Fresh Start Church Blog
In Mark 4 we read the Parable of the Sower. Jesus tells the multitudes a story about seed landing on four different kinds of ground. When He has finished His Apostles and Disciples ask Him for the interpretation. So He tells them that the “seed” is the Word of God. He says one group of people has impenetrable hearts and minds so as soon as the Word hits them Satan steals it away. The next group has hearts and minds that are hardened, like stony places, and while they hear the Word with joy they can only last a short time because they have no roots with which to hold onto it. Trouble and persecution come to them because they have received the Word (because Satan wants to test their dedication) and they have no staying power to hold on. Another group has hearts and minds full of thorns (like the worries of life, the deceitfulness of wealth and desires for things other than God) and these things take precedence, displacing God’s Word. The final group He talks about is us who are not hard hearted with closed minds, who have worked alongside our spiritual leaders to become stabilized and who realize the necessity of being rooted in our local houses, who are true worshippers placing God first in all things so that we actually have no worries of life or jealousies for other people and things because we’ve learned how to keep our eyes on Jesus, to seek Him and His righteousness above all else, who always have our expectations up for seeing Him keep His kingdom promises of making sure we always have whatever we need for life (natural life) and godliness (spiritual life), Matthew 6.

That’s all pretty clear to any of us who have been around Holy Ghost churches. But there’s a whole lot more to think about because God’s Word is eternal and it never returns to Him empty but always accomplishes what He intends (Isaiah 55:11). Always. Forever. Think about the how effective God’s Word is forever.

You can open an apple and count the seeds it contains, but you cannot count the number of apples contained in one single apple seed. You can open one Word of God and inspect the principle it contains, but you cannot count the number of principles that Word will carry as it works effectively…forever.

We don’t think of each Word God deliveres to us in an eternal time frame, but we need to!

The Parable of the Sower is about the benefits of being a person with a heart pliable to the Holy Spirit and a mind always open to His thoughts. People like this are “good soil” and Jesus guarantees a bountiful harvest for each of God’s Words.

But a harvest of what? Well, certainly a full harvest of the principle communicated by that Word. But also think about this: Just like the uncountable number of apples in a single seed, God’s Word can produce more Word.

If you receive the seed of the Word you will receive a full portion of the principle it contains. Once you become a Tither (for instance) what more can be produced? But, we know for a fact that God’s Word is eternal and once rooted in the heart it will live there forever!

Once you’re a 100% Tither ON EARTH, how much more Tither can you become? And furthermore, when you’re in heaven and perfect, how much more Tither can you become? But the tithing Word is still planted in your heart!

So what else is there that can spring from that one Word? How about more Words? How about that the original Word does its initial thing and produces the crop God designed it to produce AND THEN it mutates to produce MORE WORDS within you that are designed to come OUT of you. Or, how about MORE WORDS in the spirit realm that are expressed as prophecy OVER YOU?

Mark 4:24-25 (NIV) “Consider carefully what you hear,” He continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

Revelation isn’t reasoned (by you) it is perceived (through the spirit world). Be careful what you HEAR (from the spirit world). Use the root structure you develop by exercising Kingdom principles. Commit to doing what the LORD Jesus directs and submit to the processes He has put in place to guide you. Establish yourself in the local church into which He leads you. You’ll know you’re in the right place because everything about it will feel “right” to your spirit (that includes peace and security when you’re among your brothers and sisters, a natural fit with your leaders, a knowing that the Word you hear there will give you abundant life whether it sounds like a “good” idea or a “bad” idea when you first hear it because it’s designed to filter all the way through your natural ears and carnal thinking and penetrate deep into the real you that the Holy Spirit is forming  (Hebrews 4:12).

When Jesus said, “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more” He was still talking about how carefully you consider what you hear from the spirit world. If you measure carefully, being constantly led by the Holy Spirit so you are sharp enough to recognize falsehood even if it is whispered by a demon disguised as an “angel of light,” (II Corinthians 11:14), your soil will receive only good seed.  That good seed will produce everything God has designed it to produce in the near term (that is, “it will be measured to you,” you’ll have a full measure), and will continue to produce the Kingdom in and around you once it achieves its initial purpose (that is, “—and even more”).

