The Rich Family In Our Church

   I’ll never forget on Sunday in 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy, 12, and Darlene was 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the we knew what it was like to do without.  Dad had died five years before, leaving mom with seven kids and no money. By 1946 my older brother and sister were married and had moved out.

   A month before, the preacher announced,  a special offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially. When we got home we talked together of what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20.00. Then we turned off the electric lights as much as possible, and didn’t listen to the radio,  to save money on our electric bill.  Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as she could, and both of us babysat for everyone we could. For 15 cents we could make 3 pot holders and sell them for a dollar. We made $20.00 on pot holders.

   That month was one of the best of our lives. Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At night we imagined how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the church would give them.

   The day before the “big day”, Ocy and I walked to the grocery store and got three $20.00 bills and one $10.00 bill for our change. We ran home with more money than we had ever had in our hands. That night we could hardly sleep as we waited to go to church on Sunday.

   When the offering was taken, mom put $10.00 in the plate and each of us put in $20.00.  After church, we went home where mom surprised us with boiled eggs to eat with our fried potatoes.

   Late that afternoon, the minister came and spoke with Mom. When he left, she showed us what he gave her. It was the envelope with the money from the church, $77.00. We all just sat there and just stared at the floor. We had gone from feeling rich to feeling like we were poor.

   On Saturday, mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money. We didn’t know. We had never known we were poor. We certainly didn’t want to go back to church, but mom made us go. It was sunny, everyone was singing in church… but us.

   We had a missionary who talked about how churches in Africa made buildings out of sun-dried bricks, but they needed money to buy roofs. He said that $100.00 would put a roof on one church building.  The minister said, “Can’t we sacrifice to help these poor people?” We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week. Mom reached in her purse and pulled out the envelope. She passed it to Darlene. Darlene gave it to me and I handed it to Ocy, and Ocy put it in the offering. The minister counted the offering and it was just over $100.00. The missionary was excited because he had not expected that from a small church. He said, “You must have some rich people in this church.”

  Suddenly it struck us! We had given $77.00 of that “little over a $100” given. We were the rich family in the church. From that day on I have never been poor again. I know I am rich in Jesus.  (Mark 12:41-44).


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The Price Has Already Been Paid

   Just think a moment about all the bad that has been done, for whatever reason, or motive. Be it anger, jealousy, lust, greed, unnatural desires, irreverence or just down-right hate … Think about all the tears, and blood that has been shed in the name of religion or racial hatred. Think of all the wars and conflicts fought over the centuries. Think of all the pain and suffering of the born, the aborted, young people and old alike. It all comes down to one basic cause, sin.

   Few in schools of higher learning call it what it is. Those who study the workings of the mind often call it something else, maybe a sickness to be treated with pills. Yet the Bible is straight forward about it… Man’s biggest problem is sin. People laugh at it, ignore it, brag about it, and Hollywood glorifies it. Laws are passed to try and get rid of it by making it acceptable and normal.

   God’s word simply speaks of it as sin. In the original language of scriptures, it means to “miss the mark”. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Everyone “misses the mark”, right? Even the bible says “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. Yet this does not take care of the problem. Never did, and never will.

   Man has tried to balance the books with God for a long time. Yet the books just don’t balance. We are forever in debt and have no way to pay it.

   The story is told of a Russian Czar who disguised himself and mingled with his soldiers. One soldier, deep in debt, had made a list of all that he owed. His loaded revolver lay beside him, but in his anxiety, he had fallen asleep. At the end of the list he had scribbled the words, “Who could pay so much?” Later he woke up and was startled to see the personal signature of the Czar, “Alexander” and his personal seal next to the question he had scribbled at the end of his list.

   If we each sat down and wrote a list of all the things we had done, in anger, hatred, jealousy, despair, lust, how long would that list be? You run a red light, and get a ticket, go down and pay the amount levied against you at to Court House, and they stamp it “Paid in full”. Ok, so how do you do that with sin? What are the wages (earned price) of sin? Paul says in Romans 6:23 “For the payoff (wages) of sin is death…”

   So what is all this about? It is about Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. He was destined to do something for mankind which he could not and cannot do for himself. He came to provide a way out of the penalty of sin. “Who could pay so much?” Paul says, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person, perhaps someone might possibly dare to die). 8 But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8 (NET) DEATH BY CRUCIFIXION… closely portrayed in the movie “The Passion of Christ”, is hard to watch. Yet it was all for you and me, unworthy sinners.

