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Archive | From the Pulpit

Getting over your past

Cedar-Christian-ChurchPastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church
340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

 

The world often emphasizes that what has happened to you in the past is the determining factor for the direction of your future. If you came from a broken home, a home of alcoholism or drugs, that these factors will determine the future of your life. We are told if we had abusive parents, or we found ourselves in trouble with authorities as a youth, that these conditions and actions will decide our future as we struggle to deal with our past.

But we, as Believers, those who have been redeemed by the blood of the precious Lamb, live in liberty and freedom from the conditions of our past because Jesus Christ through His sacrifice has overcome our past (2 Corinthians 5:17). Meaning that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.

Salvation in our lives means that in the eyes of God the sins we have committed have been completely wiped away. Our once stained garments have become a righteous robe of fine white linen.  This tremendous gift of salvation, God has given us through His Son Jesus Christ is so powerful that all our sins are completely removed from the memory and knowledge of our Creator. Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.

We are not able to wipe away the memories of our past as God does, but we are not to be controlled or motivated by the sins or conditions of our past as we are a new person in Christ and our future is filled with hope in Him.

The eyes of the world focus on overcoming situations. We as Believers need to focus on what we are becoming. As we follow Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives we are being conformed to the image of Christ. In Christ as the Holy Spirit works in our lives; all hurts, injustices, pain and abuses of our past will eventually be addressed, healed and comforted by our Lord. What a wonderful blessing this is. As we now walk in Christ our future shines so bright and is full of hope, richness and the excitement. Living a life that has been redeemed is far greater than anything that happened in our past.

If you have problems dealing with and overcoming your past, simply pray and ask the Lord to open your eyes so that you may be able to see the wonderful and incredible future that lies in front of you, here in this life and the life to come. May your vision of your future be transformed and be as Paul’s as he wrote Philippians 3:13 Brothers and sisters, I know that I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and pressing on toward what is ahead.

 

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In the process of being prepared

Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

 

The writer of the bible book of Ecclesiastes expresses this very thoughtful statement “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV – New International Version). Then he lists a variety of comparative times, such as a time to be born and a time to die, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to be silent and a time to speak, etc.

This points us to one of the constants in life is that time changes things. Yet a more important aspect of change is that God will change lives. How does God change us? How does this process of change happen?

You may have seen a change in your neighbor, or your boss or son or daughter that you’ve thought to yourself, “There’s something up.” Yes there is! In the New Testament, the apostle Paul tells us how this will affect the born again Christian, as he writes “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2nd Corinthians 5:17, NIV).   Old things are passed away and all things are become new.

Some may be thinking, “Well, that’s ok for those who don’t have much changing to do, but you don’t know about me, about my past and what is going on now.” And you are right, I don’t know, but God does know. What I do know is what the Bible says and my experience in my own life, and I’ve seen what God has done in the life of others.

There were some things in my life, struggles that I thought I would live with the rest of my life, because there’s just no way out of them, no way it could change. I thought, “There is no way I can ever make that happen.” My response of choice was that “that’s just the way I am.”

God doesn’t take that as an answer; he didn’t say “Oh, that’s the way you are, then let’s just work on other areas of your life.” No, God doesn’t work that way. He has not only changed those things I thought were hopeless, but he also transformed my thinking and my character and he isn’t finished yet.

Scripture says, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, NIV).

Something we must remember is that when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we don’t just kick back and think that God does everything, as in “if I don’t transform, then it’s God’s fault.” Nor should we think, “it’s all up to me to change, I’ve got to work and do it all on my own.”

Accepting Jesus Christ and believing on him as our Lord is a decision that we each must make for ourselves.  But what the Bible teaches about sanctification is that it is being set apart for God’s purpose, is that there is a God part and there is an our part. Paul wrote “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2nd Corinthians 7:1).

God’s part is his power. Our part is our cooperation. We cooperate in this process of change but God’s power through his Holy Spirit controls the process. It is God’s Spirit in us that does the changing and we do the cooperating. God wants us to become new, and if we miss this, we will miss out on what God intends us to be. No, Christians are not perfect, at least not while we are still on this earth. But we are cooperating with God as he works at making us what he wants us to be.

 

Be sure to attend the church of your choice.

