Archive for November, 2011

Did Jesus Really Die?

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Did Jesus really die on the cross? If He did not, this would deflate His claim to be God and also make Him a liar. Some claim that He did not die in the cross. Perhaps He was simply in a coma or drug induced state and later awoke inside the tomb. Others allege that He faked his death, as is stated in the Koran. Could there be any merit to these claims?

Let’s take a look at what Jesus endured in his crucifixion. Before He was ever hung on a cross he went through a severe flogging. A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded the following effects of Roman flogging on an individual: “The usual instrument was a short whip…with several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals…the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post….The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged…The scourging…was intended to weaken the victim to a state just short of death…As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim’s back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles.” It is also important to remember that He had thorns pressed into his skull. He was more than likely in dire condition before he was ever hung to die. It makes sense that He had to have someone else carry His cross for Him.

You know the pain that occurs when you hit your funny bone? The spikes that went through Jesus’ wrist crushed the nerve that causes the pain when you hit your funny bone. So He was nailed to the cross through his hands and through overlapping feet. At this point, He has already lost a massive amount of blood. Yet, this is not what usually caused death on the cross.  Not being able to relieve the lungs of the accumulating Carbon Dioxide was the usual cause of death. The hanging position on the cross made it extremely difficult to breathe. One would have to repeatedly push up on the pierced feet, which was excruciating, in order to relieve the lungs of oxygen. As the process wore on, the person being crucified would die of asphyxiation.

When the Romans desired to expedite the process, they would break the legs of the victim, making it impossible for them to breathe. This was the standard procedure. This could be seen as a merciful act due to the fact that breathing by placing pressure on the feet was extremely painful. The Roman executioners did not break the legs of Jesus, because they already believed Him dead.

The spear that is reported to have been inflicted through Jesus side produced a mixture of blood and water. This was due to the sac that surrounds the heart being punctured, as well as the heart itself.  Evidence suggests that this was performed by Roman soldiers to ensure death.

Next, tradition states that Jesus’ was embalmed with around 75-100 pounds of linens and spices and placed within a guarded tomb.

It is important to remember that he did not accept the analgesics offered to him as the crucifixion.

In regards to the death of Jesus, the Journal of the American Medical Society attests, “Clearly, the weight of the historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to His side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between His right ribs, probably perforated not only the right lung but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured his death. Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that he did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.”

For the sake of argument, let us just suppose that he did not die. Would a limping, bloody, badly beaten, half dead Jesus be able to convince anyone that he had been resurrected from the dead? I hardly think this would be convincing. The facts indicate that He did die.

Share your thoughts. Upon reading about Jesus’ death and the evidence for it, what thoughts or emotions surface?

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

It’s Out of My Hands

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“God takes full responsibility for the life wholly devoted to Him.” – Charles Stanley

This is absolutely one of my favorite quotes. It is a reminder for me to know my role in life and ministry. You see, I am guilty of trying to control things. I often want things to work out according to my wishes or knowledge. I want to see results, now. I want to know what God has planned for my life. I want to know whether I am being effective. I wonder why I can’t get certain results at times. When in reality, God says, “you just do what I want you to do. Let me handle the results.” I find immense freedom in this. I don’t have to worry about results. I simply have to make sure I am living in devotion to God.

Facebook Friday: 25 Days of Thanks

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November is a great month to be on Facebook, because there is an abrupt change in people’s posting. There is less venting about daily frustrations and not as much negativity. Most everyone’s attention is oriented toward being thankful in November. Many people participate in posting something they are thankful for every day throughout the month on Facebook. Instead of listing something every day, I decided to give 25 things that I am thankful for all in one lump sum. Here is my gratitude list, in no particular order.

