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!

 

With God, Nothing is Impossible!

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing Is Impossible With God                                                                                          Dr. Ben Guttierez

Open:

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

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

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

Think About or Discuss:

Background:

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

Who Can God Use?

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

God—the Forgiver of Sins

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

No One is Too Wayward That God Cannot Use Them

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

God Changes Hearts

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

Can God Use YOU?

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

 Close:

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

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

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

© Rahjahs

ID 6792838 | Dreamstime Stock Photo

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

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?

Does a Child Make a Father?

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

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

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

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

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

Act Like Men                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

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

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

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

Think About or Discuss:

Be A Man of Protection

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

Be A Man of Purity

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

Be A Man of Power

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

Be A Man of Purpose

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

Be A Man of Perfection

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

Close:

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

What Does Your Appearance Say About You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not My Jesus: Christ In Me                                                                                                                                                                                                               Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

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

Think About or Discuss:

The World Does Not Control Us

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

(BUT) God Controls Us

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

(BECAUSE) He Dwells Within Us

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

(AND) The Holy Spirit Leads Us

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

(TO) A Life That Is Different

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

© Paul Brennan | Dreamstime Stock Photos