Leaving Heaven’s Glory for Earth

The house was standing in among many beautiful homes, deserted, but very lovely. The ones we had driven by over the past mile had been large, extra large, and extra, extra large. The landscaping around them was witness to the pride the owners felt in their property’s outside appearance, and without a doubt the inside of each home was impeccable. It had been slightly overwhelming, riding by homes where you knew the occupants made a living that put them in the upper bracket over the majority of people in the world.

We had set a cap on the amount we would spend for a new home, and it also had to meet specific criteria–qualifications we had found, over a long marriage and about 20 moves–that would enable us to enjoy the remaining years in peace and quiet. Or, at least as much peace and quiet as seems to be possible in today’s world. Now, as I woke to a new day, I saw a note from my husband to search out this house: the evening before, the price had been dropped $25,000, putting it exactly at the figure we had set.

After more than two months of house searching, putting hundreds of miles on the cars as we went into every area of the counties around us, we felt we really knew what we were looking for: privacy, space to entertain our church family and friends, the looks of the extended neighborhood or road, and acreage. When a house met those qualifications, we were ready to look inside. Because of the price drop, my husband’s note that next morning said he wanted me to make an appointment to look inside this one, even though it met only three of our four standards.

He was so excited as we got out of the car and started looking inside. It was a great layout, and exceeded our expectations. I personally believe from the moment he saw the listing in the MLS, it was a done deal in his mind. However, we still had to spend a couple of hours there with our realtor, looking at everything. The contract was signed within those two hours, and we gave them until that evening to answer. One hour later we learned they had accepted the contract.

For the next four weeks, the move did not seem real as the business side of a transaction was being conducted. We didn’t even have time to ride by but once or twice, and I had almost forgotten what it looked like by the time the closing was a reality. My heart had gone into overdrive each time I thought of the new “house” (not yet a home.) Those four important qualifications–which were now three–were vital (I thought), but the one at the top of the list was not privacy but acreage: we wanted to be in a rural setting, with enough acres that we were shielded from neighbors.

I realized well what we had done. In the enthusiasm of finding a home worth quite a bit more than the price, in a great neighborhood (a subdivision, or “community,” lest there be any doubt), we had sacrificed the one thing that was most important. I developed a mantra. “I can do this,” I said to myself over and over. Not only was it not exactly what we had been looking for, it would be the first time in many years that we lived with near neighbors, and the thought of that sent me into stress attacks. My mind kept saying I could do this, but my heart was not in it at all. I was not raised to be controlled by wealth, and the thought of being a stand-alone was palatable only when I told myself I could spend each day inside.

The day following the closing a local furniture store brought living room furniture out, and as my husband met them there, I could still remain in my denial state. We were able to spend a few minutes there on Sunday afternoon, and begin taking some of the minor items of our own into the house. Monday he went to work, and I finished tasks at “home” before going to the house. As I pulled into the community with it’s grand, stately homes, tears rolled down my face. “I CAN’T do this!” I cried. I was already grieving the inevitable loss of the place I had called home for fourteen years–longer than any place I had ever lived in my life. It was where I had taken care of my mom til she died, the home where I babysat my newborn granddaughter while her Daddy was on deployment–it was, in fact, HOME in every sense of the word.

A man with long hair standing in a field of dasies.

We didn’t have close neighbors, nor trick-or-treaters. We didn’t have people near us whose families were falling apart, or children screaming, dogs barking, or rich people expecting us to be like them.

Grief I have known only a few times in my life began to sap every bit of the life out of me, and I dreaded the years facing me. I couldn’t pray, I couldn’t tell God how I felt. It didn’t matter–it was going to happen whether I wanted it to or not.

He didn’t wait for me to pray. Suddenly, on the way back home late in the afternoon, tore up inside, His presence within the car was felt, as if He had come into the car to talk to me. Even I knew my whining, crying, grumbling, complaining, and hurt had probably deserved chastisement, but instead, “the goodness of God leads to repentance.” He brought to my mind what Jesus had had in heaven: He was with His father, having been alive forever as the Creator, the Omnipotent One, the only one who has the power to conquer death. Angels around the throne room sing Holy, Holy, Holy. He had it all. He is God. John 1 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” He spoke the world into being.

But God. But. God. Had a plan, which was to send His only Son to this earth, which is cursed, to save mankind from the punishment of his sins. Jesus was the only one who could do that. He came “down from His glory,” to live with sinful man. He came from a perfect place to an imperfect one. He was never alone day after day. People hung onto Him everywhere He went. He was often without food while serving and healing the ones who followed Him. By the time He had finished with my heart, I had gotten the message. My move was nothing compared to His. And not only the move, but in going into a community of wealthy homeowners, I was going to be exposed to the ones who, the Bible says, are the hardest to win for the kingdom of God. Their money is sufficient to get them anything they want, and they don’t want God. Their money can buy them everything–but salvation can’t be bought.

