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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Are Lottery Tickets Wrong?
A few years ago a good friend of mine offered to "disciple" two other Christian gentleman in my acquaintance. Being friends with all three, I offered my basement as a meeting place - where we would meet twice a week for a bible study, prayer, and Christian conversation. This went on for about two years, and I got a lot out of it.

One of the fellows continues to attend my church, but the other approached our senior pastor seeking advice, and when he didn't receive the answer he was hoping, left the church.

That was a couple of years ago already. He has had a lot of struggle in his walk - constantly asking for advice through email, and I have enjoyed giving what advice I feel comfortable or qualified to give. In the last year he seemed to make some progress, having found a church that seemed to agree with him, and as such the nature of his emails have changed from "help help" to "what do you think about such and such."

I received a signature style email today - the subject line was "Allo" (he is French you see), and the body of the letter was a simple one word question, "are lottery tickets wrong?" - no capitals - just that.

I quickly jotted out a reply, but I thought I ought to post it as it might be of some use to someone. I replaced his name in the correspondence with [Dan's Friend] - I hope that isn't too confusing. ;-P

Hi [Dan's Friend],

This question identifies one of the basic problems with modern Christianity - did you know that?

The first question any right thinking new convert is going to ask is "How do I go about 'being' a Christian?" - they ask this because now that they are saved they may feel the sudden overwhelming weight of their own inadequacy with regards to the awesome task of never sinning again and living every moment from here on in for God's glory (two things that most people who have never read the bible automatically presume)

They typically ask -this- question of some person whom they regard to be qualified enough to comment on it. Pastors are a favorite, since the new convert typically presumes that in order to become a pastor one must be more spiritual than those who are not pastors. Sadly in today's Christianity, Pastors are typically trained academically and ordained regardless of where they are at spiritually. That means that many pastors don't have the first idea about what being a Christian looks like either. Really, it is my opinion and conviction that most Christians (and many pastors) are utterly ignorant about "how" to be a Christian.

Now you might be asking yourself, what does that have to do with my question Daniel? That is, why do you take a simple question about a lottery ticket and turn it into something I didn't even ask about?

Patience, [Dan's Friend], patience. I will get around to it. You ask a good question, and I want to give a good answer.

Assuming we have escaped the glamour churches, the fad churches, and the cult churches - and found ourselves in one of those ever so rare "bible believing" churches - the kind where they encourage you to read your bible for yourself and pray - then you are half way there! Half of the way there, I say, because the instruction you will likely have received will not be as diluted as it could have been.

I expect that in such a church you will have been told that in order to be a "good Christian" you needed to do three things: 1) Pray. 2) Read your bible daily. 3) stop sinning. This message isn't always communicated verbally either...

Well isn't that great!

If you do those things faithfully, you will grow in the knowledge of scripture while simultaneously becoming a great hypocrite in your own understanding!!

"Huh?" - you say, I wasn't expecting that Daniel. Why would you say that? Don't you always encourage me to pray and read my bible? Are you not the one who is being the hypocrite??

Actually, by now you should know full well that no matter how you read your bible and pray, you haven't stopped sinning, and what little "victory" you have had over sin is not unlike the victory of the Pharisees, in that all your victory is external, as opposed to internal. You have developed good habits that keep you from sinning outwardly. With time and patience, you have managed to change your external behavior to such a degree that everyone thinks you are quite holy - but you know that while you have chopped off all the branches - the roots are still there, and that sin is very, very much alive in you. You have gotten to a place where you are no longer dealing with the outward expressions of sin - your struggle is now internal - your thought life, your motives, your lovelessness - your deep down lifelessness. You thought that stopping yourself from committing sin would make it all better - and now having gone as far as the flesh can take you, you are as good and as righteous as any NT Pharisee - the outside of your cup is finally looking clean - but the inside is dirty. You know yourself to be a whitewashed tomb - outside you are all clean and shiny, inside you are full of death.

