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Archive | Worship

3 Activities for a Meaningful Christmas

Meaningful ChristmasChristmas is just a little over a week away. If you’re like most people, you’ve been working to prepare for the big day since you stored the leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the fridge. So how’s that been working out for you? Do you feel more joyous or frantic?

It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness and expectations of the season. Shopping, decorating, baking, cleaning. There seems to be no end. But much of that activity flows from a commercialized version of Christmas. And we don’t have to buy into it.

What should Christmas look like for us? How should we recognize and celebrate the birth of our Savior? A good place to begin is at the beginning. The biblical account of the very first Christmas shows us how those close to Jesus responded to His arrival.

3 Activities for a Meaningful Christmas

  1. Share Jesus – Remember the shepherds? The ones out in the field watching over their flocks by night? (See Luke 2:8-20). After they found baby Jesus in the manger – just like the angel of the Lord had told them – they couldn’t keep the news to themselves. They “spread the word” everywhere that the Savior had been born! Can’t you just hear them? The Messiah has come! The long-awaited One is here! We’ve seen Him for ourselves! The shepherds were the first in a long line of witnesses to the Savior. Who can you tell today?
  2. Ponder Jesus – If anyone in the first Christmas story had cause to “ponder” it was Mary. An angel’s visit. A miraculous pregnancy. And a bunch of shepherds with a wild story about an angelic choir. No wonder the Gospel writer penned “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). She had a lot to think about. A lot to hold close to her heart for God to apply in His time. We can “ponder” Jesus too. Take time before Christmas to sit quietly and consider what the birth of Jesus means for you.
  3. Worship Jesus – The magi traveled a long way to worship the baby King (Matthew 2:1-2, 11). Yet sometimes we simply forget. Or get too busy. Let’s not simply observe a holiday. Let us bow our knee before Jesus and worship our Savior, Lord and King.

What are some ways we can we share, ponder, and worship Jesus today?

 

 

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Muhammad Ali Versus Jesus: Who’s the Greatest?

Muhammad AliBoxing legend Muhammad Ali passed away late last week after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s. Often referred to as “The Greatest,” Ali had a long and illustrious boxing career. He won a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics in Rome and earned the boxing title “Heavyweight Champion of the World” three times.

Ali was also famous for making many bold – and poetic – claims about himself. Here are a few you’ve probably heard:

  • “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see. Now you see me, now you don’t.”
  • “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.”
  • “I’ve wrestled with alligators. I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning. And throw thunder in jail.”
  • He also called himself “the greatest” and the “king of the world.”

Many people around the world also thought Ali was indeed “the greatest.” Former President Bill Clinton will be giving the eulogy at his funeral on Friday. And in the wake of Ali’s death, President Barack Obama released a statement, which reads in part:

“Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period. If you just asked him, he’d tell you. He’d tell you he was the double greatest; that he’d ‘handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail’… Like everyone else on the planet, Michelle and I mourn his passing. But we’re also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time… Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it.”

Ali was a strong, disciplined athlete. He was a unique poet and showman. He raised millions of dollars for charities and worked to promote peace around the world. He spent time with both presidents and dictators and was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

But was Muhammad Ali “The Greatest?”

Yesterday, our small group talked about the divinity and eternality of Jesus. Jesus Christ. God come to us. The self-existent One, with no beginning or end of days. Yet the world does not proclaim His greatness. Presidents do not declare His praises.

So, today I feel compelled to give Jesus a little glory due His name.

He paints the butterfly and shapes the bee (Colossians 1:16). He commands lightning and cuts a path for the thunderstorm (Job 38:25). He holds all things together, sustaining them by His powerful word (Hebrews 1:3), yet He willingly humbled Himself to bring life to mankind (Philippians 2:6-8). He opens the eyes of the blind, heals the sick, and raises the dead. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). He is the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 22:13). One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:11-12).

Muhammad Ali may have been a great man as far as men go. But Jesus Christ is our great God and eternal King. Praise His name!

 

 

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The Danger of Plenty

PlentyFew of us in America have real need. Yes, I know some do go hungry and some have no roof over their heads. But that is the exception. The vast majority of us have all that we need. In fact, many of us have far more than we need. We have plenty.

And that in itself is a problem. Plenty can bring more serious trouble than need.

