written by: Olivia Caldwell
Some of my most precious times of prayer have been in repentance.
“So repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, regret past sins] and return [to God—seek His purpose for your life], so that your sins may be wiped away [blotted out, completely erased], so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord [restoring you like a cool wind on a hot day];” Acts 3:19 AMP
Perhaps you have not associated repentance with refreshment, but I testify today that I have found this to be the truth.
When we follow Jesus and we walk by the Spirit, we spend time in the Word and we spend time in the Lord's precious presence - and things happen there.
The Spirit opens up the Scripture to us, feeding us the Bread of Life. We see Jesus. We see the Father. Even a glimpse confronts us with the simple truth:
The Lord is holy. Holy, holy, holy. There is none like Him. And although Jesus has made us holy, we are yet growing in holiness, growing in conformity to the image of Jesus, and we are not Lord. Jesus is Lord.
This conviction and repentance following happens in many ways…
We may have something we have been struggling with for some time. I want to be clear that I do not speak to all of our struggles, but many “struggles” are, in fact, sin. We are struggling, wrestling, even, with dying to parts of ourselves. There are places in us and in our lives that the Lord wants to fill with even more of Him and we cling so tightly to things that simply will not last. They are not eternal. But He is.
The point is that more and more of us will die as we move deeper and deeper into Jesus so that what remains is Him. That may sound offensive - but Jesus is who we are after. Jesus is the image we are to be conformed to. Jesus is holy. Jesus “is the image of the invisible God.” (Col. 1:15) and “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” (Heb.1:3)
We come face to face with our sin and cry out in desperation, finally, for help. For forgiveness. For refreshing. The Lord Jesus, who has been patiently waiting with outstretched hands to help us in our sin and our weakness, moves toward us. Can you believe that? He moves toward us, even at our lowest (which, if you think about it, is not truly our lowest, since He loved us while we were yet sinners).
And the refreshment comes. Healing comes, as we confess our sins. We can repent and we can renounce that sin and it's almost as if life begins anew, in a way. It's a relief to have the struggle come to an end once we have repented. It is finished.
Other times, we encounter the Lord's holiness in the Scripture. We see His character. We are struck with the fear of the Lord. We sit with Bibles open on our laps, in stunned silence and with tears welling up in our eyes. The beauty of Jesus overwhelms us. Parts of Him we have not seen or known before in this way move us to repentance. It is the natural response: we are set in awe before Him and we worship. Repentance is our worship. “Jesus, I have not lived according to this truth from your Word. Lord, I have not believed you as you are worthy to be believed. Father, I have not trusted you as you are worthy to be trusted. I have not worshiped you as you are worthy to be worshiped!”
It pours out of us. What beauty it is when our stiff-necked-ness and our hardness of heart and our flat-out ignorance melts into a tenderness from the work of the Spirit of God.
The heart of our worship is refreshed.
Other times, we are rebuked. Again, this will often happen as we spend time in the Word. We come across a hard Scripture, a command, and the Spirit stops us right in our tracks. If we are in healthy, godly community, this will come from a trusted brother or sister in Christ, who come to us with the truth in love. Either way, we are confronted with what the Word of God says and we are struck with a conviction over that sin and a desire to walk in the way of life that God, in His perfect wisdom, has laid out for us. Even if it stings and even if our flesh screams to react, we must yield to the Holy Spirit. We must let Him lead us in responding with humility and honor.
What refreshment lies on the other side of rebuke and repentance thereafter!
“My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:11-12
We are commanded not to despise this discipline and we rejoice in knowing that our Father in heaven loves us, his children, too much to leave us in our sin. It is less than what He paid for. He has more for us, better for us. Greater are His ways! We are refreshed as we turn from our way and walk in the Way.
Sometimes, we are moved to repentance as we witness the work of the Lord in another. There are stories of those in Scripture who respond to their circumstances in ways that are truly supernatural. Their humility and their reverence seem to shine a spotlight on our own pride. We meet people who live their lives in a way that pours out the aroma of Christ onto all they encounter. It causes us to examine our own lives: what do they have that I do not? What do they do that I do not do?
I'm not referring to a sinful comparison - it is a wonder over the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. It is a longing for the Lord to come and do it in us. It is a recognition that they have seen and known the Lord in places that we may never know about, but we get the sense that they have dug and dug and dug the deep wells that spill out of them. We sense that they, like Jacob, have wrestled much with the Lord. There is history. There are testimonies unending. They have seen the Lord.
We want to see Him, too. Whatever it takes, Lord, we want you. Whatever it costs, Lord, I am willing. I just want you. More of you!
My friend, repentance is one of the greatest things that we can experience as a follower of Christ. Repentance testifies to the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Repentance brings to remembrance the steadfast love of the Father. Repentance spurs us on in our walk with the Lord. Repentance ensures that we move deeper and deeper into the Lord Jesus. We become more and more hidden in Him. We must live in Him! He must become our dwelling place.
Repentance does just that: it transforms a heart into a home for the Lord.
Today, sweet sister in Christ, let that cool wind of the Lord refresh you as on a hot day. Let true repentance bring that refreshment your soul has been longing for.
