TRIALS BY FIRE

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flannelgraph of Faith: Prayer and His Presence

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

Focal Passages: Daniel 1, 2, 3

Think About or Discuss:

The Background

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

Pray Like It Matters…Because It Does!

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

Compromise Will Never Deliver 

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

The World’s Power Is No Match For His

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

We Have His Power

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

Good and Bad Choices

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Ben Gutierrez

Open:

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

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

Focal Passages: Taken from I Samuel

The Background:

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

Discuss:

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

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

Bad Choices Lead to Worse Choices:

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

Only Obedience from a Pure Heart Honors God

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

To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice:

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

© Popa Sorin

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

Did You Find the Rose Garden?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outsiders: Jesus at the Center                                                                                                                                                                                                      Charles Billingsley

Open:

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

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

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

Think About or Discuss:

The Power of Jesus is Undeniable

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

The Love of Jesus is Unconditional

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

The Grace of Jesus is Indescribable

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

Close:

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

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

Thoughts to Take Away:

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

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

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WHAT DO YOU SAY WHEN SOMEONE HURTS?

The class went from jovial to somber in one moment.

Everyone had been laughing and talking, having a fun time of fellowship until it was time to call the class to order. It was a Sunday morning, and the ones gathered in the room were of every type: many mixed ages, some young, middle aged and elderly; some single, widowed, or married; mixed races with one God, and a time and place to worship Him. Prayer had been prayed for those with problems too big to carry alone, songs had been sung, and announcements of coming events. It should have been time for the teacher to start the lesson. Instead, one of the women went to the front.

It’s funny: we tend to look at how people dress, how outgoing they are, what positions of leadership they hold, and judge their Christianity by these things. In doing so, you would have said this lady had it all together–her ducks were all in a nice row! No book should be judged by its cover, right?

It was obvious from the stance that her normally outgoing personality was being tested and that she was in pain. As soon as she began to speak, you could hear a pin drop.

“You all know that often, as I’m running around town, I see you in shops, stores, or a variety of other places. Often my daughter will be with me. You know her well, and know that she is a student here at the Community College. The next time you see her, you will be asking yourself, ‘Is her daughter pregnant? It surely looks as though she is.’ Soon the rumor mill will be in full swing, and each will be calling someone else, so you can find out, or perhaps even “pray.” I want to tell you up front, yes, she is. We have just found out, and I cannot tell you much more than that, but it is not something I felt that could be hidden. If you have something to say, it is now out in the open, and we are trying to deal with the fallout in our home. I’m ashamed, and embarrassed that I feel the need to be open about this, but even some of you have been down this road and know what we’re going through; it isn’t fun, it is full of turmoil and pain, and sincere prayer for our being kind and understanding with our daughter would be appreciated.” She sat down.

Over the next few weeks, people did not know what to say. Should they say “I’m sorry”? Ignore her? Walk on the other side? Address the situation, or leave it alone? It’s a pain few can understand. Almost like a terminal illness, you want to ask how things are going, but are not quite sure it’s the right thing to do.

I think it is the only time I ever heard any one address such a thing in church. One doesn’t ordinarily have sin admitted publicly, addressed so that it takes away the gossipers, or seen the crushing pain of those involved. As I thought back to that Sunday School class, it made me think even more of the passage chosen this past Sunday at Thomas Road Baptist Church, as Jonathan Falwell spoke of the woman at the well in Samaria, and the reaction, not only of Jesus, but of the disciples and then of the villagers. I put “flesh and blood” on her, and made her the real person she probably was. Let’s look at her a moment before you click on the sermon!

She could have been any age, goodness knows! Since young girls became women of marriageable age by fourteen–or even earlier–she perhaps was between twenty and forty. She was probably reasonably pretty, but wouldn’t you think maybe not the cleanest person in the village? What were the men in Samaria like? Do you think they had a “pub” or a bar where they could get “strong drink” and forget they were married? Perhaps many weren’t, but were just passing through an area where the woman lived. They would go visit her for an hour, perhaps leave some money so she could buy food, and go their way. Some had married her; why do you suppose they left? Now she was living with someone, not married. How do you think the women of Samaria treated her?

I would hazard a guess that they walked on the other side of the street if they saw her coming. What might have been worse, a woman she might have passed could have been the wife of one of her clients! She wasn’t friends with any (or many), and was probably very lonely. What had caused this lifestyle? How do you not feel sorry for her?

