< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School

Friday, August 18, 2017

John 8:1-11

John 8:1-5 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

The religious leaders who opposed Jesus used the opportunity of Him teaching a crowd to trap and discredit Him in the eyes of the people. They planned to present Him with a problem that would draw criticism no matter what solution He chose.

In Israel’s early history, drastic measures were needed in Israel’s education, so adultery was punishable by death. And the religious leaders believed they had created the perfect inescapable situation for Jesus.

If He answered that the woman should be stoned, He would lose His reputation for mercy and for being a friend to sinners. If He called for her death, He would become a criminal in the eyes of Roman government. Roman law forbade any Jew from exercising the death penalty (except in the case of a Gentile trespassing in the temple.)

If He said the woman should be pardoned the leaders would accuse Him of breaking the law of Moses and permitting a sin that dishonored the bodies God created in His image.

Here’s His answer:

John 8:6-9 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.

What was He writing? Some suggest He was gaining time while He reflected on His answer in dependence on His Father. Some that He was giving her accusers time to think. Another possibility suggested is that the whole scene: the terrified woman, the triumphant looks on the faces of the scribes and Pharisees, the curiosity of the crowd – filled Jesus’ holy soul with so much shame that He hid His eyes.

Yet another suggestion comes out of the Armenian translation, “He Himself bowing His head was writing with His finger on the earth to declare their sins.” Could He have been writing down each accuser’s sins for them to see?

We don’t really know what He wrote – just that after He did it and said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one they went away.

Jesus didn’t dispute the law OR her guilt. But He did turn the situation around and cast light on the character of those who set themselves up as her judges.

John 8:10-11 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Standing in front of Jesus, the woman had no plea. No defense. Only Jesus. He gave her His full attention, asking, who was there to condemn her. And when she said no one, He said then neither do I condemn you.

Was He tolerant of her sin? Was He saying, “It wasn’t your fault”? No – but remember – God didn’t send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it through Him.

There is no condemnation in those who are in Christ.

He didn’t discount her sins, but came to save her from them. Compassionately He told her “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  His will for her was a transformed life.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

John 7:37- 53

John 7:37 – 39 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

On the first seven days of the Feast, people left their tree-branch shelters and went to the temple to worship. After the sacrifice was offered, a priest filled a golden pitcher with water from the Pool of Siloam. As he brought it back into the temple, the crowd shouted and played music on cymbals and trumpets. The rejoicing was so great the rabbis said those who had never seen this ceremony had never tasted true joy. When they returned to the temple, the priest cried, “lift up your hand,” and he poured out the water from the golden pitcher. Accompanied by cymbals and trumpets, the people said, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” According to rabbinic tradition, those words have always pointed to the Messiah.

The last day of the Feast was different from the others. This eighth day commemorated the beginning of a new era – the day the Israelites entered the Promised Land of Canaan. Jewish historians say that on this eighth day there was no water drawn. The water ceremony would show that when the Israelites entered Canaan, they were no longer in a desert but drank from the rivers of Canaan.

It was on this day the Son of God called for those who were thirsty to come to Him, the fulfillment of His Father’s promise. Jesus offered Himself as the living water.

All Temple symbolism pointed to Him. Jesus had once compared His body to the temple itself. He also spoke of Himself as the Bread from heaven. Now He revealed Himself s the Rock that when struck gives not mere water, but living water of eternal life.

To those who are aware of their spiritual thirst, Jesus gives Himself and eternal renewal and satisfaction.

Thirst is mentioned in Old Testament scripture:

David wrote in Psalm 63 You, God, are my God,  earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,  my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land   where there is no water.

And Isaiah called out “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come buy and eat.”

Fulfillment of God’s great promises is centered on the Person and work of Jesus. And on that day God’s Son called people to come and take from Him rivers of life that overflow with His renewing and loving power.

John 7:40 – 49 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”
41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.”

Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him. 

Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.
47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”

The priests pointed out to the guards that no leader from a rabbinical school followed Jesus, only the ignorant would be awed by Him they said. These people, they said, were not trained and therefore didn’t understand the law. We sort of get this from “intellectuals” today too, don’t we!

John 7:50 – 53 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”

52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”

53 Then they all went home,

Nicodemus took the risk of raising a point of law. The other rulers were so furious they ignored the legal question and tried to embarrass Nicodemus. Then they ranted erroneously that no prophet ever came from Galilee. Perhaps they forgot Isaiah had spoken of Messiah’s great light shining there.

