May 24, 2020

RUN THE RACE: A NEW BEGINNING
May 24, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Have you (or someone close to you) participated in a race, perhaps a 3K, 5K or even the Boston Marathon? How did that go for you? Were you committed to going the distance?

Open

Last week we began a new series, “Run the Race.” All of us, no matter our status in life, have days or seasons where we would just love to stand on the sidelines of life, checking back in if/when things got easier. That’s not Biblical. God’s word encourages us to keep on when the going gets tough. In fact, He warns us that in this life “we [believers] will have tribulation,” but we are to be comforted, for HE has overcome the world (John 16:33). Ultimately, we are the only ones who determine whether we will quit or head for the finish line. Let’s each run our race as believers with the knowledge that Jesus has said He has already given us the victory!

Key Verse: Psalm 122:1: I was glad when they said unto me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.”

Focal Passages: Psalm 107:28-32; Hebrews 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 10:13, 15:57.

THE ELEMENTS OF THE RACE

Remove

  • Read Hebrews 12:1. When athletes prepare for a competition, what do they generally wear? What would happen if they tried to compete with heavy clothing on or with full backpacks?
  • Read 1 Sam. 17:38-39. David was about to be in a competition that would end in life or death. How does this passage illustrate Heb. 12:1?
  • If sin is the “weight,” what must you do? What is something else the weight can be? If it is your own selfishness, what can you substitute your feelings of it’s “all about me” with? Are you prone to laziness or procrastination (a sloth)? How can this be a weight, and what can you do to change that?

Renew

  • During His ministry on earth, what was Jesus’ daily schedule like? How did He renew His inner strength regularly? How can you make time for fervent prayer on a daily or frequent basis?
  • Read 2 Tim. 1:14. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life? How can we grieve Him? How can we renew ourselves in Him?
  • Read Heb. 12:2a. How can we understand Jesus as the author of our faith? Read Rom. 8:28. God does not keep us from making wrong or bad choices. He can, however, bring good out of what we’ve messed up, and if it’s sin, cleanses us from them when we’ve confessed (1 Jn. 1:9). Why do we need to be constantly aware of this every day?

          

Return

  • Read Heb. 12:2b. What were many of the things Jesus endured between His Incarnation and Ascension? Have you endured any persecution for the cause of Christ, and if so, what type?
  • Read 1 Cor. 15:57. God knows we are going to have tough times. What does He let us know that gives our spirits strength during those times?
  • What is the victory that we know is coming?

Close

Today would not be complete without giving praise, glory, and worship to God for moving in the hearts of those in authority in our state to reopen our churches on this day! Only those who love to spend their Sundays in a local church body, worshiping Jesus Christ, and encouraging and loving on each other will understand the joy that was in our hearts today as we were allowed once again to assemble together!

We have had—and most are still having—a tough time in our nation even as we have begun Phase 1 of reopening our businesses, some returning to work, or financial aid starting to come in. Financial crisis, health crisis, family crisis—they’re on every side. But today, God bless our President, our churches were declared to be “essential” and allowed to reopen! To be with friends after separations of nearly three months was extremely emotional. Tears were shed, hugs sometimes shared (sometimes social distancing just didn’t cut it!), and love was rampant. It was a day filled with love and joy.

This has been a test of strength for many of us. It’s been a more than just a challenge to be within our house and yard, not allowed to socialize except on rare and stringently ruled occasions. Do you feel as though you’ve been running a race? Not of competition but of just drawing on strength to make it daily. Many haven’t had that strength to draw on. If you are aware of someone who needs help, please let our church know, or take a meal to their door. You’ll encourage them with your love, and you might be the only person they see today. Pray daily and fervently for those on the front lines, for those away from their families, and for those who have lost a family member to COVID 19. You’ll be blessed beyond measure!

May 17, 2020

DON’T EVER, EVER, EVER QUIT!
May 17, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Dr. Jerry Falwell, Video

It is so easy to get distracted from a job or goal, particularly if we’re having a difficult time. Sometimes we don’t get back to what we were doing. Have there been times you’ve thrown up your hands and said “Forget it!”?

Open

Today we’re starting a new series entitled “Run the Race,” with a backdrop of Paul’s encouragement to believers to see themselves in a sports setting, hoping to win at the finish line; or as a soldier, fighting as long as the battle lasts. Paul did not want us to ever give up, drop out, or go home. It is fitting that we begin this series as our country begins a new season of getting homes, jobs, communities and our lives back to a new normal after being quarantined for many weeks. Let’s begin again, put into practice what we have learned, and run the race in order to win!

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

Focal Passages: Hebrews 12:1-2, 12:6; 11 Cor. 1:3-4; 1 Cor. 10:13.

A Trouble Free Life?

  • Read Philippians 3:14. What was Paul’s goal? How is that like the last phrase in Heb. 12:1? What is the main assumption in both passages?
  • Do you think most unbelievers assume a Christian will have a trouble-free life after salvation? Why do you think they may assume that?
  • Read John 16:33. What is some reasons we must go through many trials? What attitude does Jesus tell us to have? How does that compare to James 1:2?

TRUTH: Trials are necessary in order for us to grow in faith and endurance.

Victorious in Trouble

  • Read Psalm 23:4. What did David know of trouble? Why did he not fear? Where was God while David was going through valleys?
  • Read Job 4:1. What was the testimony God gave concerning Job in Job 1? Read Job 13:15. What was Job going through when he made this statement? What are some of the trials you’ve been through recently?
  • Read Hebrews 13:5. Why can we be certain we will be able to make it through any trial or tribulation if we trust in God? Has He ever failed you?
  • Why is it so important that you trust Him to get you through troubles?

TRUTH: “God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken.

           And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.” Charles

           Spurgeon.

Don’t Let Satan Discourage You

  • Read 2 Cor.11:23b-29. These were the troubles that Paul faced daily. What are some that are common today, and that can discourage us?
  • The first one you should have listed is prayerlessness—because our strength is severely weakened when we are not communing with God. What else does prayer do for us?
  • Read Gal. 6:9. How does this sum up the exhortation to never quit?

TRUTH: ARE YOU TRUSTING GOD?

Close

Do you remember the last time you were very, very sick? When you got over your illness, life seemed to take on a golden glow, didn’t it? Without the fever, aches, or everything associated with your sickness, you wouldn’t have known how good it felt to be pain free again.

Without the pain of suffering, whether it is physical, mental, emotional or spiritual, we would soon not actively appreciate life when it is good. As Dr. Falwell said in his sermon, life is filled with troubles, always has been, and always will be! It is only by willfully trusting that God is with you every step of the way, bringing you step by step to the other side, that you will find peace in the trial.

More than the peace of making it through the trial, though, is the faith that you trust His heart, even when you don’t have the answer to the prayers that you’ve been hoping for. As the three Jewish boys in the fiery furnace were bound and taken toward the furnace—so hot it killed the guards who threw them inside—it is doubtful they thought a good ending was going to occur. Can you imagine their surprise when Jesus pre-incarnate (or an angel) appeared inside with them? He had never left them, not for a second.

For many weeks the world has been in turmoil, wondering how COVID19 was going to end, and now we are beginning to be allowed to socialize again, under many guidelines. We all learned lessons from the quarantine, whether you were an essential worker, or home with the family. May those lessons have drawn us closer to God, given us a renewed faith, and helped us realize that He truly was there with us whether it was a large time of testing or a small one.

May 10, 2020

THE POWER OF A GODLY WOMAN…AND MAN!
May 10, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

It is estimated that we each meet more than 10,000 persons in a lifetime, who form an instant opinion, negative or positive, about us. What kind of impact do you think you have on most of those people?

Open:

Today in America is called “Mother’s Day,” as we honor those women who have helped make us into the person we are, or a day when we as mothers are honored. The power wielded by those with parental authority over children is tremendous, so God has laid out many admonitions to be followed. We will definitely make an impact upon those whom we raise, whether good or bad. The bottom line is, what is our responsibility before God?

Key Verse: Jeremiah 17:7: Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.

Focal Passages: Jeremiah 17:7-10; 2 Cor. 12:9-10; Psalm 62:5-7; 1 Cor. 13:13.

LEARN TO LEAN

  • Read Jeremiah 15:5. Is it natural for humans to give control of their life over to God? Why or why not? However, if we try to do life our way, what does God say will be the consequences? Although things may go well for a season, what will be the final result of a life built around yourself?
  • Read verse 6. Why is the person who shuts out God a “fool” (Psa. 14:1)? Were we created to do life on our own? Why or why not?
  • Read 2 Cor. 12:9-10. Why would you guess so many people turn to God when life becomes too much for them to handle?

LEAN TO LEAD

  • Read Jer. 17:7-8. Have you ever traveled somewhere and felt as though you had come “home”? Why is this an analogy of the person who embraces Christ as Savior?
  • Read Psalm 1:1-3,6. This Psalm leads one to think perhaps Jeremiah was familiar with Psalm 1. What are some of the qualities in these two passages that can be likened to a Christian whose roots are deep in the Lord?
  • Read Psalm 62:5-7. What are some things you find it very difficult to wait for? Was “an answer to prayer” one of the things mentioned? Why do we find it so hard to wait for God to answer our fervent prayers?
  • Why is it so important that you learn to lean on Jesus before you can safely and responsibly lead others?

LEAD IN LOVE

  • Can you name some professions where a lack of love would/could make a difference in the lives of those one works with? Why would it matter?
  • Read 1 Cor. 13:13. Why is love greater than faith or hope? If, as a parent or guardian, you use methods of dictatorship or control, why will the child come to fear or hate you (in all probability)? Will they long to get out of the house? Can anyone give an example?
  • Read Jer. 17:9-10. Why is it not wise to follow your feelings when making life decisions? What is the best way to weigh the desires of your heart?

LIFE LESSONS TO TAKE AWAY:

1) Love  —the way you will have the greatest impact on others.

2) Recognition —as you lead, others must be able to recognize that God is

your only authority, and the one on whom you lean.

3) Appreciation —those whom you lead need to be assured that their actions

and personhood are of great value, both to you and to God.

Close:

Days set aside to examine the responsibilities of parents or guardians are so beneficial, especially in this day when everyone is taught to do things “your way.”

As parents, learning to trust in Jesus is the greatest gift, outside of loving the other parent, that we can give our children. When we make Jesus our focus and friend, talking to Him throughout the day in a conversational manner, we are leaving an imprint on our children’s minds. It shows we know He’s there and we are positive—not hopeful—He is listening to our every concern. It is a habit one can form that will have great rewards!

There is no greater joy, John writes, than to see our children walking with the Lord. If we drop them off at church for an hour, drop them off at school for eight hours a day, there are few periods of time left to truly teach them about God. If you are learning to lean on Jesus, and desire to lead others, first make sure you are leading your own children to know the Lord Jesus as Savior.

Nothing we have here on earth will be in heaven with us, except the souls of those we’ve led to the Lord. He who wins souls is wise (Prov. 11:30)!

May 3, 2020

ACORNS AND OAK TREE
 May 03, 2020
Charles Billingsley

Does anyone grow a garden, plants, or an orchard? What are some of the things you have learned about the adventures of horticulture?

Open:

Testing and trials have been coming hard and fast the past two months for most of us, as we continue to struggle with issues related to social distancing and staying at home. Being forced to stay away from friends, co-workers, extended family, or people who ignore current rules is a constant challenge. Today we want to look at the spiritual reactions we are having as our faith is tested, determining if our responses are helping us grow as a believer, or if they need some “pruning” by our God in order to remove sinful behavior.

Key Verse: James 1:2-4: My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Focal Passages: Matthew 16:24; James 4:13-14; Hebrews 11:1, 12:1-2, 11.

The beginning of our trial

  • Read Phil. 4:6. When a trial comes, what is the first request we usually ask from God? Rather than asking Him to remove the problem, what should we ask for?
  • Why should our request be made with “thanksgiving,” and what is the gratitude for?
  • Read Phil. 4:7. If we pray for God to help us accept His will, whatever that may be, and truly let Him be in control, what will happen?

Life is fragile

  • Read James 4:13-14. What are some of the differences between life at the end of January, 2020, and that of today? How would you have responded if you had been told in December that these changes would be in effect?
  • Can someone whose life was changed at some point, in the space of one phone call or doctor visit, share how you felt? Were you prepared for such an impact?

Faith is essential

  • Read Hebrews 11:1, in a modern version if possible. Describe why you believe you have faith. When was the last time it was tested, and how did you react? Were you pleased with your reaction?
  • Which is easier for you, to have faith that God will bring you to heaven, or trust that He is going to be with you through every step of your current trial?
  • Why do we want miraculous healing with a quick end? Just like an oak tree, why does your faith take time to grow?

Fear is not an option

  • Read Phil. 4:6 again. What are some of the names for the cousins of fear? Why does God tell us not to “be anxious”?
  • As we try to plan our actions to resolve whatever issue we are dealing with, what message are we sending to God? What is the antidote for worry? (Phil. 4:7).

No matter what, keep your eyes on Jesus

  • Read Hebrews 12:1-2. What is our “weight” and why is it sinful?
  • How consciously aware are you that God has your story, has read every word in it, worked out the places where you messed up and made good come out of it (Rom. 8:28), and is going to see that you finish well? How does that overwhelm you? Is He trustworthy?
  • How is He rooting for you to continue well? Is He telling you, “YOU’VE GOT THIS!!” “YOU CAN DO THIS, I’M RIGHT HERE WITH YOU!”?

Close:

By now, most of us know someone who has actually been a victim of COVID 19, and are aware of the ravages of this virus. It’s not pretty. In most cases, healthy people who are in their prime can get through it with fairly mild symptoms; for others, perhaps with issues of additional conditions, or elderly, or infants who are too young to fight, life can become tragic very quickly. However, in the end it is really no different than receiving a phone call of the sudden loss of a loved one, a premature death in the family, or a verdict of a terminal illness. These and more immediate issues send us to God, beseeching Him to give us a miraculous healing so that everyone will give Him glory! But should that be our prayer?

In today’s sermon, Charles Billingsley has told us of the Valley of the Shadow of Death that he has just walked through—one which, had he not been in excellent health—would have killed him. What a wake-up call! Our life is so fragile, as James tells us in 4:14, that it is like fog, it appears for a little time, then vanishes away. We realize that more and more as we age, and wonder how we got old so quickly, when it feels we should still be in our twenties or thirties.

If you’re going through trials right now, especially as we all deal with the Coronavirus, you probably wish you could read the end of your “story”! But God has your back, He is pushing you to get through this season, and like the plants in the garden or yard, your root system has to be deep in Him. The winds, rain, hail, blight, and insects will try to destroy you, but He alone is the finisher of your faith. He is saying, “LISTEN TO ME! FOLLOW ME! TRUST ME! YOU CAN DO THIS WITH ME!”

April 26, 2020

AND YOU SHALL…
April 26, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Having friends on social media has become a way to socially interact during the pandemic of COVID 19. What type of material do you post? What do you like to read?

Open:

The past few weeks we examined the last words of Jesus as He was arrested and crucified, culminating last week in His words from Revelation, “Behold! I come quickly!” His last statements tell us two things: we must be the ones to go and tell, and Jesus is coming soon. Today we want to go deeper into these phrases, examining our own hearts to see if we are carrying out His Great Commission, or if we are hoping others will be the ones who “go and tell.”

Key Verse: Acts 1:8a: But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me….

Focal Passages: Matthew 4:19, 9:37, 24:9-14a; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15; Phil. 4:13.

Jesus commanded it

  • Read Acts 1:8a. When does the Holy Spirit take up residence in a believer? What do the words “you shall” imply?
  • What do we consider to be our options about sharing the news of salvation through Jesus Christ? What are some excuses we use not to share?

Jesus taught it

  • Read Matthew 4:19. How did Jesus live His life in order to be our pattern? What are some examples from His ministry?
  • Are there areas of your life where you have told someone, “Do as I do”? Have you used this phrase in connection with your walk with Jesus? Why or why not?

The world needs it

  • Think nationally and globally: what are some troubles that are in today’s world? What is the basic root problem?
  • Read Matthew 24:9-12. What are some of the evidences of hatred toward Christians today? How does this sound like Jesus’ words of the “last days”?
  • Can you think of other examples that may indicate we are getting close to His return?

You can do it

  • Read Matthew 24:14a. What is God’s promise in this verse? Is there any ambivalence in His statement?
  • Read Matthew 9:37. What field and harvest was Jesus referring to? Why are there few workers? Who is responsible for the work? What problem does the world need to be saved from?
  • Read 1 Peter 3:15. Who are to be the preachers? How can you make yourself ready? What does it mean to do it in meekness and fear?

Close:

Another week of isolation, social distancing, quarantine, and COVID 19, terms that were not even part of our ordinary vocabulary until perhaps the first part of December, 2019. Now we speak of them many times a day, hoping the time is soon when employees can return to work, we can mingle with the ones we love, and life regains some normalcy. As we consider the Great Commission, we want to know what can be done to “follow Christ” in this time of craziness when we are still feeling our way, trying to stay positive. What are some of the great things you are hearing about in your town? We know this is a time when churches are stepping forth, calling members on the phone to ask “How can we help you?” Food baskets and meals are being distributed (and yes, social distance is practiced), financial help is being offered, and much more. We’re hearing of parking lots at the local hospitals being filled with prayer warriors, sitting in their cars with headlights on, praying for patients who can’t have visitors or family while they are inside. Restaurants are furnishing food to shut-ins, and donations are on an upswing as the communities rally around their own. It has been amazing to see the photos of cities like Los Angeles and New York, now, compared to three months ago! The clarity of the air has been radically impacted, smog is fading, gases are controlled, and canals and streams are clearing up. Life is much healthier! The best of all the great news, however, is the number of people who are turning to Jesus Christ, understanding their need of a Savior, and hearing their sins can be forgiven. The fear of getting COVID 19 may be great, but an eternity spent in a very real place called Hell is much more fearsome. It is marvelous to see scores of people deciding it is time to take God seriously. Thank You, Lord, for the blessings You’ve given us during this time unlike no other we’ve ever known!

April 19, 2020

FAMOUS LAST WORDS: NEVER ALONE
April 19, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Choosing to have some time to yourself is much different than enforced time when you are not allowed to have a social life, isn’t it? What is most challenging for you about the time of isolation that the world is currently involved in?

Open:

Today we conclude the Easter series as we have examined the last words of Jesus from the cross. After His resurrection, He was seen by the disciples, by friends, and by more than 500 people in and around Jerusalem. The last words He spoke before He ascended back to heaven are given to us, and we can find great comfort in the promise He gave!

Key Verse: Matthew 28:19: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Focal Passages: Matthew 28:18-21; Acts 1:8; Mark 16:15.

FEAR NOT

  • Read Matthew 28:18. What was the setting when Jesus spoke these words? Why did He begin His last words with this sentence?
  • What is another word for power? Who gave it to Him? Does His power have limits?
  • What are some of the things that He has authority over?

MAKE A DIFFERENCE

  • Read verse 19. How many action words are in this verse and what are they?
  • Read Acts 1:8. Where does the power to be witnesses for Christ come from? How do we “make” disciples? Who are we to tell?
  • If you lead someone to Jesus, do you have authority to baptize them?

DO THE RIGHT THING

  • Read Matthew 28:20a. What are we to teach? How can you make all the “do’s and don’ts” simple for a new believer? Read Luke 10:27. What two commands encapsulate all the law?
  • What is our responsibility after receiving God’s free gift of salvation?
  • Read John 14:15. How do we show we love God?

YOU’RE NOT ALONE

  • Read Matthew 28:20b. How aware are you that God the Holy Spirit is with you every moment of every day? How does this make you feel?
  • Read Colossians 2:9-10. What does this verse say about the power of Jesus Christ?

Close:

It has now been one week since Easter. We have, depending on where we live, finished six weeks of enforced isolation, trying to quarantine, stay home and stay healthy, hoping not to spread this worldwide pandemic to neighbors. We have no idea how much longer it will be. Have you gotten stronger during this time, or are you and your loved ones at wit’s end? What have you learned during this time that is going to last?  Today we’ve heard the last words of Jesus before He ascended back to heaven. He told us to go out, find people, and tell them the good news of salvation that is available to all people, no matter what they’ve done. It’s hard to do that when we are inside our houses, isn’t it? For the time being, most of  us feel a sense of limbo. Have you thought of writing encouraging notes? Mothers who have no experience are suddenly home-schooling. Fathers who have worked 16 hour days are finding themselves at home with  the wife and children, wondering what happened to their marriage. Children are frustrated with a lack of activity (which they without question seem to  thrive on), and don’t want mom or dad’s help with their online studies, only  wanting to stay in their rooms. Suicides are starting to increase, divorces will probably be on the rise, and a recent statistic stated abuse is up 800%. Sad statistics. As followers of Jesus Christ, we can impact those statistics to  show that we are looking to Him for our strength and our answers. Churches are empty—we get that. The amazing thing is that worship through Facebook, Zoom, or other social media is bonding Christian believers together like never before. Churches are spearheading food pantries, taking  meals to shut-ins, and supplying essentials. Humanitarian non-profits are also doing whatever they can. It has been good to be a part of this time. In the years to come, hopefully no one will forget the lessons we’re learning during this time—and however much longer it will continue. God, our always-in-control, ever-present, ever-loving Father, will bring us through. May we be victorious as we find that we’ve grown in our faith, and in our love.

April 12, 2020

EASTER SUNDAY: HE LIVES!
April 12, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

What are some of the ways you’ve had to learn new facets of technology during this enforced time of quarantine from COVID 19?

Open:

The past two weeks we’ve taken an in-depth look at the last words of Jesus as He hung on the cross. We have found comfort and hope that He gave in those final moments. Today, with Christians worldwide, we celebrated the victorious outcomes of those few days when Jesus was led away to be judged, tortured, then crucified, then buried. However, on Sunday morning, the tomb was EMPTY! This year, as churches globally are empty while a pandemic rages, we have gathered in living rooms, dens, or kitchens and watched by way of technology believers praising our Risen Lord. His purpose for coming to earth was complete!

Focal Passages: John 19:28-30, John 10:17-18; Hebrews 10:9-10.

His work was accomplished

  • Read John 19:28a. In our humanity, it is hard for us to not think that because He is God, He could endure the suffering. Not so! But how does this verse put into clarity the fact that His mission was first and foremost in His mind?
  • What were the “things” that were now accomplished?

The Scriptures were proven

  • Read verse 28b. What were some of the Scriptures you can think of that Jesus fulfilled in the three years of His ministry?
  • Read John 1:29. How did John the Baptist know that Jesus was “The Lamb of God”? Read Luke 1:15b. How could this have been part of the answer?

His love displayed

  • Read John 19:30b. There are so many areas that the phrase “It is finished” could have referred to; list as many as you can.
  • Read Romans 5:8. Whom do you know who would give their child to be beaten and killed by and for evil, wicked men? What were you like before salvation?

His power confirmed

  • Read John 19:30c and John 10:17-18a. Who was in total control of the death of Jesus? In verse 18a, who took His life away from Him? Did He at any time lose any of His control?
  • Read Colossians 2:9-10. What does this verse say about the power of Jesus Christ?

His promise fulfilled

  • Read John 10:18b. John continued Jesus’ statement of His death. Could anyone take the power away from Jesus that could keep Him rising from the grave?
  • Read 2 Corinthians 5:15. Because Jesus went through such agonizing suffering for us, what is our responsibility?
  • Read 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. If you had stopped reading at the word “buried,” would there have been any victory? Why does the victory come because of the resurrection?

Close:

What a marvelous Easter Sunday! Probably the majority of us who have been Christians for most of our lives have seldom missed many Easter services, so to not center our activities around our church on this day seemed unsettling. At the same time, in a way it freed our time up to plan for new ways to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, unlike in years past.

For believers in our local community, most of us were obligated to remain at home, selecting our worship service(s) based on the digital abilities of the church we usually attend, or those of friends or relatives. For some of us, we were even able to watch, by Facebook or social media, more than one. We were additionally blessed to be able to attend our normal Sunday school through Zoom, seeing, hearing, and interacting with those whom we’ve come to love and fellowship with on a regular basis. After lunch, again through the blessing of technology, we were able to watch the full-length production of “JESUS,” as performed by Sight and Sound Theatres of Lancaster, PA. The moving presentation, with animals, amazing props, and realistic actors brought the scenes from the life of Jesus into our homes and lives, and even gave us fresh images of activities that were common to Jesus. 

How much time did you spend today thanking Him for the suffering He endured for you? Or thanking Him for your salvation? Did anything that was said today impact your life for eternity? When this period of global isolation is over, will you return to business as usual, or will you remember the special moments when God seemed to reach down and pull you—like Jesus did Peter from the ocean waves, as he walked on water—out of the depths of the sea? Don’t forget lessons learned this Easter!

April 5, 2020

FAMOUS LAST WORDS, PART 2
April 5, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Have you ever undertaken a project, activity, lifestyle or exercise that you knew, in advance, would cause you enormous pain? How did you get through it?

Open:

Today we continue to examine the last words of Jesus, spoken while hanging on the cross. Last week we found much reassurance in His words of forgiveness, of hope, and of comfort. Today we will look at His words as He was near death, showing His pain, His humanity and His purpose.

Key Verse: Luke 23:46: And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last.

Focal Passages: Matthew 27:45-46; Luke 23:44-46; John 19:28-29.

HIS PAIN

  • Read Matt. 27:45. What time frame is mentioned here? What was special about darkness at these hours? What would you attribute the darkness to?
  • Read verse 46. Jesus is ready to die; what kind of pain would have caused Him to cry out to the Father like this? In that moment, what was He feeling physically and mentally?
  • Read John 12:27. Was Jesus always fully aware that this was why He had come in the flesh? Read John 18:11 and Matt. 26:53-54. Did Jesus ever really consider not going to the cross?

HIS HUMANITY

  • Read John 19:28. Jesus was fully God and fully Man (both 100%), while He was on the earth. His pain would have been just the same as yours. What does this verse illustrate about His humanity?
  • Read Psalm 69:21. Had any other of Jesus’ words indicated His suffering in the flesh? Why, then, was it necessary for Him to articulate His thirst?
  • When Psa. 69 was written, what did the prophecy say Jesus would be given? What did the soldiers give Jesus? Why was it necessary to fulfill this prophecy?
  • If Jesus was so particular, in His incredible and intense pain, that He would not fail to see all prophecy fulfilled, what does that mean to us that He will go with us through everything in order to have no promise left unfulfilled?

HIS PURPOSE

  • Read John 12:27-28 again. Would Jesus have taken a way out from being crucified if He could have?
  • Read Luke 23:44. Why was the veil of the temple torn from top to bottom?
  •  What had the veil originally been used for (Exo. 26:33)?
  • Read John 3:17. Why did Jesus have to die on the cross at Calvary?.

Close:

Only one week until the church celebrates Easter! An Easter this year that is unlike any that most of us have ever celebrated. No new spring dresses, no big Easter egg hunts, no early morning Sunrise services with coffee and donuts. As has been posted on Facebook thousands of times this past week, the church buildings will be empty—but that’s okay, the grave is empty as well! Jesus Christ lives!

We are so immersed in the deity of Jesus Christ that we often forget that He was also fully Man when He came to the earth. Fully, 100%, of both. His pain was like our pain, His suffering like our suffering, and we can only imagine what He went through in order to take the wrath of God upon Himself. To think He did not cry out is incomprehensible. None of us could have done that.

How has His death impacted your life? Have you suffered with Him, when He hung on the cross for you? Do the verses telling of the crown of thorns feel as if they’re being crushed into your own head as you read? Do you want to tell those whom you love what He has done for them?

The whole world is experiencing a pandemic called Coronavirus. It will probably be many years before life has become “normal” again. For many of us, perhaps not in the remainder of our life. Just as we don’t want to be the same as we were before the virus, with all the busyness, the lack of values, and so much more, so also we don’t ever want to return to a way of life that we lived before hearing what Jesus did on the cross for us. May we never forget what He went through the pay for our salvation!

March 29, 2020

FAMOUS LAST WORDS, PART 1
March 29, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

During this unprecedented time of enforced isolation from most of our fellowmen, have you heard about or read of actions that people or businesses are doing that are encouraging?

Open:
Today we enter a new series, looking forward to Easter, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus made statements as He hung on the cross, not only meant for those people in that time, but also for mankind throughout the ages, for us, and for the generations which will come after us. They all give a beautiful picture of the heart of Jesus Christ, what He came to earth to accomplish, and the plans He had for all of us.

Key Verse:

Focal Passages: Luke 23:32-43; John 19:25-27

Forgiveness

  • Read Luke 23:32-33. What had been happening to Jesus during the past several hours? What was happening to Him physically as He hung on the cross?
  • Read verse 34. Can you comprehend how it was even possible for Him to focus on the people who had sentenced Him to death—and sinners through the ages—while He was in such agony? How would you have handled it?
  • How was His prayer to His Father answered even as He hung dying?

Hope

  • Read Luke 23:39. Jesus was hung between two thieves; who can the first criminal represent through the years since the crucifixion?
  • Read verse 40. Who could the second criminal represent? What had begun happening in his heart that caused him to rebuke the first thief?
  • Read verse 41a and Romans 6;23. How did this man understand there is a penalty required for sin? Read verse 41b. During the three years prior to the crucifixion, what had Jesus been doing that the second thief was able to make his remark? Read John 18:20. How does this verse confirm your answers?
  • Read verse 42. How can you know that, in a moment of clarity, his faith became real?
  • Read verse 43. How does the answer of Jesus give you encouragement? How is this the epitome of hope?

Comfort

  • Read John 19:25-27. As the time was passing, Jesus’ pain had to be getting harder to bear. Why does it bring comfort to know in those horrible moments His concern was for others, including His mother? Why was He concerned for her welfare after the crucifixion?
  • What did He ask of John? Why would He ask John, and not one of His half-brothers?
  • What does this concern show about the heart of Jesus? Why does it exemplify the commandment to “honor thy father and thy mother”? (Exo.20:12).

Close:

Most of us have never been in excruciating pain to the point that Jesus suffered over His entire body. When we think back upon our lives to a time of what we considered intense pain, it could be a migraine, a broken bone, childbirth, kidney stones, or a variety of other conditions that comes to mind. To think of the beating, the cruel thorns in the scalp, nails driven in the hands and feet—those things are beyond our understanding. 

Taking all the pain into account—especially considering we can’t really identify with the depth of it—and then speaking in a manner that reveals a heart full of love, is beyond comprehension. In the statements we read today, the first showed a complete love for those who were standing at the cross, not concerned for the monstrous deed they had performed. Yet He asked His Father to forgive them! Not only them, but by extension, sinners who have chosen to walk apart from Him through the centuries. What love!

His second statement was full of love and hope. Few verses bring such great hope as telling the second thief, “Today you’ll be with ME in Paradise!” For those who have asked Jesus to save them—even in their last moments of life—what peace that one verse can give. The third statement, giving the care of His mother to the “beloved disciple” (John), shows how He loved and cherished her, honoring her for the years she had spent preparing Him for this moment.

Most people would be screaming expletives at worst, or unable to speak coherently at best, but not Jesus Christ. As in His life, His final words were spoken for the good of those who would need the forgiveness, hope or love. What a testimony that His life—and dying—was!

March 22, 2020

LESSONS FROM THE BELLY OF THE WHALE
March 22, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Has there ever been a time in your life when you’ve been isolated or quarantined? What was it like to finally be released? How do you look forward to resuming normal activities in today’s chaotic times?

Open: We are in a period of strange circumstances that, for most of us, are unprecedented. Few of us have experienced isolation or restriction of our activities. Jonah, the prophet whom God told to go to Nineveh and preach, rebelled against God and ended up in the belly of a great fish. Although we are not inside a fish, our movements and normal tasks are severely limited. The lessons found in the life of Jonah can give us much insight for such a time as this.

Key Verse: Jonah 1:17. “Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.”

Focal Passage: Jonah 2:1-10.

Crying out to God is more important than crying about our circumstances

  • Why is it so hard to put the worries and troubles of our life aside, rather than letting them swallow us?
  • Read Jonah 2:2. What happened to Jonah when he turned his attention from his circumstances to God?
  • What are some of the issues in life that might make us feel hopeless? If we continue to focus on the problems, what happens to our spirit?
  • During this time of our enforced isolation in today’s world, where is God? Read James 4:8a. What do you have to do to get His attention?

Focusing on His promises is more important than focusing on our problems

  • Read verses 3-4a. What are the disasters Jonah recounted in these verses?
  • Read verse 4b. What changed Jonah’s focus? Do you feel like you’ve been swallowed by a fish? What would change your focus from pain to worship? What are some of the promises of God that will bring your heart peace and comfort during this time?

Worshiping our Master is more important than worrying about our mess

  • Read Jonah 2:5-6. Jonah’s “mess” continued. As he graphically described being in the belly of the fish, what did he experience? If you had actually been Jonah, how could it have gotten much worse? How about for you now?
  • What did Jonah start doing? Why is it not possible for you to keep your mind on your circumstances and worship at the same time?
  • Where is your focus when you are worshiping? What are some fruits that will be in your life if you choose to worship? What will worry bring you?

Our crisis is never greater than our God

  • Read verse 9. How did Jonah turn his heart around by focusing his attention toward the Lord God?   
  • Was Jonah trusting God for deliverance, or trusting Him because he thought his life was almost over? Do you think he actually envisioned deliverance?
  • Read verse 10. What all could Jonah have concentrated on while he was in the fish? How did his heart change?

Close: We are living in days that are strange to most of us. Not only are they filled with normal concerns, but for many of us there are hours of additional stress that we are not usually concerned with: school children at home, bored and possibly unsupervised; keeping minds occupied for hours and hours, rather than shorter segments; challenging ourselves not to be overcome with worry, fatigue and pressure that doesn’t seem to end. It is so easy to get sidetracked by worry, even though we know it doesn’t bring hope, help or in any way relieve the pain.

Jonah was in a desperate situation! If we had been swallowed by a fish and left for three days, we would definitely have figured that the end of our life had come—just as Jonah must have felt. Although we are not in a fish, our concern about the quarantine of our normal way of life, with restricted ability to enjoy restaurants, places of entertainment, congregational activities like church, ball games or other pleasures, is a mental disruption that shows us we need to retrain our focus to get it back on God and worship, rather than on our circumstances!

It is definitely fitting that we study the lessons provided by Jonah. Our lives today, while extremely hard and challenging, are showing us that we have become much too dependent on social interaction, outside entertainment, and myriads of choices for our time. We can start by remembering those early pioneers—our forefathers—who lived a simpler life, enjoying family and neighbors. Most of all, we should choose to use this time to worship our God, rather than focusing on the difficult time we are having. He is so worthy!

March 15, 2020

LIVING THE DASH
March 15, 2020
Charles Billingsley

Have you ever wished you could go back and live your life over again, except with the wisdom you now have? What would you do differently (that you can say!)?

Open: Tombstones almost always have the birth date and death date of the person in the grave. Between the two is a “dash,” indicating days, months or years that the person lived. The length of life may vary greatly, but the end result is always the same: they departed from this earth and were immediately in the presence of the Lord. No two people have lived their “dash” the same, but their relationship with the Lord God will decide where eternity is going to be spent.

Focal Passage: John 11:1-44.

Living the Dash—through the waiting

  • Read John 11:1-7. Why did Jesus wait for two days before leaving for Judea? Do you think Mary and Martha were calmly waiting? Why not?
  • Read verse 11. What are some things we can do as we spend the time waiting for God to answer prayers? Which ways honor God as we wait?
  • Read Psalm 27:14. Why is it so important to face our circumstances with faith, rather than doubts, fears or unbelief? If you are waiting on the Lord, what does He promise you?

Living the Dash—through the weeping

  • Read verse 21. What did Mary and Martha both say when Jesus finally arrived in Bethany? Do you think they expected Him to come immediately upon hearing that Lazarus was sick? Is that different from our expectations when we have a serious prayer request?
  • Read Psalm 34:17-18 and Hebrews 4:15. How can you actively process the thought that God understands your pain?
  • Read Isaiah 43:2. How can you tell from this passage that God is very aware of what you’re going through? How do you know He’s working even when you cannot see Him?

