Leaving Heaven’s Glory for Earth

The house was standing in among many beautiful homes, deserted, but very lovely. The ones we had driven by over the past mile had been large, extra large, and extra, extra large. The landscaping around them was witness to the pride the owners felt in their property’s outside appearance, and without a doubt the inside of each home was impeccable. It had been slightly overwhelming, riding by homes where you knew the occupants made a living that put them in the upper bracket over the majority of people in the world.

We had set a cap on the amount we would spend for a new home, and it also had to meet specific criteria–qualifications we had found, over a long marriage and about 20 moves–that would enable us to enjoy the remaining years in peace and quiet. Or, at least as much peace and quiet as seems to be possible in today’s world. Now, as I woke to a new day, I saw a note from my husband to search out this house: the evening before, the price had been dropped $25,000, putting it exactly at the figure we had set.

After more than two months of house searching, putting hundreds of miles on the cars as we went into every area of the counties around us, we felt we really knew what we were looking for: privacy, space to entertain our church family and friends, the looks of the extended neighborhood or road, and acreage. When a house met those qualifications, we were ready to look inside. Because of the price drop, my husband’s note that next morning said he wanted me to make an appointment to look inside this one, even though it met only three of our four standards.

He was so excited as we got out of the car and started looking inside. It was a great layout, and exceeded our expectations. I personally believe from the moment he saw the listing in the MLS, it was a done deal in his mind. However, we still had to spend a couple of hours there with our realtor, looking at everything. The contract was signed within those two hours, and we gave them until that evening to answer. One hour later we learned they had accepted the contract.

For the next four weeks, the move did not seem real as the business side of a transaction was being conducted. We didn’t even have time to ride by but once or twice, and I had almost forgotten what it looked like by the time the closing was a reality. My heart had gone into overdrive each time I thought of the new “house” (not yet a home.) Those four important qualifications–which were now three–were vital (I thought), but the one at the top of the list was not privacy but acreage: we wanted to be in a rural setting, with enough acres that we were shielded from neighbors.

I realized well what we had done. In the enthusiasm of finding a home worth quite a bit more than the price, in a great neighborhood (a subdivision, or “community,” lest there be any doubt), we had sacrificed the one thing that was most important. I developed a mantra. “I can do this,” I said to myself over and over. Not only was it not exactly what we had been looking for, it would be the first time in many years that we lived with near neighbors, and the thought of that sent me into stress attacks. My mind kept saying I could do this, but my heart was not in it at all. I was not raised to be controlled by wealth, and the thought of being a stand-alone was palatable only when I told myself I could spend each day inside.

The day following the closing a local furniture store brought living room furniture out, and as my husband met them there, I could still remain in my denial state. We were able to spend a few minutes there on Sunday afternoon, and begin taking some of the minor items of our own into the house. Monday he went to work, and I finished tasks at “home” before going to the house. As I pulled into the community with it’s grand, stately homes, tears rolled down my face. “I CAN’T do this!” I cried. I was already grieving the inevitable loss of the place I had called home for fourteen years–longer than any place I had ever lived in my life. It was where I had taken care of my mom til she died, the home where I babysat my newborn granddaughter while her Daddy was on deployment–it was, in fact, HOME in every sense of the word.

A man with long hair standing in a field of dasies.

We didn’t have close neighbors, nor trick-or-treaters. We didn’t have people near us whose families were falling apart, or children screaming, dogs barking, or rich people expecting us to be like them.

Grief I have known only a few times in my life began to sap every bit of the life out of me, and I dreaded the years facing me. I couldn’t pray, I couldn’t tell God how I felt. It didn’t matter–it was going to happen whether I wanted it to or not.

He didn’t wait for me to pray. Suddenly, on the way back home late in the afternoon, tore up inside, His presence within the car was felt, as if He had come into the car to talk to me. Even I knew my whining, crying, grumbling, complaining, and hurt had probably deserved chastisement, but instead, “the goodness of God leads to repentance.” He brought to my mind what Jesus had had in heaven: He was with His father, having been alive forever as the Creator, the Omnipotent One, the only one who has the power to conquer death. Angels around the throne room sing Holy, Holy, Holy. He had it all. He is God. John 1 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” He spoke the world into being.