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I want to see

TheSpringsPastor Barry Briggs

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant, Cedar Springs

 

How is your eyesight? Good, I hope. Recently my seven-year-old daughter, Ember, poked her eye with a hanger. I will spare you the details but, as you can imagine, her mother and I were very scared as we raced her to the emergency room. Although the injury could have been severe, she is fortunate and her eye is going to heal completely.

In Mark chapter 10, Jesus and His disciples were heading to Jerusalem and, along the way, they entered the town of Jericho. Alongside the road was a blind man named Bartimaeus who cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” When Jesus heard him, He called Bartimaeus over and asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”  The blind man answered, “Rabbi, I want to see.” In that moment, Jesus healed him and “immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road” (Mark 10:47, 51, 52 NIV).

In the Bible, blindness is a powerful metaphor for what is wrong with us spiritually.  In the Gospels, blindness is never just physical, but spiritual as well. Earlier, in Mark chapter 8, Jesus asked the disciples, “Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?…Do you still not understand?” (Mark 8:18, 21 NIV)

Paul says in Ephesians 1:18-19a (NIV), “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.”

What does he mean when he says, eyes of your heart? When you were born God, gave you five senses—hearing, taste, touch, smell and sight. Everything you learn in life comes through the five senses. If you don’t have those, you don’t experience anything. That’s when you’re physically born.

When you’re spiritually born again, when you are reborn into God’s family, when you develop a relationship with Jesus Christ, God gives you a second set of senses and suddenly you get spiritual ears to hear some things that you never heard before. And you get spiritual eyes and you start to see some things about life you didn’t see before. And you begin to feel some things that you didn’t feel before. These are the eyes of your heart, the spiritual senses.

So how do I get these senses? How do I get the eyes of my heart opened? You must begin a relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s the starting point. Until you begin that relationship, you’re spiritually blind.  You can only see things from a human viewpoint. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV) “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” That’s why Jesus says in John 3:3 (NIV) “I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

You can be born again and begin a relationship with Christ today by asking God in faith to open your eyes. Pray the prayer that Bartimaeus prayed, “Jesus, I want to see!” If you do, you will begin to see life more clearly than you ever have before.

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Common Ground

Pastor Robert Eckert Pastor 

Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church

10295 Myers Lake Ave., Rockford

 

 

“Let integrity and virtue guard me” (Psalm 25:21a, Common English Bible).

This space that the Post so generously offers to area clergy each week is not intended to be a forum for political discussion. It’s difficult, however, perhaps even impossible, to fully separate matters of faith from politics, especially with so much of our attention focused on Washington in the past few weeks as matters of budget and finance brought things to a standstill—for many of us, quite literally.

The fact is that much of what we say and do as expressions of our spirituality are intertwined with our relationships with government. Sometimes as a critical resource, sometimes as a bothersome obstacle, government is part of the landscape as much as family, friends, traditions, jobs, education, everything. So I think there are certain characteristics it is fair and reasonable for people of faith to expect from government, even to demand from government. And, more importantly, whether present or absent in government, they are characteristics that need to be honored and demonstrated in daily life.

For my part, I see the threat and reality of shutting down the government as a breach of integrity. Passing laws is a nation’s way of giving its word. Among the laws of this land are those that identify priorities for the common good and commit to providing the means for pursuing agreed upon priorities. When access to those means is denied, the nation’s word has been broken.

The bill from last week that raised the national debt ceiling for another 90 days set up budget negotiations between the GOP-led House and Democratic-led Senate intended to reach a broader agreement on funding the government. Both Rep. Paul Ryan (R) and Sen. Patty Murray (D), chairs of the two legislatives houses’ budget committees, spoke of the need to find “common ground.” I would suggest that they begin by determining whether they are willing to occupy a plat of integrity together.

Heck, if world religions with all their differences and points of contention can find such common ground, is it too much to ask of politicians? Hebrew scripture offers as an example of blameless living the one “who keeps an oath even when it hurts.” The Qur’an admonishes, “O you who believe! Fulfill your obligations.” A Buddhist blogger writes, “[H]onesty and integrity are essential components of the good life.” And the Christian Testament quotes Jesus calling for simple, dependable, transparent adherence to moral and ethical principles: “Let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no.’ Anything more than this comes from the evil one.”

Let’s set an example for our elected leaders. Let’s not shut down the means to fulfilling our priorities for the common good. Let’s keep our oaths, fulfill our obligations, and pursue the good life. Let’s let our “yes” mean “yes” and our “no” mean “no.” Maybe those to whom we’ve entrusted responsibility for so much that directly affects our hopes and dreams will notice. Maybe they’ll get it. Maybe they’ll see what common ground looks like.