Living the Dash—through the watching

  • Read John 11:38-39. Only Jesus knew what He was going to do for Lazarus. Who were some of those in the crowd? (For instance, mourners). How do you think each group was reacting to what Christ was doing?
  • Read verse 40. How can you make this verse applicable to your circumstances when you are going through tough times?

Living the Dash—through the wonder

  • Read verses 41a-44a, Could any of those present have been prepared for this result? Explain how you imagine Lazarus able to come out, empowered by the Spirit, yet bound by grave clothes. How is that like our new nature and old nature?
  • What are some of the things that can keep us bound? Did you remove all your “grave clothes” after salvation?

Close: Everyone’s life as God’s child is different! As we read through the New Testament, most of us might assume that those who knew and loved Jesus as a friend, and believed Him to be the Messiah, might have had a special relationship that we—2,000 years later—would never imagine. That was not the case, as we saw in today’s sermon. Mary and Martha had a tough couple of weeks, when their faith was tested severely.

Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus, loved their friend, Jesus of Nazareth, deeply. When Lazarus fell sick, the sisters immediately sent messengers to Jesus to let Him know His dear friend was sick. Then they waited for Jesus to come. What about you? In your time of waiting for an answer to prayer, what do you do? Unlike Mary and Martha, you can keep your eyes on the Big Picture. A life of unbelief has no place in a Christian’s tough circumstances. Faith gives hope as we wait. We can also keep our faith in His blessed promises. He has never left us, and He isn’t going to do so now! And we know that none of His promises has ever failed! And while we’re waiting, we have to remember that God is working all things out for our good. Lastly, we have to keep our heart tuned to His beautiful Presence. He is not only our dear friend, but loving Savior. And remember, God works in the space of the entire dash, not just a sliver of time.

As we move through our own dash, let us wait on the Lord. We will eventually discover His impeccable plan. It is by living for Him that we discover the wonder of worship and His intimate Presence. The lifestyle of worship is a perpetual celebration over the freedom and forgiveness God has given you. It is a beautiful “sacrifice” to Him from a loving child!

March 8, 2020

A CHANGED LIFE
March 08, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Have you ever had a gift that was so perfect, so “right” for the one who would receive it, that you thrilled with anticipation as you visualized their joy? Was it received as you had hoped? Good or bad, can you share your story?

Open:
The apostle Paul was able to offer the most significant of all testimonies after his salvation: he was completely changed in his thinking and his actions. Later, as he penned letters to the churches he ministered to, he encouraged all believers through the centuries to be aware of the immeasurable gift given by the grace of God, and he pushed the churches to be all that they could be—impacting the world until Jesus returns. His message to Titus is a great example of the changed life available through Jesus Christ.

Key Verse: Titus 2:11: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.”

Focal Passage: Titus 2:11-15.

We are saved by the grace of God

  • Read Titus 2:11. Why was it necessary for God’s grace to be manifest to mankind?
  • If God had not made a way for you to be saved, how would you have found salvation? Had you lived during Old Testament times, what would you have done to know God?
  • Who did His grace appear to?

Which should affect the way we live and act

  • Read verse 12. If you are truly aware of how much it cost God to provide salvation for you, how has it changed your lifestyle? Can someone share how much your life changed upon salvation?
  • As you grow in faith and knowledge of God, what are some of the qualities that have become your “normal” actions?
  • What are some of the ways your lifestyle differs from the world around you?

As we wait for the great promise

  • Read Titus 2:13. What was the great promise that Paul was speaking of?
  • Read John 14:1-4. What promise did Jesus make in these verses? Last week we learned God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). What feelings do you experience knowing Jesus’ promise to return for you is sure?

Because He has changed us for a reason

  • Read verse 14. Have you ever sacrificed yourself in some way for someone? How did they receive your gift (of time, money, etc.)?   
  • Do you feel you are truly committed to serving Christ? Discuss some of the challenges that you encounter as you try to walk as He walked (Are you invited places that He would not go? Are your words flavored with profanity that you justify? Do you take His name in vain, as a habit?).

So we can change the world through Him

  • Read verse 15. Can you share what you did this week to further the gospel to any ONE person?
  • Discuss: will anyone in your circle of friends or co-workers desire to be a Christian because of you?

Close:

What a marvelous message from Paul that has come down through the ages to bless us! God’s grace is constantly manifested to us through His word, as we read and receive the strength we need in this ungodly world. It truly becomes a circle: we spend time in His word, receive the promises and life lessons made to us as His children, grow as we seek to know Him better, return to His word, and increase in faith and knowledge of Him! The more we grow, the more we desire to grow, and His promises shine even brighter on our path. The love and joy flow out of us to bless others as we go our way.

One of the added blessings in your reading is knowing it so well you began to match scripture to scripture. One section or thought will remind you of another passage, and suddenly you find a confirmation in a totally different book of the Bible! It is like a treasure hunt. And as we let the scripture produce godly fruit in us,  (Gal. 5:22-23; 2 Pet. 1:5-8) we realize God is shaping and growing us to reach the world for Him. It is an amazing, fruitful time that His word truly never “returns void.”

This week search your heart to see what level of commitment you show at work, or in your daily routine. As we bring this sermon to a close, spend time this week to understand God’s reason for choosing to place His love upon YOU.

March 1, 2020

THE BEST JOB WITH THE BEST PAY
March 01, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Every day we put our faith in hundreds of things that may or may not fail us. What are some? Why do we not think twice about using these items (or matter) without conscious thought?

Open:

Do you ever question your level of faith? There is no “half-way” mark in following God. If you’re not all-in, you’re out. Not because you don’t have a choice, but because true believers are so grateful for and so aware of the miracle of salvation that anything less than our best is not an option! Today we read the opening of Paul’s letter to Titus, whom Paul called “a son in the faith.” Paul’s joy to be a slave for the gospel of Jesus Christ is an example of what our life should be like.

Focal Passage: Titus 1:1-4.

We don’t have a choice

  • Read Titus 1:1a. How did Paul describe himself in this passage? What did he mean by “bondservant”? How could Paul call himself an apostle?
  • Until a person makes a decision to be a Christian, what is his position in relation to eternal life? Can there be “fence-riders” in the Kingdom of God? Why or why not?
  • If you have made a declaration of salvation, but are not ready to leave a  lifestyle of disobedience, what may be the state of your soul? Will a true believer desire to live a life of obedience to God?
  • Why do we say a believer—Christ-honoring, all-in Christ-follower—has no choice but to be a bondservant of God?

Not just to know truth, but to live truth

  • Read verse 1b. (NLT: “…teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives.”) How can you know about Jesus Christ, but not have enough faith to live for Him? Do you have an example?
  • As your soul, mind and spirit grow in knowledge of God, what should be happening to your relationship with Him?
  • Read John 8:31-32. What did Jesus mean that “the truth would make you free”?

This truth matters

  • Read Titus 1:2. Why is it important that God cannot lie? What is the difference between someone who DOES NOT lie, and Someone who CANNOT lie?
  • Is there any promise you can go to in the Word of God and not tie it back to Titus 1:2? Why? Why does it matter that this is true?

It’s our job. It’s our joy

  • Read verse 3. What are some of the words for the translation for Paul being “committed” with the job of preaching?   
  • Read 1 Timothy 2:5-7a. Why did Paul not have any doubt that Jesus Christ had given him the mission of preaching for as long as he was able?
  • Read Acts 20:24. Is there any greater joy than doing what you know God has appointed you to do?

Given to us all

  • Read verse 4 and Matt. 28:18-20. Whom did Christ commission with the task to preach the gospel? How do you know in your own life whether it is a calling (i.e., your job), or a by-product of living the Christian life?
  • If God has given you another profession, how can you reach lost souls for Christ as you live your life?
  • Read James 4:17. How would this verse apply to you, if you never testify to friends or neighbors of the salvation you’ve experienced?

Close:

Most of us have heard the story of Charles Blondin, the amazing French tightrope artist who, in the mid-1800’s, showed his daring feat of crossing Niagara Falls, providing the prime example of what true faith is.

Mr. Blondin stretched his tightrope across the Falls, walking back and forth several times, each time with a different challenge: once he was blindfolded, once he was in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and once with a stove, over which he cooked an omelet!

The watching crowd grew more and more enthusiastic, eventually drowning out the thunderous Falls themselves. Blondin yelled to the crowd, “Do you think I can carry a man across in this wheelbarrow??” “Yes, we believe,” they yelled! Again, he asked, “Do you think I can carry a man across in this wheelbarrow??!” The crowd screamed, “Yes, yes!!” Blondin yelled back, “Who will come get in the wheelbarrow?” The crowd fell silent. No one took up the dare.

This beautiful, true story from an incredible man provides the perfect example of the call of God upon our lives. We must be so filled with faith in Jesus Christ that we are ready to answer with a positive cry of “YES” to any task He wants us to perform! As Paul himself tells us, he was a bond-servant of God—a slave for God—because he could never repay with his life what God did in providing His own Son to pay for the sins of Paul—and any of us. Our love in return, because of His great love with which He loves us, should evoke the highest passion of praise and worship that we can give. It should never be just knowing truth, but living the truth.

It has been said that the person who loves his job will never work a day in his life. What a joyful statement, and how perfectly did it describe Paul! Through the physical torment, the bodily suffering, and the mental anguish as he was deeply concerned about his planted churches, he was still filled with contentment and joy (see 2 Corinthians 11:23b-28). How totally important it is that we teach our children and grandchildren the worth of searching our hearts to find what thrills our souls with a passion, then train for that work. Meanwhile, continually take your spiritual pulse to make certain your love for Jesus Christ never grows dim or becomes lukewarm. Telling those we meet of His grace should always be our joy!

February 23, 2020

GOD’S ROAD IS BETTER THAN OURS
February 23, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

You are planning a trip. One obstacle after another seems to occur: there are no inexpensive hotel rooms available, as well as many other challenges. Do you normally consider these to be hurdles that must be overcome, or roadblocks put in your path by God?

Open:

God doesn’t always make sense to our human understanding. As we look at the Israelites leaving Egypt after more than four centuries, we see God guiding them—by a pillar of fire by night, and a pillar of cloud by day—on a very long, roundabout, way into the Promised Land. It was a journey they did not want to travel, turning from a few days or weeks, into one that was going to last over forty years. Did they trust Him? Let’s examine God’s reasoning behind His leading.

Key Verse: Exodus 13:18a: “So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea.”

Focal Passage: Exodus 13:17-18a.

From God’s Perspective

1. Letting go is better than taking charge

  • Read Exodus 13:17b. Can someone describe the lifestyle that most of the Israelites were enduring in Egypt?
  • Who did God raise up to bring the people out of Egypt? Were the people anxious to leave their lives of slavery?
  • Put yourself in the place of the men who were alive when Moses was trying to get Pharaoh to free them, and describe what they probably knew about other nations, military battles, etc., after having been slaves for their entire lives.
  • God was going to lead them in a cloudy pillar by day, and a pillar of fire by night; would they follow Him? Why did God not lead them by the direct route, across the northern sea route, into Canaan?
  • Who was stationed all along the travel routes of the Via Maris—the Way of the Sea—as a daunting military force, ready to battle anyone who traveled that way?

2. From Man’s Perspective

  • Had any of the men been able to practice military maneuvers with weapons, or pretend to fight war games while slaves? Were they probably ignorant of the Philistines stationed along the entire route of the Great Sea? Do you think they realized they were ill-prepared for engaging in battles?
  • Why did God not want the Israelites to be confronted with battle-hungry warriors as they headed toward the Promised Land?
  • As the Israelites followed the clouds of God leading, how were they learning dependence on God? Why was this so necessary?

3. The easy way is not always the best

  • Read verse 17c. History tells us the Philistines were stationed along the Great Sea, waiting to ravish traveling caravans; what chance would sheltered Israel have had at the hands of marauders?
  • What would Israel likely have done if they met the dominant Philistine army? Would the Philistines have hesitated to kill travelers walking through their land?

4. God sees our potential weakness even when we don’t

  • Read verse 17d. What did God know about the weakness of the Israelites that they themselves didn’t realize, if they met with a hostile army?
  • What was their mental state at this time, based on the stressful days or weeks they had undergone during the Plagues in Egypt, and the travel thus far?
  • Why would God not have killed off the Philistines as He had the Egyptians?
  • Had the people been depending on God over the past 400+ years in Egypt?
  • Were they showing the type of strengths coming out of Egypt that would have been needed to have taken the Promised Land—which would have included many battles with the inhabitants of Canaan?
  • Read Numbers 13:27-31. Sometime later, Israel’s fear and apprehension at facing a perceived enemy was proven when twelve spies were sent into the Promised Land; what did their report show of their readiness for big battles?

5. God leads us on the path that will give us His best, not our wants

  • Read verse 18a. What did the Israelites need before they would be people who fully trusted God and be the kind of people He wanted them to be?
  • Had God allowed them to go the direct route into Canaan, what are some things that could have happened to them?
  • Would God have led them over the northern route, knowing they would not be victorious to receive the Promised Land? Why or why not?

Close:

Studying the background of why God acted in certain ways with the Israelites as they journeyed out of Egypt, and understanding why He took them under His divine guidance, gives us a clearer picture of the wilderness trek of the Israelites. God knew the dangers that would threaten them if they took the northern Sea route and the temptation for them to flee—unguided—into the wilderness or back into Egypt. These people had spent over four hundred years in an alien land, and had no experience with war. They were dependent on their adopted culture for food, protection from enemies, and shelter. Now, as God led them from Egypt to the Land of Canaan, He had to babysit them for more than forty years until they were experienced not only in battles, and also had lived in the wilderness long enough to raise livestock and be able to subsist.

Now, having studied the reasons why God acted as He did, and as we meet obstacles in our journey of life, we can look back upon our travels and understand why God wants us to trust Him. He knows the path we take, and the dangers ahead. While we may chaff when He wants us to give Him complete control, the truth is that He is WORTHY, He is worth TRUSTING, and HE WILL NEVER LEAD US IN A PATH THAT WILL BE ANYTHING EXCEPT VICTORIOUS FOR US!

February 16, 2020

THE TRUTH THAT SETS YOU FREE
February 16, 2020
Phil Waldrep

Most families in today’s world have been affected by the actions of someone who has been betrayed by one they have trusted. Can anyone share and tell what the outcome was (without names or relationship)?

Open:

There are many admonitions in scripture that caution believers to beware having an unforgiving or bitter spirit. But we all know friends or family members who have been the victim in a betrayal, and often are not sure how to help. What is God’s way to forgive someone and move on, being set totally free? Let’s examine the subject.

Key Verse: Psalm 41:9: “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”

Focal Passage: Psalm 41

1. Forgiveness frees me forever

  THE EMOTIONS OF BETRAYAL

  • Read Psalm 41:9. How did David describe the betrayal he had experienced?
  • There are five emotions that can be associated with the pain of betrayal; what are they?
  • The emotion of denial soon leads to ______,  Anger, when not given to God, can lead to _______.  Can someone explain the difference between anger and rage? What can rage lead to? Rage, if let go, turns to __________. Why is bitterness so dangerous? If one is bitter, what can that easily turn to?
  • Why is anger a normal emotion? Is it possible to control anger? Is rage as able to be controlled? The emotion of bitterness puts a filter over one’s eyes; what does this filter start assessing?
  • In the final emotion, revenge, how do (non violent) people usually act?

  THE STEPS OF FORGIVENESS

  • If a victim CHOOSES to begin the steps of forgiveness, what are they? “I choose to give up __ ________ ______ __ _______.”  “I choose not __ ___ ____.” “Even if my betrayer is _______, I will not try to _______ ___ _________ __ ___ ____.”
  • Why is it not enough to say these are going to be one-time decisions? If you choose to (give up all personal rights to revenge), to (not try to get even), or not to (destroy the blessings on their life), who is going to keep trying to take you down? Who is for you?
  • For most victims, the choices to keep claiming victory will be in verbal battles. Read Psalm 39:1.

2. Forgiveness frees me from the person who betrayed me

  LIES TO RENOUNCE

  • What are some of the “normal” lies told victims who have been betrayed that must be renounced? Are there any references in scripture that point to the victim as being the problem?
  • Victims do not have to forget; victims must use discretion as to whether to establish a relationship of any type with the betrayer, ever again (especially depending on the severity of the betrayal or the age of the victims); victims do not need to ever reestablish the level of relationship with the betrayer that it was before the betrayal. Why or why not are these true?

  WHAT IS—OR IS NOT—FORGIVENESS

  • Forgiveness is NOT the same as TRUST. What is the difference, according to the sermon Phil Waldrep preached?
  • It is probably not possible for a victim to ever forget. Why is this statement true while we are on the earth?
  • As long as you hold on to your unforgiving spirit, what control does your betrayer have over you? Who is really controlling you? Can you CHOOSE to forgive and lay the chains down to God? How was the washing of Judas’ feet an example of Jesus not allowing the betrayal by Judas to control Him?

3. Forgiveness frees me from the pursuit of my betrayer

  • Why is it considered normal for any victim to want the betrayer to hurt at the same level of pain they experienced? Is it the right thing to do? Who can be used to try to get even? Why does this never work?
  • The moment you do it ____ way, you will be happy. Why does it make a difference to CHOOSE His way?
  • No matter the problem, a first step is necessary in order to begin the process of healing; why is trusting God’s way an essential beginning?

4. Forgiveness frees me from the pain of my betrayal

  • The pain doesn’t go away immediately. If you start the journey of forgiveness, you will one day wake up and realize you are healed. Who can relate the analogy of the apple trees used by Phil Waldrep?
  • What happens when God takes all the broken pieces of your life and puts you together again? Can someone tell the analogy of the Antique Shop and the pottery?

Close:

Betrayal hurts people! As soon as the subject of forgiving a betrayer for a heinous act is brought up, a victim immediately becomes agitated or hostile. Most feel they have laid the bitterness to rest, but would confess happiness hasn’t been found yet. There are probably very few who could ever go through what King David did in our opening key verse, and come out unscathed. Nor could someone go through a betrayal and not have cried a bucket of tears as they felt the pain of the lies, “I could never have been happy because YOU _____!!” Why is it a victim believes the terrible things they are told? There is little that can wound a victim as much as the betrayal by someone they considered a “best friend,” “a soul mate” of a spouse, a “parent who loved me more than anything.” So how do you help someone who has been victimized?

This sermon by Phil Waldrep gives us much armor, as a friend, a counselor, a co-worker, or a concerned family member, to recognize and offer help. Keep it in your favorites file and listen to it (or read his books) and be able to give someone the steps to being set free, as well as recognizing the emotions that they may be dealing with, thinking they are on the right track—and aren’t.

Not only can this be a great help to third party victims, but hopefully it will help if you yourself are the victim of a betrayal. God wants us to be victorious in our walk with Him, and knowing His ways is vital to that. He has shown us the ultimate forgiveness as He paid the debt for our sins, and He desires this lesson be taken to heart and in turn, we offer forgiveness if someone hurts us.

May we all learn the lessons packed in this sermon, and be alert to ways in which we can help our hurting brothers or sisters!

February 9, 2020

ALONE: AND AFRAID
February 09, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Loneliness can make well-grounded, rational people do crazy things, sometimes to the harm of their health. Can anyone think of a memory you can share (not necessarily your own personal experience)?

Open: The Bible is unsurpassed as it offers us examples of people going through nearly every suffering known to man. We need only to search its pages to find relief, comfort and freedom as we, too, endure misery and distress. In it, we see it is filled with lessons of great hope, great promises, great statements, songs, and instances of great seasons of life. Today we will look at feeling alone and afraid, finding in Psalm 27 that David endured more than most of us ever will, leaving us to learn the  steps he took as he sought freedom from both.

Key Verse: Psalm 27:13: “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

Focal Passages: Psalm 27; 1 Samuel 16:1-21:14

Background:

  • 1 Samuel 16. Does anyone remember what the event was in David’s life when he was first introduced in Scripture? Who had come to his town in order to anoint him king in Israel?
  • 1 Samuel 17. What was the next major event for David? His father, Jesse, sent him to minister to his (David’s) brothers. What did David find when he arrived at the Valley of Elah, and what were the Israeli soldiers doing? What was the ending to his journey to see his brothers?
  • 1 Samuel 18. King Saul, impressed with David for the slaying of Goliath, now presents David with a gift; what was it? What had the people began to sing about David? What did Saul’s favor turn to as he heard the people praising David over praising him?
  • 1 Samuel 19. Saul’s original admiration of David now began to turn to furious hatred; what was it going to take before Saul would be content? How did David react?
  • 1 Samuel 20. Who became David’s ally, helping him escape from the king? How did this go down with Saul?
  • 1 Samuel 21. David was able to escape Saul, and make his way to Nob. Who helped him there? What did the priest immediately ask David when he realized who it was? What was David given? Leaving Nob, David made his way to Gath. How did he act when he realized the king of Gath was not going to be his friend at this time?

1. Feeling alone is a common condition

  • Read Psalm 27:1-3a. What did David call the Lord in verse 1? As 1 Samuel 21 ends and David writes Psalm 27, how do you assume he is feeling?
  • Who is he referring to in verse 2? What did he say his enemies were wanting to do to him?
  • As he wrote verse 3a, how had his songs of praise infused David? Read Col. 3:16. What did Paul write many years later about singing?
  • What lesson had David learned in order to beat fear in these verses? Did it work for him?

2. Feeling alone should not shake your confidence in God

  • Read Psa. 27:3b-5. David was not about to let Satan attack his mind. What was his weapon in verse 3b?
  • In verse 4, he could not dwell in the “house” of the Lord; however, what was he able to abide in?
  • What was David’s confidence in verse 5? Read Psa. 17:8. What was another figure of speech used for God’s protection? What does this remind you of?
  • What do we know about God that rises above our feelings of being alone?

3. Trusting God in our trouble is the first step towards victory

  • Read Psa. 27:6-7. What is usually the focus of people whose love is the world and whose heart is carnal? If our focus is on the Lord, where is the gaze of our heart?
  • Why is praise called a “sacrifice”?
  • No matter the problem, a first step is necessary in order to begin the process of healing or “fixing”; why is trusting God an essential beginning?

4. Trusting God requires seeking God

  • Read Psa. 27: 8-9. Why would you not seek help from someone whom you do not trust?
  • Read Hebrews 11:6. Would you ask God for help if you have no faith He is willing to help you? What does this verse say you must believe? What will God do for you when you ask in faith?

5. When all else fails, trust Him

  • Read Psa. 27:10-13. One sees David comforted on every side by  God’s protection; what has he learned?
  • Patience—waiting on God—is one of our hardest lessons to learn. Why is that true?

Close:

If ever anyone had the “right” to feel alone and afraid—going from a tremendous high, where he tended his father’s sheep and wrote beautiful songs (Psalms) to God, to a complete low, where he was running for his life, with no one’s help, or food, weapons, or clothing—it was David! Still so young that he deserved no honor among Jesse’s sons when he was anointed king by Samuel (1 Sam. 16:11, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep”), he was still old enough within a relatively short period of time to receive Saul’s daughter’s hand in marriage (1 Sam. 18:20-22). Saul had an ulterior motive, however, as he was already feeling the wretched emotion of jealousy, and hoped giving his daughter to David would result in David’s death, fighting Saul’s enemies (1 Sam. 18:21, So Saul said, “I will give her to him, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.). Soon, rather than relying on the Philistines to kill David, Saul decided to take matters into his own hands, with such vengeance that David had to begin running for his life. Through chapters 19 and 20 David seeks safety from Saul, finally, in 21 reaching Nob, and sought the priest, though just for a moment. The godly man recognized David and exclaimed, “Why are you alone, and no one is with you?!” He could hardly believe no one was taking care of David. Furnishing David with food and a weapon, David leaves, where he pens Psalm 27. Reading this song of love for God amidst despair shows David had not wavered in his loyalty, as he was truly “a man after God’s own heart.”

How about you or me? In a world filled with enemies—if not human, then the demons of Satan who would constantly seek to kill us (1 Pet. 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour”)—do we have the heart for God to keep our minds focused on Him when we need comfort, protection or love? Can you look back at past years and say “In all that I’ve been through, He hasn’t left me yet”? The beautiful truth for all believers is that He never will.

February 2, 2020

SO MUCH MORE: REACHING BEYOND OUR GRASP
February 02, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Have you recently done something that was definitely out of your comfort zone? It’s a very stressful thing, isn’t it? Can anyone share?

Open: Today we are ending our series “So Much More,” and at the same time ending a church-wide twenty-one day fast. We had humbly prayed that God would hear our prayers for a year of ‘so much more than we can ask or think,’ both in our church family and within our own physical family. Now we are seeing what we need to get out of our comfort zone, even when we feel somewhat off-balance, and ask God to use our lives to increase His kingdom here on earth.

Key Verse: Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…”

I. The Importance of Reaching

    If we are going to see God do infinitely more in the days ahead, we must be faithful in carrying His message outside of our comfort zone.

It is COMMANDED BY GOD

  • Read Mark 16:15-16. What are excuses for us to ignore the command in this passage?
  • Is there any room for arguing with God about it? (Think of Moses, when he was called by God to lead Israel out of Egypt; what did he do?)

It is GOD’S PLAN FOR ALL OF US

  • Read 2 Peter 3:9. What did Peter mean that God isn’t being slow about returning? When you think of your family, how long do you want God to hold off coming back for His children?
  • Who does God not desire to be saved?

His love COMPELS US

  • Read 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. What is our responsibility once we have experienced salvation?
  • How can we tell that we have died to our old life?

The world NEEDS JESUS

  • Read Ephesians 2:1-3. What is Satan’s strategy?
  • What made the difference between our new life and the life we lived before hearing the Gospel?

Time is SHORT

  • Read Matt. 24:36. Have you lived through a situation where you should have died? How did you feel? Did it leave a lasting impression?

II. Reasons Why We Don’t Reach

    What keeps us from sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ?

We don’t know the GOSPEL OURSELVES

  • How many verses do you have confidence you know—and would be able to use—if someone asks you how to be saved?
  • Do you feel you would be able to simply tell your own story of salvation? Why or why not?

We don’t care where some people SPEND ETERNITY

  • Read Hebrews 9:27. Are there people you passionately care about that are facing an eternity in a very real place called Hell?
  • Without naming names or relationships, can you think of some you feel sure are going to Hell, and it doesn’t bother you?

We worry about what PEOPLE MAY THINK

  • What is the true, bottom-line reason that we don’t tell others about Jesus?
  • Read 1 Tim. 3:6. If your answer was “pride,” what does Paul liken it to? What is the devil’s fate going to be? Is that the same as the person with pride? Read Ezek. 28:17a. What was Satan’s sin?

III. Let’s Remember the Gospel

    A synopsis of sharing our faith

God is our LOVING CREATOR

  • Read John 1:1-5. How perfect was creation at the beginning?

His creation is FULL OF SIN

  • Read Romans 3:23. Why did sin spread to the world?
  • Do we have a choice to sin or to be holy? Explain your answer.

Jesus paid FOR OUR SINS

  • Read Rom. 3:24. What has freed us from the penalty due our sin?
  • Read 1 John 4:10. Can someone explain the debt of sin against us, and what Jesus did?

We receive this payment THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST                                                               

  • Read Rom. 6:23. What is the difference between “wages” earned, and a gift?
  • Read John 3:16 and Romans 5:1. What is the only way of salvation?

The result of our faith is ETERNAL LIFE THROUGH CHRIST OUR LORD

  • Read John 10:27-30. What does Jesus promise believers in this passage?
  • Why did He willingly go to the Cross?

Close:

What an eye-opening series this has proven to be! One doesn’t realize how far into apathy we can fall until a point in a message shakes us awake. It’s easy to let the trap of a busy life lull us into a habit of distancing ourselves from the world, and a closer examination will expose a life that has become unintentionally withdrawn from people who differ greatly from ourselves.

Many may work in a profession where the number of employees is few and  possibly similar in race and values. Assuming this to be true, by the time they get home from work (40 hours per week on the average—and most of the time more), and sleep, or be home at least ten hours per night, they have possibly 58 hours left in their week. For those, Sunday (or another day off) may be the day when errands have to be run, leaving about 44, or slightly more than 6 per day. Meals (or dine out), and any extra-curricular activities for the children or grandchildren will eat that up, and suddenly the extra time for the social life of a church member, i.e., life groups, week-night classes or prayer meetings, get shoved to the side. In the end, it’s easy to cancel thoughts of any additional nights (soul winning, visitation, house groups, etc.), because there’s no “me time” left. And, without a doubt, it is busy! Satan’s tactic in this day and age is the use of a busy lifestyle. But if we are not in a large workplace we can become sheltered from unbelievers.

What is the answer? Without a doubt it’s going to take an intentional schedule change. When something needs to be added to one’s schedule—like a once a week night of witnessing—something else has to go. As we know, the command to win souls is God’s will for us, and therefore the lack of doing so can become sin in the lives of some believers. We are not speaking of those who are hampered by a season of duties that seems to have no answer. If this is truly the case in your life, perhaps you can arrange your schedule at home at some point so that you can become a true Prayer Warrior, lifting up those who need salvation on a very regular basis. What it boils down to is the defining point: are you concerned enough about God’s business to make adjustments in your own life, or do you perhaps find yourself in a not-too-concerned mindset as people all around you every day are actually dying in their lost condition, and going to Hell for all eternity? It’s definitely a situation that may get us out of that comfort zone!

January 26, 2020

SO MUCH MORE: BEING FAITHFUL
January 26, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Do you ever commit yourself to do a task, a short-term commitment, or a project, only to find yourself with a mediocre follow-through? Does it really bum you out? Can you share how you feel when you know you’re not giving your best?

Open: Our series, So Much More, has been an intense examination of the depth of our commitment to see that we are trusting God for his promise to do “so much more than we can ask or think.” To that end, many in our church have been on a 21-day fast, ending Sunday, February 2, 2020. If you are one of those fasting, what have you seen happen that shows you God is pleased with your effort? Are you praying for God to do amazing things in your life? He is never limited except in our lack of faith. Today we will look at the rewards of being faithful every day.

Key Verse: Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…”

Focal Passages: 1 Timothy 6:17-19; 2 Corinthians 9:7-9.

I. The Struggle to be Grateful [can be thwarted if we have:]

GREED. We all know people who are greedy—we just THINK WE DON’T   

STRUGGLE OURSELVES.

  Read 1 Timothy 6:17a. Paul gives words of warning to those who are rich

  in the world’s goods; what are the two areas that are possible pits?

          • Read Matt. 7:2-4. Why is it so much easier to see a sin in someone else’s life than to recognize the same sin in our own? How can greed destroy us?

DOUBT. Will God really TAKE CARE OF ALL OF MY NEEDS?

          • Read 1 Tim. 6:17b. Why is it easier to trust God for our salvation, than for our day-to-day needs here on earth?
          • What are some very real “needs” that we might struggle over with our faith? How often does God wait until the last minute to give an answer? What might be His reason?

COMFORT. We think WE’VE DONE ENOUGH TO FOCUS ON OURSELF

          • What happens when we hold on so tightly to our possessions that life becomes “all about us”? Is it true that a tight fist can’t receive more gifts? Why?
          • Read verses 18-19. How does God expect money to be used? (Vs. 19): How will a generous lifestyle result in blessings?

II. Our RESPONSIBILITY to be Faithful

It all BELONGS TO GOD

          • Read Psalm 89:11. Who owns everything? If we believe this, how will we handle our possessions?
          • Read 1 Corinthians 4:2. What are the duties of a steward? How is that like today’s banker, investment firm or treasurer? Why must the person be trustworthy with another person’s assets?

WE belong to God

          • Read Ephesians 2:10. What responsibility do we have toward God, as we are His creation?
          • What were we created for?

OUR STUFF belongs to God

          • Read 1Chron. 29:16. David knew Who owned all of his possessions. How will we “love our neighbor” if we believe our stuff belongs to God?                                                                
          • Read James 2:15-16. What point was James trying to make in these verses?

Our HOPE comes from God

          • What is the Biblical meaning of the word HOPE? (A sure thing, a certainty).
          • Read 1 Thess. 2:9. What are some of the things we wait for, as Christians?
          • Read 1 Cor. 15:19. Why is Paul’s statement true?

III. Our response to God [while being Faithful in our giving]:

Give ABUNDANTLY

          • Read 2 Cor. 9:7. How does God view the person who gives abundantly?
          • Read verses 8-9. What is promised the generous person?

Give REGULARLY

          • Read 1 Cor. 16:2. Paul was not speaking of tithing here, but the habit was a good one to form; what did he tell the church?

Give JOYFULLY

          • Re-read 2 Cor. 9:7b. How did we say God desires for us to give?

IV. Our ACCOUNTABILITY in being Faithful: 

We are accountable to OURSELVES                                                                 

          • Read 2 Tim. 2:15. What are some things we are to do, to use our time wisely?
          • Read Eph. 5:15-16. What did Paul mean by ‘redeeming the time’?

We are accountable for OUR POSSESSIONS

          • Read Luke 6:27-38. This is a long passage, but very important if we truly love people as God does! It is difficult to do. What does Jesus tell us?

We are accountable for OUR TIME

          • Read Proverbs 22:13. What excuse will a lazy person use to get out of work?
          • Read Psalm 101:3. What would be some things that would fit in this verse?Are they things that can take up our time, but fill our minds with worldly values?

We are accountable for OUR GIFTS

          • Read Matthew 13:12 and 25:29 (Parable of Ten Talents). Does Jesus leave any doubt that we are to be good stewards of those things God has given us?

Close:

We as a church are anticipating the service next Sunday, February 1, as we excitedly look forward to stories of what God has done in our midst while fasting the past two weeks, and continuing this week! Many are already sharing testimonies that have proven a breakthrough after months—or years—of praying. God definitely listens as His people take fasting and prayer seriously.

As a church, we covenanted to pray for a 10% increase in salvations. The numbers themselves are not the focus, but each number represents the soul of someone who becomes a believer in Jesus Christ—and as such, their “number” is important. Prayers for an increase of 10% in baptisms is another number that represents persons who will be trusting God with their lives. The 10% increase in involvement in Life Groups tells our church leaders that people want to put their faith to work by loving their neighbors: it may be in areas of life where old hurts need to be healed, where gifts can be used to help the community (construction, children, etc.), where illness has taken a toll on families—there’s no end to the different groups available to meet needs. If we don’t have the group, we’ll form it! Each life group represents people who have a need meeting with people who know how to help them. They are definitely Faith in Action. Serving our community and world is another area where we want to see a 10% growth—again, the result of hearts who are willing to get involved and get hands dirty in meeting needs. And lastly, we’re praying for a 10% increase in our giving, not because we are focused on money, but giving our resources enables our church to send out teams both in our community and state, as well as nationwide and worldwide. Meeting the needs of people is the focus of our church, and introducing them to Jesus Christ, and His gift of eternal life, is the beginning.

Are you willing to be a part of such an invigorated church? If you are not local to Lynchburg, VA, perhaps God is calling you to let Him begin to do SO MUCH MORE THAN YOU CAN ASK OR THINK in your own community, wherever you live!

January 19, 2020

 So Much More: The Heart of Gratitude
January 19, 2020
Pastor Jonathan

Recently, has anyone made a specific effort to say “thank you” to you for something you have done? If so, can you share how it made you feel?

Open: Today we continue our series, “So Much More,” as we look for ways to live our lives where the power of God produces infinitely more ‘than we can ask or think.’ We all want a life where blessings pour out over the top! What does that look like, and what does it require? A heart filled with gratitude and praise is one that will glorify God—and heart full of thankfulness will keep us from a life of pride.

Key Verse: Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…”

Focal Passage: Luke 17:11-19.

The Struggle to be Grateful [can be defeated if:]

We live entitled lives.I DESERVE THIS AND MORE

  • Read 1 Samuel 25:14-16. What had Nabal been told regarding the protection of his servants and his livestock?
  • Read verse 11. When Nabal had been told of the protection by David’s men, how did he respond? How would he have reacted if he had had a grateful heart?

We live discontented lives.IF I ONLY HAD MORE…

  • Read Genesis 3:1-5. What did Adam and Eve have in the Garden of Eden?
  • How did their actions show they were unwilling to have even one thing denied them? They lost the Garden of Eden because they wanted more!

We live jealous lives. “THEY DON’T DESERVE THAT.”

