“By the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony”

Today’s reading is Revelation 12

I particularly like verse 11.  I find it extremely powerful and motivating.

“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Revelation 12:11)

Verse 11 points out to all of us that the critical blow for Satan came when the Lamb – Jesus Christ – shed His blood for our sins. This means that the ultimate victory was won and continues to be won by sacrifice – Christ’s death in our place to pay the penalty for our sins, and the sacrifices we are obligated to make when we are faithful followers of Christ.

I believe Satan is real and exists in the world today. Satan presents temptations to us and encourages us to act upon those temptations. As we face the battle with Satan we should not fear it but we should follow the example of Christ. Jesus Christ provides us the power to resist Satan’s temptations.

By resisting Satan, our testimony can be inspirational to others. Our actions can influence the actions of others, and this can help draw others into a relationship with Christ.

The Beginning of the End

Revelation 1

Many people struggle with the book of Revelation.  We complain about the imagery presented as we struggle to convert symbology to reality.  Our attempts are futile.  Rather than gaining assurance, we get fear.  Maybe, it is time that we approach this book differently.  Let’s leave our preconceptions and, more importantly, ourselves behind.  I discovered this as I read through Revelation 1. When I began, my focus was on one thing; myself.    Simply put, I begin worrying about my future.  What will the end-times mean for me?  This inward focus inhibits my ability to see the real message John presents.  Thankfully, God is faithful.  His word exposes my error and helps me correct it (Hebrews 4:12).  Today, as I read Revelation 1, I am reminded that:

    • God is in charge.  He gave Jesus the revelation to bring to us.  He commands angels and sits on a throne.
    • Because he loves us, He freed us from our sins by the blood of Jesus (v6)
    • He is the alpha and omega (v8). He existed before time began and will continue after it ends.

So what does the book of Revelation bring us?  A clear picture of who we are who God is.  Nothing else matters.  In fact, everything in this world will cease.  It will no longer exist.  Except for God.  He will continue.  He will rule and he will love us.  Forever and always.  That is enough for me.  Is that enough for you?

Exclusive Way to an Inclusive Kingdom

Jesus broke down barriers between male and female, rich and poor, Jews and Gentiles, young and old. And while he was a living example of inclusion, he also instructed us to follow him, exclusively:

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, but by me. John 14:6

Christianity: All are invited to follow an exclusive God.

And while this “exclusivity” feels really counter to modern politics and modern religion, 2 John and 3 John show us it was also contrary even in the early church.

Today’s focus on tolerance, acceptance, understanding, and inclusion are some of the same focuses of the early church. How do we love everyone, include all people groups, and also maintain the truth of who Jesus is, what he did, and that he is the only way to the Father?

1 John 2:21-22 No one who denies the Son has the Father.

As a Christ-follower, have you ever been asked that question of “so you’re telling me that you believe that the millions of Hindus, Muslims, etc, aren’t going to heaven”?

How do we handle that, without sounding unloving, self-righteous, or intolerant? The same way we can handle all questions of Christianity:

      1. On the majors, have conviction.
      2. On the minors, have tolerance
      3. In all things, have love. (John 13:35)

A pastor shared this in a sermon years ago and it stuck with me. I’ve tried to apply this approach to tough questions, debating conversations, or discipling new believers. And wouldn’t you agree, that belief in the saving blood of Jesus is a major? So we can (should!) approach those questions with conviction, with passion, and most of all, with love.

Jesus is my only rescue and he brought me beautiful salvation! I want to shout it from the rooftops that HE is the way to God – the best way, and THE ONLY way!

My earliest memories of my Grandpa Jerry include him wearing this belt buckle – and still the one he wears today. It doesn’t proclaim Jesus to be a smart prophet, kind human, or a good person. HE SAVES! Jesus alone SAVES! Like my Grandpa, I pray my life can be one that demonstrates the saving power of Jesus!

