Connecting man to man to God
For week of September 18, 2011
Issue 374

The weekly newsletter of Path Of Life Ministries.
Our mission is to lead men to Jesus Christ and provide opportunity for Christian men to grow in their faith and minister to others. 

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“The LORD is merciful and compassionate, very patient, and full of faithful love.”
Psalm 145:8 CEB

“The Lord gives us friends to push us to our potential – and enemies to push us beyond it.”
Jim Vorsas

If World War II-era warbler Kate Smith sang today, her anthem could be GodsBless America. That's one of the key findings in newly released research that reveals America's drift from clearly defined religious denominations to faiths cut to fit personal preferences.

The folks who make up God as they go are side-by-side with self-proclaimed believers who claim the Christian label but shed their ties to traditional beliefs and practices. Religion statistics expert George Barna says, with a wry hint of exaggeration, America is headed for "310 million people with 310 million religions."

"We are a designer society. We want everything customized to our personal needs — our clothing, our food, our education," he says. Now it's our religion.

Barna's new book on US Christians, Futurecast, tracks changes from 1991 to 2011, in annual national surveys of 1,000 to 1,600 US adults. All the major trend lines of religious belief and behavior he measured ran downward — except two.... Read this in full at

by David Brooks
The rise of moral individualism has produced a generation unable to speak intelligibly about the virtuous life.... Read this in full at

by Sam S. Rainer III
Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000, are America’s most educated generation, most diverse generation, and surprisingly, America’s largest generation. And they are beginning to get married, enter the workforce, and lead the world.

This generation is hopeful. In fact, 96% of them agree with the statement, “I believe I can do something great.” But the majority say individual prominence is secondary to helping the community and accomplishing things for the greater good.

Yet this hopeful generation lacks a solid spiritual foundation on which to base their hopes. As few as one in four attend church weekly. Nearly two-thirds never attend religious services. Church leaders face unique challenges in reaching them.

Older generations tended to place a higher priority on church activity and attendance. The younger generation, however, demands to know the purpose behind each activity. For Millennials, just attending church does not equal faithfulness. The only way they'll attend is if they see the church as being a meaningful part of their lives....Read this in full at

by Clare De Graaf
Whenever I ask people to define what it means to be a follower of Jesus, they most often include the word faith.

And it’s true; the cornerstone of evangelical Christianity is that we’re saved by faith alone in Christ Jesus. Period. I believe that and hope you do too. But, that begs this question: what exactly is this faith that saves us and how do we know that we really have it?

True faith is a lot like fire.

Here’s an explanation I once heard and I really liked: Let’s just say you were able to get your hands on the definitive book of fire, The Complete Book of Fire. And it was a thoroughly accurate description of the chemistry of combustion, a listing of all the elements you need to have a fire, how to start it, keep it going, cook on it, put it out – a complete book of fire. Further, let’s say you believed with all your heart that everything the author said in that book was absolutely true – the book was infallible. You still wouldn’t actually have fire....Read this in full at

Despite efforts to keep the 9/11 Memorial Service free of religion, invited speakers chose to read prayers and Scripture at the event. President Obama and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani read from the Bible on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City Sunday morning. Former President Bush read a letter written by Abraham Lincoln that mentions God.

Obama chose to read Psalm 46, which begins with, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (NIV).

The president arrived at the memorial site with first lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush, and former first lady Laura Bush. All four stood together in a moment of silence when they arrived at the memorial.

In the weeks leading up to the memorial service, controversy surrounded New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to not include religious leaders or prayers in the ceremony. On Friday, Bloomberg said that a memorial service with prayers and religious leaders would be like the government forcing religion “down people's throats.” .... Read this in full at

"The challenge we face is how to respond out of authentic convictions of our faith rather than letting the evil perpetrated against us shape our response."
Theologian Miroslav Volf in an address at Central Seminary looking at the decade since 9/11

As Willow Creek Community Church Pastor Bill Hybels reflected on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he told his congregation to get rid of their naiveté about the reality of evil.

