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Oct. 10th, 2012

JOY of the LORD

One of the most popular passages in the Bible is Nehemiah 8:10: "Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."

Why is joy important? Because the "joy of the Lord is your strength!" Joy produces strength. And strength is needed to fight. You are called to "fight the good fight of faith" (1 Timothy 6:12). I sense in my spirit that many people in the body of Christ are tired of fighting the good fight of faith. They are struggling to fight because they have lost their joy.

Perhaps you are tired of fighting for your marriage. You are fed up with your spouse. You think that he doesn't love you any more, so why fight for his love. You are ready to throw in the towel.

Maybe you're sick and tired of being sick and tired. You have been sick for so long that you don't remember what it's like to be healthy. At one time, you battled this sickness, but the sickness seems to be winning. So you think, What's the use, I might as well accept this sickness and learn to live with it. I'm never going to get well.

Possibly you once waged war against your financial debts. But things haven't changed much, and you're beginning to get discouraged. You think that you are never going to get out from under all your bills.

You might be having trouble with your children. You wonder if they are ever going to straighten up. You are exhausted from their rebellion. Is God ever going to change them? you wonder.

EVERYONE HAS TROUBLES

I know how you feel. As a pastor, I face many trials every day. I do my best to be a good pastor. I teach the word of God, counsel the distraught, visit the sick, etc. Yet there are always people who are never happy with my performance. People complain:

"I don't get fed spiritually." "The pastor didn't visit me in the hospital." "The pastor was not available to counsel me when I needed him to." "I'm not going to church because brother X is a hypocrite." "I didn't go to church because the Dallas Cowboys were playing an early game." "The people at church are not friendly." "The church is not open for me to use my gifts." "Nobody cares about me at church."

After experiencing these and many other trials, I too want to give up. I lament over my troubles, What's the use of trying to be a good pastor. They don't appreciate me. I want to say, "Forget them!" Of course that's my flesh talking, not my heart.

My heart says, "They don't know what they are doing. They are simply frustrated themselves. They don't mean to hurt me. I'm going to rejoice." This is what you need to do: Rejoice!

REJOICE ALWAYS

Philippians 4:4 says, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" How often are you to rejoice? You know the answer, Always! You are to rejoice always, because "joy" is the easiest fruit to lose. You can't live off of the joy you had yesterday. Joy can give you strength only when you possess it.

If you had joy last week, that joy will not give you strength today. Joy can only give you strength today, if you have it today. This is why you must rejoice always.

You might say, "I don't feel like rejoicing." God didn't say, "Rejoice, only if you feel like it." No! He said, "Rejoice always." Obviously, God knows that you don't feel like rejoicing always. Yet you need to rejoice always because if you don't then you lose the strength to fight.

James 1:2 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds." Pure joy is not happiness. "Happiness" comes from the word "happen." Happiness, therefore, is based on what is happening. If something good is happening, then you are happy. However, God says that pure joy occurs even in the midst of trials--even when the car breaks down, or when the kids get sick, or when the boss cuts your hours, or when your spouse is in a bad mood, etc.

Why is James telling us to count it pure joy whenever we face trials? Because joy gives you strength to fight your trials, and if you'll fight the trials, you will overcome. James continues, "Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (v. 4). You see, James has in mind "victory over trials", not "acceptance of his trials." So by rejoicing, you overcome your trials.

YET I WILL REJOICE

I love the verse in Habakkuk 3:17:

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crops fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls..." (Sounds like this fellow has problems.) Look at the next verse:

"Yet...Yet...Yet...Yet...Yet."

Notice, he is not going to surrender to his problems. He is going to do something about his problems.

He says, "Yet I will REJOICE IN THE LORD, I will be JOYFUL IN GOD MY SAVIOR" (v. 18).

He is going to REJOICE because, "The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights" (v. 19).

You see, Habakkuk had no intention of staying defeated. He may look defeated, but he is not going to stay defeated. The difference between the person who is defeated and the person who is victorious is their attitude.

An attitude of gratitude will put you over in life. This is the kind of attitude that this prophet had. Even though nothing good was happening in his life--no fruit, no crops, no sheep, no cattle--yet he rejoiced.

