December 8, 2008
I had a dream the other night about Jeff. I have had other dreams over the past couple of years that have had Jeff in them, but this was the first time that the dream had nothing to do with him being sick. Jeff was in this dream, but it never crossed my mind once that he was supposed to be sick or even not here at all.
In this dream, Jeff was a contestant on the show Deal or No Deal (donít laughĖ you know you have had weird dreams too). I donít remember much about the actual game that he played, except that I remember that he took the deal at the end, and ending up winning $330,000. We were all so excited for him, and we all rushed up on the stage and we were jumping up and down and celebrating like the people do on there when they win big. (As a side note, I have always said that I would not be a very good contestant on that show because I would be so self conscious about jumping up and down and being obnoxious in front of all of those people. Iím just not that type to do that, even if no one is around. Come to think of it, I canít imagine Jeff doing that either. Itís kind of weird that we were both doing that in this dream though.)
Anyway, while we were up there celebrating, Jeff turned and looked at Tom and told him that if he wanted to go to college, that he would pay for the whole thing out of his winnings. Tom was, of course, excited (despite the fact that he already has a college degree). Then he told me that he was going to use this money to pay off all of my debts. No more student loan, no more car paymentĖ nothing. Jeff was going to pay it all. Well, that did it for me. I remember a huge feeling of relief coming over me. I wasnít going to owe anyone anything any more. I stood there calculating how much money it was going to take to do that, and I was actually crying because I was so happy. Every time I remembered another thing that I owed money for, I would get excited all over again, and would began celebrating even more. I was free to do whatever I wanted with my money now!
Then I woke up.
I remember feeling so disappointed that it wasnít for real. I still owe that money. Jeff really didnít win all of that money. In fact, Jeff wasnít even here any more. I was so excited about the gift that Jeff had given me, and then so disappointed when it was gone.
As I thought about that more throughout the day, I thought about two different things.
First, I should be celebrating, because my debt has been paid. Not financial debts, but a debt that I owe to God. I, along with everyone else on this earth, have done things wrong and gone against what God expects from me. And because of that, I owe God a debt. The debt can only be paid with my life. God says in the Bible that the payment that is expected when we do these wrong things is death (see Romans chapter 6, verse 23 at the bottom of the page). I deserve to die for the things that I have done. Thatís pretty intense when you think about it. Every day, Iím out there living my life, and every time I do something wrong, God expects my life in return. I donít think that this literally means that I should drop dead every time I sin. The fact is, we are all going to die one day. This verse is referring to what is going to happen after we die.
After we die, we are all going to stand before God, and he is going to expect payment on those debts that we owe for the things that we have done. If we have ever done anythingĖeven onceĖ on earth that has gone against what God expects from us, we will experience another kind of death. Thatís what hell isĖ an eternal death. That is the payment for our debt.
Following so far? Good, because there is actually good news to along with that scary news.
That good news is that God has provided another way to pay that debt. God loves us humans, and doesnít want to see any of us miss out on spending eternity with him in heaven. Thatís where Jesus comes into the picture. Jesus, who is Godís son, actually came to earth in order to pay that debt for us. He was crucified, which was an especially brutal form of execution, and in doing that, God put the punishment for our sins upon him.
Itís kind of like this: I watched O.J. Simpson get sentenced the other day. Imagine that, after the judge read him his sentence, someone came forward and said, ďYour Honor, I know that O.J. Simpson was just found to be guilty and now there is a punishment to along with that. I am asking, however, that I be the one that goes to prison, and O.J. goes home as a free man. I will take his punishment.Ē This, in itself, would be shocking, but what would even more surprising would be if the judge took a second, thought about, and said, ďOK, thatís fine. Mr. Simpson, you are free go to. Officers, please handcuff this man instead and take him into custody.Ē Imagine the relief that would rush over O.J. Simpson. Itís not that there is no punishment, itís just that he doesnít have to be the one that receives it. Imagine the gratitude he would have toward the one that did that, if he were to accept that offer. He would be a free person! He would avoid the punishment of prison, and be free to go home, and live the rest of his life in freedom.
