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On Dying and Reckoning with the Prosperity Gospel

By Interview by Morgan Lee How church historian Kate Bowler’s cancer diagnosis brought her face-to-face with the beauty and terror of the popular movement. Kate Bowler is a Canadian professor at Duke Divinity School who researches the prosperity gospel movement. She’s also 35, a wife and mother, and critically ill with cancer. In a widely shared New York Times piece “Death, the Prosperity Gospel, and Me,” the author of Blessed reflected on her research and how it informed her convictions on suffering and faith. (Read CT’s book review.) “I’m never very theologically declarative,” said Bowler. “I’ve really tried to hold off on doing that in order to make enough space for people to make up their own minds. But in this case, it was just a lot more personal. I don’t have a lot of pretention anymore.” Bowler recently spoke with Christianity Today‘s assistant editor Morgan Lee about how Americans define suffering, what she would embrace from prosperity gospel theology, and how she copes with the loss of control that suffering brings. “It’s very bizarre to be eclipsed by a disease you barely knew existed a couple months ago,” she said. “It’s been a really intense year.” In what ways have your feelings changed towards the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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It Starts With "Shukran"

By Bekah Stoneking Perhaps learning a new language is your next discipleship move. “I’d like a green tea, please.” The cashier swiped my card as her co-worker put the ingredients into my cup, snapped on the lid, and handed it over the counter without much eye contact; she had already turned to tend to the next customer. “Shukran!” She turned back to my direction and I repeated myself—in English this time. “Thank you.” As my tea steeped, I began to panic. Did her nametag really say she was from Egypt? Did I use the correct form of “thank you” for her as an Egyptian woman? Did I use someone else’s “thank you” and offend her? Did I even say “thank you”?! Oh no. Here she comes… When she asked if I spoke Arabic, I told her I was learning to read the Qur’an but had been practicing conversational phrases for about a week. She seemed delighted and told me how important she thought it was for people to learn Arabic since many Middle Easterners were moving to the city. We went back in forth with basic phrases and she even taught me some new ones “Allah mahaba. Allah is love,” she said. She opened the door; all I had to do …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Weekend Edition—June 3, 2016

By Ed Stetzer British Evangelicalism, A Confession, Military chaplains, church signs and more! British Christianity isn’t dying. It’s sleeping. Evangelism can awaken it—Tim Stanley Great analysis from a British historian. A Confession of Liberal Intolerance—Nicholas Kristof Self-examination is essential for any movement. The Crisis in Flint Isn’t Over. It’s Everywhere.—Ben Paynter Leaving aside politics for a moment, there are a lot of people suffering in this debacle. What happens when the military chaplain is shaken by war—Michelle Boorstein The cost of war to soldiers is great, as is the cost paid by those who care for them. 3 Shortcuts Leaders Should Never Take—Eric Geiger Eric brings his ongoing great insight into leadership. Want to read a weekly digest of The Exchange blog? Click here to subscribe to Christianity Today’s Newsletter for The Exchange to get weekly wrap-ups direct to your inbox. Don’t forget to subscribe to the The Exchange Podcast in iTunes. Earlier this week on The Exchange The Ministries of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism Trends in Church Staffing: Executive and Campus Pastors Amplifying Evangelism—Helping Non-Christian Friends Hear God’s Voice How Events Help People Share the Mission Church Signs Bring Your Own Bolt …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Evenly Split, Southern Baptists Pick President after Candidate Quits

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra J. D. Greear withdraws from unusually tight SBC election, making Steve Gaines the next leader. In an unusually contested race, Southern Baptist messengers elected Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines as their next president this morning. Gaines replaces Ronnie Floyd, who has served the maximum two consecutive terms. SBC presidents are elected one year at a time; the post is largely honorific, except for its ability to fill certain leadership positions. The SBC actually meant to elect a new president yesterday. But a rare tight race between the top two out of three candidates—North Carolina pastor J. D. Greear (45%) and Gaines (44%)—led to a runoff vote. (A candidate must receive just over 50 percent of the vote to win.) Yesterday’s runoff vote was also too close to call, with Gaines receiving 49.96 percent of the votes and Greear receiving 47.8 percent. (More than 100 ballots were disqualified, yet were included in the determination of the total number of votes needed for a victory.) This morning, in a surprise move, Greear pulled out. “I spent a good amount of time last night praying, and believe that for the sake of our convention and our mission we need to leave St. Louis united,” he …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Saturday is for Seminars—and Preaching in Chicago Area Churches

