Where is Your “Prison?”

Today’s readings are 1 Samuel 23-24, 1 Chronicles 6, Psalm 54, and Acts 16.

Have you have had a dream or felt God lay it on your heart to do something specific and make a big change or take a big step in your life? Did you take that step only to find out things didn’t pan out like you expected? Maybe you moved to a new city to take a different job and then shortly thereafter you were laid off, or maybe you took the risk to start your own business…only to have the business not succeed. We may not have all had a dream or heard the audible voice of God tell us to do something but most of us have probably prayed about something or done something that just felt right only to have it not work out the way we thought it was intended. Here in Acts 16, we read about the same thing happening to the apostle Paul.

Paul had a dream telling him to go to Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10). His traveling there seemed to make sense at first as shortly after arriving in one of Macedonia’s leading cities, Philippi, we are told on possibly the first Sabbath there, he was preaching to many women and a woman named Lydia was baptized (Acts 16:11-15). Can we relate to this feeling of things falling into place quickly when we take a risk, and we grow confident that we were correct in our interpretation of God’s prompting and plan for us with this being affirmation? However, things changed quickly for Paul and his preaching friend Silas. A slave girl who had to gift of divination and fortune telling followed them everywhere and was yelling continuously in support of them to the point that it was possibly a hindrance and Paul being annoyed commanded it to come out of her (Acts 16:16-18).  Now that her “gift” was gone, she was of no value financially to her owners and they were so upset that they had Paul and Silas beaten and thrown into prison (Acts 16:19-24).

At this point, what would you be thinking? For one, I would likely be scared. They were just beaten and wrongly imprisoned and Jesus who they preached about was just unfairly captured and beaten only to then suffer one of the cruelest deaths possibly dying on the cross. Would their outcome be the same? At a minimum, I would be questioning whether God was wrong, or I was wrong by coming to Philippi. You wanted me to preach the gospel God, but how can I be out preaching to people while I’m in these chains? We learn in Acts 16:25-34 what Paul and Silas actually did. They began to sing songs of praise to God…maybe similar to Psalm 54 from our reading today. Really? Praising God when I’m in prison?! Then, an earthquake came and their chains were broken and doors opened! Waking up and supposing everyone was gone, the jailer planned to kill himself before he was killed for not doing his job. But instead, Paul and Silas stayed there and shared to gospel with him and then traveled to his home with him to share it with his family leading them all to be baptized! Paul trusted in God and His purpose, regardless of his physical circumstance and environment, which led to others accepting Christ.

God’s plan for this journey didn’t stop there though. Not so ironically, I was supposed write this last week but our biblejournal.net was down. This Sunday on 5/5/24 at Eastview Christian Church, Pastor Steve Carter spoke about Acts 16 in his sermon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1TFw-uEjwU). He shared this happened around 47-50 AD and then somewhere around 60-63 AD while Paul was imprisoned again in Rome, he wrote a letter to the people in Philippi which we now know as the book of Philippians in the Bible. This letter which may not have been written if Paul had not gone to Philippi and been imprisoned there has impacted millions, if not billions, over the last 2000 years. God cares so much of each one of us and our eternal souls that Lydia’s conversion to following Jesus alone would have been worth Paul’s travels to Macedonia, but because Paul remained faithful, that was just the start. We can see Paul’s trust in God’s plan and his past experience in Philippi echoing in his letter to them years later as we read it. In fact, check out Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” It is mind blowing the impact Paul has now had two separate times while in prison. What is your “prison” now or in the future where you can still make an impact on others and God can do a great work in and through you when you stay faithful to Him and His purpose?

Consider taking some time today to reflect on this, and also take a listen to this song called Holy Ground by Passion featuring Melodie Malone.


Living with Purpose

Today’s reading is Exodus 25-27, Psalm 90, and Philippians 1.

In our reading from Exodus we learn about God’s detailed instructions to Moses for the creation and construction of the Ark of the Covenant to hold the Ten Commandments, the Tabernacle, and related structures.  We also read Psalm 90 which many to believe to be the oldest Psalm and the one given credit for being authored by Moses with 73 Psalms being credited to David, 12 to a musical director Asaph, and 12 to the sons of Korah with another approximately 50 being anonymous. To me this Psalm from Moses reads much like it could have come from Ecclesiastes where Solomon speaks about the vanity of life and the only true purpose and meaning is in God.

