By Understanding Faith…

understanding faith

By understanding faith and what Christ has done for us, we will be able to have more gratitude and live a more transformed life.  Once this happens, the result will be more faith, better relationships, more impact, and of more use to Christ.

 

We, as His disciples, must make every diligent effort to observe ALL that Jesus commanded–and more– to the best of our ability, (Matt. 28:20; John 8:31-32; 2 John 9), as well as stay free from the temptation and lure of materialism (1 Tim. 6: 9-10; 1 John 2:15-17)!  The good news, besides that of His grace, is that Christ gives us His mercy and strength, providing forgiveness and ability to those in Christ (1 John 1:9 Phil. 4:13)! Our call is not just to do good things, but have a good heart!  That means we must be virtuous in our thoughts, motives, and aspirations, with the best intentions toward others, as Christ did with us.

Allow Christ’s most amazing and wondrous gift to be imputed to you, so your most inward being is transformed and renewed!  Without this, we cannot be or do any good!

The point for us all is that it is only God Who satisfies us and quenches our deepest spiritual needs.  There is none other than can or will do–not the pleasures, fulfilling of desires, or even sin.  Jesus is contrasting what is physical, fleeting, and limited to what is spiritual.  Jesus is contrasting what is temporary to what is eternal and abundant–what we think is important to what really is important (Isa. 44:3; 55:1-3; John 2:19-21; 3:3-10; 1 Cor. 2:14).

For us today, we can receive forgiveness of our sins because Jesus represented us as a man and was also fully God to take our sins and receive God’s wrath in our place.  We can see Christ’s attitude and willingness to conform to God’s will even with the looming consequences that was to come.  By His power, grace, and obedience to the Will of the Father, we receive His righteousness by what He has done and can live with the motivation and guidance He has to offer us as Lord.

When we try to live for and by ourselves without Christ or even try to serve Him without relying on Him, we are showing an incredible amount of disrespect!

We need to have the right focus and perspective so we can know what God wants us–me– to do!   We can do this by learning about our Lord, His obedience and be willing to go through times of waiting, discouragement, and even suffering, and see them as opportunities for personal growth, faith building and strengthening.

 

We are to point to Christ and do our best to be a true follower of Christ.  We are to be disciples, learners who can look at what hinders us, reach out to Christ, and grow beyond the barriers that block our spiritual formation and intimacy with Christ.  We have to understand Him and His teachings, be deeply convicted, and be willing to grow through our trust and obedient actions.  If we do not do this as a church, we will stagnate into apathy, disillusionment, depression, dysfunction, or some other kind of abuse to one’s self or others.  We have to be convicted; Jesus shows us how by these examples, and He makes the Way for it!

 

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Jesus is our Living Water!

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Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10

 

John 4:1-45; Romans 8:1-17

The cup that Jesus brings us is living.

 

Jesus IS fresh and flowing over what is stagnant.  This living water refers to God’s “Divine Activity,” that God refreshes us.  This is about the work of the Holy Spirit upon someone.  The water Jesus was offering was not the substance of a drink or to quench a physical thirst; rather, it was the refreshment of eternal life.  The Holy Spirit imparts to us the new transforming, cleansing, and spiritual life.  This new life impacts us totally, constantly, and continually to usher us into eternity.  However, it is still up to us to accept that impact and let it come in contact with our application of life to God, ourselves, our environment, and others (Isa. 12:3; Jer. 2:13; Ezek. 47:1-9; Zech. 14:8; John 7:37-39; 8:24; 11:50-51; 19:19).

Water means life, both in the ancient world and now.  Water is everything in life, from the growing and prospering of crops to the cleansing of selves.  Without water, everything dies.

