Power Under Control, or Without Control?

Close-up of an anonymous athletic torso

 

 

 

Just as we sat down to supper we heard the crash of a vehicle against the pasture fence. Jumping up, we ran to the front door, seeing a Jeep laying on its side, the tires still spinning and the heavy wooden fence obliterated. A young adult female was near the ditch. We called 911, obviously needing an ambulance and police.

The rural countryside was not filled with neighbors–most of us were on land that might be anywhere from five to five hundred acres. It was only seconds, though, before the closest neighbors began running toward the scene, as the sound of the crash had reverberated throughout the quiet area. The girl had sat up, but you could see she was in total shock. She kept asking, “Is he dead?” We didn’t see anyone else around–until we walked around the vehicle. There, under what had been the right side, was a young man, pinned between the ground and the Jeep. All we could see was part of his head, and his face was turning gray.

There were four or five men around us by then, and I frantically tried to convey to 911 that we were almost out of time. His gray face was now beginning to go to the purplish-blue, and we knew he was going to die as we watched, being crushed by the weight of the Jeep.

My husband took command, telling the  few men to grab part of the heavy vehicle. Four men, lifting one car, one to move the man. There was nothing we women could do, except watch and pray. On the count of three, my husband told the men to lift the vehicle up–even a few inches might get his body out from under the weight of metal. The man who was ready to pull the body was in position–it might be dangerous, but death was so close we had no choice. My husband counted, and the four men heaved the massive weight straight up, giving the last man precious seconds to drag the man the few inches needed to free his diaphragm; at the same time, we heard the emergency vehicles coming at top speed. One of the men began CPR on the victim, then the EMT’s arrived, grabbed oxygen and took over.

How could a few men lift a powerful vehicle? Adrenalin, you say. Probably. God? Certainly, and really, the times you’ve read of similar circumstances you can explain it however you wish, but the truth is, there is no proof except to say that when a person is in emergency mode, amazing things can happen. By the way, we visited him in the hospital. He and his girlfriend lived in our countryside, had picked up a pizza, and were heading home. They had an argument that got very heated, and she–in ignorance–jerked the emergency brake lever to full mode. And yes, the EMT’s were able to get his heart beating again. We visited him a couple of weeks later at his house, and found he had been without oxygen long enough that it had affected his brain. He was having to begin learning the basics again: how to eat, talk, walk, and live. The girlfriend disappeared from the scene (she may have been charged but we never knew), but she could not handle seeing the evidence of what her temper had caused. Could she be forgiven for what she had done? Oh, yes. But did that change his circumstances. Not at all. The two do not go hand in hand. If you murder someone, can forgiveness from God be sought and obtained? Definitely, if you are repentant, and His child. Will the dead come back to life? No. Consequences are a memory the brain tries to deal with the rest of our lives.

The presence of power was manifest in Samson most of his life. If you were raised in Sunday School, you remember the stories of David & Goliath, Noah and the ark, Samson tearing the lion apart, Jonah and the whale, and more. Stories where amazing power was displayed. Noah illustrates that not all power is muscular, however. He exercised tremendous control as he built a boat while he listened to the jeers, vicious insults, and public humiliation from those who probably called him every name known at that time as an insult. Yet he persevered–his power was self-control. Power can take so many forms: not speaking out when someone is wrong and you know the truth. My grandmother was that type of woman. She. would. not. argue. How many people do you know who will not correct someone if their information is wrong? Not many, I’m certain. The only time it’s acceptable is a situation where the end result might have real consequences. Recently my daughter made a statement that was incorrect. Someone with her later told me, “I could have corrected her, but why? It wasn’t hurting anything to let her think what she did” (the make of a car, I think it was!) “so I let it roll off my back, rather than arguing.” That person deserved much praise for self control in realizing how foolish it is to show her up! The Bible says, “all contention stems from pride.” Wanting to always show how smart you are and being right is pride. Wow. God hates that.

There are tons of examples of power. Samson, the focus of the sermon this past Sunday at Thomas Road, was meant to deliver Israel from enslavement to her enemies, but his life was lived for worldly pleasures. (When you have time, read Judges 13:1-16:31). He did not seem to learn from his mistakes, but instead, went from one bad choice to another to another. Yet in the end, as immoral as he had lived most of his life, he cried out to God and God heard him, answered, and delivered Israel through his death. He was a powerful man in muscles, but not in self-control. How sad. Power can be knowing you could make so much more money for your company if you ____ (fill in the blank.) But… doing so would be a reproach to your testimony that you are a Christ-follower. You don’t do it. That is the power of discipline. And on and on.

If you recognized the illustration of the wreck, I used it one other time, a long time ago (in dog years), but it serves such a purpose in focusing our minds on the aptitude we have to use our self-discipline (power) or self-control (power) wisely or foolishly–as the young woman did in jerking the brake and taking the boyfriend’s quality of life. Take a few minutes to click on http://www.trbc.org/service-archive and select the sermon for Sunday July 16, on Flannelgraph of Faith: Samson. You’ll learn much from his life that can be applied to your own, and hopefully you will see that real power, that which comes to you from God, is to be used to live a godly life! Get a drink, your notebook, and settle back for a time of digging into God’s word! Search the sermon study below, answering the questions in order to fully understand what God has in store for you.

Flannelgraph of Faith: Samson                                                                                                Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

It is not unusual for expectant parents to desire a goal for the baby’s future (for instance, perhaps becoming part of the family law firm, or perhaps a pastor). Do you know someone who is an example of such a life, and what has been the outcome? Write your answer down if you’re by yourself, or discuss this if you’re with friends.

As we continue looking at Bible characters whose lives have much to teach us, we come to the powerfully strong Israelite, Samson. Using the old-school visual teaching of the flannelgraph, this colorful, yet wayward, man had a future ordered by God. As the last in the line of judges of Israel, he lived a life that will encourage many who have wondered if God gives second chances.

