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)

 

 

DO YOU HAVE A SERVANT’S HEART?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

START: Taking the Next Step of Service                                                                                      Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

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

Think About or Discuss:

THE NEXT STEP OF SERVICE:

 Putting Jesus First

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

Putting Others First

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

HOW?

With What You Have

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

With what you know

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

With Christ as your model

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

WHAT’S NEXT?

 Pray

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

Offer

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

Try

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

Close

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

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

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

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

© Woo Bing Siew

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FEAR: WILL IT RULE YOU?

I stared at the envelope, noting the Green Bay, WI postmark. There was no return address, and it was childishly printed with my name and address. Not that those facts are significant, but they made the letter an “unknown.” I instantly thought of my mom, who would get a letter or card and study it, trying to discern from the outside who it was from. It drove me crazy!! I was always saying, “Mother! Just open it and find out!” I have discovered that we become like our parents as we age, in spite of hoping (as we grow up) that all of their habits will somehow skip us. Alas, they usually don’t.

When I opened the long letter, I found, to my surprise, that what began like a friendly epistle pertaining to the blog, was actually one of the most brutal verbal attacks I could imagine. As I read it, I realized that–as Paul wrote in Ephesians 6–we are not wrestling with people, but with demons (powers and principalities). Indeed, Hannah, the writer, was a willing tool being used for destruction. Had she lambasted me with antagonism regarding my God, or my belief in Jesus Christ, I could have had scripture after scripture (“there is not one person on the face of the earth who is not able to tell, just by observing the universe, that God exists,” Romans 1:21, loose paraphrase, but it makes the point), and hundreds more. But she, supposedly representing an assembly of almost 100 members in a writers group (many PUBLISHED..her emphasis), tore the blog apart, item after item, every piece of punctuation, jot after tittle. She left nothing out, and emphasized that she had enough material to write an “autobiography.” (One of the first rules I learned at the writer’s conference was ‘write what you know,’ so I do!) She finished as she “encouraged” me not to stop writing–it provides too much valuable experience for the group of writers to use as their weekly exercise so they could get more insight in how (not) to write. She even was able to take an old picture of me and pass copies around to the group (can you imagine the amount of colored ink?), letting them furnish cartoon lines, and it was all done as if with a spirit of fun. She knew her knives were going deep, and hastened to tell me that her writing group would have a super time with all further blogs (and sermon studies).

Did she hit the mark? Oh, you bet. What was worse, she calmly told me that the Writer’s group had been introduced to the blog by a graduate of my local university (not hard to figure out if you know Lynchburg, VA), who had moved to Wisconsin and joined the group, bringing the blog along to the group meeting. I’m not sure of his intentions, but I could not help but think of David’s words in Psalm 41, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

When Jonathan (Falwell) preached this past Sunday on defeating fear, I sensed God wanted me to intently listen. Hannah had 1) achieved her purpose: I haven’t written the blog for two weeks, feeling it was worthless except to be used as a laughing joke and learning exercise; and 2) even worse for her, she had totally missed the message of the Cross while being so intent on destroying the writer. As the pastor spoke, I searched my heart diligently: was I not writing the past two weeks because she was making a big joke out of me, and because I was now living fearfully that she will write again more viciously (don’t, Hannah, it will just go in the trash), or was it much bigger? Yes, it was much bigger, for I was definitely letting Satan via his demonic activity close down the only way I personally have to impact anyone with the Gospel. It is always my hope each week that, as the sermons from Thomas Road go out with a study attached, some–or maybe only one–individuals will dig deep into God’s word. I had my answer: I had let fear rule me. (And my apologies to all the wonderful people who teach the seminars at the  Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conferences in NC each year, for any writing errors! They have helped me so beautifully as I seek to minister to the ones who have “ears to hear”!)