“Love the Lord your God,”–the first commandment–and the other is like unto it: Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. Ouch. On my own land, with lots of trees and property, I don’t have to even know my neighbors. In a community, I will. God is putting us there for a purpose. Am I up to it? Probably not. Do I have a choice? No. Is His will more important than my will. Yes, but that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt. Still, it cannot compare to what Jesus had to accept as His purpose.

Get your Bible, a drink and a soft chair, your notebook, pen, and even friends if you can, and watch the sermon from Thomas Road Baptist Church, preached Sunday, December 3. You can find it at http://www.trbc.org/service-archive, and it’s right there! Sit back and worship, then listen as Pastor Jonathan Falwell uses the book of Hebrews to show us the astounding life Jesus had, the coming to earth as a baby, and the sacrifice He paid to save us. Enjoy the service, and absorb the  real “reason for the season” of Christmas!

The Point of Christmas:

The Covering

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

If you are a “to do” person, you probably have a long list of things that need to be taken care of. Often it seems there’s one item that either continually is back on your list, not working, or really needs to be replaced. Can you think of an example to share? If you are by yourself, write your answers in a notebook.

We are beginning a new series for December, realizing that many people ask, “So what’s the point of Christmas?” Today we will look at Hebrews to see what is written as to the reason God the Creator sent His one and only Son to the earth, clothed in human flesh. We are loved so deeply by God, yet so flawed by sin, that Jesus came to be the sacrifice that would pay the sin debt nothing, or no-one, else could satisfy.

Focal Passages: Hebrews 10:1-18; Genesis 3:6-11.

Think About or Discuss:

All have sinned

  1. Read Heb. 10:1. What was the old law, given through Moses? Why was it given? Why were the sacrifices in the Old Testament repeated “over and over,” but never could attain perfect cleansing?
  2. Read Romans 3:23. Paul explained that we all mess up continually. How and why did men reject God’s dominion, and begin accumulating the debt of sin that separated him from God?

We needed an out

  1. Read verse 2. Even the most committed Christians continue to sin. Read 1 John 1:7-9 and Rom. 7:14-25. What hold does sin have over us?
  2. God gave the first covenant to Moses, but what did it show us that we are not capable of doing? Read Judges 21:25. How does this explain why we need a savior?
  3. In the opening, you thought of times when your best efforts provided no real help in fixing some items. How does that illustrate the futility of sacrificing animals to completely remove the debt of sin we owe?

The old way was never enough

  1. Read verses 3-4. If you made yearly trips to sacrifice animals for your sins, then had to do it all over again next year, what would that teach you? How does that explain that the sacrifices reminded the people that animals could not take away their sin?
  2. If you saw that nothing you were attempting was accomplishing a certain task, what would you eventually do?

We needed a covering

  1. Read verse 5. Jesus did not come to the earth against His will, or in ignorance of what He was going to endure. Why would He verbalize His birth to the Father, quoting Psalm 40:6-8?
  2. Read Genesis 3:6-11. Have things changed in man’s nature since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden? Read Romans 5:15b. Our choice to follow God’s will or choose evil will remain in conflict throughout time. Can you think of other verses that confirm His humble birth was to save us?* (end)

Jesus paid it all

  1. Read verse 10, and chapter 7:26, 27. Unlike the priests, who had to go into the Holy of Holies once every year, Christ’s blood was sufficient as a one-time sacrifice. Read Heb. 1:1-3, and 10:11-13. What did He do when He ascended back into heaven?

Close

This past week was the 500th anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church, listing the offensive doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. Particularly, Luther was pointing out the heresy that required monetary payment be paid to the church for forgiveness of sins. This amazing young man—just 33—began the movement that was known as the Protestant Reformation. Protestant Churches owe a debt of gratitude to this man who realized that forgiveness of sins comes through Jesus Christ, and Him alone. Jesus sacrificed with His life for complete forgiveness in a “once for all” action, available to anyone who believes and repents.

