God made a farmer

There was a golden nugget amidst all the mediocrity of the Super Bowl commercials yesterday: the Dodge/Ram commercial with Paul Harvey.  It was truly special, even if the idea came from a video already on youtube.  There was something in that 2 minute dialogue with still photography that stirred my soul…and I’m not even a farmer.  That commercial showed that in a sea of ads that try to appeal to the flesh, when something arouses our soul, there is no substitute.

This ad gave me incredible hope last night.  It showed me that even though we live in a fallen world, where it feels like the “fallenness” is getting worse every day, all mankind craves purpose and mission from their Creator.  This internal craving is hardwired in us, even though, by nature, as sinners, we suppress its longing.  Take hope this morning that you will have the opportunity to direct conversations and the water cooler buzz with your friends, neighbors, and co-workers to the gospel because of this commercial.  Those opportunities are rare and valuable.  Don’t miss out on it.

Finally, remember this: God didn’t just make farmers.  He made moms and dads; engineers and managers; entrepreneurs and skilled laborers.  You may not drive a Ram truck or ever plant a seed in the ground, but you are still made with purpose.  In fact, we were all made with a certain skill set that God wants to use to glorify Himself in this world.  You may not ever be a farmer, but you are redeemed by Jesus’ blood; you are adopted into the family of God; and you are called to make disciples.  That identity never changes.

For those of you who missed out on the commercial last night.  Here it is:

How every Christian is like Manti Te’o

Some are calling it the story of the year and it’s only January.  It’s the perfect human interest story.  It has mystery, intrigue, deception, confusion, and a you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up quality to it.  It’s the fascinating story of Manti Te’0, the superstar college athlete and his fake, dead girlfriend.  I’m not sure if you’ve read a lot about it, but I’ve kept up with most of it.  I’ve heard the scorn and the mockery on sports talk radio.  I’ve read the different accounts and stories that have surrounded this young man and the hoax that mantiteocouricinterview_620_012013made the word “catfishing” a normal word in our vocabulary in just 1 week.  There’s a lot that I wrestle with when I find myself reflecting on this story.  I don’t want to rehash the details and try to figure out who’s to blame.  As a Christian, my mind wants to filter this story through the biblical grid of truth and hopefully learn something from this current event.

The biggest thing that I am taking away from this right now is how much I, as a Christian, am just like Manti Te’o.  The crowds have mocked incessantly how a young man could have fallen in love with a woman who he had never met in person.  In most people’s eyes, they just can’t fathom a man having feelings for a woman whom he had never seen with his eyes or touched with his hands.  I found myself shaking my head like everyone else, until a conversation I had with my dad on Saturday night.  He pointed out that we as Christians love a Savior that we have never touched or seen.  In fact, we have never even heard his audible voice.  Yet we love Jesus.  To those who are born again, Jesus is the most real person we have ever met.  The love we have experienced by God is greater than any mortal that we can ever see or hear or touch.

I’m reminded of the apostle Peter’s words when he says, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory…” (1 Peter 1:8).  The bond that we have with Jesus is real because of our faith.  Have you ever thought about how you can love and have devotion for a God that you’ve never seen?  Paul is right when he writes his letter to the Corinthian church and says that when we tell people about Jesus, to the world, it sounds “foolish”.

images-21But in the midst of the world’s chorus of disdain and mockery for love based on faith alone, we don’t need to respond defensively.  God makes it a point to mention and proclaim his “invisibility”.  Check out these verses:

Romans 1:20 – For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.  

Colossians 1:15 – He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

1 Timothy 1:17 – To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 11:27 – By faith he (speaking of Moses) left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

The story of Manti Te’o is one that reminds me that the world will always think that the gospel is foolish.  I can’t try to put make-up on the gospel to make it more attractive.  At its root, the gospel call is one that requires faith, and faith that is born of God and not of man. “Unless man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3),” Jesus said to Nicodemus.

We need to stop being bashful about loving this invisible God.  Because the love that is experienced by those who have given their lives to Christ is alive and real.  What we proclaim and offer to a dead and dying world is the most tangible life they can ever experience.  I love how the apostle John begins his first epistle: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us.”

John reminds us that even though he heard Jesus speak with his ears, and saw Jesus with his eyes, and touched Jesus with his hands, we can have the same experience with Jesus now as he had with him…through faith.  Be bold to proclaim this message of faith today, and live boldly by that same faith.  

