One Church, One Body

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

One Church, One Body

            Again, with the church unity thing, right? Well, as I have stated before, the unity of the body of Christ is one of the key themes of the New Testament. Paul said in Ephesians 1:22-23, 22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.”

He said that God has put everything under Christ’s authority…EVERYTHING. If we look back in the last chapter of Matthew, what we refer to as The Great Commission, it says, “Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.’” Matthew 28:18. Jesus said it Himself, God gave Him ALL authority in heaven and earth! In fact, we read in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” So, if someone tries to tell you that we are all on different roads to the same place…no we are not! God made salvation so simple that even a child could understand it. My five-year-old grandson recently accepted Jesus as his savior, it’s that simple. God didn’t give us many roads to salvation, He gave us one. In fact, Paul said in Galatians 2:21, “I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” Don’t you see? If there was any other way, why would Jesus have gone through what He did? His death would have been in vain! Again, in Philippians 2:9-12 it says, “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” God elevated Jesus to the place of HIGHEST HONOR! God gave Jesus a name that is above every name…JESUS…EMMANUEL…GOD WITH US! And, yes, I’m still on that old chorus kick. Another chorus I grew up singing in church said:

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

There’s just something about that name.

Master, Savior, Jesus

Like the fragrance after the rain

 

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

Let all Heaven and earth proclaim.

Kings and kingdoms will all pass away,

But there’s something about that name.

There truly is something about that name!

The end of Ephesians 1:22 says, “and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church.” So, why did God elevate Jesus above all things? For the benefit of the Church! And, why did God want to benefit the Church? Because “the Church is His body.”

All throughout the New Testament, we see the Church referred to as the Body of Christ. Paul goes into great detail in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 to explain to us how this means we must be united. We can’t all be mouths, we can’t all be eyes, we are all different parts of one body and must function as one unit. You see, if a body has parts that won’t cooperate with the rest of the body it is said to be diseased. If your hands won’t do what your brain tells them to do, or your feet won’t go where you want, there is something wrong.

But, here’s the thing. If you look closely at 1 Corinthians 12, you will see that those different parts aren’t different denominations or different belief systems. Those different parts are the different gifts of the Holy Spirit. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if we don’t set aside our petty denominational differences and come together as One Body, the Church will just continue in the downward spiral it is in. Do you wonder why the Church is looked down on and trivialized, even laughed at in the world today? It’s because there is a state of disease in the body. The head is telling the feet to go to someone to help, but the feet aren’t responding. The head is telling the hands to reach out and touch someone, but the hands are stuck in the pockets and aren’t doing anything. We must start being the body and listening to the head.

The beautiful thing is, as the body of Christ, we are “made full and complete by Christ.” Colossians 1:18 tells us, “Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.” Okay, we are the body, but Christ is the head. Your body must do what your head tells it to do, again unless there is a state of disease. Christ is the head of the body, the Church, so we must go where He tells us to go and do what He tells us to do.

I love how Ephesians chapter 1 ends, it says that Christ “fills all things everywhere with himself.” Wow, isn’t that beautiful? Everything is filled with Christ. So, if you are In Christ, something we talked about several months ago, you are filled with Christ…with His light. But, we must make sure that we are truly in Christ, and not just in religion. Luke 11:34-36 says, 34 “Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is unhealthy, your body is filled with darkness. 35 Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. 36 If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.”

So, if you are in the true light, there will be no darkness. As it says in verse 35, “Make sure that the light you have is not actually darkness.” Many people who claim the name of Christ and think they are in the light are actually blinded by religion. They think they are following Christ, but they are actually living in darkness. Examine yourself using the Bible as your guide. Take scripture in context and set aside anything that men have taught you. Study the word and ask God to show you the truth. Be the Body!

Our God Is An Awesome God!

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Our God Is an Awesome God!

I know, I’ve been on somewhat of a kick of old worship songs, but this is another one I’ve always loved. Rich Mullens wrote this song back in 1988 and many only know the chorus, but I think the verses say so much. The first verse says,

When He rolls up His sleeves
He ain’t just putting on the ritz
(Our God is an awesome God)
There’s thunder in His footsteps
And lightning in His fists
(Our God is an awesome God)
And the Lord wasn’t joking when He kicked ’em out of Eden
It wasn’t for no reason that He shed His blood
His return is very close and so you better be believing that
Our God is an awesome God

Then the second verse says,

And when the sky was starless
In the void of the night
(Our God is an awesome God)
He spoke into the darkness
And created the light
(Our God is an awesome God)
Judgment and wrath He poured out on Sodom
Mercy and grace He gave us at the cross
I hope that we have not too quickly forgotten that
Our God is an awesome God

Isn’t that powerful? Our God truly is an awesome God! I want to look at what Paul says about this, and it is picking up where we left off in his prayer last week. Look at Ephesians 1:19-21 where Paul continues his prayer and says, 19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.”

