Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of October 29, 2017

“The Reformation is all about Jesus!”

500 years ago today Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the castle church doors in Wittenberg. When you boil it down, sum it up and get to the heart of the matter the Reformation is all about a man, a perfect man; who at the same time is true God.  The Reformation is all about Jesus!

What God has done for us in Christ’s perfect life, innocent suffering and His sacrificial death and how God views on account of the same is what the Reformation is all about.  This is best summarized in the Reformation slogan Sola Gratia (Grace Alone).  Thus the Reformation is all about Jesus! 

How God bestows on us the righteousness of Christ and how we apprehend personally what the Lord has accomplished for all objectively is what the Reformation is all about.  This is best summarized in the Reformation slogan Sola Fide (Faith Alone). Thus the Reformation is all about Jesus! 

Where one finds, hears and connects with God’s self-communication and message; and what is therefore the sole source of Christian belief and behavior is what the Reformation is all about.  This is best summarized in the Reformation slogan Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone).  Thus the Reformation is all about Jesus!  

A single sentence can express this quite well, “We are saved by grace, through faith, for Christ’s sake apart from works of the law.”   That sentence summarized in the Reformation slogan Solus Christus (Christ Alone).  Thus the Reformation is all about Jesus! 

Perhaps that is made most clear in the final sola of the Reformation, Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Belongs the Glory).  To God Alone Belongs the Glory!  The altar and pastor(s) are adorned in red on Reformation to make it clear that the Reformation is at its heart, when summed up and boiled down all about our God’s work in Christ. Red, the color of Pentecost is the color of the Reformation because the same Spirit that gave life to the church restored the truth of the Gospel and its proper place in the church through the Reformation.   The Reformation which is, was, and ever shall be: All About Jesus!

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, October 30, 2017

The One Year Bible- October 30th

With Halloween and Reformation Day upon us,, All Saints day coming up, and Thanksgiving and Advent on the horizon, it goes without saying that this is a busy time of the year.  It seems that life gets more hectic every year.  Perhaps you feel like you could write your own lamentations today.   But even in the midst of the tough times of life we praise God by saying, “Great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23).  Let that be our guide today. On to the study...

Pastor Seth’s Thoughts 

The Old Testament

This week we will dive into the book of Lamentations. I was thinking that this book is like the soundtrack to the book of Jeremiah. If they ever made a movie (more like a miniseries) about Jeremiah, the music would have to be influenced by the book of Lamentations. In David M. Gosdeck’s commentary on the book he says the following:

The Hebrew title for this book of the Bible is taken from the first word, “How”. When, during the Intertestamental Period, the Jews translated this book into Greek they gave it the title, “The Tears of Jeremiah”. When the Greek was translated into Latin, it was named “The Lamentations of Jeremiah,” the title we use today. Lamentations consists of five individual poems. The first four (chapters 1-4) use a poetic device known as “acrostic”. In an acrostic each new line of poetry begins with a successive letter of the alphabet. In chapters 1,2, and 4 each verse begins with a new letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Since the Hebrew alphabet has twenty-two letters, each of these chapters has twenty-two verses. In chapter 3 the author triples the acrostic. Every three verses begin with a new letter of the alphabet, so chapter 3 has sixty-six verses.

In the face of Jerusalem’s destruction, the prophet encouraged the believers to keep on clinging to the Lord. The nation was without excuse. It has plenty of time to repent, but it chose the path of sin. Not its sins had brought the present terror. On its own, the nation could not deliver itself. Its only hope lay in a return to the Lord, and the Lord did not fail. Even in this disaster, believers could see his gracious hand. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Even under suffering, the believer can confidently wait for the salvation he knows will come.

The New Testament
By the end of the week we will have read two letters in their entirety (Titus and Philemon) and will be into the book of Hebrews. Titus is known as one of the Pastoral letters (along with 1 & 2 Timothy) and has much advice for pastors and church leaders. The following is from Armin W. Schuetze’s commentary on Titus:

Since Paul calls Titus “my true son in our common faith” (Titus 1:4), he know doubt was one of Paul’s converts. He may have been from Antioch, where Paul had worked for an entire year before his missionary journeys (Acts 11:26). We find Titus there when Paul and Barnabas “were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders” about the necessity of circumcision for salvation (Acts 15:2). Paul mentions Titus as someone he had taken along as a test case and reports that “not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised even though he was Greek” (Galatians 2:1,3).

