Constant Reminders

PHOTO: Las Vegas Metropolitan Police in front of a sign for the Route 91 Harvest festival near the scene of the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest festival on Las Vegas Boulevard in Las Vegas, Oct. 2, 2017.

Aurora, Sandy Hook, Charleston, Chattanooga, San Bernardino, Orlando, and now Las Vegas. When I woke up Monday morning I was saddened to hear that once again a mass shooting had occurred in the country that I love.

Sunday evening, during the closing performance at the Route 91 Country Music Festival on the Las Vegas Strip, 64 –year –old Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. He murdered 58 people and injured 530 others. The horrible events of this day marked the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman in U.S. history.

With each mass shooting, we seem to be hearing more and more. We are given constant reminders which we need to think about seriously.

  • Each day could be our last. Death is one of the great equalizers in life (Hebrews 9:27). Tragic events like the one on Sunday, remind us that we really don’t when we are going to die. Do you think any of those 58 murdered people thought they were going to die at that concert? Do you think that any of them woke up that Sunday morning thinking that it would be their last day on earth? Those folks did not go to that concert to die, but rather to listen to music and have fun. Death was probably the last thing on their minds! And yet, it would be something they would experience before the night was over. Tragic events like this remind us of the words of the Lord’s brother in James 4:13-15. We don’t know what will happen to us each day. We don’t know when we are going go die. Compared to eternity, our lives are very short and we need to be prepared to leave this world any at moment.
  • There is a lot of evil in the world. People often ask, “Why does God allow people to do evil?” This question fails to consider that God made man in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). Part of being made in the image of God means that we have the ability to make choices. This is one of the things that makes us superior to anything else God has made. We are not programmed robots. We do not live off our instincts like animals. God made us free moral agents. We can choose to do good or evil. We can choose to love God or flat out reject Him (Joshua 24:15). If God intervened in every tragic case, He would be taking away man’s free will. He will not do that! Unfortunately, we live in a world where men often choose to do terrible, wicked things. Sometimes these wicked choices impact others in a negative way. This has been going on in the world since the time of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-8). The events of Sunday remind us that we live in a world where evil exists and men sometimes choose to do horrendous things.
  • This world is not our home. This world is not a perfect place. The only way we will escape the wickedness of this world is to go to heaven. In heaven there is no evil. There is no murder. There is no rape. There are no periods of mourning and tears. There is no death (Revelation 21:1-4). These are things that we have to deal with now on this earth, but not in heaven! Heaven is a perfect place with perfect happiness and security. It is a place where all the horrible things we see on the news will be absent! The events of Sunday remind us that this world is really a sad place and heaven should be what we are seeking above anything else (Matthew 6:19-21; Philippians 3:20; 2 Corinthians 5:8). They remind us of just how important it is to serve Jesus, because He is the ONLY way to heaven (John 14:1-6).

This will probably not be the last mass shooting we hear about. Living in a sin-filled world, there are sure to be other cases. But with each case we are confronted with, the same reminders are brought to the forefront of our minds. Will we heed them and take them seriously?

– Shawn Jeffries

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Black Friday

 

“…One- hundred two dollars and sixty four cents.” As you hear these numbers roll off of the cashiers tongue, you can’t help but be ecstatic. You’re tired, you’re wounded, beaten, and your feet are in distress, but you’re thrilled. You have just purchased a two hundred dollar T.V. for almost half the original sales price.

Strange things start to happen the Friday after Thanksgiving. Walmart’s become dojos, Parking lots turn into campsites, malls seem to be hosting the annual Olympic track and field games, and millions of people all across America simply lose their minds.

What is the cause for this madness? Two words: Black Friday.

Black Friday signifies the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. On this day, major retailers open their doors exceptionally early, welcoming throngs of people who are seeking these one-time promotional sales. On this day, we get a glimpse of the incredible lengths many will go to save a pretty penny.

On a Friday just a little over two thousand years ago, we got a glimpse of the incredible lengths God was willing to go to save this world from destruction.  Much like this past Friday, strange things happened. There was betrayal, suicide, injustices, riots, mocking’s, scourging’s, crucifixions, redemption, and death.

The earth witnessed supernatural phenomena. At high noon, there was an unusual three hour period of darkness. The curtain to the temple was spontaneously torn in two, the earth shook, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and dead men rose.

“When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’,” Matthew 27:54

This was a dark day indeed. The Son of Man was killed.

On this day, 1,500 years of prophecy was fulfilled; it was finished.

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished’, and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit”, John 19:30

The blood of bulls and goats could no longer atone for the sins of men. A sacrifice had to be made. (Hebrews 10:4).

Someone had to die. This someone had to be perfect, He had to be blameless, He had to be sinless, He had to be the Son of God. The pure, undefiled, innocent, and spotless Lamb of God was slain for the sins of the world.

On this very dark and black Friday, there was a ray of hope. Hope lied in the resurrection. Not only did Jesus die for man, but three days later He got up.

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen! Remember how He told you the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise”, Luke 24:6-7

Today, we can bask in even greater savings than any earthly Black Friday deal. On this Friday, over 2,000 years ago, despite our wretched and sinful nature, Jesus gave up His life, paying the ultimate price for our very lives, and saved the word.

By Timothy G. Ruffin

Do you know where you are going?

Do You Know Where You Are Going?

