Learning with Jacob

Jacob (our foster son) probably has had more truly awful experiences in three years than I’ve had in 39.  These things leave scars.  “Scars”, though, is a lazy metaphor.  It doesn’t capture the interaction between Jacob’s experience and his present self.  We don’t interpret reality according to our scars, at least not the physical ones.    Continue reading

Why Be Foster Parents?

As most people who talk to me regularly are aware, my wife and I are in the midst of getting certified as foster parents by the state of Tennessee.  It’s not the easiest process in the world, but it’s one that very morally and spiritually important to us both.  I thought it would be worthwhile, then, to share the reasoning and motivation behind our decision.

Not surprisingly, both Lauren and I are strongly motivated in this by religious conviction.  We think that beliefs have logical consequences and impose moral obligations, and Christians who say “No!” to one thing had better be saying “Yes!” to something else even more loudly. Continue reading

Lessons From Harvey

The floods in southeast Texas have really been on my mind the last few days. I am actually from Texas. While I was raised by grandparents in Nacogdoches Texas, 90% of my family lives in the Houston area. I also trained to become an evangelist in Beaumont Texas.

In addition to my family, millions of people in southeast Texas have been hit hard by the effects of Hurricane Harvey. My aunt (who works in Harris County) finally was able to make it back home Monday. She was stuck at work for two full days! Since her car is almost under water, she decided to take a chance and walk home yesterday morning. Thankfully, a nice couple picked her up and drove her as far as they could. Once they reached a severely flooded area, she hopped out of the car and walked the rest of the way.

Several people in Houston, Beaumont, and Port Arthur are trapped in their homes. They have been waiting for days to be rescued. Due to constant rain and flooding, so many have lost their homes, cars, businesses, and some cases, even their lives!

Storms have a way of teaching us several lessons in life. Here are some I have been reminded of over the past few days.

  • Material possessions are temporary. They can be here today and gone tomorrow! This time last month, many people in southeast Texas were living comfortably in their homes. They had their cars to take them where they wanted to go. They had a nice bed to sleep in and a stove to cook their food on. Now, they don’t. They have been forced from their homes; their cars are under water; and they are currently sleeping in a shelter somewhere. The words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19 still hold true 2,000 years later! This is why we must always store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20-21). Those treasures can never be destroyed.
  • There is only so much we can control. Storms have a way of reminding us of this. So often we think we have full control in our lives. That is faulty thinking! One thing we can never control is the weather. Sometimes in life, we are hit with catastrophes beyond our control. We can prepare for things the best we can, but the rest is in God’s hands.
  • There are still a lot of good people in the world. You wouldn’t know it if you had been watching the news prior to Harvey. Before Harvey, all we could hear on the news was people talking about racism and division. If you didn’t know any better, you might think that America was full of people who couldn’t stand one another! It took a storm, for people to stop talking about racism. Now the only thing that matters is human life. People of all races throughout southeast Texas are helping one another. Many are risking their lives and sacrificing their possessions to help others survive. That is the way people are supposed to be towards one another. We all need to love our neighbor and treat others like we want to be treated (Luke 10:30-37; Matthew 7:12).
  • Our problems must be put into perspective. So often, I act as though my problems are the worst in the world. If something small isn’t going my way, I complain and act as though it is the end of the world. This storm has reminded me of just how wrong I am. Now, I truly realize that my problems are minor compared to the problems of those in Texas at this time. I still have my home. I am not living in a shelter right now. I still have my car. My wife and children have soft beds to sleep in tonight. I am so blessed compared to so many suffering right now. In the big scheme of things, my problems are very small.
  • Prayer is important. Do you want to know what you can do right now for the people suffering from Hurricane Harvey? You can take a couple of minutes and pray for them right now. God always hears the prayers of His people and He is well able to help those in need (James 5:16b). The people in Texas being hurt by this storm need your prayers desperately.

Storms come and go in life. Soon this storm will be over, but God and His word will still remain (Hebrews 13:8; 1 Peter 1:23-25). When we always keep our minds focused on that, no matter what storms comes our way, we will be able to endure them and come out stronger than before.

– Shawn Jeffries

Compassion In Engedi

On a recent trip to Israel I was able to visit Engedi. Engedi is in the Judean wilderness near the Dead Sea. It is probably best known for being the place where David hid from Saul.

It is interesting that after David slew the Philistine giant, Goliath, Saul had a lot of respect for David. He elevated David to a position of authority in his kingdom (1 Samuel 18:1-5). One could even say that the two became friends. But due to David’s increasing popularity as a great warrior, it didn’t take long before Saul became jealous of David, and his jealousy provoked him to try to take David’s life on several occasions (1 Samuel 18:6-11). In fact, Saul’s efforts became so intense that David was forced to flee into the wilderness of Engedi.

There are two reasons why David chose to find refuge here. First, there are multiple caves in which to hide. Second, there was also a fresh water spring.

Eventually Saul gets words where David is hiding. He then takes 3,000 of his soldiers with him to Engedi. At one point he goes into a cave to “relieve himself,” but unbeknownst to him it is the very cave where David is hiding with his men (1 Samuel 24:1-3)! David’s men try to urge him to kill his enemy, but instead David secretly cuts off a piece of Saul’s garment (1 Samuel 24:4). David’s conscious then began to bother him (1 Samuel 24:5). He said to his men, “Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the Lord’s anointed” (1 Samuel 24:6). David was able to persuade his men with these words not to kill Saul, and the king was able to leave the cave unharmed.

David’s actions toward Saul on this occasion challenge us in some very powerful ways. They challenge us to be…

  • Merciful and kind, even to our enemies. Saul was treating David unfairly. His jealousy had led him to trying to take David’s life unjustly. David was provided with a perfect opportunity to retaliate and kill Saul, but instead he chose to spare him. He chose to be good to a man who was clearly his enemy!
  • Forgiving, even to our enemies. Although Saul was certainly not seeking David’s forgiveness on this occasion, David still refused to hold his evil actions against him. Even though he was being treated unfairly, David still refused to harbor a grudge and take advantage of an opportunity to get even.
  • Tender-hearted. David’s tender heart is clearly on display in Engedi. It is displayed in an act of compassion towards a helpless enemy. It is also displayed in how his conscience bothered him when he took a piece of Saul’s robe. David knew that God could see his actions, even in a dark cave, and would hold him accountable if he committed sin!
  • Respectful towards God’s choices. Ultimately, David refrained from killing Saul because he respected him as God’s anointed. He knew that God was responsible for Saul being the king and he had no right to kill a man put on the throne by God. Even though Saul was the source of his problems, David respected God’s choice to have him reign as the king at this time. He knew that it wasn’t his place to get revenge against his enemy. God would do that for him in due time.

All of these character qualities that David demonstrates in Engedi are qualities that God expects us to have today. Like David, we too are to be kind and merciful, even to our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). We too are to be forgiving, even to our enemies (Matthew 6:14-15). We too are to possess tender hearts – hearts that are easily pricked by the gospel and are compassionate towards those who are helpless and in need (Acts 2:37; Ephesians 4:32). We too are to be respectful and submissive towards those who are put in positions of authority by God (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Hebrews 13:17).

David’s behavior in Engedi only helps us understand further why he was indeed “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). If we apply them to our lives, we too can be the same.

– Shawn Jeffries