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses warned the children of Israel about the danger of plenty before they entered the Promised Land:

11 “But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. 12 For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, 13 and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! 14 Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.  Deuteronomy 8:11-14, NLT

After 40 years wandering in the wilderness and depending on God for every bite of food and drink of water, the Israelites were about to settle into a land of abundance. Yes, the wilderness had been a physically difficult place, but this land of plenty would bring unique spiritual dangers. Moses points out four specific dangers in Deuteronomy 8:11-19.

4 Dangers of Plenty

  1. Forgetfulness – When we aren’t forced to depend on God for our daily physical sustenance, we tend to forget Him. We fail to remember that God provides everything, even our ability to work and make money to purchase all the things we have.
  2. Pride – Not only do we forget God’s provision, we begin to think we have done it all ourselves. We become puffed up and prideful in our plenty.
  3. Disobedience – When we have forgotten God and become full of ourselves we begin to do anything and everything we want. We do it our way and give no heed to God’s commands.
  4. Idolatry – Once we have forgotten God, something else will assume His rightful place in our lives. Whether money, job, recreation, another person, or ourselves, we will worship something.

How can we avoid the danger of plenty? Moses tells us that too. In one word, we must “remember.” Remember God’s past provision. Remember God’s equipping for work. Remember God’s rightful place as the one, true God who deserves our worship.

Have you ever fallen prey to plenty? What were the results?

Suggested reading:

“Forsaken God: Remembering the Goodness of God our Culture has Forgotten” by Janet Thompson

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Worship is Better Together

Nana & T 3Yesterday was my first time to church in three weeks. That’s unusual for me, but the last three weeks have been a bit unusual.

I just returned Friday evening after almost three weeks with my oldest daughter and her family. The first Sunday I was there, she was having contractions. The second Sunday I was there, she had a brand new baby. Plus my four-year-old grandson still needed Nana’s love and care.

Although I remember this from my younger days, this Nana came home with a renewed appreciation of a young mom’s ongoing struggle to maintain a regular time with God. (See “8 Tips to Help Make Quiet Time a Reality.”) Something that really surprised me though was how much I missed – and needed – corporate worship with my church family.

It sort of snuck up on me yesterday morning. My husband and I slipped into the row of seats as the music started. My voice joined with those around me and I felt worship rise. The Spirit’s streams of living water slowly soaked into places in my soul I didn’t even know were dry (John 7:37-38).

Oh yes, I certainly can – and do – worship on my own. Just me and God. And while an individual’s relationship with God is a very personal and intimate thing, God designed our faith to also be corporate. He made individual believers to need other believers. Even worship is better together.

worshipOur faith, our relationship with God can never be all God intends apart from a vital connection to a local church. Yesterday God reminded me that that includes worship. The worship of those around me fostered my own worship. Their awe of God pointed my heart to Him. Their surrender challenged me to give God my all.

Sadly, many Christians don’t understand the importance of that connection. They try to do faith on their own. Or they go to church only when it’s convenient.

The author of Hebrews knew the importance of individual Christians meeting regularly with the church body:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV

Well, the Day of Jesus’ return is getting closer every day. Are you vitally connected to a local church or have you allowed the busyness of life, hurt feelings, or something else to get in the way?

If you aren’t connected to a local church what step will you take today? If you are a part of a church, what is one thing you can do to strengthen those ties?

 

 

 

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Keep Watch with Jesus Tonight

Keep watch with JesusHave you ever thought you could do a better job of keeping watch with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane than did Peter, James, and John? Tonight, you could have the chance. In today’s guest post, my friend Kimberly Texidor – who also happens to be an awesome Bible teacher and the Children’s Minister at my church  – encourages and challenges us to “keep watch with Jesus” tonight.

Tonight, I’ll tuck the kids in bed. After one last sip of water, another kiss goodnight, and one final trip down the hall to tell us “just this one more thing,” there will finally be quiet.

As the sounds of a busy home come slowly to a stop, I’ll make my way to the den, all alone, to meet with Jesus.

This time in the dark of night feels like such a small, insignificant offering, really. Yet I am compelled by the verses about that evening, long ago, when the darkness fell upon sleepy disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.

“Then he said to them, ‘My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Matthew 26:38

But they failed to keep watch with Jesus. Even for one hour. So tonight, I’ll offer up to Jesus the only thing He asked of them. I’ll stay awhile, and keep watch with Him.

My heart breaks when I think of my Savior facing that night alone. Surely His disciples missed the gravity of what was coming, or they certainly would have roused themselves and sat with our Lord.

And as I think about His solitude in that garden, I am reminded to pray for all of those who are sitting up in their own Garden of Gethsemane tonight. I think of anxious hearts that feel all alone while the rest of the world is sleeping away.

