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Levi Lusko - Countdown To Forever


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We're glad to have you. And if you have a Bible, Ecclesiastes chapter 12 is where we're going to be, which is right after Song of Solomon. And if you get to Isaiah, you've gone too far. It's right before Song of Solomon. So if you're reading stuff about sex, just take one step to the left. And that's Ecclesiastes. We're going to be in chapter 12. We're in a series of messages that we've called "Once a Man, Twice a Child". Come on. Say it with me. Once a man. Once a man. Twice a child. Twice a child. We're talking about the seasons of life and what to do about them. We're talking about being old. We're talking about being young and really kind of everything in between. We're getting our spiritual Christopher Robin on. You know, we're trying to learn about staying childlike without being childish and the tension therein. That's that sweet spot that God wants us to be in.

And here in Ecclesiastes, what we find is words written by the wisest person who ever lived, so casual. And he's going to tell us no matter what age we are, no matter what age we get to, whether we die young or die old, no matter how long we live here on this earth, what is unquestionably the most important thing we do before we die. So just to recap, wisest guy who ever lived, most important thing we do before we die, that's where we're jumping in here in Ecclesiastes 12. If you didn't bring a copy of the scriptures, we got the verses for you right there. "Remember now your creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, 'I have no pleasure in them.' While the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, are not darkened, and the clouds do not return after the rain; in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men bow down, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look through the windows grow dim, when the doors are shut in the streets and the sound of grinding is low, when one rises up at the sound of a bird", that could just be that your Twitter notifications are on.

"And all the daughters of music are brought low. Also they are afraid of height, and of terrors in the way. When the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper is a burden, and desire fails. For man goes to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets. Remember your creator before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the well. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. 'Vanity of vanities,' says the preacher. 'All is vanity.' And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge. Yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs. The preacher sought to find acceptable words. And what was written was upright, words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one shepherd".

I want to preach to you from these verses a message that I'm calling "Countdown to Forever," "Countdown to Forever". When you're a kid, life is a series of countdowns. Is it my birthday? Is it my birthday? How many days until my birthday? And then your birthday comes. And then you know what you ask? How many days until the next one? And we as kids, it's, how old are you? And it's like you always say, I'm almost seven. I'm almost 12. I'm about to turn 16. You, funnily enough, stop that right around 30. No one's, how old are you? Almost 40, just getting real close. I'm about 10 years. The countdown almost is pulling the opposite direction. That's why we're trying, so many of us, it's inappropriate. But we still shop at Forever 21, right? We're hanging onto it. I just wish I could go back. That's where I chose to stay. And birthday parties, I've been to birthday parties where it's not advertised what the birthday is we're celebrating.

And I've also met people who are in opposition to birthdays. They're in denial about it, a little Ron Swanson type of activity. It's like pretending there isn't a birthday, not wanting people to find out about the birthday, wanting to cling to youth. So you start out at a forward countdown. But then you're doing your absolute best to be moving backwards in the countdown. Here in this passage, Solomon, he's talking about these things, both of these things: forever and countdown. A little context would probably help us get our bearings. The book of Ecclesiastes is basically one man's attempt to figure out the meaning of life, one man's attempt to figure out like, hey, what's the point? Because that's one of those universal questions that every single person wrestles with, whether we're honest about it or not. Deep down, we wrestle. We're not comfortable with what we understand to be the point of it all. The key phrase to understanding the book of Ecclesiastes is the phrase under the sun. Not under the sea, that's Ariel. This is under the sun. Basically, 28 different times, that phrase is used to tell us he's basically running with the hypothesis that there is no god, that everything under the sun is all that there is. It's just everything explained through chemistry and physics and biology, that everything happens just merely on the level with which it can be studied and observed and understood. We're not looking at some spiritual answer of a god that can't be found or proven anyway.

