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

A Literal Black Friday

Image result for darkness when jesus died on the cross

Did you do any shopping on Black Friday? Most Americans did. Black Friday is often regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Millions of people rush to the nearest Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, or Macy’s in order to find the best deals on big screen televisions, tablets, video game consoles, clothing, smart phones, Blue Ray/DVD players, and a host of other items. Each year I try to tell myself I won’t get involved with Black Friday, but the super deals and ability to save hundreds of dollars consistently changes my mind. I am a huge fan of getting more, while paying less!

Where did the term “Black Friday” come from? Many retailers are said to traditionally operate at a financial loss (“in the red”) from January to November. But Black Friday indicates the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit, or get “in the black.” For a store like Wal-Mart, their net income is positive starting on January 1, and Black Friday can boost their year to date net profit from $14 billion to $19 billion. I always thought the name “Black Friday” was given due to aggressive crowds in many stores. There is just something negative about annual reports of assaults, shootings, and throngs of people trampling on other shoppers in an attempt to get the best deal on the product they want before it runs out.

Our culture is obsessed with the Friday after Thanksgiving. But did you know there is a “Black Friday” in the Bible? Don’t misunderstand. There wasn’t a day when hundreds of Jews went to a Macy’s or Wal-Mart to purchase expensive products for half the price. But there was a Friday in which the land of Judea was literally dark for hours because God’s plan to save us from our sins was at work.

Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.

Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

                                                                                                            – Matthew 27:41-46

Although the death of the perfect and sinless Son of God provided a literal dark time on the face of the earth, spiritually men had never seen anything brighter. Because of sin, every person of an accountable age deserves to be lost in hell forever (Romans 3:23; 6:23). But through the death of Jesus the penalty for our sins was paid (Romans 5:6-9). Now we can be reconciled to God and be saved. This is only made possible because 2,000 years ago Deity stepped out of heaven, walked on this earth, lived a perfect life, and gave Himself as a sin sacrifice.

What a paradox we find at the cross! What happened at the cross was the darkest moment in human history (a literal black Friday). And yet, mankind has never seen a brighter moment. While men are killing the Son of God He was giving the most wonderful gift ever given to man – the gift of salvation. While there is nothing wrong with shopping on the day our culture calls “Black Friday,” never forget to thank God for the events that took place on that Friday 2,000 years ago.

– Shawn Jeffries

 

Just Do It!

One of the best slogans in advertising is that of the shoe company Nike. Since 1988 their slogan has been “Just do it.” It often appears alongside the Nike “swoosh” logo.

Nike’s slogan actually has an interesting backstory. Advertising executive Dan Wieden credits his inspiration for it to the last words of Gary Wilmore. Gary Wilmore was someone who several decades ago gained international notoriety because he was the first person in 10 years to be executed under the death penalty in the United States. Convicted on 2 counts of murder, Gilmore was executed by firing squad in 1977 in Utah. When asked for any last words, Gilmore replied with three words: “Just do it.”

Interestingly enough, not only does the principle of Gilmore’s last words make for a good slogan for Nike, but they also accurately define what our lives should be all about when it comes to responding to Bible teaching. When it comes to responding to God’s word, God wants us to “just do it!”

This is something that is emphasized by the inspired writer James.

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”                   – James 1:22-25

Do the words of James describe you? Are you a doer of God’s word? Or, are you someone who merely hears and is living a life of deception?

  • Do you constantly hear sermons and teaching from the Bible, but never personally apply the things you are learning? Or, are you someone who hears and applies like those Peter preached to in Jerusalem on Pentecost (Acts 2:36-38, 41)?
  • Do you read your Bible several times a day, but constantly fail to make application? Or, are you someone who reads, grows in knowledge, and makes an effort to be transformed and changed by the things you are reading (Psalm 119:9-11; 2 Corinthians 5:17)?
  • Do you faithfully go to worship services and Bible classes, but fail to be faithful to the Lord? Or, are you someone who strives to please and glorify God 24 hours a day and 7 days a week (Luke 9:23; Colossians 1:10)?
  • Do you constantly do your Bible lesson before going to class, but fail to live the things you have learned? Or, are you someone who does a Bible lesson with the strong intent of making application to the godly principles you are learning?

