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Doing What We Can

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman
The Truth Network Radio
January 3, 2021 6:00 pm

Doing What We Can

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman

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January 3, 2021 6:00 pm

Christ is pleased when we do what we can to honor him. Pastor Greg Barkman speaks from this story in the life of Christ mentioned in three of the four gospel accounts.

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Today were going to be looking at a well-known New Testament account that is the account of the woman who anointed Jesus with a costly perfume, and it is well-known because it is recorded in three of the four Gospels Matthew and Mark and in John and each of the three account supplies details that are not found in the others. And so it helps us to put them all together but were going to be concentrating on Mark chapter 14 today, though, we will draw some information from the other accounts as well. But though it is clearly a well-known incident in the life of our Lord. It probably is not as well-known as it ought to be. I think there are many Christians who have only a vague concept of what this is all about Christ thought it was important to know and remember this event. In fact, he declared that it would be widely proclaimed throughout the entire world. So it is therefore surely a worthwhile and event for our investigation today in a timely account with which to begin the new year I had made preparation on the Sunday before Christmas to preach my final Christmas season message from Matthew chapter 1.

Having covert and not being here on that Sunday, I thought, well, my sermons already.

I won't have to work on one during vacation and I'll just bring that one on the first Sunday in January.

But as I thought about it I thought now I think it's time to put the wonderful truth of the incarnation aside and look at something that is more particularly, I think appropriate to the first Sunday of the new year and so this is what will be looking at today we learn the crisis. Please when we do what we are able to do. That's what this woman and her activities show us, and Christ's reporting on those activities makes very very clear in the account will find three different responses to Jesus Christ. These are not all the possible responses that you could find throughout the Bible, but they are three very important ones and they are first of all, the folly of unbelief. Second, the sacrifice of devotion and third, the criticism of callousness. The cow begins by revealing to us the folly of unbelief and I read again verses one to after two days it was the Passover, the feast of unleavened bread, and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by trickery and put him to death, but they said, not during the feast lest there be an uproar of the people. This account takes place in a very strategic time in the calendar of Israel and of course a very strategic time. The life of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the earth. It was Passover season, the Passover festival was the most important one in the Jewish calendar. It was that festival that feast that had been designed by God to remember the redemption of his people from Egypt during the days of Moses plague after plague after plague brought pressure upon Pharaoh and he seemed to cave and then to give them permission to go and then changed his mind again and again and again until finally the last plague was announced and the people that lived in the land of Egypt were told that all of those who slew ally and applied the blood to their door post and lintel roughly the shape of a cross would be spared the plague that would come with those who refused to do so would find on one night their firstborn in every family would die in the feast of Passover is therefore a reminder of that annually when God's judgment passed over those who are trusting in the Lamb that was slain when Christ's judgment passed over those for whom the slain lamb was a divinely appointed substitute in the place of the firstborn who otherwise was designated to die. Those who embrace the substitute were given life. Those who refuse to embrace the substitute suffered the penalty of death. The Passover was a reminder of that every year and along with that, there was the feast of unleavened bread and putting the two together seven days of unleavened bread in the one day of Passover. You have a typical eight day annual feast for the children of Israel and the unleavened bread was what they were required to carry with them out of Egypt so that they could go quickly, not waiting for the bread to rise, but just taking the the flower of the bread, unleavened and away they went but they had been told before hand to purge all of the Levitt out of their house.

11 indicating sin. All sin must be purged out. All sin must be swept away. On one hand that's a very helpful reminder that we need to deal with the sin in our own lives and on the other hand is a very instructive reminder because who could possibly identify and successfully remove every bit of leaven that little microscopic leaven that would filter throughout the house of any place where bread was daily baked who could identify who could locate who could successfully remove all of the leaven from their lives from their house and likewise who can successfully remove the sin from our own lives. And of course the answer is no one it's reminder that we cannot make ourselves righteous before God.

We cannot merit salvation. We cannot earn the favor of God. We must with Martin Luther. The hymn writer this morning acknowledge that we are sinners that we are in the depths of low that there is no hope for us except to cast ourselves upon the mercy of a merciful God, and to allow his remedy to remove the sin from our lives and replace it with his righteousness and all of this was pictured in the in the Passover festivity that took place in the month of Nissan in these days of course the primary celebration took place in the city of Jerusalem. Jews from all over the world would gather in Jerusalem for this time they Passover itself.