I expect that most Christians never get to this state, let alone move past it. Those who do come to the place where they realize that "keeping the law" doesn't change their heart anymore than it changed the hearts of a Pharisees. This truth brings a despair that either produces deliverance or indifference.

In my own walk it produced a sort of indifference. I began to care less and less about the "Christian walk" since I had seen "the wall" - I had grit my teeth in unparalleled effort, and held myself off of sin - taxing my every thought for weeks on end - by sheer will I had kept myself from every known sin - and when I collapsed beneath the effort I understood one thing - sin -utterly- owned me. I was sin's slave and my efforts hadn't changed that one bit. The best I could hope for, it seemed, was a clean "outside" - but inside I knew I would always desire to sin. The best I could hope for - or so my favorite "experts" said - was to "sin less, and feel guilty more."

Ah, this life that God was giving me, was certainly more abundant... The more effort I put into keeping myself from sin - the greater my disappointment with myself, and my Christianity. How could I have rivers of life flowing out of me when my every thought was directed against the sin in my life?

As I said - when one stands at the end of oneself, you either get indifferent or you get delivered. I got indifferent.

I began to see that the "Christianity" I had been fed was really just Judaism "avec Savior" - that is, the only difference between myself and a "good Jew" was that I knew what Who the old testament sacrifices pictured. That is, the gospel that was saving me, was not saving me from sin's power, but only from sin's penalty - just as the Jew was saved from sin's penalty through the sacrificial system, so too, I was saved from sin's penalty through the sacrificial system. Christ was my sacrifice - I was justified because of Christ - but I was living without victory in my life. Every Christian around me seemed content that this was all there was. The happy handshake in church, the bible studies and prayers - it didn't matter whether you liked them or not - you should go to such things because you are a Christian, and Christians are supposed to like such things. Soon I began to feel myself a hypocrite - a religionist. I had traded Christianity for religion. If I missed a prayer meeting, I was worried what people would think. If I didn't study the bible, I was worried what people would think. I had convinced myself that this was Christianity, and worse than this: I was becoming quite good at it. Yes, I failed in my sin life (not outwardly, as I was not a smoker, drinker, didn't look at porn, kept my life spotless, etc. etc.) inside me was not a well of sweet water churning out into others - what ever sweet water was in me had to be pumped out with great effort, and was always and ever in danger of pollution from the bitter water that was ever present. Sin was still present with me - the one who wanted to do good!

Frankly, I was a carnal Christian - though for all the world and the church I looked to be the very model of a holy Christian. I began to confess my sins less and less - after all, I couldn't change the internal stuff, and having developed some good habits, the outward stuff was practically non existent. Well, there were a couple of areas that were still blatantly sinful - but I was like a man trying to keep the lid on a hundred pots - for every ten pots I might slap a lid on, one would fall off - and while I was over there putting that one on, another would fall. But because I had come to believe that there really was no cure for this - I more of less stopped trying. I would pray feeling out of fellowship, and just told myself that God heard me no matter what my feelings said. I would ask forgiveness with as much gusto as a man asks another to pass the sugar. I was empty, and getting dry.

Yet didn't scripture say that there was something the law couldn't do?

If we look at that verse we find at the end of Romans five we see that, "sin reigned in death" - I meditated on that because it isn't how we would say it in English is it? Sin reigned in death - it was like a riddle sort of. What did it look like?

I realized one day that it was actually pretty simple: Whatever affects me, such that I have no control over it, but it has control over me - this is something that reigns in my life. Sin was reigning in my life producing the same death in me that it produces in everyone. Put another, I had no control over sin in my life and it was producing death in me.

Well, that's nice. I mean, it is nice to see that my experience was lining up nicely with scripture. I could say plainly - "Uh-huh. That's me. Yup." That is how sin works - we have no choice in the matter, sin wells up from within us and controls our desires making us want to obey it - and there isn't a sweet thing in all the world we can do about that. All the commandments and deuteronomical laws, best practices, or even pious suggestions couldn't change it - the law was helpless to deliver me from this sin. My "best case scenario" was to resist the desires that continually rose up in me - resist them like a good little Jew. The law didn't get rid of "the sin" it just pointed it out.

