Sin in the Camp

After miraculously crossing the Jordan and conquering the city of Jericho, defeating the people of Ai should have been easy for Israel. Unlike Jericho, Ai was a small city of about 12,000 people (Joshua 7:3). It was an insignificant city and not as heavily fortified. If the nation was able to conquer the strong city of Jericho, surely they would be able to conquer Ai.

They might have thought that. But unfortunately, it did not work out that way. After sending 3,000 men to conquer the city, Joshua was devastated to learn they had been defeated and forced to flee (Joshua 7:4). Their defeat resulted in Israel’s feeling weak and demoralized (Joshua 7:5).

How could this happen? How could Israel easily conquer the strong city of Jericho, but fail to do so with the small insignificant town of Ai? The answer: sin! Sin was in the camp of Israel. Sin had crept in and was present somewhere in the army of God and had caused God’s blessing and presence to depart from them. Until the sin was removed and properly dealt with, God would not allow His people to conquer Ai (Joshua 7:10-15).

But where? Where was sin in the camp? After talking to God about the matter, Joshua discovered that the sin had to with a man named Achan (Joshua 7:20). After Israel conquered Jericho, Achan took some of the spoils (things that actually belonged to the treasury of the Lord) for himself. Joshua confronted Achan and exhorted him to confess his sin (Joshua 7:19). Achan confessed his covetousness (Joshua 7:20-21). In obedience to God, Joshua then had Achan and his family stoned and burned with fire (Joshua 7:25). The place where Achan was put to death became known as the Valley of Achor (“trouble”).

What does God want us to take away from this tragic story?

  • Sin is serious business. While many in our culture try to minimize and trivialize sin, God does not! God did not lightly brush aside Achan’s sin. Instead he exposed it and held him accountable. The killing of Achan and his family shows just how much a big deal sin is to God. We find something similar taking place in the New Testament with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11).
  • Our sins impact others. Achan’s sin not only impacted him, but also all of Israel. Because of his actions, Israel was not able to defeat the people of Ai. Because of his actions, God’s hand of blessing left His people. This is the point Paul is making when he says, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6)?
  • We can’t be victorious without God. In this case, Israel thought they would be able to defeat their enemies by their own might and strength. Achan’s sin revealed the truth. Without God’s blessing, Israel would not even be able to conquer a small city. If Israel was going to be able to finally take the Promised Land, they would need God to fight for them. But He wouldn’t unless they remained pure and apart from sin!

While Achan’s story is tragic and sad, it does teach us something important about always striving to be right with God. When God was with Israel, there was a totally different result than when He was not! Let us learn from their example and always strive to keep sin out of our camp.

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16 Years of Self-Control

Have you ever heard of A.C. Green? He played for 16 years in the NBA (mostly in the 1990’s). After being drafted in 1985, he became a key contributor to the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers, winning two championships with them. He is well-known for only missing three games in his 16 year career. This gained him the nickname of the “ironman.”

But beyond him hardly ever missing a game, he is probably most well-known for being deeply religious and maintaining his virginity until he got married at the end of his NBA career. This was tremendously hard for him to do, especially playing for the Lakers! In a recent ESPN story about Green’s time in the NBA, he said that while his teammates would sleep with women in every city they played in, he would abstain. Whenever his teammates would make fun of him and send women to his hotel room, he would quote Bible verses to them and stay committed to his convictions.

Green’s teammates would actually make bets as to which one of them would persuade him to finally give up his virginity. But none of them would succeed. With every beautiful woman they sent to his room they would all receive the same  answer.  No! In a league where players would sleep with thousands of women across the country, Green made a choice to stay pure. He made a choice to obey what the Bible says about saving oneself for marriage. Contrast his actions with those of Wilt Chamberlain (who is said to have slept with about 20,000 women in his life). A.C. Green had some serious self-control. It is incredible to think about how hard it must have been for him to remain sexually pure in the NBA for that long.

