Thinking Out Loud

February 20, 2015

The Bible and the Weather Forecast

Before his recent suspension from NBC’s Nightly News broadcast, I always thought that if I ever found myself sitting next to Brian Williams on an airplane, the first question I would ask is, “Do you remember the last time you did an evening newscast without a weather story?

free_snow_signMuch of the American news coverage revolves around hurricanes and tornadoes and drought in the summer and freezing rain and record snowfalls in the winter. One has to wonder if the place was ever meant to be inhabited. To those who constantly ask, “Is America in Bible prophecy,” the answer might have more to do with the country being diminished by weather catastrophe than by some major loss of economic influence.

In my native Canada, we are more accustomed to the worst the meteorologists have to forecast. Everything from clothing to cars to housing must be able to withstand temperatures varying from -40°C to +40°C, and even lower wind chill factors and higher humidity indexes. (To my U.S. readers, I’m sorry that you are one of only two countries left that does not use the metric system. I think pride has a lot to do with that. The lower temperature is the same -40°F as this is the place where the two scales meet. The higher would be 104°F.) Canada has also built infrastructures — the banking of roads is a great example — with winter in mind and each municipality and province is well equipped with trucks and snowplows as well as alternatives to salt, which is ineffective below a certain point on the thermometer.

By contrast, it was reported two nights ago that a large U.S. municipality has only 12 trucks for spreading salt, no doubt due to its situation in what is termed “the south.” Changing weather patterns mean that preparedness takes on a new importance. Perhaps this type of truck can be re-purposed for other duties when the temperatures are warmer.

I heard it recently here suggested that America spends so much on its government bureaucracy, and so much on the war effort, that the money simply doesn’t exist to keep southern Interstate highways free of snow and ice.

But back to our theme, I can’t help but think of a couple of verses in Luke 21 where Jesus is speaking:

There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.  (11)  There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. (25)

These verses are part of a longer prophetic section which, just as you can skip stones across a lake, had one more immediate fulfillment and can be expected to have yet another fulfillment to come.

I noticed I wrote about weather at least once a year here.  In 2011:

I think weather is a rather weak “sign” of the impending ending to the “age of grace” when compared with, for example, moral decay. When people say, “Look at the way the world is…;” they generally are referring to its spiritual state, not its meteorological state. Furthermore, it’s the aggregate of many signs that point to “final wrap up” here.

and more practically:

I think we have a responsibility to close the windows so the rain doesn’t get in. In other words, we need to do the practical things we can do here and now.

In 2012 shortly after watching a sermon from Greg Boyd:

…Boyd is very cautious about trying to read too much into the effects of weather phenomena: “It’s like reading tea leaves.” He points out that when the disciples find themselves caught at sea in a storm, Jesus, normally depicted as ‘in charge’ of the weather, actually rebukes the storm, using the same word that he would use when silencing a demon. Boyd asks, “If Jesus was in charge of the storm, why did he need to rebuke it?”

Still, there is no denying that the United States is seeing a number of modern day plagues, and since it was God himself that sent the plagues to Egypt, it is certainly easy to jump to similar conclusions with weather signs…

Last year we looked at whether (no pun intended) or not we should speak of “Mother Nature”:

…I do think that much if not all of the weather phenomena we experience is the natural consequence of living in a fallen world. When we speak questions like, “How could a loving God allow so much evil to exist?” we are usually talking about genuine evil, and not snow or drought; but it all comes under the same category. This world is broken, and we are continually adding to that brokenness through our disregard for the environment.

Is God powerless in all this? Not for a moment. I believe that God is positively disposed and favorably inclined to intervene each time someone prays, but that sometimes he holds back his hand and allows things to proceed naturally. A miracle is a miracle because it doesn’t happen every day. I don’t know if Pat Robertson really “prayed a hurricane back” from the Virginia coast in the ’70s, but I do believe that God is intervening in our planet more times than we realize. I don’t subscribe to the “clockmaker” theory that God simply “wound up” the planet and left it “ticking.” 

At the very least, the winter of 2014-15 should give us pause to consider our place in the cosmos, that we are no match for the elements, and yet for the most part we survive the winter and move on. 

