Pastor Mark’s Blog


If there is one question that every human being needs to ask, on their short spin on this celestial orb, it is this: What on ‘earth’ am I doing here? I like to joke that I ask it every time I go down into the basement… mostly because I have forgotten what I went down there for by the time I get there. But on a serious level, one of the greatest tragedies is that many many people will go through their entire lives and never genuinely ask that question even once.


One thing I have become convinced of in 30 years of ministry is that every human was created for a divine purpose. It would have made no sense at all for God to have placed billions of people onto the earth without giving them some sort of raison d’etre (French -purpose for existing). The Apostle Paul put it this way, For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10) So, according to scripture, our purpose for living existed even before we did.

Unfortunately we get so distracted by life that we often miss what I call the greater purpose. We pursue success or finances or recognition or things and never really achieve a meaningful sense of fulfillment. That is primarily because there is no earthly reward that can possibly fill the God shaped void in our souls. The only real sense of fulfillment comes when we begin to discover why we were put on this earth in the first place. One simple exercise I always suggest for putting this all into perspective is to plan your own funeral. Oh, I don’t mean the flowers, the casket and the little sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Those things will be forgotten by the next day. (Can you honestly remember what any casket you have ever seen looks like?  You have a better chance of remembering the little sandwiches.) No, I am referring to planning what people will say about you after you are gone. Those words will almost always reflect the contribution you made to your world. No one will talk about the money you made, the car you drove, or the house you lived in because none of that has any lasting value. They will however talk about how your life made the lives of others better. At the end of the day the difference we made in the lives of others is the only lasting thing we leave behind. The key is to imagine those words now and begin to live as that person you would really like to be.


Recently Kathy and I watched the film Selma, the story of the turning point of the ‘civil rights movement’ under Martin Luther King Jr in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Though perhaps as a movie it was slightly drawn out, as a story it is nothing short of inspiring. It beautifully underscored the incredible personal price many were willing to pay for true freedom and the greater good. For some it cost them their lives. I would like to add a postscript to the story. In 1968, exactly two months to the day before Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, he preached a sermon where he imagined his own funeral. Here is an excerpt:

And every now and then I think about my own death and I think about my own funeral. And I don’t think of it in a morbid sense. And every now and then I ask myself, “What is it that I would want said?” And I leave the word to you this morning. If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school. 

I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.  

I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. 

I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. 

And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. 

I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. 

I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity. 

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace.  I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.  I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind.  And that’s all I want to say.


It is remarkable to me that after all his incredible earthly achievements he only wanted to be remembered as someone who tried to love and serve humanity.  The greater purpose can be simply described as living for a purpose greater than ourselves. The only real sense of fulfillment we will achieve will likely not come from our worldly pursuits but from discovering our God ordained call in life. For the last two years I have been working on a book that will help people discover their own greater purpose. It was such a long drawn out process at times it felt like it was never going to happen. Well, I am pleased to announce that this month it is actually in print. It includes many inspiring stories of how others have found their way, as well as some examples of those that lost their way. In the end it is written in such a manner as to lay out the journey we all need to take to find our place in God’s great big space. Here is the video of the sermon by the same title that will give you a very good idea of what the book is all about.

Our goal is to try to get the books into as many hands as possible. That is why we are marketing it as a ministry project. For every book someone buys we will donate a second book to ministry. We are planning on giving them to inmates in prison, prostitutes trying to get off the street, seekers that may be far from God but are seeking spiritual truth, new converts, pastors and missionaries overseas etc. You can purchase your copy here BUY NOW  And you can always pick up a copy at the church building if you are in Winnipeg. You can download the first chapter here for FREE




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Years ago I was at a pastors’ conference where one of the speakers had the dubious nickname, ‘The Prophet of Prosperity’. After hearing him speak I was certain they had misspelled ‘prophet’ and they meant to use the more apt alternative ‘profit’. In his ‘sermon’ he described the quality of his suit and shoes, along with an elaborate explanation of the importance of a $10,000 diamond tie pin, and then he spent the rest of the message talking about his car… which was a Rolls Royce. You know, the luxury car that the Queen of England pulls out for special occasions. After describing the burlwood  dash and aluminum body panels he made this bizarre statement, “Where do you think a design for a car like this comes… the pit of hell?” …suggesting of course that anything so beautiful could have only come from heaven. His text was 1 John 4:17…as He is, so are we in this world”. His thesis was that because Jesus would drive a Rolls Royce in heaven, we therefore should do likewise on  earth. I AM NOT MAKING THIS STORY UP!

