DO YOU HAVE A SERVANT’S HEART?

The phone rang. Glancing at the caller ID, I saw it was my mother. I answered cheerfully, ready for one of our daily routine calls, sometimes lasting an hour or more.

She immediately launched into her reason: “I’m ready to come live with you.” The stun factor was probably about the same as when, after decades in Florida, we moved to central Virginia in July, and three short weeks later learned a terrific hurricane was barreling its way directly on a path through Virginia. Virginia? Seriously. We had weathered so many storms while in Florida (although we never got nonchalant about them), that June to November was a season we expected to be tumultuous. But mountainous Virginia? Hardly. However, it did come, destroyed much of our area, and left the small town in flooded ruins. I quickly envisioned my life changing in the same respect if Mother came to stay. We loved each other deeply, but the old adage, “Pitch your tents apart and keep your hearts together” fit well.

At the time I could not fathom any reason God would have chosen to put this on her heart. In simple, forthright terms, I rebelled, had a bad attitude, tried to talk her out of it, and reminded her of everything she would be leaving. That didn’t help: her mind was made up. I definitely wanted to honor her, but at a distance, and, I guess, on my terms. Sigh.

She came, and it was the chaos I feared. Bread on the counter, peanut butter jar left out, interruptions when I was focused on work…but slowly I saw dementia was setting in, and knew she had done the right thing, at the right time. Not that I accepted it any better–in fact, if anything, I felt I was totally unprepared to care for her. For instance, the first time I noticed she was having a hard time putting curlers in her newly washed hair. To any self-respecting hair-dresser, this must seem inconceivable, but I had always had a fetish about touching someone else’s hair! Even my mom’s. But it was washed, she couldn’t do it easily, so who else would? My husband? Ha. No offense intended, but he wouldn’t have a clue.

As time passed, I railed at each new situation that I “couldn’t” do: putting her into Depends, washing and rolling her hair, bathing her. It was after her death that I realized, with much humility, that God had known I did not have the heart of a servant, and He was going to use this situation to teach me some much needed lessons.

A couple of weeks ago, I realized He is still working on me. My beloved daughter, who lives near me, needs me to pick up her children one day a week from school, and they stay overnight with us. The next morning I take them to school, and usually get up at an early hour to have a quiet time before taking on the task of breakfast, dressing, car-riding, and more. The next afternoon I pick them up, and we ride toward another town where they need to be. As I meditated on this new turn my life had taken a year ago, as seemed as though God spoke directly to my heart. “You needed a reminder that you are put on this earth to serve, not to be served.” Wow–a real rocket punch (or whatever is the new vernacular) to the gut. “Back in my day,” as is the common phrase for older people, we would have said, we got hit below the belt. I saw the lessons with my mom had not lasted as well as God expected. I had not recognized these actions as “serving.” Now, on reflection, I realize that the lessons may have been learned better than I thought–as I thought back to the several years after my mom passed away, when I had worked to help supplement my daughter’s income while her husband stayed home, as one of the children explained to me, “playing video games and being on Facebook.” (A genuine quote from a then-7 year old). I was serving, but didn’t realize it. (However, I was also “enabling” someone who was living in complete rebellion against the Bible, as the verse says, “He [not she] who does not work, does not eat, and is worse than an unbeliever.” We need to be careful that our service is in line with the Bible.)

Service, or serving others, then, may not look like what you think it should. It may be hard, definitely takes some getting used to, and yet yields great rewards. Would that I could have my mom back again to apologize for the times I lagged in serving her needs! To fix her hair, cook her a meal, read her a book! But I still have my family to serve, my precious grandchildren (all of them!), and can serve them with a happy heart, a good attitude, and leave happy memories. At the same time I need to be alert to see the needs of those with whom I come into contact.