Where my son is in Haiti right now, they might look at things differently however. The earthquake 5 years ago took 250,000 lives.  While the tectonic shifts are not meteorological per se, they are the effect of living in a fallen world much greatly magnified. To that, I cannot answer today, but it helps us put our weather concerns in perspective.


image: Daily Encouragement, Stephen and Brooksyne Weber

October 6, 2014

Left Behind as Object of Mockery

Filed under: books, theology — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:11 am

Cats Watching the Rapture - from Rapture Pet Care

Somewhere over the weekend, a series of eschatological fiction books became an object of ridicule online. In a way, the op-ed sentiment was always there: Stories based on a premise that took hold with the American Christian populace in the 1940s and ’50s, but a premise that serious Bible scholars never embraced. “Rapture? What rapture?”

But then the movie remake scored only 2% on the movie review analysis site Rotten Tomatoes.  Suddenly the book and movie franchise became fair game both for those within and outside the camp. Ed Stetzer tweeted:

Headed to with a bag of clothes. While the movie is playing, Kaitlyn and I plan to spread them out on seats.

Apparently that sentiment caught on because by Sunday the anonymous owner of twitter account Chet Churchpain tweeted,

Played a rapture prank by leaving clothes in my pew and leaving during prayer, but forgot spare clothes.

Hid in closet until everyone left.

with a follow up:

Still missing my wallet and my good crocs.

Greg Boyd joined in the frivolity on Sunday:

I believe in “Left Behind”! If someone strikes you “on the RIGHT cheek,” turn “the OTHER cheek,” which would of course be your LEFT behind.

In a much longer than 140-character post at CT a reviewer wrote:

I was ready to be upset about this movie, is what I’m saying—upset at a movie based on books that I felt totally mischaracterized my faith, books whose central characters were trumpeted as the saints of the new world but who constantly failed to live out anything marginally resembling real Christianity.

I was ready to be upset because the Left Behind books were not Christian.

They talked about Christianity, sometimes. But, at their core, they were political thrillers, featuring characters directly transposed from better Tom Clancy narratives—still violent, hostile, and un-reflecting, they just prayed a little more and took communion sometimes. (This may be unfair to Clancy.)

I was ready to be upset at this new movie because certainly it would have all those same faults. But it doesn’t. It has many, many faults, and almost no positives, but purporting to be Christian while not actually being Christian is not one of them.

I will bold this next point so that readers now searching desperately for the vanished comments section can take note: Left Behind is not a Christian Movie, whatever Christian Moviecould even possibly mean.

adding parenthetically at the end:

We tried to give the film zero stars, but our tech system won’t allow it.

So where did Left Behind get left behind with some Christians?

A popular version has it that the rapture idea began with a young girl who stood up and gave a word of prophecy at a revival meeting in the UK in the 19th century, perhaps either the 1860s or 1870s. The idea represents a mash-up of Jesus words in Matthew (“one will be taken and one left behind”) and Paul’s words to the Thessalonians (“…will be caught up to meet Him in the air.”)

In various places in scripture however we see that being the one “taken” is not always a good thing, and the parable of the bridesmaids shows us that when the guests go out to meet the bridegroom, it is them, not the groom, who does the 180-degree turn.  (See this article at CT.) his idea of rapture, or more specifically non-rapture, is tied closely to teachings about ‘New Earth,’ which for many stands in contrast to an ‘up there’ view of heaven

It’s also important to note that the rapture doctrine did not travel well across the pond. Christians in the United States did not accept the idea well until the aforementioned post-war period.

Furthermore Skye Jethani articulates this issue well in his book Futureville, explaining that this is really an example of letting the culture dictate theology; that the doctrine is born out of philosophy of escapism, a post-WWII desire to exit the planet and all its evils. He shares this also around the 26-minute mark of the Phil Vischer Podcast episode 15.

Of course some people are willing to loyally defend the brand and attack those who don’t:

  My fellow Christians, you can disregard any reviews of the by the pro-homosexual or pro-Palestinian

Nothing keeps the water muddy on any particular issue like parachuting another issue (or two in this case) into the discussion.