So, he starts out by saying that he prays that we understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe. Remember that one of the attributes of God is that He is omnipotent, which means, “All Powerful”. For those who have been following me for a while, you might remember a series I did on the names of God that are used in the Bible, and how each of these names describes one of God’s attributes. Many of those names speak of His power, names like; Jehovah Jireh – The Lord is my Provider, Jehovah Rapha – The Lord is my Healer, Jehovah Sabaoth – The Lord of Angel Armies, El Elyon – The Most High God, and one of my favorites, El Shaddai – The Lord is More Than Enough!

Some translations of Ephesians 1:19 say “exceeding greatness”. This is a picture of throwing beyond, going far past what we might expect. Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Do you see that? God can work through us weak humans to do infinitely more than we could ask for, or even think possible…Wow! If we look back in John 14:12, when Jesus was telling his disciples that He was going to send them the Holy Spirit, He said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.”

The word used here that was translated “power” is the Greek word, Dunamis, which means “inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth”. This is the word that we derive the word dynamite from. It is explosive power and a power that naturally occurs. In contrast, whenever the Bible talks about Satan’s power, it uses the word, Exousia, which means, “the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises.” You see, Satan’s only power is the power that God allows him to have for a season. God’s power, on the other hand, is an explosive power that naturally occurs within Him.

Paul goes on to say in verse 20, “This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” So, the power that is within us, His children, is the same mighty power that He used to raise Christ from the dead, the power that ascended Christ into heaven, and seated Him at the right hand of the Father. That power is in US!

Then he goes on to say that because of this power…the power that we also possess, “he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come” verse 21. Christ is far above all other rulers. The Bible says in Philippians 2:9-11, Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This is the God we serve, and because we serve Him, His power is within us. Acts 4:13, “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.” So, Peter and John were obviously uneducated men. We’ve all known people like that, as soon as you look at them you know they are uneducated, maybe a little backward. But, have you ever known people like that, who confound you in their boldness and knowledge of scripture? People who have obviously been with Jesus? That’s how we all need to be! It’s not about our wisdom! 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 says, 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” Remember, it’s not about you!

We all must ask ourselves, “When the world looks at me, do they see that I’ve been with Jesus?” That must be our goal!

Open The Eyes of My Heart

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Open the Eyes of My Heart

We used to sing a worship song in church that says,

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You

To see You high and lifted up
Shinin’ in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy

This song came from what the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:18 when he said, “I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.” We’ll get to this verse in a minute, but first I want to look at the verses leading up to this statement.

This is the beginning of his letter to the church at Ephesus, which was a church that he had never met. In verse 15 he talks about their reputation, he tells them what he has heard about them. It says, “Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere.” So, what was their reputation? It was faith and love, he said he heard about their strong faith in the Lord Jesus and that they loved God’s people everywhere. Did you catch that? They loved God’s people…everywhere. They had no prejudiced toward anyone. You would not believe some of the hateful and prejudiced things I have heard coming from the mouths of pastors, even while they are preaching. God loves us all, and if you have trusted in Jesus Christ as your personal savior, you are my brother or sister no matter what color your skin is or what denomination you might belong to.

Paul goes on in verse 16 to say that he has not stopped praying for them. This makes me think about what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 where he said, 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” You see, we are to pray without ceasing, and that’s exactly what he did for this church. Now, of course, that doesn’t mean we should do nothing but pray, but anytime God brings something or someone to our mind, we need to stop and pray.

So, what did Paul pray over them? Did he pray for wealth and prosperity? Did he pray for their health? No, let’s look at what Paul prayed over the church at Ephesus. We find it in verse 17, “asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.” The first things he prayed was that they have spiritual wisdom and insight. In today’s world, we think that blessings mean that we will have a lot of money. We think that blessings equal monetary increase, but nowhere in the Bible does it say that, or even elude to it.

The first thing he prayed is that they would have wisdom, and how do we get wisdom? James 1:5 tells us, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” The word in this verse that is translated as “ask” is the Greek word, aiteo {ahee-teh’-o} which doesn’t just mean to ask, it also means to beg, crave, desire, and even require. If God is going to give you wisdom, you must crave it and beg for it, and seek it out. We require food to live, so we always find ways to get food. So, wisdom needs to become our food. He also prays that they will have insight, meaning revelation in the knowledge of God, or true knowledge.