The slaying of the Lamb actually took place on two dates in the calendar year on Nissan the 14th. The land was slain on the 15th. It was consumed. If this occurred in the year A.D. 30 than the Lamb was slain on Thursday the 14th in Eaton on Friday the 15th and fits very comfortably into the chronology that we find in the Gospels but it was I say the biggest event of the Jewish calendar.

There were three major feast days there were other times of remembrance, but the most important one in the minds of the Jews was this one as we look over our calendar year, we see lots of different holidays. The next one that's coming up. I suppose it is Valentines that will be upon us before we know what on throughout the year.

We have a number of holidays that we remember Thanksgiving is an important one, but there's no question in anybody's mind that Christmas, above all the others Christmas is the most major is the most important holiday on the American calendar and likewise Passover, the feast of unleavened bread was the most important feast day on the Jewish calendar and that's when this took place. It was Passover and the feast of unleavened bread, but was not only a strategic time, but there is mention of a long-delayed plan that's in the last part of verse one were told the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Jesus by trickery and put him to death. They decided they had determined that they were going to take Jesus by trickery that is by deceit, because that's the only way they could possibly take him.

They certainly were not sure how they were going to do it. They didn't have a well devised plan. This is the this is the plan that will use this is the trickery that we will put in the place, but they knew that if they were going to succeed. It had to be some kind of subterfuge and trickery that would take take place in order to capture him, for they have tried for how long to capture him into putting to death and they had been unsuccessful in every attempt. In fact his long-standing intention to put Christ to death goes really all the way back to almost the very beginning of his earthly ministry in the same book of Mark in chapter 3 we read in the entered the synagogue again and the man was there who had a withered hand.

So they watched him closely whether he would heal on the Sabbath so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand step forward. Then he said to them, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill, but they kept silent when he looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, he said to the man stretch out your hand and he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodian's against him, how they might destroy him. Mark chapter 3 and if you look at it you realize this is even before Christ called the 12 apostles unto himself early early early in Christ ministry. The religious leaders determined that they were going to put this man to death. Three years later they're still trying to figure out how to carry out their intentions, they are finding it exceedingly difficult but they are still working at it there long-delayed client has not gone away.

They haven't forgotten it.

They are still determined to carry it out, but there is a surprising deterrent mentioned in verse two but they said, not during the feast won't do this during the feast lest there be an uproar. The people there determination was the killing, but not during Passover. Not during unleavened bread because as Mark tells us Jesus was too popular with the crowds that strikes me as very surprising. These religious leaders do not seem on the surface to be the kind of people who would be particularly persuaded one way or another by the opinion of others.

They had their minds made up. They knew what they intended to do, but there was something within them and I suppose it was a fear that God allowed them to have probably an irrational fear, but there was a fear in their hearts that if they did this in at this particular time with the crowds gathered together for the feast of unleavened bread that he would not go well and so they said will do it, but will wait until after the feast day.

But guess what God had determined that it would take place during this feast of unleavened bread to Christ who is the Passover lie on the one that all of those thousands of lambs of the been slain down through history, pointed to the ones that they symbolized now. Finally, the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world has come, and we have the Paschal Lamb.

These substitute for sinners. The one who could take the place of those who deserve to die, and God has appointed that he is going to lay down his life as the Paschal Lamb on the day when the Passover lamb is consumed and the religious leaders have no control over their you would think having tried to put them to death for nearly 3 years and not succeeding that they would've come to the conclusion that they are powerless to think they don't control these events they not able to decide when to take this matter putting to death.

You would think they would've come to that conclusion. You would think that they would realize that the plans they make. Up until now, fruitless plans and now this time to take him after the feast day the feast week is over, are not what God has in mind and they end up being the instruments to cooperate to bring about the timing that God has ordained. It turns out to happen according to God's plan and design and not theirs is a surprising deterrent that God overruled. They said not now because of the crowds at the feast day, God said yes. Now, now is the appointed time.

