Friday, 2 November 2018

Seek ye first - And He will do the Rest!

Historically (I am getting that old 👀) I either have a sort of shoulder length bob, or short short cropped hair.  It alternates depending on all those unreasonable things we women base our hairdo's on 😊.

But every time I cut my hair short, especially in the last 7 years or so, I just see someone else looking back at me in the mirror!  Since I was a teenager I didn't like being told I look like her.  Just a childish thing that stuck deep down in my brain for some reason.

So, as per usual, in an attempt to right this perception, I began growing my hair again.  I was 4 months in - you know that horrendous period of hair growth that just becomes ONE LONG BAD hair day?  I was feeling strong!  I was pushing through!  I was getting past this irritating ugly stage!  I had thissss!

However,

In the last week, just before I went to sleep one evening, I thought about my hair rationally.  I went to sleep thinking, "tomorrow I will write down a pro's and cons list for short and longer hair."  With that I went to sleep.  I woke thinking about my hair and had sort of decided I wanted to keep my hair short, but regardless, I still did my pro's and cons list.  To be fair, they evened out.  But the most important pro for me for short hair is the simplicity and lack of hassle.  I'm a hassle free kinda gal I tell ya!

So, immediately, I phoned and made an appointment to cut my hair short again.  With much eye-rolling from my hairdresser, she complied.  I got home, checked out my hair.  And you know what?!  I did not see this person staring back at me.  It was weird.  It was interesting.  It was.... something I needed to think about!

So, this interesting turn of events has been rolling around in my mind for the last few days.  And this is what I have come up with:
  • I have made it my goal to start every day with a quiet time (my word for 2018 - ABIDE)  I get it right 95% of the time, but regardless of how I feel, regardless of if I get anything out of it, I do it in obedience to Christ, because obedience is better than sacrifice.
  • Because of this obedience, because I am seeking Him first, He is doing the rest!  He has taken this silly obsession, this silly perception of mine, and - simply - removed it!

I truly cannot fathom any other reason why, something that has hassled me for as long as I can remember, just vanished!  I look every morning, just to check!  I see me!  It is awesome!

My point is this, although we are to keep growing in the Lord, and although we are to be overcomers in Christ, He wants us to do this by looking at Him!  Look up, not at the problems within or around us!  He says in His word:  Matt 6 vs 33:  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  I feel that this week, in this little mental hiccup of mine, I have experienced an "all these things shall be added to you" moment!  I did not need to "overcome" this on my own.  In fact, I did no "overcoming"!  I just continued in my daily quiet time just to spend time with God!  In seeking God daily, just to learn from His word, just to sit in His presence, just to do so regardless, God overcame this thing in me, He simply removed it!

I now move forward, knowing that all the other "stuff" in my life that needs to be dealt with, will be dealt with as I seek Him first daily!

God bless
Tracy


My ABIDE scripture for today is:
Romans 8 vs 37:  Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Monday, 22 October 2018

James - Digging Deeper 9

Notes: EH = Everett Hill - Exploring the Elements of an Authentic Christian Lifestyle

James 2 vs 8 - 13:
(8) If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well;  (9) but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (10) For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. (11) For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. (12) So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. (13) For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.


The Royal Law is God's law.  And what is that?  To love one another, to love the Lord your God, with all your heart and all your mind!  God's love accomplishes all the law expects of us with regards to God and our fellow man.

How is it that to sin in one area, means you sin in all, when considering the law?
EH uses James MacArthur's analogy of God's law being like a single piece of glass.  If you sin in one area (whether it be selfishness, murder, lying), its like a pebble been thrown at the glass.  It breaks the glass, fragments it, shatters the whole thing.  Not just a segment of the glass, but the WHOLE glass is ruined.

MacArthur summarizes it like this:  "By breaking a part of the law you have broken the integrity of the whole law."

Another analogy is that of Humpty Dumpty, once cracked, ALL the king's horses and ALL the king's men couldn't put him back together again.  All of our "goodness" and all of our mending cannot put the law back together again.

But, there is One who can.  Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, every one of them.  And His sacrifice restores anything that was broken.  He is come to fulfill the law....

So that leads us to vs 12So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.  When we are born again, we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour by faith.  We no longer have to make sacrifices to cover our sins because all our sins are covered by His death on the cross for us.  We now live in a dispensation of grace where, because of our faith we are under His undeserved and unmerited grace and mercy.  To speak and do as those who will be judged, is to accept freely and humbly God's mercy, and extend that same mercy to others, which leads to Vs 13.

Vs 13 says when we come to the judgement seat of God, if we have been merciless, we will be dealt with mercilessly.  Mercy triumphs over judgement.



I like how EH deals with mercy in his study.  He says,
  • James makes it clear that a person who does not give mercy will not receive it.
  • We do not have the capacity on our own to give mercy, so how can we ever give enough to receive it?  I realized that I had to shift my perspective to see the foundation upon which this verse was built.  What I missed was this:  The mercy given to us by Jesus is the only antidote available.  
  • I eventually discovered that for mercy to be true mercy, it must be given without payment or subsidy, meaning that this mercy that James was mentioning had to have its source in Jesus.
  • I had missed the key to all of this, which is that God must first show mercy to us freely before we can pass it onto others.  If we refuse His mercy and run away from it, we will never be able to give mercy to others.
  • God's mercy was not meant to be locked up or hidden in our hearts.
  • The mystery of this antidote is that it is compulsively shared by those who have received it.
EH says as we accept God's mercy, realizing how undeserved it is, it naturally flows from us to others.  That is true mercy.  Giving it to others with no strings attached.