The Bible is very clear in how we should be able to answer these questions. Instead of being merely hearers and readers of God’s word, God demands that we be doers! God demands that we understand that hearing His word will do us no good if we don’t apply it to our lives.

Will you challenge yourself to be both a hearer and a doer? After learning something from the Bible, you will always make sure you take action and apply it to your life? Being this kind of person will lead to blessings in your life (James 1:25). Being this kind of person will determine what words you will hear from Jesus on the Judgment Day (Matthew 7:21).

– Shawn Jeffries

 

Optimism Vs. Pessimism

In life there are two kinds of people. There are the pessimistic and the optimistic.

The pessimistic are those who always have a negative attitude about life. They live with the mindset of “Woe is me! Nobody knows the troubles I have seen! Nobody knows my sorrows!” With every problem that comes their way they always expect the worst possible outcome. They are always sad and unhappy with life and they want others to feel the same way.

The optimistic are the opposite. These are the people who have a positive attitude about life. They anticipate good outcomes; they are happy and upbeat; they walk around with a smile on their face and want to help others do the same.

Which kind of person are you? Are you pessimistic or optimistic? The latter experiences so many blessings in life.

  • He enjoys more godly companionship. Do you like being around pessimistic people? Do you like being around someone who is always negative and always looking for the worst in every situation? I don’t! In fact, when I am I find myself quickly becoming negative myself. Their pessimistic energy finds a way to spread to others. I don’t think Jesus would have “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” if He was that kind of person (Luke 2:52). Even during very difficult times Jesus tried to lift the spirits of others. Jesus didn’t have a troubled heart and He didn’t want His followers to have one either (John 14:1-6).
  • He is always at peace despite his circumstances. Paul is a great example of a man who exemplifies this. While being stuck in a Roman jail cell, just because he was a servant of Jesus and preached the gospel, Paul could have easily been a negative person. He could have easily developed a mindset that life was unfair and God was not with him. But he didn’t. Instead he looked for the positives that could come from his bad condition and he continued giving glory to God (Philippians 1:12-14). He continued being content and thankful for the blessings he did have (Philippians 4:10-12). How could Paul be full of joy despite being unfairly locked up in prison (Philippians 1:4)? How could Paul still say what he does in Philippians 4:13? Because his treasures where stored in the right place (Philippians 2:21; Matthew 6:21).
  • He is more effective in bringing others to God. Every disciple has a responsibility to try to bring lost souls to Jesus (Matthew 28:19; 1 Peter 2:9-10). The first step to effective evangelism is living a righteous life before others (Matthew 5:13-16). We can’t expect to sell people on the blessings of being a Christian if we are always negative and pessimistic. When non-believers look at our lives they need to see something different about us. They need to see how happy being a child of God makes us. This may prompt them to ask us questions about our faith. They may say, “I want what they have. I want to have that same kind of joy and peace in my life.” In fact, Paul says that being a grumbler and complainer can actually hinder the work of evangelism (Philippians 2:14-16).
  • He is stronger in his faith. In the time of Moses, after going into the Promised Land for forty days, why did ten of the spies come back with a pessimistic report (even though God told them He would give them the land)? Answer: because of a lack of faith! By contrast, why did Joshua and Caleb come back with an optimistic and positive report? Answer: because they had strong faith! (See Numbers 13 and 14) From these examples we see that our faith in God is directly tied to our attitude about life. Those who have faith in God won’t look for the worst in every possible situation. Instead they will focus on what they can control and leave the rest to God (Matthew 6:25-33).

Today let’s focus on being a positive and optimistic people. Let’s ask God through prayer to help shape us into these kind of people. Let’s see firsthand how living this way can not only change our attitude about life, but it can make us happier and very pleasant people to be around.

