Beware of Foolhardy Finagling

April 16, 2014 at 10:24 am | Posted in The Fives | 1 Comment
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Have you ever found yourself in a great deal of unexpected trouble? At times like these, when the pressure is on, and our options seem limited to the frying pan versus the fire, we may be tempted to try to bribe our way out of trouble.

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For example, there may have been times in the middle of an ill-conceived and horrifying roller coaster ride when I made some promises to God about changing my ways if He would cause the ride to stop (at the bottom!) so I could safely escape.

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Or, perhaps, sitting outside the principal’s office as an elementary school student, I might have been tempted to propose a bargain concerning my future behavioral issues, if the Lord would somehow arrange it so that my parents didn’t find out about my (recent!) past behavioral issues.

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The Bible warns against making these types of rash, or foolhardy, vows:

Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.

Ecclesiastes 5:5

The Lord God Almighty is not someone with whom we should trifle. Vows and promises made before Him or to Him are serious matters. While we are encouraged and commanded to call upon the Lord in prayer whenever we are in trouble, we should be extremely cautious of trying to bribe Him with promises we have no intention of keeping, or even with ones that we might lack the ability to keep.

The Ministry of Micah

April 14, 2014 at 11:13 am | Posted in Micah | Leave a comment
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Idolatry and greed are two sins that often go hand in hand. Human beings are prone to find their security in things that we can see and handle. The first two of the 10 Commandments were very strong prohibitions against worshiping, fashioning, or ascribing “need-meeting” power to, anything other than the One True God. In the prophet Micah’s day these commandments were violated with reckless abandon as the Northern Kingdom fell under the curse that befalls all who forsake the real God for little man-made substitutes. It is a curse that entails oppression of the poor, the forsaking of mercy, and debased unrighteousness. Micah warned the people that God would not let such things go unnoticed nor unpunished.

Below are a list of links to lessons on the Book of Micah:

1. When God Makes Fun of Your Name
2. The Raptor and the Captor
3. False Prophecy and Disappointment
4. Condemning the Princes, Prophets, and Priests
5. That Man Was Certifiable!
6. One Sin Lighter
7. Cut-Outs, Cut-Ups, or Cut-Offs
8. Our Own Worst Enemy
9. What Does God Want from Me?
10. The Breathtaking Wonder of God

The Lambs that Were Silenced but Still Speak Today

April 10, 2014 at 11:23 am | Posted in Exodus | Leave a comment
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The Passover lamb was a foreshadowing “type” of Christ. It continued the Bible’s theme of a sacrificial lamb, which had already shown up in Genesis.

And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

Genesis 22:7

We know from the New Testament that the Abraham and Isaac account is a clear foreshadowing of the death of Christ, so when the lamb becomes relevant in Exodus we can keep that same connection.

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

John 1:29

The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:

Acts 8:32

Most gentiles do not observe the Passover – and neither should Jews really any more – but it is still a crucial subject to study, because its significance helps us to understand the Gospel more clearly.

Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

I Corinthians 5:7

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

I Peter 1:18-19

The title “Lamb” is so significant that Jesus will keep that title even in eternity.

And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

Revelation 6:16

And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.

Revelation 21:9

And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.

Revelation 22:1

Other similarities worth noting about the Passover lamb as a picture of Christ:

1. The Lamb was examined – just as Christ was examined – and found to be without blemish. There was no other reason for the Jews in Egypt to kill their best lamb – except that God had commanded it and had attached His promise to it.

2. The Lamb was slain “between the evenings.”

And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.

Exodus 12:6

This may mean around twilight – the same time that Jesus laid down His life on the Cross.

3. The lamb’s blood was applied.

And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.

Exodus 12:22

It is not simply the fact of Christ’s death that saves us. It is the application of that blood to each individual personally – which is done by faith.

4. The lamb was consumed.

In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.

Exodus 12:46

The Passover lambs were not boiled, but roasted. They were kept whole, with no bones broken, to help make the preparation and the meal go more quickly, but also to complete the type of Christ.

We can also note that bitter herbs were a part of the meal.

And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

Exodus 12:8

This reminded the people of their suffering and tears in also pointed to Jesus, the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.

Catechism Question 4

April 8, 2014 at 11:47 am | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | 1 Comment
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Question 3: Why did God make everything?
Answer: For His Own glory.
Prove it.