Okay, so he prays that they will have wisdom and insight, or true knowledge, but for what purpose? He says, “so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.” So, he prayed that God would help them understand God better! One of the most important things that we as Christ followers must do is to understand God better. Another song we used to sing years ago was called “I Want to Know You”, and the lyrics said:

In the secret, in the quiet place
In the stillness you are there
In the secret, in the quiet hour
I wait only for you
Cause I want to know you more

I want to know you
I want to hear your voice
I want to know you more

I want to touch you
I want to see your face
I want to know you more

Do you want to know God? Do you crave the knowledge Him? Paul finished this prayer in verse 18 by saying, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,” He prayed that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened…he prayed that God would open the eyes of their hearts so they could see Him. This needs to be the prayer of every Christ follower, that God would open the eyes of our heart that we might see Him, that we might know the hope of His calling.

So, what is His calling? 2 Timothy 1:9 tells us, “For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.” Do you see that? He called us to live holy and set apart lives. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”

My oldest son started a praise band when he was in high school and called it Peculiar Nation, because of this verse. We are expected to be holy or set apart. In Christ we are a royal priesthood, we are both kings and priests. We are a holy…set apart nation. We are God’s own possession.

Stop right now and ask God to open the eyes of your heart so you can see Him in the beauty of His holiness.

What is God’s Mysterious Plan?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

What is God’s Mysterious Plan?

In his letter to the Church at Ephesus, Paul wrote, “God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan.” Ephesians 1:9. So, God has a mysterious will regarding Christ, but He has revealed it to us. Okay, then how is it a mystery, if He has revealed it to us? The definition of the Greek word “musterion”, which we translate “mysterious”, is “generally mysteries, religious secrets, confided only to the initiated and not to ordinary mortals.” It’s a mystery that has only been revealed to the select…His followers. Later in this letter, Paul wrote, “As I briefly wrote earlier, God himself revealed his mysterious plan to me.” Ephesians 3:3. He then went on to say in verse 5 that God did not reveal this to previous generations, He waited until the time was right.

Okay, now that we have that cleared up, what is this will? It is to fulfill His good plan! Okay…so, what is the plan? Look at verse 10, “And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.” At the right time! So, what’s the right time? Paul tells us in Galatians 6:9, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” All throughout the Bible, we find verses about God’s timing. We must wait on God! The Psalmist told us in Psalm 27:14, “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” Because, remember what God said to Isaiah, 8My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth-, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9. We can’t quantify God in any way. His thoughts are so far above ours that we can’t even fathom them.

So, “At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ.” Everything in heaven and earth will be brought under Christ’s authority. Going back to Ephesians chapter 3, verse 6 says, “And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.” This mysterious plan is that everyone is welcome into God’s family. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you are from, as the old children’s song says, “they are precious in His sight.”

The Greek word used here for “at the right time” is “Oikonomia” which means, “The management of a household or of household affairs.” So, what He is saying here is, when God’s house is in order, He will bring everything under Christ’s authority. When will His house be in order? People have tried to guess this for centuries. In the early 80’s there was a book called, 88 Reasons Why Christ Will Come Back in 1988…I guess he was wrong. People said He would come back at Y2K…wrong again! The fact is, as Christ told us in Matthew 24:36, we can’t know, the angels don’t know, even Christ Himself doesn’t know when He will come again. You see, God doesn’t want us to know, because He wants us to always live like it will be today. The Apostle Paul expected Christ to return in his lifetime, and so should we.

But, He doesn’t stop there, check out Ephesians 1:11, “Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” There it is again, why do we receive an inheritance from God? Because we are united with Christ! As I’ve said before, one of the key themes of the New Testament is Unity of the Body of Christ. I’m going to keep bringing this up because the Bible keeps bringing it up. If we don’t tear down the walls that divide us, we will never be effective in this world.

In 1991 the Christian singer Steve Green wrote a song titled, “Let the Walls Come Down”. The lyrics of this song say:

All throughout the spirit realm a fearsome battle rages
The fates of men and nations hang suspended in the fray
Walls designed by Satan in the twilight of the ages
Now stand as great divisions all across the world today

Walls not born of government nor strife amid the nations
But walls within our churches and between denominations
Stones of dry tradition carved in fear and laid in pride
Become a dismal prison to those withering inside.

I love what he says here. These walls within our churches and between denominations are built with stones of dry traditions and they are carved in fear and laid in pride and the Church is the prisoner within these walls. It all comes down to pride, that is what divides the Church. We all think that we are right and everyone else is wrong. Again, the fact is, the only doctrine that matters is that of salvation by God’s grace, through our life-changing faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Much of the doctrines that divide the Church were taken out of context from the beginning. Once again, if we are to make a difference in this world, we must be united in Christ…there is no other way. If we are to receive the inheritance from God, we must be united in Christ.

He ends this passage by saying that God has chosen us in advance, as we talked about last week, and that He makes EVERYTHING work out according to His plan. Notice, not according to our plan, but His plan. And, His plan will always bring glory to Him!