Revelation calls, River of the Water of Life what is needed for life, even life itself, comes from God.  Living Water is a continual theme used in Scripture, and it  also refers to the river that flowed under Jerusalem and to the theme of Paradise and “God with us.”  The Greeks saw water and river together to mean “virtue”.  John uses this imagery to represent the Spirit and renewal in his Gospel. This also means Jesus is the answer to our thirst in life and for salvation!  God is our abundant supply of all we need now and forevermore (Gen. 2:10-14; Psalm 46:4; Prov. 13:14; Jer. 14:3; Ezek. 47:1-12; Joel 3:18; Zech. 14:8; John 4:10-14; 7:37-39; 2 Pet. 2: 17-19; Rev. 22:1-6).

Real, effectual, true worship comes from hearts that truly love God, are grateful for His work, and are dedicated to His Truth.

This is a worship of Jesus, Who is Truth, of Christ as LORD.  He is the only Way to God that we are to recognize with our spirit and soul.  This is not based on location or liturgy or externals and formalities; rather, it is recognizing Christ our Savior and Lord with proper attitudes and motives.  This also means a sacrifice of our hearts over animals and an offering of our praise over burnt offerings.  Jesus is emphasizing a manner of heart and obedience from our gratitude over and above ceremonial requirements and orders.  This manner recognizes and honors God’s holiness with our grateful hearts for giving us, unearned and unmerited salvation and by placing the Living Holy Spirit in us.  This is in contrast to worship services that are merely rhetorical, obligatory, and historical–meaningless ritual and liturgy that just spins one’s pride and/or hides one’s heart (1 Sam. 10:5; 1 Chron. 25:1-6; John 1:18; 3:3:21; 14:6, 16-18;; Acts 4:12; Acts 2:33; Rom. 1:25; 9:4-5; Phil. 3:1-14).

This impact from the Spirit nourishes, invigorates, and empowers us to deal with life here and now.  His qualities and character become real in us and are modeled as real to others around us.  This empowerment gives us salvation and builds our maturity, so we can have joy and contentment, purpose and meaning.  It allows us to know we are deeply loved and makes us able to replicate that love to others.  In that way, we can worship Him in power and adoration on a deeper level than we could do without that growth and maturity.

This woman represents most of humanity as she had a thirst and a longing for something real in a life; the yearning left a hole in her that was filled with sin and other things.

She had a desire, perhaps throughout her life, to obtain the Living Water.  Before she found the Living Water, though, she found everything meaningless and chose the lust of sin and rebellion as a coping mechanism.  Christ fulfilled her desire, and this transitioned her from sin to Him and translated her lust to the willingness to grow, willingness to strive, and to be challenged in the faith.  She was able to do so–crossing her fears and hurts in order to know Him, and to grow in Him. The barriers of fear and past hurts is one most Christians may never cross, but they are possible to overcome with His Hand guiding us.

For us, this is a lesson of faith, given to shake us from our false thinking or complacency or bad situations to see what is in front of us. To Know. To ask.  Jesus gives.

 

 

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What will we do now?

“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”  John 4:48

faith-is-confidence

We have to see that the Gospel is about relationships and the impacting, redeeming power of our Lord.  It is not about traditions, culture, or a show.  Christianity is cross-cultural and deeply impacting; it is more concerned with people than with customs.  It is not about easy belief; rather, it is about the impact of our Lord going deeply within us, so He is displayed and deployed outside of us.  Here is Jesus calling for us to cross our social and personal barriers to pursue people with a faith that is real, deep, and strong. Jesus transcended culture to minister to a person who would not have been associated with or helped.  In so doing, He cut across strict cultural barriers of race and gender, pointing us to the unity and impact of the Gospel.

Without the extraordinary we have no ordinary.  Real, true healing is all about that Jesus nailed our debt of sin to the Cross!

He paid a debt that we could never afford to do by any means conceivable–not by works, or ideas, or experiences, or education, or service, or being good.  If these things could add even an insignificant amount to our debt of grace, then Christ’s work on the cross would have been unnecessary and meaningless because we could have done it on our own!  Our saving faith is by Christ alone!  There is nothing to add, and nothing to declare except to receive His most precious free gift of grace by our faith alone!  The question inlaid in this wonders theme is  How then shall we live (Heb. 2:1-4)?

