Putting Self Last

pic7The fat chickens waddled around the yard, looking for more grain. We were thrilled! They were almost ready for the State Fair, where they would be entered as “meat birds,” meaning they were as plump as could be, and very young. We raised show chickens, turkeys, and geese, but the meat birds should take a blue ribbon! We had come up with a scheme that we thought was an original idea: each evening and night my husband would go out to the coop and turn on the light where the meat birds were. They thought it must be daytime, and would immediately go to the feed trough. After about ten minutes, he would turn the light off. This he did three times each night. By the time the fair was ready, the birds were as well! Taking them in cages, we happily trucked them to the Poultry Barn on the Fairgrounds.

It went as we hoped. On the day of judging, Blue Ribbons and Best of Show hung on the cages of our lovely meat birds. Some of the others won ribbons as well, but these in particular were the envy of many who had raised this type of chicken several times, whereas we were pretty new to the world of shows. The kids were proud to take many ribbons home from every fair we entered.

There was such a spiritual lesson in this season of our lives, as we look back upon the hours we spent each day with the care and maintenance of the poultry. It is a common saying (but not true!) that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The chickens were not old by any means–nor dogs–but they, like Pavlov’s dog, were able to have their focus redirected so that they learned a new lifestyle. We can as well. If you’re reading this study, it’s not too late for you! The Bible says in Hebrews, “today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart!” (Heb. 4:7b). It’s not too late. The lesson for us all is that it is never too late to become a child of God–no matter your past–and begin a new life. The consequences will never be erased, but the direction of your life can start anew. Jesus promises that if anyone comes to Him, He will make them into a new creation; old things will pass away, never to be remembered and brought up against you again, and all things in your life will become new. The consequences? In many cases He will give you opportunities to minister to people who are going/have gone through the same thing, and you will be able to minister to them, perhaps leading them to the Savior.

Many of us have a life that we once lived focused completely on ourselves. That is not God’s best for any of us. He desires that He comes first in our hearts, and that we value other people and their life, more than we value our own. Tough? You bet! But with God, all things are possible! Even getting along with someone who has been a foe. Nothing erases a hurt spirit like praying for those who hate us. Give God a chance to make all things new in your life, and, like the meat birds, learn a whole new way of living!

This is the perfect time to stop, get your notebook for notes and a friend, family or group of friends, and get comfortable. If you’ve already heard Sunday’s sermon from Thomas Road Baptist Church, jump right into the study below. If you haven’t heard it, click on http://www.trbc.org/service-archive, and select the sermon for November 27, 2016. If you have time, worship with the song service, then listen as Jonathan Falwell preaches the word of God. The study questions below will help you go a little further in depth, and perhaps something spoken or written will change your life, so that you, indeed, will love God and love people with all your heart, and Christmas will become a time of giving, not getting!

            SELF ON THE SHELF: REFOCUS OR REGRET!

Almost everyone has–at some time–realized that if we continue down a certain path, it can lead to an end we’re not ready for. Write down or discuss an example.

This week we enter the Christmas season, when our “wants” can easily become the focus of much money and time. God entered this earth to provide us with salvation through the greatest story ever told. It is only by intentionally taking the awareness off of our own desires and placing our focus on Him that we will get the truth of what His coming means to each of us.

Focal Passages: 1 John 2:15-17; Luke 1:5-14

Think About or Discuss:

God’s View

  1. In 1 John 2:15 and verse 17, what does God warn you to be alert for in your own life? He has told you what pleases Him in Luke 10:27. What does this mean to you personally?

QUESTION: This Christmas, how can I show my neighbor that he/she is more important than I am?

The World’s View

  1. Read verses 16 and 17. What does the world tempt you with constantly? Think of the commercials you see daily. Does the phrase “It’s all about me” sum them up?
  2. Can you illustrate with an example the truth that what should be the “Reason for the Season” has instead become all about you or your family?

QUESTION: What can you do to re-direct your focus from this path of having more “stuff,” to see that it is used for the good of others?

A Refocused Heart is One Fixed on Him

  1. In Luke 1:6,7, what are some characteristics of Elizabeth and Zechariah? List some feelings that would have been uppermost because of their inability to conceive.
  2. What did a childless couple endure in those days?

Even When Things Don’t Go Your Way

  1. Did they let the unanswered prayer for a child stop them from keeping their focus on loving God?

Refocus or Regret

  1. What did the angel tell Zechariah in verse 13b? Do you think that was a prayer that had been recent? Why or why not?

QUESTION: Where is your heart in the midst of disappointments, unanswered prayers, and shortcomings?

Close:

It hardly seems possible that we are again at the beginning of another Christmas season! As we enter this month, list some of the opportunities that are possible for you to help with through our church or community. In doing so, you can contribute to bringing the good news of the gospel to those outside the church. Examine your heart to make certain that your lifestyle is not hung up on adding more “things” to an already-overflowing home, and that you’re not breeding materialism in yourself. We all have today to begin on a new path that will yield eternal rewards. Pray that the joy of Christmas would be abiding in you every day, and that you pass it on to everyone you meet.

Daily:                                                                                                                                                              1) Praise God daily   (Psalm118:24)

2) Repent of your sins—never allow them to continue   (Psalm32:5)

3) Seek reconciliation with anyone who carries a grudge, has upset, hurt or been  unfair to you (Matthew 5:24)

4) Look for ways to bring joy to someone each day                                                                        (1 Thes.4:7)

5) Focus on what really matters (Phil. 4:8)

Memory Verse: 1 John 2:15: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.’”