Yes, the Tabernacle is built, but Moses wants the people to know in Psalm 90:1, and he also states the same in his final words and blessings before his death to the tribe of Asher is Deuteronomy 33:27, that Lord is their true “dwelling place.” He has been with them all along. This is further established and is finalized with Christ’s crucifixion and Resurrection that we know that God now dwells with us and in our hearts. This is illustrated by the Temple curtain being torn when Jesus died (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45), signifying that there is no longer separation between God and man.

With this established that God is with us and even in us, the rest of Psalm 90 and Paul’s writing in Philippians 1 instruct us to make the most of our days and live for Him.  A few years ago I developed my own personal purpose (or mission) statement which is “To impact others by helping them live life to the fullest.” The foundation of this comes from John 10:10. This challenges me to make the most of each day despite my circumstances and that life is not about me, but is instead about impacting others and glorifying Him through my words and actions which is not as easy as it sounds. I could not help but see a similar theme in Psalm 90 and Philippians 1.

Here are some of the verses that speak to this…

 12 So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord! How long?
    Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be shown to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor[a] of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!

Psalm 90:12-17

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1:9-11

20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.

Philippians 1:20-22

He should and will be glorified through whatever our circumstances may be. Not only are we to accept this, but we are to embrace and want Him to be glorified through whatever hardships we are going through. This is not easy, and we must remind ourselves each day that life is not about us and our individual wants and desires…it’s about the impact we can have on others for His glory. And through those hardships and challenges let us trust in Him and remember what Paul tells us in Philippians 1:6

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6

Just like the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant, and I would say very much more so, He created us with thought and purpose for this reason.

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done

Today’s reading is Psalm 57 where David is hiding in a cave from Saul who is trying to kill him.

Have you ever had something “really bad” happen to you in your life? Perhaps someone close to you has died young or unexpectedly, you or someone close to you has had a serious illness, job loss, financial challenges, or divorce. How did you feel during the midst of it or after? How do you feel today? Of course you were sad, but beyond that were you feeling sorry for yourself or perhaps even mad at God. If yes, that’s ok. I would say these reactions are all normal and human nature. I’ve been there and felt that way as well.

Recently I heard someone say that one of the differences in great leaders and successful people is how quickly they recalibrate and get back to their vision and putting everyday good habits first after something bad happens or they are feeling down. In a similar way, I have to say I really admire Christ-followers who I’m sure initially feel upset, but who quickly turn to God for strength, help, and recalibrate to focus on how God can use them in their circumstances for His greater purpose and glory.

While David was fleeing for his life and hiding with seemingly nowhere to go he says in Psalm 57:2, “I cry out to God Most High to God who fulfills His purpose for me.” Jesus taught us that we must ask for what we want from God in prayer and have the faith to truly believe that it will happen. He does so in Matthew 7:7-8 and Matthew 17:20. David asked God to rescue him in Psalm 57:1 and 57:3 and believes this will happen. David also says God’s purpose will be fulfilled either way in Psalm 57:2. Jesus tells us to ask for what we want and that’s the only way it will happen, but that God’s Kingdom and will are most important. He instructed us to pray about this and keep it on the forefront of our heart in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:10 when He said, “Your Kingdome come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Jesus didn’t just tell us to do this, He modeled and did it Himself in His toughest moments when He knew He was going to suffer the wrath of all the sins ever committed through a brutal scourging and crucifixion. In Luke 22:42, He prayed, “Father if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” He asked for what He wanted, but in the end put God’s will first despite the incredible suffering he was about to endure. Did God remove the pain and suffering? No. And I can’t promise you God will remove your suffering during your current or next challenge. But, God did send an angel strengthening Him in that moment in Luke 22:43. I can promise you that God will be with you always through every storm and challenge. David later became king and Jesus was raised 3 days after his death to give all who believe in Him eternal life in Heaven. He can turnaround the worst of circumstances through miracles and in ways on He could do. There cannot be a miracle without a setback! And whether we actually see it or not, He’s working all things for His good and His purpose through us. We must remember that “His good” and “our good” may not be the same, and although we may suffer through tough circumstances, we should be humbled that He would think enough of us to use us for His glory even in our challenges in a similar manner to how He used His Son Jesus.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28

Why I Believe – Part 2: Chet Bandy

Today’s reading is Psalm 18 which David wrote when God rescued him from the hand of his enemies and Saul.

