Good News!

Luke 2:8-20

Angel&Shepherds

When was the last time you received good news? What did you do?  Did you keep it to yourself or did you share it with others?

Imagine you were one of those shepherds watching over your sheep.  It was a night like any other or so you thought…

Suddenly an angel appears out of nowhere and a bright light shines around you. You’re scared.  You wonder what is going on.  The angel assures you and the other shepherds that there is nothing to be afraid of.  He has come to share good news.  Then he makes the big announcement, “For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign to you: You will find the Baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

The Savior whom you and others have been waiting for is born.  He’s in Bethlehem in a manger.  While you are still trying to digest this incredible news, other angels join the first one and the air is filled with their glory as they raise their voices in a song of praise to God. What a glorious sight. You can hardly believe what you are seeing.  After the angelic host leaves, you and the other shepherds are filled with excitement.  You can’t wait to go and see the Child for yourselves. You are anxious to go and see what the Lord has made known to you. You hurry off to the manger where you see Mary, Joseph and the Child.

The shepherds “made widely known the word which was told them concerning this Child” and those who heard it couldn’t help but marvel but Mary kept these things in her heart and pondered over them.  I can’t imagine what must have been going through her mind.  First, an angel visited her and told her that she was going to have a Son who would be called Jesus and that He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest. Then, on the night after she gives birth, shepherds show up at the manger to see Him because they too were visited by an angel.  This is a lot to grasp.

The shepherds left the manger and returned to their sheep, praising and glorifying God for all the things they had heard and seen.  It was a night they would never forget.

What can we learn from this wonderful story?

  • After hearing about Jesus, seek Him out for yourself
  • After you have seen Jesus and have been in His presence, go and tell others
  • Glorify and praise God for sending His Son into the world so that through Him we can be saved

This Christmas, take time to reflect on God’s greatest Gift to mankind.  Celebrate Jesus and thank Him for leaving the glory of heaven to come to earth to dwell among us.  Thank Him for the gift of eternal life which we can receive only through Him.  Share the message of love and hope of the season with others.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will toward men – Luke 2:14

 

 

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Be Ready to Share Jesus

Acts 13:13-52

900165955_466ceaa8d7_mAt bedtime, I read to my son the scriptures where Paul and Barnabas visited the synagogue in Antioch and after the reading from the Law and the Prophets,  the rulers of the synagogue asked them if they had any words of encouragement for the people.  What struck me is when Paul stood up, he used this opportunity to preach about Jesus.

He didn’t start off talking about Jesus.  Instead, he gave a brief summary of Israel’s history beginning with when the Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years.  He spoke about how the Jewish people were ruled by judges until the prophet Samuel and how they wanted to be like the other nations who had kings ruling over them.  They wanted a king too even though God was their King.  They got their wish when Saul, the son of Kish was chosen to be their king.  However, God removed him because of his disobedience and chose David to be his successor.  Then, Paul introduced Jesus, saying,  “From this man’s descendants God has raised a Savior for Israel, Jesus, according to His promise.”

He spoke of the role the people had played in the arrest and death of Jesus. By doing these things they had fulfilled the Word of God.  The Good News, though was that God raised Jesus from the dead and through Him are the forgiveness of sins.  Paul made it clear that we are justified by faith in Jesus and not by the law.  His words encouraged the Gentiles who begged him to preach again to them the following Sabbath.

Has God given you an opportunity to share the Good News about Jesus with others as He did with Paul?  Would you do as Paul did and share your faith so that people will come to know the Savior who died for them as well?  You don’t have to give a history lesson like Paul did.  You can share your own testimony of how you came to know the Lord like the woman at the well.  She told her community that Jesus must be the Messiah that they had been waiting for because He knew everything about her.

What about the challenges you will face when you share the Gospel?  The following Sabbath when Paul and Barnabas returned to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, they were met with opposition from the Jews who were envious.  They contradicted what Paul said but he and Barnabas didn’t allow them to spoil things for them.  Instead, they boldly declared to them that since they rejected the Word of God which was supposed to be given to them first, it would be given instead to the Gentiles for the Lord commanded them, “‘I have established you to be a light of the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'”  Verse 48 says that when the Gentiles heard this, “they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And all who were ordained to eternal life believed.”