What about you? The Apostle Paul says that one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23). Peter says that God’s people are to add to their knowledge, self-control (2 Peter 1:6). Self-control is when we say “no” to things that God says are wrong. It is when we discipline ourselves to resist sinful temptations and passions. Joseph exercised this when being tempted by Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:9). Jesus exercised this when being tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). David should have exercised this when seeing Bathsheba bathing from the roof of his palace (2 Samuel 11:1-5).

God didn’t make us animals (who live off instincts) or programmed robots. We are humans. This means we can make choices (Joshua 24:15). We can choose to do right or wrong. We can choose to resist sin or give in to it. We can choose to obey God or Satan.

For 16 years A.C. Green chose to resist sexual immorality.  For 16 years he chose to do what the Bible says. Will we chose to do the same today?

– Shawn Jeffries

The Right Use of Social Media

Are you an active user of social media? If so, you are not alone. Over 2 billion people in the world use social media. Facebook is the most popular social media site. Currently there are 1.8 billion active users of Facebook (that is about a fourth of the world’s population!). Social media has certainly taken the world by storm. But like with everything else in life, it too can become a corrupted tool of Satan.

This is why it is extremely important that we use social media in an appropriate and righteous way. Like with any device or medium, God has expectations for how use it. While there is no sin in having a social media account (s), if we are not careful, social media can be an avenue we use to sin.

Here is a list of questions we need to ask ourselves before posting something on Facebook, tweeting something on Twitter, or putting a picture on Instagram.

  • Is what I am about to put out going to cause unnecessary strife and division? This is something that goes on far too much on social media (especially Facebook) and it can become very discouraging to all parties involved. Disciples of Jesus are peaceful people (Romans 12:18; 14:19).  Instead of falling into the trap of getting into heated debates about politics and court decisions on social media, we need to use it to point people to the Bible and unite them for the cause of Christ.  2 Timothy 2:24 is a good verse to always keep in mind before posting anything!
  • Is what I am about to put out going to create fertile soil for adultery? Unfortunately, many people are using social media to reconnect with their old boyfriends and girlfriends from high school or college (which in some cases has led to many affairs and divorces). This is not the will of God! God desires that the marriage bed be sexually pure (Hebrews 13:4). He wants us to have strong healthy marriages that last a lifetime (Matthew 19:6). My wife and I have some rules for each other when it comes to this: we never send or accept friend requests from people we were in past relationships with. We also give one another complete access to the each other’s social media accounts. We do these things in order to give Satan no opportunity to destroy our marriage. We want our hearts to only long to be with one another.
  • Does this post include immodest pictures, filthy language, and gossip? God’s people are to strive to be holy (1 Peter (1:15-16). They are to strive to be holy in their words (Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6), in the way that they dress (1 Timothy 2:9-10), and they are to always avoid gossip (Proverbs 20:19). They are to make sure that their claim to be Christians lines up with the pictures they post and the comments they write on social media.
  • How much of my time is being consumed by doing this? Did you know that over 700 billion minutes a month are spent on Facebook? Add to that the fact that in just 20 minutes on Facebook over 1 million links are shared, 2 million friend requests are accepted, and almost 3 million messages are sent. How often are you on Facebook or other social media sites? If you are not careful, you can find yourself on them way more than you should be. You can find yourself neglecting Bible study, prayer, and meditating on the mercy and love of God. If you find yourself logging onto social media multiple times throughout the day it is time to admit that you have a problem (maybe even an addiction) and then start working diligently to correct it. It is time to start being a better steward of your time (Ephesians 5:15-17). Start putting some reasonable limits on how much time you will spend on social media each day. Challenge yourself to carve out time each day to absorb your mind in the the Bible and communicate with God through prayer. Make sure that you spend quality time with your family each day. Go outside and play with your kids. Talk with your family. Do fun things together. Don’t let social media absorb all your time and render each day fruitless.

Again, there is nothing wrong with having a social media account. Just make sure you use it correctly. Make sure you use it to glorify God and cause others to do the same (Matthew 5:16). How we all behave on Facebook can either damage or exalt our influence before others.

Let us all keep these things in mind as connect with others through this world changing medium.

– Shawn Jeffries

Does God Go on Vacation?

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

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