Do YOU Talk to God?

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

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

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

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

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

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

START: Prayer Matters                                                                                                                             Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

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

Discuss:

PRAYER MATTERS:

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

Prayer is talking to God your Father:

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

Prayer is a conversation:

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

Prayer is powerful:

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

HOW DO I PRAY?

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

Know Who God is:

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

Recognize the importance of God’s plan

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

Know that God cares about YOU:

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

Be in the right spiritual place for prayer:

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

Be in the right attitude for prayer:

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

Seek God’s leading in your life:

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

Be thankful for everything:

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

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

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

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

 

There is POWER in God’s Word!

The cherry credenza/computer desk was beautiful, and I was almost finished! I was going to be so proud of this lovely piece of furniture, and was thrilled with the number of  cubby holes, drawers, and shelves that would take care of the PC, a large monitor (or two!), a printer–all the things one has to have to be “Technologically Correct” [sic]. Picking up the screwdriver, I quickly unscrewed the last shelf I had put on backwards and fixed it. Looking around the floor, my glance spied a cherry piece that was buried on the couch, then some packing materials seemed to have been thrown on top. Ugh! Even worse–it wasn’t ONE piece, it was FOUR! Where on earth did they go?? Looking at the numerous holes in the boards I had put together, I sought to locate something that didn’t look, well, quite correct… It wasn’t hard to spot several. Digging out the Instruction Sheet, and simultaneously placing the 4 pieces beside me, I tried to find what they were, and where they should have gone. Double ugh. Out of 43 steps and several thousand nuts, turn screws, pieces of wood, etc., these went on somewhere around Steps 4, 7, 11 and 18. You have got to be kidding. I was so glad my husband wasn’t around–he gets a laugh out of the pieces I generally have left over, and you would think I had learned my lesson that any company who puts an Instruction Sheet in with their product might be doing so with good reason. I haven’t. I always figure logic and experience, guided by intelligence, will get the job done quickly and correctly. Obviously one of the three is misguided..

My final decision: I’ll try to remember (next time) to look at the step-by-step directions. Of course by then, I’ll probably have forgotten this experience, and use logic all over again. I also decided that the system probably really didn’t need these pieces, but I’ll keep them just in case.

Somehow, in my twisted maze of connecting dots, it made me recall many years ago when my husband and our pastor would go visiting on Tuesday nights. On this particular evening they went to the house of someone who had visited the church for the first time on the past Sunday, and indicated they would like a visit from the pastor. As they were ushered into the living room, there, laying nicely displayed on the coffee table, was a Bible. The pastor remarked about it, and made a comment about the translation. The homeowner, a man, said, “Yes, we keep it right there. It sometimes encourages me just to lay my hand on it as I walk through the living room.” Seriously. He really said that. When my husband told me of the visit, all I could think of was the analogy of having a large bottle of Multi-Vitamins sitting there, and making the same remark. Some things aren’t meant for touching, I’ll grant you that, but other things are going to be useless to you unless you take what is inside into your “innards.” In the case of the Bible, into your heart and mind, the vitamins into your body. Rubbing the outside of either is foolishness carried to an extreme.

This past Sunday Pastor Jonathan Falwell preached on the POWER that is found in the Word of God. As he spoke, I briefly reflected on my enormous book collection–spanning the 1800’s, 1900’s and 2000’s. Only one grandchild has asked for the collection to be willed to her. One set of books, by Arthur Maxwell, (Bedtime Stories), brings back tons of memories, as I would sit on the floor at my aunt’s house, behind a chair (don’t ask), and read story after story. Recently I got one of the volumes out to read to two younger grandchildren. I found myself having to constantly change words or phrases, as the millennial generation has no clue (at least if they inherited MY genes) what an ironing board is, what a clothesline is, and various and sundry other situations that they cannot identify with! In other words, can you imagine how hard it would be to write a book that would be “living,” and pertinent to all generations from 4000 BC, to 2000 AD? (Yes, I’m very aware it is now BCE and CE. I don’t go there.) I recently read a Christian suspense that was written before cell phones became the way of life. They were using their landline, and only occasionally used their cell. I actually looked back to the date the book was copyrighted (not that long ago), knowing the author probably had no idea life would begin revolving around the cell phone as the early 2000’s passed. The Bible, as Pastor Falwell quoted A. W. Tozer, is “God’s present VOICE, speaking to us!” It is as valuable as an instruction sheet, a GPS, or a map. We desperately need what is inside of its covers in order to function in this chaotic world, so full of turmoil and sorrow, as we saw the news of Las Vegas yesterday.

