One of my favorite science-fiction series is Thomas Harlan’s _In the Time of the Sixth Sun_. It gets lots of cool points from me. I enjoy the spacefaring-Aztecs backstory of the trilogy (which interacts with and informs the plot in all sorts of interesting ways), but most of all, I like the aliens. Harlan’s aliens are truly alien. 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
Where do you go to find the answers to the greatest questions of life? Unfortunately, many go looking for answers in the wrong places.
When it comes to the question of our origin, many listen to the atheist. This person says you came from nothing and will return to nothing.
When it comes to trying to find the purpose and meaning of life, many turn to philosophers. These men offer a wide range of answers, but ultimately none of them satisfy. They all vary from one philosopher to the next.
When it comes to trying to figure out where we are going after this life, many put their trust in the words of the atheists, agnostics, or even those who promote reincarnation. The atheist says there is nothing after this life. This life is all you have and afterwards you cease to exist. The agnostic is unsure and says there is no way to know for sure if there is more to come after this life. The people who believe in reincarnation insist that once you die you will come back to the earth in a different body.
People who look to find answers to life’s greatest questions in these places are wasting their time. None of these places can provide the truthful answers. The only source that can provide truthful answers is the Bible! The Bible is only book in the world to be produced by God Himself (2 Timothy 3:16).
- The Bible tells us of our origin. It tells us that we didn’t just get here by chance. Instead we were made by the all-powerful Creator of the universe (Genesis 2:7). We were made more special and superior than anything else (Genesis 1:27). Since God made us, He has authority over us and we are accountable to Him.
- The Bible tells us of our purpose. It tells us why God made and put us on this earth. We were not put here to do whatever we please. Instead, we were made to please and serve God (Ecclesiastes 12:13). We were made to bring God glory and be in fellowship with Him (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 10:31). We were made to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-39). According to the Bible, our lives have true purpose and meaning!
- The Bible tells us where we are going. It tells us of our destiny after this life. Unlike what the atheist says, this life is not all there is (John 11:25-26). Instead, there is much more to come! Since we were created in the image of God, we have an eternal soul. Where we go after this life depends on if we do God’s will. After this life, we will either live in eternity in the glories of heaven or the horrors of hell (Matthew 7:21-23; 25:31-46). We can have absolute confidence because Jesus was raised from the dead (1 Peter 1:3-5). In fact, it is this reality that should motivate us to serve God with all our hearts!
These are the answers that the Bible provides to the great questions of life. When we accept what the Bible says, we find deep satisfaction within and our entire perspective of life is impacted. Our lives are now given meaning and purpose. We now have motivation to keep doing good and press forward, even when life starts to get rough.
Will you believe and put your trust in God’s answers to life’s greatest questions?
– Shawn Jeffries
Only twelve people have been able to successfully travel to the moon. Only three people have been able to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot on the ocean floor. There have been more people on the moon than on the bottom of the ocean!
From this we see that there are limitations in what we are able to do and where we are able to go. For us to be able to travel to the moon and reach the bottom of the ocean takes huge effort and resources. But with God that is not the case! There are no limitations to where God is able to be. He is omni-present. He is able to be everywhere all the time. He is able to see and keep record of all we do!
Consider several verses that announce this truth:
“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
The omni-presence of God should impact us in two ways:
First, this reality should comfort us. The fact that God is able to be everywhere all the time means that there is never a moment when He is not with us (Matthew 28:20). There may be times when people leave us and forsake us, but God never will (2 Timothy 4:16-17). Even though we can’t see God with the naked eye (because He is spirit according to John 4:24), He is there. Even though He dwells in heaven (John 14:2), His presence is always with us. He sees what we are doing; He hears our prayers; He is fully capable of helping us in our lives.
Second, this reality should also put some godly fear in our hearts. Since God is capable of being everywhere and is watching all we do, that means there is nothing we can hide from Him. He knows the words we speak, the things we are watching, and how we are treating others. God is aware of all we do and He will hold us accountable for our actions (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). This is something Joseph understood while living as a slave in Egypt (Genesis 39:9). Unfortunately, Ananias and Sapphira had to learn this the hard way (Acts 5:1-11).
The fact that God is able to be everywhere and see all is just another quality He possesses that makes Him so great! The challenge for us is to be mindful of this all the time. If we are constantly aware of the presence of God, we will be lifted up in our dark moments and ever mindful of how our actions impact our relationship with Him.
– Shawn Jeffries
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
I felt, with many believers, frustration and righteous indignation at the recent New York Daily News cover story. “Prayer” is disdained as mere platitudes and God (along with those who look to Him for guidance, comfort, and protection from evil) is mocked. The headline suggests that God is absent or aloof when people are “lying in pools of blood.” Ironically, those with the courage to publicly affirm their faith in God and call for prayer are denounced as cowards. These are the times when Christians have a lot of praying to do – especially for their enemies (Matthew 5:44-45).
“GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.” What an ideology. What a message. If hurting families are robbed of the spiritual solace and support of their neighbor’s prayers, what is left? If the sovereign, holy God will not right all wrongs on His Day of Reckoning, what is left? If all our hope and future rests solely on the shoulders of mere men – elected officials – and their proper governance, what is left?
This incendiary message amounts to a bold public confession of despair. The Bible says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Yet when we are overcome by evil, the result is despair.