  • Read Luke 7:44-46. What did Jesus say Simon had done for Him when He had entered Simon’s house to eat?
  • Read verse 39. What was Simon jealous of? Why did he think the woman did not deserve for Jesus to show mercy to her? Do you know people who are angry at God because He has forgiven your for past sins?

LIVING WITH GRATITUDE

TURN EVERY BLESSING INTO PRAISE

Praise God for your NEW POSITION

  • Read Luke 17:15. When you came to salvation, what were some of the things in your life that changed?

Recognize the MASSIVE DIFFERENCE GOD HAS MADE IN YOUR LIFE

  • Read John 9:24-25. What difference did Jesus make in this man’s life when He stepped into it? How is that synonymous with the spiritual difference God made in your life at salvation?

Recognize WHERE YOU WOULD BE IF IT WERE NOT FOR JESUS

  • If you were saved as an adult, what are some things that changed in your life (spiritual or physical)?

Praise God for HIS PROVISIONS

  • Read Luke 17:16. What had Jesus provided for this man? How would his life be different now?
  • Read Exodus 16:17. What type of provision did God make for Israel in the wilderness?
  • Why should our joy never be based on our circumstances?

Praise God for THE POSSIBILITY OF IMPACT

  • Read Luke 8:26-29. How do you envision this man’s life possibly impacting his village? Read verse 39b. What did the demoniac do? Read verse 40. What was the result of his impact in his town?
  • Read Isaiah 6:1, 5, 7-8. What radical change was made in Isaiah’s life when he saw the Lord? What was his immediate response upon salvation?
  • Be a blessing in SOMEONE ELSE’S LIFE! Were you “saved to serve,” or ‘saved to sit and sour’?
  • What are the two main ways we show our grateful thanks to God for saving us?
  • Read Matthew 28:19-20. What responsibility has God given to His children whom He has saved? How can you thwart His will for your life?
  • Thank God Always!

For what GOD HAS DONE                                                                 

  • Read 1 Chronicles 16:9b. When David gave this command to his people, what was he actually telling them to do?
  • We know witnessing is just “telling our story.” Why is it so hard to do this?

For God IS OUR REWARD

  • Read verse 10. What do you think of when someone mentions ‘reward’?
  • Where will we receive our ultimate reward? What will it be?

For GOD IS OUR GOD AND HE WILL NEVER CHANGE

  • What are some of the acts of God from Genesis to Revelation?
  • How does it effect you that His resurrection power is yours, as His child? If you have His power available to you, what does that mean to you personally in your life?

For GOD SAVED US FOREVER

  • Read 1 John 2:17. Why do we have to take ‘eternity’ and ‘forever’ by faith?
  • Read Hebrews 10:14. We cannot truly understand the concept of eternity. What are some of the things you think of as you try to grapple with being in heaven for eternity?

Francis Schaeffer: “The beginning of a man’s rebellion against God was, and is, the lack of a thankful heart.”

Close: Most of the things in our lives that make for a healthy, happy, or contented life do not come about because we have practiced them a few times in succession. There’s an old cliche that says a habit is something that has been done three times. The truth is, those things which give us a beautiful life are the results of continual discipline. Ask any person who has a dedication to a sport or a hobby and they will tell you of the long hours that have been required to achieve the results they desire.

A passionate spiritual life requires the same type of discipline. Going to church, daily prayer times, or hours of Bible study are not habits that can be taken for granted; they will almost always be the result of a godly self-discipline. In Genesis 3:19, God told Adam, “you will eat your bread by the sweat of your brow.” It is not a long stretch to realize God could just as well have said, “you will learn of Me—the Bread of Life—by sweating though hours of discipline.”

Not only is spiritual growth the result of discipline, but also the growth of maturity and wisdom in our character as well. Today’s quality of gratefulness is not acquired by giving a brief “thank you” for something kind done for us. It might be in forcing yourself to drive back to town when you’re almost home, just to tell the person in the grocery store “thank you!” Eventually the inconvenience in order to right a wrong (not in the moral sense, but in training yourself in the way you should go) will help you remember the quality you’re trying to instill in yourself. How do you teach yourself hard lessons that last a lifetime? When you answer that question for yourself, you will be on the road to teaching yourself how to “love life and see good days! (I Peter 3:10). May we all take the time and self-discipline to see that we hold ourselves to a high standard of excellence: God Himself sought that standard for us when He told us, “Be holy, as I am holy”. Ask Him to help you be ‘so much more’ in your character as a Christian than you can ‘ask or think.’

January 12, 2020

 So Much More: Conversations and Commitments
January 12, 2020
Pastor Jonathan

What are some things that give you a feeling of excitement, or anticipation—long before they have come about? Can you share?

Open: Today we begin five intense weeks of seeing if our “Walk” lines up with our “Talk” as a Christian. It is never enough to know the right verses, the right Christian phrases, or the right posture in church worship: what is right is the attitude of the heart as we each do life in our own sphere of influence. Is your heart sold out to God? We begin today with the importance and power of prayer and fasting, seeking to realize God’s “so much more” in our life and in our church.

Key Verse: Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…”

Focal Passage: Mark 9:14-29.

Prayer is the reflection of our relationship with God

A relationship between THE CREATOR AND HIS CREATION

  • Read Psalm 8:3-9. Why is it so important to see God as the Creator?
  • Read Isa. 64:8-9. What will happen when you see God as the Creator, and man as the Created?
  • Read John 1:3. What did God start with when He created the world?

A relationship between the KING and HIS SUBJECTS

  • Read Matt. 28:18-19. Where does Jesus’ authority begin and end?
  • Read Psalm 5:1-3. How do this Psalm accurately portray the submission of the Subject to the King?

A relationship between a FATHER and HIS CHILDREN

  • Read Psalm 103:13 and Matt. 6:9. In these verses, how does God love us?
  • Read Rom. 8:14-16 and John 1:11-13. As believers, what is our position before God?

Why we miss out on GOD’S “MORE”

Our LACK OF FAITH

  • Read Mark 9:19a. What did Jesus call the disciples in this verse?
  • Read 9:22-24. What did the father realize he had said to Jesus in this conversation? How did he correct himself? Do you ever find yourself failing in faith about God’s ability to perform what you need?

Our LACK OF COMMITMENT

  • Read Psalm 37:5. What is the promise in this verse? Have you tested this promise?
  • Read Luke 16:11. What is the drawback of a lack of commitment?

Our LACK OF ASKING

  • Read Mark 9:29 in NKJV. Why were the disciples not able to cast out the demon in the boy?
  • Read Luke 18:1-8. Why does God desire us to pray often about a matter that is important to us? Can you liken your experience as a parent to this?

The Importance of BIBLICAL FASTING

 In the Bible, God’s people fasted BEFORE A MAJOR VICTORY

SEEKING MIRACLES                                                                  

  • Read 2 Samuel 12:16. What was David seeking from God in this passage? How much did this mean to David?

SEEKING REPENTANCE

  • Read 1 Samuel 7:65a. What was the sin of the children of Israel in this passage? When is the last time you cared so much about a sin that you fasted and prayed before God?

MAKING DECISIONS

  • Read Acts 13:2-3. What were the believers looking for God to clarify?

Why PRAYER AND FASTING MATTERS

We rely on HIS STRENGTH

  • Read Ezra 8:21. Why did Ezra proclaim the fast? Are those reasons still valid?
  • Read Esther 4:15-16. How seriously did Esther take the matter of going before the King? What did she need? Who did her request through Mordecai affect?

We FOCUS ON THE ETERNAL

  • Read Nehemiah 1:4. What was Nehemiah focusing on as he fasted?
  • Why does it matter to keep distractions to a minimum while praying and fasting?

We REPENT OF OUR SINS

  • Read 1 John 1:9. What is it necessary to keep a “short account” with God?

We RECEIVE THE DIRECTION WE NEED

  • Read Isaiah 58:4b-5. In Isaiah 58, God calls Israel to task for taking fasting lightly, and accomplishing nothing. What does He desire from our fasting?

HOW TO PRAY:

  • Read Philippians 4:6. What does this verse say prayer should include?
  • TELL HIM WHAT YOU NEED
  • THANK HIM FOR ALL HE HAS DONE

HOW TO FAST:

  • Set a REALISTIC GOAL
  • Determine THE SCOPE OF YOUR FASTING
  • Make it about YOUR HEART
  • Focus on WHAT YOU HAVE TO GAIN RATHER THAN WHAT YOU MIGHT MISS

Close:

Over the period of one’s life, it becomes a familiar feeling to anticipate

certain life events: Christmas morning with the children, having one’s first

child graduate from high school and college, walking one’s daughter down

the aisle. Somehow, in the spiritual realm, seeing one’s church come together

in a church-wide fast for three weeks creates butterflies in the stomach,

wondering, “what is God getting ready to do in our church?!” When it is out

of the norm, it lends an anticipation of the unknown—not a fearful unknown,

but one that can be like standing on the brink of a whole new vista of

spiritual growth for the church.

Your church may not be involved in a fast, but perhaps God is calling

you to be the catalyst that will bring it about. Perhaps you can’t fast from food

for health reasons, but you can always fast from worldly pleasures, like no

television, sweets, or something that you’re willing to give up to show God

you are serious about His business! Whatever you do, it will be like sweet-

smelling incense before God. And if fasting is out of the picture for you, you

can pray. The effectual, fervent prayers of a righteous person avails much,

James wrote.

There is always more work than the are workers. Find what you can

do the next few weeks to lay up for yourself treasures in heaven, and know

this can be a season of personal growth as you come before the LORD!

January 5, 2020

So Much More: A Walk in the Word
January 5, 2020
Charles Billingsley

How many times have you been ready to assemble a DIY item, and cast aside the instruction sheet? Did you end up with parts left over? Can you share a memory?

Open:

Today we begin our new series, So Much More. We know the scriptures tell us that God is able to do so much more than we can ask or think, but do we step out in faith to explore the truth of that statement? Study with us as we start at the beginning: using all the resources in God’s Word as our “instruction book,” knowing it will be a lamp and light as we travel through life!

Key Verse: Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…”

The Importance of God’s Word

You can TRUST THE WORD OF GOD

  • Read 2 Timothy 3:16a. Why is it important to read the Bible?
  • If you thought of an illustration in the opening, did you end up needing the  instruction sheet? How is that like ignoring the instructions in the Bible as you try to navigate life?
  • Read 2 Sam. 22:31. Why can you trust God’s word?

It NEVER CHANGES

  • Read verse 16b, and Malachi 3:6a. Do you believe God when He says that He does not change? Why or why not?
  • Read John 10:30 and John 14:6. How can a person believe that God’s word is true? Has it changed over the past 4,000 years? What does this tell you?

It will always CHANGE YOU

  • Read verses 16b-17. There are six verbs in these verses that tell what God’s word will do for you; list each and explain how it can change you. (For instance, “Teach us”).

The Power of God’s Word

It is our WEAPON AGAINST SATAN’S ATTACKS AND LIES

  • Read Eph. 6:12. How do we come against Satan’s attacks with God’s word?
  • Matthew 4:1-11: can someone tell what happened between Jesus and Satan in the Wilderness experience?

It FEEDS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST

  • Read Matt. 5:6. What is the promise in this verse? How is this true?
  • Read Psalm 34:1, 8, 10, and Psalm 37:3. How is our relationship with God strengthened when we are “feeding” on God’s word?

It keeps us FOCUSED ON ETERNITY

  • Read Colossians 3:1-4. Where are our thoughts often directed as we read the Bible? Is this true for you?
  • Read Eph. 2:6. If we are “seated in the heavenly places” with Christ, where will our thoughts be during the day?

The Integrity of God’s Word

           Jesus Christ IS THE WORD                                                                     

  • Read John 1:1-3. What was the role of Jesus Christ in Creation? What is He called in these verses?
  • Read Col. 1:12-19. How does this verse confirm the truth that Jesus was active at creation? What does consist mean (we had this word recently)?

The Word is LIVING AND ACTIVE

  • Read Hebrews 4:12-13. If something is designated as “living,” name some qualities it possesses. Is that true of the word of God?
  • Is it possible the Bible, being “alive,” has a life that will keep it living no matter how men try to eradicate it?

The Word is the ROADMAP OF THE WAY

  • Read John 14:6 again. If Jesus is the “Way,” how can the Bible also be the Way? How does it point people to Jesus?

Our Commitment to God’s Word

We need to HEAR GOD’S WORD

  • Read Matt. 7:24 and Mark 4:20. What did Jesus say about our listening with attentive ears to the preaching of His word?

We need to READ GOD’S WORD

  • Read Acts 17:11. What made the Bereans different from most of the people the apostles preached to?
  • How can a person learn to discern truth from error in teaching or preaching?

We need to STUDY GOD’S WORD

  • Read Joshua 1:8, in NLT if possible. What was God telling Joshua? Why is it applicable to us as well?
  • Read 2 Tim. 2:15, in NLT if possible. How much importance does God place on studying the scriptures?

We need to MEMORIZE GOD’S WORD

  • Read Psalm 119:11. What is the best reason for memorizing scripture?
  • Read Psalm 119:148. What is a reason we might lie awake in the night?

We need to OBEY GOD’S WORD

  • Read James 1:22. What are we doing to ourselves if we listen to preaching on Sundays, but do not obey God during the week?
  • Read Deut. 11:13-14. What does God promise to the persons who obey and love Him with all their heart?

Close:

In the past several years, a new diet has been sweeping the country, with thousands of people anxious to give a review about the amazing results that can be achieved for those who are faithful to the plan. There are not such great results when the diet is not followed wholeheartedly, which is now called “Dirty” dieting.

What an apt analogy to walking in the light of the Greatest Book ever written! The Bible has sold billions of copies, changing people beyond what anyone could ever hope to imagine, and transforming worthless, meaningless lives into vibrant, healthy persons. People who have been changed by the relationship with Jesus Christ are eager to give Him the credit for a new life—born again by the Holy Spirit.

On the opposite side are the millions who want an escape from hell and its burning fires, but don’t desire to have Jesus become the King in their lives! Many of the books of the Bible offer dire warnings to these who play at their Christian walk. They sit in church on Sundays, piety in their expressions, while their minds are busy concocting wicked plans that they can hardly wait to put into action. Fooling the others in the congregation, they are not fooling God, who knows the thoughts and intents of each heart. What a sorrowful thing that they believe they are getting away with their sin, when all the while the price for their redemption has been paid, if they but repent, turn from their sin and pride, and accept the free gift of God.

Only a life whose heart is sold out to God will find its way to an eternity with Jesus Christ and other believers. For those whose lives have been transformed, there is but one option. Is that the way you have chosen?

December 22, 2019

SING NOEL: JOY TO THE WORLD
December 22, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Christmas week! What are some special Christmas memories that you have stored in your mind? Can you share with the group?

Open: Today we are going to look at the most published song of all time, “Joy to the World!” We call it a Christmas Carol, and you seldom hear it outside of the Christmas season, but this song has far more to do with God’s plan of salvation to mankind than it does the tinsel, gifts and glitter of Christmas Day. Isaac Watt’s wrote a glorious hymn of God’s redeeming love as the lyrics of “Joy to the World,”—no matter what time of the year it is sung.

Key Verse: Luke 2:11: “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Focal Passages: Luke 2:13-14; Matthew 1:18-23.

It was certainly from God

  • Read Matthew 1:20. What were some thoughts undoubtedly going through Joseph’s mind upon learning Mary was pregnant? What would you have done in a similar situation?
  • What were some of the miracles surrounding this birth? Who was the only human who knew the truth that there had been no sin in connection with the pregnancy?
  • How was this a test of faith for Joseph? What enormous task had God prepared Joseph for? What are some phrases in verse 20 that show he was already the type of man to raise God’s Son?

It was exactly what was needed

  • Read Matthew 1:21. What does the word “will” in God’s word mean? Has there been any of God’s promises that have been broken? How do you know we can trust God to honor all His promises?
  • Read Romans 3:23 and 6:23a. Who has sinned? Is there any hope for the forgiveness of sin, other than to have sin’s penalty paid for by the death of the sinner—or someone acting on their behalf?
  • Read Galatians 2:15-17. Can we be good enough by obeying the law, (the 10 Commandments), that we can earn our way to heaven? Why or why not?
  • Who needed to have God send someone to earth to pay the sin debt for sinners?

It was always God’s plan

  • Read verses 22-23. Does anyone recall how long before the birth of Jesus that the prophet Isaiah was prophesying?
  • Read Gen. 3:15. Adam and Eve were probably sent out of the Garden of Eden not long after creation, apparently. Had God already made provision for redemption before this happened?
  • If the OT from creation to the end of Malachi was approximately 4,000 years, and 400 years between the Old and New Testaments, when was the plan put in place for God to send Jesus to pay the price for man’s redemption? 
  • What does this tell you about God’s plan for sinners, from the foundation of the world?

It was God’s plan from the beginning for all of us

  • Read verse 21b again. Who are His people?
  • Read 1 Peter 2:9,10 and Acts 15:14. Who do these passages say His people are?
  • Read Isa. 53:5. This was what God was willing to do in order to save us. What was the effect for mankind when Jesus died on the cross? How does the agony He went through affect you?
  • Had God not sent Jesus to pay for our sins, what are some adjectives that could have described our future?
  • God knew we would never achieve righteousness on our own, so His plan was always to give us the promise of heaven by sending Jesus. What must WE do to be saved?

Close:

Joy to the world! The Lord has come to the earth! He came in flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory—-the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” Let earth receive her King! Joy to the world, now we sing!

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Let every heart prepare Him room!

And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the light of His righteousness!

Don’t let another Christmas go by without asking Him to save you if you have never done so .

Close: John 1 excerpts, NKJV.

December 29, 2019

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
December 29, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

The end of another year! They seem to go so quickly, don’t they? Can you share a situation or blessing that has brought great happiness to you this past year?

Open: At the end of any given year many people will reflect on the past twelve months for things that brought joy. Today, however, we are going to look forward to the coming year, particularly trying to be aware of the tremendous potential for God to bless our family and our church with “So Much More,” as we seek to serve Him at a new level of love and obedience. Join as we prepare for a new year and a new decade, anticipating what we can expect God to do, and also understand what it is that He desires us to do!

Focal Passage: Ephesians 3:14-21.

No limit to God’s greatness or God’s goodness

  • Read Eph. 3:15. How did God create the heavens, the earth, and all things that are in them? Read Col. 1:17. Not only did God through Jesus Christ create all things, but what else does He do? What does “consist” mean?
  • Read verse 16. What resources does God have? Who else has this much to draw from? What does He use them for?
  • Where does Paul say we will be strengthened? What is our “inner man”? What are some of the reasons we would need to be strengthened in our  heart or soul? (For instance, to avoid temptation to use profanity.)
  • How do you know there is no limit to God’s provision for strength in your ‘inner man’? Will He ever expect you to do life by yourself? Why or why not?

Our contentment is based on our connection

  • Read verse 17. Can someone liken the verbs in this verse to electricity and its power? Why will we find contentment in life if our “power” is because we are “rooted and grounded” in God?
  • Read Hebrews 4:16. Why would we have boldness, if He is filling us with contentment? Go back to Eph. 3:12 and read. Where do we get our boldness?
  • What is the difference between contentment and happiness? Is contentment and joy the same? Why?

God wants us to trust Him that much

  • Read verse 18. How can we know the “height and depth, and width and length” of God’s love? What is Paul trying to convey?
  • In 1 Cor. 13, the “love” chapter, what are some “love ______” that you can say God does or doesn’t do? (For instance, God never fails).
  • If we were able to fathom such a love as God has for us, how would it change our actions?  How do we treat others if we are filled with His love?

We will be complete

  • Read verse 19. If you spend time in real, soul-satisfying, prayer every day, what begins to happen to your relationship to the Savior? As you start to comprehend the love God has for you, what begins to happen to you?
  • Why will this kind of completeness not come through outward influences?
  • What is our value based on? Why do people think it is in their job, their family, their car, their home or their location?
  • Read verses 20-21. What will limit the power that can be at work in us?

When people ask you, “Who are you?”, how do you reply (“John, I’m a teacher,” or “John, I’m a child of God”)? Again, where is your value?

Close:

Recently a checking account balance revealed resources available to a local lady. When she shopped, there was no concern about prices, her interest was only in the product she needed, not its cost. Most people do not shop like that. They have to be aware of the lowest-priced item, hoping it will be as good as the one that is the higher dollar and more reputable. Their resources are not unlimited!

The resources of the Lord are not second-rate, nor material (although they can be tangible gifts, for sure). If we are “rooted and grounded” in Him, then—like a well-watered tree—we will produce fruit showing the Spirit is truly at work in our lives. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, as we deal with others. There is no limit on these gifts, and they compound the more you use them! Are they gifts you would like to see in your life, but don’t? How much time daily do you spend with the Lord?

Most people are aware of photos of couples who have been married for years and their appearance has become quite similar. Exodus 34:29 says, “Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai…that [he] did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him.” Have you been so complete in Him this past year that your face ‘shines’ like His? Acts 4:13 says, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” Does your face testify to others that you have been spending time with Jesus?

December 15, 2019

O HOLY NIGHT
December 15, 2019
Charles Billingsley

 

Little more than a week until Christmas! Hectic, frantic last-minute shopping, decorating trees, wrapping gifts, thinking about food preparation—what part do you feel is out of control for you? Can you eliminate some of the busy-ness?

Open: We are now half-way through our Christmas series, “Sing Noel,” where we examine the powerful messages in some of our favorite carols. Each one has a special story. Today’s selection, “O, Holy Night” is extremely unique and powerful, filled with wonderful truths that have inspired millions of people. Let’s explore the words of this beautiful song as it tells the story of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Key Verse: Colossians 1:15-18: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.’”

He is Holy

“O, Holy Night”

  • Read Luke 1:35. Just from this one verse, how can it be validated that Jesus is Holy? What does it mean for someone or something to be “holy”?
  • What was significant about the night Jesus Christ was born? What impact did His birth have on the calendar some several hundred years later (about the sixth century)?
  • Read Phil. 2:5-8. What did Jesus leave in order to come to the earth in a physical body?

  Did you know…”when you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God?”

              (“Mary, Did You Know?” By Mark Lowry)

  • Read Phil. 2:9-11. What did God do for His Son, because He humbled Himself like He did?

He is Here

“Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, til He appeared..!”

  • Can anyone share what your life was like before you surrendered to God? What did you use to fill the void between who you were then, and who you became after salvation?
  • What is the soul?
  • Read Jeremiah 29:11-13. How much are we worth to God? Does this knowledge give you a new sense of self-worth?

He is Hope

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices..”

  • The night of Jesus’ birth ended how many years of God being silent? Why do you think most people may possibly have lost hope during this time? Think of your country: if God went silent for 400 years, how would people react? Can you describe what you would think or do?
  • Why does the story of Christmas every year fill us with renewed hope?
  • Read Romans 15:13. What is different about the “hope” of a Christian, and the term “hope” that the world uses?                                                                                     
  • Read Luke 4:16-21. What did Jesus mean in verse 21?
  • Who only can fill the space between depression and the Thrill of Hope? How can  you give Him your expectations, when others do not fulfill them?
  • What is the simple message Jesus brought to YOU when He came to this earth? Do you really realize HE LOVES YOU?

Close:

“O, Holy Night, O night, when Christ was born!”

If you were in the congregation that heard Charles Billingsley give the background for “O, Holy Night,” you were probably enthralled with the circumstances under which the song was written. It was subsequently banned by the French Catholic Church. In God’s divine sovereignty, however, it had already started making its way into the hearts of believers, and its popularity began to spread. Soon, despite its failure to win the Catholic Church’s approval to be sung to the masses, it made its way to America, where it was re-written by John Sullivan Dwight into the carol that is sung at Christmas throughout most churches.

In many ways, the birth of this song, its eventual lack of acceptance by the Church in France, and the underground popularity as people everywhere recognized the beauty, truth, and hope in the carol, is not unlike the picture of the Baby in the manger so many years ago. He was soon abandoned by the religious leaders in the church, deemed unfit to be a Messiah, and eventually was crucified on a cruel cross, where He was “left for dead” by the Pharisees and Sadducees. Little did the world know—as those who witnessed the crucifixion—that this same Jesus would one day have followers in all the nations! Little did they know that there is coming a day when, “at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue (will) confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!” As the second verse of “O Holy Night” goes into the chorus, we sing, “He knows our need, To our weakness is no stranger! Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend! Behold your King! Your King! Before Him bend!”

December 8, 2019

SING NOEL: HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING
December 08, 2019
Scott Bullman

 

What part of “the Magic of Christmas” do you enjoy the most? Do you have any traditions in your home that were begun by your parents or grandparents?

Open: As we continue our Christmas series today, we will focus on a carol by one of the most prolific hymn-writers of all time—Charles Wesley. “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” has been sung and loved by millions of people for almost three-hundred years. Today we’ll also examine the subject of angels, who had an awesome role of announcing the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Key Verse: Luke 2:13-14: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace good will toward men.’”

Christmas Carol:Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” by Charles Wesley

What the Bible teaches about Angels:

Angels are CREATED beings.

  • Read Colossians 1:16. How does this verse validate the truth that angels are created beings?
  • Why is it said there is a fixed number of angels? (Read Matthew 22:30).

Angels are SPIRIT beings.

  • Read Psalm 104:1-4. Besides Spirits, what other title do angels have in this Psalm? Are angels always invisible? Could they also have other roles when they would be visible? (Read Hebrews 13:2 and Genesis 19:1).  Angels are INNUMERABLE.
  • Read Revelation 5:11. Does someone recall the meaning of the Greek word that is translated “myriads” in this verse? How is that like the word “infinity”?  Why can they not be counted?

Angels have PERSONALITIES, with Intellect, Will, and Emotions.

  • Read Ezekiel 28:17. God is speaking of Lucifer in this verse (and passage). What confirms that he has Intellect
  • Read Isaiah 14:12-13. What statements show Lucifer (the Fallen Angel) has a will?
  • Read Luke 2:13 and 1 Peter 1:12. What words show the angels have emotions?

There are RANKS of angels.

  • There are two Archangels listed in Scripture; who are they? Does anyone remember any of the times they were used by God?
  • Read Ezekiel 10:5 and Isaiah 6:1-3. What are the two ranks of angels in this passage?
  • Read Rev. 4:6. What is the rank or category of angels in this verse?
  • Read Matt. 18:10 and Heb. 1:14. What job do these Guardian angels do?

Angels are POWERFUL beings.

  • Read Joel 3:11. What is their term in this verse?
  • Read Dan. 10:12-14. Why had this angel been delayed in coming to Daniel? Who had helped him? What other title did we hear for Michael (under “Ranks”)?
  • Read Matt. 28:1-4. What did this angel do?

Angels are FUNCTIONAL beings, with Purposes.

  • Read Rev. 4:8. What is their function in this verse? Read Luke 15:10. In this verse, what are the angels doing? Why are they filled with joy (go back to “Personalities” for an answer).  Here are some of their purposes: They worship God (Rev. 4:8); They observe the people of God (Luke 15:10); They comfort God’s people (1 Kings 18 and 19—Elijah); They inform and instruct (Luke 1:19, 26; Matt. 1:20, 2:13, 19; Luke 2:9).

Christ the SAVIOR is Born:

Charles Wesley was zealous to get the correct doctrine and theology in his hymns. Below are some of the phrases he used to write the beautiful carol, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, and the Scripture verses that he used to validate the statements. As this has been quite a lengthy study, consider letting someone read each phrase, sharing the verse and any comments.

  • Mild He lays His glory by”: Read Philippians 2:6-7. What does this verse tell us about Jesus Christ?
  • “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see”: Read Colossians 2:9. Can someone explain this verse? (None of us can understand it well, so we must take it by faith!)
  • “Pleased as Man with men to dwell”: Read John 1:14. Will someone please paraphrase this verse?
  • “God and sinners reconciled”: Read 2 Cor. 5:17-19.
  • “Light and life to all He brings”: Read John 1:4.
  • “Born that man no more may die”: Heb. 2:9.
  • “Born to give them second birth”: John 3:3

 

Close:

“Hark! The herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King!”

Can you imagine a mind so productive that you could write ten lines of beautiful poetry each day of your life for stanzas in hymns exalting God, His Son, His creation, and His Godhead? Charles Wesley—a man with a human ability like any of us—used his gifts to not only write songs that would last many centuries and touch many millions of people, but he also preached Christ crucified, leading men into that new birth that he wrote about, introducing them to the Savior he loved.

Christmas has a beauty that is of another world. No matter the chaos, the weather, the crises, or the health issues, somehow those things can get set aside for a little bit of time in order to experience that wonder that the season brings. Ideally, we would all have family, food, a light snow, and abundant love inside every home. However, we know that is not the case. Simply listen to conversations as you shop and you will hear the sadness, the grief, or the anger that people carry when their families or their lives have not been given over to the saving grace that Jesus provides generously. As we read the words of this old glorious carol, we remind ourselves that He was in heaven from eternity past, He created the wonder of earth—“without Him, nothing was made that was made”(John 1:3b)—then came as a Baby to His creation. There, He would be raised as a boy, grow to be a young adult, preach and do miracles for three years, then be killed in a most atrocious manner by those He came to save. Hanging on a cross made from a tree, He was separated from His Father in order to pay for the sins of the world. But that all changed when the third morning came and the stone had been rolled back from the opening of the Tomb—where the folded napkin lay proclaiming “It is finished!” He had risen from death, was seen by people for forty days, and now sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high, interceding for us, and waiting for the word to “Go! Get Your children!” Do you know Him? Do you call Him “Father”?

December 1, 2019

THE FIRST NOEL: A BIRTHDAY LIKE NO OTHER
December 01, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

What type of music do you enjoy listening to? Do you care more about the beat, the words, or both? Will you also share which song is your favorite, and why?

Over the many centuries, music has been an important part of the life of the church. Sound doctrine and Bible verses set to music were great methods used to teach believers much of the Bible. Today we begin a new Christmas series, illustrating how some of the original Christmas carols taught theology or exalted the birth of Jesus Christ with the verses.

Key Verse: Luke 2:11: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Christmas Carol: The First Noel

The Announcement of His birth was delivered to people like you and me

  • Read Luke 2:8. What do you know about the shepherds in Israel at the time of Christ? Where did they fall on the ladder of Society? Where did they live?
  • Why would God choose people like this to announce to them the birth of His Son?
  • Read Matt. 2:1, 2a. Matthew records the events of Jesus’ birth from another direction. Who learned of His birth in these verses? What was their “rank” in society? Did you list Herod? Where would he have ranked himself?
  • Who are represented in the two groups of Luke and Matthew?

Confusing and scary

  • Read Luke 2:9. These shepherds were spread out over the hillside, being responsible for the safety of the sheep. Why were they “greatly afraid”? What did that mean? In all fairness, how would you have reacted, had you been out on a hill on a dark night—and an angel appeared to you?
  • Read Matt. 2:3. Even at the top of society’s ladder, what was the reaction of Herod, and all Jerusalem? Why would “all Jerusalem” be afraid?
  • Read Matt. 2:4-6. How can you be sure that Herod was very aware that the OT prophesied a coming Messiah for the Jews? How would he have felt?

Life Changing

  • Read Luke 2:10-11. Who was the message from the angel for? What feelings would the message cause?
  • Read Matt. 2: 7-8. Why did Herod call the Wise Men? What did he plan to do?
  • Why would this birth bring great joy to all men (Luke)?
  • Why would Herod have felt the coming of a Messiah could change his life (Matt.)?

Miraculous!

  • Read Luke 2:15-17. How did the shepherds feel once the angels had gone away? What was their immediate reaction in verse 17?
  • Read Matt. 2:9-12. How did the Magi react when they—guided by the star—arrived at the house of Mary and Joseph? What did they do?
  • How did they know to avoid Herod?

Close:

“The first noel,” the angel did say, “was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay; in fields where they lay keeping their sheep, on a cold winter’s night that was so deep!” Noel, noel, noel, noel, Born is the King of Israel!

How many years have you sung this beautiful Christmas Carol, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ? Can you even begin to imagine the shepherds living out on the hillside, with only other shepherds for company, when an angel from God appears to them? To absorb the message he brought, then hear the good news that had been circulating throughout your people for centuries, would have been surreal. Would you have wondered “Why me, God?” The angel was suddenly joined by a heavenly host, all singing and praising God, with good news for all people! When the night became quiet again, would you have gotten with your buddies to see if you should go find the babe? That night changed their lives, and once they had run into the city to announce what they had seen and heard, the shepherds were undoubtedly never the same again.

Meanwhile, wise men from the East saw a star—one they could only identify as seemingly ready to guide them to an unknown destination. Eventually they arrived in Jerusalem, saw Herod the king, and inquired of him where they might find the new King of the Jews. They unwittingly alerted Herod to the birth of Jesus that had happened sometime in the recent past, and so went in search of Him. They continued to follow the star until it came over a house where Mary and Joseph lived. They entered, and their lives were changed forever as well. God had mercy on their encounter with Herod, and warned them to avoid him as they left.

What about you? Have you had a miraculous encounter with the Savior? Born to “save His people from their sin,” He comes into a life, creating a new birth, and making a new creation! Your life will never be the same. If you don’t know Him, will you seek out someone today who will show you how to find Him?

November 24, 2019

BEING GRATEFUL WHEN THINGS MAY NOT BE GREAT
November 24, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

How do you cope when life starts handing you one crisis after another? Are you a person who shuts down, engages in rigorous activity, or something you’ve devised for yourself?

Open:
Thanksgiving—the week set aside for us to express our gratefulness to God and each other for the good things that have happened this year. But there are also hard times, and for some, it is hard to express thanks in the middle of trials. As we go through those times, we often forget that God is faithful, that He is good (all the time), and that He has not left our side even for a moment this year. Today, let’s focus on lifting up our spirits by lifting up His Name!

Key Verse: Ephesians 5:20: “…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Focal Passage: Ephesians 5:17-21

Don’t be drunk with wine

  • Read Eph. 5:17. Paul is about to lay out ways we should react when life gets tough. First, however, he admonishes us to take seriously what he is about to write. Will someone put verse 17 in today’s language? What are we if we ignore what he writes?
  • Read verse 18a. Why does Paul warn believers not to escape their problems in ways that don’t achieve lasting results? What do these false remedies do?
  • Have the self-medicating (alcohol, drugs, shopping, etc.) attempts fixed or compounded the initial problems? Explain your answer.

Be filled with the Spirit

  • Read verse 18b. What does the word of God mean when it tells us to be “filled with the Spirit”? How can we do this?
  • Read Galatians 5:22-23. How can this passage illustrate what Paul means in the Ephesian passage?

Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord

  • Read verse 19. What is the difference between a “psalm,” a “hymn” and a “spiritual song”? Where do we find psalms? What was their purpose? What was the purpose of hymns in the early churches? What about spiritual songs?
  • When you are singing (or humming, whistling, or playing an instrument) do you consider yourself to be worshiping the Lord? Is this what Paul means?
  • Read Eph. 5:18-23. The heathen of Paul’s day were described in these verses. Why did Paul want the believers to develop new habits and new thought life?
  • Which style of living (heathen or believers) made for lasting happiness?

Giving thanks always in all things

  • Read verse 20. What does an attitude of gratitude do for the one who has it, and the one who is benefited by it?
  • What is special about a grateful spirit?
  • Have you developed a habit of giving God thanks when situations—both bad or good—come into your life? If so, can you share how it has impacted both you and your relationship with God? If not, can anyone share their thoughts as to why God would have told us to develop this quality?

Take Aways:

  • Make a list of the things that God has done for you that show He is good;
  • Listen to calming music;
  • Spend time in prayer and in reading the Bible;
  • Actively look for ways to be a blessing;
  • Remember—focus on what God has done for you!

Close:

Have you ever considered a spilled cup of hot coffee? The accident may be an irritant or a disaster, depending on where the spill occurs. It can be blistering hot, burning wherever it lands; it can leave a dreadful stain if it spills on white fabric; at the least it wasted a drink that was anticipated. But the bottom line was, coffee was spilled because that was what the cup held!

What comes out of you if an accident occurs—whether catastrophic or mildly irritating? Do words pour out that scorch those around you? Does anger come out that burns feelings? Does what come out of your mouth stain those around you? Or do you find something “good” that resulted? What comes out of the cup is what is inside and the evidence is there for all to see.