At Christmastime it is unusual to hear a message taken from the book of Hebrews. How fitting that the book contains the story of salvation! We flesh it out with the wonderful Christmas stories found in Matthew and Luke, but the writer to the Hebrews made certain we are aware of the reason for the manger, as he tied together the prophecies surrounding the birth of a Messiah, and the fulfilment of His cry “It is finished” as He died on the cross, once for all. He wrote the life of Jesus, wrapping up His birth, death and resurrection. His death, more gruesome than we—or movies—can ever imagine, was His choice, because His love for us is so incredible. His grace should always amaze us. It should cause us to bow down and worship, overwhelming us as it covers our sin. Have you accepted the truth that He actually paid the price of your sin? Open your heart if you haven’t already, and ask Him in. Find a Life Group where you can grow, and learn to love Him with all your heart.

Key Verse: Colossians 3:17: Hebrews 10:5: Therefore, when He came into the world, He said, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.” (NKJV)

*1 Timothy 1:15; Luke 19:10; Matthew 1:21; John 3:17 (to name a few).

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Why Do We Suffer?

Bedtime or not, I couldn’t lay the book down. Dragging in the morning when the alarm would go off was not to be compared to closing the book before I had finished the chapter. The concept was intriguing! A man who was a “lukewarm” Christian had gone to sleep, had a nightmare, and woke hearing voices of people he passed as he started for work. The voices were not those of demonic forces, but it was as if he could hear the thoughts rolling in their very soul. For instance, “I’m so tired of having no one who cares about me. Life is not worth living.” After many agonizing times when he thought someone had spoken to him, he realized their lips weren’t moving, and as we say, he freaked out! He ran to his pastor, who realized–somehow–that God had given the man the gift of hearing the deepest needs of the people with whom he was coming into contact. The pastor was jubilant, and insisted on going out among the people immediately, to see if he was correct. Yes, the man was hearing their unspoken suffering, and in doing so, was able to let his pastor know, so the pastor could minister to the person. It may sound dry, but wasn’t. It was an “I have to know what happens next” kind of book!*

After finishing it, I wondered if I, too, could look at people more like God looks at them, and see if I could discern their feelings by their outward expression. There’s always been a saying, “The eyes are the windows of the soul,” meaning that one’s feelings are generally reflected in the eyes. Smiles that do not reach the eyes are not smiles. I also wondered if I could listen more, and talk less! How many times had I heard someone answer truthfully rather than the politically correct “Fine,” to “Hi! How are you?” Had I ever followed up on it, and given them my time? They don’t really expect a reply, but they’ve answered truthfully because they’re seeking help. I love to listen to someone’s story. Rather than seeing that as a way to pass time, perhaps I could use it, like the man in the book above, to get to the root of their distress and show them there is One who cares more deeply about them than they could ever imagine. Why am I not using my time to make disciples?

How often are people we come into contact with suffering in some way that we can understand and relate to? Perhaps they have a spouse or family member who has just gotten news of a health crisis, or perhaps lost their job, or are having marital problems, and so many more areas of pain. Sometimes they are Christians who cry out to God, and instead of instant relief, there is silence. They may conclude–especially if they are a new Christian, or one who hasn’t been tested much–that He doesn’t really care. As was spoken in a recent movie, “Did you ever notice that the teacher is silent during a test?” Perhaps God is doing a work in their life. It scares me to death to think I should step in and help a need and get in God’s way while He’s trying to bring them closer to Himself. It’s imperative we act only when God nudges us.

This past Sunday Pastor Jonathan Falwell, himself a recent victim of physical suffering while being in the eye of Hurricane Irma, spoke on why there is suffering here on earth. Get your notebook, a beverage, and click on the website for Thomas Road Baptist Church at http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and select “Why Then Do We Suffer?” He gives answers from God’s word, advice to apply to our lives, and hope for a beautiful future. Enjoy the song service if you have time, and then do the sermon study below. God is good–all the time. Even in suffering, even through the evil that breaks His heart as it does ours, even in times when we think He doesn’t care, He’s good.

Why Then Do We Suffer?                                                                                         Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Each day world or national news seems to be filled with crises that would have been unimaginable fifty years ago. Can you think of a catastrophe that has impacted you or your extended family recently?

Today the severe challenges we are facing—whether from health, financial, family, sin or dozens more—inevitably lead us to the point of suffering where we cry out to God, “Why, Lord?” This week we are going to look at life from God’s perspective, as well as our own personal standpoint.

Focal Passages: Romans 5:12-25, 8:31-39; Job 5:7, 14:1.

Think About or Discuss:

This World Is Not What God Intended:

  1. Read Genesis 1:31. What did God say about His creation at the end of Day Six?
  2. Read Genesis 2:15. What did God give Adam the ability to do in this verse?
  3. Why would God create Adam, knowing he was going to bring sin—and therefore death—into the world? Can we not relate to some extent, wanting children even while knowing there will be very tough times with them?

