Archive for December, 2012

December 31, 2012

New Year: Hope for the New Year

by Perryn Pettus

by Mitch Glaser

About Mitch: Mitch serves as President of Chosen People Ministries. He was born into a nominally Orthodox Jewish home in New York City, where he attended Hebrew School and had his Bar Mitzvah. After waning from his Jewish roots and exploring various Eastern religions, Mitch investigated the Old and New Testaments to see whether Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. In November 1970, he accepted Jesus as his Messiah. Today, he and his wife live in Brooklyn, which he calls “the soul of the worldwide Jewish community.” For more, see here.

Highlighted Text: Malachi 4:5-6
M’Cheyne TextMalachi 4; John 21

The Hebrew prophet Malachi was chosen by God to deliver the final promise of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Jewish people had returned to Israel in the 6th century BC, after seventy years of Babylonian captivity. Although they had rebuilt the Temple, they soon drifted into the same sinful patterns that caused them to be dispersed in the first place.

Judgment would come again through the Syrian Greeks and then, eventually, the Roman Empire would dominate Israel and the Jewish people.  Perhaps in those dark days of Greek and Roman domination, the Jewish people remembered the bright promise of the prophet–that the Lord would turn their hearts back to Himself and remember His promises to His covenant people.

Malachi thunders,

“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”

The first signs of hope would come through a forerunner, a servant of God who begins the process of turning the Jewish people back to God. This New Covenant prophet, Yochanan, prepared his people for the coming of the One who was their true hope.

Spiritual restoration is oftentimes a two-step process.  We take a step towards God, perhaps by heeding a godly friend’s words or reading the Bible, as God uses many means to get our attention. He break our sinful hearts, leads us to repentance and then brings healing through the One we call Yeshua who restores his people to covenant faithfulness.  This is the One for whom John prepared the path.

May we begin this New Year in hope, knowing that God loves us enough to restore us, no matter how far we think we have drifted from Him. I hope you will take steps of repentance and return to the One who brings restoration and transforms us for His glory.

Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I am prone to wander!  My humanity takes me away from the God I love.  Yet Lord, I am desperate for restoration on this New Year’s Eve.  I want this year to be different than last year. I want to be closer to you. In the name of Yeshua the Messiah, Amen.

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December 28, 2012

New Year: Entering the New Year with Fear and Trembling

by Perryn Pettus

by Melissa Tamplin Harrison

About Melissa: Melissa is the Director and Founder of PURE, which is an organization that seeks to connect women by creating a platform for them to share one another’s stories and by offering an ongoing community of encouragement and support. Prior to founding PURE, Melissa worked as a news anchor and reporter in six different television markets. She holds an MA in Journalism from Columbia University and a BA in Spanish and Communications from Baylor University. Melissa and her husband, Dalen, live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and are expecting their first child in April.

Highlighted Text: Malachi 1:2
M’Cheyne TextMalachi 1; John 18

Satisfaction: When was the last time you looked at something with awe?  As savvy New Yorkers, our palates have acquired a taste for the finest cuisine, fashion and culture the world has to offer.  As our physical cravings are satisfied, however, our senses become dulled to a point that it takes an even finer wine, a newer version of the latest toy, a more impressive headliner on Broadway to outdo our most recent sensual “hit”.   Unfortunately, the same is often true in our spiritual lives. In a season when we should stand amazed by the miracle of Christ’s birth and incarnation, many of us remain jaded, calloused and unimpressed with God’s love.

Skepticism: In 450 BC, the prophet Malachi was sent to give the Israelites a message from God. The message was simple: “I have loved you” [1].  Instead of replying to the message with affection for the Father’s love, the Israelites responded with skepticism  “How have you loved us?”  [2]  Like many of us today, they had lost sight of God’s presence in their lives and had forgotten the many ways God had loved them – returning them from exile, rebuilding Jerusalem and restoring the temple.  Instead of responding with a laundry list of his acts of love, God reminded them that his love was evident in this: he chose them as his own.

