Archive for October, 2013

(NKJV and KJV Scripture)

– And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ – and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:18

The ministry we’ve all been called to as Christians – is reconciliation (lead verse).  Reconciliation is eliminating enmity – a state of being actively opposed to something or someone.  All sin is enmity – at all times with God.  We are separated from Him at birth by sin – alienated from heaven (Ephesians 2:12, Colossians 1:21).  Spiritual reconciliation means being brought back into agreement and alignment with the Almighty’s ways.

As believers, we’ve been reconciled back to God by the death of His only Son (Romans 5:10).  The enmity of sin between us and heaven was slain at Calvary by Christ (Ephesians 2:16).  We’ve been brought back into agreement and alignment with God through belief in Jesus.  We now have redemption by the blood of Christ ( Ephesians 1:7).  God has regained possession of us in exchange for a price (1 Corinthians 6:20).

We’ve been saved from the grave by the grace of God – through the death of His Son (Romans 5:10, Hebrews 2:9-15).  This is our Father’s desire for all men – not willing that any should perish, but for all to be reconciled back to Him through repentance and remission of sin (2 Peter 3:9, 2 Corinthians 5:20). God takes no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies – but for all to turn from sin and live (Ezekiel 18:32).

God has committed the word of reconciliation to us, because of what Christ accomplished for us through redemption (Romans 3:24, 2 Corinthians 5:19-20). This should be the message of every ministry. But, the seeds of recurring confusion and evil works are planted if we are ever striving, envying, contending, or comparing our Christianity with each other (James 3:16, Proverbs 13:10, 2 Corinthians 10:14-15). This makes it hard to have any ministry of reconciliation, doesn’t it?

We are no different as Christians, than those who are lost and unbelieving (Romans 6:23) – except we have been reconciled back to God.  This was done by His grace – which put Christ on the Cross in place of our sin – while we were yet still sinners (Romans 5:8).  If we are ever unable to resolve and reconcile temporary differences between us as believers (Matthew 5:23-24), how are we ever going to present a message of eternal reconciliation to those who are still lost?

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(Scripture from the NKJV and KJV)

– Saying “Father, if thou be willing – remove this cup. Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” – Luke 22:42

Jesus is praying here in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before being betrayed and arrested.  However, the Son of man is still asking for God‘s will to be done – as it had been all along during his time on earth (John 5:30, John 6:38).  It is the same for us every day – every time we pray (Luke 11:2).

Whatever happens in this whole wide world – or our own little ones each and every day, is going precisely and perfectly according to His plan.  To fulfill His purpose, for His pleasure alone – all declared by Him from the very beginning (Isaiah 46:10, Titus 1:2, Revelation 4:11).

There is never anything new to God under His sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). What has been is now – what is to be, has already been (Ecclesiastes 3:15). Our waking up each morning is according to His will – because of His judgement and His mercies (Zephaniah 3:5, Lamentations 3:22-23). If the Lord is willing each day, we live (James 4:15).

However, what He does is always perfect, right, and truthful – without any iniquity (Deuteronomy 32:4). It has to be – or what would qualify Him to judge us each day – or this world when the time comes (Romans 3:4-6)?  Would we want a Maker who made mistakes and missed things to determine our eternal destinies?

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– Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?  And what communion hath light with darkness? – 2 Corinthians 6:14

When God speaks to us through Scripture about not being unequally yoked, believers with unbelievers, it doesn’t mean we are to avoid them altogether.  The lost are still perishing – and God does not wish for anyone to do so (2 Peter 3:9); nor should we.  The gospel is still hidden to them – and the preaching of the Cross is still foolishness (2 Corinthians 4:3, 1 Corinthians 1:18).

How will they hear about the hope we have as Christians without a preacher (Romans 10:14)? Remember, the Pharisees did not like it when Jesus sat down to eat and drink with the publicans and sinners (Matthew 9:10-11).  But – how were they going to hear God’s truths if Christ wasn’t teaching such to them?