Lessons in ObedienceRead Now
Written By: Olivia Caldwell
I've been reading Numbers 14 over and over again and just mulling over this portion of Scripture this week. As I have been praying over and reading about and living out obedience for the last year and a half (I spoke on the Wonder of Obedience at our Wonder Conference last October, so y'all know I had to live it before I could speak it!), I have become increasingly convicted when it comes to obedience. Honestly, I pray I never stop becoming more and more convicted regarding obedience to the Lord. I certainly need and desire to grow in this area, to obey immediately and in full faith in whatever it is that the Lord asks me to do.
This passage covers so much about obedience.
The Israelites are on the cusp of entering the Promised Land. Twelve men are sent out, one chief from each tribe. For forty days they are scoping out the land of Canaan, of which the Lord said, “I am giving to the people of Israel.” (Numbers 13:2), and they return with their report of the land. All but two of these men bring the people a bad report of the land, saying that the land flowing with milk and honey is actually a land that “devours its inhabitants” and that they are but grasshoppers to the people in the land.
Numbers 14 begins with the people of Israel crying and weeping and longing to return to Egypt, to a life of slavery without the Lord's presence and protection. They say,“Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:2b-4, emphasis added)
The other two men who surveyed the land, Caleb and Joshua, tear their clothes at this and look at what they say to the people: “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, he will bring us into the land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread to us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:7-9)
The land is a good land. The Lord will bring us into it. Do not rebel against the Lord. Do not fear the people of the land- they are bread to us! The Lord is with us!
And the people said to stone them with stones for these words.
The Lord says to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” (Numbers 14:11)
I have to admit, that even though I recognize I have many Israelite tendencies, I have found myself about ready to chuck my Bible across the room as I read about these people. “Are you kidding me? The Lord literally said He is going to give you this land. You were just delivered from slavery in the most incredible, miraculous of ways, you've been led by the Lord in a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. You've seen His hand and you've seen His provision and you have trembled at His glory and at His judgment and - and you're telling me that you don't believe Him when He says that He will give you this land and bring you into it?”
And then the Holy Spirit nudges me, “What about last week when I prompted you to pray with that woman?” Why did I hesitate?
“And that person you know you need to share the Gospel with?” Why do I fear?
“And the work that you know I want to do in your home, in your family, that you have been distracting yourself from?” Why do I doubt?
How long will I not believe in Him, in spite of all of the signs I have seen?
This part of the Israelites story grieves me so much. The Lord declares that none among the people of Israel listed in the census from twenty years old and upward will enter into the land, except for Caleb and Joshua. He says, “But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in the wilderness. And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness.” (Numbers 14:31-33, emphasis added)
“Who you said would become a prey.” It's interesting to think that if their parents had obeyed, the children would have avoided the suffering of the wilderness and entered into the land of the promise because of the faithfulness and loving kindness of the Lord.
They said that their children would become a prey and they feared for their children. And because they presumed that they knew best, that their ideas in the face of unbelief were better than the Lord's plans and promises, their disobedience caused the ones they had so much concern for to suffer. And yet, because of the goodness and steadfast love of the Lord, these children would know the land their parents had rejected.
When Moses told this to all the people, they mourned greatly. The Lord had told them to turn and to set out for the wilderness (Numbers 14:25) and instead they rose the next day, early in the morning, and went up to the heights of the country, now ready to enter into the land the Lord promised, saying, “Here we are.”
Doesn't that just tear your heart apart? I imagine regret and desperation gripping them, compelling them to try to take back their grumbling, their complaining, their unbelief in the sight of their Almighty God.
Moses rebuked them for their disobedience, since the Lord directed them to start for the wilderness, and he warned them not to go up into the land: “...You shall fall by the sword. Because you have turned back from following the LORD, the LORD will not be with you.” (Numbers 14:43)
“But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, although neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses departed out of the camp.” (Numbers 14:44) And they were thus defeated.
It is clear that our delayed obedience is disobedience and that disobedience is sin.
There is so much grace in Jesus, but there will come times when our obedience must be swift as we receive instruction for that moment. One moment. There is no room for delay or hesitation. We must have our minds made up that we will obey the Lord Jesus, right here, right now, even when it doesn't make sense. There is nothing more crushing than missing an opportunity to obey that is a gift to us from the Lord. We simply do not know what is on the other side of our obedience. What will disobedience cost us? What will it cost others?
I want to give the Lord my “Here I am.” before I am even asked. I do not want to offer Him my “Here I am.” with delayed obedience. He is worthy of my complete, pure, wholehearted obedience, not a mixture.
There are times we are unsure if we have heard Him right. There are moments when we worry that our obedience will be weird or distracting. Listen, I hear you, but what the Holy Spirit is prompting you to do is none of those things; it is the will of the Father. It could not distract if it is for His purpose. What seems weird to you is on purpose and specific for what He intends your obedience for. When you worry you have heard Him correctly? Sis, sometimes we need to stop arguing with ourselves about what we think we have made up and simply obey. Let the Lord grow your faith.