Response: This truth applies to us today. Can we accept it to satisfy the deepest cravings of our souls?  Does the love of God cause us to tremble? John Piper stresses that Malachi’s message is not only designed to comfort and encourage mature Christians; it is also meant to shock the presumption and the flippancy of careless Christians – “Christians whose grasp of God’s love is so shallow that it never makes them tremble but instead can make them careless and casual and even presumptuous in his presence” [3].

Prayer: Lord, We confess that we often do not tremble with reverent fear at the knowledge of your love for us.  Forgive us for being skeptical, indifferent and stingy in our response to you. Help us to enter the new year proclaiming “Oh, how thou hast loved me!” , not asking “How hast thou loved me?” May our souls be shaken so that we can no longer reply in a casual and flippant manner.  Help us to see your love in a way that is bold and unmistakable. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Malachi 1:2a  |  [2] Malachi 1:2b  |  [3] John Piper. “The Greatness of God’s Electing Love.” 4 October 1987.

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December 27, 2012

New Year: The Yearnings of a Son for His Father

by Perryn Pettus

by David H. Kim

About David: David is the Executive Director of the Center for Faith & Work (CFW) and Pastor of Faith and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Prior to joining CFW in 2007, David was a Chaplain at Princeton University, where he also served as the Executive Director of Manna Christian Fellowship. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, his M.Div. from Westminster Seminary, his Th.M. from Princeton Seminary, and is currently a D.Min. candidate at Fuller Seminary. He and his wife, Jane, are expecting their first child in January and live near Bryant Park. For more about CFW, see here.

Highlighted Text: John 17:1-5
M’Cheyne TextZechariah 14; John 17

Intimacy: “Father, the time has come” [1].  In John 17 , John gives us  a rare window into Jesus’s own relationship with his Father. Like a little boy with unmitigated admiration of his father, Jesus delights in his Father and yearns to be with him. There is a profound bond between them that we can never fully comprehend, but we can begin to discern its depth through the obedience of Christ in sacrificing this intimacy.

Sacrifice: “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” [2]. Here, Jesus revealed something that we may have overlooked during Advent.   As we celebrated the birth of Christ , we may have overlooked that Jesus’s incarnation meant a forfeiture of his glory. Jesus yearned to be reunited with the fullness of the glory that he once shared with the Father.  It is hard enough for us to give up small inconveniences, but what would motivate someone to give up the fullness of his own glory?

Glory: “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” [3]. Jesus’s love of the Father’s glory was his motivation to sacrifice his glory. He was willing to give up his own glory so that he could glorify his Father by completing the work that was set before him. Jesus suffered in his birth and death so that we might know the Father and the Son and share in their glory!  What brings the Father glory is when redeemed sinners are brought into the very glory shared between the Father and the Son. There is no other way to respond than with worship, admiration and gratitude for who God is and what he has done. As John exclaimed, “Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us. That we should be called Sons of God!” [4].

Prayer: Father, We are moved when we see the intimacy, sacrifice and glory of your Son! The purity of his desires and the fortitude of his resolve to bring you glory expose our tainted motives and unworthiness. Yet you do not reveal this prayer to condemn us, but to welcome us into your fellowship. As we reflect upon this year, let our deepest yearnings be for you and the glory of that is rightly due to you–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] John 17:1  |  [2] John 17:5  |  [3] John 17:4  |  [4] 1 John 3:1

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December 26, 2012

New Year: Waiting on the Spirit

by Perryn Pettus

by David Haberer

About David: David is the pastor of the Church for All Nations in Midtown Manhattan. After studying at the School of Visual Arts, David attended Alliance Theological Seminary. One thing David loves about his ministry in the city is hosting a monthly gathering of independent musicians at a gathering called The Stoop. For more, see here.

Highlighted Text: John 16:13
M’Cheyne TextZechariah 13:2-9; John 16

We are a people who look for instant gratification.  With the ability to receive e-mails and phone calls wherever we are, with the constant availability that social networks afford us, we have learned to expect a response to our every need immediately.  Our 24-hour news cycle brings information to the moment it happens. The moment a new product hits the market, we rush to wait on line to be the first to own one. To quote Jim Morrison of The Doors, “We want the world and we want it now!”