So, if you’re ready, grab a drink, your notebook, and hop in an easy chair, and watch the sermon from Sunday, October 1, at http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and choose “START: The Power of the Word.” The study and notes below will help you delve a little deeper into the Bible, and writing out your thoughts will cement them more firmly in your mind. If you have a friend with you, do the study together, but in any case, enjoy and grow! Let it be the power that navigates you through the mayhem and mess that will come into your life this week.

START: The Power of the Word                                                                                          October 1, 2017                                                                                                                    Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

If you’ve been around small children, you no doubt realize that a 2 or 3 year old can disappear or get into something they shouldn’t within seconds! You have to keep your “radar” out constantly, knowing exactly what they were doing. Can you  think of a time or story when your watchfulness paid off? If you’re alone, write your thoughts in your notebook.

Today we continue the series “START,” as we learn to recognize the different ways God directs us, guiding us to the next step in our walk with Him—and caring for us. Last week we made certain we are His child; this week we want to absorb what a perfect Father He is, constantly watching out for us, and giving us guidance through His word.

Focal Passages: 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; Psalm 119:11, 105; James 1:22-25;1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

Think About or Discuss:

THE POWER OF THE WORD:

  1. Read Hebrews 4:12. What attributes does the Bible have?
  2. What does it mean that the Bible is “living?”

Read What It Says:

  1. Read 2 Tim. 3:16a. What is meant that the Scripture is “inspired”?
  2. The Bible is God, speaking to you! How does that excite you?
  3. What are some reasons that about 80% of “church goers” do not read their Bible daily, or perhaps not at all?

Quote by A. W. Tozer: [The Bible] is God’s present Voice which makes His written word all powerful! Otherwise it should be locked in slumber within the covers of a Book.”

Learn What It Means:

  1. Read verse 16b. There is a difference in reading the Bible to check it off of your “to do” list, as opposed to studying it to learn what God wants to say to you. If you do not understand a verse, what sources are available to help you? (There is a list at the end).
  2. Read 2 Peter 1:2-4. According to these verses, why is it so necessary that you take time to study the Scriptures?

Put It Into Practice:

  1. Read verses 16c, 17. Why should you be instructed in the teaching of the Word? How do you believe you can handle the things the world throws at you, if you don’t know how God wants you to react?
  2. Read James 1:22-25. If you are going to be called by His name, how does He want you to act?

Close

Do you stand in awe that a book written 2000-6000 years ago can prove to be applicable to every generation, for doctrine (guidance for being taught), reproof (an expression of disapproval), correction and instruction in righteousness? To the one who loves the Lord and wants a deeper relationship, nothing compares with the Bible, as well as your quiet time alone with Him when you can focus on His Word. It should be compared to the same discipline you might have for working out, eating healthy meals, romancing or spending quality time with those you love. Be aware that Satan will throw many curve balls at you (phone calls, interruptions, etc.) to break your concentration! If you read it year after year, decide to study it with different goals so it never becomes “ordinary”: perhaps look for prayers as you read one year, and write them in a notebook; another year focus on the promises that are contained within the pages as God speaks. If you read a chapter or section, and find your attention has wavered, go back and re-read it. Seek out Life Groups or Bible Studies that will help you understand it. It will generate a feeling of humility, of love, and a greater idea of what God has done for you, to read His word and put your name in places that refer to mankind. Can you imagine a Navy SEAL, or an Army Green Beret, or a Marine, being slack in their training, or ashamed to confess their occupation? Certainly not! And if you are as dedicated to God as a soldier is to his position, you will do all you can to be a walking testimony. Eventually, realizing that He truly is residing within you as God, the Holy Spirit, you should come to the place where you talk to Him often during your day, and He will become so much more to you—the best friend you could ever have.

Memory Verse: 2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (NKJV)

Notable quotes: A. W. Tozer: “Reading the Word of God is the only way to discover the Will of God. If you’re trying to discover God’s Will for your life without reading God’s Word for your life, you’re wasting your time.”  “God did not write a book and send it by messenger to be read at a distance by unaided minds. He spoke a Book and lives in His spoken words, constantly speaking His words and causing the power of them to persist across the years.”

