Bad Things Happen to Good People

Last Sunday’s tragic mass murder at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, TX, has stirred a wide array of emotions across the country. I would like to  mention just three of the main stances taken by Americans on this event:

1.     Many people are truly sympathetic and simply praying for healing and comfort for the victims and their families.

2.     Others are distraught and reflect on the age-old question of “why God allows bad things to happen to good people.”

3.     Still others, sadly, have used the tragedy to push their own personal agendas for gun-control or the broken legal system which allowed a convicted man to legally obtain guns.

Stance number 1, I believe, is in the majority and I hope and pray that this tragic event will raise feelings of empathy and love for our fellow men. This is the stance that Christ would want us to take.

Stance number 2 is not necessarily a bad option either.  While Christians KNOW God is in ultimate control of this world, it is difficult for us to fend off the feelings of inequity when we see “bad” things happen to “good” people. We are brought up to believe that righteous behavior will lead to God’s favor and, while Scripture certainly teaches us that we should seek wisdom and strive to live righteous lives, it also teaches us that “bad consequences” on this earth can be the result of righteous living. NO ONE has ever been as Righteous as Jesus Christ, yet He died a completely underserved death at the hands of the wicked. Most historians and theologians believe that all but one of the original twelve disciples was painfully executed for their righteous behaviors. Being a “good” person is no guarantee of a healthy and pleasant life on this earth. Jesus repeatedly warned His disciples that they would face persecution for His sake. Like the disciples, we must recognize and accept that our faith is no guarantee against physical maladies, accidents, or evil events occurring in this life. As sad and confused as this may make us, it is sometimes good to ponder the question of evil seemingly triumphing over good – if we ponder it in prayer, it can serve to enhance our faith and assurance that God has a plan, His plan is perfect, and we need to trust Him.

Stance number 3 is simply disgraceful. Advocates of gun control were trumpeting this event within hours after it occurred. Within two days reporters had dug up the history of the shooter and publicly blamed the Air Force for failing to properly notify civilian authorities of the shooter’s court martial proceedings which, they claim, allowed the shooter to legally purchase guns. Many more politicians jumped on the “blame bandwagon” and tried to turn the event into a hallmark of the current administration’s failed policies and lack of concern for human life. None of these responses are really new; you can find them all rooted in Genesis 3 where we find the advent of “pride” (the original sin), and Adam’s invention of “the blame game” (the woman YOU gave me…).

So, you see, the concept of blaming someone else for “bad” things is as old as humanity itself…Eve blamed the Serpent, Adam blamed God. The question which faces us today is whether we will remain prideful and insist on blaming someone (even God) or something (our environment, circumstances, etc.) OR choose the path God calls us to take and trust that God has a purpose, a plan, and an unfailing, eternal love for His people. Our country is rapidly losing sight of what made us, at one time, the greatest country on earth – our Christian heritage and the foresight of the founding fathers to base our country’s governance on God’s teachings. I urge you to all join me in praying 2 Chronicles 7:14 as God told Israel how to solve their wrecked nation: If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

-Pastor Dave Jones

What a Difference a Day Makes

As we learned last week from Genesis, God created the world in six “creation days.” That fact is indisputable because that is clearly what God’s Word says. We also learned that The Holy Bible is NOT a science book; nor is it a history book – It is God’s revelation of Himself to man. Ergo, God tells HIS story in a manner which was relevant to the original audience (Israelites in mid-second Millennium B.C.) and today, over three thousand years later, is STILL perfectly relevant and truthful. The point which is important to understand is that, as modern interpreters of an ancient document (The Bible) we must strive to understand precisely what it does say AND what it doesn’t say.  Then, we must stand unwaveringly on its message and not get mired down in debates over what God chose not to include in HIS story.

With respect to the Creation account in Genesis 1, God told us that He created the world and the  universe “in the beginning.” In other words, God is pre-existent (He was before the universe) and He created everything in the universe (including time).  God is eternal and exists outside of our concept of “time.” Precisely dating the inception of our universe is something that He chose not to include in  His story (remember: The Bible is not intended to be a science or history textbook). Therefore when Christians proclaim, for instance, that Scripture says the earth is only 5,000 years old, they are asserting an opinion based on their interpretation of various sections of Scripture and, perhaps, their interpretations of various scientific findings. It is perfectly ok for believers to hold opinions about the age of the earth, how long the six “creation days” really were, or the events leading up to the second coming of Jesus. We are instructed by Scripture to study it and become as knowledgeable as possible in its teachings. The danger lies in when we assert that our opinions are irrefutably grounded in actual Scripture passages. In other words, when we try to make Scripture say something it doesn’t actually say.

