August 24, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 16)

Submitted by Joanna K. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

1 Corinthians 16:1-4

“From the information in Paul’s other letters, we know that the collection was for ‘the poor among the saints in Jerusalem’ (Romans 15:26) […] He interpreted this financial offering as a way for the Gentile churches to be of service for the spiritual blessings that had come to them through the witness of the Jerusalem community (Romans 15:27)…”  [Richard B. Hays, “1 Corinthians,” Interpretation (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1997) 284.]

·         What kind of relational responsibility is Apostle Paul trying to teach the Corinthians through this collection for the Jerusalem church?

The relational responsibility that Apostle Paul was trying to teach the Corinthians through this collection for the Jerusalem church was to see that they owed the Jerusalem church their love and support because it was through the Jerusalem church that they received the gospel.  It was through the very first converts in the Jerusalem church that Gentiles, such as them, were able to hear the Gospel.  It was the Apostles in the Jerusalem church who first taught and spread the Gospel.  Although many in the Corinthian church may never have visited or had direct connection with those in the Jerusalem church, Apostle Paul wanted to teach them where their spiritual roots came from and he wanted them to create that connection between them and the Jerusalem church.  Apostle Paul wanted the Corinthians to know that their church and their faith didn’t just spring into existence, but that people had to suffer and labor so that they could receive the Gospel.  As a result, the Corinthians would be a more grateful, mature, and generous people.

 ·         Why did Apostle Paul instruct them to set aside money each week and save it up in advance for this gift to the Jerusalem church? What would have been the spiritual benefit of building this practice into their lives?

Apostle Paul instructed them to set aside money each week and save it up in advance for this gift to the Jerusalem church partly because it was just practical because if they didn’t set it aside they would see all these other needs that seemed pressing and in the end not have any left to give. I think Apostle Paul was very realistic and he knew that even though the Corinthians had good intentions they were still sinners and were innately selfish.  He was a wise minister in that he understood how people were and gave them sound advice in their Christian life to be people of their word and fight sin.

The spiritual benefit of building this practice into their lives is that they would be ready to give at any moment and it was a concrete way to fight against their own stinginess.  Also, the Corinthians would be regularly reminded that they owed the Jerusalem church their support because it was through the Jerusalem church they received the Gospel and were supremely blessed.  I think it would be really easy for them to forget their connection to the Jerusalem church and just think they were entitled to the spiritual blessings they received.  There is something humbling and ennobling in remembering your roots and in recognizing that it didn’t have to be that you received such blessings, but God gave you blessings through certain people in your life. It makes you more grateful and generous.  It’s the immature person who is clueless as to who they owe.  It’s like a teenager who selfishly thinks her life is her own to do whatever she wants when her parents feed her and give her a roof over her head. To not recognize that she owes so much to her parents is a deficiency in her character and to the extent she doesn’t acknowledge the debt of love she owes her parents she is immature and infantile.

Also, they would know that there are some things that are more important than their own survival and their own needs being met.  This was one way they could fight against their own selfishness and anxieties and learn through this concrete act of putting their own needs second that honoring people and loving others is the appropriate way to live as Christians.

 ·         To whom am I indebted for the spiritual blessings that I have received?  What habits of love can I build into my life to express my gratitude?

I am indebted to so many people for the spiritual blessings that I’ve received starting with my leaders and so many other older ones in our church who through their radical sacrifice built up this church all those years ago.  I know full well that they sacrificed at a level I have never been asked to sacrifice, and it was through their faithfulness this church got established through which I received the Gospel. Not only am I indebted to them because of their sacrifice in the past to start this church, but my leaders’ ongoing faithfulness and sacrifice to keep building up the church, training me and so many others to be faithful to God in ministry and how to live life properly from advice on marriage to child rearing.  Thinking back to my undergrad days, I am so indebted to the older sisters who reached out to me despite my abrasiveness and how many times I caused them to be discouraged because of my lack of spiritual interest.  I am so indebted to my leaders who reached out to me and discipled me since I was an undergrad and through their persistence strove to change this rebellious girl into a person who could be a minister and responsible for others.  I am indebted to my leaders who led us down to San Diego that first year with so many unknowns and bravely led all of us even though we were all anxious and didn’t know what to expect.  I am indebted to my leaders now who sacrifice at a level I do not know by being the top leads of the SD church and taking on so many burdens and responsibilities.  I am indebted to my peers who are now scattered across all our churches because their faithful service has helped me persevere so many times just knowing that we’re all in this together.