Just as the famed evangelist Billy Graham stated 10 years ago in front of then President George Bush and the rest of the country, Hybels affirmed that there is evil and Christians must learn how to respond to it.

"Some of us ... are naive to the reality of evil. We have never come to terms with what the Bible teaches about Satan and his power and how he organizes his accomplices to wreak havoc in this world and to wreak havoc in your life," Hybels said to thousands attending the Chicago-area megachurch.

Sept. 11, 2001, was a wake-up call, the pastor stressed, to the power of evil and how "it manifests its ugly head in the world." .... Read this in full at

by Michael Ireland, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
New Yorkers are more spiritually active today than they were immediately following the 9/11 attacks, according to a new study.

As the tenth anniversary of America’s largest terrorist event approaches, Barna Group tracked the long-term spiritual profile at one of the epicenters of the attacks – New York City.

According to R. Leigh Coleman, reporter, the immediate chaos after the September 11 attacks was unprecedented as millions flocked to churches and houses of worship. The intense, heartbreaking anguish felt by the victims was felt throughout the nation.

Researchers wanted to know how long did that spiritual behavior last?

A new study released in late August shows that within a few months the spiritual lives of the nation’s population were back to pre-attack levels, which means their faith did not last long.

Researchers say the faith of New Yorkers changed significantly from September 2004 to January 2011. Their religious behavior (like going to church, reading the Bible, and praying) started to steadily increase.... Read this in full at

Stanley Praimnath still remembers the roar of the engines, the stench of the jet fuel and the thunderous impact in his 81st floor office as United Airlines Flight 175 hit the south World Trade Center tower.

Praimnath walked out of the burning building alive, but the horror has yet to fade, he said.

"Every day of my life for the past 10 years, I've been reliving this incident at least once per day ... and people looking at me would never notice," said Praimnath, a banker in Connecticut with the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Praimnath said he was a devout Christian before 9/11 but became a Pentecostal pastor afterward and has become a popular inspirational speaker with religious groups and churches.... Read this in full at

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson fell while horseback riding in Montana on Sept. 10 and broke several bones, according to a brief blog post by Focus president Jim Daly. The fall caused a fractured clavicle, a fractured scapula, and several broken ribs, according to a Family Talk press release. Daly says, "He's in good spirits and expected to make a full recovery."

Dobson experienced a heart attack in 1990 after one of his tri-weekly basketball games at First Church of the Nazarene, after which his doctors forced him to give up basketball. His father died of heart disease, according to Dobson's biography Family Man.

In 1998, Dobson experienced a major stroke, which made it difficult for him to speak and articulate words during recovery. The ministry leader later called it "the greatest crisis of my life." He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2002, and in 2003, he had a tiny ulcer in his colon, causing an artery to explode, which he recovered from quickly.

Dobson founded Focus in 1977 and left the ministry in 2010. Less than two weeks after Focus's board meeting where they discussed Dobson's departure from the ministry, his new radio program, Family Talk, was incorporated in California.... Read this in full at

“I was reading some modern slave stories when I came across the story of a boy named Rakesh who lived in a village in India. He was sold into slavery by his own parents to pay off a debt.

“Rakesh and many other children worked in a place where yarn was woven into rugs that were exported to wealthier countries like the United States. The kids were forced to weave rugs all day, squatting down with their backs against the wall. The slave masters wanted children because they have little fingers that can weave the intricate patterns that bring a lot of money in rug stores.

“If Rakesh didn't show up to work on time, he was beaten with the iron claw used to separate threads. The claw was a heavy metal device with teeth (like a comb's) on one end and a curved handle on the other end.

“Rakesh worked in this situation for a long time until an organization called Free the Slaves [] joined with local rescuers to free Rakesh and the other children. The rescuers built little thatched schools for the freed children where they could learn to read and write and begin to build a brighter future.