When Jesus came along, He was so tired, but He came because He knew she would be coming to the well–and coming after all the well-reputed women had gone back to their home. Let’s pick up the story by clicking on http://www.trbc.org/sermons and choosing “Storytellers: The Story of a Servant” preached March 19, 2017. If you have a notebook, grab it so that you can keep a record of your thoughts, find your comfy chair, a cool drink, and if you have a friend who will join you, listen to the service together, then do the sermon study below. Think seriously about the questions asked: do YOU put yourself where sinners come? Do YOU initiate conversation about their lifestyles, and tell them how to be saved? Hopefully the message will inspire you to make changes in you life if you don’t. God bless you as you study His word!

Storytellers: The Story of a Servant                                                                                                                               Pastor Jonathan Falwell, with Dr. David Wheeler

Open:

Another week! What exciting story, game, or piece of information happened this week that you could hardly wait to share?

This week we finish the short series on the importance of sharing the story of our encounter with the living Christ. We want to focus on the story of someone who lived—more than likely—as a rejected woman, but ended up changing a village with her testimony. Is it possible our reputation could be any worse—and our testimony be any greater?

Focal Passage: John 4:1-30, 39-42

Think About or Discuss:

See the Worth of Every Person

  1. Read John 4:1-7. What were some of the reasons the trip through Samaria was unusual? How did the Jews view Samaritans, and women in particular?
  2. What was Jesus’ physical condition as He sat at the well (verse 6)? What would be “natural” in that moment?

See Them the Way Christ Sees Them

  1. Read verses 7-10. What did Jesus see as He spoke with the woman who came to the well?
  2. Read verse 11. What is significant about the lack of a dipper? How would you react if you needed to share a drink with someone who was “unclean”?

See the Value of the Message

  1. Read verse 10b. What was He trying to get her to ask for?
  2. Think: How much time each week do you intentionally put yourself in a place where you will meet people who need to hear your message?

See the Importance of Telling Them

  1. Read verses 28-30. What possibly took place within the woman’s heart that she would risk rejection by running back to town? If you could put yourself in her place, do you think her countenance had changed any, so as to be believed by the men of Samaria?

Do Whatever It Takes

  1. Read verses 40-42. What was the outcome of the extra time Jesus spent in Samaria?
  2. How often do you get out of your box to tell your story?        

ACTION APPLICATIONS:

  1. Everyone matters to Jesus! Be intentional in going to places where you will find the lost.
  2. Be willing to share not only your story, but also minister to needs; would Jesus have drunk from her dipper, had she gone ahead and gotten Him water?
  3. He gave her respect, even though she was a woman of low virtue; He “valued” her.
  4. Be willing to inconvenience yourself if you have an opportunity to share your story with more people, because of the one.
  5. Pray that God would put you in a pond where there are many fish!

Close:

As you watch a movie or read a book, do you get caught up in the story line, and live the situation? If so, you’ll be able to envision and empathize with the woman who went to the well. She probably waited until the other women had come and gone—after all, it was possible she had been intimate with several husbands in the village—and she was not a popular person. The only ones who showed her attention more than likely were the men who used her. Yet as she approached the well, there sat a Jew, who, with compassion in His eyes, spoke to her as if she were of value, and asked for water. The conversation is not all recorded, but He must have made such an impression that she ran back to the town to tell those whomever would listen that it was possible the Messiah was in Samaria! She had a story that changed the lives of a town. If you would go outside your comfort zone, would you find a group who needs to hear your story, that there is Someone who loves them, died to pay for their sins, and is not willing that any go to hell, but can receive forgiveness and eternal life? Pray God will use you to share your story!

Memory Verse: John 4:10: Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”

 

 

A NEW YEAR, A NEW WALK, A NEW YOU!

Fireworks display with several different colored fireworks exploding in the sky.

