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The “Elijah Moment”

I cannot help but feel that this year has seen a significant shift and change in my spiritual state and perspectives. It is difficult to lock it down to just one or two things that have happened to me or I have done. I do believe that listening to The God Journey and The Free Believers Network podcasts has had something to do with it. But it would be wrong of me to dismiss all of the other things that have happened around me over the years which have contributed significantly towards shaping me into the person that I am today, with the beliefs that I now have.

Over the course of the weekend I just felt struck with just how utterly awesome it is to simply have a sense of profound peace; and to just know in your heart beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are okay as you are and that the decisions you make are right for you at that time.

I believe that it is sheer torture to be in that awful place whereby you are at a “junction” in your life, torn between two or more decisions, and not really sure which path to take. I don’t think there is anything worse than having that sense of sheer disorientation in your mind, as you struggle mentally to determine the next course of action. In fact, I would say that it is a curse if we are to take Deuteronomy 28:28 into consideration.

It is this anxious state which can cause Christians to search for the latest book, by a popular evangelist, promoting the latest fads and formulas. Such “teaching” is often purported to be the means of changing your life for the better, promising miracles, prosperity and special favour with God and other people. Over the course of time, it is really quite possible to amass a library stacked with such books. But when you look back over your life, you realise with horror that none of those books have really done anything to change your life or who you are at that moment.

The Australian evangelist Christine Caine delivered a powerful message at Hillsong London on Sunday 15th November 2009 - 6.00pm, entitled Don't Stay at the Gate. In this message she related the story of Mary when she was heavily pregnant with the yet unborn Jesus. Being the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, you would have thought that she would have been entitled to V.I.P. treatment. But no, the Bible tells us that when she was heavily pregnant, she had to endure a long ride on the back of a donkey in order to travel to a place in which a census was performed. This very special lady did not check-in to a five star hotel. Oh no, the Bible clearly tells us that Mary was forced to stay in a stable, a place where horses are kept (just to remind you). Whilst staying at the stable, Mary the mother of Jesus finally gave birth to the greatest Man that ever walked the earth.

I cannot help but feel that this story in the Bible truly hammers home the significance of the way in which life does not always go the way we want and that it does not always deliver the comforts and conveniences that we would like. Christianity has somehow veered towards being a method by which people can assume perfect control over their lives; demanding comfort and a smooth transition through life. A lot of prayer requests have been focused towards making life simpler. I shake my head in disbelief when I hear Christians praying for “travelling mercies”; they will pray that their transport will arrive on time and that their baggage will not go astray and so forth. Then there is the whole Word of Faith movement, in which I myself was drawn into for a number of years. I find that many people, who are lured into Word of Faith, are anxiety sufferers, just like me, who believe that their only means of happiness in this life is to use formulas that will enable them to control precisely what happens in their life.

I believe that God wants us to come to a place in which we have hardly any control over our lives and we know it. I have come to a place of understanding that the more I try to control my life, the more anxious, frustrated and disappointed I become. If I use my ability to control the circumstances of my life as a “measuring rod” of God’s love for me, I am going to end-up feeling like the biggest wash-out in history – as if I am never good enough and that I am far from the heart of God.

I believe that it is a sign on maturity when a Christian can come to that place in which he is not seeking to control his life; he is not seeking to gain a “word of knowledge” about what is going to happen to him at a future time. The only time that really exists is here-and-now – no other time exists – the past has been-and-gone and the future has not yet arrived. There is nothing we can do about the past – it is over and done with. The best way we can ensure that our future is the best it can be – is by making the most of our time now.

We read in 1 Kings 19 about the story of the prophet Elijah when he fled the wicked queen Jezebel who threatened his life. This is the same man who prayed and fire from Heaven burned-up the altar, sacrifice and the prophets of Baal. But for some reason Elijah ran for his life when he heard that Jezebel had signed his death warrant for killing her prophets.

Why Elijah succumb to this fear, no-one really knows. But what I do know is that the Bible tells us what happened next in 1 Kings 19:9-13. We are told that incredible things happened around Elijah as he stood upon the mountain before the Lord as He passed by: a great wind tore rocks from the mountainside, there was an earthquake and there was fire. But we are told that the Lord was not in these things. I have no doubt in my mind that the Lord orchestrated these supernatural events – but there was no purpose in them for Elijah.

