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

Great Underdog Stories

Do you know what it means to be an underdog? Dictionary.com defines an underdog as someone “who is expected to lose a contest or struggle; one that is at a disadvantage.” We live in a culture that loves to root for underdogs. We especially love to do this in sports.

One of the greatest underdog sports stories in history took place during the Cold War in the 1980 Winter Olympics. The United States national team (made up of amateur and collegiate players) defeated the Soviet Union national team (which had won the gold metal in six of the seven previous Olympic games) in a medal round game. Team USA would go on to win the gold medal that year, while the Soviet Union took the silver medal. In 1999 Sports Illustrated ranked “The Miracle on Ice” as the biggest upset in sports history! It is a great story of an underdog defying the odds and experiencing victory.

Did you know that there are great “underdog” accounts also found in the Bible?

  • For example, there is the account of a little shepherd boy named David who had the courage to go out to battle against the Philistine giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17). All of Israel (including King Saul) was afraid to fight Goliath, but David had faith that God would give him the victory. He said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37). For many that day it appeared that the young boy David did not have a shot of defeating the over 9 foot tall experienced warrior. But, with the blessing of God, David used a smooth stone and sling shot and knocked Goliath out. He then took the giant’s sword and cut off his head. When the Philistines saw their great solider defeated they fled in great fear.
  • There is also the account of Gideon leading the army of God to victory against the Midianites (Judges 6-7). Before sending Gideon’s army out to battle, God first dwindled down the number of Israelite soldiers from 32,000 to just 300. God used these 300 men to defeat several thousands. Through this experience God wanted to teach Israel to depend on His power and not their own (Judges 7:2).
  • In the time of the Roman Empire it certainly appeared that Satan was getting the best of the people of God. Christians were constantly being martyred because they were unwilling to worship the emperor as “god.” This fierce persecution caused some of the martyred to wonder when God was going to avenge and deliver their brethren from their oppressors (Revelation 6:9-11). Satan was certainly trying to do his best to use this world empire to destroy Christianity, but ultimately he would fail. The army of Jesus would prevail (Revelation 17:14). Today the Roman Empire is no more, but the kingdom of Jesus still stands (Daniel 2:44)!
  • And then consider the victory of God’s own Son on the cross for the sins of the world. After Jesus was betrayed by one of His own disciples, He went through a series of shameful trials, was mocked, scourged, crucified on a cross, and buried in the tomb of a rich man, it appeared that Satan had won the war. But three days later, on Sunday morning, some disciples went into the tomb and found it empty. Jesus had been raised from the dead (Luke 24:1-12)! His resurrection demonstrated that God the Father was pleased with His sacrifice for our sins and He was in fact the very Son of God (Ephesians 5:2; Romans 1:4). Through the resurrection we are given a living hope that if we follow Jesus’ teaching we can actually be saved and go to heaven (1 Peter 1:3-5). Through the resurrection Jesus defeated Satan and conquered two enemies that we could never defeat on our own – sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57; Revelation 1:17-18).

 

Every day we face a fierce battle with the devil. He is our greatest enemy and his mission is to seek and destroy us spiritually (1 Peter 5:8).  He is a strong enemy and against him on our own we are truly “underdogs.” But as David demonstrated against Goliath, when we put our faith and trust in God, no enemy can stand against us. Not even an enemy as strong as Satan.

Use the next few days to deeply meditate and express thanksgiving to God for the victory you have if you are in Christ (Galatians 3:26-28). Thank God that if you are in Christ, through the death and resurrection of His Son, you have everything you need to defeat your greatest enemy.

– Shawn Jeffries

What Is More Important than the Super Bowl?

Yesterday marked a very important day in America. Unless you completely left the planet, you are probably aware that yesterday was “Super Bowl Sunday.” The Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers in Santa Clara, California. With the win, the Broncos franchise won their third Lombardy trophy. “Super Bowl Sunday” is now considered by some to be a de facto national holiday. It is the second largest day for U.S. food consumption (after Thanksgiving) and the game is the most watched American television broadcast each year. Due to the high viewership, advertisers are willing to pay an average of $5 million for a 30 second commercial!

