Paul Madson

THOUGHTS, QUOTES & REFLECTIONS

Page 2 of 18

When was the last time you…?

Above Photo: One of our grandsons is shown above, looking intently at a small bug on our patio several years ago.

“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.”
(C.S. Lewis)

“The Bible makes it clear that the world around us reveals the character, nature, and purpose of God. And it does so every second of every day.”
(Richard DosterBy Faith Magazine)

Scripture explains that the world around us reveals God’s character, nature, and purpose:
  • Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.”
  • Romans 1:20: “For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
Similarly, we gain helpful insight from lyrics to the familiar hymn “This is My Father’s World”:

“This is my Father’s world:
And to my listening ears,
All nature sings, and round me rings,
The music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their Maker’s praise.

This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass, I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.”

This hymn reminds me why I love spending time in the outdoors. One of the reasons I so enjoy being in nature (besides refreshing my soul) is because of the wonder of God’s creation and His artistic, intricate and beautiful handiwork that is all around us (yes, even in a broken and fallen world).

If we will simply slow down long enough to look intentlyand listen carefully,we will see His beauty all around.

As C.S. Lewis said, “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.”


In the most recent issue of By Faith Magazine, Richard Doster writes…

“The all-powerful creator God is telling us something about Himself in everything, from the tiniest ghost crab to the right whales that visit us in calving season.”

Doster goes on to say:

“Professor and author Joe Rigney illustrates the point when he talks about how we see the divine nature in the things that God has made just as we see the talent and creativity of the artist in his painting or the composer in his music. 

It’s this reality that caused Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th- century theologian, to view the world as a kind of language. The whole universe, Edwards said, including “heaven and earth, air and seas … are full of images of divine things, as full as a language is of words.”

And yet, Edwards continued, all these images convey only a fraction of what God intended to signify or typify by them. 

Rigney points out that most Bible readers are familiar with typology. We understand, for example, that the Passover lamb was a type or image of the sacrifice of Christ…

But Edwards goes further, arguing that God has created images and types in the natural world, too. And that these types are a kind of language that God uses to speak to us.

For example, the Scriptures encourage us to look at the birds (Matthew 6:26) and consider the lilies (Matthew 6:28) and go to the ant (Proverbs 6:6). There are, Rigney points out, divine lessons in seeds and fields, in sand and rocks, in wineskins and fig trees. 

This next excerpt reminded me of my grandson looking intently at the bug on our back patio…
Continuing the previous thought, Doster writes:

“And even in insects. In a recent Wall Street Journal story, professor Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson points out that insect pollination increases fruit or seed quantity in three-quarters of our global food crops. And it’s not just bees that do this work, Sverdrup-Thygeson says. It involves some 20,000 different species of flies, beetles, ants, wasps, butterflies, and other insects. 

The sunrise over the ocean, then, is never just a sunrise. It’s a message, and God intends for us to receive it, comprehend it, and respond.

The color of a bright red cardinal is a message. The dolphin arcing up for air is a message.

The breeze, the texture of the sand, the dunes and sea oats, the golden retriever passing by in the other direction — God spoke them into existence, which means we’re enveloped by visual, audio, and olfactory aids — each one sent to help us understand God’s extravagant goodness.

Sadly, because of sin, we no longer see such things the way we’re meant to. We don’t hear, smell, or touch to the degree God intended. But, with God’s help, we perceive more than we used to.

By His Spirit, we’re able to see the kingdom in the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32), in leaven (Matthew 13:33), and in the priceless pearl (Matthew 13:45). By His Spirit and through His word we’re free to perceive His invisible attributes at the beach, strolling through the mountains, and watching birds build nests in our own backyards. 

We’re free to respond, too, in thanks and adoration. C.S. Lewis parsed the difference for us. “Gratitude,” he said, “exclaims ‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration asks, ‘What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary [displays of brilliance] are like this?’”

There’s a good chance we’ll be happier, kinder, more grateful, and more generous if we spend time pondering the quality of God who gave us the beach, birds, and mountain forests.” 

Click here to read the full article.


My question today is:

When was the last time you…
slowed down enough to look intently and listen carefully
to what God is saying through His creation?