Later Paul found Titus to be a valuable and trusted associate whom he sent to Corinth to settle the problems that had arisen in this congregation. In all of his Corinthian assignments Titus proved to be an evangelical, trusted, and respected “troubleshooter”.

After Paul’s release from his first imprisonment, he may have met Titus when he came to the island of Crete. Paul left Titus there to complete the organizing of the church (Titus 1:5). This was not an easy assignment because of trouble makers who needed correction (Titus 1:10-16). Paul promised to send a replacement to Crete so that Titus might join him again at Nicopolis where Paul intended to spend the winter (Titus 3:12).

Titus must have been with Paul in Rome during a part of his second imprisonment, for Paul sent him from Rome to Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10). We know nothing more about this assignment.

Titus was no doubt younger that Paul but very likely older than Timothy. He did not need the kind of encouragement that Paul gave his younger “son” Timothy. The advice Paul gave Titus for his work on the island of Crete continues to be a blessing to the church and its pastors as they read, study and apply his inspired words to themselves and the church of all times.

The book of Philemon is very short but very profound. The following is from the intro to the book in “The Life Application Bible”:

This is a personal letter sent as a plea for a runaway slave. Imagery and parallels abound in this short letter. Paul writes to Philemon and reintroduces Onesimus to him, explaining that he is sending him back not just as a slave but as a brother. Tactfully he asks Philemon to accept and forgive his brother. The barriers of the past and the new ones erected by Onesimus’s desertion and theft should divide them no longer for they are one in Christ.

This small book is a masterpiece of grace and tact and a profound demonstration of the power of Christ and of true Christian fellowship in action. As with Philemon, God calls us all to seek unity, breaking down walls and embracing our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I will have plenty to say about the book of Hebrews in the next two weeks.

Bits and Pieces

The New Testament
As we look at the book of Hebrews this week, don’t forget the audience of the book.  They are Jewish Christians who are in danger of going back to Judaism. Keep this in mind so it will hopefully make more sense when you read language like “greater than Moses”, “high priest”, “Melchizedek”, “covenant”, “tabernacle”, “sacrifice” etc. I will spend a lot of time in the next two weeks talking about this book. It is one of my favorites.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of October 22, 2017

Sermon: “Faith Alone!”

We are just one week away from the 500th anniversary of the nailing of the 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg by Martin Luther and the results of that event literally changed the world.  Not just religiously, but politically and socially.

In the weeks and months leading up to this celebration there has been a focus on Luther, the man.  I’ve seen more articles on Luther and the Reformation in the public eye than any point in my short history on earth.

I’ve seen Luther memes on Facebook, people taking their play mobile Luther dolls with them to Germany to take selfies.  There are Luther bobble-heads, coffee cups, buttons, and masks, not to mention “here we stand” socks, and even Luther leggings…not a good look….

If we are not careful we can slip into this celebration being about faith in Marin Luther. 

The Reformation and all that goes along with it is not about a man, but is centered on the person of Jesus and what He has done for us as Savior of the World. 

Our text is from Paul’s letter to the Romans, the first chapter.  Paul writes, “I’m not ashamed of the Good News. It is God’s power to save everyone who believes, Jews first and Greeks as well. God’s approval is revealed in this Good News. This approval begins and ends with faith as Scripture says, “The person who has God’s approval will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

This past week I attended a Reformation conference entitled “Here We Still Stand.” It was an amazing conference filled with great speakers and inspiring music. 

I was challenged and I was filled, but I was also convicted.  I’ll be honest with you that most of what follows comes from what I gleaned over the past few days wrestling with what it means to, in the words of our text, “live by faith.”

One of the tenants of the Reformation is Sola Fide or Faith Alone.  It was a light bulb moment for Luther as he studied Paul’s letter to the Romans.  Salvation does not come by works and words of man, but the works and words of Jesus.

But what does it mean to live by faith?  Allow me to get personal for a moment.

Is faith alone enough to comfort this sinners heart?  Is my faith strong enough to handle the worst that the world can dish out? Is my faith able to comfort and uplift me even when I turn my back, and find myself engaged in that which I know is wrong?  Is my faith the example it should be as a pastor, a husband, and a father?

Can my faith bring relief to my rattling and sin sick heart as I shake under the gaze of an all knowing God who knows my dark places, who sees my misdeeds and who knows everything about me?  

