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

Seeing Heaven…

The family hurried me out of the house, into a waiting car, and we rode down the rough dirt road to my aunt’s. I was to be left there overnight, as no child should be around when a great-grandmother was dying. My grandmother was especially sad, as another death, only a few days earlier, had hit the family like a double whammy. My great-grandmother’s daughter, Ruth, had died. Because Grandma was so near death herself, they had not told her, afraid the news would be more than her heart could take.

S

The next morning when they came to get me, the family was all talking about Grandma. As she had slipped across that place where the spirit leaves the body and becomes “present with the Lord,” she called out in a clear voice, “Ruth! Ruth! What are you doing here?” I never forgot that morning.

Years went by, and my dad died.  I never missed him; he was not a father that left a huge hole after his passing. However, I often wondered where he had gone, for his salvation was not something any of us were certain of. Three years later my mom came to live with us, and we kept her while she slipped further and further away from us as she traveled the road of Alzheimer’s.

One learns much when care-giving, and after several years it was obvious the end was getting close. During that last year, I had often remembered my great- grandmother, and turned it into a prayer that was a continual beat of my heart. “Lord, I remember, even as a little child, Grandma calling out for Aunt Ruth. Please, if it can be in Your will, may I please be with Mother as she goes to You, and if You don’t mind, could she call out Daddy’s name, if she sees him?” I must have prayed that hundreds of times, believing with all my heart that He could easily bring that about.

I began to have to feed her, and she was not able to walk very far. One day, she couldn’t get out of bed, and I didn’t want to hurt her by forcing her. When she tried to talk to me, her speech was so garbled she sounded like a one-year old. I called Hospice, who had been working with us, and they began coming daily over the next couple of weeks as she worsened. She gradually stopped trying to communicate, and slipped into a coma. I thought every breath might be her last. She was in the coma for about a week when, around ten a.m. on a Wednesday morning, the hospice aide and I were at her bed, ready to change her. She opened her eyes, and looked up at the crown molding around the edge of the ceiling. Her face became–“beaming” is the only word that fits–and her voice came out strong and clear! She lifted her arms as far as she could, and started talking. “Oh! You’re so beautiful! I can’t reach you!” She was continually talking, smiling, and I can only think of “transfigured,” her voice sounding as it had when she was a young mother. At one point she said “Mabel!!” She had had a best friend as she had grown up on a farm in West Virginia, whose name was Mabel, and later another best friend “Mabel,” a godly woman who had died about 10 years before. I knew it must be one of those two that she saw.

She lapsed back into the coma after about two hours, exhausted but happy. It was not long before she crossed the line between earth and heaven. But I never doubted, in these few years since she died, that she had seen into the realm where the saints are gathered, and was going there herself. It was several months before I realized she had said nothing about my dad, but that’s in God’s hands. He gave me a gift that day, and the hospice aide could witness to what we saw. How can I fear death now, having seen my mom on the verge of entering that glorious place?

Sunday, September 3, Dr. Ed. Hindson spoke on the promises that God gives in His word about the glories that await Christ-followers. I’m so grateful I was raised to attend church, to hear the gospel message, and to accept His gift of salvation! Yes, I’ve made bad choices, but He has granted repentance and forgiveness. I can hardly wait to join my mom!

Get your notebook, a cool drink, and sit back and enjoy the entire worship service if you have time! The singing will prepare your heart to worship, and the service is one you don’t want to miss. Click on the link http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and select “Believer’s Exciting Future” by Dr. Ed Hindson. You’ll want to invite a friend if possible to share the sermon study below, and learn how you can look forward to that place of eternal glory!

The Believer’s Exciting Future                                                                                             Dr. Ed Hindson

Open:

Millions of people have arranged for that first vacation at Disney! So much planning, money and time goes into the excitement of preparations. But until you physically arrive, are you able to envision the thrill, joy, and delight that the reality produces?

This week Dr. Ed Hindson presents some of the promises Jesus made to believers concerning heaven, and the blessings that have been prepared for those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord.

Focal Passages: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; John 14:1-6; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 19:7-14, 20:1-6, 21:1-2, 9-10.

