Sin is Like AIDS (Another way to Explain the Gospel)

I’ve always kind of struggled with the idea that Adam’s one sin ruined us all and made us all sinners.  It doesn’t seem fair does it?  I mean, one person ruled the fate of all mankind just by eating a piece of fruit?

Over the years I’ve come to understand that the sin committed by Adam was much worse than just eating a piece of fruit.  He wanted to be like God, which is why he gave in to the Serpent’s lie when he told them that they would be like God if they ate the fruit.  Adam was also supposed to be the protector of his wife and he just stood by as she was being tricked and then he took of the fruit himself.  Have you ever noticed that their eyes were not opened until after Adam ate of the fruit, even though he ate after Eve did?  Just something to think about.

I believe that God has helped me to see a better way to understand what happened in Eden and what is happening now with an illustration.  When Adam took on the disease of sin by taking of that fruit, he took on a disease that would spread to all of his offspring.

We are facing a disease today that is very similar to the disease of sin.  AIDS is a result of sexual immorality and generally is contracted when sexual immorality takes place.  The disease is often spread to the sexual partner, and in most if not all cases, to the offspring.  Now wait a minute, that baby didn’t have sex outside of marriage did it?  And yet it contracted AIDS because of it’s father’s choice.  That is just like us.  We may not have been there in the garden of Eden to choose to disobey God, but the disease of sin was spread to us because of the nature of what sin is.

AdamSin

We are all born with the disease called sin, and are hopelessly and terminally ill with it.  For some people, its symptoms are very mild and it does not show itself very often.  For others, the symptoms are very strong.  The point is, the symptoms of sin are different for everyone and the severity of the symptoms is different, but the fact of the matter is, we are ALL, every single person on this earth, born with the terminal disease of sin and without hope of a cure on our own.  And if we are not cured of it, we will die of it.  The only way to be cured of it is by a miracle.

The only person who can do any kind of real miracle, especially of this magnitude is God.  Why would God help us when we have chosen to consistently turn our backs on Him?  Because He is full of grace.  He came down to earth as a man who had no earthly father to pass the disease of sin on to Him because God is His Father.  He was born without the disease of sin, lived His life completely perfectly without the disease of sin, and yet died as a result of the effects of the disease of sin in everyone else even though He didn’t ever show a single symptom of the disease of sin.

Christ has died

Then He rose from the dead so that He can save those who have died because of the disease of sin.  He holds the only cure for this awful fatal disease and offers this cure for anyone who wants it.  The problem is, most people don’t realize their need for the cure.  Many think they don’t even have a disease that needs curing, or don’t think they have the disease badly enough to need a cure.  Now, we all know that the first step to being cured of a disease is acknowledging that we have a disease that needs to be cured, that we need help.  But most people are too blind to see that.

He is Risen

But for those who do acknowledge that they have a terminal disease that they have no hope of curing themselves and who ask God to cure them of that disease, He answers and gives them the cure.  He sees them as healthy as Jesus, who lived without sin and who died as a result of sin and rose from the dead.  God gives them the hope that they will also rise from the dead one day to live forever without the awful disease of sin.

The sad reality is, the world would rather flaunt their symptoms and try to force everyone to believe that they aren’t sick or that it’s ok to be sick since everyone is sick rather than seeking the cure for their sickness.  And they will die of their disease and be forever separated from the Holy and Righteous God Who has the only cure for the disease of sin by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Without Christ, no one is cured of sin.  Just like with AIDS, no matter how healthily you choose to live or what good choices you make, it cannot be cured but by the miracle that God provided through Jesus Christ.

I realize that this is not a perfect way to explain the Gospel, but I believe that the essential message of the Gospel is included and that this is another way to explain the Gospel to others in a way that can help them understand the seriousness of sin and the amazing Grace of God.  Be encouraged!  There is hope!  Grace, love and peace!