I love to share some of these additional scriptures with those questioning the exclusivity of Christ:

Acts 4:12 There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, and whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

Matthew 7:13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

Romans 3:22-26 The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe, for there is no distinction:for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Romans 10:9 Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 1:18-21 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

We don’t have all the answers, but we do know that we must believe in Jesus as our only hope for salvation. God’s ways are far beyond ours, and He will reveal all things in his time. Until then, lets heed John’s warnings in 2 & 3 John –  letters to specific congregations and people, warning them to hold tight to the teaching of Christ.  Don’t be deceived. Support the missionaries that are preaching the name of Christ. Continue walking in the truth. John was addressing this in the early church, just like it needs to be addressed today. Yes, still today, the exclusivity of Jesus’s saving blood is under attack.

2 John 1:9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Holy Spirit, help us to be bold in proclaiming the name of Jesus! Give us opportunities to share your plan of salvation for all. Fill our hearts with an outpouring of love to cover our words. Thank you God, for including me and inviting me into an exclusive relationship with your Son. Amen.  

Mistaken Identity

At the end of a recent long journey, we were grabbing our suitcases and quickly realized one of the bags was missing. We hunted around the baggage area, looking to see if perhaps someone was accidentally walking away with our bag, but we didn’t spot anything suspicious. We inquired with the staff and they stared searching with us.

After a little while longer we noticed one lonely suitcase in the claim area. It was a similar size as ours but really looked nothing like our bag.

Did someone mistake our bag for this one? On one hand we hoped so, but on the other, we hoped not because that meant our bag was on its way to who-knows-where.

One staff member at the luggage area noticed the remaining bag as well and she began inspecting the details. She then called the phone number on the bag tag and started speaking with the person. Bottom line… someone else mistakenly took our bag. Are you kidding me? They had been driving for a little while, but they were immediately going to turn around and exchange ours for theirs. Phew!

We were all quite astonished. How could someone mistake our bag for this one? Different brand and tags, ours had a ribbon on it, and theirs had a large strap going around the middle, and the tell-tale sign of your bag: it has your name on it. If it has someone else’s name, it isn’t your bag. My sarcastic side was firing on all cylinders, we were all shaking our heads.

All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:3)

I wish I could say that our family’s first reaction was pure; full of love, patience and forgiveness, but it wasn’t.

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.  (1 John 3:4)

We all had varying levels of anger and judgement.

No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (1 John 3:6)

To be fair, this negativity went on for just a minute until we all took a deep breath. What would Jesus do? Nothing new here: A human made a mistake.

For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. (1 John 3:11)

We all make mistakes. If we don’t forgive others, how can we ask God to forgive us? Do we love others or do we just say we love others?

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16)

The world would tell us to go ahead and lay into the culprits and seek revenge. However this world is not our home, nor our final destination, and the logic of this world is not the logic nor will of our father in Heaven. It was time to bend our fleshly will toward the will of God who forgives us through his son Jesus.

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:18)

About 45 minutes later we had the opportunity to exchange the bags in person. Clearly embarrassed, the man and I exchanged eye contact and he immediately said “I’m so sorry”.

 

He didn’t look like a monster, he looked like a child of God. He looked like someone’s grandfather, a kind and gentle man. Someone’s husband. Someone’s beloved. We shook hands and went our separate ways, perhaps we will meet again in Heaven and I will confess that his apology wasn’t needed: I was the one who should have apologized for my wicked heart.

Father God, I repent of the selfishness that so often wells up in my heart. For putting me first instead of first loving others like you first loved us. Thank you for being so quick to forgive even though we are not always quick to forgive. Thank you for a new day, for the hope we have in you. Guide my heart. Cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Your will be done. Amen.

 

Apostasy

Today’s reading:  Jude

With approximately 460 words, Jude is the fifth shortest book in the entire Bible.  Jude, the brother of Jesus, didn’t mince his words when he was warning Christfollowers about the danger false teaching and apostasy.  Don’t gloss over his message, as it is just as timely today as it was in the first century.

Apostasy – the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief; turning away from God’s truth and embracing false teaching.

False teachers during this time (approximately 65 AD) claimed that Christfollowers could do as they pleased without fear of God’s punishment.  Jude’s response was twofold, reminding his audience that – 1) God punishes rebellion against him, and 2) they needed to persevere and continue to build their lives on faith in Jesus Christ.

