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James Merritt - Living Hand to Mouth

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    James Merritt - Living Hand to Mouth
TOPICS: Red Sea Moments, Exodus, Moses

We live, by any measurement, perhaps in the richest nation in the history of the world. We are worth more than the next three richest countries in the world put together. We have 719 billionaires that live in this country. Those 719 billionaires are worth more than the third and the fourth richest country in the world put together. So you would think that we are just eating the meat and drinking the sweet and everything is coming up roses, and yet, in a recent study, 38 million American families, one out of every three households, are living hand to mouth in the richest country in the history of this world. One out of three families, literally, are living day to day. They've got just enough to survive day to day.

Well, I'm gonna tell you something that may shock you. You may be one of those people that you don't have, you know, you come to the end of the month before you come to the end of the money, or you may be set for life. You may say, hey doc, life's good. I got a 401k, I got a pension, I'm drawing this, I'm working, got a great job. I've got news for you. Every single one of us lives hand to mouth. All of us. You say, what do you mean? We all live from God's hand to our mouth. I don't care how rich you think you are. I don't care if you think you got what you made, you did it, you pulled it together, you earned it. We live from God's hand to our mouth. We're gonna see that today in a series that we're calling Red Sea Moments.

If you're joined us for the first time today, or this is your first time here, we began a few weeks ago studying the life of Moses. And it's so interesting because, without question, Moses was one of the three greatest men in the Old Testament. I've told you if God had a Mount Rushmore, Moses would be on Mount Rushmore. Nobody cast a bigger shadow in the Old Testament than Moses. And yet, here's the amazing thing. When you study his life, you realize, you know what, he was a guy just like us. He had flaws. He had character defects. He had issues in his life. He had struggles. He even had a criminal record. He had a wanted dead or alive poster on him. And it doesn't matter who you are or, you know, what you feel like your limitations may be, the reason why I want us to study the life of Moses is because I finally realized that the God that did what He did in Moses wants to do that in me.

And the God that worked through Moses wants to work through you. And the God that did what He did for Moses wants to do the same things for you. And, just like Moses, we're all going to face Red Sea Moments. Now, in case you're catching up or you've not been here, let me just tell you where we are in the story. The last time we saw Moses, he was leading the children of Israel through the Red Sea. And God had delivered them from the Egyptians just like he promised. Now they're ready to make their journey. They want to go to Canaan. They want to go to the promised land. They're ready to go where God had promised them that they would go.

So, if you brought a copy of God's word, I want you to go to the book of Exodus, Genesis, Exodus, second book in the Bible. We're in Exodus, Chapter 16. We're gonna pick up the story. The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim And Sinai, on the 15th day of the second month after they'd come out of Egypt. In the desert, the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. Now, this is a great, very, very important event. A very important event. And we know that for this reason. Because, not only is the account presented here, it's also presented throughout the Bible. Five times, it's mentioned in the Old Testament, three times in the New Testament.

In fact, we're even told the exact time when this incident took place. It took place on the 15th day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. It'd been exactly one month. One month since they'd crossed the Red Sea. They had barely started on their journey. They're already griping and complaining. As a matter of fact, this is not the first time. You're gonna see this as we study this story. The spiritual gift of the Israelites was griping. They knew how to gripe. They knew how to complain. And they complained about everything. Just before they crossed the Red Sea, they griped. We're about to die. Look where you've led us.

Then, in the chapter right before this, they were in the desert and they didn't have any water. God provides them fresh water. And now they're griping because they're hungry. And as they make their way through the desert, they complain over and over and over. It's always about one of three things every time. It's either about food, it's about drink, or it's about living conditions. And even though God had just parted the Red Sea to save them, even though God had just given them fresh water, for some reason, they still weren't sure that God would come through. They still weren't sure that God would provide. And I read this story and I go, you know what, that's just like me. I don't know if it's like you, it's just like me. I tend to easily forget what God did for me yesterday and I gripe because He didn't do something for me today.

