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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart - A Post-Thanksgiving Day Sermon

This is the manuscript of my Post Thanksgiving Day Sermon at The Church of Divine Guidance, Los Angeles, CA. The audio recording of the sermon can be heard by clicking on the image at the end of the manuscript.

Once again just this past Thursday we celebrated as a nation what we call Thanksgiving Day.  You hear all the time, and it’s certainly true, that you don’t need a turkey, dressing, greens, pumpkin and sweet potato pies to celebrate Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving for people of faith represents more than an annual holiday, it serves as a reminder that giving thanks is part of who we are as believers because we demonstrate faith when we are grateful. All you need is a reason, and God has given us plenty of reasons to be grateful.

Start with what you see—the clothes you’re wearing, the food in the fridge, the beauty of a fall day (and we have a lot of those in Los Angeles). Then think about the people you love and how they’ve touched your life. Next, think about the things God has given you that can’t be held in your hands—things like hope, forgiveness, freedom, salvation, and your future home in heaven. Stopping to say thanks will remind you of how big God is and how good your life is, no matter what’s going on.   

You can’t separate gratitude and faith. Giving thanks=gratitude… Giving God thanks (or gratitude)  is an expression of your faith in His Sovereignty.

It is impossible to understand and receive all that Christ did for us on the cross and not be grateful. For those of us who have been given so much, it is important that we continually express our genuine appreciation to our Heavenly Father both in words and by the way we live our lives.  For the Christian, every day should be a day of thanksgiving…

Some of you may remember a song from the 1990s ( a hundred years ago).

Everyday is a day of Thanksgiving (written by Leonard Burks)
Recorded by Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA)

Everyday is a day of thanksgiving.
God's been so good to me,
everyday He's blessing me.
Everyday is a day of thanksgiving;
take the time to glorify the Lord today.

Verse 1:
I thank God for the moments
when I worship His name,
I thank Him for the sacrifice of praise.
It's no mystery to say,
how my God is everyday;
making my way through clouds so dark,
bringing His light into my heart.


Verse 2:
Yes, there's pressures all around me
when fighting Satan's descending powers,
that never cease from trying to bring me down.
But I just lift my hands to glory,
believing in God's redemption story;
thanking Him for His saving grace,
as God gives me power just to win this race.


He keeps blessing me,
blessing me;
He opens the door
that I might see,
He's blessing me.

He keeps blessing me,
blessing me;
take the time to glorify the Lord today.


Thankfulness is a mental and/or verbal expression of one's acknowledgement and appreciation of God's person, His grace, blessings, and sovereign work in one's life and the world.

Who Should We Give Thanks For?

Colossians 1:12-14 (NKJV)12  giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.13  He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,14  in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
  • We should give thanks for God Himself and for His sovereign control over the universe. The world is a mess but think of how much more of a mess it would be if everything was just a matter of chance and there was no purpose in anything.  
Ephesians 1:3 (NKJV)  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
  • We should give thanks to God the Father for Christ through which we gained our salvation and the freedom, favor, and blessings that come with it.
Colossians 2:9-10 (NKJV)9  For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;10  and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
We are complete in Christ and we should give thanks for that.
When Should We Give Thanks?

  • We should give thanks whenever we pray.  The reason we should give thanks when we pray is because when we are thankful we take our eyes of ourselves and our problems so we can focus on God.  
Look at these examples from the apostle Paul:
Ephesians 1:15-17 (NKJV)15  Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,16  do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:17  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,
Philippians 1:3-6 (NKJV)3  I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,4  always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy,5  for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now,6  being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
Colossians 1:3-5 (NKJV)3  We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,4  since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints;5  because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel,
1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 (NKJV)2  We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers,3  remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,
When we pray with thanksgiving it helps us to see life through the perspective of God, His principles, His promises, His plan, His provisions, and His purposes. This focus on God promotes faith and courage in the face of the trying and painful situations that we all eventually face.  
  • Second, we should always give thanks in everything and for everything
Ephesians 5:20 (NKJV)20  giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)18  in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
You were waiting on that one weren’t you?
This means that there is no limit on the time or the  extent of our thanksgiving.  God’s will for us includes constant joy, ceaseless prayer, and boundless thanks.
Why should we give thanks for and in everything?
First of all it’s God’s will for us.
Being thankful at all times helps us to focus on the fact that God is in control and working all things together for good regardless of how they may seem to us.  Our perspective is limited by time and space and God’s perspective has no limits.  Because we are thankful and know that God is in control of everything and that He has no limitations we can say as we do every week;
Romans 8:28 (NKJV)28  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Here’s another reason to give thanks in and for everything.  
We learn patience.  God said that He would never leave or forsake us so we can be patient and thank God no matter what's going on.  In fact He says it in 3 places.
Deuteronomy 31:6-8(NKJV)6 Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”7 Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it. 8 And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
Hebrews 13:5 (NKJV)5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”[a]
Because He never leaves or forsake us;
James 1:2-4 (NKJV)2  My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,3  knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.4  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
If you don’t understand that, or what’s happening ask God for the wisdom to understand.
James 1:5-8 (NKJV)5  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.6  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.7  For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;8  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
While all things may not be good, all the time, God uses them for good.  That good is making us like His Son.
Back to Romans 8:28, let’s read a little more.