Always, always, we must remember just who our God is. We must be in the Word, poring over His will and His character and His promises. We must know precisely who He is and what He has done so that we will not give way to unbelief.
We must desire to be like Caleb, who “had a different spirit” (Numbers 14:24), insisting and persisting in the ability of the Lord to do anything and in His mighty hand. We must be prepared for some around us to react, not with stones, but in ways that could deter or distract us if we take our eyes off of Jesus. Remember that the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel when they intended to stone Caleb and Joshua? Walk in the fear of the Lord, trusting in His purpose to prevail and for Him to be glorified.
What keeps you from obedience to the Lord? What is keeping you stuck? Stop and pray right now. I'll pray for you here:
God I thank you for your Word. God I thank you that you are holy. I thank you for your steadfast love and I thank you for your goodness and for all of your promises that are yes and amen in Christ. Lord, I ask that you would teach us by your Spirit, that you would embolden us and that you would help our unbelief! Forgive us, Lord, for when we hesitate and for when we fear. Forgive us when we simply do not believe. Help us to cling to your word and to your word alone. Help us to be completely yielded to your Holy Spirit and to trust and obey. There truly is no other way to be happy in Jesus. Show us what a joy and a privilege and a gift it is from you, Father, that we get to follow you and to obey you. And Lord, I pray over any areas of regret in our lives when it comes to obedience. I pray that you will speak to our hearts concerning these things and that you will even redeem some of the situations that may come to mind now. Nothing is impossible for you, God. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.
Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash
Excellence in ConsistencyRead Now
Written By: Olivia Caldwell
I know that I naturally struggle with consistency but just in case, I googled the definition of consistency…for science. Here’s what I found:
“The quality of always behaving or performing in a similar way, or of always happening in a similar way.“ (Cambridge Dictionary)
While I do generally struggle with consistency, I want to share with you a testimony: for the last 22 days, I have been able to be very consistent. Maybe the most consistent I have ever been. And more than consistent, I’ve been living free. I mean, this has just been an amazing start to the new year and I’m praying for a stretch that is much, much longer than 22 days!
(Before you get any ideas, consistency to me doesn’t mean like, living by a schedule or adhering to some set structure or always having everything just so or whatever pops into your brain when you think of what it would look like for someone to live consistently. I mean, I do have a planner, but I didn’t even use it last week, so, that’s where I stand there.)
Towards the end of last year, I got to a point where I knew I could not go on living the way I was living anymore. I knew the things I needed to lay down and I wanted to, but it was not enough for me to simply recognize them and to desire to leave them behind. And that was real clear, because it was almost like I could not stop. I was living Paul’s words: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15)
It was so bad. I was so desperate. I was crying out for the Lord to help me, to set me free!
On January 1, I started fasting. I didn’t really think about it or plan anything, I just did it because I knew that I needed real help, real transformation- and I needed to draw near to Jesus and to deny my flesh.
So, here’s what I think I really mean when I say that I’ve been killing it at consistency lately:
I have consistently been weak.
I have consistently been desperate.
I have consistently been longing for more than I have been settling for.
I have consistently been running to Jesus.
I have consistently been crying out for the Holy Spirit to teach me, to lead me, to transform me, to sanctify me, to set me free.
And He has consistently done just that.
Day by day, I am reaching for the Word more than I am scrolling on my phone. I am hearing His voice instead of hearing a bunch of distracting noise. He is leading my decisions, big and small, more and more and more.
I find myself wanting to slip back into my old ways every now and then, of course, but mostly I am just full. So full. This is what I have desired and prayed for, for so long.
There’s still a part of me that feels like maybe it’s not enough to say to you, hey, if you’re struggling, the answer is Jesus. Like I should leave you with some solid tips or advice or something more, but more than anything, I just want you to know that He is more than enough.
He really is.
If you find yourself consistently struggling, consistently not enough, consistently weak and weary and desperate- good. You’re excelling in consistency.
If you’re consistently coming to the end of yourself and if you’re consistently crying out to the Lord for help and for deliverance- good. You’re excelling in consistency.
If it’s been days and weeks and months and years, even, that you have consistently been desperate for something to give, to see the Lord move- that’s good, friend. Yes, it is. You’re excelling in consistency.
Come to your Savior who is consistently present and near and interceding on your behalf. Keep drawing near again and again and again. Keep asking and asking and asking. Keep believing that in the place of your consistent weakness, He is consistently your strength. Keep trusting that beyond the consistent circumstances of nothing changing, He is consistently working and moving in about a million ways you can’t yet see.
I feel that someone needs to hear today and take to heart that one day you will see. And you will not change one bit of your waiting and wailing and wondering because you will have seen and come to know so much of Jesus through your situation.
Lord Jesus, we praise You for who You are. We thank You that You are everything, all that we need. You are more than enough. I ask that You strengthen the woman reading this article today. Would You overwhelm her with Your presence right now with Your sweet Spirit? I ask that You speak to her and lead her, that You enable her to live by Your Spirit consistently, that You would show her what it looks like to die to herself in that area of struggle and fleshly living and replace that with real freedom that comes from Your Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
But Mary...Read Now
WRITTEN BY: OLIVIA CALDWELL
There is a beautiful series of events that unfolds after Jesus’ death, as the stone has been rolled away and his tomb is found empty. In John 20:1-10, Scripture says:
“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.”
