This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Archive for April, 2012

Embarrassing Christianity

I remember when the word “gay” meant “happy.” (Yes, I’m that old.) But my kids will never be able to use that word in its original definition, because “gay” has come to mean something totally different in our society.

I’m beginning to think that the same thing is happening to the word “Christian.” Merriam-Webster says it means “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

I guess the key word there is “professes.” I can “profess” to be fluent in six million forms of communication, but that doesn’t make it true (or make me C-3P0, for you “Star Wars” geeks).

You can wear the title of “Christian,” but that doesn’t make you one. There are days I am loath to identify with American Christianity in its current state.

“Why?” you may ask. Because Christians are living more and more like the world? Because Christians are becoming more and more liberal?

Nope. Because the Christians who usually steal the limelight are often arrogant, self-righteous, holier-than-thou and condescending to anyone who doesn’t agree with every single tenet of their beliefs.

I have seen it like never before in the hubbub that surrounds the marriage amendment that is up for a vote on the North Carolina Primary ballot on May 8. This proposed amendment to the NC Constitution reads as follows:

SECTION 1.  Article 14 of the North Carolina Constitution is amended by adding the following new section:

Sec. 6.  Marriage.

Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.  This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.”

The lines have been drawn, and there is ugliness on both sides. I have seen staunch Christians blacklist those who are against the amendment. I’ve seen committed Christians be too intimidated to admit that they might have reservations about the amendment based on their beliefs that there could be a broader than expected legal interpretation of it which could have implications that reach farther than just a man/woman marriage. I’ve seen ugly comments that border on hatred of anyone who would oppose this amendment.

Call me clueless, but I just don’t get it.

As for the proposed amendment, I don’t understand the pros and cons of it enough to argue either side. I know firm Christians who believe the amendment is the will of God, and I know firm Christians who believe that it is not. (Please realize that not supporting the amendment in its present form doesn’t mean that someone supports homosexual marriage.)

To you liberals: don’t be hating on me, but I personally believe that marriage is a man/woman thing, according to God’s original plan for creation in the Garden of Eden and subsequent scriptures. To you conservatives: HOWEVER, I am not fully persuaded on how I will vote on this amendment. AGAIN, don’t suppose that because someone might be undecided or they have chosen to vote “No” that they are proponents of something other than marriage between one man and one woman. (Then again, they might be, although I personally am not.)

But the marriage amendment is not even the real issue here for me. For all of the people who are arguing that if we don’t affirm the man/woman marriage idea by passing amendments such as this one in NC, the door will be open for all kinds of evil to enter our country and that our nation will go down the tubes, let me say this clearly:

I believe that if you stand on your soapbox with arrogance, condescension, mean-spiritedness and anger against your opponents, it is YOUR behavior that opens the door for evil that could ultimately flush America down the toilet.

“For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” James 3:16

Why? Because no one expects someone they consider to be a “sinner” to act right. But EVERYONE expects a “Christian” to act right.

Yet we have it backwards. We’d rather “be right” than “be righteous.” I have a Facebook friend who commented tonight: “I must remind myself daily it is more important for me to act righteous than to make sure others know I am right. Humility is a cloak we all should learn to wear.”

It is more important to be loving to those who oppose us than to argue our rightness with them. Does loving them mean we are weak? That we have caved in to the opposing viewpoint? That we have compromised?

God forbid. Why on earth do we equate “love” with “compromise” or “agreement”? We have made love a weak, pansy-pie emotion when it is the strongest force on earth. Yes, the strongest. It was LOVE that made Jesus Christ shed His all-powerful blood on Calvary. It was LOVE that God breathed into Adam–He breathed into Adam to give him life–His breath is His Spirit–and if God is Spirit and if God is Love, then even His Spirit consists of LOVE.

If I hug a known liar, the Christian world looks at that as if I am embracing lying. If I treat a drug addict kindly, then I must be accepting of his/her lifestyle. Right? WRONG.

Stop making love and compassion for a sinner equal to agreement and compromise with sin. These things are not synonymous.

And by the way, I smile at you and treat you kindly, yet you have your own imperfections and sins. The majority of you would probably embrace me and love me, but I sure have my own set of faults and sins. Because we treat each other with kindness and love does not mean we are saying, “Hey, it’s okay. Go ahead and continue in your impatience, arrogance, gluttony, lack of self-control, hatefulness and general sin.”

NO. We are saying that we love each other DESPITE our imperfections and that we pray that we ALL overcome sin in this world by the power of Jesus Christ.

You want to win the sinner? Well, you sure won’t do it with your arrogance “because YOU have never done what they do.” Or your holier-than-thou snubs of these people “because YOU would never fall the way they did.”

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Galatians 6:1

I noticed the word “meekness” there. And the idea that you and I, too, could be tempted.

But Jesus wasn’t always meek, you say. He got angry in the Temple and overturned tables. He called people “whited sepulchers” and “generation of vipers” and “hypocrites.”

Yep, He sure did. But the people He was coming against were the religious snobs of that day. Those ugly labels were pinned on the Pharisees and Saducees–the religious right of Jesus’ time.

I am conservative. I lean toward the right. But do not identify me with those who parade the title of “Christian” complete with arrogance and condescension.

Jesus wasn’t condescending, yet He didn’t condone sin either. “Go and sin no more,” He said. But He handled each of these sinner situations with love. Find me one instance where He was brutal to a sinner. If He had been disrespectful or snobby, the tax collectors and drunkards wouldn’t have wanted Him to break bread with them.

