The license plate arrived in the mail, and I could hardly wait to put it on the van! I wanted everyone to know that a staunch supporter of Liberty University was on the road (it beat the previous WV BLNDE, as everyone gave me plenty of space when passing…)

Someone came to the house a short time later, and my first response was to show them my new plates! “What’s an.. uh.. ‘ee-wee’?” they asked. I gawked at them. “Are you serious? You were raised in sheep country, with flocks on almost every hill, and you don’t know that is how you spell ‘ewe’ [pronounced yew–like ‘you’ for you non-farmers]? It’s the female sheep!”

Here I had thought it was so clever: El, as in God in Hebrew, and Ewe, since I am His “ewe” or His female sheep. At the same time, the phonetic of El Ewe (LU) was perfect (my thinking).

When we had first found a move to Lynchburg was in our immediate future, we were living about 1/2 mile from Virginia Tech–with all its traffic, students, party-atmosphere and cliquishness. Now, less than a year after the move to Blacksburg, my husband was being transferred to Lynchburg. As our son and I drove the first truck load of household goods across the rural countryside, as soon as we began hitting the topography of central Virginia I felt as though I had come “home.” It was so much like North Carolina, and yet still felt “country.” I loved it immediately. For the first time in a year I began to think there might be peace somewhere in the future.

It did not take long before Liberty University became a part of our lives, from their sports to education, from their chancellor, Jerry Falwell, Sr., to their desire to become the biggest and best Christian university in America. We embraced it all. Thus, my pride in having a tag that proclaimed our allegiance to Liberty!

As we became more well-known around Lynchburg, I realized that not everyone felt it a privilege to have a massive university in their formerly small town. The best analogy I can think of is a rural country church, where the membership has been a stagnant 80 since the 1800’s when it was organized. When a newer, more modern pastor came who loved the Lord, who wanted to serve his community and win souls, strangers began attending the church: strangers who did not look like, think like or act like those who had been there for decades. Why, they didn’t even wear 3 piece suits! Didn’t they know that was part of being saved?? So it was with Lynchburg. People who wanted their small town to remain a small town resented the building progress that was eternal. Shops, malls, road construction, new restaurants, more churches–well, there is no way to serve an extra hundred thousand people without all the amenities. But not us–we wanted to be a part of all of it.

Driving down the highway, I was cut off by a driver not looking where they were going. I started to yell “Idiot!” when I remembered my tag. Shucks. So much for defensive driving. What had I gotten myself into? Was I not going to be able to go 75mph on Rt. 460, with it’s 55 mph? Get in the right hand lane and drive sane? Soooo not me. As a former pastor once said (from the pulpit), “it just aggravates me to have anyone else on the road who is going faster than me!” Yes, he really did say that. I hoped he didn’t have a plate that reflected which church he preached at. (No, that is not my attitude–I’m always glad when someone flies past me, hoping they will get to the cop before I do…) Still, I was right that my tag was a deterrent to bad driving. Here it is, five years later, and I’m still not only driving with that plate, but EL EWE 2 on my other car. And every time I’m tempted to tailgate someone who is going slowly, toot when they don’t peel out when the light turns green, or some other action that causes me to want to blow them off the road, I think of my plate. Am I being a testimony of what LU stands for? If I don’t drive with safety and the welfare of others in mind, will they remember it was a woman, or will they think “Those LU people!” Yep, they’ll blame the university.

This past Sunday Jonathan Falwell preached how not only our own personal lives, but our church itself should be relevant in an age when it seems “everyone does what is right in his own eyes.” People are watching you as you go through the routine of daily living, trying to be a Christian in spite of everything thrown at you, the porn, the evil lusts, the profanity, the adultery… and they’re waiting for you to slip. Now is a good time–if you didn’t see the sermon Sunday, to click on http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and select A New Day In the Old Way. Watch the sermon, and keep your notebook and a hot drink handy, then do the study below, and ask yourself, “how is my behavior reflecting on Christ? Do the things I do represent Him in a way that would make others know I’m different?” Hopefully you can answer yes. If not, change your behavior, or change your “tag,” right?

A New Day in the Old Way

Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Have you ever held a position, whether possibly by birth or at your job, that caused you to conduct yourself carefully when you are in public? Can you think of an example?

We have entered the new year of 2018, and already the first week has passed! Sunday we looked at the church, and its relevancy in the 21st century. It has had to evolve throughout centuries of change, but the past one hundred years has wrought the greatest transformation, as technology enables all parts of the earth to be interconnected. Is the church still important? Let’s see what God says.

Focal Passage: Matthew 16:13-18.

Think About or Discuss:

WHAT IS THE CHURCH?

The Church is God-ordained

  1. Read Matt. 13-18. In verse 18a, Who builds the church? What was Jesus speaking of?
  2. Many of you have lived long enough to see massive changes in the world; what are some ways the church (as a unit) has changed during the years you’ve lived?
  3. What are some signs your church is in line with New Testament doctrine?

WHY IS THE CHURCH IMPORTANT?

          The church is not a building or an organization, it’s YOU!

