Why I Believe – Chad Bandy

Troubles and challenges happen in our lives.  There are times when we are pushed to our limits. What happens we don’t understand.  What occurred we cannot forget.  What we experienced; we can never erase from our minds.

I believe in Christ because true faith and belief relieves us from the burdens and worries of this world.  Christ cleanses our hearts and minds and provides us the true character and foundation to influence our perspectives of the world and the guidance as to how we are supposed to live.

The Bible has story after story where characters in the Bible did not follow God’s will and they suffered great tragedies and heartache.  There are other characters in the Bible who endured some of the greatest challenges ever imagined, they maintained their faith in Christ, and prevailed.  The word of God provided them the direction, rest, and character to endure their situation.

Psalms 15 is five verses long and is packed with direction and wisdom.

The Character of Those Who May Dwell with the Lord

A Psalm of David.

1 Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?

Who may dwell in Your holy hill?

2 He who walks uprightly,

And works righteousness,

And speaks the truth in his heart;

3 He who does not backbite with his tongue,

Nor does evil to his neighbor,

Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend;

4 In whose eyes a vile person is despised,

But he honors those who fear the Lord;

He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

5 He who does not put out his money at usury,

Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things shall never be moved.

There are many prominent figures in the Bible who endured unimaginable circumstances yet maintained their faith and character.

  • Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery and spent years as a prisoner in Egypt; forgave his brothers and spared their lives (Genesis 39-47)
  • King David, conquered Goliath, ran for his life from King Saul, escaped from his son Absolom who attempted to kill him (1 Samuel 17; 1 Samuel 24; Psalms 69:14-16)
  • Job, devout to God but his entire family was killed at the hands of God (Job 1:13-19)
  • Apostle Paul, former Jewish leader and murderer of Christians, converted from Judaism to Christianity and wrote 13 books in the New Testament

The Bible provides us guidance and directives how we should live. God never promised a life of no pain and challenges in this world.  What Jesus taught us is that the more we search for meaning and understanding in this world, the more we will be uncertain and frustrated.  Life on earth will not satisfy us nor make us happy.

I believe in Christ because I know that our life here is temporary.  The eternal life that we will live in Heaven, because of belief in the risen Christ, will provide us unimaginable happiness and joy.  Heaven should be our goal.  This life is our test and challenge.

I have witnessed friends, acquaintances, family, and people I have never met, because of their faith in Jesus Christ, endure indescribable circumstances.  Faith in Christ provides a “peace beyond human understanding.” Their pain is unimaginable, their disappointment is open to the world, and their failure is public for everyone to see.  Yet, in spite of their circumstances, they persevere and press on with honor and character due to their faith on Jesus Christ.

Heavenly Father.  Please wash over us with your grace and peace.  Thank you for sending your son Jesus, to suffer and die for our salvation.  Please help us turn to you in times of need and live with the character that you have demonstrated for us. Amen

Living With Hope

Life provides us daily challenges and difficulties.  The unexpected, the hard to understand, the situations where we have no answers, and the challenges that seem to have no end.

How can we believe there is a God when the world we live in is so troubled, sinful, and sad?

Our reading today is Psalm 3 in which we learn of an unimaginable challenge in David’s life.  As a leader who had done many good things in the name of the Lord, he was also a man of God who committed what seemed like unforgivable sins. In this chapter, David is attempting to escape from his son, Absalom, who is attempting to overthrow his father and kill him.

Psalm 3

1-2 – David cries out to the Lord in trouble

3-4 – David recognizes God’s grace

5-6 – Dave acknowledges the rest God provides in troubled times

7-8 – David gives thanks

For me, faith boils down to one word…HOPE.

  • The Bible exhorts hope that God is with us, all the time, and there is a reason for strife and challenges. (Colossians 1:5)
  • I believe that the bad things that happen have a purpose in my life. I will learn from them. I believe bad things can be used for good.  (Hebrews 11:1-3; 2 Thessalonians 2:16)
  • I believe that our struggles will not last forever. (Romans 5:1-5)
  • I believe that the disappointments and failures in my life do not define me. (Romans 15:13)
  • No matter how bad this world gets, our Father has a plan and purpose for everything. (Romans 8:24-25)
  • All of things that are awful and unexplainable will someday be explained in Heaven. (Romans 12:2; Hebrews 10:23)
  • I believe that we cannot look for happiness and fulfillment in this world, because we will always be let down and disappointed. (Hebrews 6:18-19; Titus 1:2; Titus 2:11)

I encourage you to read the Bible and study scripture regularly.  God will provide you hope in troubles, strength in difficulties, and “pull you through” when it feels like you cannot go on.

