Did You Find the Rose Garden?

Once upon a time… someone was promised a garden of roses.

We thought that was how it worked, didn’t we? Raised on Fairy Tales that all ended “happily ever after,” it seemed life–once we were grown–was going to be full of love, joy and roses. Shall I break it to you? It doesn’t happen that way very often.

We prepared for marriage, and hoped to get someone who would always love us unconditionally; we prepared for jobs, and were so fortunate if we got one that paid well. There were some where we had to follow orders simply because we were employed–orders that we sometimes questioned, or felt uncomfortable with.

One, I recall, was a huge, financially sound corporation. A directive came down the line from the people who sat in the plush offices several states away, who had little “hands on” experience to know how their decisions would impact those very people who made them profitable. This was one of the largest banking firms in the nation. A meeting was called, and the employees, all titled, sat at the conference center desk as the President laid out new rules: there would no longer be renewals on loans that were on the books, unless the customer had the cash to back up the loan. We’re not talking about small credit card debt, but commercial loans that might range up to a few million.

As the customers came in when their loan was up for renewal, and found it wasn’t going to be automatically turned over, they were floored. “I’ve never missed a payment, have impeccable credit, and a value of twice what I owe! How can you do this?!” These were real people, people we knew people well, and as we looked into their faces, we knew how incredibly hard it was going to be for them to keep bankruptcy at bay, just because corporate had made a decision, and now it was going to be mandated. So many went under. Our souls were full of guilt: should we fight or flee? How badly did we need the job?

Have you found the working world–or even school–full of favoritism, double standards and politics? Perhaps discrimination when one student, team, employee or person is favored above everyone else for no reason you’re aware of? That’s life today, isn’t it? At least we tell ourselves it is.

That was life thousands of years ago, as well! “There is nothing new under the sun,” Solomon wrote, and while he may have not meant technological advances, the incredible strides made with each generation still blow you away! Kitchen strainers and tableware artifacts have been found that are thousands of years old–and look like they are yesterday’s items.

The sermon yesterday at Thomas Road Baptist Church picks up on an employee–a soldier actually–who was ordered to do his job, and went out to do it. He had no choice, or probably his own life would have been in danger. This amazing story leaves you wondering what happened at the end, how did it turn out, was there a sequel?! Nowadays we would expect a trilogy, or even more. Click on http://www.trbc.org/sermons and then click on “Outsiders: Jesus at the Center,” preached by Charles Billingsley on March 26, 2017. You’ll be enthralled every moment as Charles brings one of the characters to life, fleshes him out, and gives you a beautiful picture of the love of Jesus Christ for each of us. Get your notebook to jot answers to the study below, a drink, a comfy chair, and if you have a friend to share the time with you, worship and study together. It will be a meaningful time of fellowship and feasting on the Bread of Life. Most of all, remember to praise God for the wealth of great teaching that we have available, and the possibility of changing someone’s life for eternity!

Outsiders: Jesus at the Center                                                                                                                                                                                                      Charles Billingsley


Sometimes we can attend a function, meeting, or study that is really important, but sit there feeling very disconnected from the group for any of a number of reasons. Can you think of an example? Jot your answers down if you’re alone, so you can keep a record of your thoughts.

This week we begin a new series, looking for four weeks at people who were part of the crucifixion of Jesus, but did not recognize His deity, and yet were touched by His grace. Whether their heart was changed, we will not know until eternity. Is it possible we—or someone we know—could hear the story of Christ week after week, be touched by His power, but never open our hearts to Him? Let’s look at the story.

Focal Passage: John 18:1-11 Further Passages: John 10:17-18, Luke 22:49-51, 52,53; Matt. 26:53,54; Rom. 8:38, 39.

Think About or Discuss:

The Power of Jesus is Undeniable

  1. Read John 1:3 and Rom. 1:20. What is said of Jesus in these passages? In Romans, what gives evidence there is a Creator? How would you describe His power?
  2. Read John 18:1-7. When Jesus answered “I AM HE,” what was the significance of the words? We think of people falling backwards; what if the soldiers fell forward, or their legs gave out: what would be their posture? What Scripture would have been fulfilled in the lives of those men? (Rom. 14:11)

The Love of Jesus is Unconditional

  1. Read verses 8-9. Who was Jesus concerned for as the guards came to arrest Him?
  2. Read Col. 2:13,14. What kind of love would cause someone to die for persons so vile as to be “dead” in their sins?
  3. Read Rom. 8:38, 39. How would you describe unconditional love? Do you struggle with loving like that?

The Grace of Jesus is Indescribable

  1. Read verse 10. What was significant about Malchus’ position in Jewish hierarchy? What was Peter’s intent (probably)?
  2. Read verse 11. Who can tell what happened next (from Luke 22:51)? Why was Malchus not “deserving” of the grace of Jesus?
  3. Think: Does anyone owe you something—perhaps money? Does it bother you? How does that compare with the grace you received from God?


There are not enough words for us to describe the power of God, with our finite minds and vocabulary. How can we comprehend a universe where the stars alone exceed a number over 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000—and He knows them all by name? Such power is indescribable. The creation (Rom. 1:20) alone testifies to all men that there is a Creator, so no one who will stand before God has an excuse. When Jesus answered, “I am He,” He was using the words God used for His Name: the great I AM. It’s scary to think that perhaps we’ve become so used to going to church, talking about the Lord, singing, praying and even praising Him, that we have lost the awe and reverence of His power! Perhaps He is no longer  held in such high esteem that we, like Isaiah, would cry out, “Woe is me!” To be the recipient of the kind of love available to men by calling on His name is unfathomable. To have Him remove your vilest sins, casting them as far as the east is from the west, is incomprehensible, and yet we get upset or turn away when He does not answer our prayers, or give us what we want. Our knowledge is a drop in a bucket and His is as limitless as possible, and yet we often treat Him like a servant, or a genie in a lamp. We all need to fall to our knees and cry “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty!” Won’t you take the message of salvation you’ve been given and tell those whose hearts need to be changed by His love that it is available to them? It matters so much!

Memory Verse: John 3:17: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Thoughts to Take Away:

  • (Verse 3): The soldiers came with “lanterns and torches” against the Light of the World;
  • They came with weapons against the Prince of Peace;
  • (Verses 4-8): Jesus was in Total Control: He knew all things; He went forward; He took the initiative; His words took them to the ground in response to His majesty; He told them what to do;
  • Nothing can stop the will of God;
  • We are protected by His love; we are perfected by His love;
  • As trials come, will we flee or fight?

Quote: “For evil to flourish, it requires only for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke.

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The mess hall was a chaos of sweaty, smelly bodies, most having just ridden for hours in the field, in ninety-degree heat. Riding on the hard seats in trucks or Humvees is not conducive to jovial attitudes, and the chow hall didn’t serve most men’s idea of a great lunch. Still, appetites were ready to eat, since almost everyone had been awakened at 4:30 a.m., and breakfast had seemed an eternity ago. The guys kept telling themselves OCS was worth this.

The men, caps off their heads, headed for the nearest tables for the soldiers. The tables with the officers were nearby. There were few standing rules, but one reminded the guys of their moms: eat everything on your plate.