Don’t be discouraged when people oppose you and contradict what you say.  It’s Satan, your enemy at work, trying to prevent you from doing what God has called you to do.  Like Paul and Barnabas did, act boldly, knowing that the Lord is your side and He will not allow His work to be hindered.  Share the Gospel for the sake of those who will gladly receive it. Don’t let the Satan or anyone put out your light.  Keep it shining for those who will come to it and receive salvation through faith in Jesus.

Today, if God gives you an opportunity to encourage people with the Good News about Jesus, grab it.  And don’t worry about what to say.  The Holy Spirit has that covered.

 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek – Romans 1:16

Indebted to Jesus

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Thank-you-Jesus-for-saving-my-life-1I was reading this passage and thinking of how we are all indebted to Jesus.  We have done terrible things in our lives but He showed us such love and grace that we could only respond in humility and gratitude.  There are times when my past comes back to haunt me but then I remember Jesus’ love and forgiveness.

Paul writes to Timothy about his past.  He shares how he was once an enemy of the church.  He blasphemed the Lord and persecuted His people but it was done in ignorance.  How many of us have not done things that we later regret out of ignorance?

Paul spoke of how Jesus poured out His grace on him.  “He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.”  How many of us are called into ministry after the Lord has shown us mercy?  I have heard of men who once on the wrong side of the law become pastors.  At a Women’s Ministry program, a speaker shared her testimony of how life was for her before she found Jesus.  She used to be a drug addict.  

It doesn’t matter where or how we encounter Jesus.  What matters is that once we surrender to Him, He can do remarkable things in our lives.  When people see how the Lord has transformed a person you never would imagine would become a Christian, they can’t help but be amazed and curious.  When Paul began preaching after his conversion, many people were amazed.  They couldn’t believe that it was the same person who used to a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man.  In his eyes, he was a chief sinner among the sinners whom Jesus came to save.  I can almost hear the regret in his words but he sees something positive in this.  As the worst sinner of them all, he can be used to demonstrate how patient Jesus is towards the worst of sinners.  He, Paul will serve as an example to all who in the future should trust Jesus for eternal life.

We, like Paul, are indebted to Jesus for His love, kindness, mercy, grace and patience.  He loved us even when we were rejecting Him.  All that time when Paul was persecuting the church, Jesus loved him.  He knew Paul’s heart.  He knew that Paul was acting out of ignorance and He knew that He could redirect that zeal.  This explains why Paul was so passionate in his work as a minister.  He testified, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).  It is as if he were working hard to show Jesus that His mercy toward him had not be in vain.

Let us show the Lord how much we appreciate His grace toward us.  Let us do this by the way we live, how we treat others and in whatever work He has called us to do.

Thank You, Jesus for saving us and using us to bring other lost souls to You.

From Trials to Triumph

2 Corinthians 11:16-23

apostle paulPaul had many trials, hardships, faced death, was beaten and persecuted but these things did not discourage him.  He delighted to do the Lord’s work.  Like David, he could claim, “The Lord is my Helper.  The Lord is the One who keeps me alive.”

God was with him throughout all these stormy times, helping and encouraging him–providing him with the strength he needed to overcome.  God can do the same for us.  He is our Shelter in times for storm.

We can gain courage from Paul’s experiences.  He travelled a lot, sometimes to inhospitable regions, in storms.  Life was hard for him.  Travelling then was hard–not at all like now with all of its conveniences.  Paul did not allow these hardships to hinder him from his work.  He was able to finish the race and one day he will receive his crown.

Let this be our goal–serve God in spite of opposition, keeping our eyes on the prize–eternal life with our Lord–finishing the race and one day receiving our crowns.  We want to hear our Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant;  Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21).

Spiritual Adultery

James 4:4

spiritual-adultery-editedFriends usually do things together and have similar interests.  Being friends with the world means adopting the ways of the world–accepting or condoning the things of the world.  James refers to those who are friends with the world as adulterers and adulteresses.