Isaiah 9:1-2 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

2 The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

The question, “Who is Jesus and what is your response to Him?” divides people in the world today and will continue to do so until He returns. But those who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ by faith come together in perfect union with the Almighty God, who gives them His Holy Spirit to live fully for Him.

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John 7:1-36

John 7:1-9 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

6 Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.

John 7 reveals an atmosphere of open controversy and confused thinking about the person and authority of Jesus. He moved and taught amid a stormy climate of heckling interruptions, accusations and constant danger of arrest and death. This chapter reveals the thinking and emotional attitudes of many groups of people. We hear a controversy between Jesus and His brothers. And that’s just the first group!

What we’ll see when reading this is – the human heart has not changed. We have the same conflicting tendencies, questions and fears of being in the minority. We waver between faith and unbelief. We experience similar attempts to stifle Jesus’ message when we worry about what that group might think of us as His followers. 

As we go through the chapter, try to picture yourself in one of the groups that fits. For instance, are you like His brothers who want Him to show His powers so other people will see how great your guy is? Do you want Jesus to show Himself to the Muslims and atheists today – to prove you are right in your beliefs? And they are wrong?

In this passage, Jesus stayed away from Jerusalem because He knew the religious leaders had determined to kill Him, but His time hadn’t come yet. This was the Feast of Tabernacles, one of the three festivals of Mosaic Law requiring Jewish men to attend. And His brothers presumed He would go and questioned Him about His delay. 

*side note about His brothers. In Matthew we learn His brothers’ names: James, Joseph, Simon and Judas. It also mentions sisters, but without their names.

James became the second leader of the church in Jerusalem after Jesus’ ascension and the beheading of the apostle James. It is Jesus’ brother that wrote the book of James.

His brother Judas – is Jude, the writer of the book of Jude.

But at this time, they didn’t believe in Him. That seems strange because they had grown up with Him – wouldn’t they have seen how perfect He was? And surely Mary and Joseph had talked about His birth (?) They knew about His miracles and most likely heard Him teach. Maybe they were too close!
Or maybe the reason shows up in their trying to get Him to go to Jerusalem to show His power. He wasn’t living up to their expectations. Why wasn’t he doing spectacular acts everywhere, all the time? Overwhelming the Jewish and Roman authorities.

Instead He healed the sick. He spoke God’s truth to ordinary people. And in His life of ministry he set the model of a Christian’s way of life. Followers of Jesus do not seek glory for themselves. They humbly, yet boldly love God. Love others and share God’s Word.

He wasn’t trying to be a public figure. He didn’t have to be. He was (is!) God! And He was committed to an eternal purpose for which there was a definite and divine timetable. And He told His brothers to go without Him. His “time had not yet come.” (We’ll see shortly that He does go to Jerusalem in the middle of the festival and teaches openly in the temple.)  Jesus followed God’s plan step by step.

The Feast of the Tabernacles was the most popular festival of the year. For 7 days in autumn, booths or “tabernacles” made from the branches of trees, lined the city streets and the roads leading to Jerusalem. Staying in these shelters reminded the Jews of God’s presence with them after they left Egypt and traveled toward the Promised Land. 

Every morning in the temple, the priests poured out water in memory of the water God provided for His people through Moses from the rock at Massah and Meribah. Every evening there were two great candelabra representing the pillar of fire by which God led Israel at night. The feast celebrated God’s grace in rescuing the nation and also looked forward to future joy in the time of the Messiah.

John 7:10-13 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”
12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”
Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.

John describes 3 reactions to Jesus among the crowds at the feast.

First the hostile leaders searched for Him. They had planned to kill Him since He healed the man at the Pool of Bethseda on a Sabbath. The expected Him to be at the Feast and hoped to arrest Him before those who believed in Him could surround Him.

Second, the pilgrims argued about him. Some said, “He is a good man”. Others, “No, He deceives people.” Not so different from today!

Third, everyone whispered their opinions for fear of the leaders. The Jewish leaders said anyone who openly confessed Jesus as Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.

John 7:14-24 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15 The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”

16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?”

20 “You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?”

21 Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. 22 Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. 23 Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? 24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”

Half way through the seven-day festival, Jesus went to the temple courts and began to teach. Even though they were against Him, the Jewish leaders listened. And they expressed amazement at His knowledge and wisdom. They knew Him only as the son of a carpenter from Nazareth, without the formal training of the rabbinical schools. They marveled at His skillful use of the Old Testament Scriptures and His great insight. 

Jesus said in verse 17 - Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. Remember, He also said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He sent.” So Jesus traced all doubts, concerning the divine source of His authority to what is basically a moral issue – unwillingness to do God’s will.