Again, don’t confuse Jesus’ love with tolerance. He did not tolerate sin, but He loved the sinners and treated them with compassion.

And sinners were drawn to Him because of that. And consequently, lives were changed for the better.

It is the same today. Manifesting the love of Christ through the Holy Spirit–even to those with whom we don’t agree or to those who vote opposite of us on the NC Marriage Amendment–is what will change this world, draw the sinner to repentance and help you and me stop sinning, too.

I have determined to love the people on both sides of this debate. And to my many friends who have a strong belief one way or another on this issue yet have managed to demonstrate integrity and kindness in the midst of your strong convictions, thank you. I am so blessed to call you friends. I feel privileged to be identified with you as Christ-followers.

Christ-follower. I like that. Perhaps until the term “Christian” loses its negative implications brought on by the ugliness of some of its more outspoken professors, I would rather be called a disciple of Christ or a Christ-follower or even a Jesus freak–as long as I am more closely identified with Him than with religious spirits.

Let’s stand strong for the right, but let’s be righteous while we do it.

Spring’s pleasing palette

The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.
~Harriet Ann Jacobs
(Photo from public domain)

Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.
~Virgil A. Kraft
(Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC. Check out Buffalo Ridge Imaging on Facebook!)

Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!
~Sitting Bull
(Photo by my daughter Chelsea Evans of Tobaccoville, NC)

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.
~Rainer Maria Rilke
(Photo by my friend Melinda Campbell Ring of Danbury, NC)

Every spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment.
~Ellis Peters
(Photo by my friend Denise Coe of Walnut Cove, NC. Check out Photography by DCoe on Facebook!)

April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.
~William Shakespeare
(Photo by my daughter Chelsea Evans of Tobaccoville, NC)

Now every field is clothed with grass, and every tree with leaves; now the woods put forth their blossoms, and the year assumes its gay attire.
~Virgil
(Photo by my friend Melinda Campbell Ring of Danbury, NC)

Spring is God’s way of saying, “One more time!”
~Robert Orben
(Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC. Check out Buffalo Ridge Imaging on Facebook!)

Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day.
~W. Earl Hall
(Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC. Check out Buffalo Ridge Imaging on Facebook!)

I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.
~Ruth Stout
(Photo by ME! Taken near my home in Danbury, NC, on the main street of town.)

The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring.
~Bern Williams
(Photo by my friend Denise Coe of Walnut Cove, NC. Check out Photography by DCoe on Facebook!)

Awake, thou wintry earth –
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!
~Thomas Blackburn, “An Easter Hymn”
(Photo by my friend Michael Mullins of King, NC)

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.
~Margaret Atwood
(Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC. Check out Buffalo Ridge Imaging on Facebook!)

I love better to count time from spring to spring; it seems to me far more cheerful to reckon the year by blossoms than by blight.
~Donald G. Mitchell
(Photo by my friend Monty Stevens of Westfield, NC. Check out Monty Stevens Photography on Facebook!)

It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!
~Mark Twain
(Photo by my daughter Chelsea Evans of Tobaccoville, NC)

I think that no matter how old or infirm I may become, I will always plant a large garden in the spring. Who can resist the feelings of hope and joy that one gets from participating in nature’s rebirth?
~Edward Giobbi
(Photo by my husband, Alan Brewer! Taken at Reynolda Gardens in Winston-Salem, NC)

The naked earth is warm with Spring,
And with green grass and bursting trees
Leans to the sun’s kiss glorying,
And quivers in the sunny breeze.
~Julian Grenfell
(Photo by ME! Taken in my neighbor’s backyard, across the road from my house)

And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
~Percy Bysshe Shelley, “The Sensitive Plant”
(Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC. Check out Buffalo Ridge Imaging on Facebook!) 

For every person who has ever lived there has come, at last, a spring he will never see. Glory then in the springs that are yours.
~Pam Brown
(Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC. Check out Buffalo Ridge Imaging on Facebook!)

**All photos posted with permission of my wonderful photographer friends!

Also check out my other blog that features beautiful spring photos from local photographers at:

https://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/spring-done-sprung/

Spring done sprung

The poet Joyce Kilmer said in 1913, “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.” If he was talking about the lovely dogwoods in my home state of North Carolina, he was right!

Yes, yes, I know my title is grammatically bad, but somehow it just perfectly sums up the feeling I have in my heart right now. Spring done sprung, and I pert near (“almost” in Southern lingo) missed it again.

How does this happen year after year? I spend my winters longing for spring, dreaming of green and gold days, eagerly watching for the crocuses to decorate the winter-brown landscape.

Some people find the overpowering smell of wisteria cloying, but I find it delightful. I feel guilty for loving this beautiful purple vine so much because it is parasitic and will kill trees if left untended, but I find it to be a lovely plant. (Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC)

Then late winter finds me becoming engrossed in more and more activities–the culmination of my kids’ basketball season, NCAA March Madness, sign-ups for Little League, practice and even games for my son’s high school baseball team.

Suddenly I look around and the crocuses are gone. The daffodils and forsythia are already fading, and tulips are about to burst on the scene. Where have I been? I lament the passage of the earliest days of my favorite season.