But always be on guard, allowing the Holy Spirit to keep your measuring apparatus sharp because Satan is able to craft heresy in alluring terms by measuring in God’s truth with his falsehood. You have spiritual apparatus with which to measure God’s truth against Satan’s and the World’s falsehood that was built into your spirit. You shouldn’t be surprised that Satan and the evil spirits who followed him have the same spiritual ability, and they use their apparati to carefully measure YOU! That’s what II Peter and Jude warn us about.

Look for revelation and learn how to measure carefully! “Whoever does not have” (a Holy Ghost sharpened measuring apparatus) will lose Kingdom things they have gained! Liking the wrong revelation will cost you relationships with God, your leaders, your community of believers, the people who love you, the natural things God has given you, and on and on. I know what I’m talking about. As a staff minister at Dove Ministries and an Elder at Fresh Start I’ve watched people throw everything good away, often in the order I’ve just listed, because they wanted to believe that the apple being dangled before them was “good for food and pleasant to the eyes, that it was desired to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6). Like Jesus said, “there is only one good, and that is God” (Matthew 19:17).

Learn to make God your first test for a revelation. Wait on Him to inspire you if you must, don’t move forward with anything until your Holy Spirit measurer gives you the green light. Remember that God doesn’t regard time because everything is “now” to Him, so wait patiently for the now of this moment, then the now of the next moment. He will secure your heart and your mind in every “now” that you spend in His presence, so learn to live there!

The fertile ground of the Kingdom yields crops by itself. God gave the Israelites a “land of milk and honey,” a land they didn’t have to work for to enjoy, not a land of grain and livestock they had to toil in. You cannot work for your place in God’s Kingdom. Jesus has already done that. Now you can relax and work from your Kingdom position. Learn to hold steady in that Kingdom position by the Holy Spirit and the Word!

Revelation comes from a well-planted seed GROWN and SHOWN by the Holy Spirit. Our job is to take heed what is planted and where and when. Our job is to see that ALL the Word sown to us is received 100%. And here’s some really good news:  since God’s Word is planted in our spirit there is plenty of room for ALL Words the Holy Spirit sows because our spirits are eternal. That’s why each seed embraced fully will produce now and continue to produce forever!

So get all the Word you can! Don’t give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing (Hebrews 10:25). I’ve always told my pastor that I can’t imagine missing church because church is where the preacher studies and prays and works out a message with the Holy Spirit just for me. Without church I’d have to do all that work for myself! 

Be the one who has because “whoever has will be given more”!!

Romans 1:17 (NLT) This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

In Romans 1 Paul is writing to people he longs to visit, telling them that he thanks God for all of them because “your faith in Jesus Christ is being talked about all over the world” v. 8. Imagine what a witness the Roman Christians were that people all over the known world would be talking about them! Imagine what a witness we all could be if people all over our known world were talking about us that way. They can, and they should! But what was it about the Roman Christians that was so remarkable? A brief scan of commentaries shows us that the members of Christ’s Body at Rome were a diverse lot; all levels of society, learned and unlearned, rich and poor, the political class, the merchant class, and the working class were represented. So it wasn’t “who” they were that attracted so much attention.

If it wasn’t “who” they were, was it what they had that made people around them take notice? What could they all have as a group that was so extraordinary? It couldn’t be material things because, as I mentioned above, they were a very diverse but well integrated group. There were working people, trades people, merchants, politicians, philosophers, teachers, even family members of Caesar’s household. What was the “magic”? What “thing” did they all have that made them stand out to everyone around them, so much so that when people traveled to all the points of the known world they remarked about “those Christians in Rome”?

This needed some investigation so I went back to the Old Testament passage Paul quoted in verse 17. The scriptural reference Paul uses in his letter is:

Habakkuk 2:4 (NASB) Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.