So he takes what so many people are taught today, and so many people would say they believe today, this thesis that there is no god, that everything is just a product of random chance and a big Petri dish explosion in the sky, and here we are. We're smart monkeys. We're mud that is now wearing pants. And so he says, OK, maybe that's true. Maybe that's true. And if it is, here's the awful implications of that. Because it's sexy to talk about there is no god. But if we actually run that out to its logical conclusion, let me just tell you it's not pretty. It's not good. And it's not encouraging. It's pretty bleak. It's pretty dark. And if you've ever thought, I'm going to read the Bible, and you turned to Ecclesiastes, you're like, well, that's discouraging. This is not wonderful. And honestly, even if you're a Christian, sometimes when you read this stuff, you're like, maybe this shouldn't be in the Bible. This is like anti-evangelism a little bit. It's like, don't tell them that. You're like plugging the ears of any nonbelieving friends nearby you. That's what they're always telling me. Don't validate that. No. He's basically saying, cool, you want to believe there's no god?

Let's play that out. Here's what that actually means for you. Under the sun 28 times, what is the logical conclusion if there is no god? Well, here we go. In a world where there's no god, there's also no meaning. And there can't be. That's the big idea of Ecclesiastes. We're jumping in at chapter 12 where we finally get to a sneak peek at what he actually believes. But all through the book, he's been playing tough with running with this conclusion. He's trying to be the philosopher. The word that we read was the preacher. But that's not actually the word in the Hebrew best translated. Because a preacher tries to give answers. That's what I'm trying to do here from the Bible, to give you answers. He wasn't trying to give answers. One translation calls him the teacher. But the best way to understand it would be he's actually trying to be a philosopher. And what he says is that under the sun, if you're going to live that way, vanity of vanities. Vanity, vanity is the conclusion to a life with no god. There is no meaning. You're like, wait. Vanity? You mean this person takes a lot of selfies, and can't walk by a mirror without grooming, and probably thinks this song is about them? No. That's how we use the word vain. That's not how this culture used the word vain. The word vanity is best translated emptiness, or nothing, or no meaning, or meaningless.

One person said the easiest way to understand the actual word itself is whatever's left after a soap bubble pops. What's left? The grimy residue that's left after a soap bubble pops. Thanks a lot, Solomon. That's why I came to church. Here. If you want to live in a life just merely under the sun, then what you're going to find by way of meaning is just what's left after a soap bubble pops. 38 times, he uses the word vanity, vanity, vanity, all this vanity. Why? Here we go. Because of the weight of your soul. You're going to discover, if you just merely look at this life under the sun, that the weight of your soul has nothing to hang itself on. Now, I thought of a way to illustrate this. It would be to take a piece of drywall. So we mounted and framed a little piece of drywall. And we did what every landlord despises the thought of any of us doing. And we wanted to hang up some fasteners and hang up a picture or something. So if we were to take, and I just have one of these little, it's an angle that it goes in at. And you kind of hammer it in. And don't judge my carpentry skills here. But basically, if I wanted to hang something on, I could take something like that. And I thought this could represent a human soul.

How many of you like the odds of that fastener? I don't even think Billy Mays and the Hercules Hook could do it. I don't know. But so I thought, let's be a little more gracious. And let's take a little smaller of a weight. So here is, well, this is 10 pounds. And I think this is rated to handle exactly 10 pounds. Maybe I'll get another hook. Maybe my old hook was the problem. That one looks a little bent. It moved from apartment to apartment with me. Don't worry. I put toothpaste in the old hole, so nobody's the wiser. And this is basically, if you read the book of Ecclesiastes tonight, what you're going to find. Solomon was like, this isn't the soul. Don't worry. We'll get to the death thing. He just starts out with a way to fill his day. You know what I'm saying? And he's like, oh, man, life is meaningless. Because I started out pretty excited and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. And I kind of want to change the world. And I'm excited about life. But what he realizes is that life is a lot like making your bed. It doesn't matter how pretty you make it today. You've got to make it again tomorrow. He's like, it's basically throw pillows.