I am reminded of a great hurt I have suffered and reading this study has highlighted for me that I am to be merciful, as God has been merciful to me, to extend forgiveness and grace, with no strings attached (I forgive you IF...) and to be happy for that person and move on with my life content that as I have shown mercy, in judgement God will show me more mercy.  

EH puts my hurt into perspective with this statement:  "When we see the value of the mercy shown us in our lives, the entirety of the pain and hurt that we have experienced in our lives can begin to fade into the vastness of the forgiveness we have received."

EH has a prayer at the end of each his study sections.  I love the one after this section:
"God, help me to recognize the sins in my life that I have been downplaying.  Let me be aware of them and horrified by them.  Then, because of your infinite mercy, I can ask for You to forgive me and You will!  Also, make me the kind of person who, upon receiving this mercy, is quick to give mercy to others."

EH also refers to the story about the man who was forgiven a HUGE debt, who turned around and would not forgive a much smaller debt owed to him.  He did not extend mercy, when it had just been extended to him.  Thus, when the king heard this, his judgement of him was harsh.  I think this is an awesome picture of what v13  (For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment) is referring to.

Matthew Henry' Commentary says this about The Law of Liberty:
"It is the law of liberty, and one that we have no reason to complain of as a yoke or burden; for the service of God, according to the gospel, is perfect freedom;  it sets us at liberty from all slavish regards, either to the persons or the things of the world."  I like that!  

He says this about mercy: "All the children of men, in the last day, will be either vessels of wrath or vessels of mercy.  It concerns all to consider among which they shall be found;  and let us remember that blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."  I like this too!

There are 3 major things the Lord has drawn my attention to in this part of study for me:
  1. God has overwhelmed me with His mercy, daily, yet I have withheld mercy where I could have been merciful.  I need to be generous in mercy as God is generous with me.
  2. Part of forgiving someone is extending mercy, but that mercy should be extended without strings attached.  "I forgive, but only completely when you apologize to me!"  No!  I forgive, even if I never receive an apology from you!  That is true mercy, given by the Lord, unearned and undeserved, but forwarded on to someone who has not earned it, or does not deserve it.
  3. Mercy is circular, the more you receive the more you extend!

God bless
Tracy


My ABIDE scripture today is:
Luke 6 vs 36:  Be merciful just as your Father is also merciful.

Friday, 5 October 2018

How a Christian should Behave!

I am busy reading through Romans and loving all the nuggets of truth and guidance given by Paul.  Life can be very hard to navigate sometimes but God guides us through His word.

I came upon this whole section in Romans that really popped for me so I decided to post it as a list of how we, as Christians, should behave.  After all, in my bible that was the heading 😊

Romans 12 vs 9 - 21

BEHAVE LIKE A CHRISTIAN

(9) Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. (10) Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; (11) not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; (12) rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; (13) distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

(14) Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. (15) Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (16) Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

(17) Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. (18) If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (19) Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (20) Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

(21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


Quite the "to be" and "to do" list right there!


Let me simplify it in a list:
  • Let love be without hypocrisy - be genuine in your affection for someone
  • Abhor what is evil - if you don't it won't be long and you will find it acceptable
  • Cling to what is good - know the truth and hang on to it!
  • Be kindly affectionate to one another - be kind and accepting of all people
  • In honor give preference to one another - put others first (practice in the traffic 😉)
  • Be diligent - thorough, not half-hearted
  • Fervent in spirit - giving 100%
  • Serve the Lord - wholeheartedly
  • Rejoice in hope - lifts the spirit and changes your attitude
  • Patient in tribulation - ouch! But yes, God deals with the heart in the tough stuff
  • Pray always - when things are bad, and when things are good!
  • Give to believers, be hospitable - share of your home and heart
  • Bless those who hurt you - yeah, tough one, but God has His reasons for this, and it is us who benefits from His wisdom to do things His way.
  • Rejoice with those rejoicing.  I think this speaks to being happy for others who have a reason to rejoice, even when you don't
  • Weep with those weeping - sympathy, empathy, a little understanding?  
  • Be of the same mind towards one another, treat everyone equally respectfully
  • Don't set your mind on higher things, but remain humble - there is wisdom in humility
  • Do not be wise in your own eyes - pride comes before a fall!
  • Repay no one evil for evil - leave vengeance to the Lord
  • Have regard for good things in the sight of all men - be the same in private and in public?
  • Live at peace in as much as you are able - do whatever it is you can do for peace
  • Do not avenge yourself - again, this is God's forte, He knows how best to avenge you
  • Heaping coals - do the unexpected good, it steals the wind out of their sails, but as a good friend of mine pointed out, do it with the right attitude! 😋
  • Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good - It goes to the whole take the wind out of their sails thing.  If you do an unexpected good to someone who deserves or expects something negative, you are planting seeds of love and good, and this overcomes evil!

Quite a list to attain to.  For me, I need to polish up on ALL of the above.  It is a daily struggle challenge and one that the Lord knows we are incapable of achieving without His help.

I hope you feel challenged to extend a kindness today where you might not have.  Or, repay an evil with good.  Or treat someone who expects to be fobbed off, with dignity and grace.  
I know I am...

God's word always brings life.

God bless
Tracy


 My ABIDE scripture for today is:
Heb 4 vs 12:  For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

James - Digging Deeper 8

Notes: EH = Everett Hill - Exploring the Elements of an Authentic Christian Lifestyle

James 2 vs 1 - 7: (1) My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. (2) For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, (3) and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” (4) have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

(5) Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? (6) But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? (7) Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?