Paul was instructing believers who lived in a heathen area where sexual immorality abounded, where drunkenness and unhealthy lifestyles were the norm. Now the new converts needed to come out from among those people, and Paul was instructing them to renew their “vessels” (their bodies) with those fruits of the Spirit that would erupt with praises to God when something jostled them! They were to be singing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in their hearts” to the Lord (Paul must have recognized that not everyone has the gift of beautiful voices!) He knew that what would come out in times of crisis was what was inside.

Is that like you? What comes out when you are bounced against the wall? Do you erupt with those things which should have been cast out of your life, or are you so filled with the Spirit that you thank God for some part of the situation?

Thanksgiving comes once a year to remind us to strive for active gratefulness for another year. Let’s allow our lights to shine among those we know so brightly that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father in heaven!

 

 

November 17, 2019

 DANIEL 7: A Lesson of Giving for a Lifetime of Living
November 17, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Have you ever moved someone you love, and wondered how they could accumulate so much “stuff”? Has it taught you any lessons?

Open:

Today we want to focus on God’s concern over our giving—which starts with our money, but should also include our time and available material possessions. So much of the world is suffering from poverty, while we  in America are drowning in “things!” As we study God’s word for lessons on tithing, let’s ask Him to open our hearts as we see Brothers and Sisters in need of food or clothing and be willing to supply their lack.

Key Verse: 2 Corinthians 9:7, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Focal Passages: Malachi 3:8-10; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; Matt. 23:23; 2 Cor. 9:7; Deut. 16:17; 1 Cor. 4:2; 2 Cor. 9:6; 1 Tim. 6:10; Matt. 6:21.

God wants us to give

  • Read 1 Cor. 16:1-2. Paul established guidelines from God as he visited the churches. What does he say he expects in verse 1? How should they lay aside their tithe? In verse 2, who is to lay up the tithe?
  • Read Matt. 23:23. Why did Jesus rebuke the Pharisees? What was the phrase in the second half of the verse that indicated Jesus expected them to tithe?

God wants us to give properly

  • God loves faithfulness in His children. How is it demonstrated in 1 Cor. 16:2?
  • Read Matt. 6:3. What is the principle laid out here? What was Jesus saying?
  • How are some ways we can be manipulated into giving that would not be pleasing to God?
  • Read Mal. 3:10. How can this verse be twisted to mean something different?

God wants us to give with the right heart

  • Read Deut. 16:17. Although the law of the children of Israel stipulated tithe to be 1/10th, what did God say in this verse?
  • Read Exo. 25:1-2. Who did God desire to give gifts for the Tabernacle? How does 2 Cor. 8:12 tie in with the verse from Exodus?
  • Besides a willing spirit, what else does God want from His children as they give (key verse today)?

God’s response to our giving

  • Read 2 Cor. 9:6. What does this verse mean to you?
  • Read Matt. 6:19-21. How can this passage be taken as an admonition not to hoard “stuff”?

Take Away: Think about this week: do you own your possessions, or do they own you? Are you able to relax when chores are not completed, or do the unfinished tasks reflect a slavery to your lifestyle?

Close:

Few things will underscore the lesson of hoarding “things” as much as moving from one house to another! As you move, unpack, categorize, organize, and discard items that have been carried through decades of family life, you finally get to the question, “What do I intend to do with these things?” We all hope sentimental items will be passed to children and grandchildren, but the truth is, a new generation is coming on the scene that does not desire the fine china, the heirlooms, or the sentimental relics of by-gone days that once surrounded the establishment of homes.

In the olden days, a newly married couple were the recipients of gifts given out of the treasury of a settled family: not unlike tithing mentioned by Paul in 2 Cor. 8:13-15, where the ones who were blessed helped those who were not living with extras, and in the end they were all taken care of—so, too, the new family was given gifts that began a home in love and warmth.

How does this illustrate God’s ideal of giving? We give from a heart of love to  God, who wiped out of the entire debt of sin against us. At the same time, many live with the bad choices of a life that continues to control our finances* and leaves little room for tithing any amount. In those cases God counts you to be giving what your heart desires to give, rather than what it is able. Or—God may give you more, testing you to see if you will really tithe the tenth! In any case, your giving should be a joyful experience, bringing you into a richer relationship with Him. You also have your time, as well as your abundance of “things” as in the families of yesteryear. One hour for a Sunday morning worship service is not a title of your time. Let that be between you and God. The giving of “things” is in accordance with James 2:15-16. If you are aware of a need, especially within the “household of faith,” where a family is genuinely in need, and you say, “I hope someone helps that family,” while adding up your 401K, 403B, etc., have you not made a mockery of your faith? Let’s give our money, our time, and our possessions from a heart of cheerful joy, praising God that we have more than we need!

­* Search out the Life Group, “Financial Peace,” at your church.

November 10, 2019

 DANIEL 6: REMAIN FAITHFUL!
November 10, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

In today’s world, almost everyday we are met with situations that will compromise our standards. Let’s be honest, most of the time it is easier to give in and avoid conflict than to stand firm and be conspicuous! Can anyone relate?

Open:
We have come to the sixth chapter of Daniel—probably the most famous chapter in the book of Daniel. Few of us have chosen to defy ungodly authorities in order to obey God, but those who have can taste the fear of certain death, as Daniel probably did. Let us see what lessons can be learned from this faithful servant of the only True God.

Key verse: Daniel 5:31: “And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.” (NKJV)

Doing the right thing will make you a target

  1. The key verse today sets the stage for Daniel’s new work. What does this short verse tell us about the kingdom of Babylon? Daniel had come to Babylon as a youth (perhaps fourteen or fifteen years of age), in 586 BC. Now it is about 540 BC, which would make Daniel having served as a slave in Babylon approximately how many years? About how old is he now?
  2. Read Daniel 6:3-5. What type of character did Daniel posses that those jealous rivals could find nothing bad to say about him? Do you know of anyone today whose character cannot be slandered?
  3. Why is it a “given” that tribulation or trials will come when we are faithfully serving God, walking in His commandments? Read John 16:33. What is the truth, and what is the resulting promise? Read 1 Peter 5:8. Why is this the case?

Faithfulness is more important than popularity or acceptance

  1. Read verses 10-11. What does verse 10a tell you about Daniel? In 10b, how do you know that Daniel had no hesitation about exposing his prayers? How can that type of inner strength be obtained?
  2. We established a probable age for Daniel in question 1. In verse 10c, then, how long had Daniel been praying like this? (Are you this faithful in prayer?)
  3. The wicked men knew where to find Daniel. What are some things—up to now—that Daniel could have done differently? Had he caved in, what would have been his testimony? Since he was faithful, what does this show?

God will protect and reward

  1. Will someone please summarize the events through verse 21, and tell the situation Darius finds himself in? How do you think Daniel felt, when he was taken captive to the den of hungry lions? Read Daniel 3:18 and tell how the two situations were similar, though many years apart.
  2. Read Daniel 6:26. What impact did Daniel’s miraculous protection make upon King Darius? What are we able to learn from this chapter in Daniel? Does this mean that Christians will never meet an untimely death at the hands of evil men
  3. Read verse 28. God chose to protect Daniel in the den of lions. What reward did he receive as he served out his final years in Babylon? Does faithfulness always have an earthly reward? Why or why not?

Close:

Probably few chapters in the Old Testament are as well known as this chapter relating Daniel’s experience in the den of lions! From Sunday School age, children are familiar with the amazing protection by God as He shut the mouths of those hungry lions and set Daniel free. Can you imagine the people seeing him emerge, unharmed, the next morning when his king comes to the den? As Darius issues a new decree stating that the God of Daniel is the True God who can save and protect, one can only hope that there will be some Babylonians in heaven because of the faithful character of this godly man.

A cliché that wonderfully describes Daniel’s life is one we hear sometimes in Christian circles: “Be the type of Christian so that, when your feet hit the floor first thing in the morning, Satan exclaims, “Oh, no! He’s/she’s awake again!” Would that we all were that type of faithful servant of God.

As we studied the second point of the sermon, Daniel, now an old man, serves to furnish us with an example that not many young people today can understand: that faithfulness to God is so much better to be grasped than acceptance by those people who are the wealthy, the beautiful, or the SNL’s (the Strong, Natural, Leaders).  There are too many hearts broken in families today at the actions of their loved ones falling short of God’s best for us, looking rather for the praise of those they consider someone to emulate. We all have examples and they are not something we are happy about, unless our own testimony is thin or tepid. Let this chapter in Daniel speak to your own heart as you examine your life to see if you fall short in meeting God’s standards. Would you have given in to the new law to not pray except to Darius for thirty days, claiming you were obeying those in authority? Or would you have closed the windows (if you had even continued to pray!) of your house, so no one could see you? Daniel, who after all was a mere man, had to have experienced some fear that the lions would eat him within the first few minutes: would your fear have turned you into a lunatic? Three Old Testament saints were held in such honor by God that He mentioned them in the prophetic book of Ezekiel: “If these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job, were…” (Ezek. 14:14). God was very proud of the faith of Daniel. Is He proud of your faith?

November 3, 2019

DANIEL  5: THE FALL OF BABYLON
November 03, 2019
Charles Billingsley

How do you feel when you see someone squandering their days away with a lifestyle that can only result in disaster—do you generally ignore them, or are you willing to try to help?

Open:
Today we continue the series on the life of Daniel, as presented in the Old Testament book. Daniel, a captive living in Babylon for nearly half a century, is again called to help as he interprets a dream for Belshazzar, the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. Decades have not dimmed his testimony nor his relationship to God. Would that that be our testimony as well!

Key Verse: Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Focal Passage: Daniel 5:1-31, Jeremiah 50:1-3, 51:57, Proverbs 29:1, Psalm 139:16, Proverbs 4:23-27, Psalm 90:12.

The fall of Babylon

  • Read Jer. 50:1-3. About 100 years before the co-reign of Belshazzar with his father, Nabonidus, the prophet Jeremiah prophesied of the fall of Babylon. What were some of the facts that came true when Cyrus took the city?
  • Does anyone remember how long the army had been camped outside of Babylon, and how were they preparing to enter the city?
  • Read Isa. 34:16. Why is it dangerous to discount any of the prophecies or warnings of the Lord?

The feast of Belshazzar

  • Read Dan. 5:1-4. What was so terrible about a pagan king bringing the holy Israelite vessels to a drunken party? Who probably were the servants? How do you suppose they felt to see temple vessels used in such a desecrating manner?
  • Read Jer. 51:57. What else had Jeremiah predicted about Babylon a century before?
  • What happens when someone flaunts God’s will for their life, and chooses wickedness continually? How does Proverbs 29:1 apply?

The fingers of God

  • Read Dan. 5:5-6. At the moment of physical terror, what did the king realize? When faced with the possibility of immediate death, do you think any man is in a “party” spirit? Why?
  • How did the king react physically to the writing on the wall?

The failure of the wise men

  • Read verses 7-9. What was the first thing the king did, upon seeing the writing? Who does this remind you of? Were the wise men able to help?
  • Read verses 10-12. The “queen mother” seems to have been around the palace for many years; what was her advice?
  • What can you personally learn from the advice of someone who has known God intimately for a length of time?
  • Read verses 13-14. What kind of testimony did Daniel have, although he had been in a heathen atmosphere for over forty years?

The fearlessness of Daniel

  • Read Daniel 5: 15-16. What was the king apparently trying to accomplish by pouring compliments on Daniel?
  • Why did Daniel spurn the gifts of the king in verse 17? Why does he recite the story of Belshazzar’s grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar?
  • Read verses 22-23. What does Daniel rebuke the king for?
  • Read verses 24-26. Each of the words on the wall was a monetary term. What was the action phrase in each of them? What did the words mean?
  • Read verses 30-31. What happened to Belshazzar that night?

Close:

So many lessons to be learned from one chapter! It is repeated many times over throughout scripture that godly children do not necessarily come from saved parents or grandparents. Samuel’s sons, Eli’s sons, Levi’s sons, Belshazzar, and so many more are examples of bad offspring. We must always be aware that God does not have grandchildren but each person is responsible for coming to Him on their own, with their own heart of repentance, confession of sin, and willingness to follow wherever He leads.

A beautiful lesson is that the testimony of Daniel, kidnapped at a young age (possibly pre-teen or very young teen), raised in a heathen land in the palace of an idol-worshiping king, remained faithful to his God during the four or five decades leading up to this event. Proverbs 22:1 states, “A good name is to be chosen better than great riches,” and Daniel is a great example. The queen mother had to remind her son or grandson that there was a godly man in their palace, in whom “was the Spirit of God.” A long, faithful testimony is one we should all strive for.

The final lesson would be the vital importance of taking God seriously. If He told you your family was numbered and would be finished, would you need it interpreted? What if He told you that you have been weighed and “found wanting”: would you need to ask Him what He means? Or, your home will be given to the children of your enemy… would you beg Him for more time? We should live our life so that each day counts for Him!

Take-aways:

“Your faithfulness makes you trustworthy to God.”
Edwin Cole

We have four major elements to our lives:

THE WILL

THE MIND

THE BODY

THE SOUL

The river is your soul. And you are its keeper.

October 27, 2019

DANIEL  4: Glow Worms & Grass
October 27, 2019
Charles Billingsley

 

Our lives are full of choices—and most of them are concerned with how we can make life easier, more fun, or more interesting for ourselves, right? Do you ever struggle with the fear that you are being selfish, as in, always wanting “your way”? Can you share?

Open:

As we study the Old Testament book of Daniel, we get enthralled with the craziness of the life of the king of Babylon, where Daniel and his three friends were taken as captives. King Nebuchadnezzar ruled Babylon for over forty years, twenty five of which had Daniel as one of his cabinet. As chapter four of Daniel is concluded, the king saw Daniel’s God as the One, True God, against Whom he had greatly sinned.

Focal Passage: Daniel 4:1-37

Key Verse: Mark 8:36:For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”

The Patient Heart of God: Nebuchadnezzar’s Humiliation

  • Read Dan. 2:46-47 and 3:28-29. What had King Nebuchadnezzar observed about the God of Daniel and his Jewish friends in these chapters?
  • Daniel has now been a wise man for the king for about twenty-five years. Can someone please summarize the events in Daniel 4:4-10, someone else tell of the dream in verses 11-14, and someone else summarize vv.15-18? What is significant about the change of subject in verse 15?
  • Read verse 19. How does Daniel react when he hears the dream? Why does it affect him so greatly? Someone please summarize the forewarning that God has given the king.
  • Read verse 27. What warning does Daniel himself give the king?

The  Sovereign Power of God

  • Read Daniel 4:27-28. What was the sin that the king has to be broken over?
  • Read (around the room): Proverbs 16:18; 16:5a; 15:25a; and 6:16. What does God think about pride? Who was the cause of the king’s humiliation?
  • Read Jeremiah 22:25. Nebuchadnezzar probably never heard of Jeremiah, the Judean prophet. How did Jeremiah’s prophecy reinforce the sovereignty of God? What about Proverbs 21:1?

The Restoring Hand of God

  • Read Dan. 4:34, 36-37. What was the pivotal act that brought an end to the king’s trial? How did he respond?
  • How does verse 37 differ from the proclamations he had made after Daniel had averted the killing of the wise men by interpreting the dream in Chapter 2, as well as the end of Chapter 3, with the Fiery Furnace?
  • How could Nebuchadnezzar have avoided such a seven-year disaster? Was God being fair, to have attempted to show him through Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, as well as Daniel warning him?

Take Aways

  • The patient heart of God—God is patient, but will do what He needs to do to humble us.
  • The sovereign power of God—God is Sovereign—and will do what He needs to do for us to recognize this.
  • The restoring Hand of God—God is a redeeming God, and will restore us if we humble ourselves before Him.

The battle you are facing is ultimately between who you want to be and who Creator God wants you to be.

Close:

Pride is simple to define: it is our will for our life fighting against God’s will. We can usually spot it instantly in someone else—but recognizing it in ourselves is hard for us to see, and harder still to take authority over.

Nebuchadnezzar had built a huge city with superlatives on every side. He had a “right” to feel a healthy pride in what he had achieved. However, rather than giving the glory to the only true God, he took the praise for himself. Over a period of several years God tried to get his attention, to no avail. Finally, after a fearful dream, Nebuchadnezzar called in Daniel. Daniel instantly knew God was about to bring the king to his knees, and issued a passionate, final warning of disaster coming. One year later, the king became as a cow in a field, eating grass for a meal.

When is the last time God tried to get your attention for a sin that you refuse to acknowledge? Does it frighten you that there will be an eventual cutting off of the grace that you take so lightly? Don’t let it go on until God has to take drastic action: repent, turn from the sin, and if it enters your mind afterward, take those thoughts captive! David wrote, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise!” (Psalm 51:17).

 

October 20, 2019

DANIEL  3: An Insane Faith
October 20, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Most of us, at some time in our lives, have faced a challenge that caused us to sacrifice our personal limits or preferred conduct and bow to peer pressure, later bringing us much retribution or pain! Can you share a memory?

We are continuing our study of Daniel, finding truths in this amazing book that give us a glimpse into the remarkable inner strength found in four young, Jewish boys. Today we see three of them take a stand when the king challenges their faith in the one, true God. The lesson is very applicable to choices we make today, thousands of years later.
Focal passage: Daniel 3:1-30
Key verse: Daniel 3:18: “But if not, let it be known to you, O King, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
  • King Nebuchadnezzar decided it would immortalize him to build a huge, 90 foot tall, statue of a “god.“ What took place at the opening ceremonies?
  • There probably were hundreds, or even thousands, of people in attendance. At the sound of the instruments, what did all of them do ? Who was left standing?
  • The king’s rage knew no bounds when he saw his three Jewish wise men, Shadrach, Meshach, and AbedNego, still upright as all the people bowed low. What did he threaten?

1. The pressure of compromise never goes away

  •  Read Daniel 3:13-15. Why would Nebuchadnezzar give the three another chance, which was totally out of character for kings in that day?
  • This was not the first time these Jews had had a conflict with the authority of Babylon (nor would it be the last); what had previously happened?
  • In all honesty, could you have stood, when everyone around you was kneeling, and defied the king as they did? Has there been a “standing“ moment in your life, and can you share?

2. Trusting God is more important than personal comfort

  • Read verses 16-18. What were the three risking by taking such a stand against authority, and violating the king’s edict?
  •  Why did they say, “But if not“? Explain why it is possible this was their way of saying, “If it be Your  will, O God“.
  • How did Nebuchadnezzar respond?

3. God will never leave you on your own

  • Read verses 24-26 (NAS or NLT, if possible).  What happens to personal anger when something supernatural occurs?
  • Look back at Daniel 2:46-48. How could Nebuchadnezzar forget the lesson he had previously learned about the God of Daniel and his three friends? How do you explain his change of heart?
  • How would  your brain process what had just happened – – and would you have the faith to say, “There is no God like this?”
 Takeaway: When we have the courage to practice insane faith, God will do the supernatural. 
Close :
Living in modern times, it is perhaps incomprehensible to imagine the bravery of these young Jewish boys during the incredible events that unfolded as the years slowly passed. Their faith in God through all their trials never wavered. Now they are made to attend a ceremony where they are expected to bow down to a golden statue made by a heathen king. We read how they challenged the king and might assume we would have such a similar response. The truth is, we often face this choice in our own lives in today’s world, although usually not with dire consequences such as death.
We are living in a time when laws are being put into effect that regulate everything from the words of our mouths to those we write.  We are being forced to accept rules and people who not only hold nothing sacred, but conflict with everything we believe. People who refuse to ‘bow down’ in this new society are jailed daily, for nothing more than standing firm when they are forced to except godless authority over them. Where do you fall in all this? Is your faith in God so strong that you know He will be with you through persecution, or do you give in? Have you learned He is a faithful Defender who will be with you if you end up in the center of oppression? He is. Trust Him, try Him, and see if He is not faithful to keep all His promises. How do you do that? Wait – – you may have the choice very soon to try Him and find out.

October 14, 2019

DANIEL  2: BUT GOD!
October 13, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

There are so many ways in which people come to “the end of the rope.” And though you hear practical solutions, you also hear desperate statements. Can you share a memory?

Last week we began a new study on the life of young Daniel and his three Jewish friends, as they purposed in their hearts to not defile themselves while in captivity in the land of Babylon. God honored their devotion and commitment while they adjusted to their new life. Today we will focus on Chapter 2, as the four friends seek God during a potential death sentence.

Key Verse: Daniel 2:20: “Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His.”

Focal Passage: Daniel 2:1-49.

Life’s not fair

  • Read Daniel 2:1-5. What are your first thoughts as you read this narrative? Why is it amazing that Daniel and his friends were by now, two years later, still staunch in their faith toward God?
  • What do you think the king was trying to achieve with his bizarre—and impossible–command? Was it possible? Was it fair? Why or why not?
  • Word about the directive of the king had to have spread rapidly. What were some of the possible scenarios playing out in homes around Babylon?
  • Daniel and his friends were still young teenagers, and there was little likelihood of being able to escape Babylon, so what were their options?

All we can do is trust God

  • Read verses 11-13. What did the wise men exclaim when the king insisted they tell him the dream, with no hint of what he had envisioned?
  • What did the king’s guard begin doing immediately? How dire were the consequences to Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Azariah (Meshach), and Mishael (Abednego)?
  • Even though the circumstances were not fair, had there been anything up to this point in Daniel’s control? Were the four friends from Judah able to change any of the events? Could they have foreseen this occurrence?
  • Daniel has not yet heard what was going on, unless it was from panicked citizens. Was there anyone known to be trusting in the one, true God at this time? Why not?

God is our only hope

  • Read verses 16-19. How did Daniel react to the words of Arioch, the captain of the guard, and what did he immediately do?
  • How did Daniel’s action show that his relationship to God was still his priority, after two years in the foreign land?
  • What happened as the result of fervent prayer? Read James 5:16b-18. What limits does fervent prayer have? Read 1 Peter 3:12. Does God delight in your prayers?
  • Why is it safer to trust God for action than to trust men?

Who or what will you trust?

  • Read Daniel 2: 27-28. What was the outcome when Daniel was taken before the king?
  • What are the two most significant words in these verses?
  • What does “But God” signify to you?

Close:

What an amazing story about our God, who watches over His children. Second Chronicles 16:9 tells us, “…the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” Such a tremendous promise for those who need Him to snatch them from the jaws of death!

Daniel’s biography from Daniel, Chapter One, ends with the determination of four young Jewish boys to serve God in the land of captivity. Now, approximately two years later, the four are again put to the test as they fear for their lives when faced with a command that will kill all wise men in the realm of Babylon. Prayer alone saves the boys as they fervently take their plight to God, calling on Him to deliver them from the crazy edict of the angered monarch.

In front of the king, Daniel unapologetically gives God the glory when asked if he (Daniel) is able to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. He replies that it is only by God disclosing the dream that he can relay the circumstances of what Nebuchadnezzar has seen in his sleep. Daniel did not waver in giving glory to God.

Would that we would be so strong in our faith as to realize that anything Satan can throw at us—from daily trials to insurmountable problems of approaching death—can be taken to the Lord in prayer, and know He will take care of the situation. When all circumstances seem against us, when we are literally at the end of our rope, we have a God in heaven whose eyes roam to and fro, throughout the earth, watching over us. Is your heart so right with God that His eyes would stop and rest on you as you pray? Let us remember this important lesson from Daniel, and seek our God daily, so that our hearts are always at peace in His grace and mercy!

October 6, 2019

THE STORY OF DANIEL
October 06, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

The temptation to compromise in some way seems to come to us all, every day! One does not even have to speak to compromise—many times it can be done by remaining silent. Does anyone have an example you can share?

Life presents all of us with many opportunities to leave the things we know we should do for God (or shouldn’t do!), in order to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin for just a short while. This is compromise and can ruin a testimony, stunt spiritual growth, or ruin a future. How do you handle the pull of the world? Today we’ll begin a study of Daniel, examining a chapter each week to learn lessons on why and how we should purpose in our heart to avoid compromise.

Key Verse: Daniel 1:8a: “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself…”

Focal Passage: Daniel 1:1-21.

Open:

Sometimes God allows the enemy a victory

  • Read Daniel 1:1-2. If you have struggled with trying to understand why God allows bad things to happen, can you share your conclusions? How was the nation of Israel doing spiritually at this time in their history?
  • What did God allow King Nebuchadnezzar to do? In fact, what do the scriptures say God did?
  • We have read the book of Daniel and understand why God brought the enemy to Judah. The Israelites, however, had refused to listen to the prophets and therefore had no knowledge that punishment for their compromise (worshiping idols) was at hand. What was God doing?
  • Why might God choose to correct compromise with punishment? B. Why does He sometimes test us by allowing Satan to have a victory?                                                                                                               C. Sometimes He will allow bad things to happen to refine us; why?               D. Explain why God’s ultimate purpose is always to make us better.

Our actions in the midst of oppression determine our position with God

  • Read verse 8. Does anyone recall about how old the youths from Judah were when Nebuchadnezzar took them to Babylon? How much integrity would most young, teen-age boys have, when taken from their families?
  • Daniel was intentional in his efforts to avoid the King’s food; where had the food been before being served in the palace?
  • Why was Daniel resolute in not wishing to eat food offered to idols?
  • Read verses 12-13. What did Daniel do to avoid compromising his life before God? Would anyone back in Judah have known? What did the servant in charge of the boys agree to?
  • How did Daniel’s action show his relationship to his God?
  • What negative effects can result when Christians compromise? If you answered it destroys one’s testimony, growth, and future, you’re right!

God will always reward faithfulness

  • Read verses 17-19. What was the result of the four boy’s position to not compromise? How did God reward them?
  • What did this chapter teach you about the value God places on your intentional stand for Him?

Our success in life is based on the condition of our heart

  • Read verse 8a again. What can you take away from this passage that will help you commit to standing firm, without compromise?
  • Which is more important to you, pleasing God, or pleasing man?

Close:

The story of Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abed-Nego) is one that has inspired young children in Sunday School for millennium. The scripture does not give information about the home life of these four boys, but it’s easy to assume they had godly parents who taught their sons to love the Lord God and obey His laws.

As we see them in the palace at Babylon, we might feel as though the age in which they lived was more conducive to following God than life today. Not so. God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8), human sin has always abounded (Rom. 3:23), and the temptation to leave godly parents or God’s will for sin is as strong as it was when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden. The writer of Hebrews could have spoken of the four in 11:24-26 when he wrote Moses’ story: “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.” It is not a hard leap of faith to believe Daniel and his friends were familiar with the life of Moses, and like him, chose to take their chances on suffering affliction, in order to obey their God.

What an example these young boys are for those of us of any age! To believe they would take a stand voluntarily is amazing. They were far from parents, when compromising “wouldn’t hurt anyone,” and when no one would expect them to risk the anger of the King of Babylon. It leaves us without defense when we want to use age-old excuses. No, if young boys, probably no more than thirteen or fourteen years old, can “purpose in [their] heart” to not defile themselves with sin, surely we believers who have God’s word in written form can be as strong. Take a stand!

September 28, 2019

WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?
  September 29, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Every day on Facebook there are thousands of posts showing the positive or negative character qualities of the potential candidates in the upcoming Presidential race.  Do you respond in anger or are you able to love those people who declare views contrary to yours?

As we continue our series, Who Is My Neighbor, we want to examine our personal lives to see if love—real, unconditional, godly love—is the motivation for our actions, our speech, our giving, or works. If it’s superficial or false, it falls short of God’s ideal. Today we want to learn how we can really love those people who are not very likeable! How does love act when we think someone is wrong, hateful, or evil?

Key Verse: Matthew 22:37-39: Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” and Matthew 5:43-44a: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to you, love your enemies…”

Focal Passage: 1 Corinthians 13:1-7.

Open:

Love unconditionally

  • Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. What does God mean by the word love? How do you love those within your family? What about the times when they disappoint, rebel against, or anger you?
  • Are you able to love unconditionally, regardless of someone’s behavior? Why or why not? How do you love if they hate you, or are truly your enemy?
  • Do you want to be loved unconditionally? Why is it so hard to love others like that, when we desire it for ourselves?
  • What is the ultimate goal when we love enemies as God desires us to?

Love authentically

  • Read verses 4-5a. What are some definitions of the word authentic?
  • What do you do if someone is pretending to care for you, but you know they are insincere? When a believer acts in a way different from their words, what does the world call them? How does the world discern hypocrisy?
  • If you believe you love your enemies, ask yourself what you base your answer on, and what your motivation is; explain your answer if you will. Where does genuine, godly love, spring from?
  • Can you think of times you are rude? Why is it important to us that we are “right”? If you—and all Christians—reacted only in love to those who oppose us, what would happen? Would it impact their lives eventually?

Love completely

  • Read verses 5b-6. Where do we draw the line in withholding love from our enemies? How much did Jesus love us? Read Romans 5:10. Do you love your enemies like that?
  • Read Luke 6:32-35. Who are we supposed to love, according to these verses? What did Jesus mean when He said “God is kind to the unthankful and evil” people?
  • If we consistently react with love when confronted with hate, what are some possible outcomes?
  • If we love in order to gain something, what does our love mean to God?

Love strategically

  • Read verse 7. If we love intentionally, when will we stop loving? Who are you focused on, if you love without giving up?
  • How can you deliberately strive to love, no matter what occurs? Did Jesus love like that? Where did He draw the line?
  • In John 3:16, what are some phrases that show how much God, before the creation of the world, ordained that He would love? Can you love like that?

Close:

As we think about loving those who are our enemies, often our mind goes to the guy who cut us off in traffic, or the person who ran the red light, almost causing a wreck. Perhaps it was the person who snickered when the boss called us into his office, or that post on social media that drove you wild. But those people are only frustrations in a normal day—they are not enemies. The truth is, very few of us have real enemies. Enemies are people who have a strong desire to see us hurt physically, mentally or emotionally; they spend time plotting evil and wicked plans to bring us hurt.

We get so comfortable being in control in our own life that we often believe those who challenge that control are enemies. The truth is, those aggravating people, as well as any genuine enemies, need the gift of God’s love more than the friends who are in our inner circle.

Rather than getting riled because of those who irritate us, we need to take our thoughts captive and pray for whatever circumstance has caused them pain. We need to be examining our heart to bring it into conformity with God’s will for us.  He established His word and His law, not to take away our freedom, our fun, or our happiness, but that we should find beautiful peace and joy by obeying those things He has said are for our good. Can you obey Him for a day? A week? Can you keep on “keeping on” until your heart has become like His?  If we can learn to carry our cross daily, we can love our enemies as Christ desires us to!

 

September 22, 2019

WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR: THE POWER OF AFFIRMATION
September 22, 2019
Dr. Thomas Mullins

 

 

Did you have an opportunity this week to speak a word of encouragement to someone? Can you share?

Neighbors are not always in need of material help. Sometimes they are running low in their reserve tank of kind, encouraging words—words that will build them up and cause them to keep going. Today we continue the series “Who Is My Neighbor,” as we look at the topic The Power of Affirmation. We want to be very intentional in letting the light of our love for Jesus Christ shine wherever we can, as we uplift and inspire others to continue in this journey of life.

Key Verse:Matthew 22:37-39: Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Opening:

Demonstrating God’s love

  • Read Matt. 5:16. What is the first way you can get an open door to allow you to demonstrate God’s love to others? Does it matter whether you know them or not?
  • If you had to guess, what is the one thing everyone you meet is longing for?

What can you give them that costs you nothing?

  • Read Matt. 3:16-17. What did this affirmation do for Jesus, the Son of God? How do most children react when their father tells them, “I am proud of you”?
  • Read 1 Thess. 5:11. What are you called to do? What is another word for edify?

Secure in your identity in Christ

  • What is the highest role you can imagine for yourself on this earth? Read 1 John 3:1. What does this verse say your highest position should be? Is there any way you can encourage others if you see yourself as a failure?
  • Why is this quote by Neil Anderson correct: “The more you reaffirm who you are in Christ, the more your behavior will begin to reflect your true identity” *?
  • Read Judges 6:11-12. How did God affirm Gideon’s identity? What did Gideon go on to accomplish after Jesus (pre-incarnate) spoke with him?

How To Establish a Life That Affirms

Focus your thought life

  • Why is it so important to guard your mind? Read Eph. 4:23 and James 1:14-15. What happens when thoughts are not taken captive as soon as they light upon the mind? What does James say the thoughts can lead to?
  • Read Phil. 4:8. What happens if you do not replace the bad thoughts with scripture, prayer, or something else that is resisting Satan and sin?
  • If you keep your thoughts and your mind filled with pure treasures, what will your speech be like when you interact with people?

Hang with like-minded people

  • Read Proverbs 12:26. Have you ever experienced a friendship that you soon had to cut off, as you found yourself picking up some of the bad habits of your “friend” (attitudes, language, etc.)? Can you share?
  • What would you do differently if you knew one or more of the people you could encourage today were having a pivotal mental crisis, where a positive comment might make a difference in their “keeping on keeping on”?

Keep focused on your mission

  • Read 2 Timothy 2:4. Why is it so important that you not turn aside to the world as you live for Jesus Christ?
  • What can you do to be intentional in uplifting your own life, in order to pour out inspiring, loving words of encouragement to those you meet daily?

Close:

What a challenge Dr. Mullins has left us with, as we go from understanding our personal relationship to our loving Father, who is so proud of us, to fully grasping His desire for us to bring  everything in our lives—the good, bad, and the ugly—to Him in prayer.  Once we are secure in our relationship with Him, the joy and confidence will begin spilling over from our lives to others around us, making us a conduit of encouragement, love and uplifting words for those with whom we come into contact. If we are not filled with the light of His presence, we will only dispense darkness to those we meet! As we love Him more, we love our neighbors more. It is a beautiful cycle that He has created within us, and if we are His willing vessels, His love will be poured out on those we meet.

We are created for good works (Eph. 2:10), which are to be used for His glory. We are meant to share His love with others, even if it’s only by a cheerful, loving countenance, a compliment for a stranger, a helping hand as someone needs a door open for them, a smile for a frown—it all starts with kindness and love. That is not too much to do, to bring glory and honor to our Savior.

* Neil T. Anderson, Dave Park (2008). “Stomping Out the Darkness: Discover Your True Identity in Christ and Stop Putting Up with the World’s Garbage!”, p.26, Baker Books­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

 

September 15, 2019

WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?
September 15, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

It’s so easy to give a strong tongue lashing (from the privacy of our own car) to a near-by driver who causes a dangerous situation, isn’t it? Our anger rears its ugly head quickly! Can someone share a recent experience or anecdote?

Last week we began a new series, Who Is My Neighbor, focusing on the question asked in Luke 10:29, which prompted Jesus to tell the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Today we want to get an answer as to “How” we can really love these neighbors, many of whom are people we neither know nor possibly like. How does love act in these situations?

Key Verse:Matthew 22:37-39: Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Focal Passage: Matthew 5:43-48.

Be a Blessing

  • Read Matthew 5:43-44a. What is the commandment Jesus gives in verse 44a? Read James 4:17. Now that you are aware of the commandment in Matt. 5:44a, how does James 4:17 hold you accountable?
  • What are some ways we can be blessings to people we do not know? How has the Hurricane Dorian and now Tropical Storm Humberto enabled us to help “neighbors”?
  • Read verse 45. What point is Jesus making about God? Does anyone recall the significance of “heaping” blessings? * How are we to be like God, in that we love and do good to people we may consider an enemy?
  • Read James 2:14-17. How are these “works” meant to be huge blessings poured out on those we don’t know—or possibly don’t like?

Be a Servant

  • Read verse 44c. This small phrase contains what action word? Why is it important for us to put our faith into action?
  • Read 1 John 3:18. Why is God (through John) telling us to do this? The word for “deed” is toil; what does toil represent?
  • If you help someone to the point of dirt and sweat, what type of picture will that portray to the neighbor whom you are helping? How is that what Jesus would have us do?

Be a Prayer Warrior

  • Read verse 44d. Why is it important to pray for someone who is an enemy?
  • Explain how/if you can dislike someone yet pray for their well-being. What will eventually happen?
  • Read Romans 5:8. Did Jesus have enemies? Who, according to this verse? How much did He love them (us)?
  • As you pray for others, how can you reflect on God’s character traits, and His desire to see the world come to Jesus?

