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

 

© Teodor Ostojic | Dreamstime Stock Photos

He Didn’t Intend to Die That Day..

Two caskets. One, a close friend, the other a brother-in-law. Their stories were so different, their lives both lived in opposite directions.  The deaths  hit us hard. Not because we’re immune to the real life situations that pass us by, but because the deaths were too soon–both of these men still had time to live. (From a human perspective). One had surgery, didn’t heal properly, got pneumonia, and one catastrophe after another occurred, and he closed his eyes in death. The other had surgery, went to a rehab facility, caught a respiratory infection which didn’t heal, and eventually was sustained by life-support. He chose to be taken off, and two minutes later was in the presence of the Lord whom he loved.

We juggled schedules in order to pay our last respects to both of these men whom we had loved. And at each casket the only question we cared about was their relationship to the One who had died in order that they could live eternally with Him. Because, in the end, that’s all that really matters. The one didn’t go to heaven because he was a good citizen, had raised children who are an asset to their communities, and had served faithfully those who needed him. He went because years ago he had heard the message of salvation, knew he was a sinner who had a debt of sin that nothing could remove except the blood of Jesus–and accepted that as Truth. The other had led a life of sin for many, many years, and would have faced an eternity in hell, but he saw in the lives of those with whom he lived a peace, and he wanted that same peace for himself. He went to church, heard the gospel message preached, and gave his life to Christ. They both got it.

Whether you believe in heaven or hell, Jesus as the Son of God, Jesus as the only way to heaven, doesn’t change the truth one bit. All that matters is that it is Truth, and your believing or not believing it doesn’t change the fact that it is. What it will change is where you spend your time when you close your eyes in death. If you’re reading this, you still have time to know that you know–or choose not to. Jesus won’t force you to accept His free gift, but it’s yours for the taking if you do.

How about a great sermon on who is YOUR Jesus? Get your notebook, a good chair, some cool or hot drink, and sit back, ready to listen to the sermon for yesterday, April 30, 2017, preached by Jonathan Falwell at Thomas Road Baptist Church. Click on http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive and select the current sermon. Join in the singing as it lifts up the name of the Lord! After the service is over, scroll down to the study notes and see how much you absorbed, and check the sermon against your own belief in Jesus! Do you have a Biblical view of His Deity, or have you let unsound doctrine get you confused? Don’t let an unplanned death keep you out of heaven–Jesus has rooms prepared just for you!

Not My Jesus: The World’s View of Jesus                                                                                                                      Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Can you think of a time you became involved in something because you didn’t have all the true facts about the situation? Write your experience in your notebook, or if you’re with a group of friends, would you share?

Today the world has a very confused idea of who Jesus Christ really is, and why He lived. We must be careful in conversation that we are not agreeing with a statement someone is making about Him until we know that their idea of Jesus is in line with the word of God. As we saw last week, no serious historian denies that Jesus actually lived, but few believe Him to be the Son of God. This week we continue the new series in which we determine that our view of Jesus not only must be true, we must know why it’s true.

Focal Passages: Matthew 16:1-17.

Think About or Discuss:

The World is always looking for a sign

  1. Read Matt. 16:1-4. Had these scribes and Pharisees been following Jesus as He had been performing miracles? If so, what was the real reason for their statement in verse 1?
  2. What did Jesus say would be the evidence of His claim that He was the Messiah? If they had really wanted to believe, what would they have done?
  3. How is that like people today who beg God for a miracle (for the life, health, etc. of someone perhaps), saying they will then “believe”? Can you discuss what comes to mind?

There are signs from above and signs from below

  1. In verses 5-12, what were the disciples missing? What had they seen—probably nearly every day—while they had been with Jesus?
  2. Jesus still needed to warn them to be careful not to believe false doctrine. Why was it necessary for Him to counsel them to not to be swayed by error?
  3. Taking the world religions individually, why did the Jews not accept Jesus as the Messiah the prophets had written of? Islam denies Jesus’ deity; whose word are they ignoring? They deny the crucifixion: last week, how many witnesses saw Jesus alive after the crucifixion? Hinduism embraces thousands of gods; can you think of Jesus’ own words that would refute this doctrine? Buddhism also denies He is the Son of God. Atheists For Christ, like Islam, deny the crucifixion. How then, do they think they can be saved? (If you need to, look at the end!)
  4. Why do we need to be so diligent to teach the next generation there is only One Way? Do you know what the public school system is teaching the children?