Think About or Discuss:

Background:

  1. In this world today, everyone who believes in an eternity will assure you they will be in heaven. What are reasons they say they should be able to go there?
  2. What does the truth say in John 3:16?

Rapture:

  1. Read 1 Thess. 4:13-17. Why did Paul write these verses to the believers in Thessalonica?
  2. How does this passage impact your life today? If God called you home today, would you be ready (you don’t have to answer aloud)?

Bride to the Father’s House

  1. Read John 14:2-6. What does Jesus promise here? Is this for you? How can you take comfort in it?
  2. Read Rev. 21:9, 10. What was being shown to John in this passage? Who is the Bride?

Judgment Seat of Christ

  1. Read 2 Cor. 5:10. What promise does this verse contain? Paul is speaking of rewards, because believers will not have to be judged for sin, as they have been covered by Calvary. So what would merit a reward?
  2. What will be done with those rewards?

Marriage of the Lamb

  1. Read Rev. 19:7-9. This may seem strange to you, that the church would be called the Bride of Christ. But what does He command you to do, and why?
  2. What is the “fine linen”?

Triumphal Return

  1. So far, believers have been taken to heaven to be with Christ, as a Bride going to her Father’s house; they have been taken before the judgment seat of Christ for rewards, and the marriage of Christ and the church has been accomplished. Read Rev.19:14. What happens next? Is this a promise we can be assured of? Who are the armies following? How are they dressed?

Millennial Reign

  1. Read Rev. 20:4-6. Who are “they” in verse 4? We do not know exactly what the 2nd resurrection is, but it will be dreadful, as souls are sent to hell (Matthew Henry, Vol. XI, Rev. 20). Is the promise of reigning with Christ for a thousand years something we can stake our faith on? Why?

The New Jerusalem

  1. Read Rev. 21:1-2. What is the climax of the revelations John was given for the saints? How does 1 Corinthians 2:9 describe this scene?

Close:

What an amazing future believes can look forward to, all backed by promises of God—Who cannot lie—of what He has in store for us! To study those promises, and absorb them into our hearts, should cause us to yearn for the souls of those whom we love who have not made the choice to follow Jesus. Or worse, we can withdraw from the obligation that Jesus laid on us before He descended into heaven: “GO, make disciples, baptize, and teach,” and assume it is meant for others. This was not a suggestion: this is a command. We let family, jobs, getting ahead, having fun, chasing happiness, and more, take priority in our lives, and decide to let those “called” do the “going.” As we learned last week, we need to start by inviting friends and neighbors, those we don’t know, to our homes to get to know them. We have to earn the right to be heard, by building that relationship. That is “going.” We don’t have to get a passport and go to India—there are souls within a half mile of us going to hell, who need to be told Jesus has died to save them.

Hopefully one day you will have the blessing of standing by the bed of a loved one as they make that transition with a shout of hallelujah, and witness the joy as they see heaven—you’ll never be the same! Let that vision color all you do, and never delay the decision to invite Christ into your life, if you haven’t done so already!

Memory Verse: 1 Thess. 4:17: Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

 

 

© Vachiraphan Phangphan

ID 16570677 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

A SECOND CHANCE…

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

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

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

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

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

Flannelgraph of Faith: Jonah                                                                                    Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

Focal Passages: Jonah, Chapters 1-4

Think About or Discuss:

Background:

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

God’s Call Trumps Our Comfort

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

God’s Redemption Trumps Our Contempt (Anger)

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

God’s Salvation Trumps Everything

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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TRIALS BY FIRE

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flannelgraph of Faith: Prayer and His Presence

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

Focal Passages: Daniel 1, 2, 3

Think About or Discuss:

The Background

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

Pray Like It Matters…Because It Does!

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

Compromise Will Never Deliver 

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

The World’s Power Is No Match For His

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

We Have His Power

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

WHAT OR WHO ARE YOUR GIANTS??

The grandkids (girls, but who’s checking except folks in Wisconsin) came running in from the pool yesterday, sure a “monster” was beating on the outside of the high pool fence. The wind was blowing about 30 mph, enough to shake leaves out of a summer tree and beat branches against wood. That knowledge didn’t phase them: it was someone on the outside, probably a big person wanting to eat young girls.