Formula for Hope

  1. Cry out to God when you are troubled
  2. Recognize that God provides hope in the worst situations
  3. Acknowledge that God will provide you “rest” if you turn to Him
  4. Give thanks to God for what He has provided you – know that He is with you and ask Him for strength

When writing this, I am aware that those reading this fall into different levels of faith and belief in Christ.  1.) You may be a devout believer, 2.) You may have have believed in the past but are wavering, or 3.) You do not believe in God and Christ at all and think those of us that believe are “brainwashed.”

I would encourage you to open a Bible and read the scripture listed in the Bible Journal posts like this one. Seek information so you can make an informed decision about Christ. Think about scriptures you read each day and try to apply them daily to situations, decisions, and interactions.  Find a great church community with leaders that walk you through explanations and study the scriptures. Attend church regularly in person or online.  (Cornerstone Chapel or Eastview Christian Church) The more time you spend learning, the more you can use the information to make an informed decision about your faith in Christ and most importantly, allow your faith to impact your daily life.

I have learned that my relationship with God is similar to my relationships here on Earth.  The more time I spend learning and listening, the stronger the relationship.  I find hope and faith when I seek answers. If I do not spend time reading and studying scripture, then my faith falters and fades.

My prayer is that we do not let our faith be framed by the place we live now.  My prayer is that our faith is built based on the HOPE and belief in the place where we want to live, Heaven.

The Bible was written by 40 different authors over 1600 years.  It is complex and it is can difficult to understand.  Seek guidance and interpretation of how to understand scriptures and you can learn how to utilize the message to impact your life today.

Faith Through History

As we near the celebration of the birth of our Savior, I continue to reflect on faith and how to reach those that do not believe Jesus Christ was the Son of God and was sent to save the world.

What makes it difficult for those that do not believe that Christ was the Son of God?

The history of civilizations is told through historical records and eyewitness accounts.  Events are chronicled through documents, archaeology of sites, and the reenactment and descriptions of what historians believe occurred.

I wrote a few weeks ago that the Old Testament, which provides historical accounts from prophets, predicted the coming of Christ at least twenty-three times.  The birth of Jesus was predicted and outlined hundreds of years before Jesus was born.

  • Genesis 3:15 Christ is the Seed of woman and we are told He will one day crush Satan
  • In Exodus, we learn of the story of the Passover Lamb, and Christ is the sacrificial Lamb given for us
  • In Leviticus, we read of the high priests making sacrifices to the people, and Christ has become our High Priest
  • In Deuteronomy, Moses prophesied a prophet who would come that would be greater than Himself
  • Ezra depicts Jesus as the Lord of our fathers
  • Job says that the Redeemer is coming
  • Christ appears several times in Psalms, including when David describes Him as “the Shepherd”
  • Joel describes Him as the hope of His people
  • Amos tells us that Jesus is the judge of all nations
  • Obadiah warns of the coming eternal kingdom
  • Jonah offers a picture of Jesus being dead for three days, then coming back to life to preach repentance
  • Zephaniah says Jesus will be the king over Israel
  • Zachariah is the prophet who speaks of Jesus riding on a colt
  • Malachi is the one who calls Jesus the Son of Righteousness

One of the most pronounced and specific predictions came from the prophet Isaiah in chapter 9 verse 2.

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah wrote this verse at least 700 years before the birth of Jesus.

The Bible was written over a period of 1600 years by 40 authors.  The books of the Bible leading up to the birth of Christ, in the Old Testament, foretold of Christ’s coming.  The books after Christ’s birth, the New Testament, outlined His teachings and provide eyewitness accounts to his birth, miracles, existence as a man who lived a sinless life on earth and corroborated his crucifixion and resurrection.  Never in human history has there be a person who has been more described, detailed, and written about.  The Bible is the greatest compilation of historical record ever produced by man, about a man, who happened to be our Savior.

As I have matured in my faith, I have come to realize that my struggles with faith are more about my willingness to humble myself and accept that I am not in control.  The historical record of the Bible speaks for itself. God created each of us with a purpose and our lives are a compilation of experiences that should lead us to glorify and praise Him.  If we choose not to follow and praise God, He will create situations in our lives that push us to need Him and want a relationship with Him.