These phrases caught my eye:  “But the righteous will live by his faith,” and “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” So I started thinking maybe it was their faith that made everyone notice the Roman Christians. But that didn’t make any sense. You can’t tell just by looking at someone if he has faith or not, not when he’s just walking down the street past you, not when he’s teaching a group of students, not when he’s making a point in the Roman Senate, not if he’s buying something in your shop, not if you just glimpse him pouring Caesar his wine. It had to be something else all the Roman Christians had in common.

So I looked again at Paul’s statement and his scriptural reference,  “But the righteous will live by his faith,”  “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” 

If not “faith” then, what else is common to the two statements? It is LIFE. That’s what everyone who just looked at the Roman Christians could see. They could see LIFE shining in them and on them and through them! It was the kind of life that non-Christians noticed enough to talk about. They noticed it because they didn’t have it.

Well, WHY didn’t they have it? So I went back to Paul’s statement and his scriptural reference again, to see what else was common to the two:  “But the righteous will live by his faith,” “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” And there’s the answer:  LIFE belongs only to the RIGHTEOUS.

But not just any “life” because if you’re walking around noticing something radiating from a Christian you’re certainly alive, so what’s the difference between your “life” and the Christian’s “LIFE”? Of course it’s righteousness. Let’s look at that word for a moment. Paul’s letter to the Romans was written in Greek, so I went to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. The Greek word translated “righteousness” in Romans 1:17 is “dikaios” meaning “correct, righteous, by implication innocent.” Strong’s Short Definition is “just, righteous, impartial.” The full definition is "just; especially, just in the eyes of God; righteous; the elect (a Jewish idea).”

In looking at this I realized that we believers have put the Christian slant on the word “righteous.” We assume it to mean “right standing with God;” we define it that way from our pulpits. This is a correct interpretation for us because the root of that tradition goes all the way back to Jewish thinking about the scriptural use of the word since they associated “righteousness” with “election by God.”

But the Greek word really just means “correct” or “innocent.” That’s what unbelievers mean when they use the word "righteousness," especially when they’re arguing about what they call “good people,” like Gandhi and Mother Theresa. And I realized that people can be righteous by the World’s definition in and of themselves, but they have no power of their own to obtain spiritual life, the kind of life that they should (they must) be able to see radiating within us.

The greater LIFE that had all the known world talking back in Paul’s day only comes by righteousness through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So you can be righteous according to the World’s definition. You can be “correct” and “innocent.” Judging by the examples they throw out though, it takes an inordinate amount of work and personal sacrifice. No doubt this is more than the arguing person knows he has the capacity to expend (which is why he chooses Gandhi or Mother Theresa as his example of righteousness instead of himself). And when they make this argument to us (to me, at least…I’ve heard it many times), it’s clear that they don’t believe they’re able to pull it off. They really do understand that their own “correctness” or “innocence” (i.e. righteousness) cannot assure them spiritual life. So they say things like, “Well, I’ve never killed anyone,” or “Well I try to live a good life.” And they hope for the best.

That’s my very favorite part of discussions like this with people who are not born again, because it’s the perfect opening to ask them, “How can you be sure that the good life you’re trying to live is good enough?” Now the door is open to present the simple Gospel of Salvation and assure them that through that gospel they can begin to learn the Gospel of the Kingdom (the gospel Jesus always preached) which teaches everyone: rich or poor, educated or uneducated, young or old, highborn or lowborn, worker, politician, teacher, ruler, …absolutely everyone, that they all can have LIFE, and have it abundantly!

Open Our Hearts

Written by February 25 th.
I was reading over the church Prayer Warriors list for this week and was struck by the scripture verse the Warriors are standing on:

Acts 16:14 (ERV) There was a woman there named Lydia from the city of Thyatira.  Her job was selling purple cloth. She was a worshiper of the true God. Lydia was listening to Paul, and the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying.

Lydia was listening to what the Spirit was saying through Paul, but apparently she needed help hearing. In the Kingdom listening is passive, not requiring anything of us but our attention to the words being spoken at the moment. But when the words being spoken are inspired by the Lord, Jesus tells us not just to listen, but also to hear, so hearing in our Kingdom becomes an action requiring a lot more than listening.

