TRIALS BY FIRE

 

Fire. Cars. Storms. TV. Friends. Wind. Crowds. What do these things (and many more) have in common?

This past weekend in Charlottesville, VA, we saw the horrific explosion of a police helicopter. Their riot gear, bullet-proof body armor, nor any other man-made protection could stop the fire the ripped their lives away. Yet in the middle of winter, while snowflakes are swirling outside, sitting in front of a beautiful fireplace, feeling the warmth from the burning logs, perhaps having hot chocolate–that is a picture of comfort for an evening’s enjoyment.

Cars are so necessary to get us places, taking us quickly to people or areas that would have been unbelievable a century ago. But put a drunk driver behind the wheel, or a texting driver, and an innocent family could be snuffed out in the flash of a second. All of these things have one common denominator: they can be used for good, or they can bring chaos, pain, or death. Evil exists. Can you accept that?

It seems on every side we are being inundated with a gigantic move to take our freedoms away. After a while, one begins to feel there is no media that can be trusted, and few journalists who will stand alone and report truth. Most of the “facts” are fabrications, as in the interview recently when so many statements by the POTUS were answered by a reporter as “Are you saying….?” You wanted to just shout, “Why don’t you just write what was said, rather than changing the wording to something else that continues the hatred, the intolerance, the division?” Few there are who will stand alone and be heard without being ridiculed.

Times haven’t changed in the millennia since man was created. We saw hatred and jealousy from Adam’s two sons, one murdering the other, the evil never stopping, continuing through the  seconds we are living in right now. On every side people ask, “Why does God permit this??! If there is a God, why does He allow these things to happen??” Ask yourself, in your own life, where do you want Him to put the barrier that will stop you from doing the things you do that are not pleasing to someone else? Perhaps even hurt someone else? What do you want to do to the person who is slandering you all over town, controlling you by evil actions? Get revenge? Sure. That’s (unfortunately) a human reaction. But if God takes away the free will of someone who is evil, where do you want Him to stop YOUR free will? The door that closes shuts both sides. Making choices that result in consequences that hurt us or someone else, was still a choice we were able to make. Making the choice to stand alone against hatred, bigotry, intolerance, evil men, takes a person who is giving God their heart, and letting Him control it. It is loving your enemy, praying for their salvation–not doing the same things they do, or siding with them so that you don’t draw attention or ridicule.

The young Israelites, Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, stood alone under the great king Nebuchadnezzar. If you listened to the sermon from Thomas Road Baptist Church for Sunday, August 13, you will have learned that they would not give in to disobeying God’s commandment just to save their lives. And they were willing to die (Daniel 3:17,18)! They were thrown, if you remember the story, into a furnace of fire, heated seven times hotter than normal.

Are you going through a fire? Perhaps so–most people are. The difference in the outcome depends on your relationship with Jesus Christ. If you are not His child, why would you expect Him to act on your behalf? If you are in a lifestyle of sin, you need to repent and turn away from it–perhaps the fire is to get you to turn back to Him. Or, as with a beautiful vase, perhaps the fire is to refine you, so the impurities and dross can be removed. Whatever the reason, get in a right relationship with Him, and ask Him to bring good out of the situation. He would love to. He wants a sweet relationship with you.

Go to http://www.trbc.org/service-archive, and select last Sunday’s sermon if you haven’t already heard it. Grab your notebook, perhaps a friend, and answer the questions below, all designed to help you dig deeper into the lives of three young men who were willing to stand alone at a time when it was not popular. Apply what you learn to your own life, and discard those issues that may be causing fires. And just as with the Israelite boys, you know you will have Him with you, right beside you, as you go through the trial.

Flannelgraph of Faith: Prayer and His Presence

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

There are many interesting studies that have been done in order to determine the amount of people who will stand alone when in a crowd; the percentage is very small. Have you ever had an experience of being the last person still holding a certain position when everyone else had chosen another option, and can you share with a friend, or if you are alone, write your answers in a notebook.

The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is one taught to most Sunday School children—by way of a flannelgraph. We listened with sympathy to their punishment of being thrown into a fiery furnace for not bowing down to a golden image, and the miracle God brought as He delivered them! These three brave young men left us lessons that helped teach us courage and how to grow strong in our faith. We want to glean more truth that will increase our confidence as we go through our own fiery trials (1 Peter 4:12), and grow in our relationship to God.

Focal Passages: Daniel 1, 2, 3

Think About or Discuss:

The Background

  1. Daniel and his three friends were brought to Babylon as prisoners of Nebuchadnezzar. Can you write a short overview of the early years of their life there? If you are unfamiliar with the lives of these four youths (including Daniel), read Daniel 1 and 2. In Daniel 1:17, how did these four cope in Babylon? Because of their wisdom, they advanced in authority, although they were about to go through a trial that would seem impossible to overcome.

Pray Like It Matters…Because It Does!

  1. Before we get to the golden image, read Dan. 2:16-19. Verse 18 gives you a picture of their lives, and the source of strength for these young men. What was it? Do you feel this was a habit or a one-time occasion, and why?
  2. Why does it seem to take a crisis to bring you to prayer? Prayer should be your first line of defense; why? If you don’t pray often, is it possible God may be giving you a reason to do so? Why? Read James 5:16b. He wants us to talk to Him!

Compromise Will Never Deliver 

  1. Relate or write down the demand Nebuchadnezzar made of his people when he built a 90 ft. high statue. What happened when all the people bowed down?
  2. Recall the opening Ice Breaker; who will be the one(s) left standing alone against the majority during testing?
  3. Read Dan. 3:17-18. What was on the line when the men did not bow down? Did they have any reason to assume they would not die? As a Christian, have you ever folded when you should have stood alone (don’t answer aloud unless you choose to).
  4. If they had bowed down, what would it have cost them?

The World’s Power Is No Match For His

  1. What initially happened when the three were thrown into the fiery furnace? What did the king witness, as he looked into the fire?
  2. Read Dan. 3:27. What was Nebuchadnezzar’s conclusion when they came out?