This particular day, Candidate Day was feeling “ornery.” A good synonym is feeling like making trouble. Not a great thing to do in the military. As he ate, he looked at the spinach provided (why had he put that on his plate, he asked himself), knowing he had to gag it down, although he hated it. He held his nose so the taste would be minimal, and swallowed the lump in two huge bites. Then, taking his napkin, he wadded it up into a small mound, placing it over the area where the spinach had been. He made sure the napkin had a small point in the center. Yes, it was all very well planned. Yes, he knew he was about to get in trouble. Yes, he weighed the cost. And decided it would be worth it.

In a few minutes his lunch was eaten, his tray ready to be carried out. As he passed the table where the officers sat, one cut his eyes sharply to the tray Day carried and barked, “DAY!” Candidate Day stopped and faced the officer. “Sir, Yessir!” he answered, eyes straight ahead, head erect. “Raise the napkin!” the office yelled. “Sir, yessir!” Day replied, and proceeded to lift the napkin. Noting the absence of food underneath the napkin, the officer turned beet red as anger and embarrassment shook him, especially in front of the other officers. “DAY! You did that on purpose, didn’t you?!” Day replied, “Sir, yessir!” Eyes straight, head erect.

“Outside!! Give me 25 push ups!” the officer yelled. Candidate Day was a good soldier: “Sir, yessir!” he replied, and went out to do his push-ups. To this day, many decades later, he still gets an unholy pleasure out of telling the story, complete with his punishment.

We all have favorite stories that have been handed down through the generations of our families, don’t we? Some have been embellished, some are straight truth (like the one above!). We love stories from the time Mom or Grandma opens bedtime with “Once upon a time,” and never grow tired of them.

We’re beginning a new series at Thomas Road, only three weeks long, but the truth is, we all have a story to tell. Click on http://www.trbc.org/sermon and select the Storytellers, from March 5, 2017. Listen as Jonathan Falwell brings to life the healing of the blind man, and see him in your imagination as he–who was blind from birth–received his sight. Can you even begin to experience the wonder as he looked at clouds, grass, trees, people??? What an amazing story! Grab your notebook for thoughts, a good drink, and friends if you’d like to share the study below. Listen to the service and then dig deep to get to the points in the sermon, finding out that you, too, have a story to share!

Storytellers: The Story of Sight                                                                                            March 5, 2017

Jonathan Falwell


Nearly everyone has a favorite story that they love to share, whether it’s for encouragement, humor or pure enjoyment. Can you think of a much-loved story? Jot it in your notebook if you are not in a group.

For three weeks, we are going to look at some of the true stories that were written about Jesus’ ministry, trying to identify the characteristics of the storyteller, and decide what points he was trying to make as he re-told the events. This week we will look at the story of Jesus as He restores sight to a man blind from birth.

Focal Passage: John 9:1-2

Think About or Discuss:

The Beginning of a Story

  1. Read John 9:1-3. What were some of the main points about the man who had been born blind? Write down all you can think of.
  2. Did the man need faith to obey the instructions of Jesus? Why or why not? (For a parallel passage to study, take a few moments to read 2 Kings 5:9-12, and see the opposite reaction of someone who wanted to be healedI.)

The Power of a Story

  1. Read verses 6-9. What were some of the reasons this man felt an urgency to assure people that he was the one who had been healed?
  2. If this had been you, what would have been your reaction or feelings?

The Faith of a Storyteller

  1. Read verses 10-11. Why was he able to be convincing as he told of the experience with Jesus?
  2. Which was his greater determination, to give Jesus the credit for healing him, or be afraid of what the Jewish leaders would do to him? Why?

The Courage of a Storyteller

  1. Read verses 15, 25-26. Can you understand his frustration when the Jews kept interrogating him with the same questions over and over? Why?
  2. Read verses 18-20. What had his parents done? Why had they lacked courage?

The Importance of a Storyteller

  1. Read verse 4. What did Jesus say your important job is? Why? What is your story? Are you excited to tell it—as the blind man—or are you fearful of repercussions fom external sources, as his parents were?       


  1. Decide if you have a story. If you have been granted the gift of salvation, you have something to tell the world;
  2. Be committed to sharing your story at each and every opportunity;
  3. Pray each day that God would bring someone to you who needs to hear your story;
  4. Share your story even though you may experience sarcasm, doubt or skepticism!


We all have a favorite part of some movie—a line or two that perhaps defines the entire storyline for us. In “Up Close and Personal,” a mentored journalist eventually eclipses her teacher, ending with a final scene where she accepts an award with words dedicated to his memory: “He told me to ‘just tell the story.’” Whenever life throws a curve ball, those words come to mind: just tell the story. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that if “any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away, behold all things become new.” A new life, a new creation, old things passed away—what more could a good story have as a plot? If you have been saved, you have the story inside you, waiting for every opportunity to share it with someone who needs it. Pray this week that God would guide you to that person!

Memory Verse: John 9:39: For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”


dreamstime_xxl_82954493Mother was no match for the angry waves. She was such a small woman, barely 5’4″, and maybe 115 lbs., and when she grabbed my eight-year-old hand to go walking in the sand as the ocean waves came in, she had a frantic child on her hands. Gradually, tiptoeing in the water where it dissipated into the sand, my fears calmed. Then she decided to go further out. Having been taught to take a bath in an inch of water, this was going to be a death march.

She tugged me out further, and the little swirling, sudsy water was not quite as fearsome as I thought. One little breaker would come to shore, followed by one a couple of inches higher. By finesse she walked us at a slight angle, and I didn’t realize we getting further from shore until the breakers were hitting my knees. They were various sizes, some small, some a little larger.

Mother didn’t know much about the ocean either. Soon she had tugged me until the waves were around my chest, and I was in a panic. At the same time, out of nowhere came one that went over our heads–and she let go of my hand. That seems millions of years ago, or yesterday. Whichever it was, I was rolling under the water, unable to process anything except strangling fear. Soon, either my mom or my dad found me and got me to shore. Being under the water is the lasting memory I have from the experience, and I hate the ocean to this day.

I have learned as an adult that worry can immobilize you just as surely as fear can. Both make you incapable of rational thought, both can lead to giving up. They are like chains: the link that is fear becomes a link of discouragement; we feel we are not capable to overcome something–an action, a habit, a spouse’s habit–and finally, we give up. Not good! So what can we do about it?

None of us are in this life to lose, are we? No one sets out to fail, with the intention strong in their heart “I’m going to start this day and FAIL just as big as I can!” No, we all want to win. Desiring to win is a great motivator, but before we can do that, we have to get rid of the extra baggage that we are carrying. How do we do that?

Get your Bible, your notebook for jotting thoughts down, and something to drink, then click on the link for the sermon from this past Sunday, preached by Jonathan Falwell at Thomas Road Baptist Church. Go to http://www.trbc.org/sermons and click the one for January 22, 2017. Gather everything you need, and settle in as the church learns how to get unchained from those things that would hold us back from being a winner. We are studying Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Planning University” series, and look forward to breaking free of the financial bondage that enslaves us. Study with us as we prepare our hearts to win this war with the enemy of our souls, set our lives and spirits free, and live an abundant life!