Jude supports his first point by giving three examples where God punished rebellion against him in the Old Testament:

  • The nation of Israel, whom God rescued from slavery in Egypt, refused to trust that he was going to give them the Promised Land.  They grumbled and rebelled.  Instead of delivering them into the Promised Land, God punished them.  They wandered in the desert for 40 years until the entire generation of rebellious people had died off (see Numbers 14).  Then God, being true to his promises, delivered the next generation of Israelites into the Promised Land.

 

  • Some angels gave in to pride and joined Satan to rebel against God.  Even though at one time, these same angels were pure, holy, and lived in God’s presence, God did not spare them when they rebelled.  Rather, he sent them to Hell to await final judgment (see 2 Peter 2).

 

  • Inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were so full of sin that, when they did not heed God’s warning to turn from their sinful ways, God wiped the whole city from the face of the earth (see Genesis 19).

If God harshly punished his chosen people, sent rebellious angels to Hell, and wiped entire cities off the map for rebelling, consider how much more harshly he would deal with false teachers who are leading his people astray.

The second part of Jude’s message is the call for Christollowers to persevere and build their lives on the truth of Jesus Christ.   The antidote for apostasy is staying in God’s word.  Continually seeking to know God’s truths in new and refreshing ways helps us to easily identify, and steer clear of, false teaching.  Those who refuse to learn sound, Biblical doctrine are susceptible to false teachings because they are not fully grounded in God’s truth.

I’ll be honest, writing for the Bible Journal has been a blessing in my life over the past 3.5 years. Understanding God’s word deep enough to write a 500-600 word message summarizing how the reading of the day spoke to my heart has been a recipe for spurring me on to know God’s truths in new and refreshing ways.  I admit that some weeks have been harder than others, but for 3.5 years, God has spoken to me in ways I would never have imagined.

Getting to know you…

Today’s reading is 2 Peter 2:1

As I prepare to write my posts I typically take a few days to read through the assigned chapter and let it soak. I read several translations and even listen to the audible version for a little different flavor. After reading, listening and still not finding my groove, I  went to You tube and searched for a sermon on 2 Peter 1. I should have known when I chose Francis Chan, The Most Important Lesson I Could Ever Teach (November 29, 2009), that I would be convicted. Basically, I heard him say, get to know God through the Bible and stop looking to other people to do the work.  Which was exactly what I was doing! Sermons are great ways to learn and bring about conviction, but nothing can replace time spent alone with God and the Bible.  This whole chapter is about getting to know God better to avoid the trappings of this world.

2 Peter 1:3 As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life.

2 Peter 1:5 A life of moral excellence leads to knowing God better.

2 Peter 1:6-9 Knowing God leads to self -control. Self- control leads to patient endurance, and patient endurance leads to godliness. Godliness leads to love for other Christians, and finally  you will grow to have genuine love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more you will be productive and useful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop these virtues are blind or, at least, very short sighted. They have already forgotten that God has cleansed them from their old life of sin.

This relationship with God is a process, just like any other relationship. It takes time, dedication, and discipline. I love the progression of virtues in the above verse. Knowing God -> self control -> patient endurance -> godliness ->  love for other Christians -> and finally love for everyone. We can only truly love everyone when we truly know the love of God.

2 Peter 1:2 May God bless you with his special favor and wonderful peace as you come to know Jesus, our God and Lord, better and better.

Enjoy your time with God today!

Shelly

https://youtu.be/4ckV6-xHRLk

Converted Coward

And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:

Are you a converted coward? When I first read this I had to read the chapter a couple times before I landed on this word fear tucked in at the end of verse 17.  The word fear I would associate with coward.  The words fear and coward are not popular these days.  It seems often you should’t show fear or let anyone call you a coward because you won’t say or do something.  But here, Peter talks about fear as a healthy respect for an all-powerful Lord. That ultimately God, who is the only judge, will one day make an eternal decision. In having the reminder of eternal decisions I reflect on 2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in my infirmities, in reproach, in needs, in persecution, in distress, for Christ’s sake. For when i am weak, then I am strong. 