I think of my own children, so loved, so prayed over, and my heart hurts for those whose names have never been lifted to God in prayer.

Tonight, as I reread the final earthly prayer of Jesus, my soul needs to keep watch, as if to give to Him this small gesture of love.

What if, tonight, we spent some time alone with the Savior, interceding in the dark, and keeping watch with the one who constantly intercedes before the Father on our behalf?

As you “keep watch with Jesus tonight,” start by reading Mark 14:32-42. Now read John 17 and use the following prayer prompts to pray as Jesus prayed:

  • Confession-Pray that we won’t fall into temptation. As believers, our souls may be willing, but our flesh is surely weak. Pray that Christ will keep us close to Himself, when the temptations of fear, busyness, sin, rote religion, and worldliness threaten to pull us away (Mark 14:36).
  • Worship-Pray that God will be glorified and Christ will be exalted this Easter in our hearts and homes, in our nation, and in His church (John 17:1-2).
  • Salvation-Intercede on behalf of those who need Jesus, praying specifically for those who are waiting to hear the Gospel for the very first time (John 17:3).
  • Protection-Pray that God will protect those who bear His name from the attacks of the Enemy. In particular, pray for those brave men and women who are even today risking their lives in hard and dangerous places so that others may know Christ (John 17:15).
  • Holiness-Pray that God will make us Holy, and that we will commit to live out His truths in both word and action (John 17:17).
  • Unity-Pray for unity in the church. Pray for unity across denominational, political, and theological divides so that our radical love for one another will help the world see Jesus  (John 17:20-23).
  • Love-Pray that God’s love may be in us and poured out through us to a world in need (John 17:25-26).

I don’t want to be in such a hurry to get to the Garden Tomb on Sunday that I miss the Garden of Gethsemane tonight. So, in this quiet space, in the darkness, I will meet Jesus. I will pray to the One who now stands, victorious, over death, and the cross and the grave, the One who intercedes continually before the altar of God on our behalf. I will meet Him in the darkness, and remember the Savior who prayed alone so long ago, and prayed for me.

Will you keep watch with Jesus tonight? We would love for you to share your thoughts with us!

Kimberly TexidorKimberly Texidor is the Children’s Pastor at The Woodlands First in The Woodlands, TX. After studying Spanish Education in college, Kimberly went on to study Missions at Southwestern Seminary. Currently, she’s completing a Masters of Divinity at BH Carroll Theological Institute. Kimberly is married to Manuel, a teacher and counselor, and they have three children.

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God is Eternal. So what?

God is EternalHave you ever studied or mediated on an aspect of God and it totally blew your mind? Last week, in preparation to teach a Bible study class, I dug into the truth that God is eternal. My brain hurt before I was done.

What does it mean that God is “eternal?” Honestly, I can’t fully answer that question because I don’t have the capacity to understand it myself. However, I did learn some things you might find helpful too.

The Bible expresses God’s eternal nature

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible uses words and phrases to express the eternality of God. Here is a sample:

  • Eternal God (Genesis 21:33)
  • Everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90:2)
  • In the beginning was the Word (John 1:1)
  • Without beginning of days or end of life (Hebrews 7:3)
  • The One who was and is and is to come (Revelation 1:4)
  • Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8)
  • The First and the Last (Revelation 1:17)
  • Beginning and the End (Revelation 22:13)
  • I am (used more than 5,000 times in the Old Testament)

“I am” or Yahweh is the name God gave to Moses from the burning bush. It expresses existence. The One who exists. God simply is.

God has no beginning and no end. He is ever-continuing and never ceasing. God’s existence is independent of anything and everything. He is totally self-sufficient. He has everything within Himself and needs nothing.

Our eternal God’s relationship to time

God exists before and outside of time. He is independent of time constraints and considerations. Therefore, God’s experience of time is qualitatively different than ours. A thousand years is like a day and a day like a thousand years to Him. Every moment in time is “present” to God. He is present in every moment of time. God can see all events in time equally vividly, yet He can also act in any moment of time.

Does your brain hurt yet?

As I studied and mediated on these truths, some implications began to come to mind. If God is eternal and exists outside of time, as we know it, then what does that mean for us in this life right now?

Here are a few key things that are applicable to all of us:

  • God has a different perspective than we do and thus a different set of priorities.
  • Though God cares deeply about our temporal, physical circumstances, eternal things are even more important.
  • God’s plans and purposes are already accomplished in eternity even though we may not yet see them realized in history.
  • God is constantly working in our individual lives and history’s stage to fulfill His eternal purposes.