The flowering crabapple trees in Danbury where I live are spectacular in the spring! And the blossoms feel like a handful of soft pink powderpuffs. (Photo by my friend Monty Stevens of Westfield, NC)

Spring and fall seem to be the most fleeting seasons. Summer’s heat and deep green of the trees appear to linger for months. Similarly, winter’s chill and barren landscape drag on seemingly endlessly.

But the pastel greens of spring and the vivid colored leaves of autumn are so evanescent that you barely blink and they’re gone. So I feel a more desperate need to savor every moment of these two seasons, but especially spring when newness of life in nature brings hope to even the weariest pilgrim taking this earth-walk.

In our lives, we won’t truly enjoy many springs. My theory is that we don’t fully appreciate the first 22 springs of our lives. Children don’t usually feel the poignancy of passing seasons the way time-starved adults do. And teenagers become quickly wrapped up in youthful pursuits and other teenagers. Then comes college and the pressures each spring of trying to cram the rest of the semester into our brains before school ends in early May.

Forsythia and daffodils share the vibrant yellow color that always grabs my eye to cry out, “Spring is here!” (Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC)

Before you know it, you’re out of college and working a job–perhaps even newly married. Pressures of life mount: new babies, new mortgages, new car payments. Life seems to swoosh by you, with spring after spring tumbling unheeded into summer.

Tulips seem regal and stately to me, as opposed to the graceful nonchalance of the daffodil. Ahh, if they only lasted longer! (Photo by my friend Michael Mullins of King, NC)

The next 20 or so years are spent raising the kids, playing chauffeur to their every activity, building a life with your mate, taking care of aging parents. You turn around and you’re middle aged. Perhaps that’s the time you truly appreciate spring. Your own springtime of life is over, and you yearn to experience once more what you know you never can.

Many-hued azaleas lend vibrant color to the spring landscape and are adored by not only me, but also by the butterflies! (Photo by my friend Melinda Campbell Ring of Danbury, NC)

As old age creeps upon you, often there is failing health, less access to the great outdoors. And so spring may pass by you again nearly unnoticed.

Daffodils, buttercups, jonquils–by any name, the sunny yellow-gold harbingers of spring seem to nod in agreement to the new warmth of the season. (Photo by my daughter Chelsea Evans of Tobaccoville, NC)

Let’s savor every spring that we are blessed with. If you start with the first daffodil exploding into blossom and count the days to the final blooms of the dogwood, you get about 30 days. The calendar may say it’s spring for two more months after that, but by late April to early May here in the South, everything already looks pretty much like summer.

The brilliant palette of spring seems so vivid to our color-starved eyes that have grown accustomed to the drab grays and browns of winter. (Photo by my friend Kathy Flanary Nelson of Winston-Salem, NC)

So you really only get about 30 days each year of the true wonder of spring. Multiply that by 70 years and you get 2100 days. Sounds like a bunch, but in the grand scheme of the days of your life, it’s not.

How can we doubt the resurrection of Christ when spring cries “Resurrection!” on every hand?! (Photo by my friend Denise Coe of Walnut Cove, NC)

And remember that you don’t even recall the first few springs you lived through, so those 150 days or so are gone. By the time you factor in the oh-so-bustling years of early and mid-adulthood and then the later years of life when the quality of life often diminishes, you lose another several days of spring that you never appreciated.

Suffice it to say that the final tally of true spring days that you get to enjoy is very small. Let’s make the most of every spring the Father gives us to enjoy!

God always keeps His promises. Seedtime and harvest will not fail, so spring will continually return until this earth is done. (Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC)

“My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.

 For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;

 The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

 The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” (Song of Solomon 2:10-13)

Also check out another of my blogs with gorgeous spring photos by local photographers at:

https://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/springs-pleasing-palette/

Journey into Judaism–Feasts of Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits!

My last post detailed my journey into Judaism while yet remaining a Christian. I am particularly aware of that journey today–the quiet, peaceful Sabbath before we celebrate Resurrection Day tomorrow. I live in two worlds today: the Christian world of observing this day as the day my Savior had been crucified and buried and was preparing to rise again tomorrow and the Jewish world of the first full day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread as we prepare to celebrate the Feast of Firstfruits tomorrow.

For many years, I felt alone in my interest of merging these two worlds into a fuller Christian experience. My mother’s sister, Aunt Darlene, had begun to walk this path long before I did, and what an encouragement she was to me when everyone else thought I was crazy!

One thing that was a disadvantage to me when I began to study Judaism was the fact that some people who had been loyal members of our very large church began studying it independently of me. They went so far as to say that we must keep all of the feasts, men must be circumcised, the Torah must be strictly adhered to. These people that I loved ended up leaving our church and striking out on their own.

Naturally, that made the leadership at my church look on me with suspicion whenever my studies were mentioned. It was a tough row to hoe for a while, but I never stopped, because I WAS CALLED OF GOD TO DO IT.

Thankfully, when we began our own church in my hometown, we were free to teach on these things, and the church members were hungry for the knowledge. We introduced them to the great Hebrew teacher and scholar of Christianity and Judaism, Dr. Karl Coke, who had been introduced to me by Aunt Darlene, and he began holding monthly teaching sessions at our church. What a blessing he was to us!

I am no longer with that church, nor are any of the original members, but they have almost all gone on even further into studying Jewish culture, Hebrew, Torah and the Feasts of the Lord. What began as a seemingly small thing keeps being multiplied and spreading farther and farther abroad!

