The Power of Presence

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Discipleship isn’t about information; it’s about relationship! In this message, we focus on the importance of building a relationship with Jesus.

Alright. Hey, everybody. Welcome to Valley Creek. Wherever you are today, Denton, Flower Mound, Gainesville, Lewisville, The Venue, online, let’s just welcome each other together.

Come on, it is so good to gather around the presence of God. And I am so glad that you’re here because we’re in this series called Becoming: Life as a Disciple and we’re asking ourselves this really simple question, who am I becoming? You see, we’re all coming out of this season where we’ve been doing a lot of reflecting and a lot of question asking like do I want to live in this house or the state or the city that I’m in? Do I want to keep the job that I’ve had for these past few years? Do I want to keep doing education the way I’ve been doing them? And we’ve been reflecting and asking questions and the world will tell you to ask all kinds of questions like what have you acquired? What have you accrued? What have you accomplished? Where have you been? What have you done? What kind of followers do you have, significance or influence? And while all those questions are fine they’re really an inferior question.

You see, the real question is ‘who am I becoming’ because who you are is far more important than what you do. Who you’re becoming is far more important than what you’re doing. And so the question that I just want to ask you today is, who are you becoming? Like are you a better person today than you were a year ago? Are you growing? Are you maturing? Are you becoming free and healthy? Are you growing in faith, hope and love, righteousness, peace and joy? Are you becoming quicker to repent, quicker to forgive, quicker to apologize? Is humility beginning to grow in your life? Like who are you becoming? And really the person that we’re evaluating our life against is just Jesus. If Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, then the more I become like Jesus the more life I’m experiencing and the less I’m like Jesus the less of life I’m experiencing.

So we have to acknowledge and understand that he is the standard and the source of our becoming. He is the prototype and the power for our transformation. He is the mold and the momentum that propels us and gets us going. So the question that we’re really asking is, am I growing in the character and the power of Jesus? Am I growing in the fruits of the spirit, the character of Jesus, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control? And then am I just doing the things that Jesus did, which he has empowered me to do like serving, and being generous, and forgiving my enemies, and walking with the father, and making disciples? Like who are you becoming? You see, the moment that Jesus invites us to follow him, he invites us to be a disciple.

A disciple is this kind of mysterious word that we’re not really sure what to do with, but it simply means a learner, a student, a follower, one who becomes like the one that we’re following. And Jesus says, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” When Jesus invites us to follow him he invites us to be a disciple, a learner, a student and he’s our teacher and he is in the process of fully training us, of shaping and molding and putting pressure on us to conform us into his image and his likeness. And what’s cool is you get to decide who you want to be discipled by. You don’t have to be a disciple of anybody, you get to decide who do you want to be like and then you position yourself as a student of that person. And when you think of disciple or discipleship, it’s so much simpler than we make it. To be a disciple is somebody who’s simply learning to live free as a beloved son or daughter.

It’s learning to live in the superior realities of the kingdom in the midst of the inferior circumstances of this world. Being a disciple is not about sin management or behavior modification or eating from the tree of the knowledge of good in life, it’s about learning to become who you already are in Jesus. See, this is huge if you can catch this. The moment you put your faith in Jesus, he gives you a new identity. Everything about you is now changed. He’s made you righteous, he’s made you holy, he’s made you a beloved son or daughter, he has reconciled your relationship with God once and for all time, not because of what you do but because of what Jesus has done. In fact, I love this verse that says, “God made him, Jesus, who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Jesus, the one who had no sin, literally became our sin on the cross so we could become righteousness once and for all so that you and I could be reconciled with God once and for all time. So discipleship is simply the delta between who you are and how you’re living your life. It’s the delta or the difference between who you already are in Jesus and how you’re actually living your life. Does that make sense to you? Like in Jesus you’ve been made righteous, that’s who you are. So discipleship is now learning to live righteously. It’s just the delta between who you are and how you’re actually living your life. But we don’t really like this word disciple or discipleship very much. In fact, the guy in my circle this week as we were talking about it, he said, “Man, I’m going to be honest. That word kind of like — it exhausts me, it makes me feel like I have to do a whole bunch of stuff for God.

