Our God Is An Awesome God!

Our God Is An Awesome God!

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Are there songs that really pump you up in your faith? While there are several that strike that chord in me, none do that more than the song, “Our God is an awesome God.” I know the melody helps, but just that short, sweet, and profound reminder puts wind in my spiritual sails. It reminds me that I can overcome because of who He is.

Psalm 104 is a much more detailed, exhaustive song that lays out how “very great” our God is. It is exciting to think about who we are serving, and sobering to think of the cost of rejecting Him. Look at the awesomeness of God.

LOOK UP (1-4)

My boys call me “sky guy.” I am known to take some pictures of sunrises, sunsets, and skies in general. I remember a night at the Ngorogoro Crater with our oldest son, Gary, when the sky looked, as the late Andrew Connelly once described it, like diamonds laying on black velvet. I remember looking over the Caribbean Sea with Kathy in Cozumel, Mexico, with the moon above us and reflected in the water as yellow as gold. But, I get the same sense on many nights when I cut off the porch light and walk out my front door. God did that!

God’s garments are splendor, majesty, and light (1-2). He stretches out heaven like a curtain, rides the clouds, and walks on the wings of the wind (2-4). How can anyone look up and fail to see God?

LOOK AROUND (5-23)

Where is the most beautiful place on earth? Often, we could say it is wherever we are at the moment. Creation’s beauty is so diverse and its complexity is so incredible. Look at its order and durability (5). Think back to how He changed it all through the flood, using water to raise up mountains, form valleys, and then prevent it from ever happening like that again (6-9; Gen. 9:11). Look at how he sustains us and all creation with water (10-11,16), food (13-15), habitat (12,17-18), seasons (19), and daylight and darkness (19-23). The earth is full of His possessions (24), the sea (25), animals (25), the sea and its wonders (26). He sustains and provides and He shows His power (27-30). On the first hike my family ever took as residents of Colorado, in Rocky Mountain National Park, we met a young woman on a trail. We had in common the fact that we had all just moved there from out of state.  We told her why we had moved, to work with the church in Denver. She, though very polite, said that she moved out there to get away from God. We were all standing, facing such incredible grandeur, and I thought, “Good luck with that!” Where do you go to get away from God when His fingerprints are everywhere? 

LOOK BEYOND (31-32)

As the psalmist begins to wrap up this tribute to God’s awesomeness, he speaks of God’s unlimited power. He makes earth tremble and mountains smoke (32). It gives Him glory and gladness (31). Really, this point is made throughout the entire psalm. Everything we see is a reflection of the One who is above all, through all, and in all (Eph. 4:6). 

LOOK WITHIN (33-35)

In a psalm paying tribute to creation, what should be my response? How should it change and shape me? I will sing to Him as long as I am (33). I will meditate about Him (34). I will be glad in Him (34). I will follow Him, knowing what awaits the sinner and the wicked (35). Listen to the psalmist’s summary: “Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!”  What I see above, around, and within me should melt my heart in praise. It should leave me singing every day, “Our God is an awesome God!”

(taken near the summit of Torrey’s Peak, 2018)
God’s Photons

God’s Photons

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

gary and chelsea

Gary Pollard

God is light. What does that mean? Before we get into that, it’s important to remember that we can’t understand everything about God. We know what he’s told us, but a lot of it is difficult to understand and/or accommodative language. It’s only appropriate that God can’t be adequately described with simplistic concepts. That said, spending a lot of time trying to understand who he is will only strengthen our relationship with him. 

God is light: 

  1. I Jn. 1.5 – This passage contrasts light with darkness. In this case, darkness is moral failure. Light is moral perfection. What makes this interesting is the use of a state-of-being verb (estin – is, exists, closely related to). He is light. God is morally perfect and totally immune to darkness. 
  2. I Tim. 6.16 – God lives in unapproachable light, no has seen him and no one can see him. If we were to see God in His true form, we would die (Ex. 33.20; cf. Jn. 1.8, 5.37, 6.46; Col. 1.15; I Jn. 4.12). We don’t fully understand what light is. Visible light is a tiny sliver of the massive electromagnetic spectrum, yet light interacts in some way with everything in creation. It can be harmless and it can be deadly. It can be mild and it can be powerful, depending on how it interacts with matter. Light (physical light) seems to be a glimpse into the nature of God (see Rom. 1.20; Jn. 1.9). 

