Does a Child Make a Father?

It’s funny. Having a cat or dog, you can call yourself a family. Having a barn with animals gives you the right to call yourself a farmer. But you can’t call yourself a father unless you have a child. To ignore Father’s Day today–let alone say something original or thought provoking–would be to ignore an American tradition. So we’ll look at the past, okay?

It would be so great if everyone had a favorite Father’s Day story: it would mean that that most important man had done something special. Perhaps it was at the Sunday dinner, with all the family gathered. Perhaps, like us, it was the Father’s Day that three very young children had their first time with Papa at the table–the first one when he had not been on Active Duty or deployment. It might also have been the Father’s Day, a year or two later, when, after an afternoon at the pool following Sunday dinner, the smallest of the three managed to fall out of the van and the same father felt the thump of running over his son. The next several hours were hell on earth, hanging between not knowing if he would live or die. Please, Lord, let there not be another Father’s Day like that one. 

There’s also been one written giving accolades to the wonderful fathers who set an example for their children: an example of a strong, Godly leader, who takes them to church, has devotions and prayers with them, and teaches them that this home is just for a space of time, and then we can have a beautiful home in heaven with all of our family, with other believers in Jesus Christ, and with the God who made us, and adopted us as His children; those fathers who work hard to provide for their families, sometimes working two or three jobs, going to school, always bettering themselves in order to give their family the love, shelter and food that was an unwritten “law” of marriage. There’s not enough credit given to those fathers, and they should never be taken for granted.

In the sermon today, June 18, 2017, preached at Thomas Road, a video clip of a testimony emphasized a beautiful lesson that was given by a young father with five children–and the sixth on the way: bringing up God’s gifts to you [i.e., your children] and teaching them how to live cannot be separated from knowing and teaching them the Word of God. His Bible is the guidebook He gave for us to use in order to have a life of purpose and love. A father and husband, J. D. Gunter wrote, “The businessman, the mechanic, the salesman, the lawyer, the teacher, the waiter, and the landscaper are all in direct service to Christ. On top of that, the men who hold these jobs to provide for their families are fulfilling a biblical mandate. There is honor and goodness in work. God’s glory is glimpsed each time a man brings home a paycheck. A man coming home to play with his kids after an exhausting day of work has shown us what Christlikeness is.” What a fulfillment of the role God ordained for fathers on this day that we honor them–or those who have been a father figure to us, in place of our own. 

Get your notebook, your iced drink, and sit back to listen to the sermon for today at http://www.trbc.org/service-archive, and enjoy the worship. This is Charles Billingsley’s last Sunday as Worship Pastor, as next week he will preach, have a concert, and then leave for California. Enjoy the time of praise and worship. Above all, don’t let the theme throw you! Any person–man or woman–who loves the Lord will be able to identify with the five mandates that Paul writes, and try to attain to each of them. Substitute woman for man, and you’re good to go! Then come back and do the study below, sharing it with others who need to know Christ more deeply, and hunger for Him more fully!

Act Like Men                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Today is the day set aside to give honor to fathers, but the truth is, not everyone has a godly—or even good—father. However, almost all have a father-figure who impacted our lives for good. Can someone share? If you are alone, write it in your notebook!

We take time on this day to look at the attributes of the man who has the qualities God highly values. Paul, finishing his first letter to the church at Corinth, included two small verses that can be used as a goal for anyone who desires to be “a man [or person] after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22).

Focal Passages: 1 Corinthians 16:13,14; 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

Think About or Discuss:

Be A Man of Protection

  1. Read the two verses, focusing on 13a. Living in a world that seems to be coming more and more sinful, what are some obvious things a man would need to protect both himself and his family from? If at present you don’t have a family, work on these characteristics in preparation for that day!
  2. Thinking more deeply—and in a spiritual direction—what are some of the less apparent but more dangerous issues that one needs to be concerned about?

Be A Man of Purity

  1. In verse 13b, what is the responsibility laid out here? Read Ephesians 6:13,14. In any situation where you are “standing firm,” what does that imply you are doing?
  2. In this case, Paul says to “stand firm in the faith.” How can you do that? Consider your life: are you impacting the world around you, or is it impacting you? (Don’t answer aloud unless you want to.)

Be A Man of Power

  1. Read verse 13c. Anyone raised on the Marvel or D.C. Comic Heroes knows what bravery is. What are some things brave men do?
  2. What are some character traits of a brave man?

Be A Man of Purpose

  1. Read verse 13d. Let’s assume Paul was not speaking of the physical body, although the Greek does not clarify. So, what should one show strength concerning?
  2. What do you do if you are faced with opposition? Do you have, as Dr. Falwell used to say, “stick-to-itiveness”?

Be A Man of Perfection

  1. Read verse 14. Last week we spent time discussing actions done without love as the motivator. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-7. What is the bottom line?