This past Sunday I remarked that a “day” in Genesis could have been a twenty-four hour period or a much longer span of time since the Hebrew word used there may be translated as either.  I was very blessed by a question posed to me later this week because Scripture says “…and there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” (Gen. 1:5 NIV). The inclusion of “evening and morning” in describing the first day made the questioner wonder how “day” could be interpreted as anything but a twenty-four hour period in this context. A FABULOUS question (I am ALWAYS happy when people are being “Bereans” and verifying EVERYTHING against Scripture).  The answer is quite simple since, like “day,” “evening” and “morning,” have a number of meanings in Hebrew. Essentially, they serve like “day,” and “night” as limiters of periods of daylight so they don’t necessarily equate to our modern English interpretation of “evening and morning.”  Furthermore, our interpretation of “evening and morning” being sections of a twenty-four hour day, could not have applied in Genesis 1:5 BECAUSE our twenty-four hour day is based upon the earth’s solar cycle. Since Scripture TELLS US that God didn’t create the “lights in the vault of the sky to separate day from the night” (“lights” being what we presume to be the sun and the moon)(Gen. 1:14) until the FOURTH creation day, it would be faulty logic to apply a solar cycle methodology before there was a solar cycle.

As we continue to study God’s book of Beginnings (Genesis), we will uncover many questions which challenge our modern understanding. I ENCOURAGE you to dig into your Bibles, praying for The Holy Spirit to give you discernment and remembering to focus first on what Scripture SAYS as we discover together the AWESOME love of God as He revealed Himself to His Creation.

-Pastor Dave Jones

Get the Beginning Right

In the Beginning, GOD!  Everything else is details. When asked once why I selected “Gen 1:1” as my license plate instead of some other significant Scripture verse, I readily replied, “In the Beginning, God. If you believe that, I can help you the rest of the way to eternal life.”  The converse is also true; if you DON’T believe that God has always been, is, and always will be (i.e., He’s eternal), then nothing else in The Bible is going to make sense to you. The Bible is ONE book with sixty-six chapters written as a love letter from God to YOU.  In it, He is revealing Himself to you so that you can be in an eternal love relationship with Him. There is NO WAY that you can believe that you can ever have eternal life if you don’t believe that the God in whom you are putting your faith has eternal life! God is transcendent (outside of material parameters, human understanding, time and space) – why? Because He created all those things!

I know this concept is mind-boggling, but it is also reassuring to know that Christians are putting their faith and trust in Someone far greater than ourselves or anything we can imagine. That’s why we can have the peace that passes all understanding. So when your trials and tribulations come this week (yes, they will come) remember that God is above all and He invites us to “Be still, and know that He is God.” Come see us Sunday as we learn more about getting the beginning right – it will change your life.

-Pastor Dave Jones

Recognizing Hypocrisy

One of societies’ greatest criticisms of Christians today is that we are hypocrites. Webster defines a hypocrite as: “a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.”  This word is often used with regard to religious beliefs and portrays a person who says one thing but does another.  As we learned in our sermon series about The Holy Spirit, True Believers are indwelled with The Spirit and we are exhorted to walk in The Spirit which means that we allow HIM to control our lives. The more we mature spiritually and follow HIS lead in our lives, the less we will succumb to the temptations of the world which allows us to be seen as hypocrites. While we will never be “spiritually perfect” in this life, we must strive to daily grow in spiritual maturity and focus our thoughts and actions on becoming more Christ-like.

If you are interested is seeing true hypocrisy in action, I invite you to attend our Wednesday evening study on the roots of Christianity in America. Last night we learned that the Supreme Court of the United States, who has ruled that the Ten Commandments should not be displayed in public buildings, has several pictures, engravings, and other facsimiles of the Ten Commandments inside the court room. As you walk into the National Archives building which hosts the country’s most sacred documents (e.g., the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, etc.), if you will look down at the floor upon which you stand you will see the Ten Commandments inlaid on the floor. The Capitol building which houses the Congress is filled with statues of preachers holding Bibles and paintings of Christian scenes such as the baptism of Pocahontas. These are all just a few examples of how far afield our country has gone from our Christian roots. In this area it seems like our country’s governance is more hypocrisy in action than democracy in action.