There are many more passages (Ps. 76, 104; Jn. 1.9, 8.12; Acts 26; I Thess. 5). God is real. He thinks about us (Heb. 2). He’s personally invested in us (Rom. 8). We interact with reality the way we do because He designed it that way (Jn. 1.3-5). He is perfect love (I Jn. 4.8). He is terrifyingly powerful (Job 38). He wants humans to live with Him after time is dissolved (Jn. 14; I Tim. 2.4; II Pet. 3.9). All aspects of functional creation are extensions of His nature (love, patience, happiness, compassion, light, breathtaking beauty, empathy, companionship). God is amazing. 

Word Studies: “MAJESTY”

Word Studies: “MAJESTY”

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

We will be looking at the word “majesty” by request in today’s article. This series will look at words used in our English translations that aren’t used in modern communication or are otherwise unusual. Today, majesty usually shows up as an adjective for natural phenomena (a majestic sunrise/sunset, majestic scene, etc.). 

As a disclaimer, Hebrew studies are not my forte. For those of you with a knowledge of Hebrew, I welcome corrections. All material concerning Hebrew usage comes from the Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament or Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament: Volume 5. 

In the Old Testament, it is used to describe the beauty or awesomeness of nature. Leviticus 23.40 uses “splendid.” In Isaiah 53.2, and it means “physically attractive.” Being impressive or inspiring awe/wonder is how the word is used in reference to God, although descriptions of kings are also appropriate (Isaiah 35.2). Speaking of royalty, majesty is used to describe their power and accomplishments (see Daniel 4.30, 5.18 for examples). In the Old Testament, majesty can be understood as impressive, having honor, or as the effect left on an observer of a display of power or awesomeness. 

In the New Testament, it means to have high respect or incredible qualities (see II Peter 1.16). In that passage, Peter says that he was a firsthand witness of the majesty of Jesus. This is incredible, considering Isaiah 53 says that His appearance wasn’t special or spectacular. The majesty Jesus had on earth was due to His nature, not His appearance. Majesty is also used in reference to having high respect because of an impressive performance or display of power (Luke 9.43). In that passage, Jesus healed a boy who had a particularly violent demon. After returning him to a normal state, witnesses were blown away at God’s majesty. It was obvious that the power necessary to correct the boy’s issues was preternatural. They observed an incredible event and understood its source to be God’s power. That power is an aspect of God’s majesty. 

We are impressed with God’s majesty when we look at nature. The universe is vast and incredible! There are stars so massive they make the sun look puny. Even single-cell organisms on earth are incredibly complex. As advanced as medical science is today, we still do not understand many of the processes of the body. Count how many times some variant of the phrase, “We’re not sure how this works,” is used in clinical studies on multiple classes of medications or treatments. The complexity of our makeup is awe-inspiring! When we are impressed by nature’s power or beauty, we get a glimpse of God’s majesty. 

“Moments of Meekness”

“Moments of Meekness”

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Have you ever experienced a moment of meekness? I did recently. I was driving “over the mountain” to go to a doctor’s appointment in Gainesville, Georgia. As I was making my way around the curves of US 19/129, I came upon a truck pulling a camper. He was the engine of a “train” consisting of about four cars. I was the “caboose.” Fortunately, I was in no rush. So, despite the driver’s lack of courtesy, making the traffic back up behind him without utilizing the slow vehicle pull-offs, I just enjoyed the tunes on my radio and tried to let the transmission do more braking than my brakes.  