My wife thinks that what we’re seeing is simply the outpouring of criticism that takes place whenever something is successful. Big churches are targets. Top authors are targets. But in this case, the movie’s poor critical showing has intersected with the place where rapture doctrine is slowly falling out of favor among even strident Evangelicals.

So this weekend everybody gets to join in the fun.

Rapture? No we were just kidding, that isn’t gonna happen.

July 4, 2014

4 Thoughts for the 4th: Where’s America in Prophecy?

 

America in Bible Prophecy

We spun the magic Google wheel and landed on these answers to the question, “Why isn’t America in Bible prophecy?”

We start with Greg Laurie:

When I look at Bible prophecy, one thing that is of great interest to me, and of great concern, is the absence of the United States. It is interesting to note that a number of nations are mentioned in the Bible that will be active in the last days. Libya is mentioned by name. Persia, which became modern Iran and Iraq, is mentioned. Ethiopia is specifically mentioned. Quite possibly China and Russia are mentioned. And certainly Israel is mentioned. But the one nation that is strangely absent is the United States of America.

Where is the United States? Why are we not in the last-days scenario? Why is it that we can read of nations like Iraq and Iran and Libya and that we possibly can find China and Russia mentioned, but we cannot find the United States?

I would like to offer three plausible answers.

[…continue reading here…]

From The Remnant Report:

…Maybe we’re just not as important as we once thought…we in the Western world tend to think of prophecy in terms of “prediction/fulfillment.” In other words, something is predicted in the Bible which is later fulfilled.

But, Jewish scholars and many good Christian theologians tend to think of prophecy in terms of biblical “pattern.” For instance, nations fall into patterns of behavior which results in God’s judgment again and again. These are clearly outlined in Scripture.

In terms of pattern there is no question that almost all nations including America fit into biblical prophecy. For example, Deuteronomy 28 & 29 lists the blessings of following God’s law and the consequences of disobeying it. Hosea 4 and Ezekiel 7 are two books which also list patterns of disobedience and God’s judgment. We might include Isaiah chapter 5 to feature consequences of disobedience, too. This one mentions large, beautiful houses sitting empty due to God’s judgment.

[the article then lists a variety of these patterns of judgments]

…I think you could make a good case for America suffering this kind of judgment at God’s Hands today. The pattern fits, doesn’t it?…

[…continue reading here…]

From a lengthy article at WARN Radio

1 Peter 4:17
  For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

This last September 11th we remember the trouble on that date and the many lost lives. We have people who are mourning the lost  and many others who let the moment of the day bring swells of tears and pride. During this time we have many who see and are blinded at the same time by the same thing Israel was blinded by. Their own pride and stubbornness. They simply did not see their sins, nor acknowledge that the LORD God would judge them so severely.  Even today the churches and many Americans do not see the trouble that is coming.

Simply put, it will come to this nation, in like manner as it did to Israel. The reason again, pride and stubbornness, with an unwillingness to repent of their sins.  This nation was raised out of the earth by God himself. It stood so many years for his good pleasure, not ours. Yet, the sins of the nation has become past being as bad as Israel. America is blinded!

[…continue reading here…]

A short interview with author Joel Rosenberg:

…The bottom line is there are a lot of theories over the years over what prophecy in the Bible might refer to the United States. A careful analysis of all of them indicates that there is not a single direct reference to the United States as a player in the last days.

So, the question really is ‘Why not?’ If we are already in the last days, how could the United States not be a clearly defined player? The answer is, we don’t know because the Bible doesn’t say.

Something happens by which the U.S. is paralyzed, sidelined or neutralized and therefore unable or unwilling to project influence to be a major force in the major events of the last days. That’s what Implosion is about, walking through a whole series of things that could happen to the United States, things that are consistent with Bible prophecies and what the Bible says will happen to various nations in the last days.

There is not a verse specifically about what happens to us. You have to look at a whole range of scenarios and say any one of these, or even a combination of them, is possible…

[…continue reading here…]

 A differing opinion: In this 35-min audio, the presenter feels America is in prophecy.