- If you begrudge prayers for victim’s families, you have despaired.
- If you blame God for the evil actions of men, you have despaired. (This statement is in recognition that the God these politicians are invoking is not the same one that Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook were serving with their assault rifles. The Muslim shooters were acting in accordance with the written decrees of their god and so he reasonably shares some culpability.)
- If you conclude that the highest power in heaven and earth is mankind, well, how could you not despair? Evil has overcome you.
Evil will overcome us…
- Evil will overcome us if we try to overcome evil with government. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” so the government better. The government can “end [the] gun scourge.” The government can fix everything, right? The government has omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, right? The government can save us, right? The Bible says, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!” (Isaiah 31:1; cf. Psalm 20:7). Ancient Israel made the mistake of looking to government (either their own or national allies) instead of God to deliver them from evil. The prophet encountered the-“GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS”-message in his day and made clear that impressive horses and chariots cannot overcome evil. Don’t put your trust there. Government cannot overcome evil. If this is the plan, then, “Hello, Despair.”
- Evil will overcome us if we try to overcome evil with another law. Obviously the answer to the murders in San Bernardino is another law restricting gun ownership. At least that’s where the New York Daily News seemed to be going with their piece. It’s just so logical: If law-abiding citizens can no longer purchase guns then law-breaking murderers will not possibly acquire them either.
My point here isn’t so much about gun control. A person can become a Christian, faithfully serve God, and go to Heaven whether their nation allows them the right to bear arms or not. My point is about law, in general. We are inviting despair if we think a stricter law or more laws will overcome evil – any laws. Law has never delivered people from evil. People break laws! Law would overcome evil only if it was kept perfectly (Galatians 3:10; James 2:10-11). Whether we are talking about the U.S. Constitution, the Law of Moses, or the Law of Christ, only Jesus Christ has ever kept a law perfectly, none of the rest of us. Jesus Christ can overcome evil but another law in our justice system cannot. Of course we need law and order and government has a role ordained by God (Romans 13:1-7). A law names and convicts evil. But if another law or a harsher law is our answer to overcome evil… “Hello, Despair.” Somebody will break the new law too, eventually.
- Evil will overcome us if we try to overcome evil without God. In Romans 1 we read of a society that knew God but rejected Him. They chose willful ignorance of the true God. What does that look like? “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality…murder…deceit, evil-mindedness…haters of God, violent, proud…inventors of evil things…unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful…” (Romans 1:28-31). It looks like San Bernardino and a myriad of other reports on the evening News.
What do you think? Are parents talking about God to their children, so that they might “retain God in their knowledge”? Do the halls of Academia “retain God in their knowledge” as they present either science or the humanities to educate our populace? Do public officials or religious leaders “retain God in their knowledge” when they preach to the masses that all gods and religions are basically the same and thus shape public opinion and policy?
Surely it can’t be both ways. If we ignore, forget, or despise God then we cannot decry “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.” We are overcome with evil. “Hello, Despair.”
Yet evil is overcome with good (Romans 12:21). Friend, there is no good without God (Matthew 19:16-17; James 1:16-17).
- Evil is overcome with God by the gospel. Governments and laws won’t overcome evil but the gospel can. The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). The gospel changes our state with God and justifies us by forgiving our sins based on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-26; 5:6-11). A sinner dies to sin and gets a new life when they are baptized (immersed in water) and buried into Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-14). Their heart is changed. Their mind is renewed. Their life is transformed from the world around them (Romans 12:1-2)… a world currently intent on forgetting God. Evil is overcome by God, not false religions, not governments, not laws, and not practical atheism. His plan to overcome evil by defeating Sin is the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:27). Evil is overcome one soul at a time as they respond to the gospel.
- Evil is overcome with God by prayer. I don’t know if I will vote for any of the men on the cover of this paper. I don’t know if any of them will even be on the ballot by the time elections roll around. But they got it right when they asked a nation to pray for neighbors and victims. Bible believers know to pray for the hurting, their leaders, pray for peace, pray for all the saints, pray for boldness, and pray for their enemies (1 Timothy 2:1-4; Ephesians 6:18-20; Acts 4:29; Philippians 4:6-7; Matthew 5:44-45). They also know to keep praying during dark times (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
- Evil is overcome with God by love. God loves sinners and Jesus died to redeem them regardless of how they have sinned (John 3:16). You and I are no more sinless than Muslim terrorists or the editors at New York Daily News. We are all equally lost apart from God’s love and gracious salvation. Love is shown and known when it touches the despairing. The gospel of Jesus Christ is what people need to hear right now. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” is a bold confession of despair. Let Christians hear it for what it is – an angry and rebellious child pushing away the only parent whose love can make things better. Aren’t our arms tired of pushing God away? Aren’t we ready to surrender our personal rebellions to God? We must come to God through the gospel of Jesus Christ who fixes us by His love and teaches us to love our neighbors also (Romans 13:8-10; Titus 2:11-14).
“Innocent Americans” are not “left lying in pools of blood” because there has been too much God in this society or too much prayer. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” is a bold confession of despair, especially when the truth is so obvious – only God can fix this. Only the gospel changes people. The Bible – God’s Word – has the answers. Who will share it with others? Who will listen and respond?
By Andrew Roberts