“Rakesh is now head of the disciplinary committee at his school. If students get in a fight, he calls them to the front of the classroom and makes them apologize. He says, ‘You were beaten before by your slave master. Take advantage of this opportunity to make something of yourselves.’ Kind of ironic, isn't it? God took this young slave boy and gave him a leadership position. It reminds me of the Bible story of Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery, but God honored him by putting him in leadership. God has a way of using unlikely people to do great things, and he can take a bad situation and turn it into good.”
Zach Hunter in Be the Change, Revised Edition: Your Guide to Freeing Slaves and Changing the World

Ridgewood Church in Port Arthur, Texas is a family-integrated congregation, whose leaders wanted parents — rather than Sunday school teachers and youth ministers — to spiritually train their children. Driven by statistics about youth leaving church after high school, they've turned to the Bible as their sole educational text and shunned age-segregated structures.

"Nobody disagrees that there's a problem," said Ridgewood's Pastor Dustin Guidry, whose church started the transition seven years ago. "What do we do about it? It's just going back to the basics, relying upon the sufficiency of Scriptures."

Guidry later learned other congregations were doing the same thing — shuttering classrooms, demanding parents — especially fathers — take on more of a spiritual leadership role and sometimes canceling Sunday schools.... Read this in full at

Can online communities like Jesus Daily take the place of offline religious life, like what happens at synagogues and churches? .... Read this in full at

by Chuck Swindoll
From our earliest days, much of life makes up its mind around the dinner table. Good food and fun moments go together. Is it the same at your house?

Many of our favorite family memories include sitting around the table after the meal has been enjoyed with the kids—now with their kids—full of questions and begging for humorous stories. "Tell us about the time . . . that Aunt Luci taught you to smoke dry cedar bark rolled up in notebook paper . . . or you drove the motorcycle through your high school English literature class . . . or when you and your buddies put the football coach's miniature Crosley on the roof of an equipment shed on your high school campus . . ."

Your family may already know your stories by heart, but they still want to hear them, and truth be told, it does us good to remember them ourselves. Perhaps in the telling of those crazy things that happen in life, we learn how not to take ourselves too seriously. We lighten up!

Yes, yes, I know — life is serious . . . but that doesn't mean your family time must always be.

I've said for years that I want my children to remember not a preacher who yelled and pounded the pulpit as much as a dad who laughed and had fun—to remember the man who threw their mother in the pool and lived to tell the story. (Throwing their mother in the pool was no big deal. Living to tell the story . . . now that was!)

We live in a world that robs the fun out of life. The world emphasizes our sense of responsibility, of duty and propriety, but seldom does anybody emphasize the need for a sense of humor. Yet it is a sense of humor that keeps us sane. People often write me and say, "You can stop preaching, but don't stop laughing." Sometimes they add, "Yours is the only laughter that comes into our home." Now that is tragic.

I know of no greater need today than for joy! In spite of the serious circumstances around us, we need to remember Solomon's counsel: "A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken. . . . All the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast" (Proverbs 15:13, 15).

A good, loud time of laughter is overdue.

“Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad!”
Philippians 4:4 CEB

“Every choice we make in life has the possibility of changing our lives forever.”
Jimmy Houston

Extreme poverty can seem like an ever-present blight, especially in light of current suffering in the Horn of Africa, where twelve million people face a hunger crisis. Yet Scott C. Todd, PhD, who experiences the suffering of the impoverished first hand as he serves at Compassion International, feels hopeful about the future of the very poor. Based on recent successes, his expectations are high, so high that he believes extreme poverty can be eradicated during this generation.

Dr. Todd ( explains, "When bad news comes out of Africa it reinforces already low expectations, and that creates a deep problem. People shrug their shoulders as if defeat is inevitable when we are actually well on our way to winning. Nobody is talking about the 8 million kids who did not die this year, or the fact that nearly 2 billion people have escaped extreme poverty in the last 25 years." .... Read this in full at

by Chuck Colson
We’ve been told over and over that America is trending away from religion. But is that true?