This past Sunday at Thomas Road Baptist Church, Pastor Jonathan Falwell preached on taking the next step in your relationship to Christ, and serving in your sphere of living. Join the congregation via your computer at http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and click on the sermon for October 22, 2017, “START: Taking the Next Step of Service.” Grab your notebook to keep a record of your thoughts, worship with the congregation, and learn how to be a servant. The sermon study below will cause you to dig a little deeper, revealing the attitude of serving as a commandment from Jesus Christ, for–if you are going to love Him, you will love people and want to help them as their needs are revealed to you! Pray that God would show you how.

START: Taking the Next Step of Service                                                                                      Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

If you learn of a need that someone has, what is your immediate response? Did you have to stop for a moment, or were you able to give a spontaneous answer?

This week we finish the series “START: Taking the Next Step from the Step You’re On.” We have been seeking God’s direction for this journey of faith we are living. We want to follow the example Jesus set by serving those whom we meet along our path. We want to condition ourselves to be alert to their needs, then meet those needs as we are able.

Focal Passages: John 13:4-17; Matthew 25:40; Philippians 2:3-4.

Think About or Discuss:

THE NEXT STEP OF SERVICE:

 Putting Jesus First

  1. Read the memory verse, John 13:15. Why should you learn to be a servant? Read Mark 10:44-45. What does that teach you?
  2. Read Matthew 25:37-40. What stands out as you read this passage? Were the “righteous” serving because they wanted to be noticed or because they wanted to show their love for Christ? Why does service have to start in the heart?

Putting Others First

  1. Think of some examples where you don’t exactly excel at putting others first, and share or write them in your notebook. (Did you say, “in traffic,” or “waiting in a line”?) How can you change these situations?
  2. Read Phil. 2:3-4. There are several suggestions of how to be more like Jesus in these two verses. What are they? Which of these do you find the hardest?

HOW?

With What You Have

  1. In verses 4-5 of John 13, what did Jesus need to perform the humble task of washing the feet of His disciples?
  2. Do you know the oft-quoted maxim about God’s calling and equipping?* (Answer is at the end). Use what He has already given you!
  3. What will happen if you wait until you feel you are prepared to serve before you can be useful to God?

With what you know

  1. Read verses 6-8 of John 13. The last phrase has a deeper meaning to Jesus than it did for the disciples. What was Jesus really saying?
  2. What should be the goal for every act of service you perform?

With Christ as your model

  1. Read verses 13-15. Why does Christ want you to serve others? Examine your acts of service to make certain your motive is to show the love of Christ.

WHAT’S NEXT?

 Pray

  1. Why should you pray? When you pray for the needs of others, are you also asking God to use you?

Offer

  1. What would happen if you prayed each morning that God would bring someone across your path who had a need, you see the need, and are able to meet it? Take that step of faith!

Try

  1. All believers have the responsibility to share the gospel, and to serve. In the Ice Breaker, you listed how you would react to a need. Now that you’ve had the sermon study, can you embellish on seeing a gift that might be more comfortable for you than you had thought? You may have to try more than once to find what niche is really yours.

Close

Serving someone sounds like an uncomfortable step of faith, doesn’t it? Yet it is a heart attitude God wants us to have, and He has said that we do it for His glory, not our own. We look into the eyes of those we meet and get a glimpse of their heart. If there is an obvious need, ask Him to reveal how you can help. Have you ever been behind someone in line at Walmart and they are digging for change to come up with sufficient money to pay for their groceries? You look, and see nothing but food. Don’t hesitate to hand the clerk the dollar in your hand! God will never let you go hungry for giving away what’s He’s given to you. Does someone have a yard that needs mowed? You don’t know their story, but you can take a half hour and push your mower down to their yard and mow. If you’re afraid they’ll take it wrong, take a basket of fresh-baked bread and a note to put on their porch. Give God the opportunity to start sending needs your way, and the satisfaction that comes will make you hunger for more and more occasions to help others. If you go on a short-term mission trip, prepare yourself to feel as though you barely got started when the time comes to leave! You will look at the elderly people and your heart will cry that they may go into a Christ-less eternity before someone else comes to tell them of Jesus. Let every day be a day of opportunity to serve your Lord, and to follow Him.

