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While many may not agree with me, I’d like to point out a denial of Biblical truth that has permeated modern thinking and leads to flawed approaches to dealing with what psychologists and sociologists would call deviant or pathological behavior — deviant being contrary to socially accepted norms, and pathological often being associated with mental deficiencies and mental illness.

Modern thinking views man as basically good. And, where deviant or socially unacceptable behavior occurs, the cause is not sought in the person but in the environment in which he or she lives or was raised or in some sort of mental disease or disorder. That is why, when evils like senseless shootings occur, people immediately begin looking at mental illness or the accessibility to guns as the cause and think that a more healthful and weapon-free environment would prevent such acts of violence and mayhem.

The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that all mankind is fallen. It teaches that we are by birth self-centered and incapable of pure selfless love and good toward God or toward our fellow man and are capable of — and even inclined toward — evil. This does not mean that people cannot do what society considers good and right or live what society considers an upright life. It does mean that the reasons and motivation for doing so are not so selfless and pure as we may wish people would believe. People do good for a reason, whether it be financial gain, public acclaim or just to feel good or better about themselves. And, yes, people sometimes do deeds almost all would agree are terribly evil — sometimes for the same or similar reasons.

The Bible teaches that the fall of Genesis 3 affects us all. “As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). God’s Word teaches: “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21; cf. 6:5). And David wrote in Psalm 51, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (v. 5).

I might add that one of the reasons I find the Bible so believable is that it tells the truth about mankind and about me. Nothing is whitewashed or covered over; even some of the greatest personages in the Bible fell into terrible transgressions and sins.

While the philosophy of the modern world teaches that we are all basically good, the Word of God says: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9).

We may not like to think it of ourselves, but we all have a propensity to do great evil. While we may not have carried out crimes against others, whether it be because of our fear of God or because we fear human disapproval or punishments, we’ve all at times had thoughts of evil too shameful to tell.

While modern philosophical thinking looks to prevent deviant behavior by controlling the environment and rewarding socially accepted behavior, those who hold to the Biblical view of fallen man recognize that evil does and will exist in this world no matter how stringently the environment is controlled. Rather than pretending all can be well, those who believe the Bible face man’s evil propensity with deterrents — the teaching of God’s authority and of His judgment, upholding Biblical moral absolutes, and enacting laws and punishments based on Biblical principles.

If all of this sounds foreign to you, consider that America’s founders recognized man’s propensity to evil and, to limit evil’s effect, divided power between the states and the federal government and even further divided powers within the federal government to limit the powers of any one man or any group of men.
Along with the Bible’s teaching in regard to the fall and sinfulness of man is also a Biblical remedy: forgiveness and a new birth and life from God through faith in Jesus Christ. The Biblical doctrine of the fall doesn’t leave man wallowing hopelessly in his fallenness. It calls upon sinners to repent and offers God’s pardon and a new life for the sake of Jesus Christ, God the Son made man, who paid the just penalty for all sins and gives new life to believers here in this world and a life free of all evil and sin in the age to come.

What’s my point? If the Biblical view of man is true — and I am convinced it is — the attempts of sociologists, psychologists, politicians, teachers and society to rid the world of evil and prevent acts of violence and mayhem by cleansing the environment of poverty, inequality, bullying, intolerance, guns, drugs, etc. will be of no avail. Evil and violence will still be with us because it is within us.

On the other hand, if we wish to minimize its impact and devastation, we need to teach the truth about sin and God’s remedy in Jesus Christ, return to Biblical moral absolutes, truly punish criminals, and allow people to defend themselves against coarse outbursts of evil.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” Luke 15:1-10

When publicans (tax collectors for the Roman government) and other sinners came to Jesus to hear Him and learn of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life which He offered to all, the Pharisees and scribes were critical of Jesus for associating with such sinners. As a result, Jesus told two parables to point out that anyone who loses an item of value will seek it until he finds it.