By Ed Stetzer Here are four churches I’ll be preaching at soon. Now that we are Chicago bound, it means a new weekend preaching routine. I will be an occasional guest speaker at Grace Church when I am in Nashville. (I just preached there this week, and the Tennessean had a brief article about my comments concerning #Orlando.) I will remain as teaching pastor of Christ Fellowship in Miami, and will be preaching there several times this summer, and once a month in general. (Yes, I’m hoping a lot of that preaching is in the winter! Then, here are some places I will be in the Chicago area in in the next few weeks. Compass Church, July 3rd, 2016—Naperville and Wheaton, IL Christ Community Church, Aug 6-7, 2016—St. Charles (and all over), IL Moody Church, Sept. 11, 18, 25, 2016—Chicago, IL Chinese Union Church, Oct 2, 2016—Chicago, IL And, don’t forget to register for Amplify, coming soon, June 28-30 at Wheaton. Coming Soon June 28-30, 2016Amplify Conference Wheaton, IL July 18, 2016 Church of God General Assembly Nashville, TN August 12-13, 2016Gideons Global Impact Conference Toronto, Ontario, CA September 9, 2016Capacity Conference Atlanta, GA September 16, 2016American Association of Christian Counselors National Meeting Dallas, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Gospel-Centered Evangelism for a Multiethnic World

By Derwin Gray So what does high-definition evangelism look like? The vast majority of local churches in America are not growing. This should break our hearts. This statistic means that more and more people in America don’t know the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. This fact will increase divorce, addiction, injustice, greed, sexual immorality, idolatry, oppression, and a multitude of other sins that destroy people’s lives. We need evangelistic local churches, fueled by Christ-followers who see themselves as missionaries. We need “good news” local churches filled with “good news” people. So what does high-definition evangelism look like? Here are three characteristics of gospel-centered evangelism for a multiethnic world: 1) Evangelism must be rooted in a gospel-centered vision. What is the good news? It’s the announcement that Israel’s Messiah has accomplished what He came to do. Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through His sinless life, atoning death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of His father, where He is now our high priest. Jesus now rules His kingdom at the right hand of God the papa. By grace alone, through the Holy Spirit’s power, people who trust in Jesus are swept up into his glorious kingdom. This redeemed, multicolored people become a “chosen …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Come Out of Your Gender-Role Foxholes

By Tish Harrison Warren How men and women can have better conversations about leadership, love, and life together. “Just pick a side.” This message has come to characterize the intermural, evangelical debate over gender roles. Complementarians versus egalitarians. Choose a team; fly your flag; toe the party line. Only two options. Choose carefully. Complementarians believe that though men and women are equal in worth, men alone should hold leadership roles in the home and in the church. Egalitarians believe that women and men can share leadership in these roles. There can be an unstated belief that these terms, though unrecognizable to most Christians historically and most non-evangelicals currently, are the sole ways of approaching questions about gender and power. But perhaps there is more to sussing out complex truth than just choosing a side. The complementarian/egalitarian debate has become so stagnant, entrenched, even predictable, that it feels like a stuffy room, windows pulled tight, dim and dusty. In Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate, New Testament professor Michelle Lee-Barnewall seeks to open the windows, let some fresh air in, and set a table where the conversation can begin anew—with new starting points and new questions. New Lenses Lee-Barnewall’s analysis of the blind spots …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Two Statistics Every Church Planter Needs to Know

By Ed Stetzer You can’t plant a church without partners. You can’t plant a church without partners and you can’t grow a healthy church without evangelism. But those will look different for different planters in different contexts. It has become fairly common to send a large (30+) group of people somewhere to plant a church. Others seek to build a group exclusively from the harvest in their new community. The churches I’ve planted never began with a core group. I have always parachuted in—that’s really the best description. While I have never begun with a core group, at the same time, I’ve never begun without a team. Once on site, I set about building a team. Biblical kingdom growth is evangelism that results in new churches. Though I’ve never seen a church planted with 100% new believers or lost people, it is certainly biblical to expect a large number of the members and attenders to come from the harvest. It is concerning to see an increasing number of church plants where the vast majority of the people are dissatisfied, disgruntled or re-energized Christians. Sadly, strategies that lend themselves to transfer growth have become the norm. In an issue of Mission Frontiers, Mike Breen laments …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christians to Science: Leave Our Bodies How God Made Them