The greatest revelation of who Jesus Is? Himself!

  1. In verses 13-17, what had Jesus asked His disciples? Who revealed this to Peter?
  2. If you were asked by anyone who He is, what would you say? What evidence do you have? (Hopefully, a changed life!)

Close:

Because the world does not have a correct view of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scripture, it has gone crazy making up its own rules concerning sinful lifestyles. It has become vital that we know without error the Biblical guidelines God has set. Jesus knew the disciples were going to face “wolves” among the believers, and warned them in our focal passage to guard against accepting people or beliefs at face value. Now, two thousand years later, we are in an even more dangerous position, as we see our values taken away. We are not allowed to have an opinion that goes against society, and are  in danger of “hate crimes” if we label Biblical sin as sin. Paul warned believers in Eph. 4:14 to not be carried away by every “wind of doctrine,” and in both letters to Timothy, as well as Titus, he warns us to hold fast to sound doctrine—that men, in fact, will come to hate it. We see this today all around the world. Doctrine—a scary word to many—is simply the set of principles God has established as guidelines so that His people may strive to live holy, sanctified lives. Paul writes in 1 Thess.  4:3, “For this is the will of God for you, your sanctification!”  Let us go forward toward that goal, reaching out in love to the many who have an inaccurate view of Him!

Jews: They expected someone who would rise as a military leader. Islam: Jesus Himself stated He and the Father are One (John 10:30); also, John 1:1-5; and denying the resurrection, they ignore the 515+ people who saw Jesus alive. Hinduism: Jesus stated, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man comes to the Father except by Me” (John 14:6).  Atheists for Christ also ignore the witnesses who saw Jesus after the resurrection; they believe their good works will get them to heaven.

 

 

HAPPILY EVER AFTER…

 

 

 

 

 

It was a book I could hardly put down. Each chapter ended with such a sense of standing on the edge of a cliff that you just HAD to keep going! When something caused me to be disciplined enough to actually lay it down, the plot would be going through my head as I did the duties that were required of me while being on auto-pilot. Oh, man! I just wanted to see what the next page had… but, of course, that didn’t work, because I kept turning the page after that one. Even at bedtime, during my ritual reading for maybe twenty minutes, I found my eyes shutting, yet still trying to see what lay ahead. Finally, when my brain realized I wasn’t comprehending the last sentence, I would lay it down, go to sleep, and know I had to wait for tomorrow.

Finally I was getting through it. I had no idea how it was going to turn out–of course there were “good guys” and “bad guys” and intrigue, but how was it going to end? I didn’t know. All I knew was that every other book by this author had been fantastic.

I was nearly done. As I turned the last page, I read the last couple of sentences. WHAT?????? ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? I felt like I was falling off that cliff and there were no nets below! If I hadn’t had the self-control to realize I would break something (probably only something expensive, as my aim is lousy), I would have thrown the book across the room–or across the state if I could have! (No, I’m not telling you what it was–you’ll have to find me, then I will). There just has to be a serial, I reasoned, so I headed for the computer to (of course) Google. “Is there a sequel to…..”? Nothing. “List of books by….” Nothing that I could see different, or that looked like the 2nd of a trilogy or set. There was one I didn’t recognize; it had another title and didn’t look like what I wanted but I still ordered it. Frustration was rampant. Have you been there, done that? You want to know the end, but it’s not out yet. You want to know if they live happily ever after, but it’s expected to come out at Christmas. Shucks, if you’re like me, you’d have to read the first one again, just to remember why you were waiting.

I will say, on behalf of the author who has remained nameless, that when the other book came, it was the same “can’t put it down” situation, and when I finished (and this is very rare), I turned back to page one and read it again. Stupendous. But this time I knew how it was going to end. I still haven’t found a sequel to the other one…

How often have you cheated and gone to the end, just so the stress level is alleviated as you read? The older I get, the more I do that. Eliminating stress has become my mantra as I age. But there are times when reading the ending is something that brings joy!

