by Al Maxey

Issue #338 ------- February 26, 2008
God grants liberty only to those who love it,
and are always ready to guard and defend it.

Daniel Webster {1782-1852}

Legalism's Liberated Lady
A Powerful Personal Testimony

In a letter sent to James Madison (1751-1836), which was dated March 2, 1788, the father of our great nation, George Washington (1732-1799), wrote, "Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth." In just a few days, on Sunday, the second of March (my birthday, by the way, and also Texas Independence Day, which made all my many relatives on my Dad's side of the family extremely proud, since they are all loyal Texans), we will mark the 220th anniversary of Washington's profound statement to Madison. His words are just as true and relevant today as they were then. Spiritually speaking, once the eyes of faith have been opened to the light of God's grace, once the sweet smell of freedom has been sensed and the joys of liberty tasted, there will be absolutely no holding back those precious souls filled with longing to emerge from their enslavement. They will flee the darkness of captivity for the light of a new day, embracing their emancipation with great eagerness and exhilaration. It is such a beautiful thing to witness, and I am observing it more and more as my beloved brethren within my faith-heritage come to discern the distinction between tradition and Truth -- and then act upon that spiritual discernment. Without a doubt, this is one of the greatest joys of my ministry.

I have personally invested decades, not to mention blood, sweat and tears, in a multi-faceted ministry whose underlying motivation has always been to reach into the darkness of legalistic patternism and snatch precious souls from the clutches of those who would enslave them. I have long sought to expose the legalists, factionists, sectarians, patternists and rabid religionists as the present embodiment of that "brood of vipers" our Lord so aptly indicted during His earthly ministry. Quite frankly, I don't hold out much hope of reaching any of the hardened leaders of this present darkness, but I do believe there are countless men and women who simply need to be shown the way out, and I'm convinced that once they perceive that pathway leading to liberty they will come to it. Yes, they will be hesitant and fearful. After all, they have been under the whip, many of them, all their lives. However, if we are patient with them, and bold and courageous before their captors, they will come to know the joy of freedom in Christ Jesus. I have seen it happen many times. It is happening even as I write these words.

There is a wonderful, beautiful lady living in the Midwest, who tonight, as I put together this issue of Reflections, is basking in the warmth of God's grace, enjoying the freedom she has found in Christ Jesus our Savior. She and her husband have both been very actively involved in the One Cup Churches of Christ. Indeed, her husband has labored for many years as a minister in this group. They have come to the realization, however, that they can no longer endorse the party spirit they formerly promoted, and they are now becoming increasingly strong voices of reason and reform in the broader family of our Father. I've watched them grow and blossom over the past several years. First the husband found liberty, and then he helped lead his wife into that joyous light. I am also thankful that my Reflections ministry contributed to this emergence, and pray it may have the same effect on many other precious men and women with whom I long to have sweet fellowship.

A few days ago this woman sat down and wrote out a personal testimony which she titled: My Journey Out Of Legalism. Her husband saw it and mailed it to me. I was so overwhelmed by what she had written that I emailed her and asked if she would mind me sharing it with my readers. She wrote back, saying in part, "Good Morning Bro. Maxey, You are more than welcome to place my testimony in your Reflections. I want you to know that you have been a constant source of major inspiration to both my husband and me. I told him that God has truly anointed you with a precious gift, and I am sure that He is very pleased with your efforts. I hope and pray that my testimony will have an impact on those who are still struggling in their hearts with this Pharisaic system. Legalism is so dangerous!! I am so glad that I have found the Truth. I can't thank God enough for you and others who have had such a wonderful impact upon our lives!" What follows is the complete text of her marvelous, inspiring testimony. May it bless you as it did me.

