generalizations, given; but facts nonetheless. I know there are people who will burst a vein when they hear such things. But everything we are hearing from Trump & co. about the African is hardly news.

Notice that in our story there is nothing unbecoming written about the two white men. If you are thinking they are angels, you couldn’t be more wrong! I have never been outside Africa, but I do not need to travel beyond my house to know that the white man is as rotten as the African is. Indeed, in God’s eyes, every race under the sun is equally rotten. The Bible tells me so.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

The only difference between the white man, the black man, the Chinese, the Indian, the Arab and any other race that might be on this earth is the diversity, or variety of rot. But it is all rot nonetheless. Whether they are white, black, brown or yellow, we all know what man is capable of. Since this is not a competition, I am not going to write down a list of the evils these other races excel in.  But, given the genetic factors that they possess, it is a given that, in their particular realms, some of these races are infinitely much more dangerous than the African.

These racial and tribal tendencies in men the Bible calls “vain conversation”. This “vain conversation” is who we are. And when the Bible says that we have received it by tradition from our fathers, it means that we have inherited them from our fathers’ gene pools.

Scripture makes it clear that each race/tribe has its own peculiar brand of rot. When the Apostle Paul left Titus in Crete, he warned him,

“12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Tit. 1:12-13).

The spiritual language for culture is flesh. Man is a product of the flesh. I see “vain conversation” all around me – in my own life, in the lives of my wife and children and in the lives of those who surround me.

Man in his intelligence has tried various methods to try and suppress his cultural tendencies and in most cases it appears as if he has won the battle. But “vain conversation” runs deep. Deep in our subterranean consciousnesses, the flesh reigns supreme.

But I love what the Bible says in Colossians 3:9-11:

“9 … seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col. 3:9-11)

That ought to suffice. There is only one weapon that can defeat the flesh: it is the cross. We cannot undo the flesh in us; only Jesus can, through the cross.

Through “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23), the Bible says we have put off our old man and put on Christ. That means we have put on Christ’s character. That’s why it is not enough to say “I am saved”. We need to go ahead and realize the mystery of “Christ crucified” in our lives.

Putting on the character of Jesus is the greatest miracle that can happen to a man. May we (the church) humble ourselves under the cross of Christ and allow it to break us and to form Christ in us. That way, we will not exhibit the works of the flesh. Instead we will bear and show off in our lives the fruit of the Spirit.

“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, temperance…” (Gal. 5:22-23)

[We reveal the character of Christ in us when we crucify the flesh]

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Circumcision vs The Cross – Part 2

There is no other way of becoming spiritual other than crucifying the mind of the flesh together with its lusts (Gal. 5:24). That is the singular most importance understanding that a believer can have in his or her life

We can therefore see the significance of Paul’s words in verse 11:

“Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.”

We can understand why he would want to put everything else aside and emphasise the importance of this revelation to the Galatians. The revelation of “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2) was the singular most important thing that they could grasp in their lives.

When we lack that revelation in our hearts, we look to form, tradition and anything that can be grasped with our human understanding. The Galatians looked to circumcision.

There are so many things that believers today think are important in their lives; but which are not.

The Apostle Paul puts it out so clearly the single most valuable thing in a believer’s life:

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

Not tradition or form; but a work of the Spirit in someone’s heart.

[The work of the Holy Spirit in us transforms us]

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Prayer, Faith, And Obedience – Part 3

There is one thing that was not so simple as the provision of bread, and this is what truly troubles God. Jesus told His disciples:

“Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.”

Now, in those words, there was a work to do! This, finally, is the time for the saint to wake up. A lack of bread is nothing to wake anyone up about. But here – where the leaven of the Pharisees and the Herodians is – here is the place to shake everyone awake. It is the place for the saint to keep his eyes peeled. No time for sleep here!!

Where hypocrisy and every work of the flesh is, that is where the saints are involved. That is what should concern us. Not Burger Kings! Or Kentucky Chicken. Or houses or lands or clothing or cars or private jets. Or even whether our kids go to the best school or not (Today, education for our children, especially here in Africa, is at a premium. It has shot so high in esteem for the children of the Kingdom it is threatening the very throne of God in importance.)

But, in a sense (and this is where Jesus needs us to be mature), God is not too worried about the things of this worldly life as we are. There are examples in the Bible to show that, with regard to this natural life, God is not too worried even whether we live or die! There are instances where God gave up His children to be slaughtered.

What has God truly worried is when we carry the leaven of the Pharisees in our hearts. And here God has set up a whole system – the way of the cross, the singular gospel that the Apostle Paul preached – to ensure that we do not continue carrying this leaven with us. That is the eternal gospel.