Jesus repeats His admonition about actually listening to what we hear a number of times, but the connection the Lord was trying to make in Lydia between listening and hearing is made particularly clear in Matthew, “…IF you are willing to accept it…Whoever has ears, let them hear” (11:14-15). This verse defines hearing in the Kingdom as an active collaboration between the Holy Spirit and us. 

We have to recognize that the ministry of the Word falls under God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11, that everything He does for us is always and only for our good. To actually obtain that good we have to embrace what we are listening to wholeheartedly and without prejudice. That can be a very hard thing to do sometimes. 

Kingdom things we listen to are always meant to change us more and more into the likeness of Jesus our Bridegroom. Paul tells us, “Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). Think about this:  If we’re not supposed to be unequally yoked with someone for the sake of righteousness, so is Jesus! I realize that Paul’s statement is a black and white issue, believers vs. unbelievers. But, if you are not completely in agreement with Jesus over some facet of your self, doesn’t that make you an unbeliever in that area? Are you NOT fellowshipping with Jesus in that area? What about His command to love God with your whole heart, whole soul, whole mind and strength? So giving up a part of your “old self” can be hard, but with the Lord’s help it’s not impossible!

The trick to allowing the Lord to open your heart (as He did Lydia’s) is deciding in advance to accept the ministry of the Word and sticking to that decision. When you do that, you’re not being “double minded” as James calls it.

James 1:5-8 (NIV) If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

When you decide to accept what you are listening to, no matter what, you’re really asking God for His wisdom to apply to your life. As James tells us God will impart that wisdom, in advance, without reservation. We all know from reading Proverbs that wisdom is stability for our souls and direction for our lives; it is the prime ingredient we need for changing us so we become more like Jesus.

When we stick to our decision to accept what we are listening to, in advance and without prejudice, we are committing to being active hearers of the Word not just passive listeners, because we are inviting the Lord to open our hearts to hear what the Word is saying TO us and working to become IN us. 

The Lord was able to open Lydia’s heart to accept what Paul was saying because as that verse tells us, Lydia was a WORSHIPPER of the true God, not just a listener of His servant Paul. Lydia was obviously committed to the wisdom hidden in the Word because she recognized that it came from heaven and not from earth. She saw the Kingdom person she could become through her spiritual eyes, and decided she would much rather fellowship with our righteous Jesus in His freedom than be imprisoned in the World by any remnant of unbelief attached to her old self.

I’ve received a miracle, one I can document, and I want to share it with you because I know it’s just the tip of the iceberg for us here in Northern Michigan.

About six years ago some jewelry designer came out with a golden circle set entirely with little diamonds. Jewelry isn’t something I desire any more because I’ve got plenty, but there was something about this piece that really caught my eye. I dismissed it; it wasn’t something I’d buy for myself, and not something I’d ask my husband for, either. But I never quite forgot about it. Then months later, on Valentine’s Day, Tom gifted me with something even better. It was a heart, a lot like those circles I had so admired, set all around with diamonds! I couldn’t believe it! Had Tom read my mind? I had never said a thing about it, never even mentioned the circles! I knew then that the circle was a desire the Lord had impressed upon my heart because I have made Him my delight (Psalm 37:4). I’m pretty sure I even testified to this in church.

So I started wearing that little heart all the time, but I found that I was limited to what I could wear it on because the bale was so small. The bale is the little loop that makes a pendant hang on a chain. The next time I was near the jeweler who sold Tom the pendant I took the heart in to him and had him replace the small bale with a much larger one to accommodate more and different necklaces. While we were discussing the job he suggested that because the heart itself was set entirely with diamonds it might look great if I had him set the front of the bale with diamonds, too. He quoted me a price and I agreed. When the job was complete I picked it up and he was right. The bale looked great set with diamonds, and now I had a truly unique piece. There wasn’t another like it anywhere in the world because of the custom bale.