Our journey with Jesus unfolds over time.  Encounter-struggle (growth)-reward. It is in the struggles of life that we grow.  We are called to a walk of faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” [1]. Faith remains confident in the promises of God that as of yet, because of the unfolding of our experience, have not yet been made tangible.

Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will keep us and lead us as we move toward him in hope of his sure return: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” [2]. Uncertainty is anathema to our culture. Fear of the unknown, the what if, causes us to seek control of every aspect of our lives.  Faith, on the other hand, casts it cares upon Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.  Jesus tells us ahead of time that life will not always be smooth.  He has prepared us for the wait.  His promise is sure.  Because he kept his promise to enter the world as our savior, we are sure of his return.  We can trust him.

Lord, In this time of uncertainty, a time when we desire to control every part of our lives, we are more than aware that much is outside of our control.  Help us to cast our cares upon you, knowing that the only thing that is truly sure is your promise that you will sustain us until you come again and receive us unto yourself.  Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Hebrews 11:1  |  [2] John 16:13

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December 25, 2012

Happy Christmas from The Park Forum

by Bethany

Happy Christmas

 

We know that something miraculous has happened when God has turned from saying, “No man shall see my face and live” (Exodus 33:20) to saying, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see” (Luke 24:39).

 Today, we wish you a Happy Christmas, as you remember the grand miracle of the incarnation, when the holiness of God came to dwell among us.

December 24, 2012

Advent: The End of Longing

by Perryn Pettus

by Eric Metaxas

About Eric: Eric is the author of the NYT #1 Bestseller Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, and his new book is No Pressure, Mr. President!  (The Power of True Belief in a Time of Crisis: The National Prayer Breakfast). He was the keynote speaker at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast, is currently the voice of BreakPoint and is the host of Socrates in the City. He has written for Veggie Tales, Chuck Colson, The New York Times, and The Yale Record at Yale University, where he attended college. He and his wife Susanne live with their daughter in Manhattan, where they attend Calvary/St. George’s Episcopal Church. For more, see here.

Highlightext Text: John 14:5-14
M’Cheyne TextZechariah 11; John 14

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’ Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” – John 14:5-14

Advent is when we await the coming of Jesus.  The God of the universe is coming to us from beyond space and time.  But Advent reminds us that just as he came 2,000 years ago, he is coming again.  Really.  Do we sincerely believe that?  Do we know it?  Our culture seems to like the idea of uncertainty.  A friend of mine told me about being at a U2 concert, where 80,000 people sang,  “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for!” at the top of their lungs, with a kind of Pentecostal fervor.  We love questions, but answers can make us uncomfortable.  We think there’s something cool about doubt and questions.  We identify with Thomas, who asks “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

But Jesus won’t have any of this.  He declares:  “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the father but through me.”  Wow.  Can we accept such specificity and clarity — that Jesus dares to say that he himself is truth and life?   There’s something to be said for doubt and questioning, but at some point it’s important to find solid answers, even if we still have some questions.

On December 24th, we are on the verge of the Answer of answers.  Longing is long, but it is not forever.  Not someday, but tomorrow — in a few hours — we come to the end of longing.  Jesus leaves eternity and arrives into the mud and blood of human history and time. The eternal question mark of the human race is straightened into a finite exclamation point.   Labor ends; the baby inhales.

In John 14, Jesus says to his disciples: “Don’t you know me, even after I have been among you such a long time?”  There is impatience there.  Jesus desperately wants us not to long forever, but finally to know who he is.  He wants us to know that he is God become man, born into our broken world to restore it, and that he will come again.  Unless we get that, we can’t be part of that restoration — and to be a part of it is exactly why we were born.  Lord, give us the strength to put aside our questions and to accept you fully, in all of your reality and power and glory, knowing that you long to bless us with that full knowledge of who you are, not just for our sake, but for the sake of those who don’t yet know.  Thank you for inviting us be a part of your glorious plan to restore this broken world. 

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December 21, 2012

Advent: Do You Believe This?

by Perryn Pettus

by Tim Cooper

About Tim: Tim is planting Christ Central Church in Harlem. He and his wife, Yukari, are expecting a son in January. Tim blogs regularly here.