We Have His Power

  1. Read John 14:26. Do you have the same power available to you after salvation? How do you know you can trust Him when you’re in a trial?
  2. Read Isaiah 43:2b. You are the only one who can truthfully answer this question: can you look back and see that your faith is increasing, and that you are trusting Him to be with you every step?

Close:

Standing alone is hard. In the opening, if you thought of an example from your own life, you possibly sensed that same twinge of unease that you had felt then, and wonder now where you got the nerve to step away from the crowd—or wished you had. The decision to not bow to any god but the true God seemed as if it was going to cost them their very lives. They had not read the end of the story! We can see from chapters 1 and 2 that prayer was a part of their daily routine; in this case, they probably had time only for a short plea for God’s help and His will, but if He had different plans, whether He saved them or not, they would be faithful to Him until death took them.

We need to ask ourselves the same question. Will you stand regardless of the outcome? If you are praying for a loved one to survive a disease, for an end to a financial crisis, for help in your marriage, for a wayward child—will you still stand with Him and trust Him if He is quiet? Remember, too, that those who are going through trials usually need others to intercede for them—which not only keeps you in a state of prayer but also gives strength for the burden for those in the trial. If possible, seek out a Life Group and get with others who are going through crises, and let the burdens be shared by brothers and sisters (Gal. 6:2). We need to know that we know the Holy Spirit is with us as we go through trials. Sometimes He walks with us, and sometimes He carries us. Trust Him. You will find He is trustworthy.

Memory Verse: Daniel 3:17: “If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.”

Ask Yourself: Is my faith in God strong enough that I would stand against enemies of Christ? Do I trust Him to bring me through the trials of life? How can I develop a closer relationship with Him?

FEAR: WILL IT RULE YOU?

I stared at the envelope, noting the Green Bay, WI postmark. There was no return address, and it was childishly printed with my name and address. Not that those facts are significant, but they made the letter an “unknown.” I instantly thought of my mom, who would get a letter or card and study it, trying to discern from the outside who it was from. It drove me crazy!! I was always saying, “Mother! Just open it and find out!” I have discovered that we become like our parents as we age, in spite of hoping (as we grow up) that all of their habits will somehow skip us. Alas, they usually don’t.

When I opened the long letter, I found, to my surprise, that what began like a friendly epistle pertaining to the blog, was actually one of the most brutal verbal attacks I could imagine. As I read it, I realized that–as Paul wrote in Ephesians 6–we are not wrestling with people, but with demons (powers and principalities). Indeed, Hannah, the writer, was a willing tool being used for destruction. Had she lambasted me with antagonism regarding my God, or my belief in Jesus Christ, I could have had scripture after scripture (“there is not one person on the face of the earth who is not able to tell, just by observing the universe, that God exists,” Romans 1:21, loose paraphrase, but it makes the point), and hundreds more. But she, supposedly representing an assembly of almost 100 members in a writers group (many PUBLISHED..her emphasis), tore the blog apart, item after item, every piece of punctuation, jot after tittle. She left nothing out, and emphasized that she had enough material to write an “autobiography.” (One of the first rules I learned at the writer’s conference was ‘write what you know,’ so I do!) She finished as she “encouraged” me not to stop writing–it provides too much valuable experience for the group of writers to use as their weekly exercise so they could get more insight in how (not) to write. She even was able to take an old picture of me and pass copies around to the group (can you imagine the amount of colored ink?), letting them furnish cartoon lines, and it was all done as if with a spirit of fun. She knew her knives were going deep, and hastened to tell me that her writing group would have a super time with all further blogs (and sermon studies).

Did she hit the mark? Oh, you bet. What was worse, she calmly told me that the Writer’s group had been introduced to the blog by a graduate of my local university (not hard to figure out if you know Lynchburg, VA), who had moved to Wisconsin and joined the group, bringing the blog along to the group meeting. I’m not sure of his intentions, but I could not help but think of David’s words in Psalm 41, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

When Jonathan (Falwell) preached this past Sunday on defeating fear, I sensed God wanted me to intently listen. Hannah had 1) achieved her purpose: I haven’t written the blog for two weeks, feeling it was worthless except to be used as a laughing joke and learning exercise; and 2) even worse for her, she had totally missed the message of the Cross while being so intent on destroying the writer. As the pastor spoke, I searched my heart diligently: was I not writing the past two weeks because she was making a big joke out of me, and because I was now living fearfully that she will write again more viciously (don’t, Hannah, it will just go in the trash), or was it much bigger? Yes, it was much bigger, for I was definitely letting Satan via his demonic activity close down the only way I personally have to impact anyone with the Gospel. It is always my hope each week that, as the sermons from Thomas Road go out with a study attached, some–or maybe only one–individuals will dig deep into God’s word. I had my answer: I had let fear rule me. (And my apologies to all the wonderful people who teach the seminars at the  Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conferences in NC each year, for any writing errors! They have helped me so beautifully as I seek to minister to the ones who have “ears to hear”!)

So, in keeping with the spirit of the powerful sermon preached on “Defeating Fear,” I offer this sermon study, hoping someone will benefit, perhaps watch the service, and learn to love and obey the word of God. Just click on http://www.trbc.org/service-archive, and select the sermon “Flannelgraph of Faith: Gideon” from this past Sunday. Above all, erase from your memory any lack of professionalism with which I write this blog, as the entire reason is to point someone, including Hannah and her 100 writing partners, to the Lord. It is by His grace alone that one can become saved, not through any of our own achievements. And fortunately, He uses the weak, the foolish and the unlearned of this world to teach the proud. Sit back, get a drink of your favorite beverage, and enjoy the service. Take time to check out the questions, and may you have a blessed week!

Flannelgraph of Faith: Gideon

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Fear can be a mild stress that causes us worry, or a paralyzing dread that almost immobilizes us, often because we have no control over a situation. Can you think of an example? If you are alone, write your answers in a notebook.

Today we are beginning a new series based on the visual teaching from decades ago: the flannelgraph. Although we will use it along with today’s technology, we want to reframe the stories learned from childhood of the heroes of faith, and see how their lives give us lessons to apply to our walk of faith today.