She pointed to herself, and remarked, “There’s a SKINNY in here somewhere, and I’m going to find her!” I had to laugh at my friend. It was this morning, January 1, 2017, and a day in which we all traditionally start our New Year’s resolutions! I have learned the hard way not to stress myself–I’m not going to keep them more than 2 days! It’s much easier to take one of my favorite verses from Scripture out of context and relax in the words, “Bodily exercise profits little!” (1 Tim. 4:8–like I said, taken out of context.) But I still felt slightly victorious, as I had decided , back before Thanksgiving, to get up in the mornings in time to walk, at least three days per week–and if you knew me well, you would know I totally despise anything remotely connected to exercise. The fact that I am now going on 8 weeks is nothing short of a miracle. No, it is not a habit–even after three times a week for eight weeks: every stinking step, every drive to the place where I walk, is DISCIPLINE. Let’s make sure we understand there’s a big difference.

There are probably more decisions to lose weight, to be nice, to stop spending so much money, to exercise, or…. fill in the blank… on this day than any other day of the year. Did you make a resolution? Are you going to keep it?

The only one I’m faithful about (let’s wait awhile before we call the walking “faithful”) is my desire to read my Bible each year, or, depending on what I’m focused on, perhaps I may spread it out for two years. I love to study it with a goal in mind: this past two years I read it with the intention to find out why the apostles ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. I was amazed, as I went back through the OT, at how few times there are actual prayers in the Scriptures. Nehemiah prayed often, Solomon prayed often, but David took the prize. If ever you want to know how to pray, read the Psalms. His prayers are agonizing, beautiful, full of repentance, fruit, … they cover almost all topics. By having a goal, it keeps my mind much more focused as I read. It is not intended as a “pat me on the back,” but just a suggestion that there are ways to read it that will keep you concentrating on what you read. Do you often realize your mind has wandered? Then go back and re-read the paragraph. Once you do it often enough, you will keep your concentration better.

In today’s sermon, Jonathan Falwell quoted some amazing facts: facts that should make us sick to our stomachs, since most of us are dealing with a schedule so full that we don’t have “time” to do much for Christ except check off our to-do list on Sunday that we have attended church. As you listen to the sermon, prepare yourself for the statistics that say the average person checks their Smart Phone 150 times per day (someone in my family–not in this house–does that much in 2 hours, I kid you not!) Again, the average person watches tv approximately 3.6 hours per day. Does that make you gag? Garbage in, garbage out, right? Facebook racks up about 1 1/4 hours per day. We are now at approximately seven hours. When do people sleep, eat, work? Does God get the leftovers?

How would you feel if you were God, and you got the time that you give Him? Would you wonder at the depth of your love? Would you question whether He really is first in your life? Let us be sure we hunger and thirst after righteous, and seek Him—He will fulfill our needs if we put Him first, and this day is a great time to start off for the year!

If you haven’t heard the sermon preached at Thomas Road Baptist Church for Sunday, January 1, 2017, click on the link http://www.trbc.org/sermons and then click on the play button. Be sure you have your notebook, something hot to drink, and if someone can join you, make it a good discussion time! Enjoy the song service if you have time, but most of all, seek the Lord with your whole heart, and lean on Him for strength this year!

Open:

A new year! As you think of the coming months, what’s on your calendar? You probably know some of the challenges you are going to face—others may take you by surprise. How prepared do you feel to face the next twelve months?

When we consider the beginning of a new year, we generally think of things in our own life or family that we would like to change. We decide January 1 is a good day to start, so we make a “resolution” to begin a new way of eating, exercising, habits, or whatever it is we feel needs to be improved. As a Christian, this is a great time to make a commitment to read the Scripture every day and see how our lives reflect the standards Jesus has set for us. Do we “hunger and thirst” after righteousness? Do we desire a closer walk with Him more than we desire anything else? Do we want to “seek first the Kingdom of God”? Today is a good day to start, giving yourself a full year to draw nearer to Him, and you will find the “new walk” will produce a “new you”!

Focal Passages: Ephesians 4:17-32

Discuss:

A New Walk

  1. Read verses 17-19. Can you think of examples showing how this reflects the world we live in today?
  2. What do you consider your number one problem? Did you say “busyness”? Why is that a problem? Is boredom a problem?
  3. Be honest: when is your devotional life happening? If you are involved with your television, electronics, or listening to music for over 5 hours each day, do you discipline yourself to find time for God—hopefully first?
  4. Read verse 24. What does God expect of you? If you call yourself a Christian, do you intentionally seek a relationship with Him, or do you just hope it will happen at some point during the day?