  1. I am thankful for the grace and love of God. He covers shortcoming after shortcoming.
  2. I am thankful for the wife God blessed me with. I do not deserve such a beautiful, fun, intelligent, and supportive woman. Thanks for putting up with me Dev. Thanks for forcing out a few laughs at my corny jokes. Thanks for putting up with me being in school and the time it takes. Thanks for being such a good mom and wife.
  3. I am thankful that I was able to celebrate Hayden’s one year birthday party last week. His life has been one of my greatest blessings.
  4. I am thankful for two wise, supportive, and encouraging parents. Thanks for loving me even when I am crosswise. Thanks for bringing me up when I am down. Thanks for loving God and people better than anyone else I know.
  5. I am thankful for a great church community. Everyone I am privileged to worship with is a blessing to my heart.
  6. I am thankful for my dog, Jacksie (who is named after C.S. Lewis’ dog). She loves me even when I feel unlovable. Always greets me with enthusiasm. She watches movies with me and snuggles with me at any given second.
  7. I am thankful for some time off this week. It was much needed. I haven’t been able to rest like I have this week in quite a while.
  8. I am thankful for my friends. I am thankful for those that live close, whom I see on a regular basis, and those that live afar. I am thankful for those friends I don’t see often who stay in touch. I am thankful for friends who pick back up right where you left off when it has been a long time since you last talked.
  9. I am thankful for being able to preach God’s word. I am thankful that God would use me.
  10. I am thankful I can help people work through their difficulties in life.
  11. I am thankful for the people that read these blogs and sometimes share them with others. Thanks for interacting with me. Thanks for letting me share my life with you and giving me insight into yours as well.
  12. I am thankful that I was able to be a part of sharing 187 meals with our community yesterday. I am blessed to be a part of Trout Creek. I am thankful for a church that loves people.
  13. I am thankful to be in school studying Theology. It is a blessing to learn more about God and to get to share what I learn.
  14. I am thankful for this time of year. I love the holidays, the cold, the smells, the short days, Christmas trees, giving, Christmas music, hot chocolate, and time with family.
  15. I am thankful that God always has a plan. That He is sovereign. That He knows how He will respond to my prayers before I ask.
  16. I am thankful that I have gotten to play a video game all week, late at night, that I have been playing since I was 5 years old. 25 years of Zelda. It was a treat that it came out this week.
  17. I am thankful for our new Air Conditioner, that I needed in the middle of November.
  18. I am thankful for a date with my wife last night. It was lovely to be with you. Seeing Cirque Du Soleil was a blast.with you. I laughed every time you said, “do you see that?”. Sorry that there were no restaurants open besides McDonalds. I am also sorry that McDonalds drowned our chicken sandwiches with a mountain of mayonnaise.
  19. I am thankful that I was able to reconnect with someone I have missed this month.
  20. I am thankful for the warm, cozy bed I am sitting in right this moment.
  21. I am thankful for people that have inspired me, taught me, and spoken wisdom into my life.
  22. I am thankful my whole family is healthy.
  23. I am thankful for all the good cooks in my family. Therefore, I am thankful for all the food that makes me fat this time of year.
  24. I am thankful for books. I love being able to read and learn new things.
  25. I am thankful for being reminded to be thankful. Thanks to the people in my life that remind me how blessed I am. I am blessed beyond measure. I have more than I deserve.

I truly hope that you and your loved ones have had a blessed week. Life is truly good. Let’s remember to continue being thankful.

What are you most thankful for this week?

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

God At The Movies

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Are you a movie watcher? There is something about the art of story that fascinates me. I get completely drawn in to the plot, watching in anticipation as the story unfolds.

Movies are inextricably linked with our culture.  It is extremely commonplace to settle into a movie when one has some discretionary time. As Christians, we must be mindful that every film is either promoting a worldview, critiquing a worldview, or attacking a worldview. Each film that we watch has something to say about how we see the world and attempts to answer certain questions about life.

Majority of the time when we watch movies, we simply want to escape for a while and take in a story. It is often a rather mindless event, simply for the sake of entertainment. The problem with this is that we are often fed ideas that are inconsistent or detrimental to a Christian worldview. Over time these ideas affect us individually, and that spills over into our culture. Movies, along with other art forms, shape ideas.

So what do movies have to do with Christianity? Theologian, Gresham Machen states, “False ideas are the greatest obstacle to the reception of the gospel.” That is a pretty monumental claim. That is, the ideas that culture absorbs impacts Christianity and what people believe about God, life, and morality. It is our duty as believers to examine what is being communicated through the arts.

Every time I sit down to watch a movie I ask myself a few questions: 1. What worldview or belief system is being promoted, critiqued, or attacked? 2. What big questions about God or life is the film answering? 3. How consistent are the answers to the big questions with Biblical Christianity? I am not saying that we must turn into an overly critical movie watcher and ascribe meaning to every nuance throughout the film. I am saying that every film is promoting or attacking a certain worldview or set of ideas, and that it is our job to identify what these are and put them in their proper place.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 reminds us that “we are to demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” We are to challenge false ideas and promote correct ones. There are so many competing ideas in our culture. People look for answers and are, more often than not, disappointed with what they find. We must correct false ideas and keep them from being perpetuated. The arts are one of the greatest arenas for the dispersion of incorrect ideas and beliefs, so let’s watch with a critical eye.