Even Still There is Hope:

  1. Read Romans 5:18. What are some of the tribulations you face daily (you don’t have to share if you’d rather not)? Does God hold these against you if you confess them? How can you back that up?
  2. Read Rom. 5:19-23. How did the fall affect God’s creation?
  3. Read verses 24-25. Why do people hold so tightly to hope? Read 1 Peter 1:3. (Is this your hope?)

Our God Is Still in Control and Taking Care of Us

  1. How do you know that God is still in control? Read Col. 1:16-18 (in a translation that is more modern, if possible.)
  2. Think back over the recent events in your life; has God done anything that would indicate to you that He is caring for you? Read 1 Pet. 5:7.
  3. Why do we so often take matters into our own hands, trying to do the job in our strength, without letting Christ take the lead? Can you share your thoughts?

Close

Almost all the New Testament writers warn that this life comes with trials and troubles. If you thought when you received Jesus as Savior that life would be easy, the truth is, since evil and man’s choice exists, it won’t be. Suffering is a by-product of the fall, bringing sin and natural disasters. Those who trust Him fully have learned that Jesus is the only One you can depend on through the storms. This past month we have witnessed miracle after miracle as God brought people safely through tragedies that should have taken thousands of lives, but did so with minimal loss of life. “Things” can always be replaced, but people cannot. God is your only hope.

It was His desire that the creation would be a place of perfection, beauty, and happiness. Adam chose to disobey God, and man has been full of sin ever since, bringing suffering into creation. Had He made us robots, worshiping Him like puppets, there would be no relationship of love. If you have children who obey you for any reason other than a genuine desire to show their love, you know there is no satisfaction in outward obedience. Yet in giving us choices to do good or evil, sin enters our lives through the actions of ourselves or others. If you want evil to stop, choice must stop. Where would you want your ability to make choices end and you have none? You wouldn’t. The good news is that Jesus, dying on the cross to pay the debt of those sins, stands ready to forgive and give new life. That new life will include the transition from earth to heaven one day. Will you make mistakes—sometimes willfully—between now and then? Will suffering continue until He returns? Yes! But He loves you with a love so huge it is not able to be explained in human terms, and as a God of forgiveness, He will never disown you. One day, life will be exactly what God intended. Let us all be sure we are ready for that day!

Memory Verse: Romans 5:18: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Book: The Miracles, by Terri Blackstock

© Lisa F. Young

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With God, Nothing is Impossible!

Sales were pouring in, and often I wondered  how I had gotten myself into a business that was growing larger than I could manage. Trying to get packages ready for mailing was taking most of the day, and listing new merchandise could also take most of a day–together making a twenty-four hour day with no time for sleep! Well, I didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to know it was time to hire help. A friend came on board, then another, then someone to list, and meanwhile there was the job of buying new inventory. I questioned my sanity, but I was also having fun. It was nothing to grab my daughter and go on a buying trip, spending several thousand in one day. When the income from a side business is in six-figures, life seems pretty good.

About the same time, we learned a new little grandchild was “in the oven.” The problem was, there were already three other little ones, along with the parents, living in a very small house. It seemed obvious–and providential–that the income was there to save a sizable down payment and look for a large home. The fact that the economy was taking a slight downturn didn’t bother me, as it actually gave us a perfect time to look for a house someone really needed to sell. We were able to get a much bigger home for the money than would have been possible a year earlier .

We talked it over with the kids involved, and came to an agreement that, in three years, they would have sold where they were, and take over the mortgage. It was an unwritten agreement, not even the shaking of hands–this was family, and trust was implied.

For the next year or so, sales were still good. Not as great as they had been, but good. Nothing seemed to be happening concerning the unwritten agreement, but we ignored it. About year three, sales were beginning to show a major decrease. Every month I was stressed to the max, wondering if there would be enough, knowing that–had I foreseen the economy drop to new lows–I would never have taken on this responsibility. It took another year before I realized that, although sales had gone down drastically, God was still bringing in just the amount needed for the mortgage and utilities. When that realization hit, the relief was incredible. I had felt as though I was the one responsible, when all along He had been watching over me, and we never once went without enough to make their payments. On my own, I could not have done it; with Him, it was happening. No, sales were hardly coming in, but there was always just the right amount. It was a huge lesson in my God supplying ALL my needs, through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19)!