*Ed Stetzer, September 13, 2012

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

 

Seeing Heaven…

The family hurried me out of the house, into a waiting car, and we rode down the rough dirt road to my aunt’s. I was to be left there overnight, as no child should be around when a great-grandmother was dying. My grandmother was especially sad, as another death, only a few days earlier, had hit the family like a double whammy. My great-grandmother’s daughter, Ruth, had died. Because Grandma was so near death herself, they had not told her, afraid the news would be more than her heart could take.

S

The next morning when they came to get me, the family was all talking about Grandma. As she had slipped across that place where the spirit leaves the body and becomes “present with the Lord,” she called out in a clear voice, “Ruth! Ruth! What are you doing here?” I never forgot that morning.

Years went by, and my dad died.  I never missed him; he was not a father that left a huge hole after his passing. However, I often wondered where he had gone, for his salvation was not something any of us were certain of. Three years later my mom came to live with us, and we kept her while she slipped further and further away from us as she traveled the road of Alzheimer’s.

One learns much when care-giving, and after several years it was obvious the end was getting close. During that last year, I had often remembered my great- grandmother, and turned it into a prayer that was a continual beat of my heart. “Lord, I remember, even as a little child, Grandma calling out for Aunt Ruth. Please, if it can be in Your will, may I please be with Mother as she goes to You, and if You don’t mind, could she call out Daddy’s name, if she sees him?” I must have prayed that hundreds of times, believing with all my heart that He could easily bring that about.

I began to have to feed her, and she was not able to walk very far. One day, she couldn’t get out of bed, and I didn’t want to hurt her by forcing her. When she tried to talk to me, her speech was so garbled she sounded like a one-year old. I called Hospice, who had been working with us, and they began coming daily over the next couple of weeks as she worsened. She gradually stopped trying to communicate, and slipped into a coma. I thought every breath might be her last. She was in the coma for about a week when, around ten a.m. on a Wednesday morning, the hospice aide and I were at her bed, ready to change her. She opened her eyes, and looked up at the crown molding around the edge of the ceiling. Her face became–“beaming” is the only word that fits–and her voice came out strong and clear! She lifted her arms as far as she could, and started talking. “Oh! You’re so beautiful! I can’t reach you!” She was continually talking, smiling, and I can only think of “transfigured,” her voice sounding as it had when she was a young mother. At one point she said “Mabel!!” She had had a best friend as she had grown up on a farm in West Virginia, whose name was Mabel, and later another best friend “Mabel,” a godly woman who had died about 10 years before. I knew it must be one of those two that she saw.

She lapsed back into the coma after about two hours, exhausted but happy. It was not long before she crossed the line between earth and heaven. But I never doubted, in these few years since she died, that she had seen into the realm where the saints are gathered, and was going there herself. It was several months before I realized she had said nothing about my dad, but that’s in God’s hands. He gave me a gift that day, and the hospice aide could witness to what we saw. How can I fear death now, having seen my mom on the verge of entering that glorious place?

Sunday, September 3, Dr. Ed. Hindson spoke on the promises that God gives in His word about the glories that await Christ-followers. I’m so grateful I was raised to attend church, to hear the gospel message, and to accept His gift of salvation! Yes, I’ve made bad choices, but He has granted repentance and forgiveness. I can hardly wait to join my mom!

Get your notebook, a cool drink, and sit back and enjoy the entire worship service if you have time! The singing will prepare your heart to worship, and the service is one you don’t want to miss. Click on the link http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and select “Believer’s Exciting Future” by Dr. Ed Hindson. You’ll want to invite a friend if possible to share the sermon study below, and learn how you can look forward to that place of eternal glory!

The Believer’s Exciting Future                                                                                             Dr. Ed Hindson

Open:

Millions of people have arranged for that first vacation at Disney! So much planning, money and time goes into the excitement of preparations. But until you physically arrive, are you able to envision the thrill, joy, and delight that the reality produces?

This week Dr. Ed Hindson presents some of the promises Jesus made to believers concerning heaven, and the blessings that have been prepared for those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord.

Focal Passages: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; John 14:1-6; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 19:7-14, 20:1-6, 21:1-2, 9-10.

Think About or Discuss:

Background:

  1. In this world today, everyone who believes in an eternity will assure you they will be in heaven. What are reasons they say they should be able to go there?
  2. What does the truth say in John 3:16?