Here are a list of commitments to make for this new year:

  1. Commit to make room in your schedule and your life for God.
  2. Commit to make time for your family—apart from movies, tv, or video games.
  3. Commit to make time for others, to serve and help them, perhaps even disciple them.

  A New You

  1. If you spend quality time dieting or exercising this new year, what would you expect to happen? How is that analogous to exercising your spirit with God’s word and serving Him?
  2. Who should benefit from your new focus if you truly make Him first in your life?
  3. In verses 21-32, what are some things that you should see go out of your life? What should replace them?

Here are a list of commitments for A New You:                                                               a. A commitment to live right (and get rid of the bad!)                                                b. A commitment to live better (renew your thoughts and attitudes)                        c. A commitment to live with eternity in mind (and share Him with the world)

 

Close:

As I said in the opening, my friend said “I’m starting a diet..there’s still a ‘skinny’ inside here!” In like manner, according to 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” There should be a “new creation” inside of us then! That should be our standard for this coming year: we call ourselves Christians, so therefore, a new creation is inside of us. Do you have things left over from the “old” person you were that is still taking up residence, but needs to be moved out? All things in your life should have become new when you were saved. Did it? When you are going about your daily business, can the world tell that you are a Christian by your actions? If not, something is desperately needing to change. Today is the first day of the new year—let it be a beginning that will find you, on December 31, 2017, in such a close relationship with Jesus Christ that everyone will know, just from being around you, that He is in residence in your life! Pray for those whom you love who need to hear that He loves them, and pray that He will open a door for you to witness to them in the coming days. Let this be the year that you evangelize your world!

Memory Verse: Ephesians 4:32: “Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”

Focal Passages: Ephesians 4:17-32.

 

 

THE FATHER’S MIRACLE

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Pizza sounded sooooo good! I had to decide: would it be worth it when it came back up? For nine months I had lost almost everything I had eaten, but this time–this time–I was giving in to my craving! So the pizza went down, every yummy, cheese-dripping, bite! And sure enough, within thirty minutes it was coming back.

Carrying this baby was an act of love, and I could hardly wait for him or her to get here. The agony of the birth itself, the long nine months when one goes from “normal” to waddling like a duck, the back aches, trying to get a good night’s sleep–all that is forgotten the second a mother holds her baby. But. The glory of children is their Father. (Proverbs 17:6).

Not fair, Lord! We’re the one who feeds them, changes their stinky diapers, plays airplane with their food, remembers to write everything in the baby’s book, and smells like spit-up 24/7! We’re the ones who carry a two-year old on one hip, a purse over one shoulder, a diaper bag over the other, and lug a twenty-pound car seat/carrier with the infant in it! But. The glory of children is their father.

The class stood at attention: some were shepherds, some were animals, a few wise men, and some held signs. Moms, for the most part, and tons of grandparents, were sitting as close to the front as possible, cameras flashing. The little shepherd on the back row kept his head straight, looking at his teacher, but every thirty seconds he cut his eyes to the right. Finally, a light bulb was turned on in his face–his daddy had arrived to watch the program. The glory was reflected in his face. The glory of this child–my grandson–is his father.

Summer eventually comes–after a long winter–and mom has to come up with tons of ideas how to keep the children occupied, especially during rainy days, when going outside is not even considered. Oh, the things thought of to do! Making tents over the dining room table, having lunch in a “campsite,” playing Hide and Seek. But everyone is waiting for that special moment when daddy comes home. The glory of children is their father.

A new car is needed now, one that will carry all the kids and all their gear, their musical instruments, and presents for parties, and mom becomes not only the nurse, the cook, maid, and now the chauffeur. But the glory of the children is their father.

God, how can this be?! We pour our souls into these children, we take care of every need, are You sure this is right? And He says, yes, it’s right. My Father is My Glory, and I want to be the Glory of your children, as well. And we say, “But God, what about all the homes where Dad has left, and Mom has to carry all the burden? He doesn’t even send money except when the courts make him!” And God says, he will answer for it, because I created him to be the glory of his children.*

In Mark Lowry’s song, “Mary, Did You Know?” a series of questions are asked that examine the magnitude of how this (approximately) fifteen year old mother could understand the depth of importance in the child she was giving birth to. A phenomenal song, it has blessed the hearts of worshipers since it was written. Mary has been revered, placed with Saints by some churches, prayed to by others, made into an idol, put on necklaces. But today, CHRISTMAS, 2016, let’s take a look at the one person who was also chosen by God to fulfill, not only the role of earthly father, but the one who was godly enough to raise and be responsible for the infant Son of God.