Quotes to Note – September Edition

Paul Madson

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

“Give me 100 people that hate nothing but sin, and love nothing but Jesus Christ, and we’ll shake England for God.” (John Wesley)

“At the cross, the love of God and the wrath of God shake hands; the mercy of God and the justice of God embrace; and the holiness of God and the sinfulness of humanity appear in stark contrast.” (William P. Farely, from his book – Outrageous Mercy)

“I think the devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds … Satan is quite aware of the power of silence.” (Jim Elliot)

“A public man, though he is necessarily available at many times, must learn to hide. If he is always available, he is not worth enough when he is available.” (Elton Trueblood)

“God has not bowed to our nervous haste nor embraced the methods of our machine age. The man who will know God must give time to Him.” (A.W. Tozer)

“I have done less waiting than working, and my works would have been better had I waited more. But I have enjoyed God’s incomparable companionship. I have walked the world with God as my friend.” (from the autobiography of Carl F.H. Henry)

“Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure.” (D. L. Moody)

“I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.” (Charles Spurgeon)

“Until we know that life is war, we will not know what prayer is for.” (John Piper)

When asked to describe what is “the heresy of modernity,” J.I. Packer described it this way:

‘The belief that ….

the newer is the truer,

only what is recent is decent,

every shift of ground is a step forward,

and every latest word must be hailed

as the last word on its subject.’”

(J. I. Packer)

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” (Job 13:15)

“Fly this banner over every wound and regret: ‘Satan meant it for evil, but God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20).” (John Piper)

“We like to serve others from the power position. We’d rather be healthy, wealthy, and wise as we reach out to the sick, poor, and ignorant. But people see and hear the gospel best when it comes through those who have known difficulty. Paul says, ‘To the weak I became weak, to win the weak’ (1 Corinthians 9:22). Suffering creates a sphere of influence for Christ that we couldn’t otherwise have.” (Randy Alcorn)

“The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running.”

Brilliant in the Basics – Part 2

Photo by Paul Madson

In my early ministry years, I put together a list of “basic” biblical truths that I needed to remind myself of regularly.

I titled it Brilliant in the Basics.

No matter how much we learn or grow spiritually, there will always be certain ‘basics’ we need to regularly revisit which form the foundation of our walk with Christ and keep us centered on God and His glory.

Two weeks ago, I shared the first five.

Here are the final ten:

6. This world is not our home.

We are simply passing through. We are pilgrims here. Our citizenship is in heaven. Live as a pilgrim. Travel light. Live as a stranger and alien. Look forward daily to ‘a better country.’  Keep your roots shallow…your tent pegs half pulled (John 14:1-3; Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:13-16; 1 Peter 2:11).

7. Evil spiritual forces are always out to deceive and discourage.

Our enemy wants to mar our spiritual testimony. Walk soberly. Put on God’s armor daily. Don’t be deceived. Don’t be subtly led astray. Walk close, tight and humbly with God… He is your fortress and protection (John 8:44; John 17:15; Ephesians 6:10-18; James 4:7; 1 John 4:1, 7).

8. Memorize God’s Word and meditate on it regularly.

Inculcate Scripture into your memory. Sink it deep into your heart and never let it go. Let it dwell in you richly. Treasure it. Love it. Grab it. Grip it. Grasp it. Apprize it. Cherish it. Esteem it. Value it. Guard it. Revere it. Hold it dear.

Meditating on God’s Word is the key that opens the treasure chest to understanding and applying the unfathomable riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge. It’s not the one who reads most, but the one who meditates most that will prove to be the strongest, wisest and sweetest Christian. Take God’s Word and ponder it. Reflect, ruminate and muse over it (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2-3; Psalm 119:9-11; 97-100; Proverbs 8:10-11; Colossians 3:16-17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12).

9. Kindness, graciousness, and love must exude from us to everyone we meet… from the greatest to the least.

All people have dignity because they are made in the image of God… treat people accordingly (Matthew 5:43-47; Matthew 7:1-2; John 13:34,35; Romans 12:10; Romans 13:8; Romans 14:19-20; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Colossians 3:12,13; Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 3:7).

10. Always forgive others freely and thoroughly.

No matter who they are or what they have done. Forgive in the same way that you have been forgiven. To refuse to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die (Colossians 3:12, 13; Matthew 18:21-35).

11. Genuine humility is absolutely essential if we are to experience the grace of God in our lives.

God ‘stiff arms’(opposes) the proud but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 15:18; Isaiah 66:2; Micah 6:8; Matthew 23:12; Ephesians 4:2; James 3:13; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5-6).

12. Giving thanks in everything and choosing a heart of gratitude is foundational to all true joy and happiness.

(1 Thessalonians 5:18; Ephesians 5:20).

13. It’s only in giving our lives away and becoming servants to others that we will experience the deepest and richest joys in life.

Nothing compares with the feeling of having been used by God to influence someone’s life for all eternity (Matthew 5:16; Matthew 20:26-28; Acts 20:24; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Philippians 2:3-8).