Overflow: Losing Weight to Win                                                                                           January 22, 2017                                                                                                                  Pastor Jonathan Falwell


If you are desiring to engage in exercise, training, or athletics, there are some common sense principles that can hold you back; for instance, running with a heavy weight in each hand. Can you think of some examples?

This week we continue the series entitled “Overflow,” learning to rid ourselves of those things that keep us enslaved with debt. God’s will is that we live life abundantly, and to do so “owing no man anything” (Romans 13:8). As you prepare to work with Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Planning University” materials, spend time studying the weekly sermon—it will help you further equip yourself to be all that God desires.

Focal Passage: Hebrews 12:1-4

Think About or Discuss:

You’re Not Alone

  1. Read verse 1a. What are some reasons we buy into Satan’s lies that we are alone in our entanglement of problems? If you said “most people are ashamed to share their troubles,” you are very true. It is much easier to wear a mask, especially at church, and be thought “super-holy” or “super-successful!” Who are the witnesses the writer to the Hebrews was referring to in this section of verse?
  2. What are some by-products of being lonely? (Try to think of as many as you can, but they will also be listed at the end of the study.)

Let It Go!

  1. Read verse 1b. As you think back upon the opening statement, what are some encumbrances that hold you back from living your life to the fullest? How many things would you like to do for God that you cannot because of a lack of funds? Or lack of good health?
  2. Read James 1:5-8. What will God give you when you are not sure of the right way, the right purchase, or the right decision? How are you to ask?
  3. Read Isaiah 59:2. What will cause a disruption in your relationship with God? Just as sin hurts human relationships, can you see that it also hurts your relationship with God?
  4. How can you lay these “weights” aside? An “Action Plan” is included at the end as well.

Clean It Up

  1. Read verse 1c. How do you know that God does not tolerate sin? Why would even small sins trip you up in your walk with Him? When you have “gotten by” with a sin, what is your natural reaction (in the flesh)?
  2. Read Daniel 4:27-29a. How long did God give Nebuchadnezzar to repent after Daniel had warned him of consequences to his sin?

Never Quit

  1. Read verse 1d. Why should we never quit? Will you win if you quit?
  2. Read James 5:10, 11, and Revelation 3:10. What is the mark of a true believer in Christ?

Know What Matters

  1. There is only one way to end the race well. What is it?


The outcome of any race, athletic event, or even a healthy lifestyle with all its benefits comes only by ridding ourselves of the things that hold us back—those “weights” that so easily beset us. Did you list “worry” as one? Shoving through the fog of sleep to discipline our bodies (I Cor. 9:27)? No pain, no gain, is a common saying when it comes to training, and is so true, even in freeing ourselves from money traps. As we focus on financial freedom, we must lay aside the hindrances that got us ensnared in the first place! Was it to keep up with the neighbors? To have the latest and best electronic or the Toy of the Year? In all cases 1 John 2:16 tells us that these things come from lust: either of the eyes, the flesh, or pride. Lustful thoughts—desire—gives way to actions, which lead to sin, and ultimately we find ourselves in a bad relationship with God. By categorizing these weights, we can eliminate them one by one, until we are in a place where we can start the “Baby Steps” (Dave Ramsey, Video 1) to living a life free from financial chains!

Memory Verse: Hebrews 12:2: “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The Degrees of Loneliness (Point 1): Loneliness leads to Discouragement (at where we are), which leads to Fear (of what’s coming), which leads to Inadequacy (I can’t do this), which leads to Apathy (I’ll just quit trying.)

ACTION POINTS FOR LAYING ASIDE HINDRANCES: 1) Look for the weights; 2) Come up with a plan; 3) Stop sinning by getting into God’s Word; 4) Find out what our race is, and start it!

For a deeper study time, get comfortable with using the tools on www.Biblegateway.com or www.blueletterbible.org. They are very user-friendly!

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100 dollar bills bill,currency,dollars,excess,god,green,money,rich,trust,usa

I entered the sanctuary, thinking (to my shame) that there was nothing I was going to learn during the next hour. I mean, really, how can you be married to a banker for a hundred years and not have heard everything about money that can be said? Or so I thought. I had gotten great at listening to the multitude of conversations with my husband as he told me loan request stories, the financial report stories, those to do with investing, stock graphs, dividends, ad nauseum, as I murmured a quiet “Oh, my!” or “Wow!” or just “Hmmm,” every few minutes while my mind was figuring out how I was going to decorate the hallway with new wallpaper. Budgets? Forget it, we had tried it and failed.

One thing about being married to someone in a profession where they serve the public is that requests for advice is a regular occurrence. It was quite often that someone would come up and ask if he could meet with them to discuss a financial situation. We considered this a good thing: it meant that God was using his knowledge of finances to benefit friends or family, and we considered it a ministry for him, outside of church commitments. One time he met with Joan and Barry (this was in another state, no one around here). They had been married for several years, had both been out of a previous marriage, and had been practically destitute of material goods; they had to start over at that time. Furniture, household goods, all the things that are taken for granted every day, had to be bought–which they had done with credit cards. Meanwhile, Barry was paying child support, and their outgo in those early years was more than $500 per month more than their income. They had decided to get their spiritual lives back in order, but tithing seemed an impossibility. By the time they sought my husband’s help, they were more than $65,000 in debt, and were getting ready to declare bankruptcy. Had they come in much earlier, he could have helped, but at that point it was almost like shooting a dead horse. Eventually, with his constant help, he did see them turn their lives around, and become debt free.

When Dave Ramsey came up to the platform at Thomas Road Baptist Church to begin speaking, from the first word he had my solid, undivided attention. Here was not only a motivational speaker, but someone who had been on top, been on the bottom, and probably every place in between. Those things I could relate to in a small way. But when he said that he made the decision to do it if it was in the Bible, or not do it if it wasn’t, he crossed the line into my box. I want to do God’s will, and the Bible is my guide. He had just become my brother and a mentor. He had given me a reason to listen to him.

My husband–who I thought knows everything that has a dollar sign in front of it–must have been as motivated as I, because, at the end of the service, he bought one of the Financial Peace University packets. We are both excited to see what God is going to do.

Grab you Bible, your notebook, and a cup of something hot, and get ready for a tremendous service from Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA., that may change your life, depending on where you are with your finances. Click on http://www.trbc.org/sermons and hit the play button for Sunday, January 15, 2017. If you have a little extra time, listen to the congregational music, relating the words to your situation of debt. God will be so faithful as you commit your heart to Him, releasing you from the biggest debt you’ll ever carry: that of your sin. Start this FPU series with a life that has been turned over to the Creator, and have all your sins forgiven! It will make life so much easier as you work to get freedom from the bondage of financial entanglements. If you have someone who can watch this with you, carry on a conversation about the things Dave Ramsey says; push pause often if you want to hear something again, or discuss a comment. However you listen, do it with a full heart, ready for God to break the chains that hold you prisoner!