So, in keeping with the spirit of the powerful sermon preached on “Defeating Fear,” I offer this sermon study, hoping someone will benefit, perhaps watch the service, and learn to love and obey the word of God. Just click on http://www.trbc.org/service-archive, and select the sermon “Flannelgraph of Faith: Gideon” from this past Sunday. Above all, erase from your memory any lack of professionalism with which I write this blog, as the entire reason is to point someone, including Hannah and her 100 writing partners, to the Lord. It is by His grace alone that one can become saved, not through any of our own achievements. And fortunately, He uses the weak, the foolish and the unlearned of this world to teach the proud. Sit back, get a drink of your favorite beverage, and enjoy the service. Take time to check out the questions, and may you have a blessed week!

Flannelgraph of Faith: Gideon

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Fear can be a mild stress that causes us worry, or a paralyzing dread that almost immobilizes us, often because we have no control over a situation. Can you think of an example? If you are alone, write your answers in a notebook.

Today we are beginning a new series based on the visual teaching from decades ago: the flannelgraph. Although we will use it along with today’s technology, we want to reframe the stories learned from childhood of the heroes of faith, and see how their lives give us lessons to apply to our walk of faith today.

Focal Passages: Taken from Judges 6:1-40, 7:1-25, 8:1-35. When you get time, read all the story of Gideon—it will help you understand what he went through.

Thing About or Discuss:

The Background:

  1. Read Judges 6:1,2. Why did God have to chastise the Israelites, who had been in the Promised Land about forty years? What did they do in verse 2?
  2. When things became even worse, what were their actions (vs 6)? How is that exactly like people today (9/11 is a great example!)?

God’s Solution:

  1. In verses 7-10, God tells Israel why He was upset with them, but in His grace, He promises a deliverer. Read verses 14-17, as the Lord calls Gideon. Who does Gideon remind you of, as he tries to get out of the job of delivering Israel (Exodus 3:9-14, 4:1-14 when you have time)?
  2. How is that like our lack of faith when God calls us to move out of our comfort zone?

God’s Victory:

  1. By the end of chapter 6, how many men did Gideon have, to fight against the Midianites? In 7:1-7, what conversation does Gideon have with God?
  2. How many men did Gideon end up with? Why did God choose those who brought the water to their mouth to drink, to be those who would go with Gideon?

Gideon’s Final Years

  1. Read Judges 8:22-27. Why is it so unbelievable that Gideon “became a snare” to Israel, after all that the Lord had done for him?
  2. Asking ourselves the same question, how many times has God done something miraculous for you, only for you to leave Him for a season?

What Are Some Applications?

  • Defeating fear requires faith
  • Defeating fear requires Focus
  • Defeating fear requires Fidelity

Close:

Israel had turned away from the God who had delivered them from Egypt about eighty years prior. They had begun to worship the foreign gods and live as the heathen nations around them. God had to punish them for their sinful ways, giving them as slaves to the Midianites until they were ready to turn back to Him.

Gideon, a real person in a real-life situation, teaches us that men’s hearts, no matter the lifestyle or when they live, never change. When God chose Gideon to deliver Israel, Gideon begged for a sign that he was doing what God wanted. Today, we also might desire a tangible indication we are in His will, but it is our step of faith that God is looking for. We must discipline ourselves to be in His word so much that it becomes part of who we are, and we should always be listening for Him to speak through the verses.

After Gideon’s miraculous experience with the Midianites, we would assume his time of judging Israel was done with a focus of bringing the nation back to the One true God. But Gideon, in a strange move, took his eyes off God and repeated Aaron’s offense by making a golden object of worship. Letting our attention become misplaced onto things of the world is a sure way to get away from God. Israel went through generation after generation of faithfulness, then backsliding—doing evil, being chastised, and back to fidelity. How much God desires that we remain faithful, trusting Him no matter what comes our way! He is not our God only when things are going well: we must have such trust that the greatest hurts we bear are carried, knowing He is working in our lives.

What are your “Midianites,” and are you trusting the Lord to help you defeat them?

Memory Verse: Judges 6:16: And the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” (NKJV)

 

 

What Does Loving Others Look Like?

