Are you smarter than salmon?

Three years ago, my family and I were able to visit the wonderful state of Washington for the first time. Among the many amazing things to see there, are the famous Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, Mount Saint Helens, and the Ballard Locks. The Ballard Locks was especially interesting. These locks sit at the west end of Salmon Bay, Seattle. Their purpose is to prevent the mixing of sea water with the fresh water of the lakes. They also serve as an elevator for boats travelling from the fresh water to the salt water (and vice versa).

Integrated in the locks is a fish ladder. This fish ladder helps with the migration of anadromous fish, notably salmon. The salmon hatch in lakes, rivers or streams; they then migrate to the sea, and then towards the end of their lives they return to the fresh water (where they were born) to spawn. Simply put, the fish ladder allows a way of passage for adult salmon to move from salt water to fresh water so they can continue their life cycle. If it wasn’t for the fish ladder, these salmon would eventually die off because they wouldn’t be able to go back home to reproduce.

At the Ballard Locks there is actually a place where you can view these fish as they pass through the ladder (the months of July and August are said to be the prime months to witness this). After spending much of their life in the sea, amazingly they are able to find their way to the ladder, pass through it, and return to where they were born. These salmon are so intelligent that they are able to remember their true home and even find their way back there before attempting to reproduce.

What about us? Are we as smart as salmon? Like salmon,  do we understand where we come from and where we are going? These are things that God expects us know.

1.   God expects us to know where we come from. He expects us to know that we are His creation. In fact, we are His greatest creation. Unlike salmon or any other animal, God created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27).

Part of being made in the image of God means that we have eternity within us. It means that we have an eternal soul that will live on in eternity somewhere once it departs from this earthly body (Ecclesiastes 12:7; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10).

It also means that we have free-moral agency. Unlike animals we have the ability to choose right from wrong. We can either choose to serve God and enjoy His blessings or choose to rebel against God and experience terrible consequences (Joshua 24:14-15). The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was placed in the Garden of Eden so that the very first man and woman (Adam and Eve) could exercise this marvelous ability (Genesis 2:15-17).

All of this means that God made us special. He made us unique and superior to anything else. Do we appreciate this? If so, then we need to acknowledge it by living our lives everyday serving our Creator and bringing Him glory (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). God being our Creator means He has the inherent right to tell us what to do and we have an obligation to obey the instructions He has given.

2.  God also expects us to know where we are going after this life. Do you know this? The Bible says you can!

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).

Notice how the Apostle John knew where he was going after this life. We can as well! When we obey the gospel we can KNOW that we are right with God and on the path to be with Him for eternity. Unlike salmon we are going to live on after this life. Unlike salmon we are pursuing something more than an earthly home (John 14:1-6).

While it was fascinating to see salmon travel through the fish ladder back to where they were born, unfortunately only a few ever make it that far. Of the hundreds and hundreds that spent their adult lives at sea, only a relatively small number make it back home. Most are eaten by predators or fall for the bait of fishermen. But hopefully we can learn from those who do make it back. Hopefully we can be at least as smart as they are and always remember who we are and where we are going.

– Shawn Jeffries

The Quest for Eternal Life

Qin Shi Huang was the First Emperor of a unified China. He ruled from 246 to 210 BC. As emperor, Huang unified China for the first time.  He promoted both incredible and intellectual growth within China, and created magnificent and enormous construction projects (one being the first section of what would become the Great Wall of China).

Huang is also well known in history for going on a quest for eternal life on this earth. As he reached middle age, he grew more and more afraid of death. He actually became obsessed with finding a way to live forever. He had his doctors concoct a number of potions for him to drink (many of which contained mercury). His “immortality treatments” would actually lead to his death about a year later.

It is important to understand that the quest for eternal life is not wrong. In fact, had the emperor searched the scriptures he would have known how to obtain it. He would have known that while it is impossible for any person to live on this earth forever (Hebrews 9:27), if one submits to the will of Jesus, they can experience eternal life in heaven.

  • “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  • “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.” (John 6:27)
  • “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-28)
  • Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
  • “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)
  • “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)

Emperor Huang’s main mistake was not in seeking for eternal life. It was in trying to obtain it apart from submitting to Jesus. Let us learn from his mistake! Let us understand that Jesus is the true source of eternal life. He is the ONLY way to heaven (John 14:6). He is the Son of God. He is the Christ. He is the One who by being raised on the third day conquered death once and for all (Revelation 1:17-18)!

The question is: Are you willing to live for the One who is able to give you eternal life?

– Shawn Jeffries

The Answers to Life’s Greatest Questions

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

Are You Still Thinking about the Resurrection?

The national holiday of Easter is over, but are you still thinking about Jesus? Are you still thinking about His resurrection?