The United States is often referred to as a “post-Christian” nation. In one sense, that is true: The moral and cultural assumptions shaped by Christianity that used to hold sway in American society, can no longer be taken for granted. They must be defended and contended for in the public square.

But that’s not the same as saying that Americans are becoming more like Europeans when it comes to matters like church attendance or belief in a personal God. In many ways the shift in cultural assumptions I just noted is taking place in spite of what Americans believe and do, not because of them.

You would be hard-pressed to know this judging from media reports. These reports seize on any bit of evidence, however suspect, to promote the thesis that Americans are becoming more “secular.” Every few months we are told about some new study that purports to show how secularism and even atheism is on the march.... Read this in full at

“The Spirit continues the work of Christ [and] he himself is a person. He determines itineraries (Acts 16:6), distributes spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7–11), and selects church leaders (Acts 13:2). He teaches (John 14:26), guides ( John 16:13), and comforts (John 16:7). ‘He dwells with you and will be in you’ (John 14:17). Occasional guest? No sir. The Holy Spirit is a year-round resident in the hearts of his children. As God’s story becomes our story, his power becomes our power. Then why do we suffer from power failures?

“I believe we make the mistake the Welsh woman made. She lived many years ago in a remote valley but determined that it would be worth the cost and trouble to have electricity in her home. Several weeks after the installation, the power company noticed that she had barely used any. So they sent a meter reader to see what was wrong. ‘Is there a problem?’ he asked. ‘No,’ she answered, ‘we're quite satisfied. Every night we turn on the electric lights to see how to light our lamps.’

“We’re prone to do likewise: depend on God’s Spirit to save us but not sustain us. We are like the Galatians whom Paul asked, ‘After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?’ (Galatians 3:3). We turn to him to get us started, and then continue in our own strength.

“The Christians in Ephesus did this. The apostle Paul assured them that they had received the Spirit. God ‘put his special mark of ownership on you by giving you the Holy Spirit that he had promised’ (Ephesians 1:13). Even so, he had to urge them to be ‘filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). Interesting.”
Max Lucado in God's Story, Your Story: When His Becomes Yours

Five million visitors have now stopped by , the website of the I am Second movement featuring video stories of personal struggle, transformation and hope of celebrities and everyday people. That visitor logged on to the website Monday morning.

I am Second, which is designed to help individuals discover hope, includes authentic film testimonies of “everyday” people and celebrities related to a variety of personal struggles, including abuse, addictions, pride, eating disorders, broken families, and the search for success and meaning in life.... Read this in full at

With evangelical churches today, the word is 'big.'

Outreach Magazine is out with its latest downloadable lists of the nation's top 100 largest Protestant churches and top 100 fastest-growing churches.

Leading large, as always, is Lakewood Church, Houston, with prolific author and TV broadcaster Joel Osteen at the helm. It's the size of some small towns.

But it also seems to have settled into the same grove of 43,500 people in weekend worship attendance for the past three years. Perhaps it's because overall growth is slowing for megachurches. Or perhaps that's because it's the one church at the top of the list that ignores the biggest trend of the last few years -- multi-site congregatons.... Read this in full at

An archeological team from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary has uncovered a natural cave at the end of a Canaanite water system in Israel, shedding light on an Old Testament culture.

The Gezer Water System Expedition, about 20 miles west of Jerusalem, is a joint project of NOBTS and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Dan Warner, associate professor of Old Testament and archaeology at NOBTS, and Tsvika Tsuk of INPA are directing the excavation of the ancient Tel Gezer water system, which dates as early as 1800 BC.

"The research at Gezer is important to Baptists because of our commitment to understand the Bible within its historical context," Warner said. "Any information we can gain to give better insights into the cultures of the biblical world helps us interpret the Bible.... Read this in full at

by Tim Gardam
Many of China's churches are overflowing, as the number of Christians in the country multiplies. In the past, repression drove people to convert - is the cause now rampant capitalism?

It is impossible to say how many Christians there are in China today, but no-one denies the numbers are exploding.