For some reason, I thought “boogey men” had disappeared years ago. With the Super Heroes becoming bigger, better, more powerful, able to climb skyscrapers, and stretch their bodies to unbelievable lengths, I assumed no one feared giants anymore. Wrong. Perhaps I needed the girls’ perspective to realize that we all have monsters–or giants–in our lives today. They hold us back from doing things we used to love, perhaps from taking that adventure we’d like to enjoy. Holding us back from “seizing the day,” or enjoying life as we live one day at a time.

As Jonathan Falwell preached on David and Goliath Sunday, August 6, he pulled out lessons we all can glean from David’s courageous stand against a giant who was possibly twice his height, and certainly three or four times his weight. We usually can’t stand against someone our own size who wants to take us down, let alone a Goliath.

Has it ever occurred to you that we all have “Goliaths” in our lives? Whether they are people who are trying to destroy us emotionally because they are adult bullies–or not taking any responsibility for their evil deeds–or a group who belittles us in order to build themselves up, they are a giant to us. Perhaps it’s not a person, but a circumstance: maybe you’ve had a doctor’s report of a terminal illness, your finances have gone down the tube, or loved ones engaged in spiritual warfare from paranoid, demon-controlled enemies. Whatever the attack, we all have our personal giants. Fear is a natural outcome to listening to the jeers of those against us. A quote by Marshall Jones, Jr. lays it out for us: fear is the state we are in, courage is how we want to exhibit in that state. For those of us who love God, the good news is that we have a hope and a courage that those people, those circumstances, or those trials don’t have, and which cannot be taken away from us! Our trust is in the Lord our God, and His mighty hand will suddenly and efficiently bring an end to the harassment of the wicked. Day after day Goliath taunted the soldiers of Israel. But God will slay our giants if we just step aside and trust Him fully. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will [trust in] the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.” (Psalm 20:7,8). David’s trust in God was overwhelming! May ours be as great when faced with enemies of God!

Get your Bible, your notebook, and something you love to drink, and watch the sermon from this past Sunday. Go to http://www.trbc.org/service-archive and select Flannelgraph of Faith: Facing the Giant. Spend the first moments in worshiping with the praise team and choir, and sit back and enjoy the service. Then scroll down to the sermon study and delve into the lessons you learned, taking down those giants one by one, giving you a life of freedom from situations or people who want to see you fail. Slay those giants!

Flannelgraph of Faith: Fighting the Giant

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

If you spend more than a few moments with someone, you usually will learn they are fighting some sort of “giant” in their life, whether it’s physical, spiritual or emotional. Can you think of an example? Have your notebook handy and write your answers if you’re not in a group where you can share.

We continue our series this week, looking at the characters we learned about when we were children, using the decades-old idea of a flannelgraph. This week we are looking at a story familiar to almost everyone: that of David, the youth of Israel who had the courage to take a slingshot and a stone, killing an enemy giant, Goliath. We are looking for deeper lessons inside this piece of history. As we re-examine this story, we want to find principles to look for the giants in our own lives, and use David’s example to help us slay our “Goliaths.”

Focal Passages: I Samuel 17

The Background:

Read 1 Samuel 17:1-22 to get a background on both the Israelites who were preparing to fight the enemy Philistines, and David, the youth from Israel who was sent on a mission by his father.

Think About or Discuss:

The Greatest Challenge in Life is Rarely the Actual Challenge:

  1. Read 1 Sam. 17:22-24. What was the first thing David heard as he entered the camp?
  2. What was his immediate response (verse 26b)? Imagine the situation; what was probably some of the ridicule hurled at him? Verse 28 records the words of his older brother; how would that make you feel, being verbally attacked by a family member who you think loves you?
  3. What were the antagonists trying to accomplish? Why was such an attack made by men who were experienced warriors? What was the real challenge here that David had to overcome?

Facing Opposition While Doing God’s Will Should be Expected

  1. Where did David get his confidence to go against Goliath?
  2. Which is harder: going against our peers, or sitting among them saying nothing? Why?
  3. Read Matthew 5:10-12, and 2 Timothy 3:11b-13. Why does God record these passages for us?

