Friday, February 29, 2008

March-ing Through Psalm 119

I've always had trouble with the sheer length of Psalm 119, the longest Psalm with a grand total of 176 verses. It's an acrostic poem with each stanza starting with a successive letter in the Hebrew alphabet (Aleph, Beth, Gimel, etc.).

So what I plan on doing starting tomorrow, March 1, is this: read one stanza a day, where possible starting my day by reading the stanza, and returning to it throughout the day from time to time to re-read and meditate on it.

With one stanza a day -- reading Sin and Shin (vv. 161-8) and Taw (vv. 169-176) together for the final day -- I should be able to finish Psa. 119 in three weeks, concluding on March 21, Good Friday. Of course, I know how I am with plans and schedules, both those made for me and those I make for myself, so I appreciate your prayers for me to be faithful to this plan.

After all, my aim is to grow in my delight in the law of the Lord, and to say with the psalmist, "I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil." (119:162)

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Michael Jackson on Total Depravity (Sorta)

An oldie but a goodie I just had to post. If you're limited on time, I recommend starting from 42 seconds in:

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Abortion, Anguish, and The Man of Sorrows

This story from the London Daily Telegraph broke my heart when I read it, and I thought I'd share it with you for two reasons: to talk about the fatal weight that guilt from sin can yield in our lives (II Cor. 7:10) and the hope we have for release from guilt and pardon of our sins in the finished work of Christ Jesus on the cross.

Sadly, this young lady did not place her trust in Christ's sacrifice and committed suicide so overwhelmed was she by the guilt of having an abortion:

An artist killed herself after aborting her twins when she was eight weeks pregnant, leaving a note saying: "I should never have had an abortion. I see now I would have been a good mum."

Emma Beck was found hanging at her home in Helston, Cornwall, on Feb 1 2007. She was declared dead early the following day - her 31st birthday.

Her suicide note read: "I told everyone I didn't want to do it, even at the hospital. I was frightened, now it is too late. I died when my babies died. I want to be with my babies: they need me, no-one else does."

The guilt over sin expressed in those words is crushing. Indeed, while she didn't put it in such language , it seems her guilt led her in some way to feel a need to atone for that sin by her own life. Scripture tells us there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22), but Scripture also makes clear only the blood of the perfectly sinless and righteous Son of God can cleanse us from sin and its guilt (Heb. 9:11-15).

Ms. Beck's case is heartbreaking, her final act of helplessness irrevocable. But my prayer is that from this widely-reported tragedy that the Gospel may advance. I trust many more gifted men of God will blog and preach on this matter, but in my own small way, I hope now to apply the good news of the Gospel so that, whoever reads this might take heart in the truth of the Gospel: all sin, even murder of the unborn, can be washed clean by the shed blood of Jesus.

All of us feel the weight of shame and guilt for sins we've done. All of us are sinners deserving God's wrath, persistently obstinate rebels against his divine reign. But the good news is Jesus Christ has borne our sin and shame in his crushed and broken body on the cross. Christ has tasted death so that we might have forgiveness and new life as children of God (Isa. 53:3-12):


3 He was despised and rejected [2] by men;
a man of sorrows, [3] and acquainted with [4] grief;
[5]
and as one from whom men hide their faces [6]
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief; [7]
when his soul makes [8] an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see [9] and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, [10]
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, [11]
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Ms. Beck's soul was exceedingly anguished with guilt and she offered herself as a sacrifice for it, but if she placed her trust in Christ she could have rested in the knowledge that Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb of God made Himself the one true perfect sacrifice for sin and guilt. Jesus' death on the cross has made effectual a salvation that makes "many to be accounted righteous" and that sacrifice is ordained by God's own will and hence fully pleasing to Him.

Because Jesus has borne our grief, our shame, and our guilt, all the while despising the shame of the cross for the joy set before Him (Heb. 12:1-3), we can through faith in Him be dead to sin and alive unto God, new creations in Christ Jesus (Gal. 2:20-21; Col. 2:6-15; II Cor. 5:17).

We can never by our own tainted blood atone for our sin and guilt. Praise be to God that He's provided the perfect sacrifice in his only begotten Son (John 3:16-21).

