MERCY TRIUMPHS!

Recently I could have bit a nail in two. You’ve been there. Which reminds me, one day I was sitting talking to my then-pastor, and lamented, “There’s not a day (or probably an hour) that goes by but that I sin!” He looked astounded, as though I had admitted to something like stealing the last bite of food a hungry family had. I just looked at him, wondering if he lived in the real world. With one glance he was telling me that he could not relate to what I had just said. Had we been Catholic, I would have suggested he go to confession and catch up.

Anyway, back to the nail. Steam was coming out my ears, but I still remembered to walk with my shoulders back, stomach in, chest out–a book on my head would have been adequate. Childhood training is hard to overcome. Heading for the door of the high-class business office, I grabbed the handle, only to have the door firmly stay in place–still locked. Apparently it was 9:29, and I had not even thought to check. Rather than turn and walk away, I yanked my foot back as if I were going to kick it through the door. At the same moment, the businessman on the other side unlocked it (I confess, I had not seen him), and calmly asked “Is this easier?” He was very sweet in the face of my intense (though well-controlled, except for the foot part) anger, and I vented for about ten minutes. I was there so long that my husband came to get me. He probably figured it was to be him, or the cops, and he preferred it be him. The truth was, I felt I was paying big bucks for useless results, and it was either say so, or burst open. I don’t doubt for a second, like the remark to my pastor, that you’ve been in the same situation, probably many times. I seldom get so furious, but there are times…

The agitation lasted every time it crossed my mind for the next several days, and as S.M. Lockridge said, “Then came Sunday.” If you want to truly know if God is at work in your church, do something wrong. If it comes out of the pulpit on Sunday, without the pastor knowing what you’ve been thinking, and hits you between the eyes, stabs in your gut, and steps on your toes, God’s there. My pastor began. Mercy. Love. Forgiveness. Restoration. You name it, he managed in the next 40 minutes to say it straight to me; the good thing was, he was saying it straight to some others as well.

It wasn’t so bad that I had gotten so angry–the situation called for righteous indignation as someone was letting an instrument of Satan hurt some children. That pushes the buttons of almost every mom and dad I know, at least those who are saved and living out their salvation. To add authorities whose hands are tied by red tape into the mix only hurts the innocent even more. But why didn’t I just turn it over to the Lord, and let Him work it out? Revenge is a human reaction that overcomes most of us at some time or other, isn’t it (at least if you’re honest)? But that doesn’t make it right. Revenge for a deed against someone who has hurt you can best be handled by giving it to God to fix. “I will repay,” He says.

Our testimony is important. I nearly blew mine with the person I talked to, until he understood my agony and frustration, and realized my anger was intense concern for justice to prevail. Otherwise, the next time he saw me, he would have labeled me (whatever…almost anything would have been sufficient.) It strongly reminded me that in the church we let frustrations and grudges affect our testimony, our name in the community, and perhaps, by way of social media, it can be heard around the world! Restoration between brothers and sisters in the church is critical to the health of the congregation. It brought to mind a memory from several years ago, when a beautiful woman I knew made a bad mistake in her life. Everyone knew it, and it became the subject of conversation throughout the community–and the church. Much later she returned to church, full of repentance and yearning for restoration, only to have one of the “pillars” say to her, “Whenever I see you, all I can think of is what you did.” She was devastated, especially so because the church is the one place where people who are sinners–forgiven but not yet perfect–should exercise mercy toward those who have acknowledged their sin and have sought forgiveness. The man had not learned that lesson, and his sin was as great as hers had been. Sin is sin.

Showing mercy to someone who does not deserve it, Proverbs tells us, is like heaping coals of fire on their heads. What a picture! And yet we are not to take pleasure in the sense that they are receiving what they deserve, for truly, we ourselves did not deserve the mercy that God Himself gave us when Jesus took our sins, had them nailed to His cross, and suffered for them. Would that we never sin! One day we won’t, but until then, remind yourself that mercy triumphs over judgment. Mercy matters. Greatly.