Frances Chan said this, “To be honest, I believe part of the desire to ‘know God’s will for my life’ is birthed in fear and results in paralysisWe are scared to make mistakes, so we fret over figuring out God’s will. We forget that we were never promised a twenty-year plan of action; instead, God promises us multiple times in Scripture never to leave us or forsake us.” And the real kicker; “I think dwelling on God’s plan for the future often excuses us from faithful and sacrificial living now. It tends to create a safe zone of sorts, where we can sit around and have ‘spiritual’ conversations about what God ‘might’ have planned for our lives. Thinking, questioning and talking can take the place of letting the Spirit affect our immediate actions in radical ways.” It still hits me like a brick to read this and to realize once again that if I stay close to Jesus, I really can’t make a wrong decision. (WOAH!) Yeah, let that sink in for a moment. You cannot make a wrong decision. Yes, there are good, better and perhaps best decisions. Forgetting about God’s will for my life does not mean that God has no plan and He’s just up there winging it. But what I think it means to me is that God’s will IS simply for me to be close to Him, and if I am close to Him I’ll already be where I am supposed to be,”

Doesn’t that make a lot of sense? Stay close to God and DO. If He needs to redirect us, He will. But if you are doing anything to glorify God, you are in His will.

Grace…The Final Frontier

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Grace…The Final Frontier

I know, the Star Trek reference might give away my nerdiness, but it seemed fitting. We’ve talked about faith, so now let’s talk about grace. If you’ve spent any time in the Bible you know that salvation comes through our life-changing faith in God, but only by His grace. So, what exactly is grace? Merriam-Webster defined it as, “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification”. In other words, grace is a free gift from God. It is something we can’t earn or achieve on our own.

In Ephesians 1:6-8, Paul said, So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” So, in verse 6 Paul thanks God for the “glorious grace he has poured out on us”. First, he said “glorious grace”. The Greek word for “glorious” is Doxa, which means “a good opinion concerning one, resulting in praise, honor, and glory.” You see, God’s grace always results in His praise, honor, and glory. So, this doxa grace, this glorious grace has been poured out on us, but not on everyone, just on those “who belong to his dear Son”. If you belong to Jesus, you are covered in God’s grace, it has been poured out on you. I love this picture of His grace being poured out on us. Michelle and I like to hike, in fact, we do it every weekend. Many of our hikes lead us to waterfalls, and invariably, we see people standing under the waterfall…that’s the picture of God’s grace being poured out on us, it’s like standing under a waterfall of His grace.

Paul went on in verse 7 of this passage to say that God’s kindness and grace are so rich that He bought our freedom with the blood of Jesus Christ. That’s a high price, in fact, that’s the highest price possible. He bought my freedom with the blood of His only begotten Son! Think about that for a minute. Again, let’s picture that illustration of grace as a free gift. To us, the receivers of the gift, it is totally free. There is nothing we can do to earn it because let’s face it if we had to earn it, it wouldn’t be a gift, would it? But, on the giver’s side, there is always a price, even if it was a homemade gift, it cost that person time and materials. I remember one year for Mother’s Day, my brothers and I pulled together all of mom’s S&H Green Stamps, I know that is dating me somewhat, but we used them to buy her a figurine. Of course, she told us how much she loved it, and it sat in our living room for years to come, but it wasn’t a gift, because she paid for it. With a gift, there is always a price to be paid by the giver, and God paid the ultimate price for our freedom. There are those out there who will tell you that we are all on different roads to the same place, but that is simply not true. The Bible tells us, John 14:6 “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” And, again in Acts 4:12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” Redemption only comes through Christ! Galatians 2:21 says, “I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” So, if we could be saved by any other means, then Christ died in vain!

Ephesians 2:6-7 tells us, For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.’’ There it is again, that ever-present theme of unity. Why has God raised us from the dead and seated us in the Heavenly Realms? Because we are united in Christ! Again, as with everything, this is for His glory, He seated us in the heavenly realms so that He could point to us in the future as examples of the “incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us.”

Notice that He didn’t just pour out His grace on us. The verse says, “along with all wisdom and understanding.” There is an old hymn that says, “There shall be showers of blessings”, and while that is true, I don’t think that is an accurate depiction. This verse says, “Poured Out”, there is a deluge of blessings. He has doused us with His kindness, wisdom, and understanding…wow! James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” I learned a lesson on this verse years ago from my youngest son. When he was about thirteen he read this verse and believed it. So, he started praying and asking God for wisdom every day, and Caleb is now one of the wisest men I know. The Bible is true, in fact, it is truth, so we must start believing it, not just say we do.

One of the things I love about this passage is the word kindness. You see, there are thirty-one verses in the Bible that tell us that God gives us wisdom and understanding, but this is the only verse that adds kindness. God has poured out on you and me, grace, wisdom, understanding, and kindness. What a beautiful picture!

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