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

Why Do We Suffer?

Bedtime or not, I couldn’t lay the book down. Dragging in the morning when the alarm would go off was not to be compared to closing the book before I had finished the chapter. The concept was intriguing! A man who was a “lukewarm” Christian had gone to sleep, had a nightmare, and woke hearing voices of people he passed as he started for work. The voices were not those of demonic forces, but it was as if he could hear the thoughts rolling in their very soul. For instance, “I’m so tired of having no one who cares about me. Life is not worth living.” After many agonizing times when he thought someone had spoken to him, he realized their lips weren’t moving, and as we say, he freaked out! He ran to his pastor, who realized–somehow–that God had given the man the gift of hearing the deepest needs of the people with whom he was coming into contact. The pastor was jubilant, and insisted on going out among the people immediately, to see if he was correct. Yes, the man was hearing their unspoken suffering, and in doing so, was able to let his pastor know, so the pastor could minister to the person. It may sound dry, but wasn’t. It was an “I have to know what happens next” kind of book!*

After finishing it, I wondered if I, too, could look at people more like God looks at them, and see if I could discern their feelings by their outward expression. There’s always been a saying, “The eyes are the windows of the soul,” meaning that one’s feelings are generally reflected in the eyes. Smiles that do not reach the eyes are not smiles. I also wondered if I could listen more, and talk less! How many times had I heard someone answer truthfully rather than the politically correct “Fine,” to “Hi! How are you?” Had I ever followed up on it, and given them my time? They don’t really expect a reply, but they’ve answered truthfully because they’re seeking help. I love to listen to someone’s story. Rather than seeing that as a way to pass time, perhaps I could use it, like the man in the book above, to get to the root of their distress and show them there is One who cares more deeply about them than they could ever imagine. Why am I not using my time to make disciples?

How often are people we come into contact with suffering in some way that we can understand and relate to? Perhaps they have a spouse or family member who has just gotten news of a health crisis, or perhaps lost their job, or are having marital problems, and so many more areas of pain. Sometimes they are Christians who cry out to God, and instead of instant relief, there is silence. They may conclude–especially if they are a new Christian, or one who hasn’t been tested much–that He doesn’t really care. As was spoken in a recent movie, “Did you ever notice that the teacher is silent during a test?” Perhaps God is doing a work in their life. It scares me to death to think I should step in and help a need and get in God’s way while He’s trying to bring them closer to Himself. It’s imperative we act only when God nudges us.

This past Sunday Pastor Jonathan Falwell, himself a recent victim of physical suffering while being in the eye of Hurricane Irma, spoke on why there is suffering here on earth. Get your notebook, a beverage, and click on the website for Thomas Road Baptist Church at http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and select “Why Then Do We Suffer?” He gives answers from God’s word, advice to apply to our lives, and hope for a beautiful future. Enjoy the song service if you have time, and then do the sermon study below. God is good–all the time. Even in suffering, even through the evil that breaks His heart as it does ours, even in times when we think He doesn’t care, He’s good.

Why Then Do We Suffer?                                                                                         Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Each day world or national news seems to be filled with crises that would have been unimaginable fifty years ago. Can you think of a catastrophe that has impacted you or your extended family recently?

Today the severe challenges we are facing—whether from health, financial, family, sin or dozens more—inevitably lead us to the point of suffering where we cry out to God, “Why, Lord?” This week we are going to look at life from God’s perspective, as well as our own personal standpoint.

Focal Passages: Romans 5:12-25, 8:31-39; Job 5:7, 14:1.

Think About or Discuss:

This World Is Not What God Intended:

  1. Read Genesis 1:31. What did God say about His creation at the end of Day Six?
  2. Read Genesis 2:15. What did God give Adam the ability to do in this verse?
  3. Why would God create Adam, knowing he was going to bring sin—and therefore death—into the world? Can we not relate to some extent, wanting children even while knowing there will be very tough times with them?

Even Still There is Hope:

  1. Read Romans 5:18. What are some of the tribulations you face daily (you don’t have to share if you’d rather not)? Does God hold these against you if you confess them? How can you back that up?
  2. Read Rom. 5:19-23. How did the fall affect God’s creation?
  3. Read verses 24-25. Why do people hold so tightly to hope? Read 1 Peter 1:3. (Is this your hope?)