  1. Read 1 Cor. 1:1-3. Who was Paul writing to? What did he call them? What were the common characteristics of each “church”?
  2. In the ice breaker, you thought of the way you sometimes present yourself, either as a representative of your family or company. How do you see your behavior as a believer in Jesus Christ as being a testimony to others?
  3. Do you “go” to church, or are you the church, wherever you are? Explain.

IS THE CHURCH STILL RELEVANT TODAY?

          Jesus is the Head of the church

  1. Read Col. 1:18. What does Paul say in this verse? How are the underground churches that meet in basements in foreign lands, the groups who meet in Africa under trees, or Christians meeting in air-conditioned buildings in America the same? Which might possibly hold their faith more precious, and why?
  2. Each day newspapers are reporting businesses that are closing their doors after decades of trade. Verse 18b assures us of what fact? How can this be?
  3. Every business or organization has a focus, either on fashion, health, or spirituality. Why will people find no “rest” for their souls (Heb, 4:9) in any place except a solid Bible-teaching group of fellow-believers?

DO I REALLY NEED TO BE A PART OF THE CHURCH

          Jesus gave a Plan for the church

  1. Read Acts 2:42. What were the apostles doing in the early days after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension back to heaven?
  2. Read Matt. 28:19. Why did the church in Jerusalem have to undergo tribulation to get them to begin changing the world?

Jesus gave us the Keys to the church

  1. Read John 1:12. What does Christ expect of you once you have given your life to Him?
  2. Read Eph. 2:19. Becoming a member of a family requires what responsibility? Is this the same as becoming a Christian?
  3. Read Heb. 10:23-25. What is so important about fellowship?

Close

God is so incredibly above “all that we could ask or think!” and you will never figure Him out. When He ordained the church (the body of believers who meet to worship, praise and learn of Him), its purpose was to bring together those of like minds and common goals, and spread the good news that salvation was now available to all men. We meet together to know Him better, praise and draw near to Him, depend on Him for our very life, and to take care of each other. The church is magnificent in its function, and if we carried out its duties as He intended, we would see many souls added to it. In the early days after Jesus had returned to His Father, the apostles and believers shared what they had, met together, did life together, and took care of their own. There may be some civic organizations that take on some of those roles, but none focuses on the spiritual to the extent the church does. But do you realize that you—even when alone—represent the church? When people know you are a Christian, they observe what you do and how you speak. When you go out among strangers or friends, you need to keep your heart focused on the truth that you represent Him to those you meet. As we begin this new year, let us keep our thoughts centered on being the “church” that most people avoid. Do you smile at them? Say hello? You are drawing them to you, showing them a love they get few other places. Eventually you may earn their trust and a time will come when you can share your faith. Don’t be afraid of being the church in the world—embrace the possibility and be a pleasing aroma to God!

Key Verses: Matt. 16:18: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (NKJV)

 

 

A RESOLVE TO LOVE!

Day 3! Are you still on target with your resolutions? That seems to be the topic of conversation on radio, among friends, and on the news or talk shows since Monday morning! I didn’t realize it’s such a big deal. Face it, it’s a big deal.

Do you know what the 3 most-resolved options are? 1) To lose weight (probably the other 364 days as well); 2) To sign up with an online dating service, and 3) To get back in church.

Seems rather disjointed, doesn’t it? But not really. If (the world tells us) we’re as thin as a rail, someone will love us for how we look. If we sign up for online dating, maybe we’ll find someone who will love us. And if we get back into church, maybe we’ll find someone who will love to be with us. Ugh. Did you just go wash your hands? The world has us brainwashed.

The truth is, everyone wants to be loved! The truth is, Someone loves YOU! Not only loves you, but loves you with all your idiosyncrasies, extra pounds, unruly hair–or no hair, last year clothes, freckles–and any other symbol that stands out to you as a reason not to be loved. He loves you because He made you. He loves you so much that He took the punishment you deserve for a sinful life style, and paid for it by dying a criminal’s death–even the death on a Cross. Jesus Christ is His name.

A story that bears repeating occasionally concerns one of one of my sons, when he was young.  He had said some very harsh words, and in that era, washing out one’s mouth with a slight bit of soap was considered appropriate punishment. As I picked up the bar, he was already in tears. I stopped, and told him that this one time I was going to use the soap to wash MY mouth, rather than his, and take his punishment. He flew into a panic, yelling and screaming. “No, Mommy! You didn’t say those words, I did!” I did wash out my mouth, and then he grabbed for the bar. I had to explain the punishment was already paid, but he was beyond distraught because I would do that, rather than cleaning his, when he deserved it. I spent some time lovingly guiding him through the actions of Jesus, Who took the punishment for our sins so that we could have everlasting life. He got the message.

I have to believe, so many today are like my son: they would rather pay for their own sins (which is impossible), rather than accepting the free gift of life that Jesus so lovingly offers, because then they would owe Him their life. If you could make a resolution that you can stick to for this year, why not resolve to show love to those who reject Jesus, to the unlovely, to the hurting, to the sinful, or to the weak in spirit? Love God, and love your neighbor. Not easy perhaps, but possible. Had it not been, He would not have told us to do it.