Focal Passages: Taken from Judges 13:1 through 16:31

Think About or Discuss:

God’s Promises Are Filled with Power

  1. Read Judges 13:1. What was the condition of the people of Israel after the judge before Samson had died? How long were they in captivity this time?
  2. Each time Israel found themselves enslaved by other nations, what did they eventually do? How is that like our own actions?
  3. In verses 2, 3 & 5, how did God act in grace toward His people? What was the promise and purpose for Samson that God gave his mother?

God’s Promises Can Be Derailed by Our Actions:

  1. Can anyone paraphrase the next years of Samson’s life? If not, and you have a few minutes, read the three chapters of Samson’s life. You will be amazed at some of his actions! What was his greatest hindrance to God’s perfect plan for him? Read 1 John 2:16. Does this sum up his actions?
  2. Read Jeremiah 29:11. What would you do differently if you had known from a child that God’s had a specific plan for your life, that would give you “hope, and a future”?
  3. What are some examples of God’s ideal plan for you, and how can you wreck what He wants to accomplish? (For example, marriage is His perfect plan, unfaithfulness and divorce can thwart it.)
  4. When you ruin the plan God had for you, what does He do? Read Romans 8:28,29. After receiving forgiveness (1 John 1:9), how does this change the consequences?

God’s Promises Are Forever Promises:

  1. Read 16:28-30. Samson knew how badly he had hindered God’s plans for his life, and begged God for one more chance. What did God do?
  2. What lesson can you learn from the continual backsliding that Samson did, and yet, when he cried out to God, God helped him?

Close:

It is hard to read these chapters in Judges on the life of Samson, and not have questions and concerns about the immoral way in which he lived his life, yet was used mightily by God. Being brought up to be Israel’s deliverer from the Philistines, as an adult he went from one sinful situation to another. Yet somehow, in the timing of all the years that he judged Israel, he apparently had a faith so profound that he is listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11:32.

We can learn much from Samson’s life. God promised that he would be used for a specific plan and purpose, and nothing could take that away. He promised it to Samson’s mother, and it was not conditional on Samson never straying from the path of righteousness. We also were created by God for something above and beyond all we can ask or think, but we must live lives of faithfulness to see that purpose fulfilled. We also can take comfort in knowing that the backslider can return to the God he left for the world, and will find Him waiting with arms open wide. That is a blessed reassurance. The cry of our heart should always be that the Lord would make Himself so real to us that we recognize answers to our heart’s requests as quickly as they come. Nothing fills you with the security of being loved, as seeing Him fulfilling promises to give you a life full of His unmerited favor.

Memory Verse: Judges 6:16: Then Samson called to the Lord, saying, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!” (NKJV

 

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What Does Loving Others Look Like?

Like two fish walking along the beach beside the water, my daughter and I walked through the floral and plant aisles in the Lawn & Garden section of our local hardware store. We could not have been more out of our element if we had been getting ready to skydive. I have a very active DNA with cells that contain negative effects on growing flowers, and she states she has inherited the same genetic make up. The plants we were seeing were gorgeous! Bright reds, yellows, and oranges in celosias, climbing roses, daisies, and everything in between. The colors took your breath away. We also knew that we were looking for tags that said “Perennials–no maintenance required,” because otherwise they would be dead in a week.

I had finally, by experience, realized my grandmother and mother’s “green thumb” had passed me by. I switched to silk plants. Ouch. Several months down the calendar they had to be thrown away. Over the years I could have outfitted a cemetery, and then one day–a red letter day–I discovered Silk Plant Cleaner. It really doesn’t clean them–it simply puts a layer of shiny stuff on the leaves and flowers and dries. Presto! You have a new silk plant.

We actually did buy some plants. It will be interesting to see how well they do, as we read the instructions for light, water, and plant food. These are outside, so perhaps they will do well. If so, perhaps my daughter just has had a yet untested green thumb, or one that’s been dormant!

Many of the plants we saw had been reduced to ridiculous prices because they looked as if they were barely hanging on to life. I have to admit, we were tempted to buy some of the drying up bushes that might turn into beautiful roses. Tempted, but not an action carried through. She was afraid of wasting money, and not being able to bring life back into the half-dead plants. We left those and settled for some with lovely color that looked as though they might make it through the summer.

As we left, I couldn’t help but think of the similarity between the plants and our responsibility to people with whom we come into contact. Have you ever looked at eyes as you walked through the mall? So many seem as though half their life is being snuffed out. One lady this morning was on the phone, saying “But you hurt me so badly!” By other sentences she said as we passed, I could tell she was talking to a daughter, and I wanted to give her a hug, but knew it would scare her to death. Others have a look of sorrow, some show anger, some seem happy–but there is so much possibility of taking the “half-dead” spirit that is inside them, and putting a little “water,” “plant food” or “sun” in their lives by a simple smile, or even a simple sentence telling them something they are wearing is very lovely. Few women will not accept that gift of a compliment. It is such a small thing for us to do, but may be the kind word they have been needing. Men as well. I seldom hold back from adding a small sentence to a “hello,” just to remind someone they are part of a community.

Yesterday’s sermon from Thomas Road asked the question, “What Does Service Look Like?” We’re told in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 that no matter what we say or do, give away or speak, if love is not motivating us, our efforts amount to nothing. We are to love those whom we pass by as much as we love ourselves. Love is the action word that goes before all service. By it, we show that we are His disciples. There are so many ways you can show love to those around you: what about a child whose parents have little time for him/her? Or the elderly one who lives alone and would love to have someone to listen to old memories? Always remember, you will take nothing with you to heaven except for souls you have brought to the cross!

