Tag Archives: Jesus

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Hope In Death

Let’s get right to the point –

Today, I watched a man die, and I’m happy.

At this point you’re thinking: “Who in his right mind would admit to being happy he saw a man die?” Well, without the proper context, only a sick man, that’s for sure!

But here’s the context: I was with a family from my church as a 51 year-old son, father, brother, and grandfather breathed his last breath, and I was able to rejoice with them in the hope of Jesus Christ.

Meeting Joey: the 1st Time

Joey and his dog, Willie

Several months ago, I was able to talk with Joey Armor for the first time. He was sitting on the tailgate of his truck, taking a break from welding. As we got to talking, he apologized for not coming to church more often, but he appreciated that I was the new pastor, and he hoped to become more regular. He also told me how sick he was.

Joey had battled with a lot of health issues over the last few years, and at that point he was not doing bad enough to keep him in bed. As a matter of fact, he was the type of person that not only avoided pain medication as long as possible; he never wanted to stop being active doing something, even if only a little welding here and there. The day I first talked with him, he was having a hard time breathing, but he was happy to be doing something he enjoyed.

Faith, Assurance, and Hope

The next few times I saw Joey Armor was in the hospital. It seemed that his body all of a sudden decided to give up, even though he was not willing to. The doctors had hope that he would recover, and for a little while it looked like he would, but it wasn’t long before things began to look dire.

The last few times I saw Brother Joey was when he was at home, a couple of times sitting in his recliner, a couple of times in his bed. On one occasion, I felt compelled to lead Joey through the plan of salvation. Because I had never seen him make a profession of faith, and since I could tell he was nervous about dying, I had to make sure he had an opportunity to accept Christ as his Savior.

Come to find out, Joey had indeed put his faith in Jesus, but he had come to the point where he was scared of what was to come. He had made some mistakes, not been perfect, and now he was facing death head-on. He needed to be reassured God did indeed love him and was faithful, as He always is, even when we are not.

Another time I took a communion kit, and with a deacon from our church I shared with him the elements and together rejoiced in the goodness of our Savior! We talked about Christ’s body and His blood, how each was given for us, and how by taking part in communion we proclaim his death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:24). Even though he could barely swallow anything (he even had a feeding tube inserted into his abdomen), he took the little piece of matzoh and the tiny cup of grape juice and consumed them both. It was a special moment, indeed.

Talking About Home

The last time I saw him before today, the Holy Spirit had placed in my heart the urgent desire to go talk with him about Heaven. Joey new he was going, and he knew it wouldn’t be that long. So, I wanted to go by and encourage him with the facts about the place he was about to see. He asked for his large-print Bible so he could read along with me.

First, I turned to John chapter fourteen:

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also.” – John 14:1-3

These verses deserved a little amplification, and I knew Joey would appreciate it. I focused on the words “mansions” and “place.” Jesus wasn’t telling Peter he would have a four-story house of gold in Heaven; Jesus was telling him not to worry, for even though he’d mess up by soon denying Him, there was already a place in His Father’s house prepared – a room of his own! Compared to here, that room might be a mansion. But how much more wonderful is the promise that God wants us to live in HIS house with HIM forever??

And when it came to the word “place” (τόπος tópos), heaven is more than spirits floating on clouds; it is more than a feeling; it is more than being absorbed into the infinite: Jesus said it is a PLACE! I said, “Just like Chicago or Atlanta, Heaven is a place just like any place on a map down here. It is a place, and you are going there!” 

Next, I turned – we turned – to Revelation 21 and 22. There, within the verses of those chapters we read of a holy city, a heavenly city, that God has prepared for those whose name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Joey listen as I read, awake, but with his eyes closed, resting.

I said, “Well, Joey, I guess it’s about time we get out of here and let you rest.” He nodded.

Then, with weak voice and a slight smile, Joey said,

“I’m looking forward to seeing what my Father has for me.”

Today, around 12 p.m., my brother in Christ, Joey Armor, exhaled one last time, only to inhale for the very first time the celestial air of his new home.

I am glad his family was able to be there. I’m glad I got to see him off.

He’s seeing what his Father has prepared for him, and even more importantly, he’s hugging Jesus.

I’m happy for him!