But God. But. God. Had a plan, which was to send His only Son to this earth, which is cursed, to save mankind from the punishment of his sins. Jesus was the only one who could do that. He came “down from His glory,” to live with sinful man. He came from a perfect place to an imperfect one. He was never alone day after day. People hung onto Him everywhere He went. He was often without food while serving and healing the ones who followed Him. By the time He had finished with my heart, I had gotten the message. My move was nothing compared to His. And not only the move, but in going into a community of wealthy homeowners, I was going to be exposed to the ones who, the Bible says, are the hardest to win for the kingdom of God. Their money is sufficient to get them anything they want, and they don’t want God. Their money can buy them everything–but salvation can’t be bought.

“Love the Lord your God,”–the first commandment–and the other is like unto it: Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. Ouch. On my own land, with lots of trees and property, I don’t have to even know my neighbors. In a community, I will. God is putting us there for a purpose. Am I up to it? Probably not. Do I have a choice? No. Is His will more important than my will. Yes, but that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt. Still, it cannot compare to what Jesus had to accept as His purpose.

Get your Bible, a drink and a soft chair, your notebook, pen, and even friends if you can, and watch the sermon from Thomas Road Baptist Church, preached Sunday, December 3. You can find it at http://www.trbc.org/service-archive, and it’s right there! Sit back and worship, then listen as Pastor Jonathan Falwell uses the book of Hebrews to show us the astounding life Jesus had, the coming to earth as a baby, and the sacrifice He paid to save us. Enjoy the service, and absorb the  real “reason for the season” of Christmas!

The Point of Christmas:

The Covering

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

If you are a “to do” person, you probably have a long list of things that need to be taken care of. Often it seems there’s one item that either continually is back on your list, not working, or really needs to be replaced. Can you think of an example to share? If you are by yourself, write your answers in a notebook.

We are beginning a new series for December, realizing that many people ask, “So what’s the point of Christmas?” Today we will look at Hebrews to see what is written as to the reason God the Creator sent His one and only Son to the earth, clothed in human flesh. We are loved so deeply by God, yet so flawed by sin, that Jesus came to be the sacrifice that would pay the sin debt nothing, or no-one, else could satisfy.

Focal Passages: Hebrews 10:1-18; Genesis 3:6-11.

Think About or Discuss:

All have sinned

  1. Read Heb. 10:1. What was the old law, given through Moses? Why was it given? Why were the sacrifices in the Old Testament repeated “over and over,” but never could attain perfect cleansing?
  2. Read Romans 3:23. Paul explained that we all mess up continually. How and why did men reject God’s dominion, and begin accumulating the debt of sin that separated him from God?

We needed an out

  1. Read verse 2. Even the most committed Christians continue to sin. Read 1 John 1:7-9 and Rom. 7:14-25. What hold does sin have over us?
  2. God gave the first covenant to Moses, but what did it show us that we are not capable of doing? Read Judges 21:25. How does this explain why we need a savior?
  3. In the opening, you thought of times when your best efforts provided no real help in fixing some items. How does that illustrate the futility of sacrificing animals to completely remove the debt of sin we owe?

The old way was never enough

  1. Read verses 3-4. If you made yearly trips to sacrifice animals for your sins, then had to do it all over again next year, what would that teach you? How does that explain that the sacrifices reminded the people that animals could not take away their sin?
  2. If you saw that nothing you were attempting was accomplishing a certain task, what would you eventually do?

We needed a covering

  1. Read verse 5. Jesus did not come to the earth against His will, or in ignorance of what He was going to endure. Why would He verbalize His birth to the Father, quoting Psalm 40:6-8?
  2. Read Genesis 3:6-11. Have things changed in man’s nature since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden? Read Romans 5:15b. Our choice to follow God’s will or choose evil will remain in conflict throughout time. Can you think of other verses that confirm His humble birth was to save us?* (end)

Jesus paid it all

  1. Read verse 10, and chapter 7:26, 27. Unlike the priests, who had to go into the Holy of Holies once every year, Christ’s blood was sufficient as a one-time sacrifice. Read Heb. 1:1-3, and 10:11-13. What did He do when He ascended back into heaven?

Close

This past week was the 500th anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church, listing the offensive doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. Particularly, Luther was pointing out the heresy that required monetary payment be paid to the church for forgiveness of sins. This amazing young man—just 33—began the movement that was known as the Protestant Reformation. Protestant Churches owe a debt of gratitude to this man who realized that forgiveness of sins comes through Jesus Christ, and Him alone. Jesus sacrificed with His life for complete forgiveness in a “once for all” action, available to anyone who believes and repents.