It all comes to the decision of whether we will make our faith real and impacting, relinquishing our pride to allow us to learn, grow, and teach others, or will we plant our rears in the pew, thus making our only impact our butt print in that pew!  Let us make sure our impact comes from a life transformed and carried on to the people around us!

The goal of the Christian life is our wondrous fear and zeal of a friendship with Christ!

We start with Him, and we end well with Him.  We are to receive His election, to know and pursue Him.  He is the One we are to follow, not the ways of distraction and destruction.  This is the wonder of simplicity that is to fulfill and sustain us.  Our Zeal is to know Him and make Him known to others with clarity and honesty empowered by His Spirit, for His glory!

One of the big issues and problems is that most Christians just do not understand that Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, IS the Head of the Church–the whole Church, every church.

This is includes your church.  Yet, our churches are run as if we were in total control and we reign supreme.  This is especially true when we become too busy chasing signs, fads, trends, numbers, and sides.

The Church must model and teach that we can learn and trust and rely on our Lord. Material things will not satisfy us.  Things of this world may satisfy us for a little while; but, the things of this world will never fill us, and we will always be longing for more–never satisfied.  True spiritual nourishment is not from a show; rather, it comes from God’s Word and our spiritual growth through worship, service, and prayer.

When we abuse the Bible, or draw attention to ourselves for showman sakes with pretentious pseudo miracles we are behaving like Satan!  When we use it well, we are modeling Christ (2 Pet. 3:16).  Satan seeks to get us to lose what God has given or has to offer.  He does not want us to believe in miracles; if we do believe, Satan tries to get us to abuse them.  In so doing, we are of no use to God, because we have bought the lie of the show and ignore Him as LORD.  Our outlook has gone from truth to fiction, to causing harm!  The way to spiritual maturity and the glory of our reward is not in finding shortcuts or shows.  The way to spiritual maturity is through learning, experience, and overcoming adversities and always seeking the Lord.  It is a long and difficult process (Acts 14:22; Rom. 2:7).

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Are you Spirit Filled?

sprit fill

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Gal. 5:25

Has someone ever asked you if you are “led by the Spirit?” or if you are “Spirit driven” or “Spirit-filled” or have the Holy Spirit’s Baptism?

There are many Christian groups that have placed their focus on the Holy Spirit as front and center for the Church as well as their personal and ministry life. Verses some groups have ignored the work of the Spirit. As a result, a various amount of aberrant teachings have surfaced that have become very popular. Some of these got the cobwebs dusted off from ignoring the Holy Spirit and have been good for the Church. Some of these new ‘teachings’ have been bad, because they are just not biblical.

To show the difference, some say that all we need is the Holy Spirit’s empowerment; which is good and biblical to a point. While some say, go to seminary then come and teach, which is also true, to a point. The bad teachings are saying that because of the Holy Spirit, we do not need to go to any school for formal training, we do not even need to be discipled or rely on or even read the Bible to become a mature Christian. I can just have a call, and go do it and all I need will come to me. Some even say when one goes to a Bible School or have any training to do ministry or be a pastor, we are quenching the Spirit! So, is it getting training and do ministry, or just do it and what we need and what to say will come?

Before I unwrap this more, allow me to lay some thoughts on you. Let’s say you never played the piano, can you lead worship with it? That is, get up to sit down at the keyboard or Steinway and usher in the music? What about, if I never worked on a car, never took classes on auto mechanics and your new Mercedes broke down, would you let me under the hood with a hammer and a monkey wrench? Wait, I have good intentions and feel called to work on your car? Wait, I will jump up and down and scream that I can work on your car? Will you let me? Well, maybe if you trust me, which would ne be a good idea. But, would you go have surgery from a ‘doctor’ who never went to medical school or had a residency? Why not?

Many so called church leaders are teaching. I can do it, I can lead and live my Christian life and I do not need to work at it, because the Holy Spirit is at work in me.