Just thinking about our Fall quarter coming up, I know that the SD church is so indebted to the other Gracepoint churches, especially Berkeley, for all the resources that we receive such as financial support, publications, mission team, ideas for welcome week., and the many prayers lifted up on behalf of us, just to name a few. There’s no way we could do what we have done in San Diego without their support and prayers and for that I am so grateful.

Some habits of love that I can build into my life to express my gratitude is very similar to what Apostle Paul advised for the Corinthians. Each year my husband and I get an opportunity to support the ministries of our church in a special way through the Thanksgiving Mission Offering.  When it comes, I want to give generously and not be caught off guard.  So what we do is set aside money each time a paycheck comes so that we’re saving up so that we can give generously. In this way, I can properly order our finances to reflect the truth that meeting my own needs is not as important as doing God’s work and honoring the church that I received so much from.

Also, to properly express my gratitude to people I can build into my life a habit of seizing opportunities to express thanks and do it generously.  For example, I need to remember people’s birthdays and special events in people’s lives as they are opportune times to express thanks.  Often times I mean to send a card or an email to people who I want to express thanks towards, but I forget or I feel too busy for one reason or another.  Instead,  I need to push through this endless feeling that I am too busy and properly honor the people who deserve honor in my life because that is more important than checking one more thing off my to-do list.  Practically, this means putting people’s birthdays into my calendar, having gifts on hand to give to people, and making it a priority to send that card or email even if I have to drop other things.

1 Corinthians 16:5-9

·         Even though Apostle Paul says many are opposed to him, he states that “a wide door for effective work has opened” to him as well.  What is the relationship between opposition and effectively carrying on the work of the Gospel? 

The relationship between opposition and effectively carrying on the work of the Gospel is that they go hand in hand. Effectively carrying on the work of the Gospel is not going to be easy because we have an enemy that is opposed to the Gospel being spread, Satan.  He will stop at nothing to discourage us and throw many obstacles in our way so that the Gospel will not advance.  Often times I forget the fact that I am in spiritual battle and that evil within and without seeks to sabotage the Gospel being advanced.  Sometimes opposition comes in the form of people being hostile to Christianity, a discouraging dining hall outreach, people’s lack of interest in our welcome events, other events on campus that seek to lure students into the destructive college culture, or people not understanding my heart and taking offense to my attempts to love them in truth.

So often I find myself discouraged, scratching my head wondering why things are so hard.  However, I need to remember that God wants me to fight in this spiritual battle and that every square inch is going to be contested.  Like Apostle Paul, I need to be ready for a fight and expect to draw on God to persevere so that through all our efforts one person might be saved or one person would understand our hearts and joins our ranks to advance the Gospel and connect people back to God.

1 Corinthians 16:13

·         What does this brief exhortation by Apostle Paul say regarding the nature of Christian life?

This brief exhortation by Apostle Paul shows that the nature of Christian life is that there’s always this pull to be complacent and not think such that he warns the Corinthians to be watchful.  I think especially for me in the summer while things are a little slower for me in terms of ministry, it’s easy to think that all is well with me and others because I am committed to my own comfort.  Seeing how easy it is for me to let down my guard, I see the need to always fight against complacency and to remind myself that I am a watchman over myself and others.  Satan wants me to be complacent and un-alert because then I will be taken out of the spiritual battle.

Apostle Paul’s exhortation to “stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” shows me that in Christian life there are going to be a lot of things thrown at me to make me stumble, to cause me to be scared and anxious, and that will cause me to fear and want to run away.  Again, I need to shift my thinking that life should be easy and go well with me, to the mentality that I am in spiritual battle. In battle, the enemy tries to intimidate and sabotage.  In my own life the way Satan has intimidated me is to make me think that obeying God is too costly or scary.  Especially right now that I am a parent of two young children, Satan tries to intimidate me and scare me by suggesting that if I don’t spend all my time with my kids then I am a bad mom.