This first week of the new year is a great time to get yourself back into a close, intimate relationship with Jesus. In doing so, join with Thomas Road Baptist Church, listening to Jonathan Falwell as he teaches on “Pressing On,” as we strive to know Jesus better, love Him more, and obey Him fully. Get your notebook, and click on the link http://www.trbc.org/service-archive, and select the service that pops up, “Pressing On.” As a new note, this year daily write on your calendar ONE thing each day that you’re thankful for. You’ll find that after just three days, there are already blessings abundant. Our God is so able to do so much more for us that we can even ASK or–even better–THINK! That’s amazing, when you consider it. Don’t you think so?

Pressing On                                                                                                                                             Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Finding a time or circumstance in which to make a fresh start is a great thing. The beginning of a new year always encourages us to make goals that we hope will create a change in our lives! What other times might hold new hope? Write your answers in a notebook if you are alone.

As we at Thomas Road end 2017, we know we answered firmly that Christ is the only reason for the Christmas season. Now we can’t help but hope 2018 might be a year of new beginnings. Perhaps it will be the year we achieve a long dreamed-of goal, or reach a new level of faith. Let’s strive with the apostle Paul toward the goal of knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection better than we ever have before.

Focal Passage: Philippians 3:1-14.

Discuss:

THE PAST SHOULD STAY THERE

Our beliefs about the past

  1. Read verse 13. Why did Paul give this piece of advice (which he himself followed)? What happens to any living thing if it remains stagnant? Read verses 2-3. Why does Paul warn against holding onto traditions learned as immature believers?
  2. Read verses 6-7. All the good works in the world can’t save anyone. How did Paul find this out for himself? Read Ephesians 2:8-9. What are some traditions the church is still holding onto today that should be put into the past.                                                                                                                                  What we should believe
  3. Read verse 8. What is the only thing worthwhile that will help you, keep you, protect you, and save you? What were some of them Paul counted as nothing? (Is there anything you are relying on for salvation, other than the work of Jesus Christ on the cross? Answer in your heart.)
  4. How can you commit to “knowing Him better” as one of your New Year’s goals—and then keeping a daily journal to see that your progress?

THE GOAL IS CLEAR

  1. Read verse 10. If you set your goal for 2018 to know Christ better, what could that look like? What would change as you come to know Him more intimately?
  2. What is the fruit that begins to come as you know Him better? (Gal. 5:22-23.)
  3. Read verse 12. Paul wanted the church to know he had not “arrived.” What does he say he has to do?

THE GOAL? PURSUIT OF CHRIST AND THE PROMISE OF HEAVEN

  1. Read verses 13-14. What were the three things Paul disciplined himself to do?
  2. What are some ways you can take control in these areas? Read Heb. 12:1.

Close

If you’ve ever stood in the sand at a beach as the waves roll in, you know that remaining in one spot will soon pull sand away from your feet, only to cover them higher with each incoming wave. Standing still in the Christian life will destroy your progress, just as surely. Paul knew that he could not let his family, his reputation as a Pharisee, his zeal for God and eventually his torture of Christians, define who he was: he became a child of the King the day Jesus met him on the road to Damascus, and from that point on he had to forget those things which had seemed to matter, to become the person God intended him to be. When you reach(ed) the point at which you surrender(ed) your heart to Christ, from then on you must pursue a life of knowing Him, serving Him, and letting the change in your heart be reflected in your lifestyle. What better time to discipline yourself setting these worthy goals than the beginning of a new year? Keep a journal of your progress, your prayers, and His answers this year, so you can see your growth. In a way, life as a disciplined Christian will never become any more of a habit than a new lifestyle of healthy eating habits. One piece of pie, one bag of chips, and suddenly the control slips. Be honest with yourself: admit the slip, and begin again (Prov. 24:16). Strive for the prize that Jesus Christ has promised! Keep pressing on, and if you stumble, get up, knowing the heavenly reward will be waiting when He calls you.

Key Verses: Phil. 3:14: I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (NKJV)

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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

ID 2802747 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

DO YOU HAVE A SERVANT’S HEART?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

START: Taking the Next Step of Service                                                                                      Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

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

Think About or Discuss:

THE NEXT STEP OF SERVICE:

 Putting Jesus First

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

Putting Others First

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

HOW?

With What You Have

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

With what you know

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

With Christ as your model

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

WHAT’S NEXT?

 Pray

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

Offer

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

Try

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

Close

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

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

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

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

© Woo Bing Siew

ID 5620355 | Dreamstime Stock Photo

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

With God, Nothing is Impossible!

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing Is Impossible With God                                                                                          Dr. Ben Guttierez

Open:

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

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

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

Think About or Discuss:

Background:

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

Who Can God Use?

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

God—the Forgiver of Sins

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

No One is Too Wayward That God Cannot Use Them

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

God Changes Hearts

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

Can God Use YOU?

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

 Close:

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

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

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

© Rahjahs

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