Like two fish walking along the beach beside the water, my daughter and I walked through the floral and plant aisles in the Lawn & Garden section of our local hardware store. We could not have been more out of our element if we had been getting ready to skydive. I have a very active DNA with cells that contain negative effects on growing flowers, and she states she has inherited the same genetic make up. The plants we were seeing were gorgeous! Bright reds, yellows, and oranges in celosias, climbing roses, daisies, and everything in between. The colors took your breath away. We also knew that we were looking for tags that said “Perennials–no maintenance required,” because otherwise they would be dead in a week.

I had finally, by experience, realized my grandmother and mother’s “green thumb” had passed me by. I switched to silk plants. Ouch. Several months down the calendar they had to be thrown away. Over the years I could have outfitted a cemetery, and then one day–a red letter day–I discovered Silk Plant Cleaner. It really doesn’t clean them–it simply puts a layer of shiny stuff on the leaves and flowers and dries. Presto! You have a new silk plant.

We actually did buy some plants. It will be interesting to see how well they do, as we read the instructions for light, water, and plant food. These are outside, so perhaps they will do well. If so, perhaps my daughter just has had a yet untested green thumb, or one that’s been dormant!

Many of the plants we saw had been reduced to ridiculous prices because they looked as if they were barely hanging on to life. I have to admit, we were tempted to buy some of the drying up bushes that might turn into beautiful roses. Tempted, but not an action carried through. She was afraid of wasting money, and not being able to bring life back into the half-dead plants. We left those and settled for some with lovely color that looked as though they might make it through the summer.

As we left, I couldn’t help but think of the similarity between the plants and our responsibility to people with whom we come into contact. Have you ever looked at eyes as you walked through the mall? So many seem as though half their life is being snuffed out. One lady this morning was on the phone, saying “But you hurt me so badly!” By other sentences she said as we passed, I could tell she was talking to a daughter, and I wanted to give her a hug, but knew it would scare her to death. Others have a look of sorrow, some show anger, some seem happy–but there is so much possibility of taking the “half-dead” spirit that is inside them, and putting a little “water,” “plant food” or “sun” in their lives by a simple smile, or even a simple sentence telling them something they are wearing is very lovely. Few women will not accept that gift of a compliment. It is such a small thing for us to do, but may be the kind word they have been needing. Men as well. I seldom hold back from adding a small sentence to a “hello,” just to remind someone they are part of a community.

Yesterday’s sermon from Thomas Road asked the question, “What Does Service Look Like?” We’re told in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 that no matter what we say or do, give away or speak, if love is not motivating us, our efforts amount to nothing. We are to love those whom we pass by as much as we love ourselves. Love is the action word that goes before all service. By it, we show that we are His disciples. There are so many ways you can show love to those around you: what about a child whose parents have little time for him/her? Or the elderly one who lives alone and would love to have someone to listen to old memories? Always remember, you will take nothing with you to heaven except for souls you have brought to the cross!

Get out your notebook, a cool drink, friends if they will join you, and go to the message preached yesterday (June 11, 2017), and listen as Pastor Jonathan tells how the world looks at us, and judges all Christians by your walk. A powerful sermon, but no good unless you put it into your heart, and apply it to your life! Click on http://www.trbc.org/service-archive, and select “What Does Service Look Like?” Then go below and study the message, writing your answers as God brings ideas and other Scriptures to mind. And if you enjoy it, share it with those you love, so that eventually we can reach our community, our county, state and nation.

What Does Service Look Like?                                                                                               Jonathan Falwell

Open:

What do you fear the most when you think of being called to help in any given task outside of your home? Do you consider yourself a follower or a leader?

When you asked Jesus Christ to save you from your sins, you believed He is God and that He paid your sin debt. You confessed your sins, and turned from them, as we are told in Romans 10:10. You may have wondered “what next?” Christ said in Luke 10:27 the two things He desires is for us to “Love the Lord your God,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself”— both beginning with the action of “love.” This week we will look at verses from the Sermon on the Mount to get a further grasp of what our service should look like.