As I sang along to a 1990s song, the truck pulling the camper drove through dense leaf debris. An enchanting scene suddenly unfolded. The sun shone through the trees, illuminating the fall colors. The bright blue sky was visible above. The rocky walls along the shoulder of the road glistened with water. And drifting leaves filled the air. The entire spectacle was likely only nanoseconds in length but magically seemed longer. That is an example of a moment of meekness. 

Have you ever wondered how the meek “inherit the earth” (Matthew 5.5)? Moments of meekness as the one described above punctuate the days of the meek. Such moments arise because of what it means to be meek. Meekness is not weakness. As used Biblically, meekness denotes gentleness and humility. Meekness was an adjective used to describe Moses (Numbers 12.3) and Jesus (Matthew 11.29). Neither men were weak. Moses died at 120, still full of vigor (Deuteronomy 34.7). Jesus made a “scourge of cords” (NASB) to drive out the temple’s money changers (John 2.15). Yet, Moses and Jesus were humble servants of God. They embodied the “still lifestyle” that knows the “I Am” is God (Psalm 46.10). Thus, as Burton Coffman notes in Matthew 5.5: 

“This is not a mere prophecy that the Christians shall be the landed gentry, but it is a statement that their relationship to the earth and its possessions shall be such as to bring them the greatest possible benefit and enjoyment of it.” 1  

There is nothing special about me. I am quite ordinary, except for having endured many physical hardships. Yet, I refused to become perturbed by life’s circumstances on that day, and that allowed the joy of my salvation bubble to the surface. I recognized my insignificance and God’s greatness. God created this beautiful world, and He showed me something fantastic in an instant. I could have easily been too distracted to notice. How sad!  

This moment of meekness makes me wonder how often I have squandered my inheritance. How oft have I refused to be still enough to see something special shown by God? Did I miss a moment of meekness when I worried about making it to an appointment on time? Did a miss a meek moment while distracted by my smartphone? Such moments of meekness may be a regular occurrence, and it is just that I have overlooked them.  

Let us strive to be still to see the moments of meekness God sends our way.     

Sources Sited: 

1 Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on Matthew 5:4”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/matthew-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999. 

 

What Is The Church To Be?

What Is The Church To Be?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Conceived of in God’s mind in the eternity before time (Eph. 3:9-11), purchased by Jesus’ blood (Acts 20:28), spoken of as the body (Eph. 1:22-23) and bride (Rev. 19:7) of Christ, and described as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16), the church is valued and treasured by Him. As members of that church, we might develop a distorted picture of what the church should look, feel, think, and act like in our ever-changing world. What is the church to be?
A Museum? Is the church meant to be a relic of the past, a historical marker where the past is revisited, revered, and enshrined? No doubt, we stand on the shoulder of great workers and warriors of the past, but we are not meant to devote our focus to days gone by. It is but a slight renovation to go from museum to mausoleum.  Our best days should be ahead!

A Marketplace? Some see the church as a direct reflection of the culture. Stands on moral, social, and doctrinal issues are dictated by the views of the moment. “Change” is the key word, and selling the gospel becomes the preeminent goal (John 2:16; 2 Pet. 2:3). A church built foremost on society rests upon sand (Mat. 7:26-27). 

A Monastery? The church–though a haven from the craziness of the world–can become insulated and isolated. It is great to let our closest friendships and relationships to be fellow Christians, but we can become so secluded and shut off that we become a cloister that ceases to be soul-winners. Our worship services and Bible classes can be so full of insider language that the unchurched have no idea what we say much less what we mean. 

A Movement? Sometimes, we speak of the Restoration Movement whose leaders were trying to get people back to the Bible for “rule” and “practice.” But the New Testament church did not begin on the American Frontier during the Great Awakening or even shortly before it. It is not to be a political, national, or even social movement. To think of it on those terms is to degrade and devalue it. 