And that’s what we think about disciple or discipleship, but we have this mindset like that God is going to take all these things away from me if I’m a disciple. Like He’s going to take away my fun, and my freedom, and my finances, and my life and you’re right He is going to take some things away from you. He’s going to take away your anxiety, and He’s going to take away your depression, and He’s going to take away your addictions, and He’s going to take away your sin patterns, and He’s going to take away the works of the flesh, rage, and sexual immorality, and idolatry, and all the jealousy and the envy in our heart. That’s what He’s going to take and He’s going to give you His life.

Come on, think of Peter for a second. Jesus took a lot from Peter. He took Peter’s failures and He gave Peter victory because Peter couldn’t catch a fish to save his life before Jesus. And then he becomes the greatest fisherman we’ve ever read about. Or how about John? Jesus takes away John’s anger problem and he gives him love and makes him the apostle of love.

How about Thomas? Jesus took away Thomas’s doubt and he gave him a faith where Thomas was willing to lay down his life for Jesus. Or how about Matthew? God took away Matthew’s greed and yeah he might have had a little less finances, he was a tax collector ripping people off. He might had a little less finances after meeting Jesus but he gave him back purpose and Matthew writes one of the gospels. And the same is true with you. You see, we have to understand if we’re going to live as a disciple it’s an invitation into relationship. And that’s what I really want to tell you today. The discipleship happens through relationship. In fact, it’s impossible to be a disciple without a relationship because the moment Jesus invites you to be his disciple, he’s inviting you into a relationship where you’ll know and be known, love and be loved, connect and be connected, experience and be experienced.

In fact, of all the major religions of the world the only one who offers you a personal relationship with God is Jesus. It is impossible to be a disciple without relationship because relationship is the vehicle, the method, the conduit, the bridge if you will through which discipleship travels. Life flows through relationship. In fact, when Jesus first called his disciples, check this out, I love this verse. It says, “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted. He invited his disciples to come follow him not because he needed them but because he wanted them. And they came to him. And he appointed 12 designating them apostles that they might be” — say it with me – “with him. And that he might send them out to preach and to have power to heal sickness and to cast out demons.”

So catch it. When Jesus invites disciples to come and follow him, it’s not because he needs them but because he wants them. And this word appointed, designating them apostles, it literally means to take someone and make them into something they’re not. The moment we put our faith in Jesus he takes us and he makes us into something we’re not. He gives us a brand new identity and then what? That we might be with him. Catch it. Jesus didn’t want the disciples to go out and do a bunch of stuff, he just wanted them to be with him, walk with him, talk with him, laugh with him, play with him, hang out with him, spend time with him, learn how he thought, learn how he spoke. He just wanted them to be together. And as they were together in relationship, eventually he was going to send them out with a power that would not only transform them, but would transform the world. So now bring this verse to your life, today Jesus is calling you not because he needs you but because he wants you.

And he appoints you and designates you, makes you into something you’re not that you might be with him. Stop. When was the last time you thought discipleship was about being with God? We think discipleship is about doing things for God. Discipleship is about being with God. And when we’re with God a power starts to emerge in our life that not only changes us, it changes the world around us. And so we actually have to think about this in reverse order. If there’s no power in my life to change me or to impact the world, it means I probably don’t really have a relationship with God. When you or the church at large is powerless the real problem is not a lack of power, the real problem is a lack of relationship.

Because when we build a relationship with God, what are we doing? We’re cultivating His presence in our life and when His presence is in our life His power begins to flow. That’s why the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power, it’s not about learning about God, it’s about being with God. And when I’m with God His presence releases His power into the world around me. You with me on that? In fact, look at what Jesus goes on to say, ”I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains” — relationship – “in me and I in him he will bear much fruit.” You’ll change. You’ll become. “Apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my father’s glory that you bear much fruit showing yourselves to be my disciples.” So catch it. Jesus says his disciples, his students, those who follow him and walk with him bear much fruit. What is the fruit? It’s the character and the power of Jesus naturally and effortlessly emerging out of our life.