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, Family, General Observations, Life/Death, salvation

I Love to Tell THE Story (w/Benny Berry)

It was 2012

Back in 2012, I was the pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Lookout Valley, TN. I was there from August of 2008 to October of 2016.

It was a mixed bag of good, bad, joyful, and tragic. During that year I was neck-deep in finishing my master’s degree, driving a school bus, preaching 3 different sermons a week, and dealing with a sick wife. What’s more, things were happening underneath the radar that would nearly destroy my family and cost my youngest daughter her life.

I don’t know why I am telling you this right now, because it has very little to do with what I wanted to do when I sat down. Actually, all I wanted to do was give a little context to a video I was going to link. However, it just seems like the words I’m typing are being guided. Maybe they’re just what’s on my heart and I need to get them off. I don’t know.

While I was pastor at Riverside, some very bad things happened (hopefully, one day, I’ll have the freedom to share more details). But one of the most painful aspects was finding out – at least being accused – that if I had not been spending so much time studying and working I might have been a better and more attentive father… The one making that accusation was evil and simply trying to make excuses for his own actions.

Yet, in some ways, it was true, which is what makes it painful. I was focused on trying to do things FOR the family and missed some critical times WITH the family. Since then, there has been forgiveness, but scars remain. Thankfully, I serve a God who can even work miracles with scars. He has some too, you know.

Like I said, I didn’t plan on writing this, but somebody evidently needs to read it. Your #1 ministry is your family, not your community, your job, or your church. There is no success in life, whether it be earning millions or having the largest congregation, that is worth losing your children to the enemy. Let me help you put things in order:

  1. God (your personal relationship with Jesus and your obedience to the will of God)
  2. Family
    1. Your spouse
    2. Your children
  3. Providing for your family (i.e., career, vocational ministry, etc.)

If you’ll look carefully, there’s a lot NOT on that list. What about hobbies? What about community service? What about politics? What about friends?

Oh, you can have those things, but if they break the above hierarchy of priorities, you’ll one day find yourself face-down in a pillow wet with regret.

But what if you’ve already made mistakes you can’t correct? Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Delight thyself also in the LORD, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him, and he shall bring [it] to pass. – Psalm 37:4-5

Today is a new day and the first day of the rest of your life. The race is not over, so finish well.

His grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9).

Here’s the video I was going to share. It’s still my theme.

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Filed under Family, Relationships and Family

Don’t Get Angry, It’s Just a Comparison

The following was written in 2012, but still very applicable. But before you get mad at me for what you are about to read, it’s only a comparison, not a dogmatic definition of right or wrong. …But I might be more right than wrong.

In Line

Every Tuesday my wife and girls go to Precept Ministries (Kay Arthur) in Chattanooga for Bible study. On some days I go with them and use the time to study. It’s a nice place to study, believe me. However, I am writing this on a computer at Precept while Kay Arthur is talking to someone a few feet away. She is distracting me.

Then, there are other days when my wife and I leave the girls and sneak out to get a biscuit. Today we had to sit in line forever. For jelly biscuits.

Jelly Biscuit – May I insert just one question at this juncture? Why is it you always have to ask for jelly when you order a jelly biscuit? What is it about “jelly biscuit” that confuses people? If I ordered a plain biscuit, I would not expect jelly. But when I order a jelly biscuit, why don’t they assume I want jelly? Why do I always have to ask for it?! Good Grief!

I Hear a Song

It was while we were sitting in line that I heard a song on Christian radio (J103). The song caught my attention because of the lyrics. May I share with you the words from the chorus?

You make me happy…Uhhh
You make me feel the way I do…
You make me happy, Yeah!
I wish the whole world knew you, too! (and then the song ends with a bunch of “la-la-la’s.”)

I started to laugh. Honestly. Was I supposed to be blessed? Encouraged? Uplifted? Edified? Happy?

I know, I know, I know…I know that there are plenty of great, contemporary songs out there. Chris Tomlin, for one, has more than a few. I love several songs from Building 429, Avalon, and the Newsboys. But seriously, why can’t more of them take the subject matter at hand a little more seriously?

I Hear the Past

Some lines from the past need to be heard more often, especially if the best we can come with today is “uhh” and “yeah.”