Our God Is Still in Control and Taking Care of Us

  1. How do you know that God is still in control? Read Col. 1:16-18 (in a translation that is more modern, if possible.)
  2. Think back over the recent events in your life; has God done anything that would indicate to you that He is caring for you? Read 1 Pet. 5:7.
  3. Why do we so often take matters into our own hands, trying to do the job in our strength, without letting Christ take the lead? Can you share your thoughts?

Close

Almost all the New Testament writers warn that this life comes with trials and troubles. If you thought when you received Jesus as Savior that life would be easy, the truth is, since evil and man’s choice exists, it won’t be. Suffering is a by-product of the fall, bringing sin and natural disasters. Those who trust Him fully have learned that Jesus is the only One you can depend on through the storms. This past month we have witnessed miracle after miracle as God brought people safely through tragedies that should have taken thousands of lives, but did so with minimal loss of life. “Things” can always be replaced, but people cannot. God is your only hope.

It was His desire that the creation would be a place of perfection, beauty, and happiness. Adam chose to disobey God, and man has been full of sin ever since, bringing suffering into creation. Had He made us robots, worshiping Him like puppets, there would be no relationship of love. If you have children who obey you for any reason other than a genuine desire to show their love, you know there is no satisfaction in outward obedience. Yet in giving us choices to do good or evil, sin enters our lives through the actions of ourselves or others. If you want evil to stop, choice must stop. Where would you want your ability to make choices end and you have none? You wouldn’t. The good news is that Jesus, dying on the cross to pay the debt of those sins, stands ready to forgive and give new life. That new life will include the transition from earth to heaven one day. Will you make mistakes—sometimes willfully—between now and then? Will suffering continue until He returns? Yes! But He loves you with a love so huge it is not able to be explained in human terms, and as a God of forgiveness, He will never disown you. One day, life will be exactly what God intended. Let us all be sure we are ready for that day!

Memory Verse: Romans 5:18: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Book: The Miracles, by Terri Blackstock

© Lisa F. Young

ID 442336 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

With God, Nothing is Impossible!

Sales were pouring in, and often I wondered  how I had gotten myself into a business that was growing larger than I could manage. Trying to get packages ready for mailing was taking most of the day, and listing new merchandise could also take most of a day–together making a twenty-four hour day with no time for sleep! Well, I didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to know it was time to hire help. A friend came on board, then another, then someone to list, and meanwhile there was the job of buying new inventory. I questioned my sanity, but I was also having fun. It was nothing to grab my daughter and go on a buying trip, spending several thousand in one day. When the income from a side business is in six-figures, life seems pretty good.

About the same time, we learned a new little grandchild was “in the oven.” The problem was, there were already three other little ones, along with the parents, living in a very small house. It seemed obvious–and providential–that the income was there to save a sizable down payment and look for a large home. The fact that the economy was taking a slight downturn didn’t bother me, as it actually gave us a perfect time to look for a house someone really needed to sell. We were able to get a much bigger home for the money than would have been possible a year earlier .

We talked it over with the kids involved, and came to an agreement that, in three years, they would have sold where they were, and take over the mortgage. It was an unwritten agreement, not even the shaking of hands–this was family, and trust was implied.

For the next year or so, sales were still good. Not as great as they had been, but good. Nothing seemed to be happening concerning the unwritten agreement, but we ignored it. About year three, sales were beginning to show a major decrease. Every month I was stressed to the max, wondering if there would be enough, knowing that–had I foreseen the economy drop to new lows–I would never have taken on this responsibility. It took another year before I realized that, although sales had gone down drastically, God was still bringing in just the amount needed for the mortgage and utilities. When that realization hit, the relief was incredible. I had felt as though I was the one responsible, when all along He had been watching over me, and we never once went without enough to make their payments. On my own, I could not have done it; with Him, it was happening. No, sales were hardly coming in, but there was always just the right amount. It was a huge lesson in my God supplying ALL my needs, through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19)!

