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?

Good and Bad Choices

As my mom became more and more locked in the jungle that is Alzheimer’s, I wondered if she was “stuck” in a period of her life, one which I might eventually discover if I asked the right questions. I would constantly ask things I could remember from different eras she lived through, looking for intelligent responses. “What is that beautiful flower, Mother?” pointing to a rose. She wouldn’t know. How could I assume she would? She didn’t know me from the Hospice Aide who came once a week to help with her needs. I would ask if she ever knew a person whose name was (….fill in the blank). She would think hard–even when it was my sister–and finally give up in despair. “No, I think I knew someone by that name a long time ago, but I don’t remember who it was.”

One day I asked her if she remembered the name of her school. She did!! (Hedgeapple–go figure!)  I was astonished and pleased. Later I asked her if she ever knew someone named Ray (to whom she was married for nearly 63 years). She thought and thought. Finally she said, “Yes, I think that was an older boy I went to school with. I didn’t like him at all! He teased everyone [true], and goodness, I didn’t like him.” It was unfortunate that children are forced to grow up in homes where the parents truly not only do not like each other (my folks fit that description, I thought, for they surely didn’t seem to), but who won’t seek help to keep the fighting down. It would probably have been easier on all of us if they had separated, as no one wanted to be around them as a couple, but that generation stuck through everything from abuse to incest–thankfully my parents did neither of those. But families who were happy were rare.

Dysfunctional families, they call it now. Back in those days there wasn’t a term, but everyone knew whose parents were lenient, whose were strict, happy, not happy, etc. This past Sunday Dr. Ben Guiterrez presented us with an inspiring message on the life of the prophet Samuel. Most young people can recite the lesson they learned as children when Samuel was called in the night hours by God. “Samuel!” He ran to Eli, the priest. As God later spoke to him further, Samuel learned that Eli had been a father who knew of evil things his two sons were doing, and warned Eli that He would be taking their lives, because he had done nothing to stop their behavior. The ironic thing was, Samuel, although remaining as godly an example as Moses, David, and others, also years later had two sons who were living so badly that the Israelites did not want them ruling in Samuel’s place when he died–yet he did nothing about them behavior either.

The conclusion is obvious: one can have a wonderful home, and produce children who are rebellious and want to do things “their way,” or a bad home, and produce well-behaved adults with integrity–or more amazing, a solid, loving Christian home where two turn out wonderful, while one doesn’t. Choices. It all comes back to the will God gave us to make choices, and bad ones lead to worse ones. What kind of choices have you made? Have you left a legacy of blaming your parents? I did, for years. Finally I realized my mom had done the best she knew how. I was the one who had made the choices that resulted in long-term consequences.

Grab your notebook, a cold drink, and click on  the sermon for this past Sunday, July 30, at http://www.trbc.org/service-archive and choose the Flannelgraph of Faith: Samuel. Enjoy the worship if you have time, and then go to the study below to see if you can dig a little deeper as you look at the scriptures. It might help if you have time to read 1 Samuel before the study, so that the facts are fresh for you!

Flannelgraph of Faith: Samuel—God’s Way, Always

Dr. Ben Gutierrez

Open:

Many times young people (and older people!), do not have enough experience, or enough guidance, to make the best choices, and our lives are impacted with consequences we can’t undo. Can you think of such an experience? If you are alone, write your answers in a notebook, so you can track your spiritual path!

This week we continue the series, “Flannelgraph of Faith,” taking stories taught to children, but looking for deeper—or underlying—lessons we can use in our own lives. This week we will focus on I Samuel, looking not only at Samuel’s life, but also the far-reaching consequences for Israel that came when they rejected Samuel’s warning. We continue to use the old-school visual teaching of the flannelgraph, as we learn from him.

Focal Passages: Taken from I Samuel

The Background:

In Judges 2:10-15, we read that after Joshua died, God appointed judges who would lead Israel under God’s direction. The people fluctuated between following the Lord while the judge lived, then turning to idols after his death. This pattern continued about 300 years, and caused the word of the Lord to be “rare in those days” (1 Samuel 3:1).  Judges 21:25 ends this period declaring “everyone did that which was right in his own eyes.”

Discuss:

Nothing & No One Can Make You Choose the Way You Choose:

  1. Can you remember the overview of the events occurring during the conception and early years of the life of Samuel? Read 3:19, 20. What was Samuel’s position in Israel after God spoke to him?
  2. Read 7:15 and 8:1, 3-7. What event occurred in these verses that changed the course of Israel’s future? Israel had adopted the ways of the heathen nations; what are some reasons this happened? How are we seeing this with Christians today?
  3. Who decides what you wear, watch, where you work, etc.? What do you use as a guideline to establish your boundaries?