However, a big on the other hand “but:” yes, the Holy Spirit is indeed at work in us and He is indeed front and center on all aspects of personal and church life, because He is God. He is the Third person of the Trinity who empowers and gifts us to do the mission that the Father tells us to do. He does equip and He does lead. We are to seek His empowerment to fall afresh on me, to mold us, fill us and use me… The “however” is that when we examine the passages having to do with this, like Galatians chapter 5, we discover that ‘work’ is required on our part. To know Him, study Him, exercise our faith in Him. All of this is study and work, practice and experience.

Yes, we must put in the work too. First, we do have to receive Christ, even before we become a Christian; secondly, to grow in this empowerment, we have to learn about Him through His Word and discipleship so we will have the tools with which to live by the Spirit. Thus, we are empowered, supernaturally and effectually, and we do have what we need from day one of the Christian life. But, we still have to add our efforts and training to the mix so we can be used even more. The more we have taken in, the more He can utilize to equip and use us.

So, do you want someone who does not know the Word or has been properly discipled lead you and your church deeper in the precepts of Christianity and be a Kingdome impact?

When we live or walk by the Holy Spirit, we will stand our ground in the principles of our Lord as revealed in His Word. We will exercise patient endurance and faithfulness, because God uses His Word to transform us; it is what we do, and what He does. He sends us His Spirit, we respond. This is the call to remain true and keep our trust in Christ no matter what comes our way in sufferings or the temptations of Satan. This will help us focus on His Way as well as when we are tempted, even in persecution and stress.

(Matt. 26:51-54; 2 Cor. 10:4; 1 Pet. 2:19-24; Rev. 1:9; 2:2-3, 13, 19; 3:10; 6:11; 13:10; 14:12; 16:15; 18:4; 20:4; 22:7, 11, 14)

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Are you working out your Salvation?

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Philippians 2:12

What is “work out your salvation? 

work in faithSome may think this means we somehow earn our place in Christ or we use works to gain our salvation. Others think because of this passage we can lose our salvation. But that is not what is going on in the passage. This is about cultivating our faith, so we bring it to full effect. It also means to actively pursue our spiritual maturity.

Remember the context. This is all about to be more Like Christ, so we are cultivating our faith that he first gave to us. We are to be actively pursuing our spiritual maturity with a reverent awe for Christ and the responsibility of being His child. What this will do is give an energetic meaning to our lives, a purpose for our salvation (Psalm 2:11; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:3; 2 Corinthians 7:15; Philippians 3:13-14).

Are you apprehensive at the prospect of display of your faith, like going out to witness? It is not about arguing or having answers; rather, it is being God’s display case. Because we are his product demonstrators showing off what you can have from the results of your salvation. So, you do not need to fear working out your salvation, we are just to obey God with deep reverence and gratitude.

We are all called to work out our faith, yet so few do because so few Christians actually respond to God’s call. Perhaps it is anxiety that holds us back; perhaps it is because we have seen so few results. The key is to see our call as to obedience and faith. This is about having a firm, trust relationship with Christ, who bridges, our gap of sin so we can have an intimate relationship with God, then show it off by the Fruit of the Spirit before we ever tell others about it!

Obedience precedes exhortation! We are to work out our faith and our lives in Him so we can be the net builders and fishermen He has called us to be (Matt. 4:19).

He is our awe and relevance; He is our motivation and reason. As God is working in us, other people will see His work in us, and, along with the work of the Spirit, we will be used to help compel them. What Christ has planted in us with faith; now it is time to learn how to put our faith to work.

The questions we need to ask ourselves are, what is our motivation? 

Are we fruitful people because we feel guilty? Are we fruitful because our church is doing a big program and we do not want to be left out? Or, are we exhibiting the Fruit of the Spirit, because are in synced in with Christ so it just oozes out? Because we love the Lord Jesus Christ and also people, and we want people to know about Him as we do?

Our motivations will unveil our sincerity.

And, if we do not have the right motivations, we will not be growing effectively. We will be insincere and thus ineffective because no one likes an artificial or insincere Christian. We will just be wasting our time and annoying other people; our faith and motivations must rest on what Christ has done for us. That is why this is so imperative for us to be learning about our Lord through His Word before we can venture on to how to live it out, because we must have the why, we must have something to say, and we must be honest and sincere.