Result: We’ll Make Our Father Proud

  • Read verse 48. Why will praying for your enemies make you “mature” (not perfect as in sinless perfection, but as in complete, mature)?
  • Is Biblical godliness attainable for whole-hearted Christ-followers? Does it come natural to humans to love and pray for their enemies?
  • Read 3 John 1:4. As we strive to be more like Jesus, how does this make God proud? If Jesus said that loving and praying for our enemies will make us more like Himself, can we believe this? Why?

 

Close:

As we close the lesson sheet on this very amazing subject, how does it make you feel? Are you on edge that God would ask such a thing of you as to love and pray for those who hate you—or whom you hate—and you think it to be something that can be attained only by the Son of God? Loving our enemies seems easy when we’re sitting in the church pew, comfortable and surrounded by friends. It’s not so easy when we get up to leave, and the first person we see is that (hypocrite) who started the false rumor about you, or the man whom you know abuses his wife and children. Or you get in the car to go home and you’re hardly out of the parking lot before someone cuts you off in traffic; or the fast food drive-through hands you your food order, you pull out into heavy traffic, and your Coke is sweet tea! Suddenly you’re inundated with feelings that weren’t in your heart while the sermon was being preached.

Don’t mistake the truth: it is not easy to live the Christian life! We are at the bull’s eyes of Satan’s darts every day, and he knows exactly where to aim them. Our weaknesses are his area of expertise, and he knows exactly how to get us enraged, or impatient, or angry at those we are supposed to love. What is our answer?

Go to God’s word! His words to us—as we learned in 2 Peter 1:3—contain everything we need for life and godliness. Life is found in Him, and godliness can be cultivated day by day by taking your thoughts captive, controlling your urges to do the wrong thing, and turning each intent of the heart over to Him, begging Him for a heart like His. Does He want this for you? Yes. Is it His will for you to be more like Him? Yes (Romans 8:29). So, begin, or begin again. It’s never too late to start, and for the apathetic or backslider—second chances are His specialty!

September 8, 2019

WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?
September 08, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Last week’s opener was a perfect segue for today’s sermon, so we’ll tweak it some and begin! Have you had a new opportunity this week to do a good deed for someone you didn’t know? Can you share your experience, telling what happened?

This past week brought a number of opportunities for our community to put a brand new series, “Who Is My Neighbor?” into action as Hurricane Dorian obliterated much both at home and in the Bahamas. We were able to minister to people we had never met, who live much differently, yet whose basic needs—food, shelter and salvation—are the same as ours. Today, we look forward to examining the Scriptures closely to see what loving our neighbor looks like.

Key Verse: Matthew 22:37-39: Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Focal Passage: Matthew 22:34-40; also, Luke 10:25-29.

“Who is my neighbor?”

  • Read Luke 10:25-29. This alternate passage contains a final question not asked in Matthew’s account. What was the lawyer’s attitude in verse 25? As he still desires to “justify himself,” what seems his motive as he asks his question in verse 29?
  • The Greek word for neighbor is Plesion; does anyone recall what it means?
  • Why did the Jews believe it meant neighbor as in those close by?

The Three Travelers—The Parable of the Good Samaritan

  • Read Luke 10:30-31. What was the attitude of the Priest?
  • Read verse 32. How was the Levite different than the Priest?
  • Read verses 33-35. What was the motive for the Samaritan? How was he like Christ?

A Current Re-telling!

For the older people, this parable has formed the basics of Sunday School lessons from earliest childhood. For those who are young, most of whom have never walked from their own town to the next, have seldom walked when they could have ridden, or have seldom, if ever, left home without the trusty cell phone to update unforeseen events for posting to Facebook, here is a modern-day re-telling of this story:

John Israel jumped into his vintage Mustang while tossing his groceries into the back seat. He had driven less than a mile when he heard a loud explosion under his hood, followed by a force of metal against metal. His knowledge of cars gave him enough sad sense to know he had probably thrown a rod, and his car was finished. Grabbing his keys and cell phone, he began walking down the dimly lit road.

He had not gone far when the revving motor of an oncoming vehicle slowed, then stopped. Two large muscle-built males spent ten minutes of fun and games, beating him numb, stealing all his possessions, stripping his car, then leaving him in the ditch, half dead.

John’s agony was great. He was vaguely aware that a car, headed toward his body, slowed somewhat. Suddenly it swerved to the other lane, leaving, in a peal of tires. The glimpse of the car was enough for him to realize it belonged to the powerful _______________ (fill in the blank: political, ethnic, religious, etc.), whom John had often extolled as Mr. Perfect. He felt worse. Soon his pounding head heard the low whine of another vehicle, which slowed and rolled almost to a stop. He had a moment to meet the eyes of ________________ (another hi-profile person), whom John had helped on his rise up the corporate ladder! The man had his driver pull away quickly, leaving the scene. John’s torture was greater with the intentional unkindness of his two heroes.

Quietly a third car loomed on the road, and the driver, alone, had to slowly pull onto the shoulder to get out and check on John. With tender, experienced motions, he examined John’s bones, and checked his cuts and lacerations.  As he returned to his car for first aid supplies, John was able to get a quick look at his benefactor. No! It was _________________ (a man he couldn’t stand), whom he detested! Yet what could he do? As he returned and met John’s eyes, John saw a tender look of sympathy and—something else. Could it be compassion? Slowly he was picked up and carried to the car, where he was gently laid, then driven to the nearest hotel.

John realized his body was being cared for almost as if by a doctor. Then he was washed, fresh linens put on, and room service was called for a late meal. Later, his “angel” told him he would be back in a couple of days, but the room, room service, and any other needs he might have were taken care of. John turned his head and cried.

Closing:

Which were you?

  • None of us like to think that we are cold-hearted, but—which would you be? You can answer between you and God.
  • Neighbors are on both sides of the street. Had you been John Jerusalem, would you have been able to accept help from Joe Samaritan—whom you didn’t love?
  • Who are your neighbors?

Who are MY neighbors?
1)Those who live CLOSE BY
2) Those who live FAR AWAY
3) Those who are LIKE US
4) Those who are NOT LIKE US
5) People we LIKE
6) People we DON’T LIKE

September 1, 2019

Jesus in the House
September 1, 2019
Charles Billingsley

 

Have you recently had an opportunity to do a good deed for a friend or neighbor? Can you share what you did, and tell how you felt afterwards?

Today we are going to take a fresh look at the account of Jesus healing the paralyzed man in Mark 2. We’re going to examine the different people or groups present that day and see if we can identify which one we might have been in, had we been there. It is a report of friendship, faith and forgiveness, and we’ll examine the power each of those can play in our lives.

Key Verse: Mark 2:10-11: “ But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic,  “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

Focal Passage: Mark 2:1-12.

A story of friendship, faith and forgiveness

  • Read Mark 2:1. Who is the first person we meet in this narrative? What was significant about His relationship to Capernaum?
  • Read verse 2. We now have a group represented: who are they? How many people were inside the house?
  • What does Jesus do when everyone is gathered? What is the word translated for ‘preached the “word”’?
  • What is significant about the Greek word “LOGOS”? Does anyone recall where it is used in the book of John?

The Impact of Friendship

  • Read verses 3-4. Who are the next two characters (or group) we encounter?
  • What did the four men go through to get their friend in front of Jesus?
  • Ask yourself: How far have I ever gone to bring my friends to Jesus?

The Result of Faith

  • Read verse 5a. Whose faith did Jesus take note of? Whom did the men have faith in? What—do you suppose—did they believe?
  • Why does faith require action? Can you back up your answer with Scripture?
  • Read verse 5. Why did Jesus say this? What could He have said instead?
  • Why is it imperative who or what the object of your faith is?
  • Ask yourself: is my faith actively seeking to please and love Jesus always?

The Power of Forgiveness

  • The paralyzed man had need of two things in his life; what were they?
  • What happened to him the moment Jesus pronounced his sins forgiven?*
  • Read verses 6-7. Who now enters the picture? What do they represent as they continually monitor what Jesus is saying and doing?
  • If they were in today’s churches, who would they probably be? Share some examples from your own experience.
  • Why did they feel Jesus didn’t have authority to forgive sins? What did the OT law require for sins? Did they speak their words aloud?
  • Read verses 8-11. What did the scribes believe about Jesus? What was the significance of Jesus telling the man, “Arise…Go”?
  • Read verse 12. What happens when Jesus is in the house?

Remember: The impact of your friendship for another can lead them to the Kingdom of God.

Remember: The result of a bold and daring faith can be a life change for one of your friends.

Remember: The power of forgiveness lies in the Hands of Christ alone. He is the only One who can save you.

Close:

Wouldn’t you have loved to have been in Capernaum the day Jesus entered that house?! We think of the gathered crowd, the anticipation, the excitement—and we feel it would have been the experience of a lifetime. But we must ask ourselves, which group of people, or persons, would we have identified with? The crowd, hyped up to see Jesus; the friends, hoping for a chance for their pal to get healed; the crippled man, such as we often are, needing His touch; the critics, always finding something wrong with the service, the decorations, the noise, or the lengthy message?

Yet—we are in church every week, and JESUS IS IN THE HOUSE! Perhaps He has come because there are some who worship Him; there will always be some in need who come for healing their broken hearts, setting their spirits free from prison, having blind eyes opened to see the Light. He comes because some friends pray for their buddies or family members; He comes to bring joy. And the critics come. The same critics who were in Capernaum, jealous that Someone is not doing things the way they’ve always done them, or preached the right sermon, or gotten glory they themselves sought.

Again, WHO ARE YOU IN THIS NARRATIVE? Pray that you are so in love with Jesus Christ that you are only waiting for His word to “Arise,” “Take up _____ (whatever He asks you to do),” and “Go!! (wherever He tells you!)”

*He was Justified—“Just as if I’d never sinned.” He is Adopted—into the family of God. He is United—with Jesus for eternity!

August 25, 2019

Get Into The Game
August 25, 2019
Jonathan Falwell

 

Sometimes we have a longing to begin a great idea, a dream, or an activity that will result in making either ourself or someone else pleased—but we have no clue how to start! Does this jog a memory? Write your answers in a notebook if you are studying this on your own.

Is being in the center of God’s will important to you? Do you wish to serve Him but don’t know where to start? If so, listen carefully as Pastor Jonathan reveals how to be sure you are ready and able to carry out the mission which God has entrusted to you.

Key Verse: James 1:5. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

Focal Passage: James 1:5-8

The mission statement of TRBC*

  • A mission statement—whether for a church, an organization, or an individual—identifies the goals, aims or values of why it exists. Can you recall the mission statement of TRBC?
  • What part of “change your world” would you choose if you knew you wouldn’t fail?
  • Why is it not possible to “love God and love people” by sitting on a couch doing nothing but watching television? How is that different from attending Sunday services, then returning to your normal life, feeling your commitment for the week has been fulfilled?
  • God has given you a mission statement; what is it?

A pure heart

  • Read verses 5-6. What is a pure heart? What are some other adjectives that could be substituted for “pure”?
  • Read 1 Thess. 4:3a. What does God desire for you, in order to use you? If you want to become a person God can use, what should be a first step (Jas 1:5a)?
  • Read verses 7-8. What is important when asking God for help? What will God call you, if you still love praise and attention from people?
  • Read 1 John 2:15 and Matt. 6:24. How do these verses indicate your life must be sold out to God, in order to do His will? How will you accomplish the will of God if you are double-minded?

A ready heart

  • Read verse 6 again. What are the doubts about?
  • Why will the doubts cause you to miss out on an answer from God?
  • How can you eliminate doubts, hurts, habits or hang-ups from your life?
  • Think or share: What is in your life that would hinder God from using you?
  • What steps must you take in order to be completely sold out to God?

A passionate heart

  • What are some activities or lifestyles that you are passionate about? What is an area of serving God that brings forth the same passion in you?
  • Read Rom. 1:16. Why does being persecuted, shamed, or being ridiculed cause some people to withdraw from doing God’s will?
  • Read John 15:16. What has God chosen for YOU to do for Him? How do you think God feels if you wholeheartedly do His will?

Close:

Few things thrill a parent as much as seeing their child do some action—without being told—that shows he/she desires to please the parent! John puts this in his letter to a church when he writes, “I have no greater joy than to see that my children walk in the truth” (3 John 1:4). Why, then, should it seem unusual for us to assume God Himself is delighted when we make certain our life and our heart is completely sold out to doing His will? He is delighted with us! As Pastor Jonathan said, “If we’re faithful to do what He (God) wants, He’s our biggest cheerleader.” We need to have that perception of God, rather than seeing Him as a stern, unsmiling, impossible-to-please parent.

George Muller once said “I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the trouble with people generally is just here. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord’s will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.” ** Can you say this of your heart? It is a joyful thing to be so sold out to God that He uses you to do His work here on earth!

Would that the church be so full of people who long to change their world, their city, community, neighborhood, street, or family that they put their own desires aside in order to love God and love others more than they love themselves. What a testimony that church would be as a light to their world!

___________________________________________

*TRBC: Our Mission is to change our world by developing Christ-followers who love God and love people.”

**George Muller, https://www.allaboutfolowingjesus.org/knowing-gods-will.html

 

August 18, 2019

LIFEGUARD: FAKE TEACHERS 2 PETER 3
August 18, 2019
Jonathan Falwell

 

Was there a person you knew—or someone from television—that you looked up to when you were a child, to the point where you mimicked their mannerisms to the best of your ability?

Today we end the series on the book of 2 Peter. We have been made aware of tribulation and suffering that we will endure as a Christ-follower, as well as learning how to recognize false teachers. Today we look at an evil world gone mad, trying to stop the message of the Gospel and frighten Christians into silence. Let us commit to imitating Jesus Christ in all we do and say.

Key Verse: 2 Peter 1:2-3: “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.”

Focal Passage: 2 Peter 3:1-18

People will mock what you believe

  • Read 2 Peter 3:1-2. What did Peter want his readers to be mindful of? When truth is attacked, what are we to call to mind?
  • What are some promises of God that you hold on to during times of stress?
  • Read verse 3. Who will be a major force to reckon with in the last days? Why do some people dismiss the truth? Will there always be unbelievers?
  • In verse 4, what is the main theme the wicked will taunt God’s people with?

But God will never be mocked

  • Read verses 5-6. What example of the earth not continuing as it was do the scoffers overlook? Read Matt. 22:29. What are some evidences of the accuracy of Scripture, and why can we trust all of God’s word?
  • Read verse 7. What had God—by His Word—done with the earth in the past? How is He holding it together? What will He do with the earth at the end?
  • Read verses 8-9. Why has God waited to end earth as we know it? What is proven by the patience of God?

The end is a reality

  • Read verses 10-12. What are four characteristics of the Day of the Lord?
  • Jesus Christ is going to return! Is this a promise you can back up with Scripture? What type person does Peter say you must be, to be ready?
  • Read Matt. 16:2-3. Jesus says we cannot be ready for the end unless we know the signs; how can we know those signs?
  • Read Matt. 24:43. How must we be living, since we do not know the hour He will return?

Remain faithful because God is faithful

  • Read verses 13-14. What are we to be watching for? In addition to be living in “holy conduct and godliness” (verse 11), how else are we to be living?
  • Read verse 17. When it seems as if everyone around us is mocking God, what will keep us faithful to Him?
  • Verse 18. What is our goal in this life? What is the answer we must have ready if asked by scoffers where our God is (verse 15a)?

Close:

An old hymn, Jesus Is Coming Soon*, has these words: “Troublesome times are here, filling men’s hearts with fear, freedom we all hold dear now is at stake; humbling your heart to God saves from the chastening rod, seek the way pilgrims trod, Christians, awake!” And the chorus begins, “Jesus is coming soon, morning or night or noon, many will meet their doom, trumpets will sound…” Those lyrics sound as though they could have been written for today. The sinful lifestyles lived by the people of nearly a hundred years ago seems nothing compared to the evil that is rampant in this world. The tragedy is that more people today are going to hell than ever before.

Peter was concerned not only for the Christ-followers of his day, but those who would be reading his letters for years to come. We who are alive more than 2000 years after he lived grab hold of the words and cling with faith to the promises left by the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing everything written in scripture holds true until the end of time.

Hopefully you are encouraged through this study of Peter’s writings to remain faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ, enduring suffering, recognizing false teachers or preachers, and looking for signs of His return. What a tremendous depth of the riches of Christ is found in these books! Lay hold of the truths, being steadfast til His return!

*Winsett, R. E., “Jesus Is Coming Soon”

August 11, 2019

LIFEGUARD: FAKE TEACHERS 2 PETER 2
August 11, 2019
Matt Wilmington

 

We are inundated on every hand by screams of “Fake News!” What is Fake News? Is it possible it is true news, but twisted to rile certain groups—or even that certain people wrongly interpret what they read? Why is it imperative we do not let ourselves by swayed by cunning rhetoric?

Today we continue to seek nuggets of truth from the book of Second Peter. In the first chapter Peter encourages believers to persevere through tribulation, and today, in chapter two, he gives us the tools to help us recognize and avoid false teachers—those who would try to entice us away from the truth and exploit us for their own gain.

Key Verse: 2 Peter 1:2-3: “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.”

Focal Passage: 2 Peter 2:1-22

Open:

We will encounter False Teachers

  • Read 2 Peter 2:1-3. Promises can sometimes warn us of what will come! What is guaranteed in verse 1 that might alarm you?
  • What is the difference between a false teacher, and one you may not like? What are some non-doctrinal reasons you may label a teacher “bad”?
  • In verse 3, what is the main goal of the false teachers? What two methods are listed in this verse for leading people astray?
  • Is God letting them get by with their destruction?

Two destinations reserved for mankind

  • Read verses 4-11. What are the two destinations that are reserved for man?
  • What are examples of God’s judgment in these verses? Who were the examples of righteousness that Peter used?
  • What were oppressions that Lot endured? Share from the account of Lot from Genesis if you recall. How do these parallel the actions we see in the world today?
  • What is the promise in verse 9?

The depravity of the false teachers

  • Read verses 12-17. What are the additional characteristics of these false teachers in these verses? Why is it important we recognize them?
  • In verse 13, Peter warns believers they will find these teachers where? What does that mean for us?
  • Who do these false teachers target (verse 14)? What defines an unstable person? Read James 1:5-8. How does James characterize someone as unstable? How does a person go from unstable to stable?
  • Read verses 18-22. What methods of deceit do these teachers use?

What is our defense?

  • What are some of the ways we can train or equip ourselves, so that we are able to recognize the false teachers? How is that like the Bereans in Acts 17:10-11?
  • Peter’s endorsement of Lot is much different than we might think. How can we be like Lot? What do we think he could have done? Would we do that?
  • Do we love Jesus enough to follow Him “out of town”?

Close:

Bankers have always been praised for their ability to identify authentic paper currency minted by the government from the counterfeit bills printed by thieves. If you ask them how they know the difference, they will tell you it comes naturally when they handle genuine bills constantly. This is a lesson modern-day Christians should take to heart, as Peter’s warning concerning false teachers indicates those depraved individuals will not be hanging out in dens and caves, bars and drug-filled streets, but in the church, in the life groups, in the fellowships and with the feasting! Does this frighten you? It may—but it should cause you to immediately begin to prepare yourself and your family the best way you can to recognize the characteristics of these teachers, which are laid out for us in 2 Peter 2.

Not only should we understand and recognize the way the false teachers will differ from a God-fearing, Christ-honoring, believer, but we need to use every available means God has given us to keep ourselves pure from the world. This will include the weapons of the warfare in Ephesians 6—especially prayer, and committing to memory  other passages that teach us to always be watchful, not letting Satan get advantage of us through any sin.

If you feel ill-prepared for any potential conflict, seek out a seasoned Christ-follower in your church. The probability is that most of the older ones will have had some experiences with false teachers and will gladly share what they have learned. We are in this fight together, so be thankful for brothers and sisters who will come along side of you!

 

 

August 4, 2019

LIFEGUARD: LESSONS FROM 2 PETER 1
August 4, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

It’s amazing the memories we retain from those who have been closely involved in our lives: grandparents, extended family, parents or guardians, or others. Can you share something that still impacts your life today, that you learned from one of them?

Today we begin a new series on lessons to be learned from the apostle Peter as he wrote to believers of the first century A.D. His writings, so filled with truth and life, not only helped the new Christians of his day, but have made lasting impressions through the centuries since.

Key Verse: 2 Peter 1:2-3: “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.”

Focal Passage: 2 Peter 1:1-21

The Door has been unlocked

  • Read 2 Peter 1:1-4. Who was Peter writing this letter to? What was the precious faith he was referring to?
  • In verse 3, what does Peter say God has given to us? What does this power enable us to do? How much of life are we able to navigate well if we use the Bible as our guide?
  • When are we able to use this knowledge? Why will it continue in eternity?
  • How did this knowledge come to us? What does he promise we will receive? What else will we receive (4b)?

So walk through the Door

  • Read verses 5-9. We have been given everything needed to live in this world; what does it require from us? In verse 5-6, what character qualities are we to build into our lives?
  • What is the promise in verse 8?
  • What happens when we do not act upon our salvation experience (verse 9)? What do those who lack the qualities in verses 5-6 develop?

The later is gets, the more important it becomes

  • Read verses 10-11. How does discipline in knowing scripture help us? Read Psalm 119:11. How does this verse corroborate 2 Peter 1:10?
  • Read verses 12-14. How long did Peter say he would remind Christians of “these things” (1 & 2 Peter)? What did he know would eventually happen?
  • Read verse 15. What did Peter do that ensured we would always have reminders of what he knew to be truth?
  • Reading and memorizing God’s word is never “second nature”; what does it take in our lives to accomplish this? Read Gen. 3:19a. Symbolically, if you liken this passage to studying God’s word, to absorb the Bread of Life, what would be the necessary action needed? Does growth happen without effort on the part of the person? Why not?

This is the real deal

  • Read verse 16-19. When a friend tells us of something they have seen, what type of impact does it make, over something which we read but have no personal experience or witness of? What testimony did Peter have?
  • What were some of the miracles and actions of Jesus which Peter and others witnessed?
  • Read verse 19-21. What was the significance of the prophecies that were fulfilled?

Close:

In this day of news feeds that are viewed with suspicion on every side, it is not often that we are able to have a first-hand report of something that is truly news-worthy—and be certain we can believe it! Yet the apostles who followed Jesus were eyewitnesses of the miracles He performed, the like of which had never been seen (John 9:32). How wonderful it is to have the testimony of a man who not only was able to encourage others of his day to a devoted walk with the risen Savior, but also the Christians who have lived during the past 2,000 years?

It is with conviction and encouragement that we are able to absorb the writings of the apostle Peter, knowing the hand of God was moving upon him as he wrote! The result is letters of how to live life by navigating it according to the revelation of Jesus Christ. Would that we be faithful as we follow Him through this crazy world! It is a book to be memorized, its message one that will sustain us through hard times, through the mountain tops, valleys, tribulation and help us experience joy.

Read it, commit it to memory, and be ready always to answer those who ask you the reason why you believe!

 

July 28, 2019

GOOD NEWS FOR HARD TIMES, PART 5
July 28, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Have you ever been in a position where you wished someone was watching out for you from the sidelines? Perhaps later you found out they were actually there, keeping a close eye on your needs! Can anyone share a memory?

Today, we are finishing our series, “Good News for Hard Times,” as we have looked at the way God has us in His care, always being watchful of our every need, especially during trials. In His sovereign protection, He is going before us, is with us, giving us strength, support, restoration, and whatever else we require. If only we can learn to trust that He is with us, the journey through this life becomes so much easier. His promises are the foundation beneath our feet, and the protection around our minds! He is truly everything we need to have victory.

Key Verse: 1 Peter 1:6 (NLT): “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.”

Focal Passages: 1 Peter 4:7-5:14; 1 John 4:4; Job 14:1; Romans 5:17.

Reality #5: Our suffering will never end

  • Read Job 14:1 and John 16:33. Why will tribulation in this world never end?
  • What is the reason we must endure suffering in this life? If Adam, walking and talking with God, could not withstand temptation, what should we learn about our own hearts?
  • Read Romans 5:17a. What triumphs over sin?

Response #5: Jesus gives the victory

  • What are some of the sufferings that Jesus goes through with us?
  • How did Jesus gain the victory over sin and death?

Be encouraged: God calls us to encourage

  • Read 1 Pet. 4:7-8. What does Peter warn believers of? How should we act regarding this warning?
  • What is our responsibility to others? What will the result be?
  • If we suffer God’s way, how will that help others? What does it do for us?

Be encouraged: Our suffering helps us to reach others

  • Read Matt. 28:19-20. How does suffering help us to carry out the Great Commission?
  • Read 1 Pet. 4: 9-11. How can we change the world through our suffering?
  • How do you know He will give you what you need to overcome?

Be encouraged: Joy is the result of our suffering

  • Read 1 Pet. 4:12-13. How can joy be the result of our suffering?
  • How can suffering make us more like Christ? How can it reveal His glory?

Be encouraged: God will never leave you

  • Read 1 Pet. 4:14-19. What is the last promise in these verses? How do you show you believe this promise?
  • How does the power of God deliver you during suffering?
  • What is the command in verse 19? What does it mean?

Be encouraged: We stand together

  • Read 1 Pet. 5:8-11. Who is “out to get” us? Will he ever stop in our lifetime?
  • What is the source of our strength? Who is the only One you can stand with?
  • What will your suffering result in eventually?

Close:

When is the last time you talked with a Christian and came away feeling that you had just met someone who spends their life in a close walking, talking relationship with Jesus Christ? Those people are so rare, but to meet one is to find yourself awestruck as you realize the untold wealth there is in a close bond with the Lord and Savior of their life. Were you to spend much time in the company of that Christian, you might be surprised to learn their life has been full of suffering!

The cycle that is put in place in their life is the one we’ve been focusing on for the past few weeks: suffering, which we all endure both now or in the future, and which should cause us to seek God and lean wholly on Him. We should seek Him not only for strength through the trial before us, but also for wisdom to handle the pain and suffering; for faith to believe that His promise to be with us every step of the way will result in a greater faith, and that our joy will increase when we trust Him. As you enter a new season of trials, you will learn to lean more and more on your God. Eventually, you will be able to be at peace while you are suffering, knowing that He is with you through every step, never leaving you. As your faith grows, your peace grows, and your joy becomes evident. When you are joyful, others can see that you, too, now have a relationship with Jesus Christ that radiates from you, and soon you will be a happy Christian who others can tell “has been with Christ!”

Suffering will always be with us. It can make or break our faith, as we learn to trust that Jesus loves us beyond any trial we can go through. Is that too much to believe? If you are struggling, cry out, as the apostles in Luke 17:4-6, “Lord, increase [my] faith!”

 

 

July 21, 2019

GOOD NEWS FOR HARD TIMES, PART 4
July 21, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Do you recall times in your childhood when you just had to know that one of your parents—or someone you trusted—was going to go through a difficult or scary situation with you? Why was that such a comfort?

We are continuing our series, “Good News For Hard Times,” as we look at the joy and comfort we get in knowing our God is going to be with us through any difficult circumstance we will face in this life. No one will be able to remove His protective presence from us, nor snatch us out of His hand! His promises are rock-solid, sufficient for all time, and He is all we need to endure the pain and suffering that the world, the flesh and the devil will throw at us.

Key Verse: 1 Peter 1:6 (NLT): “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.”

Focal Passages: 1 Peter 3:12-4:6; Heb. 4:14-16.

 

Discuss:

Reality #4: Worry is always a very real part of suffering.

  • No one’s life is exempt from suffering. What are some of the situations that happen, making us wake in the night, unable to sleep because of worry?
  • What is another emotion that comes in with the worry? Why do we fear?
  • What should we do to lessen the grip worry and fear manage to get on us?

Response #4: God’s protection is real.

  • Read 1 Pet. 3:12. How do we know that God’s promise is true?
  • What are some situations that have happened in your life, on which you can base your belief that God is with you?

Be encouraged: God protects your reputation.

  • Read verses 13-17. What are the promises in these verses? What are the “command” verbs in them?
  • How does God want you to live? What does a life of holiness result from?
  • God is concerned that you live righteously. What is one of the major factors in holy living? What are the two facets of forgiveness (read Matt. 6:12)?

Be encouraged: God protects your heart.

  • Who affects your heart? What are some lies your head can tell your heart? What can you do with these hurts?
  • What are some things the world can throw at us? Why can they not remove God’s protection?

Application:

  • God’s protection will always be there. Read Romans 8:35, 38-39. Why can His protection not be removed from you?
  • You can run to Him for help at any time! Read Heb. 4:14-16. How are we to approach God? How is this like the confidence you had in your folks as a child?

Be encouraged: God protects you from your past.

  • Read 1 John 1:9. Why is it so necessary to not let sin go unconfessed? How much wickedness does He cleanse us from when we repent?
  • What happens to our sinful past when we are made clean? Read Psalm 103:12. Are we condemned to live with our past choices?
  • What is the difference between forgiveness of our sins and the continuing consequences of our actions? Read Rom. 8:1. How can we be free from the filth of our past?

 

 

Close:

Living a life of faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, believing Him able to save your soul and one day to usher you into heaven, is great—and a necessary starting point! But there is so much more to a relationship with Him after you’ve established a life of faith. It is the difference between knowing someone for who they are, being the recipient of their generosity, but then becoming friends or brothers with them. Your relationship has taken on new dimension!

In this day of technology, we might purchase a computer that is the latest model. We can log on, interact with friends or family, upload games, movies or entertainment, and do a variety of actions that provide hours of enjoyment. But only when we get into the manual telling of the capabilities of the device, spending hours learning its potential, and studying its inner ability, do we grow in our awe of just how truly ‘marvelous’ the thing actually is! Our relationship with Jesus Christ begins when we hear the story of His life, and what He accomplished on the cross at Calvary. But the enormous wealth of relationship advances when we spend daily time in His word, devouring everything He has felt it necessary to tell us! Add to the study a quality prayer life, and your relationship will grow deeper and deeper, until you find yourself hungering and thirsting for His presence. As your faith grows, your knowledge of Him will increase, and it will become very real that He has committed His life to you, being there in the good times and bad, never leaving or forsaking you, always ready to supply wisdom when you need it, and comfort in abundance. Why would anyone desire to go through this life with the filth of the world staining their garments, when they can experience the joy and peace from the One who loves them more than they ever thought possible! We need to tell them.

 

 

April 28, 2019

Survive or Thrive
April 28, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

We often use words interchangeably, when they actually may have very different meanings. Can you give broad examples of the words “existing” and “living”?

We rejoiced last week that Jesus Christ rose from the grave three days after He was crucified and buried. We have a multitude of promises that He will return for us one day, and all who have trusted in Him will spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Meanwhile, we live in the world, knowing it is our temporary “home.” Are we merely surviving the days spent here, or are we thriving in joyous expectation of an abundant life now, while looking forward to a future in heaven? Let’s examine Scripture so you can make sure your faith is real.

Key Verse: John 10:10 “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Focal Passage: John 10:1-10.

 

Discuss:

Thriving begins with security

Protection:

  • Read John 10:1-10. As we set the stage for the scene that Jesus was using in these verses, will someone describe a “sheepfold” of that culture?
  • Read verses 1-3a again. Who would resort to climbing into the sheepfold by another means other than the door? Why? Who defended the door?
  • When the shepherd led his sheep into the sheepfold, what were some reasons they were secure?
  • With the safety of the wall, the gatekeeper, and the constant vigilance, what picture can you get of Jesus gathering His “sheep” into security?

Intimacy:

  • Read verses 3b-5. Why are the sheep willing to follow the shepherd?
  • What principles can believers understand in that they are like the sheep? Do you ever ponder that Jesus may call you by your name? Why or why not?
  • What are ways in which you get confident with knowing God as your protector, and intimately knowing His voice?
  • Read Psalm 119:11 and John 14:26. If you know the Scripture well, and desire above all to live godly, will you follow a false teacher or leader? Why not?
  • What is the relationship Jesus was giving that existed between the shepherd and the sheep?
  • If you have the security of protection and the intimacy of knowing you’re loved by God, how will you live your life?

 

Thriving grows from experiencing life as God intended

Life-Giver:

  • Read verses 9-10. Verse 10a goes back to which verse? Who is Jesus speaking of here? How do you avoid being caught in his snare?
  • How does that compare to verse 9, and the qualities of those who follow Jesus? How does He end verse 10b? What does abundant mean?
  • How do you get an abundant life, rather than just a day-to-day existence?

 

 

Close:

Jesus used parables (or sometimes metaphors or analogies) constantly in teaching the people. When the disciples asked Him why He did this, He explained it was not given to everyone to make the connection between what He was teaching and Him being the Messiah. Here in John 10, we have a metaphor—a story with a cultural meaning that the common folk could understand because they were familiar with sheepherding, sheepfolds, and the importance of everything involved.

For us in this day, it is quite similar to day care centers in our country. Parents or guardians understand the epidemic of abduction of children for trafficking and have had to implement rules and regulations regarding their children when placed in someone else’s care. Above all, the centers and parents want to be confident the child is safe. Entering or leaving a facility now involves safety concerns far beyond what parents would have believed possible a century ago.

The children themselves, if very many months old, recognize the voice of their parent or guardian and immediately, depending on age, squall or run when they hear the voice of the one they love. How close an analogy Christ presented, when He spoke this story!

What tender care the Shepherd gives! His first concern is that the sheep (we) are safe and in a protected area where they can rest and be secure. Their safety is guaranteed by the careful, watchful eye of the gatekeeper. When the sheep hear the voice of the Shepherd, they run to Him, following wherever He leads. Sometimes it’s in green pastures, sometimes by still waters, and sometimes in valleys deep. He always has His rod and His staff to guard and guide them, and never—even for a moment—lets them out of His care. We can thrive in this environment, knowing abundant life awaits us!

April 21, 2019

Easter Sunday – 2019
April 21, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Today, Easter Sunday, was a day filled with “the worst of times and the best of times,” to borrow a quote from Charles Dickens. If you were on social media today, or just in your ordinary life, can you give an example in either category?

Today is the day above all others that separates Christianity from any other religion in the world. We alone can point to the where Jesus Christ was buried on Friday evening, after dying from the crucifixion. We also are able to take you to that tomb, where on Sunday morning, the women went while it was still dark, and found the tomb empty, with angels proclaiming, “He is not here, for He is Risen, just as He said!” No other world leader ever walked out of a tomb under their own power and have hundreds of eyewitnesses to verify that He is alive!

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

Focal Passages: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 9-10; John 3:16-17; Philippians 1:21-24a.

 

Discuss:

WE HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR:

  • Read 1 Cor. 15:1-8. What was Paul’s reason in verses 1-2 in writing to these believers?
  • Verses 3-4 contain the truth which we proclaim. What do we call it? Why is it such “good news”?
  • In verses 5-8, how many people saw Jesus after His resurrection? If you had seen a loved one die and placed in a tomb, then over 500 people saw that person walking and talking, what would you think? Would you doubt the truth?
  • The entire gospel is contained and defended in these verses. Why is this so important?
  • Read John 3:16-17.
  • Read 1 Cor. 15:9-10. How do you imagine Paul’s attitude to be as he spoke these words?
  • Did Paul deserve God’s grace on his life? Why or why not?
  • Why is your journey so much like Paul’s? Was your life full of disobedience, dishonoring the commandments of God, but Jesus came to you anyway?
  • Why is the empty tomb a reminder that Jesus appears to us when we don’t deserve His presence? 

TO LIVE IS CHRIST, TO DIE IS GAIN

  • Read Phil. 1:21-24a. This was Paul’s innermost, truest feeling. How can you explain such a willingness to live or die for Christ? Is this how you feel or are you ready to be with Christ, “but not quite yet”?
  • What did he mean, in saying these words?

Close:

Each year, as Easter approaches, we look for something new to add to this two-thousand-year-old series of events. The beautiful thing is, there is nothing to add: it has all been done, it was finished two thousand years ago, and there is nothing that can be put on as an addendum.

What does change, year to year, is the number of lives who have been radically changed. This year there are some who people would never have imagined that they would ever be saved. Some lives were so far down that all friends had given up. Yet God reached down and extended His grace to some of them. Others whom neighbors thought to already be a believer, actually got saved—and are literally a new person! The stories continue. Lives are changed, marriages are saved, addictions are healed, and diseases are cured.