However, knowing that Christian life will be challenging and that Satan will try to scare me from faithful service I can prepare now by affirming the truths of the Gospel.  I need to remind myself how precious the Gospel is, review my own history and how the Gospel has transformed my life, how amazing it is to receive grace and how much people need God.  I can remind myself that God is in control, that He is love and that He loves my children more than I could ever love them.  I could remind myself of all the people who have gone before me, who despite extremely scary situations, heeded Apostle Paul’s exhortations and stood firm.  I need to just look to others in my midst that have made God a priority despite being working moms.  Also, the ultimate example of someone who was brave in the face of difficulties was Christ Himself, who promises that He will be with me to the very end of the age.

I realized that God doesn’t just tell me to stand firm and leave me alone to do it, but he has given me so many resources to be strengthened and stand firm. Given that God has given me resources to withstand Satan’s attacks, the most foolish thing would be to be un-alert and be caught off guard.  Even if I have all the resources in the world, I will be easy pickings.  Through this passage, God is alerting me to the reality of spiritual battle at just the right time as the start of a new school year comes near.  I need to heed this warning through intensified prayers for myself and others in preparation for all that will happen in the next couple weeks.

Submitted by Joyce L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

1 Corinthians 16:1-4

“From the information in Paul’s other letters, we know that the collection was for ‘the poor among the saints in Jerusalem’ (Romans 15:26) […] He interpreted this financial offering as a way for the Gentile churches to be of service for the spiritual blessings that had come to them through the witness of the Jerusalem community (Romans 15:27)…” [Richard B. Hays, “1 Corinthians,” Interpretation (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1997) 284.]

What kind of relational responsibility is Apostle Paul trying to teach the Corinthians through this collection for the Jerusalem church?

The Corinthian church did not come into existence on their own. Rather, they were recipients of many spiritual blessings from the Jerusalem church. The kind of relational responsibility that Apostle Paul was trying to teach the Corinthians through this collection is to remind them of this history and this fact, that the Jerusalem church was not just some church out there or something in the past, but that they have something to do with one another. It is instilling in them a way to show gratitude and appreciation concretely, through providing and giving financially to the very people who are poor among the saints in Jerusalem.

Why did Apostle Paul instruct them to set aside money each week and save it up in advance for this gift to the Jerusalem church? What would have been the spiritual benefit of building this practice into their lives?

Apostle Paul instructed the Corinthians to set aside money each week because it was a set thing they could do. They could develop a habit, intentionally and thoughtfully, rather than just having a surprise visit from those in Jerusalem, and having to scramble for a financial gift. Each week, when doing so, they can also remember the Jerusalem church, that it would not be forgotten. Humans for the most part are naturally forgetful and extremely practical, if not stingy. This practice allows the Corinthians to remember the Jerusalem church who imparted spiritual blessings upon them. Also, it wouldn’t have to be a huge amount at once, which would be harder to give, given that each person might have their budget, might feel the need to save up, might feel afraid to suffer that big of a loss as they consider all their practical needs, but rather the accumulated sum of a very faithful act of just setting aside a bit every so often was much more doable. It’s easy to build this discipline in small steps and develop a healthy habit.

To whom am I indebted for the spiritual blessings that I have received?  What habits of love can I build into my life to express my gratitude?

I am indebted to this church–to members of this one body, who exemplified for me the love of Christ and showed me that love is possible and that love is real. I am indebted to those who have gone ahead of me, who have poured out so much so that I can enjoy the benefits that I have today – rich relationships, meaningful purpose, love, and peace from forgiveness of sins, a reconciled relationship with God. The habits of love that I can build is to take some time out regularly, either birthdays, but definitely Thanksgiving to express thanks, to remind myself of what I have received and whom I have received it from through a card or a thank you email. Sometimes, I feel like I’m writing the same thing, but that serves a reminder that I did not get to where I am today alone. That much has been poured into me.

I am also very indebted to God, who is mighty to save, who has saved me from darkness and my sins, and given me the spiritual blessings of joy and peace, being part of a rich community, genuine love relationships, meaningful work, and so much more. The habit of love that I can build into my life is to express gratitude–one habit I have to guard and build up is to quiet myself each day before his word, do my devotions, spend time praying, thanking God. I can engage in building up the habit of thanking God daily for my salvation and for the blessings on top of that He has given me so that what God has done will never grow old and continue to spur me on.