And how does that happen? By simply remaining in him. Remain, abide, rest, receive. If we will have a relationship with God, we will start to become who we already are in him. In fact, every healthy, mature follower of Jesus that I’ve ever met and as I talk to them about their relationship with God they will almost always point to this verse. And they will always say, if a man remains or if you abide or if you rest in or you receive him and I always want to ask them, I’m like what does that mean? What does it mean to abide, to remain, to be in God? And they always just kind of smile and say it’s just relationship. It’s just about being with God. When you’re with God, all kinds of things start to show up in your life. Come on, think about your phone for a second, right? Everybody probably here has a phone. And your phone is an amazing tool and when you your phone is connected to the network you can access anything in the world.

When your phone is connected to the network you can access anything in the world, any information, any person, any resource, you got access to it. But when you’re not connected to the network this thing is a piece of junk, right? Okay. When we’re connected with God we can access everything in the kingdom of heaven, all the resources, all the wisdom all, of His love, all of His hope, all of His power. When we’re connected, we got access to all of it. But when we’re disconnected, we’re walking around trying to do it in our own strength and in our own power. See, this is the problem with the American church view of discipleship. We have made discipleship about information. We have for years, we — in the American church we have we have excelled at this, we have like crafted this thing down where discipleship is all about what you know.

Messages and podcasts and books and bible studies and series and Instagram posts and tweets and blogs and this and that and the other thing and activities and events and conferences. We have figured this thing out to a science and we think it’s all about the information to know. But the whole point of content is to lead you to a connection. The whole point is not about information and knowledge, it’s about experience and encounter. I mean come on, just think about you for a second. Let’s say I spent a whole year studying you. Like I wanted to just get to know everything about you. So I interviewed all kinds of people that knew you, I studied your life, I figured out your past, I figured out your personality profile, figured out your Enneagram number and where you like to eat and what you like to do and what interests and hobbies that you have.

Now imagine I did all of that, but then I never came back around to use that information to have a better relationship with you. It would totally defeat the point, wouldn’t it? Who cares if you’re an Enneagram number four and I don’t ever talk to you? But that’s American discipleship. Well, I know everything there is to know kind of about the bible and God, I’ve been in church for 30 years. Okay. The real question is do you know God though? Like here’s the question, when was the last time you enjoyed God? Just straight up. So when is the last time you just enjoyed God? Because every healthy relationship in your life at some point, the reason it’s healthy is because you enjoy that person. When’s the last time you just sat with God? Just listened to His voice, spent time in His presence, telling Him what you like about — like when was the last time you liked God?

Not just loved God because I think sometimes when you like somebody it’s actually better than when you love them because that word is so overused sometimes, but like actually liked God for who He was, not for who you want Him to be. When was the last time? This is discipleship. Like even today as we worship the experience, the point is to enjoy God, not just singing songs. We’re enjoying God. Like do you remember the story of Mary and Martha? Two sisters, they have Jesus over for lunch. And we use this story a lot to teach how to like have a healthy life, not to be so worried and stressed out all the time. And they come — Jesus comes to their house and Martha’s doing all the stuff to get things ready and Mary is sitting at Jesus’s feet. And I love this, it says, “Mary who sat at the lord’s feet listening to what he said, but Martha was very busy and distracted with all of her serving responsibilities.”

So Martha’s getting everything ready for the party and as she’s getting everything ready the more work she’s doing the more stressed out she’s becoming, the more angry she’s becoming, the more anxious she’s becoming, she’s getting burned out. Eventually she yells at Jesus and tells Jesus that Mary who has just been sitting at Jesus’s feet, enjoying him, needs to get up and help her, right? That’s the basis of the story. Now you can use that to learn a lot about living in a busy life and all those different kinds of things but really I actually think the story teaches us a lot about discipleship. You see I think Martha is living as an American disciple. She’s busy and distracted with all the stuff, the podcasts, the bible studies, the sermons, the messages, the Instagrams, the tweets, the activities, the events, the places, the gatherings, the conference, the next thing, the next thing, the next thing. Martha is like in that vicious cycle that we get in, consume, consume, consume, consume, but eventually it makes you bitter, wore out, broke down, burned out till you actually start becoming edgy and frustrated at God himself.