In our modern world, Habakkuk might have said it this way:

"Though there is no food in the refrigerator, and there is no money in the account, though the sickness gets worse, and the pain persist, though my children are on drugs, and my spouse does not appreciate me, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior."

Regardless of the circumstances, you can rejoice!

WELLS OF SALVATION

Let's look at one last verse of scripture: "`Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.' WITH JOY YOU WILL DRAW WATER FROM THE WELLS OF SALVATION" (Isaiah 12:2-3).

Did you know that there are "wells" (plural) of salvation? When you got saved, you inherited many wells. Each well contains a unique blessing:

One well has a sign on it that reads: HEALING. Another well says: PROSPERITY. Still another well says: SOUND MIND. As you look around at all the wells, you notice another one with a emblem saying: FAMILY RESTORATION.

The more you look at the wells you inherited, the more your heart rejoices.

Notice that this scripture says that with joy you will draw from the wells of salvation. You need muscles--strength--to draw water from wells. Without strength you can't draw from the wells. This is why Isaiah says, "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." It takes joy to draw from the wells of healing, prosperity, soundness of mind and family restoration. Without joy, you can't draw water from these wonderful wells.

Joy keeps you strong and enables you to draw from the wells of salvation.

You may be facing sickness. Yet God has provided the well of "healing." But only through joy can you draw from this well. So rejoice despite your sickness.

You may be experiencing poverty. But through joy you can draw from the well named "prosperity."

You may be tormented with fear, worry and depression. However, you can draw the water called "sound mind"--through joy!

Don't get down. Don't get discouraged.

The devil may be able to attack you (after all, he is the god of this age) but he has no power to steal your joy. Joy is a spiritual force inside your human spirit. Satan can touch your body, finances and family as the book of Job teaches, but he can't touch your spirit. Your spirit is off limits to the devil. And since he can't touch your spirit, he can't rob you of your joy.

Satan can not steal your joy since it is spiritual. If you lost your joy it is because you gave it away. However, if you will keep your joy, Satan has to release your blessings.

-Tom Brown-

Sep. 13th, 2012

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Aug. 18th, 2012

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Jun. 15th, 2012

COURAGE

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

-Anais Nin

Courage is a virtue that philosophers have been trying to define for millennia. In the Laches, Socrates engages in a heated dialogue with two Athenian generals about the definition of courage. But like most of Socrates’ dialogues, we learn what the virtue of courage is not, as opposed to what it is. Aristotle, in his Eudemian Ethics, establishes what I think is a good working definition of courage. Courage, according to Aristotle, is the mean between fear and recklessness. Cowards are debilitated by excessive fear, especially of things that shouldn’t be feared. Reckless men take unnecessary risks with excessive confidence in the face of danger. The courageous man, however, strikes a balance between irrational fear and foolhardy recklessness. The courageous man fears that which should be feared, but he endures his fear with confidence for the right reason. That right reason, according to Aristotle, is for the sake of honor and nobility.

So our working definition of courage is recognizing rational fears, but acting nobly despite this fear in order to maintain manly honor. And while that is a good definition of courage, I’m still not pleased with it. It fails to capture an ethos that courageous men display. I see people every day who recognize and face fear, but I wouldn’t necessarily call them courageous. For me, at least, courage is something that I know when I see. When I see courage in action, I’m inspired to dare for noble causes. Courageous men stir my soul to endure, even when I’m surrounded by defeat and cynicism.

Every man hopes to have the courage to endure the great trials and tests that he will meet in life. But before a man can take on the big challenges, he must hone his courage in the small decisions he makes every day. Courage is like a muscle; it can be strengthened and developed through consistent training. Below we discuss the different types of courage every man should seek to embody and how to develop a manly and courageous heart.

Physical Courage

Physical courage is the type of courage that often comes to mind when we think about this virtue. Stories of brave soldiers charging up a hill amid whizzing bullets consume our boyish imaginations. We are inspired and humbled by the stories of brave firemen and police officers rushing into the burning towers on 9/11 to rescue helpless victims. We all hope that when called upon to face a crisis, we too will be willing to risk our physical safety to save our own life and the lives of others.

