A Backwards Truth About Gratitude

Jesus Christ CrucifiedHow many times in your life, if ever, has someone taken the heat for you? You make a mistake or do something wrong and they take the blame for you. And how many times, if ever, has someone taken what should have been your punishment? And how often do you hear of someone laying down their life for another, dying when it could or possibly should be the other person?

The more I think about it the more I realize my answer to those questions is, almost never!

The irony is, going back to Adam and Eve we see just the opposite. We don’t see them covering for one another as God questions them about eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We see the blame game. Today, people have perfected the blame game…and some people will go extremely far in their efforts to ensure the blame falls on someone else. Whether its lies, anger, stealing, adultery, or even murder, most people would give just about anything to be able to pass off their punishment to someone else.

Our society as a whole does not like to own its sin. Despite the fact that everyone has different definitions for sin and what they’d like to be accused of and not, the truth is that most of us have rarely if ever had another person take the blame/punishment for you.

Think about all the times in your life that you got in trouble and were punished. All the times you had to unwillingly face the consequences of your actions and/or choices. I think we can all agree that it takes a lot of love and respect to get another person to take our place, endure the consequences/punishment for our actions.

It’s mostly a foreign concept, especially when matters of a weighty nature come up. We must face the music alone in most cases.

Think of it this way…if you did something wrong and a friend or family member stepped up, took the blame and punishment for you, you’d be humbled (hopefully) and very grateful at their actions and expression of love toward us.

SO, what I cannot understand is why people are so turned off by the idea that Jesus Christ willingly endured horrible, excruciating torture and death FOR US. Jesus died in order to save us from hell. An eternal place where there is no good and no love and no mercy and no relief…ever…ever. There is only death. It is the punishment for human sin.

The reality here is that Jesus died in our place. Not merely taking our time out, or being grounded, or doing jail time, or getting fired, or being hospitalized after a drunk driving accident. He took on all of our sin and faced the punishment our sin deserves, HELL. He stepped up and “took the heat for us.” (That’s putting it lightly)

This is the greatest pardon of sin ever! The greatest act of love! There is no greater punishment than hell, to be eternally separated from God. We’re not talking about a minor consequence, we’re talking about the worst of the worst. Yet, people worldwide find this concept foolish and dismiss it. Yet, if a friend or family member or co-worker steps up tomorrow and accepts blame for something you did, big or small, you will praise them and thank them and feel indebted to them.

That is so backwards. We should have a limitless gratitude for Jesus. We should have a life-surrendering love and thankfulness toward Him that is inexhaustible. Every other case in which someone took the heat for you is absolutely forgettable next to Jesus dying on the cross for you. Nothing compares.

This take on things really hit me today. I wonder if even my lack of gratitude toward Jesus is because people almost never take my punishment. I’ve learned not to expect it. To know that Jesus did something so many times greater than what I’ve ever experienced makes it really difficult to grasp. Yet, that does NOT make it untrue and does not give me permission to dismiss it. I, we, must grab hold of this incredible truth and Savior and worship Him with immeasurable gratitude…forever!

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Tim Keller – Will Everyone Be Saved?

Just came across this quick 55 second video by Tim Keller. Not by name, but by topic he is responding to the Rob Bell issue of universalism. The idea that everyone will go to heaven regardless of faith or belief. That love will win and everyone will be saved and go to heaven. This is false and Keller helps us better understand the truth.

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Hot Debate in the News – Rob Bell

I have to write on this topic. I’d rather not promote Rob’s new book based on what I’ve heard from him and heard from other Christians online, but whenever controversy like this arises regarding such a popular figure in our culture it’s hard to ignore.

To catch up, watch Rob’s promo video for his new book Love Wins. Then, watch a quick news clip where he is interviewed on the subject.

I’ve watched the videos, read several blog posts, and have some existing knowledge of Rob Bell and his ministry over the last several years. However, I have not read his new book. Regardless, the major point being brought up here is that people in this world ask questions about God, faith, salvation, heaven, and hell. Everyone deserves straight and clear answers.

My hope is that people would seek out the answers directly from the Bible. If someone knowledgable of the Bible is willing to sit down with you and go through those answers, show you where they’re found, what they mean contextually and literally, that’s even better.

Rob’s new book on this topic exists because many people cannot stomach the Biblical answers to questions about heaven, hell, salvation, etc. That’s not a new trend. However, this book and what Bell has shared online so far demonstrate that he is taking a different position. He claims all will come to know God and go to heaven whether now or after death…somehow. It’s a soft answer. Bell is offering up something pleasing to the ears for those unhappy and/or turned off by God’s declaration in the Bible. Who is saved and will go to Heaven is a fundamental question on which people cannot go two ways.

Ask someone like John Piper (for example) about this subject and you will get a much different response. It would be direct, full of Scripture, and certainly not passive or wishy-washy. My point is not to jump on any “pick on Rob bandwagon”. I simply notice a stark difference in how Rob seems to view hell and salvation and how the Bible plainly describes those who may enter into eternity in Heaven with the Father. To say God would never send someone to hell is a complete dismissal of the Bible entirely. And when someone like Rob Bell makes statements like this and even writes a book about it people listen. And if his message is false, then Christians should clear the air and direct people to the Truth.