Get out your notebook, a cool drink, friends if they will join you, and go to the message preached yesterday (June 11, 2017), and listen as Pastor Jonathan tells how the world looks at us, and judges all Christians by your walk. A powerful sermon, but no good unless you put it into your heart, and apply it to your life! Click on http://www.trbc.org/service-archive, and select “What Does Service Look Like?” Then go below and study the message, writing your answers as God brings ideas and other Scriptures to mind. And if you enjoy it, share it with those you love, so that eventually we can reach our community, our county, state and nation.

What Does Service Look Like?                                                                                               Jonathan Falwell

Open:

What do you fear the most when you think of being called to help in any given task outside of your home? Do you consider yourself a follower or a leader?

When you asked Jesus Christ to save you from your sins, you believed He is God and that He paid your sin debt. You confessed your sins, and turned from them, as we are told in Romans 10:10. You may have wondered “what next?” Christ said in Luke 10:27 the two things He desires is for us to “Love the Lord your God,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself”— both beginning with the action of “love.” This week we will look at verses from the Sermon on the Mount to get a further grasp of what our service should look like.

Focal Passage: Matthew 5:13-16

Think About or Discuss:

We Are to Speak the Truth

  1. Read Matthew 5:13-16. In the simplest terms, share what being “salt to the world” means for a believer. Does that describe you? Why or why not?
  2. What are the two main uses for salt? Did Jesus mean one, or both? Explain how we do each.
  3. Read Ephesians 4:15; what is necessary when we speak truth to the world?

We Are to Show Love

  1. In verse 14a, what is the responsibility of the believer? Read John 3:20, 21. Now answer the question from this perspective.
  2. What is the condition of much of the world in this age we are living? Based on these verses, will most people actively seek out a church to try to change their sinful behavior? Does that make verse 14a hold a deeper meaning?

We Are Not to Be Ashamed

  1. Read verse 14b. Can you briefly share something you are passionate about, when fear of how others will react doesn’t dim your enthusiasm? How does this demonstrate our verse? Why are we not this outspoken about Jesus?
  2. Do you have a story of sharing the gospel, and what you learned from it? If it was negative, did that cause you to quit? Why was that the wrong decision? 

We Are to Share the Gospel

  1. Read verse 15. Have you ever wondered if, when you stand before God, hundreds—perhaps thousands—of souls could be standing nearby, all of whom you had the opportunity to witness to, but didn’t? Will anyone be in heaven because of you? Those are sobering thoughts! If you don’t share Jesus, who will? Think about or discuss your thoughts for a moment, or jot them in your notebook.

We Are to Set the Pace

  1. Read verse 16. When we share the light of the gospel of peace, what is the result supposed to be

Close:

When the moment came that you chose to accept Jesus as God’s Son, recognizing that He paid your debt of sin, that was your first step of obedience—you spoke the truth (the confession that you needed saving, and forgiveness from your sins). Prior to that time, you were in darkness.

Have you ever envisioned a pitch-black room, and realized what a small amount of light it takes to make those who are inside feel some comfort? Even something so tiny as a match from a “matchbook” is enough to bring light into the room. If you could imagine yourself being even a tiny light in a world of darkness, would it give you a jump start to witnessing? He asks that you love Him enough to share just what you know with those around you—just to speak the truth that you recognized the day you got saved. You’re not asked to have a degree in Theology—just tell what He did for you. Failure to share Jesus is based in the fear that you will be asked something you don’t know.  And yet in other areas—teams, movies, politics, etc.—we usually don’t let ourselves be beaten down by fright, and stating “I don’t know” doesn’t bother you. Have you asked yourself why? If telling others your story of salvation is fearsome for you, pray daily about it until you feel God starting to answer. This is something that He cares passionately about, which should make it a priority for you! Pray that He would give you the courage to “let your light shine.”

Memory Verse: Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

How Do We Let Our Light Shine?

  1. Consecration: Live your life in your own area of influence so well that others can think of nothing bad to say about you (Titus 2:7,8).
  2. Dedication: Work hard so that you don’t have to be ashamed before God (2 Timothy 2:15, 24).
  3. Motivation: Keep moving forward, even in the face of adversity (Philippians 3:13-15)

Personal Commitments

  1. Daily Bible Reading and study
  2. Committed to prayer
  3. Connected to a local church
  4. Telling others of Christ
  5. A constant pursuit of holiness
  6. Giving of one’s talents, time and treasures to others.

   Need to write? sdayfarm@aol.com

 

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WHAT DO YOU SAY WHEN SOMEONE HURTS?

The class went from jovial to somber in one moment.

Everyone had been laughing and talking, having a fun time of fellowship until it was time to call the class to order. It was a Sunday morning, and the ones gathered in the room were of every type: many mixed ages, some young, middle aged and elderly; some single, widowed, or married; mixed races with one God, and a time and place to worship Him. Prayer had been prayed for those with problems too big to carry alone, songs had been sung, and announcements of coming events. It should have been time for the teacher to start the lesson. Instead, one of the women went to the front.

It’s funny: we tend to look at how people dress, how outgoing they are, what positions of leadership they hold, and judge their Christianity by these things. In doing so, you would have said this lady had it all together–her ducks were all in a nice row! No book should be judged by its cover, right?

It was obvious from the stance that her normally outgoing personality was being tested and that she was in pain. As soon as she began to speak, you could hear a pin drop.

“You all know that often, as I’m running around town, I see you in shops, stores, or a variety of other places. Often my daughter will be with me. You know her well, and know that she is a student here at the Community College. The next time you see her, you will be asking yourself, ‘Is her daughter pregnant? It surely looks as though she is.’ Soon the rumor mill will be in full swing, and each will be calling someone else, so you can find out, or perhaps even “pray.” I want to tell you up front, yes, she is. We have just found out, and I cannot tell you much more than that, but it is not something I felt that could be hidden. If you have something to say, it is now out in the open, and we are trying to deal with the fallout in our home. I’m ashamed, and embarrassed that I feel the need to be open about this, but even some of you have been down this road and know what we’re going through; it isn’t fun, it is full of turmoil and pain, and sincere prayer for our being kind and understanding with our daughter would be appreciated.” She sat down.