Now, apply that same situation to the whole concept of the debt that we owe to God. There will be punishment for your sins. Someday you will stand before God and receive that punishment. You have a choice now, though. Are you going to accept that punishment (which the Bible says is an eternity in hell), or are you going to accept that Jesus has already paid that debt for you?
The Bible says that if we accept what Jesus has done for us, and believe that he really paid it for us when he died, then our debt is paid in full. Itís not that there is no punishment, itís just that you donít have to be the one that receives it. And imagine the gratitude that you would have toward the one that did that, if you were to accept that offer. You would be a free person! You would avoid the punishment of hell, be free to enter heaven, and to live your life the way that it was intended to be lived here on earth. (It might even make you want to jump and scream like one of the obnoxious Deal or No Deal contestants!)
So to jump back to several paragraphs ago, when I said that my debt has been paid. Itís not a financial debt at all (although that would still be nice . . . ). Jesus paid my debt for me. The Bible is very clear though, that everyone has to make a choice here on earth. The choice is whether to accept and believe that or not (see John chapter 3, verse 16 at the bottom of the page). Whatís your choice? Are you going to reject this, and live the way that you want, or are you going to accept this gift and live the way God wants? The Bible says that if we choose to believe that, then we are forgiven for the sins that we have done. If we confess to God that we have messed up and need his help by paying our debt, then he will forgive us and erase that sin from our record (see 1 John, chapter 1, verse 9, at the bottom of the page).
Sorry, that was kind of long. Are you still with me? If so, hereís the second thing that I took from that dream that I had about Jeff. In that dream, Jeff gave me that gift of the money. It has occurred to me that Jeff, has, in fact, given me a gift. This gift was actually given on September 30, 2006Ė the night that Jeff died. I, along with my entire immediate family, was there as Jeff breathed his last breaths. We were all there and watched him go. How was that a gift, you ask? Well, since you asked, let me tell you. I was struck that night, and many times since that night, with the realization that someday that will be me. Someday I will breathe my last breath. Someday I will face death. Of course, everyone knows that, but honestly, I am guessing that many people live from day to day without really thinking about their own mortality. I know I really didnít. Itís such an abstract concept and itís hard to really imagine what thatís like. But the gift that Jeff gave me was a realization, a reminder, that my day is coming too. It could be today, it could be 50 years from now, but the clock is ticking. That can be a depressing thought, or you can turn that into good. I have chosen to turn that reminder into a gift. I think about the fact that I am going to die someday much more than I ever did. I look at situations with that in mind and it really helps to put things into perspective. Someday I will be gone. What choices am I going to make today that I can look back on at the end of my life and be proud of? What am I doing now to make sure that I donít have regrets when that day comes? What am I doing to get ready for eternity?
I had an interesting experience a couple of days ago. I was driving past the cemetery that Jeff is buried in, and decided to pull in and see his grave site. As I was standing there, I realized that the time was coming up soon in which I would have lived longer than Jeff did. We were born two years and two months apart. So I knew that two years and two months after Jeff died, I would have lived longer than him. I stood there doing the math in my head, counting the exact number of days it would take to make me the same age as Jeff, and I realized that it was that exact day. That very day that I was standing there was the day that I lived exactly as long as Jeff did. Kind of a weird thought. On that same day in Jeffís life, he was only a few hours away from entering heaven. That was all the time he was given. Iím not very old, and neither was Jeff, but it was over for him at that point. I have now lived longer than Jeff. I feel like I have big shoes to fill in order to leave the kind of legacy that Jeff did, but I know that all I can do is be faithful to what God expects from me. I have no idea if my time is coming soon, or if it is a long way off. But I do know that because of the reminder of Jeffís experience, I can live my life with that reminder to make the most of the time that God has given me. My debt has been paid, and I am a free man!
Questions? Comments? Let me know: BJRhinehart@juno.com
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
1 John 1:9-10 But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. [And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins.] (Quoted from The Living Bible)
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