   Sin cannot be paid for by works. Salvation is a gift, not to be treated lightly. The price paid for the gift should tell us that. Faith, repentance and immersion (Acts 2:37-39) in no way earns the gift… because it is priceless. When we obey His commands, we are surrendering to Him, and calling out to Him to save us.  Bottom line… THE PRICE HAS BEEN ALREADY PAID.


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The Bruise, The Badge, And The Christian

   Growing up was fun, but hard at times. I can’t tell you how many times I would come running in the house crying because I was cut, banged up, or bruised. I guess it is just a part of growing up. We lived in Dallas, was 12 years old and football was ‘in the air’. We had a neighborhood gang of kids (that’s back when being a part of a gang wasn’t bad) and we’d all gather at the school yard and play flag football. Flag football was looked down on because we wanted to do the real thing. We used the flags anyway because our parents wouldn’t allow the rough style of football. Then it happened… I was tackled, went down hard on my shoulder, and was hurt. I can’t figure what got pulled but the next day my shoulder was red, black and blue (almost patriotic). Of course mom forbid football for a while.

   When I went back to school and showed off my bruise during PE (Physical Education), I found I was like a celebrity. Everyone wanted to see the bruise. It was my ‘badge’. “This is kinda worth the pain”, but I was a kid then.

   Christianity is not a game, although there is some growing up to do, and Christians get ‘banged up’ in the process. It’s not easy, because the main battle is with yourself. Jesus says, “count the cost” Luke 14:25-33. Bottom line is that when a person becomes a Christian, He wants to be #1 in life. Is it worth the pain to be a Christian?  Go figure. Jesus suffered and died… was it worth it?  Salvation is priceless. Nothing takes the place of forgiveness for the sinful heart. Nothing feels better than guilt being lifted at Calvary.

   Is ‘the way’ of the Christian hard? Is it worth it? Peter said in 1 Peter 3:14-17 “But in fact , if you happen to suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. But do not be terrified of them or be shaken.  15 But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess.

   The Christian’s badge is not how often he attends church, or how much he gives, but how far he goes, in spite of the difficulties. Finish the ‘race’. You don’t have to be first… just finish, (2 Timothy 4:6-8).


   Hast thou no scar? On foot or side or hand?

   I hear thee sung as mighty in the land.

   I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star –

   Hast thou no scar?

   Hast thou no wound? Yet I was wounded by the archers spent –

   Leaned me against a tree to die and rent,

   Like raven beast – they compassed me. I swooned –

   Hast thou no wound?

   No wound, no scar? Yet as the Master shall the servants be.

   And pierced are the feet that follow Me. But thine are whole!

   Could he have followed very far,

   who hast no wound, no ugly scar?


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“Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Will Never Hurt Me”

   That just is not true! We said it when we were kids to get back at someone who was calling us names. We had other sayings like, “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks on you.”  Sometimes we would just laugh it off, or make up another name and try and out-do the name caller. Just part of growing up in those days I guess. Tell you the truth, the words, the names, all hurt.

   We aren’t made of rubber, and words don’t  bounce off… they go right to the heart. People still say things that hurt others deeply, by using cruel epithets and racial slurs, sarcasm. The “Yo mamma” jokes get a laugh, but sometimes they are just mean and rude.  Words may not break bones, but they can still hurt. “I take it back”, we used to say, but we knew then, we know now, that can’t be done. I remember mom getting out the bar of Palmolive soap, and my toothbrush, to ‘wash my mouth out; after saying something bad. I know it doesn’t ‘wash it out’ and once you say something, you can’t un-say-it? The verbal bullying that goes on in schools, is often learned at home. Columbine stands as a sad memorial to what happens as a result of ‘words’.

   “It’s just words” you say, but there is so much more. Jesus in Matthew 15:1-20 confronts the Pharisees and teachers of the law who were concerned about His disciples not washing their hands before they ate. (These were the religious ‘nit-pickers’ of the day.) Jesus accuses them of hypocrisy, because they were more concerned for external actions, than the heart. “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” Then Jesus calls the crowd to him and explained… “LISTEN AND UNDERSTAND. WHAT GOES INTO A MAN’S MOUTH DOES NOT MAKE HIM ‘UNCLEAN’, BUT WHAT COMES OUT OF HIS MOUTH , THAT IS WHAT MAKES HIM ‘UNCLEAN’.”

   James says, “My dear brothers, take note of this. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry. James 1:19 “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” James 1:26. Then he speaks of the dangers of  the tongue in chapter 3, using illustrations of a horses bit, a boat rudder, fire and dangerous animals. How can it be, that with the same tongue that we praise God with, we curse man? How can we use this ‘instrument’ in prayer and adoration to God on Sunday, and use it to curse and swear, tell dirty jokes, on Monday through Saturday?