At Christmastime it is unusual to hear a message taken from the book of Hebrews. How fitting that the book contains the story of salvation! We flesh it out with the wonderful Christmas stories found in Matthew and Luke, but the writer to the Hebrews made certain we are aware of the reason for the manger, as he tied together the prophecies surrounding the birth of a Messiah, and the fulfilment of His cry “It is finished” as He died on the cross, once for all. He wrote the life of Jesus, wrapping up His birth, death and resurrection. His death, more gruesome than we—or movies—can ever imagine, was His choice, because His love for us is so incredible. His grace should always amaze us. It should cause us to bow down and worship, overwhelming us as it covers our sin. Have you accepted the truth that He actually paid the price of your sin? Open your heart if you haven’t already, and ask Him in. Find a Life Group where you can grow, and learn to love Him with all your heart.

Key Verse: Colossians 3:17: Hebrews 10:5: Therefore, when He came into the world, He said, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.” (NKJV)

*1 Timothy 1:15; Luke 19:10; Matthew 1:21; John 3:17 (to name a few).

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MERCY TRIUMPHS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TINY GIANTS: Mercy Matters                                                        Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

Focal Passages: Philemon.

Think About or Discuss:

MERCY MATTERS:

  The Right Testimony

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

The Right Response

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

The Right Action

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

The Right Example

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Dana Bartekoske Heinemann

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DO YOU HAVE A SERVANT’S HEART?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

START: Taking the Next Step of Service                                                                                      Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

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

Think About or Discuss:

THE NEXT STEP OF SERVICE:

 Putting Jesus First

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

Putting Others First

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

HOW?

With What You Have

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

With what you know

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

With Christ as your model

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

WHAT’S NEXT?

 Pray

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

Offer

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

Try

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

Close

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

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

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

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

© Woo Bing Siew

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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!

 

There is POWER in God’s Word!

The cherry credenza/computer desk was beautiful, and I was almost finished! I was going to be so proud of this lovely piece of furniture, and was thrilled with the number of  cubby holes, drawers, and shelves that would take care of the PC, a large monitor (or two!), a printer–all the things one has to have to be “Technologically Correct” [sic]. Picking up the screwdriver, I quickly unscrewed the last shelf I had put on backwards and fixed it. Looking around the floor, my glance spied a cherry piece that was buried on the couch, then some packing materials seemed to have been thrown on top. Ugh! Even worse–it wasn’t ONE piece, it was FOUR! Where on earth did they go?? Looking at the numerous holes in the boards I had put together, I sought to locate something that didn’t look, well, quite correct… It wasn’t hard to spot several. Digging out the Instruction Sheet, and simultaneously placing the 4 pieces beside me, I tried to find what they were, and where they should have gone. Double ugh. Out of 43 steps and several thousand nuts, turn screws, pieces of wood, etc., these went on somewhere around Steps 4, 7, 11 and 18. You have got to be kidding. I was so glad my husband wasn’t around–he gets a laugh out of the pieces I generally have left over, and you would think I had learned my lesson that any company who puts an Instruction Sheet in with their product might be doing so with good reason. I haven’t. I always figure logic and experience, guided by intelligence, will get the job done quickly and correctly. Obviously one of the three is misguided..

My final decision: I’ll try to remember (next time) to look at the step-by-step directions. Of course by then, I’ll probably have forgotten this experience, and use logic all over again. I also decided that the system probably really didn’t need these pieces, but I’ll keep them just in case.

Somehow, in my twisted maze of connecting dots, it made me recall many years ago when my husband and our pastor would go visiting on Tuesday nights. On this particular evening they went to the house of someone who had visited the church for the first time on the past Sunday, and indicated they would like a visit from the pastor. As they were ushered into the living room, there, laying nicely displayed on the coffee table, was a Bible. The pastor remarked about it, and made a comment about the translation. The homeowner, a man, said, “Yes, we keep it right there. It sometimes encourages me just to lay my hand on it as I walk through the living room.” Seriously. He really said that. When my husband told me of the visit, all I could think of was the analogy of having a large bottle of Multi-Vitamins sitting there, and making the same remark. Some things aren’t meant for touching, I’ll grant you that, but other things are going to be useless to you unless you take what is inside into your “innards.” In the case of the Bible, into your heart and mind, the vitamins into your body. Rubbing the outside of either is foolishness carried to an extreme.