I will primarily focus on Psalm 18:27-30.

For you save a humble people,

but the haughty eyes you bring down.

For it is you who light my lamp;

the Lord my God lightens my darkness.

For by you I can run against a troop,

and by my God I can leap over

a wall.

This God- His way is perfect,

the word of the Lord proves


He is a shield for all those who

take refuge in Him.


The night before beginning to write this our family watched the new Disney movie Safety about a Clemson football player who cared for his little brother while his Mom was in rehab so he would not have to go into foster care. As I saw some of the scenes of football practice it reminded me how much I loved football and even the practice..the intensity, the hits, and the sounds of the pads popping. I mentioned in my last post which I’ll call Part I of “Why I Believe” that I had never had a rock bottom moment so to speak that caused me to believe when I didn’t previously. However, that does not mean that I have not had challenges that seemed very great at the time with some making me wonder how I would get through them.

Growing up in the small town of Auburn, IL, high school football is huge. At a young age I asked the coach to be ball boy and my dreams began to be the star quarterback someday. I always picked the teams and played quarterback on the playground and also played quarterback from youth football all the way until my junior year when I had the opportunity to realize my dream to be the starting varsity quarterback. I had not only worked my whole life up until that point for this, but also put in extra work the last year to try beat out my competition in a quarterback controversy if there is such a thing in small town high school football. This dream came crashing down quickly when about a week into practice a broke my elbow throwing a football. Yes…you heard that right..I snapped a growth plate in my elbow just throwing which is unheard of. I had done the same thing to my other elbow the year before and came back later this year only to break a growth plate in my shoulder. If your counting along with me…that’s 3 bones in 2 seasons spending most of my sophomore and junior year first semesters in a cast, and I’m sure you can imagine the “jokes” from high school classmates about my frailty. This also doesn’t do much for a high school boy’s confidence when he’s trying to get a date! The doctor said this was due to weak growth plates and since I was still growing I decided not to play football my senior year. It was crushing. These were the guys I had grown up with and lead as quarterback since the 6th grade.

I played a lot of golf working on the course in the summers, so I thought I would play that in the Fall instead. After the first few days of golf practice, it just didn’t feel right. Fall meant football to me, and I missed being with my football teammates and coaches. Thankfully, Coach Bates let me be a part of the team and chart plays, along with work with the quarterbacks. It was humbling to not be able to put the pads and work with position I always envisioned playing my senior year. We went on that year to complete the first undefeated regular season for our town in 39 years. I can remember taking pictures after winning that 9th and final regular season game and being sad I didn’t have a uniform on like my teammates (I’ll never forget Coach Mark Dudley telling me to get in and making me feel included), but I was also able to find joy by still being a part of it in some way.  I was also happy for my teammates and the 2 quarterbacks who split time that year and remain good friends still.

This may seem like a silly story as you are reading this and you may be thinking..is playing high school football and being the quarterback that big of a deal? You may be going through some very serious “real world” stuff right now. Well for me, it was a big deal at the time. And the challenges you may be going through right now are probably a big deal to you while others may feel blessed to be in your situation. We need to be empathetic and understanding to whatever our kids, neighbors, friends, and loved ones are going through. The main reason I’m sharing this story is because I believe this experience and even the ridicule from high school classmates prepared me for challenges later. The same way I found joy in being a part of the team in some way can relate to the way we can find joy in our relationship with Jesus, even when circumstances don’t turn out like we expected. The subliminal lack of confidence I had at times later in life likely due this and the teasing from classmates allowed God to put others in my life later to build me up and help me realize these events and people affected me more than I realized, but they didn’t define my life and they didn’t mean that life would always turn out this way in future areas. God had big things planned for me in other ways. I wouldn’t trade being high school quarterback for the “victories” He has given me in making me a husband and father of three.

You may read Psalm 18 and be thinking…I’m a good person and may consider myself righteous compared to others like David speaks of, but He hasn’t made me “king” or helped me reach my vision for what I thought my life would look like. It’s easy for David to praise God because he made him king. But, did David know He would be king when he wrote this Psalm or was this before? Maybe God will make you “king” at some point in the area you want or in a different way or areas. Or maybe you are already “king” compared to the alternate path your life could have gone which God rescued you from, but you don’t even know about it. I’m confident God has rescued us from “Saul’s” and our enemy the Devil and made us “king” in ways we don’t even realize.