Focal Passages: Taken from Judges 6:1-40, 7:1-25, 8:1-35. When you get time, read all the story of Gideon—it will help you understand what he went through.

Thing About or Discuss:

The Background:

  1. Read Judges 6:1,2. Why did God have to chastise the Israelites, who had been in the Promised Land about forty years? What did they do in verse 2?
  2. When things became even worse, what were their actions (vs 6)? How is that exactly like people today (9/11 is a great example!)?

God’s Solution:

  1. In verses 7-10, God tells Israel why He was upset with them, but in His grace, He promises a deliverer. Read verses 14-17, as the Lord calls Gideon. Who does Gideon remind you of, as he tries to get out of the job of delivering Israel (Exodus 3:9-14, 4:1-14 when you have time)?
  2. How is that like our lack of faith when God calls us to move out of our comfort zone?

God’s Victory:

  1. By the end of chapter 6, how many men did Gideon have, to fight against the Midianites? In 7:1-7, what conversation does Gideon have with God?
  2. How many men did Gideon end up with? Why did God choose those who brought the water to their mouth to drink, to be those who would go with Gideon?

Gideon’s Final Years

  1. Read Judges 8:22-27. Why is it so unbelievable that Gideon “became a snare” to Israel, after all that the Lord had done for him?
  2. Asking ourselves the same question, how many times has God done something miraculous for you, only for you to leave Him for a season?

What Are Some Applications?

  • Defeating fear requires faith
  • Defeating fear requires Focus
  • Defeating fear requires Fidelity

Close:

Israel had turned away from the God who had delivered them from Egypt about eighty years prior. They had begun to worship the foreign gods and live as the heathen nations around them. God had to punish them for their sinful ways, giving them as slaves to the Midianites until they were ready to turn back to Him.

Gideon, a real person in a real-life situation, teaches us that men’s hearts, no matter the lifestyle or when they live, never change. When God chose Gideon to deliver Israel, Gideon begged for a sign that he was doing what God wanted. Today, we also might desire a tangible indication we are in His will, but it is our step of faith that God is looking for. We must discipline ourselves to be in His word so much that it becomes part of who we are, and we should always be listening for Him to speak through the verses.

After Gideon’s miraculous experience with the Midianites, we would assume his time of judging Israel was done with a focus of bringing the nation back to the One true God. But Gideon, in a strange move, took his eyes off God and repeated Aaron’s offense by making a golden object of worship. Letting our attention become misplaced onto things of the world is a sure way to get away from God. Israel went through generation after generation of faithfulness, then backsliding—doing evil, being chastised, and back to fidelity. How much God desires that we remain faithful, trusting Him no matter what comes our way! He is not our God only when things are going well: we must have such trust that the greatest hurts we bear are carried, knowing He is working in our lives.

What are your “Midianites,” and are you trusting the Lord to help you defeat them?

Memory Verse: Judges 6:16: And the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” (NKJV)

 

 

After the hurt, then what?

 

The church sat right on the street, beckoning any who walked by to come inside, sit in the cool air, relax and get calm. Not her! There was no way she was going to enter a church again in her life. All that it stood for was a lie, she was certain of that. For a second, as she walked past the glass windows, she saw her reflection; it took her breath for just an instant. Not that she didn’t know what she looked like, but goodness, that was a sour-faced middle-aged woman looking back at her. How can you feel fifteen or twenty inside looking out, and yet the evidence shows you’re getting past the blush of youth? She hurried on.

The memories, oh, do they never end? How many decades does it take for them to stop overwhelming you? The church had re-opened a cavern where blackness in her soul was usually kept locked. The old questions came flooding back. What must it be like to have been raised by a mom and dad, with happy siblings, with love in the home? To come inside and know that everything bad was being held outside because the door had shut? She had had that for a little while, but the loss of that life still affected everything she did.

She had to sit on a bench for a moment, because she could feel the heaviness of those old memories begin to suffocate her–as they did every once in a while. Breathe. It was like a movie you’ve seen too many times, and it won’t quit. Her mother and father had tucked her in, but they hadn’t gone to bed; there was no yelling, nothing to indicate everything wasn’t good within her family. But when she woke in the morning, Dad was gone, his clothes were gone, his car, and Mom was crying as if she’d never stop. An aunt came by to take her to school, but she could hardly concentrate, wondering what had happened. They were a great family! She was her daddy’s Princess–he always said so. He bragged on her, held her, took her for walks, bought her presents, took her to church–he loved her. He had taught her about God! Now he was gone, and without saying goodbye. The pain was too great to understand.

She worked through the problem: Mom was still there, and Grandma and Gramps, but she could see they were hurting just like she was. Eventually Mom told her the truth: Dad had found another family, another woman to be his wife, and he had left. The woman had children: that meant he would have a new princess, and the tears from the pain of that worked their way out until she was sobbing as if she could never stop. Everyone was still the same, but Dad wasn’t there anymore. And the conclusion she finally came to gave a target for her anger and hate: God was the one at fault, for He could have stopped him. If there really was a God, especially one who loved children, He would not have let Dad go. So, either there wasn’t a God at all, or He didn’t love, because He didn’t stop bad things from happening. She was so young, but she shut her heart that day, and it had never been opened again.

Now, as she sat on the bench, the memories slowly began to ebb, just as they always did. She had reached the same conclusion as decades before. The idea of a loving heavenly Father was a myth for weak people, and she hated Him. She didn’t think about the paradox of hating someone who didn’t exist–she just knew she hated Him. She is one of millions who can’t get past the hurt to understand that God has chosen to give people the free will to make bad choices, and the innocent suffer. Would that she had turned to a Bible, and started writing down all that is said about God, His patience, His love, and how much He hurts when sin and Satan triumph over good. How much Satan has gloated at the hate in the heart of the child who has become a woman. And how ready God is to take her in His arms, and sooth away the pain, and heal the heart.