Let me ask you a personal question, “How is your faith?”  Do you wish it was bigger, or stronger?  Do you wish it were bolder or just more like others? Deep down you know the doubts that plague you and the sin that sneaks in.  You know the places the devil enters to deceive and threaten.

What does it mean to live by faith alone?

If you have been around the church at all I’m sure you have heard a definition of faith.  It’s that trust that we have that we have been saved.  It’s an unwavering belief that Jesus is Savior. 

But perhaps we need to get some perspective and talk about what faith is NOT.

·Faith is not intellectual ascent, which is trying to understand the mystery and majesty of God or by memorizing scripture or praying more often.
·Faith is not moral courage.  It’s not simply standing strong in the face of all that is wrong.
·Faith is not a positive set of emotions.
·Faith is not an overwhelming sense of God’s presence.
·Faith is not even the absence of doubt. 
·Faith is Dependence!

You can’t be dependent unless you a lacking something that is bigger and greater and stronger than you are.  

The only requirement of great faith then is great need. 

Are you in need of something bigger and great and stronger to fight the battles and the demons in your life, to solve the problem of sin for you?  Me too!!

When the reformers talk about Faith Alone, we need to understand that it is a byproduct of who Christ is, not a reward for who we are.  It is given to us in the context of relationship, not earned by doing a list of requirements.

Faith is a gift given to us to possess but created by God HimselfAnd this faith saves!!

Please understand that the Gospel doesn’t sit around waiting for faith to appear and for us to claim it.  The Gospel shows up where it can be found, it speaks Christ, creates faith and claims us!

In this faith you are wrapped up, covered and claimed by the righteousness of God. It is found in word and sacrament where God promises to be.

In this relationship between the divine and the dusty it is faith alone that saves, created by the proclamation of Scripture alone, its object is Christ alone and is made real only because of Grace alone. 

It’s not the strength of your faith that saves, but the strength of your Savior!!  You see, Faith always has an object.  The strength of your faith is not in how much you do, or how much you believe.  The strength of faith is in whose you are. 

Living by faith is a battle between those things that compete for our dependence that battle for our heart, that contest for our allegiance; the objects we tend to put our trust in. This is not a passive experience.

To live by faith means that we live in the tension between the forgiveness we might know with our minds and the guilt we hold in our heart.

It is lived out, as we may understand the finished work of Christ on the cross on our behalf but struggle with the reality of the sinful life we lead each and every day.

The object of saving faith is our utter dependence on Christ Alone! You might think that you don’t have enough faith, but your faith is not the point. The object of faith alone is bigger and stronger and mightier than anything in this world.

The God who made all of creation, who put the stars in the sky, the water in the ocean and filled the world with life; the God who knows every hair on your head and the days of your life; the God who makes the sun to rise and the moon to shine, claims you as His own, sent His Son to die in your place and by His resurrection He gives you His righteousness and gifts you faith. 

For many it came at the waters of Baptism, for some it came as the Gospel was heard, it’s strengthened when the Word is proclaimed and read, and is fed when we gather at this rail where He feeds us. 

The strength of this relationship is found in Him, not you.

You see we are not here to celebrate 500, but to celebrate zero.  Faith alone proclaims what we find in Scripture that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  (Romans 8:1)

It’s not about the 500 things you should do or the 500 things you didn’t; but that there is nothing you can do to make God love you anymore and nothing you have done that makes Him love you any less.

It’s not about 500 years of getting our theology right or how the others got it wrong, but about how nothing else matters except knowing Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Faith alone has ZERO to do with you and everything to do about Christ.

But let me take it one step further. 

One day, faith alone itself will disappear. On that day when you are called home to heaven, when the trappings of this world are forever removed from us; on that day when doubt and despair are wiped away, faith alone goes with it and will be replaced by Christ alone. 

On that day, faith will become sight and the Savior Himself will be revealed and we will see with our eyes the one who has been holding us all along, Jesus Himself the object of our faith.

