Constant Reminders

PHOTO: Las Vegas Metropolitan Police in front of a sign for the Route 91 Harvest festival near the scene of the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest festival on Las Vegas Boulevard in Las Vegas, Oct. 2, 2017.

Aurora, Sandy Hook, Charleston, Chattanooga, San Bernardino, Orlando, and now Las Vegas. When I woke up Monday morning I was saddened to hear that once again a mass shooting had occurred in the country that I love.

Sunday evening, during the closing performance at the Route 91 Country Music Festival on the Las Vegas Strip, 64 –year –old Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. He murdered 58 people and injured 530 others. The horrible events of this day marked the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman in U.S. history.

With each mass shooting, we seem to be hearing more and more. We are given constant reminders which we need to think about seriously.

  • Each day could be our last. Death is one of the great equalizers in life (Hebrews 9:27). Tragic events like the one on Sunday, remind us that we really don’t when we are going to die. Do you think any of those 58 murdered people thought they were going to die at that concert? Do you think that any of them woke up that Sunday morning thinking that it would be their last day on earth? Those folks did not go to that concert to die, but rather to listen to music and have fun. Death was probably the last thing on their minds! And yet, it would be something they would experience before the night was over. Tragic events like this remind us of the words of the Lord’s brother in James 4:13-15. We don’t know what will happen to us each day. We don’t know when we are going go die. Compared to eternity, our lives are very short and we need to be prepared to leave this world any at moment.
  • There is a lot of evil in the world. People often ask, “Why does God allow people to do evil?” This question fails to consider that God made man in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). Part of being made in the image of God means that we have the ability to make choices. This is one of the things that makes us superior to anything else God has made. We are not programmed robots. We do not live off our instincts like animals. God made us free moral agents. We can choose to do good or evil. We can choose to love God or flat out reject Him (Joshua 24:15). If God intervened in every tragic case, He would be taking away man’s free will. He will not do that! Unfortunately, we live in a world where men often choose to do terrible, wicked things. Sometimes these wicked choices impact others in a negative way. This has been going on in the world since the time of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-8). The events of Sunday remind us that we live in a world where evil exists and men sometimes choose to do horrendous things.
  • This world is not our home. This world is not a perfect place. The only way we will escape the wickedness of this world is to go to heaven. In heaven there is no evil. There is no murder. There is no rape. There are no periods of mourning and tears. There is no death (Revelation 21:1-4). These are things that we have to deal with now on this earth, but not in heaven! Heaven is a perfect place with perfect happiness and security. It is a place where all the horrible things we see on the news will be absent! The events of Sunday remind us that this world is really a sad place and heaven should be what we are seeking above anything else (Matthew 6:19-21; Philippians 3:20; 2 Corinthians 5:8). They remind us of just how important it is to serve Jesus, because He is the ONLY way to heaven (John 14:1-6).

This will probably not be the last mass shooting we hear about. Living in a sin-filled world, there are sure to be other cases. But with each case we are confronted with, the same reminders are brought to the forefront of our minds. Will we heed them and take them seriously?

– Shawn Jeffries

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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

Black Friday

 

“…One- hundred two dollars and sixty four cents.” As you hear these numbers roll off of the cashiers tongue, you can’t help but be ecstatic. You’re tired, you’re wounded, beaten, and your feet are in distress, but you’re thrilled. You have just purchased a two hundred dollar T.V. for almost half the original sales price.

Strange things start to happen the Friday after Thanksgiving. Walmart’s become dojos, Parking lots turn into campsites, malls seem to be hosting the annual Olympic track and field games, and millions of people all across America simply lose their minds.

What is the cause for this madness? Two words: Black Friday.

Black Friday signifies the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. On this day, major retailers open their doors exceptionally early, welcoming throngs of people who are seeking these one-time promotional sales. On this day, we get a glimpse of the incredible lengths many will go to save a pretty penny.

On a Friday just a little over two thousand years ago, we got a glimpse of the incredible lengths God was willing to go to save this world from destruction.  Much like this past Friday, strange things happened. There was betrayal, suicide, injustices, riots, mocking’s, scourging’s, crucifixions, redemption, and death.