14. Use your material resources to further the kingdom of God.

Your heart will naturally follow where you put your treasure. Put your treasure in a place where you want your heart to be.  Give generously and share with those in need. God promises to provide for your every need (Matthew 6:19-21, 33; Hebrews 13:16; Philippians 4:19; 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19; Hebrews 10:34; Hebrews 13:5)

15. Practicing what we know…obedience – not knowledge – is what ultimately develops spiritual maturity in our lives.

(1 Samuel 15:22; Matthew 7:24-27; John 14:15,21; Hebrews 5:14; James 1:22, 25)

*The accompanying Scriptures are not meant to be exhaustive, but simply a brief representation of what Scripture says on this subject.

Brilliant in the Basics – Part 1

In my early ministry years, I put together a list of “basic” biblical truths that I needed to remind myself of regularly.

I titled it Brilliant in the Basics.

No matter how much we learn or grow spiritually, there will always be certain ‘basics’ we need to regularly revisit which form the foundation of our walk with Christ and keep us centered on God and His glory.

Below are the first five (15 total) of these briefly listed “basics” that I return to over and over:

  1. The foundation for effective Christian living is thinking rightly and biblically about who God is. What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. Satan’s number one goal is to deceive us about who God is (Genesis 3:1-7; Isaiah 40:25-26; Jeremiah 9:23-24; Matthew 4:1-11; John 1:1; Colossians 1:16-17; 1 Timothy 1:17).
  2. Pursuing God with a passion is the beginning point of life’s most incredible journey. It is to be a mark of the normal Christian life. We are to seek the face of God as for silver or hidden treasure (Proverbs 2:4-5; Psalm 27:4-5; Psalm 37:4-5; Psalm 42:1-2; Psalm 63:1; Psalm 84:10-11; Jeremiah 9:23-24; Matthew 6:33).
  3. God is our loving Father. He has compassion on us. We are His children… His heirs. He knows the number of hairs on our head. He bottles our tears. He will never leave us nor will He ever forsake us (Psalm 55:22; Psalm 56:8; Psalm 103:13,14; Isaiah 40:11; Isaiah 41:9-10; Zephaniah 3:17; Romans 5:8; Romans 8:15-17, 31-32, 38-39; Galatians 4:6,7; Ephesians 3:17-19; Hebrews 13:8).
  4. God calls us to walk by faith, not by sight. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Romans 4:20-21; Hebrews 11:1, 3, 6, 24-27).
  5. Nothing comes into our lives as believers that has not first passed through the hand of God. Everything that comes into your life has been allowed by God for your good and His glory. Because of what they are producing in us, we can welcome trials and problems as friends. We don’t have to resent them. We can rejoice when they come. Maturity will not come without problems, trials and difficulties (Job 1:6-12; Romans 8:28; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6,7).
*The accompanying Scriptures are not meant to be exhaustive, but simply a brief representation of what Scripture says on this subject.

Summer Quotes to Note – Part 2

Paul Madson

“Lord Jesus, if you were prejudiced, you not only would not have died for people from every tongue, tribe, and nation, but you wouldn’t have come to human beings at all! When I am tempted to look down at ‘that type,’ help me to remember your unprejudiced, free grace for me. Amen.” (Timothy Keller)

“The difference between responding and reacting is a choice. When you react, they’re in control. When you respond, you are.” (Henry Cloud)

“Jesus’ kingship is not like human kingships, for it wins influence through suffering service, not coercive power.” (Timothy Keller)

“Legalism A: I earn a relationship with God by my works and holiness.
Legalism B: I keep a relationship with God by my works and holiness.
The Gospel: I trust in Jesus’ life of perfect obedience and his death on the cross to put and keep me in relationship with God. He is my holiness.” (Scotty Smith)

“We have no idea how busy God’s hands are even when His mouth seems closed. Where God is concerned, silence never equals slumber.” (Beth Moore)

“Nothing you did today made God delight in you more. Nothing you did diminished his love for you. This doesn’t mean God is indifferent. Rather, he is tenaciously consistent, steadfast in his love, and abounding in grace, He made Jesus your righteousness, not your second chance.” (Scotty Smith)

“You do what is good in God’s eyes because he loves you, not with the hope that if you do good, he will love you.” (Paul Tripp)

“Christ’s love towards us, and not our love towards Christ, is the true ground of expectation, and true foundation of hope … To look inward to our love towards Christ is painfully unsatisfying: to look outward to Christ’s love towards us is peace.” (J.C. Ryle – 1816-1900)

Summer Quotes to Note – Part 1

“God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God’s refusals are always merciful — ‘severe mercies’ — at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our heart’s desire except to give us something better.” (Elisabeth Elliot)