This portion of scripture for me, is not only about favouring people because of who you think they are, or what their value is to you by how they present themselves.  It is also about how we treat people because of what we think they can do for us.

God says everyone is of equal value to Him, and thus they should be to us.  James points out that often times, the people we treat more favourably are the very ones who ultimately do us the most harm.  James says we make ourselves judge over others when we treat people unequally.

This is not to say that one treats people differently in terms of who they are in our lives.  EH points out that one would treat their spouse differently from a peer at work, or your children differently from someone on the bus.  The point is that we should respect everyone as a creation of God, and knowing their value to God, honour them with dignity and be gracious towards all.


EH also makes the point about good manners being basic Christian principles.  For example, a man opening a door for a woman.  Why not open the door regardless of who the person is?  Give up your seat for the elderly.  Why not give up your seat regardless of who the person is?  It is something to think about.  As a woman, I appreciate chivalry, but that does not excuse me from doing a kindness to and for others.  Something to mull on and seek opportunities to practice 😊.  Kindness is never ever a bad thing.

When reading Matthew Henry notes it occurs to me he makes the point that James is speaking to Christians about how they treat other Christians.

Matthew Henry Notes:
  • Jesus teaches us not to respect Christians for anything so much as their relation and conformity to Christ.  You who profess to believe the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, which the poorest Christian shall partake or equally with the rich, and to which all worldly glory is but vanity, you should not make men's outward and worldly advantages the measure of your respect.  In professing the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, we should not show respect to men, so as to cloud or lessen the glory of our glorious Lord:  however any may think of it, this is certainly a very heinous sin. 
  • Consider how commonly riches are the incentives of vice and mischief, or blasphemy and persecution: consider how many calamities you yourselves sustain, and how great reproaches are thrown upon your religion and your God by men of wealth, and power, and worldly greatness; and this will make your sin appear exceedingly sinful and foolish, in setting up that which tends to pull you down, and to destroy all that you are building up, and to dishonour that worth name by which you are called.  
  • The name of Christ is a worthy name;  it reflects honour, and gives worth to those who wear it.


Let us look to ways to treat all of the faith as we would want them to treat us, with respect and honour as any who bear the name "Christian".  And let us find ways to display kindness to everyone, as every person is a creation of Christ and thus a potential child of Christ.

God bless
Tracy


My ABIDE scripture for today is:
Galatians 3 vs 28:  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.





Also in this James Study series:
James - Digging Deeper 1
James - Digging Deeper 2
James - Digging Deeper 3
James - Digging Deeper 4
James - Digging Deeper 5
James - Digging Deeper 6
James - Digging Deeper 7

James - Digging Deeper 9 coming soon 😊

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

James - Digging Deeper 7


Notes: EH = Everett Hill - Exploring the Elements of an Authentic Christian Lifestyle

James 1 vs 22 – 27:  22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
26 If anyone [a]among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

James says that if we just read the word, and not act on it, we will essentially forget it.  It will not be ingrained in us.  Like a man who looks at his reflection, and walks away forgetting what he looked like.  I think of it as, “acting on the word, experiencing the results thereof, will cement it into us, become part of us, and thus the word will change us”.  And James says, therein, the doing of the word, we will be blessed in what we do.

A valid point to consider as per EH is ‘ “Now that we have established that our knowledge calls us to action, we must pass our actions through this acid test:  “Do my words and actions reflect the priorities of Christ?”  This is imperative to finding out whether or not our religion is “pure and undefiled”. ‘  Does what we do bring attention to Christ, or attention to ourselves?


When we truly focus on the word, read it, absorb it, and then act on it, we are internalizing it and it becomes part of who we are and we pour out our lives for others, in the name of Jesus.  You know how it is with experience? Experience teaches right?!

Matthew Henry Notes
With regards to Vs 22:  True religion teaches us to do everything as in the presence of God;  and to seek His favour, and study to please Him in all our actions.

I think this is a very profound statement that we do whatever it is we do, as if in the presence of God.  Ultimately, God sees everything, but we don’t always behave as we might were we aware of the fact that God is present.  I know there are many times I may speak or act differently if I realized that Jesus was in the room with me every moment of every day. 

That wraps up Chapter 1 😊

God bless
Tracy



My ABIDE scripture for today:
Psalm 119 vs 9:  How can a man cleanse his way?  By taking heed according to Your word.






Also in this James Study series:
James - Digging Deeper 1
James - Digging Deeper 2
James - Digging Deeper 3
James - Digging Deeper 4
James - Digging Deeper 5
James - Digging Deeper 6

James - Digging Deeper 8 coming soon 😊

Sunday, 2 September 2018

James - Digging Deeper 6

Notes: EH = Everett Hill - Exploring the Elements of an Authentic Christian Lifestyle

James Study – James 1 vs 19 – 21
(19) “Understand [this], my beloved brethren.  Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry.  (2) For man’s anger does not promote the righteousness God [wishes and requires].  (3) So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted [in your hearts] contains the power to save your souls.”  AMP

Meekness can be described as:
·         A deep understanding that God is on our side – Justin Kendrick
·         Power under control
·         Meekness is not weakness

Three behaviours that are near impossible without Jesus:
1                     Quick to hear
2                     Slow to speak
3                     Slow to anger



1                     Quick to Hear
Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, but with the intent to reply!
If we are not listening then more often than not we are talking, about ourselves, others, our knowledge, me me me me me…  Listening implies trying to understand what it is that the person you are listening to is saying.  What is their intent?  What is their need?  How can I respond selflessly?  How can I respond in love?
Quick to listen is also necessary if we want to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to us.