You know, I put the pillows. I'm going to need another hook. The problem was the old hook. And that's what he's basically doing all throughout the book. He's like, you know what? The throw pillows got to come back on. And they get taken back off. And I got to put them back on. And I got to take them back off. It's meaningless. And so maybe I'll just, you know what? Screw that. I'll just get drunk. And that's what he does. He says, I gave myself over to wine and to folly and to mirth. So he went to college in America. And decided to get a degree. He went to Arizona State. And he became a Grizzly. And he thought, that's it. I'll just get rip-roaring wasted. And he said, you know, I'm not going to lie to you. It was actually pretty fun, for a little while. And then I got failing grades in all my classes. And I was hungover a lot. And I got arrested. That wasn't great. And he said, giving myself over to folly and to mirth, all it did was cause me to feel the illusion of happiness. It was a great soap bubble. And then it burst. So he thought, I'll give myself over to agriculture and to farming and to planting. And, man, he was successful. He had imports and exports on ships from other countries. And he built this great kingdom. But you know what then he realized? He realized, no matter what happens, I can't stay in charge forever.

And my son after me might run the company into the ground. And he realized, as good as I build this thing, my son, I can't prove whether he'll be a wise son or a foolish son. And I won't be able to control the company after I'm dead, no matter what I put into the bylaws or the deed restrictions. So he realized, this is doing pretty good now. But it's going to have a crash. And he kept up with this. And basically, the book of Ecclesiastes is like this. Not it, not it, not it, not it. Because no matter what he tried to, this one always scares me. No matter what he tried to, hang on it, it kept falling. And so what he kept doing was just putting up new hooks and doing the same thing that we do today, putting up fancy, shiny things to hang our lives on. Maybe the answer's not materialism. Maybe the answer is to save the planet, then. So I won't try and get drunk. I won't try and have money. I won't try and have sex. He had sex. The guy had 700 wives and 300 concubines. 1,000 women were in his life and in his bed. He made Hugh Hefner look like a lightweight, right? And no matter what he tried, he found out there was no meaning. And then he got really discouraged and started to get really dark.

So there is no meaning. So there is no purpose. Save the world? From what? If there's no god, this world is going to be destroyed. You know that, right? Because we depend on our sun, which is a star. And all stars are born, Hubble has found the place where stars get born, by the way. Google it, places where stars are born. It's a thing. It's like a manufacturing facility. It's incredible. Stars get born. And they come into their own. They mature. And then eventually, they go supernova. And that's the show, friends. Every star dies. And ours will die. It might not be for a billion years. It might be in a thousand years. It could be tomorrow. But when it does, life on this planet is not going to happen. All right? And you're like, that's what I've been saying. That's why Elon needs to get us to Mars. No, no, no. There won't be life on Mars when the star that is our sun goes out. And now, the kind of things, I mean, the things that people are hoping is true, there are many people today who believe this, what's happening on our planet, is just a simulation that some other species is running to try and figure out the meaning of life for them.

So we're all basically different versions of the matrix, trying to figure out the meaning. That doesn't encourage me. Because that means if there's a higher power, they don't have any clue. And we're just trying to figure it out. We're not doing a great job. And Solomon basically tries everything he can. And he still has nowhere to hang his soul on. Because life after death, he has no answers for that. The problem is the nail he's using is too small. And that's why at the end of the book, after this whole experiment, he finally came to this conclusion. Verse 1, he said, "Remember now your creator in the days of your youth". Now, it's not remember like we use the word remember, which is to say, don't forget. Try to remember. What he's saying in remember is acknowledge. What he's saying in remember is honor. Pastor Warren Wiersbe, who has a great commentary series, if you ever want to study a book of the Bible, you could just read his Be Series, B-E. Be adventurous. Be daring. Be courageous. He wrote a commentary that's really devotional and good background for every book of the Bible. He did 66 of them.

And in his commentary on Ecclesiastes, look what he says about "Remember your creator". He said, "Remember your creator in the days of your youth," is Solomon's version of Matthew 6:33, which means, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you". He says, the answer is not under the sun. The answer is looking above the sun. The answer is not on the hills. The answer is lifting your eyes above the hills to the one who made the hills, to the one who made the sun, to the Lord God, maker of heavens and the earth. Because if there's no god, there's no you. If there's no god, there's no me. Personality? Love? Beauty? This is just a figment of our imagination. It's nothing. It's just chemistry in the brain that, for some reason, we developed. You don't have any friends. You don't have a brother. Anybody who's ever died, that's it. That's it. It's just darkness. And that's why the honest, logical conclusion to a life with no god is honestly just despair and then suicide. Because there is no point in pleasure.