Though a priceless 1925 Jonckheere Rolls-Royce Phantom l Aerodynamic Coupe (below) may be the coolest car ever, it was actually built in Belgium not heaven.


First off, he absolutely butchered the hermeneutic of the scripture, and used the verse completely out of context. John is specifically and definitively talking about love, not cars or things. In other words, as Christ loves us, we should love one another, because as He is, so are we in this world. Not complicated stuff. Nevertheless after 30 minutes or so of this I was tangibly aggravated and ready to spit, gag or maybe even throw up. He knew he had provoked a few of the more thinking people in the crowd (the mindless lemmings were already shouting ‘Amen’.)  Then he made this statement. “Some of you are thinking, ‘Show me a scripture that says Jesus drives a Rolls Royce.’ I say to you, ‘Show me one that says He doesn’t'”. (Did I mention that I am not making this up?) At this point I did something I have never done before or since, and hope I never do again. I stood up and in a spirit of righteous contempt said, “The scripture says He rides a white horse” and walked out of the  meeting. Because there were 2000 people in the room, and I didn’t shout it, the speaker most likely didn’t hear me, but those around me did. In retrospect, I am glad I didn’t say it louder and make a scene as it wasn’t my place to correct him publicly. There was no need to add my insolence to his arrogance.

Jesus hasn’t always driven a white horse (Rev 19:11). While He was stationed on earth most of the time Jesus walked.  This chosen mode of transportation once caused Him to be four days late for a friend’s funeral (John 11:17).  Maybe His Rolls was in the shop. “Show me a scripture that says it wasn’t!” (Sarcasm) On the rare occasion when He did need a proper vehicle He rode a donkey (Matt 21) and… it was borrowed.


Today I realize how that moment in my life has affected my values. I actually really enjoy cars. I have been to many car shows, read the magazines and I am a big fan of the Tesla Model S P85 D that can do 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds in their appropriately named ‘Ludicrous Mode’. I could engage in an educated discussion about cars with any auto aficionado, but I have never owned anything but high mileage mini vans.  I drove my last one to 450k before it got donated to Teen Challenge and  my current one is just shy of 300k. People in our congregation sometimes see me in my van and instead of waving they point and laugh. For the record, I am paid well enough I don’t need to drive a 15 year old vehicle. I think it is a bit of an overreaction to my above stated encounter with the Profit of Prosperity. I think I was just so disgusted that I never wanted to be identified with that kind of avarice.

There are a few sins in the Western church we have somehow convinced ourselves that they are virtues not vices. Greed is certainly among them. South of our border some preachers have taken the American dream, wrapped it in the gospel and have convinced millions that God’s will for their life is to be rich, fat and happy. Recently Creflo Dollar, whose mantra is,” God didn’t call me Dollar for nothing” sent a letter to his partners asking of them to donate $300 each so he could buy a $65 million Gulfstream G650 plane. I guess he banged up his current jet on a botched landing. The G650 is the latest and greatest in the world of private jets and is flown by multinationals like Walmart and Exxon. Billionaires like Warren Buffet and Oprah Winfrey were on the waiting list. It cruises at 700 mph and is the ultimate in luxurious private jets. Somehow our brother Creflo felt is was necessary for him to join the in-crowd of the ultra rich. By the way Creflo doesn’t own a Rolls Royce… he owns two of them. At any rate the Christian community, to their credit, did not respond favourably to the campaign and it was quickly withdrawn. That is not to say the good Reverend Dollar will not get his jet, he will. His Board announced that they were going to take the $65-70M out of petty cash and buy the deserving humble servant of God his plane anyway.


I don’t think it is unkind or critical to ask the question; Is this really necessary for the furtherance of the gospel? Is there really no other way for the Reverend to shuttle his entourage between his congregations in Atlanta and Brooklyn? Should pastors, even highly successful ones, be living the same lifestyles as movie stars or rap artists? This is his house in an ultra exclusive neighbourhood of Atlanta.

creflo home

Is there any way for us to even imagine the earthbound Jesus driving a Rolls, flying a private jet or living in a palatial mansion?  Matt 8:20 answers the question. “And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.'” I am not suggesting that none of us should own cars or houses or even a plane for that matter. In the interest of full disclosure my Board wanted to buy me a plane and I accepted. I am still learning to pilot it and yesterday I crashed it right into the couch.