Your Success or Failure is Directly Related to How You Handle that Opposition

  1. Can you achieve a desire to serve God in a certain area, if you let fear hold you back? Why or why not?
  2. Can you think of a fear you have, and tell or write down how it has affected your life?

 Depending on God’s Power in the Face of Your Biggest Giant is Always a Winner:

 

  1. Who was Goliath trusting in? Who was David trusting in? Read verses 34-37. Do you think it even crossed David’s mind that he could lose? Why?

Close:

What a marvelous gift, to have a trust so great in our Holy God that we will go up against the most evil giant we can encounter!  David, even though young and surrounded by much older men, found himself angered as he saw the fear paralyzing the soldiers. His amazing faith in God, developed through his experiences in the wilderness watching sheep and worshiping his Creator, left him stunned that others would take no action against someone insulting the Living God. It would have been so easy to give in to the jeers of men, and run for home. But David was convinced in his soul that God would win the victory for him, and failing to act was not an option David even considered.

How about you? Have you let the giants in your life dictate your choices? They can be your friends, criticism, your appearance, a disability—so many possibilities. Some physical traits perhaps were given to us by God to make us stronger! Think for a moment of those you know in your church who are such a great example of being strong for Christ, though weak or physically scarred by the world’s standards. Follow David’s example and work on trusting God with everything you are, so that you can eliminate the giants that want to take you down and cause you to be incapable of serving Him. You will soon be able to tell you are succeeding: whenever you are doing God’s will, you will have opposition. You will never have spiritual warfare unless you are doing something spiritual!

Memory Verse: I Samuel 17:47: Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands. (NKJV)

Ask Yourself: Are my giants destroying my effectiveness as a Christian? Am I giving in to the persecution and fear, or am I trusting without question? How can I trust more fully? Am I praying to God for more faith?

 

 

 

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Good and Bad Choices

As my mom became more and more locked in the jungle that is Alzheimer’s, I wondered if she was “stuck” in a period of her life, one which I might eventually discover if I asked the right questions. I would constantly ask things I could remember from different eras she lived through, looking for intelligent responses. “What is that beautiful flower, Mother?” pointing to a rose. She wouldn’t know. How could I assume she would? She didn’t know me from the Hospice Aide who came once a week to help with her needs. I would ask if she ever knew a person whose name was (….fill in the blank). She would think hard–even when it was my sister–and finally give up in despair. “No, I think I knew someone by that name a long time ago, but I don’t remember who it was.”

One day I asked her if she remembered the name of her school. She did!! (Hedgeapple–go figure!)  I was astonished and pleased. Later I asked her if she ever knew someone named Ray (to whom she was married for nearly 63 years). She thought and thought. Finally she said, “Yes, I think that was an older boy I went to school with. I didn’t like him at all! He teased everyone [true], and goodness, I didn’t like him.” It was unfortunate that children are forced to grow up in homes where the parents truly not only do not like each other (my folks fit that description, I thought, for they surely didn’t seem to), but who won’t seek help to keep the fighting down. It would probably have been easier on all of us if they had separated, as no one wanted to be around them as a couple, but that generation stuck through everything from abuse to incest–thankfully my parents did neither of those. But families who were happy were rare.

Dysfunctional families, they call it now. Back in those days there wasn’t a term, but everyone knew whose parents were lenient, whose were strict, happy, not happy, etc. This past Sunday Dr. Ben Guiterrez presented us with an inspiring message on the life of the prophet Samuel. Most young people can recite the lesson they learned as children when Samuel was called in the night hours by God. “Samuel!” He ran to Eli, the priest. As God later spoke to him further, Samuel learned that Eli had been a father who knew of evil things his two sons were doing, and warned Eli that He would be taking their lives, because he had done nothing to stop their behavior. The ironic thing was, Samuel, although remaining as godly an example as Moses, David, and others, also years later had two sons who were living so badly that the Israelites did not want them ruling in Samuel’s place when he died–yet he did nothing about them behavior either.

The conclusion is obvious: one can have a wonderful home, and produce children who are rebellious and want to do things “their way,” or a bad home, and produce well-behaved adults with integrity–or more amazing, a solid, loving Christian home where two turn out wonderful, while one doesn’t. Choices. It all comes back to the will God gave us to make choices, and bad ones lead to worse ones. What kind of choices have you made? Have you left a legacy of blaming your parents? I did, for years. Finally I realized my mom had done the best she knew how. I was the one who had made the choices that resulted in long-term consequences.