It's real easy to put God in the rear view mirror. And that's exactly what they had done. And what we fail to realize is God's trying to do something in our lives every day. You know what he's trying to do? Remind us, hey, by the way, you live from My hand to your mouth. And I don't want you to ever forget that. I don't want you to ever get too big for your spiritual britches. I want you to know exactly how much I hold you in My hands. Listen, God, doesn't just hold the whole world in His hands. God holds the breath of your lungs in His hands. God holds the beat of your heart in His hands. God holds your very life in His hands. And what we're going to see today that, on a daily basis, every time we wake up in the morning, we ought to be reminded of several things about God. We're gonna see them in this text, real quick. Number one, God is our source. God is our source.

Let's go back. I've told you, God had promised Abraham hundreds of years before Moses was ever born, Abraham, I'm gonna make a great nation out of you. It's gonna be an unbelievable nation. And, you know what, I've got a land I picked out just for you and I'm going to take you to that land. And if the Israelites had just remembered what God had promised, and if they just realized that God would've kept His promise, they would've never griped about anything. 'Cause they would've realized, you know what, it's not our job to get to the promised land, it's God's job to get us to the promised land. It's not our job to take care of ourselves, it is God's job to take care of us. So they're griping, they're upset, they're mad because they're hungry. And God says one thing to Moses and it should have stopped all the complaining. Here's what He said. Then the Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you".

Now I want you to notice something about this bread. It didn't come from a bakery. It wasn't made by baker. The Israelites didn't bring it with them out of Egypt. They didn't pull it out of the Red Sea. God literally sent bread made in heaven's oven. You know what this bread was, right? It was angel food cake. That's what it was. It was bread that came right out of heaven. Heaven was the bakery and God was the baker. So here's what we read. That evening, quail came and covered the camp. And, in the morning, there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, "What is it"? For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, "It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat".

Nowhere else in the Bible do you ever read where God, on his own, directly took charge and fed his people from heaven. This was a food that was only eaten one time. That 40 year period. It was only eaten in one place, in the desert. It was only eaten in one people, Israel. And it was never eaten again. Nobody had ever seen it before. Matter of fact, they didn't even know what to call it. So here, they actually used a special word for it. Listen to this. As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna with the tablets of the covenant law so that it might be preserved. Now, the word manna is very interesting. It actually comes from the Hebrew word, man hu. And the word man hu literally means, what is it? So, they see this on the ground and they go, what is that? It was mystery meat. You heard of mystery meat.

Now, you know, one of the things you should teach your kids when you're growing up, if you ever go, someone invites you to their house for dinner, or for lunch, and they serve you something you don't know, you never go, what's that? That's just rude, right, normally? But sometimes it's a good question to ask. I learned this the hard way, Teresa and I did, true story. I'm pastoring my first little country church 90 miles from seminary. We'd drive down on Friday after class, we'd drive down after she'd get off from work. We'd drive down Friday night and we'd get to our little, you know, single wide trailer. And they usually have some groceries for us, but sometimes we'd always usually eat a lunch or a dinner with somebody that weekend.

Well, one of our sweet, sweet friends was a lady named Myrna Razor, Myrna's in heaven now. Myrna was such a sweet lady and she kind of adopted us as her kids. And so, we were at home on Saturday morning. I'd get up on Saturday, study for my sermon, then I'd go visiting on Saturday afternoon. Well, I'd been studying, about 11 o'clock the phone rang and it was Myrna. Myrna said, hey Brother James, she said, well, what are y'all doing for lunch? I said, well, you know, we've got groceries here. She says, come eat with me. I've got something special I wanna give you. And I said, okay, fine. So I got ready and we drove over there and she's got stuff in the pot that she's fixing.

And so, we sat down, say the blessing, and she gets our plate and she puts the vegetables on the plate. And then she goes into this pot and she pulls out some meat and puts it on there and sets it down in front of us. First of all, I'd never seen any meat like it. I didn't know what it was. I'd never smelled any meat like it. I just didn't know what it was. But, again, I'm raised right, I didn't ask her what it was. So I ate the meat and the moment I ate the meat, I'd never tasted any meat like that. So, I couldn't help myself, I said, Myrna what is this? Oh, she said, it's turtle. I said, what? She said, it's turtle. I said, turtle?

