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.

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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)

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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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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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A SECOND CHANCE…

Are there many feelings quite so great as receiving a second chance? Perhaps you’ve screwed it up royally with a boss, or with a spouse, and they forgive you–isn’t that immense pressure of relief something indescribable? Years ago, I (as many of you!) blamed God for circumstances that were tearing my life apart. I had traced the path that had brought me to where I was, and at each turning I could see there was no one who had been in charge–except God. I felt He had “set me up,” and I was hurt and angrier than I can ever remember being. (Just being honest). Eventually, and yes, it took a while, I saw what He had been teaching me, and it broke my heart. Had He left me at all during that time? No.

It took a long time before I could accept His forgiveness and move on. Have you been there? Allowed Satan to beat you down because of your past? I’ve seldom met anyone who hasn’t (but yes, there are some). It is at that time I think of David, the king, a “man after God’s own heart,” but who was the cause of a multitude of family crises: not only had he sinned with Bathsheba , but it is not too far fetched to believe that he purposely did not go to war–at the time of year when kings went to battle–so that the assignation could take place with her. Did he not consider she might get pregnant? He received a second chance from God when Nathan the prophet came to point out his adultery, and he repented. He later learned a son had raped a daughter; did he take action? No. A brother took action and a line of dominoes fell, causing those waves go throughout his family. Again, God forgave him and in His mercy and grace, loved David.

Peter, that disciple whom we who have a choleric, type A personality, love, was forewarned that not only had Satan asked for the permission to “sift [him] like wheat,” but was told by Jesus that he would deny Him. Think of it! Three years of following Jesus, learning at His feet, seeing the miracles, being adored by the crowds as someone who was in the “in” group around Jesus, and Jesus tells him that he will deny Him three times. Peter’s reaction? “Not me, Lord.” I went through a time in life when I would say, I’ve learned my lesson regarding this certain problem. God showed me I was wrong. Like Peter, I had to be brought low to realize how fragile faith sometimes is.

This past Sunday at Thomas Road, we looked at Jonah–a man whom Jesus referred to, making this not a “fairy tale,” but a true story of a real man, a prophet called by God, who had failings just as we do. Most children know of the man the whale swallowed, but little else. He not only ran from God’s instructions to preach, but also had a very bad attitude after God showed them mercy–forgetting that God had just shown mercy to him by saving his life from the whale. The picture above made me think how I would react if I were vomited up on the shore out of the belly of a fish. I’d be screaming, “I’m alive! I’m alive!!” (I wasn’t able to edit the text in the picture, so just imagine that’s what is being screamed). He was so angry because he felt he had lost face with the people of Nineveh. Do we nurse our pride or guard our reputation to the point we argue with God? There are great lessons to be learned from Jonah’s life, primarily that once we are God’s child, He never disowns us–else there would be no reason for Paul to write, “Can anything separate us from the love of God? Can…” and he lists a ton of reasons, including “THINGS present, and THINGS to come.” That covers just about everything I can think of. How about you? Does it cover what you’ve done? Then you have another chance. Grab it and hang on to His hand!

Get a notebook, an easy chair, and be prepared to watch the service preached this past Sunday. It’s even enjoyable to view the smiling faces of those in the congregation who were taught in Sunday School using real flannelgraphs, as they see the pictures change. Modern technology is great, but the memories of those years of teaching show on the faces, and you can see the smiles. Click on http://www.trbc.org/service-archive and select JONAH, and then do the sermon study below. Invite a friend if you have time, but enjoy the digging into the Scripture.

Flannelgraph of Faith: Jonah                                                                                    Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Occasionally we’re asked to take a responsibility in an event or situation for which we’re competent, but don’t wish to participate. Sometimes we will go so far as to make plans to “be away” in order to escape taking on the task. Can you think of an example? If you’re in a group, share if you can; if not, write your answers in a notebook that will show your growth as a Christian.