The time came, but all of this shows is the folly of unbelief. How many examples of divine involvement in the life of Jesus should have persuaded these religious leaders by now that they were not dealing with an imposter. They were not dealing with the counterfeit. They were not dealing with a false Messiah. They were dealing with one that God had sent and all of the evidence is there for them to see and yet they keep pushing the evidence assigned and refusing to accept it and hardening their hearts evermore in their unbelief as they go. Determined to kill the Lamb of God, and to seal their own condemnation, the folly of unbelief.

Secondly, we notice the sacrifice of devotion.

This is primarily found in verse three the sum of the details are given to us in the verses that follow. Verse three says and being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper as he sat at the table.

A woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on his head.

The sacrifice of devotion three questions where who and what where did this event take place were told to place in Bethany, that's a little village about 2 miles east of Jerusalem, just beyond the Mount of olives were also told that it took place in the home of Simon the leper. That in itself raises questions which are not answered for us in Scripture. Who exactly was Simon the leper, presumably he was no longer leper or he wouldn't have been here wouldn't of been hosting people in his home so we would presume that he is Seidman the former leper is been healed by Christ. What is his relationship to Lazarus and Mary and Martha.

They all seem to be part actually the same household.

We don't understand what that relationship is exactly but here the location is identified as the home of Simon the leper and it took place at the time of a significant Lilo banquet of feast and who was there. Seidman, the leper healed by Christ Lazarus the man raised from the dead by Christ.

Mary and Martha sisters to Lazarus and perhaps in some way related to Simon the leper we really don't know Jesus. Of course, was there is 12 apostles were there and there may have been others who had been invited and work gathered around the table at this time but what took place during this time is of greatest significance and were told that in our accounting markets.

As a woman, but putting the other accounts together.

We know this woman is. It is Mary, the sister of Martha, sister of Lazarus, Mary anointed Jesus with costly I mean costly, costly, very costly perfume. It was contained in what we are told here is an alabaster flask that would be literally a gypsum bottled. The closest thing to glass. They didn't have glass in their day like we have today, but they had these gypsum containers which were similar to glass, but very expensive.

Even the container itself. In this container was filled with what we are told in verse three is an oil of spikenard. Spikenard actually indicates the hard part is that perfume and the spike part is genuine or pure. This is the highest grade of this expensive perfume made from a plant grown in India harvested their manufactured into perfume and sold for large sums of money which could only be afforded by the wealthy, which thou tells us a little bit more about Mary and Martha and Lazarus and presumably Simon the leper. They evidently were wealthy people. Jesus is evidently dining a large home home that is well able to provide hospitality and to provide a banquet into invite many people in for this banquet and the discussion that follows tells us that this perfume was valued at more than 300 denarii. I delirious, as most of you know which was the most common Roman silver coin was the common wage for one for laboring man's 11 day of of labor Roman footsoldier earned delirious a day day laborers to went out in the morning to be hired in in Vineyards we have a parable along these lines were paid.

Typically, a denarius a day one. The good Samaritan took the man who'd been beaten, left for dead by the wayside and took him into an in he gave the innkeeper to an area I am said whatever else. You spend all replay when I come back this way so that would've been the equivalent of two days wages that he deposited with him to get things started. Until he could come back and settle the final bill when Jesus fed the 5000, and he was asking the disciples how they were going to supply food for this vast number. One of them said well I don't know because even 200 and Mary. I would be enough to feed this crap. That tells me a couple of things. One of the things he tells me was that though Jesus didn't have any place to call his own. He didn't have a place to lay his head.

He didn't own a home.

He wasn't going around broke most of the time either. Apparently there were at least 200 and Mary, I and the treasury of the disciples, which was in the care of Judith's so this is a large sum it's always difficult to translate exactly values from two millennia ago into values for today, but it seems to me like we would be far-off to say that this represents about $30,000 approximately $100 a day times 300 were talking about $30,000. Mary had a flask.

One of the accounts tells us a pound which means it would have been about a pint know the size of the flask. A pint of this very costly perfume, which somewhere along the way she had acquired presumably purchased for $30,000 and was saving it for a special occasion and that special occasion had now, and Mary broke the flask.