Not being unequally yoked with unbelievers means we don’t go everywhere and do everything they do. Like two oxen hitched together, who “have” to go in each other’s direction – who don’t have the ability or choice to detach themselves.  We do.  We can choose to go after their worldly ways of the lost, because it might mean lots of mutual fun or favor at times (Joshua 24:15).

Or, we can guide them towards the Cross and the ways of God, who broke our yoke of bondage to death and this world when Christ overcame it (Hebrews 2:9-15, John 16:33).  A world we are to no longer be entangled in the pollution of (2 Peter 2:20). However, isn’t that easy to do if we should hitch our wagons to ways of the world – instead of tying them to the truth of the Word?

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(NKJV and KJV Scripture)

– If I justify myself, my own mouth will condemn me. If I say “I am perfect” – it shall also prove me perverse. – Job 9:20

– Then the wrath of Elihu was kindled against Job – because he justified himself rather than God. – Job 32:2

Christ did not hang on the Cross for us to justify our own actions, words, and behavior as believers.  As if we’ve done “just enough” to repent of our own liking – but not God’s.  It is the Lord who proves us all – whether we love Him with all our heart, mind, and soul – not ourselves (Mark 12:30, Deuteronomy 13:3).  We can claim such as Christians – but only be loving Him with our lips – while our hearts are still going after things like covetousness, still far away from where He wants us to be (Isaiah 29:13, Ezekiel 33:31, Matthew 15:8, Galatians 5:22-23).

Who among us will ever be able to say “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin (Proverbs 20:9)?”.  We can’t stop sinning just because we’re Christians.  The best we can hope for is to put our sins into remission through repentance.  Just like cancer, they can always come back – sometimes more destructive than the first time.  Although most men will proclaim every one their own goodness (Proverbs 20:6), there is not a man on earth who does not sin (1 Kings 8:46, Ecclesiastes 7:20).  As it is written, there is none righteous – no, not no one (Romans 3:10).

Scripture has concluded all are under sin (Galatians 3:22).  We are under the sentence of death from day one because of it (2 Corinthians 1:9).  We can’t justify ourselves as being just in His eyes – just because we don’t seem to sin as much as others appear to.  We can’t justify ourselves worthy of God’s grace – because grace is unmerited favor; it gives us something we shouldn’t deserve.  The only perfect and worthy offering for all sin was the Lamb without blemish, who was slain at Calvary (Revelation 5:12, 1 Peter 1:19).

Job didn’t covet, didn’t envy, or serve graven idols.  Yet, he lost nearly everything he had short of his life – in one day (Job 1:13-19),  His worst fears were realized (Job 3:25).  Why?  He had developed a huge “I” problem (Job 29:14-25, John 7:18).  He justified everything he did as being right in his own eyes; whether they were in God’s or not (Deuteronomy 13:18).  He idolized himself.  He had perverted the Word of God by essentially declaring himself perfect. This was his sin – and he didn’t see it until God answered and humbled him out of the whirlwind (Job 38:1-42:6).

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(NKJV and KJV Scripture)

– But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.  Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled. – Matthew 26:56

They needed you – and you were there for them. Day and night for over three years – you cared for them and taught them; providing for and guiding them.  They were loved and they knew it.  Yet, at the time you needed them the most – they fled; nowhere to be found in your darkest hour.

They left you hanging.  In today’s world, there might be many who wouldn’t want anything more to do with people like this.  By God‘s Word, He still wants everything to do with us (2 Corinthians 11:2) – despite the most loyal disciples leaving His only Son to hang on the Cross; seemingly having high-tailed it out of town.

In our lives, we never know what tomorrow will bring (James 4:14).  We don’t even know what any single 24-hour period will ever bring forth (Proverbs 27:1). God does – declaring the end of all things from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).  How would you like to enter a relationship with full knowledge you would be betrayed or denied three, five, 20 years down the road – especially at a time you needed them most?