Focal Passages: 1 John 2:15-17; Luke 1:5-15, Luke 10:27.

WHAT ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR?


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“Where did you…?” “Do you remember…?” “Can you help me find…?” Does this sound like your day, or are you one of those beautifully organized people who knows where everything is? That’s not most of us! We are so inundated with busyness that little things (like where the car keys were placed when we ran through the house to grab that last item), become a source of interruptions and stress. Even when it’s really, really important, and we mean to write it down, by the time we’ve found a pen we’ve been distracted away from making the note. Forgetfulness. The way we live our lives.

Recently we had a time in our Sunday School where we were able to praise God for something He had done for us this past year. I raised my hand, thinking of Valentine’s Day when a doctor told my husband–based on a CT Scan–that he probably had 3-6 months to live. The result ended with the tumor not being malignant, but we went through turmoil during the month waiting for the news. The leader then said, “And what about his accident?” It had totally crushed both his and the other person’s vehicle, the cars mashed beyond description, yet both men walked away. My response? “Oh! You’re right–and I forgot that!”

The bad thing is, there is so much we need to remember! God does something wonderful in our lives, or something beautiful happens; perhaps a moment flies by and we want to make a memory, or we have a great idea–and yet a few hours later it’s no longer there. Are you saying, “I know, right”? That recognition led our family one year to a wonderful find. It wasn’t our idea, but we knew when we heard of it that it was meant for us: it was simply called The Thanksgiving Jar.

Because we’ve always led lives filled with “36-hour” days, all the wonderful times that God intervenes on our behalf get forgotten quickly, no matter how great the intention is to remember them for a long period. The Thanksgiving Jar made those times perfect: we would write down the happening, fold the paper in a small piece, and put it into the jar. The next Thanksgiving we would read the pieces after dinner was over.

It was amazing beyond belief. As we passed the jar around, each of us would take a paper and read it. Most of our expressions were, “Wow! I had forgotten about that!” Some brought us to tears. Many were situations we had prayed about, only to have them answered so beautifully. At that time we usually would pray even before going out to yard sales on Saturday: we didn’t have extra money, so if there was something we really needed, we would ask God to provide. He is a good Father–the best–and He always took care of us with our needs. We continued reading the blessings for almost an hour, giving thanks to our God for His care for the year. It was truly a Thanksgiving full of gratitude!

This past Sunday at Thomas Road Baptist Church, we looked at a Psalm by David, the sweet Psalmist of Israel, on “Being Thankful.” No matter his situation, David found ways to praise and thank his God. There is so much we can learn from him. Grab your notebook and a quiet corner, and click on http://www.trbc.org/service-archive, and watch the morning sermon for Sunday, November 20, 2016, then go to the study below and take time to “hunger and thirst” after the teachings God has for you. If you have a friend, family, or group, make a sweet time of fellowship with it. Do it all in one setting, or stretch it out for the week. On Thanksgiving, be sure to praise the Lord for His providing you with means to study His word!

Open:

Although (hopefully) we evidence a spirit of gratitude for things done for us all year, at Thanksgiving we intentionally take time to be thankful for our many blessings. What are some things that you are especially thankful for this year?

David, a man after God’s own heart, filled his life composing beautiful Psalms of praise in gratefulness to God for His care. Remember that many of David’s praises were written when he was pursued by enemies, running for his life, or in a situation that would make praise difficult. Yet today we will look at Psalm 100 and see what we can learn as we fill our hearts with our own praise and thankfulness to God, even if we are in the midst of hard times.

Focal Passage: Psalm 100:1-5

Think About or Discuss:

We Serve Him

  1. Can you name anyone you enjoy serving? What is it about your helping them that brings you a feeling of delight?
  2. David wrote that you should serve God with gladness! What would that look like for you? Read Matthew 25:40. How can you serve someone today that will bring a bit of pleasure to their life?

He is Our Creator and Sustainer

  1. When you discussed or wrote down an answer in the Ice Breaker, according to verse 3, what should one of the answers have been?
  2. Which do you stand on when you are trusting yourself to God’s care: your feelings, or the promises He has given you? Give or write down some examples.

We Can Stand in His Presence

  1. When is the last time you prayed, without distractions, and then remained quiet so you could hear Him if He answered? How often are you quiet in His presence?
  2. Read John 10:29. What promise is in this verse? How do you know it’s true?
  3. Can you remember the freedom you felt as a child to run into your mom or dad’s arms (or someone you loved) whenever you needed comfort? How do you relate that to your feelings about your heavenly Father?

He Has Shown Us Mercy

  1. What does mercy mean to you? How does God show that to you?
  2. Read Heb. 4:16b; what is the promise in this verse? Why is it not accurate to trust your feelings?

His Truth Will Never End

  1. How long will His truth endure? How many chances will He give you to come running back to Him? Isn’t this something wonderful to share with those who are hopeless?

Close:

Focusing on total praise to God during this Thanksgiving season begins, not with family, your salvation, your children, or material blessings, but with those things He gives us so freely that we take for granted: He knit your life in your mother’s womb, and brought you forth; as soon as you hit the world, air was supplied to you; food and water were given, without which you would not have grown. When you became aware of Him and His great love for you, you could make the decision to turn from your sin to Him, and begin a new life. So many foundation stones were built upon to bring you here to this place where you can worship Him! As you continue through this week, dwell on the wonderful gifts He has given you freely to enjoy. If you meet someone who needs to be thankful, gently point out how much you value the loving Savior and Creator who gave you life.

Memory Verses: Psalm 100:1-5: “Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.”

Focal Passages: Psalm 100; Heb. 4:6.