Can you name a movie and spot the worldview being communicated in it? 100 cool points if you can. Let’s turn this into a game.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

A Year of Daddyhood

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This past weekend Hayden turned a year old. He had a complete blast at his birthday party. We are blessed to have so many people that love us and are willing to invest in Hayden’s life. It was fun to watch him take the whole day in. From seeing so many people he loves in the same place, to destroying and devouring his cake, opening his presents, and then playing with his new toys.

Over the weekend, I had some time to reflect on the past year of being a dad. It has been an incredible journey. I just wanted to share some of the things I have learned and some of my favorite aspects of daddyhood.

My favorite part of the day is waking up, going into his room, and seeing his eyes peeking over the crib. I flip on the light, he smiles with squinted eyes, and squeals in delight to see me.  I love sneaking into his room in the middle of the night to check on him and see the strange sleeping positions he manages, like a tiny slumbering contortionist. I enjoy watching him try new foods and watching the joy splash across his face as he shares his food with the dog. It makes me smile to see the things he finds funny. You never know what will strike him as hilarious. It is amazing to watch his personality come out moment by moment.

I truly was not prepared for how being a dad would change me, teach me, and reveal so much insight into my own life. On the negative side, it has revealed how I am often selfish. It took a tiny person to show me how often I think about myself before other people. It has been a joy getting so many opportunities to put Hayden first. He has also been a lesson in patience. A lesson I did not realize how much I needed. God is still grooming patience in my life.

There have been so many positive things I have learned through being with and watching my son grow. It has provided perspective as to how much my parents and Heavenly Father care about me. You just don’t realize how much you can love a child until it is your own.  Whenever Hayden has a meltdown and cries hysterically over something, I get to calm and reassure him, even though it usually is nothing to be upset over. How many times is this the case for me? I have a meltdown. I get upset. I react to things going on in my life, and God is smiling saying, “This really isn’t a big deal.” It is also calming at times to see how carefree he is. He has no worries or concerns. Sometimes I wish his childlike outlook came more naturally to me instead of fretting over things beyond my control.

Hayden is a constant reminder of what life is about and a reminder to smile several times throughout the day. I cannot imagine life before him. I look forward to watching Hayden continue to grow. I feel like I am waiting on my best friend to get old enough to have conversations with me and do enjoyable activities with me.  I am excited to see what God will do in and through his life.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Facebook Friday: Dirty Cup? Clean It Up!

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Is there any mission field bigger than Facebook? There are so many unchurched people floating around out there in Facebook Land. It has become a pretty standard thing for us Christians to give regular shout outs to J-E-S-U-S on Facebook. Can I get a hallelujah (did you say it out loud)?

There are some people that make Facebook entirely about Jesus. Their wall is basically a stream of daily encouragement, praise, and Bible verses. Daily manna, so to speak, for your feed.

There are some that try and make every status update into something spiritual. “I just woke up! Praise the Lord for letting me breathe another day. Thank ya, thank ya, Jesus.” “Getting in the car to head to work, but not before I have a talk with the Lord.” “Headed to lunch. Nothing beats a sandwich and some prayer.” “Spending time with my friends tonight. Really hoping we talk about people’s salvation and stuff.” “Home at last, home at last, thank the Lord Almighty, I am home at last. Goodnight Facebook friends. Don’t forget to say your prayers.”

Then there are the Jesus Facebook police. They strive to make you feel bad if you vent, have a bad attitude, or say that you are watching a PG movie. They are sure to make you ask yourself, “WWJP?” (What would Jesus post?).

We also have the prayer request gossipers. They post status updates like, “Please pray for Ray. He is living in sin.” Please lift up Irene, she is sick because she hasn’t been living for Jesus.” “I am worried about Tommy, he had a cussin fit at my house last night. Please keep him in your prayers.”

Sometimes we also have the clever Christians status updates. “If you love Jesus, like this status.” “You have a friend request from Jesus. Will you accept it?” “God says, get off of Facebook and get into My book.”

Maybe you think I am being hard on us. I include myself because I talk about Jesus/God/Christianity/Church on Facebook rather often. Is there anything wrong with having God status updates? Absolutely not. I had never thought much about it until a few of weeks ago. I typed in my God exhorting status update and right before I hit “share” I stopped. I asked myself, “Why am I sharing this on Facebook? Is it because I want to seem spiritual to others or because I want others to be encouraged? Am I posting about Jesus so others can see me or because I want to praise the Lord?” My fingers went to the backspace key. I was updating my status to make me look like a “good Christian”.

Remember the Pharisees? Jesus was always having words with them. There was this one time when Jesus called them out. Let me share with you some of what He said to them in Matthew 23:25-26. “You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence! First clean the inside of the cup, so the outside of it may also become clean.”