Rapture:

  1. Read 1 Thess. 4:13-17. Why did Paul write these verses to the believers in Thessalonica?
  2. How does this passage impact your life today? If God called you home today, would you be ready (you don’t have to answer aloud)?

Bride to the Father’s House

  1. Read John 14:2-6. What does Jesus promise here? Is this for you? How can you take comfort in it?
  2. Read Rev. 21:9, 10. What was being shown to John in this passage? Who is the Bride?

Judgment Seat of Christ

  1. Read 2 Cor. 5:10. What promise does this verse contain? Paul is speaking of rewards, because believers will not have to be judged for sin, as they have been covered by Calvary. So what would merit a reward?
  2. What will be done with those rewards?

Marriage of the Lamb

  1. Read Rev. 19:7-9. This may seem strange to you, that the church would be called the Bride of Christ. But what does He command you to do, and why?
  2. What is the “fine linen”?

Triumphal Return

  1. So far, believers have been taken to heaven to be with Christ, as a Bride going to her Father’s house; they have been taken before the judgment seat of Christ for rewards, and the marriage of Christ and the church has been accomplished. Read Rev.19:14. What happens next? Is this a promise we can be assured of? Who are the armies following? How are they dressed?

Millennial Reign

  1. Read Rev. 20:4-6. Who are “they” in verse 4? We do not know exactly what the 2nd resurrection is, but it will be dreadful, as souls are sent to hell (Matthew Henry, Vol. XI, Rev. 20). Is the promise of reigning with Christ for a thousand years something we can stake our faith on? Why?

The New Jerusalem

  1. Read Rev. 21:1-2. What is the climax of the revelations John was given for the saints? How does 1 Corinthians 2:9 describe this scene?

Close:

What an amazing future believes can look forward to, all backed by promises of God—Who cannot lie—of what He has in store for us! To study those promises, and absorb them into our hearts, should cause us to yearn for the souls of those whom we love who have not made the choice to follow Jesus. Or worse, we can withdraw from the obligation that Jesus laid on us before He descended into heaven: “GO, make disciples, baptize, and teach,” and assume it is meant for others. This was not a suggestion: this is a command. We let family, jobs, getting ahead, having fun, chasing happiness, and more, take priority in our lives, and decide to let those “called” do the “going.” As we learned last week, we need to start by inviting friends and neighbors, those we don’t know, to our homes to get to know them. We have to earn the right to be heard, by building that relationship. That is “going.” We don’t have to get a passport and go to India—there are souls within a half mile of us going to hell, who need to be told Jesus has died to save them.

Hopefully one day you will have the blessing of standing by the bed of a loved one as they make that transition with a shout of hallelujah, and witness the joy as they see heaven—you’ll never be the same! Let that vision color all you do, and never delay the decision to invite Christ into your life, if you haven’t done so already!

Memory Verse: 1 Thess. 4:17: Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

 

 

© Vachiraphan Phangphan

ID 16570677 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

A SECOND CHANCE…

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

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

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

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

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

Flannelgraph of Faith: Jonah                                                                                    Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

Focal Passages: Jonah, Chapters 1-4

Think About or Discuss:

Background:

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

God’s Call Trumps Our Comfort

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

God’s Redemption Trumps Our Contempt (Anger)

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

God’s Salvation Trumps Everything

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

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

 

© Svetlin Ivanov

ID 4589521 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Good and Bad Choices

As my mom became more and more locked in the jungle that is Alzheimer’s, I wondered if she was “stuck” in a period of her life, one which I might eventually discover if I asked the right questions. I would constantly ask things I could remember from different eras she lived through, looking for intelligent responses. “What is that beautiful flower, Mother?” pointing to a rose. She wouldn’t know. How could I assume she would? She didn’t know me from the Hospice Aide who came once a week to help with her needs. I would ask if she ever knew a person whose name was (….fill in the blank). She would think hard–even when it was my sister–and finally give up in despair. “No, I think I knew someone by that name a long time ago, but I don’t remember who it was.”

One day I asked her if she remembered the name of her school. She did!! (Hedgeapple–go figure!)  I was astonished and pleased. Later I asked her if she ever knew someone named Ray (to whom she was married for nearly 63 years). She thought and thought. Finally she said, “Yes, I think that was an older boy I went to school with. I didn’t like him at all! He teased everyone [true], and goodness, I didn’t like him.” It was unfortunate that children are forced to grow up in homes where the parents truly not only do not like each other (my folks fit that description, I thought, for they surely didn’t seem to), but who won’t seek help to keep the fighting down. It would probably have been easier on all of us if they had separated, as no one wanted to be around them as a couple, but that generation stuck through everything from abuse to incest–thankfully my parents did neither of those. But families who were happy were rare.