The earth witnessed supernatural phenomena. At high noon, there was an unusual three hour period of darkness. The curtain to the temple was spontaneously torn in two, the earth shook, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and dead men rose.

“When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’,” Matthew 27:54

This was a dark day indeed. The Son of Man was killed.

On this day, 1,500 years of prophecy was fulfilled; it was finished.

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished’, and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit”, John 19:30

The blood of bulls and goats could no longer atone for the sins of men. A sacrifice had to be made. (Hebrews 10:4).

Someone had to die. This someone had to be perfect, He had to be blameless, He had to be sinless, He had to be the Son of God. The pure, undefiled, innocent, and spotless Lamb of God was slain for the sins of the world.

On this very dark and black Friday, there was a ray of hope. Hope lied in the resurrection. Not only did Jesus die for man, but three days later He got up.

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen! Remember how He told you the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise”, Luke 24:6-7

Today, we can bask in even greater savings than any earthly Black Friday deal. On this Friday, over 2,000 years ago, despite our wretched and sinful nature, Jesus gave up His life, paying the ultimate price for our very lives, and saved the word.

By Timothy G. Ruffin

Facing Death with Terra Cotta Warriors

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I’ll never forget taking my kids to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. As we toured their exhibit, China’s Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army, I came face to face with a twenty-five-hundred-year-old Chinese General. As I learned about these full-scale sculptures, it brought to mind the Scripture:

“For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out,” 1 Timothy 6:7.

But China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi (260-210 BC), could not have disagreed more. He invested an estimated 70,000 craftsman over three to four decades constructing an elaborate underground city for his burial, complete with a population made of clay. Until relatively recently, tales of Qin Shi Huangdi’s necropolis were a favorite Chinese legend.

In 1974, rural farmers accidently discovered the emperor’s ancient burial complex while digging a water well. As archaeologists began investigating the area in the Shaanxi Province, they unearthed an army of elaborate, life-sized, terra cotta sculptures. 1,000 of an estimated 8,000 terra cotta warriors have been excavated. There is believed to be 130 full scale chariots and 670 horses as well. Qin Shi Haungdi’s terra cotta army includes Generals, Infantrymen, Archers, and Cavalrymen, as well as Acrobats, Musicians, and Birds. Each sculpture held an actual tool or weapon and thus far, no two faces are alike.

This emperor approached death as he did life – he intended to reign. Qin Shi Huangdi managed to conquer all of China’s warring regions and consolidate an empire. He was a violent man and paranoid about his rule. While his tomb has not been opened, excavations and histories demonstrate that he killed sons suspected of treachery, his wives were buried alive with his body, and all of the workers and craftsman involved in constructing the necropolis were executed to prevent grave robbery. Like the Pharaoh’s of old, this Chinese ruler believed he would need a palace, provisions, riches, and even an army to serve him in the afterlife.

Today the terra cotta warriors stand at attention; a silent witness of one man’s plan to face death. While his materialistic approach demonstrates he was wholly unequipped for the spiritual realities of death, no one can accuse him of taking his death lightly.  Over 30 years he contemplated and prepared for what should happen after he died.

It is good to ponder death (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4). King Solomon of ancient Israel (reigned ca. 970-930 BC) also considered death. With wisdom from God he wrote, “No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, And no one has power in the day of death. There is no release from that war, And wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it” (Ecclesiastes 8:8).

Indeed, death is the great equalizer – rich or poor, king or peasant, wise or fool – the time comes to die. “And how dies a wise man die? As the fool!” (Ecclesiastes 2:16; see also Ecclesiastes 3:2).

Furthermore, in Psalm 89:47-48, Ethan’s contemplation is found, “Remember how short my time is; For what futility have you created all the children of men? What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?”

How many of our neighbors in American society truly ponder death for even 30 minutes a year, let alone a 30 year public works building project of terra cotta? Like other ancient rulers, Qin Shi Huangdi saw himself as the Master and the Potter. But Scripture teaches us that the truth of the matter is people are the clay, not the potter. We do not need to craft things to serve us in death but allow God to mold us in life that we might serve Him today and glorify Him through death (Romans 14:8).

“But now, O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand,” Isaiah 64:8.

By Andrew Roberts