Let us have the simple faith to trust God for our needs… and let us move on to seek after the wellness of our hearts for this is what truly matters with God.

It Is Of Grace!

8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. 1 Cor. 15:8-11

My wife and I arrived in Arusha this afternoon, where we will spend the night before departing tomorrow for Nairobi to attend my sister-in-law’s funeral. As I was relaxing in my room and savouring the cool Arusha weather, my spirit calmed down and I found myself reflecting on an incident that had taken place not too long ago.

A travelling brother had passed by my house and he had the sweetest words of praise for my work in Singida. But in speaking, he said something that my spirit utterly repelled against. He attempted to compare me to some of the other brethren we work with. As he spoke, the Holy Spirit impressed upon my spirit the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. And the Lord was impressing upon me that nothing done on His behalf was about us; that, on the contrary, it is all about the grace of God in us.

Through the words of the Apostle Paul, I realized that we are simply… nothing. Paul himself used the same word about himself: in 2 Cor. 12:11 he writes,

“… in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.”

And here, in our key scripture, he says:

“… by the grace of God I am what I am… I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Concerning his ministry, Paul said, “not I”.

In fact, what Paul had to say about himself was interesting:

“8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (v. 8-9)

Paul has a very negative view about himself without the grace of God. He was “as of one born out of due time… the least of the apostles… not meet to be called an apostle”.

But when the grace of God came into His life, it began working and the fruit of that work became evident; and thereafter it is this fruit of the Spirit alone that would matter in his life.

It is not us. We cannot claim to do God’s works. On the contrary, it is God’s grace in us that works the works of God. If it is us, then whatever we are doing is not God’s work; it is our work, and it not only has no lasting value and it is bound to perish but, even more ominously, it is an abomination to God.

With Paul, it was so much about the grace of God that, even though he worked more than the other apostles, yet he said:

“Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.” (v. 11)

Wow! In other words, Paul was saying, “It is not about me. It is not about them. Rather, it is about the grace of God in us.”

Neither Paul nor the other apostles were competing against one another.

Any other viewpoint breeds pride and competition. It produces the works of the flesh. The Spirit of God is not involved in such attitudes and, therefore, even though there might appear to be a big thing going on on the outside, yet it is all a work of the flesh and people’s spirits are not edified.

We are free to do whatever God has called us to. There is no law against the doing. But it is our attitude that is everything, for we must always give place to and acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s working in us. And it is only through a revelation of the crucified Christ (as Paul had) that we can carry this heart and allow God to be what He desires to be in us – Lord of lords and King of kings, to whom alone be glory, honor and majesty.

[Does what you do bring glory to God – or to you?]

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It’s About Power!

He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him. Ps. 27:14

I am thinking of asking whoever is involved to enter my name in the annals of history as one of the great pioneers of discovery. Actually, probably the greatest of them all. I haven’t read much, and if there is someone who has made this discovery ahead of me, I will gladly let go my claim to the title. But if not, may the record-keeper be kindly informed that I seriously need this recognition.

So, what discovery have I made? What have I pioneered that is so important as to deserve such distinction? It is this: I have made the singular discovery that the greatest desire in man, above any other, is the desire for power. I used to think that the love of material comforts, or the love of money, or the sexual urge were the most powerful forces in man. But no; all these come a distant second to the lust for power.

And you wouldn’t believe it, but I have made this discovery through observing my chickens. I have been raising chickens for the last four years, so I ought to know what I am talking about. It took a while, but through long-term observation, this realization finally dawned upon me. I will, however, divulge the secret of how I made the observation to you for your gift of a couple of million dollars. (Why not; every preacher is asking for these kinds of gifts).

Armed with this knowledge, it has therefore come as no surprise to me to learn that the struggle between God and man (i.e. man in the flesh) is a struggle for power above anything else. The flesh wants to usurp God’s power, God’s position and God’s authority.

Proverbs 27:14, therefore, does not mean that God is prohibiting us from greeting our neighbor aloud early in the morning. As a matter of fact, done in the right spirit, greeting your neighbor cheerily in the morning is one of the best things that you can do. The Bible says a merry heart is good medicine (Prov. 17:22).

But we must dig further to get a proper understanding of this scripture. What the Bible is talking about here is something entirely different. It is talking about pleasing men. You cannot please men and please God at the same time. One has to give way to the other in our lives.

Through even the seemingly innocuous things that we do daily, the flesh is engaged in a never-ending struggle to dethrone God; to dethrone Him from our hearts and from our entire lives. The flesh wants to be noticed, and to be applauded – at the expense of God. Our smiles, our good deeds, when not done in the Spirit, are an extension of our inner pride. Greeting your neighbor aloud in the morning is a very good deed; but if it done so your neighbor can see how good you are, that is putting the flesh ahead of God. It is the flesh usurping God’s position in our hearts – and in the eyes of men.