If in reading this you have been cut to the heart, I would urge you to "Repent and be baptized... in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." (Acts 2:37-38)

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sing to the Lord a New Hymn

There's an excellent interview over at ChristianityToday.com with hymnists Keith and Kristyn Getty. In the excerpt below they note the two aims of their hymn-writing: sound doctrine and ease of use for diverse congregations (emphasis mine).:

Why the emphasis on doctrine?

Keith: I'm a child of the modern worship movement. We both are. I have a great affection for both modern worship music and traditional church music. I wanted to do two things. One was to write songs that helped teach the faith, and the second was to write songs that every generation could sing. I don't think of music as only teaching, but I do think that what we sing profoundly affects how we think. It profoundly affects how we feel. It affects, therefore, our emotional and our didactic relationship with God. But what we sing is for people of all ages.

The radical thing is that in the Old Testament, everybody came together and sang. And in the New Testament, the Jew and the Gentile, the Greek and the Roman, the young and the old all came together and sang together. That's the witness of church history. It's not some kind of food court where everyone chooses their favorite music and goes that direction.

I don't for a minute think that what I write will become everyone's favorite. That's just nonsense. The radical thing about a church service is that people of every age and every wealth bracket and every background come together and sing together. So we write these quasi-folk melodies that everyone can sing, and we hope there's an enduring quality to them.

I believe these are excellent principles for worship in any church, but particularly evangelical churches that have in the past 25-30 years seen a song repertoire that often lacks theological substance by downplaying or avoiding matters such as God's holiness, our sinfulness, God's judgment against sinners, God's mercy towards us in Christ, the atonement, Christ's passion and resurrection, and eternity.

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International Hug a Calvinist Day


A little silly holiday I created on Facebook for the heck of it.

So stop and smell the TULIPs on July 10 and hug your nearest Calvinist. We don't bite.

Update (Feb. 21 | 15:14 EST): Welcome to readers of Reformed Chicks Blabbing. I hope you stick around my blog and check out some other things I've written.

Photo update (Feb. 22 | 11:40 EST): Some Calvinist/Reformed T-shirts at CafePress, including the design shown in the photo are perfect for July 10.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Would the Vatican Make Samson a Saint?

Poor Samson and Rahab. Under new Vatican guidelines methinks the Old Testament saints (see Heb. 11:31-32), a lust-driven womanizer and a Jerichoan whore respectively, wouldn't make the cut (via USA Today emphasis mine):

It's getting more difficult to become a saint.

The Vatican, which has more than 2,200 potential saints in the pipeline, says it wants bishops to exercise more "rigor" and "sobriety" when it comes to choosing someone worthy of beatification, according to the Associated Press.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, chief of the church's sainthood office, tells reporters that candidates must have a "true reputation for holiness" in order to warrant consideration.

DPA, the German news agency, has a detailed overview of the rules.
Now, by no means am I excusing or condoning sinful behavior, and certainly not sexual immorality, but true sainthood is an office and/or quality that is NEVER earned by personal moral merit, it is ALWAYS bestowed by God's grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. Ultimately, it depends on Christ's merit and Christ's work.

The only person with a perfect "true reputation for holiness" in the entirety of human history is Jesus Christ, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and there is none righteous, no, not one. [Rom. 3:10, 23; Psa. 14:1]

What's more, the Bible is replete with references to "saints" who were, when addressed as such, living, breathing, and most assuredly still-sinning believers.

We sin -- fall short of God's holy perfection -- every day, intentionally or accidentally, in thought, word, deed, and motive. Sure, we strive by God's grace to grow in holiness, as we are called in God's Word, but our saintliness is never, biblically speaking, a subjective function of our personal sanctification, rather it's the objective forensic declaration of God at our justification. [I Peter 1:14-21; II Timothy 1:8-14]

Look no further than Paul's epistles to the Corinthians. That's a screwed up church if ever there was one. You had people getting drunk at communion, their worship services were completely chaotic, there was a dude in the church openly and proudly sinning sexually by sleeping with his father's step-mom, and the Corinthians had the nasty habit of filing lawsuits against one another, dragging each other before bewildered pagans in Roman courts, among other problems.

