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!

 

Why Do We Suffer?

Bedtime or not, I couldn’t lay the book down. Dragging in the morning when the alarm would go off was not to be compared to closing the book before I had finished the chapter. The concept was intriguing! A man who was a “lukewarm” Christian had gone to sleep, had a nightmare, and woke hearing voices of people he passed as he started for work. The voices were not those of demonic forces, but it was as if he could hear the thoughts rolling in their very soul. For instance, “I’m so tired of having no one who cares about me. Life is not worth living.” After many agonizing times when he thought someone had spoken to him, he realized their lips weren’t moving, and as we say, he freaked out! He ran to his pastor, who realized–somehow–that God had given the man the gift of hearing the deepest needs of the people with whom he was coming into contact. The pastor was jubilant, and insisted on going out among the people immediately, to see if he was correct. Yes, the man was hearing their unspoken suffering, and in doing so, was able to let his pastor know, so the pastor could minister to the person. It may sound dry, but wasn’t. It was an “I have to know what happens next” kind of book!*

After finishing it, I wondered if I, too, could look at people more like God looks at them, and see if I could discern their feelings by their outward expression. There’s always been a saying, “The eyes are the windows of the soul,” meaning that one’s feelings are generally reflected in the eyes. Smiles that do not reach the eyes are not smiles. I also wondered if I could listen more, and talk less! How many times had I heard someone answer truthfully rather than the politically correct “Fine,” to “Hi! How are you?” Had I ever followed up on it, and given them my time? They don’t really expect a reply, but they’ve answered truthfully because they’re seeking help. I love to listen to someone’s story. Rather than seeing that as a way to pass time, perhaps I could use it, like the man in the book above, to get to the root of their distress and show them there is One who cares more deeply about them than they could ever imagine. Why am I not using my time to make disciples?

How often are people we come into contact with suffering in some way that we can understand and relate to? Perhaps they have a spouse or family member who has just gotten news of a health crisis, or perhaps lost their job, or are having marital problems, and so many more areas of pain. Sometimes they are Christians who cry out to God, and instead of instant relief, there is silence. They may conclude–especially if they are a new Christian, or one who hasn’t been tested much–that He doesn’t really care. As was spoken in a recent movie, “Did you ever notice that the teacher is silent during a test?” Perhaps God is doing a work in their life. It scares me to death to think I should step in and help a need and get in God’s way while He’s trying to bring them closer to Himself. It’s imperative we act only when God nudges us.

This past Sunday Pastor Jonathan Falwell, himself a recent victim of physical suffering while being in the eye of Hurricane Irma, spoke on why there is suffering here on earth. Get your notebook, a beverage, and click on the website for Thomas Road Baptist Church at http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and select “Why Then Do We Suffer?” He gives answers from God’s word, advice to apply to our lives, and hope for a beautiful future. Enjoy the song service if you have time, and then do the sermon study below. God is good–all the time. Even in suffering, even through the evil that breaks His heart as it does ours, even in times when we think He doesn’t care, He’s good.

Why Then Do We Suffer?                                                                                         Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Each day world or national news seems to be filled with crises that would have been unimaginable fifty years ago. Can you think of a catastrophe that has impacted you or your extended family recently?

Today the severe challenges we are facing—whether from health, financial, family, sin or dozens more—inevitably lead us to the point of suffering where we cry out to God, “Why, Lord?” This week we are going to look at life from God’s perspective, as well as our own personal standpoint.

Focal Passages: Romans 5:12-25, 8:31-39; Job 5:7, 14:1.

Think About or Discuss:

This World Is Not What God Intended:

  1. Read Genesis 1:31. What did God say about His creation at the end of Day Six?
  2. Read Genesis 2:15. What did God give Adam the ability to do in this verse?
  3. Why would God create Adam, knowing he was going to bring sin—and therefore death—into the world? Can we not relate to some extent, wanting children even while knowing there will be very tough times with them?

Even Still There is Hope:

  1. Read Romans 5:18. What are some of the tribulations you face daily (you don’t have to share if you’d rather not)? Does God hold these against you if you confess them? How can you back that up?
  2. Read Rom. 5:19-23. How did the fall affect God’s creation?
  3. Read verses 24-25. Why do people hold so tightly to hope? Read 1 Peter 1:3. (Is this your hope?)

Our God Is Still in Control and Taking Care of Us

  1. How do you know that God is still in control? Read Col. 1:16-18 (in a translation that is more modern, if possible.)
  2. Think back over the recent events in your life; has God done anything that would indicate to you that He is caring for you? Read 1 Pet. 5:7.
  3. Why do we so often take matters into our own hands, trying to do the job in our strength, without letting Christ take the lead? Can you share your thoughts?

Close

Almost all the New Testament writers warn that this life comes with trials and troubles. If you thought when you received Jesus as Savior that life would be easy, the truth is, since evil and man’s choice exists, it won’t be. Suffering is a by-product of the fall, bringing sin and natural disasters. Those who trust Him fully have learned that Jesus is the only One you can depend on through the storms. This past month we have witnessed miracle after miracle as God brought people safely through tragedies that should have taken thousands of lives, but did so with minimal loss of life. “Things” can always be replaced, but people cannot. God is your only hope.

It was His desire that the creation would be a place of perfection, beauty, and happiness. Adam chose to disobey God, and man has been full of sin ever since, bringing suffering into creation. Had He made us robots, worshiping Him like puppets, there would be no relationship of love. If you have children who obey you for any reason other than a genuine desire to show their love, you know there is no satisfaction in outward obedience. Yet in giving us choices to do good or evil, sin enters our lives through the actions of ourselves or others. If you want evil to stop, choice must stop. Where would you want your ability to make choices end and you have none? You wouldn’t. The good news is that Jesus, dying on the cross to pay the debt of those sins, stands ready to forgive and give new life. That new life will include the transition from earth to heaven one day. Will you make mistakes—sometimes willfully—between now and then? Will suffering continue until He returns? Yes! But He loves you with a love so huge it is not able to be explained in human terms, and as a God of forgiveness, He will never disown you. One day, life will be exactly what God intended. Let us all be sure we are ready for that day!

Memory Verse: Romans 5:18: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Book: The Miracles, by Terri Blackstock

© Lisa F. Young

ID 442336 | 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?

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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