Close:

There has never been a time in our country when the need for individuals who will stand firm in Jesus Christ has been so great.  Our children desperately need to know that their fathers are going to do everything in their power to see that they—the child—will safely arrive to adult status. There are times this goal doesn’t happen, but God will bless the man whose heart is fixed on Him. Yes, in many cases it is the mom! Always remember that God will be a Father to the orphans and widows, whether through divorce or death.

The five actions Paul has laid out in these two short verses can equally apply to a woman, but some of Paul’s strongest words are used to warn men that it is their God-given duty to provide for his family, to see that their family is united following God’s principles, and to be the loving leader that he has been anointed by God to be. Paul (in Ephesians 5:25) equates the father’s role in a family to that of Christ loving the church, and giving Himself for it. Do you understand that He sees and knows everything you are looking at, every video you are watching, everyone you are talking to, and every conversation you have? He knows your thoughts before you speak them! Any man who does not fulfill this role will ultimately be judged by God. Give God praise if that does not fill you with fear, but be filled with gratitude, knowing you are running the race, trying to win the prize He has laid out for you.

Memory Verse: 1 Corinthians 16:13, 14: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.”

 

 

 

 

 

What Does Your Appearance Say About You?

Mother loved the big luxury cars. I guess she felt safer with that much metal around her, with good reason. A tiny car would have left her vulnerable to all the people who couldn’t drive well. We won’t say where she ranked in that column. By the way, she totaled the green car when she plowed head on into the side of a fuel tractor-trailer. I saw it first hand. From the inside front passenger seat.

The rain was pouring down, and–for whatever reason at the time–she took the umbrella, over-riding my “Let me do it” remarks, and hurried to get the car while I waited under the hospital portico. The rain had my attention, my dad’s near-death condition had my attention, and the truth is, I had no awareness left to give thought to Mother driving up under the roof of the entrance so we could go home.

Her large top-of-the-line Ford pulled up, and I scurried around to the passenger side, and hopped in. And started talking. No comment. That’s not like Mother, I thought. I raised my eyes to see the huge oval whites of an older male behind the wheel, looking in shock at the woman who had jumped into the car with him. At that time, I didn’t know whether to laugh out loud or cry, but definitely I was as shocked as he! I apologized profusely and made a quick escape with what little dignity I had left. (And let his wife get into the car, by the way). Mother pulled under the portico behind him, same car, same make, model, year and color. It was an honest mistake. From the news this past week, I would say as an aside that now, in order to be politically correct, I would blame the man for pulling up and impersonating my mother. Ah, the world has changed in a few short years.

When’s the last time you’ve gone up behind someone, put your arms around them, only to find that blue shirt that your husband wore sold more than one in the community? Or–heaven forbid, but it happens–your husband popped you on the behind only to have a stranger turn with a ferocious attitude, ready to bite his head off? Only this week I sent a picture to my daughter, who quickly texted a question, “is that [her nephew] or [her son]??” Since my husband and I had both been confused a few minutes before, we were ready for the question: the point is, you can’t always go by the appearance! You have to train your eyes to look deeper.

Last week, in a long line at the post office, a gentleman (and he really was) turned around and spoke to me. “Hearing your voice, and now even seeing you, if I didn’t know better I would have thought Joyce M. was behind me!” Well, my sympathy to the high profile women’s conference leader, but no, it was just me.

So–if we don’t look at the exterior, what do we look for? Well, obviously it would be the actions, the gestures, the conversation, attitude and environment of the person you are looking at. All those factors should be different for one to come to a conclusion as to whether that is the person you think. For instance, by now you’ve heard the tale of the town gossip who spread the rumor that the head deacon was an alcoholic. When he asked her why she had spread such slander, she remarked, “Well, your truck was parked outside the bar all evening!” He thought on the situation, finally coming up with a solution. That night, after dark, he parked his car outside her house, leaving it there ’til morning. Don’t go by appearances!

This week, the sermon at Thomas Road (for Sunday, June 4th) was “Christ in Me.” When other people see you, do they stereotype you for where you are, or for what you’re doing or saying, at any given time? Probably. We judge without meaning to, constantly categorizing people without knowing all the facts. Get your notebook, a cold drink, comfortable chair, and click on http://www.trbc.org/service-archive and choose the sermon for this past Sunday. If you have time, watch the entire worship hour, joining the singing as Charles Billingsley leads the congregation in praise. Winding down his time with the congregation at Thomas Road, Charles will soon be calling California “home,” and will be terribly missed! Watch the sermon, and come back to the study below, digging into other Scriptures as they reinforce the other verses that tell us what being a Christian should look like! Enjoy the service, and the study! By the way, sharing on social media is a great way to get more people studying God’s word. Would you be so kind as to send this out onto your page, so others can have a guide?ni

Not My Jesus: Christ In Me                                                                                                                                                                                                               Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Have you ever identified someone because they resembled another of your acquaintances so closely? Occasionally we will even speak to a stranger, thinking it is someone we know!