Diagnosing a problem with no solution

The news coming out about the rising generation is not good.  I read this article the other day and had to share it with you.  You may have seen it and read it.  I think it’s interesting how this renowned Psychiatrist diagnosis the social ills of young people, but he really had no solution.  We find this a lot.  Talk to people who see what’s wrong in our world today, but they have not solution.  As the church, we must act and apply the gospel to this.  As parents, we have to ask if we have turned the gospel into a ticket to get into heaven, or is it the grid by which our children see the world.  Sadly, many of the young adults this article speaks about are coming right out of our evangelical churches today.  To me the solution is simple.  It’s the gospel.

We are raising a generation of deluded narcissists


Published January 08, 2013


A new analysis of the American Freshman Survey, which has accumulated data for the past 47 years from 9 million young adults, reveals that college students are more likely than ever to call themselves gifted and driven to succeed, even though their test scores and time spent studying are decreasing.

Psychologist Jean Twenge, the lead author of the analysis, is also the author of a study showing that the tendency toward narcissism in students is up 30 percent in the last thirty-odd years.
This data is not unexpected.  I have been writing a great deal over the past few years about the toxic psychological impact of media and technology on children, adolescents and young adults, particularly as it regards turning them into faux celebrities—the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories.

On Facebook, young people can fool themselves into thinking they have hundreds or thousands of “friends.” They can delete unflattering comments. They can block anyone who disagrees with them or pokes holes in their inflated self-esteem. They can choose to show the world only flattering, sexy or funny photographs of themselves (dozens of albums full, by the way), “speak” in pithy short posts and publicly connect to movie stars and professional athletes and musicians they “like.”


We must beware of the toxic psychological impact of media and technology on children, adolescents and young adults, particularly as it regards turning them into faux celebrities—the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories.


Using Twitter, young people can pretend they are worth “following,” as though they have real-life fans, when all that is really happening is the mutual fanning of false love and false fame.

Using computer games, our sons and daughters can pretend they are Olympians, Formula 1 drivers, rock stars or sharpshooters.  And while they can turn off their Wii and Xbox machines and remember they are really in dens and playrooms on side streets and in triple deckers around America, that is after their hearts have raced and heads have swelled with false pride for “being” something they are not.

On MTV and other networks, young people can see lives just like theirs portrayed on reality TV shows fueled by such incredible self-involvement and self-love that any of the “real-life” characters should really be in psychotherapy to have any chance at anything like a normal life.

These are the psychological drugs of the 21st Century and they are getting our sons and daughters very sick, indeed.

As if to keep up with the unreality of media and technology, in a dizzying paroxysm of self-aggrandizing hype, town sports leagues across the country hand out ribbons and trophies to losing teams, schools inflate grades, energy drinks in giant, colorful cans take over the soft drink market, and psychiatrists hand out Adderall like candy.

All the while, these adolescents, teens and young adults are watching a Congress that can’t control its manic, euphoric, narcissistic spending, a president that can’t see his way through to applauding genuine and extraordinary achievements in business, a society that blames mass killings on guns, not the psychotic people who wield them, and—here no surprise—a stock market that keeps rising and falling like a roller coaster as bubbles inflate and then, inevitably, burst.

That’s really the unavoidable end, by the way. False pride can never be sustained. The bubble of narcissism is always at risk of bursting.  That’s why young people are higher on drugs than ever, drunker than ever, smoking more, tattooed more, pierced more and having more and more and more sex, earlier and earlier and earlier, raising babies before they can do it well, because it makes them feel special, for a while.  They’re doing anything to distract themselves from the fact that they feel empty inside and unworthy.

Distractions, however, are temporary, and the truth is eternal. Watch for an epidemic of depression and suicidality, not to mention homicidality, as the real self-loathing and hatred of others that lies beneath all this narcissism rises to the surface.  I see it happening and, no doubt, many of you do, too.

We had better get a plan together to combat this greatest epidemic as it takes shape.  Because it will dwarf the toll of any epidemic we have ever known. And it will be the hardest to defeat. Because, by the time we see the scope and destructiveness of this enemy clearly, we will also realize, as the saying goes, that it is us.


Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team. Dr. Ablow can be reached at info@keithablow.com.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/01/08/are-raising-generation-deluded-narcissists/#ixzz2HaWu4ggO

Finding the right motivation.

There’s a picture that’s going viral.  It’s a picture taken this morning of 3 soldiers performing their duty at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the midst of an oncoming hurricane.  Here it is, just in case you haven’t seen it.

It’s moving, isn’t it?  There’s a reason I’m captivated by this photo.  I was there 2 weeks ago on a gorgeous Fall afternoon with my family.  To see the precision, the dedication, and the honor displayed that day was impressive, not only to me, but also to my wife and 3 young children.  These men were performing the same duty that day as they are now in the picture above, but things have changed.  There’s no crowd watching in support.  There’s no comfortable weather to make things a little easier and more pleasant.  What makes these young men do what they do?  Is it honor?  Is it duty?  Is it respect for something bigger than themselves?  Maybe.  It may be a little of all three.  I can’t help but think though that there are a hundred moments like this in our own lives.  Sometimes we show up, but other times we can shrink from the opportunity.