   The encouraging thing about all this is, if we clean our hearts, it will ‘wash our mouth out’. It may take time, but it will be time well spent. There are a lot of discouraged people out there, that just need a kind word, an encouragement, a sincere compliment. Try it.


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I Want To Speak With A Real Person

   How many times have you called and after the ring, ring is done, you get a welcome message, and “Please press one for English”, Press 9 for Spanish”, Press 2 for Chinese”, “Press 4 for Indonesian” etc… Then, “Please listen to our list of options carefully, because they have been changed.” Then you get six or seven choices. Then after choosing one of these choices, “Please listen carefully to these options… ” Then you get another four or five options. You choose one. “PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL WILL BE ANSWERED IN THE ORDER IN WHICH IT CAME.” Then you get this mechanical lady on line asking for your account number or SS number or something. You you ready to be tied by now, and you give the number. The mechanical lady cannot understand, so you GIVE IT AGAIN!!! You finally just say, “Representative please!” Then this ‘lady’ says, “I understand you want to speak to a representative. Please tell me what your problem is so I can direct you to the right department.” By this time your Christianity is really being tested, and you are ready to just give up to say the least.

   If you cannot tell by now, I hate speaking to these mechanical answer services. Come on… give me someone that is REAL!

   A little girl was having some nightmares one night. Her dad came in and sat beside her to comfort her. “Don’t worry”, he said. “God is here and is watching after you.” She looked up at her dad and said, “I know dad, but I need someone with flesh on him.”

   John records, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared Him.” John 1:18. “The next day John sees Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:29

   Thank the Lord, we have a God who has flesh and blood. What would you expect of the Man/God? Well, something out of the ordinary for sure. We would expect to see someone who lived right, stood up for the weak, gave teachings and principles on living right. We would expect someone who could heal the sick and raise the dead. Someone who was unafraid of facing those people and situations that scare us. We would expect someone who loved people. We would expect someone who understood the problems and feelings we go through every day.

   Well, Jesus did all this and MORE. Paul says, ” Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; BUT MADE HIMSELF OF NO REPUTATION, AND TOOK ON THE FORM OF A SERVANT, AND WAS MADE IN THE LIKENESS OF MEN; AND BEING FOUND IN FASHION AS A MAN, HE HUMBLED HIMSELF AND BECAME OBEDIENT UNTO DEATH, EVEN THE DEATH OF THE CROSS.” Phil. 2:5-8.

   The Hebrew writer says, “Seeing then that we have a GREAT high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. FOR WE HAVE NOT AN HIGH PRIEST WHICH CANNOT BE TOUCHED WITH THE FEELING OF OUR INFIRMITIES; BUT WAS IN ALL POINTS TEMPTED LIKE AS WE ARE, YET WITHOUT SIN.” Hebrews 4:14-15

   Over all, the prophet Zechariah says, speaking of Jesus the Messiah, “FEAR NOT, daughter of Zion; Behold your king is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt.” Zech. 9:9; John 12:15.

   Don’t be afraid, we have “a God who has flesh on him”. He is always ready, willing, able to hear when we call. Always there when we need Him.


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I Was A Thief

   They say, “confession is good for the soul”, so here goes. It happened when I was about 6 or 7 and we lived, I think in Beaumont, Texas. We had a good life, but certainly not spoiled. I think dad had a switch in every room in the house. He threatened to put a sign above one which said, “I need thee every hour”. Anyway, we had our share of ‘pine tree tea’.

   Well, one day dad took us kids to the ‘FIVE AND DIME’ store. I think it was Woolworths. Anyway, we loved that store. It had EVERYTHING a boy could wish for. The price seemed high to us. 5 cents for bubble gum! Twenty five cents for a pack of baseball cards! It came with a stick of bubble gum as well. Can’t beat that! Candy, little wooden airplanes, plastic airplanes, kites, slinkys, bags and bags of plastic army men, marbles, tinker toys, .10 comic books!!! Going there was heaven on earth to us.

   Problem… our weekly subsidy, was .25. We would have gone on strike, if we had thought of that. It wouldn’t have worked. We were just the three of us kids. Not enough for a union. We had to think all week about what we were going to get. Bob and I loved baseball cards, football cards, comic books. We were after Mickey Mantel, Roger Maris, and the others on the Yankee team. When we got one, we would trade back and forth. Spider man and Superman were the comics of choice. First editions and sets… we had ’em. We wanted more.

   Problem… we only got a measly TWENTY FIVE CENTS A WEEK. Frustrated? Most definitely. But we had to choose.