It is to be a model, safe to follow and imitate by others because she follows Christ (Mat. 5:13-16; 1 Cor. 11:1). It is to be a militant group, whose weapons build and save and defeat the devil (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 6:10-17). It is to be a mission, on a mission for the Master (Mat. 28:18-20; Eph. 4:11-16). It is to be a medicine dispensary, offering salve and healing from the Great Physician (Luke 5:31-32). It should reflect the Master in thought, in tone, in teaching, and target! May we all think more critically about what we think about the church!

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Sharing The Filling Fullness Of Christ

Sharing The Filling Fullness Of Christ

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Some phrases in the Bible are simple to read, but very difficult to comprehend. In this article, I’d like to walk through a process together in an attempt to make sense of a difficult phrase (thanks, Paul). One of those is in Ephesians 1.23: “…the fullness of him who fills all in all.” This is a description of Jesus, specifically as it relates to His being the head of the church. But what does that phrase mean? 

I will not pretend to have the answer, but I would like to make a couple of suggestions. Firstly, “fullness” appears to describe the church. In my limited knowledge of Greek, it seems to be grammatically tied to “body.” The church – His body – is His fullness. Both are nominative, both are the subject of the sentence. 

Secondly, Jesus fills all in all. It’s that last phrase that’s so hard for me to comprehend. What does it mean, that “He fills all in all?” Based on the fact that some form of “fullness” is used three times in a single phrase, it appears to have reference to his nature. He is not confined by time or space and is present everywhere. 

If the church is His fullness (the word is possessive in Greek), and He is omnipresent (or, creation is full of Him), then the church must be extremely important. Again, I am not a scholar, I may be mistaken. 

I would, though, like to attempt to make application from this difficult phrase. If the church is, ideally, representative of the very nature of Christ, are we living up to it? Is our passion for the lost like His was/is? Is our love for each other as strong as His is for the church? Do we treat the church as if it were the body of Christ (because it is)? Do we keep in mind, as we interact with each other, that we all answer to Him? Are we trying to mold culture to His image, or are we being molded to culture? 

We really have to think about this one to try to make sense of it. Comprehending this phrase is anything but easy (at least for me!). But the church – which is one distinct unit, not a series of denominations – is supposed to represent Jesus. Our values, our demeanor, our goals, our mission, our attitudes, our behavior, and our purpose should scream to others, “We are not of this world.” If these do not, we are not representing Jesus. No one will do this perfectly, but the standard is high. 

When we begin to understand this phrase a little more, it shifts from being hard to understand to being hard to hear. We have a huge responsibility, but we also have a global family to support us. The standard is high, but our Head is also our Savior. As things slowly go back to normal, let’s keep this in mind! We’re not just Christians to be good people, we’re Christians to show the world who Jesus is.

Serving the Living God 

Serving the Living God 

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

I know I’m not old enough to say this, but when I was younger I used to lay in bed at night and try to imagine what God looked like. I would try to put a face to Him, I’d wonder what He was doing, and I would ask myself if God knew that I was thinking about Him. I still ask those same questions to this day. I’m sure that most if not all of you who are reading this believe that there is a God, and that He does see and hear all that we say. So the question I’d like to ask is, “since there is a God that has all power, why do we sometimes have difficulty following the commands that we find in the Bible?” I’d like to look at a verse that may help us realize the importance of following what God has told us to do as Christians.

Jeremiah 10:12 says, “It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom; and by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens.”

God has ALL power. There isn’t an area that He is lacking power in. He controls the weather, He created us, and, as Jeremiah 10:12 said, He made this earth that we live on. I believe that we sometimes forget just how powerful God truly is. Since God has all power, shouldn’t we be following what the Creator of everything has told us to do? In seven days He thought of everything we see around us. Think of it this way. We’ve never had an original thought. For example, I could say that I’m the only person to have ever thought about a pink Aardvark. But before I thought of pink Aardvarks, there was such thing as the color pink, and there were Aardvarks before I thought of them. So what I’m actually doing is taking two things that God created and putting them together. God has given us specific commands to do as Christians. Since God has given us rules on how to live, we shouldn’t have a problem following them. They may be difficult, but God knows how to take care of His creation. The thought of the God of the universe watching out and guiding me through life is a great comfort to me!