This past Sunday Pastor Jonathan Falwell preached on the POWER that is found in the Word of God. As he spoke, I briefly reflected on my enormous book collection–spanning the 1800’s, 1900’s and 2000’s. Only one grandchild has asked for the collection to be willed to her. One set of books, by Arthur Maxwell, (Bedtime Stories), brings back tons of memories, as I would sit on the floor at my aunt’s house, behind a chair (don’t ask), and read story after story. Recently I got one of the volumes out to read to two younger grandchildren. I found myself having to constantly change words or phrases, as the millennial generation has no clue (at least if they inherited MY genes) what an ironing board is, what a clothesline is, and various and sundry other situations that they cannot identify with! In other words, can you imagine how hard it would be to write a book that would be “living,” and pertinent to all generations from 4000 BC, to 2000 AD? (Yes, I’m very aware it is now BCE and CE. I don’t go there.) I recently read a Christian suspense that was written before cell phones became the way of life. They were using their landline, and only occasionally used their cell. I actually looked back to the date the book was copyrighted (not that long ago), knowing the author probably had no idea life would begin revolving around the cell phone as the early 2000’s passed. The Bible, as Pastor Falwell quoted A. W. Tozer, is “God’s present VOICE, speaking to us!” It is as valuable as an instruction sheet, a GPS, or a map. We desperately need what is inside of its covers in order to function in this chaotic world, so full of turmoil and sorrow, as we saw the news of Las Vegas yesterday.

So, if you’re ready, grab a drink, your notebook, and hop in an easy chair, and watch the sermon from Sunday, October 1, at http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and choose “START: The Power of the Word.” The study and notes below will help you delve a little deeper into the Bible, and writing out your thoughts will cement them more firmly in your mind. If you have a friend with you, do the study together, but in any case, enjoy and grow! Let it be the power that navigates you through the mayhem and mess that will come into your life this week.

START: The Power of the Word                                                                                          October 1, 2017                                                                                                                    Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

If you’ve been around small children, you no doubt realize that a 2 or 3 year old can disappear or get into something they shouldn’t within seconds! You have to keep your “radar” out constantly, knowing exactly what they were doing. Can you  think of a time or story when your watchfulness paid off? If you’re alone, write your thoughts in your notebook.

Today we continue the series “START,” as we learn to recognize the different ways God directs us, guiding us to the next step in our walk with Him—and caring for us. Last week we made certain we are His child; this week we want to absorb what a perfect Father He is, constantly watching out for us, and giving us guidance through His word.

Focal Passages: 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; Psalm 119:11, 105; James 1:22-25;1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

Think About or Discuss:

THE POWER OF THE WORD:

  1. Read Hebrews 4:12. What attributes does the Bible have?
  2. What does it mean that the Bible is “living?”

Read What It Says:

  1. Read 2 Tim. 3:16a. What is meant that the Scripture is “inspired”?
  2. The Bible is God, speaking to you! How does that excite you?
  3. What are some reasons that about 80% of “church goers” do not read their Bible daily, or perhaps not at all?

Quote by A. W. Tozer: [The Bible] is God’s present Voice which makes His written word all powerful! Otherwise it should be locked in slumber within the covers of a Book.”

Learn What It Means:

  1. Read verse 16b. There is a difference in reading the Bible to check it off of your “to do” list, as opposed to studying it to learn what God wants to say to you. If you do not understand a verse, what sources are available to help you? (There is a list at the end).
  2. Read 2 Peter 1:2-4. According to these verses, why is it so necessary that you take time to study the Scriptures?

Put It Into Practice:

  1. Read verses 16c, 17. Why should you be instructed in the teaching of the Word? How do you believe you can handle the things the world throws at you, if you don’t know how God wants you to react?
  2. Read James 1:22-25. If you are going to be called by His name, how does He want you to act?