Highlighted Text: John 11:25-26
M’Cheyne TextZechariah 8; John 11

I recently made the trip from Harlem to Fort Greene, Brooklyn, for a funeral. A friend’s daughter had died. As I stood with him in front of the church, he asked me a simple question, “Have you ever been angry at God?”

“Sure,” I said without hesitation. “I’ve often been angry at God.” Our mutual confession of puzzlement and anger led to a time of comfort and encouragement.

Have you ever been angry at God? If you have or if you are today, let me ask you a question, “Do you believe?”

In John 11, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Upon his arrival at Lazarus’s home, Martha, Lazarus’s sister, says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask” [1]. Perhaps she wondered why Jesus took so long to arrive. Perhaps she was puzzled by God’s inscrutable ways.

Jesus responds to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life”. Then he goes on to make a startling claim: “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” Finally, he challenges her directly, “Do you believe this?” [2]

What has died in your life? What dream for the kingdom of God has withered under the glare of frustration, cynicism and unbelief? Jesus is the resurrection and the life!

Anyone who believes in him will never die. Don’t give up on God. If you are alive today because of Jesus, you (and your dreams) will never die. Do you believe this?

Jesus is victor! His cross conquers death. His Spirit renews our unbelieving hearts. He came into this world to bring dead things to life.

As we leaned against the faded wall of that old church, the funeral service for my friend’s daughter began. Summoning all the emotional strength we had, we climbed the stairs and sat in the upper gallery. As the music swelled and people testified about her life, Jesus’s words came to mind: “Whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” I ask you the same question I asked myself that day, “Do you believe this?”

“Oh Father, help us to believe the words of your Son. He is our life and our resurrection. Teach us to truly believe today, so we can …”

Be Encouraged.

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Footnotes

[1] John 11:21-22  |  [2] John 11:25-26

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December 20, 2012

Advent: The God Who Suffers for Fools

by Perryn Pettus

by John Starke

About John: John is an editor for The Gospel Coalition and the lead pastor of All Souls Church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He and his wife, Jena, along with their almost four kids (they are expecting in February) live on the Upper West Side, where they enjoy reading P.G. Wodehouse out loud to each other and belly-laughing. John is the co-editor with Bruce A. Ware of the forthcoming book, One God in Three Person: Upholding the Trinity’s Unity of Essence and Distinction of Persons. For more about All Souls, see here. For more about John, see here.

Highlighted Text: John 10:12-15
M’Cheyne TextZechariah 7; John 10

Text: “He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:12-15

A World that Suffers No Fools. 

Marlon Brando once lost a severe amount of weight for a movie role, which left him sick and hospitalized. When asked why he would go to such lengths, he said, “Some things are worth dying for.” Sadly, Brando ended up getting cut from the cast because he was too short. What Brando was willing to suffer for wasn’t willing to suffer him.

The things we give our life to — work, money, degrees, even family — are often very unforgiving. Though we would die for them, rarely would they return the favor. And who can blame them? For rarely would anyone die for even a righteous man.

A God Who Suffers for Fools. 

But Jesus is different. He is the good Shepherd because he’s willing to suffer and die for the sheep.

But there’s more. Wolves are not interested in shepherds; they’re interested in devouring sheep. And that’s the miracle of Christmas. That the good Shepherd became a lamb for slaughter. That he went to the wolves for us.

God not only suffers fools; he also suffers for them.

A World Where God Sends His Fools. 

The same Shepherd who goes to the wolves for us turns around and sends us “as lambs in the midst of wolves” [1]. There may not be holiday songs celebrating that truth, but a common theme in John is that, as the Father sends the Son, so the Son sends us — his sheep. Not the most comforting thoughts at first. However, it is comforting when you know that the Shepherd who sends you into the wolves, has already been slaughtered for you. So even if the wolves show their teeth, their teeth can never have the last say on you. The worst of their bite was exhausted on our Shepherd. Now, we can boldly go into the wolves, hoping to see some turn into lambs.

Prayer. 