2              Slow to Speak speaks to:
·         Don’t gossip
·         Don’t give unwanted or unasked for advice
·         Don’t share all your varied knowledge on a subject
Our ability to be slow to speak talks into our self-centredness!

3              Slow to Anger
Being angry seldom does anyone any good, and most times does not lead to the righteousness of God.  It hardly ever looks good on a person either!  And as EH points out, it often stems from something else, maybe fear, maybe rejection, maybe unresolved emotions…

Litmus test for righteous anger:  Next time you are angry, are your emotions in subjection to God or are you using “righteousness” as a pretext to scorch someone? 
Prov 16 vs 32:  Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
Prov 14 vs 29:  A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
Prov 15 vs 1:  A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Psalm 86 vs 15:  But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

All these skills are essential for our growth and our ability to share the gospel. 
All these skills are expressed in humility and selflessness.  If we focused on “self” we cannot listen to hear, keep quiet, or contain our anger.
All these skills demonstrate a growing meekness, a trust in knowing God is for us.

Implanted and Engrafted
Our hearts need to be rich soil to receive God’s word, a willingness to hear Him.  Thanksgiving, gratitude, humility.  None of these things work well without the ability to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.  These things blind us to the richness that God offers us and wants to plant deep in our hearts.
In these few verses James is leading us to get rid of sin and selfishness and replace these with God’s word and in so doing we are renewing our minds to His will.
Rom 12 vs 2:  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Matthew Henry
·         For thus the connection stands – an angry and hasty spirit is soon provoked to ill things by afflictions, and errors and ill opinions become prevalent through the workings of our own vile and vain affections, but the renewing grace of God and the word of the gospel teach us to subdue these – quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.
·         It is our duty rather to hear God’s word, and apply our minds to understand it, than to speak according to our own fancies or the opinions of men, and to run into heat and passion thereupon. 
·         In hearing the word of God we are to receive it (graft it in) and assent to the truth of it, to receive it with meekness, hear in order to “do”.  (To hear and hear well is useless without applying it)

As I go through this study I am really loving the Matthew Henry Commentary.  He definitely brings a practical slant on the word that I find refreshing.

God bless
Tracy



My ABIDE scripture this week is:
James 1 vs 19:  So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.






Also in this James Study series:
James - Digging Deeper 1
James - Digging Deeper 2
James - Digging Deeper 3
James - Digging Deeper 4
James - Digging Deeper 5

James - Digging Deeper 7 coming soon 😊

Friday, 3 August 2018

Flourish, where God has Planted you!

I am South African, and truly, of late, I have been very negative about being, well... South African!  Everything around us seems to be a struggle.  There is so much ugliness under the surface and so much corruption and there are those few outspoken "trouble-makers" who strive to promote hate instead of peace.

This country, South Africa, has SO MUCH potential.  The people in general want to get on with one another, grow together, find a way forward while embracing all our differences.  But those "trouble-makers" voices drown out all reason and objectivity, and encourage those easily influenced, to focus on the negative and harmful.

These very same "trouble-makers" in my opinion, seek only to make only their lives wealthy and opulent.  Their concern is not for those they influence.  But, I am no politician (thank the Lord).  I however have been questioning my existence here, and that of my family.

Do I really want to be here?
Is there really any hope?
History in those countries around us is not very encouraging...
Why bother?
Shouldn't we just go where there are more like-minded people?
Could we, even if we wanted to?
Will things ever change?

And the questions just go on and on, and buzz around my head, and I have of late spoken very negatively about my country and its people.  I have felt so anxious. 

So, in my anxiety, I went to the Word.  I decided to have a quiet time at a time I would ordinarily not, seeking peace and answers to my anxiety. 

My next chapter to read was Jeremiah 29.  It is a letter from Jeremiah to the captives in Babylon.

Jer 29 vs 5 - 7: (5) Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. (6) Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. (7) And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace. 

I immediately felt the Lord had answered my anxiety about my country, about my city, about my home, and my part to play in it.


I felt the Lord say the following to me:

  • Build your lives, and commit to them
  • Plant gardens and establish yourself where you live
  • Increase in your lives, family, friends, business
  • Seek the peace of your city
  • Pray to the Lord for the peace of your city
  • For, the peace of your city will be your peace!

Is that not awesome?!  I feel as though God has spoken into all my fears and removed them by saying, "Flourish where I have planted you!"

I have wasted many anxious moments and words on being negative and losing hope.  Feeling at a loss and wanting to abandon ship so to speak.  But I feel God is calling me on this and saying, "No, I've got this, just flourish and trust the rest to Me!"

From now on, I choose to speak positively about South Africa, I choose to have hope in my country and its people, and in the God who placed us all here.  I will pray for Cape Town with fervor and for South Africa and its leaders as well. 

I hope this resonates with someone out there who feels hopeless in their city!  Don't give up hope!  God is aware of everything going on, and He is aware of you and your place in it!

God bless
Tracy


My ABIDE scripture for this post is:
Jeremiah 29 vs 11:  For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

James - Digging Deeper 5

And so we continue on in our James study.  This post we cover James 1 vs 16 - 18.  It always astounds me how much one can get out of just a few verses.  And the next time I visit in James, I will not be surprised when God shows me another facet to His character through His word.