– Shawn Jeffries

Eight Blessings from Jesus

Jesus’ sermon on the mount is probably the most well-known sermon in all the Bible. It consists of three chapters in the gospel of Matthew (5-7) and it contains some of the most radical teaching the world has ever known. Here Jesus instructs His disciples to love and pray for their enemies (5:43-44). He says that not only is the physical act of adultery wrong, but so is looking upon another with lust (5:27-30). He says that hate and animosity towards a brother is just as wrong as murder (5:21-24). In this sermon Jesus sets a very high moral standard.

In fact, one of the things that make this sermon so challenging to the hearer is that right at the beginning Jesus targets the source of all man’s actions – his heart! As He begins this famous sermon the Lord announces the blessings that will come upon those who develop eight specific godly qualities in their hearts.

  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). In this context the “poor in spirit” are those who recognize the need for God in their lives. It is those who humbly seek God’s love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. It is those who understand that they don’t deserve the wonderful gift of salvation that God offers to all mankind (Titus 2:11). God rewards the poor in spirit with eternal life in heaven.
  • “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). There are many things in life that cause us to mourn (the death of a loved one, the regret we feel after we do something wrong towards another, etc.), but here Jesus has something very specific in mind. What the Lord speaks of here connects back to the previous verse. Once awakened by our need for God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy, we should then feel an intense feeling of grief over our sins. We should mourn our sins because they hurt God and cut off our relationship with Him (Genesis 6:5; Isaiah 59:1-2). King David is an example of someone who understood the value of mourning the negative impact of sin (Psalm 51:1-5).
  • “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Being gentle means that we are always going to be calm and considerate towards others. It means that we are always going to be careful when handling various situations with people, even when we are angry or provoked. Jesus was certainly someone who was humble and gentle in heart (Matthew 11:29).
  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). People who hunger and thirst for righteousness do more than grieve over their sins. They also long to be constantly fed with God’s word (Psalm 119:97). They worship God in spirit and truth on the first day of the week (John 4:24; Acts 20:7). They repent and turn away from sin (Luke 13:3). They obey Jesus’ command to be immersed for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16). When you hunger and thirst for righteousness, Jesus will make sure you are filled (John 6:35).
  • “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7). This quality means that we will not only have compassion towards the sufferings of others, but we will also be driven to relieve others of that suffering (see the example of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37). We can’t reasonably expect to receive God’s mercy if we are unwilling to exercise mercy on others (Matthew 18:21-35).
  • “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). It is true that we are to have morally pure hearts (Proverbs 4:23). But here in the context it appears that Jesus is talking about living a life where our hearts are consistent with our actions. He is talking about developing a real and genuine faith (2 Timothy 1:5). Only these people will get to one day see God. Those who live double lives (like the scribes and Pharisees at this time) will not!
  • “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Much of the disciple’s life is about striving for peace. We want to be at peace with God (Ephesians 2:14). We want to be at peace with fellow disciples (1 Thessalonians 5:13; Romans 14:19). We want to be at peace with all men (Romans 12:18). Striving for peace is one of the marks of a true child of God.
  • “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). This is probably the most shocking of all the qualities listed. It seems to deviate from the pattern Jesus has been following. It doesn’t describe the character we are to possess, but how others in the world will respond to our character if we follow Jesus. When we stand with Jesus some will mock, laugh, and ridicule us. But that is okay. God is watching and He will one day reward us for our commitment with something great in heaven (Matthew 5:11-12).

Do you have these eight qualities in your heart? If not, challenge yourself to develop and maintain them. According to Jesus, doing so will lead to some of the greatest blessings you could ever have in your life!

– Shawn Jeffries

Why Is It Important To Be A Christian?

This month 15 years ago 3,000 people tragically lost their lives in New York City. This occurred when members of the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda hijacked two airplanes and crashed them into the World Trade Center. This tragic event forced us to acknowledge and appreciate the fact that life is fragile. Any day could be our last. One moment we are here, but the next we could be gone. It doesn’t matter our age, color, gender, social or economic status, we could die at any moment.