Romans 11:36

Question 4: How was everything when God created it?
Answer: It was very good.
Prove it.

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Genesis 1:31

This question is likely to cause a child to inquire, “Why do bad things happen now?” or “If God made it good, why isn’t it still good?” These are excellent lead-ins to the next question, but this will also be a great opportunity to explain that Jesus has promised to one day make everything new again – to make it the way it was before sin entered the world.

And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Matthew 19:28

Other verses to consider:

[He is] the Rock, his work [is] perfect: for all his ways [are] judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right [is] he.

Deuteronomy 32:4

[As for] God, his way [is] perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he [is] a buckler to all those that trust in him.

Psalm 18:30

The LORD [is] righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.

Psalm 145:17

The S.H.A.R.K. Principle (lesson 2)

April 3, 2014 at 10:20 am | Posted in The S.H.A.R.K. Principle | 1 Comment
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S.atan
H.ates

A.ll
R.
K.

Satan is a lot of things. He’s a trickster. He’s a conniver. He’s a liar. He’s a deceiver. But he’s not a compromiser. When he is against something – and make no mistake about it, he is against the truth – he is against it all the way. He hates all integrity.

God allowed Satan to take away all of Job’s possessions and family (except his wife) because Satan said that Job only served God for God’s material blessings. When that didn’t work Satan challenged Job’s integrity over the issue of Job’s health. God has not promised you riches or physical health, but Satan would love for you to blame God and curse him when you lose those things. This didn’t work on Job, either, though.

And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.

Job 2:3-4

Job was a man of integrity. He was whole – wholly devoted to God. Satan wants you to have a divided heart, because you can’t serve two masters. If he can get you divided, he knows he’s won.

He hates all integrity, and he hates all righteousness.

Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

II Thessalonians 2:9-10

Satan knows that you can’t do anything truly righteous apart from God’s power. He will use his own power to imitate God’s power, and he can do supernatural signs and wonders – but they are lying wonders. He’s a copycat. He can’t create. You can’t be saved apart from the true righteousness, and Satan hates truth and righteousness.

He hates all integrity. He hates all righteousness. He hates all humility.

And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.

Luke 4:5-6

If Jesus had agreed to bypass the Cross in exchange for Satan’s version of glory, then God would have been robbed of glory. Suffering for God glorifies God. Humiliation in this world for the cause of Christ glorifies God in eternity. I am reminded of the prayer associated with Zinzendorf and the Moravians: “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of his suffering!”

Satan loves pride and therefore he hates humility. He hates all the ways of the Lord.

But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?

Acts 13:8-10

The ways of the Lord are honest and open and upright. Christians are supposed to love without dissimulation. Satan’s ways are subtlety and mischief: bait and switch. They may look good and pragmatic, but they are really perversions. Beware of those who would trick you into coming to church by appealing to fleshly desires, or who would trick you into a false profession of faith for the sake of appearance. God’s way is truth. Satan hates God’s way.

Next time we’ll continue to look at what Satan hates.

S.atan
H.ates
A.ll
R.
K.

The S.H.A.R.K. Priniciple (lesson 1)

March 31, 2014 at 10:18 am | Posted in The S.H.A.R.K. Principle | 1 Comment
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One of my greatest joys competes with one of my greatest fears. I am fascinated by, and terrified of, sharks (especially the Great Whites that breach up through the surface), but I love swimming in the ocean. I know it is not very likely that I will be devoured by a 2000-pound predator fifty yards from the shore, but I am still haunted by the knowledge that, while swimming, I am technically sharing the same space (the sea) where these creatures live, and there is the nagging sense of danger that comes from not being aware of what might be coming to get me.

In our spiritual lives, thankfully, we do not have to be unaware. Satan would like to destroy us, but we do not have to be ignorant of who he is or how he operates.

S.atan
H.
A.
R.
K.

Satan is a real “person” – a real being. You may have heard the theological statement that the devil is a “personal” devil. He’s not “personal” like a secret that is only between friends. He’s personal because he has a personality. He thinks thoughts. He has plans. He has feelings. He was made by God to be a creature with a will and a spirit. He’s not a fairy tale or a boogie monster, and he’s not just a symbol for evil. How do we know? Because Jesus said so.

And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.

Luke 10:17

Jesus had sent out 70 disciples, and they were excited because they had seen Jesus proven right. While they were witnessing for Him, God gave them power to subdue demons.