You think that would ruin it for you? Look at it this way: as Moses penned the books that begin the Bible, he didn’t have the benefit of the prophets. As the prophets wrote their lengthy prophecies, they did not know the fulfillment. As Jesus said in Matthew 13:17, they longed to be able to see what the people around Him were hearing and seeing, but couldn’t. And think of the New Testament, those who were writing it did not have the benefit of reading the end of the book to know how it was going to turn out. And although Jesus told them what to expect, it took the crucifixion to bring it all into focus.

Now is a great time to get your Bible, a notebook to make notes so you can see your progress as you study the sermons, and a comfortable chair. If you want some coffee or Coke, or if you have a friend, get ready to click on the sermon preached at Thomas Road Baptist Church Easter Sunday, April 16, and prepare to worship the Lord with the congregation at TRBC. Click on http://www.trbc.org/service-archive, and click on the Easter service. Take your time to work through the questions below, and enjoy the fact that you know how everything ends! Glorify God as you worship!

Outsiders: Truly He Is The Son of God                                                                                                                                                                           Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Sometimes it takes more than one circumstance to finally “connect the dots.” Can you think of an instance when this has been the case for you? Write it in your notebook unless you have a chance to discuss it with a friend.

This week we finish looking at four people who were personally affected by the events surrounding the crucifixion, and their reaction to Jesus Christ. The centurion, who—no doubt–had been involved from the night of the arrest to the last breath taken by Jesus, had the light of understanding hit him as he watched Jesus die. As all the dots began to be connected, this man, intimately involved in the crucifixion, made a profound statement that has gone into the very Word of God: “Truly this was (is) the Son of God!”

Focal Passages: Mark 15:20-39; Mark 16:1-7.

Think About or Discuss:

The Prologue

  1. Looking back at the events that led to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, one’s mind finds it hard to cope with the series of situations that ended in such an inhumane way. What seems to have been the beginning of this ending (from a human view point)?
  2. As the jealousy among the Jewish religious leaders escalated, what did they do next?
  3. They plotted how best to get Jesus alone to kill him; who played into their hands? What do you think the other disciples would have done if they had realized Judas was about to betray Jesus (speculation)?
  4. What happened when Judas told the Jews where they could find Jesus? Who all came to the garden the night Jesus was praying? About how many came, and what was their intention?

The Terrible Hours

  1. The Roman military came to arrest Jesus. Who was probably one of the main authorities, one who would give orders, and be on hand throughout the following day? What events did he see occur in the Garden of Gethsemane?
  2. When Jesus’ “case” went from the religious leaders to the governing authorities, how did they react? How did they keep “passing the buck”?
  3. What happened next?
  4. As Pilate ordered the crucifixion, who probably had to carry it out?
  5. What did Scripture predict the Messiah would do (Isaiah 53:7)?

The Death

  1. Who, more than likely, was in charge of the order to nail Jesus to the tree?
  2. As he watched the events now out of his hands, what did he see happen before his eyes?
  3. How did all those events affect him? What were his words?

The Victory!

Close:

As believers, we know the victory that was just around the corner! The hurt, pain, sense of loss, despair—and so much more—that the disciples and followers of Jesus went through during those three days can only be speculated about. We, on the other hand, have read “the end of the story,” and know that Sunday morning the tomb Joseph gave to the family of Jesus was empty! Tradition has it that the stone was guarded by the same centurion who had doubtless overseen the soldiers in the garden the night of His arrest, then in charge of those who carried out the crucifixion on Friday, and was afterward given charge to guard the tomb. If so, he could have seen the sight of the angel rolling the stone away, giving the guards on duty a shock so great they fainted. All we know for sure is that He came out of the tomb and appeared to the women, to the disciples, and before ascending into heaven, more than five hundred or more people. Seeing Him caused them to believe, and change the world. And He is still changing it today!

Which group do you belong in? Those who are familiar with the events of the crucifixion and have had your life changed because of it, or the group of those who know about it, but have no interest in a changed life? It’s a choice that must be made this side of eternity. One rich man in hell begged Abraham—across a chasm—to send someone to tell his family that hell is real, only to be told it was too late (Luke 16:19-31). Don’t wait—if God is speaking to your heart, answer Him today!

Photo Copyright by Sandra Day

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