Though it may appear clear to us throughout the Gospels that Jesus had been pretty explicit regarding what was to come and what He must do, so that the Pharisees remembered that Jesus had said He would rise again in three days and ensured that His tomb was guarded (Matt 26:62-66), we also see that later, as recorded in Luke 24:44-49, Jesus opened the minds of the disciples to understand the Scriptures. So what did they make of all this? What could they do, but marvel and wonder at the empty tomb and folded grave clothes- and then go home??
“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. (John 20:11-18)
Mary, who had been delivered from seven demons and followed Jesus all the way to the cross and beyond, as she approached the tomb early that day with spices to anoint Jesus’ body (Mark 16:1), stood weeping. She lingered. Where else could she go? Jesus, the Messiah, had saved her life. Her life had become His, as she followed Him to the end. Her hope was Jesus and now it seemed that her hope was not just lying in a tomb but gone altogether.
Although she knew that the tomb was empty, she still stooped to look as she wept. She kept seeking. And can you hear the desperation in her voice as she encounters these angels and answers, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”?
Turning, she sees Jesus, not yet actually seeing Jesus, and again seeks after her Lord, stating that she will take him away if she can only find him. And one word stops her in her tracks.
As soon as she heard His voice, she knew. She recognized Him and immediately turned, exclaiming,“Rabboni!”
Her Lord, her deliverer and savior, stood before her upon her searching after Him, and sends her to tell the others, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."
“My Father and your Father.”?
“My God and your God.”?
This changed everything.
I can imagine her breathless exhilaration as she ran to the disciples yet again, only this time to declare, “I have seen the Lord!”
Oh, may we linger like Mary. May we never stop seeking after our Lord Jesus. May we know His voice and stop in our tracks upon hearing Him speak. May we let His voice change the trajectory of our lives!
And may we not hesitate to run to announce that we have seen the Lord. We have been with Him. We know Him to be true.. the Truth.
May we be faithful with the commission that has been given to us- the good news that we have been entrusted with.
May His great love shine forth because we ourselves have been loved much. Because to us the cross no longer means death and because the tomb was empty. Because we have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Pet 1:3)
May our lives be wholly given, so surrendered to and wrapped up in Jesus, that we cannot do a thing apart from our Lord and our King.
That can change everything.
Even More UndignifiedRead Now
Written By: Olivia Caldwell
Let's talk about worship...pure and unadulterated worship.
David learned how to worship before the Lord. You may be familiar with the story of David shedding his kingly robes and dancing before the Lord, but there is so much that David walks through just in 2 Samuel 6 before he strips down and leaps and dances with all the house of Israel.
How is it that the king became so "undignified" to the point of declaring, "I will make myself even more undignified than this,"?
He saw just who God is, just how holy He is. David learned how to rightly worship a holy, holy, holy God.
A few months before this, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD, "with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals." (2 Sam 6:5b) After many years, since the ark was lost in battle, the ark was now finally being returned to the tabernacle, to be set in the Most Holy Place. God's glory and presence was returning to its rightful place, in the center of Israel and in the center of the hearts of God's people!
David and the 30,000 Israelites are bringing the ark back and look at how they dance and worship! Look at their rejoicing! Isn't this incredible? Surely the Lord is pleased!
Well, no. See, God gave very specific instructions for transporting the ark. It was to be carried. And it was only to be carried by Levites of the family of Kohath. And yet...
"And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. And Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart, with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark." (v. 3-4, emphasis added)
So, here we have this large production and this worship and so much joy and celebration- and gracious, doesn't it seem like their hearts are in the right place? But how holy our God is. How worthy He is of our reverence towards Him and His commandments.
And how quickly David and the Israelites will be reminded.
"And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God." (v 6 & 7)
Not only was the ark of God to be carried by Levites of the family of Kohath, but there were also very specific instructions outlined in Numbers 4 of how every thing of the ark of God was to be covered: "but they must not touch the holy things, lest they die." (Numbers 4:15)
Perhaps one of the most profound statements I have heard that will stick with me forever is this: “Uzzah assumed that his hand was less polluted than the earth.” (R.C. Sproul)
David was angry and he was afraid of the LORD that day. "How can the ark of the LORD come to me?" (v. 9)
Can you imagine how that must have been for him? He wholeheartedly wanted for his people to be centered around the glory and the presence of the Lord and His desire seemed to be to honor the Lord above all else. How confused he must have been after this. How heart wrenching it must have been, to have had this horrifying realization wash over him that what he had been doing was not, in fact, honoring to the Lord.
"So David was not willing to take the ark of the Lord into the city of David. But David took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. And the ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household." (v. 10 & 11)
"David did this in fulfillment of God's word. Obed-Edom was a Levite of the family of Korah and Kohath (1 Chronicles 26:4).
