Winter “Heaven Bound” Series

All are welcome!  If you know anybody in the area who you think would benefit, make sure they see this.

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Choosing Right or Choosing Kind

In years past, my wife and I spent a lot of time visiting her Uncle Chuck and Aunt Betty.  Betty likes antiques, so in the bathroom of their guest suite, there is a beautiful chrome vintage scale, clearly designed by the same people who designed the ’57 Chevy.

If you weigh yourself on the scale, you will discover a pleasant surprise.  Even though you have been on vacation, ingesting vast quantities of paper-wrapper fried-food garbage, the scale will inform you that you have actually LOST weight since you left home.  Down three pounds, down four pounds, maybe even down five pounds!

Sadly, when you return home, the truth will emerge.  You have not actually lost weight; indeed, quite the opposite is true.  The scale in Chuck and Betty’s guest bathroom is a lying scale.  They keep it around for looks, and possibly for the momentary pleasure it brings their guests. Continue reading

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