Close

Do you stand in awe that a book written 2000-6000 years ago can prove to be applicable to every generation, for doctrine (guidance for being taught), reproof (an expression of disapproval), correction and instruction in righteousness? To the one who loves the Lord and wants a deeper relationship, nothing compares with the Bible, as well as your quiet time alone with Him when you can focus on His Word. It should be compared to the same discipline you might have for working out, eating healthy meals, romancing or spending quality time with those you love. Be aware that Satan will throw many curve balls at you (phone calls, interruptions, etc.) to break your concentration! If you read it year after year, decide to study it with different goals so it never becomes “ordinary”: perhaps look for prayers as you read one year, and write them in a notebook; another year focus on the promises that are contained within the pages as God speaks. If you read a chapter or section, and find your attention has wavered, go back and re-read it. Seek out Life Groups or Bible Studies that will help you understand it. It will generate a feeling of humility, of love, and a greater idea of what God has done for you, to read His word and put your name in places that refer to mankind. Can you imagine a Navy SEAL, or an Army Green Beret, or a Marine, being slack in their training, or ashamed to confess their occupation? Certainly not! And if you are as dedicated to God as a soldier is to his position, you will do all you can to be a walking testimony. Eventually, realizing that He truly is residing within you as God, the Holy Spirit, you should come to the place where you talk to Him often during your day, and He will become so much more to you—the best friend you could ever have.

Memory Verse: 2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (NKJV)

Notable quotes: A. W. Tozer: “Reading the Word of God is the only way to discover the Will of God. If you’re trying to discover God’s Will for your life without reading God’s Word for your life, you’re wasting your time.”  “God did not write a book and send it by messenger to be read at a distance by unaided minds. He spoke a Book and lives in His spoken words, constantly speaking His words and causing the power of them to persist across the years.”

*Ed Stetzer, September 13, 2012

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.

 

TAKE THE NEXT STEP!

Standing in the cereal aisle at WalMart, the first minute seemed easy: pick a good cereal that 7 children under 13 would like. Two minutes go by–the cereal is beginning to fog. Eliminate the ones that are healthy; been there, done that. The box doesn’t get opened except by one, and goes bad before half is eaten. Hmmm. Eliminate the ones that look like candy bars, and the ones that will leave them with sugar overload for the next 72 hours. The longer I stand and look, the more everything seems to blend together and the eyeballs start to cross. I thought I just saw that cereal down at the other end… no, this one has double the raisins. Scratch that. Five minutes turns into ten. How can it take so long to select a box of cereal? Apparently quite a while. I see others looking. “Are all the boxes starting to look alike to you, or is it just me?” I asked the man who is standing with a lost look on his face. “Oh, yes!” he replies. “My wife told me to get Cheerios. She didn’t mention there were somewhere around two hundred varieties!” We begin to pace at opposite ends of the aisle. This could take until breakfast tomorrow to choose.

Finally, I decide there’s a better option. I decide to go to the half-way point of the aisle, turn around until I get dizzy, then take seven steps (hopefully forward, and not run flat into the cereal itself), reach out and grab a box. I do. Wheaties. Forget that bright idea.

The longer I managed this walk-a-thon, the more I saw how it is likened to our daily life. You question that? Polls, though not substantiated, suggest the average adult makes about 35,000 choices a day, and a child makes about 3,000. That means you are faced with the option of doing something for the good of someone else, or the good of yourself, thousands of times a day. It also means your child must choose based on his or her training in good behavior, choices that could change their lives hundreds of times a day. As they grow older, the choices increase. That should scare us all out of our shoes. Think of your teenager making 5,000 good choices a day. How about 3?

How often are you faced with a situation and you’re not sure if it’s right or wrong? We’re currently in the market for a new home (new for us). As we have spent hours and ridden miles on the roads, and put gallons and gallons of gas into the car, we keep praying, “Lord, please give us wisdom about this next house!” So far He has. Some seem perfect, and we’re really interested. Until we see the structural damage. Some seem perfect, and are–and someone gets a contract on it while we’re discussing the pros and cons. He has shut every door so far, and we are slowly learning what we’re really looking for. Our next step is to find the one that fits the criteria we have been working through!

Does it sound familiar? One of the Christian writers about thirty years ago wrote that often it’s okay with the Lord if you choose Option A or Option B. That may be so but I’d rather He slam the door, or leave it wide open with a fruit basket inside.

This past Sunday Jonathan Falwell preached on “START,” a new series that will be taking us to recognizing that no matter where we are in our Christian walk, we are never stagnant, but always have a “next step” to take. Get your Bible, a notebook, a drink, and go to http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and choose “Start” for Sunday, September 24. You’ll find the message inspiring and the sermon study a time to dig deeper to find God’s will for your life. But first you have to know for sure: are you a believer? Will your testimony hold up when you breathe your last? Will you stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Christ, or with sticky notes of good works pasted to you? Will you be one to whom God says “I never knew you,” or will you hear “Well done!”? Enjoy the worship service, and let the Holy Spirit guide you to your next step!