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A Model For Prayer

Pastor Jim Alblas

Pioneer Christian Reformed Church
Cedarfield Community Center

3592 17 Mile Rd., Cedar Springs

 

Sometimes people will ask me for tips on how to pray. They want to know what to say when they spend time with God. In those times, I tend to point them in the direction of The Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2-4), a prayer of confession (Psalm 32), a prayer of praise (Psalm 27) or to simply model the prayers of other people they hear in church. But recently I’ve discovered another model for prayer from Psalm 3 that I think is helpful. I have named this model the STAR Prayer; each letter corresponds to four things David does in his time with God.

First, David shares what’s on his heart. O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Sadly, his own son and his army were chasing after David. But rather than keeping it inside, David shared his burden with the Lord. And that’s where we get the S, in the STAR prayer. One way you can begin your time with God is S, Share what’s on your heart. Maybe you’re happy, maybe you’re sad. Don’t bottle it up; share it with God. God already knows what’s going on, but often it’s helpful to unload.
The second thing David does is express his confidence in God. David says: Many are saying of me, God will not deliver him, but you are a shield around me, O Lord. David had been around God long enough to know He had his back. David knew that from his battles against the Philistines, Moabites, Edomites, Ammonites, not to mention ol Goliath back when he was a kid. And this is where we get the T in the STAR Prayer. In your time with God, express your T, Trust in God. Tell God that you know He’s with you and list past examples of His faithfulness to justify your trust. God loves to hear it when we express our trust in Him.

The third thing David does is call God into action. David says: Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! He knew God was his willing advocate and so he called Him into action. And that’s where we get the A in the Star Prayer. A third thing we can do is A, Appeal for God to move on our behalf. So list your needs and ask God to move, list your blessings and ask God to send more!
Finally, David ends his time with God by thinking of others. He says: May your blessing be on your people. David knows that he’s not the only one with troubles and so he prays for others. That’s where we get the R; one way to end your time with God is to R, Remember others. Ask the Lord to help them in their needs, just as He has helped you.
The Star Prayer is not the only model out there, but one that I hope can be helpful for you.

 

 

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A Special October celebration

Pastor Darryl Miller  

Sand Lake UMC

65 W. Maple, Sand Lake

South Ensley UMC 

13600 Cypress, Ensley Township

 

This month we have a very special day to celebrate. No, I don’t mean Halloween! In October we celebrate the “Children’s Sabbath,” a time to recognize and celebrate our kids as the gift from God that they are. There has been a lot of dispute over the role of children in some churches and how to keep them involved. The old axiom that “Children are the future of the church” is no longer the truth. The real truth is that children are our church. They are here now and are a wonderful part of celebrating our faith. We are instructed several times in God’s word to pass on our faith to each generation. Paul celebrates Timothy’s faith being passed down from Grandmother to Mother to Timothy (2 Timothy 1).

I have personally seen the gruffest man ever smile at the happiness and enthusiasm of a child. They are happy, and eager to learn. It seems to me that we could learn something from them. What would our celebrations of faith look like if we were to be as enthusiastic as a child? Willing to sing and celebrate? Too often I feel that we don’t celebrate our faith enough; it sometimes seems to be a task instead of a joyous celebration. I’ve seen a child have fun for hours with nothing but an empty cardboard box. Shouldn’t we be even happier with a risen Savior? Just something to think about! May God bless your hearts and homes with the joy of a happy child!

 

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Being a guide and having a guide

Pastor Chad Hampton

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma, Cedar Springs (just north of 19 Mile)

Huntin The Truth Ministries

www.huntinthetruth.org

Solon-Center-Wes

 

The first day of October marks an extra exciting season in the life of a select group of people: deer hunters. This day marks the opening of archery deer hunting season. This time of year brings the excitement and anticipation of hopefully harvesting those deer that you have been watching on your trail cameras, dreaming of, and talking to other hunters about the entire year. This is not to mention seeing pictures of some of the nice bucks being harvested by our youth during the early youth hunt that builds the excitement! Speaking of youth, for a ministry I’ve founded called “Huntin the Truth Ministries,” this also brings the excitement of having the privilege and opportunity to fulfill our mission. We take youth and physically challenged men and women out into the fields to hunt those deer and use the opportunity to share the love of Jesus Christ with them and help guide these men and women spiritually as they also “hunt” the plan that God has for their lives.