1 Corinthians 16:5-9

Even though Apostle Paul says many are opposed to him, he states that “a wide door for effective work has opened” to him as well.  What is the relationship between opposition and effectively carrying on the work of the Gospel? 

There is always going to be opposition within and without but that does not stop the work of the Gospel from being effectively carried out. As I think about the opportunity I have to minister to international students and meet people from literally all over the world from Kenya to Thailand to New Zealand, I see too that there is a wide door for effective work, wide open. But there is also alongside much opposition. For instance, I am opposed by my own cynicism–wondering who is going to come our group as we’re a new group, small in numbers. There is also much opposition within, as I see my own sins–my lack of patience, my lack of love, etc. The Gospel is the greatest news ever and it has power to enter into a person’s life and completely change it around–but it will not do so without opposition. Satan is going to do whatever it takes to sabotage our efforts. Whether it be through discouragement, our health, pointing out my failures and trapping me in guilt and shame OR through many things outside–the influences that seduce people away from God–whether it be ambition, the party lifestyle, even just wanting to meet people. Effectively carrying on the work of the gospel does not mean that there will be no opposition. It’s not going to be smooth sailing, not going to be easy. But despite opposition, God wants us to see that there is a wide door for effective work, opening, and that He chooses to use broken people like us to accomplish His work effectively!

1 Corinthians 16:13

What does this brief exhortation by Apostle Paul say regarding the nature of Christian life?

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

Be watchful – be on our guard, be alert. The nature of Christian life is that we are going to be embattled, that there will be opposition, there will be things that can potentially catch us off guard, that it isn’t smooth sailing, and that we have got to fight, act like men, stand firm, and be strong.

Personal Prayer

Dear Father God,

I thank you Lord for the rich spiritual blessings that I have received. I thank you for my leaders who have modeled the way of life for me, who have poured out themselves and proven to me that You are real, that love is real, and that the Gospel is my one true need. I thank You for my salvation and all the spiritual blessings that I have because of you, and I thank you for allowing a sinner like me to partake in your work. I see that indeed there is a wide door for effective work to be done and confess that I am often bogged down by much opposition within and without. Help me to continue to be faithful – watchful, stand firm, and strong in Your grace, trusting that You are mighty to save and You delight to use broken people for Your salvation work. I thank you for the privilege and joy. I pray that I can honor you in this very busy season by pausing and spending time in Your word, praying, and giving You proper thanks for all You’ve done.

Submitted by Kevin L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

1 Corinthians 16:1-4

“From the information in Paul’s other letters, we know that the collection was for ‘the poor among the saints in Jerusalem’ (Romans 15:26) […] He interpreted this financial offering as a way for the Gentile churches to be of service for the spiritual blessings that had come to them through the witness of the Jerusalem community (Romans 15:27)…” [Richard B. Hays, “1 Corinthians,” Interpretation (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1997) 284.]

 What kind of relational responsibility is Apostle Paul trying to teach the Corinthians through this collection for the Jerusalem church?

Apostle Paul is trying to teach the Corinthians the importance of being relationally responsible for one another in a concrete and tangible way of giving and caring for one another’s needs. From Romans 12, we learned how when one part suffers, the whole body suffers, and how each member belongs to all the others. How does this happen? One concrete way is through financial giving. One person can’t just say “I love you brother” or “we are family” without backing it up and putting the money where it’s at. People can talk the talk but they must walk the walk. Apostle Paul is teaching people to not just stand aloof and be unconcerned but to really get into people lives, get into the details and see in what areas in people’s lives are they in need. It’s not about fending for self or accumulating money and taking care of one self. But it is that everyone is one Body and that we are all interconnected and that everyone has a responsibility to care for the needs of others around them.

Why did Apostle Paul instruct them to set aside money each week and save it up in advance for this gift to the Jerusalem church? What would have been the spiritual benefit of building this practice into their lives?