I said, well, did you catch it? She said, oh no, I didn't catch it. I said, well, you didn't buy it from the grocery store. No, I didn't buy it from the grocery store. She said, pastor, she said, God is so good. Can I tell you what happened? I said, sure. She said, about 30 minutes ago, I was driving home and somebody had run a over this turtle on the side of the road and it was still warm. I said, I'm eating roadkill. God, the spirit of God spoke to me. I fasted for the rest of the day. Now, here's my point. These Israelites did not know what this was, but I'll tell you one thing they never wondered, they never wondered where it came from.

God is our source. Number two. God is our supply. He's not just our source, He's our supply. Everything, listen to me, everything we have comes from God's house. Everything we have was made by God's hands. And, by the way, just to show you, just to drive this point home, five times in this chapter we read the same thing over and over and over. Listen to what we read. Then the Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you". Moses also said, "You will know that it was the Lord when He gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning". Moses said to them, "It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat". "Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath. That's why on the sixth day, he gives you bread for two days. Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come so they can see the bread I gave you to eat".

God makes it plain. Moses makes it plain. You know who supplied this bread, right? God gave it. God gave it. God gave it. God gave it. God gave it. Before God provided the bread, God promised the bread. God promised Moses, Moses, I'm gonna provide for your journey. Because this is the way life works. A lot of you, a lot of us sometimes, don't get it, or we forget it. But where God guides, God provides. Where God leads, He feeds. And He is our, not just our source, He is our supply. 'Cause, remember, this was angel's food. Every morning, the scripture says angels would deliver this heavenly catered meal and lay it right before the Israelites. They didn't have to work for it. They didn't have to pay for it. They didn't have to grind the flour. They didn't have to knead the dough. They didn't have to cook it.

All they had to do was two things, take it, and eat it. That's all they had to do. Every morning when they got up, God hand delivered these groceries right to their front door and he did it for 40 years. They didn't have to go to the grocery store. They didn't have to pay sales tax. They didn't have to wait in line at the checkout counter. Every single day they had this bread and they had this meat. You say, okay, what's that got to do with me? Just this. This morning, you woke up in a bed that God gave you. You went to bed last night in a home God gave you. You will get up in the morning and go to a job that God gave you. You will work that job with the help that God gave you. Right now, you breathe the air that God gives you. And everything we have comes from God and is given by God, He is our supply. And, for sure, for 40 years, what they had to eat was manna.

Now, I don't know how they ate it. I'm sure they boiled it, baked it, broiled it, barbecued it, breaded it, buttered it, grilled it, sauteed it, ate it cold, ate it hot, ate it raw. But I'll tell you two things they never knew. Number one, we're not gonna starve to death. And number two, we won't have too much and we won't have too little. This is one of the amazing things about this. Watch this. This is what the Lord's commanded, "Everyone's to gather as much as they need". Not as much as they want, but as much as they need. "Take an omer for each person you have in your tent". The Israelites did as they were told. Some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much didn't have too much. And the one who gathered little didn't have too little. Everyone gathered just as much as they needed.

You know what an omer is? An omer is about two liters. You can go to the grocery store today, get a two liter bottle of Coke. That's what it was, it was about two liters. But, evidently, it was the perfect amount. If you gathered more than you needed, it was what you needed. If you gathered less than you needed, it was what that you needed. And everybody got exactly the same amount of this honey-like coriander seed-like miraculous daily bread. Now, having said all of that, you would think that the people of Israel would be grateful. You'd think they'd be thankful. But, later in the book of Numbers, here's what we read. The rabble with them began to crave other food. And the Israelites started wailing and said, "If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost, also the cucumbers".

I hate cucumbers. "Also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic". Now, can I just be honest? Isn't that just like us? I'll tell you, it's me. Instead of being amazed at this miracle that took place every day, instead of being grateful that God was supplying, morning and night, everything that they needed, instead of being so grateful, they were griping. They were groaning. They were moaning. They were complaining. And instead of thanking God for what they did have, they complained about what they didn't have. And here's a thought that to chew on, no pun intended.