Sometimes our lives are full of unhappiness and strife, and God wants us to turn to Him for solace and peace.  We have feelings of emptiness, loneliness, discontent, and yearn for understanding of a sinful and sometimes sad world.

A life “walking with Jesus” leads to peace, hope, contentment, and being filled with joy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have it all figured out, but I am learning that life is empty without Christ.  Reading, studying, and listening to God’s word creates reflection and growth. Knowing that no matter how awful life gets and what struggles occur, we are loved and wanted by our Almighty Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  No matter how bad we screw up, Jesus will be there to “catch our fall.”

“You are made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense.”

-Rick Warren

The greatest miracle in human history will be celebrated in four days.  Let us rejoice, give thanks, and praise our Heavenly Father for the gift of salvation, which began with the birth of Jesus.

Let’s not only celebrate the history of Christ told in the Bible, but help others experience the joy and exhilaration of knowing Jesus as our Savior.

His Birth Leads to Our Salvation

My family spent the weekend decorating for Christmas.  We have crates full of lights, Santa’s, mangers, ornaments, wall hangings, lights, and many other Christmas knick-knacks.

We decorate because we want to welcome family and guests to our home.  We are preparing for their arrival.  We want them to have a memorable visit and commemorate the season by making memories with the right atmosphere.

As we enter Advent, which leads to the birth of Jesus, we are reflecting on the many verses in the Bible that foretold the coming of our Savior.  Jesus was referenced at least 23 times in the Old Testament.   Here are a few of the Old Testament references to Jesus.

  • Genesis 3:15 Christ is the Seed of woman and we are told He will one day crush Satan
  • In Exodus, we learn of the story of the Passover Lamb, and Christ is the sacrificial Lamb given for us
  • In Leviticus, we read of the high priests making sacrifices to the people, and Christ has become our High Priest
  • In Deuteronomy, Moses prophesied a prophet who would come that would be greater than Himself
  • Ezra depicts Jesus as the Lord of our fathers
  • Job says that the Redeemer is coming
  • Christ appears several times in Psalms, including when David describes Him as “the Shepherd”
  • Isaiah details Jesus’ birth in chapter 9:6 “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder, And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
  • Joel describes Him as the hope of His people
  • Amos tells us that Jesus is the judge of all nations
  • Obadiah warns of the coming eternal kingdom
  • Jonah offers a picture of Jesus being dead for three days, then coming back to life to preach repentance
  • Zephaniah says Jesus will be the king over Israel
  • Zachariah is the prophet who speaks of Jesus riding on a colt
  • Malachi is the one who calls Jesus the Son of Righteousness

For thousands of years, God prophesied the coming of Jesus through His prophets, and many people of Jesus’ time still got it wrong.  They were not ready. God prepared them for the birth of Jesus and yet many did not believe or recognize Jesus was the son of God.  They were either in denial or not prepared for Jesus’ arrival.

What we know for sure is that Jesus will come again.  His return is referenced in at least eleven books of the New Testament which include Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, Romans, 2 Peter, Jude, Revelations, John, 1 Corinthians, and Thessalonians.  Christ is coming again, and we should prepare for His arrival.  When Christ comes back for the second time, judgment will be brought to those that believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and to those that do not.

What we know is that we worship a loving God.  He sent His only Son to live amongst us on earth, to suffer and die so that we may live eternally with Him in Heaven. Our God seeks a relationship with us through His love and care for us.  He wants to be our resting place in times of challenge and strife and relieve us of our burdens.  We live on earth not for this world but for our next life, in Heaven with our Savior. Our Lord is very clear though, we will not reside with him in Heaven if we do not believe that Jesus died on the cross to forgive our sins.  We must repent of our sins by asking God for forgiveness.

Let us reflect during the Holiday Season of not only Jesus’ birth but also of Jesus’ return.  He will come to the earth to judge and separate the believers from those who do not believe.  Matthew 13:49 tells us “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

Jesus provides us the path for a happy and blessed life on earth as well as He saves us from hell.  His birth meant our salvation from a life of eternal damnation.  Let’s use this Holiday Season to remember that Jesus’ birth was the beginning of the promise of eternal salvation in Heaven.