The danger with studying these Jewish things (or rather, things of the Lord) is that the enemy of our souls would like to pervert the focus. If he sees that he can’t stop a Christian from studying holy things, then his next best tactic is to subtly slide in with less visible trickery. He will try to bring Christians back into legalism. If we were just going to continue to observe the Old Testament law as our means of salvation, then why did we need Jesus (Yahushua)?

Yes, He preached Torah and he fulfilled Torah. But the apostle Paul rightly interpreted the Messiah’s approach to law vs. grace. Paul was firm when he taught the early churches that Gentile Christians did not have to be circumcised or follow the Jewish dietary laws.

“Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” he asked the Galatians.

So I believe satan has two main tactics when it comes to the modern-day church studying the Feasts of the Lord, Torah, etc.: either make them think it’s something they shouldn’t mess with at all or make them think they have to become legalistic and abide back under the law.

There is a beautiful middle ground where we still live by grace yet we are blessed by a greater understanding of the Feasts of the Lord and a study of Jewish culture and heritage. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13), but He didn’t do anything about the blessing. If we observe the Feasts, there is a great blessing in that. If we keep Jewish dietary regulations, we are blessed as well (and healthier).

But let’s don’t put heavy burdens on the Gentile church for them to bear. However, let’s quit denying the fact that our Messiah was a Jew and that we are grafted into that heritage. I can see in the Spirit how God is attempting to bring this last day church into a purer state–showing us the old paths once more, opening up old knowledge that has too long been ignored.

Whether we like it or not (I personally love it), Israel plays a very real role in our Christian lives. One day all nations will go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. Shouldn’t we start practicing now?

Here is a teaching I did Thursday night, April 5, 2012 at the Walnut Cove Public Library. We finished up our studies of Passover that we had started last week (video posted in last blog post) and moved on to the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Firstfruits. Beneath the YouTube video link is the information I disseminated in handout form to the class. If you need the Passover handout info, go back to my last WordPress post and see the end of it.

Hope you enjoy learning the symbolism in our Easter weekend as seen through the lens of the Feasts of the Lord!

FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD

What are the characteristics of the feast? (**outlined in Exodus 12)
Celebrated in the first Jewish month for 7 days: Abib 15-21
–comes on the heels of Passover which is Abib 14
–v. 18: “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.”
Only unleavened bread could be eaten for the entire week
–v. 15: “Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread. . .”
First and last days were to be sabbaths
–v. 16: “And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there  shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.”
Commemorates the leaving of Egypt (bondage) for the Promised Land (freedom)
–v. 17: “And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.”
–had to leave so quickly there was no time for bread to rise
–v. 34: “And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.”
–v. 39: “And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual.”
All leaven must be removed from Jewish homes
–v. 19: “Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.”

How does the feast parallel our salvation?
Once lamb’s blood had been put on the door of the home, no leaven could be found or eaten
–Once Jesus’ blood is applied to our hearts, no sin can be left within
–I Cor. 5:7-8: “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are  unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the  feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Leaven: agent that makes bread rise: even a tiny bit left will affect the bread
–compares to sin which inflates us with pride and hot air
–I Cor. 5:6: “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?”
–even a little sin is harmful to us
–Jesus said that a woman hid some leaven in 3 measures of meal (@7 gallons) and it leavened the whole thing! (Matt. 13:33, Luke 13:21)
–Jesus compared leaven to faulty or arrogant doctrine
–Matt. 16:6, 12: “Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. . .Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and. . .Sadducees.”
–some people cannot receive a healing (physical or mental)
–they have kept sin in their lives (blocks healing)
–right after He told us we could have what we ask, He says we must forgive–Mark 11:25– “And when ye stand praying, forgive. . .”
Jesus IS the 3 things that must be eaten at the feast
–lamb: He was our Passover lamb that was slain
–unleavened bread: John 6:35– “Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life.”
–Matt. 26:26: “Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.”
–He had no sin (leaven): I Pet. 2:22– “Who did no sin”
–bitter herbs: representative of His suffering and death (we, too, must die to ourselves)
Unleavened bread: used for 5 purposes in the OT
–consecration of priests (Ex. 29:1-2)
–we are priests unto Him (I Pet. 2:9)
–vows of separation (Num. 6:1-19)
–we must vow a vow to separate from the world–NO LEAVEN!
–priestly anointing (Lev. 2:4-5)
–we need the anointing of God to minister in power
–call to service, as when Gideon was chosen (Judges 6:19-21)
–when we are called to service, we must evaluate our lives
–representation of freedom from bondage (Ex. 12:17)
–sin is a bondage that we MUST leave behind to be free
Jewish fathers lead the entire family to search for remaining leaven before Passover meal
–Paul said to examine our lives similarly before taking part in communion (I Cor. 11:28)
If leaven was found in a home, it must be burned
–we must be purged which literally meant “to set on fire and destroy”
–we are tried by fire to get rid of sin (Zech. 13:9)
Leaven is the key ingredient in bread
–puffed-up pride is the base of every sin
–Satan used pride as the first recorded temptation (Gen. 3:5)
Jewish custom at the seder has 3 pieces of unleavened bread (matzah) on the table
–middle piece is broken, put in a white linen napkin and hidden; child that finds it gets a special
prize
–called the afikomen: “that which comes after; He came”
–represents Jesus who was broken for us, wrapped in graveclothes and hidden in a tomb; He was resurrected that we may find Him and receive gifts of Him
–Eph. 4:8: “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”