If you don't like what God has given you, the problem is not with what He's given you, the problem is your appetite for it. If you don't like what God has given you, the problem is not what He's given you, the problem is your appetite for it. Chuck Swindell said, "It takes a heavenly appetite to appreciate a heavenly diet". It takes a heavenly appetite to appreciate a heavenly diet. So, here's the point. Every day that you live, God's gonna give you what you need. And, whatever you need, He is going to supply it. And the same God that took care of you yesterday is the same God that will take care of you tomorrow, and the same God that takes care of you today.

God is our source. God is our supply. Third thing. God is our security. God is our security. Now, listen to verse 32. Moses said, "This is what the Lord's commanded. Take an omer of manna, keep it for the generations to come so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt". Now, watch this. In that 40 year period, 40 years, how many days a week did Israel have food to eat. Seven. How many weeks a year? 52. How many years? 40. For 40 years, God never missed a day. And, for 40 years, they never missed a meal. Well, so, what are you telling me? I'm telling you simply this. God's not just our source, God is not just our supply, God is our security.

Let me tell you why that's such a big deal. If the source of what you have dies, you're cooked. If the supply of what you have runs out, you go empty. But if your source is eternal, and your supply is unending, your security is always guaranteed. And that's why, listen why, this is so, this is why I get this, I'm now gonna preach to me. That's why the greatest thing we can ever do to insult God and break God's heart is to put our security in anything, in anybody, other than Him. There is nothing that's more insulting. Nothing more revolting. Nothing more heartbreaking to God than for us to find our security and put our security in anything other than Him.

And let me say, I got news for you. You say, well, I put my security in the stock market. Well, it can crash. Well, I put my security in my business. You can go bankrupt. Well, I put my security in my spouse, or in my children, or in my parents. Well, they can leave you or they can die. And we learned the hard way about 13 years ago, you can put your security in real estate and lose your shirt. The fact of the matter is, and the truth is, I got news for you. You know, we call it social security. It may be social, it ain't secure. We now know it's going bankrupt, completely bankrupt, by the year 2033. No, God is greater and better than financial security. God is better than social security. You know why? God gives eternal security. God gives security that never ever ends.

And I got news for you. He doesn't need your 401k. He doesn't need your stock holdings. He doesn't need your real estate. He doesn't need your cash on hand. He doesn't need your pension. He doesn't even need your job to give you security. He is our security. He's our supply. He's our source. He's our security. That's not all. God is our strength. He's our strength. There are three things you gotta have, everybody knows this, there are three things you gotta have every day or you're gonna die. You gotta have air, gotta have water, gotta have food. Now, the Israelites had air, plenty of air. But what good is air in the desert if you have no water? You're gonna die. Well, you could have air and you can have water. But what good is air and water in the desert if you don't have food?

You gotta have food for strength to make the journey. And that manna represents the fact that God is the one that gives us the strength to go through whatever we face. Because, see, there was one thing the Israelites had to do and I want you to hear this. There was one thing Israelites had to do every day, no matter what else they did, they had to do this every single day. This is what the Lord's commanded every day. "Everyone's to gather as much as they need, take an omer for each person that you have in your tent". All right, now, what had to happen? All right, God rains this manna down, every day it's on the ground. But, now, what did they have to do?

Well, they had to go gather it. I mean, it didn't just fall into their lap. It just didn't fall into their mouth. They had to get up, they had to go out, they had to pick it up, they had to take it home. But even that was not enough. It was not enough to get the manna. It was not enough to gather the manna. It was not enough to take the manna home. It was not enough to see the manna. It was not enough to smell the manna. You had to eat the manna. You had to devour the manna. Because uneaten food will give no strength. You can have the best food the best cook in the world can prepare. But, if all you do with that food is put it on your bedside table, or put it on your desk, or even carry it with you in your pockets, you will die. You can put that best food an inch from your mouth, but if you don't eat it, you will die. You've got to eat it every single day. Why do you need to do that? Because you need strength for every single day.