But God will have none of it. That is why God introduces the cross into our lives. The cross comes, first and foremost, to deal with our pride. This is why our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us not to seek to be seen by men in anything we do, whether it be prayer, fasting, giving, or our piety. We should strive to do things in the hidden inner man, where men do not see and give us acclamation, but where God sees and rewards us. Why? Because when we do things in the sight of God, it is a testimony that we are humbling ourselves before Him, and giving Him His due glory, honor and praise. In other words, we are proclaiming His power. In the same manner, therefore, when we do things to be seen of men, we are making the flesh our god! And God will not share His glory with man. When men praise us, our reward with God is gone.

This is a grave challenge to the flesh. But the flesh needs, not just to be challenged, but to be crucified on the cross. And herein lies the relevance of the Pauline revelation in 1 Cor. 2:2:

“1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

When we do not have that revelation, we shall be doomed to doing obeisance to the flesh instead of God. And this translates into a curse upon our lives.

[A powerful lesson from the chickens]

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The Thorn For His Grace

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 2 Cor. 12:7-10

Many years ago, before I got married, I was the sweetest, kindest human being you could ever meet. My pastor would tell the congregation, “Look at Mwita. You can call him anything, and it doesn’t trouble him one little bit. He is always at perfect peace!” I was a star.

In fact, I was so lovable that, one day, some ladies from our church paid me a visit. Ours was the biggest Pentecostal church in town, and you can visualize the kind of ladies who attend such churches: not simple housewives, but teachers, managers, office workers, etc.

Anyways, they came in a sizable group and they found me in my bachelor quarters. At that time I was working, so I was living in a nice apartment. After the usual greetings and introductions, they brought out their objective. They all expressed their love and affection for me. After which they let slip that the sun waiteth not even for the king, so to speak. The years were moving on and that I should consider moving on to the next stage in my life. Finally, from the folds of their loving hearts they pulled out a name.

I silently considered their proposition. To be honest, it is many years since, and I do not recall exactly how we wound up that conversation. But the fact that I did not marry that girl means that I turned down their proposal. And the fact that I refused certainly has nothing to do with the girl in question: not only was she very beautiful, but she was also considered one of the spiritual pillars among the youth in the church. But I do remember also that at that time I was fully engaged to Christ and, except for my job, I had no other commitment, hobby or interest except Him alone.

Fast-forward to a few years later when I finally did get married – to a different girl. This girl was not from our church, so she did not know me. Unbeknown to her, though, a nightmare was awaiting her. Within a short period of time into our marriage, she was shocked to find that she had married… well, the devil himself.  Even I was surprised by the change that I saw in me. The Bible says we should be transformed to become Christ-like, but this particular transformation occurred the other way round. I changed from being the picture-perfect representation of the Christ-like life that I supposedly was, to something completely different. I discovered I had little patience – and tons of pride. And she was rubbing up against my pride so hard! My wife originates from a tribe where women do not fear men; while I come from one that seeks to put the fear of God in every soul it meets. I wanted her singing my praises all the time; but that was the last thing on her mind. In fact, she had some unflattering thoughts about me which she was not afraid to voice out loud. Having someone by my side who could not be coerced into playing my tune proved to be the biggest trial of my life.

Not too long after our honeymoon ended, we were into fighting, scraping and everything else in between. And, to the utter dismay of my pastor who had spent the better part of his sermons praising my patience and resilience, my wife and I were now regular visitors to his house; and all for the wrong reasons.

Finally, my thorn had arrived, beautifully wrapped and packaged; and hand-delivered by God Himself. It had come to battle with my flesh. And the flesh in this case was my pride.

There is an immeasurable difference between good old human goodness and the grace of God. When we talk about the former, no man is totally bad. Even Hitler must have had some feelings for his wife and children. However, when we talk of God’s grace, it can only be had if we allow that thorn in our flesh. That was exactly what God told Paul, and we can hardly expect God to tell us something different from what He told the apostles. Paul says to the Corinthians, therefore,

“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)

It has taken me many long years since then to allow God, through my wife, to put His finger on the one spot He wants to deal with in my life, which is my pride. But a time came when I had to choose between whether I wanted to keep my pride or to carry the grace of God in my life. And it is a choice that I am forced to make every day. Sometimes it is difficult to make this choice. But, whatever the case, I certainly have learned my lesson. If I desire to walk with God and carry His grace, I must allow the thorn to be there in my body, permanently.

[God can use anything to bring about the death of the flesh. The death of the flesh brings much grace to our lives. Are we truly dead and buried?]

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