Father, Guard us from putting our trust in idols and false saviors. For your enemies are wolves that seek to devour us. They can neither save nor be good to us. Help us, therefore, to trust in you, who raised Jesus, the great shepherd, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equipping us with everything good to do your will. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Matthew 10:16

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December 19, 2012

Advent: The Leader We Long For

by Perryn Pettus

by David Cho

About David: David is the Assistant Pastor and the Director of Discipleship and Faith and Work at Citylife Church of Boston, Massachusetts. After completing his B.A. at Tufts University, David resumed his studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he completed his M.Div. in 2007. David is an avid Minnesota sports fan, and thus is frequently in pain.  He currently resides with his wife Sharon in Savin Hill (Dorchester), where they enjoy reading and experiencing the idiosyncrasies of their neighborhood.

Highlighted Text:  Zechariah 6:12-13
M’Cheyne TextZechariah 6; John 9

Leadership:  Jim Collins, in his best-selling book, Good to Great, wrote, “Good-to-great executives were all cut from the same cloth…individuals who blended extreme personal humility with intense professional will…a study in duality:  modest and willful, humble and fearless…quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated…[but with] a ferocious resolve, an almost stoic determination to do whatever needed to be done to make the company great…and they would do it – quietly, doggedly, simply.”

Priest-King:  The ancient prophet Zechariah once spoke of a leader just like this who was to come, “Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord.   It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne.  And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two’” [1].

Jesus:  Hundreds of years later, there would come a man who would bring harmony between the two – who would be both sovereign and merciful, all-powerful yet humble, just and gracious – with a ferocious resolve to do whatever it took to make the world – and us – great.  A King in a temple, a Priest on a throne, God become man – the very kind of leader that this world is dying for.  And the only one who can save it.  And the only one who did.

Prayer:  Father, In human history, we have seen leaders with sovereign power and a ferocious resolve.  But too often they have trampled over us.  At the same time, we have known leaders with humble graciousness and unending mercy.  But too often they have failed us.  Direct us again, this advent season, to the only One who brings harmony between the two – and who, in doing so, has saved us – and our dying world.  Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Zechariah 6:12-13

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December 18, 2012

Advent: Our Identity and Purpose in Advent and Beyond

by Perryn Pettus

by Michael Rudzena

About Michael: Michael is preparing to start Trinity Grace Church in Tribeca and, in this process, is going through the Redeemer Church Fellows program. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Michael attended Fuller Theological Seminary and worked at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. Now he lives in Manhattan with his wife Kyndi and their two kids, Jack and Lucy. For more, click here and here.

Highlighted Text: John 8:14
M’Cheyne TextZechariah 5; John 8

“Jesus answered, ‘Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going …’” [1].

Clear purpose and identity is bound to our perspective. Our sense of where we come from and where we are going matters. This is why both are illusive in our culture. In The Real American Dream, Andrew Delbanco shows that, throughout our history, our national identity and purpose has been dynamically shifting from God to Nation and ultimately to Self. Though our individualism has benefits, it also has shadows, including the deterioration of transcendent identity and purpose.

John 8 is famous for many things. Jesus saves a prostitute by saying, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” He announces, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Throughout his life, Jesus says and does remarkable things, but in verse 14 we see the engine behind all of his activity: he has an unshakeable perspective. He has a strong, clear sense of where he came from and where he is going.

For the people of God, Advent is a two-fold practice of looking back and looking forward to the two great Advents: the birth of Christ, which inaugurated God’s rescue project in the world, and the return of Christ, when God will definitively make all things new. Knowing our place between these two advents gives us perspective. Like Jesus, we know where we are coming from and where we are going. Looking back to the work of Christ infuses us with confidence, courage and faith, that God is with us and for us. It gives us identity. Looking forward to the return of Christ gives us vision for the story we are in and where history is headed. It gives us purpose.

In the meantime, we can pray for smaller advents or “arrivals” of God’s kingdom through our simple acts of obedience and faith–those moments when his will becomes ours. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Advent can reignite and galvanize our sense of identity and purpose. How will God use this perspective to bring smaller advents of his kingdom through your life in this city?

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Footnotes

[1] John 8:14

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