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Sometimes, I Don’t Believe the Gospel

I think we all struggle to truly believe the Gospel at points in our lives.  This is most often evidenced when we fail to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).  For instance, being fearful of awkward conversation and thus failing to share the Truth of the Gospel with someone, or saying that we love our neighbor and we believe that we should, but failing to help meet their needs.  There are tons of examples of saying we believe something, but failing to allow it to change us and failing to live what we believe, or as my pastor said, “We don’t put feet to our faith.”

Keep Calm Gospel

In order for the Gospel to change us, we have to believe it.  In Titus 3:8, the Apostle Paul has just presented the Gospel in a nutshell in verses 1-7, especially 4-7 and is now letting us know that “The saying is trustworthy” “the saying” of course, being the Gospel, and “trustworthy” literally means, in the Greek, “faithful.”  How do we know that it is trustworthy?  Because as Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” As my friend Matt said, “The Scripture is never wrong, we are.” I believe that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible and authoritative Word of God, because its authority comes from God Himself and it never leads us astray.  If we read it and know it well AND apply it to our lives, and I can testify to this truth, that my life is not the same, and I can speak for many many others that their lives are not the same as a result of believing, knowing and applying Scripture to their lives.

Paul tells Titus to “Declare these things…with all authority,” in 2:15.  So does Paul have authority?  Yes, according to Titus 1:1-3.  He gives a short version of his credentials here summing it up in the statement in verse 3, “…I have been entrusted (with the Gospel) by the command of God our savior.” If you want an extensive list of his credentials see 2 Corinthians 10:1-12:10.

Ultimately, Paul’s authority comes from our God and Savior Jesus Christ who had all authority in heaven and on earth and He commanded all believers to go and preach the Gospel to the whole world (Matthew 28:18-20).  The fact that the Gospel is true is a guarantee from God, and as with any fact, it cannot be changed.  He wants us to also guarantee this Gospel and endorse it.  We are charged in Titus 3:8 to insist on the truth of the Gospel “so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.” If we aren’t insisting on the truth of the Gospel and Scripture, we aren’t going to follow it, and we aren’t going to allow it to change us.

Applying the Gospel to our lives is one of the hardest things about being a Christian.  I will be the first to admit, that I love studying and soaking in God’s Word, but have failed to apply it in the past.  I can attest to the fact that when I have begun to apply the things I have learned from the truths of God’s Word to my life, it brings about amazing changes.  I definitely don’t apply it perfectly, otherwise I would be perfect.  Isaiah 58 tells very well how God feels about those who love knowledge but not application and then shows what application looks like.  My pastor summed it up as:  “Yes, you love to learn, but you do not love to obey or apply!”

Gospel sharing

The last section of Titus 3:8 says, “These things (good works) are excellent and profitable for people.” Our good works can look like acts of service to others, which is a benefit to them.  But hopefully in the meantime, we are also sharing the truth of Scripture and the Gospel with them, so that it is beneficial not only to their physical needs, but to their spiritual needs as well.

Sometimes, I don’t believe the Gospel with my actions.  I always believe it in my head.  I love studying the Scriptures and now, I love applying them, even though it’s very hard sometimes.  Like I said, I don’t always apply Scripture perfectly, but it’s something I’ve really been working on in my life and I encourage everyone to do the same!

Faith Cannot Save You…

There are many theories out there about what is required of people to attain salvation.  Some believe that you have to perform religious rites and rituals such as be baptized, take the Lord’s Supper, be a good person, give money to a church or other religious institution, etc, etc.  Others believe that all you have to do is have faith.  Just say you believe certain things, say a prayer, sign a card and you’re good.  These are just a few of many different thoughts on what makes one right with God.  But what if I told you that I don’t think any of these things has any sort of power to save?  No, not even faith.  Not in and of itself anyway.  I’ll explain that in a bit.