FEAST OF FIRSTFRUITS

What are the characteristics of the Feast? **(per Lev. 23:9-14)
Called Reishit Katzir (beginning of the harvest)
–the barley harvest (first one of the year)
Considered, along with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, as part of Passover
Commanded by God to be celebrated when Israel entered the Promised Land
–Lev. 23:9-10: “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you and shall reap the harvest thereof. . .”
Consisted of bringing a sheaf of the firstfruits of the harvest to the priest
–Lev. 23:10: “. . .then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest”
The priest then waved the sheaf before the Lord
–Lev. 23:11: “And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you. . .”
This was to be done on the morning after the sabbath during Passover
–Lev. 23:11: “. . .on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.”
A first-year lamb with no blemish must be offered the same day as a burnt offering
–Lev. 23:12: “And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD.”
Additional offerings included wine, plus fine flour mixed with oil
–Lev. 23:13: “And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.”
No harvest food could be eaten until the firstfruits were eaten
–Lev. 23:14: “And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God. . .”
Keeping the Feast of Firstfruits was a commandment forever
–Lev. 23:14: “it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”
After the offering, Jews began counting 50 days, leading up to Shavuot (Feast of Weeks, Pentecost)
–Lev. 23:15-16: “And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.”

How does the Feast parallel our salvation?
It is part 3 of our salvation process
–PART 1: Passover–the Lamb’s blood is applied to our hearts as we leave Egypt (the world) to head to the Promised Land (freedom and blessings in Christ)
–PART 2: Unleavened Bread–we repent (getting rid of sin = leaven, as in eating unleavened bread), we eat the Lamb (as in taking in all of Jesus) and we die to ourselves (we eat bitter herbs to represent suffering).
–PART 3: Firstfruits–upon entering the Promised Land (life with Christ), we bring our firstfruits before the Lord and wave in worship
–We are risen with Christ, to give Him the first and holiest parts of our lives as we worship Him

What are other types and shadows related to Firstfruits?
As part of Passover, firstfruits were offered the day after the sabbath
–I Cor. 15:20, 23: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. . .Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”
–Jesus rose from the dead to become our firstfruits on the day after the sabbath during the 7-day feast of Passover–the EXACT day the sheaf was to be waved!
A “sheaf”: a stalk of grain representing a person
–Gen. 37:5-8: Joseph’s dream of sheaves bowing down to his sheaf (his brothers bowing to him)
–Psalm 126:6: putting out seed and then bringing in the sheaves
–seed, in the NT, represented the Gospel, which we spread to bring in souls (sheaves)
There has always been a biblical principle of offering firstfruits followed by blessing
–Even Cain and Abel offered firstfruits
–Deut. 18:4: Israelites commanded to give firstfruits of corn, wine, oil, etc. to the priests in the Temple as a tithe unto the Lord and to support the priests
–Deut. 26:1-11: tells us how to offer firstfruits (beautiful)
–Prov. 3:9-10: “Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.”
–Jer. 2:3: Israel was called the firstfruits of the Lord–His chosen people
–Ezek. 44:30: “And the first of all the firstfruits of all things, and every oblation of all, of every sort of your oblations, shall be the priest’s: ye shall also give unto the priest the first of your dough, that he may cause the blessing to rest in thine house.”
–Rom. 8:23: we have been given the firstfruits of the Spirit
–Rom. 11:16: “For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy. . .”
–Rom. 16:5, I Cor. 16:15: first converts in Asia called firstfruits
–James 1:18: we who are saved are called the firstfruits of His creation
No one could touch the harvest until firstfruits had been offered
–John 20:17: “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father. . .”
–we could have nothing to eat spiritually until the resurrection was accomplished
The counting of the omer: counting 50 days from offering of firstfruits until Pentecost
–for OT Jews, this was a time of waiting until the law was given on Mt. Sinai
–for NT Jews, Jesus rose as the firstfruits and stayed 40 days on Earth
–then the 120 tarried for 10 days (40 + 10 = 50) until the Holy Ghost came on Pentecost (law given again–this time to our hearts!)

My Christian journey into Judaism and Passover celebration!

I can remember seeing the so-called “Jewish” holidays on the calendar from the time I could read. But coming from my Christian upbringing, I didn’t understand what they were all about.

Plus, I grew up in the South, and there just weren’t very many Jews in Dry Hollow where I lived! My uncle DID marry a beautiful woman with Jewish ancestry, and I can remember being fascinated with that part of her lineage.

But I was taught through my church, thank God, that the Jews were God’s original chosen people and that Israel and the Jews were still very special.

Before you knew it, I was a young college woman who had spread her wings and left her tiny Southern town (for a somewhat bigger Southern town!). And on that college campus, I began to meet some Jewish people. One of my suitemates was Elise, a Jewish gymnast from New Jersey whose family had come from Poland.

She introduced me to one of her New Jersey Jewish pals, a soccer player named Howard who lived on the second floor of our high-rise dorm–just above us. Since first floor was an incomplete floor, we were thrown together with the second floor folks for parties, fellowship activities, beach trips, etc. Almost immediately, I was smitten with Howard and his humble personality and long, dark ringlets cascading to his shoulders.

He was a sophomore, and I, a lowly freshman, so I didn’t think he’d look twice at me. But soon he did, and suddenly we were dating. Although we broke up (peacefully) before the next school year began, I never had anything but fond feelings for Howard. He was ever kind, witty, cheerful and down-to-earth. He’s one of the few people on the planet about whom I can’t think of a bad thing to say. (He, Elise and I have recently been wonderfully reunited through Facebook!)