Grab your notebook, a cold drink, and click on  the sermon for this past Sunday, July 30, at http://www.trbc.org/service-archive and choose the Flannelgraph of Faith: Samuel. Enjoy the worship if you have time, and then go to the study below to see if you can dig a little deeper as you look at the scriptures. It might help if you have time to read 1 Samuel before the study, so that the facts are fresh for you!

Flannelgraph of Faith: Samuel—God’s Way, Always

Dr. Ben Gutierrez

Open:

Many times young people (and older people!), do not have enough experience, or enough guidance, to make the best choices, and our lives are impacted with consequences we can’t undo. Can you think of such an experience? If you are alone, write your answers in a notebook, so you can track your spiritual path!

This week we continue the series, “Flannelgraph of Faith,” taking stories taught to children, but looking for deeper—or underlying—lessons we can use in our own lives. This week we will focus on I Samuel, looking not only at Samuel’s life, but also the far-reaching consequences for Israel that came when they rejected Samuel’s warning. We continue to use the old-school visual teaching of the flannelgraph, as we learn from him.

Focal Passages: Taken from I Samuel

The Background:

In Judges 2:10-15, we read that after Joshua died, God appointed judges who would lead Israel under God’s direction. The people fluctuated between following the Lord while the judge lived, then turning to idols after his death. This pattern continued about 300 years, and caused the word of the Lord to be “rare in those days” (1 Samuel 3:1).  Judges 21:25 ends this period declaring “everyone did that which was right in his own eyes.”

Discuss:

Nothing & No One Can Make You Choose the Way You Choose:

  1. Can you remember the overview of the events occurring during the conception and early years of the life of Samuel? Read 3:19, 20. What was Samuel’s position in Israel after God spoke to him?
  2. Read 7:15 and 8:1, 3-7. What event occurred in these verses that changed the course of Israel’s future? Israel had adopted the ways of the heathen nations; what are some reasons this happened? How are we seeing this with Christians today?
  3. Who decides what you wear, watch, where you work, etc.? What do you use as a guideline to establish your boundaries?

Bad Choices Lead to Worse Choices:

  1. The people of Israel wanted a king, like their pagan neighbors. Read 1 Sam. 10:17-19a. What did Samuel tell the people? What was their response?

Only Obedience from a Pure Heart Honors God

  1. Do you remember the story of the anointing of Saul as King? Can you write a paraphrase of it?
  2. Read 15:17-23. Saul started his reign well, but soon got sidetracked with pride. What was the final straw? What does God say He delights in?

To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice:

  1. Read Joshua 24:15. Substitute your country for the Amorites, and read it as a contemporary choice. What is holding you back from choosing to serve God with a pure heart?

Close:

As we read the life of Samuel, it is hard not to liken the people of Israel to those around us, and across our own land. Immorality, profanity and immodesty is rampant, while crime and unrest is on the increase. Jesus Christ is being confined to the church building, until we have a generation growing up who will not know the Lord (Judges 2:10) or His actions on behalf of settling and ordaining this great country. But our choices are not forced upon us: you may not be able to control the behaviors and values of the citizens of the land, but you have control over your choices for yourself. It may be the only thing you can control!

Learn from Samuel that, amid a sinful country, you can have a relationship with God that is real and personal. He will never forsake you, never leave you on your own, and loves you beyond anything you have ever known. If you get to the end of your rope and cry out to Him for evidence that He is with you, listen and watch for an indication that He has heard your cry as He shows you that He is listening. If He answers no, or seems silent, trust Him. If He doesn’t answer a fervent prayer, will you still love Him? That is the main question, and only you can choose your answer. Commit your life to establishing a closer relationship with Him, and then tell others your story.

Memory Verse: I Samuel 15:22: So Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” (NKJV)

Ask Yourself: Are my choices in attitude, clothing, words I speak and my integrity something that brings glory to God? Am I giving “lip service” to God but not my heart? “To obey [His word] is better than sacrifice.” Am I doing life God’s way, or my way?

© Popa Sorin