When God's word was obeyed, and His holiness was respected, blessing followed." (Enduring Word Commentary)
When David heard how the Lord had blessed the household of Obed-edom, David went and brought the ark of God to the city of David. Verse 12 says, "with rejoicing."
"And when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn." (v. 13-15)
How different this was.. we see that the ark of the Lord was being carried, "bore" by men, and then this elaborate sacrifice followed.
And David. David dancing before the Lord with all his might in his linen ephod. Note that 1 Chronicles 15:27 says this, "David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who bore the ark, the singers, and Chenaniah the music master with the singers. David also wore a linen ephod." (emphasis added)
David encountered God in all His holiness and his worship was transformed accordingly.
Isn't that beautiful? How convicting and inspiring.
Well, not everyone thought so.
"As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart." (v. 16)
David finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings and went to bless his household, but his wife, Michal, confronted him, saying, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” (v. 20b)
This sarcastic vitriol could have been so deflating. And maybe it even could have even hindered a full and righteous worship of the Lord. But because of what David had experienced in those months and how he had seen with his very own eyes the holiness of God, he did not bend. He was not deterred. He was not swayed. He responded, "It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel--I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” (v.21-22, emphasis added)
Hey, sister? There may be times when your obedience to and honoring of the Lord will not make sense to others. What He is doing and what He has done will compel you to offer to Him that which is pleasing and even that which is costly and that which will require levels of humility that could only come about from being in the presence of God. Once you have tasted and seen, you will not dare offer up anything less to the King.
There may come those who revile you and those who question you, confront you and accuse you, even.
May you stand firm in your convictions and in your devotion to a right worship of a worthy King.
May you be even more undignified - more and more and more, as you heap more and more and more glory and honor on the Lord of lords and King of kings.
Let it be so.
Photo by Igor Rodrigues on Unsplash
Sapphira: Life or DeathRead Now
Written by: Olivia Caldwell
I love reading about the early church. I love reading about their boldness and their love and their commitment to the spreading of the gospel and their commitment to one another.
I love verses like Acts 2:46-47: “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
And I love this account in Acts 4:32-35: “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”
I. Love. That. I love that the church was so in awe of Jesus, in awe of such great grace and in awe of the Spirit of God, who dwelled in them and unified them and led them and gave them pure hearts, generous hearts, and hearts overflowing with the love of God.
What could keep us from that kind of fullness of life?
At the end of Acts 4 there, we read of a man named Joseph, called Barnabas (son of encouragement) by the apostles, who sold a field he owned and laid the money from that sale at the feet of the apostles.
“But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.” Acts 5:1-5 (italics added)
Ugh. This is so heavy. I feel such a grief when I read Peter’s question to Ananias, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit..?”
Sapphira arrives mere hours later, unaware of what transpired earlier, and is seemingly given the opportunity to answer honestly, possibly to humble herself and to repent. She stands alone to answer for her involvement-really, this is an examination of her heart.
“And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.” Acts 5:8-11
“How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord?”
This passage from the book of James comes to mind: “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James 3:14-17
There is such a clear distinction in this passage, just as in the story of Ananias and Sapphira following such a beautiful description of the church. Peter does not hesitate to call their choice demonic. Whatever their motive, whatever their intention, it’s clear that it was completely devoid of and in direct opposition to the Holy Spirit.
How did they get here?
Take a look at what is recorded twice in this passage in Acts:
“And great fear came upon all who heard of it.”
“And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.”
We may not be able to tell how exactly they arrived here, how it is that their hearts were so turned from the Holy Spirit and filled by Satan, but from the reaction of the church, we can gather that a fear of the Lord was missing.
Where was their reverence? Their humility? Their recognition of just who God is and of His character? Of His power? Of the Spirit’s ability to discern at the very least whether or not they were lying and moreover, their hearts behind the lie?
What of His holiness? And what of their holiness? Their purity before the Lord?
Living by the Spirit is imperative. We cannot harden our hearts, resisting and quenching the Spirit, until we eventually are no longer sensitive to the moving, stirring and convicting of Holy Spirit. That is dangerous. That is where the enemy has free rein to wreak havoc; that is where disorder and every vile practice begins.
That is how we give dominion of our hearts to the one who is not King. That is how we forsake life abundant and mistakenly choose death instead.
For the church to be “of one heart and soul”, the full number of us, we will need to be in complete submission and surrender to the Lord and to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Our flesh has no room-and honestly, why would we want to give our flesh mastery over us?
What the early church had was not natural; it was supernatural. The unity and the favor and the great grace and the generosity and the salvations day after day were not produced by human effort. And that’s the point.
Friend, we have a choice to make each and every day. Every hour. Every moment. Will we surrender to the Holy Spirit? Will we choose life over death? Will we choose transformation over stagnation?
Will we allow the enemy a foothold? Will we allow ourselves to become vulnerable to the lies and deceit that grieves the Spirit and sows disorder and impurity?
Let the story of Ananias and Sapphira instill anew a healthy fear of the Lord and a wholehearted desire to be yielded completely to the Holy Spirit. Let the accounts of the early church inspire a wonder and a desire in you. And let the divide between life according to the flesh and life according to the Spirit be sharp, a line distinct and uncrossable.