Adultery is straying outside of your marriage.  When the Israelites turned to other gods and indulged in idolatry, they were seen as committing adultery.  They were turning away from God to pursue other gods.  When we turn away from God and pursue the things of the world, we are having an adulterous relationship with the world.  It is like we are going outside of our relationship with God to find something else.  It seems we are no longer satisfied with our relationship with God and are searching for something better which we think the world can give us.  We cannot have it both ways.  We either choose one or the other.

John 3:16 states that God loves the world but the key words or message here is that whoever believes in His Son should not perish but have everlasting life.  The key is for those in the world to believe in Jesus and this will lead to eternal life.

God does not want us to be friends with a world which rejects His offer of salvation and lives in rebellion.  These are the people in the world with whom we are to have nothing to do with.  These are people who love the things of the world more than they love God or people who want nothing to do with God.

This is not to say that we should not go out into the world and interact with people.  We can’t avoid people.  However, we are not to forsake our faith or compromise it because we want to maintain new or old friendships or relationships.  Jesus, when He was praying for His disciples, did not ask the Father to take them out of the world.  They had work to do in the world.  He asked the Father to protect them from the Devil.  He said that like Him, the disciples were not of the world.  So, keeping ourselves unspotted  in the world (James 1:27) and not being friends with the world, means that we live in the world but don’t have the mindset of the world.  We cannot allow ourselves to be worldly.  We are to have the mind of Christ who kept Himself unspotted from the world.

In his first letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul wrote, “In the same way, the Lord has ordained that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14).  As Christians and disciples of Christ, we are to practice what we preach.  We are to live our lives in such a way that the world will know that we belong to God and that it is Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20). 

Mark 14:32-42

download (1)Jesus was troubled and deeply distressed.  He told Peter, James and John that His soul was exceedingly sorrowful even to death and asked them to stay there and watch.  He went a little farther in the garden and fell on the ground.  He prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him.

When I read verse 36 where He asks, “Take this cup away from Me,” I cried.  I cried because I thought of how heart-wrenching it would be for Jesus to be separated from His Father because our sins would be placed on Him as since the beginning–before the world was, He and His Father had been together–inseparable.  The cup mentioned in verse 35 was the agony of being separated from the Father.  When Jesus, the sinless Son of God took on the sins of the world, He would be separated from His Father so that we could have eternal life.  Sins separate us from God.

Then Jesus said, “not what I will, but what You will.”  Even though He knew what doing the will of the Father would cost Him, He was obedient.  Like Jesus, are we willing to place our Father’s will above our own no matter the cost?  Jesus did it because there was no other way through which men could be saved.  Jesus’ death and blood were the only ways we could be reconciled to God (Romans 5:10, Ephesians 2:13).

It is interesting that the three whom Jesus took with Him, weren’t there for Him when it mattered the most.  In Mark 14:29, Peter insisted that he would not desert Jesus.  In verse 37, Jesus addresses him only.  He asked him, “could you not keep watch for one hour?”

In Matthew 20:22, 23, James and John said that they were able to drink the cup He was about to drink and be baptised with the baptism that He would be baptised with and they said they were able.  Yet, like Peter, they could not keep watch.

There are times in our lives when we will be vulnerable to temptation.  What can we do to resist?  Jesus gave us the following tips:

  • Keep watch
  • Pray
  • Resolve to do God’s will

The King on a Cross

“He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God” – Luke 23:35

031211_0125_CITIZENSOFA14As Jesus hung on the cross, soldiers cast lots for His robe and the people passed by, blaspheming Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!” The chief priests and scribes jeered Him among themselves, “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” (Mark 15:29-32).  The soldiers mocked Him, saying that if He were the King of the Jews, He should save Himself.  One of the criminals blasphemed Him, telling Him that if He were the Christ, to save Himself and them.  As He hung there, Jesus asked His Father to forgive them (Luke 23:34-37).

None of those jeering at Him realized that He had fulfilled the purpose for which He came.  He was not going to save Himself.  He was there to save them and the world so that those who believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.  He became a curse for our sake.  Nicodemus must have reflected on these words as He witnessed the crucifixion,  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:14-17).