Christ did – to fulfill Scripture (lead verse).  Peter had to deny Jesus three times (Mark 14:29-30, Luke 22:54-62) – and Judas had to betray the Son of man (Matthew 26:17, 47:49).  Despite this – knowing well ahead of time he would be crucified, and all the disciples would flee, Christ still went around with gentleness, peace and love to all, even when others mocked and scoffed and questioned.

For Jesus was doing God’s will – of a heavenly agenda, not an earthly one (John 5:30).  Though being the Son of God, Christ esteemed all others better than himself at all times – regardless of knowing the future.  We are to have this same mind as Christians – even when others depart, deny, or deceive us (Philippians 2:3-7).  Otherwise, are we not lightly esteeming our Savior (Deuteronomy 32:15)?

God can never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) – but we must never be so presumptuous to think we cannot deny, depart or forsake Him as believers (1 Chronicles 28:9).  Solomon found out the hard way what that is like (1 Kings 11:6-25).  Job forsook God in favor of himself (Job 29: 14-25).  Peter thought he favored Jesus – and was ready to follow the Lord to prison – even to death (Luke 22:33).

After Jesus said, “all of you shall be offended because of Me this night,” – Peter said “not me – I won’t be offended.”  All the disciples said likewise (Mark 14:27-31).  How could they depart now?  They may have never thought they could leave the Lord like this, after all He had done for them.  Despite saying they wouldn’t be offended – they all took off (lead verse).

We choose each day whom we will serve as Christians (Joshua 24:15).  If we ever declare we will follow Jesus until the day we die like Peter did – we deceive ourselves.  It’s nothing more than being presumptuous and self-willed (2 Peter 2:10).  Judas may have thought he would stay unto the end with Christ, but Satan entered him – so Judas could betray Jesus for money (Luke 22:3-5).

Just like the apostle Paul, the devil will always be a thorn in our side to buffet us as believers (2 Corinthians 12:7).  Satan would love to separate us again from God and sift us like wheat – like he had the desire to do with Peter (Luke 22:31).  To give us the desire to depart from Christ – and go after the world again – just like Demas did (Philippians 1:23, 2 Timothy 4:10).

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(NKJV and KJV Scripture)

– For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation – not to be repented of; but the sorrow of the world works death. – 2 Corinthians 7:10

– “Oh, this glorious sadness, that brings me to my knees.” – “Angel” written and sung by Sarah McLachlan, copyright 1997

Have you ever experienced a period of sadness in your life – and you didn’t know why?  Nobody had died, you really weren’t crying over anything, and yet your soul seemed stuck in a state of sorrow.  It may have been such an overwhelming feeling of sadness – it felt like it had become a large part of your every day being.  Perhaps it’s how you feel today.  Perhaps you’re wondering if it will ever end.

Being sad, though – is not always a bad thing – depending on if it’s coming from above or below (lead verse).  If you’re still lost and unbelieving, and not yet born again of the Holy Spirit – sadness can be a very strong indicator God has finally convicted you of your sinful nature with His sorrow – so He can baptize you with His gift of the Holy Ghost.  So you will finally remit sin and repent unto salvation – and no longer be sorry about sin for just a season (2 Corinthians 7:8-10).

Being sad as a believer can be a good thing.  It could be a strong indicator we still experience guilt and remorse when we disobey God and displease Him – because we have not remitted and repented of certain sins yet.  We haven’t become so smug and secure with our eventual salvation –  we can no longer blush (Jeremiah 6:15) about transgressions.  How can we be sad if we ever believe we don’t have any more sin in us – or any capacity to sin again (1 John 1:8-10)?

Our hearts can be made better by the sadness of our countenance as Christians (Ecclesiastes 7:3).  Happiness comes when God corrects and chastises us for our sins (Job 5:17).  As many as He loves, He rebukes (Revelation 3:19).  If we are ever unable to be sad and sorrowful over sin anymore as believers, how can we become happy?  How can we ever give Him glory in all things (Romans 11:36)  … including while we’re being disciplined (Hebrews 12:6-11)?