Heavenly Father, Thank you for the birth and sacrifice of your son Jesus.  We praise you for your desire to love and be close to us.  We recognize our sinful nature, and we repent and ask for your forgiveness.  Please wash over us with your grace and peace, to provide an understanding like no other.  Please move us to you, oh Lord, to see what we are supposed to see, hear what we are supposed to hear, and act on what we are supposed to do.  Amen

Forgiveness or Revenge?

When was the last time you were hurt by someone?  What is the worst thing that ever happened to you, related to a family or friend situation, and are you over it?

Anger can be a ruthless and debilitating emotion.   Anger can ruin a person’s life if they harbor resentment and bad feelings that persists from a life event.  Anger can ruin their outlook on their daily life and can impact future friendships and relationships. The weight of anger is too heavy for any of us to bare over a long period of time as it can impact generations of families.

John 18 speaks of Jesus’ arrest that ultimately led to his trial, conviction, and crucifixion.  The most amazing thing about the story of Jesus, to me, is that he knew of His fate all along and still suffered and died a horrific death for us.   Chapter 18 speaks of Judas, who led the guards to capture Jesus.  Jesus predicted Judas’ betrayal.  Four disciples recorded Jesus’ knowledge of this betrayal in Matthew 26:24-25, Mark 14:18-21, Luke 22:21-23, and John 13:21-30.  Judas continued to travel and be close to our Savior up until the end, and Jesus knew he would betray him, and Jesus still loved him.

Simon Peter, arguably one of Jesus’ closest confidants, denied knowing or associating with Jesus three times after His capture. Jesus predicted Peter’s denial at the Last Supper as was chronicled by the same four disciples, in Matthew 26:33-35, Mark 14:29-31, Luke 22:33-34, and John 13:36-38.  How do you think Jesus felt knowing that one of closest friends would deny knowing Him?

The most perfect and sinless person ever to walk the earth was hurt by His friends.  He was a perfect person who hated no one, never said an ill word, and in fact, healed people who were suffering.  And yet, he still had friends that turned on Him.

Sometimes forgiveness may not make sense.  You were hurt badly.  Some reading his have endured situations and heartache that I cannot imagine. How could someone do that to you? Perhaps others around us encourage us to seek revenge and prolong the negativity.

I am reminded of a profound act of forgiveness related to a terrible tragedy when a police officer shot and killed a man in his own apartment, incorrectly thinking he was an intruder.  Brandt Jean is the victim’s brother and he publicly stated his forgiveness of the officer, Amber Guyger.  Watch Mr. Jean’s statement here.

Forgiveness is freeing. Forgiveness might not make sense or be supported by those around you.  True forgiveness releases the burden of anger, resentment, and ultimately the desire for revenge.  What may seem like the impossible act of forgiveness will release your burden and free you of the long-term resentment and despair.

Jesus modeled true forgiveness.  He willingly ministered to mankind, to save all of us, knowing he would ultimately be resented and killed for the mission God gave Him.

Heavenly Father, Free us from our burdens and open our hearts to forgiveness.  We know you, Jesus, were the most forgiving and selfless person to ever walk the Earth.  Help us to know you, praise you, and live like you did.  Freeing ourselves from the burden and weight of anger and resentment is how you showed us how to live.  Thank you for showing us the way to live a better life.  Amen.

Peace With Understanding…even in Tragedy

Our community has been recently struck by many tragedies. There have been sad stories of “good people” who have been diagnosed with life-threatening ailments, terminal cancer, and unfortunately, a few instances of death.

We naturally question and wonder the purpose of these tragedies.  We struggle and strain to understand how this could happen to “such good people.”  Then, one of the crazy Christians typically chimes in with “Well, it is all a part of God’s plan that (fill in the name) is sick and God is in control.”

Is that true? Am supposed to be ok with the fact that God allowed my friend to be sick or knew one of my family members was going to die?  Why would God want me to suffer, mourn, or be sad?

Honestly, I struggle mightily with this.  What I have come to realize is that faith in Jesus means we are focused on living for eternity and not for this world.  The intense pain and sadness we feel is real and can be unbearable.  Unfortunately, tragedy can drive a person to a very unhappy life of regret, anger, and sadness.  Tragic circumstances can drive us toward God, or unfortunately, farther away.