Focal Passage: Matthew 5:13-16

Think About or Discuss:

We Are to Speak the Truth

  1. Read Matthew 5:13-16. In the simplest terms, share what being “salt to the world” means for a believer. Does that describe you? Why or why not?
  2. What are the two main uses for salt? Did Jesus mean one, or both? Explain how we do each.
  3. Read Ephesians 4:15; what is necessary when we speak truth to the world?

We Are to Show Love

  1. In verse 14a, what is the responsibility of the believer? Read John 3:20, 21. Now answer the question from this perspective.
  2. What is the condition of much of the world in this age we are living? Based on these verses, will most people actively seek out a church to try to change their sinful behavior? Does that make verse 14a hold a deeper meaning?

We Are Not to Be Ashamed

  1. Read verse 14b. Can you briefly share something you are passionate about, when fear of how others will react doesn’t dim your enthusiasm? How does this demonstrate our verse? Why are we not this outspoken about Jesus?
  2. Do you have a story of sharing the gospel, and what you learned from it? If it was negative, did that cause you to quit? Why was that the wrong decision? 

We Are to Share the Gospel

  1. Read verse 15. Have you ever wondered if, when you stand before God, hundreds—perhaps thousands—of souls could be standing nearby, all of whom you had the opportunity to witness to, but didn’t? Will anyone be in heaven because of you? Those are sobering thoughts! If you don’t share Jesus, who will? Think about or discuss your thoughts for a moment, or jot them in your notebook.

We Are to Set the Pace

  1. Read verse 16. When we share the light of the gospel of peace, what is the result supposed to be

Close:

When the moment came that you chose to accept Jesus as God’s Son, recognizing that He paid your debt of sin, that was your first step of obedience—you spoke the truth (the confession that you needed saving, and forgiveness from your sins). Prior to that time, you were in darkness.

Have you ever envisioned a pitch-black room, and realized what a small amount of light it takes to make those who are inside feel some comfort? Even something so tiny as a match from a “matchbook” is enough to bring light into the room. If you could imagine yourself being even a tiny light in a world of darkness, would it give you a jump start to witnessing? He asks that you love Him enough to share just what you know with those around you—just to speak the truth that you recognized the day you got saved. You’re not asked to have a degree in Theology—just tell what He did for you. Failure to share Jesus is based in the fear that you will be asked something you don’t know.  And yet in other areas—teams, movies, politics, etc.—we usually don’t let ourselves be beaten down by fright, and stating “I don’t know” doesn’t bother you. Have you asked yourself why? If telling others your story of salvation is fearsome for you, pray daily about it until you feel God starting to answer. This is something that He cares passionately about, which should make it a priority for you! Pray that He would give you the courage to “let your light shine.”

Memory Verse: Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

How Do We Let Our Light Shine?

  1. Consecration: Live your life in your own area of influence so well that others can think of nothing bad to say about you (Titus 2:7,8).
  2. Dedication: Work hard so that you don’t have to be ashamed before God (2 Timothy 2:15, 24).
  3. Motivation: Keep moving forward, even in the face of adversity (Philippians 3:13-15)

Personal Commitments

  1. Daily Bible Reading and study
  2. Committed to prayer
  3. Connected to a local church
  4. Telling others of Christ
  5. A constant pursuit of holiness
  6. Giving of one’s talents, time and treasures to others.

   Need to write? sdayfarm@aol.com

 

© Teodor Ostojic | Dreamstime Stock Photos

WHAT DO YOU SAY WHEN SOMEONE HURTS?

The class went from jovial to somber in one moment.

Everyone had been laughing and talking, having a fun time of fellowship until it was time to call the class to order. It was a Sunday morning, and the ones gathered in the room were of every type: many mixed ages, some young, middle aged and elderly; some single, widowed, or married; mixed races with one God, and a time and place to worship Him. Prayer had been prayed for those with problems too big to carry alone, songs had been sung, and announcements of coming events. It should have been time for the teacher to start the lesson. Instead, one of the women went to the front.

It’s funny: we tend to look at how people dress, how outgoing they are, what positions of leadership they hold, and judge their Christianity by these things. In doing so, you would have said this lady had it all together–her ducks were all in a nice row! No book should be judged by its cover, right?