Over the next few weeks, people did not know what to say. Should they say “I’m sorry”? Ignore her? Walk on the other side? Address the situation, or leave it alone? It’s a pain few can understand. Almost like a terminal illness, you want to ask how things are going, but are not quite sure it’s the right thing to do.

I think it is the only time I ever heard any one address such a thing in church. One doesn’t ordinarily have sin admitted publicly, addressed so that it takes away the gossipers, or seen the crushing pain of those involved. As I thought back to that Sunday School class, it made me think even more of the passage chosen this past Sunday at Thomas Road Baptist Church, as Jonathan Falwell spoke of the woman at the well in Samaria, and the reaction, not only of Jesus, but of the disciples and then of the villagers. I put “flesh and blood” on her, and made her the real person she probably was. Let’s look at her a moment before you click on the sermon!

She could have been any age, goodness knows! Since young girls became women of marriageable age by fourteen–or even earlier–she perhaps was between twenty and forty. She was probably reasonably pretty, but wouldn’t you think maybe not the cleanest person in the village? What were the men in Samaria like? Do you think they had a “pub” or a bar where they could get “strong drink” and forget they were married? Perhaps many weren’t, but were just passing through an area where the woman lived. They would go visit her for an hour, perhaps leave some money so she could buy food, and go their way. Some had married her; why do you suppose they left? Now she was living with someone, not married. How do you think the women of Samaria treated her?

I would hazard a guess that they walked on the other side of the street if they saw her coming. What might have been worse, a woman she might have passed could have been the wife of one of her clients! She wasn’t friends with any (or many), and was probably very lonely. What had caused this lifestyle? How do you not feel sorry for her?

When Jesus came along, He was so tired, but He came because He knew she would be coming to the well–and coming after all the well-reputed women had gone back to their home. Let’s pick up the story by clicking on http://www.trbc.org/sermons and choosing “Storytellers: The Story of a Servant” preached March 19, 2017. If you have a notebook, grab it so that you can keep a record of your thoughts, find your comfy chair, a cool drink, and if you have a friend who will join you, listen to the service together, then do the sermon study below. Think seriously about the questions asked: do YOU put yourself where sinners come? Do YOU initiate conversation about their lifestyles, and tell them how to be saved? Hopefully the message will inspire you to make changes in you life if you don’t. God bless you as you study His word!

Storytellers: The Story of a Servant                                                                                                                               Pastor Jonathan Falwell, with Dr. David Wheeler

Open:

Another week! What exciting story, game, or piece of information happened this week that you could hardly wait to share?

This week we finish the short series on the importance of sharing the story of our encounter with the living Christ. We want to focus on the story of someone who lived—more than likely—as a rejected woman, but ended up changing a village with her testimony. Is it possible our reputation could be any worse—and our testimony be any greater?

Focal Passage: John 4:1-30, 39-42

Think About or Discuss:

See the Worth of Every Person

  1. Read John 4:1-7. What were some of the reasons the trip through Samaria was unusual? How did the Jews view Samaritans, and women in particular?
  2. What was Jesus’ physical condition as He sat at the well (verse 6)? What would be “natural” in that moment?

See Them the Way Christ Sees Them

  1. Read verses 7-10. What did Jesus see as He spoke with the woman who came to the well?
  2. Read verse 11. What is significant about the lack of a dipper? How would you react if you needed to share a drink with someone who was “unclean”?

See the Value of the Message

  1. Read verse 10b. What was He trying to get her to ask for?
  2. Think: How much time each week do you intentionally put yourself in a place where you will meet people who need to hear your message?

See the Importance of Telling Them

  1. Read verses 28-30. What possibly took place within the woman’s heart that she would risk rejection by running back to town? If you could put yourself in her place, do you think her countenance had changed any, so as to be believed by the men of Samaria?

Do Whatever It Takes

  1. Read verses 40-42. What was the outcome of the extra time Jesus spent in Samaria?
  2. How often do you get out of your box to tell your story?        

ACTION APPLICATIONS:

  1. Everyone matters to Jesus! Be intentional in going to places where you will find the lost.
  2. Be willing to share not only your story, but also minister to needs; would Jesus have drunk from her dipper, had she gone ahead and gotten Him water?
  3. He gave her respect, even though she was a woman of low virtue; He “valued” her.
  4. Be willing to inconvenience yourself if you have an opportunity to share your story with more people, because of the one.
  5. Pray that God would put you in a pond where there are many fish!

Close:

As you watch a movie or read a book, do you get caught up in the story line, and live the situation? If so, you’ll be able to envision and empathize with the woman who went to the well. She probably waited until the other women had come and gone—after all, it was possible she had been intimate with several husbands in the village—and she was not a popular person. The only ones who showed her attention more than likely were the men who used her. Yet as she approached the well, there sat a Jew, who, with compassion in His eyes, spoke to her as if she were of value, and asked for water. The conversation is not all recorded, but He must have made such an impression that she ran back to the town to tell those whomever would listen that it was possible the Messiah was in Samaria! She had a story that changed the lives of a town. If you would go outside your comfort zone, would you find a group who needs to hear your story, that there is Someone who loves them, died to pay for their sins, and is not willing that any go to hell, but can receive forgiveness and eternal life? Pray God will use you to share your story!

Memory Verse: John 4:10: Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”

 

 

God Gave YOU A Story!