What I am suggesting is that heaven can wait. We will one day live in mansions that will make Buckingham Palace look like a dump. But we are not called to try to recreate heaven on earth. Any attempt to do so will cause us to miss the greater purpose. Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler to sell all he had and give it to the poor and to come and follow Him. The young man hung his head and walked away because his possessions were great. Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23) A few chapters later Jesus said it another way,  “and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Mark 4:19)  Paul said it this way, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” (1 Cor 1:26) Things and the desire for things can have a profound and devastating affect on us. Jesus could not have been more clear when He said “You cannot serve two masters… you cannot serve both God and Mammon (riches)”. Matt 6:24


I personally will never be able to live up to the example of Jesus’ minimalist earthly lifestyle. After all Jesus didn’t have children he needed to drive to soccer games. If you are even four ‘minutes’ late your kid won’t play. (Soccer and mini vans go hand in hand. It’s the world I from which I come.) Jesus also didn’t have to pay their swimming lessons and their band trips and put them through university etc.  We have to live life as it is. We can’t really opt out of the rat race. And if you drive a nice car, I would never judge you for that. I might actually be a little jealous. We have a red Jaguar that frequents our parking lot Sunday morning that always catches my fancy. No, my big beef is with churches that offer up materialism as a virtue instead of a vice and with Christians that are running to them instead of a running away from them. Next time you get the urge to buy something you really don’t need and really can’t afford, just do what I do and ask yourself the question, what would Jesus drive?

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“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” This verse from Galatians 6:7 is dangerously overlooked by many people. The Apostle Paul claims that ‘whatever’ we sow, we will reap. Anything we sow, everything we sow, will eventually come back to us in an increased measure. That’s what reaping means. A farmer sows a bushel of wheat and will get 30, 60 or 100 times back… exactly the amount Jesus Himself declared 2000 years ago (Matt 13:8). The word ‘whatever’ is a very broad term. In the original Greek language it means… well, it means whatever! Sow love, reap love; sow hate, reap hate; sow money, reap money; sow criticism, reap criticism. You get the idea.


If we could get our head around this one principle alone it would revolutionize our lives. For example, I see many Christian marriages today that are in desperate trouble. Irrespective of who or what started the fissure in the relationship, the divide is continually widened by an escalation of the sowing and reaping process.

Husband: Honey, the meatloaf is a little burnt.

Wife: Well darling, maybe if you got off the couch once in a while and helped.

Husband: Maybe if you got a real job and contributed financially. Instead, you lie around all day watching soaps and then can’t cook a lousy meatloaf. It’s not rocket science.

Wife: Maybe if you earned more money at your pathetic excuse for a job we wouldn’t need to eat meatloaf every night!

Husband: I want a divorce.

Wife: I hate your guts.


My fictitious example (although it probably happened somewhere) is a bit accelerated, but you get the point. Whatever we sow we will eventually reap. People who are loving or generous, reap love or generosity in return. People who criticize or judge, reap criticism or judgement in return. What surprises me is how many of us do not recognize the sowing and reaping mechanism as it works in our own lives. Success or failure on so many levels can be determined by this one principle alone. I could share with you hundreds of real life examples of how this all works but there was one in the news this week, that shamefully, I have been waiting for a long time for it to come. For the last 8 years Donald Trump has been sitting in the red chair on his ridiculously self-aggrandizing TV show The Apprentice, where he chastises contestants who mess up one of his ‘ever so real’ challenges. After he calls them stupid or pathetic and has sufficiently humiliated them on national TV, he points his finger at them in a most demeaning way and says, “You’re fired!”

Trump fired

Why Harvard grads or Yale grads or washed up celebrities would subject themselves to The Donald’s belittlement is beyond me. Worse yet, when they won they had to go work for him for a whole year. It should have been the other way around. The losers should have got stuck with being apprenticed by the world’s most narcissistic and arrogant egomaniac. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike Trump. I think the world would be a much less interesting place without him. Just like we would be more impoverished without Donald Duck or Ronald McDonald. What surprises me is that some people actually think Donald Trump is a real person rather than a cartoon character from a television show. So when he announced he was actually running for US President in 2016 I was expecting Fred Flintstone and Homer Simpson to throw their names in the hat as well. At first, other than the late night comedians, no one seemed  to think the announcement was bizarre that a completely out of touch with reality, self-consumed billionaire with the insatiable appetite for attention now wanted to run the country like it was one of his TV reality shows. It wasn’t until Trump made the comment that the Mexicans coming across the border into the US were drug dealers and rapists, that everybody dogpiled on the rabbit.