And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.

Luke 10:18

Satan was originally an angel named Lucifer, but he rebelled against God, so God threw him and one-third of the angels (the ones who had taken Lucifer’s side in the rebellion) out of Heaven. Jesus, the eternal Son of God was there to see it happen.

Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.

Luke 10:19-20

In these lessons I will say some things about Satan that may sound complimentary, but we must be careful never to give him any praise or adoration. Nor do I advocate making jokes about “beating him up” (a staple of the “Word of Faith” televangelists) or telling him to “go sit on a tack,” as I’ve heard in some children’s songs and lessons. We praise God for His victory over Satan. Only because of Him are true Christians on the winning side.

The S in S.H.A.R.K. is for Satan, and you stand as much of a chance against him as you would against a Great White shark in the middle of the ocean – on your own. Thankfully, if you have trusted Christ, you are not on your own.

S.atan
H.ates

A.
R.
K.

I said before that Satan has a personality, which includes the idea that he has feelings. One of his most prominent feelings is hatred. His most prominent is pride (which tends toward hatred of others). One of the reasons why he is so often portrayed as this red-bodied, cartoonish figure with a pointy tail and a pitchfork is because at one time people thought the best way to combat him was to injure his pride. Therefore, they tried to make him look silly. Ironically, this is the way most people (inaccurately) think of him today.

God is a loving Being. Satan is not loving. But hatred is not the opposite of love. Indifference is the opposite of love. Neither God nor Satan are indifferent. Satan’s hatred is focused on robbing God of glory and destroying the creatures God loves.

He that hateth me hateth my Father also.

John 15:23

Jesus was speaking about the Jewish leaders who rejected Him.

If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.

John 15:24

Those that hate and reject Jesus hate God also. We know that Satan hates Jesus because Jesus came to save those whom God loves, and to bring God the glory that Satan would like to steal by accusing God of unjustly forgiving sinners. God was both just and loving in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, which is why Satan tried so hard to stop Jesus from going to the Cross.

But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.

John 15:25

Jesus didn’t give anyone a valid reason to hate Him or to crucify Him. It was done because we are fallen sinful creatures, and we loved sin more than we loved God. In the same way, God justifies those who trust in Christ “without a cause” – in other words, without finding anything in us worthy of justification.

Sharks don’t hate people until they have some motivation – hunger, territoriality, self-defense, mistaken identity. Satan doesn’t have much reason to hate you unless you love God. If you start glorifying God, you become his target. Of course, if you are not right with God, you have a bigger problem than Satan. You are in trouble with God and need the Savior.

Next time, we will look at the A. in S.H.A.R.K.

Beware the Feeble Fortress

March 26, 2014 at 11:02 am | Posted in The Fives | 1 Comment
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When we talk about Job’s “friends” we have to put quotation marks around “friends” because it’s questionable just what kind of friends they were. Job had suffered, and was suffering greatly in Chapter 5 of the book that bears his name, when his “friend,” Eliphaz, went on the offensive.

Eliphaz’s (wrong) assumption was that Job’s suffering must have been caused by Job’s sin. Eliphaz’s support for this argument was partly his own experience, because he claimed to have seen men who were prosperous and well-established for a long while in their sin, when suddenly and without warning judgment befell them.

I have seen the foolish taking root: but suddenly I cursed his habitation. His children are far from safety, and they are crushed in the gate, neither is there any to deliver them.

Job 5:3-4

This not-so-oblique reference to his children must have cut Job to the quick, since all his children has recently perished in a devastating catastrophe. (Unbeknownst to Job, his children had actually been killed through the machinations of Satan, with God’s permission, but not in any way as a consequence of Job’s alleged sin.)

However, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, and Eliphaz stumbled upon a valuable nugget of truth when he pointed out the futility of trying to protect our earthly possessions and wealth to the exclusion of our spiritual well-being.

Whose harvest the hungry eateth up, and taketh it even out of the thorns, and the robber swalloweth up their substance.

Job 5:5

In ancient times landowners would sometimes intentionally grow hedges of thorns or briars around their crops, fields, and property to keep out trespassers and to discourage thieves. However, those who are truly hungry or who are bent on taking what does not belong to them will not be deterred by such security measures. This is a good reminder to us today that whatever dominion we think we exercise over our earthly possessions is ultimately subject to the will of God. Therefore, we are better off investing in the spiritual and the eternal than in the material and the temporal.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6:19-21

Our Own Worst Enemy

March 21, 2014 at 9:47 am | Posted in Micah | 1 Comment
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Micah Chapters 1 and 2 contain warnings. Chapters 3 and 5 contain promises. Chapter 6 is a challenge. Micah sums up the attitude of the people when faced with the idea that God is displeased with their worship.

Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

Micah 6:6-7

You can’t build up a credit of good works with God while planning to sin. You can’t bargain with God: “If I do A, B, and C right, will You let me get away with X, Y, and Z?” The Lord is truly righteous. In Him is no sin at all.

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Luke 18:9-14

No man will make God his debtor. The stealing of land or property by the rich and powerful from the poor and weak is a sin which seems to trigger God’s judgment.

Therefore also will I make thee sick in smiting thee, in making thee desolate because of thy sins. Thou shalt eat, but not be satisfied; and thy casting down shall be in the midst of thee; and thou shalt take hold, but shalt not deliver; and that which thou deliverest will I give up to the sword.

Micah 6:13-14

God’s judgment sometimes begins slow like a train, but it always comes into the station right on time.

For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels; that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof an hissing: therefore ye shall bear the reproach of my people.

Micah 6:16 (emphasis added)

The sins of the “common” people are just as offensive to God as the sins of the leaders.

For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.

Micah 7:6

Micah 7:6 is quoted in Matthew 10:36: “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” Why would Jesus say this? There will be some families where some family members are saved and some are not. Those closest to you can be some of the worst stumbling blocks, and thereby your worst enemies. As Christians, we don’t hate our enemies – we love them – but there are times when our devotion to Christ calls us to separate from even parents or children.

According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I shew unto him marvellous things.

Micah 7:15

When every enemy is united against God’s people – when we don’t have anyone else to trust – that’s when the Lord does great miracles of deliverance.

Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

Micah 7:18-19 (emphasis added)

The greatest victory God will ever win in your life will be the victory over you.

The Passover: Killing, Purging, and Eating

March 19, 2014 at 11:07 am | Posted in Exodus | Leave a comment
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Exodus Chapter 12 features the institution of the Passover.

And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:

Exodus 12:1-3

The reference to “the congregation of Israel” is significant because it is the official proclamation by God of the uniting together of the Jewish people into a nation.

Let’s look at some the central features of the “Passover.” This was not going to be something they were going to do once; it was given to them as something to be done every year from that point forward.

1. The killing of the Lamb

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.

Exodus 12:5-6

The deliverance of the children of Israel was going to come by death – for both believers and unbelievers. For the Egyptians it would be a judgment-death. For the Israelites it would be a substitutionary sacrificial death.

2. The purging of leaven

Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.

Exodus 12:19

Leaven is a picture of sin. It starts small, but it permeates a whole loaf. It works in secret (although the results are ultimately exposed). It “puffs up,” which is a picture of pride. Christians today are not commanded to observe the Passover as a religious ritual, but certainly the principle of purging spiritual “leaven” – both sin and false teaching – from our homes must be an ongoing activity.

3. Eating a feast (my favorite!)

Could you imagine if Christianity required taking a vow of hunger? How would we get people to come to Sunday School without donuts!

And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.

Exodus 12:8-10

They were to eat the lamb, along with the unleavened bread and bitter herbs, so, while we are to take joy in feasting, we must remember the call not to burden ourselves down with physical pleasures – because we have work to do.

Catechism Question 3

March 17, 2014 at 10:50 am | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | 2 Comments
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Question 3: Why did God make everything?
Answer: For His Own glory.
Prove it.

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Romans 11:36

God was not bored. He was not lonely. One of His attributes is true “perfection.” He lacks nothing. He is complete. He is joyful now, so He has always been joyful. He has always known perfect triune fellowship within the Trinity. In our sinful flesh, we must admit that there is not a single person with whom we could dwell eternally and never get bored or aggravated, but God is not like us in that way. He is eternally fascinating.

One of the attributes of God that we seldom talk about is His beauty. He is eternally beautiful, and we will never discover the end of His beauty, and we will never get tired of pursuing it or marveling over it.

Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works. All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name. For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.

Psalm 86:8-10

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

Revelation 4:11

This catechism question-and-answer is a good opportunity to explain to children that God was good to give us the opportunity to glorify Him because that is the best thing for us.

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