The government says 25 million, 18 million Protestants and six million Catholics. Independent estimates all agree this is a vast underestimate. A conservative figure is 60 million. There are already more Chinese at church on a Sunday than in the whole of Europe.

The new converts can be found from peasants in the remote rural villages to the sophisticated young middle class in the booming cities.... Read this in full at

Last July, a leading Chinese writer, Liao Yiwu, was on the run in China, once again facing jail and torture for his “illegal” books, when he escaped by sneaking into Vietnam.

Now, the prominent dissident begins his first trip to the United States with the publication of his latest book in English. It gives an insider’s look at the surging interest in Christianity within the world’s most populous nation.

Mr. Liao is a “nonbeliever,” as he puts it, but he became mightily impressed with China’s estimated 70 million to 100 million Christians. (By comparison, the Communist Party has about 75 million members.) Their heroic tales of a reliance on the “life-sustaining” message of Jesus Christ “exhilarated me, lifting me out of my drunken depression,” he writes.

When they all go to worship on Sunday – either at a state-approved church or, more commonly, in private homes – China’s Christians tally more than all the churchgoers in Europe. But their influence as the largest formal religion in China (about 5 percent of the population) extends far beyond their numbers. Christian concepts, such as unconditional universal love, are now also seeping into Communist Party policy.... Read this in full at

At Holy Family Roman Catholic Basilica in Nairobi, African workers were recently singing lively Christian worship songs as they broke ground for the construction of a new office block for the Nairobi archdiocese.

However, they were not working for an African or British construction company. China Zhongxing Construction is building Maurice Cardinal Otunga Plaza, one of many church contracts Chinese construction companies have won in recent years as China has expanded its influence in Africa. Now, Chinese firms build many bridges, roads and stadiums across the continent.

"We have worked with them before and we have had a very good experience with them," the Rev. Anthony Mwituria, who oversees construction in the archdiocese, said in an interview. "We issued a tender and they came with the best deal." Church officials say the companies are reliable, quick, and efficient. China also prints most of the Bibles used by Christians in Africa.... Read this in full at

European and Christian officials have warned that hate crimes, attacks and intolerance against Christians in Europe were on the rise and could lead to social instability in some areas. “The climate of fear and suspicion caused by hate crimes has the potential to create insecurity within and between communities …” Janez Lenarcic, an official of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), told a conference in Rome on Sept. 12.

“Hate crimes are a security issue and may contribute to destabilizing regional or even inter-state relations,” he told OSCE conference whose title was “Preventing and Responding to Hate Incidents and Crimes Against Christians.” The conference heard reports of growing acts of intolerance against Christians, including attacks on churches in Spain, France and Austria and attacks on anti-abortion activists in Vienna.... Read this in full at

The social changes resulting from the desertion of Quebec church pews have been widely documented: smaller families, fewer marriages, a reformed education system, to name a few. The fate of religious buildings rendered obsolete has generated considerable angst. But what is going to happen to the province’s preferred swear words?

When francophone Quebecers whack a thumb with a hammer or get cut off in traffic, the curses that spew forth are overwhelmingly drawn from objects found in the Catholic Church: ostie, tabarnak, ciboire, câlice, criss! But a new book by a Montreal theology professor and an exhibition at a religion museum raise the question, how long can the distinctively Québécois swear words survive in a secular age?

At the Musée des religions du monde (Museum of World Religions) in Nicolet, about 110 kilometres northeast of Montreal, Jean-Francois-Royal is regularly struck by the widening gulf between Quebecers and their Catholic heritage. “We are at the point where we have a generation of students who ask, ‘Who is the guy on the cross?’ ” Mr. Royal, the museum’s director, said.... Read this in full at

“Would you be surprised if I told you that the most practical thing you can do to increase your sense of peace is to pray?