Vs 18 answers the slander that “He deceives the people.” Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him Jesus always and only honored and glorified God in everything He said and did. 

And remember, He is our model. He made Himself nothing so the Father could be glorified through Him. In the book of Philippians, Paul urges us to imitate Christ’s humility.

Philippians 2:1-4 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

John 7:25-32 At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? 27 But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.”

28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29 but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.”

30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?”

32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him.

The people were amazed to find Jesus boldly defying the authorities as He taught in the temple area. Along the outer “Court of the Gentiles” were two colonnaded porches called “The Royal Porch” and “Solomon’s Porch” where rabbis talked to groups of followers. The people expected someone to appear at any moment to arrest Jesus or at least stop Him. But as He continued they began to wonder if He really could be the Messiah. And did the rulers know it?

Popular belief held that the Messiah would burst suddenly and mysteriously upon His people without anyone knowing where He came from. They thought they knew all about Him – but actually if they knew He was born in Bethlehem (not Nazareth) and to a Virgin, they might have put two and two together!

Jesus infuriated the Pharisees when He said, “You do not know Him” – which was telling them they didn’t know God, because if they did they’d know His Son! Again, Jesus was clearly stating His divinity. And to the Jews that was blasphemy.

John 7:33 – 36 Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”
35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”

Jesus’ words were urgent – the people only had a short time to make a decision about Him. We have that same urgency today. Either we’ll die some day or He’ll come back for us – either way, we have to make up OUR minds about Him.

Those who reject Jesus cannot expect to be in Heaven with Him. But for those who DO believe – we have His promise, “I will come back and take you to be with me.”

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John 6:52-71

John 6:52-59 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Jesus gets more challenging here. He brings up His blood. Now He’s not just describing Himself as the bread from heaven, but the Passover Lamb. Remember it was the Israelites placing the blood of the slain lamb over their door that protected them at the first Passover.

But here’s Jesus talking about drinking His blood. In the law of Moses, God sternly forbade drinking or eating meat with blood remaining in it. The only permissible use for blood in the Old Testament was to make atonement for sin. Because of this law, Orthodox Jews today drain all blood from meat before cooking. But Jesus now said, “Unless you drink of this blood you have no life in you.”

This shocked and deeply offended the people who refused to acknowledge the spiritual meaning of His words. But, remember when John the Baptist saw Him in the crowd and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’

God’s grand story of redemption in the Old and New Testaments and Jesus’ historical death on the cross make the spiritual meaning of these words clear. With the pictures of the Old Testament sacrifices in mind, the New Testament states, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness”. Because shed blood points to death, to “drink” Jesus’ blood is to participate personally in His death. It means more than simply knowing He died for sinners. It means trusting that He died for you and for the forgiveness of your specific sins.

Jesus’ blood shed on the cross not only cleanses believers from the guilt of sin, but also delivers us from the power of sin. His very name was given to Him because it means, “He will save his people from their sins.”

To “drink Christ’s blood” is, through faith in His death, to count yourself as having died with Him to your old life. This means you renounce your own rights and all merit, strength and wisdom that come from your own resources. Instead you trust in His sacrifice as the only atonement for your sins acceptable to God and experience deliverance from sin’s power

When we receive Christ “eating His flesh” and “drinking His blood” we share in His nature. We trust His promises, fight our sin in His strength and apply His reactions to human circumstances, to our own lives. Christ gives us His thoughts and feelings, His will, actions and words. Christ is then lived out in every believer.

The way Jesus lived on earth is the way God designed each of us to live – that’s why as believers we are to become more and more like Him – and one day when we stand before Him in Heaven we will be completely transformed.

John 6:60 – 66 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

Jesus’ tremendous statements and personal claims brought His followers to a crisis of decision. We ALL have to make a decision about Christ. Some of His disciples left Him. When they said, “this is a hard teaching,” they didn’t mean difficult to understand. They meant unacceptable, harsh, even offensive.

Jesus was offering them eternal life. But they wanted a Messiah who gave them their earthly desires: miraculous manna, material blessings, political freedom. They didn’t want a suffering Messiah who would die on the cross even though He told them it would save them from their sins.

The Apostle Paul described their mindset when he wrote, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Paul preached that a crucified Savior is “a stumbling block” to the religious Jews and “foolishness” to the intellectual Gentiles.

Jesus answers their grumbling in 4 parts.

First, aware of their heart attitude, He asked, “Does this offend you?”
Second, He mentions His death, “What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where He was before?”
His resurrection and ascension prove He is who He said He was.
He started out in Heaven and came to earth and rose again as a man to His authority back in Heaven.
Third, He mentions the Spirit. It is the Spirit that gives us understanding.
And fourth, He mentions unbelievers. “Yet there are some of you who do not believe.”