First, I want to address the idea that works and religious ceremony can save a person.  The main passage of Scripture that comes to mind for me is Titus 3:5: “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” I believe this same concept can be found in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:5.  Jesus had just told Nicodemus that he had to be born again to be saved.  Nicodemus asks, “How can anyone be born when they are old?  Can they enter a second time into their mother’s womb and be born?” So Jesus essentially says, “Let me give you another hint.” Then in verse 5, “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water (the washing of regeneration, not physical birth nor baptism) and the Spirit (Renewal of the Holy Spirit obviously), they cannot enter the kingdom of God.'” In other words, Jesus was saying that there is no kind of work you can do to be saved.  Salvation is all the work of God.

 blog Baptism

Some believe that “washing of regeneration” refers to being baptized.  But then that would mean that baptism is a required work before salvation.  These same people use the idea of circumcision to back up their point.  In the Old Testament, God required the Jews to be circumcised as a sign of their separation as His people.  But Paul refuted the idea that circumcision saved people in Romans 4:9-17.  He made the point that Abraham was considered righteous on the basis of his faith before he was circumcised AND before there was even any law to abide by.  The law didn’t come about until Moses’ time which would have been approximately 500 years after Abraham’s time.  Just for fun, and to make my point, I am going to write out the passage below and replace the word “circumcised” with the word “baptized.”  I’ll only use 4:9-13.

Is this blessing upon the baptized, or upon the unbaptized also?  For we say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” How then was it reckoned?  While (after) he was baptized or (before he was) baptized?  Not while (after) baptized, but (before he was) baptized; and he received the sign of baptism, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had before he was baptized, that he might be the father of all who believe without being baptized, that righteousness might be reckoned to them, and the father of baptism to those who not only are of the baptism, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had before he was baptized.  For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.

To sum it all up, I believe that John MacArthur made a great point that is a bit shorter.  He said, “For the Jew, Passover is a collective symbol of deliverance and circumcision is an individual symbol of justification.  For the Christian, communion is the collective corporate symbol of our relationship to Christ; baptism is the individual symbol of it.”  These things are just symbols of, not requirements for, salvation.

Now what about faith?  Faith is great.  By grace alone through faith alone can we be saved.  But did you notice which comes first?  Grace.  Grace is what truly saves, and the only kind of grace that can save is God’s grace.  Grace is what gives us faith.  Grace is a gift of God, but so is faith.  Although the picture may be a bit cheesy, the quote on the picture below is what really grabbed my attention.

Blog Faith

John MacArthur once again made a really great point in his commentary on Romans about Abraham’s faith.  He says, “It was not the greatness of Abraham’s faith that saved him but the greatness of the gracious Lord in whom he placed his faith.  Faith is never the basis or the reason for justification, but only the channel through which God works His redeeming grace.  Faith is simply a convicted heart reaching out to receive God’s free and unmerited gift of salvation.”  He continues, “Although faith is required for salvation, it has no power in itself to save.  It is the power of God’s redemptive grace alone, working through the atoning work of His Son on the cross, that has power to save.  Faith is NOT, as some claim, a type of work.” (emphasis added)  Can I get an AMEN??  😛

I think that some people do have “faith in faith,” in other words they think that if faith is strong enough, it will save.  But what does James say about this?  He says, “You believe that God is one; you do well.  Even the demons believe-and shudder!  Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’- and he was called a friend of God” (James 2:19-23).

The point James is trying to make is that if your faith does not move you into action, or is not accompanied by works, it is not real faith.  It is dead faith.  Likewise, good works, by themselves are useless.  (See 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 which bears the idea that love is characterized by self-sacrifice, but not all self-sacrifice is an act of love.)  You cannot have one without the other.  If I say that I believe that a chair is going to hold me up if I sit in it, but I refuse to sit in it, I will never be able to prove that my faith is real, because it is likely not real.  The works fulfill the faith, but these works and this faith can only come by the grace of God, which alone can truly save.

I sincerely hope that this was encouraging to some and challenging for some.  But most importantly, I hope that the truth has been spoken in love.  I understand that I don’t always have everything right, and as always, I invite anyone who wishes to add encouragement or ask questions and converse about these things.  Grace, peace and love to all through the Lord Jesus Christ!

A Very Hard Teaching

This is my blog from 2 years ago when I first started believing Reformed theology.  I realize how much better my writing has become since then, haha!