dogpilepile on the rabbit

Trump isn’t used to anyone taking anything he says seriously. But politics is a very different animal from the ‘make belief’ world of ‘reality’ TV and now he is under a whole new level of scrutiny. (For the record, and far be it for me to defend Trump, he did not call all Mexicans drug dealers and rapists. What he said was that Mexico was not sending their best to the US, but their criminal element… “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists…” Here is what he actually said; Actual Quote which has been mostly misquoted.) Trump is careless with his words at the best of times, and this time regardless of what he said or how he said it, the reaction was swift and harsh. The people who for years have aligned themselves with the Trump media circus have lined up to fire him. Global-wide Spanish language Univison – “You’re Fired!”; Mexican based broadcaster Televisa – “You’re Fired!”; NBCUniversal the network that airs The Apprentice – “You’re Fired!”; retail giant Macy’s that exclusively sells Trump’s clothing line – “You’re Fired!”; CHI and Biosilk haircare product -“You’re Fired!” This has to be the biggest blow of them all. You take away Trump’s beautifully conditioned and coiffed hair and what does he have left?

bald trumpHonestly, I never thought I would see the Trump franchise unravel so fast, but we know that eventually everything catches up with you as you reap what you sow. I know I shouldn’t join the dogpile on the poor defenseless Donald. I need him to stay around more than anyone. I need him to illustrate Jesus parables, like the one about the rich fool who built bigger barns yet did not consider his soul, or how the rich flaunt their wealth and ignore the poor or the dangers of always taking the higher seat. How would I  ever preach on Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel without Trump’s most compelling contemporary example. King Nebuchadnezzar build a tower to himself 90′ tall, mistreated his lowly minions and he too was brought low and humbled for seven years as he eventually reaped everything that he sowed.

trump tower

Everything comes back to us in life. We would be wise to carefully consider the things we say to others, the way we treat our employees or co-workers, the consideration of others in traffic, whether we share our resources with others or just spend them on ourselves, the giving of a gentle answer or a harsh one, etc. At this point you may be thinking , “Hey wait a minute, by making fun of Trump, you are now going to have to reap what you sowed”. And you would be correct, I will need to pay the price in spades… but frankly, it is totally worth it. For the record I get more than my fair share of abuse from others and I deserve it. Not everybody enjoys my brand of sardonic humour. And now you could write a response and criticize me for it, but then you too would reap what you sowed. It’s just such a vicious cycle.


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Growing up in the 1970’s, Bruce Jenner was something of a hero of mine. When he won the 1976 Gold Medal in the Decathlon in Montreal he was dubbed The World’s Greatest Athlete.  It wasn’t just hyperbole. The 10 discipline historic event is a grueling test of athleticism and the human spirit. I remember being in awe of this quintessential spectacle of masculinity. He had stunning good looks and the physique of a Greek god. He was immortalized on the cover of the Wheaties box and it was all us young teenage males could do to eat bowl after bowl of the miracle cereal in hopes that one day we could be built like Bruce. But alas, I switched to Frosted Flakes and ended up looking more like Tony the Tiger.


So when the events of this week saw the gender troubled Bruce Jenner roll out as Caitlyn Jenner on the pages of Vanity Fair I confess I was troubled… but mostly saddened. Nobody likes to lose a hero. In case you have been living under a rock and have missed this story, the short version is that Bruce Jenner told Diane Sawyer in a two hour interview in April that he has struggled his entire life with gender dysphoria (or gender identity disorder), which is defined as being discontent with the gender in which one was born. In his case he claimed he has lived a profoundly tormented life as a female in a male body. I watched the entire interview and I had no trouble believing that the torment he was suffering was real. At the same time it was hard not to also feel that there was something seriously unhealthy, either spiritually or mentally going on as well. It was not easy to watch. Among other things I was struck by just how incredibly narcissistic the whole thing was. Whatever he was, is, or was going to be, it was to be played out publicly for the whole world to see. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised since he did spend a decade of his life with a camera recording his every movement as a cast member… I mean ‘family member’… on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. He declared to Sawyer that the next time the public saw him he would appear as his true self – a woman.


Vanity Fair had the exclusive rights to the story and this week rolled out the feature under that tag line “Call me Caitlyn”. Caitlyn Jenner’s new Twitter account broke all records as it garnered one million followers in the first 4 hours. The news media outlets for the most part have been tripping over each other congratulating the transformation as an act of heroism and courage, especially for the apparently millions of people suffering from gender dysphoria. ESPN announced they are going to award Caitlyn the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at their summer awards banquet. Only a few brave voices have had the moxie to condemn it as a crass prostitution of one’s soul for monetary gain. Ironically one of them was transgender national news reporter Zoey Tur (formerly Robert Tur) who claimed Jenner is not the kind of icon their movement needs since what ‘she’ appeared to be doing was rolling out a professional produced commercial product. Clearly the brand appears to have been carefully constructed and presented to the public in a way that is guaranteed to make Jenner millions of dollars. The Diane Sawyer interview was negotiated, the Vanity Fair piece lined up, and the entire gender reassignment process was timed to coincide with a brand new reality show that debuts in July on the E! network. Yippee can’t wait!