During the past several weeks, we have looked at the life of Jesus Christ from historical evidence, both from secular writers and the Bible. You should have formed a solid foundation on which to build a relationship with Him, especially when we examined passages that emphasize how much He loves you. This week we want to see if becoming His child will reflect in your appearance or lifestyle so that others will be able to identify you as a child of God. As Acts 4:13 states, “they [the religious leaders] marveled…and realized they [the disciples] had been with Jesus.”

Focal Passages: Galatians 3:20-21; Romans 8:9-14

Think About or Discuss:

The World Does Not Control Us

  1. Read the verses from Galatians, and Romans 8:9a. When you ask Jesus to forgive your sins and save you, what do you receive? How would you describe the power the Holy Spirit gives you? Write your answers in your notebook if you are not in a group.
  2. Perhaps an area in your life has been a trigger for a response that was not godly; can you think of any? What are some scriptures or “ways of escape” that will help you control your reactions and overcome this stronghold by the power of the Holy Spirit? (1 Corinthians 10:13)

(BUT) God Controls Us

  1. In Rom. 8:9b, what is the spiritual condition of those who do not choose to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit?
  2. Read Romans 13:11,12. this passage, whose responsibility is it to choose to obey God, rather than resume a past sinful lifestyle? Will God force you to obey? What are some results that you should consider as you choose your actions?

(BECAUSE) He Dwells Within Us

  1. Have you ever been afraid, perhaps being alone as a child, and suddenly someone you loved came into the room? How did your feelings change? How should this illustrate the Holy Spirit dwelling within you?
  2. We have life, resurrection power, and the ability to flee sin when the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us. Do you consciously think of your body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and care for it in that manner? Why or why not?

(AND) The Holy Spirit Leads Us

  1. Read Rom. 8:11. We sing “The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us!” Are you actively aware of that as you go about your day? What causes you to think of it?
  2. Where does the Holy Spirit lead us? (Psalm 23 may help you think of some joyful places!)

(TO) A Life That Is Different

  1. Read verse 12-14. Give examples of living a life set apart from the world.
  2. Has anyone ever asked you what makes you different? If not, have you asked yourself ‘why’?

Close:

Do you ever meet someone who seems to have a joy and zest for life that amazes you? Even their countenance exudes peace and they seem content, even in uncomfortable circumstances! That is the evidence that they have the sweet Spirit of God residing in their life. When we give the control of our lives over to let the Holy Spirit rule and reign, we should experience a relief and gladness that we no longer must carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. As we wake in the morning, we should be full of gratitude and delight for another day in His presence! Our “temple” (that is, our body) should be kept clean of filthiness and worldliness (James 1:21), our mouths should always speak what is truthful (Proverbs 8:7), and nothing wicked should be set before our eyes (Psalm 101:3). If we could actively be conscious, as we go through our daily routine in the world, that we have the God of the universe within us, would we clean up our lives and change what we see, speak, how we act, or where we g? Is that a description of your life, or do you fall short, letting the small irritating conflicts that Satan throws at you constantly steal you joy?

Take time this week to study the passages of a life filled with the Spirit, and then strive for the godliness that will set you apart from the world. Praise be to God if, when someone meets us, they immediately recognize us as someone who “has been with Jesus!” Pray for the strength, the sensitivity, and the obedience to give Christ our all.

Memory Verse: Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Questions or nice comments? sdayfarm@aol.com; don’t ruin your day or mine if you don’t agree–pray about it and let God give you the answer….

© Paul Brennan | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Did You Find the Rose Garden?

Once upon a time… someone was promised a garden of roses.

We thought that was how it worked, didn’t we? Raised on Fairy Tales that all ended “happily ever after,” it seemed life–once we were grown–was going to be full of love, joy and roses. Shall I break it to you? It doesn’t happen that way very often.

We prepared for marriage, and hoped to get someone who would always love us unconditionally; we prepared for jobs, and were so fortunate if we got one that paid well. There were some where we had to follow orders simply because we were employed–orders that we sometimes questioned, or felt uncomfortable with.

One, I recall, was a huge, financially sound corporation. A directive came down the line from the people who sat in the plush offices several states away, who had little “hands on” experience to know how their decisions would impact those very people who made them profitable. This was one of the largest banking firms in the nation. A meeting was called, and the employees, all titled, sat at the conference center desk as the President laid out new rules: there would no longer be renewals on loans that were on the books, unless the customer had the cash to back up the loan. We’re not talking about small credit card debt, but commercial loans that might range up to a few million.

As the customers came in when their loan was up for renewal, and found it wasn’t going to be automatically turned over, they were floored. “I’ve never missed a payment, have impeccable credit, and a value of twice what I owe! How can you do this?!” These were real people, people we knew people well, and as we looked into their faces, we knew how incredibly hard it was going to be for them to keep bankruptcy at bay, just because corporate had made a decision, and now it was going to be mandated. So many went under. Our souls were full of guilt: should we fight or flee? How badly did we need the job?