Overflow: Proven Biblical Money Principles                                                                                  Dave Ramsey


It probably comes as no surprise that money problems are one of the greatest causes of dissension in a family, or stress on an individual. Can you think of reasons this is true?

Today we begin a new series entitled “Overflow.” With all the advertising thrown at us daily, it’s hard not to get caught up in having the latest version of everything available. However, in doing so, debt accumulates, which in turn causes problems for anyone trying to live the “American Dream.” At the same time, the Bible states that the borrower (the one in debt) is a slave to the lender (the bank, the credit card company, etc.) We are going to work our way through this series, hoping the reward will be financial freedom in our lives.

Think About or Discuss:

Live on a written Budget

  1. Read Job 25:2, and 1 Cor. 14:33. What is one of the attributes of God? How is a budget a thing of “order”? If you are by yourself, jot your thoughts down in a notebook; if you are with others, discuss the comments.
  2. Read Luke 14:28. Who is speaking here? What point is Christ trying to get across to the people? What eventually happens when spending is not controlled?

Avoid Debt

  1. Read Prov. 22:7. How does this verse translate to your paycheck and your bills?
  2. Read Romans 13:8. This is God’s word to you; what does it say? Is this God’s best for you?
  3. Read Luke 7:41-43. When Christ died on the cross of Calvary, what was happening to the sin debt that you were burdened with? Can you think of a greater example of freedom from debt than this?

Foster High Quality Relationships

  1. Read Prov. 13:20. Why are your companions so important? Can you think of examples, perhaps of friends who gravitate to those who are like-minded? Think about your own friends for a moment: are they the type that will build you up, or pull you down? Should you change your closest circle of friends?
  2. Read Isaiah 41:6. What happens when a rotten apple or a potato are in a bag with many good ones? What lesson does that teach you about having companions who are not serious about their walk with Jesus?

Save and Invest

  1. Read Eccl. 11:1-2. How are these verses a good plan for investing? Why does it make common sense?
  2. Can you paraphrase Matt. 25:10-29. What point was Jesus trying to make?

Be Incredibly Generous

  1. How does this principle illustrate the second of the “Two Greatest” commandments that Jesus gave?
  2. Read Deut. 15:10. This is Old Testament! What was God trying to get you to see in this verse?


Five things! Five ways to organize your finances that will eventually result in freedom from bills that seem to come every day. Credit card companies assume a payoff time of thirty years—the length of most mortgages. Meanwhile, you are working many of your hours per week just to pay the interest on those material things you charged—things that will soon be broken or tossed away, or possibly put in a yard sale. Take the first step and write out a budget: one that is sensible, yet gives boundaries for impulsive purchases. But as your finances need to be dealt with, be certain that you have also taken care of the greatest debt you’ll ever be chained by: that of your sin which can separate you from God! If someone came along and wrote you a check to cover all you owe, you would probably fall to your knees and cry. How much greater to know that He who had no sin became sin for you, so that you could [become free from your debt of sin, and] become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). Start with being free from that debt, and then move to your finances.

Memory Verse: Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

There are many verses that need to be read in today’s study, helping you realize God cares so very much about the way you handle money! He has told us that the love of it is the root of everything that is evil; He has also told us that He wants us to be good stewards of what He has entrusted to us. Take extra time on www.Biblegateway.com or www.blueletterbible.org, and study on your own some of the many examples that are written for us to learn to manage our finances well. He wants us to have life, and have it more abundantly!

If you can, attend Thomas Road Baptist Church and hear for yourselves the ways in which you can get financial freedom! Be sure to search out the study notes each week as well. May God bless you!


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The Heart of the Church

dreamstime_xl_69735318There was a balcony at the back of the church for slaves. It wasn’t hard to visualize the ones who had stood up there (surely they weren’t given chairs), worshiping God while the pastor preached and the people sang. Were they allowed to sing as well? My mind was taken up with wondering what type of life they had led, here in the deep south, seventy-five years before. They had been freed about five years when this church was formed, but obviously the landowners cared enough for their former slaves to provide an area where they could worship. Now it was only a church for the “whites,” and the balcony had been divided into small classrooms. The blacks had their own church, and if I had had my choice, I would probably have chosen to be in theirs, as happy, alive and worshipful as it was!  But that was life back then, and you didn’t question it.

We had just made the move to the rural countryside in a new state, North Carolina, all the way from Ohio–the “north,” which made us Yankees. My mom and dad’s priority had been to find a house, then a church. The church was small, organized not long after Abraham Lincoln was shot, as twenty-five families in the countryside needed a place to worship. These people raised tobacco or had cattle farms, and had become, for the most part, upper middle class–whatever it looked like in the mid-to late 1800’s. They also didn’t take to strangers.

Momma didn’t know that. She had never met a stranger. Mother would never have imagined that our presence in that small church might upset someone. We might come in with different beliefs, different ideas, or not recognize that The Broadman Hymnal and the King James Bible were both ordained by God, and no other hymnbook or Bible was to be part of church. Eventually her sunny ways endeared us to the community, and after some time we ceased to be Yankees, and settled in. It helped that, at only thirteen, I could play the hymns in the Broadman Hymnal, and they needed a piano player. I was exceedingly blessed that my mom, who got a part time job in the community grocery store where she made many friends, never noticed color: you could have been green or blue, and she would still have been the same, loving, friendly person. She raised me the same way, and it didn’t occur to me that color mattered to most people. We called that community “home” for a long time.

It wasn’t very long before we realized this church was small and picturesque because it looked as it had in the 1800’s. They weren’t about The Great Commission, they were about listening to the preaching, singing, praying, and then returning the next Sunday. The church gradually, over the next several years, grew enough to need a small fellowship hall and a few extra classrooms added, just because people were finding the rural community to their liking. For the most part, though, it remained for the next twenty years exactly as it had when we first saw it. The balcony had been divided into three classrooms, no longer needed for another race. As I said, that was the way life was back then, and you didn’t question it.

Sometime in the late ’60’s a pastor came in who wanted to do that radical God-thing: evangelize! Scandalous! He actually wanted to invite people to church who didn’t know some of the songs, had used another hymnbook, read from another version of the Bible, (horror of horrors), and get them saved! God smiled on him, and the pastor dug his heels in and stayed, instead of letting them kick him out. He loved them, loved on them, preached God’s word to them, and the church began to grow! It wasn’t too many years before they had to build a big, new church, and the little country church began to be a part of history. It is still there, sitting as it was in the mid-1900’s, a monument to life in the last century.

The pastor who came in probably realized the church was comfortable, happy, and well-fed because they had no desire to get out and interrupt their lives with other people they didn’t know. He changed that, gave the community a new start, and served over thirty years as pastor. Today that church has many pastors on its staff, and is running over 3,000 in attendance. God was extending grace, bringing His love to a people who were descendants of those who wanted to do no more than sit and listen.

This past Sunday, January 8, 2017, Pastor Jonathan Falwell challenged Thomas Road Baptist Church to become a church whose desire is to carry out the commission of loving God with all our hearts, and loving our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. That can begin a new year of change for the community, and perhaps challenge others to start their church year in the same way! Get your notebook, something hot to drink on this cold morning, and watch the service at http://www.trbc.org/sermons and click on the play button for the Sunday morning service. If you have time, sing along with Charles Billingsley and the praise team. Take notes, and let God’s word sink deep into your heart, examining it for hindrances that would steal your joy! Sit back and enjoy your time alone with God!