From April, 2012:

“Lately, I have been really wrestling with certain aspects of Scripture. I have gone back and forth on some issues for a few years now, but tonight, God opened my eyes to some key verses that have always been there, but that I have always ignored or overlooked so that I could continue to believe what I had always been taught, what was most comfortable to me. I am talking about Calvinism.

I always hesitate to use the word because it has so many negative connotations and many who hold to these veiws do so with a self righteousness and do not embrace the true meaning and value of these doctrines, also known as the Doctrines of Grace. I realize that it is much easier to believe or accept that everyone will get to Heaven eventually or that all anyone has to do is simply say a pre-written “sinner’s prayer” to be saved, but the more I study the Scriptures, the more I find that these things are just not there.

And the more I study the Scripture, the more I find that these “Calvinistic ideas” are everywhere. The Old Testament talks a lot about God’s choosing of people before they were born or before the foundations of the earth, and these ideas continue all the way throught the New Testament including many of the teachings of Jesus Himself.

The passage I read was John chapter 6, which I encourage everyone to read (also Romans chapter 9) because it involves a deep discussion that Jesus was having with His disciples, and not just the twelve. There were thousands still following Him at this point because He had done so many wonderful things, the most recent of which was feeding them from two fish and five barley loaves. They were trying to force Him to be their King, which is what prompted Jesus to say these things. The verses that stuck out to me the most and hit me the hardest were verses 64-66 of chapter 6.

“Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. And He was saying, ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.’ As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” -John 6:64-66

It’s been right there in plain sight the whole time, “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” When Jesus said this, it caused many people to turn away because it was “a hard saying. Who can accept it?” (Verse 60) This seems to be the reaction of so many people today as well. In a way, I guess that’s kind of how I reacted when I was first introduced to these ideas.

We as humans tend to think, “That’s not fair of God to choose some but not others.” We want God to be “fair” but someone gave a very valid point to me. If God was truly being as “fair” as we wanted Him to be, then He would not have sent His Son to die on the cross and raise Him from the dead. He would not have provided a way to salvation for anyone at all but would have left every single person on earth dead in their sin. We would all be going to Hell.

But this is not the case. This is the Good News, that despite the fact that we are all sinners, completely enslaved to our sin, God made a way out. We as believers have a reason to rejoice and praise God for allowing us to be part of His Church.

For me, it was very hard to rejoice at first because all I saw was the negative fact that there are many who are not chosen and how hard to understand this all is. But I’ve come to a better understanding that God has saved me and freed me from sin and has done so for many others who have believed, do believe and will believe.

I still struggle with it because it is a very hard teaching, but I realize that the Gospel is supposed to make people stumble, it is supposed to be offensive. This teaching made Jesus’ disciples grumble and He knew it. (verse 61) But my focus as a disciple is not to be worried about whether the Gospel offends people or not, but to continue to gain knowledge of Scripture and to obey what Jesus said, to go and make disciples of all nations.

It is not my responsibility to save people, only God can do that. But it is my responsibility to share with the World what God has done for me and what He can do for them. Many will hear the Word of God, but like the parable of the sower in Luke 8, some of the seed will fall by the wayside, some will take root among thorns and be choked out, some will take root among rocks and be scorched but some will fall on good soil and will grow and produce fruit, and that is the reason we are to take the Good News to the whole World.

We have no control over what happens to the “seed” once it has been planted but we are to simply obey. I am not saying that this is easy, but it’s not supposed to be. Our Americanized version of the Gospel has made us think that being a disciple is easy and involves only simple belief. But for many this belief is only superficial and is simply just that, belief. But the Greek word used in the New Testament for belief is pisteuo, which means a complete trust and total reliance upon.

Unfortunately, many who say they believe in Jesus only believe that He existed, died on the cross and rose from the dead, but they do not rely on that completely in their lives as the basis for all that they do. They do not follow Him with their whole heart and are not willing to obey Him at any cost. They have only as much “faith” as the demons do, because the demons even know these things to be true (James 2:19). But the difference is that the demons do not obey Christ and that belief is not the essence of all that they do.