Have you found the working world–or even school–full of favoritism, double standards and politics? Perhaps discrimination when one student, team, employee or person is favored above everyone else for no reason you’re aware of? That’s life today, isn’t it? At least we tell ourselves it is.

That was life thousands of years ago, as well! “There is nothing new under the sun,” Solomon wrote, and while he may have not meant technological advances, the incredible strides made with each generation still blow you away! Kitchen strainers and tableware artifacts have been found that are thousands of years old–and look like they are yesterday’s items.

The sermon yesterday at Thomas Road Baptist Church picks up on an employee–a soldier actually–who was ordered to do his job, and went out to do it. He had no choice, or probably his own life would have been in danger. This amazing story leaves you wondering what happened at the end, how did it turn out, was there a sequel?! Nowadays we would expect a trilogy, or even more. Click on http://www.trbc.org/sermons and then click on “Outsiders: Jesus at the Center,” preached by Charles Billingsley on March 26, 2017. You’ll be enthralled every moment as Charles brings one of the characters to life, fleshes him out, and gives you a beautiful picture of the love of Jesus Christ for each of us. Get your notebook to jot answers to the study below, a drink, a comfy chair, and if you have a friend to share the time with you, worship and study together. It will be a meaningful time of fellowship and feasting on the Bread of Life. Most of all, remember to praise God for the wealth of great teaching that we have available, and the possibility of changing someone’s life for eternity!

Outsiders: Jesus at the Center                                                                                                                                                                                                      Charles Billingsley

Open:

Sometimes we can attend a function, meeting, or study that is really important, but sit there feeling very disconnected from the group for any of a number of reasons. Can you think of an example? Jot your answers down if you’re alone, so you can keep a record of your thoughts.

This week we begin a new series, looking for four weeks at people who were part of the crucifixion of Jesus, but did not recognize His deity, and yet were touched by His grace. Whether their heart was changed, we will not know until eternity. Is it possible we—or someone we know—could hear the story of Christ week after week, be touched by His power, but never open our hearts to Him? Let’s look at the story.

Focal Passage: John 18:1-11 Further Passages: John 10:17-18, Luke 22:49-51, 52,53; Matt. 26:53,54; Rom. 8:38, 39.

Think About or Discuss:

The Power of Jesus is Undeniable

  1. Read John 1:3 and Rom. 1:20. What is said of Jesus in these passages? In Romans, what gives evidence there is a Creator? How would you describe His power?
  2. Read John 18:1-7. When Jesus answered “I AM HE,” what was the significance of the words? We think of people falling backwards; what if the soldiers fell forward, or their legs gave out: what would be their posture? What Scripture would have been fulfilled in the lives of those men? (Rom. 14:11)

The Love of Jesus is Unconditional

  1. Read verses 8-9. Who was Jesus concerned for as the guards came to arrest Him?
  2. Read Col. 2:13,14. What kind of love would cause someone to die for persons so vile as to be “dead” in their sins?
  3. Read Rom. 8:38, 39. How would you describe unconditional love? Do you struggle with loving like that?

The Grace of Jesus is Indescribable

  1. Read verse 10. What was significant about Malchus’ position in Jewish hierarchy? What was Peter’s intent (probably)?
  2. Read verse 11. Who can tell what happened next (from Luke 22:51)? Why was Malchus not “deserving” of the grace of Jesus?
  3. Think: Does anyone owe you something—perhaps money? Does it bother you? How does that compare with the grace you received from God?

Close:

There are not enough words for us to describe the power of God, with our finite minds and vocabulary. How can we comprehend a universe where the stars alone exceed a number over 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000—and He knows them all by name? Such power is indescribable. The creation (Rom. 1:20) alone testifies to all men that there is a Creator, so no one who will stand before God has an excuse. When Jesus answered, “I am He,” He was using the words God used for His Name: the great I AM. It’s scary to think that perhaps we’ve become so used to going to church, talking about the Lord, singing, praying and even praising Him, that we have lost the awe and reverence of His power! Perhaps He is no longer  held in such high esteem that we, like Isaiah, would cry out, “Woe is me!” To be the recipient of the kind of love available to men by calling on His name is unfathomable. To have Him remove your vilest sins, casting them as far as the east is from the west, is incomprehensible, and yet we get upset or turn away when He does not answer our prayers, or give us what we want. Our knowledge is a drop in a bucket and His is as limitless as possible, and yet we often treat Him like a servant, or a genie in a lamp. We all need to fall to our knees and cry “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty!” Won’t you take the message of salvation you’ve been given and tell those whose hearts need to be changed by His love that it is available to them? It matters so much!