Probably the only way to get it out. It was probably manufactured that way because even though the alabaster flax would be of some value that was nothing compared to what was inside.

So when you got ready for this.

You went ahead and broke the flask and she broke the flask and poured it all out on Christ's head and on his feet as he was reclining at the table in that home. She didn't pour out a little bit. She didn't sale give you a little dab and I'll save the rest for another time, but she was lavish. She poured out the whole $30,000 worth of proof on Christ. There, in the presence of them all. That's the sacrificial devotion we so there three responses to Christ. Here number one the folly of unbelief. Number two the sacrifice of devotion number three criticism of callousness and that takes up the rest of the account what the others said, and then when Jesus said in response to them.

There are number of things and will begin with the misplaced indignation verse four. But there were some who were indignant among themselves and said why was this fragrant oil wasted that we learn from John's account that the sediment was was voiced was stirred up by Judas. Why wasn't this so this this ointment that could've been sold for 300 and Mary like why wasn't so old and that it could have been given to the poor. John is careful to tell us he said this, not because he cared for the poor because he was the treasurer he kept the money and he was embezzling out of the bag and another $300 in the bag would make it easier for him to slip out several denarii I worth without it being missed but Judas is stirring up this indignation against Mary, but he's not the only one you wouldn't have expected the other disciples as they wait a minute, wait a minute, stop stop beaten up on Mary.

She's honoring Christ she's honoring our Lord what she's doing is a good thing but no, we are disappointed to note that at least some of the other disciples entered right in with Judas and they picked up on the same criticism and echoed it and added to it.

Why was this going to went wasted. The Greek word has the idea of destroyed what wasn't destroyed in this way, poured out on Christ, you wasted it you destroyed not ask a question if you have a alabaster flax and perfumed can only be accessed by raking the flask. How would you ever use it without words of these critics destroying it. If you think about what they're saying they're basically saying is, it should never be used.

It should never, never, the end anointment on anybody.

Nobody should have it is basically what they're saying.

Why was this wasted. Why was it destroyed in the misplaced indignation is followed by a pretended concern.

Verse five for they say it might have been sold for more than 300 and Mary, I am given to the poor and they criticized her sharply. This is how we know how much the perfume cost. They feigned concern for the poor, and we know that it was pretended concern because John tells us in the case of Judas. It was entirely a pretense. I wonder how many other people under the pretense of being concerned and righteous speak much about their concern for the poor. When it's all a hypocritical pretense. I've I've noticed it many times, those who are the loudest in professing their concern for the poor and the, the determination of the demand that others do something to help relieve the poor. I've noticed that many, many times they themselves don't do much just like Judas just like the disciples.

Oh how concerned we are for the poor question how much of you given to help the poor. This last year. We don't know the answer that question, but the likely answer is about zero you hypocrite you pretender you pie something humbug pretended your concern for the poor. It's so easy isn't it to criticize what other people do with their money more difficult to properly evaluate our own spending joy say that again we have such a tendency to see what other people do with our money and we make our judgments of whether they did the right thing or not.

And we decided that in some cases they should not have spent their money that way will make you the judge over other people's money and how they got to spend what you think you should pay more attention to your own spending your own giving your own stewardship and not be so concerned about other people watch watch that spirit. That's a critical spirit creeps and so easily watch that spirit.

The next time you hear words flowing out of your lips where you are criticizing in judging someone because they bought this, they purchase that they spent their money in a certain way.

Remember Judas remember the apostles remember this incident and zipped your left non-your business right you nurture anyone disagree how many you think it is your business raise rent. Kelly does non-your business. Remember that that calls for. Therefore, the timely review converter six but Jesus said, let her alone why you trouble her. She's done a good work for me what you trouble her one of the old translation said why are you molesting her. That's probably little bit too strong for this Greek word, but trouble may be a little bit too mild to they were harassing her. Why are you harassing her. She has done a good work for me.

She has done, literally, a beautiful work for what she did was beautiful.

It was appropriate it was God honoring all she talked this costly perfume and poured it out on Jesus Christ and the disciples said that was a waste. And Jesus said that was one of the most beautiful deeds I have ever experienced beautiful.