And there is no point in staving the inevitable off by reducing our carbon footprint, and reducing greenhouse gases, and helping this planet to live 20 extra years when it's going to die in a billion anyway. There's no point. There's no hope if there's no god. But with God, there is hope. With God, there is meaning. With God, there is personality. With God, there is life. So what Solomon said is, and this is in verse 11, if you remember your creator, what do you get? You get a well-driven nail, not a shiny, brass fastener, but a well-driven nail. And if you have that, you have something to hang your soul on. There's something of substance to hang your life on. What I'm trying to get you to see is that only the one who made you has the strength to sustain you. There is hope to be found. There is meaning to be found. There is purpose to be found in a relationship with God, in knowing the one who built you, designed you, made you, loves you, cares for you, and has a plan for your life. But you don't just need to remember your creator. You need to do it now. Why? Because of the brevity of life.

The weight of your soul should weigh upon you as you realize how short of a window you have. That's your opportunity to acknowledge the one who built you. That's why Solomon shifts into this mode right after saying, "remember your creator". Look at it. "Before the difficult days come". Do it before life gets challenging. Do it before life gets difficult. What is he trying to get you to see? Listen to me carefully. Change becomes harder and harder, and life goes faster and faster, as you get older and older. He gives in the following verses what has been called the most poetic and poignant description of old age ever penned. That's where he's talking about desire failing. There wasn't Viagra back then though. And he talks about the eyesight dimming. The sun and the moon are darkened. Your eyes go. Has anyone else gotten sick of going to the optometrist every year? Yes. Because what do they say after the test? We've done some tests. Your eyesight's gotten worse. And then the next year, you go in. And we've run some tests. And they come in like it's going to be new news. And I'm like, my eyesight's getting worse? You got it.

Just once, I want to come in and have them say, we've run some tests. And you are really awesome. But they don't ever do that. They're just like, we're going to need to bump up the prescription. I'm like, great, that's news. The sun and the moon, they're getting darker. And then he talks about the sound of music getting dimmer. Your hearing gets worse the older you get. Basically, your body deteriorates the longer you live in it to the point that he said, eventually, you walk along like a damaged grasshopper. Thanks, Solomon. That's so nice. He's saying, all of us are going to get old and feeble. He talks about the strong men trembling, which is your knees, the strong men trembling. And then he says, eventually, the grinders will cease because they are few. The grinders will cease grinding. Your mortar and pestle will go out. And they'll cease chewing because they are few. He's talking about the body breaking down. So it gets more and more difficult to live without complaining and without grumbling. Because your body's just breaking down. And eventually, you come to a place where he talks about the silver cord snapping.

This is in verse 6. The silver cord, it snaps and is loose. "The golden bowl is broken". And then he says, the pitchers get shattered at the fountain, broken at the well. What is he talking about? He's talking about brain failure, the golden bowl. He's talking about heart failure, this pump that is always regulating the oxygenated flow of blood throughout your circulatory system to your entire body. He's talking about valves. He's talking about connective tissue degenerating. And he's eventually talking about the snapping, through a fall or whatever, of this all-important spinal cord that takes the information from the golden bowl and transmits it to the rest of the body. And he says, yeah, you're going to get older. It's going to become harder to change. But just know this. You are in a countdown phase. Life is a countdown towards the end of life. Stars aren't the only thing that have a life cycle. People do, too. Go to the graveyard. There's a time of birth, a time of death. You know your time of birth. Right now, there's a dash. That's what you're living in. And eventually, you will fill in that second blank as well. And what he's saying is, it's going to get harder. But don't just remember your creator. Remember your creator before the end comes.

It is critical that you give your life to Jesus, and honor the Lord, and seek first the kingdom of God before the death shows up. What that means is, listen, you are running out of time. And you need to do now while you are young what you will wish you had done when you are old. What is that? To seek first God, to live for his glory and not your glory. Because your glory, that's pitiful. That can't handle the weight of a life. But this well-driven nail can. Do it while you're young. When I was starting out in ministry, I used to hear this statistic thrown around a lot. When I was planted in a local church, I would always hear my pastor talk about how most, I could say it like I could hear his voice in my head when I say it. Most commitments for Christ happen before the age of 18. Most commitments to Christ happen before the age of 18. And that's kind of marked my life in ministry, preaching with a focus to reach young people, knowing that the statistics drop after someone's 18. You do get a little bit set in your ways after 18.