John 6:67-71  “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

70 Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” 71 (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)

Jesus seems to have intended to separate those who were swept up by the excitement of the miracles from those who truly believed in Him. The fact many who formerly followed Him no longer wanted to be with Him proved they had never truly believed. They were swayed by the crowds and mere passing desire.

It still must have hurt. You can hear it in His words to the 12, “You do not want to leave, too, do you?”

Peter’s glorious reply marks a turning point in Jesus’ ministry and in the lives of the disciples. Speaking for the faithful 11, Peter and the other 10 committed themselves to follow Jesus all the way to the cross. There would be no turning back, even as His earlier popularity declined and persecution began. The Father had drawn them to Christ, and they were God’s gift to His Son for eternity.

People today still refuse to believe if they think what He calls them to do is “too hard.” They don’t want the new way of life – so they turn their backs on Him.

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John 6:22-51

John 6:22-24  The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.

So the night before was the feeding of the 5000. After which the crowd wanted to make Jesus king and He put His disciples in the only available boat while He went up into the mountains to pray.

The next morning, probably the pilgrims who were on their way to Passover in Jerusalem would have continued on their way. But many would have still been around hoping to see Jesus do another miracle. But they couldn’t find Him.

They knew He didn’t go with His disciples so they hired boats that had arrived from Tiberias on the western shore of the lake, to take them to Capernaum on the northeast shore. There they found Jesus in the synagogue. And of course had no idea how He got there.

John 6:25-27 25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

Jesus ignored their question. But He helps them grasp the true aim of life.

In the Gospels, Jesus introduced key statements with the phrase “Truly, I tell you” more than 100 times. The word translated “truly” is the Greek form of the Hebrew word “amen”, meaning “let it be so” or “it is so.” In the Old Testament and the Epistles “amen” comes at the end of a statement. Christians might say “Amen” when they agree with something or someone.

Jesus alone begins statements with “amen.” And usually He says it twice to stress its importance. He uses this term when He speaks of Himself as the bread of life. So this is REALLY important!

As always, He knows peoples’ hearts. He knows they were coming to Him today because He had fed them free food the night before! They wanted more food! And they wanted healing and political freedom. Few longed for the spiritual satisfaction only Jesus could give them.

But remember from the beginning of our study of the Gospel of John: Jesus’ miraculous works are called signs because the miracles point to Jesus as Messiah and Lord. Feeding them bread represented Jesus as the Bread of Life, given to them for eternal life.

Jesus gives them here a way to change by giving them two definite commands. The first was negative – “Do not work for food that spoils.”

What consumes your thoughts, time, energy and money? Don’t put your whole life’s effort into things that are only material. You really can’t take it with you! We can take stock of our lives and ask God to show us specific ways to alter our daily life toward this eternal perspective.

Jesus tells them that He, the Son of Man, is the source of food that never spoils. And that He will give it to them (and us). It’s a gift! No one can earn it – He freely gives it to all who believe. And “Son of Man” is a Messianic term, so He’s announcing He’s the Messiah here.

Where He says, “For on Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.” Jesus is the only way to God. We receive eternal life only through Christ. Only Jesus can satisfy human hunger for meaning, purpose and fellowship with God. He placed this hunger in the human heart when He created a human personality.

John 6:28-29 28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Our work is knowing who He is, believing everything that means and opening our hands and receive His gift. HE did the work. His perfect life, His sacrificial death on our behalf was the only real work here… Eternal life rests on GOD’S faithfulness!

John 6:30-33 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

The crowd was basically saying, “It is true that you have just fed more than 5000 people. But you did it just once: Moses fed the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years. If you are God’s unique prophet, then prove it. What sign greater than anything Moses did, will you do?”

This seems kind of incredible that they would still ask for more miracles! But don’t we see people doing that today? We have the whole Bible telling of God’s redemption from Genesis to Revelation and still people say, “Well, if God will do this one thing, then I’ll believe.” Sometimes we wait for Jesus to give us more understanding; instead of acting on what we already know.

I’ve heard several theologians and ministers lately say, “You probably don’t need another Bible study. You just need to start being obedient to what He’s told you.”