Does that mean you lacked faith because God did not change something you asked of Him? Not at all. We see only the little picture, almost like looking though binoculars, missing everything except the small thing we’re focusing on. God sees the big picture—the overall, the beginning from the end. We see in fragments, minuscule portions, and put them together like a puzzle—most of the time incorrectly.

No, there’s nothing new to add to the perfect story of Easter. Jesus Christ, as Paul wrote in our opening passage, came from heaven to earth, and died for our sins, just as the Scriptures foretold. He was buried, raised from the dead on the third day, (just as the Scriptures foretold), was seen by Peter, then by the twelve, then by more than 500 of His followers at one time, most of whom were still alive when Paul wrote to the Corinthians. Then He was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, He was seen by Paul. Hallelujah! What a Savior! Then, so important to us—He reached down while we were dead in our trespasses and sins, and made us alive with Him forever. Now, we’re waiting for Him to return for us. What a glorious ending!

April 14, 2019

Words Matter : Paid in Full
April 14, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Have you ever witnessed an attack that happened, unpremeditated, and (in your opinion), uncalled for? What did you do?

This is “holy week,” the week Jesus Christ rode a donkey into Jerusalem, had the last supper, was arrested by the Roman legions and taken before the rulers by the Sanhedrin. There He was judged guilty, beaten and crucified. We will be looking at all four gospels as we examine what Christ did for us, what He had the choice of doing, and how the words He spoke on that Friday made all the difference for us.

Key Verse: Luke 23:43: “And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’”

Focal Passages: Matthew 27:27-31, Mark 15:33-34, Luke 23:40-43, John 19:30.

 

Discuss:

Silenced:

  • Read the text in Matt. 27:27-31. What action words show what the soldiers did to Jesus?
  • How would you have reacted if a crowd treated you in this manner? Could you have been silent? What are some qualities it took (or would take) for someone to endure these actions without responding?
  • Being fully God, (as well as fully man), what are some things Jesus could have said or done that would have ended the situation immediately?
  • Who was He enduring this for?

Shunned:

  • Read Mark 15:33-34. When Christ cried out the words “Why have you forsaken me?” what had just happened, spiritually speaking?
  • Why would God have to turn His head away from looking at His only Son?
  • Why can we not be in God’s presence without the benefit of the righteousness of Jesus Christ?

Secure:

  • Read Luke 23:40-43. Think about the two thieves who were hanging on crosses on either side of Jesus. Who do they represent?
  • It’s strange—people don’t see the thieves as being the two types of people on earth: those who reject Him, and the ones who recognize Him as Savior and confess Him. What are some of the things that comfort us as we read the words of the thief and of Jesus’ response?
  • If His promise to the thief was that He would be with Him that day in Paradise, where does that leave those who believe there can be no salvation without baptism, or without works? Is it always possible to have one or both? What are some of those times?

Salvation:

  • Read John 19:30. What was finished, as Jesus died?
  • Read Col. 2:13-15. What was on His cross? Who was Paul writing to?

 

Close:

Often one overhears the remark, “Grandma, things were so different in your day! You just don’t understand us now!” Our experiences and wisdom are often thrown out with this statement. While young people may not understand it, things were not different in “our” day: there have always been only two classes of people: those who love Jesus and try to live their lives to please Him, and those who reject Him, following whatever false teacher makes them think themselves not in need of salvation from their sins.

Wherever you see people, you see the reason for the need of the cross. Without it, we would be dead in our sins, without a means of satisfying a God who transcends our thoughts, and who cannot look upon sin. Where would we be without a Savior? The old hymn says it best, “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!” Few—if any—of us would willingly go through the pain and suffering He endured to pay the payment needed for our sins, so how can we love Him with a shallow love?

Are we a Peter, denying Him when peers ask if we are Christ-followers? Are we a Saul, who stands by while we see Christians persecuted, caught up in the mob-mentality, and even agreeing with the violence going on? Are we a Demas, who couldn’t turn down the pleasures of the world and turned away from following Him? Or are we a Paul, who is willing to forget those things which we have done and are so ashamed of, knowing they were nailed to the cross, and lifting up our own crosses—whatever they may be—and following Him daily?

Easter will be here in a few days, and we have a choice: will we follow Him, or will we call out “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”?

March 31, 2019

Words Matter : Isn’t It Amazing?
March 31, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

There are many incidents that happen unexpectedly, and we often react by being stunned speechless or amazed beyond belief! Can you think of an example?

For centuries animal sacrifices were necessary for the Jews to attain forgiveness of sins. Is it any wonder then, that the crowds were drawn to the charismatic, compassionate personality of Jesus, as He brought a message of hope, joy, peace and love? The Jewish leaders who hated Him reminds us of the legalism in our own history, when only hymns were sung (some churches barring instruments), and clothes for church services had to be suits and ties, or hats, gloves and “Sunday” dress. As we have evolved into a more casual worship style, some still cry “Heathen!” But God the Savior draws people to Himself with love—no matter their skin, clothes or singing—and His love can’t be denied, nor ignored. Isn’t that amazing?!

Key Verses: Mark 1:22: “And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Focal Passages: Mark 1:21-28.

 

Discuss:

The Word of God Amazed:

  • Read Mark 1:22. Who was the “they” mentioned in this verse? Can you give examples of what Jesus taught that ran counter to the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees? (Matthew 5 and Matthew 23 have many examples).
  • How is that different from today, when educated men deny the existence of God, and the deity of Christ that is revealed in God’s word?
  • Read verse 27. Why was His authority so different from that of the scribes and Pharisees? What did He promise to His listeners?
  • Jesus had power the crowd had never witnessed; what was their reaction?

Can anyone share something miraculous He has done in your life, and it could only have happened by the power of God?

The Word of God Changed:

  • Read verses 23-26; what happened to the man who had the demon cast out of him? Can you think of other miracles Jesus performed that left someone with a changed life?
  • God has not changed throughout history. He still changes lives today! Can you share the testimony of someone you thought to be beyond the hope of salvation, only to see their new life in Christ?
  • How is it possible for people to sit in church Sunday after Sunday, hearing the word of God preached, yet never coming to salvation?

The Word of God Traveled:

  • Read verse 28. How was it possible for the news of Jesus’ fame to spread throughout the regions?
  • When people heard of the miracles, the teaching, the feeding of the thousands, and much more, what do you suppose they did?
  • Read Matt. 24:14. If you had lived in the days when Jesus spoke these words in Matthew, how would you have responded? Now how do you see it being fulfilled?
  • Rather than going to far countries, what would happen if everyone in your church prayed to reach just ONE person in your own community this year?

Take Away: How do we recapture the wonder and amazement of the Word of God?

  • Immerse yourself in it (i.e., READ IT!)
  • Trust the Words you read (i.e., BELIEVE IT!)
  • Tell others about the things you read (i.e., TELL IT!)

 

Close:

One of the beautiful hymns of the faith says “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love me—a sinner, condemned, unclean!”* This should be the theme song of every believer throughout the ages, that we, who were “DEAD, in trespasses and sins” were made alive together with Him (Eph. 2:4-10). Have you ever seen a dead person do anything? Yet we had death written all over us, mired in sinful flesh, and He made us alive in Him—as His own children. Isn’t that amazing??

Sometimes we hear a preacher or a televangelist, and something seems just a bit “off.” If we go home and search the scriptures, we will usually find where the problem comes in. That was what was happening with the crowds who followed Jesus, listening to His words of hope, love, joy and peace. Rather than the rituals they had lived under for so long, He was offering LIFE, and not just life, but life overflowing! His words were so full of authority that the woman at the well—who was blatantly immoral—ran back to her village of Samaria and the people flocked to Jesus to hear the words of hope for themselves! Isn’t that amazing??

We have our own story! We don’t have to tell someone else’s story, or the life of some wonderful missionary or preacher—just tell our own. We are not the same person we were ten or twenty or even fifty years ago. We have been made into new creatures, with plans and purposes fashioned for us by the Creator of the universe. Of all the things that could ever be, our own redemption story, which will result in eternal life in heaven, should be the most amazing experience of our lifetime! Is that still amazing you?

April 7, 2019

Words Matter : The Will of GOD
April 7, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Probably all of us have been through a time of tribulation that has saturated our being, causing us to call out to God to keep us from the pain, to change the outcome, to hear our prayer. Can you share a time?

As we near the celebration of Easter, we have been looking at the life of Jesus as He taught, healed, and ministered. Last week we looked at specific instances that irritated the Jewish leaders so badly they desired to have Him put to death. Today we are going to look at the anguish He suffered prior to His arrest and feel the hatred the Pharisees had for the Son of the living God.

Key Verse: Matthew 26:39: “He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

Focal Passage: Matthew 26:36-46.

 

Discuss:

Asking God to remove us from our present pain is okay:

  • Read the text in Matt. 26:36-46 that we might get a clear picture of the topic. What did Jesus tell Peter, James and John in verse 38? Has there been an instance where you have been crushed by grief, and wanted God to remove the situation? Were you later able to look back and see good come from it?
  • What were the disciples likely to have been thinking as they watched Him? Why did they not understand?
  • Read verse 39b. How did Jesus feel about His coming suffering? How was He able to place Himself under God’s authority to see it fulfilled?
  • Jesus had the power to have called “legions of angels” (Matt. 26:52-53) to have stopped the horrendous arrest and subsequent violence. Why did He not do this? Where would we be if He had not gone through with the crucifixion?

Complaining is not okay:

  • Has there been a huge challenge that God called you to do (perhaps, as an instance, taking care of an aged parent)? Although the weight of it crushed you, did you cry out to Him for strength, or did you bitterly complain because He let it come into your life? What is the difference?
  • Read verse 39c, Isaiah 52:14b and 53:4-7. Jesus, in His humanity, was about to be beaten beyond the appearance of a man. Why can we not comprehend this?
  • During a normal day, which do you believe of yourself: that you spend more time being grateful for your blessings, or complaining of what you lack?

To do the will of God requires dependence on God:

  • Read verse 41. What did Jesus tell the disciples (in our vernacular)? Where was His dependence? What was He trusting God to do?
  • By submitting to the will of the Father, what did He know to be the final outcome? Why is it so hard for us to trust God to see us safely through a testing?
  • Read 2 Corinthians 11:23b-27. What were some of the troubles Paul went through?
  • Read Acts 14:21-22. Why did Paul not allow the tribulations to stop him? Where was his strength? Where is your strength?

 

Close:

The woman was just past fifty, raised as a pastor’s daughter, and married at a young age to her White Knight. Children and thirty years of marriage did not dim the beauty of their relationship. They were completely devoted to each other and served the Lord in their local church.

When he was diagnosed with cancer, her world crumbled around her. No words of condolence, no messages of love, no gladness for his soul to be with his heavenly Father soothed the anguish. She did not want to wake up each morning and cried herself to sleep every night. Her children and grandchildren saw nothing except grief, and—unfortunately—bitterness that God had not answered her plea for saving his life, for providing a miracle, for healing him. She would be the first to tell you she hates God for not answering her prayers.

Three years later and the grief is as fresh as it was originally. Meanwhile, the grandchildren are in her care. What are they seeing? Are they understanding that Granny misses Grampy so much that she can hardly function? Probably not. They see and hear that God failed her in her time of need. They see she is suffering because God did not answer her prayers the way she thinks He should have. They see nothing about Him that draws their soft little hearts to the Father. He is not dependable, she complains. She doesn’t see her bitterness is defiling those delicate souls of the grandchildren. She doesn’t go to church, so they don’t go to church.

Are you in a position where you have complained about God’s answer to your prayers, rather than trusting Him to provide the strength you need to get through the days and nights, and you are letting your bitterness defile your family? In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul writes,” Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” Examine yourself daily to make certain you are trusting God for the testing you will go through. Trust Him to give you the strength, that you will not complain, but that you will cry out for His grace to get you through. It is the will of God that you trust Him!

March 17, 2019

The Impact of a Godly Man

March 17, 2019
Dr. Rick Rigsby

 

Open:

Sometimes a public speaker will emerge who is able to inspire something within most of the audience to reach for a higher goal than they have ever tried before. What are some encouragements that move you to stretch yourself out of your comfort zone?

Recently we have been looking at the characteristics of a godly man. We have learned that he must first and foremost love God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. His family must come next. Today we have a guest speaker who is known for his message of how a godly man can make a legacy of impact in his home and his community when he is sold out to God. We welcome Dr. Rick Rigsby to our church.

Key Verses: Deuteronomy 6:4-5: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Focal Passages: Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

 

Discuss:

Teach it in your home:

  • Read verse 7a. Where is the focus of the man who teaches the precepts of the Lord to his children? How far can the legacy reach?
  • Was this a commandment or a suggestion? What were the “words” that Moses was referring to?
  • What distractions do men today allow to come between their role of intentional teaching and procrastination leading to abandoning their role?

Model it in your neighborhood:

  • Read verse 7b-9. Where are some of the places you go when you walk during the day? Where are your thoughts during this time?
  • What three things—or situations–should you be looking for as you go through your day?
  • What do your neighbors see as you come and go? How do you conduct yourself?

Telling the truth:

  • What are two warning flags that are raised as you relate experiences and activities of your day? Why would lying, half-truths and exaggeration be those caution areas? Is there a difference?
  • Why is the truth so vitally important in all areas of your life?

 

 

Thinking the best of others:

  • Why do we want to assume the worst motives for the actions of others?
  • Why is it so vital to not judge someone, as opposed to evaluating them? What is the difference? Read Matt. 7:1-3. How do you close opportunities when you judge someone else?

Doing what we say we will do:

  • What does it mean to you to “give your word” even if you don’t vow it to be a promise? Read Matt. 5:37. What does God command you? Why?
  • How many times do you let work or distractions keep you from a promise made to your child to spend quality time with her/him?

Go. Teach. Baptize. Make Disciples:

  • It is often said that we will be able to take only one thing with us to heaven. What is that? Read Proverbs 11:30. Will you have anyone in heaven because you lived your life?
  • This was the last commandment Jesus gave; do you take it seriously or let the world and its busy-ness distract you?
  • How can you get so full on the world’s entertainment, food, lifestyle or “stuff” that you have no room left for Godly living? Explain.

 

Close:

Words typed in a study or a closing have no ability to convey the extreme passion and impact that comes from a speaker who knows—beyond a shadow of a doubt—that his message has the ability to change lives. If you have not taken the time to listen to the amazing sermon preached by Dr. Rick Rigsby, please do so. It can change your life.

Growing up in the home of a man whose heart was sold out completely to God, Rick was taught the value of the basics that have been almost forgotten in this millennium. His father, reared in the South when whites were taught to value a person based on their color, overlooked the failures and ignorance of that teaching, focusing rather on being the type of man who put God first in all situations. He was not bound by his color, his education, nor his flesh; rather, he let God’s word be the authority he lived by and reared his children to do the same.

May we all see how the impact of a godly man affects his children as they grow into adulthood. Godliness leaves a legacy that can last for generations.

 

March 10, 2019

Love In Action : Love and Lead like a Man
March 10, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Some folks can enter a room and within seconds be engaged in talking, encouraging, shaking hands, enjoying and loving the fellowship. Others can enter a room, and many will go out of their way to avoid crossing their path. What makes the difference? Can you give an example?

Recently we have looked at the awesome word “love,” as we try to view it with God’s eyes. We have looked at how to put it into action. “Love” is not a passive word that indicates we sit, watching tv or playing video games all day. It is an action word, as we interact with others, loving them enough to lead them to Jesus. Men, especially, are called to be leaders in this area, beginning with their families. Today we continue to see how God desires men to love and lead.

Key Verses: 1 Timothy 5:8: But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Focal Passages: 1 Kings 2:1-4; 1 Timothy 3:1-7.

 

Discuss:

Blameless:

  • Read 1 Tim. 3:1-7. Although Paul was writing to Timothy concerning the church, why is this applicable to all leaders? Does verse 5 underscore this?
  • In verse 2a, what does “blameless” mean to you?
  • Why does blameless not mean sinless?
  • What are the necessary steps to take immediately if sin enters your life by word, thought, or action?

Pure:

  • In verse 2b, what can be the modern translation for “husband of one wife”?
  • What are ways spouses must remain pure by taking special precautions in today’s world?
  • Read 1 Cor. 6:18. Everyone probably knows someone who is enslaved by some sexual sin. What are some ways you could suggest that might help?

Calm:

  • In verses 2 and 3, there are synonyms for calm; what are they? What are examples of calmness showing your family or co-workers that you have Christ living in you? What do some of these words mean to you personally?
  • Read Prov.17:14 and 20:3. How do these two verses reinforce God’s attitude toward being calm, rather than quarrelsome?
  • How do you avoid a quarrel, or avoid being combative?

 

Respectable:

  • Paul further admonishes men to be of “good behavior” and “not given to wine.” Does anyone recall Pastor Jonathan’s words regarding these verses?
  • In this day, when drinks of a non-alcoholic variety are readily available (as opposed to the water during the first several millennium), what are some reasons someone who is a Christ-follower would choose to drink alcohol?
  • If it is so unimportant in your life that you can quit any time, why don’t you?

Honest:

  • Paul says men are not to be greedy for money, nor covetous. How can a person be poor, yet be greedy? Why is covetousness a sin before God?
  • If you are always running after things (or money), how can you be running after God?

Godly:

  • Read verse 7. What do you consider to be a “good” testimony? You must have some idea of what others say about you—can you share any of what your testimony among your friends is like?
  • In the opening, what is the difference when someone enters a room, ready to love on the people, while others are consumed by their own problems?
  • How can you make being godly your greatest goal?

 

Close:

If you’re a wife in this study, you may be looking at all the areas where your husband falls short! That is not Paul’s reason to write these qualifications for a leader. Today’s churches have so many Bible Studies, Women’s Groups, Mom Ministries and more, that women are often leaders among the ladies of the church as well: they, too, need to meet these qualification as they teach and lead. However, the bigger issue is laid forth in 1 Tim. 3:5, where he instructs the men to lay aside leadership if they are not following the same godly role at home. So often men think nothing of having anger issues, long working hours, or satisfying addictions that are hidden behind closed doors, while showing up at church as Mr. Saint. Paul says, no! Lead at home, have your children in happy, obedient lifestyles, a wife who is fulfilled as the mother of the children and as your spouse, and if such is the case, leadership at church can follow.

The best we can desire is men who would have the hunger to follow Jesus wherever He leads, love their wives as Christ loved the church, and have loving children. Let your family know they are the most important thing in your life after God. It should be God first, family second, and the church and ministries after that. We often get it upside down, with church duties before family, possibly having church meetings almost every night, leaving the wife and children on their own. The successful husbands and fathers will tell you, by example or counsel, how to lead in the church.  Listen to them and let them help you to be a man of love and leadership!

 

March 3, 2019

Love In Action
March 3, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Sometimes projects or DIY items that need to be assembled seem like they should be easy! We look for the beginning logical steps, and soon find ourselves in a mess, needing instructions. Can anyone relate?

The past two weeks we have looked at the word “love” from God’s perspective and studied what it is—and what it is not. We have learned that God sees love as the highest priority for us who are called believers: love God, love your neighbor, and love your enemy. That may seem easy, but today we will see how to put love into action by taking the steps God’s word gives us.

Key Verses: 1 Corinthians 16:13-14: Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love. (NKJV)

 

Discuss:

Be Ready:

  • Read 1 Cor. 16:13a. What does God want us to watch for? The word watch can be translated “be on your guard.” Are you able to add additional situations that would compel you to be more watchful than you at first thought? Read 1 Pet. 5:8 and 2 Pet. 2:1. Were these possibilities mentioned?
  • What is the reason we should be watchful? How will that change the way you live your life in front of others?
  • Read 1 Thess. 5:6. What type of sleep does God mean? How does apathy or selfishness reflect a “sleepy” attitude?

Be Right

  • Read verse 13b. How do we “stand fast” in the faith?
  • If you have decided to follow Jesus, what are some of the mental disciplines or commitments that you are pledging your life to carry out?
  • Read Phil. 4:1. How do these two verses go hand in hand?

Be Tough

  • Read verse 13c. When we think of bravery or strength, it appears this context applies more to a man than to a woman, although there are many times a woman must be brave or strong as well! What are some possible situations when a man needs to be strong?
  • Does anyone recall the original meaning of the word “brave” as used in the text? Perhaps a quote from Matthew Henry would be helpful: “ Act the manly, firm, and resolved part: behave strenuously, in opposition to the bad men who would divide and corrupt you, those who would split you into factions or seduce you from the faith: be not terrified nor inveigled [lured, ensnared] by them; but show yourselves men in Christ, by your steadiness, by your sound judgment and firm resolution.’  Note, Christians should be manly and firm in all their contests with their enemies, in defending their faith, and maintaining their integrity. They should, in a special manner, be so in those points of faith that lie at the foundation of sound and practical religion, such as were attacked among the Corinthians: these must be maintained with solid judgment and strong resolution.” (Matthew Henry Commentary to the Corinthians.) Why do we want Christian men to step up to the plate and be godly in their leading and loving?
  • Read 2 Sam. 10:12. When a soldier fights, who is he fighting for?
  • How does today’s society portray men, husbands and fathers? If you accept yourself as the world sees you—either a bully or spineless—where will your family be when you are old?

Be Tender

  • Read verse 14. How will a genuine and godly love manifest itself in your life?
  • Read 1 Pet. 4:8. What are some things you can do as people cross your path during the day that will show them you truly care for—or love—them?

 

Close:

You’re probably just like the rest of us—you have heard people justifying their disgust with Christianity, saying it’s “just a bunch of dos and don’ts!” The more you read the Bible and learn God’s heart, the more you see, as Jesus said in Matthew 22:34-40, that love is the summation of all the rules: love the Lord with all your heart, and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. If you do these, you will be a person after God’s own heart.

That is so easy to say, and yet within minutes of committing ourselves to this lifestyle, we are besieged with attacks to make us lose the promise we have made. We almost immediately have a choice to react with love, or react with intolerance, anger, or any other response that would be the antithesis of what we know to be correct. Is it something outside of our ability? Not at all! God promises that the more scripture we commit to memory, the more it will prevent us from sinning (Psa.119:11). He also promises that if we are tempted to sin (in this case, to act outside of a loving response), He will make a way out—whether it’s biting our tongue, ignoring the provocation, or turning around and leaving (1 Cor. 10:13). We are also told we can do all things through His power, for He will give us strength (Phil. 4:13), which means we can react in love, no matter the vexation. Most of the time, it’s just easier to give in to the frustration we feel and react in like anger—but that is not God’s way. Man’s anger will never achieve the righteousness of God (Jas. 1:20), that righteousness that we should so desperately want to emulate. May we say with Job, “I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” (Job 23:12).

February 24, 2019

And the Greatest of these is Love – Part 2
February 24, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

If you had a situation in your life recently, that afterward you realized you had handled badly and would give “anything” to be able to do it over, join the crowd of others who had a similar experience. Can anyone share?

Last week we looked at the first part of 1 Corinthians 13, studying the passage to determine God’s definition of love. It is certainly not what the world or Hollywood would have us believe.  Today we’re going to study the remaining verses, looking at the true meaning of God’s expectation of our standard of love—for Him, our neighbor, and yes, even our enemies.

Focal Passage: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

 

Discuss:

Background:

Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Why will we not get to heaven by our works? Last week we looked at verses 3-4; what 2 positive qualities is love? What are the 3 qualities that love is not?

[Love] does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged:

  • Read 1 Cor. 13:5a. The NKJV says “does not seek its own.” What are some media examples telling us to look out for ourselves first? Why is this not God’s way? Why was the early 2000’s called the “Me First” generation?
  • Read 1 Cor. 10:24. Why is it so hard for us to put others first? How can we re-train our mind and hearts into putting others first?
  • Read verse 5b. What does God want us to avoid? Read James 1:19-20. What are the three areas we should guard? What does it mean to be “quick to listen”; “slow to speak,” and “slow to anger”? What does anger do?
  • Read Proverbs 16:32 and 19:11. Why are we warned to keep our temper?
  • Read verse 5c. What is so deadly about remembering the wrongs someone has committed against you? Why is this the opposite of Jesus’ life?
  • What is the ultimate result of unforgiveness? Read Matthew 6:14-15. What does God desire for us?

[Love] does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out:

  • Read verse 6. Can you think of a time when you were glad some tragedy caused an enemy to fall? (Answer in your heart). Have you grown since then?
  • Does anyone recall the sin Paul addressed to the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 5, and the subsequent words he had to say to them in 2 Cor. 2? (Paraphrase to tell the story). What was the issue with the original sin, and the later actions of the church? Read Gal. 6:1. What should we do when someone falls?

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance:

  • Read 1 Cor. 13:7. The original word indicates an umbrella, roof, or covering. What does this make you think of, especially in marriage? Are the wives under the umbrella of protection of the husband? Is 1 Pet. 4:8 an analogy?
  • True love—unconditional love—never loses faith. Does that mean wisdom is disregarded? How do you balance these while exercising prudence?

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love (NKJV):

  • Read verse 13. Why will we no longer need faith or hope upon death?
  • Read 1 John 4:8. Will love remain with us through eternity? Why?

 

Close:

What an amazing series of definitions God gives us as to what genuine “agape” love is, and what it is not! Would that we could memorize them, and immediately be transformed. Yet, if we submerge our hearts in God’s word daily, over time a transformation will take place. Gradually our lives will take on the lessons, commandments, rebukes, and rewards that come by diligent study of His word. Let us never strive to be any less than He desires!

We see the epitome—the mountain top—of the love of God in these verses. Yet we want to use the wisdom God gives in making certain that learning these principles does not nullify common sense. As Pastor Falwell emphasized, anyone in an abusive situation/relationship is not required to remain in order to justify love “enduring all things, never giving up” etc. It is with love that you get yourself or any children out of the circumstance, continuing in prayer to lift the abuser to the throne of God, hoping for their heart and life to be changed by God, whether or not you ever see them again. Please understand that.

Love is the key to saving this world. We cannot control the world. However, by God’s grace, we can control the reaction we have in our heart, and the closer we draw to God, the closer He will be drawing to us (Jas. 4:8) This world is our training ground for love. We grab hold of it, nurture it, and give it to others—both those who deserve it and those who don’t. It will grow and expand and can be expressed in so many different ways as to defy description! It is the best example of Jesus’ life that we can imitate. Let us begin immediately to love God, our neighbor, and our enemy!

KEY VERSE: And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”   1 Cor. 13:13.

February 17, 2019

And the Greatest of these is Love – Part 1
February 17, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

The world, Hollywood, and movies or TV are all trying to re-define “love” to be consistent with whatever they are seeking to justify in any given set of circumstances. How would you define love? Does your definition differ than you would have described it many years ago?

Recently we’ve been looking at God’s plan for our lives as we seek to obey Him in love. If we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and spirit, and love our neighbor more than we love ourselves, we certainly need to understand what God means by “love.” Today we’re going to hear the first part of a 2-part sermon on love, examining 1 Corinthians 13, inspecting each word to see what God expects from us, and how we are to represent it.

Focal Passage: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.

 

Discuss:

Love is patient and kind:

  • Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 and Matthew 7: 21-23. What is the common thread between these two passages? What is lacking in both? What does this teach us?
  • Read 1 Cor. 13:4. What relationships are you to be patient and kind in?

Give the group time to answer. Did anyone list “enemies”? Why should it have been listed?

  • Why do most of us struggle to be patient and kind? Can they be separated? Why do they act as a team? Will someone give an example?
  • What is the biggest attribute that patience requires? What was the meaning of the original language when it referred to patience? How is that different from the meaning today?
  • Read James 2:15-16. What was lacking in the person who said, “Be warm and be filled!” and went on about his life? Was this kindness? Love?
  • How can one change an outcome by showing kindness? Most of us will say we want to be like Jesus Christ. As the crowds of ordinary people gathered around Him, what qualities did He always show?

Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude

  • What do you immediately see as a common thread underlying all four of these attitudes? Who are they all focused on? Where should our focus be?
  • How does jealousy (or envy) begin? How can you quench it when you first detect it? What is the best way to rid yourself of jealousy?
  • How can you detect pride within yourself? What should you do immediately?
  • How do you react when someone is out-and-out rude? How can you respond without being similarly rude?
  • Read Phil. 2:3-8. How are jealousy, boastfulness, pride or rudeness the opposite of what Jesus Christ was like?
  • Why are these four negative traits not to be tolerated in a Christ-follower?

 

Close:

Nearly everyone is familiar with the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians—mainly because we pull verses out to use them when someone in our relationships causes an offense! But God has given us some incredible “meat” to chew on with these qualities. Some should never be found in a mature Christian, others will be a work-in-progress until the day we draw our last breath.

Paul immediately lays out the walk of a Christian as being a heart-condition, rather than external works (which make men Pharisees). Activities done—even in the name of Jesus—without love, are nothing but “civil good,” able to be done by anyone. The same theme is in Matthew, as used in bullet 1. Works will always be seen by men, but the motivator that is acceptable to God is a heart full of love.

Once Paul starts down the road of defining love, there is no room for excuses or weak synonyms. Love IS…., and love is NOT. None of these are natural to our flesh: they are disciplined qualities that the soul sold out to God learns to use to bring Him glory and honor. There are probably few people reading this who can honestly say they are always patient and kind, but never (or seldom) jealous of others, boastful, proud or rude. Most of us fall at least once a day in any of these areas, and probably more often. We want to keep the pathway to     1 John 1:9 wide open, able to run to the Father’s arms and throw ourselves on His mercy and forgiveness, letting Him clean us up from the stains of the world, ready to return to the ministry He has given us. Make it a goal this year to learn the characteristics of love, putting them into practice where it is the hardest (your home? Your job?). Bringing God glory and enjoying Him forever is the first calling of a Christ-follower.

KEY VERSE: And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”   1 Cor. 13:13.

February 10, 2019

Say Yes : Time to Follow (part 2)
February 10, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Everyone knows politics and religion are not acceptable conversational subjects in most social gatherings, but have you considered “money” to be placed in that category as well? What opinion do you have about bringing up the subject of someone else’s income and spending?

Recently we’ve been looking at God’s plan for our lives, saying “yes” to Him as we seek to obey Him in love. Obviously, we must first begin by saying yes to His gift of salvation, as His death paid for our sins, and yes to make Him Lord of our lives. We grow in love for Him, studying His word to see what He wills for us. Last week we discussed taking the time to follow Him, making it a lifestyle. We saw it included going to church and growing in church. Today we will look at Part 2 of taking time to follow Christ in the local church body. Our entire being should be hungering and thirsting to know Him better and loving Him above all things.

Focal Passage: Matthew 4:18-22.

 

Discuss:

Give to the church:

Background: Before you toss this sermon aside because it addresses money, read Matt. 23:23c. What did Jesus say to the Pharisees? If you are uneasy when the sermon is on money within the church, circle the phrase in verse 23, then continue.

  • Read the key verse, John 14:15. How can you show you love God if you do not keep the commandments He gave you?
  • Read Matt. 23:23. How did Jesus upbraid the Pharisees for their miserly attitude? What are possible reasons people get defensive when the subject of tithing is brought up?
  • Read Matt. 6:19-21. What was Jesus speaking of in these verses? What is the most common reason that people get hostile about any topic? Have you ever talked with a person at church who tithes? Do they get angry when the sermon is on giving? Why not? (Could it be they love to give?)
  • What did Jesus say people spend money on? How would you conclude people are made uneasy about tithing because they feel guilty?
  • Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-9. In verse 7, answer in your heart if you fall into one of these two categories. What is the promise in verse 8? If God makes this promise and yet you withhold your tithe, how are you showing your lack of trust in God’s word? How should all people give? Why?
  • There are other “more important” (Matt. 23:23) things than tithing. What are they? How can we “give” those things to others—i.e., Justice, Mercy and Faith?

Go from the church:

  • Read Mark 10:42-45. What does Jesus desire for you in these verses?
  • What are some practical ways you can be a servant to others?
  • When you are interacting with someone, are you able to spot pride or arrogance in their attitude? How do you react? Why is God so opposed to pride? Why is it so important to go out to serve in humility?
  • Read John 15:12-17. In verse 16, how does Jesus say you will produce lasting fruit? Are YOU producing lasting fruit?

 

Close:

As Jesus addresses the Pharisees, calling them hypocrites, we see they were willing to grudgingly give of their tithes only because it served their own agenda. Now, two thousand years later, tithing is still a sensitive subject in the church. We can easily see that those who have the heart’s desire to live a life pleasing to the Lord are glad to give of their money, knowing it is needed by the church to function as a building (just as a home does), and as a means to further the work of the ministry within the community as well as the whole world. The third bullet point is important: most Christians who happily tithe and give to additional causes through the church are not angered by a sermon on money. They realize the importance of giving to the church, both for ministry and as a physical building. Only someone who gives grudgingly gets defensive about it. But have they ever sat down with one who tithes and asked how God has blessed them? Probably not. Most of those who tithe are always willing to share their testimony with anyone who asks, for it is God who gets the praise.

Malachi 3:8-12 says, “’Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me!’ But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ (10) ‘Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.’” God expects us to cheerfully keep the church functioning well and being generous with our giving. He promises abundant blessings if our hearts are right, if we are giving with a spirit of love, and happy to give back what He has first blessed us with. He promises the generous spirit will have lasting fruit! Do you trust Him enough to “test Him now in this” (vs 10)?

KEY VERSE: If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15

February 3, 2019

  Say Yes : Time to Follow (part 1)
February 3, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

How many times have you signed up for a class or seminar, only for the first week to come and you have a car problem; the second week, a virus has you down; the third week, a family member needs your help, and by the fourth week you barely give the night a second thought?

In reviewing our verse for this series, we are seeking God’s expectations when He said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” As we have seen in past weeks, loving God leaves a path as we go through our day: perhaps a smile, a word of praise or encouragement, an action for the good of a stranger, etc. These are examples of “fruit” when one seeks to do His will. Today we are going to look at the importance of the local church, and why we need to make our attend-ance, service and growth a priority that is never put on the shelf, never letting it become something to do “next week.” Great discipline and intentionality must be exercised in order to eventually grow where we are hungering and thirsting for the Living God.

Focal Passage: Matthew 4:18-22.

 

Discuss:

Go to church:

Background: Most unchurched people feel pastors can be stereotyped as always asking for money or pushing to add to their numbers. The truth is, God Himself instructed His people to worship Him through Old Testament temples and New Testament churches. Our study today is to show His will is for believers to serve and love Him and each other.

  • Read Matt. 4:18-22. This small nucleus is the original “setting apart” of men who would eventually change the world. The same calling is for us today, as we answer His call on our lives. What would be symbolic of “leaving our nets”?
  • Read Luke 4:16. How do you know that Jesus was always in “church” on the day of worship?
  • Read Matt. 18:20. What are some of the reasons we worship together? What are the reasons many people are apathetic about their attendance? What promise does Jesus make in this verse?
  • Read Heb. 10:25. What can Satan accomplish if he can get us isolated from other believers?
  • Read Acts 2:41-47 for a picture of the first NT church. What were their customs? In Acts 5, the story of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, is told. Can someone paraphrase what you know of it? What was so important about the early church’s purity? Why have we fallen away from that purity?

Grow in church:

Statistics: Statistics show an alarming trend among Christians today: only 36% attend church more than once a month. Those who consider themselves “faithful,” attend church 1.26-2.3 times per month. Less than 20% read their Bible daily, and only 1 out of 10 memorize 3 or more verses per year. The good news is that the church attendance among Gen Y and Gen Z is seeing a definite curve upward, perhaps due to the detached world of social media, leaving many needing real personal contact.

  • Read Matt. 5:6. How much time do you spend preparing for a normal work week or quality family time? How does this compare with the amount of time you spend in God’s word? What are ways you can grow as a Christian? What promise does this verse end with?
  • Read 2 Peter 1:5-8. What are the eight qualities a believer should strive to achieve? How does one succeed in acquiring them? What is the promise these verses end with? If you had these qualities, and saw the promised fruit, would you ever be satisfied to return to a life of mediocrity?
  • Read John 15:5. What is the promise in 15a? What is the warning in 15b?

 

Close:

It is a misnomer to believe that worship in its truest form can be a “habit.” To keep this treasure—your relationship with God—safe and alive, you must discipline yourself to be a vibrant part of a local church body as long as it is possible. Eventually you will find that the weeks you have to miss the fellowship of meeting together leaves a hungering that you find is satisfied only by getting back with your “family” as soon as possible. There is true encouragement and a love that exists among believers who love God with all their hearts and love their neighbors as much as they love themselves. Their walk will bear fruit, as we read above in 2 Peter.