  • My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righeousness.
  • A mighty fortress is our God, a bullwark never failing.
  • Alas! and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die? Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?
  • I will cherish the old rugged cross.
  • Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise: be thou mine inheritance now and always; be thou and thou only first in my heart; High King of Heaven, my treasure thou art.

Dear Christian song writers, you can do better than “uhh’s” and “yeah’s” and “la la la la.”

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Filed under legalism, music, worship

Jesus Is More than a Crutch!

Last night I was sifting through boxes of stuff in my office and I came across several notebooks in which I’d maintained somewhat of a diary.

I’ll be honest with you, it’s been a pretty difficult time around here, lately. Not only has my faith been tested on an hourly basis, but my own brokenness has been made clear over and over again. When I took a few minutes to flip through the pages of those old notebooks, all from over a decade ago, the truth that my broken condition is chronic became obvious.

But there was one page I found where I had written some encouraging words. However, they weren’t words of affirmation meant to build up my ego or make me feel better about myself; they were attestations to the fact that Jesus is more, so much more, than a crutch to me.

Below is a copy of the text…

You say you don’t need Jesus because you don’t need a crutch. If you don’t think you need him, then maybe you’re crippled to high for crutches.

Jesus is more than a crutch!

Throw away Jesus and take the Devil, but I choose Jesus.

Just think about it:

The Devil tries to burden me down
    -Jesus says, “Cast your cares on me.”

“Forgiven” by Thomas Blackshear

The Devil wants me to sin.
    -Jesus bore my sin.

Satan will try to weaken me.
     -Jesus is my strength.

When Satan fires his arrows at me,
    -Jesus is my Shield.

In the midst of the storm
    -Jesus hides me in his hand.

Satan would see me defeated.
    -Jesus fights my battles.

Satan would have me fall into despair.
    -Jesus lifts me from the pit.

Satan would harm me.
    -Jesus will heal me.

When darkness is all around and Satan would blind me,
    -Jesus is my Light.

When Satan says, “There is no way,”
    -Jesus says, “I AM THE WAY”

When Satan says I’m guilty,
    -Jesus paid my debt.

When the Devil would lead me astray,
    -Jesus is my Shepherd.

When the Devil would watch me fall,
    -Jesus carries me.

“Precious Lord, take my hand. Lead me on, help me stand. I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light:
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.” – Thomas A. Dorsey

He leads; He goes before; He walks beside; He holds me; He carries me; He helps me to stand; He gives me a race to run: He’s so much more than a “crutch” to me.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Depression, Faith, Jesus, worship, writing

Hell, Fire, and Damnation?

Preaching

Have you ever heard of “hell, fire, and damnation preaching”? Or, maybe it should be spelled hell-fire and damnation.” I don’t know. Either way, the meaning is pretty much the same: it’s hardcore, old-fashioned, pulpit-whacking, snot-slinging, hankey-waving, chandelier-swinging preaching that unleashes the fear of righteous judgment. Haaaymen!

Well, that’s really not my style, for the most part. Believe me, I can do my fair share of pulpit banging, but I’m not the type to jump across the stage like the legendary evangelist Billy Sunday. I’m more like the picture of me in the sidebar of this blog; I usually keep both feet on the ground … usually.

That being said, what most people expect out of a Baptist preacher like me when preaching on the subject of Hell is the yelling, spitting, and pulpit banging associated with “hell, fire, and damnation,” not a heartfelt plea with a reasoned argument.

On the other hand, when pleading for the souls of those facing eternal damnation, shouldn’t a man have a right to get emotional?

Jesus Believed

Today (Sunday, 02/02/2020), I preached a sermon on Hell. The title of the sermon was “If Jesus Believed In Hell, So Should We.”

Many people refuse to accept Christianity because of the doctrine of hell. Just the thought of a place of eternal judgment has led some to walk away from the faith, even to judge God as immoral or evil. The thought of a literal Hell was so repugnant to Charles Darwin that he wrote the following:

“Beautiful as is the morality of the New Testament, it can be hardly denied that its perfection depends in part on the interpretation which we now put on metaphors and allegories.

But I was very unwilling to give up my belief… Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all of my friends, will be everlastingly punished.

And this is a damnable doctrine.”― Charles Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809–82

Then there was Bertrand Russell, the philosopher who could not accept Christianity, believe it or not, because of Jesus!