All of nature and history testify to Him. The unity of God’s Word testifies to its truthfulness. Like these people, many today want a Jesus they can control. One who will keep them well fed and prosperous
John 6:34-40Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

They still don’t get it. They wanted a formula for eternal life, not a relationship with Christ. They asked Him for something and He offered them Himself! Jesus tells them for the 4th time: this time with a bit more information

“I am the bread of life” is the first of 7 statements Jesus makes about Himself, His identity and work in a believer’s life. The 7 statements are only found in the Gospel of John. The other 6 are:

I am the Light of the World
I am the Gate (the door) for the sheep
I am the Good Shepherd
I am the Resurrection and the Life
I am the way, the truth and the life
I am the Vine

We’ll get to each of those in the coming chapters, but just so you know – when He says “I am” – He’s calling Himself Yahweh. Because that’s what God said His name was in the Old Testament.

Where He says we are God’s gifts to Jesus - Scripture teaches twin truths: God “chose us in Him (Christ) before the creation of the world” (We were predestined.) YET, we are responsible to believe. Faith is a gift, but God doesn’t do the believing for us.

But because we are God’s gifts to Jesus – we can know He’ll never turn us away when we come to Him!

It’s God’s will that we believe in His Son and have eternal life! He will raise us up with a transformed body – every trace of sin and sorrow removed, spotless and glorious like His own glorious, imperishable human body.” We will live forever with Him and every other believer, raised by Him to glory that never ends.”

This is WONDERFUL news!! If we come to Christ we will go to Heaven. Because that’s God’s will!!!!

John 6: 41-51 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Nobody could miss that Jesus was claiming divine origin. Yet these people knew His family. He had grown up in the area. From their perspective, how dare He claim to have any origin other than a merely human one.

John said, “the Jews” grumbled. When John, himself a Jew, refers to “the Jews” he means the leadership or Jesus’ opponents. And they didn’t really know all about Jesus. They assumed Joseph was His father. They didn’t know He was born from a virgin. And He didn’t tell them – although things like that and being born in Bethlehem would have pointed to Him as the Messiah they were waiting for.

Instead He showed His authority by the sinless life He lived. By His miracles, By the way He spoke scripture and His bold claim to equality with God.

Any of these things should have caused a seeker to have considered His claims, but their refusal to believe was actually hostility toward God and unbelief in the Old Testament prophets.

Jesus answered their grumbling with essential truth about salvation:

First, God the Father gives and draws individuals to His Son.
Second, God holds responsible those who refuse to believe the truth about His Son.
Third, belief in Jesus brings everlasting life immediately and forever.
Fourth, Jesus would give His flesh, His life, for the life of the world. “The bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

In verse 45 where He said It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.

He’s quoting Isaiah who prophesied the entire community, all Israel, will be taught inwardly and directly by God. The full scope of this prophecy will happen in the future, but still then and today all those who respond to God’s drawing to faith come to Jesus.

And He will never turn away anyone His Father draws to Him. No believer need ever say, “I hope to reach heaven.” Eternal life, by definition, cannot end. It is a permanent possession of every believer. We immediately are with Jesus when we close our eyes on earth.

Jesus could not have been clearer here – that HE is the way to eternal life!

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Review of Questions about Heaven and Hell

In Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz’s book ‘Answering theToughest Questions about Heaven and Hell’ they begin by discussing what different religions believe about after life. This shows that God has placed in all humans a belief in at least A God and that they are eternal.

They also discuss what science: physics and biology show us about after life.

And that Jesus hated death so much He “killed it”.

Most importantly they discuss seven things the Bible says about death. And that Heaven and Hell are real places. And how often Jesus talked about both places.

After every question is answered, the authors list a few questions for the reader to think about.

I’ve read many books on Heaven and am always interested in learning more. This is a good reference book for Christians – not only for their own information, but to help them answer non-believer’s questions.

Bethany House gave me a copy of this book for my honest review. 

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Review of Do Baby Bears Have Mommies?

Do Baby Bears Have Mommies? has a list of questions your child might ask on each page with an answer. (I even learned some things!)

The illustrations are charming and both the questions and answers are in the form of rhymes, so fun to read to your children. And I like how it ends with telling the reader that it's God who makes all these unique animals and bugs.

This is the first in a series of Question books the authors are working on which includes the book Does God Take Naps. These would make a fun and educational edition for your kid’s library.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Eye-opening book on prayer

I just finished reading the book 'The Lifestyle of a Watchman - A 21-Day Journey to Becoming a Guardian in Prayer' by James W. Goll

This book was eye-opening. I had no idea there are so many “watchmen” praying 24/7 all over the country.

The author used examples of Biblical characters as well as current folks who pray God’s Word back to Him and explains that’s why the prayers are so effective.