My Journey Out Of Legalism

A Few Thoughts

Brethren, personal testimonies like this one could very easily be multiplied many times over! As in the days when our Lord walked the earth, there is a great hunger and thirst within the rigid, sectarian sectors of Christendom, and especially within our own Stone-Campbell Movement, for something more relevant to the spiritual needs of our own time; for a release from the tired, tedious tenets of traditionalism. There is a genuine desire for a deeper relationship with the Father and His other children, rather than the perpetuation of religion in the name of some misguided "orthodoxy." Studies are showing that the legalistic, patternistic, ultra-conservative factions among us are very rapidly declining in numbers, whereas those courageous congregations who are daring to adapt to their times (not changing the message of the gospel, but rather the methodology of its expression, both in evangelism and worship) are experiencing phenomenal growth, both numerically and spiritually. Let's be straightforward here -- If we, in the Churches of Christ, are going to survive to the end of this present century, we are going to have to dare to be relevant to those genuine seekers around us, and this is going to necessitate some radical, though responsible, change. Those congregations that fail to change, will also fail to survive. That is simply a fact, and it is time that more of us came to realize it. Many of these rapidly declining congregations are now in a panic. They're importing "experts" to advise them, and changing preachers and programs in a desperate effort to bring the numbers up ... and they continue the downward spiral. It won't be reversed until they change their focus, alter their direction, and dare to adapt. If they fear the vocal traditionalists among them more than they revere the Truth, they will die. It is truly that basic.

The dear sister living in the Midwest, who has shared her testimony with us in this issue of my Reflections, has displayed a courage of conviction that I pray will be contagious! She and her husband have literally placed their lives and livelihood on the line for their love of Truth. We commend them, but are we willing to imitate them?! Is fear holding us back? Are we intimidated by the howling watchdogs of the "old paths" who are nipping at our heels? Or, will we, like this dear sister and her husband, throw off the shackles of our bondage and emerge into the light of a new day, basking in the warmth of our newfound freedom in Christ? This is a life or death decision, not only for individual disciples, but also for congregations of disciples. May God give us the boldness of faith and the courage of conviction to choose the right path.

An Update on the Oklahoma Ostracism

I received a flood of responses to my last Reflections on the paid "advertisement" in The Daily Oklahoman in which the brethren at Quail Springs Church of Christ were castigated for daring to differ with a few legalistic patternists. Several hundred of you sent me emails, and my phone rang off the hook for several days. The good brethren at Quail Springs also received an outpouring of support from you, and for that gracious gesture I applaud you. When attacked, brethren must stand together. Some of you wrote and stated you would like to be able to read this ad in its entirety. That ad may be found online (in .pdf format) at: Click Here. Some of you might also find it enlightening to read the transcript of the statement that the elders and minister of Quail Springs made to the congregation one year before their move to adopt the use of instruments in their early worship assembly. You may read these insightful statements by going to their Web Site, clicking on the tab at the top that reads "Sermons," and then clicking on the line that reads "Statements from Mark and the Shepherds" (Jan. 28, 2007).

I would also like to point out, in closing, that The Daily Oklahoman provides a place online where readers may send in their comments on the various stories that appear within their publication. As one might well imagine, there was a great outpouring of comment upon the paid advertisement that appeared in their February 6 edition. Those comments have been placed in a 17 page MS Word document (215 KB) which I will be happy to send to anyone who writes me and requests it. It is rather enlightening to see the many, many comments that were made by the public in response to this ad (some on target, some off the wall, and some on tangent issues). For example, an atheist wrote in saying, "I was rather appalled that other Church of Christ churches had the audacity to publicly condemn the minister and his congregation, when Church of Christ churches generally hold themselves out as more independent than most other sects. Anyone reading the full page ad in the paper would be embarrassed for the people making such crude and misguided comments. Sad to see such primitive behavior in this day and age. It sounded more like something you would read during the dark ages!" One additional point -- A number of the congregations in the OKC area made a point of publicly proclaiming their abhorrence of this godless "advertisement," and declaring they in no way supported it. For example, the Memorial Road Church of Christ in Edmond, OK placed the following Public Announcement on their web site: "In the Daily Oklahoman, February 6, 2008, Page 6E, a full page ad appeared stating that 'This ad is paid for by faithful members and area churches of Christ.' We want you to know that we at Memorial Road were not consulted, nor did we approve or support financially this ad. Sincerely, The Elders, Memorial Road Church of Christ."