Bad Choices Lead to Worse Choices:

  1. The people of Israel wanted a king, like their pagan neighbors. Read 1 Sam. 10:17-19a. What did Samuel tell the people? What was their response?

Only Obedience from a Pure Heart Honors God

  1. Do you remember the story of the anointing of Saul as King? Can you write a paraphrase of it?
  2. Read 15:17-23. Saul started his reign well, but soon got sidetracked with pride. What was the final straw? What does God say He delights in?

To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice:

  1. Read Joshua 24:15. Substitute your country for the Amorites, and read it as a contemporary choice. What is holding you back from choosing to serve God with a pure heart?

Close:

As we read the life of Samuel, it is hard not to liken the people of Israel to those around us, and across our own land. Immorality, profanity and immodesty is rampant, while crime and unrest is on the increase. Jesus Christ is being confined to the church building, until we have a generation growing up who will not know the Lord (Judges 2:10) or His actions on behalf of settling and ordaining this great country. But our choices are not forced upon us: you may not be able to control the behaviors and values of the citizens of the land, but you have control over your choices for yourself. It may be the only thing you can control!

Learn from Samuel that, amid a sinful country, you can have a relationship with God that is real and personal. He will never forsake you, never leave you on your own, and loves you beyond anything you have ever known. If you get to the end of your rope and cry out to Him for evidence that He is with you, listen and watch for an indication that He has heard your cry as He shows you that He is listening. If He answers no, or seems silent, trust Him. If He doesn’t answer a fervent prayer, will you still love Him? That is the main question, and only you can choose your answer. Commit your life to establishing a closer relationship with Him, and then tell others your story.

Memory Verse: I Samuel 15:22: So Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” (NKJV)

Ask Yourself: Are my choices in attitude, clothing, words I speak and my integrity something that brings glory to God? Am I giving “lip service” to God but not my heart? “To obey [His word] is better than sacrifice.” Am I doing life God’s way, or my way?

© Popa Sorin

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)

 

 

The Strength of Love

The 611 was coming Memorial Day weekend.

“What’s that?” you ask. Well, it’s a very old train.

Sure enough, Memorial Day weekend came and people paid hundreds of dollars to ride this historical train, while many more lined up at every possible sighting along the tracks to take pictures of the restored and polished engine and cars. It chugged along and blew its whistle in pride, the picture of strength and beauty. One car had “St. Augustine” on it. Around the curve it came, while cameras rolled; tv crews from stations were on hand to give the background of this amazing piece of America’s past. After it had passed, the crowds slowly dwindled and eventually left. But something was left behind–unnoticed.

Your husband comes home and announces a newly-received promotion. You attend the dinner in his honor and he politely gives a few seconds of thanks to his family and team for their support. The proud team watches and cheers as he talks about where he’ll take the company now. But you know something is left behind. The family group; the children’s time—but it’s not thought about.

The train made the tracks pound as it powerfully went down the line, into view of those watching, around the curve and on out of sight. The tracks were strong and level, and the safety of the passengers depended on them. They held the weight of it all. Not a crack or problem could be permitted or the train could possibly crash.

The wife at home watches the children, cleans, tries to have dinner ready when it’s time for her husband. She now answers the phone to hear another “I’ll be late because of work” call. There are arguments and tears and no recognition for all the hard work she does. An occasional “thank you,” would be appreciated. But she must be strong and level headed for the children, pulling the weight of two parents. The crack starts to widen and she needs strength.

We admire and give honor to some things, often forgetting what upholds it. The tracks are old but strong. The train could not safely go down the track without them being tested often. But no one gives recognition to them or takes pictures of them: after all, they’re not seen as anything special, and no one recognizes that it is their sturdiness and reliability that keeps the train going.

The husband works hard, but doesn’t give a thought to his clean clothes, his clean bed, towels, meals, obedient children. He thinks it’s because he works. He doesn’t notice the strong woman who is raising his children, keeping his house

We treat God the same way as the train tracks or the wife many times. He’s there and we give a quick prayer as needed (“thanks for the food,” “thanks for my new bride,” “help me get more money,” etc.,) but as we ride along constantly on Him, we take Him for granted, always expecting to have Him under our feet.