I’m not saying that I have this all figured out or that I do not struggle with any of this. But I feel that God laid this on my heart to share as I continue in my journey to know God more and to obey Him with all of my being. I am still wrestling with my faith and my beliefs, but I feel that that is a healthy place to be rather than complacent and unquestioning because then I am not learning or growing, but in my wrestlings and strugglings, I find that I am learning more now than ever before and am more excited about my faith that ever before.”

 

Why do I Believe this Stuff Anyway? (Part 3)

This is the final installment of my testimony and why I believe what I do.  If you haven’t read parts 1 and 2, I would recommend doing that before reading this one so it makes sense.

I have talked about growing up in a Christian home, my adolescence, my journey through college and marriage, and how my wife and I had signed up for the World Race.

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I left off talking about living with my parents and studying Scripture as we were preparing to go on the Race.  I was studying through Scripture trying to see it as though I hadn’t read it before and trying to drop all of my pre-conceived theology and ideas so that I could see what it truly had to say.  I was studying the Gospel of John and came to chapter 6.  Jesus had just fed the 5,000 and left to find some solitude, but they followed Him.  So He basically told them that the only reason they were looking for Him was because they wanted more free food.  I wrote a blog at that time on this passage called “A Very Hard Teaching” which I will copy and post on this site.  

 

But as I continued to read that passage, I came upon verse 44 in which He says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” And then again in verse 65: “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” Now you can’t argue with Jesus.  If He said it, then it’s Truth, and I was taken aback.  I was definitely not looking for this to be true.  In fact, I was out to try and prove that it was NOT true, and yet here it was staring me right in the face.  I had no choice but to humbly admit that I was wrong for all these years and to thank God for showing me His truth, even when I wasn’t seeking it.  I still didn’t necessarily like it, but couldn’t deny it.

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Our team at the Chicago Bean at World Race Launch, September, 2012 

 

The time FINALLY came for us to launch on our trip.  After changing launch dates twice because of lack of funds, the Lord finally provided what we needed to get started on our journey, and it was in His perfect timing.  Since we were in countries where we couldn’t understand our church services most of the time, I began downloading sermons off of Grace to You, John MacArthur’s website.  I really grew a lot by listening to the way he presented Scripture.  He is bold, but also loving and humble.  In a recent sermon I listened to he said that even though he has preached for years, he is still not perfect and his attempts to explain Scripture are feeble at best.  That’s a lot of humility from a guy who has studied and preached for over 50 years.

 

One of my favorite sermons that really helped me to better accept Reformed Theology, or Calvinism was one called “Twin Truths: God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility.”  In it, he explained that the truth that God sovereignly chose those who would be saved from before the foundation of the world and that man has the responsibility of seeking God are not contradictory, but rather are two sides of the same theological coin, and are even complimentary.  They are parallel truths that cannot be brought together, but are in harmony with one another.  We will never be able to fully understand it, but it is presented all throughout Scripture, therefore we can accept and believe it even though we may not understand.

 

I believe that the best way to know God is through His word, the Scripture.  I believe that it is inerrant, infallible and authoritative for the life of every believer.  I believe this because Jesus believed this as evidenced by His constant quoting of Scripture, which I will not get into.  But I do believe that Donald Barnhouse, whose commentary on Romans I am reading now, hit the nail on the head when he said, “…if you call yourself a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ but do not adopt His attitude toward the revelation of God in the Scriptures, you are simply deceiving yourself.  If you do not believe what Christ said about the Bible, you are no more a follower of Christ than if you do not believe what Christ said about Himself, or about His own death and resurrection.”  

 

Jesus had a lot to say about the Bible in His ministry on earth.  I do my very best to not adopt a doctrine based on just a couple of passages, but on what the whole Scripture says on a subject.  This has really changed a lot of my thinking and theology, and like I said, I haven’t even begun to arrive.  But Barnhouse points out again, very well, that when Jesus quoted that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, that “…(Jesus) set forth the principle that if we are to have power and satisfaction, we are to take the whole of the Divine revelation and feed upon it.  It is life, for it has come from God for our nourishment.  And we are not to feed on part of it, but upon all of it.  At the base of every heresy is some Bible truth that has been taken out of its context and used out of balance with the rest of Scripture.” 