A New Heart For A New Church                                                                                                                                         Pastor Jonathan Falwell


Retirement: the very word will conjure up many different expectations, depending on your age and experience. Yet when it arrives–if it hasn’t already,–some people thrive on such a busy schedule they wonder how they had time to work. Others sit in their recliner and do nothing, comfortable and without ambition! How do you think you will handle those special years when they arrive (if they haven’t already!)?

Last week we began the new year by examining our individual lives as Christians, to be certain we are walking as Christ would have us to. This week we are going to focus on the church we attend to see that it is adhering to the standards which Christ set forth for His church. We will look at two of those listed in Revelation to see the progression from “losing one’s first love,” to one where the members have become comfortable and complacent within the church.

Focal Passages: Revelation 2:1-7, 3:14-22.

Think About or Discuss:

Doing the good things doesn’t always equal doing the right things.

  1. Read Rev. 2:2,3. What were some of the good things the church in Ephesus was doing? Do you see these things being done in churches today? If you are by yourself, you can write down notes; if someone is studying with you, you can discuss the answers.
  2. What was wrong with the busyness of this church? If you don’t have a lot of experience with churches, think about busyness in general: what does it do to one’s focus? When the Ephesian church was originally organized, what do you think was its heartbeat?

The right things always spring from the heart.

  1. Read Rev. 2:4. What was the main problem Jesus had with this church? Now read Matt. 28:19-20 and Mark 12:29-31. What are the final words Christ gave to the Christians (who make up the church)?
  2. Whose duty is it to evangelize? Was this listed as happening in the church at Ephesus?
  3. Read Rev. 2:5. What were they told to do?

Lacking the right thing will always turn your heart the wrong way.

  1. Read Rev. 3:15, 17. What was the mindset of the members of the church in verse 17? How is that like many people in today’s churches? Again, if you have limited experience with churches, think about the same application to students or one’s work ethic—it can be a “barometer” of what their Christian walk is like.
  2. What value to Christ is a church like this? You possibly have seen churches that don’t want to bring in new people who will disrupt the routine. They are still the same size they were when they were built. How is this an example of a lukewarm church?
  3. What happens to the hearts of these comfortable Christians? Does this sound like those in retirement who decide to get settled in with no goal in their life?

Make the right thing the main thing.

  1. Read vs. 20. What is God giving this church at Laodicea? How many times has He given you a second chance?
  2. What is our priority as Christians (back to question 3)? Why did God create us? (Isaiah 43:7).


Were any of the issues dealt with in these two churches something that you are familiar with, in your life or a previous (or current) church, or perhaps with another area of your life? We must look at the Gospel as a whole to realize our first priority in our walk with Jesus Christ is to bring those to Him who do not know Him. We are not fulfilling the commandment to love Him and love our neighbor if we are not concerned about their eternal life. If we love them as much as we love ourselves, we won’t want to see them go to hell. Many of our neighbors have never heard the gospel. Pray for opportunities to share your story this year. That’s all you have to do: just tell someone what God has done for you, and what He did for them when He came to this earth. It could be the most wonderful thing they’ve ever been told!

Memory Verse: Ephesians 4:30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

Focal Passages: Revelation 2:1-7, 3:14-22.

Think On: Rev. 2:5:    Reflect (on your life); Repent (of any wrong doings); Restart (this can be a new year!)

© Debra Millet | Dreamstime.com


Fireworks display with several different colored fireworks exploding in the sky.

She pointed to herself, and remarked, “There’s a SKINNY in here somewhere, and I’m going to find her!” I had to laugh at my friend. It was this morning, January 1, 2017, and a day in which we all traditionally start our New Year’s resolutions! I have learned the hard way not to stress myself–I’m not going to keep them more than 2 days! It’s much easier to take one of my favorite verses from Scripture out of context and relax in the words, “Bodily exercise profits little!” (1 Tim. 4:8–like I said, taken out of context.) But I still felt slightly victorious, as I had decided , back before Thanksgiving, to get up in the mornings in time to walk, at least three days per week–and if you knew me well, you would know I totally despise anything remotely connected to exercise. The fact that I am now going on 8 weeks is nothing short of a miracle. No, it is not a habit–even after three times a week for eight weeks: every stinking step, every drive to the place where I walk, is DISCIPLINE. Let’s make sure we understand there’s a big difference.

There are probably more decisions to lose weight, to be nice, to stop spending so much money, to exercise, or…. fill in the blank… on this day than any other day of the year. Did you make a resolution? Are you going to keep it?

The only one I’m faithful about (let’s wait awhile before we call the walking “faithful”) is my desire to read my Bible each year, or, depending on what I’m focused on, perhaps I may spread it out for two years. I love to study it with a goal in mind: this past two years I read it with the intention to find out why the apostles ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. I was amazed, as I went back through the OT, at how few times there are actual prayers in the Scriptures. Nehemiah prayed often, Solomon prayed often, but David took the prize. If ever you want to know how to pray, read the Psalms. His prayers are agonizing, beautiful, full of repentance, fruit, … they cover almost all topics. By having a goal, it keeps my mind much more focused as I read. It is not intended as a “pat me on the back,” but just a suggestion that there are ways to read it that will keep you concentrating on what you read. Do you often realize your mind has wandered? Then go back and re-read the paragraph. Once you do it often enough, you will keep your concentration better.

In today’s sermon, Jonathan Falwell quoted some amazing facts: facts that should make us sick to our stomachs, since most of us are dealing with a schedule so full that we don’t have “time” to do much for Christ except check off our to-do list on Sunday that we have attended church. As you listen to the sermon, prepare yourself for the statistics that say the average person checks their Smart Phone 150 times per day (someone in my family–not in this house–does that much in 2 hours, I kid you not!) Again, the average person watches tv approximately 3.6 hours per day. Does that make you gag? Garbage in, garbage out, right? Facebook racks up about 1 1/4 hours per day. We are now at approximately seven hours. When do people sleep, eat, work? Does God get the leftovers?

How would you feel if you were God, and you got the time that you give Him? Would you wonder at the depth of your love? Would you question whether He really is first in your life? Let us be sure we hunger and thirst after righteous, and seek Him—He will fulfill our needs if we put Him first, and this day is a great time to start off for the year!

If you haven’t heard the sermon preached at Thomas Road Baptist Church for Sunday, January 1, 2017, click on the link http://www.trbc.org/sermons and then click on the play button. Be sure you have your notebook, something hot to drink, and if someone can join you, make it a good discussion time! Enjoy the song service if you have time, but most of all, seek the Lord with your whole heart, and lean on Him for strength this year!


A new year! As you think of the coming months, what’s on your calendar? You probably know some of the challenges you are going to face—others may take you by surprise. How prepared do you feel to face the next twelve months?