Recently, I listened to one of the latest podcasts from The Free Believers Network, entitled The Lust of Sensationalism. This podcast episodes highlights the way in which the institutional church hypes things up to a point in which they become addictive to those who are hungry for the presence of God; and yet, despite all of the sensationalism, the weeping, the hand-clapping and hysterics – there is nothing in it that really changes people’s lives for the better; nothing that gives people a clearer sense of direction in life; nothing that brings people a lasting sense of God’s presence and love for them. This podcast makes me think of Elijah as he stood on that mountain-top – he saw incredible things that must have been from God, and yet, he did not get carried away with it all. Elijah did not go running after the fire or seeking God’s direction with regards to the fierce wind; Elijah did not choose to see the earthquake as being judgement from God.

During the time of Elijah there would have been none of the institutional church approaches that we see today: no worship team to strum an acoustic guitar or play soothing “pads” on a synthesiser, no lighting crew to dim the lights at the key moments – no mood-changing methods that we see today. Elijah would not have used evangelism programmes or distributed his books to needy followers of God. Elijah would have simply obeyed God and lived his life freely in the moment doing what he knew to do. I don’t think Elijah knew when God was going to show up with awesome miracles, and as such, did not make great efforts to make things happen in a predictable way.

By his own admission, Darin Hufford of The Free Believers Network could preach in such a way as to hold the crowd captive, having people laughing or crying. Darin knows of the tactics used by preachers to motivate them and manipulate them through emotionalism and sensationalism. It is for this reason that Darin now prefers “fireside chats” or “coffee house conversations” to the institutional churches style of preaching.

Over the course of the weekend I felt struck with something that must have been akin to what Elijah must have experienced when he stood upon that mountaintop: I did not experience the supernatural, such as wind, fire or an earthquake. But I did experience a sense of how wonderful it is to simply know that you are where you are meant to be right now; that there is not some sort of formula or principle that you have to apply from a book.

It is so easy to gravitate towards a sense of wanting to change and control things. Money can give us that sense of control that we desire – which is why it is so desirable. Dani Johnson preached a message at the 1pm service at Hillsong London on Sunday 18th April 2010 - 6.00pm, entitled Ministry in the Marketplace. When I heard Dani preach, I felt rather awe-inspired by her testimony: homeless at the age of 21 – a millionaire by the age of 23. Dani kept on asking rhetorical questions throughout her message, such as, “Is there anyone here who is tired of being a slave to money?” In response to this the crowd cheered and raised their hands – myself included.

It is easy to look at money and miracles as being a pathway to convenience. But just like Mary having to make that long journey on the back of a donkey – perhaps many of us are not in a position whereby we can make demands for comfort, power, prominence and convenience. Perhaps we have to do things that seem to be a disruption to our routine; travelling in ways that appear to be a waste of time and effort.

But when I had my “Elijah moment” I suddenly felt a sense of just how amazing it is to know that there are no principles and formulas to adhere to; there are no mistakes that you have made in your life up to now that are too bad or wrong to keep you away from God’s awesome presence and a fulfilling life in the future. When the Bible says that Elijah heard that still small voice of God – we too can hear that voice, although it may or may not be audible, but we can certainly know it. John 10:27 says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

The Psalmist in Psalms 84:10 when he made the profound statement: better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. I don’t want to live my life in that place of confusion whereby I’m wondering if I should go here or there, or do this or do that. If my constant safe-guarding, pampering and praying is keeping me in that place – I want out of it! I believe that the greatest blessing in life is to experience the presence of God for yourself, instead of studying about it or someone else telling you about it.

It is not just a luxury, but a necessity, I believe, to experience direction in your life that is clear as daylight. I don’t just want things to be obvious, but to be ultra-obvious: I mean to the point whereby it is glow-in-the-dark obvious – as obvious as a brass-band marching through your house. If I need to uproot myself and move to another country – fine; if I need to hop on the back of a donkey, travel a long distance and camp out in a stable – fine! Just give me the presence of God and I’ll be more than okay. But please, don’t let me languish in that sense of being far away from Him, trying to please God in my own effort, never quite certain what prayer, fad or formula is quite going to cut it with God.