To me this is a perfect illustration of motivation.  Motivation drives us to action.  We all want to think that we’ll make the right choice and do the right thing in life, but when we don’t, our true heart and motivation is exposed.  It’s easy to do good when the crowd is watching.  As long as circumstances are perfect, you perform well.  But when the crowds are gone and the storm comes in, what drives you in your obedience to God?

There’s only one motivation that will resolve this: loving Jesus.  When our motivation is rooted in our love for the One who first loved us, then crowds don’t matter.  Anyone can do well when people are watching.  Again, the picture of these men is so powerful because there are no crowds cheering them on.  The storm is brutal.  This private act of devotion was captured when most are bearing down inside where it’s safe.  This stirs my soul because that’s what I want.  I want my love for Jesus to be so authentic that Sunday at 10 am and Monday at 6 am look no different.

I thank God that He is constantly changing my heart and motivation.  In 2 Cor. 3:17-18, we have this promise:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

I love that.  The Spirit is working on you today to produce a newer, better degree of glory.  The gospel not only promises you salvation, but also transformation.  Your motivation may be missing today, or it’s in the wrong place.  Don’t worry, God’s not done working in you.  May we rediscover what it means to be motivated by our love for Jesus.

Does this election really matter to Christians?

Ever since the Roman emperor Constantine married government with Christianity almost 17 centuries ago, there has never really been a clear consensus on how much or how little Christians should be involved in politics.  Every 4 years I hear the same thing, “This is the most important election in our lifetime!”  It could be or it might be rather

This picture made me a little sick.

insignificant.  We are about 6 weeks away from election day in our country, which means that the commercials on the airwaves will become abundantly more vindictive and venomous, the spam e-mails will become more voluminous, and angst will grow on either political spectrum hoping and praying that they will not lose power.

So here’s the big question for those of us who are Christians:  Does this election matter?

I believe the answer is yes.  But I believe the answer is ‘yes’, not because of who may win, but because the results of this election will show us who we are as a nation and who we really trust in as the church.  Let me explain.

I’ve been dabbling in the book of Isaiah the last couple weeks (which is essentially the same as saying, I’ve been dabbling in Niagara Falls).  It’s a heavy book, but a good one to read.  There’s a profound passage in this prophetic book in the 6th chapter.  Here’s what it says:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:  “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Isaiah sees a vision of God after king Uzziah dies.  This may not mean much to us, but it was significant to Isaiah.  Uzziah was considered a good king.  He ruled the kingdom of Judah for 52 years. For most of his life, he led his people well.  He loved God, build up the kingdom, defeated the pagan nations around them, and brought a high level of prosperity to their nation.  Uzziah led well until he was puffed up with himself and God took him out for his pride.  When he died, you can imagine the public uncertainty can’t you? This king was the leader for 52 years which means that most people living within Judah had probably never known another leader or king.  He was successful by every human standard.  But then God gives Isaiah the prophet this vision.

Notice that the vision points to an important truth: The LORD is King.  He is on the throne.  Earthly kings rise and fall, but there is One who remains steadfast on the real throne.  There’s a lot more to Isaiah 6 than this, but as Christians, this must remain our never-ending hope and trust.  There is a true King who rules and is in control, no matter who is sitting in the oval office.  Will your hope and confidence be shattered if your candidate doesn’t win on November 6th?  I hear a lot of conservatives decrying the problems of the welfare state that we’ve created as a nation.  There’s a lot of truth in their outcries, but don’t we, as Christians, sometimes act as welfare recipients?  We depend on the government to support our moral agendas, instead of King Jesus who is the only one who can change hearts.  I hope and pray our joy and hope can rest in our real King.

Now there’s a flip side to this.  As much as our confidence must not be shaken by who wins, this doesn’t mean that we should remain aloof to the political process and to our government.  There’s a strong movement amongst young Evangelicals to distance themselves entirely from anything to do with government.  I believe we must be weary of this type of thinking.  Remember, government is not a bad thing according to Scripture (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17).  Governments can become corrupt and we definitely have enough examples of that to fill an entire blog.  But I can’t help but think of men like Daniel and Nehemiah and a certain woman named Esther.  These were individuals whom God used to influence and advance His Kingdom within government.  They knew that it was really God who reigned, not the earthly king that they served, therefore they prayed and influenced the world around them for the glory of God and the salvation of their people.  We need more men and women like that today.  To be able to be involved within government is a great privilege that God has given to us within our nation.  Let’s not squander or ignore that.