What everybody seems to forget is that Jenner is not a pioneer in this field at all. Forty years ago in 1975 tennis player Richard Raskind had sex reassignment surgery to become Renee Richards, and then had the nerve to sue the United States Tennis Association to be able to compete as a woman in the US Open. Richard’s won the case in the New York Supreme court only to lose the matches on the tennis court. In 2007 Richards rewrote her autobiography, No Way Renée: The Second Half of My Notorious Life, in which she expresses regret over the type of fame that came with her sex change.  She also wished she could have found another way to have solved her gender anxiety because the gender reassignment didn’t solve it. Her grown son  still refers to her as ‘he’ explaining, “Because I have a mother that’s a woman, my father could have an elephant change — he could be a dromedary — and he’d still be my father.”  Here is Jenner and Richards together in 1987.

bruce jenner renee richards

This of course brings up the important part of the discussion for us Christians. Where do we put all this? We need to have the conversation. It can’t be put off or ignored, and our young people in particular need to be part of it. They have been raised in a culture that has already accepted homosexuality and gay marriage as part of the norm. Pop culture, music, TV and movies have been way ahead of the curve on this one and have for the most part swept an entire youth generation along. 78% of 18-29 year olds support gay marriage, over twice that of seniors. Church leaders today, who for the most part still do not share these beliefs, have become eerily silent on these and related moral issues (adultery, divorce, remarriage). I understand why. We are trying to reach people with the good news of the gospel, we don’t want to offend the very people we are trying to reach by putting up moral or ideological barriers. The unintended consequence however is that by our silence we lend passive assent to a culture that has already redefined the God-given meanings of gender, sexuality, marriage and family. We have every right to be part of this discussion. Our voice matters as we have a very critical contribution to make to the debate – the biblical one. Even if the world isn’t listening, the church needs to hear it. If God did one thing without ambiguity it was defining marriage, sexuality and our gender assignment. Gen 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. It really doesn’t get any clearer than that. This is not a mix-up God could make by placing a person in the wrong gender body. Nor did He offer up a multiple choice of various marital options or sexual partner combinations.  Lev 18:22 ‘You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. And make no mistake about it, God never changed His mind on these things in the New Testament like many claim. 1 Cor 6:9-10 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. Oh… and don’t miss the heterosexual misgivings on the very same list!


I have read a number of the books on how the bible somehow validates same sex attraction or homosexuality. Every single one of the them violates the most important rule of bible interpretation – they draw the conclusion first and then go to scripture to try to prove it, rather than the other way around. Most of these authors have had life long struggles with same sex attraction and are desperate to try to find an explanation. When they say they did not choose their propensity towards same sex attraction, we have no reason to dispute that. We cannot, however, conclude that this somehow makes it God’s will for their lives, any more than it is for the next guy whose ‘natural’ inclination is towards fornication, overeating or depression. There are a lot of things in this life we don’t choose, but they somehow choose us. I think Daniel Mattson may have said it best in an article he wrote for First Things Magazine entitled Why I don’t Call Myself a Gay Christian.  In it he concludes,  “The gay community will become family when those of us in the Church who live with the inclination accept it for what it truly is: a deep wound within our persons which we joyfully choose to unite with the Suffering Christ, on behalf of those we love so dearly in the gay community. By his wounds we are healed, and by the acceptance and transformation of our wounds, through the love of Christ, the Holy Spirit will draw them home to their Heavenly Father.”


We truly need to sympathize with those struggling with gender anxiety, but we cannot condone sexual reassignment as a solution. Seriously, is this truly the ‘real’ Jenner that has been buried for so long?  Tens of thousands of dollars in plastic surgery, gallons of hormones, tubs of makeup, silicone implants, designer evening dresses and considerably ‘airbrushed’ photos? I for one am not buying it. It doesn’t seem like the ‘real’ anything to me. Having said that, other than losing my teenage idol, I don’t actually care what Bruce Jenner does with his body, it’s none of my business. I can’t impose my sense of morality on him or anyone else I don’t know. I am however profoundly embarrassed with the world that my children and grandchildren are inheriting. Any Christian sense of propriety or decency seems to have been eviscerated from our culture. How do I explain to them how I let their world roll down this sordid path of moral decay while ostensibly doing nothing at all to stop it? We should not be surprised if in the days ahead we hear a lot of Christian young people saying, ‘call me confused.’

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