The tracks get driven often during the week by those whose job it is to look for any hint of a problem. If they weren’t extremely conscientious of the importance of what they do, repairs would not get done as needed. In the same manner, if we don’t check for ‘deficiencies’ or ‘cracks’ in our relationship with Jesus, then they will get bigger and eventually break—and we will fall.

Galatians 5:19-21 lists some of our sinful natures: 19) When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20) idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21) envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.

Galatians 5:22 starts listing our fruits from the Holy Spirit, and our strength: 22) But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23) gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Which track do we follow? Which one do we strengthen? Which one do we recognize? Do we idolize the person who is receiving man’s honor or do we look for the real source of strength and build on that?

In this week’s sermon at Thomas Road, we continue to look at the Son of God, Jesus Christ. This week we’re focusing on the strength and love that comes from Him directly to us. We’ll look at many things He says and promises to those who love Him, and as we do so, we’ll find that any “cracks” in our relationship with Him will be filled if we let Him; He will undergird us with all the necessary strength to live a holy, fruitful life! Click on http://www.trbc.org/service-archive and select “Not My Jesus: What Did Jesus Say About YOU?” Get your notebook for notes, watch how you grow as you lean on Him, study His will for your life, and spread the good news that He has come to seek and save those who are lost!

Not My Jesus: What Does Jesus Say About YOU?                                                                                               

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Love has become a common word used for everything from our feelings for a chocolate cake, pizza, certain cars to people we know. Can you share or think of an example from your life when you’ve been challenged by the word “love”?

Having carefully examined evidence by secular historians showing that Jesus lived, reading records of the witnesses who saw Him during His ministry and after the resurrection, studying His own words about Himself, and the witness of God as to who He is, we should now know we can trust the truth of what He says about you in our relationship with Him. Let’s look at how He values those who choose to obey Him.

Focal Passage: John 15:1-27

Think About or Discuss:

You are Ready

  1. Read verse 2. What does Jesus say happens to you at salvation? What does this make you ready for?
  2. Perhaps you have a “green thumb”; what occurs when you take care of your flowers or plants? How does God take care of you?

You are Protected

  1. In verse 5a, what did Jesus say your relationship to Him is like?
  2. If you break a branch off a tree, what happens to it? Can you exist as a believer, without Christ? Why?

You are Powerful

  1. Read 5b. How do you “remain” in Jesus? What is the evidence in the life of a person who is abiding in Christ?
  2. What is promised to believers in this verse? What is the warning?

You are Loved

  1. Read verses 9-10. What are some terms you could use to describe God’s love for His Son (who was worthy)? Can you comprehend that Jesus loves you (who are unworthy) with that same love? How?
  2. How do you remain in His love? What is the greatest example that you know that Jesus obeyed God’s will, remaining in His (God’s) love?

You are promised Joy

  1. Read verse 11. What “things” was Jesus referring to?
  2. How much joy does He promise you if you love and obey Him?

You are His friend

  1. Read verses 14-15. What do you call those with whom you have just a “waving” relationship? What about those with whom you share time, food, fun?
  2. In Amos 3:3, God asks, “Do two people walk hand in hand if they are not going to the same place?” This implies an answer of No! In verse 15, how does that confirm what Jesus is saying about your being called His friend?

You are Chosen

  1. What does Jesus say in verse 16? How should that impact your life? When you “choose” anything, why does it become special to you just by the fact that you are making the choice to embrace it (a spouse, a car, a house, etc.)?

You are given great help

  1. Read verse 16. Do you remember the old hymn, “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” and if so, can you recall the first verse? If not, look at Matt. 6:30, 33, and John 14:16. Who is this Comforter? How will He help you?

You are Forgiven

  1. Have you ever seen a dead person or animal sit up? What can they do? How does this illustrate what God has done for you when you believe? Read Romans 10:9, 10 if you need to clarify this.

Close:

Did you grow up in a dysfunctional family, where love was not a priority as much as discipline? Or possibly yours was just an undemonstrative family, and you never learned to show your love. Both are common, and make it harder for us to understand God’s love for us, as we are full of sin! Yet as we read the scriptures, Jesus not only speaks of His love for us, but also has shown it by dying for us, and we see that His is an active love, full of grace and longsuffering, with “mercies that are new every morning” (Lam. 3:22, 23). We should take heart! Phil. 4:13 assures us that through Christ, we can accomplish anything—showing love to the unlovely, grace to those who don’t deserve it, even prayer for our enemies to know Christ. A life full of joy is promised to us if we are steadfast in our walk with Him, not worrying about tomorrow. As the song says, we should not be discouraged because—if His eye is on the little sparrow—how much more does He love us, who are “but dust”! Carry that thought with you this week!