We are to do our best to grow, witness, pray, evangelize, do missions, and put forth every effort we can to expedite His Word. And, as Christians saved by His Grace, we have to remember that we still need to repent, even though He paid it all, because we love Him and want to obey His decree.

The true Believer is the one who bases all his or her life-ALL OF IT-upon Christ as LORD, with full trust, assurance of faith, and obedience.

There is a big difference between “self-imposed” righteousness and obedience to righteousness. Then we are being His display, even if you never use words, you can be, really, truly witnessing with the words of our heart. God calls this beautiful; that is, to have “beautiful feet” to bring the Good News (Isaiah 52:7).

These are the marching orders from Matthew 28:19-20 to be identified in Hi, live it out and spread it out, like disciple, yet so few Christians ever do it; so few churches do it. What an extreme insult, we must be to Christ to ignore His call!

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Got Worldliness?

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So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2: 6

Key words for the Christian life: received, continue, live your lives, rooted and thankfulness! What is not a key word for Christian living and leadership? Worldliness!

Let’s look at what is going on in American society at this time. We have a former gold medal Olympian, 1976 decathlon, male, who thinks is a woman, and society cheers for him or is it her. Then, we have a major African American NAACP leader who as it turns out, is Caucasian, society jeers for her (really, no one noticed? A commentary that liberalism is not only stupid, it is blind). And the irony is missed as both want what they are not, and to be what they want to be, regardless of what they truly are. One is hailed the other is hated. Why can’t a white person be black if a man can be a woman, what is the difference? We have a society that is, what is, well, sin, steeped in sin. And church leaders who want us to take in that sin and own it as ours are missing the mark of the Gospel.

The Church must not take in the culture as its gospel; instead, the Church is to trust completely in the Gospel–the Word of God–and be examples of the Gospel.  We are to be countercultural!  Remember, anything that is of God will cause controversy; those who do not know the Truth will hate the Truth.

Paul wrote to correct and to instruct people to stay away from what is false and rather embrace God’s effectual empowerment and true Truth.  Thus, the overarching call of God is to have a correct view of Christ, so our lives are aligned with His precepts and character.  This way, we can be on guard, and live in a proper, pleasing way to glorify our Lord, so that people will see Christ exhibited in us. If we are worldly, what is the point of Christianity (2 Pet. 2: 12-16; Rev. 2: 1-7)?

Received Christ Jesus as Lord, means receiving God’s saving. Because the Gospel is our good news, which means ‘victory’ as in “God delivers,” and that salvation is from, and only from God, Christ as Lord.  We receive the benefit of the person and Work of Christ, how He delivered us out of sin and into our new life.  That by His life and sacrifice that we have the Kingdom and abundance of life here and forevermore. So, that is what we continue in (Rom. 10:9-10; 11:6; Eph. 2:8-9; Col. 2:6-8; Titus 3:5-7; Heb. 2:3; 4:6).

Continue in them refers to forming a good habit and being constant. In context, this is about taking God’s saving grace and trusting and obeying His precepts, not man’s sin, agendas and traditions!

Walk or Live in Him. Means going about the business of God or walking in righteousness, to “halakah” (Lev. 26:3; Ezek. 36:27) as to regulate your life to behave according to what you believe. It is to know Christ, live for Him, and pursue Christ further beyond our salvation. To abide in His strength and not ours. We are to be obedient and constant with our learning and growth in Christ, so it is the tradition of God empowers us, learning His precepts or living and relating to God, self, and others, not the traditions of men, who deceive us (Mark. 12:38; Rom. 6:4; 8:1; 13:13; 1 Cor. 7:1; 2 Cor. 5:7; 10:3; 12:18; Gal. 5:16-25; 6:16; Eph. 2:10; 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8-15; Phil. 3:10-18; Col. 3:17; 1 Thess. 2:12; 4:1, 12; 2 Thess. 3:11; 1 John 1:6-7; 2:6; 2 John 6; 3 John 3-4).