Memory Verse: John 13:15: For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. (NKJV)

*”God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.”

Helpful Websites: www.biblegateway.com; www.blueletterbible.org. Within both of those sites are resources such as original Greek or Hebrew, the meanings, Commentaries, and more study materials.

© Woo Bing Siew

ID 5620355 | Dreamstime Stock Photo

Do YOU Talk to God?

The waiting room was active as patients impatiently waited for their name to be called. Some came through from the exam doors, with faces reflecting the news they carried: intense concern, relief from stress, anxious about more tests to come…there was no end to the different emotions. After having gone through this same procedure the year before, Christina knew what to expect.

It may seem odd to hear they were unable to do a biopsy on the suspicious activity that was causing concern, but in reality it happens often. Somehow doctors have been placed on that magical stair saved for those we hold in high regard, feeling as though they have extraordinary power. It doesn’t always happen like that, and this was one of the times. Surgery seemed the next best option: it would allow the doctor to remove any tissue or organs that he was concerned about, run a full biopsy, and then, if necessary remove any other tissue that seemed to merit concern. The surgery was scheduled.

As Christina waited for the day to approach, she spent much time in prayer that when the doctor went in, she would find nothing. It wasn’t a prayer with a mountain of surety that God would do a miracle, but one knowing that nothing was beyond His ability, if He chose. She was praying that His will would be done, and was trusting the doctor would have the wisdom from God to remove the problem, and subsequently heal her.

She was prepped for the surgery, and the gurney was rolled into OR. The doctor and assistants, ready for the removal of whatever was the basis for Christina’s problem, got the instruments to begin. When they got into the area where they knew the bad cells lurked, they were stunned: there was nothing–as in nothing–except normal internal body parts! All that had been causing her problems for two years was totally and completely gone. God had honored her prayer with a miracle!

Later, Christina talked to the doctor by phone, asking questions like “is this normal,” “does this happen often,” and more. The doctor admitted to being unable to explain the circumstance except to say she had to believe it was a miracle. As Christina shared her story with the doctor, I personally have to believe that it made an impact on the doctor, that the God Who created the universe, you, me, and everything in this world, finds it easy to do anything that gives Him pleasure, and at the same time demonstrates His grace and mercy on those who love Him. He always has been, and always will be, giving us what we don’t deserve!

This past Sunday, Jonathan Falwell preached on how much Prayer Matters! As Thomas Roaders listened, hopefully many gained insight into the relationship that is possible with our Father in heaven. No relationship can flourish without talking to each other, so listen to the message, do the study below, and get your inner “eyes” open to the dynamic friendship you can have with the Creator. He’s waiting to talk to you! Go to http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and click on “Start: Prayer Matters.” If you are alone, get a drink, an easy chair, and settle in with your notebook to listen to the entire service. If you have a friend or family who can join you, share the answers so that you dig deeper into God’s word. He’s just a word away!

START: Prayer Matters                                                                                                                             Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Have you ever met someone who was/is well-known and respected, possibly powerful, and became “tongue tied,” not being able to think of something to say? Afterwards, you may have felt foolish, and replayed the conversation in your mind, wishing you had been more ready for the encounter! Can you think of an example you can share, or write down if you’re alone?

This week the series “START” continues as we realize the truth that God—who cannot lie—says He wants a conversation with you on a personal basis. That He would care enough to form you in your mother’s womb, see every detail of your life (good and bad) from birth to death, and still desire a relationship with you, can completely blow your mind. Yet many often treat Him with flippancy, offering “prayers” that are more like a recitation than a conversation. Let’s see what His word says about the importance of prayer.

Focal Passages: 1 John 5:14-15; 1 Peter 5:6,7; Hebrews 4:14-16; James 5:16b; Luke 11:1-4, 17:17.