And yet, despite all that, Paul calls the people in the church saints, even as he admonishes them to get their act together. Indeed, in his opening greeting, he calls the Corinthians "sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." [I Cor. 1:2;]

God sees the end from the beginning and completes the good work He began in us. [Phil. 1:6; Heb. 12:2; Rom. 8:31-39] It's He who declares us righteous in Christ and who, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the washing of the Word of God sanctifies us in this life until we conform to the image of Christ Jesus. [Eph. 5:25-27]

That's what being a real saint is: clinging for dear life to Christ's finished work on the cross, trusting in Him as we live out our lives in the world, but not of it. [Col. 1:21-23; II Peter 1:3-11; I Cor. 5:6-13; 6:18-20]

[A closing prayer for all who trust in Jesus as their Savior]: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for saving us not by virtue of our self-perceived merits, but by the perfect merit of your spotless, holy Son. Thank you Jesus for living the perfect obedient life I couldn't live and dying the death I deserved to die so that I could spend eternity glorifying you.

Thank you for adopting us and sanctifying us, cleansing us from sin by your shed blood, renewing our minds to conform more and more to your image by the washing of your Word. Thank you that none of this is because of our striving, effort, or any goodness inherent in us. It is all of grace, lest any man boast. We bless your Name, Amen.


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Friday, February 15, 2008

Christ's Love: Constant, Complete, and Infinite

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, Scripture is clear to teach. (Heb. 13:8)

We know that God saves us by grace alone through faith alone (and that too is a free gift) in Christ alone, and that God's love for us in Christ is constant. God will never love us less or more on the basis of our deeds or misdeeds. Our salvation is not and never will depend on our merit or demerit, but solely on grace poured out to us in Christ.

At first blush, this may sound disappointing. I mean, you'd think it'd be more comforting and assuring to teach that Christ's love for us will infinitely grow over all of eternity, starting from the day of our salvation. Or that we can make God's love abound to us in greater measure by doing a checklist of things to prove to God we deserve more chunks of His love.

But these would be unbiblical concepts, rooted in, I think, both our feeble mental finiteness as human beings and also in our cynicism as sinful human beings.

To man, in many cases, particularly romantic love, one hopes to at best grow in one's love for another over time. At the very least we hope it remains constant, but I think the vast majority of us hope, despite our frailties and sins, to grow over time in the deepness of our love with our spouses, children, friends, etc.

So what gives with God's love being constant and unchanging? Isn't that predictable Isn't that dull? Not in the least!!!

First, we must remember that God's love for us in the sacrifice of His Son is infinite in three key aspects: 1) the infinite and uniquely divine holiness of the sacrifice-- Christ Himself 2) the infinite efficacy of the sacrifice -- Christ's blood blotting out all our sins past, present, and future and crediting/imputing to us His righteousness and 3) the never-ending enjoyment of the fruits of that salvation: eternal relationship with God.

Second, we must remember that that which is infinite (without end) cannot become more or less infinite. Infinity cannot become more or less infinite. If it could it would necessarily imply it was finite from the start. The only way to make something more/less infinite would be to make it finite (with an end), and hence fundamentally alter, nay destroy, the character of the infinite entity. To ask God to love us more or less depending on our performance would be to ask God to be more or less infinite in His love and character, a logical and essential impossibility.

Third, we should understand that Christ's love for us, while infinite, is also complete, it's perfect. We usually think of perfection as implying finiteness, and for good reason in our day-to-day context interacting with finite things in a finite world. But God is eternal and infinite and wholly perfect in His very being. Christ's sacrifice of Himself for our sins was and is perfect for all sins.

It's the complete once for all atonement for sin: infinite in essence (Christ himself), efficacy (ALL our sins), and the duration of application/enjoyment (eternity with Christ).

Simply put, the love of God for us in Christ is perfect, it's complete, and always will be. It can't become any more or less complete, just as it can't become any more or less perfect.

Father, we thank you for your boundless, eternal, infinite love for us. We thank you that your love towards us will never grow or diminish throughout all of eternity. Rather it is infinitely perfect and glorious.

But Lord, we know that we, on the other hand, are finite. We can never infinitely grasp you, but we can grow deeper in our knowledge of you and in our love and devotion to you. And this we long to do, for you are great and greatly to be praised.

So help us. Help us grow in our love and adoration of You. Help us grow in love for each other. Help us grow in holy devotion to You.