 

July 2, 2014

Wednesday Link List

hypocrites

A Happy Independence Day to our U.S. readers and a one-day belated Happy Canada Day to readers in the land north of the 49th. On with the linkage…

When not playing one of the 820 Solitaire variants while listening to sermon podcasts, Paul Wilkinson blogs at at Thinking Out Loud, edits the devotional blog Christianity 201, and provides hints of the following week’s link list on Twitter.

June 27, 2014

Your Sunday School Kids Shall Prophesy

The backyard of the house I grew up in had a small rock garden that had been built into a hill to prevent erosion and for aesthetic reasons. They called it “the rockery.”  As a just-turned 11-year old, I never paid it much attention except for the times I was conscripted to help with pulling weeds, a chore I found difficult due to the variety of things planted. “Is this a weed?” I would ask, followed seconds later by, “Is this a weed?”

Great plague of antsBeing too young to have a summer job, one July day I found myself wandering aimlessly in the yard and a section the rockery caught my eye. There were ants, many of them, coming and going and doing what ants do. It’s not that I’d never seen ants before, but this was quite an army.

Not content to merely observe, I focused on the small anthill that was their access point to the outside world, and using a stick opened it up the access point, just a little bit, all in the interests of science.

The colony was huge. I was mortified. I dug further. The earth gave up her ants. The visible ants were just a fraction of what lay beneath in their subterranean quarters.

I decided the authorities should be notified. Something must be done. I ran into the house where my mother was working in the kitchen and informed her that — wait for it — “The earth is being readied for a great plague.”

It’s interesting looking back that I chose apocalyptic language for my pronouncement. I guess that’s what it’s like growing up in church. I blame Moses. But it’s not nearly as interesting as something my sister-in-law once told us our nephew did one Sunday morning, as relayed by his S.S. teacher.

We’re not sure if a question had been asked or if was simply an interjection for that moment, but apparently Zach suddenly blurted out, “Casting brazen serpents into the fire.”

For years now, I’ve tried to figure out how to work “Casting brazen serpents into the fire” into song lyrics, but it never quite fits. I also thought it would be interesting to be speaking somewhere and warn people ahead of time that there is a secret word — a la Groucho Marx — and they should watch for the phrase and then add it randomly into the sermon and award a prize to the first person who jumps up.

It’s truly too good a line to waste.

But as a mature adult, looking back, and looking forward, I do believe the earth is being readied for a great plague.

November 10, 2012

Weekend Link List

Weekend List Lynx

Do not ask for whom the link list tolls… as I won’t know what you’re talking about.

September 11, 2012

Rapture, What Rapture?

Thank you, Skye Jethani.

I’ve finally found someone whose take on the whole pre-tribulation rapture so popular among North American Evangelicals resonates with what I am coming to understand on this topic; and is able to articulate it well.

It happens on Episode # 15 of the Phil Vischer podcast. They’re talking about the Up-There versus New-Earth views as to what constitutes heaven when Phil asks about the rapture. Even though it’s audio, you can almost see Skye rolling his eyes. He then explains to Phil and co-host Christian Taylor that people have forced the scripture to fit a pre-determined (and wished-for) theology.

The heaven thing is around the 26-minute mark, and they get into the rapture somewhere around the 31-minute mark. If anyone knows a cheap (i.e. free) way of running a transcript of this, I would be more than happy to reproduce it here.

…They say that when pastors are experiencing rapid growth and aren’t sure about adding more service times or commencing a building program, they simply preach some tough message to create more seats. There’s actually a Biblical precedent for this, if you think about it.

So I realize that coming out on this topic might cost me some readers, but I hope that anyone who is open to reconsider long-held peripheral doctrines — because this isn’t core doctrine — will listen to what Skye has to say.

 

UPDATE (September 13th) — We thought we were finally burned out on mentioning the Phil Vischer podcast here, but things continue to get more interesting. Here’s a piece at Christianity 201 about the episode that followed this one.