Jesus had to be lifted up so that all men would be drawn to Him.  Just as the Israelites looked upon the serpent in the wilderness and were saved so will those who look upon Him in faith.  The heavenly King to give His life a ransom for many.  The rulers seem to have forgotten Caiaphas’ prophetic words, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” John wrote that the high priest prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad (John 11:49-52).  Thus Jesus would die not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles.  And it was expedient that He should die.  There is no remission for sin unless blood is shed.  The blood of the Lamb of God had to be shed for the sins of the world.  Without His death there would be no reconciliation with God for sin had separated us from Him.

Ironically, the other thief on the cross, who was also cursed because he was hanging from a tree, he realized that Jesus was innocent and undeserving of such a humiliating death.  He acknowledged his own sinfulness in the face of our Lord and asked Jesus to “remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”  Jesus promised him that day that he would be among those who were resurrected on that glorious day when Jesus would come again to gather His people to Him and take them to Heaven.  That thief gave his life to the King of Kings and in return received the promise of eternal life. 

Thankfully, Jesus did not come down from the cross as He was goaded into doing.  Instead, He cried out, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit’” and died.  Even nature responded to the death of its Creator.  There was darkness over the earth and the sun was darkened.  The veil in the temple tore, signifying that the old sacrificial system was obselete now.  “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.  For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4).  Only the blood of Christ can take away our sins.  He offered Himself once and for all on the cross. 

Another important point that should be made is that the tearing of the veil also signified the tearing down of the partition which separated us from God.   We read in Hebrews 10:19, 20, that we can boldly enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus and by a new and living way which He consecrated for us through the veil which is His flesh.  So, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are now able to boldly approach the throne of grace.  In the old system, “when a sacrifice was offered for the sins of the entire congregation, the blood was taken by the priest, who represented Jesus (Hebrews 3:1), into the sanctuary and sprinkled before the veil which separated the two rooms. The presence of God dwelt on the other side of the veil” (God Drew the Plans, Amazing Facts.  In the tearing of the veil, we see Jesus in His roles as our sacrificial Lamb and our High Priest.  Through Him we can go directly to God and confess our sins.  We don’t need an earthly intercessor.  The Bible clearly teaches that there is one Mediator between God and us and that’s Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5).  He is the only way to the Father because of what He did on the cross.

The King of Kings stayed on the cross until He was able to say, “It is finished.”  He had accomplished what He came to do.  Hebrews 10:7 states that He came to do the Father’s will.  Isaiah 53:11, 12 explain what that will was:  By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.  And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.”  It pleased God to give His beloved Son so that the world would be saved through Him.  And the Son was willing to lay down His life. 

When the centurion saw the veil tear in two from top to bottom, he declared, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).  Here we have a Gentile, a Roman soldier who acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God while many of the Jews rejected Him as their King and their Messiah.  This centurion declared that Jesus was a righteous Man and glorified God (Luke 23:47).  He believed that Jesus was the Son of God.  This was a confession of faith.  He was drawn to the King who was lifted up.  Jesus said of Himself, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

Today, reflect on the King as He hung on the cross, cursed for our sakes so that He could redeem us.  Thank God for loving you so much that He sacrificed His Son so that you could be reconciled to Him.  Thank Jesus for laying down His life for you.  And rejoice because the King is now in heaven sitting on the right hand of the Father.

Body And Soul

man became a living soulAnd the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul – Genesis 2:7.

Many Christians believe that the body and soul are two separate things. What does the Bible say? In chapter two of Genesis we learn how God created the first human being. After God said, “Let Us make man in Our image,” He formed man from the dust. He breathed life into the man’s nostrils and the man came to life. Man became a living soul. The soul has no life apart from the body. The man’s body was lifeless until God breathed life into him.

Does the soul die? According to the Bible it does. ““Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). The word used for soul is nephesh, the same word used in Genesis 2:7. So, the soul is the living being–the person. It is who the person is. He is a living soul.