Memory Verse: John 15:11: “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”

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Rachel Coleman, contributor

 

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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LOVE LIFE AND SEE GOOD DAYS…

Math. Either there was just a collective groan, a sigh, or something in between–like okay, what now? Well, there isn’t much I remember from those “good ol’ days,” but as far as I know, I’ve never used the multitude of stress placed upon me to pass Trig class, or even Algebra; I’ve never dissected a frog or used a Bunsen burner. But one thing I remember well: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Or maybe it wasn’t math, maybe it was Science–but no matter, the lesson  is the same. 

I say this because I have had a crisis too big too handle, and something had to go from my time allotment: sleeping and eating were rather necessary, so that left writing, cleaning house, and “life.” For that, I feel I owe (the opposite reaction to letting it go), an apology. I think I hoped that some would actually click on the latest service at Thomas Road and listen.

Yesterday, which you’ll hear if you haven’t already, it was made plain to the congregation that a change is coming. Not something we (the members) would have chosen, but one lesson was made plain, and it fits here. When God speaks to your heart, only a very foolish person would ignore the King of the universe. That is not happening within our staff, because the person desires a holy and obedient life, and truly, the sorrow over losing one whom we love is outweighed by the fact that God has chosen to send him elsewhere. And in tying that together with my own life, I had decided, based on internal situations that seem out of my control, to stop this blog. I felt a failure for not being able to do it twice in over a year. Fifty two (plus) weeks, and I was going to let it quit because I let Satan tell me I was a failure for not being able to do it last week. Shame on me.

 If you’re familiar with Thomas Road now, you know we feature a “My Road” video, where someone tells his/her story. Yesterday, answering my feeling of inadequacy, the person interviewed said that the person who was using social media to try to spread the gospel should NOT quit. That was a paraphrase, but it hit home. Was it God who had orchestrated that person to speak on a Sunday when I was going to throw in the towel? Without a doubt. Do I reach even one person who wants to know God better? I have no clue. But like our staff person, I would be a fool to quit when I have nothing more to claim than a lack of strength to continue. “To him who knows to do (something that is) good, and does not do it, to him this is sin.” End of story.  I was convicted, chastised, and will continue to strive to set out the sermon studies for Thomas Road, not knowing if anyone is encouraged by them. My email is at the bottom anytime anyone wants to write. And to add a final thrust, God chose the sermon to be on doing those things that bring happiness–not external through “things,” but internal through molding us into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Are you ready to settle back, get your notebook, and listen as the service is broadcast, with singing, with tears, with heartache, and with joy. Obeying God is always going to bring joy, no matter the tears. Remember the reaction? The tears of pain and separation will still result in joy by doing God’s will. We would not know joy if we did not know pain. My daughter pointed that out earlier: that only by knowing sadness can we recognize happiness. Let’s click on the service from Sunday, May 15 (Happy Mother’s Day to any mom reading this!), and see what God has in store for us this week. Joy, God promises, comes in the morning. That’s a promise! Let’s look for the morning.

Click on http://www.trbc.org/service-archive and select the main sermon from the series “Not My Jesus.” We continue to search our hearts to see that our lives are being transformed daily into who Christ wants us to be. If you have a Strong’s Concordance, it will be a special help for some of the words used in the focal passage. Get you a drink, a friend if possible, and let’s dig in, having a special treat of the children being part of the song service. May you be “blessed” as you watch and listen!

Not My Jesus: What Jesus Really Said                                                                                                                                  Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

If you’ve heard of the Autobahn in Germany, you know it’s an open speed limit highway; that seems like a driver’s dream, doesn’t it? Especially days when you’re trapped behind cars going less than a stated speed limit and you can’t pass. Why would no speed limit seem so great, and do you think that’s the way it is in reality?

This week we want to carefully grasp some of the instructions for Christians to have a life blessed by God, from Jesus Himself. In this series, “Not My Jesus,” we’ve looked at the myths surrounding Jesus, the views the world has, Jesus’ own witness of who He is, and the witness of God the Father. Now we will look at several of His guidelines for happiness, apply those truths to our daily living and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal areas where we need to become more like Him!