Romans 8:28-29 (NKJV)28  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Since a spirit of thanksgiving keeps our eyes on the Lord, it also keeps us alert and makes us eager to go to God in prayer to lay our burdens and those of others at His feet.  
Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)16  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.


1. Because it honors God. When we are thankful, we recognize that God exists and that we are dependent on him.  We are acknowledging His sovereign control, His infinite wisdom, His purposes for our lives, and His grace.
2 Corinthians 4:15 (NKJV)15  For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.  
2. We should be thankful Because it is commanded in Scripture.
Psalm 100:4 (NKJV)4  Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
Colossians 3:12-15 (NKJV)12  Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;13  bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.14  But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.15  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
Back to 1 Thessalonians 5 but I want to start with verse 16 this time.  
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV)16  Rejoice always,17  pray without ceasing,18  in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I’ve mentioned this scripture a couple of times and we’ll talk about it a little later.
3.We should be thankful Because there are dangerous consequences for not being thankful.
Being thankless dishonors God and leads to pride or dependence on man rather than God
Romans 1:18-21 (NKJV)18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,19  because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.20  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,21  because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Depending on ourselves or other people can lead to bitterness, complaining, and grumbling, and those things can turn into depression and feelings of hopelessness, because we focus on ourselves, other people, and our problems rather than on the Lord.
Now let’s talk about that scripture that I said we would discuss later;
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)18  in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
How can we do that?  

How is it possible to obey and “give thanks in all circumstances,” especially if our circumstances are horrible,  when life seems to be one discouragement, disappointment, disease, disaster, and death after another?

Let me give you an example of somebody who showed thankfulness in a situation that most people would not consider at the time to be thankful at all. I ran across this in preparing for this message:

One night the Biblical scholar Matthew Henry was robbed. When he got home he was still trembling with fear. Yet, he regained his calm as he prayed This is the prayer he offered and wrote in his journal: "Father, I thank You first because I was never robbed before; second, I thank You because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, I thank You because although they took everything I had, it was not very much; and fourth, I thank You because it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed"  


Before I give you some suggestions as to how you can give thanks in all circumstances I want to talk about what being thankful in tough times does for you:

  • Being Thankful in Tough Times Cultivates Your Character

  1. In the verse that we just read it says that thanksgiving is the will of God for us. There was a Roman poet, Cicero, who wrote ;  "Thanksgiving is not only the greatest of all virtues, it is the parent of all virtues."
  2. Parents recognize the virtue of thanksgiving when raising children. If the children don't learn to be thankful, they grow up to be selfish, narcissistic (having an excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one's physical appearance), manipulative, complaining, and thinking that the world owes them a living.
  3. Being thankful causes you to focus on what you have…. not on what you don’t have.  Remember the hymn “Count Your Blessings”  it says, “When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed / When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost / Count your many blessings, name them one by one / And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
The blessings of God are often subtle and simple things that can be easily overlooked unless we take the time to look for and acknowledge His gifts.
Psalm 103:2 (NKJV)2  Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:
  • Being Thankful in tough times Increases Your Joy

Go back to 1 Thessalonians 5 but this time start at the 16th verse again;
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV)16  Rejoice always,17  pray without ceasing,18  in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
In verse 16 it says rejoice always.
The words thanksgiving and joy come from the same Greek root, charis, meaning "grace."  Thanksgiving is eucharis, and joy is chara. Thanksgiving and rejoicing go hand in hand.
We talked already talked about what we get  when we don’t give thanks in tough times.  We get the opposite of thanksgiving, we get  bitterness, complaining, and grumbling  not joy.
You may have heard the saying "When you can't change the wind, adjust your sails."  Well if times are tough and you can’t change the times then change your attitude to one of gratitude.  
Here’s something else that I read while preparing this sermon it’s by Maltbie B. Babcock from a book “Inspiring Quotations”
"Be on the lookout for mercies. The more we look for them, the more of them we will see. Blessings brighten when we count them. Out of the determination of the heart, the eyes see. If you want to be gloomy, there's gloom enough to keep you glum; if you want to be happy, there's gleam enough to keep you glad. Better to lose count while naming your blessings than to lose your blessings by counting your troubles"

“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.”