Sunday, May 21, the congregation at Thomas Road Baptist Church heard from the Scriptures as Jesus stated who He is. To believe that He is, you have to hear about Him, either through someone telling you, or reading about Him. To reject Him without checking any of the evidence is not even giving Him a chance. How about clicking on the sermon link, http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and hitting play on “Not My Jesus: Who Did Jesus Say That He Is?” Join Charles and the choir from LCA as they lead in worship, then listen to the message as Jesus emphasized His deity–to men who hated Him with a hatred so violent they were going to take His life. Grab your notebook, a cup of coffee or tea, and sit back, join the worship service, and then do the study below. Without a doubt, you know someone who is intimately hating Jesus Christ because they have been hurt. They badly need Him back in their life. You may be the one God has chosen to help them!

Not My Jesus: Who Did Jesus Say That He Is?                                                                                                                                                                                                 Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Many people are skeptical of facts presented to them unless they can see for themselves they are hearing the truth. Can you give an example from your own life?

This week we continue to look at what the Scriptures say about Jesus Christ: that He is, indeed, God, who left His glory in heaven to come in the flesh to the earth. We have looked at the doubts surrounding His being the only begotten Son of God, even when He Himself declared that He was the Messiah. Let’s study what Jesus said about His deity to determine if He was a fraud, a prophet or whether “truly, this Man was (is) the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).

Focal Passage: John 8:12-58

Think About or Discuss:

The Light of the World

  1. Read verse 12. What did Jesus claim in this verse? Where does this light lead?
  2. Read Isaiah 9:2. How did Jesus fulfill this prophecy of Isaiah? How does He dispel the darkness that is in one’s soul prior to salvation?

God Incarnate

  1. In verse 23, where was Jesus saying He was from?
  2. John 1:14 gives what fact?
  3. Read John 14:9-11. How much plainer could Jesus have spoken?

The Messiah

  1. Read verses 25-28. Jesus knew He was going to be killed because of His claims. Would He have made such statements if He were not the Christ? Why?
  2. Read John 4: 25, 26, and Matt. 8:28,29. Are these two accounts valid? Why?
  3. Why did the religious leaders want to kill Him?

The Word

  1. Read John 1:1-4. Who is being referred to in this verse, and how do we know?
  2. Read Col. 1:15-17: How do these verses about Jesus Christ back up His claims to have been the Creator God?

The Sent One

  1. Verse 42: What does Jesus state to the religious leaders here? Again, did He know His life was on the line with these statements?

Close:

One of the greatest debates in all of history is one simple question: is Jesus Christ who He claimed to be: the Son of the living God? If a person will read the Bible, making notes of the facts it presents, they will find that it states He left heaven to be born of a virgin as a baby, who was fully God and fully man, who grew to adulthood to take on a ministry, healed every kind of disease, raised the dead, taught, lived a sinless life in order to pay the penalty for sin for any who would accept the free gift of grace, was crucified, buried and rose again; was seen by many witnesses after the resurrection, and returned to heaven to wait until it is time for Him to return for believers. That is a lot of facts to reject! Especially so, considering there were witnesses to almost all of it. And yet, people want proof. The Pharisees and Sadducees had followed Him as He did miracles, but they still asked for a “sign”! (Matt. 16:1). As we learned early in this series, no true historian rejects the evidence that Jesus lived. But was He the Son of God, a good man, a prophet, or a fraud? The biggest reason unbelievers reject Him is because they cannot reconcile that He is love, and yet allows evil to exist—or at least to touch them! But proof—which is something that is seen—is not faith, and “without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6). In the final analysis of a study of Jesus, it comes down to a decision: will the reader believe that Jesus knows who He says He is—the great I AM—or will they reject Him because life has dealt some hard blows? The biggest proof there will ever be is a wretched soul who turns their life over to Jesus, and sees a new life emerge. What more proof could anyone ask than the complete healing of a soul? Do His bidding: seek those who are lost and introduce them to the Savior!

Memory Verses: John 8:12: “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’” through whom also He made the worlds.”

Study: Take some time at home to look up passages on “Light,” and find out how many times Jesus is spoken of as the light. Go to www.biblegateway.com or www.blueletterbible.org and find passages that will make the study on Jesus come alive for you! The deeper you go, the more you will want to learn!

Email: sdayfarm@aol.com

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Is HE All You Need? You Decide!

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Years have passed, but it doesn’t take much for me to remember how their house looked: it was thrown together with pieces of unused particle board, old shingles, scraps of barn wood, and any other haphazard materials her father could find, held together with a nail here and there. How they kept from being evicted from such a dwelling is (even now) beyond my understanding. It was, in effect, a third-world shack in modern America.

My mom tried her best not to complain when I wanted to spend the night, but, looking back, I know she must have cried many tears for my safety. For some reason, it didn’t bother me: my friend lived here, and she was not responsible for what her folks provided for them to live in. My mom was looking at the situation with eyes trained to see what she thought a family should have, while the dad probably figured he had a roof (such as it was) over his family’s head, and food (such as it was) on their table. The difference between desirable wants and basic needs. I don’t even recall if there was indoor plumbing!

I’ve often wondered what happened to the family. You possibly have friends in your background like that as well. You can’t imagine that they turned out well, but more than likely they did! It’s part of God’s mercy to bless both the honorable and dishonorable; those who deserve blessings, but also those who do not. Goodness knows, most days I don’t deserve half of the blessings He gives me, beginning with calling me His child.

Maybe you have it all together! I surely don’t. I can purpose in my heart to do a thousand things right this day, and one step out of line and I’ve blown it. You would think the Christian life would get easier with each passing year. Okay, maybe the knowledge increases, but sin gets more rampant, persecution gets stronger, profanity seems to cut deeper, and it’s easier to get discouraged! Add all that together and we can see why there’s so much in our lives that needs to be removed.

Have you been with us during this sermon series as we seek to eliminate the undesirable hangups in our lifestyle, freeing us to become the children God would have us be? We began by getting our finances in a position where we control them, and not the incorrect, upside-down, them-controlling-us way! We looked at the ravages anger leaves in our lives, especially when we don’t seek to forgive the person who has caused us mental harm, especially if it’s done intentionally; and as the weeks have gone by, hopefully you have felt release from burdens that have caused you pain! I know I have! Just making a budget was one of the most freeing things I have done in eons.