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(NKJV and KJV Scripture)

– For the customs of the people are vain. – Jeremiah 10:3

– Beware, lest any man spoil you through philosophy, and vain deceit – after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world – and not after Christ. – Colossians 2:8

Customs are widely accepted ways and beliefs of doing things – specific to particular places or people.  Tradition is transmitting such customs down through the years – so they are carried on after we’re gone.  In Scripture, the Pharisees didn’t seem pleased when the disciples wouldn’t wash their hands – like their elders did – before eating bread. It was customary and traditional to do so – and they didn’t.

When they asked Jesus about it, the Son of man said  “Why do you also transgress the commandments of God by your traditions?  Isaiah has prophesied well of you, saying,’ These people draw nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips – but their hearts are far from Me.’  But they worship Me in vain – teaching for doctrine the commandments of men (Matthew 15:1-3, 7-9). ”

Just because we’re accustomed to customs – doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to God.  We could just be trapped in tradition – still trying to find His truth.  Our tongues can be talking about one thing – but our hearts could be harboring something else.  The Pharisees were really good at appearing religiously good outwardly – perhaps as tradition had taught them to be – but Jesus knew they were hypocrites inside, full of ravening and wickedness (Luke 11:37-44).

Saul of Tarsus – who would become the apostle Paul – was a Jew brought up according to the perfect manner of Moses’ law (Acts 22:3). As Paul, he would later declare that during his days as Saul – he thought to do things contrary to Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 26:9). Christianity was considered a sect at his time – of which he would later be accused as being the ringleader of – and a threat to the traditional Jewish way of doing things (Acts 22:3, Acts 24:5, Acts 28:22).

Customs and tradition can easily birth factions and sects within any religion – where everyone may believe they’re doing the right thing in their own eyes (1 Chronicles 13:4) – but wrong in God’s eyes.  When Saul of Tarsus went around – rounding up these new Christians for punishment and imprisonment – he believed he was doing the right thing, being zealous towards God in this manner (Acts 22:3-5).  He wasn’t  – he was persecuting Christ (Acts 22:6-8).

Upsetting long-standing ways of doing things in life – can be very upsetting.  It usually happens when we’re born again of the Holy Spirit – and we start learning the ways of God’s Word, and unlearning our worldly ways.  When St. Stephen – the first Christian martyr – went around speaking God’s wisdom from the Holy Spirit inside him, false witnesses were set up against up him.  He was accused of speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God (Acts 6:8-11).

They claimed Stephen had said Jesus was going to destroy their holy places – and change the customs Moses has delivered unto them (Acts 6:13-15).  Although they are vain (lead verse), Christ didn’t come to change or destroy our customs   Jesus told the disciples to observe whatever the Pharisees bid them to observe. But, not to follow their works.  They would say and not do – unless they had an audience (Matthew 23:1-5, Galatians 6:4).

We observe days, months, times, and years – but God has not suffered us to do so (Deuteronomy 18:14, Galatians 4:10).  Our Father does not operate according to our concept of time (Psalm 90:4, 2 Peter 3:8).  Our observances are not obedience.  They are tied to a calendar.  We celebrate certain customs and traditions at regularly scheduled times throughout the months – repeating them year after year.

We can’t obey God just by specific dates on a calendar created by man, but by our daily repentance and remission of sins – through the regeneration of our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit and our Creator (2 Corinthians 4:16, Titus 3:5.).  So we don’t keep repeating the same sins year after year.  Putting on external shows of religion according to custom and tradition – is not the same as our internal spiritual growth – through a truthful relationship with Christ.

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(NKJV and KJV Scripture)

– And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. – 2 Corinthians 11:14

– But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.  In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them who don’t believe – lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God – should shine unto them. – 2 Corinthians 4:3-4

Someone once said we should be always careful if we think we see a bright light at the end of a tunnel – for it could be the headlight on the front of a locomotive coming the other way. Bright lights can be beautiful and beckoning – but also dangerous and deceiving.  They can appear to be receiving and righteous – and we can walk right into a wreck.  They can summon us to fun – a word found nowhere in KJV Scripture.