“There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching…” – Bertrand Russell, Why I am not a Christian, 1927

Yes, Jesus DID believe in a literal place where the condemned spend an eternity in torment. Shocking, isn’t it?

So Should We

So, it only stands to reason that if Jesus – the Author and Finisher of our faith, the Word of God made flesh, the Way, the Truth, and the Life – believed and taught that there was a place called Hell, we should believe Him. Are you with me?

Therefore, even though I was in pain and taking meds for a broken and infected molar, and even though my tongue was hurting because I had severely bitten it on the same broken tooth, with all the passion and energy I could muster – but without jumping over anything – I preached what Jesus preached.

Hell is real, and you don’t want to go there.

Click on the picture for a link to the sermon.

Feel free to share your thoughts. 

 

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Filed under Christianity, Future, Life/Death, Preaching, Theology

If Ever I Loved Thee, Tis Now

A Hymn Sermon

One of the greatest hymns, at least one of my favorites, is “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” A few years ago I preached a sermon based on the four verses from this song.

Below is a copy of the simple outline I took to the pulpit. I must admit, it got me a little wound up. (Can I get an “Amen!“)

“My Jesus I Love Thee”

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine; (Jn 21:15-17)
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign; (2 Tim. 2:19)
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou; (Ruth 2:10)
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Regeneration)

I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me, (1 John 4:19)
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree; (1 Peter 1:18-19)
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow; (Mt 27, Mk 15, Jn 19:2)
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Realization)

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death, (Job 13:15)
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath; (Job 33:4)
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow, (Ps. 116:15)

If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Resignation)

In mansions of glory and endless delight, (Jn 14:2)
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright; (Rev 21:23)

I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow, (2 Tim 4:8)
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Revelation)

-William Ralph Featherstone (1864)

Regeneration. As I read the lyrics, I began to see a logical progression through the believer’s life. First, there was the love for Jesus that comes when one is born again – that moment of regeneration, when one is “saved.” The love we have for Christ is evident by our desire to repent of our sin and turn from its “follies.” Along with that, there’s the humble heart that asks, like Ruth, “Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me?”

Realization. The second verse describes a maturing love for our Lord that, over time, gains an appreciation for what Christ actually did to save us. Our love deepens when we begin to realize all those little sins, even the pettiest, caused the sinless Son of God to have to endure unimaginable pain and humiliation, not out of obligation, but because of His love for us. His cross should have been mine, but He loved me first; therefore, I love Him.

Resignation. Thirdly, there’s that place in life when we must ultimately resign everything – our hopes, our dreams, our lives – to the One who ultimately lends us each breath. This deep, trusting love comes from a life that has witnessed the enduring faithfulness of our Savior, leading us to echo the words of Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

Revelation. Then, finally, there will be the place of revelation that will send our love for Christ soaring to infinite heights. We will know as we are known. We will have no more need of faith, for faith shall become sight. We will be eternally overwhelmed by the Love of the ages, forcing us to cry out, “If ever I loved thee, my Jesus tis now!

Just thought I’d share 😉

Sermon: “My Jesus I Love Thee!”

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Faith, God, Love of God, Preaching, salvation, worship

Just Being Honest On Facebook (and now WordPress)

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I had some things to say live on Facebook.

But I do look funny without my glasses.

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Filed under America, Christian Living, Christian Unity, current events, General Observations

I’m Going to Offend Somebody

Offended Anyone?

Have you ever offended anyone? I bet you have. Sooner or later, all of us will. We may say something we don’t mean, act carelessly, or speak the truth without love. Offenses happen.

However, there are times when simple words and phrases will set people off. For example, if you want to rile people up into a tizzy, just get on Facebook or Twitter and post any of the following words (your opinion doesn’t matter):

  1. Image may contain: 8 people, outdoor

    Yes, that’s me in the center kneeling. My dad beside me. We raced Fords. (1987)

    Grits, okra, and turnip greens

  2. Roll Tide! / Go Vols!
  3. “Only two genders”
  4. “It’s only a translation.”
  5. Rapture
  6. First On Race Day (Ford)
  7. Second Amendment
  8. “My kids will never do that.”
  9. “only between a man and a woman”
  10. Donald Trump

Seriously, use any of those words and it won’t take 10 minutes before people are arguing and fighting, calling each other names, questioning each other’s religion, and saying things like, “DON’T JUDGE ME!”