Thank you that we will NEVER exhaust, never reach the end of our pondering the mystery and glory of You, not in this life nor the one to come. Thank you for this privilege: to glorify You and fully to enjoy you forever. Amen.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

"How Deep the Father's Love for Us"

I love to sing about Jesus's sacrificial love for us as demonstrated and fulfilled by his substitutionary death on the cross. I particularly love this hymn and so I pray it ministers to you. In brackets you'll find references to relevant Scripture that informs and inspires this song. I've also added below a passage from Isaiah 53. I pray this blesses you as it does me, as both a song of worship and a prayer.


How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,

That He should give His only Son

To make a wretch His treasure. [John 3:16]

How great the pain of searing loss –

The Father turns His face away,

As wounds which mar the Chosen One

Bring many sons to glory. [Col. 3:1-4; Rev. 5:6-10]


Behold the man upon a cross,

My sin upon His shoulders;

Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice

Call out among the scoffers. [Isa. 53:3-4; I Timothy 1:12-17]

It was my sin that held Him there

Until it was accomplished;

His dying breath has brought me life –

I know that it is finished. [John 19:30]


I will not boast in anything,

No gifts, no power, no wisdom;

But I will boast in Jesus Christ,

His death and resurrection. [I Cor. 1:31; 2 Cor. 11:30; Gal. 6:14; Eph. 2:1-9]

Why should I gain from His reward?

I cannot give an answer;

But this I know with all my heart –

His wounds have paid my ransom. [Isa. 53:4-5,12; Col. 2:11-14]



Isaiah 53:3-12

3 He was despised and rejected [2] by men;
a man of sorrows, [3] and acquainted with [4] grief; [5]
and as one from whom men hide their faces [6]
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief; [7]
when his soul makes [8] an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see [9] and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, [10]
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, [11]
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Lenten Devotionals and Music


I never observed Lent growing up. Raised in a nondenominational charismatic church, we really didn't feel the need for such a season (although curiously enough my family did do Advent devotions). I still don't feel the "need" for Lent but find it a helpful season to be more intentional in study of Scripture and meditating upon the truth of the Gospel.

Rather than boiling down Lent into giving up some vice or guilty pleasure (such as chocolate, sugar, etc.), I'm hoping by God's grace to grow into deeper, more prayerful, Christ-centered living. After all, "self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body... are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh." Rather, it's setting my mind on Christ and putting to death the sinful desires that lurk in my heart that are really at issue for me and for anyone really (SEE Colossians 2:20-3:17).

To that end I'd highly recommend what I'm using as a Lenten devotional John Piper's "Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die."

I read it a few years ago and it blessed me then. Originally published as "The Passion of Jesus Christ" in 2004, the book was a concise 2-page-per-chapter book designed to give readers an introduction into the glories of Calvary. Each chapter is based on at least one Scripture and delves into the purposes and ends of Christ's atoning work in the lives of believers. Meditating on these truths will greatly help renew your focus on Christ and His finished work.

I also recommend listening to and worshiping God with Gospel-rich and cross-centered music. I highly recommend Sovereign Grace's "Songs for the Cross-Centered Life."

That album has been a blessing to sing along to many a time driving to or from work. It's a great way to worship the Lord in the morning and prepare your heart for the day ahead by remembering the Lord's steadfast love for us in Christ Jesus.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Sermon Notes | Gospel-Informed Life In (But Not Of) The World

What follows are my notes from the February 3, 2008 sermon at Solid Rock Church in Riverdale, Md. The sermon was a fourth in a four-part series on living a Gospel-centered life in our church, in our homes, and in the world. This message was preached by Senior Pastor John Loftness. Because my notes were fragmentary and because the message was so inspiring to me, what appears below are not a closely-worded rendering of the sermon, but rather my paraphrases and summaries. I pray I didn't take liberties in doing so that might contort or distort any of Loftness's points or worse, the full counsel of Scripture on these points.

Scripture Texts for Sermon:

John 3:16-17; I John 2:15-17; John 17:15-21


Main Points:

In John 3:16-17, we see God loves the world. In I John 2:15-17, we see we are called to NOT love the world. Same direct object (the world), opposite action? What's up with that? God's love was sacrificial and redeeming, with the end of redeeming unto Himself out of the world a people called by His Name. We, on the other hand, in our sinful desires tend to love the world and the world's system. But Christ has saved us, called us out of the world, and so we are no longer of the world and accordingly are called to not love the world and its pride and lusts.