These truths encourage and comfort me! My perspective is so limited compared to God’s. I may see only trials, and struggles, and grief, but I can rest in the fact that God sees the end from the beginning. And I can fully trust Him to be faithful and to work out all these things for my good and for His great glory (Romans 8:28).

Are there shaky or difficult circumstances in your life now? How can the great truth that God is eternal change your perspective?

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7 Things God Cannot Do

Yes, I know. God is all-powerful, all-knowing, sovereign, and holy. I fully embrace all that God’s Word says about who He is, how He works, and what He can do. But there are some things that God cannot – or will not – do precisely because of who He is.

These 7 things are not a comprehensive list, but they will all help us better understand our one, true God. I pray they also help you to worship Him more passionately and trust Him more completely.

7 Things God Cannot Do

  1. God cannot be wrong or make a mistake – Everything God does is right. His knowledge is perfect (Job 37:16). All His works are perfect (Deut 32:4). He never even makes an “honest mistake.”
  2. God cannot sin – God is holy. He is “light” and in Him there is no darkness (1 John 1:5). Perfect holiness. Not a speck of unholiness. God cannot do anything against His perfect, holy nature. He cannot do evil or be tempted by evil (James 1:13).
  3. God cannot lie – Yes, a lie is sin, so this one is covered by #2. However, since the Bible makes a point of telling us this specifically, I thought it was worth emphasizing! God doesn’t lie like we humans do. He only tells the truth, all the time, every time. (Hebrews 6:18, Titus 1:2, Numbers 23:19)
  4. God cannot change – Perfection cannot become more perfect. Since God has perfect knowledge and perfect character, He cannot change His mind or improve His behavior. (Malachi 3:6). By the way, we shouldn’t dare to “update” God’s Word or standards to match our times. Our culture may be changing constantly, but God “does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).
  5. God cannot break a promise – We can always take God at His word. He is faithful to keep His covenants. What He says, He will do. (Psalm 89:34)
  6. God cannot get tired – No matter how much God accomplishes, how great and far-reaching His works, He will not grow weary or fatigued (Isaiah 40:28). In fact, He has strength in abundance and is willing to share His strength with us! (Isaiah 40:31)
  7. God cannot stop “being” – Our Creator God is the God who “IS.” His personal name, Yahweh, expresses the nature of His existence. He exists because He is. He exists outside of time. He has not ever “not existed” at any point, in any dimension. By nature of who He is, He must exist. Isn’t that mind blowing? (Exodus 3:13-15, Psalm 90:1-5, Revelation 1:1-8)

So, what do you think? Do you agree that there are some things God cannot do?

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Meditate on these 4 Names of God

4 Names of GodThe Bible abounds with names for God. From Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 , Scripture is packed with descriptive names that help us understand God’s nature and know Him more.

From…

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1)

To…

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End… I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star  (Revelation 22:13, 16).

And all the many Names in between.

But last Thursday during my quiet time, I was impacted afresh with four names for God from just two small verses.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Psalm 91:1-2, NIV

Nothing in Scripture is haphazard or random. The psalmist specifically chose to pen these names of God for a reason. He wanted us to understand something about God’s character and how we should respond to Him. So I looked up the original Hebrew words and their meanings. (Note: This list only includes the names the NIV treats as proper names and not the other descriptions of God found in these verses!) I hope you will be blessed as I was!

1. Elyon – Most High

Elyon means “high, upper, highest.” The term was used of rulers and monarchs. The psalmist used Elyon to signify the exalted majesty and supremacy of God.

Even the absolute greatest ruler in all history or the most majestic thing on earth cannot compare to the exalted nature of God. He is so far above anything we can even contemplate. Some scholars refer to this aspect of God as “Otherness.” God is so beyond all created things that He is “other” than us.

He is Elyon. Our God Most High!

2. Shaddai – Almighty

Shaddai combines two Hebrew words meaning “who” and “self-sufficient.” It is used 48 times in the Old Testament as a title for God and translated as “Almighty” in English. Our Almighty God is completely self-sufficient. He needs nothing outside Himself. He needs nothing from us.

And yet, Shaddai bids us come to Him and rest in the shadow of His protection.

3. Yahweh  – LORD

When you see “LORD” in all caps in the OT, it is the English translation of the Hebrew word Yahweh or Jehovah.  Yahweh is the personal name of God. The ancient Jews held it such reverence they dared not speak it aloud but referred to is simply as “the Name.”