All while, Mary is just sitting at his feet and enjoying Jesus. And I think the paradox is Mary actually could have got up and done all the things Martha was doing but she could have done them with a good attitude because she had been with Jesus. See, discipleship is about learning to carry God’s heart. Discipleship is not about stuff to do or information to know, it’s about learning to cultivate and carry God’s heart in your life. And that’s what Mary’s doing, she’s sitting at Jesus’s feet and she’s learning his heart. And as we learn his heart we will start to live his life.

In fact, every business owner you know that you want your employees to carry your heart. Every parent knows they want their kids to carry their heart. Every coach knows they want their team to carry their heart. Jesus wants us to carry his heart into the world. In fact, think of David, the man after God’s own heart. What does that mean? It means David spent so much time in relationship with God, enjoying God, read the psalms that he learned God’s heart and he carried it into the world around him. That’s discipleship. Not information or facts or behavior modification. In fact just think of God for a second, right? We know that Jesus is the exact image of the Father. He came to represent the father and show us who he was. And we know the Holy Spirit is another one just like Jesus, the parakletos, another of the same kind.

So all three of them carry the exact same heart. How? Because they’re the trinity and they live in relationship. And it’s through relationship that heart cascades. This is why at the end of his life, Jesus prays for you and I. And he says, “Father, I am — you are in me and I am in them. May they carry the same heart that I’ve been carrying.” This is why the 1st Century disciples, it says they were all together in one heart. Why? Because they all lived as disciples. So they were all learning God’s hearts so they all had the same heart. Could it be that that’s actually what God’s trying to bring his church back to? Because if you look at the American church over this last season, we’ve had a lot of different hearts towards a lot of different things. So could it go back to again that there’s a lack of power because there’s a lack of relationship? Come on, are you are you with me on this? You see, I think we’ve got to learn to change our perspective.

Like this verse we use a lot around here, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” we talk about this in terms of relationship with people, whoever you hang out with you’ll become like. That’s true horizontally but it’s also true vertically. God is wisdom itself. So if I walk with God, who is wisdom itself, I’ll become wise. But if I don’t ever have a relationship with God I keep growing in foolishness. You become like who you hang out with. That’s why a couple who’s been married for 50 years after 50 years of marriage they look like each other, they talk like each other, they act like each other, have the same issues that each other has, right? Because you’re together so you start to mold and shape and form. And the same is true with God. See, here’s what I’m trying to tell you, to try to become like God without God is religion.

To try to become like God without God is the birthplace of the heart of a Pharisee. Because it’s I’m going to conform the outward realities of my life to align with God even though I don’t want to know God. Doesn’t that miss the whole point? The point is not to learn about God, it’s to walk with God and to let Him change me. And the reason so many of us are so burned out and stressed out in our journey with God it’s because we’re trying to become like God without God. We don’t need to become like God without God because he wants to help us become like Him through His grace and His spirit within us as we walk with Him. And what you have to understand is that coaching without relationship feels like criticism, and correction without relationship feels like condemnation.

So when God tries to coach us or correct us and we don’t have relationship with Him, we think He’s critical and condemning. This is the Pharisees. Whenever God would try to coach them or correct them, they got offended at God. Isn’t it interesting though whenever Jesus tried to coach or correct the disciples they transformed? Why? Because there was a relationship there. Come on, does that make sense to you? In fact, look at — this is what Pharisees do, these are the Pharisees, Jesus talking to him, he says, “You diligently study the scriptures” — like you got all the content stuff down, every podcast, every bible study, the next thing and there’s nothing wrong with those things, but look at what the point of them are “because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the scriptures that testify about me yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” He says you got all the information in the world but you don’t have me.