Dysfunctional families, they call it now. Back in those days there wasn’t a term, but everyone knew whose parents were lenient, whose were strict, happy, not happy, etc. This past Sunday Dr. Ben Guiterrez presented us with an inspiring message on the life of the prophet Samuel. Most young people can recite the lesson they learned as children when Samuel was called in the night hours by God. “Samuel!” He ran to Eli, the priest. As God later spoke to him further, Samuel learned that Eli had been a father who knew of evil things his two sons were doing, and warned Eli that He would be taking their lives, because he had done nothing to stop their behavior. The ironic thing was, Samuel, although remaining as godly an example as Moses, David, and others, also years later had two sons who were living so badly that the Israelites did not want them ruling in Samuel’s place when he died–yet he did nothing about them behavior either.

The conclusion is obvious: one can have a wonderful home, and produce children who are rebellious and want to do things “their way,” or a bad home, and produce well-behaved adults with integrity–or more amazing, a solid, loving Christian home where two turn out wonderful, while one doesn’t. Choices. It all comes back to the will God gave us to make choices, and bad ones lead to worse ones. What kind of choices have you made? Have you left a legacy of blaming your parents? I did, for years. Finally I realized my mom had done the best she knew how. I was the one who had made the choices that resulted in long-term consequences.

Grab your notebook, a cold drink, and click on  the sermon for this past Sunday, July 30, at http://www.trbc.org/service-archive and choose the Flannelgraph of Faith: Samuel. Enjoy the worship if you have time, and then go to the study below to see if you can dig a little deeper as you look at the scriptures. It might help if you have time to read 1 Samuel before the study, so that the facts are fresh for you!

Flannelgraph of Faith: Samuel—God’s Way, Always

Dr. Ben Gutierrez

Open:

Many times young people (and older people!), do not have enough experience, or enough guidance, to make the best choices, and our lives are impacted with consequences we can’t undo. Can you think of such an experience? If you are alone, write your answers in a notebook, so you can track your spiritual path!

This week we continue the series, “Flannelgraph of Faith,” taking stories taught to children, but looking for deeper—or underlying—lessons we can use in our own lives. This week we will focus on I Samuel, looking not only at Samuel’s life, but also the far-reaching consequences for Israel that came when they rejected Samuel’s warning. We continue to use the old-school visual teaching of the flannelgraph, as we learn from him.

Focal Passages: Taken from I Samuel

The Background:

In Judges 2:10-15, we read that after Joshua died, God appointed judges who would lead Israel under God’s direction. The people fluctuated between following the Lord while the judge lived, then turning to idols after his death. This pattern continued about 300 years, and caused the word of the Lord to be “rare in those days” (1 Samuel 3:1).  Judges 21:25 ends this period declaring “everyone did that which was right in his own eyes.”

Discuss:

Nothing & No One Can Make You Choose the Way You Choose:

  1. Can you remember the overview of the events occurring during the conception and early years of the life of Samuel? Read 3:19, 20. What was Samuel’s position in Israel after God spoke to him?
  2. Read 7:15 and 8:1, 3-7. What event occurred in these verses that changed the course of Israel’s future? Israel had adopted the ways of the heathen nations; what are some reasons this happened? How are we seeing this with Christians today?
  3. Who decides what you wear, watch, where you work, etc.? What do you use as a guideline to establish your boundaries?

Bad Choices Lead to Worse Choices:

  1. The people of Israel wanted a king, like their pagan neighbors. Read 1 Sam. 10:17-19a. What did Samuel tell the people? What was their response?

Only Obedience from a Pure Heart Honors God

  1. Do you remember the story of the anointing of Saul as King? Can you write a paraphrase of it?
  2. Read 15:17-23. Saul started his reign well, but soon got sidetracked with pride. What was the final straw? What does God say He delights in?

To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice:

  1. Read Joshua 24:15. Substitute your country for the Amorites, and read it as a contemporary choice. What is holding you back from choosing to serve God with a pure heart?