Do not let yourselves be deceived by what you may hear in the “news” or be taught in school – if you want to know history, go look at the original documents written at the time. The same holds true for your faith – go back and look at what the Bible says. As Paul told us, be a Berean!

-Pastor Dave Jones

Praises and Prayers

We have SO much for which to be grateful! I watch as the termination dust creeps down the mountains and enjoy the crisp temperatures of Fall and remember that God loves me so much He allows me to live in Alaska!  Remaining aware of our small daily blessings and remembering to give thanks to our gracious God for His bountiful provisions will help us to maintain that attitude of  gratitude and go through our days with joyful hearts.  Like the flu, Joy is contagious, but unlike the flu, everyone WANTS joy. Count your blessings and then go out and share your “germs” of Joy!

-Pastor Dave Jones

A Season for Grieving

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)

This past month has been a difficult one for our nation. We have seen the devastating impact of three hurricanes on scores of Southeastern US and Caribbean communities. We have been bombarded by the media with divisive displays by athletes using their game to promote their cause. The international peace continues to be threatened by a nuclear arms race in North Korea and Iran. Investigations and allegations run rampant through our federal government in a seemingly  endless battle of  political wills. And, finally, this week’s tragic massacre in Las Vegas where over 500 people were wounded or killed. In dark days such as these, it  is easy to see why the writer of Ecclesiastes laments the meaninglessness of human existence without God.

Were we to try to weather all of  life’s storms, trials, tribulations, and senseless loss of life under our own power, we would surely empathize with the lamentation of Ecclesiastes.  There is a purpose for which this  Scripture was written – it is to  remind us that our lives WITHOUT GOD are meaningless. There is a season for everything under Heaven – we will have ups and downs, victories and defeats, joy and grief and it will all be meaningless WITHOUT GOD.  As our nation searches for answers to difficult questions regarding disasters, divisions, and death, we, the Children of The Living God, must stand up and be heard. There are no satisfactory answers to why we suffer premature deaths, and loss of property – nothing we can say to one who  is grieving a loss will “heal” them – that is beyond our power. But, it’s not beyond HIS power. Our steadfast reliance on God to pull us through every difficult situation and our joyful expression of gratitude when  He does, is one of the best witnessing tools we have.

So, this week as you interact with  those suffering from tragedy of  any  ilk, remember to draw on the power of The Holy Spirit who indwells you and allow Him to speak and act through you. Pray for our country to return to God and actively show Christ’s love to others regardless of how they treat you.

-Pastor Dave Jones

How do you Stand on Kneeling?

The Media is all abuzz about the NFL’s actions with regard to teams linking arms and kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. Some of the players interviewed said it was a display of “unity” although many of them didn’t really understand what they were “unified” with. Proponents of this display cite solidarity with one-time San Francisco Forty-Niner Colin Kaepernick, who began this practice last year in what he claimed was a protest against racism being suffered by black Americans at the hands of Law Enforcement. Other advocates of the practice have touted their “first amendment right” to free speech as a justification for their actions. While I have nothing against the people’s right to protest perceived injustices, and am certainly an advocate for upholding the Constitution, allow me to offer a few thoughts on this subject and challenge you to consider the argument from a different perspective.

First, as an Army officer, I took the following oath:   “I _____, having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”  Let me explain what taking that oath means:

1)     I went places I didn’t want to go and put myself in harm’s way to protect the right of every American to protest – even when they were protesting against Soldiers.

2)     It means that I have stood through far too many memorial services saluting a flag-draped coffin while watching a comrade go home for the last time.

3)    It means that I have knocked on doors in the early morning hours to inform a young wife that her Soldier-husband had lost his life in the line of duty.

4)    It means that I have Stood at graveside services and handed a spouse a folded flag from the coffin of her loved one and watched her clutch it in her arms while trying to contain her grief.

The flag is our nation’s symbol of freedom – freedom for which countless men and women for more than two centuries have fought and died. Freedom which is so rare and precious that immigrants flock to our shores in hopes that they too can enjoy it. For over 200 years Americans have honored our flag and respected our country by standing during the playing of the National Anthem. So when someone decides that the flag does not deserve the honors traditionally given to it because they want to use the opportunity as a platform to protest a cause, I question their judgment and their regard for all the brave Americans who have valiantly served to protect it.  Consider how your “right to protest” stacks up against honoring the country in which you have chosen to live (yes, you are free to leave America if it displeases you – another of your valuable rights).