I sat quietly in the circle, hoping no one would notice me, or think about why I hadn’t spoken out. Me–the extrovert who gets into an elevator and says “Now the reason I’ve called this meeting,..” The one with the bling, who loves color, jewelry that is too heavy to wear–the one who is so much like the mother I was so ashamed of! Yeah, that one. In this instance, the quiet one. The one who wasn’t going to speak.

Circumstances compel us to act in certain ways at certain times, did you know that? You may be the life of the party when there’s no pressure, but when everyone is listening–and assessing what is being said in comparison to how they see you live on a daily basis–then you become someone else. Perhaps someone meek. Someone quiet. That was me in this circle.

It had been such a fun morning! We had been invited for brunch at the home of one of those “Southern Living” houses–you know the kind, where the hostess takes things you’ve thrown out, puts a vine around it, and everyone dies for the décor. Where she looks like she’s spent seven weeks cooking for the group of friends, and has burned nothing (I can’t relate. When I turn on the oven or stove top, my smoke alarm beeps just out of habit). Where you can put on a white glove and run your finger around the bottom of her commodes (multi-bathrooms, not several in one) and it still comes up white. Mine would be … well, we won’t go there.

The reason for the celebration? A new baby? A shower? An engagement party? No. New car, new house, new job? Nope. Someone who had been on “skid row” for years had come to the Lord (the Christianese is “being saved”) for salvation, and it was a happy time for all of us who had prayed for so long that they repent of their sins and put their hand in the Hand of the One who holds all things together. It was one of those times, the Bible says, when the angels in heaven rejoice!

Until. The hostess thought it would be a great witness to go around the room and tell our particular story of how we came to ask the Lord to save us. The reasoning was that there would be experiences that could be pulled upon when crises (plural) hit, and that even though we do go through rough times, the “righteous falls seven times but gets back up.” (Proverbs 24:16.)

I sat like a stone, listening. Joe had been on drugs, alcohol–the whole street scene. His wife had gone to church, gotten saved, and begged him to come. Long hair, camouflage gear, hiking boots, dirty, smelly, he decided to get her off his back so he would go with her–ONE time. Where did they sit? The front row. Can you imagine the ones sitting around them, who had to hold hankies to their noses for the hour? But he listened. He got saved. He actually went on to seminary and became a pastor!  Wow–what a testimony!

Then someone told of Jennifer: a young girl who was saved, but had prayed hard that God would use her to impact her friends. Her family was involved in an accident, hit by a truck at over 80 mph, and she was thought to be dead. She has now been witnessing with a boldness of the Apostle Paul for almost ten years! What encouragement! Tons of exciting testimonies.

When it came to the point where people were winding down, everyone looked at me. Anyone who was my age, who loves to dress “sassy” (as my friends say), who never holds back–why certainly I would have a story of conversion that would go off the charts. But I didn’t. I sat there, knowing God would not bless something that was exaggerated, made up, was just a good story, or anything but the basic truth. And then it hit me: I seldom share my story because it is not flamboyant, interesting, or awe-inspiring! Suddenly, I realized, I had been blessed with the sweetest story of all.

I was raised in a home where my earliest (VERY earliest) memories were of my mom standing on the platform with her guitar singing the old “Stamps Baxter” songs (Google them). This was the guitar that I later tried to see if the broom handle would fit in that “S” figure on the top. It didn’t. She cried so hard that she couldn’t even discipline me, but made my dad do it when he got home and she was still crying. I still have the guitar but she’s playing a harp in heaven and singing like an angel. She sang at funerals, weddings, wherever the Lord moved her. She didn’t have a great voice, but she loved Him with her whole heart.

Whenever we ate, there was always grace. Daddy prayed at breakfast, Mother prayed at  supper. We went to every church service, helped with every need we could afford (which wasn’t many), and the church was our social life. You see, at that time, in their history, there were two types of people: the ones whose life revolved around the church, and the rest. Ours revolved around the church. I helped in the nursery from the time I could hold a baby, started playing the piano at thirteen (with tons of mistakes), and talked to the Lord. Oh, I didn’t have my theology correct: I remember wishing on the first star at night: as soon as I saw it, I would ponder all I knew, what all I wanted. Eventually my “wish” was always the same: that everyone in the world be saved. How old was I? Seven, maybe? Eight? But somehow at that young age, I knew in my heart that if they were, there would be “peace on earth.”

I never remember a time when I didn’t believe with my whole heart that God was in His heaven, and all was right with the world. Eventually I realized He had sent His only Son to die for those of us who just couldn’t get it right–but we still had to pay for our sins. So what did He do? He paid them for us! And I believed that–and asked Him into my heart. Did I rebel? You bet. Later–decades later–I couldn’t stand responsibilities I had brought on myself, and decided to try life the world’s way. THAT should have been my testimony–but that wouldn’t be the story of my conversion but of my backsliding. No, I couldn’t do that. Afterwards, when I had returned to Him, I could only look back  and know that, although I had tried the sinful pleasures of the world for a season, I had never not believed He was my savior. Even when I was faithless, He was faithful.

So I started my story: my being raised in a Christian home, knowing from my earliest memories that God was my Savior, being baptized, and walking with Him. So very unlike the other, grandiose stories that were being told! But I realized, as I told it, it would be like talking today–in the midst of a world that has gone haywire with divorces, mixed marriages, and living together without commitments,–of being born and growing up in a home with the two parents who conceived you, and raised you to adulthood; a blessing that is so extraordinary today as to be abnormal. It is my story, and I need to be thanking God for the simplicity of it, and the blessings in it, rather than focusing on the lack of drama.