This year as I pondered the great memories we will make hunting and guiding other hunters, I began thinking about how God is providing for a new chapter when it comes to my family life and ministry. Even though I have been in ministry for 15 years, hunting for almost 25 years, and approaching my middle-aged years of life, this will be a season I have never been through before. Even though I have security of knowing that God is in control at every new season that life brings, I know that God uses people in our lives to help guide us along each journey, much like we do with the youth in our ministry during hunting season.We teach them where and how to hunt, how to use their weapons, and sometimes warn them of the dangers of what lies ahead based on the hard lessons we have learned from our successes and our failures. I began to realize that although I guide others and have gained experience from the years I have lived on this earth, I also need a guide, or a mentor, who God will use to lead me through this new phase in life.  I need a wise person with experience in this stage who will educate me on the ups and downs that occurred throughout a past season of his/her life.

The Bible actually tells us that even if we are wise, we will seek out and listen to more wisdom!  Proverbs 9:9 says, “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: Teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” We see in Proverbs chapter 1 that Solomon declared that he wrote the Proverbs “That the wise man may hear, and increase in learning: And that the man of understanding may attain unto sound counsels.” Solomon, who God blessed with greater wisdom than anyone of his day, also had his share of failures even though he had wisdom to that degree. He is trying to teach us a great lesson from his life: Even though you might have much wisdom and experience, you always need more.

I began to realize this year—more so than ever—that our entire lives are cycles of seasons that we have never been through before. Whether you are a young boy or girl just entering junior high school, a young man or women who is entering a new marriage or having children, a middle-aged man or woman who is experiencing the empty nest, or a man or woman approaching retirement, these are all fresh stages in life; these are times we can navigate through easier with the wisdom and direction of someone who has already been through your current season.

So, let me ask you: Do you have a guide or mentor in your life who God could use to help guide you through this current season of your life and the seasons ahead? Regardless of our age, we have never been through our current stage of life, and I would recommend seeking God on whom that person or persons would be to help guide you! Furthermore, if you have never been a mentor to another person, I would recommend that you seek God and your church leaders concerning who you could mentor through times you have already experienced. God bless you, and if you’re a hunter, God bless your hunting!

 

 

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“Finding” Jesus

cs-united-methodistPastor Mary Ivanov

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St. Cedar Springs, MI  49319

 

Read John 1: 29-50

 

“Mom, can you help me find Jesus?” My young son asked from the other room.  I was a bit shocked and confused until I investigated and saw that he was doing a word search and needed some help. “Sure,” I said, and proceeded to help him find a “J” and go from there.

My son was content once he had figured out where “Jesus” was. But his simple, yet very profound question struck me and stayed with me. The witness of John the Baptist and the first disciples came to mind and then many who came after them to tell the Good News of Jesus. I wouldn’t know Jesus as my Lord and Savior if others hadn’t helped me “find” Jesus along the way. My parents understood their responsibility to nurture me in the faith by their own witness, but they also knew that they needed the support and help of the Body of Christ. They couldn’t do it by themselves. I was baptized, and the congregation promised to support me and nurture me along with my parents.

And they fulfilled their promise. They prayed for me. They served as Sunday School teachers, Youth Group leaders, and music ministry leaders. They were encouragers.  They affirmed God’s gifts in me and helped me to accept God’s grace for myself. When I confirmed God’s claim on my life as a teenager, the congregation witnessed that holy moment and celebrated with me. As I continued to discern God’s call, they encouraged me and kept on praying for me.

Yes, a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ is absolutely vital for salvation. But it doesn’t end there. We need to be in community with each other to nurture our faith as we live it out every day. We need to be with real people who struggle with real issues just like we do. We have to be willing to share with each other, be vulnerable, and be aware of others’ needs. We pray for each other and encourage each other.

I don’t believe that Jesus is ever hiding from us, but sometimes it feels like we have to “find” him. And so there’s my son’s question again: “Can you help me find Jesus?”  Who’s asking you that question? Who is God calling you to reach out to today? Where do you have an opportunity to share your faith and tell your story of God’s grace?

We help one another to see Jesus and recognize that he’s real. We help each other understand that he offers life that is really life—new life, abundant life, eternal life that goes beyond the cares of this world. Thank God for your church family and the power of God at work in those around you and in your own life!