   On one occasion however, I determined to ‘out fox’ dad. Yep, I had it all figured out. We were at our favorite store. Going up and down the isle. Bob rolled down one isle, Ed went down another, dad was up at the check out area, and I was all by myself (I thought) on my isle. I got what I could pay for, and went to the check out. One by one we paid for what we got. Bob, Ed, and then me… We started out the store, and went to the car.

   Now I have to stop here and say that parents are weird. I could almost swear to you that mom and dad had the secret service working for them. Otherwise, how in the world could they know all the things we did wrong?!

   “Jack!” Now when I heard that tone of voice used with my name. It only meant one thing TROUBLE. “Come here son.” “Yes dad” I was trying to look confident. (I always failed at this.) “What you got in your hand?” I showed him the things I had legally purchased. (I thought it was over.) “What you got in your pockets?” (I was in trouble.) I pulled out a candy bar.

   Trust me, I felt guilty for doing it. I did it anyway. Now I was feeling worse. Dad said, “You stole this?” You know, when dad says that, it sounds so much worse. “Yes, dad” I said. The judgement was passed, and sentencing was immediate… “Well, here is what you are going to do. “You are going back in that store… you will walk over to the manager and hold out the candy bar, and tell him, “I STOLE THIS”, and apologize. RIGHT NOW!”

   I cannot tell you the feeling of embarrassment that crept over me. Cold sweats, knocking knees, the whole bit. I never thought of crying “THIS IS ABUSE!” No you see dad was the ‘supreme court’.

   I went back in that store, approached a man who seemed quite big to me. He said, “May I help you son?” I took a big breath and said, “Sir, Sir, I am sorry, (holding out the candy bar that my hands had taken), but I took this and didn’t pay for it.” I was expecting something like the police to come and take me to jail or something. But, no police, no reprimand. I guess he figured I was going through enough humiliation. He said, “Thank you son, thank you for doing the right thing.” I gave the not so delicious candy bar to him. Said, thank you, and went back to the car.

   Needless to say, I had disappointed dad. I had done worse, I had disappointed myself. Stealing is wrong. Paul said, “Let him that steals, steal no more.” That lesson, has always stayed with me. I have taught it to my kids, and I guess the lesson will pass down generations. (I hope).

   I owe dad a lot for this. I would hate to go through life stealing, and eventually thinking I could just take things instead of working for them. THANK YOU DAD FOR CARING ENOUGH TO TEACH ME.

   I was a thief… but ‘not no more’.


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“I Quit” – (Solutions) – (Conclusion)

This article is part 6 of 7 in the series I Quit

   We began this series with Jesus and we end it with Jesus. When tempted to quit, throw in the towel… think of Jesus. Those ‘big’ problems that are causing you such a ‘head-ache’, put them at the foot of the cross… picture Jesus looking down, bleeding from his head, his hands and feet, exhausted, thirsty, exposed and mocked.

W.W.J.S. (What would Jesus say?) Is this problem a big deal? If Jesus had this problem, would he quit?

“Not fair!” you say? Well, someone needs to say it! He is our example, our pattern in life. As Paul said, “It’s no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me.” It’s when problems come, our pride, feelings, ‘rights, desires, flesh, take over. Yet on Sunday morning we go and meet with the saints, and sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy…” “Lord make me a servant”, etc… Somehow, we have managed to divorce our life and our religion. We are good at quoting scriptures about most everything, but poor at applying the principles of scripture to our self, our situation.

What are some things we need to keep from quitting?

We have mentioned:

