MAKE A DIFFERENCE–THREE EASY STEPS!

The instruction sheet probably wouldn’t be needed–this was just too easy! The counter-height chair was a long back piece, with legs cut into the wood, two front legs, the seat, and 3 bars for stabilizing the bottom. I mean, how hard could that be? I opened the box in time for my husband to enter the room, pick up the instruction sheet, and get a screwdriver. I’m smart enough to leave the room; by the time I would be returning, it should be done.

I’m right! I walked in and the chair was finished, and was very lovely. I listened to the extreme quiet in the house and realized he was taking a rare nap. Looking at the second chair, I knew I could follow what he had done and have it finished by the time he woke.

I put the seat on, then attached the front legs. I’ll admit I did wonder if it were possible to put the left one on the right, and the right one on the left. I couldn’t see a difference, so figured it wouldn’t matter. By the time I was ready for the 3 bars across the sides and lower front, I was tired. Time to quit. Oh wow–just in time, as I heard him waking.

Knowing if I disappeared, he’d finish the project, I headed for the office. An hour later he’s calling: “They’ve sent the wrong front legs! These are not right, and the cut-out sections for the stabilizer bars are in the wrong place! You’ll have to call and order new ones.” I asked, meekly, “Could I have put the two front legs on the wrong sides?” No answer. I drop it. The chair lays in the floor, a lonely, unfinished project, waiting for help. An hour later the opportunity arises.

Aha! He’s going to take trash to the dump! I figure I have about 8 minutes to test my theory that I had put the legs on wrong. The instant he’s gone, I unscrewed the legs, take out the stabilizer bars (that weren’t screwed in), and switch the legs. I was right–they were in the wrong places. Whew. As I’m tightening the screws, I hear the car returning. Quickly I inserted the bars–and viola! everything looks perfect.

He entered the room when he got back into the house, and I innocently asked, “I can’t see a problem; would you look at it, and see what’s wrong?” He walked over to the chair, laying on the floor placed beside the finished one, and said, “Yes. If you’ll just look a minute, I can show you exactly what is wrong!” He looked, looked some more, and studied the two intently. I was cracking up inside, but making no obvious noises like snorting. After a couple more minutes, he turned. “WHAT DID YOU DO?” Not calmly. “I can feel you laughing!” I carefully mentioned that I had suggested I had put the legs on the wrong sides; when I switched them, all stabilizer holes lined up perfectly.

Ahhh. The power of an instruction sheet. No, I didn’t use it, and wasted a ton of time. Yes, I could have picked it up, looked at the numbers on the bottom of the legs, and gotten it right. Hardheaded is my nature, and yet I realize every time that I need steps to follow to get where my project intends me to go!

Are you like that? Some of us are, and some are very fortunate to have either the experience or the common sense to accomplish their intentions without steps. Sunday’s message was a great three-step “instruction sheet” on how to decide if you are ready to be a witness for Jesus Christ: how to identify your responsibility, how to identify those to whom you can be a witness, and why you need to do so. Click on http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and select the sermon for the past Sunday, “DIFFERENCE MAKERS: WHERE DO I START?” It is a great beginning for someone who wants to make a difference on your street, perhaps just within a few houses near yours, and minister and witness. Claim those people for the Lord, praying for them, and looking for ways to serve them. Once you’ve led a person to know and accept the forgiveness of God, it will excite you to do it again and again. Grab your notebook, an easy chair, and sit back to enjoy the service, then do the study below. Let it make a difference in your life!

Difference Makers: Where Do I Start?

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Some of us work so much better with an instruction sheet—or a list of “steps”—to get a project done. Others do great without one. Can you think of an example? If you are by yourself, write your answers in a notebook.

We are currently in a series called “Difference Makers,” looking at how we should be living out our Christian life in the world. Sometimes we are unsure of a “next step.” This past Sunday’s message lays out for us three steps that will help us examine our hearts to know that we are prepared to witness, who we should have a burden for, and why it is our job to share with them the Good News.

Focal Passages: 2 Pet. 3:9-10; 1 Cor.15:1-4a; John 14:6; Rom.10:9-13; Matt. 22:37.