Nevertheless, we should do our best to “live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). It should never be our intent to hurt feelings or make people angry. The apostle Paul instructed us to “follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19).  So, as much as is possible, we should watch what we say, choose our words carefully, and do our best not to offend.

And, when necessary, we should apologize.

The Rock of Offense

On the other hand, there are times when we MUST offend. Sometimes speaking the truth is the only loving thing to do; anything less is an offense to God.

For example, the following words will not make many friends but are guaranteed to generate hate-filled comments from around the troll-dwelling universe. Yet, they must be said!

  • Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man can come unto the Father but by Him (John 14:6).

As a blogger, my words are read all over the world by people who hate the name of Jesus, and when I mention Him they go ballistic. I hate it for them, but how can I remain silent?

Jesus told the followers of John the Baptist,

“…Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. – Luke 7:22-23 

I don’t like offending people, but here’s the thing: if we let the fear of offending silence the Truth, how then can we “follow after the things which make for peace?” There can be no real peace without the Prince of Peace.

So, I guess I’m going to offend somebody.

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Filed under blogging, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, Faith, General Observations, Life Lessons, salvation

Where Do You Go When You Hide?

I was thinking of the words to an old hymn, Hide Thou Me

Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my life in vain,
I’m tempted oft to murmur, to grumble and complain;
But when I think of Jesus and what He’s done for me,
Then I cry, to the Rock of Ages, hide thou me.

There are times when the burdens of life get so heavy; when the struggles get so hard; when no matter what, we still worry; that we have to cry out to Jesus, “Hide me!” Thankfully, He does. Back around 1880 Vernon Charlesworth wrote, “The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide, A Shelter in the time of storm; Secure whatever ill betide, A Shelter in the time of storm.

How different it is for the unbeliever.

Where does the atheist turn when his world is falling apart? When all friends forsake him? When the doctors say, “I’m sorry, but we’ve done all we can do?” When someone sings “The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow,” but he knows he won’t see it?”

Where does the unbeliever hide? In drugs? Alcohol? Meditation? Sex? Nietzsche? Nature (which he believes is nothing more than the product of random chance and void of meaning)?

Scripture (Revelation 6:16) speaks of a day when men who chose to run from the Rock will “cry to the mountains and rocks” to “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne…” Ironic, isn’t it?

Oh, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.”

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Filed under Christian Living, Future, God, music, salvation, the future, Uncategorized, World View, worship

You’re Following a Follower

I Have Followers

The number of followers and subscribers this blog has just amazes me. I mean, no, it’s not a huge number, but still. At least it’s more than the 100 I was trying to reach my first year doing this! And to be sure, I appreciate every one!

But besides the number of people following, the type of people who follow this blog amazes me. For example, it doesn’t shock me to see fellow believers subscribe to my blog, but why all the Muslim, pagan, and atheist followers?  What have I done to cause them to click here?

Seriously, I would love to hear from you. Why did you subscribe? Was it just to get me to visit your website, or are you legitimately interested in what this crazy Baptist preacher has to say?

Was it Mr. Monkey that brought you here? A sermon? A friend who sent you a link? I really want to know.

But I Will Follow

Regardless, I would like to make one thing absolutely clear – I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and for that, I make no apology. I hope everything I write ultimately reflects that fact.

Many times people in the public eye are hesitant to take a stand or draw a line in the sand for fear of public opinion. And, if the truth is known, thanks to my critics, sometimes I have cowered. But this should not be. I should always speak with love and respect to all who may disagree with me, but I should never shy away from biblical truths, even if they are currently politically incorrect.

crossSo, I am glad to have a few followers, and I would love to have more, but I would gladly see them all go away before I deny my Lord and Savior. Jesus said (Mt 16:24; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23) that anyone who would be his servant must “take up his cross” and follow.

I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.

Though no one join me, still I will follow;
Though no one join me, still I will follow;
Though no one join me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.

Sadhu Sundar Singh – Indian Christian missionary

Crosses are not fun, or popular … neither are the ones who carry them.

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