Later that year Tom and I joined some friends on an Alaskan cruise, and naturally I took my precious heart pendant along to wear with several different chains. Our stateroom closet had a safe and I always kept the jewelry I wasn’t wearing locked up, along with our passports and wallets. One day I noticed that the jewelry roll I kept my things in had come undone, but didn’t think much about it. I simply rolled it back up and closed the safe. For whatever reason, I didn’t wear my heart pendant again while on the ship.

When I got home, I went to put my jewelry away, and noticed that my heart pendant wasn’t in the jewelry roll, and then I tried to remember the last time I had worn it. I thought and thought about it, but no specific incident came to mind, and then I started to wonder if I had even taken the pendant with me at all. I carefully went through the jewelry roll again and found no heart pendant. I went through all my other things, too, my cosmetic case, my computer case, everything I had taken on the cruise, but no heart pendant turned up. So I thought that maybe I hadn’t take it along at all, and the next chance I had I went to the safety deposit box at the bank where I keep most of my jewelry and methodically went through it, finding no heart pendant.

THEN I remembered the incident with the safe on the cruise boat, when the jewelry roll had come undone and my heart sank. Oh no! My little heart pendant must have slipped out of a pocket in the roll and I had left it aboard. What are the chances of ever getting it returned from the cruise line? Slim and none.

That was back in 2009. Later that year I was listening to a sermon by Rev. Bill Johnson from Reading, CA. He was preaching on God’s goodness, and in it he testified that God was returning lost items to people in his church for no other apparent reason than to show them His goodness. In a later sermon on the same topic he mentioned that he had been getting all kinds of testimonies from people who had heard his first sermon and turned to the Lord for the return of something they had lost. Testimonies ranged from a briefcase, to a pocketknife, to money and several other things if I remember correctly.

Well, I thought, since God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, if He’ll return lost items to those people out of sheer goodness, He’ll return my one-of-a-kind heart pendant to me! So I asked Him, “Father, please, please would you return my heart pendant? It means so much to me, and You know where it is. May I please have it back?”

But I didn’t get it back.

But I never really forgot about it, either, and every once in a while (when I remembered it) I would ask Father again, “May I please have it back?”

I’m writing this blog from Asheville, NC, where Tom has a business meeting. I’m usually a very organized person about packing for a trip. I check the weather where we’ll be, I get a copy of Tom’s schedule to find out what kind of events he’ll expect me to attend with him, I think about what I should take for those special events and for everyday wear. Not for this trip, though, because I had a wild week last week. Tom had his 70th birthday, and we celebrated with a dinner party for twelve people that I prepared myself. It took me three days to cook and another three days afterward to clean up and put all the dishes, silverware, and linens away. My friend Chris is at home, watching our dogs and she probably wonders why the dining room table is so big and there are all those extra chairs sitting around. Between cooking, cleaning, and leaving for this trip, there was no time to plan for packing.

The day we left I got out my BIG suitcase, threw a bunch of clothes into it that I knew would work, and at the last minute remembered I needed to take at least SOME jewelry along because Tom has a special event tonight that I’ve got to dress up for. Luckily I had my jewelry at home instead of at the bank because we had just returned the week before from another meeting in Boston, which had a couple of special events that I needed to dress for, and given all the birthday preparations I hadn’t had time to return it to the bank.

I had taken a gold pendant with an aquamarine drop to the Boston meeting and thought, “That will work fine for Asheville, too,” so I got out the box I keep it in, and picked it out of the other things in the box. The box is black velvet, about 3 by 6 inches,  and holds several different pendants. It’s easy to see what’s in the box.

As I moved the gold and aquamarine pendant out of the box, the sun was shining through the window, hitting the box, and there, reflecting the sunlight like crazy, was my one-of-a-kind diamond heart pendant! The exact, same pendant I had lost four years ago on the cruise ship! The diamond heart pendant that was NOT in that box two weeks ago when I removed the gold and aqua pendant for Boston, the diamond heart pendant that was NOT in that box when I got back from Boston and put the aqua pendant back!

“Oh, Father! You put it back! You brought it back to me!” I said through tears. Amazing! I’m wearing it now, and every time I look at it I remember His goodness and thank Him, not for returning my pendant but because He is so good He will do anything just to make us happy so He can rejoice with us.