Memory Verse: John 3:17: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Thoughts to Take Away:

  • (Verse 3): The soldiers came with “lanterns and torches” against the Light of the World;
  • They came with weapons against the Prince of Peace;
  • (Verses 4-8): Jesus was in Total Control: He knew all things; He went forward; He took the initiative; His words took them to the ground in response to His majesty; He told them what to do;
  • Nothing can stop the will of God;
  • We are protected by His love; we are perfected by His love;
  • As trials come, will we flee or fight?

Quote: “For evil to flourish, it requires only for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke.

© publicdomainimages | Dreamstime Stock Photos

God Gave YOU A Story!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Storytellers: “Story Takers”                                                                                                                                                                                       Matt Matt Willmington

Open:

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

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

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

Think About or Discuss:

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

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

TAKE PEOPLE TO JESUS

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

TAKE JESUS TO PEOPLE

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

TAKE JESUS’ BURDEN

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

ACTION  APPLICATIONS:

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

Close:

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

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

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JUST TELL THE STORY!

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The mess hall was a chaos of sweaty, smelly bodies, most having just ridden for hours in the field, in ninety-degree heat. Riding on the hard seats in trucks or Humvees is not conducive to jovial attitudes, and the chow hall didn’t serve most men’s idea of a great lunch. Still, appetites were ready to eat, since almost everyone had been awakened at 4:30 a.m., and breakfast had seemed an eternity ago. The guys kept telling themselves OCS was worth this.

The men, caps off their heads, headed for the nearest tables for the soldiers. The tables with the officers were nearby. There were few standing rules, but one reminded the guys of their moms: eat everything on your plate.

This particular day, Candidate Day was feeling “ornery.” A good synonym is feeling like making trouble. Not a great thing to do in the military. As he ate, he looked at the spinach provided (why had he put that on his plate, he asked himself), knowing he had to gag it down, although he hated it. He held his nose so the taste would be minimal, and swallowed the lump in two huge bites. Then, taking his napkin, he wadded it up into a small mound, placing it over the area where the spinach had been. He made sure the napkin had a small point in the center. Yes, it was all very well planned. Yes, he knew he was about to get in trouble. Yes, he weighed the cost. And decided it would be worth it.

In a few minutes his lunch was eaten, his tray ready to be carried out. As he passed the table where the officers sat, one cut his eyes sharply to the tray Day carried and barked, “DAY!” Candidate Day stopped and faced the officer. “Sir, Yessir!” he answered, eyes straight ahead, head erect. “Raise the napkin!” the office yelled. “Sir, yessir!” Day replied, and proceeded to lift the napkin. Noting the absence of food underneath the napkin, the officer turned beet red as anger and embarrassment shook him, especially in front of the other officers. “DAY! You did that on purpose, didn’t you?!” Day replied, “Sir, yessir!” Eyes straight, head erect.

“Outside!! Give me 25 push ups!” the officer yelled. Candidate Day was a good soldier: “Sir, yessir!” he replied, and went out to do his push-ups. To this day, many decades later, he still gets an unholy pleasure out of telling the story, complete with his punishment.

We all have favorite stories that have been handed down through the generations of our families, don’t we? Some have been embellished, some are straight truth (like the one above!). We love stories from the time Mom or Grandma opens bedtime with “Once upon a time,” and never grow tired of them.

We’re beginning a new series at Thomas Road, only three weeks long, but the truth is, we all have a story to tell. Click on http://www.trbc.org/sermon and select the Storytellers, from March 5, 2017. Listen as Jonathan Falwell brings to life the healing of the blind man, and see him in your imagination as he–who was blind from birth–received his sight. Can you even begin to experience the wonder as he looked at clouds, grass, trees, people??? What an amazing story! Grab your notebook for thoughts, a good drink, and friends if you’d like to share the study below. Listen to the service and then dig deep to get to the points in the sermon, finding out that you, too, have a story to share!

Storytellers: The Story of Sight                                                                                            March 5, 2017

Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Nearly everyone has a favorite story that they love to share, whether it’s for encouragement, humor or pure enjoyment. Can you think of a much-loved story? Jot it in your notebook if you are not in a group.

For three weeks, we are going to look at some of the true stories that were written about Jesus’ ministry, trying to identify the characteristics of the storyteller, and decide what points he was trying to make as he re-told the events. This week we will look at the story of Jesus as He restores sight to a man blind from birth.

Focal Passage: John 9:1-2

Think About or Discuss:

The Beginning of a Story

  1. Read John 9:1-3. What were some of the main points about the man who had been born blind? Write down all you can think of.
  2. Did the man need faith to obey the instructions of Jesus? Why or why not? (For a parallel passage to study, take a few moments to read 2 Kings 5:9-12, and see the opposite reaction of someone who wanted to be healedI.)