RootedThis is an agricultural image meaning God is the planter and Farmer; we are to take root in Him, meaning we are to obey Him. We have to grow by learning and applying and sharing God’s principles and love. This was also a Jewish metaphor for receiving God’s blessing for being obedient. If they followed God, He would allow the people to take root in the promised land (Ruth 4:11; Psalm 28:5; 51:18; 69:35; 147:2; Jer. 1:10; 18:7; 24:6; 31:4; 45:4; 1 Cor. 3:5-17; Eph. 3:17).

Let’s look at another key word, Worldliness is the attempt to make sin normal and righteousness strange.

Worldliness is an excuse to rationalize sin and evil and condemn goodness, and Who and what Christ is and came to do. That your heredity of sin has changed to His heredity? That Jesus has formed and renewed you (Gal. 1:15-16; 4:19; Titus 2:12)? If not, why?

The Church is called to be counter-cultural; we are NOT TO succumb to the ways and worldliness of the world.

Instead, the whole Church–the entire body of Christ–is to be the example of Truth and live out the faith.  That means the leaders too! It is imperative we heed the instructions of God’s Word, live worthy, grow in our faith, never compromise the Word and pass it on to others!  How much are we influenced by our culture and new or old philosophical ideas and trends?  Do they influence our churches?  If so, what are we to do?  God’s Word is not outdated, it is for us now and needed more than ever! The Bible does apply to us today just as it did to the original audience and the situation (Col. 2:18)!

If a Christian leader states it is OK to accept the ways of the world, two things are happening. One, they are not Christian in theme, as they are not following Christ as Lord. Two, they are not a leader, as a real Christian leader points people to Christ, not to themselves and not to the world!

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What do we do when Leaders Fail?

failedWhat can we learn from churches that have failures or are disconnected from their purpose?

These articles will explore what God calls, how we are and what we can do with practical and biblical insights to prevent breakdowns and major problems from happening. We will look how to recover if breakdowns do occur.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” James 1:16-18

After over 25 years of research, this is what we found:  Leaders fail when we forget who we are called to be.  We overlook Who Christ Is; as a result, we neglect what He really has called us to.

Ministry and life are candy stores of temptations. To be a successful pastor or church leader, one who seeks to glorify the Lord, we must have our priorities in order:  the Lord, our families, and the call.  If we get that wrong or out of order, we will derail, fail, and fall.  All kinds of bad things will come knocking on the door of our hearts, minds, and lives.  It all starts off with pride.  Pride reorders our priorities, first shifting the focus away from the Lord, forgetting our families, and ignoring our calling.  How does this happen?   Pride is fostered by having no accountability to another while we sacrifice Truth, follow bad trends, and begin comparing our church/ministry to others.  Blinded by pride, we begin to abuse power and lose complete sight of Christ as LORD.

Catch this series here:

What to do when Leaders Fail? Part I

What can we learn from churches that have failures or are disconnected from their purpose? 

This article will explore what God calls, how we are and what we can do with practical and biblical insights to prevent breakdowns and major problems from happening.

What to do when Leaders leave or fail? P II

How to recover your church after a pastor leaves, even in a fall 

The statistics for pastors who fall is about 20%. Nearly 50% of pastors starting out will not last beyond five years in ministry for reasons of burnout and frustration. Just 1 out of every 10 pastors will actually retire as a minister in some form.

What to do when Leaders Leave or Fail? Part III

How to rebuild after a pastor leaves, even in a fall from grace. 

To rebuild any church, whether it is from the retirement of a great pastor, the fall of another, a history of spiritual neglect from its leaders, or the slow backslide of apathy or liberalism, we have to be willing to reset. If there is no reset, the congregation will die off.

Leading the Church in the Midst of Chaos

Motives and desires all at a convergence and many without an eye to the Word or an ear to the Spirit!

More here:

http://www.churchleadership.org/apps/pages/web/pageid/66929/default.asp

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