Our culture certainly takes this game seriously. But as we take a step back and look at the big picture of life, how important is the Super Bowl really? Consider a few things that God says are more important than the Super Bowl:

  1. Jesus is more important than the Super Bowl. Jesus is the Son of God (John 3:16). He has authority over man’s greatest fear – death (Revelation 1:17-18). He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 17:14). The sacrifice He made on the cross positively impacted mankind’s sin problem and relationship with God.
  1. Worshipping God is more important than the Super Bowl. Since God is awesome and perfectly holy, He is worthy to be praised (Psalm 96:4; 145:3). Unfortunately, there were probably many people who forsook an opportunity to worship God on the first day of the week because they wanted to catch the start of the Super Bowl. How do you think that made God feel?
  1. The Bible is more important than the Super Bowl. The Bible is the only book in the world to come from the very mind of God (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Through the Bible we learn the complete will of God for our lives (2 Timothy 3:17). It is a shame that some people can tell us who won the last ten Super Bowls, but they can’t tell us the names of 10 books in the Bible or the names of 10 important Bible characters.
  1. Teaching the Bible to the lost is more important than the Super Bowl. Jesus has given us the mission of going into the world and teaching the gospel so that people can have an opportunity to become His disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). When we are excited about the gospel we will naturally be inclined to teach it to others. If we find ourselves more willing to talk about a football game with others than the Bible, we have a serious problem!
  1. Eternity is more important than the Super Bowl. When people stand before Jesus on the Judgment Day, He is not going to care about who won the Super Bowl. Society may put men like Peyton Manning and Cam Newton on a pedestal because of their great athletic ability. But in the eyes of Jesus they are just fallible and sinful men who have souls and need the free gift of salvation that Jesus offers to all (Romans 6:23). Watching the big game may bring us some satisfaction in this life, but that satisfaction is limited and fleeting. It doesn’t begin to compare to the satisfaction of being right with God and preparing to be in eternity with Him (Philippians 1:21)

Let’s be clear: it is NOT a sin to watch the Super Bowl. But in the big scheme of life, its significance is very small. Its seriousness should be taken with a grain of salt. It is just a game that has no bearing on where we will be in eternity. Let us always strive to put spiritual things first (Matthew 6:33). Doing that will keep us focused on what is really important in life.

– By Shawn Jeffries

 

The Eyes of the Lord

 

The human eye is a fascinating object. The eye is basically a camera that allows the brain to get a picture of the world around us. It takes a picture (actually two pictures) and sends that picture to the brain for processing. The brain then uses that picture in various ways.

Without that picture, our world would be very different. We could not be able to read a book or drive a car. We could never throw a football with a friend, or shoot a basketball in a hoop. We could never see the precious cheeks of a little baby, or appreciate a beautiful sunset. We could never know what the colors blue or green look like. We could never see the proud look on our parents’ faces when we graduated from high school, or the tears in their eyes on the day we got married.

Thank God for our eyes! We use them all the time, and they work so well that we give little thought to them and even take them for granted. They are wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), and they do wonderful things!

But despite all we can see with our eyes, there are limitations we must consider.

a. For example, with our eyes we can only see what is before us. Despite what our moms may have told us growing up, no person has eyes in the back of their head. I cannot see where you are or what you are doing right now as you read this article. I cannot see what you do behind closed doors, and neither can you with me.

b. Sometimes our vision is not as good as it should be and we need corrective lenses (glasses or contact lenses).

c. Typically as we grow older in our life our vision gets weaker and we can’t see like we once could (Ecclesiastes 12:1-4). Maybe we begin to need reading glasses.

Our eyes are powerful objectives but they are by no means indestructible. They certainly don’t begin to compare to the eyes of God. Unlike us humans, God’s vision is not limited. God can see everything going on with us all the time (Proverbs 15:3; Hebrews 4:12). There is not place we can go to escape the all-seeing eyes of God (Psalm 139:7-12). God doesn’t need corrective lenses because His vision is always perfect. His vision never weakens because He is perfect and eternal (Psalm 90:2). He is even able to see and read our hearts (1 Kings 8:39; Acts 1:24; John 2:24-25)!