Notes: EH = Everett Hill - Exploring the Elements of an Authentic Christian Lifestyle

James 1 vs 16 – 18:
(16) “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.  (17) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  (18) Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” 

Deceived:
  • Deceived here in the Greek is “Led astray”.  
  • God does not want us to be led astray into thinking anything good in us, is of us.  That is pride.  EVERY GOOD THING comes from the Father.
  • The “running away from temptation” sounds negative, but perceived differently, its “running to and pursuing every good thing”, which is from the Father.
Every Good gift:
  • When we think that we are the author of good in us, we deceive ourselves and set ourselves up for temptation, open doors, and pride.
  • We should remember, “There is no goodness apart from God, so we must count on God’s good gifts to see us through each moment.” (EH)
  • When we realize that every good gift comes from God, we will start to intentionally depend on Him and shall reap the blessing that comes from that.  Independence does not bring blessing.  It brings flesh into play, which brings death.  Dependence on God brings blessing and life.
  • James is saying the way to avoid being deceived is to decipher what is of God and what is not.  He says here in James 1 vs 17:  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above; it comes from the Father of all light, in whom there can be no variation…
  • If we, who are parents know how to give good gifts to our children (Matt 7 vs 11), how much more our Heavenly Father… Thus if it is good, glorifies Christ, good and useful for our sanctification, our continued transformation, then it is of God. 
  • If something leads us away from God, into darkness, into pride, self-reliance, etc etc, it is not of God.
  • God is the father of all light, and if we look on temptation, through the beam of His light, then the temptation looks pale, unattractive, with no draw.  Because God’s light exposes it for what it is.  Death.
  • Choosing God’s goodness, choosing light, choosing life, is not always easy and when we do so, God rewards us.  We must always remember that God’s mercies are new every morning for us because He loves us and wants us to be renewed daily and not weighed down by guilt, shame and despair.
  • I feel it needs to be mentioned here that James points out that that God is unchanging!  We may change, we may fail or succeed, but God never changes.  What He means yesterday, He means for today and tomorrow.  That is comforting in this ever changing world.
Firstfruits:
  • James says that we are a kind of firstfruits of the Lord’s creatures.  EH goes on to say that the reason for this is that God views us through the lens of Jesus.  Because Jesus is our righteousness. 
  • We are saved, born-again and transformed daily, but far from perfect.  He sees us for what we are right now, but also what He created us to be.  He treats us as He intends us to be, but gives us grace and mercy to journey to that place. 
  • We are made valuable simply because God has picked us. (EH)  We are His firstfruits, because it is His will for us to be so. 
  • As humans, made in the likeness of God and redeemed by Jesus, we are God’s most glorious creation, or at least we will end up being so once He is finished with our transformation. (EH)



John Henry’s commentary says the following:
  • We are taught yet further that, while we are the authors and procurers of all sin and misery to ourselves, God is the Father and fountain of all good.
  • Let corrupt men run into what notions they will, the truth, as it is in Jesus, stands thus: That God is not, cannot be, the author and patronizer of anything that is evil; but must be acknowledged as the cause and spring of everything that is good.
  • Father of lights: vs 17: God is the Creator of the sun and its rising and setting are the same, unchanging. So, God is unchangeable. What the sun is in nature, God is in grace, providence, and glory; aye, and infinitely more. 
  • As every good gift is from God, so particularly the renovation of our natures, our regeneration, and all the holy happy consequences of it, must be ascribed to Him.
  • Us as God’s firstfruits: That we should be God’s portion and treasure, and a more peculiar property to him, as the firstfruits were; and that we should become holy to the Lord, as the firstfruits were consecrated to Him, Christ is the firstfruits of Christians, Christians are the firstfruits of creatures.

By God’s will, we have been chosen to be His firstfruits, holy and set apart, for His glory and enjoyment.

God bless
Tracy



My ABIDE scripture this week is:
Prov 16 vs 3:  Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established.




Also in this James Study series:
James - Digging Deeper 1
James - Digging Deeper 2
James - Digging Deeper 3
James - Digging Deeper 4

James - Digging Deeper 6 coming soon 😊

Monday, 25 June 2018

True Worship or False?

What are you reading at the moment that is helping you in your journey to a closer relationship with God?  For me I am currently reading "Man's Purpose" by AW Tozer.  That man does not mince words let me tell you. 

I have found his forthrightness very much like a bucket of cold water thrown in your face.  Its very refreshing! 😊

Tozer says that our prime reason for being, is to worship God.  And through this book he is trying to get across exactly how one does this.  I have been praying and asking the Lord to quicken my mind so that I can understand and absorb all that he has to say.  I want to know all I can about worshiping God so that I do it in a manner that is acceptable to Him. 

I was struggling with something that Tozer had said.  Not so much that it was not understandable.  Just in that what he said made me feel that nothing I do is satisfactory worship for God.  And while I believe my acceptability comes from a place of God's righteousness and grace and mercy, and nothing of my own, I felt Tozer was expressing an impossibility of my being able to worship God in such a manner as I thought to be acceptable.  He was eliminating all the ways I thought I was worshiping God.

He states the only way to worship God is in (1) spirit, and (2) in truth.  (John 4 vs 24)

I can understand this just fine.  God is spirit and we can worship Him anywhere.  Its not about where, a building, a place.  We can worship God anywhere because He is in us.  It is not about physical sacrificing and outward show.  It is about our hearts and souls seeking to worship God.  Worshiping God in truth, means to acknowledge the truth of Who He is.  He is Lord, Saviour, Creator.  There is no way to God but through belief in His Son, belief in His death and resurrection.  This is the truth of God.  We can only truly worship God if we believe the truth of Who He is. 