I think we miss it and get confused when we try to forecast things ahead of time; I don’t need to know what I’m going to do in five years time; I don’t even need to know how an existing project is going to turn out for me; just let me know the next step and I’ll be okay with that. In his classic book, How to Obtain Fullness of Power, R.A. Torrey talks about being led by the Holy Spirit, we might only be given the next step, but that is enough. Some get into darkness because they don’t know what will happen next week or next month – but if we know the next step, we know all that we need to know in that moment.

I believe that it is truly a sign of maturity when our prayers and goals change from trying to manifest things, be they statuses, possessions or achievements – and we simplify everything down to this: simply knowing and experiencing the love of God for ourselves; knowing that all is well in our lives; the past is gone and no longer holds us in its sway; the future is unknown and will remain veiled to our sight for the time being. We are right with God just as we are – no fad, formula or principle can ever change or enhance that state in any way. I freely and gladly lay down my anxiety-ridden goals, aspirations and desire for control in favour of knowing God and feeling loved by Him, knowing that He is in control and that He demands nothing from me other than being fully surrendered to Him.

The Attraction of Performance

I heard Dani Johnson preach at the 1pm service at Hillsong London today. I could not help but be blown away by Dani Johnson’s testimony. I felt empowered as a Christian when she related that there were many entrepreneurs in the Bible and that Christians should be in prominent roles in society.

Her testimony was that she was homeless at the age of 21 and a millionaire by the age of 23. She seemed totally genuine and down-to-earth and was very inspiring during her sermon. I could not help but think to myself that this is the kind of person that I always wanted to be: confident, independent, successful and financially secure.

You can read more about Dani Johnson on her official website.

I suppose there is also the added “celebrity” factor as well: I have felt drawn towards the concept of being able to stand on a stage in front of a crowd of over a thousand people and have them applauding me and laughing and cheering with me. This was something that deeply appealed to me as a Christian for several years. But I now realise that this is a completely impractical expectation as not every Christian can expect to make it into a successful full-time ministry.

How Do You Process This?

I have been attending Hillsong London church for about five years now; I have been a Christian for around 15 years; so this kind of sermon has not been entirely new to me. I have been through the Pentecostal, praying-for-revival and miracles scene at Kensington Temple and I have been through the grace movement as taught by the likes of Joseph Prince. I am now going through a phase of so-called anti-IC (Institutional Church) conversations, courtesy of The God Journey and the grittier The Free Believers Network. I now feel that I am not as gullible as I used to be and that I am much more likely to question what I hear from the pulpit.

One of the latest podcasts from The Free Believers Network is entitled The Lust of Sensationalism. I feel that this long-awaited podcast picks-up from Darin's blog on Spiritual Porn Addiction. In this podcast episode, Darin and Aimee talk about how Christians who leave the excitement of the church-world, often feel enticed back by church services and teaching that give the impression of incredible spiritual occurrences. In “the wild”, the Christian space outside of church, you don’t have all of those incredible spiritual experiences and testimonies. It can be tempting for Christians, disillusioned by the church world, to be drawn back in by the seemingly miraculous. I felt rather bewildered as to how I reconcile this amazing testimony of Dani Johnson, against what the Free Believers team were saying.

It was also in another podcast by The Free Believers Network, I think it was the one entitled Moving On, in which the hosts discuss the fact that people who leave the church in a state of disillusionment, might come back to the church, but not because they feel they have to, not because they’ll be cursed if they don’t, but because of reasons such as friendship. This is the case I find myself in: I stopped going to church just at the start of the year. This coincided with my listening to the The Free Believers Network podcasts. These podcasts may appear to be anti-IC – but they are actually focused on a genuine relationship with God through Christ. Leaving the church seems to be a natural consequence of coming into the revelation of God’s love for you. I recently started attending Hillsong London Church again – but only because I wanted to meet up with some people and enjoy fellowship with them.

So I am left feeling rather bewildered as to how I am meant to process the message delivered by Dani Johnson. Was it wrong of me to feel wooed by this woman’s powerful message? How was this message applicable to my own life?