Have you ever sat down and listed the benefits of being part of a local church body? It is almost every Sunday that one will hear another person state, “I don’t think I would have made it through this past year had it not been for my church family!” What a beautiful statement, and a wonderful witness and testimony of that local church. If your church is very large, you probably already realize that unity, friends, and those who hold you up in prayer normally comes from a smaller group, like Sunday School (by whatever name) or small groups who meet in homes.

Knowing the local church was ordained by God, that it is continually being built by Him, and that Satan cannot defeat it (Matt. 16:18) is enough reason to give it the preeminence it deserves. We know that we cannot be accepted by God because our parents loved the Lord with all their hearts—each person must accept Jesus Christ for himself. Have you made Him your Lord? If so, worship and meeting in your local church should be “a given” as much as the unwritten law that you’re going to your job each day! Your God deserves your “utmost, for His highest!” (Oswald Chambers).

KEY VERSE: If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15.

January 26, 2019

Say Yes : First and Foremost – LOVE!
January 26, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

In our humanity, we find it so easy to dislike those who are different from us! They may have a different stand politically, or antagonize us in ways that push every button we have. We also have a tendency to stereotype people, whether they be homeless, dirty, or needy in another way. What are some lessons you’ve learned about being quick to judge what you see, rather than finding out the truth?

Last week we began a series on following Christ, and the steps necessary to do life His way, not ours. Today we will again use the short verse in John 14:15, learning additional ways in which our life will reflect His desire for our walk, and giving us the opportunity to tell others of the amazing transformation in our lives as we do His will.

Key verse: John 14:15: “If you love Me, keep my commandments.” (NKJV)

 

Discuss:

Accept others…no matter what:

  • Read Matthew 22:34-40. What two groups had aligned themselves with each other in order to try to trick Jesus? These men traditionally taught more than 600 “laws.” What was Jesus’ answer to them and how do you think they reacted?
  • Read Matt. 22:43-44a. Jesus corrected some of their traditions with “love.” What was the first example He used that flew in the face of their teaching? What did He say would be the result of someone who loves their enemies?
  • Read Matt. 7:1,2. Why is it so easy to zero in on someone’s fault? Has it occurred to you that possibly you recognize it well because you, too, have that fault? Condemning someone for a problem is the opposite of what Jesus did/would do. What are some practical ways you can be intentional about loving your enemies?

Pray for others…always

  • Read Matt. 5:44b. Who are we told to pray for in this partial verse? Think of those who think differently from you, or take stands on social media that infuriates you. How can you pray for them? What are some requests you can make to God as you pray?
  • When Jesus was on the earth, going throughout Israel and surrounding towns, how did He treat those who hurt Him, persecuted Him, and eventually crucified Him? How does Matt. 5:45 end? What does that tell us?

Focus on you own journey as a way to help others on theirs

  • Read Matt. 7:3-5. What are different areas of our own Christian walk that we should concentrating on, so our time is not spent judging others? Why is it easier to see the issues, challenges, or problems that someone else has, other than our own?
  • Read Gal. 6:1-2. How does Jesus tell us to help others when we see a problem? How does this go against our human nature?

Forgive them

  • Read Matt. 18:21-22. What kind of impact will we have on someone who discerns that we do not like them? Why is it important that we love our enemies?
  • What happens to our hearts as we begin to forgive those who are our enemies? How is it possible to be more like Christ, than when we are forgiving those who hate us?

Tell them

  • Why is it important to live a life so that others can find nothing to gossip about you? What impact will you have on people when you tell them your own story? We often say—but it bears repeating time and again—the easiest way to witness to someone is to tell them of your life before Christ, and how He saved you and made you a new person!

 

Close:

A close study on the life of Christ will show you many things: how He answered people who hated Him, how He taught those who did not know Him but saw the type of person He was (and is), how He prayed through every situation—there are so many different aspects that we can model for ourselves, but do we take the time to do it? As you read your Bible this year, keep a notebook handy and write down the way Jesus reacted to people. He always put them first, even when He was hungry and exhausted. Do we do that? If we truly want to follow Him, we have to intimately know His lifestyle. What He said, how He forgave, how He loved, how He prayed—and most of all, what He desires from us. Would your life be transformed if you lived as He did? What if you went to the people this week who have hurt you, and said, “I forgive you, and I’m praying for you.” Would that change you or them? The greatest way to show others what Jesus has done for you is to go out into the world, and live your life in the same manner as Jesus lived His. Can you do that? That living could change where someone spends eternity.

January 20, 2019

 Say Yes : What Must I Do As I Follow Christ?
January 20, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Most people claim not to be influenced by the many commercials on public television, yet the jingles often stick in our minds! What do you think of when you hear “Just Do It!” or “Have it your way!” or “Double your pleasure, double your fun”? Are they all based on actions that gratify ourselves and not someone else? If you’re alone, write your answers in a notebook.

As we begin a new series on what we must do to follow Christ, it seems appropriate to begin with the Israelites, whom God chose to be His people, and the hardships they suffered as they learned to trust Him fully. History shows us the intimate details of their lives as they followed their own desires, repented, came back to God and eventually the cycle was repeated time after time. May we learn from their experiences, and faithfully follow Him, saying “Yes!” to His commandments.

Focal Passages: Deuteronomy 8:11-18; James 1:22-25.

 

Discuss:

Know His Word:

  • Read Deut. 8:11-18 to understand how seriously God takes His commandments for you to live a godly life. What stands out to you?
  • We must Read God’s Word! Read James 1:22a. What do you immediately notice about Deut. 8:11 and James 1:22a? Why is it not enough to just intellectually know God’s word?
  • Read Joshua 1:8a. A recent poll on those who reveal their Bible reading track record, show about 20% of churched Americans read their Bible daily, whether it’s a favorite passage, a regular time of systematic reading, or a familiar verse. How can a Christian grow without knowing God’s Word?
  • We must Think About It (Meditate on what we’ve read)! Read Josh. 1:8b. What are Joshua’s instructions and why?
  • We must Obey God’s Word! Read Josh. 1:8c and Jas. 1:22b. God did not change His will for you to observe and obey His word during the thousands of years from OT to NT; why is it still His will that His words be obeyed?

Know His Way:

  • Read Jas. 1:22c-25. This may seem a little hard to understand. A quick analogy is the amount of time some women spend “putting on their face,” in the morning. It takes much time to get everything perfect, but when she leaves the mirror, she is confident she looks her best. During the day, her thoughts may go back to her appearance, always knowing she still looks well. How does that illustrate the difference in the verse in James?
  • Read Josh. 1:8b-9. To be confident you are carrying in your heart the words you read in Scripture, you must know it intimately. How can you meditate on it as you go about your day?
  • Why are you told not to fear or be afraid?

Respond:

  • Read John 14:15. How does this line up with the verses you read previously? If you give your spouse or family the same amount of time you give the Lord (prayer, Bible reading, meditating) during most days, would you make them happy? Why or why not?
  • Read Eph. 2:8-10. In your heart, do you think the good works you do will get you into heaven? Explain your answer. If they do, would you be able to boast? Read Matthew 7:21-23. Were these people boasting about what they had done for Christ? How did Christ reply?
  • Where do “good works” come from? How is that like the fruit of a tree that bears because it has a good root system and plenty of water?

 

Close:

Everyone who is a regular attender at church knows in his heart that he needs to be reading God’s word. Satan uses the busyness of our schedules to thwart that need, creating time constraints that cause us to plan a time to read but somehow it seldom comes about unless we are disciplined and intentional. It is setting aside part of your morning or day when you get alone with God and absorb the “marching orders” He has given for us to be good soldiers through this life of land mines. They lurk on every corner, from the flirtatious wink of a co-worker to the pornography available at our fingertips on the internet.

If we, indeed, have a passion for following Christ, we may get slightly off-kilter by the term meditate. Have you ever considered how like a cow our mind can be? One of the very unique animals created by God, a cow has four stomachs: as she takes in food or pieces of potential problems, the grass, hay or food goes into the first stomach. During the digestive hours (up to 72!), the cow will burp up the food, chew on it some more, where it eventually goes into the 2nd stomach. There it is separated from the bad that can hurt the cow (bits of metal, wire, etc), then on to the 3rd stomach, and eventually reaches the 4th, where the digestion is finished and the cow produces clean, white, healthy milk! So it should be with us: God’s Word—even one verse—can be ingested into our soul, where, during the day, we can think on a word or phrase. Any garbage that is exposed can be purified out, and eventually the Word will do a work in our heart. How wonderful is that?

The Scripture has all that we need to run a household of faith, have a functional family that is sold out to Christ, and live blessed, peaceful lives (2 Peter 1:2-4). When we are in the Word of God daily, letting it saturate our soul and spirit, applying it to our actions, and putting into practice the principles God has given us, the overflow spreads to our family unit, our friends and our acquaintances. Why should we walk in a defeated, downtrodden path, when He has given us a path of Life (Psalm 16:11)? Let us walk in His light, teach it to our children or those closest to us, and spread love as we obey Him!

KEY VERSE: If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15.

January 13, 2019

 The Bible by Jesus
January 13, 2019
Dr. Elmer Towns

 

Open:

Did you ever read a book and wish you could have the author there walking you through the narrative? Imagine reading about someone’s life and having that person sitting right beside you! Who would you choose? Why?

Today we will look at the Bible from the perspective with Jesus as the narrator. Try to think in terms of Jesus relating events in the first person. Dr. Towns in his new book “The Bible by Jesus” says that narration  of the“23rd Psalm could start out something like “I am your shepherd who takes care of your needs. I will lead you into green meadows of life where you can rest by peaceful waters. I will restore your inner strength.”

 

 

Discuss:

Results of Christ talking through the scriptures

  • Listen to learn from Jesus. If you were the two whom Jesus met on the road to Emmaus, how would you relate the experience? Will someone in the group volunteer to do this?
  • The Bible motivates you to follow Jesus – Mark 1:17. Imagine Jesus explaining “As I walked by the sea of Galilee I saw fishermen… come be My disciples. I’ll make you fishers of men”. If Christ Himself said that to you, what would you do?
  • Jesus explains the scriptures to you. What would it be like to have Christ say “Then I began with Moses and taught My way through the prophets and explained to them all the passages in the scriptures about Myself. “(Luke 24:27). Would that change your perspective? What was it like for the two disciples? (Luke 24:32). Discuss how you would feel.
  • Jesus moves you to dedicate your heart and body. “Dedicate your body to My Father as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Him. This is the first and best spiritual worship you can give, Let me transform your thinking” (Romans 12:1-2).
  • Jesus convicts you to see sin in your life and repent. Have you ever heard someone point out the wrongdoing of another, and you know that the one doing the pointing has so much wrong with their own life? Have you ever done that? What would it be like to have Jesus look at you and say ”If you haven’t committed sin, go ahead and accuse” like he did in John 8:6-9. Discuss
  • Jesus converts. In John 5:39-40, Christ speaks of searching the scriptures and that in them those listening THINK they have eternal life, but they don’t because they are not willing to come to Christ as the only one who holds the key to eternal life. What are some common misconceptions as to how one gets to spend eternity with Christ? What is the ONLY way for that to happen? See John 14:6 to know Jesus says about this.
  • Jesus teaches us how to pray. In Matt 7:7-8, He tells us to ask in prayer and it will be given to us. The rest of that passage through VS 12 talks about receiving. There is more to consider in James 4:2,3. Often we do not receive because we don’t ask. How much time do you spend daily in meaningful prayer (do not include meal-time prayer?
  • Jesus tells us He wants a relationship with us. In Luke 10:39-42, Jesus talks about Mary having chosen spending time with Him as being the good part. Discuss this in your group. Are things distracting you from spending the “good part” of your day with Christ?
  • Seeing Jesus moves us to worship. Read Rev 5:6-7, 11-14, When should we worship?

 

 

Close:

There are many passages in the Bible where Jesus is speaking in the first person. In those areas where he isn’t, try to picture what it would be like if he is. It will transform your life by making it more personal to you instead of reading the scriptures as though it were third person only.

Let God speak to you through this experiment. He is the Author. He has promised to give understanding if you ask for it, and He will be pleased to see you are trying to comprehend His Word in different ways. Use what you learn to change your life in such a way that God will use you to reach out to others.

 

January 6, 2019

 Letting Go, Moving On
January 6, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Everyone messes up! Mistakes made in the past are very hard to forget, and it takes a strong person to move on after a life-altering choice. We can ruin our lives wishing we could live certain times over again, but to put a bad event behind us is necessary for mental health. Can someone share a memory?

This past year has been a season when we’ve been constantly encouraged to make Christ the priority in our lives, grow daily in Scripture, and live godly lives. Now it’s time to look back to see if those messages bore fruit. At the same time, we have the opportunity to put past failures behind us and start with a clean slate in a new year. We will look at the great apostle Paul and learn life lessons of “keeping on keeping on” past adversity.

 

Discuss:

Recognize the pain and failures of the past are not the description of our future:

  • Read Philippians 3:7. The NLT quotes Paul as saying the things that were important to him at one time are now worthless. Can you share some things you have done in the past that are now meaningless because of what Christ has done, and that what is really important is Christ?
  • That verse also tells us we are to forget the past and look forward to what lies ahead. It’s easier said than done. Among your group discuss the difficulty of doing this.
  • Read Genesis 50:14-21. This passage is the perfect biblical example for pastor Jonathan’s message today on letting go of the past and moving on to the future. What were Josephs brothers afraid of? Would someone be willing to share a fear of something in their past they carried for a long time they felt would follow them for all their life? We cannot allow our past to keep us fearful and shape our future. Discuss that we cannot change our past.

Take the right steps …. Seek forgiveness:

  • What are Joseph’s brothers doing in Vs 16-17a? The same steps they took are the same steps we must take for salvation. What two things did the brothers do? These are the same steps we must take with others. Why is this hard?

Respond the right way… forgive

  • When it is reversed and we are the ones being asked to forgive, what must we do? Discuss how hard it is to ask someone for forgiveness.
  • In vs 17b, why do you suppose Joseph reacted the way he did?

Know that the job of judge is not ours

  • In vs 19b Joseph asks an important question. Discuss the question and its effect? A judge in our judicial has an important and weighty duty to perform once someone has been declared guilty. What is it? Do we sometimes try to mete out punishment on someone who has wronged us? In Romans 12:19 it tells us to let God handle the punishment. Talk about why we should do that.

Know that the job of peacemakers is ours

  • Vs 21b tells us Joseph reassured his brothers by speaking kindly to them. He forgave them then proved it by offering to move on. Discuss how this corresponds to God’s forgiveness of ourselves.

 

 

Close:

As we look forward to 2019, it is imperative that we put things behind us that we cannot change. We never find joy by continuing in strife. The solution to strife is to pray about it, pursue resolutions, and be persistent to pray about those conflicts. We will have freedom that comes as a result. For 2019 let’s keep the focus we discussed last week:

  • Stay in God’s Word – read and study His Word daily
  • Talk to Him daily – a strong prayer life is the only way to keep the line of communication open with God
  • Keep a journal of what you’re learning, reading, and praying about
  • Read books, stories, articles about faithful followers of Christ
  • Connect with others in the journey to remain to remain accountable – Christians were not meant to live in isolation
  • Prioritize your faith walk over EVERYTHING else – this includes a commitment to regular, intentional worship services.
  • Don’t quit
    • If you get behind in your devotions and bible reading, you can catch up
    • Falling behind yesterday is not an excuse for today

Doing these things will change the way you live and feel. It will change everything,

 

December 23, 2018

 For Unto You… A Savior
December 23, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

This time of year brings a huge roll of emotions for everyone! Whether it’s gifts to buy and give, a loved one missing at the table, health crises, or a multitude of possibilities, everything seems to be magnified or take on extra anxiety at this season. Can you share what causes you stress?
We have spent much time in the Old Testament over the past few weeks, looking at prophecies that foretold the Messiah. We determined that Jesus Christ, who came to the earth as “God with us,” fulfilled all prophecies that told of a coming Savior. Today we’re going to be in Luke 1, where the scene unfolds in Jerusalem, as the story of John the Baptist is narrated.

 

Discuss:

God Visited:

  • To set the background for today’s study, someone please read Luke 1:5-25, and someone else read verses 57-66. Because this story sets the stage for the appearance of Jesus Christ, it never grows old. Someone else read our passage for today, verses 67-79.
  • What does Zechariah prophecy in verse 68a? What had he just experienced firsthand? (Who had been in his home for three months?)
  • What was the meaning of the Greek word used for visited? Read 2 Chron. 16:9a for a help as to the reality of God “visiting” man. What is His watchfulness like? Read Psa. 121:3-4. How do we know God watches us?

God Redeemed:

  • Read Luke 1:68b. What did Zechariah say God would do besides visit His people?
  • Why was He going to provide salvation for the world? What is the saying we hear often: “He paid a debt….”? Could you have done this with your child?
    Just as He Promised:
  • Read verses 69-70. Can you think of any OT scriptures we read recently that foretold Jesus’ birth? What was the first promise that gave man hope that a Savior would eventually come?
  • Read verses 71-73. In verse 71, what does God promise us? What kind of enemies do we have? Are we the target of hate in this era? How?
  • Who were the promises of the sacred covenants made to (vs. 73)? How would Jesus fulfill those?

So We Can Serve:

  • Read verses 74-75. What type of service does God have in mind for us?
  • Read Matt. 11:29-30. Does anyone have experience with a team yoked together? Who was put on the inside? If we are yoked together with Jesus, what does He promise us? If His yoke is easy, and our burden light, what type of service—yoked together with Him—does that indicate?
  • What is the best way we can serve Him?

So We Can Share:

  • Read verses 76-77. What does Zechariah say John would do? What would he tell the people?
  • John was going ahead of Jesus, preparing the hearts of the people to be receptive to salvation. How is that like the Secret Service preparing the way of our President when he is going to visit a state or city?

For the World to Have Hope:

  • Read verses 78-79. What are the final promises Zechariah expounds to those around him as he finishes his prophecy?
  • How many people this Christmas season do you know who have no hope? Do names immediately come to your mind? How can you give them the greatest hope in the world?

 

Close:

Like other stories of great people of faith in the Scripture, the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth is one we never tire of reading. Imagine the years they longed for a child—especially in a culture where the importance of the family was based on the number of one’s sons. In various places through the Bible we are told of barren women who felt shame or condemnation because of their childlessness. Yet had John been born earlier, he could not have been the forerunner to the Messiah. It was necessary, even during the years Elizabeth grieved for a child, that she trust God that His will was working for her good. As she and Zechariah spent three months with Mary in their home during Mary’s first trimester, pregnant with Jesus, you can imagine them sitting near the fire at night, with Mary and Elizabeth talking over and over of the visit by Gabriel to Mary. Zechariah, who knew how to write (vs 63), probably penned his own story of the angel’s visit inside the Holy of Holies. What joy and gladness they must have anticipated! Perhaps they invited others into their home, sharing their happiness.
So it is with us: we have had just as miraculous a beginning, being dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), when Jesus quickened our spirits and made us alive together with Him (Eph. 2:4-6)! What a story to share with the world, we who have been dead and now will live for eternity!

KEY VERSE: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6.

 

December 30, 2018

 The Final Word
December 30, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Everyone messes up! Mistakes made in the past are very hard to forget, and it takes a strong person to move on after a life-altering choice. We can ruin our lives wishing we could live certain times over again, but to put a bad event behind us is necessary for mental health. Can someone share a memory?

This past year has been a season when we’ve been constantly encouraged to make Christ the priority in our lives, grow daily in Scripture, and live godly lives. Now it’s time to look back to see if those messages bore fruit. At the same time, we have the opportunity to put past failures behind us and start with a clean slate in a new year. We will look at the great apostle Paul and learn life lessons of “keeping on keeping on” past adversity.

 

 

Discuss:

Nobody’s Perfect:

  • Read Philippians 3:12a. Even the great apostle Paul indicated elsewhere that there were periods of his life he would like to do over. Can you share a time when you thought you were right, and wouldn’t listen to advice, only to learn later you were wrong? What did you learn from this?
  • Think of the people you know, whom you feel are “practically perfect in every way” and discuss why you think of them like this. God knows no one is perfect. Read Psa. 103:13-14. Why do you compare yourselves to others?
  • Read Romans 7:15-25. How did Paul say he struggled? How can you relate to the spiritual battles he fought? What can you learn from him?

Keep Trying:

  • Read verse 12b. How does this verse inspire us, when the going gets tough?
  • Read 2 Cor. 11:23-28. Have you suffered as Paul did? How was he able to keep going, through the perils he endured? How do yours compare with his?
  • What is the biggest reason you believe may be a factor in people giving up? How can you help them?

Let Go of What’s Behind:

  • Read verse 13a. Who is the great accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10)? Does he accuse you of your past?
  • No matter how much we agonize over past choices, most can’t be undone. What are some ways we can leave that baggage in the past and move on?
  • Can you think of scriptures that would help break the chains that bind us?

Look Forward to What’s Ahead:

  • Read verse 13b. How do we keep our focus on the years ahead, when we are able to serve Christ through whatever gifts He has given us?
  • The beginning of 2019 is upon us; what are some ways we can increase our joy in this new season of our lives?

Do What’s Needed:

  • Read verse 14. Have you ever run a race? Where do you keep your focus as you move ahead? How can you get there if you get sidetracked? What causes you to keep moving forward? Read Prov. 24:16. Does this help?
  • Share verses to memorize that will furnish strength when you are overcome by the weights you carry in this world? Read Matt. 11:28-30.Does Christ want to help you shoulder these burdens?

Take Away:

  • Stay in God’s word daily! Learn more of scripture each day this year.
  • Talk to God daily! How would your relationships be if limited to 30 sec. daily?
  • Keep a journal for your thoughts, lessons, prayers and growth.
  • Read books by people who have had victory in battles that you are facing.
  • Connect with others who can encourage you. Isolation kills spiritual growth!
  • Don’t quit! Don’t allow challenges to make you throw in the towel—victory is probably just around the corner.

 

 

Close:

Another year! It seems we just put last year’s Christmas decorations away, made our resolutions, and suddenly the stores begin putting up the tinsel again—and you realize a new year is coming fast. How does time pass so quickly? More importantly, has your spiritual growth shown an upward trend this past year? When you made those resolutions last year to be more faithful in church, Bible reading, and prayer, did it happen? If not, start again! There will always be challenges that Satan puts in our way, or hindrances to carrying out our mission, but it is with a new lease on life that we realize whatever is past is PAST. Let it go—it can’t be redone. If you need to ask forgiveness from someone, restore something to someone, do so, but don’t carry the baggage that causes your spirit to suffer and your joy to be suffocated. Christ has forgiven you—what better news could you have to start 2019? Go out, find a friend, and tell them your story. It may change the new year for someone you love!

KEY VERSE: Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” Philippians 3:12.

 

December 16, 2018

 For Unto You… Messiah
December 16, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

When is a time that you were supposed to be waiting for someone, perhaps a long-lost friend, relative or even someone else’s kin, and were stressed, afraid you would not recognize them at that moment of your responsibility? Can you share an example?

We have been looking at prophecies from the Old Testament concerning the Messiah and find that Jesus fulfilled all of those about the birth of the promised Savior. Today we are going to read passages that seem to contradict other scripture concerning His birth, but find both true. Jesus is without a doubt the Messiah who came into the world to take away the sins of those who would come to Him. We will also see that His lineage includes both Jews and Gentiles, and characters both good and bad—an inspiration to us all that God can use anyone, at any time, no matter the past sins we carry.

 

Discuss:

Messiah Will Be in the Line of David:

  • Read 2 Samuel 7:12-16. Whose seed was the Messiah to come from? How long would this promise endure?
  • Read Jeremiah 23:5-6. How did God reinforce His promise nearly 400 years later?

Messiah Will Not Be in the Line of Jehoiachin

  • Read Jeremiah 22:24-30. God was fed up with the sins of Jechoniah, king of Judah and David’s offspring through Solomon. Yet we know God does not make mistakes, nor does His word contain errors. What is the worldly issue (from the sermon) that people say indicates Jesus did not come from the line of David?
  • Comparing the lineage of Christ in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 shows discrepancies. Can someone explain where the blood lines separate, and where the truth lies?

Messiah Will Be in the Line of the Good [People]:

  • Look at Matthew 1. Who are some of the people listed in this lineage whose faith was great?
  • Look at Luke 3, beginning at verse 23. Whom do you see listed here, whose lives reflected a living faith in the One, True God?

Messiah Will Be in the Line of the Bad [People]:

  • Look again at both Matthew and Luke. Who are some you note whose history recorded in the Bible included sins that had to be dealt with?
  • Why do you suppose God permitted them to be in the Messianic line?

Messiah Can Use Anyone at Any Time to Change the World:

  • What had Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all done? What had Judah done?
  • What was Rahab’s profession? Whom did she marry? What was her relationship to David?
  • What, had David, “a man after God’s own heart,” done that was despicable?
  • What had Bathsheba done? Opinion only, but could she possibly have been aware, living next to the palace, that her display of nudity might be seen?
  • Solomon, the wisest man on earth, at the end of his life had become incredibly weak in the flesh. What were his sins?
  • ARE YOU ALLOWING HIM TO USE YOU, or are you spending much of your time beating yourself over the back for your past, thinking your sins have been so great that He cannot use you? Read that list again, if so!

 

 

 

Close:

The lineage of Jesus Christ does not leave room to doubt that He was a direct descendant of David, whether you read Matthew or Luke, or any option that might present itself. No one has ever lived except Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, who fulfills the 300+ prophecies of the Old Testament concerning Messiah. In the virgin Birth alone, not one woman who has “not known a man” has ever conceived and bore a son (although certainly many girls have probably tried that tactic to avoid punishment!) For one man to fulfill even a few of them is not possible. We can not get sidetracked into a worldly argument that Jesus was only a “good man.” His fulfillment is so far beyond miraculous as to fill us with awe and wonder.

It is a conundrum that we take the genealogy in Matthew 1 and in Luke 3 both to be true, but separating at the sons of David, Nathan and Solomon. When faced with something we can’t understand from scripture, it is well to go the earlier Church fathers. Here is a direct quote from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Luke, Chapter 3, verses 23-38:

The difference between the two evangelists in the genealogy of Christ has been a stumbling-block to infidels that cavil at the word, but such a one as has been removed by the labors of learned men, both in the early ages of the church and in latter times, to which we refer ourselves. Matthew draws the pedigree from Solomon, whose natural line ending in Jechoniah, the legal right was transferred to Salathiel, who was of the house of Nathan, another son of David, which line Luke here pursues, and so leaves out all the kings of Judah. It is well for us that our salvation doth not depend upon our being able to solve all these difficulties, nor is the divine authority of the gospels at all weakened by them; for the evangelists are not supposed to write these genealogies either of their own knowledge or by divine inspiration, but to have copied them out of the authentic records of the genealogies among the Jews, the heralds’ books, which therefore they were obliged to follow; and in them they found the pedigree of Jacob, the father of Joseph, to be as it is set down in Matthew; and the pedigree of Heli, the father of Mary, to be as it is set down here in Luke. And this is the meaning of hos enomizeto (Luke 3:23), not, as it was supposed, referring only to Joseph, but uti sancitum est lege—as it is entered into the books, as we find it upon record; by which is appeared that Jesus was both by father and mother’s side the Son of David, witness this extract out of their own records, which any one might at that time have liberty to compare with the original, and further the evangelists needed not to go; nay, had they varied from that, they had not gained their point. Its not being contradicted at that time is satisfaction enough to us now that it is a true copy, as it is further worthy of observation, that, when those records of the Jewish genealogies had continued thirty or forty years after these extracts out of them, long enough to justify the evangelists therein, they were all lost and destroyed with the Jewish state and nation; for now there was no more occasion for them.

KEY VERSE: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6.

 

December 9, 2018

 For Unto You… Righteousness
December 9, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Knowing an up-coming event is going to happen can keep one in joyful anticipation! All of us look forward to special occasions that occur as a rarity. Can you think of something you were anxious to see finally come to fruition—and the enjoyment was amazing?

Last week we looked at the Old Testament, focusing on some of the many prophecies that Jesus Christ fulfilled when He left heaven, coming to earth in the form of a tiny baby, born in a stable. He was the Enemy of Satan, the coming Blessing, Ruler, Presence and Hope for the world. Today we look at the response we should have to His coming, and how it impacts our lives.

 

Discuss:

A Call to Righteousness:

  • Read Jeremiah 23:5-6 and Zechariah 3:8. Who is Jeremiah quoting in these verses, who was going to raise up the Branch? Why is He called a “Branch”?
  • What was He going to do on the earth?
  • What is His name by which He is called? Read Isaiah 64:6. How can we sinners be righteous?
  • Where is the presence of God here on earth? How should His presence affect our actions?

A Call to a Higher Standard:

  • Read Colossians 3:5a. What does this command mean to the Christian living today?
  • Read Col. 3:17. How are we representing the Lord Jesus each day? Can our representation be a negative testimony? Will anyone want the relationship with God if they see us in church on Sunday, but living (speech, actions) as the world during the week?
  • Read 1 Cor. 10:31. What are some ways we can show Christ in our lives each day?
  • Why do you think Christians are finding it easier and easier to use profanity in daily conversation, or using God’s name carelessly (omg, etc)?

A Call to Point the Way:

  • Read Malachi 3:1-2. This was written about 400 years before Jesus was born. Who was Malachi referring to? Read John 1:6-9 and Matt. 3:1-6. How did Matthew and John describe John the Baptist?
  • How and where did John announce that Jesus was now among the people?
  • Read verse 2b once more. How was Jesus described? Read Job 23:10. How does He test and refine us?
  • When we tell someone our story of salvation, what is the major thing that they should notice about us? (2 Cor. 5:17).
  • John came into the world to fulfill the prophecy that the Messiah would have a forerunner. How did people miss this fulfilment?
  • We, as John, have a responsibility to point others to Jesus Christ. As the time draws closer for His return, will you have souls in heaven whom you have witnessed to? Read Prov. 11:30b to see God’s take on this!

 

 

Close:

The wonder of Christmas forever remains the same, no matter how much the world desires to take Christ out of the season. The story of the angels’ coming to Mary and Joseph, the trip to Bethlehem, and the birth of the Christ Child in the manger will never lose its appeal to anyone whose heart is open and willing to accept the glorious facts of the Gospel.

Can you imagine life without hope, without Someone who has the power to change your life, and save you from your sins? It would be a dismal existence without Him. The millions of people around the world are waiting for someone like you to tell them there is a way to have their sins forgiven, and hope for a future. How can we turn down so great a responsibility? Have you imagined standing before God and seeing faces of those you’ve passed by, willing to let someone else witness to them? What if they spend eternity in hell because you did not go? We need to take the story of the gospel, preaching it to anyone who has open ears. Say with Isaiah, “Here am I, Lord, send me!”

KEY VERSE: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulders. And His Name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6.

 

December 2, 2018

 For Unto You… A Son is Given
December 2, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

There are probably not too many older adults who aren’t familiar with The Farmer’s Almanac or The Old Farmer’s Almanac, all studying predictions for weather, planting, moon cycles and more. Can anyone share a current use or a memory? Do you remember if most were correct?

We are now in the wonderful, awe-inspiring, Christmas season, counting down the days with our children or loved ones until December 25. We Christians will celebrate the gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who came into the world to save, through His death on the cross at Calvary, those who are spiritually lost. Today we will look at Old Testament prophecies for God’s promises of a Savior for mankind. When Jesus Christ was born, the OT prophecies regarding a coming Messiah had been fulfilled, which could only have been done by the true Son of God.

 

Discuss:

The Coming Enemy of Satan:

  • Read Genesis 3:15. Why is there a difference in the small letter “s” referring to Satan, and the capital “S” for the woman’s Seed? Who was the Seed?
  • How did this first prophecy of the coming of a Savior say He would give the serpent a mortal wound? How was this scripture fulfilled at the cross?
  • Read Isa. 53:10. What does this verse prophecy? How was it fulfilled?
  • Read Galatians 3:16 and John 3:16. In these promises, how was God’s plan for salvation to be through one means, and only one?

The Coming Blessing:

  • Read Gen. 22:18. Who was God talking to? How would all nations be blessed through the Jewish nation?
  • What does His blessing mean to you personally?
  • Read John 1:28-30. What did John mean when he said that the Lamb of God was “before him”?

The Coming Ruler:

  • Read Isaiah 9:6-7. This was written about 700 years before Jesus was born. After Isaiah prophesied this Messianic promise, what type of ruler did the people look for during those 700 years? What would you have looked for?
  • Read Numbers 22:14. How did this fulfill the prophecy by Isaiah?
  • What is a scepter?

The Coming Presence:

  • Read Isaiah 7:14. Someone describe the OT ritual of atonement for sins. What do you know about the functions of the High Priest? What type of relationship did the people have with God in Genesis-Malachi?
  • Read Matt. 1:18-23. Although they were told that Immanuel means “God with us,” why would it have been incredibly hard for the orthodox Jews to understand that He would indwell the hearts of His children?
  • Read Joshua 1:5 and Nehemiah 9:19. The nation of Israel had had reminders that God had been with them through the wilderness. How is that a reassurance that He will never leave nor forsake you, even when you are in some type of “wilderness”?

The Coming Hope:

  • Read Isaiah 11:1-5. What are the Spirits that would be upon the Messiah? Are             there any of those qualities that you have a problem with? Can you share and discuss?
  • Read Psa. 33:18 and Rom. 8:23-25. What can happen to you that you can’t find the answer for, in Jesus Christ? Is He your hope?

 

 

 

Close:

What comes to your mind when you hear that you who are saved are actually indwelt with the Spirit of God? Not only do you have Him as “God with [you]” but no matter your circumstances, your troubles, your pain, or even through death, He will never leave you nor forsake you! When He has made a promise, He will not break His word.

We have no idea how blessed we are to live with the Word of God, which we can pick up and read, study, research prophecies and commit to memory! The words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 13:17 helps us understand those OT times better as He said, “17 for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” We need to take this special time of ending 2018 to search our hearts for shallow faith, sin, or any other thing that needs to be repented of and put behind us. If you have loved ones who feel that Jesus was only a “good” person, sit down with them and show them the Old Testament scriptures that rightly predict the Messiah, and remind them there is no human possibility of fulfilling the amount of prophecies that Jesus Christ did, except through the life of the true Son of God (see Luke 24:27 or Luke 24:13-27). And now He has adopted us as His children, as we wait for the day when we will join Him in heaven. Hopefully, the mere thought excites you!

KEY VERSE: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6.

 

November 25, 2018

 Being Thankfull is Not Enough
November 25, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

With our thoughts recently centered on gratefulness, did you find any part of your life that you could not adequately express thanks for? For instance, maybe someone who’s spent years desiring a child and finally gives birth, and can hardly speak of that joy without crying! Can you share?

As Thanksgiving week winds to a close, we want to properly thank God for being the giver of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17). Some of His gifts, however, are so great as to fall outside our ability to thank Him enough. As we look at those gifts, we want to write their significance on our hearts, daily praising Him for what He has done, and how He has changed our lives.

 

Discuss:

God’s Love:

  • Read John 3:16-17, and personalize it in your own Bible. Can anyone share their testimony of salvation? How do you feel your love for Jesus compares today to what you felt the day you first accepted Christ as Savior?
  • Read Rom. 5:8. Can you share a recent moment when the reality of what Jesus did on the Cross made a new impact on your life? How can you keep the significance of that incredible act fresh, giving God praise daily for it?

God’s Power:

  • Read Col. 1:15-17. How powerful do you see God? By what method did He bring creation into being? How did Jesus do many of His miracles?
  • What does His power mean to you personally?
  • Read Heb. 2:9. How does it impact you that God the Son left the glory of heaven, came to earth as a human, fully man but fully God, and died on a cross to save you? Would you give your child to die for the sins of the world?
  • If He has the power to speak creation into being, to die for the sins of everyone who trusts in Him, what does that mean He can do with your problems?