He’s divided the book into 21 days, each chapter not too long, but filled with Bible verses and ending in a wonderful prayer. There are also questions for you to ask yourself to help you really understand and think about what you just read.

This book makes a good prayer resource for your library!

*I received my copy from Chosen books to write an honest review on it.

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Sunday, April 09, 2017

John 6:16-21

John 6:16-21 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.”21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

The Sea of Galilee is an inland, freshwater lake, fed by the Jordan River. It lies almost 700 feet below sea level. The surrounding hills rise about 2000 feet above sea level, with the peaks beyond rising even higher. After nightfall when the air at higher elevations cools, this cooler air races down the slopes to the warmth of the low-lying lake. Strong winds are common and often stir up storms unexpectedly. Because the lake is relatively shallow, when storms strike, the wind whips up high waves that can easily swamp a small boat. This is the situation the disciples found themselves in. The men rowed until almost dawn. (the fourth watch of the night). The fishermen in the group would know how dangerous their situation was. They were afraid and struggling.

This story is in 3 of the Gospels, so it’s an important story. And there’s a reason it comes right after feeding the 5000 which is in all 4 of the Gospels. These 2 miracles are nature miracles. People were given more miracles back then to show that Jesus was God’s Son. He only had 3 years for his mission. He had to grab people’s attention. Plus, they didn’t have CNN or in-depth interviews like we do today.

Nature miracles reveal the character of God. Nobody could do either of these, but God Himself. You might be able to explain away healing, but it’s impossible for anyone else to calm a storm or feed 5000 from the little He started with.

The story is a little different in each Gospel. John doesn’t mention Peter walking on water out to Christ. And there’s a whole lesson in Peter’s part of the story – how he took his eyes off Jesus and started to sink, but he still had a flicker of faith and called out to the Lord to save him and Jesus did. But I’m only going to talk about the John story.

And to understand it we have to go back to John 6:15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

They wanted to make Him king because He miraculously fed them. There are a couple things we can say about this. One is they were caught up in the excitement – like crowds, especially big crowds often are. But also these people were ruled by Rome and they didn’t like that. They were Jews who only wanted God as their ruler. So there was kind of a resistance group at this time always looking for ways to overthrow the Roman’s hold over them. If they could have unlimited food, that would be a help, it would be one less thing they would have to depend on Rome for.

And I already mentioned that they may have remembered how Moses wrote in the Torah about the prophet (or Messiah) coming who would feed them manna. Well, Jesus just fed them manna. So maybe Jesus was the Messiah.

But again. God’s plan was never an earthly king. And Jesus is already the king over every believer’s life. Remember Satan tried to tempt Him with this very same thing.  “I’ll give you the kingdoms of the earth.” Now the people were trying to tempt Him and He resists by going off to pray.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to be popular or even to make people’s lives easier. He came to be Savior of the World!

One mistake people often still make is seeking Jesus for the wrong reasons. To get them out of a fix or to give them something they thing they need, instead of having a relationship with Him, believing he is who He says He is.

We should praise and worship Him, yes! But we should also just talk to Him. And listen to Him. And try to be more like Him.

Verses 16 and 17 again - When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them.

So Jesus sends the disciples away. He didn’t want them to get any ideas about making Him king too! We know from other places in the Bible they didn’t always understand His mission either and at least one time the mother of James and John came to Jesus asking if her sons would have prominent places when Jesus came into His kingdom. They could have easily gotten caught up in the crowd.

So he sends them in the boat back to where they came from and He goes up the mountain to pray. Jesus often went somewhere to be alone in prayer and because it’s written about in the Bible it’s an important lesson for us.  We need to get away and be still with God at times. We need to pray – just God and us.

Then the storm kicks in. And the disciples were 3 and a half miles out which would have been about dead center in the lake. There was no going back. They were rowing with all their might.

The disciples straining against the oars can represent Christians today trying to do what is right. They were out there because Jesus had sent them. Yet, they still ran into trouble. A couple things to learn from this – Christians are not promised a life with no trials. And we can almost always expect them after a mountain top experience.

The disciples had just witnessed a huge miracle. They were probably ecstatic! They had chosen the fight guy to follow! They were doing exactly what Christ told them to do. And then…Boom! Big trial!

It will happen! Sometimes because Satan will go after you if he sees you victorious, sometimes it might be God humbling you, “Hey, don’t let all that go to your heard!” “let me bring you down to earth where you belong!” And sometimes you’re just on a spiritual high and you let your guard down. Maybe even sometimes God is doing a little test on your faith. Not that He needs to know how much you have, but to show you how much you have!