Understanding this reality makes serving God so important (Ecclesiastes 12:13). It makes being a Christian so very important.

Are you a Christian? There are several valid and important reasons for one to become a Christian. Some of these include…

  • Doing the right thing in life. A Christian is one who is a follower of Jesus Christ. It is one who belongs to Christ and is a member of His church (Acts 11:26). It is one who is part of His spiritual family and is not afraid to suffer for His sake (1 Peter 4:16). There is no wiser decision one can make then to submit to the Savior, obey His commandments, and become His disciple.
  • Becoming a better person. Since Christians are people who are submitting to Christ, this means they strive to live by the moral code of God’s word. They abstain from alcohol (1 Peter 4:3). They don’t lie, steal, or use filthy language (Ephesians 4:25-29). They control their passions and refrain from any kind of sex outside of marriage (1 Corinthians 6:18). They pray for and forgive others (Ephesians 4:32). They seek to do good to all men (Galatians 6:10). The quality of Christians’ lives are lifted by the teachings of the gospel!
  • Becoming an influence for good. Since Christians strive to live by a high moral standard, this enables them to be a positive influence on others (Matthew 5:16). By the way Christians live they can motivate others to want to seek God and become part of His family as well.
  • Becoming better for your family. There is no religion on earth that upholds family values in the way that the gospel of Jesus does (Ephesians 5:22-6:4). The gospel teaches men how to be strong leaders for their families. It teaches women how to be great supporters to their husbands and mothers to their children. It teaches children how to be obedient and loyal to their parents. Christians have the potential to have the best family lives on the planet because they are following the instructions of the One who made the family in the beginning – God!
  • Receiving strength through trials. God offers His people (Christians) comfort and strength during difficult times (2 Corinthians 1:3). When going through rough moments, the Christian can be comforted knowing God is on his side. He can pray to God and have assurance that God will hear and attend to his pleas (Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Peter 5:7).

The things listed above are all important reasons for a person to become a Christian. But one reason that is equally important (and is often overlooked) is the fact that one day he is going to die. Death is one of the great equalizers in life (Hebrews 9:27) and if a person dies without being a Christian he is going to be in trouble!

People who are Christians don’t have to fear death. Instead they can eagerly look forward to it! Here are some reasons why:

  • Christians receive the full benefits of Jesus’ redemptive work because they have believed in Jesus (John 8:24), repented of sin (Acts 17:30-31) and have had their sins washed away by the blood of Jesus through immersion in water (Romans 6:1-4; Acts 22:16). Only Christians receive access to the great spiritual blessings of God (Ephesians 1:3).
  • Christians have dedicated themselves to Christ – the source of eternal life (Luke 9:23). He is their master and they are His sheep (John 10:1-10). He is their King and they are citizens in His kingdom (Colossians 1:13). He loves them and they reciprocate that love by obeying His commandments (John 14:15).
  • The Lord has promised to raise Christians from the dead in glory and take them back to heaven with Him when He returns (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Only Christians have this hope!
  • The Lord has also promised Christians rest and eternal life because they died in a right relationship with Him (Revelation 2:10; 14:13).

If you are not a Christian, you need to become one because one day you are going to die (it could be suddenly and unexpectantly like those on 9/11). Giving your life to Christ is the only way you can be guaranteed that everything is going to be okay when you die and far away from the fire of hell.

– Shawn Jeffries

An Overlooked Disaster

In the midst of covering the Olympics and drama of the political season, there has been a very important story that the media has failed to give proper attention to. It is the story of the recent Louisiana floods. A couple of weeks ago much of southern Louisiana began to experience prolonged rainfall. This resulted in catastrophic floods. The Louisiana governor called the floods “historic and unprecedented.” He also declared a state of emergency.

This natural disaster is said to be the worst in the country since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Over 60,000 homes have been flooded. Hundreds of families have been displaced, with many being forced to stay in shelters. Since the start of school, nearly 265,000 children have been out of school (nearly 30% of the school-aged population in the state). At least 13 people have died. Also, since much of the area that flooded was not in “high flood risk areas,” the majority of homeowners affected did not have flood insurance.