I know that at one time, when I was particularly insecure and naïve; I would have taken this to mean that I can also become a millionaire, with God’s help. I once thought that this was the only way that I could gain the respect of others and “win them for Christ”. That has been a particularly painful, frustrating and disappointing road that I have travelled for a number of years. But now, I find that I have arrived at a different place. I am now inclined to value what I have, to make the most of my life as it appears now, and to not wish that I was somewhere else doing something that I don’t do at this moment in time.

So how are we to process this inspiring message of success? Are all Christians meant to be successful entrepreneurs? I think the whole message of grace, righteousness in Christ, is all about knowing that you are okay just the way you are. I think that is a great place to start. Where you are supposed to go from there – I don’t really know. It might be a successful businessman or businesswoman, or it might just be a humble, everyday, nine-to-five job – I don’t know. Whatever it might be – I believe that you can trust in God to meet all of your needs, regardless of your salary and job-title.

It is true that we do hear of great and inspiring things happening in the lives of other Christians, the Old Testament is filled with testimonies of incredible miracles wrought in the lives of godly people. I feel that these stories serve to take our limits off God. But I feel that we can get off-course if we take these stories to mean that God is obligated to perform a similarly spectacular miracle in our own lives. At the end of the day, it all comes down to conveying a sense of trust in God – not in establishing a comprehensive set of formulas and principles which we can use in order to make God bless us how we want and when we want.

Caught Between Two Worlds

For years I felt as if I was caught between two worlds: the office workplace and the church. Both of these “worlds” emphasised one thing: performance. In the office workplace here seemed to be a strong work-hard ethic and a sense that you were respected according to your grade and your ability. This inevitably led me to believe that I needed to somehow make an effort to be better than everybody else and to show them that I had what it takes and was someone who could be trusted and respected. The “currency” of this workplace respect seemed to be vested in wisdom and favour – both being concepts strongly rooted in Biblical principles: Daniel and Joseph being the chief exponents.

In the church there was always a sense of wanting, needing, grasping for something outside of yourself; there was always the sense of inadequacy, that you are not right with God, not where you want to be and that you have to spend a lot of time and effort doing something in order to be somebody of worth and value. This often equated to rather daft church related endeavours and rule keeping.

I could not help but feel that the people in my workplace were clearly the winners in this battle of wits: they seemed to be the most intelligent, successful and appealing between the two. When I was part of the Pentecostal movement, I could not help but feel that there was something rather off-putting with the church crowd: they always seemed to be rather desperate, weak-willed, naive and quirky.

For me, I desperately wanted the promises of wealth and success that I got from the church world, to be brought to bear in the outside world: especially in the office workplace. I felt as if it was a competition, us against them, sinner versus saint, believer verses unbeliever.

But I felt that time and again my hopes were dashed as I found that I could not quite cut it with the office workplace crowd. I was up against Oxford and Cambridge graduates and I felt that the only thing that I had that would persuade them and win them to my way of thinking, and to Christ, was performance, ability and achievement. But it seemed that none of the formulas and principles that I gleaned from the church world ever seemed to work for me.

It was only when I started attending Hillsong London that I found myself around a group of Christians who seemed to be a lot more solid, genuine and balanced – fun people to hang out with.

It’s Not All about Performance

I found that the whole focus on performance just wore me out. I was convinced that I needed to impress people with what I did and what I had – as if love just was not enough. I suppose I just looked at how utterly ridiculous I felt the church was at the time and how utterly pathetic Christians seemed to be – I just thought that I needed to compete on the same level as the world in order to show that that there was something genuine, relevant, powerful and attractive about Christianity.

What I did not admit to myself at the time was that underlying these noble motives to bring Christ to the world, was a whole lot of insecurity and a deep-rooted want for approval. It was these unmet needs that were really cursing all of my efforts to do the right thing and to achieve success. I suppose this is what the Bible refers to as “selfish motives”.

My drive towards performance and achievement made me no different than the staunchest atheist whose trust I sought to win. I was drawn into the “rat-race” with all of its allure and all of its demands and all of its disappointment.

What Do People Really Want?

What I have found that people are drawn to, and I myself have been drawn to, are people who are honest, humble, secure and happy. I know of people in the workplace who have impressive job-titles and salary figures – but their personality, character and lifestyle leave little to be admired. It is not just what a person has or does that attract you – it is who they are and how you feel about them deep-down on the inside. There is often no logic, no formula to it – you just feel the way you feel about someone. The whole work-hard ethic has produced a lot of performance-driven people who quite often lack humility and integrity. Such people, I find, often live very shallow and dissatisfying lives. I find that such people are often unpleasant to be around.