Apostle Paul instructed them to regularly set aside money so that he wouldn’t have to collect it when he gets there. This should be an ongoing discipline and practice for the members of the church. By building this practice into their lives, he was teaching them how to live life in a disciplined manner, to not be wasteful and spend it on self and unnecessary things but to save the money for a greater and good cause. Through this discipline, the members would also have more lofty things in mind, be more concerned with others’ affairs, be able to practice self-control. Each day, they would be intentional as to how much they are spending, how much they need to save up, and really be clear about their stance before God. This act also teaches them to surrender their possessions, money, wealth, resources, etc. and to really entrust these into God’s hands and to know that God will provide and use it and multiple it to bring others to God.

To whom am I indebted for the spiritual blessings that I have received?  What habits of love can I build into my life to express my gratitude?

I am indebted to the Christian heroes of faith and missionaries who have gone ahead of me and sacrificed their lives to preach the gospel and bring it to the ends of the earth. I am indebted to the leaders of our church who tirelessly preached the word of God, reached out to me when I was lost and stubborn, who patiently bore with me, prayed for me and my struggles. I am indebted to my leaders who defied the culture and really sacrificed their energy, resources, time, time spent with family, etc. so that our church can have this kind of culture of prioritizing church above personal life. I am indebted to this community in which God has placed me in, to rescue me from my sins, utter hopelessness, loneliness, despair and gave me new life, hope, and purpose.

Habits of love I need to build into my life include regularly saying thank you to people who have loved me, shown concern for me, poured out their life for me. It includes just sending an email expressing my appreciation and gratitude. I can also more regularly ask my leaders and people around me how I can help or tell people that I am praying for them when they are going through difficult or busy times. These are ways to show that I’m not taking things for granted but notice things and appreciate them.

1 Corinthians 16:5-9

Even though Apostle Paul says many are opposed to him, he states that “a wide door for effective work has opened” to him as well.  What is the relationship between opposition and effectively carrying on the work of the Gospel? 

Every time, there is a door opened, there will be opposition, and vice versa, every time there is opposition, God will open a door for other opportunities of ministry. The fact that there is opposition compels a person to be more determined and look for other opportunities to serve and do ministry. And when a person tries hard to follow God’s commands and do God’s work, the person will face opposition. That is the case with Nehemiah, as he tried to rebuild the way, there was strong opposition to the project. In the same way, Satan will find try to ways to oppose the advancement of God’s kingdom. Opposition and ministry come hand in hand.

1 Corinthians 16:13

What does this brief exhortation by Apostle Paul say regarding the nature of Christian life?

This brief exhortation tells us that Christian life is hard and full of obstacles, struggles, temptations. The fact that we have to stand firm and be strong shows how Christian life is a spiritual battle, there is no letting up, no being spiritually-lax, no being complacent. We are called to act like men, and to strive to be more mature because Christian life is tough, pertains to life and death issue, and much is at stake. Everyday, there are people dying, and many people don’t know God yet. All the more, Christians are called to take lives seriously and to be alert and intentional in their lives.

PERSONAL PRAYER

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for this passage and teaching me how I should concretely love and care for those in need. Thank You for placing me in this community where I can experience what it means to be loved and to love freely and where I can experience the freedoms and joys of being a Christian in this Body of Christ. Help me to strive to take my life all the more seriously, strive to be more mature and to take on more ownership over people’s lives.

Dear Lord, thank you so much for your timely words alerting me to the spiritual battle as Fall outreach comes upon all our churches.  Help me to shift my thinking from expecting life to be easy to embracing the fact that I am engaged in spiritual battle.  Help me be aware of the reality that I have a real enemy and that there will be much opposition as I try to advance your kingdom in this broken world especially on college campuses.  I confess that I too easily become complacent and I turn to idols of comfort and family.  From this passage, I see that this is so inappropriate in light of the fact that there is a dying world out there, and that you are so burdened for people who don’t know you. Help me to follow the examples of Apostle Paul and the many people in my life that serve as a model for me.  Help me to draw upon all the resources you have given me to stand firm and stay strong, especially the grace that you make available each day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Submitted by Tony C. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

1 Corinthians 16:1-4

“From the information in Paul’s other letters, we know that the collection was for ‘the poor among the saints in Jerusalem’ (Romans 15:26) […] He interpreted this financial offering as a way for the Gentile churches to be of service for the spiritual blessings that had come to them through the witness of the Jerusalem community (Romans 15:27)…” [Richard B. Hays, “1 Corinthians,” Interpretation (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1997) 284.]