This is indeed a terrible situation for the people of southern Louisiana. But the question is, how are we to properly respond to this tragedy?

  • Be thankful. If we are not careful, we can find ourselves complaining all the time in life. We can be complaining about our job. We can be complaining about not having the biggest house or nicest car. We can be complaining about all we feel we are lacking in life. Instead of complaining, we need to be thankful. We need to be thankful that today we don’t have to worry about gutting our houses and casting our belongings to the side of the road. We need to be thankful that we haven’t been forced to separate from our families and live in shelters. We need to be thankful that our homes, cars, beds, and other valuable belongings weren’t recently destroyed because of flooding. We need to be thankful that we don’t have to start over in life. Many of the people in Louisiana lost everything they possessed. But today we get to be with our families in the comfort of our homes. This is indeed something to be thankful to God for (Colossians 4:2; Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:18).
  • Pray. When you talk to God today, don’t get so absorbed in asking God to focus on your own personal needs that you forget the people suffering in Louisiana. Pray that God will help them rebuild their lives and restore much of what they have lost. Pray that God give them daily bread (Luke 11:3). Pray that God will comfort them. Pray that through this time of suffering their hearts will be drawn closer to God. Pray that they will lean on and be fully dependent on God. Today, make prayers and supplications on behalf of those in need (Philippians 4:6).
  • Give. In fact, send a personal contribution if you can. Sending furniture and things like it will not do any good right now because these people have lost their homes. They have no place to store furniture at this time. What they do need is money for food and other immediate needs. Remember the words of Jesus in Acts 20:35.
  • Stay focused. Unfortunately, floods such as these are the result of living in a world contaminated by sin. Disasters such as these remind us that this world is imperfect and is full of troubles. But thank God, because Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead, that we can look forward to heaven (1 Peter 1:3-5! In heaven there will be no natural disasters, no floods, no death, no sorrow. Events such as this should lead us to developing the right perspective about life. They should lead us to desire heaven more than anything else because this world we live in now is full of troubles.

Disaster is something that can strike any of us anywhere and at any time. The danger of having to rebuild your life is always there. Let’s remember this as we seriously consider what we are able to do to help those suffering in Louisiana.

– Shawn Jeffries

The Truth About Judging

“Don’t judge me!” How often have you heard people say this before? It is often the case that when people say this they are making reference to the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1-2. But what exactly does Jesus mean when He says we are not to judge? Is He condemning all kinds of judging? Does He mean we can’t say certain things are wrong?

Consider two important things we need to understand here:

  1. First, in the context of Matthew 7:1-2, Jesus is NOT condemning all kinds of judging, but rather He is condemning a certain kind of judging. He is condemning hypocritical judging. This is made crystal clear in the next four verses (Matthew 7:3-6).
  • A hypocrite is a pretender or actor. Many of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day fit this description. They taught people to be holy and devoted to God, but they themselves were corrupt! Jesus condemned them for their hypocrisy (Matthew 23:13-15, 23-28).
  • It is this kind of behavior that Jesus is dealing with when He says, “Do not judge…” in Matthew 7:1. Here He is condemning the kind of judging where we are looking to find fault in others without first examining our own hearts and lives.
  • In order to avoid this kind of judging one needs to “first take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5a). In other words, before we start trying to help others with their problems, we first need to correct the problems we have in our lives.
  • Jesus says once we take the log out of our own eyes, then we will see clearly to take the speck out of someone else’s eye (Matthew 7:5).
  • When Jesus’ words are kept in their context, it is clear that He is not condemning all forms of judging. Instead He is condemning judging that is full of hypocrisy. He is condemning trying to find fault in others when we are currently doing the same or even worse.
  1. It is interesting that in the same context, after telling us not to judge, He then tells us to understand that there are times when we must judge others.

“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” – Matthew 7:6

Here Jesus is talking about people who reject the holy word of God. He is saying that when people are not interested in learning and obeying God’s word, don’t force it on them. These folks are no different than pigs who don’t see the value in pearls.