In the song “Blinded by the Light” written by Bruce Springsteen, there are these lyrics, “Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun – but Mama, that’s where the fun is.” Having as much fun as we can under the sun – is not why we’re Christians. However, we should not marvel, for Satan is transformed into an angel of light (lead verse) – and his ministers into ministers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:15).

Satan is the deceiver of the whole world – the father of all lies (Revelation 12:9, John 8:44).  These lies can seem very bright and right – like luring lights – but they deceive us because they often look like fun for a while.  It won’t hurt, will it – to enjoy the pleasures of sin for another season (Hebrews 11:25)?  How much more enticing and inviting do the multi-colored and spinning lights of a carnival or county fair look in the evening, than during the day?

Las Vegas can look almost lifeless in the lazy afternoon hours after lunch.  However, when the bright lights on the strip start to shimmer and sparkle just before sundown, people start emerging forth from their hotel rooms – like moths to a flame – only to end up getting burned.  One tempting thing leads to another – and one is in trouble financially or romantically before they know it.  People may think it stays in Vegas, but God has seen it all (Psalm 139:3).

Digging ourselves out of these holes can be much more work than staying grounded and rooted in Christ (Ephesians 3:17). Isn’t reversing a wrong much harder than remaining in a right? We can either choose to suffer the afflictions of God’s people (Hebrews 11:25) – or succumb to an affinity with the world (1 John 2:15).  Do we really expect spiritual growth to occur by doing both (1 Corinthians 10:21, Galatians 5:22-23)?

When we’re born again, God sheds His love abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given to us (Romans 5:5).  It is a baptism of fire – and a flame begins to burn within us (Matthew 3:11).  The middle wall of partition between our hearts and heaven is broken down (Ephesians 2:14).  God has commanded His marvelous light to shine out of the devil’s darkness we once walked in – and for us to walk in this new light as His children (2 Corinthians 4:6, Acts 26:18, 1 Peter 2:9, Ephesians 5:8).

James Thurber wrote there are two kinds of light – the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures.  Jesus reminded us to take heed, lest the light which is in us – be not darkness.  This is evidenced first by our eyes – the light of our soul (Luke 11:33-35).  This is the light of righteousness.  We have to be very careful we’re not walking straight into the wrong lights of Satan – the ones which can obscure obstacles right in front of us (Isaiah 59:9) – tripping us up and causing us to stumble spiritually time and again.

Staring too long at bright lights can cause vision loss. If we keep doing it, we can go totally blind.  Failing to follow the one true light of Christ, and obeying the commandments of God – can make us fall down, frustrate our faith – and make us grope and feel for walls right in front of us like men who have lost their sight (Isaiah 59:10).  Or, we can allow ourselves to be guided by the lights of other men and women of God first – before God; much like Job thought he was for others (Job 29:15). Where does that leave us if they should stray, betray, or fall away?

Christ dwells in such a brilliant light that no man has seen it – nor can even approach it (1 Timothy 6:16).  However, the light of the glorious gospel of God is given to us through the Holy Ghost, to glow steady and strong enough in our hearts – to be a lamp unto our feet, and light our path (Psalm 119:105).  To give us the confidence to be guides of those who are still walking around blindly without the Word – still blinded by the bright lights of this world (Luke 1:79, Romans 2:19).

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(NKJV and KJV Scripture)

– The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it – and are safe. – Proverbs 18:10

Back in the olden days of yore, much of the known world’s inhabited landscape was dotted with castles and walled cities. Towards the back of each – furthest from where enemy forces were most likely to approach and attack first – were large, tall, and strong towers in many locations.  They were the most heavily fortified and protected.

They were places where people could run to – to seek refuge and safety from invading armies.  Soldiers could come to regroup and rearm themselves with more munitions which were stored there.  These towers were called “keeps” – hence our modern phrase of “playing for keeps”.