In your prayers today thank God for your eyes because without them you would not be able to gaze upon the wonderful things He has made. Also, ask God to help you be more mindful of His all-seeing eyes. Ask God to help you be more like Joseph. Joseph understood that God could see everything and this led him to avoid having an affair with Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:9). When we are more aware of God’s ability to see all, it will help live godly lives all the time because we understand God is always holding us accountable for our actions.

As God observes your current life, what does He see? Does He see someone who loves Him and is striving to serve Him with all their heart? Or, does He see someone who is consumed with the world and has put Him and His will on the backburner? Let us always make it our ambition to be found pleasing in the eyes of our Creator (2 Corinthians 5:9).

– Shawn Jeffries

 

 

The Temptations of Jesus

After being baptized by John, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where He fasted for forty days and nights (Matthew 4:1-11). Fasting is when a person makes a choice to eat no food (the only thing he would consume was water). It was often done to show devotion to God and was often accompanied by prayer and Bible study.

Most fasting was only done for a short period of time (a day or even part of the day). But Jesus fasted for forty days! That was an incredibly long period of time. Jesus was not trying to set a world record for the number of days He could go without eating. Instead, He was beginning His ministry and this was a time to think about His work and devotion to God.

Since the Lord was also fully man while on this earth, it was at the end of the forty days of fasting that He became hungry. The devil (or tempter) then came to test Him. He knew that if he could persuade Jesus to sin, then God’s entire plan to save us would be destroyed. Jesus as a sinner could not die for the sins of the world (2 Corinthians 5:21). But instead of giving in to Satan’s temptations, Jesus resisted every one of them!

I want to encourage you to read Matthew 4:1-11 this week. As you do consider the following points:

  1. The things Satan offered were not wrong within themselves.  The first temptation involved turning stones into bread, thus satisfying hunger (certainly there was nothing wrong with eating!). The second one involved jumping off the highest point of the temple and letting God save Him. The third one involved Jesus ruling the kingdoms of the world.
  2. Yielding to these temptations would have demonstrated a lack of trust in God.                                                                                                                             a.  In the first temptation, Jesus could have easily turned those stones into bread. But He knew that God had a plan to provide for Him, and submitting to Satan’s suggestion would have been a failure to trust in God’s plan. Even though He was extremely hungry, Jesus humbly resisted Satan’s idea and once the temptation ended, angels came and ministered to Him (Matthew 4:11). It is likely that these angels gave Jesus the food He needed. Satan wanted Jesus to think “God will not take care of you.” He was wrong!                                                       b.  In the second temptation, Jesus could have thrown Himself off the temple and commanded angels to save Him. But again, He trusted that God would come to His aid once this ordeal was over. In fact, it is interesting that Satan misapplied Psalm 91:11-12 to persuade Jesus. These verses are about trusting in God’s care, but Satan tried to use them to teach the opposite! Jesus certainly recognized this and refused to let Satan put God to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16).   c. In the final temptation, Satan promised Jesus that if he bowed down and worshiped him, he would then give Him all the kingdoms of the world. This temptation failed because Jesus knew that was God’s plan anyway (Revelation 11:15). God was going to give His Son all the kingdoms to rule over as Lord, but it was going to be accomplished through Him suffering and dying on the cross. Satan wanted Jesus to take the shortcut! Jesus refused to worship Satan and trusted His Father.
  1. Jesus defeated Satan by doing two things:                                                               a.  He answered each temptation by using scripture (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). He knew the scriptures and accurately applied them. Let’s follow His example (Psalm 119:9-11; 2 Timothy 2:15; Hosea 4:6).                                                                        b. But beyond quoting and using scripture, ultimately Jesus defeated Satan because He trusted His heavenly Father. He trusted in what the scriptures promised and God took care of Him. In God’s time Jesus received food, strength, and the kingdoms of the world. Trusting in God the Father led to the best outcome, and the same will be true in our lives today (Proverbs 3:5-8).

