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

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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

 

We Can Endure!

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Have you ever met someone whose perseverance through their own struggles motivated you to do better?

For me, it was Angela, a 33 year old Christian with Down’s syndrome whom I met while preaching in the Birmingham area. Though she only came up to my shoulder she had a personality that was bigger than life. Angela was nearly the first person who shook my hand the morning I arrived at the church building. She marched right up and greeted me with a bright smile, saying, “You must be Andrew Roberts. I am looking forward to your sermons.” Then she quickly returned to her pew. She greeted me every night of that week-long preaching meeting.

There were interactive outlines for my sermons during the week but Angela would not take one. She told the ushers, “No. I don’t want it. I take my own notes.” Then on Friday night, after the last service, she handed me a stack of papers. She said, “Here are your sermons. And I want you to have them.” As I looked down, I realized that she had handwritten nearly everything I’d said in each sermon!

I was overwhelmed at her perseverance because I understood that every aspect of the note-taking process was more difficult for her. She truly endured. From her fine motor skills, to her cognitive ability, to her visual acuity – everything was just a little harder. And I treasure those papers as a testament to her faith and a poignant example of endurance.

The Hebrew writer admonishes: we all need endurance. “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:36). Endurance is necessary to “do the will of God” (Hebrews 10:36), “live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38), and “run the race set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). We need endurance because doing, living, and running won’t happen accidentally. Furthermore, we need endurance because we don’t know how long we must continue doing, living, and running. Will we serve God faithfully for the next 60 years? Will Jesus return tomorrow?

What exhausts our endurance? The book of Hebrews shows Christians who began running their race amidst great struggles. Hebrews 10:32-34 recounts how, as new converts, they were mocked, imprisoned, lost property, and shared their goods with persecuted saints. Yet, according to Hebrews 10:23-25, those same Christians currently wavered about their confession and rarely assembled with the saints. They used to go to jail for Jesus and now they won’t even go to church!

Without endurance, Christians “draw back to perdition” (Hebrews 10:38-39). Being burdened and ensnared in sin, they cease to run their race (Hebrews 12:1).

So, what encourages endurance?

The Hebrew writer directed Christians to follow good examples of faith and endurance. First, they were reminded that faith fuels endurance through many Old Testament examples (Hebrews 11). Then they were directed to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2-3)! Jesus is the primary example of perseverance for the prize. Finally, they needed to consider their leaders and spiritual forebears (Hebrews 6:12; 13:7). These all received God’s promises.

The Bible recounts God’s faithfulness in the past and promises for the future. It makes the case for endurance today. Furthermore, we benefit from the good examples of leaders in the church or beloved elderly saints who’ve shaped us and endured in the faith.

Endurance is rewarded in receiving God’s “promise” (Hebrews 10:36) – “the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39). We can endure! What helps is time spent reading Scripture, an intent focus on Jesus, and meeting saints like Angela who, themselves, persevere.

By Andrew Roberts