Get your notebook, something to drink, perhaps a friend, and click on the link for the sermon preached at Thomas Road Baptist Church, Sunday, February 26, 2017, and enjoy the entire service if you have time. Then go below and study the topic, taking the action points at the end to better internalize the sermon! If you have someone to discuss the answers with, you’ll be blessed. In any case, enjoy going deeper into God’s word! Click on http://www.trbc.org/sermons, and select February 26, 2017!

Overflow: He Is All You Need                                                                                          February 26, 2017                                                                                                                  Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

If you could eliminate one item from your life that you think would lower your stress level, what would it be?

For several weeks, we have been looking at Hebrews 12 and 13, trying to identify the “weights” or sins that keep us tied to this world, and which take our focus away from living an abundant Christian life. This week we want to dwell on the wonder that the God who created the universe still stoops to give sinners His grace for redemption and a wonderful life by being all we need.

Focal Passage: Hebrews 13:20, 21; Romans 12:2

Think About or Discuss:

He Is Our Peace

  1. Read Hebrews 13:20a. God is called the God of “peace.” What is the greatest peace God offers?  What really comes to your mind when you think of the word “peace”? If you are with someone who can discuss your answers, that is great; otherwise, keep a notebook handy to write in.
  2. These early believers were being persecuted for their faith, and were questioning their commitment to Christ. Can you think of a time when your faith was challenged to the extent you wanted to quit?
  3. Read Jas 1:2, 3 (NAS, if possible). James also was encouraging believers who were having their faith tested. What other types of peace (besides salvation) does God give?

He Is Our Shepherd

  1. Read verse 20b and Matthew 9:36. How are people like sheep?
  2. What are some qualities of a shepherd? Why is God called your Shepherd (Psa. 23)?

He Is Our Deliverer

  1. Read verse 20c. It is hard for us to identify with a religion of daily sacrifices; for this reason, the NT provides many verses that lay background for the amazing sacrifice of the crucifixion. Why did Christ want to shed His blood for you?
  2. Read Col. 2:13-15 (NAS, if possible). What has He delivered you from?

He Is Our Provider

  1. Read verse 21a. What are some of your daily needs? What does God assure you in this section of the verse?
  2. What is He equipping you for? Why is that such an important point to grasp?

He Is Our Hope

  1. Read verse 21b. What does God wish to produce in you? How will He do this? Read Heb. 6:18, 19. What are some of the areas listed as provisions of God’s hope?         

ACTION  APPLICATIONS:

  1. Take the first steps: identify any thing, person, or activity in your life that is replacing God;
  2. Be committed to walking away from whatever or whomever you listed in #1;
  3. Pray over your commitment every day;
  4. Share your burdens with Christians who have your best interests at heart; don’t walk this journey alone!

Close:

We have learned so many things over the past several weeks—things that, when put into practice, will begin to relieve the daily levels of stress that we seem to carry on our backs. Taking those first small steps toward getting freedom from debt, forgiving those against whom we have held grudges, discarding habits or companions that pull us down: all these and more begin to give us freedom to live as Christ would have us live, and to do so in His power, with His presence, and with our hand in His! Hopefully you have made the action points for the past several sermons into daily prayer practices, so that you keep making progress. Be sure you pray for those who are fighting battles just as you are, and if possible, meet with them for a time of encouragement, even if it is not long.  And soon you will be able to say with Paul, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39). Amen!

Memory Verse: Hebrews 13:21: “(May God) make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Quote: “The only place you cannot fail is when you are in God’s will!”

© creativecommonsstockphotos | Dreamstime Stock Photos

HAS SOMEONE HURT YOU?

dreamstimefree_3437005He sat with his eyes fixed on the judge, the right amount of dignity, honesty and humility showing on his face. He was under oath, and his expression indicated nothing but the truth would come from his lips.  His answers were slightly hesitant, as if he were making certain the facts were presented correctly, and only those who knew him knew this was the biggest act he had ever put on. Well, perhaps the second biggest: the first had been several years before, when he had embezzled something from his employer, and he had fought for his freedom by trying to sway that judge. Experience in this area really helped.

The ones in the courtroom listened as he told lies, one after another. The woman’s attorney tried to gets the facts straight, but the judge was so gullible that he took each spoken sentence as if it had been in the Holy Writ. She could see the handwriting on the wall, and knew he was destroying her family as surely as if he had a smoking gun in his hand. Who wouldn’t believe that baby face? And she knew, just like she had known several years before when he had lied to the previous judge, that it wasn’t about truth, or caring about people, or any other of the myriad of possibilities: it was about HIM being in control, able to have their lives in his hand, to do with as he desired.

He won. The judge couldn’t see through the lies, and swallowed each one. She was left out on a limb, trying to appear as if this was what had been expected. Justice is not served in the courtrooms of America very often anymore, and she knew it.

As I heard this incident, suddenly Scriptures regarding Satan and his dominance here on earth began to flood my mind. He, the father of lies, had been thrilled with the testimony of the person who sat before the judge, tearing a family apart. It would be so easy to get caught up in the anger, hate and bitterness against someone, when it’s really Satan we’re fighting against (Eph. 6).

Satan comes as an angel of light. And just as the judge believed everything the man’s modest demeanor said under oath, it looked like light. Satan is not red, with a pitchfork and long tail: he was made with such beauty that, after a while, he wanted to be given the majesty, honor and glory that belongs only to God. Do you really think he could have persuaded one-third of the angels created by God to fall, unless he is exceedingly able to sway the powers who rule the world?

Are you one of those who has endured pain, agony, possibly the death of someone you love, at the hands of another? Has gossip touched you, tearing down your life? Perhaps a lie was told, believed, and friends left you? Whatever someone has done to destroy you, you probably cannot fix. The only control you have is your own reaction. It’s easy to desire revenge! It’s WORK to rise above the hurt and forgive, pray for salvation for the perpetrator, or move past their actions, back into a right relationship with God.