Today we will conclude our Flannelgraph series, having used a modern twist on the old visual aid style of teaching. We have reframed the precious stories we learned as children, looking for deeper meanings to apply to our lives as we continue to grow in Christ. We are going to learn from Jonah, the prophet who was commissioned by God to go preach repentance to a people whose sins were leading them to their destruction.

Focal Passages: Jonah, Chapters 1-4

Think About or Discuss:

Background:

  1. Jonah, an Israelite, was called by God to prophecy to the enemy country of Nineveh. Instead of obeying, Jonah ran from God. If you don’t know the first part of Jonah’s life, take time to read chapters 1 to 2:10, and write a short answer.

God’s Call Trumps Our Comfort

  1. What is the most astonishing fact that stands out after God called Jonah to go preach to Nineveh?
  2. How was his fleeing in the opposite direction the same as your knowing to obey God, but not doing it? How does God view the difference between the two situations?
  3. Where was Jonah when the storm from God came upon the ship? How can you compare this to the storms that may come into your life when you are in disobedience to God’s will? Why does He bring those storms (Heb.12:5,6)?

God’s Redemption Trumps Our Contempt (Anger)

  1. Can you write or discuss what occurred after the sailors threw Jonah into the sea?
  2. Read Jonah 2:2-10. Everyone can certainly understand Jonah’s fervent prayer of repentance when he found himself inside the belly of the whale, miraculously alive. Why does incredible trouble cause you to repent of known sin and turn to God? Was 9/11 a good example? Why?
  3. What happened next? Read 3:1-10 if you’re not sure. How was Jonah received in Nineveh?
  4. How did he react? Read 4:1-4.

God’s Salvation Trumps Everything

  1. It is easy to criticize Jonah’s reaction to God’s incredible mercy to the people of Nineveh, but what was his real problem? What was he missing that had just happened in his own life? Are you ever aware that God is merciful toward you, but subsequently you get angry as He shows mercy to someone you think unworthy?
  2. God acted again in mercy, even following Jonah’s angry response. What happens in the last several verses of chapter 4? Even though Jonah was in sin, reacting with hurt pride, God still granted him grace and mercy. Can you think of an example when He gave you grace when you didn’t deserve it?

Close:

What a short book to be so full of lessons for life! We have seen how God in His power wanted to save an ungodly heathen nation, bringing them to Himself. In calling Jonah, He showed His authority over nature by causing the storm over the boat; His control was again manifest as He provided a sea creature to not only swallow Jonah, but provided air for him in the belly of the whale. He gave Jonah another chance to go to Nineveh, where He used him to cause an entire kingdom to repent and be saved. He administered grace to an angry prophet, and in love caused a plant to grow for shade. His power over His creation provided a worm to devour the plant, making Jonah all the angrier, yet God was trying to get him to understand how much more valuable a human soul is than a plant.

We can also learn totally different lessons from the first chapter. We have an enemy who is alive and well, roaming the earth to tempt and devour the believers. As we read the first few verses we understand that Satan is willing to help those who would run from Jesus, seeking to do their own thing. He will provide a way (in this case, the ship), to make it as easy as possible. But (verse 3b) there is always a “fare” that must be paid for running. And Satan cannot stop the Almighty God when He is ready to rescue and use His servant.

Hopefully, as you go about your daily activities this week, you pay special attention to your actions, choosing always to follow God. God is our Rescuer, our Deliverer, and our Strength. Share Him with those you love—and those you may not love—this week.

Memory Verse: Jonah 2:9: But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.

Ask Yourself: Am I running from anything God has asked me to do?

 

© Svetlin Ivanov

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TRIALS BY FIRE

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flannelgraph of Faith: Prayer and His Presence

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

Focal Passages: Daniel 1, 2, 3

Think About or Discuss:

The Background

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

Pray Like It Matters…Because It Does!

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

Compromise Will Never Deliver 

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

The World’s Power Is No Match For His

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

We Have His Power

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

Close:

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

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

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

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