I feel that we really need to stop chasing after formulas, miracles, job-titles and salary figures. We need to rediscover what is truly authentic in life: love, relationships, hobbies and interests.

Those people who become enamoured with job-titles and salary figures, I believe, are atheists – they trust in their ability to perform in order to make it in this world. Christianity is all about a relationship with God through Christ – it is not all about performance and about proving that Christians are more successful than people in the world. We need to leave room for those wonderful, serendipitous when we encounter God’s awesome grace and provision, in ways we did not expect and did not merit.

You will notice from the stories of Daniel and Joseph in the Bible, that they both were given favour by God, before they were blessed with wisdom and ability. There is significance in that. No matter what you do and how you perform in this life – nothing impresses people more than the favour that God gives a person. Favour is something that affects people on a spiritual level and requires no performance or human intervention whatsoever in order to make it effective.

The Mega Church and the Myth of Tithing

I had the privilege of listening to Joseph Prince preach at Hillsong London recently. I always enjoy listening to Pastor Prince’s teaching, and especially enjoy the experience of hearing him live on 11th October 2009. You can download this podcast for free here.

But there was something that bothered me about what Joseph Prince said. Joseph Prince said that we should tithe; he then gave a brief testimony of one of the members of his church: Olivia Lum. Olivia Lum went from having an average life to being the richest woman in South East Asia. Apparently, Olivia told Joseph Prince that the key to her success was that she always paid a tithe and she prayed for wisdom.

Joseph Prince and the Grace Revolution

I would say that Joseph Prince is at the fore-front of what could be called a “grace revolution”. Ever since Joseph Prince visited my church, Hillsong London, in 2006/2007 – the message at my church has become a lot more grace-oriented (the pastor’s admitted it themselves). I have a CD box set of the teaching that he delivered during his visit and it is truly amazing.

Joseph Prince has a lot of respect for the Senior Pastor at Hillsong London, Gary Clarke, and Joseph preaches at the annual Hillsong Europe Conference and sometimes speaks at Hillsong London as a guest speaker. Gary has also visited Singapore where he preached at New Creation Church – Joseph Prince’s church.

The revelation of grace that has happened in Singapore is spreading all over the world. Joseph Prince’s teaching is seen, or listened to, by people all over the world: his teaching can be downloaded in MP3 format from his website at Joseph Prince has a presence on Christian Television including the popular Daystar network. This wonderful grace preacher is influencing a lot of churches and Christians and it is probably for this reason that he still supports the message of tithing.

Darin Hufford on Tithing

Darin Hufford of the Free Believers Network has admitted that he does not believe in tithing. Darin is an ex-pastor of the Dream Center – a mega church in Los Angeles U.S.A. I recall Darin relating in one of his Into the Wild podcasts, that he set-up his own church after he left the Dream Center. He promptly told his new congregation that they did not have to tithe. Darin ended-up having an argument with his accountant because his ministry was rapidly running out of money. However, Darin would not waver from his convictions and he stood firm when it came to not deceiving the congregation into tithing out of an obligation or with the promise of extravagant blessings should they continue to do so. Darin concluded from this experience that the whole institution church experience is man-made and is utterly dependant on the myth of tithing.

It is important to note that the ministries of that of Bertie Brits and Joseph Prince, despite having a similar message, they are actually rather different: Joseph Prince is the senior pastor of a mega-church, albeit a grace mega-church, whilst Bertie does not have his own church, but produces videos from his home studio or travels to other churches and to conferences. There is a difference and if we are to take Darin Hufford’s statement as the truth – we can see why one preacher teaches on the tithe and why the other does not.

I’m kind of torn between accepting this statement fully and arguing that it is not the case, that there are some good things about the institutional church, particularly grace-oriented mega-churches such as Hillsong. However, I cannot deny that Darin does have a point and it does get me thinking. If this is the case, then perhaps Joseph Prince has to preach on the tithe so that he himself can continue to exist in a mega-church environment and so that he can continue to influence those who are also in a mega-church environment (the Hillsong Europe Conference being a case in point).