The day I was going to post a status about Jesus, I realized I was fixing to do a dirty cup post. That is, I was trying to look good on the outside. I was sharing for my own glory. It is so easy to make ourselves look good on Facebook. It is really easy to build a clean outer cup image to all of our friends while the inside of our cup is kind of crusty.

Let’s keep giving God praise. Please continue to allow Jesus to spill over into every area of your life. Feel free to encourage others with what God puts on your heart through Facebook, but please, no dirty cup posting. Every time we type a status update let’s make sure we are doing it for the right reason. Let’s make sure the inner cup is just as shiny as the outer cup.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

A Dirty Christian Word

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I use to know a guy that cleaned port-o-potty’s for a living (sounds like a glamorous job right?). Every few days he had to hose these portable poop-stops out. One thing he noticed while cleaning them out was a substantial amount of vitamins in the bottom. People would take their gel coated one a day’s, and they would slip right trough them completely intact. Sometimes, the exact thing happens with our beliefs. We simply swallow them without ever considering the validity of those beliefs. Then one day something comes along that calls our beliefs into question, and our worldview comes into serious doubt.

In the Christian community, sometimes “doubt” is considered a dirty word. “You are doubting? You better check yourself? Do you even know God?” I believe this is problematic. Instead of encouraging people to examine what they believe and get answers for their doubt, they are often told to stuff their doubts down and ignore them. Overtime, these doubts build up, a crisis occurs, and their faith cannot weather the gale force winds. Beliefs that are never questioned or examined tend to be shallow. Sometimes, doubt is what drives one’s roots deeper and deeper into solid ground.

I have had conversations with people who lost their faith in God. I have met some who read something, and it casts doubt in their minds about God or His existence. I have seen others question God due to events that happened in their lives. They question God’s goodness, His plans for them, or His provision. I have had seasons of doubt myself. What should we do as believer’s when we question? Seek truth. Always seek truth. When we are willing to follow the truth wherever it leads, I believe it will always lead us back to God. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) When we seek truth. When we look for answers to questions. When we weather through a dark night of the soul. We will find God, because He is truth.

We must remember that without doubt, there could be no faith. Faith and doubt coexist in a strange dance. Doubt can actually strengthen our faith. Ever single time I have asked hard questions and looked for answers my relationship with God has always been strengthened.

One day, we will no longer have to be subjected to bouts of doubt. One day we will see Jesus face to face. There will be complete certainty. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (I Corinthians 13:12)

So how does God view our doubt? Is He disgusted that we could ever doubt His provision, presence, existence, or goodness? I think we can find an example in scripture as to God’s response in our periods of doubt. Remember Thomas? He had a doubt problem. So much that he got the nickname “doubting Thomas”. He did not believe in Jesus’ resurrection even though his cohorts testified to its happening. How did Jesus respond to Thomas? Did He berate or humiliate him? No, He simply said come, look, believe. God is gracious in our periods off doubt. You doubt? Come. Look. Believe. Seek truth, always.

If our faith is true, it can certainly handle our doubts. Sometimes doubt can even help us gain a correct understanding of life, God, and scripture. Because at times our beliefs are incorrect and need to be challenged so we can come to a correct understanding of who God really is.

Certainly, if we are constantly doubting there could be a deeper problem. I have met people that want every single question answered before they will commit to a belief in Christ. We may never have every question answered because we see through the glass darkly. Yet, we can have the important questions answered.

Have doubts? Seek truth. Always seek truth. God commands us to do so, and if we are honestly seeking the truth, we will find it.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed
Josh

I Done Been Pooped On

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This past Thursday, Devon and I ran errands most of the day in Beaumont. We were heading to the mall (you can’t not go to the mall if you are in Beaumont) when we heard “the noise” coming from the back seat. Hayden makes this distinct grunt when he is in the process of making his special mud pie recipe. We get to the mall and Devon announces “oh boy, it is a cracker packer” (this is our term for a diaper so full that any wrong movement will cause it to shoot/squirt/ooze out of the diaper).

So,we go into emergency management mode. She grabs Hayden and I grab a diaper, wipes, and open the hatch to the back of our SUV. She lays him in the back, and we go to work like an EMT about to try and revive a patient. Devon makes one wipe, I grab the diaper and dispose of it in a bag. We are practically out of the woods. Before I could get another diaper under him, he decides to turn back on the soft serve machine and poops everywhere. I go to put a diaper under him and he poops on me. Devon moves to the other side of the SUV to get him away from the poop and he poops on her. So here we are, Hayden has poop all over him, I have poop all over me, Devon has poop all over her, and there are three rather large doo doo pies on the carpet in the back of my car. By this time, I am not frustrated. I am way past that. It was a pooptastrophe. We now refer to it as the poopocalypse of 2011.