I can remember sitting around talking to him and Elise and thinking all the while, “These are Jews–God’s chosen people. Their lineage goes back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!” The fascination was intense, but I never really said much to them about it–maybe afraid of embarrassing them or something.

The years cascaded by, and I lost touch with Elise and Howard, although I carried fond memories of them with me. And suddenly, seemingly out of the blue, in the fall of 1999, it became imperative in my spirit man that I study the Jewish holidays. My ex-husband felt it, too; he’d say, “Leslie, what is Yom Kippur?” And my frustration grew as I couldn’t really answer that intelligently.

So I embarked on a journey that has taken me wonderful places! I began to study what I came to know as the “Feasts of the Lord.” In the spring of 2000, I ended up at the local synagogue (well, sort of local–about 30 miles away in Greensboro!), taking Judaism classes. I twisted the arm of my best friend Vicki to come with me (didn’t take much persuasion–she’s a very spiritual woman!).

Each Tuesday night, we headed to Temple Emanuel for Judaism 101, followed by Beginner Hebrew. Such anointed nights! I would sit hungrily in the Judaism class, soaking up the teachings about the holidays, seeing our Messiah concealed in each one. Then I’d hurry over to my beloved professor Andrew (we called him “A-DAM” (pronounced “a-DOM”) who would teach us to speak Hebrew through the “Read Hebrew America” program. He was so witty that I thought he should go on stage as a comedian!

He asked us what our names meant so that he could pick out a corresponding Hebrew name for us. I told him that Leslie meant “from the meadow,” so he chose the name “Sharona” (as in the roses of Sharon that bloom in the meadow) for me. When he’d call on me to read aloud, he would often burst into song with “My Sharona.”

Hebrew came easily for me. I would practice and practice each lesson at home, but it seemed I had a natural bent toward and accent for the language.

I never divulged that I was a Christian–not because I was embarrassed but because I didn’t want them to think I was there to proselytize. I wasn’t. I wanted to learn my Messiah’s culture and history from HIS people. But one night when it was time to read the Shema (Shema Yisrael! Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad–see picture for interpretation), I was so excited that I volunteered immediately when Andrew asked for a reader. My hand was up like Arnold Horshack’s!

Andrew said, somewhat frustratedly, “Is there ANYONE other than Sharona who will EVER volunteer to read aloud?” When everyone stared blankly at him, he cried out to his fellow Jews, “PEOPLE! The Christian chicks are blowing us away!”

I froze. How did he know I was a Christian? Was that a problem? Should I quit the class? I ended calling Andrew at his home and offering to drop out, assuring him that my motives were pure–simply to learn. He was magnanimous–told me it was no problem that I was in the class, that he was thrilled American Christians were wanting to build bridges of understanding between themselves and different cultures. I finished out the class in total comfort and peace.

Over a decade has passed since that time, but my love for the Jewish people and Israel has never diminished but in fact grown by leaps and bounds. I’ve sat at the feet of a fabulous Hebrew scholar/Christian preacher, Dr. Karl Coke of Charlotte, NC,  off and on for several years now. And in 2003, I began to teach about the Feasts of the Lord myself–to my fellow church members.

God has since opened doors for me to teach these things to people of varying denominations–not just at my own church. And the doors are opening more rapidly now; I’ve already been asked to do a teaching series on the Feasts at another local church.

As a Gentile, I didn’t grow up with these feasts and may have some of my facts wrong–something that I would bitterly regret and would ask that some kind Jewish (or Gentile) person correct me on. I would not be offended. (And please remember that I am a Christian who sees the Messiah in each Feast; I mean no disrespect for the Jews by teaching from a Christian perspective.)

Here is a YouTube video of a teaching I did at my local library last Thursday night, March 29, in preparation for Passover which is today, April 6. I will post a handout that accompanies the video teaching in case you want to follow along. I hope you can take time to watch it and experience the symbolism in the memorable Feast of Passover!

FEASTS OF THE LORD
What are the feasts of the Lord?
–The 7 Biblically commanded feasts in Lev. 23
–They are not Jewish feasts (Lev. 23:4)

Why should we study them?
–OT: Jesus CONCEALED   NT: Jesus REVEALED
–They teach us about the PAST
–we learn Jewish history
–we see Jesus symbolically concealed in them
–helps us understand our Messiah
–types and shadows (Col. 2:16-17, Heb. 8:5)
–They teach us about the PRESENT
–show us present-day truths
–give us knowledge of salvation and how to live in Christ
–They teach us about the FUTURE
–Col. 2:17 again
–revelations of the endtime are hidden in the feasts
–they are called “mikra”: rehearsal, recital (our rehearsal of our future)
–But they’re for the Jews, aren’t they?
–Israel OBSERVED them, Jesus FULFILLED them, we must APPLY them to our lives

Are we under commandment to observe them?
–No, according to Paul in Col. 2:16 (remember his circumcision argument earlier also)
–However, since we are now grafted into the commonwealth of Israel (Eph. 2:12-13), we can certainly celebrate them and be blessed (double portion)
–Much historical evidence that early Christians, even Gentiles, celebrated feasts
–in 339 A.D., it became a criminal offense to convert to Judaism
–thus, Gentiles celebrating feasts = ostracism
–decades later, Synod of Laodicea ruled against Christians feasting with Jews