How to Develop Physical Courage

Obviously, you cannot schedule circumstances in which you must show forth your physical courage. But you can prepare yourself before such an event occurs. Even if you have a courageous heart, if you can’t walk up the stairs without getting winded, then you’re not going to be up to the task when duty calls. So get yourself in the best possible physical shape. Can you pull yourself up a ledge? Swim a mile? Sprint for several minutes at a time?

Yet a strong body is not sufficient if you wish to develop physical courage. Here I’d like to quote Hallock, one of the men who frequents the AoM forum:

“You can prepare yourself as much as possible for such circumstances where you are in desperation, but when push comes to shove most people’s minds will break before their body does. The mind plays a much larger role in the physicality of survival than aesthetic quality of the body or numeric prowess of weight.”

Thus to develop physical courage, you must also learn to discipline and train your mind. Men who have seen combat or who have worked in dangerous environments will tell you that the way they overcome fear is to rely on their training. These men spend months or sometimes years training to face dangerous situations. The goal of these trainings is to make their responses automatic. They don’t have to think too much about what to do because it’s already built into the circuity of their body and minds. Moreover, training develops the willpower they need to face the challenge.

Even if you’re not in a profession in which you are required to train for dangerous situations, you can still prepare yourself for physical challenges. Become proficient in a martial art. Learn how to confidently perform first aid and CPR. Make physical exercise a regular part of your routine; pushing yourself though the pain of intense workouts is an excellent way to build self-discipline. And training need not be situation specific; any challenge that pushes you beyond your comfort zone and makes you face pain, discomfort, and fear head on will build your physical courage.

Intellectual Courage

We’re living a time of countless new problems. If we are to solve these problems, it will take men who have the courage to think bold new ideas and have the courage to endure social sanction from friends, family, and peers because of their ideas. History is full of great men who have displayed manly intellectual courage. Socrates devoted his life to the pursuit of truth. His teachings have inspired a great deal of Western thought, but his quest for truth ran counter to the prejudices of his day. The people of Athens charged Socrates with corrupting the youth. They put him on trial, condemned him, and sentenced him to death by hemlock. The court gave him the opportunity to refute his teachings in order to spare his life, but Socrates refused to do so. He showed the intellectual courage to stand for truth, even if it meant death.

Other men who displayed intellectual courage include Galileo, Rene Descartes, Francis Bacon, and Charles Darwin. These men faced persecutions for their ideas, yet they endured them with manly courage. Because of their courage to think differently and to stand up for their ideas, society has advanced and improved.

How to Develop Intellectual Courage
Sadly, many men these days huddle in the safety of sheep-mindedness. Even if they have a bold and new idea, they’re afraid of sharing it because of the scorn and ridicule they may receive from others. While we might not discover the cure for cancer or develop a radical way to harness cold fusion, we have countless opportunities to display intellectual courage in our work and in our communities. We must learn not to fear what others think of our ideas.

The first step to developing intellectual courage is to become an avid reader. Read books from many different eras and study the history of ideas. Every time period believes that the way they think and view the world is essentially the way people have always done so. But as you acquaint yourself with intellectual history, you will see dramatic changes in the philosophies and principles that guided societies in each era. This will give you confidence to not settle for the status quo or believe that the ways things are cannot be changed.

If you’re a college student, don’t passively accept whatever your professors tell you. Ask questions, probe deeper. If you have an idea at work about how things could be improved or done differently, go to your boss and tell him or bring it up at a meeting. If you see a problem in your community, instead of cynically griping about it, have the courage to come up with a solution. Write letters to the editor, bring a proposal before your city council at one of their weekly meetings, or better yet, run for political office yourself.