This past week, actually a week ago today, our church learned our Senior Pastor, Jonathan Falwell, had taken his wife, Shari, to St. Martins Island for an anniversary surprise. Hurricane Irma turned that surprise into a nightmare, but at the same time used their presence there to bring the love of Jesus Christ to a people who probably had passed Him by. After prayers on social media reached into the thousands, they got safely home on Saturday. Sunday, Dr. Ben Guttierez preached on the situations we find ourselves in which seem impossible to face or accomplish, only to find out that with our God, nothing is impossible! Join the ones who will be watching the service by way of internet on http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and click on “Nothing Is Impossible With God!” If you have time, worship as the church sings and welcomes Jonathan and Shari back among us. Get a friend, a drink, and settle in for a time with the Lord. If you are alone, grab your notebook and do the study below, taking time to learn more of the mighty power of our awesome God!

Nothing Is Impossible With God                                                                                          Dr. Ben Guttierez

Open:

Have you ever taken on a task—or made a decision to do something big—only to find sometime later that it is too much for you, and you want to give up? Can you think of an example? Write your answers in your notebook if you’re alone, or discuss it with friends if you have a group with you!

These past few weeks, we have come through catastrophes that have left millions destitute, and they no doubt wonder if they will survive the stress of these crises. At the same time, we have witnessed God showing His mighty and awesome power, bringing about miracles that man could not—under any imagination—have orchestrated or performed. Nothing is impossible for Him to accomplish, and as His child, nothing is impossible to the believer whose life is rich in faith. We are promised that God will do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think!

Focal Passages: Matthew 9:1-13, 10:2-4; 16:26; Luke 3:12-13, 5:27, 7:34, 18:10-11, 13a.

Think About or Discuss:

Background:

  1. Matthew, the tax collector, was someone the Jews would have gone out of their way to avoid. In that day, tax collectors ranked with the lowest of the low in terms of character and integrity. Read Matthew 18:17, 21:32, and Luke 7:34, to see how they were lumped in Scripture with those whom no one would believe could be saved.

Who Can God Use?

  1. Read Matthew 9:9. What would make a wretched sinner, tax collector and outcast obey Jesus when He said, “Follow Me”?
  2. How do you know that Matthew’s new-found faith was real?

God—the Forgiver of Sins

  1. Read Matt. 9:1-6. What is Jesus saying in verse 6?
  2. Can you think of an acquaintance that you have felt, perhaps for years, they were too “bad” for God to save them?

No One is Too Wayward That God Cannot Use Them

  1. Read Matt. 9:10-13. Who was Jesus seeking as He went through the towns preaching, teaching and healing?
  2. Read Mark 12:37. Who embraced Jesus and His teaching?
  3. How does this compare with 1 Corinthians 1:21?

God Changes Hearts

  1. Read Luke 19:7-9. Zacchaeus was also a tax collector, like Matthew. What showed his humility when Jesus went to his house?
  2. Read 1 Sam. 15:22. How high does God place obedience to His word?

Can God Use YOU?

  1. Read Matt. 18:4. What does God desire from you? Read Matt. 22:36-38. What else?  Can He use you?

 Close:

Satan can so easily get any of us tied up in regret, doubt or lies, bringing up the past and reminding us of it. How many times have you thought, “God can’t use me, because I have ____________”? Or perhaps there is an acquaintance that you know who has made life a living torture for someone you love, and you feel they are so far beyond the possibility of salvation that God will never write their names in the book of Life (Rev. 20:15). The truth is, no one is beyond the reach of God’s mercy and grace, unless they choose to ignore the call of Jesus. It takes a repentant heart and an act of turning from sin to obeying the voice of God to become His child. “He is the forgiver of sins and the determiner of one’s mission in life. God will use any heart that is submissive to His will.” (Sermon). He does not desire anyone to perish, but all to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

With the number of catastrophes coming one after another, examine your heart closely (2 Cor. 13:5) to see that you are His child, lest you be caught unprepared! Once you know that you are His, without any doubt and with a faith that will not be shaken, tell your story as often as God gives you opportunity, as the time may be short. He can use you no matter what you’ve done, if you ask forgiveness and repent, just as He can use those whom you continue to lift to the throne, no matter how hopeless the outlook! Do so this week!