“Most of my own prayers are ineloquent and uncomplicated. I usually begin by reading through a portion of Scripture, trying to be sensitive to ways in which God may want to speak to me. That primes the pump, putting my mind and heart in the right disposition for prayer. Reading Scripture is a little like immersing yourself in the language, history, and culture of a foreign country. The more time you spend in that land, becoming familiar with its values, its language, and its stories, the better you understand it. Reading the Bible is like entering a spiritual country. At first it's confusing. You can't keep track of all the kings and kingdoms, the ritual laws, the perplexing customs, the timeline of biblical history. But the more you persist, the more you begin to experience God revealing himself. Its stories become your stories, its values your values. Gradually, you and God come to share a common language and common history. You find that you can recognize his voice more easily.

“Becoming conversant with the Bible so that God can speak to you through its pages takes time and effort. It requires a decision to read Scripture regularly, whether or not you feel like it. Imagine a restaurant whose chefs cook only when the inspiration strikes. If the chefs feel inspired on Monday but not on Tuesday, tough luck for anyone who shows up for a meal on Tuesday... It's the same with Bible reading. If you only read the Bible when you feel like it, you will lose the steady spiritual nourishment God wants to provide. Scripture is meant to be our bread and butter, building us up by drawing us closer to God and sustaining our communication with him.”
Ann Spangler in The Peace God Promises: Closing the Gap Between What You Experience and What You Long For

“Let your old age be childlike, and your childhood like old age; that is, so that neither may your wisdom be with pride, nor your humility without wisdom.”
Augustine of Hippo

“Don’t let your heart envy sinners, but fear the LORD constantly; then you will have a future, and your hope won’t be cut off.”
Proverbs 23:17-18 CEB

Words: Folliot S. Pierpoint, 1864
Music: Conrad Kocher, 1838

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour,
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon, and stars of light.

For the joy of ear and eye,
For the heart and mind’s delight,
For the mystic harmony
Linking sense to sound and sight.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild.

For Thy Church, that evermore
Lifteth holy hands above,
Offering up on every shore
Her pure sacrifice of love.

For the martyrs’ crown of light,
For Thy prophets’ eagle eye,
For Thy bold confessors’ might,
For the lips of infancy.

For Thy virgins’ robes of snow,
For Thy maiden mother mild,
For Thyself, with hearts aglow,
Jesu, Victim undefiled.

For each perfect gift of Thine,
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers of earth and buds of Heaven.

>from NetHymnal at

“A man may go into the field and say his prayer and be aware of God, or he may be in church and be aware of God; but if he is more aware of Him because he is in a quiet place, that is his own deficiency and not due to God, Who is alike present in all things and places, and is willing to give Himself everywhere so far as lies in Him. He knows God rightly who knows Him everywhere.”
Meister Eckhart (1260?-1327?), Meister Eckhart's Sermons, tr., Claud Field, H. R. Allenson, London, 1909, p. 21


Use the following list as your daily prayer guide. Think of a brother or situation that applies and lift them up in prayer.

I am agreeing in prayer with you for God’s blessings to overtake you!

Marital harmony
Family unity
Children saved
Faithful pastor
Spirit-filled church
Real friendships
Relatives redeemed
Educational benefits
Recreational time
Fulfilling career
Favor with God and man
Be in God’s will

Better Jobs
Raises or bonuses
Sales & commissions
Business Growth
Estates & inheritances
Investment increase
Rebates & returns
Checks in the mail
Gifts & surprises
Money to be found
Bills decrease while blessings increase

"And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God" (Deut. 28:2).

[As you travel on business or vacation, let me know if you'd like us to add you to our prayer chain to pray for your safety and spiritual effectiveness. I'll add your name to the list for the time you'll be away.]

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My electricity went out and I was powerless to do anything about it. 
Min. Frank Coleman, Editor

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CONNECTIONS is a periodic newsletter of announcements, news, recommendations, articles, and other information helpful to men in our spiritual growth. Thanks for welcoming CONNECTIONS into your in-box! 

The CONNECTIONS Team offers a variety of activities for men to interact with other men on our journey of faith in Christ together. Large group, small group, and one-to-one events encourage relationship building and spiritual strengthening that result in maximizing the potential we all have in Christ. 
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