And so I, throughout my ministry, would always use that statistic. But then one day, I thought, I was putting it into a message. And I thought, I'd better google this. Because sometimes preachers say things that aren't true. And I didn't want to do so inadvertently. It's like, that's a convenient statistic. But it doesn't need to be convenient. It needs to be accurate. And so you got to google your pastor, y'all. And so I got to googling the statistic. And I was really heartbroken when I found out it's true, it's not true that people, they don't give their lives to Christ before age 18, primarily. They do so before age 14. 14, Barna says, is the point where there's a significant dropoff. After the age 14, there's another drop at age 18 and then another one at age 30. And on and on it goes. What? Change becomes harder and harder, and life goes faster and faster as you get older and older. And that's why we unapologetically will fight to reach out to a lost generation. We're always going to have youth on our heart and our mind. We're not going to allow the style to get stuck. We're going to always fight. Because the devil's fighting for young people.

I was in Alabama this week. And I walked into a hotel lobby. And my eyes were drawn to a USA Today on a table. And I glanced at it. And I was heartbroken reading about how schools throughout this country, elementary schools throughout this country, are needing to and choosing to educate the nursing staff at the schools to spot symptoms of heroin overdose so that they can treat it. And infirmaries at elementary schools are being taught and told to store Narcan, the heroin overdose remedy, so that if someone as young as the age of eight has in their eyes the symptoms and signs that they might just be overdosing on heroin, they can swoop into action during the point where minutes are hours. I'm just telling you I'm not OK with that. And I'm going to fight to reach young people before they're 14, before they're 18. I want people to remember their creator in the days of their youth. We are going to fight for an under-challenged generation that's looking to sex and looking to money and looking to Instagram fame to fill the hole inside their soul. And we're going to point them to Jesus, who loves them, who's the author of life, who's the only hope for humanity.

But you know what else? I've figured out that, yeah, it might be true that most commitments to Christ happen before age 14 and 18. But I also had the privilege of leading my 80-year-old grandma to know Jesus just before she died. And I was able to preach her funeral at her request and tell her friends there that after a lifelong quest for the answers through agnosticism, and even at points outright calling herself an atheist, she came to a place of trusting Jesus as her savior at the end of her life. God's not afraid of the statistics. And God's not bound. So no matter what age you are, there's still hope for you. There's still time for you. You can trust Jesus. Today, he'll save you on the spot. You're not a dog. And these are not tricks. There can be a new beginning, even after a whole long life of sinning. Yes, yes. Beautiful. So the brevity of life, now, there's a third and final component to all of this. And it's this, the confidence that comes with eternal life, the confidence.

What kicks in into your life once you experience life and liberty in Jesus? I believe that there is a great confidence that kicks in when you know him, when you're not just born once, but you're born twice, when you're once a man, once a woman, but twice a child, not just born once, but born again, born on the inside. What happens? This life opens up for you. It opens up for you. Why? Because here we were talking about, I was born. And I die. But when you start a new birth, so let's say it starts here at 14 or starts here at 80. Wherever it starts, you're starting something that has no end. So this is still real. There is still physical, biological death. Because sin has entered this world. But whatever you started along the way, you started something. But guess what? It doesn't end. It goes on forever. And 10,000 years from now, it will be no less perfect than it is at the moment you began it. And it's existing now as a state. It's existing now as peace. It's existing now within the kingdom of heaven that's within. But there will come a day where the kingdom of heaven is without. And the earth will be made brand new. And all things will be restored to their beauty and fullness and vitality that they had before the fall.

