A few weeks ago, one of the members at Jackson Heights asked me to write about one of those cultural catchphrases, “spiritual but not religious”, hereinafter SBNR. I agreed, but I had a few misgivings. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what it meant. Does it merely mean, “I believe in God, but I don’t feel like going to church,” or is there something more to it? Continue reading
This is the last week of school, which means summer is almost here. Summer can be a really exciting time. The weather is usually nice. The kids are out of school. Family vacations are being planned and booked.
Will you be going on a vacation this summer? I can remember growing up as a kid in Texas and being excited about the summer because I knew my family would be taking at least one vacation. Usually we didn’t go too far (maybe Houston or Galveston), but it was exciting nevertheless. Since that time I have been able to travel to many places further away. One of the things my family and I love to do is travel to places that we have never been before. We love to see God’s creation in different places and meet new Christians. Over the last several years, we have been blessed to vacation in Daytona, Washington D.C., Virginia, San Antonio, New York City, Seattle, Philadelphia, and the Grand Canyon. This coming July we plan on visiting the Midwest for the first time (Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Chicago). We are very excited about this trip and are still trying to figure out all the things we want to do while there.
It is a blessing to be able to make long lasting family memories on vacations. The question is: Does God go on vacation with us as well? I certainly hope so. I hope and pray that God goes with me and my family when we go to the Midwest. In fact, I hope and pray that God’s eyes are on us and His love and favor are with us wherever we go!
How frightening would it be if the one true God was only a “local” God? What if God was only with us when we were in our home town? What if He went with us to work and helped us through the day, looked over us when we went to the store and drove through town? What if He heard and accepted the worship we offered up to Him at the local church building where we attended, but whenever we left the state or country, God no longer went with us?
How would you feel if God stayed back while you went on vacation? Would you still go on vacation? Sure, vacation is fun, relaxing and exciting. Sure, there are beautiful places in the world to see and experience. But would you really be willing to go to those places if you knew that God was not going with you as well? I wouldn’t!
But thankfully this is not the case. Thankfully there is no place on this earth we can go that God doesn’t go as well. The Bible assures us:
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” – Psalm 139:7-10
“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Keeping watch on the evil and the good.” – Proverbs 15:3
“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” – Hebrews 4:13
“teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you [a]always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20
The Bible teaches us that God is everywhere! He is in the mountains in eastern Tennessee; He is on the road to Disney World in Florida; He is in a large city like New York; He is at the Grand Canyon; He will be with us in the Midwest when we go in a couple of months.
It is a comforting thought to know that God is faithful and goes with us everywhere we go. The more challenging question is: Will our faithfulness to God also go with us everywhere we go? Will our commitment to gather with other saints for worship, stand for truth, read our Bibles, and pray, also go with us on vacation? God will be with us, waiting and worthy, just as He was at home. But will we be faithful and true to Him while away from home?
I hope you have a great summer vacation. If you plan on traveling, be safe and have lots of fun. Remember that since God is the source of all your blessings, He deserves the same faithful attention from you when you are away that He gets when you are home.
– Shawn Jeffries
In 2016 did you go through feelings of disappointment? Did you ever get frustrated because you felt like you kept stumbling in your walk with God? If so, please understand that you are not alone. Servants of God that we can read about in the Bible found themselves going through the same types of things.
- Moses, the great leader of Israel, was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because there was an occasion when he disobeyed God. When Israel was thirsty and begging for water, Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it like God commanded (Numbers 20:8-12). God allowed water to still come out of the rock, but He was very angry with Moses’ decision.
- Samson broke his vow to God by telling Delilah about his covenant with God. Because of his disobedience God took his supernatural strength from him and allowed the Philistines to capture him (Judges 16:1-27).
- Eli invited God’s judgment on his entire household because he did not rebuke his sons for the sins they committed in the tabernacle. Eli was a good priest and judge, but a terrible father (1 Samuel 3:10-14).
- David (a man after God’s own heart) committed adultery with Bathsheba and tried to cover his sin by having her husband, Uriah, killed in battle (2 Samuel 11and 12). He also took a census of the people toward the end of his reign. This greatly angered the Lord (maybe because it showed David trusted more in his army than in the Lord). This decision brought the judgment of God upon the kingdom of Israel (2 Samuel 24).
- In an effort to save his own life, Peter denied the Lord three times (Matthew 26:69-75). This was something he promised he would not do (Matthew 26:35).