On the very last day of 1999 (December 31, 1999), Time Magazine announced its “Person of the Century.” That person was Albert Einstein. Albert Einstein was described by Time as “the embodiment of pure intellect, the bumbling professor with German accent…”

Yet, Einstein, the great German physicist, was said to be a slow learner in his youth. In fact, he was said to be so slow in learning to speak, that his parents even consulted a doctor (this personally makes me feel good about our son Shawn Michael!). Einstein also had a rebellious attitude towards authority. This led to one school principle expelling him and another saying he would never amount to much. As it turned out, Einstein did amount to something after all.

On one occasion, Albert Einstein was traveling from Princeton University by train. The conductor came down the aisle, punching each passenger’s ticket. When he came to the well known physicist, Einstein reached into his vest pocket. He couldn’t find his ticket, so he reached in his pants pocket. It wasn’t there! He looked in his briefcase and he couldn’t find it there. He then looked in his papers in the seat behind him, and he still could not find it! The conductor said, “Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I am sure you bought a ticket. Don’t worry about it.” Einstein nodded in much appreciation.

The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket. The conductor walked back to him and said, “Dr. Einstein, don’t worry, I know who you are. We all know who you are; no problem. You don’t need a ticket. I am sure you bought one. You don’t need to look for it any longer. It’s ok.” Albert Einstein then looked at the conductor and said, “Young man, I too, know who I am. What I don’t know is where I am going.” This is why he was so often called “the absent-minded professor”!

This is a very interesting story that reminds all of us of the importance of knowing where we are going. Every person should know where he is going – and not just when he gets on a plane, train, or car. We need to know where we are going when it comes to our eternal destinies!

Do you know where you going after this life? Do you know if you are going to heaven or hell? Some believe that we can’t know our eternal destiny until the Judgment Day; they believe there is no way we can know whether we are right with God in this life. That belief does not line up with the Bible!

This is what the Bible teaches about this issue:

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments (1 John 2:3).

The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us (1 John 3:24). 

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13).

The Apostle John knew where he stood with God. He knew where he was going. We can as well! When we obey the gospel we can KNOW that we are right with God and on the path to heaven to be with Him for eternity. Examine your life today and ask yourself the question, “Do I know where I am going?”

By Shawn Jeffries

Facing Death with Terra Cotta Warriors

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I’ll never forget taking my kids to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. As we toured their exhibit, China’s Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army, I came face to face with a twenty-five-hundred-year-old Chinese General. As I learned about these full-scale sculptures, it brought to mind the Scripture:

“For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out,” 1 Timothy 6:7.

But China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi (260-210 BC), could not have disagreed more. He invested an estimated 70,000 craftsman over three to four decades constructing an elaborate underground city for his burial, complete with a population made of clay. Until relatively recently, tales of Qin Shi Huangdi’s necropolis were a favorite Chinese legend.

In 1974, rural farmers accidently discovered the emperor’s ancient burial complex while digging a water well. As archaeologists began investigating the area in the Shaanxi Province, they unearthed an army of elaborate, life-sized, terra cotta sculptures. 1,000 of an estimated 8,000 terra cotta warriors have been excavated. There is believed to be 130 full scale chariots and 670 horses as well. Qin Shi Haungdi’s terra cotta army includes Generals, Infantrymen, Archers, and Cavalrymen, as well as Acrobats, Musicians, and Birds. Each sculpture held an actual tool or weapon and thus far, no two faces are alike.

This emperor approached death as he did life – he intended to reign. Qin Shi Huangdi managed to conquer all of China’s warring regions and consolidate an empire. He was a violent man and paranoid about his rule. While his tomb has not been opened, excavations and histories demonstrate that he killed sons suspected of treachery, his wives were buried alive with his body, and all of the workers and craftsman involved in constructing the necropolis were executed to prevent grave robbery. Like the Pharaoh’s of old, this Chinese ruler believed he would need a palace, provisions, riches, and even an army to serve him in the afterlife.

Today the terra cotta warriors stand at attention; a silent witness of one man’s plan to face death. While his materialistic approach demonstrates he was wholly unequipped for the spiritual realities of death, no one can accuse him of taking his death lightly.  Over 30 years he contemplated and prepared for what should happen after he died.

It is good to ponder death (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4). King Solomon of ancient Israel (reigned ca. 970-930 BC) also considered death. With wisdom from God he wrote, “No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, And no one has power in the day of death. There is no release from that war, And wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it” (Ecclesiastes 8:8).

Indeed, death is the great equalizer – rich or poor, king or peasant, wise or fool – the time comes to die. “And how dies a wise man die? As the fool!” (Ecclesiastes 2:16; see also Ecclesiastes 3:2).

Furthermore, in Psalm 89:47-48, Ethan’s contemplation is found, “Remember how short my time is; For what futility have you created all the children of men? What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?”

How many of our neighbors in American society truly ponder death for even 30 minutes a year, let alone a 30 year public works building project of terra cotta? Like other ancient rulers, Qin Shi Huangdi saw himself as the Master and the Potter. But Scripture teaches us that the truth of the matter is people are the clay, not the potter. We do not need to craft things to serve us in death but allow God to mold us in life that we might serve Him today and glorify Him through death (Romans 14:8).

“But now, O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand,” Isaiah 64:8.

By Andrew Roberts