“Painfully, suffering is almost a prerequisite if we are going to be of much use to other people. It makes us far more compassionate.” (Tim Keller)

“We trust (our eternal Father) so much that we do not doubt he will provide whatever we need for body and soul, and he will turn to our good whatever adversity he sends us in this sad world. He is able to do this because he is Almighty God; he desires to do this because he is a faithful father. Nothing can separate us from his love.” (Heidelberg Catechism)

“The Lord calls us to love all people, including those who are enemies of the gospel and those who blaspheme. This may not be comfortable, and it may not be easy, but this is the gospel of Christ, for He loved His enemies so much that He died to save us.” (Francis A. Schaeffer)

“We will love our neighbors well (and our enemies) to the degree we believe the gospel is true, the throne of heaven is occupied, and Jesus will return to finish making all things new.” (Scotty Smith)

“I’m learning that my job is to simply give what little I have to God –  my not nearly enough – and let Him do ‘the impossible thing’.” (Sally Lloyd-Jones)

“Anxiety is our agitated soul fighting for control.” (Beth Moore)

“It is always possible to be grateful for what is given rather than resentful over what is withheld. One or the other will become a way of life.” (Elisabeth Elliot)

Spring Quotes to Note – Part 2

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“The cross is the single most significant symbol of forgiveness in history. Made by men, used by God, it is the hallmark of man at his worst and God at His best.” (Tim Kimmel)

“Hell will be populated by people who insist they were good enough for heaven. Heaven will be populated by people who insist they were bad enough for hell.” (Josh Howerton)

“The church endures, rolling along on while competing forms of religion and nonbelief rise, wane, and are forgotten. Christianity faithful to God’s Word will last until the end of time and beyond (Matthew 16:18).” (Timothy Keller)

“God’s love was intended to be demonstrated, not dictated. Our job is not to manipulate or induce others to agree with us… Our charge is to both proclaim and embody the gospel so that others can see, hear, and feel God’s love in tangible ways.” (Richard Stearns)

“Love is never primarily defined in the Bible as a feeling. At its foundation, love is at least a commitment and a promise.” (Timothy Keller)

“Genesis 3: Death is born.
Matthew 28: Death is defeated.
Revelation 21: Death is dead.”
(Matt Smethurst)

“Remember every day is a war of worship, that is, a battle for the rulership of your heart. Pray today for grace to see clearly, fight faithfully and to remember you’re never alone in the battle.” (Paul David Tripp)

“Wise key influencers are devoted to knowing what they don’t know. They act boldly on facts they have right now, but search for signs they are wrong – seeking a healthy balance between courage and humility.” (Robert I. Sutton)

“God often waits until we’re out of ideas before He lets us know His plans. He competes for our hearts, not our attention.” (Bob Goff)

“The good news of the gospel is not, ‘Relax, you rock!’ The good news says to believing sinners, ‘You deserve to be humiliated and condemned for your sin, but God sent his Son to be humiliated and condemned in your place.” (Kevin DeYoung)

“Relationships are costly. Whatever it will cost you to be with God is nothing compared to what it cost Him to be with you.” (Timothy Keller)

“It is erroneous to think that slippery slopes only ‘slip’ toward a licentious, anything goes, lawless direction. They can also ‘slip’ toward a strident, mean-spirited, graceless direction. Jesus cracks down on both, but especially the latter.” (Scott Sauls– from his book Irresistible Faith)

“The average 3-year old laughs 40 times a day. The average 40-year old laughs 3 times a day.” (Psychology Today)

Quotes to Note – Spring 2019

Photo by Johannes Plenio

“How can you boast in your blue eyes, in your intelligence, in your height, in your race or ethnicity, in your birth place, in your birth order, in your attractiveness, or in the shape of your nose? What do you have that wasn’t a gift? Way too many of us were born on third base and we think we hit a triple.” (D. Wilson, Partakers of Grace)

“Most of the noise in our souls is generated by our attempts to control the uncontrollable.” (David Powlison)

“Prayer is not the flare gun of the desperate or room service for the indulgent. It is the confidence of the adopted.” (Sam Allberry)

“Worry is a conversation you have with yourself about things you cannot change. Prayer is a conversation you have with God about things that He can change.”