Is the order of them significant?
–Yes, they are called “moedim”: set times, appointed times
–Their order is the exact order of our lives in Christ
–Passover: we acknowledge that Jesus died for our sins and accept Him
–Unleavened Bread: we get rid of sin through repentance and baptism
–Firstfruits: we are raised with Him to offer ourselves
–Weeks (Pentecost): we receive the Holy Spirit
–Trumpets: Jesus comes back to get us
–Day of Atonement: we are judged
–Tabernacles: we enter our millenial rest, eventually Heaven
–There are seven feasts for a reason (rest)
–The first four have been fulfilled by Jesus; the last three remain to be fulfilled

PASSOVER (PESACH)
When is Pesach?
Nissan (Abib) 14 (on the 14th day of the first Jewish month)
–usually near our Easter but not always
Jews also call it “Hag ha-Aviv”–holiday of spring
–symbolized release from winter (bondage) into spring (freedom–Promised Land)
God’s mercy was shown even in the dates of Passover
–if a man couldn’t keep it, due to being defiled or away, he had another chance! (Num. 9:1-14)
–to be done the 14th day of the next month (called “Pesach Katan”)

What is Pesach?
In Hebrew, it means “to skip or leap over” (Angel of Death skipped over Israelites)
–also “to pass or hover over, for protection” (God hovered over them to shield them)
Jews see it as their “mikrah” (rehearsal) of their final redemption when Messiah comes
Specific instructions on how to celebrate are found in a few places
–Lev. 23:4-5, 7; Num. 28:16-23; Deut. 16:1-7; Ezek. 45:21
Historic celebrations of it can be found in several places
–Era of Moses: freedom from Egypt (Ex. 12:1-14, 42-50)
–again, the 2nd year after leaving Egypt (Num. 9:1-14)
–Era of Joshua: entering the Promised Land (Josh. 5:10-12)
–Era of Hezekiah: cleansing of the Temple (II Chron. 30:1-20)
–Era of Josiah: cleansing of the Temple (II Kings 23:21-23; II Chron. 35:1-27)
–Era of Nehemiah: rebuilding of Jerusalem (Ezra 6:19-21)
–Era of Jesus’ childhood: his 12th year (Luke 2:41)
–Era of Jesus’ adulthood: his 33rd year (Matt. 26:2, 17 – 27:45; Mark 14:1 – 15:25; Luke 22:1 – 23:33; John 2:13-23, 6:4, 11:55 – 19:42)
–Era of Paul: New Testament church (I Cor. 5:7-8; Heb. 11:28)

How is Jesus revealed in Pesach?
**The Gospel is paralleled in Exodus 12:1-14!
v. 2: “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.”
–Pesach celebrated in spring–newness of life outside of Egypt (bondage)
–Jesus as our Passover: new beginning; newness of life outside of the world
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away;   
            behold, all things are become new.” II Cor. 5:17
v. 3: “. . .In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb. . .”
–the lamb was set aside for 4 days (killed on the 14th)
“For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past” Psalm 90:4
“. . .one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”     II Peter 3:8
–from Adam to Jesus, 4000 years (4 days)
–“But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world. . .” I Peter 1:19-20
–Jesus entered Jerusalem on Abib 10; was there 4 days before death
–family fond of lamb (tied to doorpost): truly a sacrifice
–pre-existent Jesus as God in OT
v. 3: “. . .they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house. . .”
–OT salvation for whole family
–Noah’s whole house saved (Gen. 7:1)
–Joshua’s whole house made a decision (Josh. 24:15)
–NT salvation was often the whole house
–Lydia’s whole household was baptized (Acts 16:15)
–Paul’s jailer and his whole house was saved (Acts 16:31)
–Crispus believed on the Lord with all his house (Acts 18:8)
v. 4: “And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.”
–NT command to witness and spread the Gospel: salvation is for everyone!
v 5: “Your lamb shall be without blemish. . .”
–Jesus was our “lamb without blemish” (I Peter 1:19)
–OT lamb had to be inspected (customarily, 7 times)
–Jesus was inspected 7 times
–#1: Pilate: “I find no fault in him.” (John 19:4)
–#2: Herod: “I. . .have found no fault in this man. . .” (Luke 23:14)
–#3: Annas: sent Him to son-in-law Caiaphas (John 18:24)
–#4: Caiaphas: “sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none.” (Mark 14:55)
–#5: Judas: “. . .I have betrayed innocent blood.” (Matt. 27:4)
–#6: Centurion: “Truly this man was the Son of God.” (Matt. 27:54)
–#7: Thief (cross): “. . .this man hath done nothing. . .” (Luke 23:41)
v. 5: “Your lamb shall be. . .a male. . .”
–Jesus was often referred to as “one man”
“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Rom. 5:19)
v. 5: “Your lamb shall be. . .of the first year. . .”
–scholars say this was a firstborn lamb
–Biblical principle that firstborns belong to God
–Jesus was “the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29)
–many OT types of Messiah were really second-born who became firstborn!
–Cain replaced by Abel, Ishmael by Isaac, Esau by Jacob
–even in NT, firstborn man Adam replaced by second man Jesus
–our first birth is our flesh birth
–must have second birth (born again) to become firstborn!
v. 5: “. . .ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats. . .”
–sheep always represented Israel, goats–Gentiles (us)
–foreshadowing salvation for all!
v. 6: “And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it. . .”
–the Jews took responsibility for Jesus’ death
“Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.” (Matt. 27:25)
v. 6: “And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day. . and. . .shall kill it in the evening.”
–Pesach lamb killed in the afternoon of the 14th day
–Jesus was crucified at 9 a.m. but died at 3 p.m.
–“in the evening” literally means “between 2 evenings”
–at noon on the 14th, darkness covered the land for 3 hours
–when the light came again at 3 p.m., then Jesus died (Mark 15:33-37)
–He literally was slain “between 2 evenings”
v. 7: “And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.”
–we must apply His blood to our lives to be forgiven
“. . .without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22)
“. . .by his own blood he entered in. . .having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Heb. 9:12)
–Jesus shed blood from 5 places (5 = grace)
–head (thorns), hands (nails), feet (nails), back (whip), side (spear)
–lamb’s blood was on door: Jesus was the Lamb AND the Door
“I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” (John 10:9)
–this application of blood forms the Hebrew letter “chai” (“life”)
v. 8: “And they shall eat the flesh in that night. . .”
–they were commanded not only to apply the blood but to eat the lamb
–Jesus said, “Whoso eateth my flesh. . .hath eternal life.” (John 6:54)
v. 8: “And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread. . .”
“I am the living bread. . .if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever.” (John 6:51)
–Jesus: our unleavened bread (leaven = sin)
–we, too, must let go of sin (leaven) when we are saved
v. 8: “. . .and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.”
–suffering and death: we must die to self when we are saved
v. 9: “Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.”
–we must take ALL of Christ and His word, nothing watered down
–”purtenance” means innards, entrails (every part)
v. 10: “And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.”
–again, the emphasis is on eating ALL of the lamb (Him)
–if something was left, evidently we didn’t share enough
–remember the parable of the talents! (Matt. 25:25)
v. 11: “And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’s passover.”
–had to eat quickly to get out of Egypt
–when we receive Messiah, we are to leave the world ASAP!
–He had let judgment “pass over” them and now could only continue to “hover over” them if they left Egypt
v. 12: “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.”
–judgment is for Egypt, not for God’s people
–each of the 10 plagues corresponded to one of their gods
–”I am the I AM” (don’t mess with me!)
v. 13: “And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.”
–blood represented a covenant relationship; God couldn’t break His word
–but you also had to do YOUR part–apply the blood to your house (life)
“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Rom. 3:25)
–“propitiation”: substitute (Jesus was your Passover lamb killed for you)
–“forbearance”: He was kind and patient enough to forgive us (pass over us)
v. 14: “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.”
–by law, the Jews had to keep the feast literally
–by grace, we have to keep the feast spiritually (apply the blood, eat the Lamb, leave Egypt)