Get your notebook, a good beverage, and sit back in your easy chair–perhaps with friends, and click on the sermon for Sunday, October 29, from Thomas Road Baptist Church, and listen as Jonathan Falwell preaches on mercy, using Philemon as the text. Click on http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and choose the sermon “Mercy Matters.” It may help you the next time you are ready to bite a nail in two! The study below will help cement those points into your heart, and help you as you deal with all the chaos that is in our country.

TINY GIANTS: Mercy Matters                                                        Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

When someone hurts us—or injures someone dear to us—the idea of revenge may seem like a logical step, but it is not the right thing to do. Can you think of a time when you showed mercy rather than having reacted with revenge?

For the next three weeks we are going to look at the three shortest books in the Bible (according to the original Greek). We want to bring the wisdom that these small books contain to light and apply it to our lives, especially in these days of turmoil. As we look at the first book, Philemon, we want to focus on learning lessons from the Apostle Paul.

Focal Passages: Philemon.

Think About or Discuss:

MERCY MATTERS:

  The Right Testimony

  1. Read verses 4-7. Why was it so amazing that Paul, a prisoner in Rome, would hear of the faith of Philemon, who lived about 1,300 miles away? That would be about the same as someone in the Midwest hearing of you, living in an eastern state—without benefit of electronic equipment or motorized methods of transportation. Read Proverbs 22:1. Is this still true today?
  2. Paul said he “keeps hearing”: what did that indicate? What were some of the good reports Paul was hearing about Philemon?
  3. When Onesimus fled from Philemon, he must have known that once he had damaged his reputation, there was a possibility Philemon would not forgive him; most people would continue to think of his past actions whenever they saw him. Why are people still like that? Can you think of an experience from your past?

The Right Response

  1. Read verse 8. Why did Paul say he had confidence to ask a favor of Philemon? What was Paul’s other option? Why did he feel he would not have to command Philemon to carry out the favor?
  2. Read verse 10. He was now ready to bring his request to Philemon. What was it? Why did he call Onesimus his child? Why did he want to be certain these two were restored in relationship?

The Right Action

  1. Read verse 21; Paul had not lacked confidence to ask the favor of Philemon (verse 8) because he knew Philemon was in a right relationship with God. How did he expect Philemon to react when Onesimus eventually arrived in Colossae and sought out Philemon?
  2. How does this relate to the church today, as brothers or sisters harbor grudges or ill-feelings toward each other? What should they be doing? What Scriptures back up your answer? *(Listed at end of study.)

The Right Example

  1. Back in verse 1b-2, who was going to be hearing this letter from Paul? What impact would have been made on the early believers if Philemon had not been willing to forgive and forget?
  2. What should be your response for every negative action someone has taken against you?
  3. Close

Showing mercy to someone who has not merited it, perhaps by a deed done to us or someone we love, is one of the hardest actions for us to take as humans—and believers. Every part of our emotions become involved, and revenge is easy to focus on. Yet as Christ followers, we must overcome the desire to retaliate, and from the bottom of our heart, forgive. How do you take that step? It is not going to be a giant leap, overcoming all the animosity you have built up: it will be tiny steps forward. The best way, and perhaps the hardest, is to begin to pray for your enemy. Pray however the Lord leads, as long as it is in line with what Jesus would have done. Pray for their recognition of the hurt they have caused, for their conviction of the sin, or perhaps pray that God will lead them to see that what they’ve done needs forgiveness. In whatever manner you pray, if you do it daily, eventually you will find that the hatred is leaving you, little by little. It is impossible to pray for someone and continue to call them an enemy.

Pray for yourself, as well. Bitterness is like a weed that gets hold of your life, and, like poison ivy, keeps spreading (Eph. 4:31), defiling everyone in your immediate circle. But gradually you will be able to grant mercy to the one who has been your adversary, as you realize that you, too, were once full of trespasses and sins, and yet God reached down and gave you forgiveness that you did not deserve. If the one who has hurt you will not accept a restored relationship, remember that God is not going to forget the offense, and will discipline the person as only He knows best. His way is always right, His timing will be perfect, and He will perhaps save them. What if they come to you, as Onesimus did to Philemon, and ask forgiveness? Will you give it?