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Pew examines how US religious groups feel about the ways that biomedicine can enhance human abilities. Gene editing, brain chip implants, and synthetic blood may reduce the risk of disease, sharpen minds, and improve body strength. But messing around with nature in order to enhance humans isn’t something many Americans are excited about. A new survey from the Pew Research Center asked approximately 4,700 adults what they thought of three potential medical procedures that could improve human life. For each, adults were more worried than enthusiastic. Religious Americans were especially concerned—in fact, the more religious they are, the more concerned they were. “All of the Abrahamic faiths—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—share the belief that men and women have been created, to some extent, in God’s image,” wrote David Masci in an accompanying essay. “According to many theologians, the idea that human beings in certain ways mirror God make some, but not all, religious denominations within this broad set of connected traditions wary of using new technologies to enhance or change people, rather than heal or restore them.” Evangelicals—especially those who say religion is very important in their life, attend church weekly, and pray daily—were the most wary. Those who seldom …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Breaking the Cult Image in One Transient Community

By Paco Amador A return to biblical hospitality can open wide the doors for gospel witness to occur. Talking with my friend, Dwayne, is never a dull moment. He is one of the most creative, insightful, and vibrant evangelists I know. One of the guys whom he witnessed to, baptized, and discipled is so filled with an overflowing desire to share Jesus with his high school that he stood on top of a table in the cafeteria during lunch time and started proclaiming the message of salvation aloud. That’s the kind of evangelism fire Dwayne ignites in others. So when I called him to ask about getting over my fear to witness to my neighbors, I was ready for some fiery advice. “Consider this,” he said. “Do you realize that being an evangelical pastor in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood, many of your neighbors already think that you are a cult leader…” Wow. I was blown away. Ten years as a pastor in our community living in the same home. No. I had never thought that. Come to think of it… that might explain some of my neighbors reluctant conversations and nervous greetings throughout the years. Me? A cult leader? I am far from that. Really, I am a nice …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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For Black Women, Looking Tough Takes a Toll

By Interview by Sarah Arthur Emotional strength can only hide heartbreak for so long, says pyschologist and theologian Chanequa Walker-Barnes You’ve seen her in the news: the calm African American woman reacting with dignity to a high-stress, traumatic situation. Her voice and face are steady. She stuffs down her emotions. No one will see her fall apart. She is the Strong Black Woman. I first heard that phrase in a sermon by Chanequa Walker-Barnes—theologian, clinical psychologist, fellow graduate of Duke Divinity School. Strong Black Woman Syndrome, something she saw regularly in her clinical practice, emerges out of the expectation that black women be “super capable, to take care of others, to be stoic—emotionally strong to the point of stoicism—and radically independent.” And I immediately thought, “I know this stereotype. I remember it from my childhood in the ‘80s. It’s Clair Huxtable.” It’s a cultural stereotype that’s enforced in the media, in popular culture, even in churches, by blacks and whites alike. But Walker-Barnes points out, this pressure isn’t sustainable. Many black women are falling apart physically and psychologically, as she recounts in her book Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength (Wipf and Stock). Picture Diamond Reynolds calmly recording the aftermath of her boyfriend Philando Castile’s …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Celebs from Michael Phelps to Kim Kardashian Want a Purpose-Driven Life

By Kate Shellnutt The bestseller’s buzz has not died down 15 years later. One of the 40 million copies sold of The Purpose Driven Life ended up in the large, paddle-like hands of Michael Phelps. In between winning Olympic golds, Phelps made headlines for very different reasons: repeated DUIs, parties and pot, weight gain and rehab. A couple of years ago, fellow athlete and friend Ray Lewis (aka “God’s linebacker”) gave the champion swimmer Rick Warren’s bestseller. “I basically told him, ‘Okay, everything has a purpose, and now, guess what? It’s time to wake up,’” the former Baltimore Raven said in The Washington Post. In an ESPN special, Phelps said the book “turned me into believing that there is a power greater than myself and there is a purpose for me on this planet” and “helped me when I was in a place that I needed the most help.” It spurred him to reconcile with his dad. This summer, the media celebrated 31-year-old Phelps as stronger and more mature than ever; the record-crushing swimmer stayed sober throughout his training and brought along his fiancée and baby son to Olympic competition in Rio. This come-to-Jesus turnaround, as Lewis called it, began with a book that answers the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Grapes of Wrath: Refugees Face Steinbeck Scenario in Lebanon's Napa Valley