What are the blessings of Pesach?
Obviously, life (through the blood of the lamb)
Healing and prosperity
“He brought them forth also with silver and gold; and there was not one feeble person among their tribes.” (Psalm 105:37)
–these blessings came from partaking of the Passover
–we have a right to these things, too, through Jesus
“And the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.” (II Chron. 30:20)–at Passover
–blood of the Lamb breaks the curse of sin, sickness and poverty

How is Pesach celebrated?
**The Jewish customs are not necessarily Biblical ordinances
Spring cleaning: the week before
–Passover always involved cleaning things up
–Josiah put evil out of the land before they held Passover
–Hezekiah’s people cast their pagan altars into a brook at Passover
–Jesus cleansed the Temple just before Passover
–Jewish priests wouldn’t go into the Hall of Judgment when Jesus was being tried (couldn’t be defiled before Passover)
“Erev Pesach”–night before Pesach when final housecleaning is done
–search for “hametz” (leaven): led by dad (traditionally with candle)
–leaven found must be burned
–some use palm branch from Sukkot (final fall feast) to light fire
“Fast of the Firstborn”–the day before Pesach, from sunup to sundown; a fast for firstborn Jews to commemorate their being spared
–some fast in honor of Esther’s fast (originally Abib 13)
“Seder” (“order”)–Passover meal eaten at sundown on Abib 15
–certain foods served in a certain order
–“karpas” (green vegetables, like parsley, symbolizing spring and rebirth, dipped in salt water to represent their tears)
–“haroset” (chopped apples, nuts, wine & spices: the mortar of Egyptian brickmaking)
–“maror” (bitter herbs like romaine or horseradish to represent slavery)
–“beitzah” (hardboiled egg scorched on stove burner to symbolize the Jews who have been burned but never beaten)
–“zeroa” (roasted lamb bone)
–certain customs kept
–recline on left side when eating (sign of freedom in ancient world), except when eating foods that symbolize slavery
–keep a large, ornate goblet filled with wine for Elijah who will come before Messiah
–head of family wears “kittel”–white robe similar to priest’s garment (he is the priest of the family who does the sacrifice)
–children ask 4 questions about Passover so that traditions and the story of the exodus may be passed down
–4 cups of wine are blessed and served
Biblically speaking, new ordinances were added after the original
–Many burnt offerings to be made (Num. 28:16-23)
–included a goat for a sin offering (Jesus as our scapegoat)
–Specific place designated for offerings once there was a tabernacle plan (Deut. 16:1-7)
–had to be offered “in the place which the Lord shall choose to put His name”
–no longer could Jews kill the lamb within their OWN gates (we can do nothing of ourselves once we have Jesus)

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