Think About or Discuss:

BEING A DIFFERENCE MAKER: Where do I start?

Know who you are

  1. What have you learned in prior weeks that defines a “Difference Maker”? According to those passages above, what is your responsibility?
  2. How can you be a Christian, and not be a Christ-follower? What does a Christ-follower do?
  3. Read 1 Cor. 15:1-4a; what did Paul do once he was saved by grace?

Know who they are

  1. John 3:16 says Jesus’ atonement for sins is available to whom? If you desire to ask Jesus into your heart and life, will He hold anything in your past against you?
  2. What are some normal characteristics of those who need Christ? How is it possible that their anger, profanity, or attitude might be covering up a deep desire to have someone love them?
  3. Read Matt. 22:37. Why is it so hard to love those who are going to hell (your “neighbors”) or those who have hurt you? Can you understand that you need to forgive others, just as Jesus has forgiven you?
  4. What are some intentional things you can do to show love for these people?

Know what your job is

  1. Go back again to 1 Cor. 13:4. What did Paul do after salvation? What was probably was being said of him? (Remember, his reputation would have gone out among all those following Jesus Christ at that time. How hard would that have been for him to face those same people?)
  2. 28:19-20: What does Jesus tell you to do?

Close

If we are not careful, we can become insulated in our churches through Bible studies, evening groups, choosing friends, worship or Sunday School, and never reach our neighbors or the world. It takes intentional, daily discipline to be willing to be used to further the kingdom of God on earth. Usually work situations are not easy places to witness verbally, so we rely on our lifestyle to show our co-workers that we hold ourselves to another standard. But is this what Jesus desires of us? If we look at the early church, we find the disciples going out “street preaching,” sharing the good news of the death, burial and resurrection of a Savior to all who would listen. They didn’t just live their faith, they shared it. Have you examined your life to see if you love the lost with the same compassion Jesus did? Does your lost neighbor weigh on your heart? Until you get the courage to witness, you can at least lift him/her up in prayer each day, asking God to open a door. If you are unsure of the status of their soul, you can usually pick up on it with just a few minutes conversation, or ask a non-threatening question like “Do you attend church?” Most people are not offended by that. In your heart, identify your job as a Christ-follower as someone who is a witness of what He has done for you, who gives out the good news, and who loves people into a relationship with Jesus. You’ll never be satisfied to live a life of mediocrity again!

Key Verses: 2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (NKJV)

A DIFFERENCE MAKER:

Sees things and people the way Christ does;                                                                 Loves people, and uses things (not the reverse!);                                                             Has a heart for the hurting;                                                                                            Has a heart for the lost;                                                                                                      Is a Christ-follower;                                                                                                             Is one who has believed and received the Gospel story of Jesus [His death, burial,   resurrection], has followed Jesus in baptism, is obeying all that Jesus taught, and is helping others do the same.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Day in the Old Way

Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

Focal Passage: Matthew 16:13-18.

Think About or Discuss:

WHAT IS THE CHURCH?

The Church is God-ordained

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

WHY IS THE CHURCH IMPORTANT?

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

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

IS THE CHURCH STILL RELEVANT TODAY?

          Jesus is the Head of the church

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

DO I REALLY NEED TO BE A PART OF THE CHURCH

          Jesus gave a Plan for the church

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

Jesus gave us the Keys to the church

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

Close

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

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

 

 

A RESOLVE TO LOVE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pressing On                                                                                                                                             Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

Focal Passage: Philippians 3:1-14.

Discuss:

THE PAST SHOULD STAY THERE

Our beliefs about the past

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

THE GOAL IS CLEAR

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

THE GOAL? PURSUIT OF CHRIST AND THE PROMISE OF HEAVEN

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

Close

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

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

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MERCY TRIUMPHS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TINY GIANTS: Mercy Matters                                                        Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

Focal Passages: Philemon.

Think About or Discuss:

MERCY MATTERS:

  The Right Testimony

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

The Right Response

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

The Right Action

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

The Right Example

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Dana Bartekoske Heinemann

ID 2802747 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

TAKE THE NEXT STEP!