Go to Lamentations

This expression of thanksgiving was written by Jeremiah.  Jeremiah was a prophet used by God  at a very crucial time in the history of Israel and Judea.   God told this man, Jeremiah to tell Israel that they were going to be overrun by Babylon,  and that Jerusalem and the temple were going to be destroyed and they would be taken into exile for 70 years.  God sent him to do this at the same time that others, who said they were prophets too, said everything is going to be fine.  Well you can imagine who they would rather believe.  In fact they wanted to kill Jeremiah, he was imprisoned even thrown in a well.  Was he supposed to be thankful?  Yep.

Jeremiah is often called the weeping prophet because he expressed sorrow for the things that God had shown him about what would happen to his people.  He wrote Lamentations after all the stuff that he said would happen to the nation, to the capital Jerusalem and the temple actually happened.  The nation was in ruins, Jerusalem destroyed, it’s wall torn down and the temple, burned to the ground.  
Yet he was able to be thankful.  Here is what he wrote:
Lamentations 3:22-24(NKJV)22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,Because His compassions fail not.23 They are new every morning;Great is Your faithfulness.24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“Therefore I hope in Him!”

  • Being Thankful in Tough Times helps you Conquer Your Problems.  I didn’t say eliminate I said conquer.
I don't mean that all your problems go away when you give thanks, but  they stop being such a problem. What goes on around you no longer controls what’s going on within you.  You start to live from the inside out.
Here’s another saying that I found;
"Bitterness comes to all. Sours some; sweetens others. I shall use it to sweeten my spirit."
You can't control the problems that come into your life but you can control how you respond.  
Thanksgiving changes our mindset from that of a victim to that of a victor.  
Romans 8:31-39 (NKJV)31  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?32  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?33  Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.34  Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?36  As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."37  Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.38  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,39  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  
Nothing can help the person with the wrong mental attitude, and nothing can stop a person with the right mental attitude.   The right mental attitude for us the believer is thanksgiving.  It will cause you to overcome your obstacles and win your battles.   Like it says in verse 37 yet in all these things we are more than conquerors.  
Now back to the Big Question How Is It Possible to Be in an attitude of gratitude in tough times?  
Here’s another example of somebody being thankful in really tough times;
In 1636, amid the darkness of the Thirty Years’ War, German pastor Martin Rinkart is said to have buried 5,000 of his parishioners in one year, an average of 15 people a day. His parish was ravaged by war, death, and economic disaster. In the heart of that darkness, with the cries of fear outside his window, he sat down and wrote this Thanksgiving table grace prayer for his children:    Now thank we all our God With heart and hands and voices Who wondrous things hath done, In whom His world rejoices.    Who, from our mother’s arms, Hath led us on our way With countless gifts of love That still are ours today.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)18  in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Yes I keep going back to it because it says that it’s God will that we be thankful in all things.
This year I battled feelings of confusion, anger, disillusionment, and a sadness that can suck the life out of you.  There were certainly times that I didn’t feel very grateful. I told the folk in my Sunday morning Bible Study group and the Tuesday night bible study, there were times that I doubted that God was willing to work on my behalf or Ruth’s behalf.  My guess is that most if not all of you have been there.  However we are told to be thankful even at those times.

Just think about;

  • the person recently divorced
  • the person who had a miscarriage of a baby they wanted badly
  • the person who's body is devastated by the treatments they are receiving
  • the person who feels they are barely "existing" in the Nursing home
  • the person who is overwhelmed by financial demands
  • the person who has to helplessly see their child suffer
  • the person who lives with a cloud of depression over them
  • the person who recently stood at the fresh dug grave of someone they love
  • the person who feels suffocated by their loneliness

In each of these cases, the idea of "giving thanks" is very difficult. In fact, it's not just difficult. It seems impossible.

Yet, we are to give thanks in ALL circumstances.

How is that possible?    

