What Was Their Secret?

What Was Their Secret?

Gary Pollard

What got early Christians through hard times? What helped them grow? How were they able to thrive when their jobs, families, and personal safety were threatened?

They focused on hope. Biblical hope is confident expectation. God promised us a perfect life after this sometimes stinky one. The early church’s hope for death’s freedom gave courage and comfort (I Peter 1.3). Their hope for a perfect life had the same effect (II Peter 3.13; Romans 8.18ff).

They focused on grace. It keeps us from falling out with God, and it helps keep our motivation high (Romans 7.15ff; I John 1.7)!

They focused on God’s message to humans (I Peter 2.2). We have to view reality through God’s eyes. This isn’t possible without deep, meaningful, and unbiased study! The Bible is a collection of rich, fascinating insights into God’s nature and our future! It’s very helpful to use a version that’s easy to read and modern.

They focused on each other. The early church spent a ton of time together (special circumstance, but still cool: Acts 2.44). Their relationship provided encouragement and strength! Managing conflict healthily is also crucial for the church’s health (Matthew 18).

They focused on selflessness. We aren’t animals, so we should put the needs of others above our own (Romans 14; I Corinthians 8; All of Philippians). A selfless family can get through anything!

Love And Fear

Love And Fear

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

 
How many Christians are afraid of the judgment day? Maybe we are worried we haven’t done enough, or maybe we are thinking of a specific sin that would keep us from entering heaven? It is also a possibility that we may just be plain scared of everything that will take place on that day. 1 John 4:18 is one of the most comforting verses in Scripture. It tells us that if we are a faithful Christian there is no reason to be afraid.
 
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” – 1 John 4:18
 
While this verse can very easily be taken out of context, the true meaning should give us hope and comfort. John tells us three important fact concerning the Christian and judgment day.
 
Love = No Fear
 
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” This love is strong enough to calm our fears concerning the day of judgment. But what is perfect love? When we hear the word perfect we think of taking something flawed and making it flawless in every way. Does this mean we need to have a love that is flawless in every way? This word perfect is teleos which is defined as “attaining an end or purpose; complete.” This word is best illustrated like this, if your flashlight batteries die and you need 2 AAA, it doesn’t matter if you have an unopened box of AA’s. The used AAA’s in your TV remote are perfect for the job.
 
Our love is complete and perfect when we abide in God. Love cannot cast out our fear of the judgement day if we are loving the wrong things. Our perfect and complete love can cast out fear when we abide in the ONE who is, and always will be, the author and perfecter of love. Perfect love that is found in the Christian who is wholeheartedly abiding in the Creator has no reason to be afraid of the judgment day.
 
Punishment = Fear
 
One of the worst phrases you can hear as a kid when you get in trouble is, “just wait till your father gets home.” The thought and anticipation of punishment brings about fear and dread. 1 John 4:18 says, “For fear has to do with punishment.” The fear we may feel concerning the judgment day stems from the punishment that might come upon us. And it is only right that we should fear the punishment of hell, a very real place that is saved for those who have chosen to do nothing about their sin problem. The thought of hell should scare us. It is a place that will forever torment the souls of those who are lost. Fear has to do with punishment, so will we be punished on the judgment day?
 
Punishment equals fear, but there’s good news for those in Christ. We have NO reason to fear the judgment. The judgment day will be a day of reward for faithful Christians. There is no fear of punishment because God has promised us a place in heaven with Him.
 
Fear = Imperfect Love
 
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
 
If we are afraid of the judgment this could mean several things about our Christianity:
  • Fear shows us that we have room to grow (Our love hasn’t reached its designed end with God)
  • Fear can reveal a possible lack of faith (maybe we are afraid because we doubt the words we read in 1 John 1, or revelation 21?)
  • Fear exposes the sin in our lives (if there is sin in our lives that is continuous and habitual we SHOULD be afraid)
 
With these facts in mind we should take this verse and use it to shape our attitude concerning that day. Let the love of God change the way we live. Let the love of God influence our decisions and actions. Let the perfected love of God give us confidence on the day of judgment.
Tortured Spirits 

Tortured Spirits 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

 

Brent Pollard

From the title, one might assume I am writing an article about hell. While it is true that God’s Word describes hell as eternal torture for disobedient spirits, my topic is something else entirely. You see, I have become more aware of a disparity between those three parts comprising my singular being with each passing birthday. There is my intellect that still recalls youthful exuberance. In my mind, I can still free climb Mount Yonah in White County, Georgia. My body snarkily responds, “Are you crazy?” And then there is that part of me that will never die. Yes, my spirit. My spirit becomes tired. Not only do I crave to be clothed with my heavenly habitation (2 Corinthians 5.1ff), but I also want to leave this body that is subject to the temptation of sin (cf. Romans 7.14-8.1). I grow weary of hurting God.  