Her devotion, I can't help but notice that there's a similar response from on the one hand, the false professor who is not Christian at all. Namely Judas and the apostles who here to my mind represent halfhearted believers. They were true believers but their response to this was identical to that of a pretending believer someone who is pretending to be a follower of Christ and was not and there perception and their criticism was identical to his shows you shows you how little we can go when our hearts are not fully devoted to Christ shows you how wrong we can be in our hearts are not fully devoted to Christ. It shows you how much like an unbeliever and ungodly unbeliever, we can act when our hearts are not devoted to Christ, so that follows the helpful correction verse seven for you have the poor with you always, and wherever and whenever rather you wish you may do them good but me you do not always have the poor are always present. You may help them at any time. But Jesus will not always be present. You need to honor him now while you can. The poor you will have with you always. Would be good for the number of people to understand that statement in Scripture. The poor you will have with you always, that we can eliminate poverty. We can have the war on poverty. We can have a great society. We can we can eliminate poverty. Jesus said the poor you will have with you always. Doesn't sound like if we try hard enough we can eliminate poverty after how many years of enormous attempt trillions and trillions of dollars of attempt. The official poverty level is virtually the same as it was when all this began. Something's not working.

Maybe we cannot overturn the word of God. Maybe, just maybe, just maybe, now that doesn't mean that we should be concerned about the poor. We should doesn't mean we shouldn't help the poor. We should invite Jesus commands that here he says you'll have the be with you always, and you can help them anytime you want to, and the implication is you shut. You should help them often, but there's a higher priority. You'll have them with you always. You can do good to them whenever you wish, but Jesus will not always be present and you need to honor him when you can. You will not always be able to do that. Do it while you may.

And so Jesus said in verse eight with a very well-deserved commendation she has done what she could.

She has come before hand to anoint my body for burial. Jesus are rather Mary did what she could. Mary did what God had enabled her to do good for her. There are very many people who could have poured $30,000 worth of perfume on Jesus but if ads as in Mary's case.

You have been enabled to do that, then you should be doing something like that and will if you have the same kind of loving devotion to Mary had what is amazing and this is what is revealed in verse eight, is that Mary understood the impending crucifixion. Apparently, very few if any others did. She has done what she could.

She has come before hand to anoint my body for burial. That's what she was doing she was anointing Christ body for burial.

She expected his death. She expected his burial.

The other disciples have been told over and over again. I'm going to Jerusalem, where I'm going to be put to death and they said how upset I didn't hear that talking about and understand that they just couldn't seem to process it couldn't seem to believe it.

One disciple did, namely Mary was known for what for sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to his word.

She did listen to his word. She listened carefully to his word, she heard what he said she believed what he said and she acted upon what he said and she is now anointing his body for burial.

Jesus knew what she was doing and he said that is an incredibly beautiful and wonderful and faith filled act of devotion. This all culminates with the surprising declaration of verse nine.

Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is presented in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her. Mary's deed will be memorialized widely. In fact it's going to be remembered wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world. This tells me that the gospel in the mind of Christ is more than simply the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, as you could preached at all over the world without ever mentioning what Mary did.

But if the gospel is declaring what is in the Scriptures that yes wherever the gospel is proclaimed. This deed will be proclaimed throughout the whole world and Mary's deed is divinely memorialized.

She didn't expect that what she was doing far. She was concerned was a private act of devotion. Yes, it was done in the presence of a handful of friends, but it was to her. Just a personal and private act of devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. And Jesus said this is worthy of being memorialized all over the world. Over the next how many years 2000+ years until Jesus come. This is one of the most significant things that has been done by anybody. Jesus what what I did little me. I'm not I'm not an apostle. I'm not preaching the gospel. I'm I'm not a leader. I'm not building the church. I'm just things woman who's been given some resources and I using them to show my love and devotion to Christ.

And Jesus said this is one of the greatest deeds that has ever been done. This will be remembered all over the world the disciples may not of highly esteemed with Mary.

Did they obviously didn't. But Jesus did. He highly esteemed her deed but on these three we talked about three responses to Christ number one. The folly of unbelief number two the sacrifice of devotion number three the criticism of callousness of these three, which do you most resemble end of the three. Which do you most want to resemble.