Unfortunately, for many “Christians” the only time they think about the risen Savior and attend worship service is on Easter Sunday. This idea is completely foreign to the New Testament! In the gospel we read about the early Christians coming together every first day of the week (Sunday) to worship God. Every Sunday they came together to remember the death of Jesus and by implication, His resurrection from the dead. They remembered these events by partaking of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; Acts 20:7).

But even beyond remembering the Lord’s resurrection on Sunday, God expects us to remember the resurrection of His Son all the time. The Apostle Paul emphasizes this in the verse below.

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel.”

–  Timothy 2:8

Paul says that the resurrection needs to constantly be on the forefront of our minds each and every day. Every day…

  • We need to remember that the resurrection is the most the significant event not just in religious history, but in human history! It impacted the entire world!
  • We need to remember how it fulfilled a promise made by Jesus. Jesus foretold that He would be killed by evil men and raised three days later (Mark 10:33-34).
  • We need to remember that through, it Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God, was verified (Romans 1:4). It verified that Jesus has the power to save us from our sins.
  • We need to remember how He was seen alive by hundreds of eyewitnesses (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).
  • We need to remember how many of the eyewitnesses risked their lives testifying to others about what they saw (Acts 2:23-24, 32; 4:10).
  • We need to remember how it confirms that there is coming a Judgment Day and Jesus will be our judge (Acts 17:30-31).
  • We need to remember how it validates the preaching of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:14).
  • We need to remember how it validates our faith (1 Corinthians 15:17).
  • We need to remember how it gives hope to those who die in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:18).
  • We need to remember how it is the core of the gospel message (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Without the resurrection of Christ there is no legitimate reason for one to become a Christian!

As you can see, the importance of the resurrection cannot be overstated. Because of what it means and provides for us, it must be constantly in and on our minds.

Easter may be over. Sunday may still be a few days away. Be the significance of the resurrection still remains! Will you make sure to be ever mindful of it?

– Shawn Jeffries

 

When Heaven Rejoices

On Monday night they did it again! For the sixth time in their history the North Carolina Tar Heels won the NCAA National Championship. They beat Gonzaga 71-65 in the title game.

If you are a Tar Heels fan, then you probably didn’t sleep much last night. You probably spent much of the night celebrating and rejoicing over your team winning the big game. While there was nothing wrong with that, it is interesting to consider the things that excite us and cause us to rejoice and celebrate.

  • For many (like me) sports does this. When their favorite team wins the championship they jump; they shout; they scream; they high-five. They buy the championship t-shirt and hat. They watch the big game over and over again on their DVR. They brag and boast to their friends on Facebook.
  • Other people are excited about musical concerts. When they attend one they will applaud and celebrate over the sound of a person’s music.
  • And still others get very excited when they experience a personal achievement. Whether it is getting a promotion on their job. Or, hearing news about a pregnancy. Or, hearing someone accept an offer they made on a house.

In life we can find ourselves celebrating over a variety of different things. But what about God? What about those in heaven? What causes them to celebrate?

While this may sound like a weird question, it is one that Jesus addresses in the gospel. In Luke 15 Jesus talks about three instances when people celebrated.

  • In verses 3-7, He talks about the shepherd who has 100 sheep. When he loses one he searches diligently until he finds it. When it is found, he rejoices and urges his neighbors to do the same.
  • In verses 8-9, He talks about a woman who loses a coin that is very precious to her. She searches diligently and carefully until she finds it. When it is found, she calls her friends and neighbors together saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I lost!”
  • In verses 11-32, He talks about a father who loses his son. His son wanted his inheritance early so he could go out into the world and waste it on sinful living. When the boy comes to his senses and returns home the father rejoices and throws a huge celebration.

Why did Jesus tell these stories? The answer is found in verses 7 and 10. Jesus uses these stories (parables) to illustrate how God and His angels respond when one sinner repents. While the world celebrates sports, concerts, and personal achievements, those in heaven celebrate when a sinner comes to God. Those in heaven throw a party when a lost soul humbly decides to seek God’s forgiveness. That is what matters most to God!

What about you? Have you given heaven a reason to rejoice? If not, will you? If you currently live a life of sin (a life which is outside of the will of God) will you stop and come to God? If you will, like the lost boy’s father, your heavenly Father will also accept and welcome you. The angels will celebrate the reunion. They will take special notice of your decision and throw a party in heaven!

Will you give heaven the opportunity to rejoice over the most important matter in the world?

– Shawn Jeffries

Sunday’s Are Always Super

Yesterday marked one of the most important days of the year for many people in this country. At 5:30 central time the New England Patriots faced off with the Atlanta Falcons for the biggest prize (the Lombardi trophy) in the biggest game (the Super Bowl). The NFL’s Super Bowl is a HUGE deal in the minds of many. It is the largest single day sporting event in the world (over 1 billion people will view this game on television worldwide). Of the top 10 most watched American television programs of all time nine of them are Super Bowls. Commercials sell for about $5 million per 30 seconds!