Close:

As we read the life of Samuel, it is hard not to liken the people of Israel to those around us, and across our own land. Immorality, profanity and immodesty is rampant, while crime and unrest is on the increase. Jesus Christ is being confined to the church building, until we have a generation growing up who will not know the Lord (Judges 2:10) or His actions on behalf of settling and ordaining this great country. But our choices are not forced upon us: you may not be able to control the behaviors and values of the citizens of the land, but you have control over your choices for yourself. It may be the only thing you can control!

Learn from Samuel that, amid a sinful country, you can have a relationship with God that is real and personal. He will never forsake you, never leave you on your own, and loves you beyond anything you have ever known. If you get to the end of your rope and cry out to Him for evidence that He is with you, listen and watch for an indication that He has heard your cry as He shows you that He is listening. If He answers no, or seems silent, trust Him. If He doesn’t answer a fervent prayer, will you still love Him? That is the main question, and only you can choose your answer. Commit your life to establishing a closer relationship with Him, and then tell others your story.

Memory Verse: I Samuel 15:22: So Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” (NKJV)

Ask Yourself: Are my choices in attitude, clothing, words I speak and my integrity something that brings glory to God? Am I giving “lip service” to God but not my heart? “To obey [His word] is better than sacrifice.” Am I doing life God’s way, or my way?

© Popa Sorin

Life Isn’t Fair…

                                            

 

 

The odor of stink bug filled the room. If you’ve                    never smelled one, there’s a great reason for it’s name. You can tell instantly when one has invaded any spot in your home–it’s rather like running over a skunk with a car: there’s an odor that permeates everything. Move to Virginia when it’s cool weather.

On this particular morning, chores needed to be done. There seems to be a recurring law that laundry, like dishes, accumulates with regularity, and bits of sticks, leaves, and dirt get tracked onto area rugs, while dust seems to penetrate closed windows in spite of the insulation around the edge, and manages to land right on the pieces of furniture that are hardest to clean. (So far, no little elves in green outfits have shown up at midnight, like the Fairy Tales would have you believe!) Realizing the  stink bug is hiding out in the living room, and there’s no doubt which room will get the first attention.

Dragging the vacuum cleaner to the spot where “he” seemed to be sending the most pronounced smell was not a chore: it was rather like a cat must feel as he/she sits like a statue, watching a bird a few feet away. The end result will be worth the wrestling with the upright cleaner. Bag empty? Check. Ready to go? Check. And suddenly an “Aha” moment as the vile critter is spotted…in this case, laying upside down, feet in the air, (as well as the smell), having just succumbed to the lifetime granted to him by his creator. Fortunately for him.

Powering up the vacuum, it was touch and go as it was pushed over the bug (still there), returned, run over again, repeated several more times, all to no avail. This was getting frustrating! This was not a cheap, Black Friday deal, or a clearance product from the local home supply store, but a top-of-the-line vacuum, one that the manufacturer claimed had the power to inhale a pile of dirt in seconds, let alone a little stink bug the size of a fingernail! But no such thing was happening. This was unfair! It was getting one’s temper out of sorts quickly, knowing the price + the ability = picking up a stink bug! Taking the vacuum back to the store would have to wait, but the feeling that this whole scenario had been totally unfair was uppermost.  After all, how could they make such claims if it wouldn’t do its job?

One finds lessons in so many things, even stink bugs. Suddenly the Holy Spirit softly whispered, “Where did you get the idea that life is fair? Did Jesus get fairness while He was on the earth? Does Scripture say life is fair?” We seem to have accepted the world’s philosophy that everything should be tit for tat: if you have this, I should have it; if Johnny gets a toy, Joe should get one. We’ve let society and materialism infiltrate our minds to the point that we expect things to be just and fair. Wrong. Was it fair for the disciples to be martyred for preaching? Is it fair when people drink, drive, and kill a family? When a child is molested? Life is not fair–but God is still with us.

Picture Naomi for a moment. Surely you know Naomi: she was married, and had two young sons. Her husband, during a famine in Judea, decided to move the family to a heathen country, Moab. Do you think for a moment Naomi was thrilled to leave family and friends? Speaking from personal experience, having moved too many times to count, the feeling of being uprooted, even after a couple of years, is difficult; what must it be like when you’re leaving your homeland? She probably thought, “It’s not fair!” Her life in Moab was not a “happily ever after” either. Her husband died, her two sons married heathen women, and then the sons died. Naomi could have screamed, “It’s not fair!”