And if you honestly have to say. Far too often. My response is not one of sacrificially loving devotion.

It tends at times to be critical.

Critical of this critical of that critical of the church critical the preacher critical of other Christians critical of what they're doing. That critical spirit betrays a problem a problem in your heart that needs to be dealt with. Ask God to forgive you to rooted out and replace it with a heart of loving devotion will are so many lessons in this account is hard to know where to begin to let me go over two or three quickly certainly teaches us about the irrationality of unbelief. The unbelief of the religious leaders there spiritual blindness was of course traced to their sin and their sin blinded them to truth and their sin caused them to act irrationally. They ignored evidence that they did not want to examine then because they didn't examine it didn't admit it, they denied it didn't exist as far as they were concerned and they persisted in their unprovoked hostility is a pretty good picture of this kind of hardhearted and belief but we also see the dangers of halfhearted faith and the apostles are a sad example of that. Their carnal indignation toward Mary how indignant we can get about this how indignant we can get about that many times it feels very real and right and righteous.

I ought to be indignant about this. I ought to be indignant about that. Maybe, maybe not. That may be the indignation of carnality rather than of spiritual be careful with what we see in the areas a number of manifestations of wholehearted faith.

The manifestation of her sacrificial devotion to Christ.

Her lavish giving giving of her resources, giving of yourself giving over time, devoting herself to him. We see the spiritual hunger for God's word again and Mary she esteemed Christ word more important than food than physical food and her hunger and reception of Christ word enabled her to understand what others did not understand enabled her to do what Christ considered to be an incredibly appropriate deed that brings us therefore to understand another manifestation of wholehearted faith, which is the practical deeds of involvement. Mary did what she could. She couldn't preach she could build a church.

So many things she couldn't do what can I do know I can take the resources that God has so abundantly supplied, and I can use them to honor Christ.

That's what I can do and she did, she did what she could and is not exactly what God expects of all of us were all tempted at times I hear somebody who plays the piano beautifully. I said I wish I could do that when I remember God wanted me to do that he would enabled me to do that.

I tried hard enough. The Lord knows I tried hard.

I wasted more money on piano lessons and I would care to tell you but it didn't make me a pianist and that's not what God intended for me to do, but I suppose someone who plays the piano beautifully might say I was God made me a preacher, but he didn't. God makes each of us the way he wants us to be God gives us the abilities that he wants us to have documents into our care. The resources that he wants us to utilize and all he asks of us. Anyone of us is what you can do what God has enabled you to do for God's sake, do it.

Don't sit on it. She did what she cannot one of us have not done in 2020. What we thought we were going to do the beginning of the year and it's out of our hands. They the coven just changed everything. So many things that we were doing that we couldn't do, but that doesn't mean we can sit on our hands and do nothing. We figure out what we can do and do it with a heart of love and devotion to the Lord. That's what we should do in 2021. We have no idea what this year may hold. But this much we know. Whatever it holds. It holds opportunities for us to take what God has given to us the circumstances that he's given to us the abilities of the resources that is given to us and he's allowing us to use them for his glory. As long as we live until Jesus comes.

If will do that he will be honored. She did what she could and that was a beautiful day in Washington is going to proclaim to the end of the hill say that any and every faithful servant well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of thy Lord. The final manifestation of wholehearted faith is unexpected spiritual fruitfulness did Mary expect that what she did was going to have uncountable spiritual impacting fruitfulness for thousands of years, she had no idea whatsoever complete and utter surprise to her.

She didn't expect that just little old me doing what little thing I can do right now to her. That's all it was. Jesus said this has impact for time and eternity in the credible way. Do what you came. You have no idea how fruitful that may be probably if your hearts right. Your humble before God. Probably you will assume that it will be of very little consequence.

But you're not the judge of that and you're not the one who controls that you do what you can and you are going to be surprised at how fruitful Christ will make it for his honor and glory. So let us do what we can, shall we pray heavenly father, thank you for your word.

Thank you for its truth. Thank you for its encouragement.

Thank you for its review. Thank you for its guidance. They would take it to heart the beginning of this new year for Christ sake, man

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