This past week, actually a week ago today, our church learned our Senior Pastor, Jonathan Falwell, had taken his wife, Shari, to St. Martins Island for an anniversary surprise. Hurricane Irma turned that surprise into a nightmare, but at the same time used their presence there to bring the love of Jesus Christ to a people who probably had passed Him by. After prayers on social media reached into the thousands, they got safely home on Saturday. Sunday, Dr. Ben Guttierez preached on the situations we find ourselves in which seem impossible to face or accomplish, only to find out that with our God, nothing is impossible! Join the ones who will be watching the service by way of internet on http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and click on “Nothing Is Impossible With God!” If you have time, worship as the church sings and welcomes Jonathan and Shari back among us. Get a friend, a drink, and settle in for a time with the Lord. If you are alone, grab your notebook and do the study below, taking time to learn more of the mighty power of our awesome God!

Nothing Is Impossible With God                                                                                          Dr. Ben Guttierez

Open:

Have you ever taken on a task—or made a decision to do something big—only to find sometime later that it is too much for you, and you want to give up? Can you think of an example? Write your answers in your notebook if you’re alone, or discuss it with friends if you have a group with you!

These past few weeks, we have come through catastrophes that have left millions destitute, and they no doubt wonder if they will survive the stress of these crises. At the same time, we have witnessed God showing His mighty and awesome power, bringing about miracles that man could not—under any imagination—have orchestrated or performed. Nothing is impossible for Him to accomplish, and as His child, nothing is impossible to the believer whose life is rich in faith. We are promised that God will do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think!

Focal Passages: Matthew 9:1-13, 10:2-4; 16:26; Luke 3:12-13, 5:27, 7:34, 18:10-11, 13a.

Think About or Discuss:

Background:

  1. Matthew, the tax collector, was someone the Jews would have gone out of their way to avoid. In that day, tax collectors ranked with the lowest of the low in terms of character and integrity. Read Matthew 18:17, 21:32, and Luke 7:34, to see how they were lumped in Scripture with those whom no one would believe could be saved.

Who Can God Use?

  1. Read Matthew 9:9. What would make a wretched sinner, tax collector and outcast obey Jesus when He said, “Follow Me”?
  2. How do you know that Matthew’s new-found faith was real?

God—the Forgiver of Sins

  1. Read Matt. 9:1-6. What is Jesus saying in verse 6?
  2. Can you think of an acquaintance that you have felt, perhaps for years, they were too “bad” for God to save them?

No One is Too Wayward That God Cannot Use Them

  1. Read Matt. 9:10-13. Who was Jesus seeking as He went through the towns preaching, teaching and healing?
  2. Read Mark 12:37. Who embraced Jesus and His teaching?
  3. How does this compare with 1 Corinthians 1:21?

God Changes Hearts

  1. Read Luke 19:7-9. Zacchaeus was also a tax collector, like Matthew. What showed his humility when Jesus went to his house?
  2. Read 1 Sam. 15:22. How high does God place obedience to His word?

Can God Use YOU?

  1. Read Matt. 18:4. What does God desire from you? Read Matt. 22:36-38. What else?  Can He use you?

 Close:

Satan can so easily get any of us tied up in regret, doubt or lies, bringing up the past and reminding us of it. How many times have you thought, “God can’t use me, because I have ____________”? Or perhaps there is an acquaintance that you know who has made life a living torture for someone you love, and you feel they are so far beyond the possibility of salvation that God will never write their names in the book of Life (Rev. 20:15). The truth is, no one is beyond the reach of God’s mercy and grace, unless they choose to ignore the call of Jesus. It takes a repentant heart and an act of turning from sin to obeying the voice of God to become His child. “He is the forgiver of sins and the determiner of one’s mission in life. God will use any heart that is submissive to His will.” (Sermon). He does not desire anyone to perish, but all to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

With the number of catastrophes coming one after another, examine your heart closely (2 Cor. 13:5) to see that you are His child, lest you be caught unprepared! Once you know that you are His, without any doubt and with a faith that will not be shaken, tell your story as often as God gives you opportunity, as the time may be short. He can use you no matter what you’ve done, if you ask forgiveness and repent, just as He can use those whom you continue to lift to the throne, no matter how hopeless the outlook! Do so this week!

Memory Verse: Matthew 19:26: But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

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TRIALS BY FIRE

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flannelgraph of Faith: Prayer and His Presence

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

Focal Passages: Daniel 1, 2, 3

Think About or Discuss:

The Background

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

Pray Like It Matters…Because It Does!

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

Compromise Will Never Deliver 

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

The World’s Power Is No Match For His

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

We Have His Power

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

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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FEAR: WILL IT RULE YOU?

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

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

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

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

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

Flannelgraph of Faith: Gideon

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

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

Thing About or Discuss:

The Background:

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

God’s Solution:

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

God’s Victory:

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

Gideon’s Final Years

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

What Are Some Applications?

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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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