The sermon preached at Thomas Road Baptist Church on Sunday, February 12, 2017, was aimed directly at the hundreds in the congregation who have been hurt, seen their family torn apart, relationships damaged to the point of being unable to mend them, and countless other indignities–and undoubtedly it hit a good portion or those attending. For certain, many of us struggle with discouragement because of those who have hurt us deeply, wronged us, or verbally shot us and left us for dead! Do you want to overcome that discouragement? Rise above the anger and let God restore you to a position of joy in your Christian walk? Click on http://www.trbc.org/sermons and pick the last posted sermon (2-12-17) and settle in for a time of searching your heart for any sin that would keep you from a beautiful walk with your Lord. Get your notebook, some friends if possible, and watch the sermon. Listen–if you have time–to the song service, as a special guest blessed everyone with praise focusing on the love and power of God to bring good out of every trial! Then, do the study below, learning what steps can be taken in order to forgive those who have sinned against you. Only by the active, intentional choice to give everything to God, can we gain holy living!

Overflow: Making Room for Life: Forgiveness, Holiness and     Peace                                                 Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

There is probably no one who has not been hurt by the actions of someone else—some very severely, with life-long consequences. Can you think of an example, and how you handled or are handling the situation? If you are by yourself, write your thoughts in a notebook.

Discouragement is a burden that can suffocate our spirit. Last week we looked at that depression which we bring on ourselves, and how we could change our perspective. Today we want to look at the discouragement that comes as a result of actions someone else has initiated toward us, as we choose to take steps to free ourselves from the anger through forgiveness. We want to lay aside the despair, getting our joy and peace back.

Focal Passage: Hebrews 12:14-29

Think About or Discuss:

Forgiveness

  1. Read verses 14-17. What does the word “work” indicate? What other verbs are in these verses? Who is implied as doing the working and watching?
  2. What is the consequence of unforgiveness in 15b? What steps can you take to forgive those who have hurt you? (The Action Points at the end may help).
  3. Read Matt. 6:14,15. What is another result of unforgiveness?

Holiness

  1. Read 14b. What are some evidences of living a “holy life”? What is the consequence of unholiness?
  2. Read Eph. 1:13, Heb. 12:15 and 1 Pet. 1:16. What does God expect of us? What is the verb in 14b? The Greek word meant to go after something in such a manner as to attack it! Is that how you “work” to be holy?

Peace

  1. Read 15a. What are you to strive for? What things are you doing at present to “live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18)?
  2. How does this apply to those who have wronged you?

Bitterness

  1. Why is it so hard to forgive those who have hurt us (verse 15b)?

A matter of the heart

  1. Read verse 28. What has God prepared for us? What does God deserve from us? Why?

ACTION  APPLICATIONS:

  1.  Make a list of those whom you need to forgive;
  2.  Put them in order as to the length of time since it happened, or the greatest in pain;
  3. Do whatever is necessary to actively forgive that person; if you no longer know where they are, ask God to bring them to you, praying for their salvation daily, and sincerely repent and realize you are cleansed;
  4. Seek to live a holy life, putting the past behind you (Phil. 3:13,14);
  5. When a new hurt comes along, take care of it immediately;
  6. Always keep in mind that, as God has forgiven you, so you must forgive others;
  7. Move on with joy!

Close:

As Paul tells us in Romans 17, our sinful nature is at war with our new nature in Christ! It is not natural for us to easily forgive those who hurt us, or worse, hurt those we love most—it takes “work.” Not forgiving leaves us open to the enemy, giving Satan a foothold in our lives, and we can become bitter, which then defiles others. It is imperative that, just as we have been forgiven, so we must forgive those who have sinned against us. It takes prayer and a heart that truly desires a close relationship with God to live in peace with all men. As you saw in the opening verses of this passage, the Christian life is not passive but active; it is not easy, it is “work!” It is not natural, it is godly, and comes from a yearning to be holy. Pray for those on your action list, that they would be saved, coming to a right relationship with God. The more you pray for them, hopefully the more you will find love growing in your heart, and a desire to see them as a repentant Christian brother or sister. Pray for yourself, as well, that you will be the example that others can point to as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Memory Verse: Hebrews 12:14: “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”

© Denis Makarov | Dreamstime Stock Photos

TEST: ANGER OR FAITH?

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The farm lay between two mountain ranges, with rolling hills in every direction. A river ran at the back of the thousand acres, wide and beautiful. Barbed-wire fences separated fields, all designated by names for the various pastures or corn fields.

The farmhouse was a dream come true. Since my earliest memories of the times spent at my grandparents’ and other family members’ homes, farming had been a constant love. It was so deep in my soul that it was part of my “bucket list” long before the term was invented. It was my answer every year for what I wanted for Christmas: a farm.

Graduation came and college was on the horizon. My focus got off-whack, and I ended up choosing a path that was vastly different from the one that I had had all my life. I didn’t get my farm at that time due to my own choices.

Years went by, and it was my solace at night as I drifted off to sleep to imagine “my” farm, complete with orchards, barns, cattle and gardens. I can still see the one I invented every night until sleep overtook me. Life and years kept passing by. Eventually my husband was transferred, and on the trip to a state a thousand miles away that would become our new home, looking to rent a home until we knew if we would stay in that area, I scanned the “For Rent” ads. There, newly placed that day, was a farm. As I drove up the long drive to the house, I felt I had come home.

Recently a Christmas party was held. As is common in situations like that, you circulate among people that are casually known, but conversations are surface: the weather, the job, children, previous places of residence. As I spoke to one couple, older than middle age, but not “old,” I asked about children. The pain in the woman’s eyes immediately seared my heart: I had stepped on an issue better to have left unasked. “We never had any,” she replied, and there was no mistaking the pain she felt, even after decades of barrenness. We who have had no problem conceiving seldom think about the pain and suffering couples go through when they cannot have children. I was so sorry I asked. At the Christmas season, with the focus on the manager of Christ, babies mean even more than at other times. And we all know that prayers don’t always get answered. The subject was changed.