As you come to this week, get your notebook, friends or family, and watch the Christmas service from Thomas Road Baptist Church on Christmas morning, December 25, 2016. Click on http://www.trbc.org/sermons and hit play! If you have time, worship with the children and Praise Team, as the congregation is led in carols that have been sung for years. As Jonathan Falwell leads us to think of the man about whom little is known, let us consider Joseph, a man so humble and godly that God Himself let him be a father to His Only Begotten Son during the first thirty years of His life.

Open:

Not all of us have had fathers who were models that we could learn from; others of us were taught from infancy by one who trained them into leaders. What male made a difference in your life? If you’re with a group, perhaps you can share your thoughts; otherwise, write them down in your notebook.

Today we focus on the outstanding father-figure that has probably among the fewest verses written about him as anyone in the Scripture. Yet his legacy of being chosen by the Creator God is, according to Scripture, amazing in the importance of the role he would play in the life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, fully God and yet fully man. Join as we study this little-known hero.

Focal Passage: Luke 2: 1-20, Matthew 1:18-25

Think About or Discuss:

As we heard the story of “Mary, Did You Know?” we could almost turn that song around and ask, “Joseph, did YOU know? Did you understand that God had hand-picked you for one of the most important roles in history? Did you, too, ponder these things in your heart? You were now responsible for the well-being of His Son, the one predicted for hundreds of years by the prophet Isaiah, and you–YOU–have been asked by God, nay, told by God, that you were going to raise Him as your own!” What an amazing, incomprehensible action.

1. What are some of the qualities God would have looked for in this man?

2. Three times in his life, God sent an angel to give him directions as he took care of God’s Son. Do you recall the other times?

THE PURPOSE OF CHRIST’S COMING

3. Read Isaiah 7:13, 14. Joseph, raised in the Jewish culture, knew God had predicted a virgin would have a Child who would be the Savior of His people. Only Joseph knew for certain that this child Mary carried was not his. He, in his honor, decided to forego the marriage with her. What happened before he could do this?

4. Read Zephaniah 3:16, 17. What was the purpose for which Jesus Christ was going to leave heaven’s glory and come to this earth? What did the name “Immanuel” mean?

If an angel appeared to you, telling you that you were to be part of a fulfillment that had been expected for decades, would you believe it? Joseph did! He immediately sought out Mary, and although we are not told, took her as his wife without delay. He did not want her subject to gossip and painful rumors.

Not, of course, part of the sermon, but when my grandfather was a young man in his early twenties, he took as his wife a young girl, about sixteen years old. Because he was several years older than she, he was afraid the marital relations would be fearful for her, and he waited. He wooed her in a husbandly fashion, taking time for weeks to ease her into the gentle caresses and the wonder of marriage that God has ordained. Whenever I think of the kindness, the understanding, and the epitome of a man loving his wife more than he loved himself, my grandfather is my hero. Joseph, as well, waited until after the birth of this special Child before “knowing” Mary as his wife.

THE PROMISE:

5. The verses in Matthew and Luke underline the faith that can be counted on when God makes promises. What verses in Luke reinforce the glory that God had come down to dwell among men?

6. Who else was able to join in the jubilation of this wondrous night? How far did the news spread?

Close:

Never can we understand how Joseph must have felt to have so many unfathomable events occur so quickly in his life: he was bethrothed to marry a young, godly girl, who had to tell him she was pregnant. Surely she explained the circumstances of the angel, but the disbelief had to be paramount! Then he himself is visited by the angel, and within a short period of time, they are married. Soon, the Child of God is part of their family, and not long after–within two years–he is again told by an angel to take his wife and child to Egypt. An awesome, incredible man, who obviously put God first in his life, in his marriage, and in the training of his children. Would that we all had husbands and fathers who loved God above all things. If you are a woman, you can pray for your husband to be the man God intended; if you are a man, pray that God will give you a love for your wife that is the type described in Eph. 5:25, loving them as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it.

Merry Christmas to all, and a beautiful 2017!

 

  • Written in Love Notes blog, Sandra Day

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