A shepherd with one hundred sheep who loses one does not say, “I still have ninety-nine,” and then forget about the one that is lost. Even the scribes and Pharisees would not do such a thing! Nor would a woman with ten silver coins who lost one of them just forget about the one lost coin and be content with the nine. Both the shepherd and the woman in these two parables would seek out and find that which was lost. Then they would rejoice because they had found that lost sheep or that lost coin. And, wouldn’t we also act in the same way if we were to lose something of ours?

So also, every soul is extremely important to the LORD God. He created mankind — each and every one of us — to live for Him and serve Him in eternal righteousness. Because we fell into sin, He sent His only-begotten Son into this world a true man, that He might fulfill the righteous demands of God’s Law for us and then suffer and die for our sins that we might look to Him in faith and receive God’s pardon and forgiveness. Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners, and, during His earthly ministry, He sought out all sinners and turned away none who came to hear His saving Gospel.

Since He had come into this world to redeem fallen mankind by His innocent sufferings and death, it gave our Savior great joy, along with the angels of God in heaven, when a lost sinner repented and turned to Him in faith for forgiveness and life everlasting. Our Lord Jesus was not afraid to associate with sinners; He shed His blood to redeem them!

Those who trust in Christ live in daily repentance, being truly sorry for their sins and trusting in Him for forgiveness and eternal salvation. And it gives our risen Savior, as well as the angels in heaven, great joy when we hear His Word, repent of our sins and place our faith in Christ and His perfect sacrifice on the cross. We certainly should not, as did the scribes and the Pharisees, consider ourselves righteous and in no need of repentance.

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 28:13: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” In 1 John, we read: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. … My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 1:8-9; 2:1-2).

Christ Jesus appointed apostles and sent them out to preach the Gospel that others, too, might hear the truth, repent of their sins and look in faith to Him for pardon and life eternal. He commanded His disciples to “Go … into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), to preach “repentance and remission of sins … in his name among all nations” (Luke 24:47). He gives to His church pastors and missionaries yet today to carry on this work (cf. Eph. 4:12).

Like our Savior, should it not be our desire to seek out lost souls and rejoice when they are brought to repentance. We should not be satisfied if 99 percent of our members are continuing in the truth and only one percent is going astray; we should seek the lost until they are found and returned to the fold. The same is true of the lost souls who are not under the care of a congregation. We should, in the love of our Savior, seek out the lost and seek to bring them to the Good Shepherd by sharing with them the saving truths of God’s Word.

Christ Jesus shed His holy, precious blood to redeem them. We also ought to care enough for their souls to share with them the good news of forgiveness and life everlasting through faith in the Savior. Never should we be satisfied with the 99 who are in the fold, nor should we ever be ashamed to be seen sharing the Gospel with lost sinners, no matter how bad their past reputations! We remember that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

O gracious Father, grant that we repent of our sins and trust in Christ Jesus for pardon and forgiveness, and give us a love for the lost that we also reach out to them with the good news of forgiveness and life through faith in our Savior. Amen.

[Scripture quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

“God Loved the World so that He Gave”

1 God loved the world so that He gave
His only Son the lost to save
That all who would in Him believe
Should everlasting life receive.

2 Christ Jesus is the Ground of faith,
Who was made flesh and suffered death;
All that confide in Him alone
Are built on this chief Cornerstone.

3 God would not have the sinner die,
His Son with saving grace is nigh,
His Spirit in the Word doth teach
How man the blessed goal may reach.

4 Be of good cheer, for God’s own Son
Forgives all sins which thou hast done,
And, justified by Jesus’ blood,
Thy Baptism grants the highest good.

5 If thou be sick, if death draw near,
This truth thy troubled heart can cheer:
Christ Jesus saves my soul from death;
That is the firmest ground of faith.

6 Glory to God the Father, Son,
And Holy Spirit, Three in One!
To Thee, O blessed Trinity,
Be praise now and eternally! Amen.

Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt
Translator: August Crull, d. 1923 (alt.)
Author: Unknown (1791, cento)
The Lutheran Hymnal #245

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What is the heart and soul of Lutheran worship? Is it a beautiful church building? an instrument? a liturgy? vestments? hymnody? No, because these alone would be nothing more than an empty shell, void of true worship.

The heart and soul of Lutheran worship is Christ and the blessings He won for us when He was offered up on the cross a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.

We are miserable sinners and begin our worship confessing our utter sinfulness and looking to Christ and His cross for mercy and forgiveness. And through the absolution spoken to us by Christ’s called ministers, Christ Himself forgives our sins and promises us the eternal joys of heaven.

We bring to God our prayers and praises. And then, as Christ taught His disciples during His earthly ministry, He teaches us and speaks to us through His Word which is read to us and explained by Christ’s ministers.

We remember Jesus’ words in John 6:63: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” We know that faith is the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through God’s Word and His Sacraments and that Christ is at work in us as we hear His Word, for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).

We offer up to Christ our prayers for the church and its ministers and for those around us in the world. We pray for our leaders that we may freely preach and teach God’s Word and live according to it. We pray also for the lost that they too might hear the preaching of the Gospel and be brought to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

And, if that were not enough, Christ further consoles us poor sinners by giving us to eat and to drink of His very body and blood which was given and shed for us on the cross. We partake of the Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) and so receive the blessings of forgiveness and life He won for us.

Before we leave, Christ dismisses us and sends us out into the world to bear witness to Him with God’s name and blessing upon us. We are to “go … and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things” that Jesus has commanded us, and He promises to be with us always, even to the end of the world (Matt. 28:19-20).

He blesses and keeps us; He looks upon us with grace and favor; He grants us the peace of sins forgiven and the promise of everlasting life with Him in heaven.

So, Lutheran worship is not really about us and what we do for God; it’s all about God and what He offers and gives to us in Christ Jesus, our Savior!

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15 Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, 17 and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ 18 But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ 20 Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ 23 Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’ ” Luke 14:15-24 NKJV

Dear Christian Friends,

This parable paints a picture for us of a situation we used to see a lot more before the pandemic started – a great feast. Large dinner parties involve lots of time, and resources, and preparation from those who would host them. They require cleaning the house, preparation of large amounts of food and drink, appetizers, desserts, and possibly even entertainment.

Being invited to such an event seems like a great honor. Sure, there are plenty of reasons why people would not be able to go, but in general, one would think that most people would make every effort they could to go.

But in our parable, it seems that none of those originally invited wanted to go The excuses do not really even sound that good – The first one has just bought property and wants to see it. Will that property not be there after the supper? Today, if you were to throw a large dinner party, and invited someone but they declined to come because they had just bought new property, how do you think you would feel about it? I think I would be tempted to be a bit angry and hurt. The second has bought five yoke of oxen and wants to test them. Is he worried they will not be able to pull a plow? The third has just gotten married. Is he not allowed what we would call today a “plus one”? It seems many people will be at the feast, why could he not bring his new wife? Or at least ask the master?

The master is angry, as we might be too – think back of all the expense and preparation, and the sense of injustice in potentially wasting all of that food. So then the master orders that the servants invite the poor, the maimed and the blind, who seem eager enough to come. But still there is room. Does the master re-issue invitations to those who rejected them? He does not. Instead, he has his servants go out to the highways and hedges, and demand that all they find come, so that those who first rejected his kind invitation would not have room.

And so the supper is eaten, but not by those who were first invited. How, then, are we to understand this parable?

The master, of course, is God, and the great supper or feast is everlasting life in bliss with him. We like to think that God should love us because of what we do or how we act, but just like those invited in the parable, we can think of any flimsy excuse to ignore God and his Word. We see this in our own natural rebellion. Do we put God first in our lives? Do we look for every opportunity to worship him? Would we rather sleep in or do something else on Sunday mornings rather than learn about and worship God?