You think the Grand Canyon's great now? Just wait. You think the Great Barrier Reef is great now. Just wait. You think beauty is real now? Just wait. You think you've tasted fruit that blew your mind? Just you wait. Because right now, it's just a shadow. Right now, it's subject to infirmity. Right now, there's disease. And there's sadness. And even in beauty, there's melancholy. Even in wonder, there's still a shadow. There's still fear. There's still all of these things. Because creation just can't wait to sing again. And so what does it do when you know this isn't your life, but this is your life? This is your life. I'll tell you it just gives you a confidence. I think in our culture today, there's just this frantic need to have it all and to do it all. And with technology opened up to us, we have the options of limitless entertainment simultaneously. So we're watching something on TV, but we're worried we might be missing out. So we're on our phones, too. And we're flipping channels. And we can't choose what to watch on Netflix. And we can't fall asleep. And we need for our life to be as beautiful as the one that we saw on the YouTube video. And we need to have it. We need to do it.

So we leave our job after just a year because this isn't it. And this isn't great. And I think there's just this frantic need for this little life to have it all. But once you realize I have forever, once you realize what E.M. Bounds said, this was a quote Pastor Greg Laurie texted me right after my daughter went to heaven a number of years ago. And it really helped my wife and I to reframe how we saw things. He said, for the Christian, "Heaven is our native land and home to us. And death to us is not the dying hour. It's the birth hour". Once you know that, yes, we're in a countdown, but it's not a countdown to death, it's a countdown to forever. It's a countdown to forever. We can actually embrace the age we are. We don't have to be afraid of 40. It's not over any hill. We have infinity. We have eternity. We have Jesus. We have the resurrection. We're going to get new bodies. We're going to experience new creation. We have forever. So listen. Once your soul has a place to hang, then I think you're actually positioned to be able to enjoy work. You actually can enjoy a glass of wine without it needing to fill some emptiness inside of you. I think once you have Jesus, you can enjoy a wonderful horse ride in the country. I think once your soul has a place to hang, and you're not looking for experiences to fill some emptiness in you, you can enjoy a nice vacation.

You can actually look at making your bed and go, I'll have to make it again tomorrow, but aren't those throw pillows nice? Didn't my wife do a good job making a beautiful bed, spending way too much money at CB2? I'm just telling you once this stuff is sorted out, and you don't need these things to fill that hole inside your soul, there's a relaxed confidence that comes from knowing that God is your God. And he is your life and the length of your days. And he has no end. And he has no beginning. He has no rival. He has no equal. You can actually kind of just enjoy life. And your care for this planet takes on new meaning. Because you're caring for the seed that will spring forth into the flower of resurrection. You have new care. People have dignity. Because they're going to live forever. It matters to help people. They're not just organic chemistry and dust that's going to dissolve anyway. We don't have to dispose of the elderly. We can care for them tenderly. Because they mean something to the heart of God, and so they mean something for us. Justice takes on new meaning. Everything takes on new meaning.

Now, let me ask you a question. How is any of this possible? The reason it's possible is because what we were drilling through here was just drywall. And drywall can't support the weight. But what we were drilling through on the other side for this to take place is something that can have a foundation. What do you mean? Well, if we look at the passage one more time, we find out the well-driven nail was driven by a shepherd. A shepherd drove the nail. And if a shepherd drove the nail, then we must have a purpose for doing so. And if you study it, you find out in that day, they didn't have bookshelves they got at Ikea to put their valuables on. They would drive nails throughout the walls of the home. And they, of course, had to go through something that could hold the weight. And so well-driven nails could hold things. And we're told throughout the prophecies of the messiah that Jesus was going to be the peg from the tribe of Judah. He's a peg from the tribe of Judah. And he showed up. He was born in Bethlehem. The first people who ever heard about it, they were shepherds. And Jesus actually said, I am the shepherd. But what does the shepherd do to put the peg in the wall that you and I can hang our lives on? John 10, Jesus put it this way. He said, "The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep".

So the only way for the shepherd to be the peg for you and for me, the only way for the shepherd to put the thing in the wall that you and I could hang our lives on, it's right here the whole time. It's just behind the drywall. You see, here's what happens. Right behind the wall, there's a stud. And right behind the wall, there's a stud with a nail through it. And the nail that went through the stud, that was where God hung the sins of the world. You see, we can trust our lives on this side to him because he died on the cross on the other side. The nail that goes through the cross, and all of our sins, and all of our shame, and all of our guilt, and all of our baggage, and all of our pain was hung upon him. He died for you. He rose from the dead. He's coming again. So seek now your creator in the days of your youth.
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