- Saul of Tarsus went from house to house dragging Christians out of their homes and throwing them in jail. He also consented to the murder of Stephen (Acts 8:1-4).
These are examples of servants of God who made some serious mistakes in their lives. They went through moments of disappointment and defeat. But the great thing about their stories is that they did not let those moments utterly destroy their faith. They took responsibility for their mistakes. They repented. They picked themselves up and continued to serve the Lord.
(1) Even though he himself would not be able to enter, Moses still equipped Joshua to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land after his death (Deuteronomy 31:1-8). (2) Samson was vindicated by God against the Philistines (Judges 16:28-30). (3) Eli accepted his punishment and continued to serve God (1 Samuel 3:18). (4) David repented and also accepted his punishments (2 Samuel 12:13; 24:10-14). (5) Peter turned back to Jesus and went on to preach the gospel (Acts 2). (6) Saul of Tarsus became a Christian and an apostle and went on to write much of the New Testament (2 Peter 3:15-16).
Like these servants of God, there will be times when we go through moments of disappointment and defeat. But we must never abandon our faith. We must always pick ourselves up and return to Jesus (1 John 1:8-10). The ultimate failure is not when we fail, but when we give up as a result of having failed. Even after our failures, God can continue to use us for His glory. The question is, if I have been failing God will I continue feeling sorry for myself and come up with excuses as to why I am not where God wants me to be? Or, will I get up, dust myself off, seek God’s forgiveness, and trust in His ability to still use me?
– Shawn Jeffries
Leap Day! Leap Year! An extra day! What would you do with an extra day?
Joshua’s prayer for an extra day is an amazing Bible account.
The prayer was a dynamic mixture of God’s determined will and mankind’s bold request. The result was a miracle.
“Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel: ‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and Moon, the Valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies…So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the Lord heeded the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel,” Joshua 10:12-14.
The Lord fought for Israel and protected her against her enemies, the Amorites. The Lord was with Joshua and the troops, He even rained hail down on the enemies (Joshua 10:11). The hail killed more Amorites than the sword!
That day was special. There has been no day like it. But what was more special than the sun stilled was the prayer prayed! There has never been another day where the Lord heeded the voice of a man like that.
Joshua wanted more time, an extra day, to fulfill the Lord’s determined will. The Lord fought for Israel and Joshua fought for the Lord. It’s exciting to see that when the Lord reveals His will, and His people are eager to obey, the only thing yet required is the time to do it. And God supplies the time!
For New Testament Christians, the apostles teach us to consider each day as time God has given to serve Him. Time is a valuable and limited resource. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is,” Ephesians 5:15-17.
It’s safe to say that Joshua understood what the will of the Lord was in his day (Joshua 10:8).
So, it’s not beyond Christians to understand what the will of the Lord is either. The Scriptures teach us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What remains for us to attain is an attitude of faith like Joshua. An attitude that says, “I will spend today serving God. I will not procrastinate but I will ask God to give me all the time necessary to accomplish His will. And if I get another day – even an extra day – I will use it in the same way: for the glory of God.”
Make the most of your leap day, make the most of every day!
By Andrew Roberts
Have you ever met someone whose perseverance through their own struggles motivated you to do better?
For me, it was Angela, a 33 year old Christian with Down’s syndrome whom I met while preaching in the Birmingham area. Though she only came up to my shoulder she had a personality that was bigger than life. Angela was nearly the first person who shook my hand the morning I arrived at the church building. She marched right up and greeted me with a bright smile, saying, “You must be Andrew Roberts. I am looking forward to your sermons.” Then she quickly returned to her pew. She greeted me every night of that week-long preaching meeting.
There were interactive outlines for my sermons during the week but Angela would not take one. She told the ushers, “No. I don’t want it. I take my own notes.” Then on Friday night, after the last service, she handed me a stack of papers. She said, “Here are your sermons. And I want you to have them.” As I looked down, I realized that she had handwritten nearly everything I’d said in each sermon!
I was overwhelmed at her perseverance because I understood that every aspect of the note-taking process was more difficult for her. She truly endured. From her fine motor skills, to her cognitive ability, to her visual acuity – everything was just a little harder. And I treasure those papers as a testament to her faith and a poignant example of endurance.