But what if we aren’t following what God has told us to do? There’s a saying that we all have heard that says, “Actions speak louder than words.” Our actions are a direct window to how we truly feel. If I don’t do what God has commanded, then that’s like us saying to God, “I don’t truly believe that there are consequences to my actions.” But that is a deadly place for us to be, because God IS real and there ARE consequences to our actions. God is real and the consequences of our actions are very real! In the end, it comes down to this: Not obeying what God has said is a reflection of how real we make God out to be. If we truly believe He is real, then we shouldn’t have a problem doing what He tells us to do. As Christians, we serve the one true God, and He is very real. I pray that this fact will push us to obey the commands He has given us because our God is alive and we all have an eternity with Him if we do what He tells us to do.

Looking back at when I was younger, I’ve realized that I asked the right question, but the most important part of those questions is how I answer them. Will I show through my actions that I truly believe He is alive? Or do I doubt the reality of God by not taking His commands seriously? Let’s try to always prove God is alive by following what He has told us to do!

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“It Shall Stand Forever”

“It Shall Stand Forever”

Neal Pollard

Kathy and I visited the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, in February of 2006. It is an ornate, historic building. It dates to the 1100s, surviving the threats of many wars including World War I and World War II. But, it has been dilapidating for some time. Earlier today, a fire inside the spire caused it and one of its towers to collapse. Now, officials are saying that the whole frame is burning and will not survive. Whether or not they rebuild this Catholic Church building, this 900 year edifice will be gone.

There are buildings that have been around millennia before New Testament Days on most of the continents. If they continue until the Second Coming of Christ, they will cease to exist that day (2 Pet. 3:10). King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream over 500 years before Christ, and God helped Daniel understand its meaning (Dan. 2:28). The colossal figure he saw in that dream was a vision about the coming Kingdom of Christ. Daniel says, “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever” (Dan. 2:44). 

A careful study of unfolding history reveals this particular kingdom to be the church of our Lord, a Kingdom Jesus said would be established during the lifetime of some of His disciples (Mat. 16:28). It would come with power (Mark 9:1), a promise Jesus reiterates in Acts 1:8-11. That power came by way of the Holy Spirit’s coming upon the apostles on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Through this means, the Lord’s church was established in Jerusalem that day (Acts 2:37-47). The Roman Empire, which ruled the earth that day, eventually collapsed. No nation or empire can rival the spiritual Kingdom of Christ. His church will stand forever (Heb. 12:28). Nothing can overtake or overpower it (Mat. 16:18). 

Assaults against the church have been ongoing for twenty centuries. At times, it has been invisible to recorded history, but it continues to stand. Her members have been assaulted many times throughout the centuries. Property has been destroyed. Possessions have been taken. Lives have been lost. But, still she stands! This Kingdom shall stand forever! A Divine promise encircles it. This confidence is fire proof! 

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Notre Dame Cathedral before today’s fire

Seeing God In Nature: Volcanos

Seeing God In Nature: Volcanos

Neal Pollard

As we received word of the volcanic eruption near Guatemala City, Guatemala, yesterday, where Bear Valley Bible Institute has had an extension school for several years, we were reminded of the omnipotence of God. The power God displays through nature and His creation reveal how such a powerful effect reveals an even more powerful cause. Volcanic activity for which there is no recorded history, like at Yellowstone, Deccan Plateau, and Santorini, stand alongside several we do know about. Perhaps Pompeii or Mt. Saint Helens is most infamous, but the Mount Tambora volcano in Indonesia has been called the most explosive and deadly for which there is historical recounting. Mount Tambora’s eruption began on April 5, 1815, and the mountain blew apart on the evening of April 10th. “The blast, pyroclastic flows, and tsunamis that followed killed at least 10,000 islanders and destroyed the homes of 35,000 more” (britannica.com). It went from being a mountain 14,000 feet high to being a caldera (a crater) 3.7 miles across. Its effects were intense and global. It shot megatons of material into the atmosphere, preventing so much sunlight from reaching the earth’s surface that 80,000 more Indonesians died from famine and disease. The earth’s average temperature was reduced over five degrees. Western Europe and eastern North America experienced heavy snow and killing frost in June, July, and August, causing “crop failures and starvation in those regions, and the year 1816 was called the ‘year without a summer’” (ibid.).