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Oregon:

Dear Bro. Maxey, My son gets your Reflections and then passes them on to me. What a blessing they are to me! The Lord has really blessed you to do what you are doing! I only pray that He will continue to bless you and Shelly. I was fourteen when I took my stand for Jesus, and I have been very active in His work since that time (in the US, Mexico and Canada). I was in the Lord's work in El Paso, Texas from 1979 to 1992, and got to work with Bro. Curtis Dickinson during that time. What a joy it has been serving Him. I'm now 90 years old, and am kept busy caring for my wife who has Alzheimer's. Brother Al, would you please send me your entire set of Reflections on CD. I've enclosed a check to cover the cost. Thank you, and keep my wife and me in your prayers!

From a Missionary in Honduras:

Brother Al, I am a missionary in Honduras, and I appreciate the time that you have taken to help people understand the difference between what is important to our God and what is only important to the few that feel compelled to try and divide His people. The Lord was pretty clear in His message in Matthew 25 when He said, "Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of Mine, you have done for Me" [vs. 40]. We live in a country where it is really easy to see the difference between darkness and light. The choice is simple, and I choose light. In the light, brothers don't always agree with one another, but they do love each other enough that they would never slander each other or try to tear apart the Body of Christ like the legalists did in Oklahoma. Thank you for the work you do, Bro. Al, in exposing this.

From a Missionary in Peru:

Bro. Al, In response to your last Reflections, I read something recently that brought tears to my eyes as the awful application of what I was reading can be applied to the Lord's church today. Peter Malkin was an operative of the Mossad in 1960 and involved in the capture of Eichmann, the Nazi war criminal. He mentioned that during the time they were doing surveillance, prior to his capture, Eichmann would be observed playing with his young son each day. He wondered to himself, "How can it be possible that this man who sent millions to their deaths, including a million children, is now a loving father playing with his son?!" Malkin talked to Eichmann one evening after his capture. Malkin told Eichmann of his nephew who was killed and who resembled Eichmann's own son. "My sister's little boy was your son's age; also blonde and blue-eyed, just like your son, and you killed him." "Yes," Eichmann replied, "but he was Jewish, wasn't he?" This spine-tingling reply is reflective of a spirit that is not much different from the one displayed by those who placed that ad in the paper in Oklahoma. They may show some form of love and comradeship among their family and party, just like the Nazi leaders, but manifest cruelty and hatred toward those who do not conform to their ideology. The Nazi party put ads in the paper calling the Jews "vermin." There is really no difference in the sight of God between those ads and attitudes, and the one displayed in Oklahoma. It is exactly the same spirit and clinical coldness of heart. Take those same men back in time, place them in the midst of National Socialism, and they'd all be jack-booting with the rest of the party. Oh, may the Lord show those men in Oklahoma the vileness of their actions and the dreadful end of such a warped religion.

From a Reader in Canada:

Hello Bro. Al, Are these guys in Oklahoma nuts, or what?! Haven't they ever heard of local, autonomous rule? Elders overseeing their own flocks? Just who are these guys that they think they are the "voice of Truth" over a congregation in which they are not members, and in a city and state in which they do not even reside? I'd really like to tell these guys where to get off, but that would just make me like them. It's too bad that they can't see that when men place their trust in a system, rather than trusting His grace, they are severed from Christ [Galatians 5].

From an Elder in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, This morning, one of my fellow elders here at Quail Springs sent me a copy of your latest Reflections -- "Ostracism in Oklahoma." I read it carefully and then sent it to a number of friends and family, some of whom have had longstanding issues with Church of Christ legalism. I hope your article affords them the insight that there is much healthy change taking place among many within our larger fellowship. Thanks for your cogent arguments and insights on multiple levels. I particularly appreciated the comments with regard to arguments from silence, especially those about Jesus' temple worship with instruments and His participation in synagogue worship. I've made the same arguments myself to others in the past, with an occasional "Aha!" from someone as the realization dawned that synagogues were not "authorized" by Mosaic Law, but were rather an invention of post-Babylon exile Jewish believers. I sent my father-in-law, who is an elder at a Christian Church here in Oklahoma City, a copy of your Reflections article. He read it and then sent me the following response --- "An absolutely remarkable article. Bro. Maxey is obviously a gifted writer. As I read his article I was at the point of being envious of his remarkable talent. If you have the opportunity, please let him know how much I enjoyed it." Al, please let me know if I can bless your life in some way. I'd be glad to!!