The move to the farm was everything I hoped and dreamed it would be. All the years of longing were like flowers bursting forth, and I became a person obsessed. I couldn’t get enough of the outdoors, the work, the completeness to my life. Soon it began to be an idol. I stopped going to church on Wednesday nights so I could work outside. Having resided in hot Florida for many years, just being outdoors was a joy in itself. Adding the farm was better than winning the lottery. But the day arrived when I “came to myself,” just as the prodigal son did. I cried out to God to take me away from the place that I had always wanted to be. The next day, He did.

The lady at the Christmas party soon started sharing her memories of the years they had tried to have a baby. It was plain that she felt that God had completely let her down. She had probably been angry in the past, but that anger had cooled to a feeling of disinterest: God was not interested in her feelings, so she would write Him off. There was no opening to share His love for her at the party. In the same way, although I had cried out to God for a way of escape from the very thing I had wanted all my life, I saw it becoming more important to me than my heavenly Father, so you would have thought I would be happy now. Not so. My anger was so hot that He had given me what I wanted more than anything, and now I was having to give it up. That it was my own prayer to Him didn’t matter. I screamed at Him until I lost my voice. It took several years before I was able to appreciate that what He had given me in the deepest part of my being–a calling to be a farmer–was something I had to give up because it became an idol. Does that make sense? My relationship to Him had to come first. Now, all I can hope for is that someday, perhaps in heaven, He will have a farm for me, but if not, He knows best.

That is probably how Elizabeth and Zacharias felt those two thousand years ago, when for decades they cried out for a child. In their culture, to be childless was a stigma, and to not have a son to carry on one’s work was painful. Elizabeth carried sorrow in her heart daily, but at the same time, she and her husband had a faith so huge that they were able to trust that God knew best in His plan for their lives. We might be angry, but they were not. They were righteous in God’s sight. Would that I had been!

Get your notebook, a pen, perhaps something hot on a cold winter–almost Christmas–day, and sit down and watch the sermon preached at Thomas Road Baptist Church on Sunday, December 18, 2016 (if you didn’t see it already). If you have time, watch and sing with the congregation as they worship. Then get ready to do the study below, answering questions and digging deeply to discover how different our lives would be today if Elizabeth, and then Mary, had not borne these two special babies. Above all, appreciate the sacrifice Jesus Christ made when He came to this earth to offer salvation to all of us. Click on the link http://www.trbc.org/sermons and hit the play button in the center. Enjoy the study! If you have friends, family or a group, take as long as you’d like to finish, but let it be your “daily Bread” of life that God has given you today.

Self on the Shelf: The Christmas Calling,  Matt Willmington, Dec. 18, 2016

Open:

If you have lived very long, you have seen the word “calling” constantly change to mean many different actions. Write out as many examples as you can think of!

During this Christmas season, we have attempted through this sermon series to take the focus off ourselves and concentrate on the true message of Christmas. It is the time of year when we reflect most on the coming of Jesus the King, who left heaven to enter the world as a baby, being born of a virgin. We began this series studying the birth of another baby three months earlier, that of John the Baptist, who was the one God had chosen to announce the coming of the Messiah.

Focal Passages: Luke 1:57-80

Think About or Discuss:

Answer God’s Call

  1. Take a few moments and re-read the earlier verses of Luke 1, writing down or discussing the events that took place when Zacharias and Elizabeth learned they would be parents. Can you envision their surprise? How would she tell her friends? What about her family? Do you think she understood who John would be?
  2. Read Isaiah 40:3. What had been prophesied of John, about 700 years before his birth?
  3. When he was born (verses 67-75), what did his father say of him in verses 76-79?
  4. Have you ever felt God moving in your life, so that you knew how to respond in a particular situation? Zacharias and Elizabeth knew this baby was special.

Announce Jesus

  1. What was John’s “calling?” How did this fulfill God’s purpose for him to be born at this time in history?
  2. Was John’s childhood very different than that of Jesus’ (verse 80 compared to Luke 2:40, 52)?
  3. In Matthew 28:19-20, how does John’s calling differ from yours? What do you think your calling may be?

Accept His Timing

  1. Think back to the years when Zacharias and Elizabeth were of child-bearing age and praying constantly that God would bless them with a child; what if John had been born then? Was Mary even alive then? About how long would it have been before Jesus would be born?
  2. What do you find yourself doing when God’s timing is not yours? Do you usually take over and try to manipulate circumstances, or patiently wait for Him to act?
  3. What season are you in now—a waiting period, or is everything going well?

Close:

It is a magnificent lesson to all of us to reflect on the high calling of John the Baptist. In Esther 4:14, it was pointed out to her that she was possibly raised up for the time that she would be needed to save her people from annihilation. John was born at a time in history in order to fulfill prophecy that he would be the one who would announce that the Messiah had come to Israel. But think of his parents: they had prayed long and hard—for many years—for a child, and still Elizabeth remained barren. Did they think God had forgotten them? They kept their faith, but sorrow still had to have been present in her heart. Yet had she been able to see her role from God’s perspective, she would have realized she was going to bear the forerunner to Jesus Christ, and that joy would have taken away all her pain! Perhaps when we have prayers that are not answered in a timely manner, we need to read this passage, asking God for the patience and trust to believe He is working out purposes that are far beyond our ability to grasp, and have faith that He is arranging everything for the good of those we love. Pray for the insight to have a great confidence in Him who created you! And realize that, like John, you have been called to announce to your world the good news of Jesus Christ. What a mighty message you have!

Memory Verse: Luke 1:76: “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways.”

Focal Passages: Luke 1:57-80, Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 3:1 and 4:5.

 

 

 

 

 

Pulling Out a 4th Quarter Win!

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She was one of the “greats.” You know the type, they dress casually but always look classy, she could sing off the charts, and did so very often, glorifying God with her beautiful voice. She spoke to groups, always encouraging them to stay in the fight, cling to God, home and family. She was everything I wished to be. Yet her home life was a different story. Who knows why a husband who “talks the talk” doesn’t “walk the walk”? Perhaps he was intimidated by his wife’s popularity, or perhaps jealous. There are always two sides to the story, of course. We never discussed his. All I knew was that he verbally abused her beyond what any woman should ever have to take, stopping short of physical abuse, but the look in his eyes often said he wished she was dead. She looked terrible, (he would yell), the song stunk, her presentation was awful, the kids hated her, she was stupid, a terrible housewife, horrible mother, etc. etc.