Jesus says in John 6, “I am the bread that gives life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”  This means if we live a life without Jesus, we will always “hunger” for what life in this world wants us to do.  We want more control, more material excess, more money, more whatever drives us away from our faith in Jesus.  We will never be happy nor satisfied. When we get what we want, we do not need anyone else, including Jesus. When we follow Jesus, he provides “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

Life is hard. Living life without faith can push us to the brink.  Tragedy infuriates us.  Sadness hardens us.  Bad relationships exasperate us.  Frustration and a lack of control create a never-ending cycle of bad decisions and regrets.

The Bible is filled with story after story of disciples, prophets, and characters who suffered heartache, torture, and death living and witnessing for Christ.  The road to heaven is not promised to be easy, without heartache, disappointment, trials and sometimes unbearable circumstances.   I am not here to say I deal well with challenges easily nor can I relate to the tragedies and horrible circumstances some of our friends and family deal with.  Many of you reading this right now have dealt with more than I can ever imagine.

What I have come to learn is that the only way to fulfillment and satisfaction in this life is through the humility of knowing that we are not always in control.  No matter how much we resist and fight that reality, we must ultimately put our faith and trust in the Lord.  In times of tragedy, faith in Christ is the ONLY thing that pulls some people through it.  Knowing that their loved one believes Jesus died on the cross, means they will see them again someday, if they too believe.  I am saddened to think of friends and family that leave this world, with their husbands, wives, or young children not knowing or believing they will ever see their loved one again.  To me, that is truly death.

As a Christian, I believe life in temporary.  The pain, trials, and suffering prepare and lead us to a relationship with Jesus.  My worst fear is that people who are suffering do not have a loved one, friend, or neighbor who reach out to witness or invite them to learn more about Jesus.  So many people struggle, and they have not been introduced to Jesus.   What I have come to understand is that learning about Jesus is a journey.  There are layers upon layers of learning that are strengthened when I devote regular time to listen, learn and pray.  I was never able to build a strong relationship with my Savior through a “drive by” relationship by attending church on an irregular basis or not reading scripture when I wasn’t in church.  The Bible is complex, can be confusing, and requires commitment to understand.  The more you study, the more you learn, the more you understand.

So, the answer is yes, God knows about our sadness, heartache and tragedies.  His ultimate purpose is for us to humble ourselves and seek Him.  He wants a relationship with us and uses all types of circumstances to get our attention.

If you are dealing with anger and doubt regarding your relationship with Jesus because of a terrible life event, please seek help “unpacking” the complexity of your situation and apply a Biblical understanding.  Seek a church community with brothers and sisters in Christ that will embrace your tragedy and help you make sense of it, when you are ready.  A challenging and evolving relationship with Christ is so much better than a wandering, purposeless life without Him.

Father God, please wash over us with your presence and peace when we are suffering.  When the sadness is nearly impossible to bare, we know that you are the ONLY thing that can heal our broken heart.  You are the only thing that provides a peace with understanding that brings our hearts and minds closer to you.  Lead us to you, oh Lord. We want to follow you.  Amen

 

Is Something Missing In Your Life?

This journal is written to serve as a resource for those that may not have found Jesus or individuals that do not feel confident as to how to learn more about Jesus.

Perhaps this journal is a resource to help you learn more about Christ.  Or, perhaps you may want to forward this journal to a friend or family to help “jump start” them with ideas to start their spiritual journey.

I have come to learn that spiritual health is an essential element to my well being.  When I stop reading, discovering and exploring the gospel, I can feel my hope and attitude slowly fade away.  Devotion to consistent Bible study is akin to my physical health.  When I am focused on what I eat, coupled with regular exercise, I feel more physically and mentally sharp.  The same goes for my spiritual health.  I need spiritual exercise.

Here are three areas that have bolstered my spiritual health.

  1. Daily Bible Study

Devoting time each morning to read the gospel or listen to a podcast starts my day off right.  Some great resources I have found are the Bible app, where there are “reading plans” that provide a daily lesson to study countless topics and challenges.

I enjoy listening to podcasts while I exercise or walk.  My favorite podcast is Your Move, by Pastor Andy Stanley.  I also enjoy listening to the services of my home church, Cornerstone Chapel.

I have also found great Bible study books on Amazon or you can visit http://www.freebiblestudyguides.org/ where you can view free guides on any topic and where to find them in the Bible.

  1. Find a Great Church Community

Finding the right church community can be challenging.  The positive thing about the pandemic is nearly every church offers online services and you can attend great churches all over the country.

Some of my favorites churches are Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg, VA, Eastview Community Church in Bloomington, IL  and North Point Church in Atlanta.