From an Elder in Oklahoma:

Bro. Al, I do not attend at Quail Springs, but I do know Mark Henderson, their minister. Instrumental music is not the only thing that makes that congregation and their preacher different from all of the legalistic, patternistic ones. They do other things as well -- like members going to South America every year to work with needy people. Once, a man who was not a member of the Church of Christ had been shot and would not have lived unless he received medical attention that was not available in the jungle where he lived. He was flown to Oklahoma City and all of his medical needs were provided by those "horrible" people at Quail Springs. Further, Mark Henderson and his wife are very judgmental. They went to Rwanda and visited an orphanage, and when they saw the conditions there they were so judgmental as to say, "This is unacceptable!" They then had the audacity to tell the brethren at Quail Springs about it. As a result of this "outrage," five orphaned children were flown back to Oklahoma City and adopted by members of the Quail Springs congregation -- Mark and his family grew as a result, because he and his wife adopted two of them!! Some people just look for a pattern, whereas others are moved by a Person -- the Holy Spirit. The critics spoke of Quail Springs having "flat-lined," and spoke of their "funeral." I don't think we have heard the last of Mark Henderson or Quail Springs. They are very much alive! Thank you so much for your Reflections article on this matter!!

From a Reader in Louisiana:

Bro. Al, I was ashamed and embarrassed when I read about the unbelievable crisis in Oklahoma. I keep thinking that I will soon awaken from a very bad dream, because surely this cannot be actually happening -- that "Christians" would display such a vicious and mean-spirited attitude and behavior toward other Christians. I simply cannot get this out of my mind. Whoever is responsible for this outrageous behavior that has caused so much humiliation throughout the nation will definitely answer to the Father one day!! I have many years experience working in the mental health field, and I can confidently say that the persons who are responsible for that ad are mentally ill. Brother Al, you are to be commended for your bravery, insight and ability to provide us with this account. You are indeed so very special to many, many people who are trusting that your ministry will be a valuable influence over these troubled people. We all have a special place in our hearts for you, brother.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Dear Brother Al, I read The Oklahoman every day, and it was with much disgust that I first read the ad you spoke of in your last Reflections. I couldn't help but write a response to the authors of such foolishness. They have disgraced themselves, and they have disgraced the Church of our Lord, before the entire readership of The Oklahoman. They must be observing the Law of Silence, however, as I have not heard a peep out of them!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Bro. Al, I do not believe that very many congregations here supported this travesty. The damage it will do in Oklahoma is beyond calculating. The mouths of these people must be stopped. Such people are beyond reason and so filled with hate that nothing can penetrate their hearts of stone. May God forgive them, and may this incident cause a great awakening in our wonderful country! Here is a response that I placed on their blog site (for all the good it will do) -- "I am not a member of Quail Springs, and my preferred method of singing is a cappella. However, I am very disturbed by your lack of love and divisive nature! By what authority do you and others presume to tell the eldership of an autonomous congregation of Christians just how they should worship our God? Disagree with them if you will, but the only thing accomplished by this shameful action is to turn the stomachs of any who might have been searching for the Lord. This type of ultra-legalistic nonsense has caused more people to lose their souls than anything else. The gospel is God's power unto salvation, not any so-called 'form of worship.'"

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Brother Al, You are spot on in saying that such advertisements as the one in The Daily Oklahoman "accomplish absolutely NO positive result for the cause of Christ Jesus." Regardless of what one believes about church music, such an ad as this is far more harmful than helpful. What an ice-cold "turn off" to the reading public. What were these brothers thinking by placing such an ad??!! As they say down this way, "Lord, have mercy!"

From a Reader in Texas:

Another great article, Brother Al. I have an uncle who stated that he would never step foot into a Church of Christ again because of such "torching" of others as was recently displayed in Oklahoma. Why can't we take this energy and combat the real enemy? -- Satan! By the way, as a member of a congregation that has just gone instrumental, I applaud the choice of this sister congregation to try and minister to others with both types of worship styles.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Dear Brother Al, The preacher at Quail Springs, Bro. Mark Henderson, stated in an email that most of the area churches in Oklahoma City had contacted him with statements condemning the ad, even though some of these congregations did not agree with their stand on instrumental music. In addition, The Daily Oklahoman runs an online chat room in which their readers can comment upon various items appearing within the paper, such as this ad. Just as you supposed, these comments were overwhelmingly negative against the advertisement.