God and Satan are “playing for keeps” daily.  Satan is trying to devour all of us and take us captive at will (1 Peter 5:8-9, 2 Timothy 2:26).  The Lord is trying to deliver us  – by us doing His will (Luke 11:2).  The wicked one launches his fiery darts (Ephesians 6:16) at our bulwarks of belief – trying to set them ablaze and burn them down to the ground.

When we feel like we’re being attacked on all sides by this world’s warfare and worries – the right thing to always do – is run back to the strong tower of the Lord’s name (lead verse). There we can be safe and regroup.  Then we can go back out into the world as Christian soldiers with a new coat of God’s armor on (Ephesians 6:11-17).

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(NKJV and KJV Scripture )

– There is one who scatters, yet increases more.  And there is one who withholds more than is right – but it leads to poverty. – Proverbs 11:24

This world’s economy is one which generally tells us we have to gain things in life before we’re able to give.  Or, the purpose of gathering goods is so we can hoard them as protection against uncertain future times; such as the end days some believe are fast approaching.  Both ways are to our own hurt – and do not honor God (Ecclesiastes 5:13, James 5:3, Deuteronomy 26:10).

The Word’s economy tells us we are to cheerfully give as purposed in our hearts – not out of necessity or grudgingly – scattering before we can gain (lead verse, 2 Corinthians 9:7). This is not restricted to money.  One of the best gifts we can give someone else is time.  Just talking to them or taking them somewhere, going the extra mile without being asked to (Matthew 5:41).

The profit of this earth is for all (Ecclesiastes 5:9).  We are to be wary in keeping our conversations away from covetousness – and to be content with such things as we have; wherever we are (Hebrews 13:5, Philippians 4:11).  This does include money. We are to be content with our wages and not spend our brief time on earth trying to exact more than what God has already appointed us (Luke 3:13-14, James 4:14).

We shall not want (Psalm 23:1).  Our Father knows our needs before we do (Matthew 6:8).  Every good and perfect gift comes down to us from the Father of lights (James 1:17).  Riches obtained without right – and withholding more than we know is right … is not right.  It can lead to poverty and God can cause us to leave them in the midst of our days (lead verse, Jeremiah 17:11).  For the Lord richly gives us all things to enjoy – of His choosing; not ours (1 Timothy 6:17).

Our “stuff” can be too much – even for a church (Exodus 36:4-7).  We are to take heed and not regard our belongings – for our lives do not consist in the abundance of things we possess (Genesis 45:20, Luke 12:15).  When Christ returns – our stuff will be left behind (Luke 17:30-31).  In the meantime, if we have two coats – we are to give one away (Luke 3:11).  We are not to seek our own wealth – but every man another’s (1 Corinthians 10:24).

Not so anyone is overly eased or burdened – but so there is an equality among all.  We can spend our time in life gathering – and find out we still are lacking; and we can spend our time scattering – and find out we lack nothing (lead verse, Exodus 16:18, 2 Corinthians 8:11-15).  We didn’t bring a thing into these lives – and it is certain we can carry nothing out (1 Timothy 6:7).

A certain rich man had grounds which brought forth plentiful fruit.  He gathered so much from the reaping – he had no room left to store them.  His solution?  Instead of sharing and scattering his bounty – he decided to tear down the barns he had and build bigger ones.  So he could have enough to survive on in future years.  But God told this man he was a fool – for that night his soul would be required of him  – and then who would have his harvest (Luke 12:16-20)?

He had been rich towards himself – gathering up goods for his own good.  However, he was not rich towards God – for he did not scatter it to others who may have been not so fortunate as he was (Luke 16:21). The redemption of our souls is precious – we can’t buy them back with bank accounts or blessings (Psalm 49:6-8) – which scatter when we die. What does it profit any of us if we live gathering goods and gaining the whole world, yet lose our souls in the end (Mark 8:36)?

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