Memory Verse: Matthew 19:26: But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

© Rahjahs

ID 6792838 | Dreamstime Stock Photo

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

 

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LOVE LIFE AND SEE GOOD DAYS…

Math. Either there was just a collective groan, a sigh, or something in between–like okay, what now? Well, there isn’t much I remember from those “good ol’ days,” but as far as I know, I’ve never used the multitude of stress placed upon me to pass Trig class, or even Algebra; I’ve never dissected a frog or used a Bunsen burner. But one thing I remember well: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Or maybe it wasn’t math, maybe it was Science–but no matter, the lesson  is the same. 

I say this because I have had a crisis too big too handle, and something had to go from my time allotment: sleeping and eating were rather necessary, so that left writing, cleaning house, and “life.” For that, I feel I owe (the opposite reaction to letting it go), an apology. I think I hoped that some would actually click on the latest service at Thomas Road and listen.

Yesterday, which you’ll hear if you haven’t already, it was made plain to the congregation that a change is coming. Not something we (the members) would have chosen, but one lesson was made plain, and it fits here. When God speaks to your heart, only a very foolish person would ignore the King of the universe. That is not happening within our staff, because the person desires a holy and obedient life, and truly, the sorrow over losing one whom we love is outweighed by the fact that God has chosen to send him elsewhere. And in tying that together with my own life, I had decided, based on internal situations that seem out of my control, to stop this blog. I felt a failure for not being able to do it twice in over a year. Fifty two (plus) weeks, and I was going to let it quit because I let Satan tell me I was a failure for not being able to do it last week. Shame on me.

 If you’re familiar with Thomas Road now, you know we feature a “My Road” video, where someone tells his/her story. Yesterday, answering my feeling of inadequacy, the person interviewed said that the person who was using social media to try to spread the gospel should NOT quit. That was a paraphrase, but it hit home. Was it God who had orchestrated that person to speak on a Sunday when I was going to throw in the towel? Without a doubt. Do I reach even one person who wants to know God better? I have no clue. But like our staff person, I would be a fool to quit when I have nothing more to claim than a lack of strength to continue. “To him who knows to do (something that is) good, and does not do it, to him this is sin.” End of story.  I was convicted, chastised, and will continue to strive to set out the sermon studies for Thomas Road, not knowing if anyone is encouraged by them. My email is at the bottom anytime anyone wants to write. And to add a final thrust, God chose the sermon to be on doing those things that bring happiness–not external through “things,” but internal through molding us into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Are you ready to settle back, get your notebook, and listen as the service is broadcast, with singing, with tears, with heartache, and with joy. Obeying God is always going to bring joy, no matter the tears. Remember the reaction? The tears of pain and separation will still result in joy by doing God’s will. We would not know joy if we did not know pain. My daughter pointed that out earlier: that only by knowing sadness can we recognize happiness. Let’s click on the service from Sunday, May 15 (Happy Mother’s Day to any mom reading this!), and see what God has in store for us this week. Joy, God promises, comes in the morning. That’s a promise! Let’s look for the morning.

Click on http://www.trbc.org/service-archive and select the main sermon from the series “Not My Jesus.” We continue to search our hearts to see that our lives are being transformed daily into who Christ wants us to be. If you have a Strong’s Concordance, it will be a special help for some of the words used in the focal passage. Get you a drink, a friend if possible, and let’s dig in, having a special treat of the children being part of the song service. May you be “blessed” as you watch and listen!

Not My Jesus: What Jesus Really Said                                                                                                                                  Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

If you’ve heard of the Autobahn in Germany, you know it’s an open speed limit highway; that seems like a driver’s dream, doesn’t it? Especially days when you’re trapped behind cars going less than a stated speed limit and you can’t pass. Why would no speed limit seem so great, and do you think that’s the way it is in reality?

This week we want to carefully grasp some of the instructions for Christians to have a life blessed by God, from Jesus Himself. In this series, “Not My Jesus,” we’ve looked at the myths surrounding Jesus, the views the world has, Jesus’ own witness of who He is, and the witness of God the Father. Now we will look at several of His guidelines for happiness, apply those truths to our daily living and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal areas where we need to become more like Him!