How are we going to be able to recognize these kinds of people? Obviously, we are going to have to do some judging. In contrast to condemning hypocritical judging, in this verse Jesus is commending and encouraging righteous judgment. Righteous judgment is when we call good things good and bad things bad. It is when we measure things by the standard God has given, which is His word. Jesus commands us to do this kind of judging (John 7:24).

  • This kind of judgment is necessary to expose and refute false teachers (1 John 4:1; Acts 20:29).
  • This kind of judgment is necessary to know men by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20).
  • This kind of judgment is necessary to restore brethren who have fallen away (Galatians 6:1).
  • This kind of judgment is necessary to point out the sin someone may be promoting (Galatians 2:11-14). In fact, if this kind of judging was wrong, then Jesus sinned when He pointed out the error of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23.

The point is, there is a judgment reserved for the people of God. That is judging a righteous judgment (John 7:24). God expects us to call righteous things righteous and sinful things sinful! People who say, “Don’t judge me” usually only say this because they don’t want their sinful behavior called out and challenged with God’s word.

Let’s make sure we keep God’s word in its proper context. Let’s refrain from being hypocrites and always strive to do His will. Only then can we truly do His will when it comes to judging and helping others.

– 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

“My Cup Runs Over”

Of the 150 chapters in Psalms which one stands out to you the most? Most people would say Psalm 23 written by King David. When was this psalm written? Maybe during the time when his son Absalom was trying to take his kingdom (2 Samuel 15); or right after he found out his child was going to die because of his sins of murder and adultery (2 Samuel 12); or when he was fleeing from the presence of Saul who was trying to kill him (2 Samuel 19-27). We do not know for sure when David penned this psalm. What we do know is it was written during a time when David was going through a rough moment in his life. Even though he was afraid, he put his trust in God to comfort and deliver him from his enemies (Psalm 23:4). I particularly like what David says in verses 5-6:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.                                                                – Psalm 23:5-6 (NKJV)

Pay close attention to the last part of verse 5. Notice that despite the rough moment he was currently experiencing in his life, David continued to be thankful to God. Despite his circumstances, he understood that he had been greatly blessed by God. If his life were a cup and his blessings were water, then water would be overflowing the cup!

Do we have a mentality like David? Whenever we begin to face a rough moment, do we complain to God or do we continue to be thankful for His blessings? When we are struggling…

  1. Do we continue to be thankful for the relationships that God gives us? Having a spouse, children, grandchildren, brother and sisters in Christ are all blessings from God (Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 127:3-5; Mark 10:29-30).
  2. Do we continue to be thankful for our food, clothes, and shelter (1 Timothy 6:8; Matthew 6:25-32)? Travel to some places like Zimbabwe and you will easily see that in America we have been blessed with great prosperity! We may have a faltering economy, but compared to most places, we are extremely rich! We have all of our needs and many of our wants.
  3. Do we thank God that we live in America? We live in a country where we can freely worship God without the threat of being thrown in jail or killed. The early Christians would have loved to be in our situation (Acts 4:1-3; 5:17-18; 8:1-3).
  4. Do we continue to be thankful for the Bible? Through the Bible we learn exactly what we must do to go to heaven to be with God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We learn about the love of God that has been expressed at the highest level through His Son Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Without the Bible we would be lost in the dark, but with the Bible we can find our way home to be with God (Psalm 119:105).
  5. Do we continue to be thankful for Jesus? No matter what we go through in life, Jesus addressed our greatest need when He died on the cross for our sins (Romans 5:8-11). We may struggle in this life, but thanks to Jesus we don’t have to be lost in hell if we completely surrender to His will (John 6:35-40; 14:6).

Do you see all we have to be thankful for? God has blessed us richly! Instead of complaining and griping when we get down, we need to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God (Colossians 4:2). It is easy to go through life taking for granted the blessings of God. But when we take a step back and look at the big picture of life, we can easily see that, like David, our cups also run over!

– Shawn Jeffries