The Power of a Story

  1. Read verses 6-9. What were some of the reasons this man felt an urgency to assure people that he was the one who had been healed?
  2. If this had been you, what would have been your reaction or feelings?

The Faith of a Storyteller

  1. Read verses 10-11. Why was he able to be convincing as he told of the experience with Jesus?
  2. Which was his greater determination, to give Jesus the credit for healing him, or be afraid of what the Jewish leaders would do to him? Why?

The Courage of a Storyteller

  1. Read verses 15, 25-26. Can you understand his frustration when the Jews kept interrogating him with the same questions over and over? Why?
  2. Read verses 18-20. What had his parents done? Why had they lacked courage?

The Importance of a Storyteller

  1. Read verse 4. What did Jesus say your important job is? Why? What is your story? Are you excited to tell it—as the blind man—or are you fearful of repercussions fom external sources, as his parents were?       

ACTION  APPLICATIONS:

  1. Decide if you have a story. If you have been granted the gift of salvation, you have something to tell the world;
  2. Be committed to sharing your story at each and every opportunity;
  3. Pray each day that God would bring someone to you who needs to hear your story;
  4. Share your story even though you may experience sarcasm, doubt or skepticism!

Close:

We all have a favorite part of some movie—a line or two that perhaps defines the entire storyline for us. In “Up Close and Personal,” a mentored journalist eventually eclipses her teacher, ending with a final scene where she accepts an award with words dedicated to his memory: “He told me to ‘just tell the story.’” Whenever life throws a curve ball, those words come to mind: just tell the story. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that if “any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away, behold all things become new.” A new life, a new creation, old things passed away—what more could a good story have as a plot? If you have been saved, you have the story inside you, waiting for every opportunity to share it with someone who needs it. Pray this week that God would guide you to that person!

Memory Verse: John 9:39: For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”

Is HE All You Need? You Decide!

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Years have passed, but it doesn’t take much for me to remember how their house looked: it was thrown together with pieces of unused particle board, old shingles, scraps of barn wood, and any other haphazard materials her father could find, held together with a nail here and there. How they kept from being evicted from such a dwelling is (even now) beyond my understanding. It was, in effect, a third-world shack in modern America.

My mom tried her best not to complain when I wanted to spend the night, but, looking back, I know she must have cried many tears for my safety. For some reason, it didn’t bother me: my friend lived here, and she was not responsible for what her folks provided for them to live in. My mom was looking at the situation with eyes trained to see what she thought a family should have, while the dad probably figured he had a roof (such as it was) over his family’s head, and food (such as it was) on their table. The difference between desirable wants and basic needs. I don’t even recall if there was indoor plumbing!

I’ve often wondered what happened to the family. You possibly have friends in your background like that as well. You can’t imagine that they turned out well, but more than likely they did! It’s part of God’s mercy to bless both the honorable and dishonorable; those who deserve blessings, but also those who do not. Goodness knows, most days I don’t deserve half of the blessings He gives me, beginning with calling me His child.

Maybe you have it all together! I surely don’t. I can purpose in my heart to do a thousand things right this day, and one step out of line and I’ve blown it. You would think the Christian life would get easier with each passing year. Okay, maybe the knowledge increases, but sin gets more rampant, persecution gets stronger, profanity seems to cut deeper, and it’s easier to get discouraged! Add all that together and we can see why there’s so much in our lives that needs to be removed.

Have you been with us during this sermon series as we seek to eliminate the undesirable hangups in our lifestyle, freeing us to become the children God would have us be? We began by getting our finances in a position where we control them, and not the incorrect, upside-down, them-controlling-us way! We looked at the ravages anger leaves in our lives, especially when we don’t seek to forgive the person who has caused us mental harm, especially if it’s done intentionally; and as the weeks have gone by, hopefully you have felt release from burdens that have caused you pain! I know I have! Just making a budget was one of the most freeing things I have done in eons.

Get your notebook, something to drink, perhaps a friend, and click on the link for the sermon preached at Thomas Road Baptist Church, Sunday, February 26, 2017, and enjoy the entire service if you have time. Then go below and study the topic, taking the action points at the end to better internalize the sermon! If you have someone to discuss the answers with, you’ll be blessed. In any case, enjoy going deeper into God’s word! Click on http://www.trbc.org/sermons, and select February 26, 2017!

Overflow: He Is All You Need                                                                                          February 26, 2017                                                                                                                  Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

If you could eliminate one item from your life that you think would lower your stress level, what would it be?

For several weeks, we have been looking at Hebrews 12 and 13, trying to identify the “weights” or sins that keep us tied to this world, and which take our focus away from living an abundant Christian life. This week we want to dwell on the wonder that the God who created the universe still stoops to give sinners His grace for redemption and a wonderful life by being all we need.