When we consider the beginning of a new year, we generally think of things in our own life or family that we would like to change. We decide January 1 is a good day to start, so we make a “resolution” to begin a new way of eating, exercising, habits, or whatever it is we feel needs to be improved. As a Christian, this is a great time to make a commitment to read the Scripture every day and see how our lives reflect the standards Jesus has set for us. Do we “hunger and thirst” after righteousness? Do we desire a closer walk with Him more than we desire anything else? Do we want to “seek first the Kingdom of God”? Today is a good day to start, giving yourself a full year to draw nearer to Him, and you will find the “new walk” will produce a “new you”!

Focal Passages: Ephesians 4:17-32


A New Walk

  1. Read verses 17-19. Can you think of examples showing how this reflects the world we live in today?
  2. What do you consider your number one problem? Did you say “busyness”? Why is that a problem? Is boredom a problem?
  3. Be honest: when is your devotional life happening? If you are involved with your television, electronics, or listening to music for over 5 hours each day, do you discipline yourself to find time for God—hopefully first?
  4. Read verse 24. What does God expect of you? If you call yourself a Christian, do you intentionally seek a relationship with Him, or do you just hope it will happen at some point during the day?

Here are a list of commitments to make for this new year:

  1. Commit to make room in your schedule and your life for God.
  2. Commit to make time for your family—apart from movies, tv, or video games.
  3. Commit to make time for others, to serve and help them, perhaps even disciple them.

  A New You

  1. If you spend quality time dieting or exercising this new year, what would you expect to happen? How is that analogous to exercising your spirit with God’s word and serving Him?
  2. Who should benefit from your new focus if you truly make Him first in your life?
  3. In verses 21-32, what are some things that you should see go out of your life? What should replace them?

Here are a list of commitments for A New You:                                                               a. A commitment to live right (and get rid of the bad!)                                                b. A commitment to live better (renew your thoughts and attitudes)                        c. A commitment to live with eternity in mind (and share Him with the world)



As I said in the opening, my friend said “I’m starting a diet..there’s still a ‘skinny’ inside here!” In like manner, according to 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” There should be a “new creation” inside of us then! That should be our standard for this coming year: we call ourselves Christians, so therefore, a new creation is inside of us. Do you have things left over from the “old” person you were that is still taking up residence, but needs to be moved out? All things in your life should have become new when you were saved. Did it? When you are going about your daily business, can the world tell that you are a Christian by your actions? If not, something is desperately needing to change. Today is the first day of the new year—let it be a beginning that will find you, on December 31, 2017, in such a close relationship with Jesus Christ that everyone will know, just from being around you, that He is in residence in your life! Pray for those whom you love who need to hear that He loves them, and pray that He will open a door for you to witness to them in the coming days. Let this be the year that you evangelize your world!

Memory Verse: Ephesians 4:32: “Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”

Focal Passages: Ephesians 4:17-32.





Pizza sounded sooooo good! I had to decide: would it be worth it when it came back up? For nine months I had lost almost everything I had eaten, but this time–this time–I was giving in to my craving! So the pizza went down, every yummy, cheese-dripping, bite! And sure enough, within thirty minutes it was coming back.

Carrying this baby was an act of love, and I could hardly wait for him or her to get here. The agony of the birth itself, the long nine months when one goes from “normal” to waddling like a duck, the back aches, trying to get a good night’s sleep–all that is forgotten the second a mother holds her baby. But. The glory of children is their Father. (Proverbs 17:6).

Not fair, Lord! We’re the one who feeds them, changes their stinky diapers, plays airplane with their food, remembers to write everything in the baby’s book, and smells like spit-up 24/7! We’re the ones who carry a two-year old on one hip, a purse over one shoulder, a diaper bag over the other, and lug a twenty-pound car seat/carrier with the infant in it! But. The glory of children is their father.

The class stood at attention: some were shepherds, some were animals, a few wise men, and some held signs. Moms, for the most part, and tons of grandparents, were sitting as close to the front as possible, cameras flashing. The little shepherd on the back row kept his head straight, looking at his teacher, but every thirty seconds he cut his eyes to the right. Finally, a light bulb was turned on in his face–his daddy had arrived to watch the program. The glory was reflected in his face. The glory of this child–my grandson–is his father.

Summer eventually comes–after a long winter–and mom has to come up with tons of ideas how to keep the children occupied, especially during rainy days, when going outside is not even considered. Oh, the things thought of to do! Making tents over the dining room table, having lunch in a “campsite,” playing Hide and Seek. But everyone is waiting for that special moment when daddy comes home. The glory of children is their father.

A new car is needed now, one that will carry all the kids and all their gear, their musical instruments, and presents for parties, and mom becomes not only the nurse, the cook, maid, and now the chauffeur. But the glory of the children is their father.

God, how can this be?! We pour our souls into these children, we take care of every need, are You sure this is right? And He says, yes, it’s right. My Father is My Glory, and I want to be the Glory of your children, as well. And we say, “But God, what about all the homes where Dad has left, and Mom has to carry all the burden? He doesn’t even send money except when the courts make him!” And God says, he will answer for it, because I created him to be the glory of his children.*

In Mark Lowry’s song, “Mary, Did You Know?” a series of questions are asked that examine the magnitude of how this (approximately) fifteen year old mother could understand the depth of importance in the child she was giving birth to. A phenomenal song, it has blessed the hearts of worshipers since it was written. Mary has been revered, placed with Saints by some churches, prayed to by others, made into an idol, put on necklaces. But today, CHRISTMAS, 2016, let’s take a look at the one person who was also chosen by God to fulfill, not only the role of earthly father, but the one who was godly enough to raise and be responsible for the infant Son of God.

As you come to this week, get your notebook, friends or family, and watch the Christmas service from Thomas Road Baptist Church on Christmas morning, December 25, 2016. Click on http://www.trbc.org/sermons and hit play! If you have time, worship with the children and Praise Team, as the congregation is led in carols that have been sung for years. As Jonathan Falwell leads us to think of the man about whom little is known, let us consider Joseph, a man so humble and godly that God Himself let him be a father to His Only Begotten Son during the first thirty years of His life.


Not all of us have had fathers who were models that we could learn from; others of us were taught from infancy by one who trained them into leaders. What male made a difference in your life? If you’re with a group, perhaps you can share your thoughts; otherwise, write them down in your notebook.

Today we focus on the outstanding father-figure that has probably among the fewest verses written about him as anyone in the Scripture. Yet his legacy of being chosen by the Creator God is, according to Scripture, amazing in the importance of the role he would play in the life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, fully God and yet fully man. Join as we study this little-known hero.

Focal Passage: Luke 2: 1-20, Matthew 1:18-25

Think About or Discuss:

As we heard the story of “Mary, Did You Know?” we could almost turn that song around and ask, “Joseph, did YOU know? Did you understand that God had hand-picked you for one of the most important roles in history? Did you, too, ponder these things in your heart? You were now responsible for the well-being of His Son, the one predicted for hundreds of years by the prophet Isaiah, and you–YOU–have been asked by God, nay, told by God, that you were going to raise Him as your own!” What an amazing, incomprehensible action.