The Hebrew writer admonishes: we all need endurance. “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:36). Endurance is necessary to “do the will of God” (Hebrews 10:36), “live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38), and “run the race set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). We need endurance because doing, living, and running won’t happen accidentally. Furthermore, we need endurance because we don’t know how long we must continue doing, living, and running. Will we serve God faithfully for the next 60 years? Will Jesus return tomorrow?
What exhausts our endurance? The book of Hebrews shows Christians who began running their race amidst great struggles. Hebrews 10:32-34 recounts how, as new converts, they were mocked, imprisoned, lost property, and shared their goods with persecuted saints. Yet, according to Hebrews 10:23-25, those same Christians currently wavered about their confession and rarely assembled with the saints. They used to go to jail for Jesus and now they won’t even go to church!
Without endurance, Christians “draw back to perdition” (Hebrews 10:38-39). Being burdened and ensnared in sin, they cease to run their race (Hebrews 12:1).
So, what encourages endurance?
The Hebrew writer directed Christians to follow good examples of faith and endurance. First, they were reminded that faith fuels endurance through many Old Testament examples (Hebrews 11). Then they were directed to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2-3)! Jesus is the primary example of perseverance for the prize. Finally, they needed to consider their leaders and spiritual forebears (Hebrews 6:12; 13:7). These all received God’s promises.
The Bible recounts God’s faithfulness in the past and promises for the future. It makes the case for endurance today. Furthermore, we benefit from the good examples of leaders in the church or beloved elderly saints who’ve shaped us and endured in the faith.
Endurance is rewarded in receiving God’s “promise” (Hebrews 10:36) – “the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39). We can endure! What helps is time spent reading Scripture, an intent focus on Jesus, and meeting saints like Angela who, themselves, persevere.
By Andrew Roberts
Confession time: I know I don’t always give “the perfect gift” to my loved ones. My family is so gracious, I’ve probably missed even more often than I realize.
Even with the best of intentions, I’ve fallen short in creativity or attention to detail. My second-guessing and insecurity about this is heightened during the holidays, so I save receipts. They can always exchange a gift when it is the wrong color, wrong size, or otherwise unwanted. And there are no hard feelings about it. I’ve chosen to exchange gifts myself. Haven’t we all?
But God is not this sort of gift-giver. Rather, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Our good Father gives us exactly what we need when we need it (Matthew 7:11). There are no genuine exchanges for something better. Better gifts do not exist! In fact, only deception, foolishness, or selfishness would move people to exchange God’s good gifts for the devil’s inferior and damnable knock-offs. Let’s notice three of God’s gifts that the Bible warns us never to exchange.
- Never Exchange the Truth of God for Lies. The Wise man advised his son, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it; Also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23). The apostle Paul explained that wicked, idolatrous societies have exchanged the gift of Truth for lies and reap the disastrous results. “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 1:24-25). God’s Word is Truth (John 17:17) and Scripture is the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Perhaps we fail to recognize that every word from God is a gift from Him, the gift of Truth. The Bible is a good and perfect gift from God.
- Never Exchange The Faith for Worldly Philosophies. There is only one faith, one gospel, and the doctrine of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:5; Galatians 1:6-9; 2 John 9-10). Paul exhorted the young minister Timothy to guard the faith and don’t exchange it for fashionable worldly philosophies. “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge – by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20-21). Likewise, Christians at Colosse were warned. “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Let us respect Christianity as it is revealed in Scripture and not attempt to wed it to worldly philosophies or discard it in favor of man-made religions. The Faith is a good and perfect gift from God.
- Never Exchange Salvation for Sin. The greatest gift that God gives us is salvation in Jesus Christ. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). This gift is priceless because it is only obtainable by the precious death of Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:26; 1 Peter 1:18-21). Yet Temptation often offers us something in exchange for our salvation. The Hebrew writer warns Christians to view temptation to sin like Moses, these things are only “passing pleasures” and not worth exchanging our eternal reward (Hebrews 11:24-26). Furthermore, learn from Esau not to be shortsighted by the selfishness of the flesh to exchange our birthright of salvation (Hebrews 12:15-17). Salvation is a good and perfect gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-10).
God only gives perfect gifts. He doesn’t include gift receipts. The devil tries to fool us into thinking he can make an exchange for something better. But remember that no matter how Sin wraps the package, it only contains error, apostasy, and death (James 1:14-15). Never exchange God’s good gifts for that.
By Andrew Roberts