Is that you? Are you rather embarrassed because your story isn’t flamboyant? Full of drama? Thank the Lord for His grace toward you! Now take your story and bless someone else with it. Look for the sermon preached at Thomas Road Baptist Church on Sunday, March 12, and settle in for a time of worship and praise! After you’ve heard the sermon, go to the study notes below, and ponder a little deeper into ways you can be a witness to those you know who need the Lord. If you have a friend, ask them to join you, and study and discuss it together. But get your notebook, something warm to drink on this cold day, and click on http://www.trbc.org/sermon; click on “Story Taker,” and give God your week!

Storytellers: “Story Takers”                                                                                                                                                                                       Matt Matt Willmington

Open:

Was there an exciting story or piece of information (ball game, book, movie, etc.) that you shared with someone this week? Did you think to examine why you did this?

Last week we looked at one of the stories in the New Testament, applying principles to help us share the story of our salvation with people we meet. Today we are going to look at exactly what that story should look like, and where we can share it. If you are with friends, discuss the study; if you are alone, get your notebook and keep a record of your answers, so that you can see growth in your life as you walk with Him!

Focal Passage: Matthew 9:1-13, Mark 2:1-17

Think About or Discuss:

What Is the Story? There are usually both “bad” parts and “good” parts in any story.

  • What is the best part of God’s story? (John 3:16) He loves you!
  • What is bad about your story? (Rom. 3:10, 23) You deserve punishment.
  • What did God do for you? (1 Pet. 3:18) Jesus paid it all!
  • What does He offer you? (Rom. 10:13, Eph. 2:8, 9) The free gift of salvation.
  • What is God’s promise? (Rom. 8:38,39) Eternal life with Him.

TAKE PEOPLE TO JESUS

  1. Read Mark 2:1-12. What were some of the anxieties these four friends had for their paralytic comrade? What was their major concern?
  2. Why were they determined to get him to Jesus?
  3. Are you so concerned about your friends, that you will take them where they can hear the gospel? If it’s not your responsibility, whose is it?

TAKE JESUS TO PEOPLE

  1. Read Matt. 9:9-13 and Luke 5:28-29. What are several reasons that made Jesus’ action of calling Matthew uncommon?
  2. What were three immediate responses of Matthew to Jesus’ call? What was courageous about him calling his “IRS” friends?
  3. If you knew your story would bring this result so quickly, would you run to tell it to everyone?

TAKE JESUS’ BURDEN

  1. Read Matt. 9:35-38. What is your main concern when meeting a friend whom you feel is not saved? Do you stay away from the subject of eternity? What are some things Jesus felt and some things He did?
  2. What are some things you can do for unsaved friends?       

ACTION  APPLICATIONS:

  1. Only you know if you have been changed by God. If you have, then realize your story is simple: 1) God loves you; 2) You were a sinner who deserved to be punished; 3) Jesus paid your sin debt with His death on the cross; 4) You have been given full pardon for your sins the moment you ask Him to save you; 5) You will spend eternity with Him!
  2. Be committed to having a team of friends pray for lost loved ones or those you are burdened for, and work to bring them to where they can hear the gospel; know God wants them to be saved, and praise Him for any opportunity;
  3. Invite friends to your home for a meal at a time when other Christians will be there; dig deep to find courage to be hospitable, despite what others may say;
  4. Serve those who are in need at every opportunity! Have compassion on the lost, and pray that God will surround those you have a burden for with Godly people.
  5. Share your story at every opportunity!

Close:

Our story is unique: it is ours, and no one else will have the same experience. Does it bother you that you can’t think of a time, a moment, or an instance when you became a child of God? Perhaps that was not meant to be your story but someone else’s! Were you changed in some way? Probably. It is hard to get used to witnessing, but recent statistics show that even in one’s home, only about 3% of children and grandchildren know the testimony of their parents. Does that convict you? That would be a great place to begin telling your story! The only thing you will take to heaven are the souls whom you lead to Jesus Christ. Don’t you want those to be your family, friends or your circle of influence? Pray diligently that God would multiply your faith this year, and burden you with two or three that you can pray persistently for, with heartfelt compassion and love. You cannot save them, but you can introduce them to the Savior.

Memory Verse: Matt. 9:38: “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

© creativecommonsstockphotos | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Doreen Salcher | 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

A NEW YEAR, A NEW WALK, A NEW YOU!

Fireworks display with several different colored fireworks exploding in the sky.

She pointed to herself, and remarked, “There’s a SKINNY in here somewhere, and I’m going to find her!” I had to laugh at my friend. It was this morning, January 1, 2017, and a day in which we all traditionally start our New Year’s resolutions! I have learned the hard way not to stress myself–I’m not going to keep them more than 2 days! It’s much easier to take one of my favorite verses from Scripture out of context and relax in the words, “Bodily exercise profits little!” (1 Tim. 4:8–like I said, taken out of context.) But I still felt slightly victorious, as I had decided , back before Thanksgiving, to get up in the mornings in time to walk, at least three days per week–and if you knew me well, you would know I totally despise anything remotely connected to exercise. The fact that I am now going on 8 weeks is nothing short of a miracle. No, it is not a habit–even after three times a week for eight weeks: every stinking step, every drive to the place where I walk, is DISCIPLINE. Let’s make sure we understand there’s a big difference.

There are probably more decisions to lose weight, to be nice, to stop spending so much money, to exercise, or…. fill in the blank… on this day than any other day of the year. Did you make a resolution? Are you going to keep it?

The only one I’m faithful about (let’s wait awhile before we call the walking “faithful”) is my desire to read my Bible each year, or, depending on what I’m focused on, perhaps I may spread it out for two years. I love to study it with a goal in mind: this past two years I read it with the intention to find out why the apostles ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. I was amazed, as I went back through the OT, at how few times there are actual prayers in the Scriptures. Nehemiah prayed often, Solomon prayed often, but David took the prize. If ever you want to know how to pray, read the Psalms. His prayers are agonizing, beautiful, full of repentance, fruit, … they cover almost all topics. By having a goal, it keeps my mind much more focused as I read. It is not intended as a “pat me on the back,” but just a suggestion that there are ways to read it that will keep you concentrating on what you read. Do you often realize your mind has wandered? Then go back and re-read the paragraph. Once you do it often enough, you will keep your concentration better.