It was obvious from the stance that her normally outgoing personality was being tested and that she was in pain. As soon as she began to speak, you could hear a pin drop.

“You all know that often, as I’m running around town, I see you in shops, stores, or a variety of other places. Often my daughter will be with me. You know her well, and know that she is a student here at the Community College. The next time you see her, you will be asking yourself, ‘Is her daughter pregnant? It surely looks as though she is.’ Soon the rumor mill will be in full swing, and each will be calling someone else, so you can find out, or perhaps even “pray.” I want to tell you up front, yes, she is. We have just found out, and I cannot tell you much more than that, but it is not something I felt that could be hidden. If you have something to say, it is now out in the open, and we are trying to deal with the fallout in our home. I’m ashamed, and embarrassed that I feel the need to be open about this, but even some of you have been down this road and know what we’re going through; it isn’t fun, it is full of turmoil and pain, and sincere prayer for our being kind and understanding with our daughter would be appreciated.” She sat down.

Over the next few weeks, people did not know what to say. Should they say “I’m sorry”? Ignore her? Walk on the other side? Address the situation, or leave it alone? It’s a pain few can understand. Almost like a terminal illness, you want to ask how things are going, but are not quite sure it’s the right thing to do.

I think it is the only time I ever heard any one address such a thing in church. One doesn’t ordinarily have sin admitted publicly, addressed so that it takes away the gossipers, or seen the crushing pain of those involved. As I thought back to that Sunday School class, it made me think even more of the passage chosen this past Sunday at Thomas Road Baptist Church, as Jonathan Falwell spoke of the woman at the well in Samaria, and the reaction, not only of Jesus, but of the disciples and then of the villagers. I put “flesh and blood” on her, and made her the real person she probably was. Let’s look at her a moment before you click on the sermon!

She could have been any age, goodness knows! Since young girls became women of marriageable age by fourteen–or even earlier–she perhaps was between twenty and forty. She was probably reasonably pretty, but wouldn’t you think maybe not the cleanest person in the village? What were the men in Samaria like? Do you think they had a “pub” or a bar where they could get “strong drink” and forget they were married? Perhaps many weren’t, but were just passing through an area where the woman lived. They would go visit her for an hour, perhaps leave some money so she could buy food, and go their way. Some had married her; why do you suppose they left? Now she was living with someone, not married. How do you think the women of Samaria treated her?

I would hazard a guess that they walked on the other side of the street if they saw her coming. What might have been worse, a woman she might have passed could have been the wife of one of her clients! She wasn’t friends with any (or many), and was probably very lonely. What had caused this lifestyle? How do you not feel sorry for her?

When Jesus came along, He was so tired, but He came because He knew she would be coming to the well–and coming after all the well-reputed women had gone back to their home. Let’s pick up the story by clicking on http://www.trbc.org/sermons and choosing “Storytellers: The Story of a Servant” preached March 19, 2017. If you have a notebook, grab it so that you can keep a record of your thoughts, find your comfy chair, a cool drink, and if you have a friend who will join you, listen to the service together, then do the sermon study below. Think seriously about the questions asked: do YOU put yourself where sinners come? Do YOU initiate conversation about their lifestyles, and tell them how to be saved? Hopefully the message will inspire you to make changes in you life if you don’t. God bless you as you study His word!

Storytellers: The Story of a Servant                                                                                                                               Pastor Jonathan Falwell, with Dr. David Wheeler

Open:

Another week! What exciting story, game, or piece of information happened this week that you could hardly wait to share?

This week we finish the short series on the importance of sharing the story of our encounter with the living Christ. We want to focus on the story of someone who lived—more than likely—as a rejected woman, but ended up changing a village with her testimony. Is it possible our reputation could be any worse—and our testimony be any greater?

Focal Passage: John 4:1-30, 39-42

Think About or Discuss:

See the Worth of Every Person

  1. Read John 4:1-7. What were some of the reasons the trip through Samaria was unusual? How did the Jews view Samaritans, and women in particular?
  2. What was Jesus’ physical condition as He sat at the well (verse 6)? What would be “natural” in that moment?