Photo by Alexandru Zdrobău on Unsplash
Waiting on a PromiseRead Now
Written By: Olivia Caldwell
Beloved, are you waiting?
Does it seem as if the promise of the Lord tarries?
This theme of waiting on the Lord, and even waiting on the promise of God, has seemed to be ever before me, always what my mind goes to at the end of the day, in the stillness of the night.
I say to my husband and friends- often, it feels- that this waiting is nothing compared to the saints who have come before us.
In my small-scale waiting, I find myself at times lamenting, “How long, O Lord?”
It’s a fun season of waiting expectantly, crying out, humbling myself, surrendering to the Lord and trusting in GOD- and all of the messiness and warfare and mundane in between.
It’s so weird. And wonder-full.
Truth be told, I know that this season of waiting is beautiful- glorious, even. Do you believe that, right where you are, that this uncomfortable place is one that is full of glory, one that you will look back on and be filled with joy and gratitude for? One that you will testify of- testifying to the goodness and faithfulness of God??
Hey, how about right here, you go ahead and leave your device for a moment? Remember the faithfulness of God through the ages and His kindness and goodness to you. Go ahead and worship Him for as long as it takes for you to have even an iota of faith that that last paragraph there will come to pass.
Okay, so how can we wait well?
What if I answered that question with an example of what not to do? Bear with me..
The story of Sarah, found in Genesis, has been one I have not been able to move past.
Sarai and Abram have been promised a son, an heir. And not only that, but offspring as many as the stars of the sky, many and uncountable, even.
In Genesis 12-15, so much has happened. I mean- God gave Abram a promise and kept it as he set out and entered Egypt. Abram did as the Lord said and walked the length and breadth of the land the Lord promised him and his offspring. He went off and rescued his nephew Lot from an actual war featuring all these kings with only 318 of his trained men, defeating Chedorlaomer and the kings with him. Like- okay, wow. And then, the Lord again promised him, outright, “...your very own son shall be your heir.”
And then there’s this ceremony in the dark, dreadful and great darkness, where Abram falls into a deep sleep and God walks between the divided parts of an animal sacrifice. This is an oath-taking ceremony. God Himself takes the oath.
“If I do not keep the oath that I swear, may I be divided as this animal has been” is what this means.
“The threat of the presence of the holy God fills the darkness and burns in the fire. God will not break His word.” (The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament by Edmund P. Clowney)
And naturally, right after all of these miraculous wonders, it says in Genesis 16 that Sarai had born Abram no children. And she has bore witness to all of these wonders, no doubt, with and through her husband, but still these words cross her lips, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children.” And she directs Abram to go in to her female Egyptian servant, Hagar, because she speculates, “..it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” (Gen. 16:1-2)
Here again, Clowney notes in his book, The Unfolding Mystery, “According to the custom of the time, the child of a woman’s servant might be reckoned as her own.”
So, logically, Sarai is thinking of the promise the Lord has made and then looking at reality, which is that some time has passed and they didn’t even have time to begin with. The divide between the promise and reality seems too great to be breached.
And so, as she looks at her old, well-past-child-rearing body and cannot see how God’s promise could possibly come to pass, she begins to think of alternate, more realistic and certainly less miraculous and obviously God-ordained ways in which the promise may come forth.
It’s impossible, isn’t it? The Lord can’t possibly mean that.
But He did. And He does.
As we wait on the Lord, how we can wait well is to take Him at His word and to raise our hands up off of our circumstances and spread them out into surrender.
Do not look with your natural eyes at all that is happening around you. That barren land or that barren womb are ripe for the work the Lord intends to do.
It is not up to you, dear one, to figure it out with your (pardon me but) limited and human brain. You are not God.
When we even try to imagine how things will go and how the promise will come about, we place human expectations on a situation that is not bound by human limitations and is anything but natural. It is supernatural and only could be accomplished by God.
That’s the point. That’s glory to the Lord Jesus!
So what do we do in the waiting?
When the promise tarries, we tarry.
Yeah, so tarry also means to remain; to linger; to stay longer than expected, to not have an agenda, or to encounter God’s presence for an extended period of time.
In order to combat the doubt and discouragement that begins to creep in and in order to prevent our human hands from attempting to do that which the mighty hand of the Lord will do, we must tarry. We must sit at His feet and we must take as long as we need to remember that He is God and we are not.
He is faithful. He alone is able.
Tarry as often and as long as you need, beloved. Ask Him to give you eyes to see and ears to hear in the waiting. Let Him grow you and let Him teach you how to stay in step with His Spirit.
There is so much happening here that you cannot yet see.
For Abraham and Sarah, their son of the promise, Isaac, pointed to the promised Son. Isaac was heir of the promise and we are co-heirs with the Promised One.
“God’s promises are always too much, and there are many who would propose that God settle for Ishmael.”
We are not those who settle for anything less than what Jesus has made a way for. We are not those who try to build with our hands and our reason that which He has purposed to do from the beginning.
We are those who take the Lord at His Word and who wait expectantly.