And while the focus of this parable is not on how we treat our neighbors, we see plenty of rebellion in our behavior towards them as well. Do we always speak well of our neighbors? We have been studying a lot of the Jewish civil law in Exodus lately – those rules about helping a heavily laden donkey, and returning items that we know belong to others can be particularly cutting. When we do those things, we recognize just how unworthy of God’s invitation we really are. It is so easy for us to justify our own actions, or try to compare ourselves with others. But that is not the standard that God judges by – rather that standard is God’s own holiness, and we must admit that, in so many ways and at so many times, we have not measured up to that standard. We are all sinners, condemned by God’s Law, and we do not deserve His blessings.

But God invites us, nonetheless. Is this not an amazing thing? We are ungrateful and rebellious, but God’s love is greater. God himself took on our humanity, in the person of Jesus Christ, and lived a perfect life, and died a sacrificial death to pay the price that was owed for all sin of all time. When I see this passage, I cannot but help but think of a similar invitation to God’s great feast that is recorded for us in the book of Isaiah:

Isa 55:1 “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance. 3 Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live.”

Just as in a great human feast, as guests, God requires nothing from us. Indeed, what do we have to give that does not already belong to God? We do not bring anything our own of value to the feast – it is the job of the host to provide all the food and drink and entertainment. In human feasts, we often invite guests because of things about them – they are family, or friends, or business acquaintances. But in this great feast, and particularly in the case of this parable, we see that the Master wants to see his feast enjoyed, regardless of whether he knows the people who ultimately attend it or not.

So great was this feast, that even though those who were originally invited spurned it, the Master arranged for others to enjoy it. The great feast of the Gospel is like this in that in it, God promises his grace and forgiveness to all human beings, regardless of race or gender, wealth, nationality, status, or any other human characteristic. It is expressly God’s will that this Gospel of the forgiveness of sins through the perfect life and death of Jesus Christ, the true Son of God and Son of Man, be preached to every human being alive. And we, dear Christian friends, are those from the highways and hedges – for certainly we did not deserve to be invited to this great supper, and we were not the ones to whom the invitation first came. But by the grace of God, we have been invited, and we shall eat the supper at our Lord’s call.

We may be inclined to ask – what other great supper are we invited to, where we can see and taste God’s love for us in a very special and direct way? How can we hear about the master’s great supper, and not think of our Lord’s Supper, which we share again today?

In that Supper, he has promised us his own body and blood. What greater cost of preparation has there ever been for a supper than the body and blood of God himself, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins?

And how could we offer an excuse for such an invitation? “Come,” Jesus says to us – “Take and eat my body, and drink my blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins.”

We do not understand how this can be – how his true body and blood can be received by each of us, everywhere around the world. But in the spirit of Mary, who said, “May it be to me, according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) We trust God at his Word, to make things so that could not be so otherwise.

How could God take on human flesh? How could God die for our sins? These too are things that we cannot understand – but we trust that they are true because God’s Word says that they are true. And in the same way, we partake of Jesus’ true body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, for the forgiveness of our sins. This, we will do as often as we do it, in remembrance of Him.

So, dear Christian friends – come to the feast our Lord has prepared for us! Surely, we do not deserve his love, his grace, or his favor. But his mercy made it so that he reached out to us, took on our flesh, to live and die for us, and call us to Him. And, so, as he bids us, let us come – certainly, let us not make excuses and try to be somewhere else. But instead, let us come as he calls us – let us believe in and take hold of his promise to forgive our sins. And let us further come to the Great Supper that he instituted, where He gives us His own body and blood, again for the forgiveness of our sins.