Discuss:

PRAYER MATTERS:

  1. Read 1 John 5:14-15. What do you mean when you use the word “if,” as in “if I go”? Why, then, do these verses say “if you ask,” and “if you know”?
  2. Assuming your heart is right with God’s heart, what does He promise? Are these verses a blanket promise you will get what you want?

Prayer is talking to God your Father:

  1. God is your Father if you are saved. In that case, how do you view prayer, and your ability to come with confidence before the Creator of the entire universe?
  2. Read 1 Peter 5:6-7. Do you ever wonder if God is like those people you sometimes talk to who give some of their attention to what you say, but not all? Does it astound you that He “hears” you?

Prayer is a conversation:

  1. Read Hebrews 4:14-16. In verse 16, how are you to come to Him? Do your children (if applicable) hesitate to tell you their needs? How does that relate?
  2. There are two sides in a conversation. After pouring out your heart, do you take any time to be quiet and see how He responds? If you don’t, why not?

Prayer is powerful:

  1. Read James 5:16b. Would God have this verse in Scripture if it were not true? How do you demonstrate that you believe it, as you pray?

HOW DO I PRAY?

  1. Read Luke 11:1-4. The disciples asked this question of Jesus. Therefore, you need to internalize it until you know exactly what Jesus meant.

Know Who God is:

  1. In verse 2a, what does “hallowed” mean? If you could describe God with one word, what would it be? Is this how you see Him as you pray?

Recognize the importance of God’s plan

  1. In verse 2b, you are not told that it is your will that will be done. Why is it of utmost importance that you bow to God’s will, both in your prayers, and in your life?

Know that God cares about YOU:

  1. Read verse 3. Jesus Himself says you need to ask for your “daily bread.” God cares so much about you that He wants to satisfy your daily needs. How often was the manna in the wilderness given? Why would He want you to ask daily?

Be in the right spiritual place for prayer:

  1. Read John 9:31. What must your lifestyle be like for God to hear your prayers? Why is it important that your life be “holy” as He is holy? How does 1 John 1:9 fit in here? If you are His child, how does He view you?

Be in the right attitude for prayer:

  1. Read verse 11:4. What happens when you have unforgiveness for others?

Seek God’s leading in your life:

  1. How do you do this? Read 11:4c. Why should you want what God wants?

Be thankful for everything:

  1. Developing an attitude of gratitude is the key to being in God’s will. Why is that true?                                                                                                                               Close                                                                                                                      Cultivating a deep and meaningful prayer life is essential if you want a close relationship with your heavenly Father. As has been mentioned in numerous ways often, no relationship, whether with a spouse, your child, a family member, etc., will ever morph into a quality bond unless time is invested by conversation. If one side does all the talking, without giving the other an opportunity for answering and sharing equally, the relationship is nothing more than a power trip. There is so much to learn about prayer in these passages, but the most obvious is that your heart must be in a condition where sins are confessed, a lifestyle is God-centered, no bitterness resides against your fellow man—in essence, you are in a right relationship with Him.  You cannot be living in sin and present your requests, expecting Him to overlook the things you are doing that are in direct opposition to His word. Paul wrote in Romans 6:1, “What? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!” Paul uses the most forceful word in Greek to imply “Absolutely Not” to emphasize that your dependence on the relationship must be clean. “Be holy, as He is holy.” Do you want Him to answer your deepest needs? Then begin by lining up your life with His, desiring His will in all things, and being fervent with your prayer life. Above all, learn to be grateful for everything He blesses you with. As you do, you will find contentment, knowing He hears you, is answering in His time frame, and is doing what is best. He sees the end, not the tunnel you’re in!  Trust Him.

Memory Verse: 1 John 5:14: Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. (NKJV)

Helpful Websites: www.biblegateway.com; www.blueletterbible.org. Within both of those sites there are resources such as Original Greek or Hebrew, the meanings, Commentaries, and more study materials.