Glory to the King!
(Hey, PS- you’ll notice in Genesis 16 & 17 that Ishmael, too, would head a nation. Abraham would be father of many nations. So, if you think you’ve ruined God’s plan with an Ishmael of your own, if you will, think again. Nothing can thwart His purposes. Keep on waiting, beloved. Redemption is nigh.)
Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash
Persistent Like RHodaRead Now
by olivia Caldwell
Hey, when you pray, do you believe that God hears?
Do you believe that He answers?
There was a time several months ago that I was sitting in a conference and before it began, our Pastor prayed over us, and over the weekend. He asked that the Lord would remove anything that would distract or hinder us during our time together and, up until that moment, I had been dealing with a pounding headache. It had been a crazy day and it was like the stress of everything had just compounded in my head.
So, I'm sitting in my seat at that highly-anticipated conference and I'm a little worried that I won't be able to concentrate through the throbbing of my head. And then my Pastor prayed. And my headache immediately subsided.
And look, that was amazing and wonderful and so kind of the Lord. Honestly, it blessed me, and then our time in the Word that weekend blessed me even more. But that moment really changed the way that I think about prayer.
I thought about my pastor, who wouldn't know that the Lord answered his prayer unless I told him, and I thought about times that I have prayed and wondered, 'What do I think happens when I pray? Do I actually believe that when I pray, the Lord answers me?'
I mean...I do. I do believe! A lot of the time, God actually reminds me of past prayers or illuminates when He has worked in my life and in my heart and in the lives of others and answered my earnest prayers. But I began to be concerned about my heart and my posture regarding prayer and regarding God Himself.
What is my posture in prayer? What do I believe happens when I humbly and yet boldly bow before the throne of God? And when I open my eyes and stand to go about my day, are my eyes really open to looking for how God may already be moving and working? Is it His promises I am standing on? Do I truly believe that He has heard me and will work things out for my good, according to His will and purpose?
There is a story in Acts 12 that increases my conviction when it comes to prayer.
Herod has killed James, brother of John, and arrested Peter. Peter is in prison, guarded by four squads of soldiers, and Herod's intention is to bring him out before the people after the Passover.
"So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church." Acts 12:5
So, at Mary's place, there were many gathered together, praying. No doubt these followers were praying fervently for Peter, especially after the devastating loss of James by the sword.
I think it's safe to say they did not anticipate what happened next.
"Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” Acts 12:6-11
Peter heads to the house of Mary, where everyone is praying and knocks at the door. A servant named Rhoda came to answer and she recognized Peter's voice! And "...in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate." (v14)
As many were praying, their meeting was interrupted by a servant girl who was so overwhelmed with joy over the miraculous answer to their prayer that homegirl didn't even let Peter in!
And their response?
"You are out of your mind."
I kind of wish you could see my face right now. I'm envisioning this scene and thinking, "I'm sorry, what? Out of her mind? What exactly were you praying for?"
Really, what were they praying for? What were they expecting? Probably not for Peter to show up at their door right then and there, to be fair, but was it so hard to believe a breathless and exhilarated servant girl carrying news that their prayers had been answered? Was what she said too outrageous and good to believe?!
Instead of going to see for themselves, they kept saying, "It is his angel!" when Rhoda insisted and insisted. I wonder if it would have been more believable for them to hear news of Peter's demise instead of his rescue and deliverance from the violent hands of Herod.
Why pray, then?
Rhoda kept insisting and Peter kept knocking. They finally opened the door and were amazed when they saw him standing before them!
"Christians are often overwhelmed and astonished when even their own petitions are granted, and when God manifests his own power in his own way and time. Prayer should be persevered in, and we should place ourselves in a waiting posture to catch the first indications that God has heard us." (Barnes' Notes on the Bible)
Oh, sisters, may we be found in a waiting posture to catch the first indications that God has heard us! May that be our posture! May we be like Rhoda, not swayed by unbelief, but instead persistent in the face of it!
I'm a bit tempted to insert some sort of caveat here, but honestly? I think we have enough of those. I think we should keep this story fresh in our minds and do our best to enter into prayer with a posture that honors the Lord and says, 'I believe You. I believe You are mighty and that you can do mighty deeds by Your mighty arm. I believe You are God Almighty. I believe in You!'
And then, we need to wait expectantly.
God, make us like Rhodas rising up in the midst of an unbelieving generation. Make us persistent and insistent upon Your Word and Your character and Your might and Your works! Make us women who beckon those around us to come and see what You have done. Give us a posture of prayer that honors You. And God, give us eyes to see how You are answering our earnest prayer unto You.
In Jesus' name we pray! Amen!
Photo by Edgar Moran on Unsplash
Tambourines and LeprosyRead Now
Miriam, the prophetess:
"Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea."
"..Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?"
Miriam, the prophetess, tambourine in hand, leading the women in song and dance out of Egyptian captivity.
And Miriam, with brother Aaron, speaking against brother Moses, whose pitch-daubed basket she once watched through reeds in the Nile.
"And the LORD heard it."
A family meeting, called by the LORD Himself:
""Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.""