So what did we do? We cleaned him up. We cleaned ourselves up. Then we walked through the mall poop free. Late that night, I cleaned the carpets in the car. We all laughed about it much later that evening. As Hayden was laying there, he was pretty helpless. It was pretty chilly that day, and Hayden was laying naked in the back of the car, covered in poop, shaking from the cold. He needed someone to clean him up.

On the drive home as I thought about this whole event, I couldn’t help but think about myself. God comes to us in the same way. There we are, covered in poop, and if we are willing, He cleans us up. He gives us a new set of clothes. Just like a Dad, He has compassion on us, and He wipes us clean. He shows us kindness if we let Him. I am so thankful that He cleaned me up. Now that I am clean and have a new set of clothes, I want to let Him know how thankful I am.

“God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.” – Romans 2:4

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Facebook Friday: Innocent Until Proven Guilty

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One thing I have noticed about Facebook (and life) is that it is really easy to make assumptions about others. Sometimes we read other peoples words without understanding what they mean, so we make assumptions. We make assumptions about friends people have, photos they post, places they go.That is, sometimes we question the intentions or character of someone else because we don’t understand their behavior, decisions, or what they say. Sometimes people even say things about others to question their character. So, instead of checking our facts, we make assumptions based on what they say.

At times, we condemn people based on what we think they did or meant. Aren’t people supposed to be innocent until proven guilty? When it comes to the behaviors or words of other people, there should be no room for assumptions. We must not let perception drive our relationships. Instead, we must mind the gap. What gap am I referring to? The gap between what other people do and how we interpret it. When it comes to the actions of others and the words that they speak we can fill in that gap with one of two things. We can believe the best about others or we can assume the worst. When it comes to other people, we can believe the best about their intentions and what they say or we can assume the worst until we get the chance to address the issue with them.

So what is my point? If you don’t know what someone means by what they say or you don’t understand why they acted the way they did then go talk to them. Please, just go talk to them. Don’t assume you know their heart or intentions. If you assume the worst from others, you will find it every time. Instead, believe the best about others until you get the facts straight from the person. Assume people are innocent until they are proven guilty.

Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. – Matthew 18:15

Don’t assume you know another persons motives and let it cost you a relationship. Believe the best. Have a talk. Don’t let assumptions drive your life.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

A Public Apology

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Sometimes Christians do bad things. It is the sad truth. Can I make a confession? I am a Christian and I have done things that are wrong. I have hurt others, said things I should not have said, had thoughts that should not have gone through my mind.

Let’s face it. Sometimes Christians can even be mean, judgmental, hypocritical, condemning and a whole lot of other nasty adjectives.Yes, Christians can be a crummy lot at times. Christians can even get on my nerves at times.

I have heard people make statements such as, “Why should I embrace Christianity? Look at how Christ’s followers act.” That is a legitimate concern, and I can understand where people are coming from when they say such things. Christians have messed up through the ages (Inquisitions and Crusades) and still mess up today. We need to ask though, is it fair to blame God for the mistakes of his followers? You see, Christians are still humans. They have the same problems, evil desires, and fall short just the same as non-Christians.

Just because Christians mess up, does not taint who God is. All of the events in history where Christians behaved badly go contrary to the teachings of Christ. The Inquisitions, crusades and other horrible things done in the name of Christ go counter to what Christ taught. Christians today who are judgmental, hypocritical, condemning, and so on, are not living out what Jesus taught. Jesus taught love, humility, service, giving, and compassion.

When people become Christians, they don’t become perfect. They still mess up and have problems. This is the beauty of Christianity. God loves us in spite of who we are. He doesn’t love us because of who we are or what we do. He loves us because of who He is. If believers are walking in Christ you should definitely notice a progressive change for the good. You should be able to see love and compassion in their lives. I realize this is not always the case, and for that I am sorry.

Don’t let a bunch of broken, fallen, sinful people called Christians keep you from knowing the God of the universe. So, if you have ever been hurt by a Christian and this left a bad taste in your mouth toward God, I am sorry. I would like to apologize for myself and my fellow Christians. I am sorry about the time you felt judged. I apologize for the times we come across as hypocritical. I am sorry about the time you were devalued and looked down upon. I am sorry for the guy on the side of the road with a sign that says “God hates gays.” I am sorry you experienced abuse from the hands of a Christian. I want to personally apologize for any maltreatment you have ever received from a Christian. Please, forgive us.

I hope that you won’t let Christians keep you from knowing God. We mess up too. Forgive us.

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. – I John 4:8

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

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