Regardless of how our life on this Earth goes, if we make God our rock, our fortress, our strength, our deliverer, our refuge, and our shield,  and we humble ourselves as Psalm 18 speaks of by trusting in Jesus and asking for forgiveness for our mistakes….He will in fact make us righteous and blameless in Heaven someday. In fact, we already are in His eyes today.  I believe in God because we have a God who didn’t have to do what He did.  The Creator of the Universe came to Earth as a human and poured himself out and suffered the pains of losing a loved one, temptation of the Devil, facing rejection and being deserted by friends, and ultimately the pain of a Roman flogging and crucifixion that we can’t even imagine. He did this not only to forgive our sins, but lived and suffered in such a way so that we would know He gets us and understands our pain because He lived it and faced the same and then some. This is why I believe. Thank you, Jesus.

Finding Gratitude This Thanksgiving

Today’s reading on Thanksgiving is John 21.

Is it easy or difficult to have a grateful heart this Thanksgiving? For most reading this 2020 has been very challenging and for many downright heartbreaking. For others, it may have actually been a year of many blessings strangely enough. Whichever group you are in, or maybe neither or a combination of both, I pray this Thanksgiving we call find contentment and joy in the blessings we do have.

Our reading today gives us 4 examples of God providing exactly what was needed when it was needed..even if those involved didn’t realize it before or even after.

  1. The disciples went out to fish at night sometime in the days or weeks after Jesus crucifixion and Resurrection. They fished all night and hadn’t caught anything. Was catching fish needed for their next day’s meal because they were out of food or to sell for money because they had no more? What stress were they under? We don’t know for sure, but we do know they were likely feeling frustrated from catching nothing when Jesus showed up at just the right time before daybreak and told them from the shore to throw down their nets on the right side (John 21:6). When they listened and obeyed, they caught so many fish their nets tore….153 to be exact (John 21:11).
  2. While eating breakfast with Peter, Jesus asked Peter 3 different times if he loved Jesus. Peter affirmed he did all 3 times. What’s the significance of this? Three is the same number of times Peter denied he knew Jesus after His arrest. Jesus knew the significance of Peter saying he loved him the same number of times as he previously denied him. He knew 3 times would likely be needed to make Peter feel he was fully forgiven and redeemed…even though belief in Jesus was all that is needed to be forgiven.
  3. Jesus then told Peter the way he would die which was to be crucified upside down in John 21:18-19. You may be asking yourself how Peter being martyred was exactly what was needed. Well, we are also told in these verses this was necessary to glorify God. Through it God has some plan. What we want and what we think is needed is not actually what’s always needed for God’s glory. However, that’s why He made each one of us…for His glory..even if we don’t always like how He does it. This is hard…but we must figure out how to trust fully trust in this and His love for us no matter what.
  4. We learn in John 21:22-23 from Jesus that John would not be martyred. Most historians agree that John was the only disciple that was not killed due to his belief in Jesus. While Peter and the other disciples may have been thinking while facing death for their belief how horrible it was or how unlucky they were, John may have been sitting on the island of Patmos where He was exiled for his belief wishing he died and was in Heaven. Or maybe he was wondering if He was not worthy enough to be killed for his faith like the other disciples. It’s all about perspective. Whatever you are going through…there is likely someone that would absolutely love to be you or have your life right now as hard to believe as that may seem. Whatever you are going through…it’s necessary for God’s glory. We now know John’s long life and exile to Patmos was necessary to write the book of Revelation to complete the Bible and tell about God’s ultimate restoration of brining Heaven and Earth together some day when there will be no more pain, crying, or sin (Revelation 21:4).

We see through these 4 examples in John 21 how what happened and what was given was exactly what was needed at the right time for God’s glory. Whatever you are going through right now which might be really tough, I’m sorry. I pray you know Jesus faced pain, sorrow, and rejection in his life too…and ultimately suffered and died for you for the forgiveness of your sins. I pray you can find contentment and gratitude in your circumstances and through His grace this Thanksgiving…perhaps even joy.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18