Let me conclude with this.  I believe that government is not the answer to solve the world’s problems.  Only the gospel can truly transform lives.  I hope that we can remember though that we have inherited an incredible privilege to be a part of our government.  Very few in the history of mankind can ever say that.  May we vote with joy, trust in our Savior for true hope, and may the cry of hearts be like it once was over 200 years ago, when our nation was in its infancy:  “No king, but King Jesus!”

How should a Christian respond to tragedy?

There was a grenade of emotions that exploded inside me this morning when I heard of the massacre in Aurora, CO.  I don’t know about you, but a mix of horror, sorrow, bewilderment, and fear was running through my thoughts as I tried to process all that happened last night at a movie theater in a suburban town.  It’s during times like this that I am so thankful for a faith, and even more than that, a God, that shepherds my heart through tragedies.  Of course, any emotions we may be feeling today are small compared to the depth of emotions and pain that is felt by those who have been directly impacted by the actions of this murderer.

Events that happen like the one last night lead to a host of questions and conversations.  It’s easy to shake our heads and talk with our neighbors and co-workers about how sad and tragic it all is, but as followers of Jesus, there’s a way that I think we should respond to the tragedies of our day that sets us apart as His witnesses in our world.  We must ward off any temptation to respond politically or pragmatically to these things.  Instead, we need to filter our thoughts, emotions, and words through God’s Word, the Bible.  So here are some things to keep in mind that God’s Word tells us:

1. Weep with those who weep.  Usually the first thing that Christians and other groups try to do is give explanations for “why” this happened.  The political pundits will try to make this about gun control or political affiliations.  I can even hear the talking heads in the Evangelical world saying something to the effect of, “this is what happens when we take God and prayer out of our schools”.  There’s will be a time to assess the “why” of any tragedy, but first we must weep with those who are hurting.  Paul tells us in Romans 12:15 to “rejoice with those who are rejoicing, and weep with those who weep”.  Jesus modeled this perfectly in John 11 when his friend Lazarus died.  Upon coming to his friend’s tomb, he wept publicly.  The chapter tells us that Jesus loved Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha.  He could have gone into the town with theological guns blazing and given them a theological lesson on what was going on and why it was happening.  But instead he listened to the hurts of two people he loved first.

We must be very careful to give simple explanations and answers to situations that are emotionally explosive.  When Jobs life fell apart and he lost everything, the first thing and the best thing that his 3 best friends did was sit silent with him for 3 days.  It wasn’t until they opened their mouths and gave their opinions of why Job had suffered that they got into trouble with God.  It’s important to have answers, but first we must show true and genuine compassion to those who are hurting, and point them to Jesus.  If there is anyone who can identify with acts of injustice and pain, it’s our Savior who endured the cross.

2. Learn to ask (and answer) the right questions.  In the face of such horrific events, it’s easy to ask the “where was God” questions.  The human heart and mind desires transcendent answers to problems that are too big for us.  So God is usually labeled either as not powerful enough to stop these kinds of things, or not loving enough to do anything about it.  When it comes to these questions though, we usually are looking at the situation from the wrong perspective.  Because of Adam, the curse of sin has infected all of mankind and God’s creation.  We live in a broken, fallen world.  God has every right to leave us to our own depravity.  The wrong question is, “why did something bad like this happen?”  The right question should be, “why do good things happen at all?” or “why don’t bad things like this happen more often?”

The truth is, we very rarely get the answer to the “why” questions that we all struggle with.  God reminds us often that He answers our “why” questions with “who” answers (see Job 38-41).  He is Sovereign.  He does all things for His glory.  He is holy and just and nothing takes place outside of His will. Do I understand that at all times?  No.  Read Romans 9 sometime and try to wrap your mind around the Sovereignty of God.  When you get it all figured out, let me know so you can explain it to me.  God gives life and He takes it away, and He has every right to do so.  God was in complete control last night in Aurora, no matter what we feel.  It’s how we respond to events like the one last night that truly shows the depth of our faith.

3. The gospel is the only solution.  From the victims to the suspected gunman, James Holmes, the gospel is the only solution to heal what is broken.  The world will offer more laws and limit human freedoms, but no new law can ever prevent another disaster from happening.  It’s only the redemptive, transforming power of Jesus that can renew what has been destroyed by sin.  We come into contact with people everyday who are plagued by their sin or the effects of sin.  Do we believe in the power of the gospel to share it with them?  Are we so drunk with the glory of God and His amazing love that we cannot help but share it with others?  May God open our eyes to those around us who are lost and desperately need a Savior.