From a Christian Church Pastor in California:

Brother Al, Thanks for once again exposing the ugly underbelly of legalistic patternism in your latest Reflections. I ministered near Tulsa in the 1980's, and I saw the ultra-legalism of some Churches of Christ at that time. Ironically, it was also there that I bonded with Marvin Phillips, one of the most inspirational leaders I've ever known. This advertisement in The Daily Oklahoman reaches new depths of evil. It's as if the legalists are actually trying to outdo themselves in order to see who can be the most vicious. They are like cornered animals lashing out wildly at any and all who don't look like them. Thanks again, brother, for daring to shine the light on this creepy darkness!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Excellent!!!, Brother Al. You nailed it! I firmly believe that it is the mission of these "doctrinally sound" ones to drive people away. For some perverse reason, it seems to make them feel holy. I couldn't believe that ad, and I'm really glad that you chose to deal with it. I posted a link to your Reflections article on the Internet Church of Christ discussion board. Keep up the good work!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, I felt sick when I read that ad in The Oklahoman. You are right -- it will only harm churches. I believe not only Churches of Christ are harmed, but other churches as well. Some non-believers will surely think that all Christians are divisive and dogmatic. I agree with everything you said about those responsible for that ad. I have heard that the advertisement cost $11,000. I also know that even some of the conservative-leaning Church of Christ congregations in Oklahoma City wanted nothing to do with that advertisement, and planned not even to respond to it, fearing it would just continue to stir things up. Interestingly, there is a very small conservative Church of Christ just a mile or so up the road from Quail Springs, and to the best of my knowledge not even they had anything to do with this ad in the paper.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Bro. Al, I am very disturbed about what is happening in the Churches of Christ. I'm both sad and angry to see all of the accusations and slandering taking place by people who profess to be children of God. Maybe that is the key word here -- "children." It is time for these people to focus on the Kingdom, and to stop worrying about such petty, non-salvation issues involving long held traditions pertaining to our worship style. God bless you, Al, for staying focused on the Word.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Thank you for this issue of Reflections, Brother Maxey. This is one that really hits close to home, as I am a student at Oklahoma Christian University. I am very glad that you have made this matter known outside of this state! I was informed that close to $12,000 was spent on that advertisement. Among many of the things about all of this that gets under my skin is the realization that this amount of money was wasted on such ridiculousness. Just think how much good that money could have done if given to missions or benevolence! For crying out loud, I myself am trying to live on less than that per year. Arrrggghhhh!! Anyway, thanks once again for providing such a powerful public response to this situation. I immediately went to your web site and read once again all of your Reflections articles on the "Law of Silence." What you have written has been the catalyst for much open-minded, loving discussion on this campus!!

From a Minister in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, that was a really good response on the Quail Springs Church of Christ story. I was on the ministry staff at that congregation for nearly seven years, and worked with two different senior ministers (Ronnie White and Mark Henderson). As you know, this isn't the first time that congregation has taken some hits for daring to exercise their belief in congregational autonomy!! I also know for a fact that every so-called "cutting edge" decision that has been made at Quail Springs has been prayerfully made by a plurality of leaders, not just one. I love you, brother!!

From a Minister in Virginia:

Brother Al, I believe that I have shared with you before that I preach for an instrumental Church of Christ. We see no scriptural harm in instrumental music. I have personally searched the Word since 1978, and I can find no verse or verses that bar musical instruments. So, upon reading about what is happening in Oklahoma, I was not only embarrassed, but heart-broken that a group of "Christians" could and would do this to one of their own!! It is because of these very instances that a lot of folks don't take us very seriously, and are constantly saying that the Stone-Campbell Movement is nothing more than a religious cult. I absolutely hate to see the kind of malarkey that appeared in that recent paid advertisement. It just shows that there are too many closed-minded folks still in positions of power in too many of our churches. Brother Al, if you are ever in Richmond, look me up!!