One evening a neighbor heard the verbal barrage, heard the door slam off the hinges as the husband grabbed their child and left in anger, and couldn’t stand it. He just wanted her to know she was doing everything right. It was so wrong, but he held her just a moment for a non-threatening hug while she sobbed her heart out. His concern took a different turn, and one moment of what should have been a consolation from a friend turned into a very short time of intimacy. Now–added to her life of hell in the home–she had failed her God. She had heard His quiet voice when the comfort started, but somehow, in the despair of the few moments, it became quiet. Her repentance was genuine, her grief over the short brief coming together sickened her. One month went by, two… and there was no denying it: she was pregnant.

She never told anyone the baby did not belong to her husband. Very fortunately, the adorable girl looked like her mom, acted like her, and only if you knew who the father was, would you have connected any dots. The child is grown, happy, loves her family, and would be devastated to find that she was the product of one moment in time. She is now looking forward to her own ministry, never knowing the past.

Did our women’s leader blame God for her pregnancy, for the lack of strength to resist comfort which she so desperately needed? No, she blamed herself. Took upon herself the mantle of responsibility, and did not let bitterness take root in her heart. But be warned, husbands, a wife looks to you for her affirmation; she needs to know that she is loved in your eyes. Without it, a woman is vulnerable to the comfort of others, even while she’s desperately trying to keep the enemy away.

I have watched her grow more and more in her faith, have seen the strength she gets only from the Lord. I’ve seen the love she pours out to her children, and yes, even to her husband who has continued to belittle her. Many years have passed, but she is hanging in there, witnessing, watching her children grow into responsible adults, and yet that terrible scar of a deep wound is part of her heart. Many people cannot understand how God can be holy and still forgive sins so great, but He can, does, and will still use the sinner. No sin is too great that He cannot or will not forgive. Hers was just one that He died for.

Take your Bible, your note book, and sit for a few minutes to listen to the sermon from Sunday, August 14, 2016, at http://www.trbc.org/service-archive, preached at Thomas Road Baptist Church. Select the correct sermon, then work on the questions below, writing out your answers, or–if you’re in a group setting with a friend or even several friends–talk about the lessons that can be applied to our lives.

We will look at Moses, finishing the series that has taught us so much over the past few weeks. Moses obeyed God in all He told him to do–except one incident recorded in Numbers, chapter 20. Moses exhibited frustration, anger, perhaps a bit of pride, but definitely he felt “fed up” with the people who constantly belittled everything he tried to do as they lived in the wilderness for forty years. In letting his anger rule, rather than God’s command, it cost him the opportunity to accompany the people into the land that God had promised them. Did he become bitter about it? Wouldn’t we have said, “God! How fair is that, that I’ve done everything You asked, and You let this one time be such a huge punishment??” Bitterness, turning away from God, giving up on what He did for you in dying–all that is something that happens to thousands every day; it is only the ones who pick up the pieces, and determine to “finish strong” that find God will and does still use them in His great work. It is, after all, HIS work, not ours!

Open:

It takes only a fraction of a second to make a choice that has consequences that can last for the rest of your life. You know, however, that you have the choice to let the past go, and finish with integrity. Can you think of an example? Talk about it, or write it down.

Over the past several weeks we have learned lessons from the life of Moses, starting with his birth until, at 80 years of age, he led the children of Israel out of Egypt, where he guided them for forty years. Today we focus on one incident when his disobedience to God cost him the reward of going into the promised land. Still, he did not become bitter, but continued to be passionate in serving God.

Think About or Discuss:

  1. Read Numbers 20:1-12 for a background of Moses’ act of disobedience. Keep your notebook handy to write down things that come to your mind.
  2. If God had ignored Moses’ action, what lessons would that have taught Israel about disobeying and dishonoring Him? Would the importance and authority of the Ten Commandments have been treated with respect? Which commandment did it violate in particular (Exodus 20:1-17)?

He didn’t let his past failure keep him from his future obedience

  1. In Numbers 20:12, how do you think Moses felt when God reprimanded and punished him in front of the multitude?
  2. How would you have felt if it had happened to you (perhaps a large group, or your company)? Would you have been angry at God, or understood He chastens those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:7-9)?

He continued to lead

  1. Afterwards, God continued to give Moses instructions in Numbers 20. What does verse 27 say? What does this tell you about the heart of Moses?
  2. Think of a time when your own disobedience caused God to have to discipline you. Did you let the bitterness give you a reason to walk away from God for a season, or did you trust Him enough to continue to follow Him?

He continued to bless those around him

  1. If you go back to Deut. 31 (read it on your own), you will see Moses pours his remaining days into blessing the tribes of Israel, mentoring Eleazar to take the place of Aaron, and preparing Joshua to take his own place. What do these actions tell you about his inner character?
  2. Ask yourself a very serious question: in the same circumstances, would you (or have you) continued serving God with a passion, or shut Him out of your life?

Key Point: It was GOD’S work, not Moses’

Close:

It would have been so easy to let the humiliation of the one act of disobedience take root and grow a “root” of bitterness. Read Hebrews 12:15. Most believers have had times of God’s disciplining, and have sometimes felt it unfair (from our perspective). As you go into a new week, think about the things in your life that need to be dealt with so that you let the past go, and finish strong.  Also, most everyone knows someone who feels they have been hurt or treated unfairly, and have turned away from God (read James 5:20).  See if they will be open to talking with you about their actions. Pray this week that you will examine your heart, being certain that God has first place in all you do and say, and that you are committed to serving Him until He calls you home.

Memory Verse: Deut. 31:6: “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Focal Passages: Numbers 20:1-12, 27; Deut. 34:1-8.

Quote for finishing strong: Having a “4th Quarter Ministry!” Jerry Falwell, Sr.