By Jeremy Weber While US debates resettling 10,000 Syrians, a country smaller than Connecticut struggles with hosting 1.5 million. Faysal stands amid the rolling fields of the Bekaa Valley. Just down the road are award-winning, decadent vineyards—a product of the fertile agricultural region’s 5,000-year head start on Napa Valley. The Romans even chose to build their temple to Bacchus here. Above loom the snow-covered slopes of Mt. Hermon, where many today place Jesus’ transfiguration. Surveying the sea of green plants rustling in a pleasant breeze, the 43-year-old describes what he feels: “A knife in my heart.” For Faysal, a Syrian refugee, the scene is not one of grandeur but of guilt; in the field before him are three of his children—his 15-year-old son and 13- and 11-year-old daughters—bent in half as they weed potatoes instead of attending school. “I have no choice,” says the father of six. In Aleppo, one of Syria’s most war-torn cities, his job as a truck driver once provided a four-room house and a middle-class, urban life. Now, having injured his back in his own efforts at day labor, he can’t pay the rent for their cobbled-together shelter on a farmer’s property. So he just stands and watches his children. And cries. “As …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Fearless Faith in a Time of Forgetting

By Brett McCracken Our culture can’t remember what makes Christianity good, but there’s no reason to freak out. The paradoxical pairing of nostalgia and forgetfulness are everywhere in today’s American culture: Trump supporters who want to “make America great again,” one shocking @realDonaldTrump tweet at a time; hipsters who want grandpa’s vintage manliness without his Eisenhower-era values; movie fans who love period films but can’t remember the best-picture winner from last year. Then there’s this particularly widespread memory lapse: We say we want a good society with morally upright citizens, but we forget the significant role Christians play, and have played for millennia, in the world’s flourishing. It’s something Christians themselves are forgetting. Many are increasingly embarrassed, self-loathing, and viciously infighting. At times, they’re more vocal on blogs and Twitter about the alleged good-for-nothing horribleness of Christians than the most ardent atheist. Today’s religious freedom debates exemplify this amnesia about Christianity’s contributions to the common good. In the balancing act between LGBT protections and free exercise protections for religious businesses and institutions, federal and state governments seem poised to dispense with the latter for the sake of the former. This summer California debated a controversial proposed law (SB 1146) that threatened to drastically narrow religious protections …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Mormons and Christians: So Close, Yet So Far Away

By Gerald McDermott What should we make of claims that the two faiths are on a path to reconciling? For nearly 200 years, Mormons have both enraged and intrigued evangelicals. The rage has come from Mormon claims that the Book of Mormon contains new revelation superseding and correcting the Bible, and that Christians are apostates from the apostolic church. The intrigue has come from the fact that Latter-day Saints (LDS) are so similar and yet so different. TheBook of Mormon is remarkably Christ-focused, and presents a Godhead resembling the Trinity. Yet later teachings by Joseph Smith deny the Trinity and claim that God the Father has both a physical body and his own father. Evangelicals have always been fascinated by Mormon beliefs that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, that the New Jerusalem will be located nearby, and that American Indians are descended from the ancient Israelites. Now the Internet buzzes with new debate over (emeritus president of Fuller Seminary) Richard Mouw’s pronouncement at First Things that Mormons are moving closer to historic Christian orthodoxy. LDS leaders, he proposes, are downplaying the Mormon teaching that God was once a man. A participant in Mormon-evangelical dialogue responded that, on the contrary, this teaching remains on the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Commentary: We’re So Unashamed We Wrote a Book on It. Three of Them, Actually

By Tish Harrison Warren Christians still need a better understanding of the complexity of shame. Our age is characterized by what psychotherapist Joseph Burgo called an “anti-shame zeitgeist.” The beloved researcher Brené Brown wrote two No. 1 New York Times bestsellers decrying shame, and her TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” has been watched more than 26 million times. This year, the anti-shame revolution is front and center in Christian publishing, with three new Christian books all titled Unashamed. Go to your local Christian bookstore and ask for a copy of Unashamed, and you may hear, “Which one? Lecrae, Heather Davis Nelson, or Christine Caine? Take your pick.” There is no shame in sharing a title, but this coincidence points to a marketing reality: becoming proudly unashamed is all the rage now. Lecrae’s Unashamed is a memoir, and as a fan of his music, I couldn’t put it down. (My six-year-old’s most requested musical artists are Elsa and Lecrae.) Lecrae’s story is compelling and deals with different facets of shame. As a young boy, he confronted deep shame over his father’s abandonment; he also faced sexual abuse. Throughout the book, he returns to the theme of not quite fitting in—whether it be because he was …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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A Portrait of America’s First Atheists