See Them the Way Christ Sees Them

  1. Read verses 7-10. What did Jesus see as He spoke with the woman who came to the well?
  2. Read verse 11. What is significant about the lack of a dipper? How would you react if you needed to share a drink with someone who was “unclean”?

See the Value of the Message

  1. Read verse 10b. What was He trying to get her to ask for?
  2. Think: How much time each week do you intentionally put yourself in a place where you will meet people who need to hear your message?

See the Importance of Telling Them

  1. Read verses 28-30. What possibly took place within the woman’s heart that she would risk rejection by running back to town? If you could put yourself in her place, do you think her countenance had changed any, so as to be believed by the men of Samaria?

Do Whatever It Takes

  1. Read verses 40-42. What was the outcome of the extra time Jesus spent in Samaria?
  2. How often do you get out of your box to tell your story?        

ACTION APPLICATIONS:

  1. Everyone matters to Jesus! Be intentional in going to places where you will find the lost.
  2. Be willing to share not only your story, but also minister to needs; would Jesus have drunk from her dipper, had she gone ahead and gotten Him water?
  3. He gave her respect, even though she was a woman of low virtue; He “valued” her.
  4. Be willing to inconvenience yourself if you have an opportunity to share your story with more people, because of the one.
  5. Pray that God would put you in a pond where there are many fish!

Close:

As you watch a movie or read a book, do you get caught up in the story line, and live the situation? If so, you’ll be able to envision and empathize with the woman who went to the well. She probably waited until the other women had come and gone—after all, it was possible she had been intimate with several husbands in the village—and she was not a popular person. The only ones who showed her attention more than likely were the men who used her. Yet as she approached the well, there sat a Jew, who, with compassion in His eyes, spoke to her as if she were of value, and asked for water. The conversation is not all recorded, but He must have made such an impression that she ran back to the town to tell those whomever would listen that it was possible the Messiah was in Samaria! She had a story that changed the lives of a town. If you would go outside your comfort zone, would you find a group who needs to hear your story, that there is Someone who loves them, died to pay for their sins, and is not willing that any go to hell, but can receive forgiveness and eternal life? Pray God will use you to share your story!

Memory Verse: John 4:10: Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”

 

 

God Gave YOU A Story!

I sat quietly in the circle, hoping no one would notice me, or think about why I hadn’t spoken out. Me–the extrovert who gets into an elevator and says “Now the reason I’ve called this meeting,..” The one with the bling, who loves color, jewelry that is too heavy to wear–the one who is so much like the mother I was so ashamed of! Yeah, that one. In this instance, the quiet one. The one who wasn’t going to speak.

Circumstances compel us to act in certain ways at certain times, did you know that? You may be the life of the party when there’s no pressure, but when everyone is listening–and assessing what is being said in comparison to how they see you live on a daily basis–then you become someone else. Perhaps someone meek. Someone quiet. That was me in this circle.

It had been such a fun morning! We had been invited for brunch at the home of one of those “Southern Living” houses–you know the kind, where the hostess takes things you’ve thrown out, puts a vine around it, and everyone dies for the décor. Where she looks like she’s spent seven weeks cooking for the group of friends, and has burned nothing (I can’t relate. When I turn on the oven or stove top, my smoke alarm beeps just out of habit). Where you can put on a white glove and run your finger around the bottom of her commodes (multi-bathrooms, not several in one) and it still comes up white. Mine would be … well, we won’t go there.

The reason for the celebration? A new baby? A shower? An engagement party? No. New car, new house, new job? Nope. Someone who had been on “skid row” for years had come to the Lord (the Christianese is “being saved”) for salvation, and it was a happy time for all of us who had prayed for so long that they repent of their sins and put their hand in the Hand of the One who holds all things together. It was one of those times, the Bible says, when the angels in heaven rejoice!

Until. The hostess thought it would be a great witness to go around the room and tell our particular story of how we came to ask the Lord to save us. The reasoning was that there would be experiences that could be pulled upon when crises (plural) hit, and that even though we do go through rough times, the “righteous falls seven times but gets back up.” (Proverbs 24:16.)