October 29, 2011

Living Creatures: A Halloween Post

While surfing the blogosphere for material appropriate to Christianity 201, I came across the rather lively blog of Carole McDonnell and a particular post she wrote just in time for Halloween.   The line that convinced me we needed to borrow steal feature it here was,

…I figured I’d do something on Living Creatures who terrify. (Honestly, who fears dead stuff? Maybe corpses bring diseases and contamination but other than that…the dead are not particularly troublesome.)

Is that cool or what? Now then, internet etiquette dictates that you actually click over and view this at her blog, but statistically, most of you won’t which means you would miss out on something truly different…


My Halloween Post: Those Awesome Cherubim
Yep, it’s that time of the year again when folks celebrate dead creatures and stuff that terrify. But since hubby and I finished Revelations last week, I figured I’d do something on Living Creatures who terrify. (Honestly, who fears dead stuff? Maybe corpses bring diseases and contamination but other than that…the dead are not particularly troublesome.) And no I’m not gonna talk about demons either. True, they’re living creatures in their own way because they have immortal life. But they are evil. What I want to right about is Terrifying holiness.

With God is terrible majesty! With God is terrifying majesty!

God made many type of creatures, creatures who can live in the three-dimensional world and in other dimensionalities. And he also made the Cherubim. The Cherubim live in heaven…in fact they live in God’s throne room and are never out of the presence of God. God rides on the Cherubim, He is seated above the Cherubim. (Satan himself was the cherubim that covered the throne while the other cherubs surrounded it or were under it. But I digress.)

The weird thing is that as heavenly as Cherubim are, they are weirdly intertwined in human affairs. What their purpose is God alone (and great Bible students) know. They are carved over the mercy seat…which represents their place in heaven. They represent life forms on earth: tame animals, wild animals, humans, and birds. (No fish or creeping thing, but again, I digress.)

So this is what I want to talk about the Cherubim. Now, on earth we have one way of being: we are spirit, body, mind, but we are all in one visible package. Because God is above and beyond the third dimension, God can see our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.  But we humans can only see each other’s bodies. (Okay, if we have a gift we can see into spirits but I digress.)  Back to the Cherubim.

As we see them in the Book of Ezekiel, (the first time I believe in the Bible) we are told they all have one likeness:

The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness.  The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. “ (Ezekiel 1:1, 4-5,15-16, NKJV)

That is: they all look alike.

Under each of their four wings I could see human hands. So each of the four beings had four faces and four wings. 9The wings of each living being touched the wings of the beings beside it. Each one moved straight forward in any direction without turning around.

10Each had a human face in the front, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle at the back. 11Each had two pairs of outstretched wings—one pair stretched out to touch the wings of the living beings on either side of it, and the other pair covered its body. 12They went in whatever direction the spirit chose, and they moved straight forward in any direction without turning around.  Ezekiel 1: 8-12

Okay, so we accept this. One being has four faces, feet straight down so they don’t ever turn their face from God, and eyes everywhere just in case…so they don’t miss anything. And then there’s that pesky wheel-within-the-wheel which hints at all kinds of things.

The other thing we have to note is that these Cherubim move about in groups of four. Each four is one entity: a singular entity made up of four sub-entities who all look alike. This is something we can’t even begin to figure out. I mean, on earth a marriage is an entity but the hubby and the woman are not really alike to such an extreme.

Anyway, we accept this…and ponder and ponder. But then what happens when we arrive in Revelation?

In the center and around the throne were four living beings, each covered with eyes, front and back. 7The first of these living beings was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third had a human face; and the fourth was like an eagle in flight.8Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying,  Rev  4: 6-8

There are two changes here:

The first: the number of wings: two pairs each in Ezekiel’s vision, and 6 wings (not said if they come in pairs) in Revelations.
The second: The cherubim are now separate, kinda. . .and fully themselves but still a unity of four.

They’re still unified but one is fully human with six wings, one is fully a bird (with six wings), one is fully a lion (with six wings) and one is fully an ox (with six wings.

Again, they have all the eyes.  Now if there is any confusion here about these creatures: Ezekiel calls these living creatures “Cherubim” and John calls them “living creatures.”

Ezekiel 10:20 These were the living creatures I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the Kebar River, and I realized that they were cherubim.

Revelation 4:6 Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.