Moral Courage

Moral courage can be defined as the power and determination to follow what one believes to be right, regardless of cost to one’s self, and irrespective of the disapproval of others. Like intellectual courage, history is full of examples of men who displayed manly moral courage. One example that comes to mind is that of Gandhi. He was a man who almost single handily brought the British Empire to its knees and won the independence of 500 million Indians. Yet he had no army or political post. In fact, he walked around almost half naked and lived in a mud hut with no electricity. What Gandhi lacked in military and economic strength, he made up for in moral courage. Through his use of non-violent protest, Gandhi was able to persuade the British government with his courage to liberate India.

You just need to read the newspapers to see that we are surrounded with grave moral problems. From political and economic corruption in the United States to abject poverty and genocide in Africa. We desperately need fearless and forward-looking men who are determined to fight and win these battles. If we are to overcome these injustices, it will require men who have the courage to rise above the hip and trendy cynicism of today’s mass media and embrace sincere devotion to a noble cause.

How to Develop Moral Courage
Moral courage means standing up for your ethics and principles, even when it is not convenient, and most of all, when it could actually be to your detriment. To prepare yourself for times when your moral courage will be sorely tested, you should practice what you preach in the small decisions you make every day. When you’re tempted to lie to your boss to save your own skin, don’t. When the cashier gives you more change than you’re supposed to get, let them know. When someone pressures you to reveal confidential information, tell them to take a hike.

Moral courage thrives on empathy and compassion, the ability to understand the needs and hurts of others. If you’re a wealthy CEO, but have never lost touch with the common workingman, then you won’t be tempted to cheat them. If you weekly work with the homeless and poverty-stricken, you will have the courage to fight for policies and programs to help improve their lives.

Thus, the best way to develop moral courage is through offering regular service to others. When you work with people face to face, you gain the courage not to turn away and to fight for the right thing for them. You will find that this courage will not only apply specifically to the groups of people you directly serve, but will expand your compassion, and thus your courage, to do what is right for all people and in every situation.

The Courage to Be Great

The root cause of mediocrity wears many masks; most often, that of complacency, procrastination, hatred, and anger. Yet these masks only disguise the real source of a man’s lack of greatness: fear. Many men want to believe that they haven’t attained their goals because the work required to get there is too boring or too involved. But the real reason is often the fear of failure. The fear of discovering that you don’t have what it takes to make it. If you never try, you may never succeed, but you’ll also never fail. To follow such a path is to join the ranks of those destined to live and die as what Theodore Roosevelt called “those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Attaining greatness rests on a man’s ability to courageously take on risks and break from the comfortable shackles of apathy and complacency. Before Gerard Butler, star of such films as 300 and Rocknrolla, became a movie star, he found himself on a path that outwardly seemed quite successful. Butler had busted his butt in law school, graduated at the top of his class, and been hired by a large and prestigious law firm in Edinburgh. Yet he was miserable. Butler recalls: “I knew in my heart that being a lawyer was not what I wanted to do. . . I had missed work so often that I was on my final warning–and strangely enough, a week before, I’d gone to see Trainspotting, the play, at the Edinburgh Festival, and had my heart broken watching this guy play the lead, Renton, thinking, I know I can do this. So after I missed work again, they let me go. I had to call my mom that night and say, ‘I know you thought I was going to be a lawyer, but I’m not. I’ve just been fired.’” The very next day, Butler packed his bags and moved to London. Butler remembers: “It was like free-falling, but there was something incredibly thrilling about it. One day I heard they were auditioning for Trainspotting and recasting the role of Renton. I had no agent, so I took a little photo of myself and wrote my number on it. The director called me up, and I went in and read from the book, playing two parts, jumping from seat to seat; I spent the next half hour convincing him that I wasn’t really on drugs. I ended up getting the job, so a year later, I was back at Edinburgh doing Trainspotting. Even the people from the law firm came to see it. They loved it.” Butler could have buried his dream of acting and resigned himself to life as a lawyer. Instead, he had the courage to take a chance. And it has paid off handsomely.


