Putting Self Last

pic7The fat chickens waddled around the yard, looking for more grain. We were thrilled! They were almost ready for the State Fair, where they would be entered as “meat birds,” meaning they were as plump as could be, and very young. We raised show chickens, turkeys, and geese, but the meat birds should take a blue ribbon! We had come up with a scheme that we thought was an original idea: each evening and night my husband would go out to the coop and turn on the light where the meat birds were. They thought it must be daytime, and would immediately go to the feed trough. After about ten minutes, he would turn the light off. This he did three times each night. By the time the fair was ready, the birds were as well! Taking them in cages, we happily trucked them to the Poultry Barn on the Fairgrounds.

It went as we hoped. On the day of judging, Blue Ribbons and Best of Show hung on the cages of our lovely meat birds. Some of the others won ribbons as well, but these in particular were the envy of many who had raised this type of chicken several times, whereas we were pretty new to the world of shows. The kids were proud to take many ribbons home from every fair we entered.

There was such a spiritual lesson in this season of our lives, as we look back upon the hours we spent each day with the care and maintenance of the poultry. It is a common saying (but not true!) that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The chickens were not old by any means–nor dogs–but they, like Pavlov’s dog, were able to have their focus redirected so that they learned a new lifestyle. We can as well. If you’re reading this study, it’s not too late for you! The Bible says in Hebrews, “today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart!” (Heb. 4:7b). It’s not too late. The lesson for us all is that it is never too late to become a child of God–no matter your past–and begin a new life. The consequences will never be erased, but the direction of your life can start anew. Jesus promises that if anyone comes to Him, He will make them into a new creation; old things will pass away, never to be remembered and brought up against you again, and all things in your life will become new. The consequences? In many cases He will give you opportunities to minister to people who are going/have gone through the same thing, and you will be able to minister to them, perhaps leading them to the Savior.

Many of us have a life that we once lived focused completely on ourselves. That is not God’s best for any of us. He desires that He comes first in our hearts, and that we value other people and their life, more than we value our own. Tough? You bet! But with God, all things are possible! Even getting along with someone who has been a foe. Nothing erases a hurt spirit like praying for those who hate us. Give God a chance to make all things new in your life, and, like the meat birds, learn a whole new way of living!

This is the perfect time to stop, get your notebook for notes and a friend, family or group of friends, and get comfortable. If you’ve already heard Sunday’s sermon from Thomas Road Baptist Church, jump right into the study below. If you haven’t heard it, click on http://www.trbc.org/service-archive, and select the sermon for November 27, 2016. If you have time, worship with the song service, then listen as Jonathan Falwell preaches the word of God. The study questions below will help you go a little further in depth, and perhaps something spoken or written will change your life, so that you, indeed, will love God and love people with all your heart, and Christmas will become a time of giving, not getting!

            SELF ON THE SHELF: REFOCUS OR REGRET!

Almost everyone has–at some time–realized that if we continue down a certain path, it can lead to an end we’re not ready for. Write down or discuss an example.

This week we enter the Christmas season, when our “wants” can easily become the focus of much money and time. God entered this earth to provide us with salvation through the greatest story ever told. It is only by intentionally taking the awareness off of our own desires and placing our focus on Him that we will get the truth of what His coming means to each of us.

Focal Passages: 1 John 2:15-17; Luke 1:5-14

Think About or Discuss:

God’s View

  1. In 1 John 2:15 and verse 17, what does God warn you to be alert for in your own life? He has told you what pleases Him in Luke 10:27. What does this mean to you personally?

QUESTION: This Christmas, how can I show my neighbor that he/she is more important than I am?

The World’s View

  1. Read verses 16 and 17. What does the world tempt you with constantly? Think of the commercials you see daily. Does the phrase “It’s all about me” sum them up?
  2. Can you illustrate with an example the truth that what should be the “Reason for the Season” has instead become all about you or your family?

QUESTION: What can you do to re-direct your focus from this path of having more “stuff,” to see that it is used for the good of others?

A Refocused Heart is One Fixed on Him

  1. In Luke 1:6,7, what are some characteristics of Elizabeth and Zechariah? List some feelings that would have been uppermost because of their inability to conceive.
  2. What did a childless couple endure in those days?

Even When Things Don’t Go Your Way

  1. Did they let the unanswered prayer for a child stop them from keeping their focus on loving God?

Refocus or Regret

  1. What did the angel tell Zechariah in verse 13b? Do you think that was a prayer that had been recent? Why or why not?

QUESTION: Where is your heart in the midst of disappointments, unanswered prayers, and shortcomings?

Close:

It hardly seems possible that we are again at the beginning of another Christmas season! As we enter this month, list some of the opportunities that are possible for you to help with through our church or community. In doing so, you can contribute to bringing the good news of the gospel to those outside the church. Examine your heart to make certain that your lifestyle is not hung up on adding more “things” to an already-overflowing home, and that you’re not breeding materialism in yourself. We all have today to begin on a new path that will yield eternal rewards. Pray that the joy of Christmas would be abiding in you every day, and that you pass it on to everyone you meet.

Daily:                                                                                                                                                              1) Praise God daily   (Psalm118:24)

2) Repent of your sins—never allow them to continue   (Psalm32:5)

3) Seek reconciliation with anyone who carries a grudge, has upset, hurt or been  unfair to you (Matthew 5:24)

4) Look for ways to bring joy to someone each day                                                                        (1 Thes.4:7)

5) Focus on what really matters (Phil. 4:8)

Memory Verse: 1 John 2:15: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.’”

Focal Passages: 1 John 2:15-17; Luke 1:5-15, Luke 10:27.

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