All glory and praise to God the Father for sending a miracle to Christina, and a big thank you to Christina Wolfe-Hillis for sharing her amazing story!

 

A SECOND CHANCE…

Are there many feelings quite so great as receiving a second chance? Perhaps you’ve screwed it up royally with a boss, or with a spouse, and they forgive you–isn’t that immense pressure of relief something indescribable? Years ago, I (as many of you!) blamed God for circumstances that were tearing my life apart. I had traced the path that had brought me to where I was, and at each turning I could see there was no one who had been in charge–except God. I felt He had “set me up,” and I was hurt and angrier than I can ever remember being. (Just being honest). Eventually, and yes, it took a while, I saw what He had been teaching me, and it broke my heart. Had He left me at all during that time? No.

It took a long time before I could accept His forgiveness and move on. Have you been there? Allowed Satan to beat you down because of your past? I’ve seldom met anyone who hasn’t (but yes, there are some). It is at that time I think of David, the king, a “man after God’s own heart,” but who was the cause of a multitude of family crises: not only had he sinned with Bathsheba , but it is not too far fetched to believe that he purposely did not go to war–at the time of year when kings went to battle–so that the assignation could take place with her. Did he not consider she might get pregnant? He received a second chance from God when Nathan the prophet came to point out his adultery, and he repented. He later learned a son had raped a daughter; did he take action? No. A brother took action and a line of dominoes fell, causing those waves go throughout his family. Again, God forgave him and in His mercy and grace, loved David.

Peter, that disciple whom we who have a choleric, type A personality, love, was forewarned that not only had Satan asked for the permission to “sift [him] like wheat,” but was told by Jesus that he would deny Him. Think of it! Three years of following Jesus, learning at His feet, seeing the miracles, being adored by the crowds as someone who was in the “in” group around Jesus, and Jesus tells him that he will deny Him three times. Peter’s reaction? “Not me, Lord.” I went through a time in life when I would say, I’ve learned my lesson regarding this certain problem. God showed me I was wrong. Like Peter, I had to be brought low to realize how fragile faith sometimes is.

This past Sunday at Thomas Road, we looked at Jonah–a man whom Jesus referred to, making this not a “fairy tale,” but a true story of a real man, a prophet called by God, who had failings just as we do. Most children know of the man the whale swallowed, but little else. He not only ran from God’s instructions to preach, but also had a very bad attitude after God showed them mercy–forgetting that God had just shown mercy to him by saving his life from the whale. The picture above made me think how I would react if I were vomited up on the shore out of the belly of a fish. I’d be screaming, “I’m alive! I’m alive!!” (I wasn’t able to edit the text in the picture, so just imagine that’s what is being screamed). He was so angry because he felt he had lost face with the people of Nineveh. Do we nurse our pride or guard our reputation to the point we argue with God? There are great lessons to be learned from Jonah’s life, primarily that once we are God’s child, He never disowns us–else there would be no reason for Paul to write, “Can anything separate us from the love of God? Can…” and he lists a ton of reasons, including “THINGS present, and THINGS to come.” That covers just about everything I can think of. How about you? Does it cover what you’ve done? Then you have another chance. Grab it and hang on to His hand!

Get a notebook, an easy chair, and be prepared to watch the service preached this past Sunday. It’s even enjoyable to view the smiling faces of those in the congregation who were taught in Sunday School using real flannelgraphs, as they see the pictures change. Modern technology is great, but the memories of those years of teaching show on the faces, and you can see the smiles. Click on http://www.trbc.org/service-archive and select JONAH, and then do the sermon study below. Invite a friend if you have time, but enjoy the digging into the Scripture.

Flannelgraph of Faith: Jonah                                                                                    Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Occasionally we’re asked to take a responsibility in an event or situation for which we’re competent, but don’t wish to participate. Sometimes we will go so far as to make plans to “be away” in order to escape taking on the task. Can you think of an example? If you’re in a group, share if you can; if not, write your answers in a notebook that will show your growth as a Christian.