How to Develop the Courage to Be Great

As with all the types of courage, you must start with the small decisions and work up to the bigger ones. Start identifying the ways in which fear is holding you back from your goals and your happiness. Remember, that this fear can take on various disguises, like procrastination. Cut through the rationalizations you have previously given for not following through on something. Remember, you haven’t done it yet not just because it’s an unpleasant task, but because you are afraid to do it. Quit putting it off and simply decide to finally tackle the situation head on. If you’ve been afraid to begin a workout program, join a gym and hire a personal trainer, so there’s no backing out. If you’re afraid of public speaking, volunteer to give a speech at the next company meeting. Talk to the girl you’ve been pining for at the coffee shop for 6 months. Start interviewing for a new job to replace the one you’re miserable in. Apply to graduate school. Just do it. The more fears you face and overcome, the more your courage and confidence will grow.

May. 24th, 2012

Unforgettable Woman

WHAT MAKES A WOMAN UNFORGETTABLE?


"I did but see her passing by,
And yet I love her till I die"

No one is sure to whom these haunting words were addressed. But one thing is certain: since the beginning of time there have been women like that, women who seem to have been born with a grace and charm that makes them live on forever in the hearts of those who know them.

What makes them unforgettable? Why does one woman have this magic while others, though they are kind and attractive, pass and are gone? There is no easy answer. Yet if you query men (who should know) certain characteristics are mentioned again and again.

Sex appeal, of course, most unforgettable women have; yet by itself it is not enough. Many of the memorable women of history retained their captivating charm in old age and kept the devoted attention of the men who had loved them in their youth. Beauty, certainly, does no harm, but some of the most intriguing women have not been beautiful.

Perhaps the most universal answer is that the unforgettable woman is warm and responsive. In my own informal poll three out of four men thought that responsiveness was what indeared a woman to them most of all. "There are people," said the brillant French essayist, Raoul de Roussey de Sales, "who transmit to others their particular emotional atmosphere; who show you how to love, to suffer, to be happy, to laugh at the humorous things in life."

The unforgettable woman is like that. You know that she is aware of you. Her mind is hospitable to your ideas, her heart to your joys and sorrows. She is not an onlooker of life. On the contrary, she is in the middle of it. She cares; things happen to her; she happens to them.

Everything a man does with such a woman becomes a memory. Because she was delighted, intrigued, curious...he remembers the morning he took her to the Fisherman's Market for breakfast; because she made it fun to walk in the rain the night the car broke down, he remembers her every time it the reain falls. She can eat happily in a rowboat or in the most exclusive restaurant. "She belongs to the mmoment she is in," said a stockbroker. "She gives herself to the thing she is doing." Almost all greatly loved women have had this quality of joy in the moment.

Since she is responsive, the unforgettable woman has a genius for discovering what is worthwhile in another person. This one is witty, but his shyness prevents people from knowing it. She sparks that wit and sets if flowing. Under a hard-boiled exterior, this other one is a dreaming idealist. The responsive woman comes quietly on this hidden bloom and rejoices in it.

Paradoxically, the unforgettable woman has a deep core of "aloneness." She is a person in her own right. She is not lost in the crowd, and this is not to say that she stands out as the life of the party. It is rather that she has a sense of serenity and personal security, that some of her joys are inward, that she has a satisfying existence in her own mind and imagination. This integrity and inward richness keeps such a woman from any slavish desire to please. It gives her a wonderful simplicity and protects her from fussiness and pettiness.

The unforgettable woman is also feminine, but she is not necessarily assertive about it. Recently a young dance instructor, who sees hundreds of women a year, make a remark that struck me as illuminating. "The woman who keeps pushing her femininity isn't really feminine at all," he said. "The really feminine woman isn't proving anything. She isn't always getting into the conversation. She doesn't try to make you notice her and her clothes. It's just that when you are with her you feel like a man."

Other men agree. This feeling, they say, is induced by the fact that the very womanly woman has a tenderness for a man. She never thinks of herself as engaged in a hand-to-hand struggle to get what is coming to her. She likes men, respects and admires what they are trying to acheive, hopes to make them happy. It is not sexual prowess or a fawning helplessness or the ability to wear clothes that makes a woman feminine, but tenderness and concern and the willingness to sacrifice for others.