From this account we see that the devil is a ferocious enemy. He was alive and active in the time of Jesus, and the same is true today (1 Peter 5:8). But when we know and trust in God’s word we too can defeat him! Always remember that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). There is always a way out of temptation. As James 4:7 says, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Did not these very things happen in the case of our Lord (Luke 4:13)?

– Shawn Jeffries

The Names of the Lord

Search your Bible carefully and you will discover that the Holy Spirit intentionally uses many different names to describe the Son of God. Each of these names tells us something special and unique about the Lord. In fact, several of these names can be found in Peter’s sermon preached in Acts 3:11-26. After healing a beggar (lame from birth) at the gate of the temple, Peter used the miracle to draw a large crowd of people and teach them some important lessons about the Savior. In fact, in the sermon he list six names for the Lord that solely are to be applied to Him. Most of these words may be already familiar to us, but perhaps their meanings are not.

  1. Jesus (Acts 3:13, 16, 21) – This is probably the most common name to us. It is used 970 times in the Bible. Unfortunately, some would say that this was just His fleshly names given by His earthly parents, but the Bible teaches otherwise. In Matthew 1:21 we learn that the name “Jesus” was not given to Him by Mary and Joseph. Instead it was a name specified by an angel of God the Father. It is, of course, a Hebrew word that means: “God is Salvation.” Jesus would indeed to live up to that name! (See Acts 3:19; 4:12)
  2. Christ (Acts 3:18, 20-21) – This is term is used to describe Jesus over 560 times in the Bible. The words “Christ” and “Messiah” are the same. In Matthew 1:1 some translations say “Christ” (KJV), while other says “Messiah” (NASB). The word simply means, “Anointed One.” It represents the idea that God specially chose Jesus to be the sacrifice for the sins of the world! We need to live in appreciation of God’s choice!
  3. Prophet (Acts 3:22-23) – A prophet is a messenger of divine revelation from God (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-22). Jesus certainly met that criteria. All He spoke was confirmed (including prophecy about His own death and resurrection from the dead). In fact, He is not just a prophet, but The Prophet all prophets preached about (Acts 3:24-25). Will you listen to the words of the ultimate prophet? Will you obey His every command (Luke 13:3; Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:19)?
  4. His Servant (Acts 3:13, 26) – This phrase is used twice here and later in a prayer in Acts 4:27-28. It says something about, not who, but whose He is. Jesus belongs to His Father and serves His Father. He came to the earth to do the will of the Father (Matthew 26:39; John 6:38). He is not our genie in a bottle to perform for us whatever we ask. His mission from God was to lead people to turn away from sin and wickedness (Acts 3:26). He never let anyone deter Him from accomplishing the mission given by the Father. We need to follow in His footsteps (Matthew 6:33).
  5. Holy and Righteous One (Acts 3:14) – The word “holy” means to be set apart. The word “righteous” means to be good and upright. Without a doubt Jesus was both of those things to the highest degree! He was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Even a demon said to Him, “I know who you are, the Holy One of God!” This phrase that Peter uses is meant to bring shame to the Jews for putting perfection to death and it is also meant to humble us before God. Like those Jews in Jesus’ time, will we also disown the Holy and Righteous One of God? How we respond to His teachings will determine the answer to that question (Luke 6:46; John 14:15).
  6. Prince of Life (Acts 3:15) – A prince has rule and authority. Jesus certainly has that (Matthew 28:18). He is the “author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He is also the giver of not just spiritual life, but ALL life. He is the Creator and Sustainer or ALL things (Colossians 1:13-18). Have we submitted ourselves completely to the Prince of Life?

These are six specific names that the Holy Spirit gives to our King in Peter’s second sermon in the book of Acts. The question is: what must this information cause one to do? Peter also provides the answer to that question in the sermon.

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

– By Shawn Jeffries