1. What are some of the qualities God would have looked for in this man?

2. Three times in his life, God sent an angel to give him directions as he took care of God’s Son. Do you recall the other times?


3. Read Isaiah 7:13, 14. Joseph, raised in the Jewish culture, knew God had predicted a virgin would have a Child who would be the Savior of His people. Only Joseph knew for certain that this child Mary carried was not his. He, in his honor, decided to forego the marriage with her. What happened before he could do this?

4. Read Zephaniah 3:16, 17. What was the purpose for which Jesus Christ was going to leave heaven’s glory and come to this earth? What did the name “Immanuel” mean?

If an angel appeared to you, telling you that you were to be part of a fulfillment that had been expected for decades, would you believe it? Joseph did! He immediately sought out Mary, and although we are not told, took her as his wife without delay. He did not want her subject to gossip and painful rumors.

Not, of course, part of the sermon, but when my grandfather was a young man in his early twenties, he took as his wife a young girl, about sixteen years old. Because he was several years older than she, he was afraid the marital relations would be fearful for her, and he waited. He wooed her in a husbandly fashion, taking time for weeks to ease her into the gentle caresses and the wonder of marriage that God has ordained. Whenever I think of the kindness, the understanding, and the epitome of a man loving his wife more than he loved himself, my grandfather is my hero. Joseph, as well, waited until after the birth of this special Child before “knowing” Mary as his wife.


5. The verses in Matthew and Luke underline the faith that can be counted on when God makes promises. What verses in Luke reinforce the glory that God had come down to dwell among men?

6. Who else was able to join in the jubilation of this wondrous night? How far did the news spread?


Never can we understand how Joseph must have felt to have so many unfathomable events occur so quickly in his life: he was bethrothed to marry a young, godly girl, who had to tell him she was pregnant. Surely she explained the circumstances of the angel, but the disbelief had to be paramount! Then he himself is visited by the angel, and within a short period of time, they are married. Soon, the Child of God is part of their family, and not long after–within two years–he is again told by an angel to take his wife and child to Egypt. An awesome, incredible man, who obviously put God first in his life, in his marriage, and in the training of his children. Would that we all had husbands and fathers who loved God above all things. If you are a woman, you can pray for your husband to be the man God intended; if you are a man, pray that God will give you a love for your wife that is the type described in Eph. 5:25, loving them as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it.

Merry Christmas to all, and a beautiful 2017!


  • Written in Love Notes blog, Sandra Day

© Melinda Nagy | Dreamstime Stock Photos



The farm lay between two mountain ranges, with rolling hills in every direction. A river ran at the back of the thousand acres, wide and beautiful. Barbed-wire fences separated fields, all designated by names for the various pastures or corn fields.

The farmhouse was a dream come true. Since my earliest memories of the times spent at my grandparents’ and other family members’ homes, farming had been a constant love. It was so deep in my soul that it was part of my “bucket list” long before the term was invented. It was my answer every year for what I wanted for Christmas: a farm.

Graduation came and college was on the horizon. My focus got off-whack, and I ended up choosing a path that was vastly different from the one that I had had all my life. I didn’t get my farm at that time due to my own choices.

Years went by, and it was my solace at night as I drifted off to sleep to imagine “my” farm, complete with orchards, barns, cattle and gardens. I can still see the one I invented every night until sleep overtook me. Life and years kept passing by. Eventually my husband was transferred, and on the trip to a state a thousand miles away that would become our new home, looking to rent a home until we knew if we would stay in that area, I scanned the “For Rent” ads. There, newly placed that day, was a farm. As I drove up the long drive to the house, I felt I had come home.

Recently a Christmas party was held. As is common in situations like that, you circulate among people that are casually known, but conversations are surface: the weather, the job, children, previous places of residence. As I spoke to one couple, older than middle age, but not “old,” I asked about children. The pain in the woman’s eyes immediately seared my heart: I had stepped on an issue better to have left unasked. “We never had any,” she replied, and there was no mistaking the pain she felt, even after decades of barrenness. We who have had no problem conceiving seldom think about the pain and suffering couples go through when they cannot have children. I was so sorry I asked. At the Christmas season, with the focus on the manager of Christ, babies mean even more than at other times. And we all know that prayers don’t always get answered. The subject was changed.

The move to the farm was everything I hoped and dreamed it would be. All the years of longing were like flowers bursting forth, and I became a person obsessed. I couldn’t get enough of the outdoors, the work, the completeness to my life. Soon it began to be an idol. I stopped going to church on Wednesday nights so I could work outside. Having resided in hot Florida for many years, just being outdoors was a joy in itself. Adding the farm was better than winning the lottery. But the day arrived when I “came to myself,” just as the prodigal son did. I cried out to God to take me away from the place that I had always wanted to be. The next day, He did.

The lady at the Christmas party soon started sharing her memories of the years they had tried to have a baby. It was plain that she felt that God had completely let her down. She had probably been angry in the past, but that anger had cooled to a feeling of disinterest: God was not interested in her feelings, so she would write Him off. There was no opening to share His love for her at the party. In the same way, although I had cried out to God for a way of escape from the very thing I had wanted all my life, I saw it becoming more important to me than my heavenly Father, so you would have thought I would be happy now. Not so. My anger was so hot that He had given me what I wanted more than anything, and now I was having to give it up. That it was my own prayer to Him didn’t matter. I screamed at Him until I lost my voice. It took several years before I was able to appreciate that what He had given me in the deepest part of my being–a calling to be a farmer–was something I had to give up because it became an idol. Does that make sense? My relationship to Him had to come first. Now, all I can hope for is that someday, perhaps in heaven, He will have a farm for me, but if not, He knows best.

That is probably how Elizabeth and Zacharias felt those two thousand years ago, when for decades they cried out for a child. In their culture, to be childless was a stigma, and to not have a son to carry on one’s work was painful. Elizabeth carried sorrow in her heart daily, but at the same time, she and her husband had a faith so huge that they were able to trust that God knew best in His plan for their lives. We might be angry, but they were not. They were righteous in God’s sight. Would that I had been!

Get your notebook, a pen, perhaps something hot on a cold winter–almost Christmas–day, and sit down and watch the sermon preached at Thomas Road Baptist Church on Sunday, December 18, 2016 (if you didn’t see it already). If you have time, watch and sing with the congregation as they worship. Then get ready to do the study below, answering questions and digging deeply to discover how different our lives would be today if Elizabeth, and then Mary, had not borne these two special babies. Above all, appreciate the sacrifice Jesus Christ made when He came to this earth to offer salvation to all of us. Click on the link http://www.trbc.org/sermons and hit the play button in the center. Enjoy the study! If you have friends, family or a group, take as long as you’d like to finish, but let it be your “daily Bread” of life that God has given you today.

Self on the Shelf: The Christmas Calling,  Matt Willmington, Dec. 18, 2016


If you have lived very long, you have seen the word “calling” constantly change to mean many different actions. Write out as many examples as you can think of!

During this Christmas season, we have attempted through this sermon series to take the focus off ourselves and concentrate on the true message of Christmas. It is the time of year when we reflect most on the coming of Jesus the King, who left heaven to enter the world as a baby, being born of a virgin. We began this series studying the birth of another baby three months earlier, that of John the Baptist, who was the one God had chosen to announce the coming of the Messiah.