I sat like a stone, listening. Joe had been on drugs, alcohol–the whole street scene. His wife had gone to church, gotten saved, and begged him to come. Long hair, camouflage gear, hiking boots, dirty, smelly, he decided to get her off his back so he would go with her–ONE time. Where did they sit? The front row. Can you imagine the ones sitting around them, who had to hold hankies to their noses for the hour? But he listened. He got saved. He actually went on to seminary and became a pastor!  Wow–what a testimony!

Then someone told of Jennifer: a young girl who was saved, but had prayed hard that God would use her to impact her friends. Her family was involved in an accident, hit by a truck at over 80 mph, and she was thought to be dead. She has now been witnessing with a boldness of the Apostle Paul for almost ten years! What encouragement! Tons of exciting testimonies.

When it came to the point where people were winding down, everyone looked at me. Anyone who was my age, who loves to dress “sassy” (as my friends say), who never holds back–why certainly I would have a story of conversion that would go off the charts. But I didn’t. I sat there, knowing God would not bless something that was exaggerated, made up, was just a good story, or anything but the basic truth. And then it hit me: I seldom share my story because it is not flamboyant, interesting, or awe-inspiring! Suddenly, I realized, I had been blessed with the sweetest story of all.

I was raised in a home where my earliest (VERY earliest) memories were of my mom standing on the platform with her guitar singing the old “Stamps Baxter” songs (Google them). This was the guitar that I later tried to see if the broom handle would fit in that “S” figure on the top. It didn’t. She cried so hard that she couldn’t even discipline me, but made my dad do it when he got home and she was still crying. I still have the guitar but she’s playing a harp in heaven and singing like an angel. She sang at funerals, weddings, wherever the Lord moved her. She didn’t have a great voice, but she loved Him with her whole heart.

Whenever we ate, there was always grace. Daddy prayed at breakfast, Mother prayed at  supper. We went to every church service, helped with every need we could afford (which wasn’t many), and the church was our social life. You see, at that time, in their history, there were two types of people: the ones whose life revolved around the church, and the rest. Ours revolved around the church. I helped in the nursery from the time I could hold a baby, started playing the piano at thirteen (with tons of mistakes), and talked to the Lord. Oh, I didn’t have my theology correct: I remember wishing on the first star at night: as soon as I saw it, I would ponder all I knew, what all I wanted. Eventually my “wish” was always the same: that everyone in the world be saved. How old was I? Seven, maybe? Eight? But somehow at that young age, I knew in my heart that if they were, there would be “peace on earth.”

I never remember a time when I didn’t believe with my whole heart that God was in His heaven, and all was right with the world. Eventually I realized He had sent His only Son to die for those of us who just couldn’t get it right–but we still had to pay for our sins. So what did He do? He paid them for us! And I believed that–and asked Him into my heart. Did I rebel? You bet. Later–decades later–I couldn’t stand responsibilities I had brought on myself, and decided to try life the world’s way. THAT should have been my testimony–but that wouldn’t be the story of my conversion but of my backsliding. No, I couldn’t do that. Afterwards, when I had returned to Him, I could only look back  and know that, although I had tried the sinful pleasures of the world for a season, I had never not believed He was my savior. Even when I was faithless, He was faithful.

So I started my story: my being raised in a Christian home, knowing from my earliest memories that God was my Savior, being baptized, and walking with Him. So very unlike the other, grandiose stories that were being told! But I realized, as I told it, it would be like talking today–in the midst of a world that has gone haywire with divorces, mixed marriages, and living together without commitments,–of being born and growing up in a home with the two parents who conceived you, and raised you to adulthood; a blessing that is so extraordinary today as to be abnormal. It is my story, and I need to be thanking God for the simplicity of it, and the blessings in it, rather than focusing on the lack of drama.