 

So how am I passing the time while I’m on this Earth? What does our pilgrimage on Earth look like? Honestly, many days and hours I can take for granite when I get caught up in my own desires.  My prayer is to consider this short time on Earth. Like verse 24 say, All people are like grass, and all their glory is like flowers on the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall This reminds me that the kind of fear Peter is talking about encourages a healthy reminder of God’s holiness and judgement as believers.    It’s been timely to land on 1 Peter 1 for today’s reading.  Peter provides encouragement for any suffering we may be going through as Christians.  Maybe you have some suffering going on today.  I would encourage you to continue to read 1 Peter 1 & 2.

Dear Heavenly Father,

We pray to be converted cowards.  To be reminded daily that you are coming back and each day is our opportunity to live out our lives obeying your truth with sincere love. That in each day we are fully alert to your presence and the promise that you are coming back and our hope is set on You! We believe in your words and ask for belief in our unbelief moments.  Lord, in our struggles we can reminded that you are near.  We love you and thank you for people like Peter who was there through your suffering and suffered himself when he struggled with his own beliefs.  Help us to remember our identity in you, that we may seem like exiles on this earth but will be part of your family eternally.  God I can selfishly fall short, please continue to build a coward that fears you and makes a difference in how I live.

Amen

Walk the Talk

Walk the Talk

Todays Reading:  James Chapter 1

As we enter the heart of summer, I am reminded of the years of the past with the down home family reunions. Being from Texas, we would have big family reunions that would last for the entire weekend.  The reunion would start with a gathering of relatives on Thursday evening.  On the following day, we would have a fish fry that would be sponsored by a cousin who would have just caught the fish that morning.  On Saturday, we would have the big gathering and barbeque, where you met family that you scarcely, if at all remembered.  But this was the purpose of the gathering, to meet your family from two to three generation past, present, and future.

Some of my precious and memorable moments were the conversations that you would have traveling to the reunion or during the late nights around the fire or in your great-aunt’s living room or kitchen.  These are the times you hear about your father’s youth or the cousins’ shenanigans. You also gain so much wisdom just by listening to your elders. For instance, here are some southern nuggets of wisdom: “Don’t let someone else pick your shade tree” and   “Let’s sit down and chew the fat”.  These are sayings that mean to choose your own way of living and being and let’s sit down and chat.

As we have traveled through our Biblejournal journey, we can see a little of the family reunion unfolding. Jesus, in all the gospels, is the gentle father who gives us advice and teachings in many forms: parables, examples, and direct action.  Then we have the uncles: Peter, Paul, John, and James.   Each of the uncles will give you different advice at different times and in their own fashion.  Paul is the uncle that has traveled the world and has different experiences that will relate to everyone in their own specific way.  Peter is the uncle that is calm and tells you the stories of times with Jesus and how things will be to come.  Then we have Uncle James.  He is the uncle that gives you the stories and then tells you the truth of the matter. He is the apostle that loves yet direct to the point.  This is sometimes the favorite uncle because you always know what he is thinking. James is the uncle that forces us to “Walk to the talk”.

Everyone has the opportunity to grow and mature. Sometimes it is easy to comply with the rules and policies.  At other times, it is harder to follow the rules to the law.  James asks us a Christians to not only know God and Christ, but to actually live, as we love them.  Throughout the book of James, he is reinforcing us to take deliberate and intentional actions to live our lives so that others may see God’s love in us.

A couple of nuggets that James gives are:

  • Steadfastness: verse 1-4, 12
    • The true essence of a person is not discovered without some adversity or trails. When we are in the midst of hard, difficult, and challenging times this is the opportunity that we should be thankful and in awe of God’s presence in our lives.  It is once we have overcome that we are stronger and more capable of greater results.
  • Ask God for Wisdom: verse 5
    • God is a loving Father and will give freely all that he has, but we have to ask for the gift.He is ready to give wisdom, knowledge and peace when we ask it.  We have been conditioned from the exit of Eden to shy away from God, but this is the time that he wants to bless us and we have to be sure of our relationship that he WANTS to bless us
  • God is good and perfect and doesn’t want to tempt us : verse 17
    • We as humans and Christians are fallible and will fall often. It is not that God wants us to fail, but the desire of our hearts sometimes quiets the voice of God.  His presence is always there and he will give us an alternative whenever we are tempted, we just have to listen and be receptive.
  • Quick, Slow, Slow: Verse 19
    • This sounds like a dance routine, but it is the verse “Be QUICK to hear, SLOW to speak, SLOW to anger”.
  • True Religion
    • James puts the purest definition religion:
      • James 1: 27: religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
    • Doing good to those who are not able to provide for themselves is the Truest Religion

May we blessed to listen and follow these recommendations from James to bring God’s grace and love to those we interact with. Amen

 

What Drags You Down?