“Do not be afraid to tell God exactly how you feel (He’s already read your thoughts anyway). Don’t tell the whole world. God can take it – when others can’t. Then listen for His answer.” (Elisabeth Elliot)

“Not until history has run its course will we understand how ‘all things work together for good.’ Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” (Philip Yancey)

“Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” (Jim Elliot)

“Abraham waited 25 years. Moses waited 40 years. Jesus waited 30 years. If God makes you wait, you are in good company.”  (Nicky Gumbel)

“Always leave things better than you found them. Especially people.” (Dr. Henry Cloud)

“We are your beloved children – with a forgiven past, a graced present, and a guaranteed future. You’re not an absentee landlord, but an engaged Father – not a hiding Lord, but a ruling King. We don’t have to like your timing, understand your ways, or pretend about anything. But because of what you’ve done for us in Jesus, we can totally trust you.” (Scotty Smith)

“There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.” (Richard Sibbs)

“When we say, ‘I can’t believe in a God who would ________,’ we’re saying we don’t really want a God beyond our comprehension.” (Tim Keller)

“The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” (Hubert H. Humphrey)

Escaping Moralism

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As I worked on refreshing my teaching notes for a homiletics course (how to preach and teach God’s Word) in Ethiopia next month, I re-read Tim Keller’s excellent book on preaching.

In chapter 2, Keller addresses the dangers of moralism. In it, he writes about:

1) how the whole Bible points ultimately to Jesus (Luke 24:27), and
2) why we must make Christ and the Good News of the Gospel central to all we teach and preach.

Here are a few excellent quotes from this chapter…

“Any sermon that tells listeners only how they should live without putting that standard into the context of the gospel gives them the impression that they might be complete enough to pull themselves together if they really try hard.

“Ed Clowney points out that if we ever tell a particular Bible story without putting it into the Bible story (about Christ), we actually change its meaning for us.

“It becomes a moralistic exhortation to ‘try harder’ rather than a call to live by faith in the work of Christ.

“There are, in the end, only two ways to read the Bible: Is it basically about me or basically about Jesus? In other words, is it basically about what I must do or basically about what he has done?” 

(Page 60, Preaching by Timothy Keller)

 

“The moralistic way of living feels like being on the end of a yo-yo. If I feel I am reaching my goals and meeting my standards, I become self-righteous, entitled, less patient and gracious with others.

“If I am failing in any way, I fall into self-loathing, because my very identity is based on my image of myself as a better person than others.”

(Page 61, Preaching by Timothy Keller)

 

“Only if we hammer home the gospel, that we are loved sinners in Christ – so loved that we don’t have to despair when we do wrong, so sinful that we have no right to be puffed up when we do right – can we help our listeners escape the spiritually bipolar world of moralism.” 

(Page 62, Preaching by Timothy Keller)

Sorrow and Joy

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“… as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” (2 Cor. 6:10)

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4)

Recently I was re-reading the book Hot Tub Religion: Thoughts on Christian Living in the Material World by J.I. Packer. I read it back in the late 80’s (when it first came out) and it had several excellent chapters on various aspects of Christian living.

Chapter six, in particular, stood out. In it, Packer deals with the subject of “Joy: A Neglected Discipline.”

Here are a few great quotes from this chapter:

“Christians are not victims and prisoners of either the past or the present. The powers of forgiveness and new creation are at work in their lives. Before them lies a sure and certain hope of deliverance, transformation, and glory. Joy will someday be theirs in fullest measure, and they should not give way to the black feeling that life will never be better for them than it is now.

Christians have, so to speak, larger souls than other people; for grief and joy, like desolation and hope, or pain and peace, can coexist in their lives in a way that non-Christians know nothing about. Grief, desolation, and pain are feelings triggered by present situations, but faith produces joy, hope, and peace at all times.

This does not mean that grief, desolation, and pain cease to be felt (that idea is inhuman); it means that something else is experienced along with the hurt. It becomes possible for Christians today, like Paul long ago, to be ‘sorrowful, yet always rejoicing’ (2 Cor. 6:10).”

 

“Joy is not an accident of temperament or an unpredictable providence; joy is a matter of choice. Paul is directing his readers to choose to rejoice (Phil. 4:4), because it is in and through the activity of rejoicing that joy becomes a personal reality.”

 

“Paul can choose to rejoice in one aspect of a situation of which other aspects are calculated to depress: he rejoices that Christ is being preached and refuses to brood on the bad motives of the preachers or to indulge in self-pity because he is not able to do what they are doing (Phil. 1:15-18).

This, more than anything else, makes it clear that joy is a choice; one chooses to focus one’s mind on facts that call forth joy. Such is the secret of ‘rejoicing in the Lord always,’ namely, to choose what you think about. It is as simple – and as difficult! – as that.

Controlling and directing one’s thoughts is a habit, and the more one practices it the better one becomes at it.”

 

“The secret of joy for believers lies in the fine art of Christian thinking… Joy – that is, rejoicing in the Lord – is thus a basic discipline of the Christian life, essential to spiritual health and vitality.”

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