A pillar of cloud and a Father's firm:
God, Mighty Defender:
"Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"
The LORD's cloud lifted and Miriam's face white as snow
Once lit up with joy as she danced forward in freedom
Walking on dry ground in the midst of the Red Sea
As the LORD brought the waters back
Shattering her enemies with His mighty hand
Standing before the tent of meeting shrouded by cloud
And her face revealed
The devastation and gravity of her sin
Now brothers united
Grieving and pleading for their sister
Shattered by sin
Please heal her-
Separated in her sin,
Examined by Aaron the priest,
And not left behind,
Brought back in.
Blessing our God and Father
And cursing our brother
Made in the likeness of God
With the same mouth.
Hearts crusted over with leprosy,
Dancing with death,
Drained of lifeblood
And infected with
Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition.
The Greater Moses,
Not only interceding for us,
But giving His very life
And spilling His blood for us
So we are not cast out.
We are not left behind.
Our Great High Priest,
Declaring us clean
And our sin,
Though once as scarlet,
Now white as snow.
And this Jesus,
And every vile practice,
Even the most hopeless,
Irreconcilable of circumstances,
From the unlikeliest of circumstances,
Like taking what was meant for evil
And turning it for good
And just like Jesus
May carry out
His ministry of reconciliation.
Miriam, Numbers 12
WRITTEN BY: Olivia Caldwell
Photo by Stéfano Girardelli on Unsplash
Zipporah - Awaken to ObedienceRead Now
Hey, so, do y'all remember that part in Exodus where the Lord sought to put Moses to death and then Moses' wife, Zipporah, circumcises their son and touches Moses' feet with her son's foreskin?
To be fair, all of this takes up just three verses sandwiched between the Lord commissioning Moses and Moses gathering with his brother, Aaron, and the elders of the people of Israel just before confronting Pharaoh and delivering the Israelites. Take a look:
"And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”
At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son's foreskin and touched Moses' feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.
The Lord said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord with which he had sent him to speak, and all the signs that he had commanded him to do. Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped." Exodus 4:21-31
See what I mean? What are we supposed to do with this?
Okay, first, let's remember that God called Moses. God heard His people and intended to deliver them. God gave Moses promises concerning this weighty call:
"When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”"
God called Moses by name and promised not only the Israelites' deliverance, but also His presence with Moses and a sign unto him - "...when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain." So, did the Lord really intend to put Moses to death?
There's a lot about these three verses that are not straightforward and even invite some speculation, but I do think that we can look at the text and also Scripture as a whole and see that, a) the Lord's promises are true, and b) if He really did seek to put Moses to death, He absolutely could have, but He ultimately did not. So why is this included, then?
I believe we see here the importance of obedience unto the Lord. For some reason, Moses' son was not circumcised. We see in Genesis 17 that God commands circumcision as a sign of the covenant between Abraham and God. "So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant." (17:13b) I believe we can conclude with some certainty that Moses himself was circumcised (Pharaoh's daughter did immediately recognize Moses as one of the Hebrews' children) and yet his son was not. How could Moses answer the call of the Lord to deliver the people of Israel from slavery and oppression if he was not obedient to the Lord's command? How could he move into the promise of God if he was neglecting the covenant of God?
Matthew Henry's commentary says this, "Omissions are sins, and must come into judgment, and particularly the contempt and neglect of the seals of the covenant; for it is a sign that we undervalue the promises of the covenant, and are displeased with the conditions of it."
Whoa. Okay. Let's talk about Zipporah now.
For whatever reason, their son was not circumcised. And yet, when this event happens, Zipporah somehow knows exactly what to do.
And she does it.
All speculation of her part in this ommissive disobedience aside (as she was a Midianite), she, at the very least, knew of the call Moses had received from the Lord Himself and had left her home behind in order to set out for Egypt. And when faced with the conviction and judgment of the Lord, she immediately obeys. She knows - and she goes. Whatever reservations she may have had before, any mindset or notion - gone, in the presence of the Lord.
Listen, dear sister: we have to know that our obedience is of utmost importance. There are going to be times in our lives when the Lord has set something before us and we need to be obedient. That may look like stepping forward in obedience into a calling, yes, but we also must be faithful to listen and to obey quickly, when the Lord confronts us by His Word and by His Spirit. When conviction stirs in your heart and sears your conscience, do not delay! Do you not know what God has promised and the fullness of life that lies before you?
Zipporah may not inspire us to radical obedience in the same way that, say, Miriam or the Hebrew midwives in Exodus 1 may, but in her swift obedience on the precipice of the call and subsequent promise of the Lord, she provokes an immediate obedience, full of a great fear of the Lord.
May we remember Zipporah and today, even, invite the Lord in to cleanse our hearts, transform our minds and invite us into even greater obedience. May we step right into the promises of God over our lives, fully trusting in His Word, His character and His ways. May we remember such a seemingly small step of obedience that was of the utmost importance before the Lord God Almighty and that led to the deliverance of a nation and the securing of freedom for generations thereafter. That is how very big our obedience is.
May we have fresh eyes to see!
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