·         What kind of relational responsibility is Apostle Paul trying to teach the Corinthians through this collection for the Jerusalem church?

Through this collection for the Jerusalem church, Apostle Paul is trying to teach the Corinthians that they are connected to a network of churches, and especially the Jerusalem church, which played a significant role in the establishment of their church. Through this act of financial giving, Apostle Paul is giving the Corinthians an opportunity to concretely express their care and concern for the Jerusalem church.

·         Why did Apostle Paul instruct them to set aside money each week and save it up in advance for this gift to the Jerusalem church? What would have been the spiritual benefit of building this practice into their lives?

Apostle Paul instructed them to do this so that when he came to Corinth there will be no collecting from them. Instead of having to collect from the church to receive sufficient financial support for the Jerusalem church, he would instead, out of the initiative of the Corinthian church, receive a generous offering. Through the building up of this kind of practice into their lives, the Corinthians would be able to grow in their generosity of giving and actively think about the Jerusalem church as they intentionally set aside money each week for the offering.

·         To whom am I indebted for the spiritual blessings that I have received?  What habits of love can I build into my life to express my gratitude?

I am indebted to the body of Christ for the spiritual blessings that I have received. My pastors, my spiritual leaders, and many other older brothers and sisters at my church had a significant impact on my spiritual growth. Through the many Bible studies and church service messages that my pastors and spiritual leaders gave, I was able to grow in my understanding of God’s existence, God’s love for me through Jesus, and my own sinfulness and need for Jesus. And after 10 years of being a part of this church, God has continued to use these people in my life to help me grow in my relationship with Him. In light of all the spiritual blessings that I have received, it would only be appropriate for me to build into my life the habits of love that involve sacrifice, generosity, and faithfulness as ways for me to express my gratitude for the body of Christ that I am a part of. This includes being sacrificial and generous with the giving of my money, my time, and my energy to build up the church and to love the people that God has placed in my life. This also includes being faithful in being involved in people’s lives in spite of the emotional sacrifice that it may entail. In the end, I am really just trying to imitate how my pastors and spiritual leaders have lived and pass on to others the love that I have received.

1 Corinthians 16:5-9

·         Even though Apostle Paul says many are opposed to him, he states that “a wide door for effective work has opened” to him as well.  What is the relationship between opposition and effectively carrying on the work of the Gospel? 

Perhaps when Paul saw that many people were opposed to him in Ephesus, his heart went out for the people there; so instead of seeing it as a problem that he should avoid, he saw it as an opportunity for him to carry on the work of the Gospel there all the more. In the same way, opposition from people against the work of the Gospel should cause us to feel burdened because of the kind of coldness and stubbornness that we see in people’s response towards God. And like Paul, we should see the place of opposition as a harvest field where we see and understand the poor spiritual condition that people are in, and embrace it as an opportunity for us to preach the Gospel all the more so that they can hear and receive it.

 1 Corinthians 16:13

·         What does this brief exhortation by Apostle Paul say regarding the nature of Christian life?

As we hear Paul say, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love,” we see that Apostle Paul is painting a picture of Christian life as a life that entails having an on guard and enduring attitude that us motivated by love. Like a watchman, we need to guard against the dangers of sin and temptation, and be on the lookout for great things that are to come–heaven and Christ. Standing firm in the faith, act like men, and being strong are all words that remind us that we need to endure and never give up as in spite of the difficulties that we may face as Christians. And ultimately, what keeps us going in doing all of this should be fueled by nothing other than our love for God and the people that God has placed in our lives, and also the love that we have received from the body of Christ.

Personal Prayer

Heavenly Father, as the new school year is approaching, and you have placed me in the midst of a campus that is filled with many people who not only do not know God, but also people who are unresponsive towards God, I pray that I will see this as an opportunity for me to make a greater effort to love and share the Gospel to the students on the UCSD campus. And when I find it to be difficult, I pray that I will be reminded of the many spiritual blessings and love that I have received and once again find strength to “act like men, be strong” and continue on.

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