Memory Verse: Philemon 7: For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother. (NKJV)

*Matt. 18:15-17, 21-22; 1 John 2:9-11; Matt. 6:14-15; Col. 3:13

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

© Dana Bartekoske Heinemann

ID 2802747 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

DO YOU HAVE A SERVANT’S HEART?

The phone rang. Glancing at the caller ID, I saw it was my mother. I answered cheerfully, ready for one of our daily routine calls, sometimes lasting an hour or more.

She immediately launched into her reason: “I’m ready to come live with you.” The stun factor was probably about the same as when, after decades in Florida, we moved to central Virginia in July, and three short weeks later learned a terrific hurricane was barreling its way directly on a path through Virginia. Virginia? Seriously. We had weathered so many storms while in Florida (although we never got nonchalant about them), that June to November was a season we expected to be tumultuous. But mountainous Virginia? Hardly. However, it did come, destroyed much of our area, and left the small town in flooded ruins. I quickly envisioned my life changing in the same respect if Mother came to stay. We loved each other deeply, but the old adage, “Pitch your tents apart and keep your hearts together” fit well.

At the time I could not fathom any reason God would have chosen to put this on her heart. In simple, forthright terms, I rebelled, had a bad attitude, tried to talk her out of it, and reminded her of everything she would be leaving. That didn’t help: her mind was made up. I definitely wanted to honor her, but at a distance, and, I guess, on my terms. Sigh.

She came, and it was the chaos I feared. Bread on the counter, peanut butter jar left out, interruptions when I was focused on work…but slowly I saw dementia was setting in, and knew she had done the right thing, at the right time. Not that I accepted it any better–in fact, if anything, I felt I was totally unprepared to care for her. For instance, the first time I noticed she was having a hard time putting curlers in her newly washed hair. To any self-respecting hair-dresser, this must seem inconceivable, but I had always had a fetish about touching someone else’s hair! Even my mom’s. But it was washed, she couldn’t do it easily, so who else would? My husband? Ha. No offense intended, but he wouldn’t have a clue.

As time passed, I railed at each new situation that I “couldn’t” do: putting her into Depends, washing and rolling her hair, bathing her. It was after her death that I realized, with much humility, that God had known I did not have the heart of a servant, and He was going to use this situation to teach me some much needed lessons.

A couple of weeks ago, I realized He is still working on me. My beloved daughter, who lives near me, needs me to pick up her children one day a week from school, and they stay overnight with us. The next morning I take them to school, and usually get up at an early hour to have a quiet time before taking on the task of breakfast, dressing, car-riding, and more. The next afternoon I pick them up, and we ride toward another town where they need to be. As I meditated on this new turn my life had taken a year ago, as seemed as though God spoke directly to my heart. “You needed a reminder that you are put on this earth to serve, not to be served.” Wow–a real rocket punch (or whatever is the new vernacular) to the gut. “Back in my day,” as is the common phrase for older people, we would have said, we got hit below the belt. I saw the lessons with my mom had not lasted as well as God expected. I had not recognized these actions as “serving.” Now, on reflection, I realize that the lessons may have been learned better than I thought–as I thought back to the several years after my mom passed away, when I had worked to help supplement my daughter’s income while her husband stayed home, as one of the children explained to me, “playing video games and being on Facebook.” (A genuine quote from a then-7 year old). I was serving, but didn’t realize it. (However, I was also “enabling” someone who was living in complete rebellion against the Bible, as the verse says, “He [not she] who does not work, does not eat, and is worse than an unbeliever.” We need to be careful that our service is in line with the Bible.)

Service, or serving others, then, may not look like what you think it should. It may be hard, definitely takes some getting used to, and yet yields great rewards. Would that I could have my mom back again to apologize for the times I lagged in serving her needs! To fix her hair, cook her a meal, read her a book! But I still have my family to serve, my precious grandchildren (all of them!), and can serve them with a happy heart, a good attitude, and leave happy memories. At the same time I need to be alert to see the needs of those with whom I come into contact.