Tozer went on to say that much of today's "worship" of God, in church and among us as Christians is NOT true worship.  Its more about us, and entertainment, etc.  And while I do see this, and believe this to be true in many circumstances, I felt as if Tozer is saying that when I go to church and sing our praise and worship songs, that I am not worshiping, or at least, not in a way acceptable to God.


I went to bed that night confused and worried about my ability to worship God in a way that is acceptable to Him.  Then, in the morning I got up, fed the dogs, made my cuppa and headed for my bible for a quiet time.  And.... the next chapter to read was Isaiah 66.  The last chapter of Isaiah. 

The heading in my bible reads:  True Worship and False

And I smiled.  God has a way of letting you know He knows what you are doing.  He knows that you want to learn.  He knows you want clarity.  He knows what you are thinking!  Yes, He knows! 

The next verses really sum Worship, acceptable or not:
Isaiah 66 vs 1 - 2(*red italic notes are mine)
(1)  Thus says the Lord:  "Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool.  Where is the house that you will build Me?  And where is the place of My rest? (God does not need a building, a place to be worshiped. earth and heaven are His footstool)
(2)  For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist," says the Lord.  "But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my Word.

The true worship that God accepts is from a contrite heart, a broken heart, a humble spirit.  One who looks to God for salvation and who fears Him as Lord and Saviour.  Who respects His word.  Thus, to truly worship God, in spirit and in truth, we must be humble, contrite, and fear Him, as in: respect and honour Him as Lord of all.

What then is false worship, unacceptable to God?
Isaiah 66 vs 3 - 4:    
(3)  "He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man;  he who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog's neck;  he who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine's blood;  he who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol.  Just as they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations, (people doing outward shows of worship with no desire to change their hearts and actions)
(4)  So will I choose their delusions, and bring their fears on them, because, when I called, no one answered, when I spoke they did not hear;  but they did evil before My eyes, and chose that in which I do not delight."

False worship comes from external show, self-reliance and pride. This "worship" is not acceptable in God's eyes.  God was not happy with those who outwardly showed worship by sacrifice, but continued in sin and their own pleasures.  Their hearts were not right before Him.

So, I feel the Lord as allayed my fears and reminded me its about my heart.  Its about the intent of my heart.  When I praise and worship God in church, in my home, in my car, my intention is to love God, to worship Him in spirit and in truth.  I do not do it for anyone else, I do not do it to show anyone else anything else.  It is me, worshiping Him.  And I believe that when I do worship God in this manner, He accepts it. 

I do however pray that God show me where I fail, how I can improve, and where I need to change so that my worship remains acceptable in His sight.

Let me know your thoughts.

God bless
Tracy

 

My ABIDE scripture this week is:
John 4 vs 24:  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

James - Digging Deeper 4

James 1 vs 13 - 15: (13) Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. (14) But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. (15) Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

(Note:  EH = Everett Hill - Exploring the Elements of an Authentic Christian Lifestyle
           MH = Matthew Henry)

EH Notes:
  • We will be tempted, its when not if.
  • God allows temptation and difficulties for our growth and strength of character. We need these so that we can stand against, and withstand the wiles of the devil.
  • Don’t be discouraged by temptation, but don’t underestimate it either.
  • When tempted, do as Jesus did, use God’s word, as it’s alive and powerful, and will protect you.
  • Do not panic, or fear the temptation, but look to God, as His word says He will give you a way out of temptation. 
  • The temptation can’t harm us, unless we let it – its very much our choice to pick it up or not.
  • When we stand firm on God’s word (thus we need to know God’s word) no temptation will overpower us. Its power is our choice. Choose God’s way in faith 

EH then goes on to discuss IF/WHEN we do fall into temptation and sin
  • He explains that God’s forgiveness is there
  • Not accepting His forgiveness is at its core, disobedience. (← is this not profound?)
  • We tend to not ask forgiveness because we feel shame, we deserve the consequences, we feel we need to earn the forgiveness - when all along, God is extending forgiveness with no strings attached. It doesn’t fit our thinking because we know we fell, thus we need to suffer in it, but God restores because He extends grace and mercy, and doesn’t want us to suffer needlessly.
  • Also, the price He paid to save us from those failings, we need to honour His sacrifice by accepting His forgiveness, repenting and walking in the right way.



Life Application notes:
God doesn’t tempt people, He tests them. He does allow Satan to tempt people, however, in order to refine their faith and to help them grow in their dependence on Christ. We can resist the temptation to sin by turning to God for strength and choosing to obey His word.

When having fallen to temptation don’t blame others, situations, worldly ease etc. The Christian accepts responsibility for his or her wrongs, confesses them, and asks God’s forgiveness.


Matthew Henry notes:

MH lays the blame firmly at the feet of man for responding to temptation and completely refutes anyone trying to turn blame onto God.
  • “Our first father Adam, tells God, the woman thou gavest me tempted me, thereby, in effect, throwing blame upon God for giving him the tempter. Let no man speak thus!”
  • “It is very bad to sin, but is much worse, when we have done amiss, to charge it upon God, and say it was owing to Him.”
  • “Afflictions, as sent by God, are designed to draw out our graces, but not our corruptions.” (I love love love this statement)
  • “Stop the beginnings of sin therefore, or else all the evils it produces must be wholly charged upon us.”