Focal Passage: Hebrews 13:20, 21; Romans 12:2

Think About or Discuss:

He Is Our Peace

  1. Read Hebrews 13:20a. God is called the God of “peace.” What is the greatest peace God offers?  What really comes to your mind when you think of the word “peace”? If you are with someone who can discuss your answers, that is great; otherwise, keep a notebook handy to write in.
  2. These early believers were being persecuted for their faith, and were questioning their commitment to Christ. Can you think of a time when your faith was challenged to the extent you wanted to quit?
  3. Read Jas 1:2, 3 (NAS, if possible). James also was encouraging believers who were having their faith tested. What other types of peace (besides salvation) does God give?

He Is Our Shepherd

  1. Read verse 20b and Matthew 9:36. How are people like sheep?
  2. What are some qualities of a shepherd? Why is God called your Shepherd (Psa. 23)?

He Is Our Deliverer

  1. Read verse 20c. It is hard for us to identify with a religion of daily sacrifices; for this reason, the NT provides many verses that lay background for the amazing sacrifice of the crucifixion. Why did Christ want to shed His blood for you?
  2. Read Col. 2:13-15 (NAS, if possible). What has He delivered you from?

He Is Our Provider

  1. Read verse 21a. What are some of your daily needs? What does God assure you in this section of the verse?
  2. What is He equipping you for? Why is that such an important point to grasp?

He Is Our Hope

  1. Read verse 21b. What does God wish to produce in you? How will He do this? Read Heb. 6:18, 19. What are some of the areas listed as provisions of God’s hope?         

ACTION  APPLICATIONS:

  1. Take the first steps: identify any thing, person, or activity in your life that is replacing God;
  2. Be committed to walking away from whatever or whomever you listed in #1;
  3. Pray over your commitment every day;
  4. Share your burdens with Christians who have your best interests at heart; don’t walk this journey alone!

Close:

We have learned so many things over the past several weeks—things that, when put into practice, will begin to relieve the daily levels of stress that we seem to carry on our backs. Taking those first small steps toward getting freedom from debt, forgiving those against whom we have held grudges, discarding habits or companions that pull us down: all these and more begin to give us freedom to live as Christ would have us live, and to do so in His power, with His presence, and with our hand in His! Hopefully you have made the action points for the past several sermons into daily prayer practices, so that you keep making progress. Be sure you pray for those who are fighting battles just as you are, and if possible, meet with them for a time of encouragement, even if it is not long.  And soon you will be able to say with Paul, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39). Amen!

Memory Verse: Hebrews 13:21: “(May God) make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Quote: “The only place you cannot fail is when you are in God’s will!”

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The Heart of the Church

dreamstime_xl_69735318There was a balcony at the back of the church for slaves. It wasn’t hard to visualize the ones who had stood up there (surely they weren’t given chairs), worshiping God while the pastor preached and the people sang. Were they allowed to sing as well? My mind was taken up with wondering what type of life they had led, here in the deep south, seventy-five years before. They had been freed about five years when this church was formed, but obviously the landowners cared enough for their former slaves to provide an area where they could worship. Now it was only a church for the “whites,” and the balcony had been divided into small classrooms. The blacks had their own church, and if I had had my choice, I would probably have chosen to be in theirs, as happy, alive and worshipful as it was!  But that was life back then, and you didn’t question it.

We had just made the move to the rural countryside in a new state, North Carolina, all the way from Ohio–the “north,” which made us Yankees. My mom and dad’s priority had been to find a house, then a church. The church was small, organized not long after Abraham Lincoln was shot, as twenty-five families in the countryside needed a place to worship. These people raised tobacco or had cattle farms, and had become, for the most part, upper middle class–whatever it looked like in the mid-to late 1800’s. They also didn’t take to strangers.

Momma didn’t know that. She had never met a stranger. Mother would never have imagined that our presence in that small church might upset someone. We might come in with different beliefs, different ideas, or not recognize that The Broadman Hymnal and the King James Bible were both ordained by God, and no other hymnbook or Bible was to be part of church. Eventually her sunny ways endeared us to the community, and after some time we ceased to be Yankees, and settled in. It helped that, at only thirteen, I could play the hymns in the Broadman Hymnal, and they needed a piano player. I was exceedingly blessed that my mom, who got a part time job in the community grocery store where she made many friends, never noticed color: you could have been green or blue, and she would still have been the same, loving, friendly person. She raised me the same way, and it didn’t occur to me that color mattered to most people. We called that community “home” for a long time.

It wasn’t very long before we realized this church was small and picturesque because it looked as it had in the 1800’s. They weren’t about The Great Commission, they were about listening to the preaching, singing, praying, and then returning the next Sunday. The church gradually, over the next several years, grew enough to need a small fellowship hall and a few extra classrooms added, just because people were finding the rural community to their liking. For the most part, though, it remained for the next twenty years exactly as it had when we first saw it. The balcony had been divided into three classrooms, no longer needed for another race. As I said, that was the way life was back then, and you didn’t question it.