Yet In the same verse Paul compares that with what I now see as the Christian "coup de grace!" Paul said, that wherever sin was reigning, grace was more abundant - and that "grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

I had to chew on that for a long time, but it was how Paul introduced the discussion in Romans Six. Basically he was saying, that where sin used to produce desire in you and thereby control you, Christians had something new available - a "righteous desire" that would produce life in them. Not just the standard "I want to be righteous so that I don't have to feel bad about sin" desire that every faithful Jew could claim without ever having to touch Romans six - nope, this was talking (I believe) about a desire that wells up from within you to do good instead of having that wicked desire to do evil.

With this the old testament prophets agree - Ezekiel speaks of the new heart - the one that obeys. We (all of us) pretend like we have it, but our obedience is typically no better than any faithful Jew; Into the vacuum of this thought, I began to suspect that we really were kidding ourselves in a major way. We were confusing and blurring the line between the eternal gospel and the new covenant.

What Paul was saying in Romans six was that you and I were put into Christ (immersed) such that when Christ was crucified, you and I were also crucified. Not a spiritual shell and pea prestidigitation, but a forensic reality. You and I were literally placed into Jesus. When God poured out His wrath on us, we didn't experience it, rather Christ did - that is, Jesus kept us alive just as the ark kept Noah and his family alive when God poured His wrath on the earth. We were -in- Christ when God poured his wrath on that sinful part of us that was disposed to disobedience - our "old self" to use Paul's words. When Christ took that "sinful self" into Himself, He did so in order that God could slay the old man and render him utterly, and eternally powerless to rule over us. We were really there - scripture says so, Christ died in order to take that self of ours right down into the grave with Him. Wow.

There are some ramifications to that truth: If God destroyed the part of me that was enslaved to sin (that is, desired sin), then I am truly free from sin already - that is, there is nothing I personally need to accomplish to make that true, it is true whether I accept it as true or not.

"Wait!" you cry, "I am not experiencing that truth!"

That may be correct. This is a truth that is experienced only by those who 1) believe it, and who 2) truly want to experience it.

We might say, wait, I believe that is true, and I really, really, really want to experience it. But we are morbid liars after all - lying to ourselves. The harsh truth is that Christians continue to sin because they want to sin. We really like sinning, and even though Christ has set us free from it, we still prefer to follow sin than to live a holy life.

Here is where some of us make a vulgar mistake in our reasoning - we imagine that we sin because "we have no choice" but in reality we sin because we are not willing to set our sin aside - we simply love it too much. We want to rule our own life, because deep down we don't trust that doing it God's way will make us happy. Oh, we are sinful indeed!

Jeremiah asks, "Can a leopard change its spots, or an Ethiopian his skin?" - the answer of course is, no. So we also fall back to our former reasoning - how can we suddenly stop wanting to sin?? I want to "want" to be free from sin - that is the piece that I am missing. I know I shouldn't want to sin - yet the desire is in me and I cannot do a thing about it. What do I do??

Thankfully, The answer is found in the second verse of Romans 8, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death."

Really, Romans 8:2 is (in my opinion) the answer to the ultimate Christian question (or the UCQ as I like to call it): "How do I go about being a Christian?"

You see, if we try and be a Christian by following rules (the law) - the best we can do is establish an external holiness. We become (at best) Pharisees - cleaning the outside of the cup.

Verse three of chapter eight goes on to tell us that what the law could not do (destroy the rule of sin in our life) God did by sending His own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh (on account of sin) God condemned sin in the flesh. Following a rule book has never freed a person from sin - nor could it ever. Obeying the law (that is: "trying to be good") doesn't clean the inside of the cup, and never could - it only cleans the outside. If we are willing to be honest - we will go so far as to admit that following the law doesn't even do a great job of that either...