Click on the link to the sermon from Thomas Road Baptist Church, http://www.trbc.org/service-archive , for this past Sunday, July 23, and see what the study of Naomi can teach us all. Grab yourself a notebook, curl up in a good chair, and listen to the sermon, putting yourself in Naomi’s place. Afterwards, take a few moments to answer the questions below, as that will cause the lessons to sink deep into your heart. Above all, enjoy the sermon, hunger and thirst for righteousness, and share Jesus with your friends.

Flannelgraph of Faith: Ruth—Everyone Matters                                                                                                                           Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

In almost everyone’s life at some time there has been a woman—perhaps a mother, teacher, or friend—who has made an impact on one’s character. Can you share a memory you may have as you reflect?

We are continuing to examine Bible characters whose lives have left many lessons for us. This week we will concentrate on the book of Ruth, but it will be the life of Naomi, the mother-in-law, whom we will focus on. Her lessons will be as applicable to men as to the women. As we use the old-school visual teaching of the flannelgraph, we will see what we can learn from her life.

Focal Passages: Taken from Ruth 1:1-4:22

Think About or Discuss:

God Uses the Famines of Life to Bring Blessings:

  1. Can you give a short summary of why this family of Judea lived in Moab, and what occurred in the first several years? If not, go back and read through chapter one, until Naomi begins her trip back to Judea. Can you relate to a lifestyle that seems to bring grief every way you turn, and can you share? If you’re by yourself, write down your answers in a notebook.
  2. Read Ruth 1:6 & 14. If you were Naomi, would you have made the decision to return to Bethlehem? Why?
  3. Do you think she saw any blessings in her life during the time she lived in Moab? Why or why not?

God’s Love is Not Exclusive:

  1. In a moment we will read Naomi’s outpouring of grief at her circumstances; however, how would you explain her relationship with both daughters-in-law that they would desire to go with her?
  2. Read 1:19-21. How do you envision the heart of Naomi toward God? Can you share a time when you questioned God’s love for you and your faith was shaken?
  3. Naomi could see only the events that had occurred in Moab; can you think of any scriptures that would have been helpful to her know (both OT or NT)? (There are some cited at the end.)
  4. According to Romans 8:28, what would God do with her life?

God’s Plan is Greater:

  1. Can you give a brief synopsis of what happened after Naomi returned to Bethlehem (leaving out the end)? If not, take a moment to read the short chapters from 1:19 to 4:12.
  2. Read 4:15a. Who were the people talking about? How do you think Naomi felt as she held Obed in her arms?
  3. List some of the miraculous results that God brought about even though the road had been a very painful one.

Close:

One is so focused on Ruth as the main character in this short book that we often overlook the harsh years that Naomi lived through. Her husband (probably) made the decision to move to the heathen land of Moab. Although there is no mention of the age of her boys, they grew old enough to marry while living there. Their marriages to Moabite women, especially after the death of their father, had to have been a trial to Naomi, but we know she must have treated them with tremendous love and respect. Otherwise, they would not have desired to go to Bethlehem with her, although Orpah was, in the end, persuaded to stay in Moab. Although Naomi did not verbalize a bitterness toward God, asking friends in Bethlehem to call her “Mara” (bitter) must have been her heart’s attitude. She could never have imagined that the simple act of bringing Ruth back to Bethlehem would result in her being great-great-grandmother to King David, and Ruth ultimately being in the line of the Messiah, Christ Jesus.

In our own lives, we can sympathize with the times of trouble Naomi experienced. We have days of crisis, with a rare day here and there that is peaceful and quiet. And often our valleys get so low, we question God’s love for us, His presence with us, and His plan to bring good out of our situation. Perhaps this story of Naomi will be one that will inspire you to recognize God’s miracles are not confined by our past, our race, or our heritage, and He is weaving a purpose that will result in amazing outcomes. He will use truly unlikely circumstances to bring about a beautiful end and a deliverance.

Memory Verse: Ruth2:10: So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (NKJV)

Ask Yourself: Do you ever fall down before the Lord, bowing yourself to the ground, and asking Him, “Why have I found favor in Your eyes, that You should take notice of me, since I am a sinner?”

Question 6: Encouraging scriptures: Deuteronomy 31:8; 1 John 4:16, 5:3; James 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:7; Ephesians 5:1; Romans 8:28.

ID 2532051 © Natalia Sevriukova | Dreamstime

A big BIG thank you to Kim Dalton for contributing her experience with the stink bug, and the lesson she learned!

 

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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