In today’s sermon, Jonathan Falwell quoted some amazing facts: facts that should make us sick to our stomachs, since most of us are dealing with a schedule so full that we don’t have “time” to do much for Christ except check off our to-do list on Sunday that we have attended church. As you listen to the sermon, prepare yourself for the statistics that say the average person checks their Smart Phone 150 times per day (someone in my family–not in this house–does that much in 2 hours, I kid you not!) Again, the average person watches tv approximately 3.6 hours per day. Does that make you gag? Garbage in, garbage out, right? Facebook racks up about 1 1/4 hours per day. We are now at approximately seven hours. When do people sleep, eat, work? Does God get the leftovers?

How would you feel if you were God, and you got the time that you give Him? Would you wonder at the depth of your love? Would you question whether He really is first in your life? Let us be sure we hunger and thirst after righteous, and seek Him—He will fulfill our needs if we put Him first, and this day is a great time to start off for the year!

If you haven’t heard the sermon preached at Thomas Road Baptist Church for Sunday, January 1, 2017, click on the link http://www.trbc.org/sermons and then click on the play button. Be sure you have your notebook, something hot to drink, and if someone can join you, make it a good discussion time! Enjoy the song service if you have time, but most of all, seek the Lord with your whole heart, and lean on Him for strength this year!

Open:

A new year! As you think of the coming months, what’s on your calendar? You probably know some of the challenges you are going to face—others may take you by surprise. How prepared do you feel to face the next twelve months?

When we consider the beginning of a new year, we generally think of things in our own life or family that we would like to change. We decide January 1 is a good day to start, so we make a “resolution” to begin a new way of eating, exercising, habits, or whatever it is we feel needs to be improved. As a Christian, this is a great time to make a commitment to read the Scripture every day and see how our lives reflect the standards Jesus has set for us. Do we “hunger and thirst” after righteousness? Do we desire a closer walk with Him more than we desire anything else? Do we want to “seek first the Kingdom of God”? Today is a good day to start, giving yourself a full year to draw nearer to Him, and you will find the “new walk” will produce a “new you”!

Focal Passages: Ephesians 4:17-32

Discuss:

A New Walk

  1. Read verses 17-19. Can you think of examples showing how this reflects the world we live in today?
  2. What do you consider your number one problem? Did you say “busyness”? Why is that a problem? Is boredom a problem?
  3. Be honest: when is your devotional life happening? If you are involved with your television, electronics, or listening to music for over 5 hours each day, do you discipline yourself to find time for God—hopefully first?
  4. Read verse 24. What does God expect of you? If you call yourself a Christian, do you intentionally seek a relationship with Him, or do you just hope it will happen at some point during the day?

Here are a list of commitments to make for this new year:

  1. Commit to make room in your schedule and your life for God.
  2. Commit to make time for your family—apart from movies, tv, or video games.
  3. Commit to make time for others, to serve and help them, perhaps even disciple them.

  A New You

  1. If you spend quality time dieting or exercising this new year, what would you expect to happen? How is that analogous to exercising your spirit with God’s word and serving Him?
  2. Who should benefit from your new focus if you truly make Him first in your life?
  3. In verses 21-32, what are some things that you should see go out of your life? What should replace them?

Here are a list of commitments for A New You:                                                               a. A commitment to live right (and get rid of the bad!)                                                b. A commitment to live better (renew your thoughts and attitudes)                        c. A commitment to live with eternity in mind (and share Him with the world)

 

Close:

As I said in the opening, my friend said “I’m starting a diet..there’s still a ‘skinny’ inside here!” In like manner, according to 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” There should be a “new creation” inside of us then! That should be our standard for this coming year: we call ourselves Christians, so therefore, a new creation is inside of us. Do you have things left over from the “old” person you were that is still taking up residence, but needs to be moved out? All things in your life should have become new when you were saved. Did it? When you are going about your daily business, can the world tell that you are a Christian by your actions? If not, something is desperately needing to change. Today is the first day of the new year—let it be a beginning that will find you, on December 31, 2017, in such a close relationship with Jesus Christ that everyone will know, just from being around you, that He is in residence in your life! Pray for those whom you love who need to hear that He loves them, and pray that He will open a door for you to witness to them in the coming days. Let this be the year that you evangelize your world!

Memory Verse: Ephesians 4:32: “Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”

Focal Passages: Ephesians 4:17-32.

 

 

THE FATHER’S MIRACLE

dreamstimefree_21468275

Pizza sounded sooooo good! I had to decide: would it be worth it when it came back up? For nine months I had lost almost everything I had eaten, but this time–this time–I was giving in to my craving! So the pizza went down, every yummy, cheese-dripping, bite! And sure enough, within thirty minutes it was coming back.

Carrying this baby was an act of love, and I could hardly wait for him or her to get here. The agony of the birth itself, the long nine months when one goes from “normal” to waddling like a duck, the back aches, trying to get a good night’s sleep–all that is forgotten the second a mother holds her baby. But. The glory of children is their Father. (Proverbs 17:6).

Not fair, Lord! We’re the one who feeds them, changes their stinky diapers, plays airplane with their food, remembers to write everything in the baby’s book, and smells like spit-up 24/7! We’re the ones who carry a two-year old on one hip, a purse over one shoulder, a diaper bag over the other, and lug a twenty-pound car seat/carrier with the infant in it! But. The glory of children is their father.