Fortunately, God created the “inner man” with the ability to experience daily renewal (2 Corinthians 4.16). Yet, this renewal will not occur if I am passive, sitting around waiting on God. Yes, He provides the inner man with strength through His Spirit (Ephesians 3.16). But you and I must engage in spiritual service, thereby enabling this renewal (Romans 12.1-2). This service requires that we strive for mastery over the boorish flesh holding our spirits prisoner. If we indulge our flesh, we will reap corruption (Galatians 6.8). Conversely, if we sow to the Spirit, we will reap eternal life. This choice makes all of the difference.  

So, to facilitate our daily renewal, our mindset plays a crucial role. Following Paul’s exhortation to “be anxious for nothing,” he reminds us that we have better things upon which to meditate (Philippians 4.6-8). In addition, we must follow David’s example of hiding God’s Word in our heart to prevent sin (Psalm 119.11). Thus fortified from within, we positively affect our actions (cf. Proverbs 23.7; Matthew 15.18-20). The execution of this task comprises the majority of our battle against the whims of our flesh. When successful, we maintain a tender heart that retains awareness of sin and prompts swift repentance when we occasionally stumble.   

Yes, we are all tortured spirits imprisoned by crude flesh.  But “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7.25a NASB1995) His blood will offer continuous cleansing as long as we walk in fellowship with Him (1 John 1.7).        

“Pollard Boys” practicing for a great Doyle Lawson tune for Carl’s wedding today.
Sprouting Our Wings

Sprouting Our Wings

Dale Pollard

The kit comes with everything you need to raise your very own Sea Monkeys. I remember the very first batch of these strange creatures I grew when I was a young boy. A small package of tiny brown eggs are dumped into purified water and then after two weeks they’ve hatched into real swimming organisms. That change is fascinating and it’s almost mesmerizing to watch them all dart around inside their aquarium. In the animal world the process of metamorphosis is very common and we’re not too surprised when it happens. It’s interesting and exciting, but it’s expected. We aren’t confused when a tadpole turns into a frog or when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, because it’s natural. 

In Romans 12:2 we read that as Christians we are to undergo a drastic spiritual transformation by the “renewal of the mind.” The Greek word used for “transformation” here is where we get the word “metamorphosis” from, and that’s very telling. The idea is that the transformation process we are to undergo is not a small change like getting a haircut or getting contacts, but a dramatic and radical change. We are to have an entirely different mind, heart, and outlook on life. We have been transformed into someone and something entirely different. In the animal world there is an essential process involved in metamorphosis. If the caterpillar never spins a cocoon, then it could never hope to sprout wings. If the caterpillar leaves the cocoon too soon then it can’t expect to be as developed and healthy as it needs to be. There is a natural time allotted for the change to occur. Christians are expected to grow but not to be completely transformed overnight; we, too, have a process. This shouldn’t be used as an excuse to not be proactive in growing our faith, but it should be a reminder that if we’re not working toward this transformation we will remain in the same state in which we are now. That is unnatural.

Why does that caterpillar slowly climb that tall tree or take the time to painstakingly wrap itself in that cocoon? Because it knows it wasn’t meant to be a caterpillar forever. The work it takes to be transformed and to sprout the wings of a great and mature faith is a difficult process, but it’s worth it. That’s what God expects from us and He has the power to help us make this amazing change. Our prayer lives and our time spent in His Word are crucial to our development. We should let the end goal be the motivation to press on and allow ourselves to be completely transformed. One day that effort will show when we see our new bodies (Philippians 3:21) and we’ve reached our final glorious destination. We will live forever with the Savior who transformed us. 

Guard Duty

Guard Duty

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

What does it mean to “guard our hearts?” The word “guard” means to watch over in order to protect and control. So we’re supposed to protect our hearts…but not the physical heart. This isn’t an article on cholesterol, so what do we mean by heart?

Scripture uses the word “heart” when referring to our inner self. The center of emotion. What we believe in, the things that motivate our actions all come from the heart. We must protect/guard our hearts (center of emotion).

What do we guard it from? Proverbs 4 tells us. But there’s something important that we should understand. You can guard your heart from good as well as evil. People can and will protect their heart from letting God’s word change them. As Christians we can even build a wall that will keep us from making the proper changes in our lives.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” If we wish to have character we must guard our hearts. But this verse is kind of vague if we read it by itself. The context of Proverbs 4:23 is the key to understanding, So, how do we guard our hearts?