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, October 23, 2017

The One Year Bible- October 23rd

I have always been a fan of the morning prayer service known as Matins. This service has a rich tradition in the Church. This service is filled with singing, prayer and other music. Growing up Lutheran I have seen many versions of this service. But regardless of what hymnal it comes out of the words are very powerful and have great meaning for me. We will read one of the central passages used in Matins this week. Lets use these words as our focus today.
 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
   let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
   let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God,
   and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
   the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
   and his hands formed the dry land.
 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
   let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
   and we are the people of his pasture,
   and the sheep of his hand.--
Psalm 95:1-7 ESV

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
As we keep plugging away at Jeremiah I saw some great glimpses of gospel this week. Here are a few that hit me:

“Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security.  I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first.  I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.”  Jeremiah 33:6-8

“For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the LORD.” Jeremiah 33:11b

And then a great Messianic promise: “In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.”  Jeremiah 33:15-16

We have come to the point in the story where there is more narrative than prophetic. Many historic details are filled in and give us a better picture of some of the events that took place right before the exile. We don’t usually get many of these stories in Sunday School. I had forgotten that Jeremiah gets thrown into a mud pit and almost dies. And that the king burned up the scroll that was written almost in spite of the message it contained. Eventually we see the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple itself. It was a sad day in the life of the people. I put quite a few frowning faces in the margin of my Bible this week. Another bit of the story that I forgot about was that of those who were left in the country and not taken into exile. I found it very interesting that the Lord promised protection for these people through Jeremiah as long as they stayed in the land. But, like what seems to happen again and again, the people do not listen and head to Egypt for what they think is “safety”. Their self-centeredness was their destruction.

Most of the rest of our readings this week were pronouncements of judgments on the surrounding countries. The Lord will finally punish all the other countries for their unbelief. It is sometimes hard for us to read about all this destruction, but we need to remember that God has every right to punish us for our sins. We need to have a good grasp on this so we can see that the gift of Jesus Christ is so amazing. We are not treated as we deserve. We have been given a wonderful gift in Jesus…you see, I told you this book was Christ centered.

The New Testament
As a pastor I really feel that Paul is talking to me through the words of 1 and 2 Timothy. But just because you are not a “pastor”, does not mean you cannot benefit greatly from these two letters of Paul. I kind of see these letters as letters of encouragement, sort of like Paul is the coach and Timothy is the player. Paul can’t do the work for him but he can give him some great advice. One of the most famous phrases of encouragement comes from 1 Timothy 4, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”  What awesome encouragement! Paul goes on to say, “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”  Paul also reminds us all, “You can’t take it with you.” We need to learn to be content where God has placed us. In 2 Timothy 2 Paul makes a connection to the Old Testament. He writes, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel”   (2 Timothy 2:8 ESV). This is a flashback to the good old Davidic covenant that we have seen in Jeremiah recently. Once again it all comes back to a story about Christ. I love all the “trustworthy sayings” in these letters. The one on the unity we have with Christ gives me great comfort and hope. “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;  if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”  (2 Timothy 2:11-13 ESV) There are some big passages in 2 Timothy for us in our Theology. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV) This passage forms the basis for our belief in Scripture. We believe that the Bible is the only rule and norm of faith. It comes from God, and is useful for all sorts of things regarding our faith. It gets us ready to respond to God in good works as well. This is one of those passages that should be committed to memory!!! The end of 2 Timothy shows us some of the humanity of Paul. He is stuck in Rome, under arrest, and many of his followers have left him. Only Luke remains. Paul asks for Timothy to come to visit with him. It shows us that Paul not only cares for his good friend and partner in ministry but he misses him terribly and desires his companionship. I hope you have good friends like this; I have been blessed with many of them.

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will finish up Jeremiah this week and move on to the book of Lamentations followed by the book of Ezekiel. Here are the vital stats for the books:

PURPOSE: To teach people that to disobey God is to invite disaster, and to show that God suffers when His people suffer.
AUTHOR: Most likely Jeremiah
DATE WRITTEN: Soon after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
SETTING: Jerusalem had been destroyed by Babylon and her people killed, tortured, or taken captive.
KEY VERSE: “My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city.” (2:11)
LAW THEMES: The Lord pours out His anger against the kingdom of Judah; Judah finds no comfort; she cries, mourns, weeps, and laments the siege and exile.
GOSPEL THEMES:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; great is His faithfulness; wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord; he has redeemed you.
KEY PEOPLE: Jeremiah, the people of Jerusalem
KEY PLACE: Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: Three strands of Hebrew thought meet in Lamentations—prophecy, ritual, and wisdom. Lamentations is written in the rhythm and style of ancient Jewish funeral songs or chants. It contains five poems corresponding to the five chapters.