Focal Passage: Matthew 5:1-12.                                                                               Video: Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr., 1975

Think About or Discuss:

The Humble in Heart

  1. Read verses 1-3. Why does the Bible specifically say, “He opened His mouth and taught them”—does anyone remember?[i]
  2. What characterizes someone who is “poor in spirit”? Why would they attain happiness?

The Mourners

  1. In verse 4, what type of mourners did Jesus mean?
  2. Read Luke 18:13, and 1 Tim. 1:15, 16. How do these two passages illustrate the need for people to mourn their sinful state, and what does God do to comfort them?

The Inheritors

  1. What do you think of when you hear the term “meek”? What are some of the Biblical meanings of meek? After discussion, or writing, did you have the meaning correct?[ii]
  2. When you think of something being “inherited,” what comes to mind? How or why would these meek people inherit the earth? Someone read Phil. 4:11-13. How does being content within your circumstances give you blessings?

Those Who Hunger and Thirst

  1. Verse 6: When is the last time you were truly hungry, or extremely thirsty? How can you develop your spiritual appetite so that you desire God’s word daily, meditating on it even “in the night watches” (Psa. 63:6,7)?
  2. Read Job 23:12b. How does this passage illustrate verse 6 of Matthew 5? What will change in your life if you desire God’s word with the same craving you exercise in your food life?

Close:

You’re probably wondering, how does the Autobahn illustrate our spiritual life? Many live their lives as if there are no rules or consequences, which isn’t the true reality. Yet the world assumes following Jesus is a life of do’s and don’t’s, and perceive it as taking away everything they think they enjoy—their “speed limits” if you will. The truth is, Jesus says following Him results in a life of being blessed (happy). In today’s sermon, we were so privileged to hear a forty-two-year-old message by Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr., as he reiterated that blessings come on the lives of those who live in a manner that pleases God. Just as we are pleased to give our approval to our children when they obey with a great attitude, so God chooses to bless us when we strive to live holy, sanctified lives. Is that something you desire, as Job did? After hearing the message, did you weigh your lifestyle against the message Jesus taught on living a life of peace with God? It’s never about rules: it’s about the heart attitude, and the desire to please the God who bought us with His own blood! This week, as you go about your daily routine, take your spiritual pulse often to make certain your heart is beating in sync with His. Share His love when the opportunity presents itself. What if God has placed you here for such a time as this?

Memory Verse: Matthew 5:1,2: “And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them saying.”

[i] It means “listen up!” “Pay attention!”

[ii] Meekness is “strength under control.”

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GIVING IN UNDER PRESSURE!

The child walked into the room, seeing her father getting ready to leave for the village market. She began jumping up and down. “Daddy! Daddy! I want to go! Take me!” she screamed. Dad looked back at his one and only child, who had him wrapped around her finger. “I can’t take you this time, Princess; I have to meet with the Prefect.” “No! Daddy, take me! I’ll be quiet while you talk!” The conversation went back and forth and time was getting short. He was going to have to ride a little faster now, and he was getting irritated. “Delilah! I cannot take you!” he raised his voice considerably, letting her know his frustration was reaching its peak. “Oh, please, Daddy,” she begged, softening her voice with much pleading. “I’ll be so good you won’t know I’m even with you!” He glanced back outside: the sun had risen and he was going to be late. “Oh, come on!” his anger showing the tension he felt at the last ten minutes worth of wasted time. On Delilah’s part, she grabbed her shawl, took her Dad’s hand, and for at least fifteen minutes made herself be quiet and meek. She had gotten her way–just as she did every time. It was a never-ending cycle, and her father didn’t have the will-power to battle his little daughter. 

She grew into a young woman, lovely to look at and sultry in her beauty. She always got what she wanted from anyone. All she had to do was beg, plead, and then soften as if giving up. Be meek. Be hurt. It always worked.

The day Samson came to town, she saw the gorgeous specimen of manhood. She knew from reputation who he must be! Many times she had heard of his strength, his unrestrained ways, and it was even said that he was very wealthy. She knew it was time he met her.

The time spent with Samson was worth it. Delilah’s jewels increased, and her sense of power over Samson became the talk of the village. One day the lords of the region made her a visit, bribing her with money to find out the source of Samson’s strength. For night after night she tried every weapon that had ever been used on her father’s will power, but Samson did not break. She wept, she cajoled, she threatened, she came up with new ideas. Finally, Judges 16:16 tells us that she vexed him so much night after night that she finally broke through his defenses; he told her where his enormous strength came from, and the rest–as is said–became history.