                   

                                                                                                        

What drags you down in life?  In different seasons there are all kinds of events, troubles,  and scenarios that can stop you in your tracks and slow you down.  Growing up, I was a swimmer.  Everyday you would find me in the pool for a few hours.  Back in the day we would train wearing multiple suits to create “drag”.  I remember sometimes layering up to 5 suits, the outer ones being old, deteriorated and disintegrated.  It seemed that the more suits you wore, the cooler you were:)  Jump 25+ years down the road and wearing multiple suits at practice is not the cool thing anymore.  Now, you get to buy a drag suit.  The above picture is a drag suit and even the girls wear these in practice.  

Funny how the extra drag of a suit prepares a swimmer for a race.  On race day of course you wear the one fastest suit you own that is as tight as possible.  You shave any extra bodily hair  and when you enter the water you feel like you are slipping through the water with ease.  After all the training and now stripping the extra weight from the drag suit, you feel 100% sure that you will swim faster than you ever have before.  

The purpose of this drag suit is to weigh you down and make it harder to swim.  In todays reading of Hebrews 12 we hear the writer telling us about living with extra weight and things that drag us down.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.  And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.  Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (bold, mine)

We trained hard for many hours a day in the drag suit, but ultimately we had to strip off the extra weight and drag to swim the ultimate race.  God asks us this in life everyday! We are training to get to our ultimate joy awaiting us in heaven.  Everyday we have to strip off the weight that drags us down.

What does it look like for you?  What is it that weighs you down?  Stress?  Pressures to keep up with the neighbors?  Work?  Family relationships?  Friends?  The list is endless, whatever takes our eyes off of Jesus has the potential to weigh us down.

Everyday we are living out the race of life.  Are you living well or weighed down with lots of baggage and sin?  To get rid of the extra weight, the answer is pretty clear, we have to focus on Jesus.

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus…”  

This is the beginning of Hebrews 12 verse 2.  We have to look at the example of Jesus.  The verse goes on to tell us what that example was.  The example is Jesus, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Jesus focused on the finish line.  The joy of being at the right hand of his Father, having accomplished all that the Father sent him to do.  

To win the swimming race, I had to take off all the extra suits that weighed me down.  We can only live our best life when we strip off every weight that slows us down.  If these things that weight us down are never addressed, we may never finish the race.  Our sins may be like the drag suit and prevent us from living with freedom and endurance.  

Thank you Jesus that we don’t have to run this race alone.  As we run the race set before us and hold strong to our faith, may we find encouragement that we are not alone.  In fact, we are surrounded by a huge crowd of witnesses who have been there before us.  We have people cheering us on, reminding us that the prize is worth it.  Maybe you are being called to be the cheerleader for somebody else?  To help encourage a neighbor or friend, to help lighten their load?  

Faith

Today’s reading is Hebrews 11.

Growing up, I always considered my father a true hero, and still do. As a member of the Illinois National Guard, I watched him live selflessly and sacrificially for the sake of his country and fellow Americans, and always admired the pride with which he served. However, living the life of a soldier left its mark on our whole family as well: we often went weekends, weeks, or on longer deployments, entire years with the man of the household away. Many important events and times together may have been missed, but the honor and rewards of his service were worth all the sacrifices we made.

One of the powerful tenets by which we express our beliefs as Christians is faith: the trust we have that in our sovereign God and His promise, sealed through the blood of His son Jesus Christ, that we will be greatly rewarded in Heaven for the lives we lead for Him here on Earth. Faith is something we exercise in our lives as Christians. As Paul aptly put in Galatians 2, “the life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” But in applying this faith to our daily lives, we can sometimes use guidance. Even the Jewish Christian to whom this book of the Bible was originally written needed encouragement and help in doing so. Mocked and persecuted by the Roman ruling armies, they often found their faith leading to difficult lives, something that has not changed these days either.