I find it essential to take time each week to set aside time in my schedule to “be fed” the Word of God.

  1. Small Group Fellowship

I am a believer in small group Bible studies to provide a deeper application of the Word.  There is a powerful impact when sitting with groups of people that have the same questions, doubts, and uncertainty that we do and hear their perspective and learnings.  Small groups are also a great way to get to know more people in your church and develop closer more meaningful relationships. Some of the kindest, sweetest people I have ever met were in my Bible study groups.  Join a church community and take a chance to join a small group.

I am sure there the readers of this post have more ideas and suggestions, and I would love to hear them in the comments! What do you do to build your “spiritual muscles” and learn more about Jesus? I love listening and learning from others as to how they stay diligent to “exercise” their faith on their spiritual journey.

I pray that each of you finds your way to your own spiritual journey. Please take the time to explore and pursue God.  Your life will be changed.

Heavenly Father, You are good.  A life with you is so much better than a life without you. Thank you for peace that passes all understanding when we know we are saved by you.  Please help us to reach every person who reads this and has a desire to find out more about you.  Amen.

Love One Another

There is strife, disagreement, controversy, and angst nearly everywhere we turn today.  We all feel it and it can be smothering.

The political climate is as polarizing and negative as it has ever been. The pandemic has riveted our way of life and there is persistent disagreement about masks, openings and closures of everything, and no end in sight.  Many people have lost their jobs, been furloughed, or live in fear that they will lose their job at anytime. Racial tensions are at an all time high with horrible instances of discrimination and death.

I believe that masks, although positioned that they protect us, are pulling us apart.  People are hiding behind their masks. No eye contact in the stores.  No “hello” or “how are you” when seeing people.  In fact, we are walking past people we know in public places because we do not recognize each other.  In addition, many are quarantining themselves to protect their health and don’t socialize or leave their home.  We are distanced, literally, from each other more and more each day.

Let’s talk about social media.  Political posts are everywhere.  Commercials and comments are never ending, and most are not nice.  The back and forth spewing of political and personal beliefs is rampant, and people are slinging negativity with no regard.

The verse that is on my heart today is “Do what is right to other people, love being kind to others, and live humbly.” Micah 6:8

Convictions and beliefs are important.  To some, their beliefs are the foundation of who they are as a person.  Our beliefs are different based on where we grew up, what type of home we grew up in, our faith or religion, as well as where we live today.

In John 13:34 Jesus said “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  This was the last commandment Jesus gave to His disciples before he was crucified.

Jesus modeled kindness, devotion, love, and loyalty.  Jesus loved the tax collectors, prostitutes, thieves, Gentiles (non Jewish people) as well as sinners.  The Bible is filled with story after story of Jesus loving every sinner he came across.  He loved people of different color, background, and faith.

We can disagree with each other.  We can be irritated by one another. We might not even like each other.  But, we can still listen, acknowledge our differences, and be kind.  Perhaps it is best not respond to a social media post and not say anything.  Let’s slow down and see what is going on around us.  Let’s not take for granted a simple smile, compliment, or acknowledgment might be the only kindness a person receives that day.  Restrain from piling on with negative comments.  Don’t sacrifice your convictions but perhaps we should go about expressing our opinions in a different way.

I have as much intensity about my beliefs and convictions as anyone else.  I am a work in progress.  Let’s model for each other what love and kindness looks like, by loving one another.  Kindness is contagious.  So is negativity.  Let’s start with love and kindness first. Jesus did.

Heavenly Father,  We need you.  We need to feel your presence and power.  Wash over us with a sense of kindness, patience, and grace for others.  Help us have compassion and love, even though we disagree with others.  We know you are at work in EACH of our lives.  Help us to hear what you want us to hear and see what you want us to see. Amen

I Will Not Be Shaken

As a believer in Jesus, the hardest part of faith for me is to keep a positive faith-filled attitude when things are not going well. It is certainly much easier to have faith when I am not challenged.

Maybe you had an event in your life that caused you to lean in to God, or perhaps, to lean out.  Trials thrown at us like sickness or illness, tragic loss or death, relational challenges, or perhaps a job loss.  The world is crumbling around you and you don’t hear God speaking to you and He is not coming to your rescue. Where is He when I need Him?  Why should I continue to believe and have faith if it does not feel like God is with me when I am in a bad season?