Fill your heart with God’s Word (20-22). Once it is filled, guard your heart that is now full of truth (23). Guard it by paying attention to the way you are living your life (24-27), making sure that you stay in line with the truth that is in your heart.

The writer then goes into detail on what actions we must be guarding:

Our Speech (24). “Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. “ The things that we say are a direct reflection of what’s in our heart. If we lash out in anger, that anger comes from the heart. If we have a habit of speaking evil, the source is the heart.

Our Eyes (25).  “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.” The only way to properly guard the truth in our hearts is by constantly looking to God. Recognize the end goal, with “eyes on the prize” (Matt. 14).

Our Mind (26), “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.” Think about the direction that you are heading. Is it closer to God, or further away? Our minds must have the knowledge to know what is right, and then the willpower and self control to stay true to the path of salvation.

Our Direction (27), “Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” As we ponder the path of our feet, we must then turn our feet away from evil so as to keep our direction headed towards an eternity with God.

Heart failure has a variety of different symptoms, including shortness of breath, swelling, coughing, confusion and memory loss, rapid weight gain, and fatigue. Heart failure increases the risk of death and hospitalization, and many times these symptoms go unnoticed. Spiritual heart failure symptoms can also go unnoticed. But these include lack of proper desire, sinful speech, no self control, weak character and a lack of prayer and study.

If we fail to guard our hearts as Christians, we will never be able to experience an eternity with God the Father.

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Curing The “Yips”

Curing The “Yips”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

The term comes up most frequently in golf and baseball. In 1998, L.A. Times writer Thomas Bonk interviewed elderly PGA golfers like Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen, and Paul Runyan, whose career went back to the 1920s and 1930s, to find out if they knew the origin of the word “yips.” Nelson said, “I first heard it when I was on the tour in the ’30s. It was always just there” (Thomas Bonk, 2/26/98, “‘Yips’ or ‘Twitches,’ Who Knows Origin?”). 

No less than the Mayo Clinic discuss this condition, which they describe as “involuntary wrist spasms that occur most commonly when golfers are trying to putt.” But, as they point out, anxiety makes it worse as the athlete “becomes nervous and self-focused–overthinking to the point of distraction–that their ability to execute a skill, such as putting, is impaired” (Mayo Clinic). 

The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “Nervousness or tension that causes an athlete to fail to perform effectively, especially in missing short putts in golf.” I am more familiar with this term in baseball. Mackey Sasser was a catcher who, after a home plate collision, began having difficulty accurately throwing the baseball back to the pitcher. Second baseman Chuck Knoblauch started having trouble throwing accurately to first base. Pitcher Rick Ankiel could not keep from throwing wild pitches and Jon Lester, another pitcher, has had trouble for years throwing the ball to first base. 

Just Google “yips” and you can read about how traumatic and life-changing it is for those who once mindlessly, successfully did a task they ultimately found debilitatingly difficult to do. They consulted psychologists and hypnotists, struggling to get back to where they just didn’t think about the fundamental task that now overwhelmed them. But, some have succeeded. Steve Sax, who suffered from the yips in 1983–the second baseman had 26 errors by the All-Star Break–would rebound to be the best defensive second baseman in 1989. He credits a conversation with his ailing father during the 1983 break. His father told him it wasn’t a mental block, but a temporary loss of confidence, that he needed to practice being more confident and it would positively effect his play (Sportscasting.com). 

Have you ever found it difficult to do something that once came easily or naturally? Has fear ever gripped you and become a roadblock to success? Certainly, there are mental health conditions that cause people to panic and wrestle with anxiety. But, what about the person who tried to share the gospel with a friend only to suffer rejection or maybe even embarrassment? What about the one who tried to gently confront someone at spiritual fault or overtaken by sin, who was rebuffed to such a degree that it was traumatic? What about the new Christian who was asked to lead public prayer, whose mind went blank, froze, and nearly couldn’t complete the task? There are several areas of Christian duty that can cause us to “freeze up” or shy away from doing them. An unpleasant experience can get into our heads and talk us out of trying to do them again. 