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

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

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

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

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

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

START: How Can I Be Sure?                                                                                          Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

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

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

Background:

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

How You Can Be Sure:

You will want to know Him:

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

Conviction of your sin:

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

Seek fellowship with other Christians:

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

Understand the power of prayer:

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

Recognize the importance of God’s Word:

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

Close

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

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

© Matthiashaas

ID 5704867 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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

ID 4589521 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Life Isn’t Fair…

                                            

 

 

The odor of stink bug filled the room. If you’ve                    never smelled one, there’s a great reason for it’s name. You can tell instantly when one has invaded any spot in your home–it’s rather like running over a skunk with a car: there’s an odor that permeates everything. Move to Virginia when it’s cool weather.

On this particular morning, chores needed to be done. There seems to be a recurring law that laundry, like dishes, accumulates with regularity, and bits of sticks, leaves, and dirt get tracked onto area rugs, while dust seems to penetrate closed windows in spite of the insulation around the edge, and manages to land right on the pieces of furniture that are hardest to clean. (So far, no little elves in green outfits have shown up at midnight, like the Fairy Tales would have you believe!) Realizing the  stink bug is hiding out in the living room, and there’s no doubt which room will get the first attention.

Dragging the vacuum cleaner to the spot where “he” seemed to be sending the most pronounced smell was not a chore: it was rather like a cat must feel as he/she sits like a statue, watching a bird a few feet away. The end result will be worth the wrestling with the upright cleaner. Bag empty? Check. Ready to go? Check. And suddenly an “Aha” moment as the vile critter is spotted…in this case, laying upside down, feet in the air, (as well as the smell), having just succumbed to the lifetime granted to him by his creator. Fortunately for him.

Powering up the vacuum, it was touch and go as it was pushed over the bug (still there), returned, run over again, repeated several more times, all to no avail. This was getting frustrating! This was not a cheap, Black Friday deal, or a clearance product from the local home supply store, but a top-of-the-line vacuum, one that the manufacturer claimed had the power to inhale a pile of dirt in seconds, let alone a little stink bug the size of a fingernail! But no such thing was happening. This was unfair! It was getting one’s temper out of sorts quickly, knowing the price + the ability = picking up a stink bug! Taking the vacuum back to the store would have to wait, but the feeling that this whole scenario had been totally unfair was uppermost.  After all, how could they make such claims if it wouldn’t do its job?

One finds lessons in so many things, even stink bugs. Suddenly the Holy Spirit softly whispered, “Where did you get the idea that life is fair? Did Jesus get fairness while He was on the earth? Does Scripture say life is fair?” We seem to have accepted the world’s philosophy that everything should be tit for tat: if you have this, I should have it; if Johnny gets a toy, Joe should get one. We’ve let society and materialism infiltrate our minds to the point that we expect things to be just and fair. Wrong. Was it fair for the disciples to be martyred for preaching? Is it fair when people drink, drive, and kill a family? When a child is molested? Life is not fair–but God is still with us.

Picture Naomi for a moment. Surely you know Naomi: she was married, and had two young sons. Her husband, during a famine in Judea, decided to move the family to a heathen country, Moab. Do you think for a moment Naomi was thrilled to leave family and friends? Speaking from personal experience, having moved too many times to count, the feeling of being uprooted, even after a couple of years, is difficult; what must it be like when you’re leaving your homeland? She probably thought, “It’s not fair!” Her life in Moab was not a “happily ever after” either. Her husband died, her two sons married heathen women, and then the sons died. Naomi could have screamed, “It’s not fair!”

Click on the link to the sermon from Thomas Road Baptist Church, http://www.trbc.org/service-archive , for this past Sunday, July 23, and see what the study of Naomi can teach us all. Grab yourself a notebook, curl up in a good chair, and listen to the sermon, putting yourself in Naomi’s place. Afterwards, take a few moments to answer the questions below, as that will cause the lessons to sink deep into your heart. Above all, enjoy the sermon, hunger and thirst for righteousness, and share Jesus with your friends.