So how then must we live in light of this? How do we live in the world but not conform to it?

First, it's not a matter of manmade rules. In our sinful desire to justify ourselves by our effort, we love to construct and hide behind rules to satisfy our desire to put a check mark next to this Scripture passage. These rules may be well and good guidelines for our moral behavior, but they don't address the root issue which is the heart.

The heart deals with the lust of the flesh, desires of the eyes, and the pride in possessions/status [I John 2:16].

The flesh, Loftness argues, is any effort exercised independent of an awareness of or reliance on God. As such, one must sin in one's efforts at objectively good things (serving others, Bible study, etc.) or in objectively bad things (lying, cheating, sexual sin) because the heart in both situations is engaged in these pursuits sinfully in pride.

Lust of the eyes is a lusting after something pleasing to the senses. It can also be for things good or ill. Pride of possessions or "pride of life" is a pride in one's possessions or social status or any thing that could be a cause of boasting in self and one's attainments from human effort.

The world cares for and is motivated by these things. The world LOVES these things and loves to lust for them: power, prestige, sexual conquest, money, influence, success. We, on the other hand, are called to put God front and center of our entire lives and all our pursuits. Our life at work, in the home, in family relationships, in friendships, in the church, everything is to be in light of God's eternal kingdom and for His glory.

How then can we relate to the world humbly and informed by Scripture. How can we guard against pride and so be able to evaluate our daily interactions with the world?

Loftness gave three practical points:

  1. Remember that at one time we too were of the world
  2. All of us, redeemed or unregenerate, are made in the image of God and as such everyone bears the dignity associated with it
  3. Remember that we are, with those who are unbelievers, recipients of God's common grace. We can and should appreciate the common grace God has lavished on the lives of unbelievers. Loftness used the example of the non-Christian doctor whom God has gifted with a mind and talents for medical practice. Numerous people can be blessed through his practice of medicine, and its all ultimately because of God's grace.

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Friday, February 1, 2008

101 Years Without Christ

For some reason this one obituary in the Washington Post grabbed me this morning.

Joy I. Tod, Church Member

Joy Ismond Tod, 101, a founding member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington County, where she played piano, died Jan. 2 at Inova Alexandria Hospital after a heart attack.
The obit goes on to list her accomplishments in life, as well as her survivors. But they mean nothing, absolutely nothing, at the judgment seat of Christ.

Of course, God alone knows her heart and if it was right with her at its last moments. And if she did repent and believe before going to her judgment, I rejoice. But truly my heart breaks for her. She lived one hundred one years of her life apart from Christ, indeed, in abject and persistent rebellion against Him. One hundred one years of storing up the wrath of a holy God for the day of judgment. One hundred one years of chance after chance after chance to repent, and in all probability (though nothing is impossible with God), she breathed her last without availing herself the opportunity to trust in Christ's atoning work.

Despite calling herself a Unitarian-Universalist, her lifetime was one of willful thumbing of her nose at Christ, the only universal hope for unity. That unity is by His work on the cross to redeem men and women for Himself from every tongue, race, tribe, and nation.

Instead, Ms. Tod was insistent on human effort to forge unity. Human striving, 101 years worth, and for what? Five short paragraphs of ink in a newspaper and the consolation-less grieving of family members who think she is no more. But she is still conscious and alive, in eternity itself, awaiting the final judgment.

"She was a captain in the Women's Army Corps during World War II."

Will that matter to Christ? No.

I do not and cannot know Ms. Tod's heart at the moment of her death, and by the grace of God there go any of us!

But for God saving me from myself and my sin, I might well live 101 years (or die tomorrow) apart from a personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Don't leave this life without Jesus. Don't dare take one more day relying on your own strength and your own morality to justify yourself before a holy God.

"There is none righteous, no, not one," the Scripture tells us. Scripture also tells us now is the day of salvation and that that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, so that none can boast.

Trust in Jesus Christ to take away your sins, and live for Him. You might not have as many years as Ms. Tod did.

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