If you don’t have a church home or have been away for a while, consider getting back to church or trying it out for the first time. I invite you to worship with us at 9:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings. We share the love and hope of Jesus Christ!

 

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From the Pulpit

The God of Speed

We are living in the age of instantaneous everything. The faster the better!  Technologies continue to improve and get faster. I sat down the other day with an older laptop computer of mine (only 5 years old) and found myself irritated that it was taking so long to boot up, and then again to open programs. It was state of the art at the time I purchased it and I’m sure I was impressed at the time with its speed. But by today’s standard, it was slow! I even find myself getting impatient as I wait in front of the microwave for my popcorn to pop!

We have become so ingrained with the need for speed and instant gratification of every need, desire, and appetite. But yet, God tells us in His word that we are to be a people characterized by patience and the ability to be longsuffering (Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; 1 Cor. 13:4). The word that the Lord uses most often in the Bible for patience is one that means to endure when circumstances are difficult. Not the idea of complacency because I can’t do anything about it, but rather the picture of the runner on the track or the Marine on the battlefield persevering through (Rom. 5:3-4).  Longsuffering, on the other hand, is a word that describes our interaction with people.  Do you get irritated with someone who pulls out in front of you on the road? By the way, Road Rage is a major problem in today’s world! This word for longsuffering is one that describes the concept of self restraint—resisting the urge to retaliate or seek revenge!  Literally, the word means “long tempered.”
The beauty of this characteristic is that it allows us to put up with the circumstances around us!  Paul tells the Ephesians (4:2), “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3 NKJV  That means putting up with one another in love.

God teaches us longsuffering and patience through troubles, difficulties and tribulations.  Years ago when God was working on me and calling me to the ministry, I argued with Him much as did Moses.  “Who, me?”  I did not feel that I possessed the characteristics necessary to be His under-shepherd.  I essentially told Him, “for one thing, I don’t have the patience to do this!  If you want me to do this, you’ll need to teach me patience!”

That’s the way most people learn, via troubles, difficulties and tribulations!  And it takes time!  This is not something that we learn quickly.  It doesn’t come instantaneously.  So, the next time you are tempted to become irritated or frustrated because someone pulled out in front of you, or the inefficiencies of life happen, remember, these are not the enemy.  These are those things the Lord has chosen to use as tools in our lives to teach us to be patient and longsuffering!

Pastor Jim Howard, Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church of Cedar Springs
233 S. Main St, Cedar Springs

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New Community

C-East-Nelson-UnitedPastor Herb VanderBilt 

East Nelson United Methodist Church

9024 18 Mile Rd. • Cedar Springs MI 49319

 

Acts 2:42-47: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Community is important. According to some sources, the housing market is beginning to come back from the collapse a few years ago.  Home ownership is part of what some perceive as the “American Dream.” Critical to the value of a house is its location, what kind of community does it belong to. People fixing up their homes, taking care of lawns and landscaping are also signs of a stable community. Another sign of a vital community is people care for their neighbors and those in the community who need help.

When Jesus ascended after his death and resurrection a new community was being built. Life in Jerusalem during the time of the Apostles was rather messed up. The Jews, a remnant of a once powerful and cohesive community, were now living in a broken down community of Roman law and oppressive laws being applied by the religious community, especially on the poor and disfigured. Jesus taught that God loved his people so much that he was willing to start a new covenant as the old one had fallen apart when the people began to fall away from God. This was Good News in a land that was desperate for some good news. As the message of God’s grace began to be heard by both Jews and Gentiles alike, a new community was being formed, a community based on the fact that both the Jews and the Gentiles alike were equal in this new way. In fact, one of the first names for the church before it became the church were “People of the way.” And what was this new way? Besides telling and retelling the story of Jesus Christ, they also came together and celebrated their new sense of unity and the things they had in common.

Today we read this scripture and say, “well that was a long time ago when everything was new and being a Christian was radical. Folks today just don’t get that excited anymore and many Christians can’t get along with each other.” Well that may be true in many places but there are signs that things may be changing in the Cedar Springs Community. Consider these as today’s signs and wonders:

The United Worship service at Morley park

Kid’s Hope mentoring program

EnGedi-an after school program

Plans for a school for troubled Teens (Second Chance)

North Kent Service Center and Cedar Springs Community Food panty

I am sure there are more so let’s thank God for our community.

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