From a Minister in Arizona:

Good Afternoon Bro. Al, I enjoyed reading your assessment of the Quail Springs event in Oklahoma City. You obviously have read very widely to find pertinent quotes like those with which you opened your Reflections article. Most of our brethren have no sympathy with thoughtless brethren who publish such hateful tirades in the public media against other Christians.

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Maxey, I continue to really enjoy your weekly Reflections. I have been in the Churches of Christ all my life, but I continue to learn just how many of our beliefs are far more tradition than biblical Truth. I very much appreciated your latest article on the situation in Oklahoma regarding Quail Springs. I must say, I recently attended an instrumental worship assembly at Richland Hills Church of Christ, and I found it to be very uplifting!! I personally believe that God was well-pleased with the praise and worship offered up that evening, but that is just my personal opinion. Thank you, Bro. Maxey, and may God continue to bless you and your ministry.

From a New Reader in [Unknown]:

Dear Brother Al, A very good friend forwarded me your recent Reflections on the situation in Oklahoma, and I am impressed beyond measure by your writings!! Believe it or not, it took me 35 years to completely repent of making up laws and teaching them as though they were the "oracles of God." Please add me to your subscription list and accept my thanks for your work on behalf of Truth. We may not always agree on every issue, but I shall always love and respect you!! By the way, I am 79 years old ... and still learning.

From an Elder in Illinois:

Brother Al, What makes otherwise good men seek to eviscerate their brothers and show the world hatred and intolerance of anyone and anything that differs from their particular pattern, rather than showing the world unity and love of each other?! I'm so heartsick from reading about this castigation and utter hatred some have for their brethren -- and all this is done "in the name of the Lord"?!! I pray for these people, that they will have the legalistic scales fall from their eyes, for they have been affected far too long by this "inherited blindness." Each generation of these legalists seems to become more and more rabid about what they believe, and less and less able to actually explain why they believe it. "We've always done it that way" just doesn't cut it with me! And if it doesn't cut it with me, then how can they possibly hope to convince the world?! People we encounter daily are becoming increasingly intelligent, and they seek and want rational answers, NOT legalistic drivel. Bro. Al, please keep writing your wonderful Reflections. Your writings are a great encouragement to me, and they help me in my quest to be a better elder. I know that some day you and I and many others will break through to some of these legalistic patternists, and we will get them to see that God is love, not hate. I will keep praying for you, and also for all who need to see the light before it is too late. May God bless you with His richest blessings!

From an Elder in Missouri:

Bro. Al, I don't necessarily agree with the bringing in of instrumental music, but Quail Springs is autonomous and under the oversight of an eldership. Like the old adage: "I don't agree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it." That is my opinion: I may not agree, but I will not condemn either. All that being said: the three vocal spokesmen appearing on the ad have taken a very dangerous stand. This brings harm to the Body. This prevents evangelism. This gives victory to Satan. And, if that were not bad enough, the secrecy and self-appointment as spokespersons for a large population borders on the ego-maniacal. Who died and made them king?! I don't know these three men, but I have read some of their thoughts. It boggles my mind how they, or their advisors and supporters, could do this without taking thought as to the harm it would do to the cause of Christ. I can see absolutely no way that anything positive can come of this, but will depend in faith on the Lord's power to make good come from all things --- even such a travesty as this. Cowardice is also demonstrated by their unwillingness to identify the supporting congregations, and by not signing the ad. To hide behind anonymity displays a lack of faith and a lack of confidence in their own message. If I have Truth on my side, I will stand up no matter what. Why didn't they, I wonder?! A full page ad had to cost them a pretty penny. What a waste of the Lord's money -- money that could have been spent for evangelism, edification, and other worthy causes. I also think Paul's thoughts in 1 Cor. 6:1-8 deal with at least the spirit of things in this situation. Bro. Al, please keep shining the light of Truth!!

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, I literally cried when I read what had happened in Oklahoma to the Quail Springs congregation. Let me share with you the following article from the Associated Press. As I read this article and pondered on it, I realized it would not take too much tweaking and modification for it to apply to the "religious police" in Oklahoma, or to the "brotherhood police" who hang out under a sign that reads "Contending for the Faith." Here is the article:

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