But, what’s interesting here is how these cherubim are part of each other and a unity. Not a trinity but a Quatrinity (I just invented that word, I think.) On earth we can’t begin to understand beings who are part of each other and who can dismantle and reassemble themselves in different patterns….but wow! this is heaven! A spiritual sphere! A world of dimensionalities we cannot begin to understand. Question: do they really “look” like this? Or is the way they look the only way our human minds with its limited understanding of what a “person” is can understand?

And may I say, these are terrifying. I have never seen a cherubim — especially when it/they is in their one from column a, one from column b, one from column c, one from column d — and yet one-single-entity mode  And know what? I do not want to see them.

In Daniel, the angel Gabriel is often called “The man Gabriel.” He stands before God, in the presence of God. Just like the cherubim are always before God. And honestly, if God wants to send anyone to talk to humans, I think he knows enough of human fear to send someone who looks like one of us: Gabriel.

How terrifying and majestic holiness is! I imagine the eyes of the cherubim, always seeing God and yet possibly seeing all on the earth, seeing through the eyes of all on the earth, seeing the evil being done on the earth.

Yeah, no ghost or demon matches the terrifying majesty of God.

~Carole McDonnell


I hope you agreed that was worth it. Even though you didn’t click over to her blog, why not give Carole a courtesy click now and check out other stuff she’s got there.

Next, you need to see some of the other videos over at John8ThirtyTwo’s YouTube channel.

Carole: I think the word Quadrinity has been used elsewhere, changing the ‘t’ to a ‘d’.

August 25, 2011

Everybody Talks about the Weather…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:18 pm

Last night here in the Greater Toronto area, we sat glued to the Intellicast weather satellite web page, watching as a long skinny band of severe thunderstorms tracked its way from Terra Haute, Indiana, through Detroit, toward Toronto and up to Ottawa.   One Ontario town, Goderich, had seen its downtown area devastated by a tornado just the day before and was back on the tornado watch 24 hours later.

Tornadoes are rare in the area east of Toronto, but then so are earthquakes in Washington, DC.   It’s been that kind of week.  And sooner or later, someone steps forth to suggest all the strange weather is an indication that we are indeed “living in the end times.”  How do you respond?

First of all, I think weather is a rather weak “sign” of the impending  ending to the “age of grace” when compared with, for example, moral decay.  When people say, “Look at the way the world is…;” they generally are referring to its spiritual state, not its meteorological state. Furthermore, it’s the aggregate of many signs that point to “final wrap up” here.

So a good response might be, “Well yes, we knew that.”

Secondly, I think that we have imperative ever before us to live in an “end times” mindset.  The early disciples expected Christ to return in a matter of weeks or months.  Our expectation should be greater.  But we also don’t know what the next day might bring; it may not be the “last days” for everyone, but it could be the “very last day” for us.  We need to think in terms of leaving a legacy, of passing our faith values on to the next generation and doing some “kingdom building” that will impact our neighbors, co-workers, extended family, etc. 

So a good response might be, “Are you fully prepared, no matter what happens?”

Finally, I think we have a responsibility to close the windows so the rain doesn’t get in.  In other words, we need to do the practical things we can do here and now.  To not be so heavenly minded we’re no earthly good.  To not be spiritualizing the moment when we should be rounding up the patio furniture so it doesn’t blow away. 

So a good response to your neighbor might be, “Do you want to join us in the basement to ride out the storm?”

July 15, 2011

The Last Word on Hell

What an interesting time this is for Christian publishing.  Children’s experiences of heaven top bestseller lists (The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, Heaven is For Real, A Message from God) while the adults — sparked by Rob Bell — debate the existence and/or nature of hell.

The last word on this subject may belong to a book I’m currently reading.  It’s far too early for me to begin anything resembling a review, but Hell Is Real (But I Hate to Admit It) by Brian Jones (David C. Cook Publishing/August 1, 2011) seems to me to relate better to the misgivings many people, including Christians, have on the subject of hell.  At 272 pages, it’s also a much longer treatment of the subject than the current bestseller in the refuting-Rob-Bell department.

Jones is senior pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley in Philadelphia, a rather edgy east coast church.

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