Second, as a Minister of The Gospel I have sworn to uphold and defend the Christian Faith and the sanctity of Holy Scripture. One of my “duties” in this regard is to proclaim God’s Word and exhort other believers to obediently follow it. Scripture has a lot to say about how citizens are to behave with respect to civil government. Jesus, when asked if it was right to pay taxes to the civil government, remarked “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s…,” effectively telling His followers that they should obey the laws of the land. Paul admonished us to pray for our civic leaders and reminded us that all civic leaders serve under God’s approval. As Christians, we should be obedient to the laws of our country (unless they contradict Scriptural law) and we should pray for our civic leaders. By the way, there is a law pertaining to the flag – it’s called the flag code, give it a read some time.

I believe that the citizens of the United States (Christian and otherwise) have become far more interested in our “personal rights” than in the laws of the land and the selfless service of our nation. That is, indeed, a reflection of our sin nature and evidence of how it manifests itself when we allow ANYTHING to become more important to us than God. So, where do your allegiances lie? “Put First the Kingdom of God…”

I am not advocating that you boycott the NFL or burn your team jerseys and season tickets as I have seen so much furor in the news about, but I would ask how much better off you might be if you spent the time you now spend with football with God instead.  You may exercise your “rights” as you see fit, but as for me and my house, we choose to STAND for the flag and KNEEL at the Cross.  Please pray for our country – Scripture tells us to!

-Pastor Dave Jones

Praises and Prayers

Reparatory and Preparatory Prayer

As the weekend draws nearer to Florida so does Hurricane Irma. A record-breaking Atlantic storm which has already devastated a number of Caribbean islands appears to be headed for landfall in Florida sometime Sunday morning.  Several of us have friends and relatives living in Florida so we are rightly concerned for their safety. As we continue to pray for the reparation of all the damage done to the Houston area by Hurricane Harvey, I ask for your prayers for the people of Florida as they prepare to face the violent winds and waters headed their way.  Pray for safety for the residents and for the storm to dissipate or turn back to sea. Pray also for the rescue workers and repair crews being called in to help. Above all, pray for God to be glorified as a result of these storms. May His love, compassion, and mercy shine through and bring people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. May all those affected by the storm praise God for the strength to withstand such tragic losses. 

I saw a T-Shirt the other day with the following words printed over a picture of an armor suit (full armor of God): “The Devil whispered in my ear today ‘you are not strong enough to withstand the storm.’ I replied, ‘I am a chosen child of The Living God. I am bold. I am courageous. I AM the Storm!’”

As children of The Living God, we are empowered by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit – the full power of God literally lives in us! So, we have a choice to make; we can choose to try to endure the storms of life, or we can choose to use the power of God available to each and every follower of Christ and be the storm which brings fear and dread to Satan. Remember that the victory already belongs to the children of God – we just have to claim it.  Philippians 2: 10-11 assures us that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Pray in faith, live in strength.

-Pastor Dave Jones

A GUARANTEED Investment Opportunity!

I’m sure you have all experienced some sales pitch which “guaranteed” a hefty return on your investment…yet there always seems to be some “fine print” in the disclaimer if you search hard enough.  For instance, yesterday in the mail I received a check for $35,000 guaranteed to be wired directly to my bank account!  In (much) smaller print at the bottom was the stipulation that this was a “personal loan” for the low, low interest rate of 12%. As the old saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”  Pretty sound advice when we are dealing with matters in a fallen world filled with selfish people who are (mostly) only interested in promoting their own interests.  Even our closest loved ones will often fail to deliver on promises made – we are, after all, only human.

The Good News (really, THE GOOD NEWS) is that Jesus, the One Man who ever lived who never broke a promise, has offered us a number of fail-proof investment opportunities and we have it in writing!  Forgiveness, eternal life, joy, and peace, just to name a few of my favorites. But, there is one more promise which I would like to remind you of today – the promise of answered prayer (John 14:13-14).  In these dark days of trial, suffering, and continual attacks on followers of Jesus, I urge you to remember this promise and do not be discouraged, but be ENCOURAGED as we have the iron-clad promises of The One (and only) who has not and cannot break His word.

-Pastor Dave Jones