So it’s not about the next thing. And can I encourage some of you? Some of you with such good motives and such eager hearts and such a sense of wanting to please God, have spent your life chasing content, content, curriculum, bible study, next thing and there’s nothing wrong with all those things. Just make sure they’re always leading you back to Him. I mean this is why Ephesians says, “To know this love that surpasses knowledge”– to know, to have an experience or an encounter with God that’s more than knowing up here — “that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Come on God wants to fill you to the measure of the fullness of Him. How? Through relationship, not information. You with me on that? This is the heart of discipleship, it’s God’s heart being formed inside of us.

In fact let me give you another analogy to try to help you grab this. Do you remember Moses and the Israelites? Moses and the Israelites, Moses, the friend of God, the guy who speaks to God face to face, the most humble man on the face of the earth, which is cool because Moses wrote that he was the most humble man on the face of the earth, so — and it’s in the bible so it must be true. And then you got the Israelites, the stiff-necked, rebellious, grumbly, gossipy, always wanting to go back to Egypt, always walking away from God people, okay? What’s the difference between the two of them? Relationship. The Israelites knew about God, Moses knew God. In fact, look it, it says, “The Israelites stayed at a distance.” God is inviting Moses and the Israelites to meet with Him in his presence. “But the Israelites stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen.

But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’ Not realizing that without God’s voice you die. Moses said to the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Come on, God has come to test you so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’ The people remained at a distance while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.” So catch it, God invites everybody into his presence and Moses says amen and the Israelites said we out. And that’s why Moses became who God called him to be and the Israelites never did this, right here, that’s it, that’s the reason. Why? Because the Israelites knew about God. And if all you ever do is know about God then when life gets harder, things can happen, it’s information, it’s irrelevant, it’s beyond any sense of application in your life.

But when you know God you can get through anything. And what Moses is trying to help them understand is this, come on, come into the presence of God and what I’m always trying to invite you — like come on, come into the presence of God. Like hear me you don’t need a mediator anymore, you don’t need a broker between you and God. Like Jesus is the mediator, once and for all he’s brought you into God’s presence, you never have to question it again, so you don’t need a bible study person or a curriculum or this person or that person to be a mediator. You need pastors and teachers, spiritual accountability and spiritual authority in your life to show you the way and then hold you accountable to walk in the way. But you do not need a mediator, you need to go. Why? Because when I get in His presence, it keeps me from sinning. There it is again, relationship is discipleship.

It changes how I live, not through effort, not through behavior, not through trying harder but through His holiness, His presence and His grace. Come on. In fact, catch this, I know there’s a lot of verses today but stay with me, “When Moses came down from meeting with God, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.” The Israelites said no, they stayed down, became even more foolish, Moses went up, met with God and when he came back down he was radiating glory. Why? Because when we get in the presence of God, we change. When we build a relationship with God, we change. We begin to absorb his heart and his glory and it begins to radiate out to the world around us. Come on, you are made for the glory of God.

“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” If we’ve fallen short of it, it means we were created for it. And so when we get in His presence and build a relationship, we start to absorb His heart, His qualities, His character. We start to absorb His glory and it changes us and it’s revealed to the world. You say, what is glory? It’s the character and the power of Jesus. It’s the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control. Come on, do you know how much glory is in self-control in our world today? Do you know how much glory is in patience in our world today? Do you know how much glory is in joy today? It’s the glory of God. And after three years of Jesus having a relationship with the disciples, he prays for them in John 17 and says, “Father, I give them my glory.” Why? Because three years of relationship they had now absorbed it.

They had learned his heart, they were ready to walk in his way and he released it into their life and they began to radiate just like you and I can. Not by trying harder, not by doing more stuff. Come on, this has always been God’s heart. Relationship. Relationship. Relationship. And yet if we’re honest we struggle with it. We struggle with it because we’re busy and relationships are inconvenient and costly, they take time and cause you to have to detour some of the things that you’re doing to prioritize someone else. It’s true in every relationship in your life. Struggle because we’re distracted. We have a really hard time sitting focused for more than like 30 seconds. Your phone is a great tool that can do great things. Just let me encourage you, don’t let it reprogram your brain.