How can we overcome this? Consider a few tips from Scripture:

  • Forget the past and focus on the future (Phil. 3:10)
  • Pray for boldness and confidence (Acts 4:29,31)
  • Ask others to pray for your ability and boldness (Eph. 6:19)
  • Get others to join you or help, where possible (Ecc. 4:9-12)
  • Look to Christ for your confidence and success (Phil. 4:13)
  • Don’t let a past failure define you; Keep at the task (Acts 15:38 and 2 Tim. 4:11)
  • Elevate your motivation and remember why you do what you do (Col. 3:23)
  • Focus on those who may be taking their lead from you, who look to you as their model (1 Tim. 4:12; Heb. 13:7)
  • Rediscover the joy (Phil. 2:17)

These are just a few of the divine strategies from the mind of God. We have a Father who speaks to us in His Word. His counsel is also for us to practice being more confident, but to look to Him as the source of that confidence. The end result is more than mere professional success. We can impact eternity when we overcome any obstacle to our service. Do you need to “get back in there”? Utilize the tools He has given! You’ll be so glad you did, and so will others.

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Mind Your Thinking

Mind Your Thinking

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

Growing up there were certain tasks that my parents would give me that I didn’t want to do. Washing the floorboards, weeding the garden, cutting vinyl siding, and digging holes with a post hole digger. These are just a few examples of what many of us would consider hard work.

I remember the hours working on these jobs, covered in sweat with blistered hands, and an all-around feeling of fatigue. There were a couple times in particular where I can remember my dad saying the classic phrase, “Son this is character building work.” And then he would tell a story about some hard job he had to do as a kid. Looking back, these jobs really did build character, but there’s more to it than just digging a hole and sweating.

You can be a hard worker, and still lack honesty, sincerity, and humility. Character building takes serious work and commitment. Luckily, God has given us His perfect word that tells us how we can grow our character.

If you’ve ever struggled with living out your faith, or with your commitment to Christ, working on growing our character will help you focus on what’s truly important in this life.

There are many different ways that we could go about building our character, and as we look to scripture a good place to start in this endeavor is by practicing righteous thinking. If we want to grow our character, we have to start changing the way that we think. Problem is, it’s a lot easier said than done. There are two different passages that tell us how we can practice righteous thinking.

Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” As Christians we can learn to dwell on righteousness by filling our mind with godly traits. If we are truly set on transforming our minds to think on righteousness, we have to replace worldly thinking with godly traits.

Romans 12:1-2: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” It’s possible to practice righteous thinking by renewing our mind with the will of God. We’re no longer looking to ourselves as master, but to God. By doing this our thinking changes. Our focus shifts from this world, and our minds will dwell on righteousness.

Do you want to be known as a person of character? The first change we must undergo is to start thinking righteously. Righteous thinking is no easy task. It takes work, and many times we fall short of this goal. Thankfully we serve a loving God that wants nothing more than for us to spend an eternity with Him in Heaven.

Question is, do we want this future enough to make the right decisions?

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Meditation: What is it? Why do it? How do I do it?

Meditation: What is it? Why do it? How do I do it?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

The concept of Biblical mediation is viewed as a mystery to many of us. The simple answer to “How do I do it?” can seem frustratingly vague. Common answers are—

“you read a passage that stands out over and over and then you think about it.”

Or maybe…

“you find a verse and then pray about it.”

Here’s what you should know about true Biblical meditation.

Three Facts About Biblical Mediation

1. It does not involve emptying your mind, but rather filling your mind with God’s mind.
2. It’s not a complex ritual in which you must reach a higher “spiritual place” to accomplish. It’s a simple act that God intended for everyone to be able to do— in order to bring you to a better spiritual place.
3. It is an intentional act. You won’t find yourself meditating accidentally. We must make time for God.
Here’s why we should all be doing this.
Four Reasons To Meditate
1. For Improved Worship
2. For Perfect Instruction
3. For Needed Encouragement
4. For Spiritual Transformation
Here’s what you will need to accomplish it.
Three Tools For Great Meditation
OBSERVATION – What does the text say?
INTERPRETATION – What does it mean in context?
APPLICATION – What does it mean for me?

Note: Combine With Prayer before and after for best results.

Here’s what you will get out of it.
Ten Benefits Of Biblical Meditation
1. Proven to lower blood pressure
2. Decrease anxiety
3. Improve heart rate
4. It enables your to relax
5. It brings peace
6. It draws you closer to God
7. It gives us confidence
8. It offers an escape from temptation
9. It provides helpful correction
10. It makes us better Bible students (Psalm 119:11)

Finally, here’s an exercise to help us see the many categories on which we can mediate. Simply answer the questions in your mind, and try to develop a habit of asking yourself personal questions about what you’re reading.

A Meditation Exercise From The Psalms
You could meditate…

On His rules (Ps. 119; look up in the ESV)
• What rules do you tend to break?
• Why do you break them?
• What’s the point behind His “rules”?

On His Promises (Ps. 119:148)
• Which of His promises bring you the most comfort?
• Has God kept His promises to you? How?