Focal Passages: Luke 1:57-80

Think About or Discuss:

Answer God’s Call

  1. Take a few moments and re-read the earlier verses of Luke 1, writing down or discussing the events that took place when Zacharias and Elizabeth learned they would be parents. Can you envision their surprise? How would she tell her friends? What about her family? Do you think she understood who John would be?
  2. Read Isaiah 40:3. What had been prophesied of John, about 700 years before his birth?
  3. When he was born (verses 67-75), what did his father say of him in verses 76-79?
  4. Have you ever felt God moving in your life, so that you knew how to respond in a particular situation? Zacharias and Elizabeth knew this baby was special.

Announce Jesus

  1. What was John’s “calling?” How did this fulfill God’s purpose for him to be born at this time in history?
  2. Was John’s childhood very different than that of Jesus’ (verse 80 compared to Luke 2:40, 52)?
  3. In Matthew 28:19-20, how does John’s calling differ from yours? What do you think your calling may be?

Accept His Timing

  1. Think back to the years when Zacharias and Elizabeth were of child-bearing age and praying constantly that God would bless them with a child; what if John had been born then? Was Mary even alive then? About how long would it have been before Jesus would be born?
  2. What do you find yourself doing when God’s timing is not yours? Do you usually take over and try to manipulate circumstances, or patiently wait for Him to act?
  3. What season are you in now—a waiting period, or is everything going well?


It is a magnificent lesson to all of us to reflect on the high calling of John the Baptist. In Esther 4:14, it was pointed out to her that she was possibly raised up for the time that she would be needed to save her people from annihilation. John was born at a time in history in order to fulfill prophecy that he would be the one who would announce that the Messiah had come to Israel. But think of his parents: they had prayed long and hard—for many years—for a child, and still Elizabeth remained barren. Did they think God had forgotten them? They kept their faith, but sorrow still had to have been present in her heart. Yet had she been able to see her role from God’s perspective, she would have realized she was going to bear the forerunner to Jesus Christ, and that joy would have taken away all her pain! Perhaps when we have prayers that are not answered in a timely manner, we need to read this passage, asking God for the patience and trust to believe He is working out purposes that are far beyond our ability to grasp, and have faith that He is arranging everything for the good of those we love. Pray for the insight to have a great confidence in Him who created you! And realize that, like John, you have been called to announce to your world the good news of Jesus Christ. What a mighty message you have!

Memory Verse: Luke 1:76: “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways.”

Focal Passages: Luke 1:57-80, Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 3:1 and 4:5.








Very few fifteen year old girls would be so sold out to serving God that her plea in her journal would include the words, “Lord, please give me boldness! Help me to learn to pray out loud, like my brother Josh. Anything is possible with you, Jesus! I was born to stand out, or to stand alone! I’m Yours to do with what You will, but please, take this year and use it for Your glory!”

As Jennifer Barrick, the shy but popular teen at Lynchburg Christian Academy (now Liberty Christian Academy) penned those words, she had no idea she was about to have her prayer answered in a manner that would astound the nation–and the world–over the next ten years. She was given a commission from the Lord, which she is faithfully carrying out.

Watching the video above, you get a glimpse into the night a beautiful family became tragically shattered. Never, in the wildest imaginations of anyone, could friends have thought a marvelous ministry would be born that night. It turns the focus off the individual, and demonstrates the amazing love of Jesus for His world.

As I reflect on the life of Jen, I wonder, would I be willing to go through the ten years of trauma in order to reflect His glory? Would you? We get upset when prayers go unanswered, or when a fervent prayer is not answered the way we wish, but this child has thrown her whole heart and soul into serving our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Get your Bible, a notebook for thoughts that come to you, and a cup of something hot! Click on the link for the Sunday service at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA, for November 6, 2016, at http://www.trbc.org/service-archive, and join as we celebrated the ten year anniversary of the accident that should have taken the lives of the Barrick family. If you are listening by yourself, with your family or a group, study the questions below and decide if you want God to use you “just as you are.” You can do the study all in one sitting, or space the questions out through the week. He is seeking you, as Linda says, for a love relationship. Will you let Him find you? He will be the most faithful friend you could ever have.

The Barrick Family                                                                                                          November 6, 2016                                                                                                                  with Pastor Jonathan Falwell


Most of us would like to achieve a high goal of some type, or perhaps we have wished to do so at some point in our life, but feel it’s too late. Do you have an example you can share? If you are alone, write it down.

Today we are taking time to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of a family from the church who survived one of the worst car wrecks ever seen. Out of it, God has brought thousands of people to Himself!

Focal Passage: Isaiah 6:1-8

Think About or Discuss:


  1. Have you ever asked God to use you? If so, can you write down how you prayed in your notebook? If you’re with friends, discuss the things you think of.
  2. What do you remember that was in your mind at the time? Did you dream of an easy life, where you shared the gospel with willing people, and few problems?


  1. Can you think of any characters in the Old or New Testaments who suffered greatly, only to be used of God in a mighty way?
  2. What do you think the Barrick family would have said had you told them a horrific accident and a terrible brain injury would be needed to mold them into a family that God would use world-wide?


  1. Why is forgiveness so important?
  2. Is there anyone you need to forgive (answer in the silence of your heart)? Could they have hurt you more than the drunk driver injured the Barrick family?
  3. Would you forgive God for letting your or your family endure such terrible injury? Explain how you think you would feel.


  1. Can you honestly say that you would have written, as Jennifer did when she was fifteen years old, “God, do whatever You have to do to use me to further Your kingdom, and give me boldness?” Explain your answer.
  2. What is one statement made by any of the family in Sunday’s sermon time that you took away with you?
  3. Share whether you can state, “Yes, Lord, whatever You need to do for me to be a witness, I will accept Your plan?”


It is so easy to look at the sphere of influence, the huge crowds, and the immense number of people that are responding to the gospel given by the Barrick family as they witness of God’s grace, mercy, and miraculous healing, and not wish that were our own self. And yet in the “wish that were me leading so many people to the Lord” mentality, few of us would be willing to go through the years of trauma that they have endured because of one man’s choice to drink and drive. Yes, God could have stopped him. Yes, God could have done anything to keep this family safe. But God was looking at the big picture, the souls they would be leading into the kingdom, and the joy they are experiencing in knowing the suffering has been so worth it! And it is not over. As you listened to the testimony, you know Jen still suffers from short-term memory loss, and you can’t help but wonder what God has in store for her for the coming years. Will she be healed completely? Meanwhile, they still deal with the after-effects of the cancer Jen has experienced, and, although not mentioned, Andy himself has suffered cancer. God has a special love for this family. Pray for their safety, their protection, and their strength as they travel week after week, pouring out the message of hope and healing to a hurting world. And examine your own heart to see if you can honestly say, “Lord, not my will, but Thine be done!” And as Isaiah said in the passage above, “Here am I, Lord, send me!” Can you say that?

Memory Verse: Psalm 73:28: “But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Your works.”