While Sunday is deemed “super” for many people, for Christians every Sunday is super. Every Sunday is extremely significant for Christians, not because of some sporting event, but because of the key events that happened on this day 2,000 years ago.

  • It was on a Sunday (the first day of the week) when our Lord Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to many of His disciples (John 20:1-18). The resurrection lies at the very foundation of the Christian faith. If Jesus was not raised that Sunday morning He was nothing more than a liar and deceiver (Matthew 16:21; John 2:19-22). If Jesus was not raised than that means that God the Father was not pleased with His sacrifice and we are still lost in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:13-19). But thank God that the tomb was found empty on Sunday morning! Praise the Lord that on the first day of the week Jesus was found to be victorious over Satan and death! As someone once said, “When Jesus rose from the dead He transformed your tomb from a permanent residence to temporary housing.”
  • Sunday was also the day when the Lord’s church was established. Jesus promised to build a church (a universal body of saved people) in Matthew 16:18. In Acts 2:1 we learn that it was on Pentecost when this promise was fulfilled. Pentecost was a Jewish feast day under the Law of Moses. It took place 50 days after the Jews partook of the Passover. It also always took place on the first day of the week (Sunday). That means it was on a Sunday when the Lord began “adding to the church day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
  • Since the resurrection and establishment of the church took place on Sunday, it would only make sense to find Sunday being significant to Christians in the Bible. It would only make sense that we find saints coming together on Sunday to partake of the Lord’s Supper and give generously to God (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2). It would only make sense that Sunday is a day of worship where God’s people gather to hear preaching, pray, and sing praises to God.

Let us be mindful of these things as we anticipate each Sunday. Let us always remember that Sunday is the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10). It is a day when disciples gather to worship God and encourage each other (Hebrews 10:23-25). It is a day when saints are reminded of many important things pertaining to their faith.

There is nothing wrong with watching the Super Bowl. But let us not get so absorbed in the hype surrounding the biggest game of the year that we forget what really makes Sunday super.

– Shawn Jeffries

Freedom

We live in troubled times. It appears that our country is more divided than it has been in a long time. After our current president was sworn in last Friday, millions of Americans spent the weekend protesting their displeasure. In major cities across the country there were people marching and loudly voicing their displeasure for the direction of the country.

It is certainly discouraging to see how divided we are. In fact, if we just spent an hour watching the news over the past few days, we might think that we live in one of the worst countries in the world. But the truth is, despite all the protest (despite all the anger and pessimism of many) we still live in the greatest country in the world! Our country is great because we have something of great importance and yet it is often taken for granted. We have freedom.

  • Freedom to choose our own path. We live in a country where we can not only dream big, but we can move towards achieving those dreams. We can be doctors and lawyers. We can own businesses. We can be teachers and engineers. We can work hard and accumulate wealth. Our children can get educated and aspire to be whatever they want.
  • Freedom to go anywhere at any time. You need to go to Walmart today? You need to visit someone in their home? You want to go to the mall in Cool Springs, or even to visit New York or California? If you have the resources and the time, go! In this country you have the freedom to go anywhere you want at any time. It is totally up to you.
  • Freedom to vote. I know millions are not happy with the outcome of the recent election (the truth is every election has a group of unhappy folks), but what a blessing it is to have a say in our political process. What a blessing it is to be able to vote and choose our leaders. I have been many places where the people did not have the privilege of voting. In some cases they may have been allowed to vote, but if they didn’t vote a certain way they could be arrested or even killed!
  • Freedom of religion. There are Christians across the globe who would do anything to have this privilege. Our brethren in the first century would have loved to have had this privilege. Instead many of them were arrested, beaten, and killed for their faith (Acts 4:18-20, 23-31; Revelation 2:13). We have the privilege of being able to get up on Sunday morning to go and worship God without fear of any kind of interference from our government. In fact, we have the protected right to worship in our country! We have the protected right to teach the Bible and spread the gospel to others! Unfortunately, so often many struggle with taking advantage of this privilege.

Regardless of whether the person you voted for won or not, don’t lose sight of the blessings of freedom. Don’t take for granted how wonderful it is to live in a free country! Millions of people in the world would do anything to have all the freedoms that come with being an American.

The question is: do you have the freedom that Jesus died to give you? Jesus didn’t die so you can have the freedom that comes with being an American citizen. Jesus died so you can be set free from sin (Romans 5:8-10; 6:17-18). There are many Americans who have all the freedoms mentioned above, but they are still slaves of the terrible master of sin (John 8:34). As a result, they will die lost in their sins (John 8:24). Don’t let that be you! Surrender to Jesus. Obey the truth because only it can set you free (John 8:32).

– Shawn Jeffries