Simply put, the Bible is clear on these things and any interpretation or declaration or understanding derived outside of the Scriptures should be questioned and tested against the Scriptures.

If the answers given about heaven, hell, and salvation are pleasing to everyone, they are no doubt false.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 7:21

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Carnage in Japan

Looking at the photos online again tonight to see what’s happening in Japan. Astounding. Seeing how that storm decimated their country leaves me feeling incredible small and powerless.

It’s hard to comprehend how a giant ship could end up smack in the middle of a neighborhood several miles inland. I just read that the shoreline of Japan was moved 8 feet and shifted the Earths axis. Wow! That’s scary.

This kind of thing doesn’t fit in my brain. That kind of power and force is difficult to comprehend. And I’m on the other side of this now slightly off-tilt planet. The people there living through this devastation will never be the same. They will always be defined by this experience. Much like men and women serving in the military who face battle.

I can only imagine how God feels watching this all unfold. If you’re not humbled by these events your missing the point. At least, I think so. We are minor and finite. That’s all I can think of when I see photos like these and hear about the stories and death toll and chaos in Japan. The magnitude of this event is enormous, yet it pales in comparison to God, His power, His authority, and His Kingdom.

Seeing events this major play out helps me to slightly better comprehend the breadth of God. I can only hope God plays a major role in helping the survivors put their lives back together and somehow move forward well. More overwhelming is that we can all be certain this is not the last event of this type that we’ll see in our lifetime. And still, God will be. May He have mercy on the people of Japan now and on those who will face similar disasters in the future.

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Diffusing a Disagreement

People disagree with you sometimes, right? It can be frustrating. Sometimes it’s not a disagreement, it’s a difference in perspective. It causes fights, arguments, and so on. Sound familiar?

Perception is a dangerous subject. Perception is very closely tied into opinion. And opinion is very closely tied to assumption. Your perception of a situation creates your assumption about the meaning behind it. Most people cannot help make that connect in their brain, instantly.

How you perceive a situation usually determines your response. But, what if you perceived incorrectly? Will you also respond incorrectly? Will that lead to a situation that should never have happened?

Unfortunately, we have a mere 1-2 seconds to decide whether to get clarification or stand by our perception in that moment. If you misread the other person and assumed wrong, and respond accordingly, chaos will follow.

This happens at home, work, friendships, and sometimes with random strangers in public. In marriage, in particular, false assumptions can easily lead to false accusations, which leads to danger, danger! In an intimate relationship like husband and wife it’s very easy to hurt each other. A comment from your spouse that sounds off, attacking, negative, accusatory, etc. can create instant fear. Fear that if your spouse actually meant what you think they did, you’re going to be really hurt and really angry.

Diffusing the Disagreement – The best and most difficult thing at that moment is to stop…wait. Just because you’re afraid they meant the worst doesn’t mean they did. In that moment, get clarification. Sounds impossible or impractical, I know. However, I completely believe that a majority of the time they didn’t mean what you fearfully assume. If you can find that out first, before you respond, you’re safe. They meant no harm and you didn’t unecessarily rip their head off or falsely accuse them of ill will.

Even if they did mean something negative, and you pause and ask what they mean or why they said that (just to be sure), there is time for them to instantly apologize and right their wrong. Yes, it does happen. If it does, recovering from that hurt will be far easier than recovering from hours/days of fighting, name-calling, and so on. In that moment, we get to decide how to respond and how the next few hours/days will go.

Now, this only works if your spouse or whoever is not a jerk. If the other person notoriously says mean and hurtful crap to you, then none of this really matters and diffusing things is likely not possible. But if the other person truly cares and has a good track record with you, pause…wait. You have a moment there to avoid disaster…and potentially build an even stronger bond with that person.

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The Power of Being His

“Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the LORD.’” Exodus 6:6-8

Never underestimate the power of being the possession of God. I like the above passage because God does not mince words. He claims His children, His people. It’s hard for me to grasp how infinite and big God is. I hear people say “God is a big God” often, but truly understanding it is crazy difficult. However, I realize how significant it is that God of all beings would stake such a permanent claim on any lowly human.

This passage shows that God is holy because he speaks without consideration for any power of earthly leaders (Pharoah in this case). The passage shows that God wants to be known. He desires for His people to know He is their Lord. This passage demonstrates God’s awareness of our plight here on earth and His power to rescue us. This passage verifies that God keeps His promises. This passage shows God has authority. To claim ‘I AM’ is epically audacious in any point in history, but particularly in this time period. Finally, it shows that God is sovern. There is no other like Him and we His people have no other Lord. He is the only and is more than enough.

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Dodging the Bullet

I’m sure I will regret posting this, that is, if I believe in karma. Eh, not really. I mostly error on probability, not karma.

I only know one or two people around me right now who are not sick. Most of my co-workers, my wife, her family, and most of those people know other people who are ill right now too.

I’m not! Apparently my immune system is taking a note from cockroaches. Did you know they have been known to survive a nuclear blast? Not due to their immune system, but still. Why am I not sick? I praise God for my good health no doubt…no question. Hopefully I’ve really dodged the bullet by which everyone else seems to have been struck.

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