Today we will conclude our Flannelgraph series, having used a modern twist on the old visual aid style of teaching. We have reframed the precious stories we learned as children, looking for deeper meanings to apply to our lives as we continue to grow in Christ. We are going to learn from Jonah, the prophet who was commissioned by God to go preach repentance to a people whose sins were leading them to their destruction.

Focal Passages: Jonah, Chapters 1-4

Think About or Discuss:

Background:

  1. Jonah, an Israelite, was called by God to prophecy to the enemy country of Nineveh. Instead of obeying, Jonah ran from God. If you don’t know the first part of Jonah’s life, take time to read chapters 1 to 2:10, and write a short answer.

God’s Call Trumps Our Comfort

  1. What is the most astonishing fact that stands out after God called Jonah to go preach to Nineveh?
  2. How was his fleeing in the opposite direction the same as your knowing to obey God, but not doing it? How does God view the difference between the two situations?
  3. Where was Jonah when the storm from God came upon the ship? How can you compare this to the storms that may come into your life when you are in disobedience to God’s will? Why does He bring those storms (Heb.12:5,6)?

God’s Redemption Trumps Our Contempt (Anger)

  1. Can you write or discuss what occurred after the sailors threw Jonah into the sea?
  2. Read Jonah 2:2-10. Everyone can certainly understand Jonah’s fervent prayer of repentance when he found himself inside the belly of the whale, miraculously alive. Why does incredible trouble cause you to repent of known sin and turn to God? Was 9/11 a good example? Why?
  3. What happened next? Read 3:1-10 if you’re not sure. How was Jonah received in Nineveh?
  4. How did he react? Read 4:1-4.

God’s Salvation Trumps Everything

  1. It is easy to criticize Jonah’s reaction to God’s incredible mercy to the people of Nineveh, but what was his real problem? What was he missing that had just happened in his own life? Are you ever aware that God is merciful toward you, but subsequently you get angry as He shows mercy to someone you think unworthy?
  2. God acted again in mercy, even following Jonah’s angry response. What happens in the last several verses of chapter 4? Even though Jonah was in sin, reacting with hurt pride, God still granted him grace and mercy. Can you think of an example when He gave you grace when you didn’t deserve it?

Close:

What a short book to be so full of lessons for life! We have seen how God in His power wanted to save an ungodly heathen nation, bringing them to Himself. In calling Jonah, He showed His authority over nature by causing the storm over the boat; His control was again manifest as He provided a sea creature to not only swallow Jonah, but provided air for him in the belly of the whale. He gave Jonah another chance to go to Nineveh, where He used him to cause an entire kingdom to repent and be saved. He administered grace to an angry prophet, and in love caused a plant to grow for shade. His power over His creation provided a worm to devour the plant, making Jonah all the angrier, yet God was trying to get him to understand how much more valuable a human soul is than a plant.

We can also learn totally different lessons from the first chapter. We have an enemy who is alive and well, roaming the earth to tempt and devour the believers. As we read the first few verses we understand that Satan is willing to help those who would run from Jesus, seeking to do their own thing. He will provide a way (in this case, the ship), to make it as easy as possible. But (verse 3b) there is always a “fare” that must be paid for running. And Satan cannot stop the Almighty God when He is ready to rescue and use His servant.

Hopefully, as you go about your daily activities this week, you pay special attention to your actions, choosing always to follow God. God is our Rescuer, our Deliverer, and our Strength. Share Him with those you love—and those you may not love—this week.

Memory Verse: Jonah 2:9: But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.

Ask Yourself: Am I running from anything God has asked me to do?

 

© Svetlin Ivanov

ID 4589521 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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

 

© MaxahnerID 6035632 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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

 

© Teodor Ostojic | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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.”

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