PURPOSE: To announce God’s judgment on Israel and other nations and to foretell the eventual salvation of God’s people
AUTHOR: Ezekiel—the son of Buzi, a Zadokite priest
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The Jews in captivity, in Babylonia, and God’s people everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: Approx. 571 B.C.
SETTING: Ezekiel was a younger contemporary of Jeremiah. While Jeremiah ministered to the people still in Judah, Ezekiel prophesied to those already exiled in Babylonia after the defeat of Jehoichin.
KEY VERSES: “For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all you idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (36:24-26)
LAW THEMES: Death and God’s wrath come to Israel by the sword; Israel has not walked in God’s statutes; in anger, God withdraws His glory and blessings; idolatry as spiritual adultery; defilement; exile; famine and pestilence.
GOSPEL THEMES: God keeps His covenant; new hearts; gift of the Spirit; the Good Shepherd; cleansing; restore the fortunes; God’s glory returns; the new temple.
KEY PEOPLE: Ezekiel, Israel’s leaders, Ezekiel’s wife, Nebuchadnezzar, “the prince”
KEY PLACES: Jerusalem, Babylon, and Egypt

The New Testament
Here are the vital stats for the next three books we will read in the New Testament:

PURPOSE: To advise Titus in his responsibility of supervising the churches in the island of Crete
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Titus, a Greek, probably converted to Christ through Paul’s ministry (he had become Paul’s special representative to the island of Crete), and to all believers everywhere.
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 64, around the same time 1 Timothy was written; probably from Macedonia when Paul traveled between his Roman imprisonments.
SETTING: Paul sent Titus to organize and oversee the churches on Crete. This letter tells Titus how to do this job.
KEY VERSE: “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I direct you” (1:5)
LAW THEMES: Be above reproach; rebuke; the pure and the defiled; submissiveness; devotion to good works.
GOSPEL THEMES: Election; soundness; God’s grace; redemption; washing and renewal; justification.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Titus
KEY PLACES: Crete, Nicopolis
SPECIAL FEATURES: Titus is very similar to 1 Timothy with its instructions to church leaders.

PURPOSE: To convince Philemon to forgive his runaway slave, Onesimus, and to accept him as a brother in the faith.
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Philemon, who was probably a wealthy member of the Colossian church, and all believers.
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 60, during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, at about the same time Ephesians and Colossians were written.
SETTING: Slavery was common in the Roman Empire and evidently some Christians had slaves. Paul does not condemn the institution of slavery in his writings, but he makes a radical statement by calling this slave Philemon’s brother in Christ.
KEY VERSES: “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good—no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord (verses 15-16)
LAW THEMES: Usefulness; imprisonment; service; debt; partnership
GOSPEL THEMES: Comfort/refreshment; reconciliation; forgiveness.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Philemon, Onesimus
KEY PLACES: Colosse, Rome
SPECIAL FEATURES: This is a private, personal letter to a friend.

PURPOSE: To present the sufficiency and superiority of Christ
AUTHOR: Paul, Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, Silas, Philip, Pricilla, and others have been suggested because the name of the author is not given in the Biblical text itself. Whoever it was speaks of Timothy as “brother” (13:23)
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Hebrew Christians (perhaps second-generation Christians) who may have been considering a return to Judaism, perhaps because of immaturity, stemming from a lack of understanding of Biblical truths; and all believers in Christ.
DATE WRITTEN: Probably before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, because the religious sacrifices and ceremonies are referred to in the book, but no mention is made of the temples destruction
SETTING: These Jewish Christians were probably undergoing fierce persecution, socially and physically, both from Jews and from Romans. Christ had not yet returned to establish his kingdom, and the people needed to be reassured that Christianity was true and that Jesus was the Messiah.
KEY VERSE: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (1:3)
LAW THEMES: Retribution for disobedience; slavery to death and the devil; and unbelieving heart; rebellion; obligation to sacrifice; repentance from dead works; crucifying Jesus again; the living God’s vengeance; struggle against sin; discipline; obedience to leaders.
GOSPEL THEMES: God spoke through Jesus; purification for sins; inheriting salvation; our High Priest and Mediator; sanctification; God’s promises; Melchizedek; sprinkled and washed; assurance of faith; the founder and perfecter of our faith; the great Shepherd.
KEY PEOPLE: Old Testament men and women of faith (see chapter 11)
SPECIAL FEATURES: Although Hebrews is called a “letter” (13:22), it has the form and content of a sermon.

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