You can get students. Like I love it, you’re the generation of tech, you’re going to be able to use it to do great things for the kingdom, don’t get so addicted to it that you can’t stop long enough to put it down to actually just enjoy God for like 90 seconds. And adults, before we clap for the students we’re modeling it to them probably even worse so you can’t tell them to put it down while you’ve got it in your hand. It’s bonus right there. And the third is just unbelief. We don’t really think that God wants to have a relationship with me or we tried, we came to one church service, one circle, prayed one time, read one bible chapter and we’re like yeah I don’t really feel — I’m not really feeling connected to God. Yeah. So we buy into this belief that it’s not available to me.

But Jesus has gone through heaven and earth to make it forever available to you. In fact, this is why in John 17, Jesus says, “Now this is eternal life.” Don’t think like heaven one day. This word life, it literally means real, genuine, fullness of life. That’s what it means. That word life, it means real, genuine, fullness of life. Jesus says, “Now this is eternal,” real, genuine, fullness of life, “that they may,” say it, “know you.” Not know about you, know you. Could the number one problem in our life and our relationship with God be that we are over-informed and under-connected, that we know more about God than we actually know God? And I get it, it’s like how do I know? Half of it is just positioning yourself and saying, “God, it says that you want me, that you call me by name and so may I be like the disciples and just choose to come to you?”

I don’t even know how to do it. I don’t even know how to do it. The good news is he does and he will help you. In fact, last verse. This is what Jesus says to you, are you tired, worn out, burned out on religion? Are you tired of trying to become like God without God? Are you trying to — are you tired of discipleship being about information, and behavior modification, and external conformity, and the do’s and the don’ts? Yeah, me too. So come to me, get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me. Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. There it is again, discipleship happens through relationship. Keep company with me, relationship, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly, discipleship. Jesus, another translation says, “Take my yoke upon you.” When you yoke two animals together you lock them in and they’re going to go in the same direction because they’re now connected. What Jesus says is that his yoke is easy. He carries all of the weight. His burden is light. He is just inviting you to come, pull in close to him and he will help you become who you already are in him. It is impossible to experience discipleship without relationship.

So the question is, who are you becoming? Are you becoming someone who knows about God or are you becoming someone who knows God? That’s the question, isn’t it? And so if you’ve been paying attention for the last six months or so, we’ve been intentionally adding subtly things into our services on the weekends, the experiences to help you connect with God, to activate your faith, to lean into him, more than just a good church experience. And so here’s how I would like to end our time together is I just want to give you 90 seconds to just enjoy God. I literally want to give you 90 seconds. I’m going to put a timer up here in a moment and give you 90 seconds to just enjoy God. What does that mean just enjoy God? It means just be with Him, be aware that He’s here, listen to His voice.

Do you realize that if you would start every day this week with 90 seconds of enjoying God your life would be radically different? And if you’re like, come on man, I like I don’t — why are you here or why are you tuning in online? In the point to know God, not know about God. All teaching is meant to lead us into an experience with God, not make us religious and informed about God. So let’s apply what we just learned together, okay? You with me on this? Just 90 seconds. So close your eyes, be still, 90 seconds, just enjoy God. Just be with Him for 90 seconds.

I think what the Lord wants to say to so many of us right now is just ‘I miss you’. That’s literally a prophetic word for somebody, the Lord wants to say to you, “I miss you. Oh, I love you. Oh, how I enjoy you and want you to enjoy me too.”

90 seconds in the presence of God begins to change us from the inside out. We start to absorb His character. You can even feel it, you start to absorb His peace, brings your blood pressure down, life starts to slow down, the worries and cares take a back seat for at least 90 seconds. Okay, that’s discipleship. That’s transformation. That’s the glory of God shining on you and you beginning to absorb it into your spirit. So what would it look like this week to just start every day with 90 seconds of enjoying God? Because to be a disciple is about having a relationship with God, not knowing about God or doing things for God or trying harder for God.

No, no. It’s about walking with God. So Holy Spirit, would you continue to help create within us a relationship with you, with Jesus, with the Father that we might learn the unforced rhythms of grace and walk in the character and in the power of Jesus? Lord, may we learn your heart and carry that into this world, in your name we pray, amen.

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