Sometime in the late ’60’s a pastor came in who wanted to do that radical God-thing: evangelize! Scandalous! He actually wanted to invite people to church who didn’t know some of the songs, had used another hymnbook, read from another version of the Bible, (horror of horrors), and get them saved! God smiled on him, and the pastor dug his heels in and stayed, instead of letting them kick him out. He loved them, loved on them, preached God’s word to them, and the church began to grow! It wasn’t too many years before they had to build a big, new church, and the little country church began to be a part of history. It is still there, sitting as it was in the mid-1900’s, a monument to life in the last century.

The pastor who came in probably realized the church was comfortable, happy, and well-fed because they had no desire to get out and interrupt their lives with other people they didn’t know. He changed that, gave the community a new start, and served over thirty years as pastor. Today that church has many pastors on its staff, and is running over 3,000 in attendance. God was extending grace, bringing His love to a people who were descendants of those who wanted to do no more than sit and listen.

This past Sunday, January 8, 2017, Pastor Jonathan Falwell challenged Thomas Road Baptist Church to become a church whose desire is to carry out the commission of loving God with all our hearts, and loving our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. That can begin a new year of change for the community, and perhaps challenge others to start their church year in the same way! Get your notebook, something hot to drink on this cold morning, and watch the service at http://www.trbc.org/sermons and click on the play button for the Sunday morning service. If you have time, sing along with Charles Billingsley and the praise team. Take notes, and let God’s word sink deep into your heart, examining it for hindrances that would steal your joy! Sit back and enjoy your time alone with God!

A New Heart For A New Church                                                                                                                                         Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Retirement: the very word will conjure up many different expectations, depending on your age and experience. Yet when it arrives–if it hasn’t already,–some people thrive on such a busy schedule they wonder how they had time to work. Others sit in their recliner and do nothing, comfortable and without ambition! How do you think you will handle those special years when they arrive (if they haven’t already!)?

Last week we began the new year by examining our individual lives as Christians, to be certain we are walking as Christ would have us to. This week we are going to focus on the church we attend to see that it is adhering to the standards which Christ set forth for His church. We will look at two of those listed in Revelation to see the progression from “losing one’s first love,” to one where the members have become comfortable and complacent within the church.

Focal Passages: Revelation 2:1-7, 3:14-22.

Think About or Discuss:

Doing the good things doesn’t always equal doing the right things.

  1. Read Rev. 2:2,3. What were some of the good things the church in Ephesus was doing? Do you see these things being done in churches today? If you are by yourself, you can write down notes; if someone is studying with you, you can discuss the answers.
  2. What was wrong with the busyness of this church? If you don’t have a lot of experience with churches, think about busyness in general: what does it do to one’s focus? When the Ephesian church was originally organized, what do you think was its heartbeat?

The right things always spring from the heart.

  1. Read Rev. 2:4. What was the main problem Jesus had with this church? Now read Matt. 28:19-20 and Mark 12:29-31. What are the final words Christ gave to the Christians (who make up the church)?
  2. Whose duty is it to evangelize? Was this listed as happening in the church at Ephesus?
  3. Read Rev. 2:5. What were they told to do?

Lacking the right thing will always turn your heart the wrong way.

  1. Read Rev. 3:15, 17. What was the mindset of the members of the church in verse 17? How is that like many people in today’s churches? Again, if you have limited experience with churches, think about the same application to students or one’s work ethic—it can be a “barometer” of what their Christian walk is like.
  2. What value to Christ is a church like this? You possibly have seen churches that don’t want to bring in new people who will disrupt the routine. They are still the same size they were when they were built. How is this an example of a lukewarm church?
  3. What happens to the hearts of these comfortable Christians? Does this sound like those in retirement who decide to get settled in with no goal in their life?

Make the right thing the main thing.

  1. Read vs. 20. What is God giving this church at Laodicea? How many times has He given you a second chance?
  2. What is our priority as Christians (back to question 3)? Why did God create us? (Isaiah 43:7).

Close:

Were any of the issues dealt with in these two churches something that you are familiar with, in your life or a previous (or current) church, or perhaps with another area of your life? We must look at the Gospel as a whole to realize our first priority in our walk with Jesus Christ is to bring those to Him who do not know Him. We are not fulfilling the commandment to love Him and love our neighbor if we are not concerned about their eternal life. If we love them as much as we love ourselves, we won’t want to see them go to hell. Many of our neighbors have never heard the gospel. Pray for opportunities to share your story this year. That’s all you have to do: just tell someone what God has done for you, and what He did for them when He came to this earth. It could be the most wonderful thing they’ve ever been told!

Memory Verse: Ephesians 4:30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

Focal Passages: Revelation 2:1-7, 3:14-22.

Think On: Rev. 2:5:    Reflect (on your life); Repent (of any wrong doings); Restart (this can be a new year!)

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