So Jesus comes out walking on the water. And the disciples thought they saw a ghost! It’s amazing that some people are more ready to believe in ghosts then the Creator!

The disciples were in the dark…very symbolic because they were without Christ right then! And when they were without Him, first they were afraid of the winds and waves, and then they thought they had a ghost to deal with! At least the storm was natural! One thing you can take from this is, our real distresses are often increased by our imaginary ones.

So Jesus had been up on the mountain praying. For a long time. From sundown til between 3 and 6 a.m. Anyone in here ever prayed that long? And He saw the disciples. One thing about being God – He can see in the dark! Not sure if you knew that!

We can use this picture for today. In the story, Jesus is on the mountain praying. Today He is in heaven praying. In the story, He sees the disciples struggling and needing help. Today He sees us struggling and needing help. In the story did he come right away? No, they managed to get half way across the lake before He came (after 8 hours). But, we know He came at exactly the right minute! He is the on-time God. Many times when people have gone through bad times you’ll hear them say, “You know, I just don’t think I would have lasted one second longer! God showed up in the nick of time!”

God watches us. When we’re alone, when we struggle, when we run out of support, when we don’t know what to do. When we row and row and row and just don’t seem to be getting anywhere. He has His eyes on us! We may not be paying attention to Him, but He’s paying attention to us!

Later in John you’ll see Jesus considers us His love gifts from God! Don’t you think He’s going to take care of those gifts? We are never out of His thoughts and He is going to bring every one of those gifts home to His Father.

Jesus tells the disciples “It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Sometimes people will tell you not to worry, but you still do because there’s always the chance they don’t what what they’re talking about! Or they have no control and there are certainly a lot of things to fear in life! Whether someday some doctor will tell us we have a terminal illness or someone we love and needs does, or we lost our job, or terrorism, tornados, so many things,, but Jesus is more powerful than anything on earth or in the universe! We have no reason to fear when we rely on Him. And He will come to us even when our faith is imperfect. When we have doubt. All we need is just enough faith to call out to God to save us. And He will.

In the Bible there are 2 stories about Jesus and storms. One time He calmed the storm and another He calmed His children. That’s the same with our trials. Occasionally He might resolve our problem for us. More often than not though He’ll just be with us through it. Because our trials have a purpose.

It might be to teach us patience. Or to trust in God. To be humble. It might be to teach us about His priorities, to focus on Him instead of worldly things. To be more compassionate, how to help others in their troubles. How to be grateful for what we do have. Or to stop us from doing something we shouldn’t be doing.

This story is teaching us the only thing that calms our fears is faith. Faith in the Lord who comes to us in the midst of the winds and waves of life. Who speaks to us and says, “Take heart, it is I: do not be afraid.”

He said it to the disciples then and says it to us now. Earthquakes, Aids, Mindless senseless killings, fears that wake you up in the middle of the night and weigh you down during the day – it may not look like He’s in control, but He is. And you know how we know that? Because all of these things were prophesied in the Bible. He foretold them since before the beginning of time. So there is a purpose in them. And He can and will make good things come from bad. Faith overcomes fear. Faith that Jesus is the Son of God sent for our salvation. He has overcome death. When He says be not afraid it is I – He’s saying “it is I, JESUS! THE SON OF GOD! Able to do all these things!!

Whenever we have any kind of trial, particularly those into which we know God directed us, we can remember 3 things promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempte] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

1. Trials are common to all people. We think no one has it as bad as we do – no one has suffered as much as we have – that no one understands what we’re going through, but we have to face our trials with courage. Even as Christians, maybe especially as Christians, we can’t avoid trials. In this situation Jesus actually sent them into the storm.

2. God is faithful. He will never let us be tempted or tried beyond what we can bear. Jesus stands by God’s throne in constant intercessory prayer for us and remember the story of the 3 men thrown into the fiery furnace in the book of Daniel? How the king looked in and saw 4 men – and one like an angel? And no one ended up being hurt? That was Jesus. The worse times we are going through – the closer He is.

3. In every trial God will provide a way out. Just as Jesus didn’t let the disciples struggle on the sea indefinitely. He will come to us – but like this example of Him walking on water, it may not be as we would expect Him to. The way out may be a helpful friend God sends us. A promise we read in the Bible, an offer of a job, a good book to read that ends up inspiring us or giving us hope or even a solution. It could be a sense of His presence when you’re praying, or the knowledge that, hey this thing I’ve been going through has actually helped me! It’s made me stronger or opened doors to me in ways I would never have thought of myself. Like kids going through cancer and deciding to become a doctor after.