By Timothy Larsen What life was like for unbelievers long before Christopher Hitchens and company arrived on the scene. There was a time in our nation’s history when “village atheist” was a term of endearment. It introduced a note of affection for the vocal unbelievers in our midst. In 1943, Time magazine referred to the journalist H. L. Mencken, of Scopes Monkey Trial fame, as America’s “outstanding village atheist.” Still, the term quietly conceded that flat-out unbelievers have historically been a rare breed in the United States—so rare that you were likely to find only one in any given community. In America, it takes a village to raise just one atheist. Even today, just 3.1 percent of Americans identify as such, according to Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study. When a village did manage to raise an atheist, it was almost always a boy. In his lively, informative study, Village Atheists: How America’s Unbelievers Made Their Way in a Godly Nation (Princeton University Press), historian Leigh Eric Schmidt includes a chapter on Elmina Drake Slenker, a 19th-century woman from Upstate New York. Many readers today disapprove of books solely about men, but organized atheism hasn’t always been terribly concerned with gender parity. Slenker confessed that …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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88 Minutes of Film That Could Save a Life

By Jeffrey Overstreet That’s the power of ‘The Station Agent.’ You try walking across Seattle alone. At night. Barefoot. My college roommate did all the time. I didn’t understand it, just as I didn’t understand his quiet demeanor, his watchfulness from the edges, or his aversion to typical college-life distractions. His after-dark disappearances intrigued me. So I took to walking with him. I wore hiking boots, and still I struggled to match his incredible stride. As I did, my own pace—in walking and in living—permanently changed. I came to value the rewards of adventures off the beaten path, of being quiet in good company. And I found a compassionate friend. I think of Michael when I watch Tom McCarthy’s large-hearted 2003 comedy The Station Agent. And I watch it frequently. I see myself in Joe: the talkative food-truck barista (Bobby Cannavale) who sets up shop next to an obsolete train depot in Middle-of-Nowhere, New Jersey. I think of Michael when I watch Fin (Peter Dinklage): a soft-spoken loner who moves into that depot for the solitude, and who eventually surrenders, accepting Joe’s gregarious, uninvited companionship. It’s remarkable: Watch how Joe and Fin, like an oversized puppy playing with Grumpy Cat, become complementary. Watch how they transform one …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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What Americans Think of What Evangelicals Think of Religious Liberty

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra How both sides of the debates over same-sex marriage, transgender bathroom access, and employer-provided contraception feel about each other. On two of three contentious issues at the intersection of religious liberty and nondiscrimination concerns, Americans remain evenly divided. Though most Americans believe employers should be required to supply birth control in their health insurance plans, they are split down the middle on whether businesses should be required to provide wedding services for same-sex couples, as well as on whether transgender people should be allowed to use the restroom of their choice, says a study released this week by the Pew Research Center. As expected, most evangelicals take a strong stance against making businesses provide wedding services to same-sex couples or allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice. They’re more comfortable with requiring employers to offer birth control to employees. Pew also asked whether Americans sympathized with one side or the other—or both—in each debate. In order to facilitate that, researchers asked the questions in an unusual way. Instead of the normal phone survey, Pew asked respondents to read the questions. The purpose was both to make people feel more comfortable answering sensitive questions and to allow them see all of the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Evangelical Views of the 2016 Election: "Jill Stein is my imperfect candidate."

By Stephen Waldron Evangelical millenial minority chooses the Green Party My political viewpoint is shaped by both my Evangelical faith and my personal experiences. My faith has been shaped mainly by the Pentecostal and Anabaptist traditions. From my Pentecostal heritage, I draw the belief that the Holy Spirit is actively working among lowly and marginalized people. From the Anabaptist tradition, I have learned that peacemakers who follow the teachings and example of Jesus will be ignored at best and martyred at worst. Coming from that perspective, I am going to vote for Jill Stein, not because she is any sort of savior or perfect politician. I only hope to send a small signal that things are not going well at the far corners of the empire. The other major candidates do not have policies that cohere with a biblical approach to justice, as I understand it. Immigration The Jesus I know is one who immigrated to our planet and was rejected by its citizens. The last thing Christians should support is the rejection of human beings who are made in God’s image simply because they are not light-skinned and English-speaking. Evangelicals sometimes talk about “welcoming the stranger,” citing Bible verses like Leviticus 19:33-34. For many Evangelicals, this issue directly …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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