Yahweh means “the existing one.” Jehovah has no beginning and no end. He has no source or cause. He is the Source and Cause of everything.

He IS. This fact is both simple and unfathomable. It is glorious and fearsome. Yahweh.

4. Elohim – God

Elohim is the plural form of El, which is the basic Hebrew word for God or god. Frequently used in the Bible with singular verb forms, Elohim does not denote multiple Gods, but instead is intended to multiply the intensity of God’s majesty.

Our great Elohim is high and lofty in His majesty. His greatness and His power knows no bounds.

Let us worship our God today:

Elyon, You are high and exalted.

Shaddai, You do not need us, yet you bid us come.

Yahweh, You are the One who IS.

Elohim, You are majestic and glorious.

Would love for you to add your words of praise to our Great God in the comments!

 

 

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An Extravagant Christmas Gift

Extravagant giftWhat was the most valuable Christmas gift you ever received? What was the most valuable gift you’ve ever given?

The mostly costly one I ever received was a new laptop three years ago. But, it wasn’t a surprise. My husband and I even went together to pick it out. We merely used December 25th as an excuse to purchase something I really needed. You may consider the gift prudent or extravagant depending on your point of view.

Jesus received several extravagant gifts from the Magi who visited Him in Bethlehem – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts expressed their worship and adoration of the King of kings. Their gifts were not last minute selections or random choices. They were carefully chosen and purposefully extravagant.

For instance, frankincense was a valuable commodity in the ancient world. Derived from the sap of the Boswellia tree, this dried resin was prized for its sweet, citrusy fragrance and medicinal qualities. In addition to being used in incense and perfume, frankincense was also known for its cleansing and healing properties. Even today, many use the oil to reduce swelling and relieve pain.

Frankincense was a key ingredient in God’s recipe for the tabernacle incense. This incense was exclusively for the tabernacle. It was to be used and burned only to worship God. (See Exodus 30:34-38.) According to the Bible, this incense of worship represents the prayers of God’s people – a sweet aroma rising up before God on His throne. The valuable gift of frankincense reminds us to worship God.

As we prepare to celebrate this Christmas, let’s consider what we can give to Jesus. He longs for us to give Him ourselves and He deserves our worship. Laying ourselves before Him in complete surrender is the purest, sweetest form of worship (Romans 12:1).

Let’s give our hearts and lives fully to Jesus today. May our gifts rise like the aroma of fragrant frankincense before God’s throne.

Note: This devotional is an excerpt from the Advent devotional book “Good Tidings of Great Joy.” Find out more or purchase here.  All proceeds benefit at-risk girls in Bangladesh.

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A Psalm to Pray for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving PsalmHappy Thanksgiving! In the midst of the cooking and eating and cleaning and visiting, let’s purposefully pause to reflect on the God who deserves all our honor and praise, and thanksgiving.

The Lord Almighty, the one true God, Creator of all that is, sends rain to the earth and provides us with a bountiful harvest of food. This same Mighty God, who formed the mountains and causes the sun to rise, also hears our prayers and forgives all our sins.

This Psalm of David is a beautiful expression of God’s goodness to us. May it lead us today into praise and thanksgiving to our Great God!

What mighty praise, O God,
    belongs to you in Zion.
We will fulfill our vows to you,
    for you answer our prayers.
    All of us must come to you.
Though we are overwhelmed by our sins,
    you forgive them all.
What joy for those you choose to bring near,
    those who live in your holy courts.
What festivities await us
    inside your holy Temple.

You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds,
    O God our savior.
You are the hope of everyone on earth,
    even those who sail on distant seas.
You formed the mountains by your power
    and armed yourself with mighty strength.
You quieted the raging oceans
    with their pounding waves
    and silenced the shouting of the nations.
Those who live at the ends of the earth
    stand in awe of your wonders.
From where the sun rises to where it sets,
    you inspire shouts of joy.

You take care of the earth and water it,
    making it rich and fertile.
The river of God has plenty of water;
    it provides a bountiful harvest of grain,
    for you have ordered it so.
10 You drench the plowed ground with rain,
    melting the clods and leveling the ridges.
You soften the earth with showers
    and bless its abundant crops.
11 You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
    even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
12 The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture,
    and the hillsides blossom with joy.
13 The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep,
    and the valleys are carpeted with grain.
    They all shout and sing for joy!
Psalm 65:1-13, NLT

I pray you have a blessed day with family and friends. But let’s remember to praise God today and thank Him for all His good gifts!

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