The class stood at attention: some were shepherds, some were animals, a few wise men, and some held signs. Moms, for the most part, and tons of grandparents, were sitting as close to the front as possible, cameras flashing. The little shepherd on the back row kept his head straight, looking at his teacher, but every thirty seconds he cut his eyes to the right. Finally, a light bulb was turned on in his face–his daddy had arrived to watch the program. The glory was reflected in his face. The glory of this child–my grandson–is his father.

Summer eventually comes–after a long winter–and mom has to come up with tons of ideas how to keep the children occupied, especially during rainy days, when going outside is not even considered. Oh, the things thought of to do! Making tents over the dining room table, having lunch in a “campsite,” playing Hide and Seek. But everyone is waiting for that special moment when daddy comes home. The glory of children is their father.

A new car is needed now, one that will carry all the kids and all their gear, their musical instruments, and presents for parties, and mom becomes not only the nurse, the cook, maid, and now the chauffeur. But the glory of the children is their father.

God, how can this be?! We pour our souls into these children, we take care of every need, are You sure this is right? And He says, yes, it’s right. My Father is My Glory, and I want to be the Glory of your children, as well. And we say, “But God, what about all the homes where Dad has left, and Mom has to carry all the burden? He doesn’t even send money except when the courts make him!” And God says, he will answer for it, because I created him to be the glory of his children.*

In Mark Lowry’s song, “Mary, Did You Know?” a series of questions are asked that examine the magnitude of how this (approximately) fifteen year old mother could understand the depth of importance in the child she was giving birth to. A phenomenal song, it has blessed the hearts of worshipers since it was written. Mary has been revered, placed with Saints by some churches, prayed to by others, made into an idol, put on necklaces. But today, CHRISTMAS, 2016, let’s take a look at the one person who was also chosen by God to fulfill, not only the role of earthly father, but the one who was godly enough to raise and be responsible for the infant Son of God.

As you come to this week, get your notebook, friends or family, and watch the Christmas service from Thomas Road Baptist Church on Christmas morning, December 25, 2016. Click on http://www.trbc.org/sermons and hit play! If you have time, worship with the children and Praise Team, as the congregation is led in carols that have been sung for years. As Jonathan Falwell leads us to think of the man about whom little is known, let us consider Joseph, a man so humble and godly that God Himself let him be a father to His Only Begotten Son during the first thirty years of His life.

Open:

Not all of us have had fathers who were models that we could learn from; others of us were taught from infancy by one who trained them into leaders. What male made a difference in your life? If you’re with a group, perhaps you can share your thoughts; otherwise, write them down in your notebook.

Today we focus on the outstanding father-figure that has probably among the fewest verses written about him as anyone in the Scripture. Yet his legacy of being chosen by the Creator God is, according to Scripture, amazing in the importance of the role he would play in the life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, fully God and yet fully man. Join as we study this little-known hero.

Focal Passage: Luke 2: 1-20, Matthew 1:18-25

Think About or Discuss:

As we heard the story of “Mary, Did You Know?” we could almost turn that song around and ask, “Joseph, did YOU know? Did you understand that God had hand-picked you for one of the most important roles in history? Did you, too, ponder these things in your heart? You were now responsible for the well-being of His Son, the one predicted for hundreds of years by the prophet Isaiah, and you–YOU–have been asked by God, nay, told by God, that you were going to raise Him as your own!” What an amazing, incomprehensible action.

1. What are some of the qualities God would have looked for in this man?

2. Three times in his life, God sent an angel to give him directions as he took care of God’s Son. Do you recall the other times?

THE PURPOSE OF CHRIST’S COMING

3. Read Isaiah 7:13, 14. Joseph, raised in the Jewish culture, knew God had predicted a virgin would have a Child who would be the Savior of His people. Only Joseph knew for certain that this child Mary carried was not his. He, in his honor, decided to forego the marriage with her. What happened before he could do this?

4. Read Zephaniah 3:16, 17. What was the purpose for which Jesus Christ was going to leave heaven’s glory and come to this earth? What did the name “Immanuel” mean?

If an angel appeared to you, telling you that you were to be part of a fulfillment that had been expected for decades, would you believe it? Joseph did! He immediately sought out Mary, and although we are not told, took her as his wife without delay. He did not want her subject to gossip and painful rumors.

Not, of course, part of the sermon, but when my grandfather was a young man in his early twenties, he took as his wife a young girl, about sixteen years old. Because he was several years older than she, he was afraid the marital relations would be fearful for her, and he waited. He wooed her in a husbandly fashion, taking time for weeks to ease her into the gentle caresses and the wonder of marriage that God has ordained. Whenever I think of the kindness, the understanding, and the epitome of a man loving his wife more than he loved himself, my grandfather is my hero. Joseph, as well, waited until after the birth of this special Child before “knowing” Mary as his wife.

THE PROMISE:

5. The verses in Matthew and Luke underline the faith that can be counted on when God makes promises. What verses in Luke reinforce the glory that God had come down to dwell among men?

6. Who else was able to join in the jubilation of this wondrous night? How far did the news spread?

Close:

Never can we understand how Joseph must have felt to have so many unfathomable events occur so quickly in his life: he was bethrothed to marry a young, godly girl, who had to tell him she was pregnant. Surely she explained the circumstances of the angel, but the disbelief had to be paramount! Then he himself is visited by the angel, and within a short period of time, they are married. Soon, the Child of God is part of their family, and not long after–within two years–he is again told by an angel to take his wife and child to Egypt. An awesome, incredible man, who obviously put God first in his life, in his marriage, and in the training of his children. Would that we all had husbands and fathers who loved God above all things. If you are a woman, you can pray for your husband to be the man God intended; if you are a man, pray that God will give you a love for your wife that is the type described in Eph. 5:25, loving them as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it.

Merry Christmas to all, and a beautiful 2017!

 

  • Written in Love Notes blog, Sandra Day

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