The second verse gives us the information we need to learn how to clean the inside of the cup- and "the way" is not found in keeping a set of rules, but in obeying the law of the Spirit of Life.

Oh, here is simplicity brother - grasp this and never let it go - in order to be "being" a Christian, you simply obey the Spirit of life - that is, you allow yourself to be ruled by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus lived his entire life in utter obedience to the Holy Spirit. Jesus was God, the second Person of the Trinity - but when He came to earth He lived as a man. Everything that Jesus did, He did in the power of, and in obedience to - the Holy Spirit. Everything.

In Christ, God answered every promise He made regarding the new covenant - Jesus was the first man to live under that new covenant, manifesting to the world that God the Father is a promise keeping God.

One thing we must pull out of Romans six - that until Christ went into the grave, he wasn't raised up in newness of life. Likewise, until we reckon ourselves dead indeed to sin, we cannot expect newness of life. No one rises from the crypt who hasn't first gone down into it. There is no newness of life until there is a "newness of death" (if you will), that is, anyone who is not living the crucified life should not claim to be living victoriously as a Christian - there is no victory without the cross.

Paul wasn't preaching some mumbo-jumbo - he was preaching the Christian life itself and how to live it; he was prying apart (if you will) the old way from the new - dragging them out into the light to show that one was not the other. Previously Jews (and God fearing Gentiles) lived in obedience to the law (as best they could) and looked to God to forgive their sins by placing those sins on a propitiatory sacrifice. The Jew kept the law, and when the Jew failed he asked for forgiveness trusting that the blood of sacrifice (and ultimately the sacrifice that it pictured) to save him from sin's penalty. He had no recourse in the old covenant to deal with sin's power. Anyone who is doing the same is not living in the new covenant - they are a "saved" and God fearing Gentile (possessed of more light than an OT Jew) - but they are not living in the truth of the new covenant, and it would be presumptuous to call them a "Christian" - though now, we apply the terms "christian" and "born again" to people who are saved regardless of whether they are born from above and have Christ living through them nor not. I draw a hard line between the two - having understood (or so I beleive) that the gospel is not the new covenant - but this is a side issue, and I don't want to tire you with it for now.

In the new covenant, you didn't obey the law for righteousness, now you were under grace, and the righteousness that was available to you was two fold - first, Christ's own perfect righteousness was accounted to you on the cross - your sins were punished there, and you were justified once and forever. Secondly, the power of sin was broken (this was the new covenant; not to be confused with "the eternal gospel"), God saved Abraham the same way he saves you - by grace through faith, not of yourself it is a gift of God - the gospel has remained the same throughout every covenant - God only saves one way - and it ain't by works!

So Paul was saying that in this new covenant, things are different - God has dealt with the power of sin, so the "man of God" doesn't walk in "the way" of an old testament Jew - but now walks in a new way - the way described in Romans eight and verse two.

The Christian is supposed to understand that the part of him that loves to sin has been crucified with Christ -- therefore sin really has -no- power over him, because he himself has actually died and that death released him from sin's rule. He is not to go about trying to keep the law - there is no sanctification in that - rather he is to keep the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus - for it is this law that sets him free.

Okay, that means that if we understand what the law of the Spirit of life is, we have the whole Christian experience wrapped up in a nutshell yes??

Yes. That is what it means.

Okay, so what does it mean? It means that it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to make us holy - that our one and only duty is to love Christ through obeying the Holy Spirit's promptings. Obedience to the Spirit is simple - do what God's Spirit directs you to do. In doing --this-- God sanctifies you. As you turn to the Spirit for guidance, for strength; as you confess your sin and your desire to be free from sin- God begins to give you insight into sin. You begin to see it for what it is.