 

That is why I believe it is of vital importance for every believer to know the Scripture well, because Satan sure does, and he will use it against us if we do not arm ourselves with its truth.

 

God has continually grown me and stretched me in more ways than I could ever explain during this season of my life.  He’s not done with me yet, in fact, He’s only getting started.  I’m not perfect by any means, and still have a TON of growing to do, but I believe that continually feeding on His word will help me to continue to grow into the man of God that He has created me to be.

 

There is much more about our journey on the Race and the amazing things God did while we were traveling the world.  I will post a couple of those blogs on this site, but if you want to read more of those, check out joshandjenmendenhall.theworldrace.org     My wife is a really gifted writer and wrote most of those blogs.

 

I hope this helps you know a bit more about me and where I come from and why I believe what I believe.  I pray that His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven in my life and in the lives of many others.  Grace, peace, and love to all!

Why do I Believe this Stuff Anyway?

Having posted several blogs on this sight, I’ve come to the realization that I have never shared my testimony.  I have not shared where I come from, why I believe what I believe or what led me to where I am today.

 

I grew up in a Christian home.  My parents are Christians and most of my family are as well.  Image

 

My parents, brothers, and my grandparents and uncle on my mom’s side.

We went to church all the time, so I grew up hearing the Gospel and memorizing Bible verses.  I remember when I made the decision to follow Jesus with all my heart.  I was six years old at the time, and my mom and I were talking in my room one night about how when Jesus comes to live your heart (that’s the best way to describe it to a young child), he washes your sin away and makes you right with God.  Baptism does not save you, it just shows the rest of the Church that you are all in; that you are identifying with them and most importantly, with Jesus’ death and resurrection.

 

So that night, I prayed to receive Jesus as my Savior.  I was baptized shortly after, and then I kind of left it at that.  I was still a bratty little kid, but I do believe that I was truly saved at that time.  I did go through some times of doubt and prayed the “sinner’s prayer” a few more times for good measure when I was feeling especially bad.  

 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really have a whole lot against the “sinner’s prayer” other than that it is often abused and may not be something that is actually coming from a person’s heart.  If someone does not understand their need to repent and turn from sin, they should not be forced to repeat words that they don’t mean.  Now I wouldn’t encourage throwing the prayer completely out, but I most certainly wouldn’t encourage using it as the sole means by determining someone’s salvation.  It can and often has been just empty words that someone is saying so that they can have “fire insurance” (a Get Out of Hell Free card) and continue to live however they want to.  I definitely bought into this attitude for quite some time.  I figured it didn’t matter how someone lived, including myself, as long as they had prayed the prayer of salvation, they were good to go.  I didn’t discover the danger of this way of thinking for many years.

 

As I grew into adolescence, I began to live a double life.  At home and on Sundays, I was usually a good Christian boy, except at home, I wasn’t very nice to my brothers.  I knew a lot about the Bible and memorized a ton of verses, so I definitely knew the Truth.  But at school, I tried to be one of the “cool” kids.  It didn’t work at all, and people were really confused a lot about who I really was, including myself.  Sometimes, I tried to do the Christian thing at school, but other times, I acted worse than a lot of people.  I didn’t get into a ton of trouble at school, but I certainly did not live what I believed.  Image

 

That is, until the summer after my 10th grade year when I went on my first mission trip to Mexico.  It was there that I felt like mission work was what I wanted to do with my life.  I just needed the opportunity to change the way I lived outside of home and church.  That opportunity came when my parents announced that we were going to be moving to a new school district.  At first, I hated them for it, because I was being taken out of my comfort zone, but I quickly realized that if I couldn’t handle a simple move to another school (we were still going to go to the same church and live in the same area), how was I going to handle moving to an entirely different country?

To be continued…Part 2 coming soon