Like me with my father, there is a certain gift in having heroes to follow the good examples and actions of. In Romans 11, the author understands this value well. And like many of us, they point to many figures across the Old Testament as exemplary heroes who acted bravely and virtuously, all thanks to one common trait: their faith in God. Many familiar tales are recounted: Noah’s faith led him from the world gone astray and towards salvation. Abraham was led to new lands, fathered children when he never should have been able to, and trusted God even up to obeying commands to sacrifice his son. Moses endured the difficulties of his fellow Israelites and led them to freedom and glory. The walls of Jericho crumbled before those who believed! In the same way we look to these believers as examples of living faith, the early Christians here did as well. And as their faith is bolstered in reminders of the benefits of faith, we too are strengthened by the lessons we see here as to what true faith is.

First off, what true faith is not. It is not easily quantified, as we see in verse 1; faith is trusting in the unseen, what can not be measured or understood. Often we see that God is beyond understanding, not that we should not try to explain Him through reason, but that He is bigger and more profound than our feeble reasoning can grasp. We can never see or understand or reason with what will come to be, but through faith and trust in the Lord we know we will be rewarded for the trials and tests that come our way.

True faith is also not about immediate results, not trusting in a quick reward. We see that the trials these Old Testament figures were not short ones, but often lifelong battles and tests of endurance. As verse 13 says, “all these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” Although when we follow God we may not be immediately rewarded, we have heard many great promises from Him. We know living our lives in service to Him stores up unfathomable treasures in Heaven and glorifies Him above all else. Our faith lets us see that even we do not yet see the benefits of our actions, or often face adversity from the world because of them, God is pleased with us and is preparing great rewards for our faith beyond this life.

Of course, faith is also not easy. While the miracles faith has performed are listed in verse 32, the pains and heartaches inflicted upon believers are told as well. Living our faith may mean clashing directly with the ways of a broken world. We may see this most often as being teased, jeered, or called a number of despicable things for our belief, but many may experience exile, torture, and murder for being faithful. Despite the world’s crushing opposition, we know our God is unbreakable by any such trifle. Even when met with such trouble, these Old Testament figures live bravely and refuse to back down thanks to their faith. With trust in God, we can face these extremes as well knowing we too will be rewarded.

Now, these heroic tales also cast many uplifting reminders of what faith can do, which frankly is a much longer list than what can’t be done. We see here that faith is certain, as verse 1 says: “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Even though what we believe in can not be seen or measured conventionally, our faith in the Bible as God’s word for us provides all reason one could ever need. We know through our faith that the examples we see in this passage are factual, actual depictions of God’s tangible work in our world. Our faith tells us we can be certain our God can accomplish all this and infinitely more.

Faith is clearly a testament of glory as well. In living out our faith, we act as living signs, pointing others towards the glorious God we serve. The God we know, as we are reminded here, is more powerful and radiant than comprehensible. The mighty acts we see here are all gifts from Him, as are the gifts of our own. Sure, in our daily lives we may not endure flaming furnaces and escape the mouths of lions as these Old Testament heroes, but in the small trials and tough choices we face, we act as living testaments to a living God when we abide in Him. In faithfully following Him in times that matter, we fully display His wisdom and glory for all to see.

Of course, above all else we hold dear, faith is worthwhile. When we keep our steady faith in the Lord our God, we can endure anything. As the end of this passage tells us, “God had planned something better for us.” All trials and temptations we may face, be it torture, or imprisonment, or death, could not compare to the eternal future God has planned for us after this life. In our faith, we know that this is true: that eternally dwelling with Him is worth any sacrifice. I pray that you may think about what problems you may face today, and think about how the Lord will be there to help you through. Through your faith, may you know that the Lord has promised you a bright and shining future with Him despite what may come. One day, we too can join these Old Testament heroes in God’s presence, and share the same gifts they have received beyond this life. So in times of need, run to Him for guidance, and in times of praise, thank Him for a promise you can faithfully abide in.