START: How Can I Be Sure?                                                                                          Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

There are so many decisions that must be made in life, and the right path is not always easy to know. For instance, “Is she/he the right person for me to marry?” Can you think of an example when you struggled with not being certain about something crucial?

This week we start a new series simply entitled “START.” All of us are on different levels of faith, of commitment, or maturity, but we want to know what the next step is for our situation. Dr. Falwell originally wrote a pamphlet, “How to Get Started Right,” outlining those next steps. Before we look at those steps, let’s be positive that we are in a right relationship with God, without any doubt of our salvation.

Focal Passages: Ephesians 2:1-9; John 3:16, 4:14, 8:52,10:27-29; 1 Corinthians 1:8,9; Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 13:5; 1 John 1:3-4, 5-10, 2:3-5, 2:15, 3:2-3, 3:5-6, 3:14, 3:22, 4:1-3, 5:1-2, 5:14-15.

Think About or Discuss: (If you’re not in a group, keep your answers in a notebook!)

Background:

  1. Read Eph. 2:1b-3. What is the condition of the person who has not asked Jesus to save them?
  2. Read verses 4-6. “But God” stepped in and did what? Why (vs. 4)?
  3. Read verses 8-9. How were you saved? Did you do something to merit it? If you had achieved it by being good, could you boast about it?

How You Can Be Sure:

You will want to know Him:

  1. Has there been someone in your life—a spouse or best friend—about whom you had the desire to know everything about?
  2. If you are going to trust God with your life, what are some things you will want to know about Him (for instance, is He always trustworthy?)? Where are you going to find these character traits?

Conviction of your sin:

  1. Read John 14:26. It is said that there is no one more miserable than a true Christian who is living a sinful lifestyle. What can you conclude if you have a sinful addiction, and are not convicted about it?
  2. Read 1 John 3:6. How does the Scripture back up the conclusion you just came to concerning a lifestyle of sin?

Seek fellowship with other Christians:

  1. Read 1 John 1:7. Think of a fire: if you pull a piece of log out from the rest, what soon happens to it? How is that like a Christian who does not fellowship with other believers? Do you get that fellowship watching a service on the television? Do your companions lift you up or tear you down?
  2. At our churches, what is the biggest benefit of being part of a Life Group?

Understand the power of prayer:

  1. In your family or environment, how much of a relationship would you eventually have if you took no time to communicate with the others?
  2. The Person Who has taken up residence in your life wants a very personal, loving relationship with you. Do you have a special name for Him that signifies your deepest feelings for talking with Him? What does James 5:16b tell you?

Recognize the importance of God’s Word:

  1. Going back to family again, or even before that, to your relationship as it grew with the person closest to you (if applicable), if you received a letter from her/him, how did you treat it?
  2. How do you view the books of the Bible, in giving you a guideline to know God, His plan, and how to live your life? Read 1 Peter 2:2-3 and 2 Peter 1:3. What do these verses tell you about Scripture? Read Psalm 119:11. What is another reason for memorizing His word?

Close

Have you ever asked people where they will spend eternity? It is very few who will answer “Hell.” Since almost everyone assumes they will go to heaven, you must follow your question up with “What are you basing your hope on?” You already know most will say their good must outweigh their bad. This is so unfortunate and incorrect, and brings great pain to those of us who have tried to reach family members who are in a works-based religion. The START of a journey with Jesus Christ is to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were “dead in your sin” and being so, were powerless to resurrect yourself. BUT GOD, through His great love with which He loved YOU, was willing to save you, and give you a new life of salvation. It was Grace—all grace—and nothing that you did. He offered it to you freely, asking that you live your new life with Him at the center. Did you accept that gift? If you did, He adopted you, and nothing you can do will cause Him to back out of this relationship. However, Romans 6 begins by telling us that the adoption by God is not a license to continue to sin. That is why you must do a self-examination with the points outlined above, making certain that your walk is in line with the Biblical precepts. If you have no desire to read your Bible, change your way of a sinful lifestyle, be with other Christians, or pray, you might need to reassess your conversion experience. However, if He is alive and well within you, and you are maturing in your walk with Him, begin by talking aloud with Him every time He crosses your mind! Nothing you say to Him will shock Him, cause Him to condemn you or think less of you, (He knows it anyway,) and the constant conversation will eventually morph into a close relationship that will flood your soul. You will “never find a friend so faithful!”

Memory Verse: Ephesians 2:4-5: But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). (NKJV)

© Matthiashaas

ID 5704867 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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

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