You see sin as an all consuming treason that is a lodestone around your neck as you plummet into the depths of the sea - it is an ugly, hateful thing that is destroying you and everything around you - it deserves no fellowship with you - and when your eyes finally start to focus on it -- you begin to truly seek freedom from it. You begin to pray in earnest - not some formula, not some divine limrick - but you pray this and mean it: "Search me, God, try me and know my heart - see if there is any wicked way in me!" - You begin to want to see sin for all its ugliness - you desire God to make you loathe in the same way that He does.

You begin to reckon with God that sin ought to be destroyed - you begin to see the cross as the place where that happened - and you begin to want to drag that sin that is in your life there yourself. God works this in your heart when you begin to really seek Him instead of the religion that we commonly pursue instead of God.

When you begin to understand the Holy Spirit's ministry in your life - to open your eyes to the things of God - to minister to you, and make you truly holy - to set you apart for God's own use. As you bring yourself again and again into submission to God's Spirit, you will begin to experience a real fellowship with God - and the sewer that brings up the hateful thoughts, the inward sin that you have never been able to conquer - that very thing will be nailed to the cross from glory to glory - it is nailed there by faith, and the faith that nails it there comes by grace. Only when you agree with God about your sin - truly agree, will you accept it on the cross - will you will begin to be free from it - forever.

THEN, you will get "victory" - not that you brought yourself to that place - but that God brought you through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in dealing with the sin that continues even now to hinder both your walk and your relationship with God (through Christ.)

I am not talking about a sinless perfection or some entire sanctification - being free from sin's power doesn't mean you won't ever sin again, or that you can't sin - all it means is that you won't have a sewer of sin welling up from within- you will certainly be tempted - but the temptations will be external only and not as they are now - welling up from within as well as from without. The fountain in you will not bubble up bitter and sweet water together anymore, but only sweet. It doesn't mean that you can't sin - but rather that you won't have an internal drive to do so. You may still sin in ignorance but the moment you realize a thing is sin, you will have no stomach for it. Likewise, victory doesn't come in an instant - and you may experience the desire for one sin removed, while another is still present - it doesn't happen all at once - but as the part of you that makes you want to sin is rightly reckoned on the cross where Christ put it - and you will begin to experience what Christ died to give you - not Judaism "take two" - but real life, and that more abundantly. As you submit to the Spirit, you will begin to see sin more clearly, and you will also begin to desire to obey.

The Holy Spirit is hindered in doing this as we obey the rule of sin in our life. By that I mean - don't expect to see too many miracles or answered prayers so long as your Christianity remains an outward obedience to "the christian form" and not an inward moment-by-moment submission to the Holy Spirit of God. It isn't for nothing - it is through this submission that God conquers our sin. If you want to be free, stop playing at being a Christian, and start being one.

Bottom line? All one must do as a Christian is obey God. This is both mind-numbingly simple and overwhelmingly profound.

So we come back to your question - are lottery tickets wrong?

My answer is, "What does God say to you?"

Huh? No, seriously; what is God saying to you?

If your answer is: "I don't know" - then you got a real problem, a problem that is much bigger than whether or not you should be buying a lottery ticket. Your problem is that you don't know how to be a Christian - and it is high time you learned. Seriously, if you don't know what God is saying, you are way, way out of fellowship, and might not even know what fellowship looks like anymore. You need to sit down and confess your greatest sin - a prolonged indifference to God's Spirit, a repetitive quenching and grieving that has left you spiritually deaf. You no longer are able to discern God's voice in your life - if ever you were able. This is, as I said, a real problem - because eventually (if you continue to ignore the voice of God) you will no longer be able to hear Him, and unless you hear and obey, you will not function as a genuine Christian is meant to function.

The only reason we ignore the Holy Spirit in our life is because our heart says, "I will not have You rule over me!" - and that can only go on for so long. Our obedience is to the Spirit of Life, not the letter of the law - and in continually ignoring and grieving that Spirit, we do ourselves real damage.