Focal Passage: Matthew 5:1-12.                                                                               Video: Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr., 1975

Think About or Discuss:

The Humble in Heart

  1. Read verses 1-3. Why does the Bible specifically say, “He opened His mouth and taught them”—does anyone remember?[i]
  2. What characterizes someone who is “poor in spirit”? Why would they attain happiness?

The Mourners

  1. In verse 4, what type of mourners did Jesus mean?
  2. Read Luke 18:13, and 1 Tim. 1:15, 16. How do these two passages illustrate the need for people to mourn their sinful state, and what does God do to comfort them?

The Inheritors

  1. What do you think of when you hear the term “meek”? What are some of the Biblical meanings of meek? After discussion, or writing, did you have the meaning correct?[ii]
  2. When you think of something being “inherited,” what comes to mind? How or why would these meek people inherit the earth? Someone read Phil. 4:11-13. How does being content within your circumstances give you blessings?

Those Who Hunger and Thirst

  1. Verse 6: When is the last time you were truly hungry, or extremely thirsty? How can you develop your spiritual appetite so that you desire God’s word daily, meditating on it even “in the night watches” (Psa. 63:6,7)?
  2. Read Job 23:12b. How does this passage illustrate verse 6 of Matthew 5? What will change in your life if you desire God’s word with the same craving you exercise in your food life?

Close:

You’re probably wondering, how does the Autobahn illustrate our spiritual life? Many live their lives as if there are no rules or consequences, which isn’t the true reality. Yet the world assumes following Jesus is a life of do’s and don’t’s, and perceive it as taking away everything they think they enjoy—their “speed limits” if you will. The truth is, Jesus says following Him results in a life of being blessed (happy). In today’s sermon, we were so privileged to hear a forty-two-year-old message by Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr., as he reiterated that blessings come on the lives of those who live in a manner that pleases God. Just as we are pleased to give our approval to our children when they obey with a great attitude, so God chooses to bless us when we strive to live holy, sanctified lives. Is that something you desire, as Job did? After hearing the message, did you weigh your lifestyle against the message Jesus taught on living a life of peace with God? It’s never about rules: it’s about the heart attitude, and the desire to please the God who bought us with His own blood! This week, as you go about your daily routine, take your spiritual pulse often to make certain your heart is beating in sync with His. Share His love when the opportunity presents itself. What if God has placed you here for such a time as this?

Memory Verse: Matthew 5:1,2: “And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them saying.”

[i] It means “listen up!” “Pay attention!”

[ii] Meekness is “strength under control.”

sdayfarm@aol.com

GETTING CONTROL OF DISCOURAGEMENT!

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There was something wrong about the contents of the small drawer that I pulled out from the buffet in the dining room. Any mystery writer will show their PI’s, detectives, or Fed agents always pay attention to a women’s “sixth sense!” Carefully I removed the things in the drawer, and saw, hidden at the back, a small, valuable Depression Glass bowl, broken into pieces. The thought of my young daughter was instantly rejected, but her slightly older brother definitely fit the role of a Person of Interest!

Bringing him into the room and showing him the open drawer confirmed my suspicions. It wasn’t so much the broken bowl that disturbed me as it was the fact that he had hidden the evidence, thinking, I’m certain, that he would be buying himself time, or possibly I would never see it! Wrong. Mom’s are about 80% Superwoman and 20% normal, functioning women.

Discipline had to be meted out, but the cover-up of the accident (I knew it had to be) was my main concern, and the issue that would have to be addressed. Afterward, I’m sure the discipline yielded the peaceable fruit of righteousness, and he was sorry he had tried to get by with not telling me (I would have understood that accidents are a part of growing up). I was sorry, as the bowl was a family heirloom, and the consequence of his action was that it could not be replaced.

Now, many years later–too many to count–I’m in the same position again, with the children of either the daughter or that same little boy, now a dad! I found (to my discouragement) a beautiful Delft lamp stuffed into a waste bag in the den. It was in tons of pieces. I figured my husband was a little old to hide the evidence, but 7 grandchildren who are often down there certainly became POI’s!! I now have to take them one by one, addressing the issue, not of the breakage, but of hiding the evidence. Doubly so since someone younger may have been cut badly had they stepped on one of the smaller pieces overlooked on the floor. Again, a consequence that means my lovely lamp cannot be replaced.