Dear Christian friends, hear our Lord’s call – please do not reject it, please do not make excuses. Come to the great supper our Lord has prepared for us. Maybe far off in the future, maybe soon – we shall partake together in the great marriage feast of the Lamb, after Jesus returns in glory and after the resurrection of all the dead. But until that day, let us also hear our Lord’s call to eat the Lord’s Supper together, until the Last Day comes, we shall be united with our Lord, and we shall forever be with Him and with each other, in endless peace and joy.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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“Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.” Luke 14:16-17 (Read Luke 14:15-24)

You have been invited to the greatest banquet of all! Even though you are a sinner and deserving of God’s eternal wrath and punishment, He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to fulfill the righteous demands of God’s Law in your stead and then to suffer and die on the cross and bear the full punishment for your transgression and sin. God calls you through the preaching of the Gospel and invites you to receive His pardon and forgiveness and to be a part of His everlasting kingdom through faith in Christ Jesus.

The Bible tells us that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). It tells us that “Jesus Christ … loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Rev. 1:5); that “in [Him] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7); and that “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18).

And, the risen Lord Jesus even now is preparing a place for all who believe in Him, in the mansions of His Father’s house (John 14:1-3). Through the preaching of this good news, God calls you to come to Him and receive the everlasting blessings of His kingdom.

Even now, as you read these words, God’s Spirit calls you to “come; for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:17); and to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Jesus told the Parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:15-24) to admonish His hearers for rejecting the salvation God was providing for them in His Son.

The Jews had the Old Testament Scriptures, which promised eternal salvation through the coming Messiah and Savior; but when Jesus, God’s Son, came into this world to accomplish the salvation God had promised of old — when the Gospel invitation went out: “Come; for all things are now ready” — the Jews excused themselves for various reasons. They were too busy with the things of this world to come to Christ Jesus and receive from Him forgiveness for their sins and eternal life. One bought a piece of land and wanted to go and see it; another had bought five yoke of oxen and wanted to try them out; and another had just gotten married and could not come (cf. Luke 14:18-20).

What about you? This same Gospel invitation has gone out to you: “Come; for all things are now ready.” Do you have time to come to Jesus and learn of Him and the eternal blessings He has won for you? Do you come to hear His life-giving Word and learn of God’s offer and promise of forgiveness for all your sins and of the everlasting joys of heaven? Or, are you too busy with the cares and concerns of this life?

What is your excuse? Are you too busy checking on land or property? Do you have to try out that car or truck or tractor? Do you have to try out that new tool or toy? Are you too busy with work or school or business to come to Jesus? Have you married a wife and become too busy with family concerns to take time for church services and the hearing of God’s Word? What is your excuse?

The excuses in Jesus’ parable angered the man who made the great supper (v. 21). He said, “None of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper” (v. 24).

Will God accept your excuse? Is not this a warning to us not to become so busy with other things in this life that we neglect that “one thing … needful” (Luke 10:42)?

Jesus admonishes us to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). And Jesus warns: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” (Heb. 2:3)?

What did the master of the house in Jesus’ parable then do that his house might be filled with guests? He sent his servants out into the streets and lanes of the city to bring in the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. And, when there was yet room, he sent them out into the highways and hedges (where the poor often camped) to compel those there to come in (Cf. Luke 14:21-24.)

It is by the grace of God that we have heard the Gospel of Christ and come to trust in Him for forgiveness and life (Eph. 2:4-9); “and yet there is room” (v. 22)! Our Heavenly Father sends His servants out into the streets and lanes, and to the highways and hedges, to compel them to come in — to call upon all, whether rich or poor, healthy or handicapped or sick, to come to Christ Jesus in faith and partake of the blessings of His kingdom.

Jesus commands His disciples to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). They are to preach “repentance and remission of sins … in his name among all nations” (Luke 24:47). They are to say: “Come; for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:17). And, Jesus tells us: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).

Dear LORD God, our Savior, grant that we not neglect and excuse ourselves from partaking of the salvation so graciously provided for us through the innocent sufferings and death of the Son, Jesus Christ. Fill us also with Your love for lost sinners that we may obey Your command and send men into all the world with Your saving Gospel and compel them to come in! In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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