Flannelgraph of Faith: Ruth—Everyone Matters                                                                                                                           Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

In almost everyone’s life at some time there has been a woman—perhaps a mother, teacher, or friend—who has made an impact on one’s character. Can you share a memory you may have as you reflect?

We are continuing to examine Bible characters whose lives have left many lessons for us. This week we will concentrate on the book of Ruth, but it will be the life of Naomi, the mother-in-law, whom we will focus on. Her lessons will be as applicable to men as to the women. As we use the old-school visual teaching of the flannelgraph, we will see what we can learn from her life.

Focal Passages: Taken from Ruth 1:1-4:22

Think About or Discuss:

God Uses the Famines of Life to Bring Blessings:

  1. Can you give a short summary of why this family of Judea lived in Moab, and what occurred in the first several years? If not, go back and read through chapter one, until Naomi begins her trip back to Judea. Can you relate to a lifestyle that seems to bring grief every way you turn, and can you share? If you’re by yourself, write down your answers in a notebook.
  2. Read Ruth 1:6 & 14. If you were Naomi, would you have made the decision to return to Bethlehem? Why?
  3. Do you think she saw any blessings in her life during the time she lived in Moab? Why or why not?

God’s Love is Not Exclusive:

  1. In a moment we will read Naomi’s outpouring of grief at her circumstances; however, how would you explain her relationship with both daughters-in-law that they would desire to go with her?
  2. Read 1:19-21. How do you envision the heart of Naomi toward God? Can you share a time when you questioned God’s love for you and your faith was shaken?
  3. Naomi could see only the events that had occurred in Moab; can you think of any scriptures that would have been helpful to her know (both OT or NT)? (There are some cited at the end.)
  4. According to Romans 8:28, what would God do with her life?

God’s Plan is Greater:

  1. Can you give a brief synopsis of what happened after Naomi returned to Bethlehem (leaving out the end)? If not, take a moment to read the short chapters from 1:19 to 4:12.
  2. Read 4:15a. Who were the people talking about? How do you think Naomi felt as she held Obed in her arms?
  3. List some of the miraculous results that God brought about even though the road had been a very painful one.

Close:

One is so focused on Ruth as the main character in this short book that we often overlook the harsh years that Naomi lived through. Her husband (probably) made the decision to move to the heathen land of Moab. Although there is no mention of the age of her boys, they grew old enough to marry while living there. Their marriages to Moabite women, especially after the death of their father, had to have been a trial to Naomi, but we know she must have treated them with tremendous love and respect. Otherwise, they would not have desired to go to Bethlehem with her, although Orpah was, in the end, persuaded to stay in Moab. Although Naomi did not verbalize a bitterness toward God, asking friends in Bethlehem to call her “Mara” (bitter) must have been her heart’s attitude. She could never have imagined that the simple act of bringing Ruth back to Bethlehem would result in her being great-great-grandmother to King David, and Ruth ultimately being in the line of the Messiah, Christ Jesus.

In our own lives, we can sympathize with the times of trouble Naomi experienced. We have days of crisis, with a rare day here and there that is peaceful and quiet. And often our valleys get so low, we question God’s love for us, His presence with us, and His plan to bring good out of our situation. Perhaps this story of Naomi will be one that will inspire you to recognize God’s miracles are not confined by our past, our race, or our heritage, and He is weaving a purpose that will result in amazing outcomes. He will use truly unlikely circumstances to bring about a beautiful end and a deliverance.

Memory Verse: Ruth2:10: So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (NKJV)

Ask Yourself: Do you ever fall down before the Lord, bowing yourself to the ground, and asking Him, “Why have I found favor in Your eyes, that You should take notice of me, since I am a sinner?”

Question 6: Encouraging scriptures: Deuteronomy 31:8; 1 John 4:16, 5:3; James 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:7; Ephesians 5:1; Romans 8:28.

ID 2532051 © Natalia Sevriukova | Dreamstime

A big BIG thank you to Kim Dalton for contributing her experience with the stink bug, and the lesson she learned!