This past Sunday at Thomas Road Baptist Church, Pastor Jonathan Falwell preached on taking the next step in your relationship to Christ, and serving in your sphere of living. Join the congregation via your computer at http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and click on the sermon for October 22, 2017, “START: Taking the Next Step of Service.” Grab your notebook to keep a record of your thoughts, worship with the congregation, and learn how to be a servant. The sermon study below will cause you to dig a little deeper, revealing the attitude of serving as a commandment from Jesus Christ, for–if you are going to love Him, you will love people and want to help them as their needs are revealed to you! Pray that God would show you how.

START: Taking the Next Step of Service                                                                                      Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

If you learn of a need that someone has, what is your immediate response? Did you have to stop for a moment, or were you able to give a spontaneous answer?

This week we finish the series “START: Taking the Next Step from the Step You’re On.” We have been seeking God’s direction for this journey of faith we are living. We want to follow the example Jesus set by serving those whom we meet along our path. We want to condition ourselves to be alert to their needs, then meet those needs as we are able.

Focal Passages: John 13:4-17; Matthew 25:40; Philippians 2:3-4.

Think About or Discuss:

THE NEXT STEP OF SERVICE:

 Putting Jesus First

  1. Read the memory verse, John 13:15. Why should you learn to be a servant? Read Mark 10:44-45. What does that teach you?
  2. Read Matthew 25:37-40. What stands out as you read this passage? Were the “righteous” serving because they wanted to be noticed or because they wanted to show their love for Christ? Why does service have to start in the heart?

Putting Others First

  1. Think of some examples where you don’t exactly excel at putting others first, and share or write them in your notebook. (Did you say, “in traffic,” or “waiting in a line”?) How can you change these situations?
  2. Read Phil. 2:3-4. There are several suggestions of how to be more like Jesus in these two verses. What are they? Which of these do you find the hardest?

HOW?

With What You Have

  1. In verses 4-5 of John 13, what did Jesus need to perform the humble task of washing the feet of His disciples?
  2. Do you know the oft-quoted maxim about God’s calling and equipping?* (Answer is at the end). Use what He has already given you!
  3. What will happen if you wait until you feel you are prepared to serve before you can be useful to God?

With what you know

  1. Read verses 6-8 of John 13. The last phrase has a deeper meaning to Jesus than it did for the disciples. What was Jesus really saying?
  2. What should be the goal for every act of service you perform?

With Christ as your model

  1. Read verses 13-15. Why does Christ want you to serve others? Examine your acts of service to make certain your motive is to show the love of Christ.

WHAT’S NEXT?

 Pray

  1. Why should you pray? When you pray for the needs of others, are you also asking God to use you?

Offer

  1. What would happen if you prayed each morning that God would bring someone across your path who had a need, you see the need, and are able to meet it? Take that step of faith!

Try

  1. All believers have the responsibility to share the gospel, and to serve. In the Ice Breaker, you listed how you would react to a need. Now that you’ve had the sermon study, can you embellish on seeing a gift that might be more comfortable for you than you had thought? You may have to try more than once to find what niche is really yours.

Close

Serving someone sounds like an uncomfortable step of faith, doesn’t it? Yet it is a heart attitude God wants us to have, and He has said that we do it for His glory, not our own. We look into the eyes of those we meet and get a glimpse of their heart. If there is an obvious need, ask Him to reveal how you can help. Have you ever been behind someone in line at Walmart and they are digging for change to come up with sufficient money to pay for their groceries? You look, and see nothing but food. Don’t hesitate to hand the clerk the dollar in your hand! God will never let you go hungry for giving away what’s He’s given to you. Does someone have a yard that needs mowed? You don’t know their story, but you can take a half hour and push your mower down to their yard and mow. If you’re afraid they’ll take it wrong, take a basket of fresh-baked bread and a note to put on their porch. Give God the opportunity to start sending needs your way, and the satisfaction that comes will make you hunger for more and more occasions to help others. If you go on a short-term mission trip, prepare yourself to feel as though you barely got started when the time comes to leave! You will look at the elderly people and your heart will cry that they may go into a Christ-less eternity before someone else comes to tell them of Jesus. Let every day be a day of opportunity to serve your Lord, and to follow Him.

Memory Verse: John 13:15: For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. (NKJV)

*”God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.”

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

© Woo Bing Siew

ID 5620355 | Dreamstime Stock Photo

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!