I have a few simple ideas that I believe can help you ?

But before I give you the ideas I need to tell you that of all this is impossible to do in your own power.  It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit which indwells you that you are able to give thanks in all circumstances.

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NLT)14  When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,15  the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.20  Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.21  Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.  

Now Here are my simple ideas;

  1. Sometime when you are alone slowly look around you and notice the things you have to be thankful for.  If you are at home or have your smart phone, look at the pictures and thank Him for the memories that the pictures represent. Look at your possessions and thank Him for the ways He has provided for you. Look at the things others have given as gifts, and thank Him for the blessing of friendship. Look at the things that remind us of our friends and family who have have already gone on to their eternal reward . . . and thank God for things these people poured into your life.  Look at your television, computer, stereo, your refrigerator and the food in it,  and thank God. Thank Him that you are living in a time where you can talk to you friends or family anytime you want and even see them while talking to them, if uou want to.  You can text them and tell them how much you care for them in the middle of the night, without waking them.  Notice the wall where you marked the height of your children and give thanks for them. Look at the things left lying around the house and give thanks that signs of life surround you.

  1. In some quiet night sit in the dark and list as many things as you can in God's character that you can be thankful for. He is love, Hebis merciful, He is faithful, you can think of many more.  Remember where you were when He changed your life. Remember the times of crisis you thought you could not survive but did, by His strength. Recall some of the life changing lessons you have learned or some of the Bible passages that have become your foundation for living.  Think about the place that He is preparing for you and thank Him in advance for the riches He gives.

  1. Make it a point to say thanks to the people you love. Be specific. Maybe you need to phone call somebody. Maybe you need to visit a  gravesite . . . but do make it a point to be grateful. It will mean a lot to you but it will probably mean even more to those you thank.

  1. Take the time to talk about the Lord. Remind yourself and those around you that He is good, his love endures forever, and His faithfulness will never cease. Remind yourself of when days were better. Tell stories of the past and then look forward to the future day when there will be no more tears, the pain will be gone, and the smile of Jesus will bring a joy unspeakable.

1 Peter 1:6-9 (NKJV)6  In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,7  that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,8  whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,9  receiving the end of your faith--the salvation of your souls.

A friend sent me this a couple of weeks ago.  Imagine the God of the universe speaking these words to you… ;

Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity. That is why I have instructed you to give thanks for everything. There is an element of mystery in this transaction: You give Me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances). This is a spiritual act of obedience—at times, blind obedience. To people who don’t know Me intimately, it can seem irrational and even impossible to thank Me for heartrending hardships. Nonetheless, those who obey Me in this way are invariably blessed, even though difficulties may remain.
Thankfulness opens your heart to My Presence and your mind to My thoughts. You may still be in the same place, with the same set of circumstances, but it is as if a light has been switched on, enabling you to see from My perspective. It is this Light of My Presence that removes the sting from adversity.

Ephesians 5:20 (NKJV)20  giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Psalm 118:1 (NKJV)1  Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.

Psalm 89:15 (NKJV)15  Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O LORD, in the light of Your countenance.

Let me end with the thing that we should thank God most for …….. salvation.  

Psalm 118 is a song of thanksgiving to God for His salvation, verse 14 says

Psalm 118:14 (NKJV)14  The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.

That salvation is by the grace of God and our faith in which we acknowledge the sacrifice of Jesus to atone or pay the penalty for our sins.  

Acts 4:11-12 (NLT)11  For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’12  There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

The Bible tells us that we are separated from God because we have sinned.
Isaiah 59:1-2 (NLT)1  Listen! The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call.2  It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.
Romans 6:23 (NLT)23  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 3:23 (NLT)23  For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
But God loves us—He loves you, He loves me—and He wants us to be part of His family forever. He loves us so much that He sent His only Son into the world to die as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. All we need to do is reach out in faith and accept Christ as our Savior and Lord:
Romans 3:24-26 (NLT)24  Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.25  For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past,26  for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.
Have you opened your heart to Jesus Christ? If not, turn to Him with a simple prayer of repentance and faith, and thank Him for what He has done for you. If you have never done this I’ll help and lead you in that prayer of repentance and faith.  If you want to do that today come up now and I’ll help you.  If you’re shy and don’t want to come up here that’s OK come talk to me after service and we can do it where there’s nobody but you and me and Jesus.  
If you do know Christ, how long has it been since you thanked God for your salvation? We should not let a day go by without thanking God for His mercy and His grace to us in Jesus Christ.  

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