My thoughts: Therefore, don’t pick up the temptation, because if you do, the resultant sin and consequences is all on you.  Its all about choices in the moment of temptation!

EH notes that temptation in of itself has no power over us, but if we act on it, we give it power to plant seed and grow to full blown sin.

To summarise:
  • Temptation is a given
  • It has no power over us, except that which we allow
  • God allows temptation and trial to strengthen us
  • Its all about choices
  • If/when we fall, the buck stops with us, its on us, our choice, take responsibility
  • If/when we fall, God is ready to forgive
  • Not accepting God’s forgiveness is pride and disobedience
  • Accepting His forgiveness immediately restores your relationship with Him

I hope you are as encouraged as I am that temptation is not to feared as much as we do fear it!  God has given us a way out, no matter how far along in our faith walk we are.  

God bless
Tracy



My ABIDE scripture for this week is:
1 Corith 10 vs 13:  No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Monday, 11 June 2018

The more you ABIDE, the more you WANT to ABIDE!

My One Word for this year is ABIDE (See post HERE).  My goal therefore for this year was to spend more time in the Word, dig deeper, know more, get closer to the Lord, invest more time, heart and mind to getting closer to my Lord and Saviour, Jesus.  I am finding in doing so, I just want more!  More of the Word.  More knowledge.  More understanding.  More history.  I want more of Jesus!

My ladies bible study (God's Girls) are currently digging deeper into the book of James.  We are loving it!  I love how I am looking up things I never considered before.  Who is this person in scripture?  Where do they come from?  What part do they play?  What happened to them?  Google is marvellous for some of those questions.  I just want to pick everyone's brain about what they know.
I also find I am not just taking what someone says at face value!  I am checking what they say for myself, in the Word!

I am going through 1 John at the moment in my quiet time and there are so many references to ABIDE.  They are all so encouraging and uplifting.  John is writing to Christians and encouraging them to not be influenced by false teachers and teachings.  If we ABIDE in God and in His word we will be able to prevent ourselves from being waylaid and deceived, and.... we begin to understand His love for us.


1 John 2 v 24:  Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning.  If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.   

If God's word, the truth, is in us, then God is in us and abides in us.  Thus we have His protection and His love in us.

1 John 2 vs 26 - 27: (26) These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. (27) But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

Because we abide in Christ and thus Him in us, we will not be deceived by false teachers.  Our consciences will be on high alert!

1 John 2 v 28:  And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.

We will recognise Jesus when He appears!  Does that not give you peace?!  It makes me feel confident that if someone comes claiming to be Christ, we will know the truth and not be fooled!

1 John 3 v 6:  Whoever abides in Him does not sin.

This means that if we abide in Christ and in His word, we will recognise sin and steer clear.  We will not be able to sin on purpose.  We will not be able to stomach hurting Jesus or the Holy Spirit on purpose.  Abiding in Christ protects us from sin.

The "LOVE" connection!

1 John 4 vs 12(b) - 13:  If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.  (13) By this we know that we abide in Him, and He is us, because he has given us of His Spirit. 

1 John 4 vs 15 - 16:  (15) Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  (16) And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

If we have love in us for our fellow man, then God abides in us.  If not, we need to abide more!  Spend more time in His word until we start to love people the way God wants us to.  And we are only able to love the way God wants us to, if we are able to confess Jesus as the Son of God, and we believe in Him.  When we understand God's love for us, and the love He wants us to extend, we are starting to abide in Him and Him in us.

This is a place, a way of being, that we should desire with all our hearts.  Let us ABIDE in Him daily, now and always.

God bless
Tracy


My ABIDE scripture today is:
1 John 3 v 16:  By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.  And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  

Monday, 4 June 2018

James - Digging Deeper 3

NOTE: Where I have quoted from the James study "Exploring the Elements of an authentic Christian Lifestyle" I have added (EH) for the writer Everett Hill

James 1 vs 9 – 12: (9)Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, (10) but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. (11) For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits. (12) Blessed is the man who endures temptations; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Rich and poor – it’s the attitude in your wealth!

When your heart is right with God and your walk daily is about “winning the race”, pushing through and persevering to the end, then:
  • Being poor is not something to be ashamed of. In fact, the poor are to glory in the fact that riches/or lack thereof, are not an issue. 
  • Riches – “God’s riches” are to be desired and in being “poor” worldly riches should not blind you to God’s plan for your life.  As we are all human, we know that these right attitudes are to be aimed for, not necessarily a given!

James writes to the ‘poor’ and the ‘rich’ Christian from an eternal viewpoint (EH). Obviously in this life we need money to survive, buy food, have shelter, etc, but James is saying the poor man is actually blessed to not have the stresses of worldly wealth.

If our lives, filled with difficulty though they are, are only a fraction of our total existence, the rest of our existence must matter the most, right?! (EH)




When James addresses the wealthy Christian he is pointing out a number of things:
  • Don’t trust in your wealth, its fleeting 
  • Your wealth/money is meaningless to God 
  • Your wealth is temporary and you and it will fade away 

I think he makes the point that “having” actually makes you “poorer” because instead of relying on Christ, you rely on yourself and your wealth instead of building your heart and soul for your future in eternity, your focus is on building your wealth on earth. The wealthy have a huge potential to miss the boat. James is saying if you realise your wealth is as nothing to God, then you are truly wealthy and your riches are in Him alone and eternal. James encourages the poor to glory in not being wealthy, and the wealthy to be humble in their wealth because it’s not theirs to keep and is from the Lord for His glory not theirs.