Volcanos are so awesome and powerful that they evoke a strong response from us. They illustrate several things of a spiritual nature. As noted above, they are demonstrations of an all-powerful God. So often, they erupt without specific warning. There may have been tremors and signs for years, but nothing out of the ordinary. Then, too rapidly for many to escape, the cataclysmic occurs. It is a testimony of good that comes from tragedy, too. The Department of Geosciences at Oregon State University reminds us that volcanic soil is very rich and conducive to a dramatic agricultural comeback following these geological events (volcano.oregonstate,edu). These events should help remind us of a truth Bible writers like Peter teach us, that “…the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!” (2 Pet. 3:10-12). 

Please pray for our brethren in Guatemala and for the hearts of all men outside of Christ, that they might come to a saving knowledge of the truth before it is eternally too late. May the evidence gleaned from places like nature, including volcanic events, persuade mankind of the reality and power of God. So persuaded, perhaps their hearts will be open to learning more about Who this God is as we share the revelation of Him as found in His Word!

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Mount Tambora caldera

Is The Church Broken?

Is The Church Broken?

Neal Pollard

You hear comments in Bible classes that amount to what’s wrong with the church, what we’re doing wrong, what we’re not doing, and what it’s doing to us, our children, and the world. You read people’s minds through their social media rants, raves, and ramblings, and the bottom line message is that the church is inept, irrelevant, irresponsible, or, worse, insidious. To hear some tell it, the church is not only unhelpful, but actually hurtful.  I know that we can be prone to say things out of hurt, disappointment, anger, and bitterness, but the words themselves are no less potent even if influenced by such emotions.

Is the contention, as one Christian sister put it, that “the church is broken,” true? Another way to put that is, “Are elders, preachers, deacons, Bible class teachers, and every other Christian broken?” Perhaps we impersonalize it and overly-institutionalize it with a nameless, faceless designation of “church.” But the church is, as we were taught as children, “the people.” People who are prone to say the right thing at the wrong time, the wrong thing at the right time, and, sadly, the wrong thing at the wrong time. We disappoint, we mishandle, we poorly execute, we unfairly judge and criticize, and we simply blow it. That is definitely not an excuse or a permission slip for bad behavior. Yet, it is not likely to ever change.

Because the church is made up of sinners saved by grace, the church is broken. We who are quick to condemn the church as broken need to face that we ourselves, as those placed by Christ into that church when we were saved, are broken, too. Show me the perfect person who never mishandles a situation, never sins with tongue, attitude, or deed, and I’ll show you someone who will stand before Christ at the Judgment saved on the basis of their own merit and goodness. That won’t happen.

Let’s be reminded of what the church is.  It is the precious, beloved bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22-25; Rev. 19:7; 21:2). It is that institution purchased by His very life’s blood (Acts 20:28). It is that which was thought up by God from the eternity before time as is the expression of His manifold wisdom (Eph. 3:9-11). It is the place where Christ is glorified (Eph. 3:21; 5:27). It is the present the Son will present to His Father when time is no more (1 Cor. 15:24). It is that and truly so much more.

God designed the church. Reckless criticism of it is reckless criticism of Him. All of us should be determined to improve in every area of our spiritual lives, to be for others what we need to be, to conquer faults and sins in our lives. We should also extend to others the grace we intensely desire to receive when we stand before the King at the last day! Yes, the church is broken, but not in the sense that it cannot help, serve, minister, love, and encourage. Let each of us strive to be the church we want the church to be. Model and exemplify it. Emit the fragrance of Christ. That way, the broken church can help mend the broken lives that make it up.

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