You say, okay, got it, what is the point? Well, Moses tells us something in Deuteronomy that really brings all this to light. Listen to what Moses said. He said, this is years later, He said, you remember how the Lord led you all the way in the wilderness these 40 years to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. Yeah. He humbled you, here he goes again, causing you to hunger then feeding you with manna. And they say, oh yeah, we remember, we're going through that right now. Which neither you nor your ancestors had known to teach you. What was the manna to teach? Was the manna to teach that mystery meat's good? Was the manna to teach that, hey man, listen, even I can give vanilla wafers and Nabisco's not even been invented yet? No, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

So, you know what Moses said? He said, do you know what this manna represents? It represents the word of God. It represents the word of God. You know why? Can I tell you the most important strength that you need every day if you're gonna make it? If you're gonna really be what you wanna be, and do what you wanna do, and go where you wanna go, do you know the most important strength you better get every day? Not physical, spiritual. 'Cause I got news for some of you and I'm sorry to tell you. You're in a war. If you're a Christ follower, you're in a war today. You're in a war for your family. You're in a war for your kids. You're in a war for your marriage. You're in a war for your faith. You're in a war. And the reason why some of you are getting beat, pillar to post, number one, some of you not even showing up.

Some of you're asleep on the bench. Some of you have gone AWOL. Some of us have gone AWOL. And some of us don't even realize there's a war going on. And the only way you could fight that war is with spiritual strength. And the only way you get that strength, you gotta go to the manna and eat it every single day. You gotta feed from that book every single day. You know, if you remember back, I didn't share this part of the story, God said to them, all right, I'm gonna rain manna down every day. Here's what God said, though. You gotta eat the manna that day. We'll see how many of you remember the story. If you tried to keep leftovers, they didn't have Ziploc bags back then, if you tried to keep leftovers, what would happen the next day to the manna? It spoiled. It'd be rotten.

God said, nope, today's manna doesn't cut it tomorrow. You gotta get manna every single day. You gotta eat new manna every day. You say, what's the point. Okay, you ready? See if I can make some of you a little bit mad. I'll give it a shot. How many of you walk out of this building every single Sunday and starve yourself the rest of the week? How many of you, the only Bible you get in your life is what I spoon feed you on Sunday morning? And then you wonder why you're a spiritual weakling. And you wonder why you come to church on Sunday, but you can't get your act together on Monday. And you wonder why you've got this habit you can't seem to break and this sin you can't seem to conquer. And you wonder why you can't come close to being the person on Monday you pretend to be on Sunday.

I'll tell you why. You are starving yourself to death. You can't rely, listen, I don't care if I preach the greatest sermon today you've ever heard in your life, it won't cut it for you tomorrow. You have got to do what I do every day. You gotta go get some manna. You gotta go to the word of God and say, Lord, I appreciate what the pastor said yesterday, but I need you to speak to me today. I need fresh manna for my heart and my soul today. And if you're going to have strength for the journey every day, you gotta eat the bread of God's word every single day, because God is our strength. Now, I can stop right there.

And some of you probably say, I wish you would, but I'm not. 'Cause I got one more thing I wanna say. I'm gonna give you the whole loaf of bread, pun intended. Because I could leave the story right here, and if I did that, Jesus would be so disappointed. And you say, well, why would Jesus be so disappointed? All right, I've said this to you many times, I'm gonna say it for a while. So, somebody say out loud. All of the Bible is about Jesus. Got it? All the Bible is about Jesus. So, what is the real point of this story? It's not that just God is our source, and God's our supply, and God's our strength, and God's our security. You knew all that when you walked in here.

But here's the point of the story. God is our salvation. God's our salvation. See, there's a lot more, listen, if there's any boys and girls in here, this story's not just here so you can know how God gave bread to the children of Israel every day. That's not the point of the story. That's the plot of the story. That's not the point of the story. 'Cause here's what we know now. Without this bread, Israel is no more. Without this bread, Israel dies in the wilderness. Without this bread, we never hear from them again. This bread was literally their salvation. It's the only way that they made it to the promised land.