We should never just wallow in self-pity. OR try to get others to pity us. We should never become bitter or resentful. We shouldn’t even choose to feel we’re alone because it’s not true. We always have Christ. When He sends his help, like the disciples we need to reach out and pull Him into the boat with us. The saying, “Jesus never promised it would be a smooth ride, just that He would get you to your destination and that it would be worth it” may have come from this story!

Jesus is greater than anything that happens to us. Whatever His purpose for us, whatever He’s told us to do – even if it takes us into a storm at sea – He is responsible for us – we are His love gifts from His Father.

Look at verse 21 again: Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

Did you notice? They had struggled for 8 hours to get half way. But, once Jesus was with them they got immediately to the other side!

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Friday, April 07, 2017

John 6:1-15

John 6:1-4 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

So, in the past chapter Jesus spoke mostly to Jewish officials who were out to get Him. We don’t know how much time passed between then and the current scene set in the north of Galilee, but instead of people who openly opposed Him, Jesus now spoke to people who were interested in Him: the Passover pilgrims who had heard of Jesus’ miracles, casual disciples who wanted to benefit from Him and the 12 disciples He chose to walk with Him.

The Gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke fill in the background details of this next miracle. Jesus and His disciples needed to rest. Only recently Herod had executed John the Baptist, who remember was also Jesus’ cousin. (And some of Jesus’ disciples had first been John’s disciples.) Plus, the crowds were relentless.

The time was the Jewish Passover, springtime in Israel. Most Jewish men as well as their families traveled to Jerusalem for it, but Jesus decided not to this year. He was in Galilee, too far away for the temple to require Him to be there. Instead they went to the hill country above the Sea of Galilee, known today as the Golan Heights.

The men borrowed or rented a boat. They rowed across the lake to the opposite shore near where the Jordan River flows into the lake at its north end. Many people saw Jesus leave Capernaum with His disciples. There were a lot of pilgrims out and word spread quickly. People in the western towns began walking around the northern shore in search of Jesus. Pilgrims to Jerusalem who took the eastern route to avoid Samaria, would have joined in. Some of the Gospels said these people ran (about 9 miles) to see Him!

A lot of these people were sick and wanted to have Jesus heal them. And He of course had compassion for them. So, He gave up His own rest, went up the slope and sat down.
This signaled the crowd that He intended to teach them. And of course He did much more than that!

John 6:5-9 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

The other Gospels speak of the disciples’ concern to send the crowd away to find food for themselves before it became too dark. John, the only Gospel to mention Passover, jumps from the mention of that feast to this feast the Lord Jesus provides. An unexpected gift to 5000 hungry men, plus women and children. (Probably 20,000 people total).

Jesus needed no help to feed the crowd. Remember God sending the Israelites Manna from Heaven? But He had the disciples get involved and help so they would learn how much they could accomplish working with Jesus. The question He asked Philip was “to test him.”

Philip figured out what it would take and it would have been humanly impossible for them. But the disciples needed to clearly hear that first.

Phillip looked at how large the problem was. And Andrew focused on how small their resources were. Both of them had been at the wedding in Cana. Probably even drank some of the wine Jesus made… They witnessed many healings!

The boy with the loaves and fish must have been poor because that was peasant food. Bread made with barley flour. The 5 loaves would have been small, round flatbread, kind of like a pancake! The fish would have been small also – just enough to flavor the bread.

There have been a lot of sermons about this boy. Bringing all that you have – little though it is – to the Lord and God multiplying it.

John 6:10-13 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

Other Gospels tell that it was the 12 Disciples who distributed the meal. Wouldn’t you have liked to have been there? How does 5 loaves of bread, each the size of a pancake and 2 fish even get passed out to 12 Disciples to begin with? What did this look like?
But the lesson is: God can do ANYTHING! At ANYTIME! And He does it lavishly! Everyone ate til they were satisfied and then there were lots of leftovers!

John 6::14-15 14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

Remember it was Passover, so the thoughts of the crowd jumped to Moses and Israel’s time in the wilderness. When God gave them manna. Now, here they were in the wilderness without food and Jesus provided. So they thought this must be the Prophet that Moses talked about. It was believed that Messiah would come and reign from Jerusalem and lead the nations of the world. (Which He will one day!)

But at that time the miracle was meant to show Christ’s divine authority and the compassion of God, not a government official passing out free food.

They were ready to crown Him king though if it meant never worrying about food anymore.

The world wants us to conform. Jesus shows us the example of what to do when that happens. He goes up into the mountain and pours His heart out in prayer to God. Only God can strengthen us against temptation. We all really really need alone time with God!

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