It’s hard not to wrestle with big questions when terrible things happen.  There’s a quote by C.S. Lewis that, I believe, helps us maintain the right perspective in the wake of times like these.  He said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains.  It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  

A Christian response to the God particle discovery

Let me first start by saying that I’m not a trained scientist.  I have been captivated though recently concerning all the articles written about the supposed Higgs boson discovery or the “God particle”.  At first, I really didn’t know what to make of it, and after considerable reading, I’m not sure anyone else does either.  There’s still a lot to be said and written and explained.  The questions I’ve been wrestling with relate to the connection between science and my faith.  Does this discovery negate what we believe to be true in Genesis 1 and 2?  Will this rock the traditional, orthodox Christian understanding of the universe?

I did want to share  some of my brief observations as a Christian regarding what I understand concerning the God particle discovery.  This is by no means exhaustive, but a simple attempt to help us answer basic questions and stay focused on the realities of God and His gospel.  First, though, I’m going to try to explain the Higgs boson in the most basic terms.

In the mid 1960s, a physicist by the name of Peter Higgs had a theory about what gave mass to matter.  The theory is part of an overall system known as the “standard model” of particle physics (a system which, by the way, still has many holes).  Scientists had known for some time that some sub-atomic particles have mass while others didn’t, but scientists didn’t really understand how mass came to be determined in those particles.  The Higgs boson theory became popularized after Nobel physicist Leon Lederman’s book, The God Particle: If the universe is the answer, what is the question? was published in 1993.  By the way, most scientists hate the name “God particle” for the Higgs boson.

Over the last few years, 5000 researchers from 2 independent teams have spent billions of dollars attempting to recreate the big bang in an underground labratory outside Geneva.  They’ve been smashing atoms at nearly the speed of light in an 17-mile long tube, in order to find the Higgs boson.  After all the time and money spent, they supposedly have found something that resembles a Higgs boson, even though it only lasts for a billionth of a billionth of a second.

So what does all this mean, especially from a Christian perspective?

1. Don’t be scared of science.  As a Christian we’ve been taught to fear science.  Science and religion are not enemies though.  It’s not like science is the dog Toto pulling the curtain to expose the man behind the smoke and mirrors.  Faith and science exist beautifully together.  They exist together because they both answer different questions about life.  Science can tell me how reproduction is accomplished, but only philosophy and religion can tell me why.  Science can answer a lot of the what and how questions we may have, but science will always fall short because God has created us with a mind and soul.  We aren’t merely a clump of cells, but His image bearers, so the questions we wrestle with will ultimately be the “why” questions of life.  We also have to remember that science is not interpreted within a vacuum.  Every scientist and researcher has their own philosophical worldview, and it’s their worldview that can determine the interpretation of facts.

2. This discovery screams that there’s a Designer.  I find it interesting that all these scientists and all these researchers have spent all this money and all this time attempting to find this sub-atomic particle.  In the process, what they have shown is that it took an incredible amount of intelligence and design to discover it.  The universe we live in is amazing.  From what I’ve read, there’s a new frontier of physics around the corner.  That’s great because it just keeps showing the design and beauty of this universe.  A universe that we as Christians believe was created by God.  The theories that we are just now understanding shows a highly complex universe.  This all screams that there is a designer behind the design.  Every new complexity shows the deepness of the mind of God to create a universe like ours.  The teleological argument behind the existence of God (where there is design, there must be a Designer) is strengthened by every new scientific discovery.  For example, the human genome project exemplified the incredible design of the human body and DNA.  It took greater faith to believe in naturalistic evolution after that discovery.

3. People are still looking for answers.  I think one of the biggest lies that Satan would have us believe is that people are just not interested in God anymore.  We are too technologically advanced, and too scientifically minded to concern ourselves with religious mumbo-jumbo.  The reality is that the interest in the “God particle” drives us because every man, woman and child wants to know why they are here, who they are, and what happens when they die.  As Christians, we give the greatest, most consistent answer to these questions.  The Bible clearly and definitely answers all these questions and more because you can’t answer them without God.  If every person is asking these questions, are you ready to give an answer?

Finally, I would encourage you to do some more reading on this.  I’m sure in the coming days that there will be an appropriate scientific response from the Christian perspective from organizations like Answers in Genesis or the Creation Research Institute.

I think it’s fitting to end with a passage of Scripture that shows how Jesus is still relevant to His creation today, even after all scientific discoveries.  It’s His gospel that gives us meaning and hope.  It has done that for millenia and it will continue to do so for eternity.

Colossians 1:15-20 – He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.