Must the unforgettable woman be intelligent? "Yes," say an astonishing number of men. Intelligence can flower into a rich and mellow wisdom, a magic something that helps us get the most our of the world we live in; or it can be a weapon with which to destroy. If a woman's intelligence is the whetstone on which she hones the little barbs that destroy a man, she'll be unforgettable all right-but not in a way that can give her much joy. But if her intelligence is an adjunct to the subtler understanding of the heart; if it helps her to build a bridge between a man's thought and hers; if, when he talks to her, he finds himself thinking more brillantly and profoundly that is his wont, then he will remember her with warmth and delight.

What else? Victorian though it may sound, a woman is unforgettable because she is good. To be sure, some very unvirtuous ladies, both free with their favors and stingy with their love, have lodged themselves in men's minds. But, to an astonishing degree, the women who have lived in history as unforgettable have been "good" women not always conventional, perhaps, but honorable, loving, courageous and generous.

Indeed, the woman who lacks these qualities has a short tenure on charm, for goodness is more imperishably beautiful than anything else. Pettiness and hatred, meanness and greed take very little time to inscribe their unlovely handiwork on a woman's face.

Finally, the unforgettable woman makes other people feel larger than life. She gives a man the sense of being more than he thought he was, leads him further than he thought he could go. "When you're with a woman you really know and trust," said a thoughtful acquaintance, "you say and do things you've always wanted but somehow couldn't bring yourself to say and do with your everyday friends. In the end, the most unforgettable woman is the one who leads the spirit out of its hiding place."

Not many women can blaze through the pages of their time bright in the memory of thousands of people. But every woman could be unforgettable to the man who loved and chose her. For the woman a man remembers in the end is the woman he needs, the one who comforts, the one who can give him security and fruitful experience. And the more a woman seeks to live naturally by the best of herself, the more she loves, the more gentle she is in her life, the warmer her responsiveness, the more she will be the woman needed and, therefore, the woman unforgettable.

~Ardis Whitman

May. 16th, 2012

The reason I live is to worship YOU

Cross Filled Life


The first thing God asks of any believer is to offer himself or herself up as a sacrifice. And even when you say, "Yes, Lord, I will die to myself," the battle is just beginning. Sanctification, which means "increasing participation in His death," signifies that we voluntarily offer our life on the cross and throw ourselves in full dependence upon the Lord.

It took Abraham nearly a hundred years to sacrifice himself on the altar of God's perfect will.

It took Moses eighty years to reach the point where he was able to set himself aside in order for God the Father to use him to free an entire nation from slavery and death.

It took the apostle Paul fourteen or more years to reach this point after being struck down by a blinding light on the road to Damascus. He had to go to the desert of Arabia to seek God's face. He had to go through torture and disappointment. Eventually, he was able to say, "I am crucified with Christ." The Holy Spirit used Paul's reckoning to touch the known world. The reverberations from his "not me, but Christ who lives in me" continue to this day.

Every man or woman who has been used mightily of God to reach others with the gospel of Jesus Christ has similar sounding testimonies of learning how to crucify themselves without regard to self-preservation or self-worth.

And it was after Kathryn Kuhlman experienced death to self and discovered the meaning of "No longer I, but Christ," that the Lord was able to shake the world through her evangelistic and healing ministry.

Jesus said, "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal" (John 12:25). How do you hate your life? You die daily. You sacrifice all to Him.

You say you want abundant life? You say you want to be victorious? You can't wait to be used of God? Are you willing to nail your self, your life, and your desires to the Cross?

Jesus paid the price on the cross of Calvary so that you and your family could live victoriously; but before you can live, you must die to self and the things of the world. Today, Jesus says, "Follow me." That path goes to the Cross. He offers the power to shake your world with the life-changing and miracle-working gospel. Only death to self will access this kind of power.

Satan wants you to live a crossless life, which advertises adventure and happiness, yet leads to an empty, pointless existence, and death. Jesus offers the Cross-filled life, which begins with death to self, then leads to abundance, glorious living, and victory in every area of your life, plus an eternity with the Father.

The choices we make, taking up our cross and following Him, will make the difference for all eternity.

-Ptr. Benny Hinn-

May. 15th, 2012

(no subject)

Hebrews 6:13

When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself

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