On His mighty deeds (Ps. 77:12)
• Which specific mighty deeds has God performed in the history?
• What mighty deeds do you believe God has performed in your life?
• What could God do with you today if you allowed Him to?

On His unfailing love (Ps. 48:9)
• There has never been a moment in your life when God hadn’t loved you.
• What does that tell you? What does it expose about yourself?

I hope this helps clarify what real mediation is— and how it can change your life!

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A PROVEN RECIPE FOR PEACE

A PROVEN RECIPE FOR PEACE

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

Peace conjures a number of different images in our minds; from hippies to nature’s beauty to inner calm to lack of anxiety. Nearly every group of people in the world craves peace – no rational human being wants to live in constant upheaval. We all want to have peace, but our world somehow is still getting worse and worse. Why is this? The prince of this world is not a being who desires peace (II Corinthians 4.4; Ephesians 2.2; John 12.31). His very existence is dedicated to bringing down anyone who believes in God (I Peter 5:8) and he has no care or concern for the fate or well-being of anyone on this earth. Total, lasting world peace will never be possible as long as time continues (see Romans 8.18-25: sin caused the earth to be subjected to futility). 

Total, lasting world peace may not be possible in this life, but this does not mean the world cannot experience any peace at all. How can we experience peace in our lives? 

Firstly, it has to come from us. The world will never act in a way that brings peace. Anytime the world wishes to better its conditions, it incites civil unrest, riots, protests, and other not-very-peaceful behaviors. Christians, however, are called to be different. I Timothy 2.1ff tells us that praying to God on behalf of all men, for kings, and all who are in authority will allow us to lead quiet and tranquil lives in all godliness and dignity. We can have peace by being obedient to government authorities – even if we do not agree with them politically – because God put them in place (Romans 13). If we want peace, we have to show that peace by how we live. Since man is naturally attracted to peace, our quiet, godly lives will draw others to Christ. 

Secondly, even if our world is in chaos we can have inner peace. Philippians was written to break up a nasty fight between Euodia and Syntyche. To have the “peace beyond what we can understand,” they had to rejoice in the Lord, be reasonable, not be anxious, and reach out to God for their every need. The same applies to us today! Do we get our joy from God or from worldly pursuits? Are we worried about meeting personal needs or do we rely on God (see Phil. 4.19; Matt. 6.25)? Do we try to fix our own problems, relying on our own strength, or do we place them in God’s hands and work with His guidance and providence? The Christian life is not easy, nor is it always peaceful, but the inner peace that a faithful Christian experiences, knowing that their name is in the book of life and that nothing in this short life can disrupt God’s love for them, makes every struggle in this life worth the pain. 

If we want peace, we have to be that peace. We have to live peaceful lives. We have to submit to governing authorities (as long as it is within the parameters of godliness). We have to be unified as a church. We have to look to God for all of our needs. We have to trust that He will take care of us, even if that isn’t in this life. If we can do these things, we will have peace.

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Build That Wall!

Build That Wall!

Neal Pollard

The partisan vitriol ramps up whenever subjects like border security and immigration are mentioned. It is a subject as much a part of the political divide as “Russian Collusion,” tax reform, and affordable health care. Let the politically passionate debate all those topics, but did you know Scripture talks about the importance of having a properly-built, fortified wall? There were walls erected around a city to protect it from external dangers. If the citizens inside were righteous, they were kept safe even against all seeming odds (2 Kings 18-19). If the citizens inside were wicked, no wall, however seemingly impregnable, would hold (Joshua 6).  But, I’m referring to a different kind of wall.

Scripture tells us that the individual must build a wall and properly maintain it, too. The way Solomon put it is, “Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit” (Prov. 25:28). Words flow without restraint, many of which wound, offend, and separate. Anger and even rage can erupt over even the slightest or even perceived infractions. Personal conduct that indulges the flesh, from overeating to pornography to fornication, can be impulsive and destructive of self and others. Indecent thoughts, fed and fueled by the thinker, can crumble this vital hedge.

What a challenge for me on many levels! How easily do trials and setbacks in the normal functions of life, from standing in line to driving in traffic to dealing with customer service, set me off in unrestrained thoughts, words, and actions? How do I handle words of opposition, face to face, by written correspondence, or through some form of social media? How strong is my wall when I disagree with my mate, children, neighbors, or brethren?

Solomon teaches me that I can have control over my spirit. No cop out or blame game changes that. Whatever sinful thing I allow over that border into my life is guaranteed to be harm me! So, I must build a wall that preserves my spirit. My eternity literally hinges upon it.

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