TRIALS BY FIRE

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flannelgraph of Faith: Prayer and His Presence

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

Focal Passages: Daniel 1, 2, 3

Think About or Discuss:

The Background

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

Pray Like It Matters…Because It Does!

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

Compromise Will Never Deliver 

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

The World’s Power Is No Match For His

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

We Have His Power

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

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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FEAR: WILL IT RULE YOU?

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

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

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

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

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

Flannelgraph of Faith: Gideon

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

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

Thing About or Discuss:

The Background:

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

God’s Solution:

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

God’s Victory:

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

Gideon’s Final Years

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

What Are Some Applications?

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

The Strength of Love

The 611 was coming Memorial Day weekend.

“What’s that?” you ask. Well, it’s a very old train.

Sure enough, Memorial Day weekend came and people paid hundreds of dollars to ride this historical train, while many more lined up at every possible sighting along the tracks to take pictures of the restored and polished engine and cars. It chugged along and blew its whistle in pride, the picture of strength and beauty. One car had “St. Augustine” on it. Around the curve it came, while cameras rolled; tv crews from stations were on hand to give the background of this amazing piece of America’s past. After it had passed, the crowds slowly dwindled and eventually left. But something was left behind–unnoticed.

Your husband comes home and announces a newly-received promotion. You attend the dinner in his honor and he politely gives a few seconds of thanks to his family and team for their support. The proud team watches and cheers as he talks about where he’ll take the company now. But you know something is left behind. The family group; the children’s time—but it’s not thought about.

The train made the tracks pound as it powerfully went down the line, into view of those watching, around the curve and on out of sight. The tracks were strong and level, and the safety of the passengers depended on them. They held the weight of it all. Not a crack or problem could be permitted or the train could possibly crash.

The wife at home watches the children, cleans, tries to have dinner ready when it’s time for her husband. She now answers the phone to hear another “I’ll be late because of work” call. There are arguments and tears and no recognition for all the hard work she does. An occasional “thank you,” would be appreciated. But she must be strong and level headed for the children, pulling the weight of two parents. The crack starts to widen and she needs strength.

We admire and give honor to some things, often forgetting what upholds it. The tracks are old but strong. The train could not safely go down the track without them being tested often. But no one gives recognition to them or takes pictures of them: after all, they’re not seen as anything special, and no one recognizes that it is their sturdiness and reliability that keeps the train going.

The husband works hard, but doesn’t give a thought to his clean clothes, his clean bed, towels, meals, obedient children. He thinks it’s because he works. He doesn’t notice the strong woman who is raising his children, keeping his house

We treat God the same way as the train tracks or the wife many times. He’s there and we give a quick prayer as needed (“thanks for the food,” “thanks for my new bride,” “help me get more money,” etc.,) but as we ride along constantly on Him, we take Him for granted, always expecting to have Him under our feet.

The tracks get driven often during the week by those whose job it is to look for any hint of a problem. If they weren’t extremely conscientious of the importance of what they do, repairs would not get done as needed. In the same manner, if we don’t check for ‘deficiencies’ or ‘cracks’ in our relationship with Jesus, then they will get bigger and eventually break—and we will fall.

Galatians 5:19-21 lists some of our sinful natures: 19) When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20) idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21) envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.

Galatians 5:22 starts listing our fruits from the Holy Spirit, and our strength: 22) But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23) gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Which track do we follow? Which one do we strengthen? Which one do we recognize? Do we idolize the person who is receiving man’s honor or do we look for the real source of strength and build on that?

In this week’s sermon at Thomas Road, we continue to look at the Son of God, Jesus Christ. This week we’re focusing on the strength and love that comes from Him directly to us. We’ll look at many things He says and promises to those who love Him, and as we do so, we’ll find that any “cracks” in our relationship with Him will be filled if we let Him; He will undergird us with all the necessary strength to live a holy, fruitful life! Click on http://www.trbc.org/service-archive and select “Not My Jesus: What Did Jesus Say About YOU?” Get your notebook for notes, watch how you grow as you lean on Him, study His will for your life, and spread the good news that He has come to seek and save those who are lost!

Not My Jesus: What Does Jesus Say About YOU?                                                                                               

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Love has become a common word used for everything from our feelings for a chocolate cake, pizza, certain cars to people we know. Can you share or think of an example from your life when you’ve been challenged by the word “love”?

Having carefully examined evidence by secular historians showing that Jesus lived, reading records of the witnesses who saw Him during His ministry and after the resurrection, studying His own words about Himself, and the witness of God as to who He is, we should now know we can trust the truth of what He says about you in our relationship with Him. Let’s look at how He values those who choose to obey Him.

Focal Passage: John 15:1-27

Think About or Discuss:

You are Ready

  1. Read verse 2. What does Jesus say happens to you at salvation? What does this make you ready for?
  2. Perhaps you have a “green thumb”; what occurs when you take care of your flowers or plants? How does God take care of you?

You are Protected

  1. In verse 5a, what did Jesus say your relationship to Him is like?
  2. If you break a branch off a tree, what happens to it? Can you exist as a believer, without Christ? Why?

You are Powerful

  1. Read 5b. How do you “remain” in Jesus? What is the evidence in the life of a person who is abiding in Christ?
  2. What is promised to believers in this verse? What is the warning?

You are Loved

  1. Read verses 9-10. What are some terms you could use to describe God’s love for His Son (who was worthy)? Can you comprehend that Jesus loves you (who are unworthy) with that same love? How?
  2. How do you remain in His love? What is the greatest example that you know that Jesus obeyed God’s will, remaining in His (God’s) love?

You are promised Joy

  1. Read verse 11. What “things” was Jesus referring to?
  2. How much joy does He promise you if you love and obey Him?

You are His friend

  1. Read verses 14-15. What do you call those with whom you have just a “waving” relationship? What about those with whom you share time, food, fun?
  2. In Amos 3:3, God asks, “Do two people walk hand in hand if they are not going to the same place?” This implies an answer of No! In verse 15, how does that confirm what Jesus is saying about your being called His friend?

You are Chosen

  1. What does Jesus say in verse 16? How should that impact your life? When you “choose” anything, why does it become special to you just by the fact that you are making the choice to embrace it (a spouse, a car, a house, etc.)?

You are given great help

  1. Read verse 16. Do you remember the old hymn, “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” and if so, can you recall the first verse? If not, look at Matt. 6:30, 33, and John 14:16. Who is this Comforter? How will He help you?

You are Forgiven

  1. Have you ever seen a dead person or animal sit up? What can they do? How does this illustrate what God has done for you when you believe? Read Romans 10:9, 10 if you need to clarify this.

Close:

Did you grow up in a dysfunctional family, where love was not a priority as much as discipline? Or possibly yours was just an undemonstrative family, and you never learned to show your love. Both are common, and make it harder for us to understand God’s love for us, as we are full of sin! Yet as we read the scriptures, Jesus not only speaks of His love for us, but also has shown it by dying for us, and we see that His is an active love, full of grace and longsuffering, with “mercies that are new every morning” (Lam. 3:22, 23). We should take heart! Phil. 4:13 assures us that through Christ, we can accomplish anything—showing love to the unlovely, grace to those who don’t deserve it, even prayer for our enemies to know Christ. A life full of joy is promised to us if we are steadfast in our walk with Him, not worrying about tomorrow. As the song says, we should not be discouraged because—if His eye is on the little sparrow—how much more does He love us, who are “but dust”! Carry that thought with you this week!

Memory Verse: John 15:11: “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”

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Rachel Coleman, contributor