That’s His point in wanting relationship with us, so He can do everything WITH us. Isn’t that what Philippians 4:13 really means? We love to quote this scripture when we’re facing a trial, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” But this scripture doesn’t say, “I can do all HARD things through Christ Who strengthens me,” it says ALL things. That’s what Paul was saying in different words in Acts 17:28 (NIV) “For in Him we live and move and have our being.”

Here’s something the Lord said to me at one of our recent Deeper meetings, “Stop trying to do it yourself, stop waiting for Me to do it for you. Start thinking WE.” We’re real idiots when we try to do things by ourselves, we all know that. But, have you realized that He has already come here 2000 years ago and done everything He’s going to do FOR us, so stop waiting around for Him to do it for you. Now, He’s living in us by His Holy Spirit and He wants to do absolutely everything WITH us! He wants to live with us, move with us, and be everything with us and through us.

In II Chronicles 5 we have the account of the Ark being brought into Solomon’s Temple. This is a prophetic picture of what we, as The Church, can expect today, of how God longs to use His Church to draw all the nations in during the Last Days Harvest. The Ark wasn’t a symbol of God’s presence, it WAS God’s presence back then. The Ark, God’s presence, was brought into the Temple by the priests and set down in the inner sanctuary, and the priests withdrew from the Holy Place and came back out where the people were.  The presence was in the Temple and everything was going on normally among the people. UNTIL the worshippers “joined IN UNISON to give praise and thanks to the Lord,” saying, “He is good; His love endures forever.”

When they were declaring His goodness as one “the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.”

God wants us to worship Him because He is good, and all men “will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days” (Hosea 3:5, NASB). God doesn’t need our worship, He teaches us to worship Him because He knows we become like what we worship. He is the ONLY good (said Jesus, Mark 10:18), and it is His goodness that changes men’s minds (Romans 2:4), so it is His goodness flowing out of us that is His true goal in worship.

People become like what they worship. I’ve got a friend, a computer scientist like I am, who is not born again, and is dedicated to the empirical method. He approaches everything logically (even God, which he hasn’t been able to prove or disprove logically). He “worships” logic and he has become very logical. That’s OK, it’s a great paradigm to live by. It’s what I did when I was trying to find my one-of-a-kind heart pendant. I applied logic; I searched everything I had taken on the cruise. I extended my search to include my usual jewelry drawer and then the safety deposit box at the bank. Several times.

Once the logical method has been exhausted people doing it alone can reach a dead end. But, people who know God can watch Him do the illogical, the impossible. People who know God can push beyond the envelope of the natural and see how Ephesians 6:13 works to bring heaven to earth. That’s the scripture about doing everything to stand and then standing.

That’s what I did. I did everything in the natural, I searched high and low, I proved the pendant was lost. And then I stood, not on the lost pendant, but on the goodness of my Father Who is able to do above and beyond anything I could ask or even think. It was only a little heart pendant, but He had put the desire for it within me, He had convinced Tom to buy it for me without my ever even mentioning it, He had directed me to replace the bale making it one-of-a-kind, He had been there when I lost it on the cruise ship, and He heard me ask for its return. And He brought it back to me. All because He is good, and His love endures forever.

I’ve kept track of the progress of the people in California who first heard the testimony of the returned item, who faithfully followed their pastor’s example and asked Father to return items they had lost. I’ve listened to those testimonies and applied them to my own life. Four years later I’ve received the miraculous return of something dear to me that I lost, and now I’m passing this testimony along to all of you to do with as you will. My Father is your Father, too. What He has done for me He is longing to do for you; not just longing to return things to you, He is longing to show you His goodness so that you may become good like He is and demonstrate His goodness (and His miracles!) to people around you.

Anyone out there who takes a similar step of faith and has a lost item returned by the Lord, be sure to drop me an email testimony. Testimonies are like little gifts of faith wrapped up in pretty packages. They encourage people who receive them to let their own faith increase to the point where they can also “win the victory…(by) the word of THEIR testimony,” and so the goodness of God is proclaimed abroad and men’s minds are changed.


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