Now is a good time to get your notebook, a hot drink, cookies, and maybe a friend (or several!) and watch the sermon from Thomas Road Baptist Church, preached Sunday, February 5, 2017. Click on the link http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive and select the right date. This sermon on actions, consequences and how to rise above them will really hit home if you have things in your past that scream “Unworthy!” at you as you try to live the Christian life. Invite others who may benefit from the wisdom in the message, and let God do a work in your life as you continue with the sermon study below. If you have time, watch the entire program, as LU Praise presents a song of worship!

Overflow: The Biggest Connection to the Right Direction                                                     Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Inevitably, as a human being, we will sin. That sin may eventually result in consequences that can cause us to be discouraged because of the pain it caused. Can you think of something you can share? If you are doing this on your own, write your answers in a notebook.

Today we look at Hebrews 12, focusing on laying “aside the sin that so easily trips us.” We want to examine the first of two types of discouragement: one that results when our own sinful choice or action causes consequences that may result in our becoming depressed. (The second—caused by others—will be looked at next week). The discouragement can be a tool Satan uses to rob us of our joy as a believer, crowding out our effectiveness.

Focal Passage: Hebrews 12:1, 5-13

Think About or Discuss:

All sin has consequences

  1. Read Rom. 3:23. What sin is specified here? How does God view sin?
  2. What about the consequences of sin—can they differ? How?
  3. Read Heb. 12:5 If sin is continued, or left unconfessed, as a loving Father, what must God do?

Those consequences can leave us discouraged if we don’t see their value

  1. Does confession to God eliminate the consequences? Think of examples.
  2. Read verse 6. Why is it important to examine the consequences to see their value?

God’s discipline is a clear picture of His love for us

  1. Read verses 7-8. Why must you be disciplined because of sin?
  2. Read Prov. 3:11-12 and 14:34. Why should these verses bring you comfort?
  3. If God does NOT discipline you for sin, what may this mean?

This discipline will ALWAYS make us better

  1. Read verses 10-11. What is the purpose of God’s discipline? In verse 11, what should be the result?
  2. Don’t allow these moments to get you down; let them raise you up
  1. Read verses 12-13. What is the picture this passage paints of the effect of discouragement on the physical body?
  2. How can Satan use discouragement to rob you of your usefulness to Christ, and your joy as a Christian? Read Phil. 3:13-14. How can you apply this verse to yourself?

ACTION  APPLICATIONS:

1) Make a list of consequences you are facing, or have faced, as a result of bad decisions or sin;                                                                                                                                                           2) Evaluate each one from the viewpoint of what you learned from those consequences; 3) If you can’t find something you’ve learned, take some time to determine what you should learn;                                                                                                                                             4) If there is unconfessed sin that is part of this, confess it and ask forgiveness;               5) If you need to seek forgiveness for something you’ve done to others, do so.                                                                                                                                                                 6) Is there an action you need to take to move past it?                                                                 7) Move on!

Close:

Discipline! Not a word we really like, as it indicates a certain action has been done and is going to have a “reaction.” If someone has a child who begins doing something that can have dire consequences if continued, the parent will want to stop it before it becomes a habit, and institute a punishment to change or correct the behavior. God also has standards for us, and when we violate those standards with our living, He must discipline us. The comfort found in God’s discipline is that He only does this to those whom He calls His children. (To be sinful but see no discipline should cause you to closely examine your life to make sure you are saved.) And often our actions have consequences that may go on for the rest of our lives. If we are not careful and intentional, we may find the discouragement of long-standing consequences can ruin our joy, rob us of being useful Christians, and affect our health. Don’t let Satan “devour” you by telling you that you are worthless, but pray constantly that your life lines up with the biblical standards God has given. “Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares you,” and run your race with strength!

Memory Verse: Hebrews 12:11: “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Thought: Sometimes, when we are in sin and discipline does not come immediately, we may feel we have “gotten away with it.” This is addressed in Romans 2:4 when Paul writes, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” God may extend His patience and mercy, allowing us time to realize how badly we are hurting Him, but not at all ignoring the sin. To continue without discipline should bring us to our knees even more quickly, as His goodness should lead us to an even greater repentance! If not, we may be despising the “riches of His goodness” and incur even greater wrath.

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