What happens when a person dies? King Solomon tells us. “All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust” (Ecclesiastes 3:20). “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The word used for “spirit” here is “ruwach”, the same word Job uses for “breath” when he said, “Who among all these does not know That the hand of the Lord has done this, In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind?” (Job 12:9, 10). Job also said, “The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4). He uses the word “nĕshamah” which was used in Genesis 2:7 for the “breath” of life. God gives us the breath of life and we become living souls. When we die, our bodies (souls or beings) return to dust. God said so Himself. “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).

Psalm 146:4 tells us what happens to a person who dies. “His spirit (ruwach) departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish.” The person’s breath leaves his body and he goes to the grave where he has no consciousness.

“For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share In anything done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6).

The Bible does not teach that the body and soul are separate entities. The soul does not depart when a person dies. The breath of life is the only thing that leaves a person at the moment of death. The soul is the person. Without the breath of God it has no life.

But what about the texts which seem to imply that the soul is separate from the body? Genesis 35:18 says: “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.” The word used for soul is nephesh. It means life. So, when you substitute the word soul with life, the verse reads, “And it came to pass, as her life was departing or as she was dying, she called his name…

The other text is Matthew 10:28 where Jesus said, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The word used for soul is psychē which means breath, life. In the preceding verses Jesus was telling the disciples about the persecutions they would face. Luke mentions this in his gospel. Luke 12:4, 5 state: “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!”

Jesus was teaching them about the fear of God. He was saying that rather than fear those who kill the body they ought to fear God who has the power to cast the unsaved into hell (“Gehenna” or “Gehenna of fire”). This was the place where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned. While men can kill and take away the physical life God has the power to give eternal life.

Hell is not a place where the wicked will burn for eternity.  This teaching maligns the character of God who cares for everyone, including the wicked.  It is not His will that anyone should perish.  Jesus mentioned that hellfire which is what will come down from Heaven was meant for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).  According to Malachi 4:3, the wicked will become ashes.  This means those whose names are not written in the Book of the Life will not burn forever and ever but will be consumed by the fire of judgment until they are no more.  Revelation 21:8 confirms this: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”  This is the second death.  This means that they will die and will not be resurrected ever again.  So, their death is final.  They will not be tormented forever and ever but will perish in this fire.

Jude said that Sodom and Gomorrah suffered the vengeance of eternal fire but Peter said that God turned “the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned [them] to destruction, making [them] an example to those who afterward would live ungodly;(Jude 1:7, 2 Peter 2:6).  So, the fire which consumed Sodom and Gomorrah burned the cities to ashes.  It may have burned for a long time but it eventually went out.  It is the same with the fire which will consume the devil, the beast and the false prophet and the unsaved.  It may burn for a long time but it will eventually go out.

We should have reverential fear for God who has the power over eternal life and eternal death.  “I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid
Of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass?” (Isaiah 51:12).  Why should we fear man who will perish like we will?  Why should we fear those who persecute us for our Lord’s sake?  They can’t do more than kill us.  They may snuff out our lives but when Jesus returns with the angels, those of us who died in Him will be raised to everlasting life.  Don’t fear what man can do to you but live your life in obedience and in a way that is pleasing to God so that you may be counted worthy of His kingdom, for which you suffer (2 Thessalonians 1:5).

Let these words of Paul encourage you, “it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you,  and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:6:10).

Love Bears All Things

Love bears all things – 1 Corinthians 13:7

jesus15-jesus-bore-our-sinsJesus bore the sins of this world.  He carried our weaknesses, our sorrows which weighed Him down.  Our troubles became His.  He took up our cross and took it to Calvary where He paid our sin debt in full.  He bore the sins of many and interceded for sinners.  He did this all in the name of love.  He wanted to make it possible for many to be counted righteous once they placed their faith in Him, their sin Bearer.

He took on the wrath of God on our behalf.  He bore our guilt and was punished.  He was nailed on the cross between two criminals (Isaiah 53:4, 11).  Jesus carried our sins because He loved us.  Although we were guilty, He took the blame.  Our salvation meant so much to Him that He willingly gave His life for us.  Love bears all and gives all.  Jesus suffered a cruel death so that we could have eternal life.  He bore the indignity of the cross so that we could one day share the kingdom which the Father has prepared for us.  What a wonderful Savior is Jesus our Lord!

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