A Hint of W.O.F.

I also see some aspects of Word of Faith in Joseph’s teaching – particularly the daily devotionals he produces. I suppose this is to be expected because like me, his main influence was Kenneth E. Hagin. Hagin himself was a pioneer of faith during his day. Hagin had to overcome a lot of opposition from the church with his beliefs on faith for finances and faith for healing. Hagin was seen to be a heretic because of his propensity towards blessings, signs, wonders and spiritual gifts. God does not give any one Bible teacher a monopoly on Biblical truth, and more than likely, never will.

I made the big mistake of simply accepting everything I read in Hagin’s books without question. I suppose this was because I was so convinced by the extravagant testimonies of blessings and miracles; as well as the all-too-familiar name-it-and-claim-it faith confessions. I was desperate for love and approval and in the absence of proper teaching on grace – I just looked to performance and achievement. I saw faith as being the key to unlocking the power of God that I needed in order to be happy, satisfied and accepted.

I think if Hagin would have been given the same revelation of grace that Joseph Prince has been given today – it is likely that Hagin would have been driven out of the church for sure and labelled a crank.


Biblical prosperity is a very tricky subject – there needs to be a balance and I believe that extravagant testimonies, such as that of Olivia Lum, need to be seen as exceptional and not typical. I believe that the main reason behind such testimonies is to serve to take the limits off God. So many times we try to figure God out, anticipate His next move, and to define the boundaries of what we can or can’t have, or what we can or can’t do. It is so easy to quote a testimony like that of Olivia Lum and then attempt to make some sort of generic “template” out of it; a rule, principal or formula that anyone can follow in order to achieve instantaneous, and predictable, success.

Yes, I do believe that God’s intention is that we have our needs met, and even that we can enjoy prosperity – but there is a difference between needs and wants. A lot of people still look to financial prosperity as a means of offsetting other unmet needs in their life, such as a sense of approval and security – things that only a well-established relationship with Christ can fulfil.

I foresee the grace revolution as being a rather slow process as old religious mindsets give way to the message of pure grace. I believe that the message of tithing will probably be the last bastion of Christian legalism to fall. Why? Well because it involves money of course!

What Grace Preachers Say About Tithing

Joseph Prince is the only grace preacher I know of who still teaches that we should tithe. But he does add that we should give from a heart of love and not give out of obligation. But I think that a lot of Christians want to give out of love - but end up giving out of fear.

It does seem like a noble concept at first, but when people tithe for years and nothing significant happens as a result, the inevitable result is one of disappointment. Feelings of guilt can also arise from teaching on tithing because when a person fails to experience all of the wonderful promises that were made to him by a pastor or evangelist – it causes the Christian to wonder what he did wrong or what he is missing: is it a lack of faith? Do I have to give more? Is there sin in my life? And so on.

First of all, we really need to get beyond this fear associated with tithing. To do this, we need to hear teaching that shows that tithing is an Old Testament concept and that Jesus has bore the curse of the law.

I recommend Bertie Brits' teaching on the subject of tithing. Bertie's teaching is available for free download on his website I particularly recommend the teaching "Money on the Cross" and "Hermanus Leadership Conference". But there are various other teachings by Bertie in which he touches on this subject. Basically, Bertie argues that if we can attribute healing and salvation and everything else in Christ to the cross - why not prosperity and finances?

Steve McVey also asserts in his "101 Lies Told in Church" series of short videos, that we do not need to tithe. See Lie #66 You Will Be Blessed Because You Tithe.

Grace preacher Andrew Wommack also teaches that we should not tithe out of compulsion and that God will bless you even if you don't. See the Financial Stewardship series, which can be downloaded for free on his website. This teaching series is a little confusing because in the first MP3 (and perhaps part of the second), Andrew says that we don't need to tithe, but then in the subsequent MP3s in the series, he says that we should tithe.

My personal belief is that our relationship with God should never be out of fear, or out of lust for that matter. What ultimately determines the quality of our life is how much we know we are accepted and loved by God, and loving others from that place of acceptance. We should never see our prosperity as depending on a rule we should keep or an obligation we should fulfil. Inevitably, it’s all about having a sense of security and knowing that we are blessed and accepted by God through faith in Christ, not in any kind of religious obligation that we need to keep.

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