  1. Prayer (Help me Lord!!)
  2. Commitment (make it to each other)
  3. Patience (endurance / stick-to-it-ive-ness)
  4. Forgiveness (‘first stone’) What else?
  5. Love (agape style). What does love do/not do? Read I Cor. 13; Romans 12:9-21. This love is not mushy, emotional, ‘up/down’, ‘on/off’. It is a constant, deliberate thing that lasts and lasts. It is specifically, the type of love that is Christ-like. It will sacrifice itself and tough it out. It never quits. This love has perspective, and can discern what is and what is not a big deal.
  6. The Holy Spirit, our continuing Helper. He is there to help us, encourage us to keep on keeping on. The one who quits, is one who is not listening to God’s Spirit. Could Jesus have quit (rebelled against) going through 40 days in the wilderness? Sure! Could Jesus have refused to wash the feet of Judas? Sure! But He didn’t. The Spirit of God was with Jesus, and is with us. In the words or Winston Churchill, “Never, Never, Never… QUIT.”
  7. Disagree if you must, BUT… But what?! Well, Don’t quit! Learn to disagree without getting fed up and disgusted, offended, and walking out. How many times have brethren walked out of services or classes, because they don’t agree with a song used or a statement made, or something done. You say. “Well, I disagreed!” “I felt this or that! “Ok, so why not get with the person after service and ask about it? Why not find out more information? why not sit and talk about it? Problem is we don’t know how to “argue”, “disagree” or communicate and work things out. Principle: PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE, GOD IS GOD. People are not perfect. They make mistakes. That’s why forgiveness is so important in the church. Gossip, back biting, politicking, etc… have no place in the body of Christ. (Someone has to say this!)
  8. Practical suggestions:
    a.) Things change”. “I hate change!” “When will we quit changing things?” Well, there is nothing wrong with ‘change’ per se. We live in a world that changes fast. and the church can change in some areas too. “Progress” does not necessarily mean one is a “Progressive”. There are things that can be changed and some cannot. The gospel, Lord’s Supper, Baptism for remission of sins, are a few of the things which are ‘core’ issues and foundational. These are tied to our salvation. There are many things where we are free to use our good sense in deciding what is best for us or any local work. Every congregation does not have to ‘goose-step’ to be a part of the body of Christ.
    b.) “No Big Deal” It is surprising at the things we get upset over. Things that are “NBD”, but we make them Big.
    c.) “Compromise” It is not wrong to give and take, compromise, look for a ‘middle ground’ over things that are no big deal. Things where we are at liberty to act on behalf of what is best for the work here.
    d.) “Autonomy” Each congregation determines its own direction and method of outreach and operation under Christ.
    e.) “Consensus is good” i.e. “majority rules” In the absence of elders, we have to take a vote on things. Do it right the first time. Majority rules. That’s it. Don’t pout and quit if you don’t get your way. Personal preference and opinion is never congregational rule.

BOTTOM LINE- DON’T QUIT, Jesus didn’t quit on you.

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“I Quit” – (Part Five)

This article is part 5 of 7 in the series I Quit

The temptation to just throw up your hands and quit, is common to everyone trying to do something.

Obstacles can either make or break a persons deliberation to “go the distance”.

When I was a teenager, in Northern Ireland, going to the equivalent of our high school, (Methodist College Belfast)… I joined the track and field team. Our training in everything from high jump, to javelin throwing, was easy for me. The hardest was the running… Now I could run! Endurance was the problem. Run a short distance… no problem. Run a mile or two… now that was another question. The first quarter mile was no problem, only I had not learned the idea of pacing myself. I was ‘all out’ in the first quarter mile. Then something happened. The lead I had developed, slowly began to diminish. Not because the other kids we faster, but because they knew something about ‘pacing’ themselves. Soon the rest of the ‘field’ caught up with me, and passed me. I was ‘winded’ and had to slow down more. I was in trouble. Well, I ended up walking or slow jogging the rest of the way… but I finished.

I remember what dad said so often, “Finish what you start.” This is so important in the work of the family of God.
There was a congregation in the South where I was minister for a short time. Next to their building was a foundation, with some plumbing sticking up. It was for a new auditorium. Problem… THEY HAD NOT FINISHED IT. They started, but something happened, and they quit and left the project just like that. Problem… it was on a main road in town, and everyone drove by and saw this embarrassment.
Nothing wrong with planning, having a big challenging vision… just FINISH IT. GO THE DISTANCE.

Some things to help along the way:

  1. Prayer: Have time to get before God and pour out your hearts. When you have the ‘foundation’ laid, get together ‘on the foundation’, and pour out your hearts to God and pray some more. Pray for help, vision, strength to finish the journey.
  2. Commitment: I’m sorry, but many times commitments are short lived. We are committed till we have a problem, or obstacle. When we back out of a commitment, it shows something is mission. Perhaps we have been short sighted. Perhaps the planning has been weak. But when you commit yourself… finish the job.
  3. Patience: This is invaluable. The ability to go through the tough times, the times when things don’t go as smoothly as you would like. The ability to wait, and have a half way decent attitude about it. Read James letter chapter one. Patience. Whatever it is, you commit yourself to, understand and try and see and plan for obstacles that are coming up. But there is no crystal ball, or magic to let you know all the bends and turns in the road… Do the best you can… and finish.
  4. Forgiveness: The ability to forgive is so important when it comes to this subject. We have been forgiven. There is no way we can afford to allow someone to drag us back into the past, and once again feel unforgiven. But we have to be able to forgive ourselves and others along the way as well.

In order to ‘go the distance’ and not walk out, not quit… takes a determination that is solidly founded in the belief that the journey you are on, is worth it… Carrying the ‘baggage’ of the past will only weigh you down.

Don’t quit!!!


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