Are you a parent who can relate to this story? Go in ToysRUs sometime, or the toy aisle at WalMart and see how long it takes to hear a screaming youngster who wants a toy, and mommy has put it back. Follow them. Most will go back and get the toy: it’s called “the Price of Peace.” It’s also called giving in to someone stronger. It’s teaching a young child that he can be stronger than an adult. And when he grows to be a teen, he’ll be even stronger, both in his desires and his rule in the home.

This past Sunday, April 9, 2017, we heard a sermon on Pilate, the governor of Judea. Raised in a home that was used to ruling, he was appointed to his position by Rome in order to keep peace in Judea. Now would be a great time to get your notebook, something refreshing to drink, and settle in a chair to watch the sermon from Thomas Road Baptist Church as we lead up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Click on http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive and choose “Outsiders: Pilate.” If you have time, sing along with the special guest, Meredith Andrews, and enjoy the praise time. If you have a friend who can join you, enjoy the service, and follow it with the sermon study below! It doesn’t have to be done in one sitting. If you want to make it last for a few days, it’s a great way to dig deep into God’s word. Look for the meat in the lesson, rather than the “baby food!” There’s much to be learned from Pilate, and you will be amazed at how like Delilah he was, and it just might open your eyes to the behavior of children you know! Keep your notebook handy to jot your thoughts down in.

Outsiders: Pilate                                                                                                                                                                                          Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Few things can probably aggravate us as quickly as someone’s child whining until they get their way! Can you think of an example, and why do you think it is so irritating?

This week we look at the third of four characters who were affected by the events that took place the week before the crucifixion, and their reaction to Jesus Christ. Pilate, the governor of Judea, had to listen to the Jews as they relentlessly sought his approval to put Jesus to death. Though Pilate gives in under pressure, he could have made a different choice. Can we identify with that?

Focal Passages: John 18:28-40; John 19:1-16.

Think About or Discuss:

Complacency

  1. As you read the focal passages, you see Jesus being brought before Pilate; what did Pilate keep repeating that seemed to indicate he wanted to avoid making the decision to kill Jesus?
  2. Last week we saw that the Jewish religious leaders were concerned their positions of authority would be lost if Jesus continued to draw followers. What did Pilate have to lose?
  3. How like parents who finally cave in from a child’s continual whining was Pilate as the crowd continued to cry out for Jesus’ death? Why did he do this?

Confusion

  1. Read verses 33-38. These verses serve to build God’s judgment against Pilate. How? He was confused, and kept asking questions, but did not seem to understand he was hearing truth as Jesus answered each question. Do you ever turn away from the truth of something because you are confused and just don’t “feel like dealing with it”?
  2. Pilate heard Truth from Jesus in these verses. If he had had any genuine interest, what options did he have as governor that he could have exercised at this time?

Compromise

  1. Read 19:6b-8 and 15b-16. Pilate knew there was nothing that warranted Jesus dying, yet he finally gave in. He looked for ways to avoid responsibility for His death, but how did God see his actions (verse 11)?
  2. Read verses 7 and 8 again, and Matt. 27:19. Why do you think Pilate was afraid after hearing these two statements?
  3. We can all see ourselves in the actions of Pilate, as we look at our own life when we get in a situation we don’t want to be involved in. Can anyone think of an example?

Close:

Do you feel some empathy for Pilate as he was placed in the situation where he was asked to give the order to crucify a Man he felt was innocent? And yet in the end—just like parents whose children don’t give up—he folded when the Jews played their Ace, that Caesar was their only king (19:12). He knew if Caesar heard of the rioting, his own reign could be ended. Pilate was a politician, hired by Rome to keep peace in the region of Judea. Now, with Jesus, he had to choose between doing the right thing, or giving in to the Jews who wanted Jesus killed. Pilate heard Jesus’ answers, was told He called Himself the Son of God (19:7,8), and was afraid. He, like so many today, had received the truth and hit a fork in his life where he had a choice to learn more of Jesus, or take the world. How often do you find yourself taking the easy way out, because you have become too comfortable with the world or don’t want to deal with the continual frustration? Pilate didn’t want to deal with this problem and shake up his world! He seemed to think “washing his hands” would eliminate his responsibility. When we pass on an obligation that we know must be made, what do we call that? Passing the buck? We say we are “washing our hands of the responsibility!” Don’t pass the buck on making a decision that will determine your eternal destiny: if you have heard of Jesus but side-stepped the issue, make your choice and leave the world behind. His Truth could have set Pilate free (John 8:32)!

Memory Verse: John 18:37b: “…for this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”