  • We are being encouraged to keep away from the love of money, whether we have it or not! 
  • We are to put Christ ahead of wealth or the lack thereof!   Don’t let it be an idol! 
  • James takes wealth out of the equation, thus all are equal before Christ, now, make Christ your focus and live from that perspective, not from the perspective of having or not having…. 

Matthew Henry says: Both these are allowed to rejoice… If we do not rejoice in Him always, it is our own fault. Those of low degree may rejoice, if they are exalted to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom of God; and the rich may rejoice in humbling providences, as they produce a lowly and humbling disposition of mind, which is highly valuable in the sight of God.


Verse 12: 
 When James commends steadfastness under trial, the word “trial” that he uses can be translated as “temptation”, or a test of one’s integrity (EH). In the amplified bible it says: Blessed is the man who is patient under trial and stands up under temptation, for when he has stood the test and been approved, he will receive the victor’s crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.

Matthew Henry says: It is not the man who suffers only that is blessed, but he who endures, who with patience and constancy goes through all difficulties in the way of his duty.

I think James is saying: “Stand…. Stand firm… don’t give in, don’t give up… push through, because you love God! AND because you love God more than you love man’s approval and immediate satisfaction, your hope and reward is in eternity where God will reward your perseverance with the crown of life.”

Matthew Henry says: We only bear the cross for a while, but we shall wear the crown to eternity.

What is the crown of life?
  • It is the title of our reward for persevering (EH) 
  • It alludes to the glory, honour, and power found within the life of Christ that is given to us as a reward for believing AND acting on that belief (EH) 
In the end our joy is made complete by our glorious dependence in Christ and the reward is eternal life with Him (EH).

A final thought from Matthew Henry: The crown of life is promised not only to great and eminent saints, but to all those who have the love of God reigning in their hearts. Every soul that truly loves God shall have its trials in this world fully recompensed in that world above where love is made perfect.

I am finding that digging deeper is an awesome activity and gets the brain and heart engaged and sharpened for God's use when He chooses 😉

God bless
Tracy




My ABIDE scripture for this post is:  
Isaiah 40 vs 8:  The grass withers the flower fades,  but the Word of our God stands forever.




See also in this series:
Coming soon:
James - Digging Deeper 4

Friday, 25 May 2018

In Whom is your Trust?

Lately, we have been feeling like the Israelites at the edge of the Red Sea!  It has been a very trying interesting time.  We as a couple have chosen to commit to faith in God and trust that He is going to part our proverbial Red Sea.  And, having decided to walk this path of faith and trust in God, we have had numerous scriptures and quotes that have encouraged us to do just that.  Yes, we feel we are doing the right thing... instead of making a plan, again, we are choosing to wait on the Lord, knowing that His word is good and true and tried and tested and thus.... trustworthy.

Is it easy?  No!  Is it worth it?  I have absolutely no doubt it will be!

Now, in a recent quiet time I was reading Isaiah 30.  Wow, what an encouraging chapter of scripture.  Judah was in the process of trying to form an alliance with Egypt for protection against Assyria.  And God says the following to them through Isaiah:
Isaiah 30 vs 1 - 3:  (1)“Woe to the rebellious children,” says the Lord, “Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, That they may add sin to sin;  (2) Who walk to go down to Egypt, and have not asked My advice, to strengthen themselves in the strength of  Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!  (3) Therefore the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame, and trust in the shadow of Egypt shall be your humiliation.

God is saying here that not only did they not ask Him for guidance and advice, they have not trusted Him to protect them.  He says that their "making a plan", an alliance with Egypt would result in their humiliation.  That is just awful.  In vs 7 Isaiah says that Egypt's help would result in nothing, and calls her (Egypt) a name that is a likeness to a hippo sitting on the banks of the Nile, doing...nothing!

Isaiah says to them in vs 15:  For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:  "In returning and rest you shall be saved;  In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." But you would not...

They would not!  They would not?!  Did these people not remember all that God had already done for them?  Well, um, same for us right?!  Do we remember all that God has already done for us?  Are we going to try another 'wisdom of man' solution?  Are we going to try another 'world view' plan?

For us, I stand right now and say NO!  This time we are going to trust God and return to His rest, and be quiet in confidence and His strength!  This time we are going to trust and watch what the Lord will do!


God was so gracious with the Israelites!  Knowing that they were going to go ahead and do their own thing, reap the consequences of their own actions, He says through Isaiah:  Vs 18:  Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you;  and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.  For the Lord is a God of justice;  Blessed are all those who wait for Him.
(Italics and bold print mine)

Isaiah continues and says how the Lord will hear when they cry and answer because He longs to be merciful and gracious toward them.  And, when they choose to trust Him and wait on Him....
Vs 21:  Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it,"  whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left. 

This is what I desire.  I desire to hear the Lord, that still small voice, speaking so that I hear, "This is the way, walk in it!"  This is my desire!  To hear God speak to me.  So, in order for this desire to be met I need to trust God with everything that is in me.  I need to rest in Him, trust in Him, glorify Him and in quiet confidence, wait on Him, as a demonstration of my faith!  Waiting in faith is an action!!!!

I hope these scriptures have encouraged you as much as they have me.  Isaiah gives us the route to follow, the way to go, the "how" to live each day!

God bless
Tracy


My ABIDE scripture for this post is:
Psalm 25 vs 20:  Keep my soul, and deliver me; let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.

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