So I am not going to answer this question for you - I am going to (because I love you) tell you to ask God about it - and expect the Holy Spirit to answer you. It won't be in some audible voice - rather it will be this: you will know in your heart if it is right or wrong, if you are willing to hear it. I suspect you already know what the answer truly is.

Beware, I am not counseling you to listen for voices, or wait for impressions - that is mystical nonsense - I am counseling you to recognize that if God's Spirit is in you, you will know deep down inside whether this is right or wrong, and if you are willing to obey that truth, you can be set free. Examine yourself before God in prayer - search for the answer if you are dull of heart, God won't leave you in ignorance if you are sincerely asking for wisdom, but you better believe He is going to answer you or you are wasting your time.

Let me know if after talking to God about it you are still in the dark.


I say - I thought it might be useful to post it - because there are many Christians out there who don't know the first thing about being a Christian - they jump right into theology and bible study - and absolutely miss the most basic tenet of their faith - obedience to God - not obedience to the law - that is Judaism, obedience to God's Spirit - the rule of life; the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
posted by Daniel @ 1:31 PM  
  • At 5:04 PM, February 14, 2006, Blogger David said…

    That's the longest answer without answering that I've ever seen from someone not running for office!

    I think what you're talking about is building a godly conscience. The longer we live our lives in fellowship with God (which necessarily includes the study of Scripture), the more we just know what is right without even having to ask.

  • At 5:42 PM, February 14, 2006, Blogger Gordon said…

    Interesting. I was glad to see you place the emphasis of Christianity on "being" rather than "doing".

    The point of maturity by which we become submitted to the Spirit and listen to His leading, might be a little beyond the understanding of a new believer (and a few old ones too, for that matter).

    I have no problem with what you have said concerning the "voice" of the Spirit. But can He not speak through His word as well? While there may not be a clear command, "Thou shalt not buy lottery tickets!" Are there not biblical principles which would teach a believer that they should refrain from such practice?

    To lay the responsibility of knowing righteousness based upon their ability to discern the voice of God upon a new believer could leave room for doubt and deception.
    God can certainly speak through His Spirit, but that voice will always agree with the truth of Scripture.

    I think that we should strike a proper balance between learning the truth and then submitting to the Spirit in that truth.

  • At 9:06 PM, February 14, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Gordon, you make a very good point - one of the great things I like about making a post like this is how God can bring someone along who pushes stops the pendulum from swinging to far in one direction.

    Certainly, we ought to have a proper balance between learning the word and submitting to scripture! Good observation and thanks!

  • At 9:20 PM, February 14, 2006, Blogger Jim said…


    Excellent! You have successfully put your finger on the most important issue of the Christian life, that of walking by the Spirit. True worship is in spirit and truth, which would of course include the word of God. Our growth in Christ is definitely linked to our investment in the Word.

    This is so critical that we know our masters voice, otherwise we simply follow a pattern and not Christ.


  • At 12:57 PM, February 15, 2006, Blogger Gordon said…

    In regard to my earlier comment, I want to clarify that I am in agreement with you on the ideal of being led by the Spirit. This is indeed a demonstration that we are the sons of God.

  • At 10:06 AM, February 22, 2006, Blogger marc said…


    Although I had to take 2 bathroom breaks while reading your reply, I found it very pastoral and wise (of course what do I know of wisdom). Gordon's comment on being and not just doing is good as well (and a lot shorter ;-)).

    Seriously, thanks for this reminder to walk with Jesus and listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. A list sure would be easier to keep though... oh wait, we have that, the Law... never mind.

  • At 9:47 AM, February 23, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Marc, I am a wee bit verbose I guess...? ;-)

    Would that I were a better writer, and a wiser fellow -- I am sure I could make my point in fewer words.

    I like the fun posts and whatnot, but my heart goes into these sort of posts. It hurts to watch Christians wither on the vine because they either don't know how to be a Christian, or have no encouragement. I used to think people were willfully being bad Christians, but over time I have come to see that many simply have no idea "how" to be a Christian.

    Posts like these are the reason I blog.

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