Isaiah 8:14 says “He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the house of Israel as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”

The context behind this verse relates to the prophet Isaiah and his counsel to the Jewish people when they were under the reign of King Ahaz.  The Nation of Israel was a very low point of faith and turned their faith to King Ahaz rather than to God. Isaiah urged the Jewish people to fear the Lord and put their faith in Him.  Isaiah is stating in this verse that God will challenge and “snare” the Jewish people with trials and difficult times to bring their faith closer to Him.

Wait!  You mean the Lord our God knows we will go through bad times and He lets it happen!  Why do I want to believe and have faith in a God that wants or knows that I am suffering?

The apostles that lived and traveled with Jesus carried on the expansion of Christianity after the death and resurrection of Jesus.  When Jesus died on the cross, they were devastated and I would be confident to say they, briefly, lost their faith. But that all changed with Jesus’ resurrection.  To add onto that, all of the disciples that carried the movement and expansion of Christianity around the world, endured imprisonment, ridicule, torture, and in many cases horrible deaths.  If they would have quit or not had faith, humanity today might not be saved. Although they put their lives at risk and suffered greatly, most of the books of the New Testament in the Bible were written by men who suffered more than we could ever imagine and they still followed Jesus.

The randomness and inconsistency of life does not shake my faith simply because of the resurrection of Jesus.  There are far better people than me that endured insurmountable obstacles yet they still believed in the risen Christ.  They were so moved and impacted by His resurrection, they were willing to suffer unimaginable circumstances to spread the gospel.  They believed and trusted that God would bless them even in the face of horrible circumstances.

There has to be a reason and purpose for our suffering is this life.  I must keep studying, asking, digging, questioning, and exploring my faith.  One of my favorite quotes about faith and studying the Bible is from Matthew Maher.  Matthew said “We cannot say God is not speaking to us when our Bible is closed.”

I will keep reading.  I will continue to ask questions.  I will strive to be reverent and curious to understand the meaning of this life’s events.  What I know is I may not always understand but I trust that my God has a purpose.  He is challenging me to learn more, explore more, and go deeper with my relationship with Him.

If the disciples who were tortured and died horrible deaths still believed in Jesus, I think my day to day life challenges can be overcome. I will not be shaken.

A Star

The book of Numbers was written around 1428 BC by Moses. He wrote about the prophet Balaam who was corrupted by Balak, the king of Moab.  Balak bribed Balaam to place a curse on the Israeli people because he was afraid of Israel’s mighty military. Balaam was a prophet with whom God spoke to many times.  Even though God directly communicated to Balaam, he consistently defied and resisted God.

Number 24:17 reads “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult.”

The Old Testament has been said to prophecy over 300 times the birth of Jesus. Our God spoke hundreds of times about the Savior he would send to forgive our sins.  God loved us so much, he wanted to show the ultimate demonstration of love by sending His Son to earth to model a perfect life for us, be crucified, and rise from the dead.  Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, God spoke of His Son and the promise of forgiveness that would come.

Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try, you “fall short” of being the person you want to be?  Are you unable to understand why you cannot follow through on the things that you want to do?

Throughout the Bible, we learn that God created man (and woman) as sovereign and sinful beings.   We have the choice to choose sin or follow the right path the Lord puts before us.  Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we choose the wrong path.

Paul said in Romans 7: 15-16 that “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do.”

God created us as sinful beings. He knows your heart.  No matter how hard we try, we will “fall short” of what we deserve.  We will continue to make mistakes, lose our temper, and many times, regret the choices or decisions we make.  The guilt of failure and disappointment can sometimes pull us farther away from God because we do not feel worthy of his forgiveness.  Or, we might think that God will never forgive the horrible sin we committed.

No matter how rough or tough your life is, Jesus will forgive you.  There is no sin too great for Jesus to forgive.  There is no wrong that cannot be forgiven if you ask Jesus for forgiveness.  He is the ultimate source of redemption to remove us from the heavy burdens we carry in this world.  He forgives your sin of theft, deception, lying, coveting, adultery, abortion, and even murder.  There is no sin too great for our God to forgive.  There is no sin too awful that Jesus won’t provide us rest and redemption from.

Lord Jesus, please forgive me of my sins.  I believe that you sent your Son to die on the cross to forgive me of my sins. Thank you for the ultimate demonstration of forgiveness and peace.  I want to follow you, praise you, and glorify your name.  Please help me to be the person you want me to be.  Amen