And here's what I want you to see. Listen to me, open your eyes. This bread is a picture of Jesus. This bread is a picture of Jesus. Now, you say, you're reading that into the text. It's not my idea. I actually got it from Jesus. I'm gonna prove it to you. Look again at verse four. Then the Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven". I will rain down bread from heaven. All right, watch this. So where did the bread come from? Came from heaven. God made it. God baked it. But it wasn't just heavenly bread, it was human bread. 'Cause you could eat it. It was real bread. Just like bread's bread, it was real bread. You could digest it.

So, it was heavenly bread, but it was also human bread. 2,000 years ago, a baby was born. He was a heavenly baby, but He was a human baby. He wasn't created. We were created, He wasn't created, He was begotten. He's always existed. But the moment He was born, He was a human and He was divine. He was a man, but He was God, just like this bread. And you may still say, well, you're still making that up. No, here's what Jesus said. When Jesus looked back on this same story, here's what he said. Jesus said to them, "Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven". Here's what he was saying. Moses was not your supply. Moses was not your strength. Moses was not your source. Moses was not your security. "It was my Father who gave you the bread from heaven". But "The bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world".

And you're there, you're there, I want you to imagine, 2,000 years ago, you're a disciple. You go, You're that bread. Yes, Jesus said, I am that bread from heaven. And, He makes it very plain, because listen to what they say next. They said, "Sir, always give us this bread". Always give us this bread. Why'd they say it? Well, they thought Jesus was still talking about that manna. And they thought, wow, you know, we never thought we'd ever get to taste it again. We never thought we'd ever see it. Lord, give us this bread. I wanna know what it looks like. I wanna know what it smells like. I wanna know what it tastes like. I've always wanted to eat the bread that Moses ate. And then Jesus says this. "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty".

Jesus said, guys, wake up. The Old Testament manna is the New Testament Jesus. The Old Testament, yeah, give the Lord a hand. The Old Testament manna is the New Testament of Jesus. Jesus says, I am the bread of life. Now watch this. This will make a Baptist get happy right here. God gave the manna only to Israel. But God gave Jesus to the whole world. The manna only gave Israel physical life, but God's son gives eternal life. And just as the Jews had to go to that bread, and get that bread, and eat that bread, we have to go to Jesus and we have to take that bread, and we have to eat that bread, and take the bread of His salvation. We've gotta taste and see that the Lord is good.

And here's the wonderful thing. When you do that, you don't just get physical life, you get eternal life. 'Cause here's the big difference between the manna and Jesus. When the Jews ate that manna, they still died. When they ate that physical bread, they still died. But when you eat the bread of life, you live forever. You can't die. So, here's the truth of the matter. You ready? We're done. We all live hand to mouth. Physically, on this earth, we live from God's hand to our mouth. Spiritually, in our hearts, we live from God's hand to our mouth. Eternally, in the kingdom of God, we will still be living from God's hand to our mouth. And the good news is that's not just the only way we live. It is the best way to live.

Would you pray with me right now? Just bow your heads, close your eyes for just a moment. Whether you're watching right now on a computer, or an iPad, or a cell phone, or you're in this building, I want you to listen carefully. Jesus is the bread of life. And there's some of you out there watching right now and you know what? You've tried everything else to satisfy your hunger. You've tried money. You've tried sex. You've tried alcohol. You've tried drugs. You've tried pornography. You've tried fame. You've tried position. You've tried power and nothing, nothing works. You know why? Because the only bread that will satisfy you completely, and totally, and forever is the bread that comes from heaven. And his name is Jesus. And if today you would say, I am tired of going thirsty and I'm tired of being hungry. I want to drink the water of life. I want to eat the bread of life. I want to know that Jesus. Then would you just tell him that right now? You could say something like this:

Lord Jesus, I believe you're the bread of life. In fact, you said, if I will confess you as my Lord and believe in my heart that God raised you from the dead, you said I would be saved. I'm doing that right now. I confess you are God, you are Lord. I believe in my heart God raised you from the dead. I receive you as my savior. I trust you as my Lord. Thank you for forgiving me of my sins. Thank you for giving me eternal life. I repent and turn away from all my sinful ways. And I thank you for hearing my prayer.

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