Is that you? Are you rather embarrassed because your story isn’t flamboyant? Full of drama? Thank the Lord for His grace toward you! Now take your story and bless someone else with it. Look for the sermon preached at Thomas Road Baptist Church on Sunday, March 12, and settle in for a time of worship and praise! After you’ve heard the sermon, go to the study notes below, and ponder a little deeper into ways you can be a witness to those you know who need the Lord. If you have a friend, ask them to join you, and study and discuss it together. But get your notebook, something warm to drink on this cold day, and click on http://www.trbc.org/sermon; click on “Story Taker,” and give God your week!

Storytellers: “Story Takers”                                                                                                                                                                                       Matt Matt Willmington

Open:

Was there an exciting story or piece of information (ball game, book, movie, etc.) that you shared with someone this week? Did you think to examine why you did this?

Last week we looked at one of the stories in the New Testament, applying principles to help us share the story of our salvation with people we meet. Today we are going to look at exactly what that story should look like, and where we can share it. If you are with friends, discuss the study; if you are alone, get your notebook and keep a record of your answers, so that you can see growth in your life as you walk with Him!

Focal Passage: Matthew 9:1-13, Mark 2:1-17

Think About or Discuss:

What Is the Story? There are usually both “bad” parts and “good” parts in any story.

  • What is the best part of God’s story? (John 3:16) He loves you!
  • What is bad about your story? (Rom. 3:10, 23) You deserve punishment.
  • What did God do for you? (1 Pet. 3:18) Jesus paid it all!
  • What does He offer you? (Rom. 10:13, Eph. 2:8, 9) The free gift of salvation.
  • What is God’s promise? (Rom. 8:38,39) Eternal life with Him.

TAKE PEOPLE TO JESUS

  1. Read Mark 2:1-12. What were some of the anxieties these four friends had for their paralytic comrade? What was their major concern?
  2. Why were they determined to get him to Jesus?
  3. Are you so concerned about your friends, that you will take them where they can hear the gospel? If it’s not your responsibility, whose is it?

TAKE JESUS TO PEOPLE

  1. Read Matt. 9:9-13 and Luke 5:28-29. What are several reasons that made Jesus’ action of calling Matthew uncommon?
  2. What were three immediate responses of Matthew to Jesus’ call? What was courageous about him calling his “IRS” friends?
  3. If you knew your story would bring this result so quickly, would you run to tell it to everyone?

TAKE JESUS’ BURDEN

  1. Read Matt. 9:35-38. What is your main concern when meeting a friend whom you feel is not saved? Do you stay away from the subject of eternity? What are some things Jesus felt and some things He did?
  2. What are some things you can do for unsaved friends?       

ACTION  APPLICATIONS:

  1. Only you know if you have been changed by God. If you have, then realize your story is simple: 1) God loves you; 2) You were a sinner who deserved to be punished; 3) Jesus paid your sin debt with His death on the cross; 4) You have been given full pardon for your sins the moment you ask Him to save you; 5) You will spend eternity with Him!
  2. Be committed to having a team of friends pray for lost loved ones or those you are burdened for, and work to bring them to where they can hear the gospel; know God wants them to be saved, and praise Him for any opportunity;
  3. Invite friends to your home for a meal at a time when other Christians will be there; dig deep to find courage to be hospitable, despite what others may say;
  4. Serve those who are in need at every opportunity! Have compassion on the lost, and pray that God will surround those you have a burden for with Godly people.
  5. Share your story at every opportunity!

Close:

Our story is unique: it is ours, and no one else will have the same experience. Does it bother you that you can’t think of a time, a moment, or an instance when you became a child of God? Perhaps that was not meant to be your story but someone else’s! Were you changed in some way? Probably. It is hard to get used to witnessing, but recent statistics show that even in one’s home, only about 3% of children and grandchildren know the testimony of their parents. Does that convict you? That would be a great place to begin telling your story! The only thing you will take to heaven are the souls whom you lead to Jesus Christ. Don’t you want those to be your family, friends or your circle of influence? Pray diligently that God would multiply your faith this year, and burden you with two or three that you can pray persistently for, with heartfelt compassion and love. You cannot save them, but you can introduce them to the Savior.

Memory Verse: Matt. 9:38: “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

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