God’s Healing:

  • Read John 3:14-15, again personalizing verse 15 with your name. Who does this verse say is able to be saved?
  • Read Num. 21:5-9. What was the sin of the Israelites? How did God intervene in order to provide a way of forgiveness? Do you think any of the people refused to look upon the serpent because it seemed “too easy”?
  • Does anyone recall the story of Naaman, the captain of the Syrian army who became a leper, and his servant girl? Paraphrase it for the group if you do, then read 2 Kings 5:10-14. How did the provision for Naaman’s healing differ from that in Num. 21? Why do we think healing should be hard for God?
  • Can you think of an area where you need God’s healing touch, but feel you are not worthy, or the “steps” given in counseling are too easy? Share only if you want.
  • God’s Gift:
  • Read John 1:29 and again, personalize the gift of salvation with your name. Do you struggle with thinking that belief in Jesus as God’s son, Who died for your sins so that you can be forgiven and become His follower, is too simple?
  • Read 1 John 2:2. The simplicity of the gospel is so applicable to all ages that children and adults, poor or rich, may understand and be saved. How can you keep from becoming complacent about the size of the cross? What does it mean to you?

 

Do you recognize the significance of the gift (read Rom. 5:12-21 at home)?

Have you received the gift? If not, what hinders you?

 

 

 

Close:

No matter the area of your life, the subject discussed, or the initial impact something has made on you, it is difficult to keep an attitude of joy about it day after day. Eventually, we find ourselves expecting the day to bring what it has been: whether a daily rose from a loving spouse, to a clean house with supper ready. Perhaps the gladness of a new baby might last longer, as he falls asleep in your arms, but one day when he’s starting down the road to independence your expectations might become less ecstatic. When you are contemplating the gifts of eternity, however, the wonder of the Cross should never become less than a constant delight. Realizing  the eternal impact it has on your life—you who are unworthy, sinful, and make a myriad of mistakes daily—should give you pause to stop and glorify God for His continued goodness to you! What would you be doing, and where would you spend eternity if He had not stepped to your “grave” and called you by name, out of your tomb, as He did Lazarus? “Even when [you] were dead in sins, [you] has He made alive with Christ!” (Eph. 2). Last week’s key verse is also powerful for today: “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” How appropriate for those things that mean the difference between life and death!

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

 

November 18, 2018

 Multiplied Blessings
November 18, 2018
Scott Bullman

 

Open:

Holiday traditions are often passed down from one generation to the next, and remembered  by the family for decades! Can you share something your family enjoys every year?

The week of Thanksgiving seems to kick off the season of family fun, parties, eating more than we should—and, of course, celebrating Christmas. In reality, Thanksgiving originally was a time set aside to thank God for the generous blessings received during the past year. Today Scott Bullman will encourage us to make this holiday not just a one day event, but a lifestyle of worship that is an everyday tradition.

 

 

Discuss:

A Lifestyle of Thanksgiving requires….

Awareness:

  • Read Psalm 50:23. It is easy to become oblivious to and take for granted so many daily blessings—like breathing. What are some of God’s gifts that we seldom think of as “blessings”?
  • Read Psa. 31:19 and 103:2. What can we do to help ourselves be more aware of God’s goodness to us?

 

ATTITUDE 

Contentment:

  • Read Phil. 4:6, 12-13. During different seasons in our lives, God blesses us in different ways. What did Paul learn in his years while serving Christ?
  • Have you found a way to be contented during your seasons? Would you like to share, to encourage others?

3 Enemies of Contentment:

Complaining:

  • Read 1 Thess. 5:16-18. What do you have control over?
  • How can you teach yourself to CHOOSE to praise and give thanks, over choosing to complain?

      Comparing:

  • On Social Media, everyone posts pictures that show them or their family at their best. What do you find yourself thinking as you see these postings? Do you conclude they are living a “happily ever after” life, and yours is going downhill? Why?
  • Why do we feel that God must be fair in dealing with His children?

      Coveting:

  • Read Eccl. 6:9 and Luke 12:15. What is coveting?
  • Why should we be aware of it in our lives?

 

ACTION

Giving:

  • Read 2 Cor. 9:6-8. Last week we talked about giving non-monetary gifts to others. Can you recall what some of those are?
  • John Calvin wrote, “All the blessings we enjoy are Divine deposits, committed to our trust on this condition, that they should be dispensed for the benefit of our neighbors.” Would someone paraphrase that significant sentence?

Serving:

  • Read Gal. 5:13-14. Why is it important that we learn to serve others?
  • What are some ways in which you can serve your neighbors?

Telling:

  • Read Psa. 107:1-2 and 1 Chron. 16:8. We are thrilled to tell about a new baby, new restaurant, etc. Why is it so important to tell your story to a lost and dying world?

Worship:

  • Read Psa. 100. We can sum up the importance of giving thanks by being grateful. Read Lam. 3:24. How can gratitude evolve into worship in your life?

 

 

 

Close:

Developing attitudes of gratitude, giving, and sharing should be qualities present in our lives every day of the year—not just at Thanksgiving. Scott told the story of a farmer who was discouraged with the work that went into his farm, and the unending care of his herds. He called a realtor to put it up for sale. When she called him to okay the sales description, he stopped cold. After having her read the ad one more time he remarked, “I’m changing my mind. I see now that what I’ve wanted for years is right here under my nose.” (Slight paraphrase). So often that is our focus: always looking for something better, rather than giving glory and praise to God for what He has given us already. May we be more aware of this daily, until our praise is a posture of worship.

KEY VERSE: “Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

 

November 11, 2018

Giving, Gaining, and Greed
November 11, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

What brings you the most joy? Is it giving a very essential item or gift to someone truly in need, giving a new toy to your child to add to his shelves of previous gifts, or receiving a gift to add to your own collections? Can anyone share?

We are entering the season of Giving. Whether it is the giving of Thanks, the giving of Christmas items for children in foreign countries, or the giving of ourselves to help others, these next few months will determine whether you desire to be a giver or a receiver. Most people will admit to desiring more “stuff,” but this is not Biblical. Today, we will talk about giving, gaining and greed.

Focal Passages: Jeremiah 22:13-16; Acts 20:35, 2 Cor. 8:9; Luke 14:12-14

 

 

Discuss:

“Having” (stuff) never leads to contentment:

  • Read Jer. 22:13-155a. The scripture records Jeremiah’s words to Jehoiakim, the king. What does God have against him?
  • How does this remind you of two other kings who were consumed with getting things, including adoration and worship? Read Dan. 4:29b-30 and Eccl. 2:10-11.
  • Thinking of your own home, does it reflect a lifestyle of spending to display it in pride, or is it a home where a family lives and loves? Can anyone share?
    • Has your pride in a beautiful home, new cars, or personal collections made you a better Christian? How can it be a stumbling block?

Giving is what brings joy:

  • Read Jer. 22:15b. What were the things about Josiah that God commended?
  • How were the two kings—Josiah and Jehoiakim—different?
  • What did you do in 2018 that gave you the most joy? How was someone helped by what you did? Can you share?

Giving is what brings you closer to Christ:

  • Read Jer. 22:16b. What was God referring to, regarding Josiah? Did it strengthen Josiah’s relationship with God to share what he had?
  • Why do we have a new appreciation of God when we share ourselves?
  • Why did God give you the resources you have?

Giving is what makes you more like Christ:

  • Read 2 Cor. 8:9. What were the riches of Christ throughout eternity past? What was His poverty when He came to the earth? What are the riches we receive from Him?
  • John 3:16 begins, “For God so loved the world that He GAVE”; so why does giving make us more like Christ?
  • What are some things we can give to others daily?

Giving is what leads to reward:

  • Read Luke 14:12-14. What was Christ telling us in this passage?
  • When is the last time you invited someone out to eat, to your home, or gave in some other fashion, when you knew they would not be able to repay you? Can you share?
  • Why would we get rewards in heaven for doing that which we should be doing?

 

 

Close:

Almost everyone has heard the famous response of John D. Rockefeller, considered to be the richest man in modern history, when asked how much money would be enough. His reply? “Just a little bit more.” Many of us live our lives desiring “just a little bit more,” and find it never satisfies. The truth is, we all love gifts. But do you love “getting” more than giving? What does your home witness about you? There is another truth Paul quoted Jesus as saying, in our Key Verse for the day, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” It might interest you to know that a foreign country, where Christianity is growing daily, considers America to be a country in need of prayer. Not prayer for our ungodliness, but beseeching God to take away our enormous wealth, as they see it as a huge obstacle to following Christ whole-heartedly.

Not everyone receives with genuine gratefulness: some feel the action tends to make them indebted to the giver. How sad! True generous giving is an essence of the Godhead. God’s greatest gift to the world, Jesus Christ, was the ultimate gift to pave the way for our eternal life. Christ gave His life, the most He could give, for us who are unworthy and could obtain salvation in no other way. The Holy Spirit gives gifts to men, comfort, conviction of sin, and so much more. Giving of ourselves—our time, our gifts (listening, counseling, meals, etc.) in times of pain, and our resources to bless others—transforms us, as Paul tells us in Romans 8:29-32, into the likeness of Christ. And he goes on to say, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Giving is beautiful, giving is Christ-like, and giving will bring rewards to throw at the feet of Jesus.

Key Verse: Acts 20:35: I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

 

November 4, 2018

Masquerade : A Final Word
November 4, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Can you be very vulnerable for a moment, and share an area in your life where you have a struggle being real—not wearing a mask to hide an insecurity? Will someone share?

Over the past weeks we’ve been given tools to remove those masks of pretense we tend to wear to show the world the person we would like to be. The person we really are, hopefully a follower of Christ, has now added deceit and dishonesty to continue the masquerade. This keeps us from being everything God created us to be. We have learned that freedom is available, hope that we can remove the mask and be ourselves, and find a freedom that is in Christ and Christ alone.

Focal Passages: Ephesians 6:10-20

 

Discuss:

A Final Word:

  • Read Eph. 6:10a. What does it really mean when you express thoughts, commands, or lessons, and end with “finally”?
  • How does this indicate the speaker or writer has given all the instructions necessary? Does anyone remember the meaning of “the rest of the whole”?

Be Strong:

  • Read 10b. How are we to be strong? Why does physical strength seldom get us through a heavy trial?
  • Read Psa. 20:7 and 103:14. Why is it not possible to be strong on our own?
  • Read 2 Cor. 6:14. Why is it not possible to keep a mask on while maintaining a close fellowship with our Father in heaven? Why can our human nature not handle trials without God’s help?

We Have Everything That We Need:

  • Read Eph. 6:11-13a. Where do you get your self-worth? Who does God say you are? What are some of the words He uses to describe you?
  • What would happen if our soldiers went to war in jeans, tee shirt and no weapon? (Ask yourself: Is that me daily?) How do we know God wants us to win the victory? What has He provided?
  • Read John 10:10. What is Satan’s first target? What does he want to steal? What does he want to kill? What does he want to destroy?
  • What is the only thing that keeps us from winning?

 

Stand Your Ground

  • Read Eph. 6:13b-14a. Do your children ever test you? What happens when you stand firm on the issue that is being challenged? What is the parallel?

Truth Matters

  • Read Eph. 6:14b. What is the belt of truth? Why did Paul use the picture of a warrior going into battle? How is that like us?

The Truth of the Truth

  • Why is it important that we acknowledge God? Does Truth ever change?
  • Read Proverbs 12:19. Why is it necessary we always act in Truth ?
  • Read John 8:32. How does Truth set us free? Free from what?
  • Read John 14:6 and Isaiah 61:1. Why is truth so important?

 

The End Game

  • What are some of the chains that bind us?
  • Read Eph. 6:19-20. Once we take off the mask(s) we wear, how can God use us? Why?

 

 

 

Close:

Perhaps, as you watch someone you love grow to adulthood, you see the characteristics and passions they have in a certain area and know that they would excel in a particular vocation. That is a close analogy of our life in Christ, created as a new being through salvation, with gifts and talents God can use. However, if we put on a mask to seem more than we are, our goals shift from pleasing God to pleasing men. This makes us a vessel unfit for the Master’s use, and we need to beg God to free us from that mindset, to one that pleases Him in all we do and say. Recently someone was overheard saying, “I can hardly carry this burden, but no one really wants to listen to me!” That is an indictment on the circle of friends this person has, but ask yourself “Do I cut off friends by passing by quickly, or replying ‘God has a purpose..’ or something else that would indicate I don’t have time to share their burden?” Don’t let a mask of lifestyle, religiosity, apparel or beauty be so important to you that you cannot fulfil the plans and purposes God had in mind when He made you! Beg Him to set you free, and then be available to say, “Here am I, Lord, use me!”

Key Verse: Ephesians 6:10: Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

 

October 28, 2018

Masquerade : Be Real
October 28, 2018
Dr. Ben Guterriz

 

Open:

Have you attended a function where someone tried to impress those present, yet their family or close friends knew their words were not consistent with the person they are at home? Can someone share an example, and tell how you felt for the family?

As we continue our series Masquerade, today we focus on the Mask of Religion. Wearing this mask, we try to appear spiritually as someone we’re not. We wish to appear perfect, which is not only deceitful—therefore sinful—but ruins opportunities to show the world how faithful and loving God is during our worst trials. Dr. Ben Gutierrez teaches us how important it is to be transparent, so our testimony becomes powerful and gives praise to God for His grace to us.

Focal Passages: Matt. 23:1-6, 11-12; Mark 5:1-15, 18-20; Mark 7:31-33a; Eccl. 7:20; Jas. 3:2; 1 John 1:8-9.

 

Discuss:

THE DANGERS OF WEARING THE MASK OF RELIGION

It Has No Spiritual Benefit:

  • Read James 3:2. What signals do you pick up when someone you are talking to is not authentic? Do you notice a lot of emphasis on “I”?
  • What impact does portraying a spiritual manner have on one’s own character? What are some of the sinful qualities that wearing this mask hides?

It Repels People:

  • Most people have some idea of the kindness of Jesus as a man, and how He lived His life. They see through someone who claims to be a Christian; how?
  • Read Eccl. 7:20. What type of feelings might a child experience if they see their parent or guardian act in a holy attitude at church, yet be the opposite at home? What might happen as they get old enough to leave home?
  • Read 1 John 1:8-9. Why do people resort to wearing a mask to cover a life of discontent with themselves or their circumstances?

It Is Not Believable

  • Back to the reference from Ecclesiastes, what do other people think when they know you are pretending to have “all your ducks in a row”?
  • How does it alienate friends or acquaintances if you are not authentic in portraying your lifestyle?
  • What is at the root of wearing a mask? Read 1 Peter 5:5. How will your testimony reflect the fact that you are covering a perceived flaw?

 

 

BIBLICAL EXAMPLE OF GOD’S BLESSING ON BEING REAL

Two Examples of those Who Wore Masks

  • Read Matt. 23:1-6, 11-12. Who were the two groups in this passage whom Jesus was using for an example of how NOT to be?
  • What were some of the reasons they were an offense to God?
  • Their lifestyle was summed up in verse 5a: what was it? Do you know anyone who lives like this, perhaps with their clothes, home, yard or other pretense?

 

An Example of Someone Who Was Real

  • Almost everyone knows the story of the Gadarene Demoniac. Will someone paraphrase the story from the book of Mark (for time’s sake)?
  • Read Luke 8:37. What was the reaction of the people to Jesus because of the now fully-restored man?
  • Read verse 18-19. How did Jesus respond when the man asked to go with Him and become one of His followers?
  • Read verse 20. This man was known by everyone in the region of the Gadarenes. What was their reaction when he told them what had happened?
  • Read Mark 7:33a. Jesus decided to return to the towns where the demoniac had lived. What impact did his testimony have on the people? How do you know this?

 

 

 

Close:

No doubt many of us have recognized in the past few weeks areas where we have continually worn a mask. It would be the prayer of every pastor who has spoken during this series that we are able to break free from the bondage this mask gives us. It is not hiding anything: those who are authentic realize immediately that we are fooling only ourselves. There is a universal law among financiers that to recognize a counterfeit bill, one must become so familiar with genuine currency that the false is spotted instantly. It is the same with the masks we wear: true Christ-followers will spot those whose life does not line up with Truth. At the same time, for those who don’t know us well, our family will recognize the deceit and it will alienate us from them eventually. Unbelievers may not know Jesus as their Savior, but most people will be able to tell you that He was someone who lived a life of being real and will know you are not living that life. All in all, the result will be that a mask will be holding back its wearer from a life of fullness and joy. It is not unlike an elderly woman (or man) who keeps themselves fit, wearing clothes and make-up meant for youth. The evidence is there for everyone to see—except the one looking from the inside out.

Key Verse: Matthew 23:12: But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

 

October 21, 2018

Masquerade : Breaking Free
October 21, 2018
Dr. Tim Clinton

 

Open:

How does one break free from an addiction, whether food, medication, or something that tempts you beyond your resistance? Wherever you go, it seems you are offered that which you are struggling to be free from. What are some methods that may be helpful?

One of the masks we wear in society is that of being completely in charge of our lives, when the truth is that something has many of us in slavery. Satan—our adversary—not only knows our weakness, but preys on it, trying to keep us broken, overwhelmed, and chained to something we try to escape from. Today Dr. Clinton shares a professional perspective on recognizing the downward spiral we are on and gives us insight into breaking free and recovering our heart.

Focal Passages: 2 Corinthians 11:1-3, James 1:19-20; Gen. 2:18; Rev. 12:10.

Discuss:

LOSING HEART

  • Attack: 
    • Who is at the root of deceiving us? Whose choice is it to ultimately take the step that starts the downward spiral?
    • Read 2 Cor. 11:1-3.
  • Anger:
    • What happens when something in your life gets out of control and you have no way to fix it? What emotion do you find beginning to occur often?
    • Read Jas. 1:19-20. What does it say?
  • Anxiety:
    • When life is out of control and anger sets in, what is the next reaction that turns the downward spiral into a tight coil? This creates what psychologists refer to as the “flight or fight” response.
    • What does that mean?
  • Aloneness:
    • Once someone is in the throes of anxiety and/or depression, and God does not seem to show up to relieve the situation, what is the next downward spiral?
    • Why does one want to be alone?
    • How does this cause more alienation?
  • Adulteries of the Heart:
    • Read Gen. 2:18.
    • When someone feels so alone, and it seems no one cares, what does the natural man begin to do?
    • Does it have to be a person?
    • What other types of “adulteries” are used to cover the pain?
  • Addiction:
    • Now we reach the area where Satan has his field day.
    • What happens as we find temporary solace in a situation or medication (or another form of indulgences)?
  • Accuser whispers lies:
    • Read Rev. 12:10.
    • What is another of Satan’s evil tactics?
    • Not only does he accuse us to God, but where does he start first?
    • What are some of his accusations?

RECOVERY OF THE HEART

  • Affection of/for God:
    • Read Matt. 22:37.
    • What is the first commandment?
    • Why is that like a building block, or a foundation for our temple (our life)?
    • Why is that more necessary to have in place than a great marriage, kids, etc.?
  • Assessment:
    • Read Psa. 139:23.
    • Once we truly believe God loves us as a loving Father cherishes his child, what tests can we apply to our lives?
  • Awareness of God:
    • How can we develop a daily awareness of God in our lives?
    • What will that eventually do for us?
  • Attachment:
    • Read John 15:1-5.
    • What is so special about having an attachment bond to Christ?
    • What about the bond you have with your spouse or child—can you imagine that bond being so great as the one you can have with God?
    • What Actions will that bond produce in your life?
    • Read 1 Tim. 11:1.
  • Accountability:
    • Why would it now be vital to find someone who will speak truth to you, and be an accountability partner who will keep you close to Christ?
  • Alive Again:
    • As you press in against God, drawing near to Him, you will find Him faithful and you’ll become alive again. A three-fold cord is not easily broken, Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes. Rejoice in that!

 

Close:

This message is one we all need to hear as everyone either struggles with an addiction or knows someone who does. These steps are desperately needed to identify addictions and break free. God has told us that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, and all of us need the reality that Satan’s lies can no longer keep us chained to things that will ultimately kill us. Take time to hit the highlights of Dr. Clinton’s powerful sermon and sit down with someone God has brought to your mind, going over each item slowly with them, then continuing on the path with them as they break free. You’ll gain a brother and pull a soul out of the teeth of the Devourer.

Key Verse: 2 Corinthians 11:3: But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

 

October 14, 2018

Masquerade : Our Digital Masks
October 14, 2018
Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

What happens when you look through Facebook at the profiles of those you graduated with? Do you become discouraged as they appear so gorgeous, handsome, or look younger than you feel you do? Does it occur to you these may be intentionally misleading photos? Can anyone share an example?

Today we continue “Masquerade,” seeking to take off the masks we wear so others may see the real you, rather than an inaccurate picture of who we try to be. We want to focus on the digital world we live in—and the issues caused by modern technology. Are you open to having God shine His light on your spirit, exposing the masks you use on social media?

Focal Passages: Romans 8:5-8, James 4:1-8, Galatians 6:10, Ephesians 4:15, Proverbs 11:2, 16:5.

 

 

Discuss:

Rage and Anger

  • As we have done on previous weeks, will someone please explain why we feel the need to present a false front to others?
  • Read James 4:1. What example can you give that has caused you, or someone you know, stress or anger through social media over the past year? How did you (or they) respond?
  • Read Gal. 5:19-16. Why will you always have conflict between the flesh and the spirit? Read Rom. 7:15-25. As you exercise the fruit of the Spirit, what happens to the things of the flesh?
  • Read Gal. 6:10. Who are we to be good to? How is responding to a negative tweet or post in the same manner as the one who posted the original, lowered you to their standard? Can you explain how hard it is to refrain from a rebuttal, and why it’s a victory to overlook what has taken place?

Jealousy

  • Read James. 4:2-3. What is the root cause for posting pictures of new homes, new cars, or new possessions? How does that cause a feeling of covetousness? How is that wrong? Why do we always want more?
  • If we seek the things that would enrich our lives for Christ, what would be our emotional feeling?

Desire for Acceptance

  • Read James. 4:4-5. What are some of the things the world throws at us that are hard to resist?
  • Why do we feel the need for acceptance so strongly that we go to great lengths and sometimes sinful actions? Why is our understanding of how much God loves us not sufficient for all our needs at all times, in all ways?

Pride

  • Read James. 4:6. Where does pride ultimately lead us? Can we be proud and serve God at the same time? Read Prov. 13:10 in KJV (if possible). What does this verse say about all disagreements?
  • Read Prov. 11:2 and 16:5. How much does God hate pride, which is at the root of the need to wear a mask?
  • What matters to God: how we look or whether we are pointing others to Him for salvation?

Our Response

  • Read James. 4:7-8. What are the instructions in these two verses?
  • Why does James say that our loyalty is divided between God and the world? Is that the way it should be?

 

 

 

Close:

Wearing a mask has become such a normal part of who we are, that it might seem an impossibility to be transparent with our feelings. Yet through God’s help, we can overcome any sin, realizing the lies come from Satan. One of the surest methods of defeat is to spend hours on social media, where our mentality is fed with large helpings of things that would encourage worldly feelings—covetousness, jealousy, anger, wrath, gossip, and so much more, including the temptation to interact with someone of the opposite sex—or an old flame. How does God feel about these hours? They could be put to such good use by witnessing of things He has done for you, blessings He has given you, and His love for you. One lady (many people, actually) makes it a point each day to write a short devotion, overflowing with God’s love. It will not be known until eternity the impact her short posts have had on people, and those whose lives she has touched. Would that we all used social media to further God’s kingdom!

Key Verse: Romans 8:5: For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

 

 

October 7, 2018

Masquerade : Building Real Relationships
October 7, 2018
Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Last week we opened as we discussed those people we know who seem to wear a mask—never really showing their true self. But what about you? Will anyone share an area of life where you tend to cover up your feelings, in order to present a false front?

Today, as we continue our series on Masquerades, we want to look at the relationships we have that may be unhealthy and a hindrance to our spiritual well-being. As God’s Word sets forth clear definitions of healthy relationships, we want to define what a toxic relationship is, and remove any mask we might wear, thereby being vulnerable to expressing our truest heart. Anything less does not come from God.

Focal Passage: Colossians 3:12-17.

 

 

Discuss:

How we wear masks in our relationships that create toxic and unhealthy futures

A.   False presentation and unrealistic expectations

  • What did we establish last week are the dangers in wearing a mask?
  • Why does our perception of others usually assume their life is perfect? Is this normally a correct assumption? Why not?

B.   Self-serving motives

  • What do we hope to achieve by wearing a mask? Do most see through it?
  • Read 1 Thess. 2:1-7, in the NIV. What was Paul saying?

C.    Secretly holding on to past hurts instead of forgiveness

  • How is it possible to put on a pleasant face when withholding forgiveness toward someone? Can anyone willingly share such a situation?
  • If past hurts continue to affect us, does that person still control you?

D.   Treating your relationship in a defensive manner

  • Think of people—perhaps in close relationships—whom you always assume have an ulterior motive when dealing with you. How do you react with them?
  • How can a defensive manner be toxic?

E.   Hiding what’s truly going on

  • When you think of putting on a mask—that is, acting in a manner not in line with truth—what is the root cause of such actions? Talk this over.
  • If something isn’t true, where does it originate?

 

Building Real Relationships

A.   Approach every relationship with holiness

  • Read Col. 3:12a. What did God do for us according to this verse?
  • Read 1 Cor. 6:19-20. How are we able to make every choice from the perspective of truth? (Phil. 4:13).

B.   Approach every relationship with the right motives

  • Read verse 12c. What are the five definitions of a healthy personality?
  • Think of your relationships: how would they be transformed if you handled those with whom you come into contact, with these qualities?

C.   Approach every relationship putting others first

  • Read verse 13. What is a definition of forgiveness? Does that mean the person did not intend you hurt? Who is it now hurting?
  • Look at C in the first section: as long as you are not forgiving someone for a past hurt, how do they continue to control you? Read Eph. 6:12.

D.   Approach every relationship as an opportunity

  • Read vv. 14-16. What are several “do’s” in these verses? What will others think if you discipline yourself to choose these qualities?
  • Every choice you make is for your good, or the good of another person. How can this be?

E.   Approach every relationship with Christ at the center

  • Read verse 17. As you consider unhealthy or healthy relationships, is it possible for you to give thanks to Christ if you choose to wear a mask? How? How does that reflect on the body of Christ to unbelievers?
  • Can you glorify God wearing a mask?

 

 

 

Close:

This has been a long study, but one that is critical as we make choices each day to be kind and loving or to put on a mask to hide our inadequacies.  Wearing a mask will tear down everything God is trying to do in your life. Can you leave your house this week, determining to make the day brighter for everyone you meet? How long does it take to smile? To toss out a “Good morning!”? To tender a compliment to an older person (who gets few)? To share a sentence that of inspiration? We are told to treat others as we want them to treat us. Can you do that? Re-read 1 Cor. 13 at some point this week, realizing the masks we wear will not achieve the love that Christ desires. Let us all make new commitments to love as we have been loved by God. The last verse in 1 Cor. 13 emphasizes the Key Verse for this week: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Key Verse: Col. 3:14: But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

 

 

September 30, 2018

Masquerade : The Art of Covering
September 30, 2018
Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Do you know someone who acts in a certain manner, but their words just do not seem to ring true? Without naming names or gender, what is it about them that you believe indicates they are playing a part which is false?

Today we begin a new series that will cut many of us to the quick: the unveiling of the mask we wear to appear as if we have everything in our life together, even if we’re falling apart on the inside. Over the next few weeks we’ll examine the dangers in this action, hiding the real person in order to keep our imperfections from the eyes of the world. Today we set the stage by looking at the general reasons and risks some feel the need to wear a mask.

Focal Passage: Genesis 27:1-29.

 

 

Discuss:

Putting on our masks starts with deceit

  • Do you recall ever going to a costume party? What was the primary thing you wanted to achieve?
  • Once your costume was on, did you find yourself acting in character with how you were dressed? Explain what you mean.
  • Read Gen. 27:1-10. Why did Rebekah choose to deceive her husband? What other option could she have chosen, which would have been right in God’s sight?

Putting on our masks starts with feelings of inadequacies

  • Read verses 11-12. What was wrong with the protests Jacob laid before his mother? What could he have said if he did not want to sin against God?
  • Read Gen. 25:20-26. What had God told Rebekah? How do you see her actions? What was she teaching Jacob by instructing him to do this deed?
  • If we put on a mask of perfection, which is ultimately a lie, what are some of the feelings we may be trying to cover up? Why is it lying?

Once we put on the mask, it starts a never-ending cycle

  • Read verses 18-24. Although Rebekah began the charade, Jacob was now making his own choices. What five lies did he tell to keep the plan together?
  • What could Jacob have done at any point while before Isaac, to redeem himself in the eyes of his father?
  • Why does one lie lead to more? Who is the “Father of Lies”?

Our masks will all be removed

  • Read Heb. 4:13. No matter how hard we try to cover up our inadequacies , what will happen?
  • Why should we cultivate a lifestyle of truth, without any masks of hypocrisy?
  • Read Matt. 10:26. If you choose to live a lie in order to appear something you are not, who will possibly remove that mask at a time you least expect it—and possibly in a very humbling way?
  • If you have been saved, what is your position before God? What are some of the descriptions of your relationship that should make you feel valuable and
  • valued? (Child of God, etc.) How does this speak against the act of deceit?

 

 

 

Close:

This passage leaves us with the feel of a modern novel: barren wife finally gets pregnant and learns she is going to have twins. God Himself tells Rebekah the “older shall serve the younger,” leaving her with a promise she could/should have trusted. The story progresses as the father prefers one child, the mother prefers the other. At that point you begin to sense a conflict in the home that will cause immense problems. Then comes an evening when Isaac, old and of bad eyesight, wants to give the blessing to the older son Esau, the firstborn who had already rejected his birthright for a meal (cf Heb. 12:15-17)—thereby himself thwarting the words of God to his wife many years before. Rebekah, overhears the conversation between Esau and Isaac, and takes it upon herself to control the situation by deceiving  her husband, to make certain that her favorite son, Jacob, would receive the blessing (already promised by God, Who would have brought it to pass in a holy way). Consequently, she is not only usurping her authority over Isaac, but teaching Jacob that it is permissible to lie. Jacob, consenting to do her will, offered token reservations, to which she had the answers. As Jacob goes in to his father, he himself now takes the responsibility of the choices to deceive, when—five times—God gives him ample occasion to throw himself upon Isaac’s mercy.

How like Jacob we can be! Not wanting to seem less holy, less perfect, or less rich than our neighbors, we put on our mask, remembering to play our part when we are in the position where it matters. We may be looking for admiration, gain, power or anything else the world offers, but it’s tiring to keep that role going all the time. How much better if we could see the truth: that those who know us well realize we are far from perfect, and in their hearts they label us a “hypocrite.” Yet even with our imperfections, we were chosen by God to be His child! If we could get that from our head into our heart, we would be full of awe that would humble us; we would have the mask we wear torn away and would be given beauty for ashes.

Key Verse: Matt. 10:26: Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known.

 

September 23, 2018

How Church? : Confidence for the Misson
September 23, 2018
Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

When you’re asked to do a task you’re hesitant about, what is normally your first response: “I have too many things on my mind”; “I am not good enough”; or “I am too busy”? How can these be excuses you use because you really don’t wish to do the job or activity?

We’ve been in a series looking at God’s ordained Church, and at His desire to see us change our world through our commitment to Him as we serve in and through a local body of believers. The past two weeks we looked at “How” to carry out that commission. Today we are looking at hindrances we use as excuses to keep from fulfilling the command Jesus gave us.

Focal Passage: Acts 1:4-8.

 

 

 

Discuss:

The Mission Statement for Thomas Road

  • What is the Mission Statement of Thomas Road?
  • How are you helping carry this out?
  • Our church has six values we adhere to in order to accomplish the Mission Statement: A Commitment to Scripture; A Culture of Prayer; A Lifestyle of worship; Being Connected to Community; A Heart for Serving; and A Passion for Sharing. Can you give one-word answers illustrating what would help achieve each of these values?

Confidence for the Mission

  • Read Acts 1:4-8. Why is this passage so important to believers?
  • What three things did Jesus tell the disciples to do in verse 4a?
  • Who is to Tell their story? How can you Grow as a believer? Where are we to be Sent?

 

HINDRANCES TO OBEDIENCE

Distractions

  • What are some distractions that we allow Satan to use to keep us from fulfilling God’s calling?
  • What is the difference between distractions and necessary obligations?
  • Why is it wrong to let entertainment or activity take the place of doing what God has called us to do?
  • How can we be intentional about being “about our Father’s business”?

Not Good enough

  • Read verses 4b-5. What were His followers to wait on?
  • When did we have a “Day of Pentecost” in our lives?
  • Read 1 Cor. 3:16. As we are a vessel in which the Holy Spirit dwells, what kind of power is filling us? Does that mean the story of the change in our life is worth telling others about? How does God equip those He calls?

Too Busy

  • Everyone seems to be juggling outrageous schedules. What are some ways in which we can slip a word of testimony into various situations during our day?
  • How long does it take to plant a seed? What would happen if someone wanted to ask you more about Jesus; would you plead a packed schedule?
  • Read Mark 16:15-16. Why is it so urgent that you take every opportunity to share the good news of the gospel?

 

 

 

Close:

When you closely examine the values of our church, you will see that they build upon each other, just like building blocks on a foundation. How many people do you know who never open a Bible? Statistics show the average Christian spends very little time reading God’s Word, which means most find God through the witness of someone. Hearing the foundational truths that Jesus is the Son of God who came to this earth to die for the sins of the world, was buried, raised again the third day, and paid the sin-debt for any who would receive His free gift of salvation is good news. The Word of God is the cornerstone for a belief in Jesus Christ. When that reality sends shards of light throughout the mind, a Culture of Prayer is the next inevitable step, as the sinner can’t wait to begin a conversation with this wonderful God who paid for their salvation. Constant communion, person to Person, is food to the spirit just as eating is food to the body. Next comes a desire for an immediate Lifestyle of Worship, never able to fill up the reservoir of singing “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD God Almighty!” Being Connected to Community is a step easy to take as you become aware how many of those you love are lost, and gradually—or quickly—you cultivate a Heart for Serving. Your Passion to Share what Christ has done for you becomes a boundless flow of gratitude that you want to see others enjoy. Values? Yes. Invaluable for a life of joy.

Key Verse: Acts 1:8: But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

 

September 16, 2018

How Church? : Tell, Grow, Send
September 16, 2018
Matt Willmington

 

Open:

Most people will tell you they have continued to learn new things on a regular basis. Can you share something you’ve recently learned? We’ll relate it to the topic in a few minutes!

The past few weeks we’ve looked at the God-established body called “the church.” We’ve examined the importance of it, how relevant it is in today’s world, and how much a local body of believers can achieve. Today we look at “how” we do this thing called Church. We will find that it is a very simple but effective way to obey the calling of God on our lives.

Definition of a living, active church: It is the Family of God, under the Authority of God, living out the Word of God, on a Mission for God.

Focal Passages: Matt. 4:18-20; Matt. 11:28-30; Matt. 28:16-20; Dan. 7:13-14; Rev. 7:9,10.

 

 

Discuss:

The Church Is: The Family of God

  • Read Matt. 18-20. What happened as Jesus walked through life?
  • Who is He calling now?
  • What relationship do those who follow have with Him (read Mark 3:33-35)?

Under the Authority of God

  • Read John 14:21. If we are the children of God, how will we live our lives?
  • Read 1 John 2:3. What is our authority?
  • Read 1 John 2:17. If we love God, will we be happy to obey Him? What type of attitude will you have?

Living Out the Word of God

  • Read 1 John 3:16,17. How do we live our lives?
  • Do you react to those you meet during the day the same way you would if they were friends? Is this as Jesus would do?

On a Mission for God

  • Read Matt. 11:28-30. How often do people who are in a spiritual storm search out a church?
  • What should we do, especially for those who are facing the storms of life?
  • There are promises in these verses; what are they? How can we convince others that they need His yoke of grace?

TELL

  • How can we begin to help those who do not know the love of God?
  • Why does it matter that we ask them to tell us their story?
  • How important is baptism to you? It is the first ordinance that Jesus told us to do after salvation, even as He was baptized as He began His ministry. Why do people put it off? Have you?

GROW

  • There are always plenty of people who were not raised as you were, and who know so much less about Jesus than you. How can this be important to you?
  • What are other ways you can continue to grow, in order to “sprout seeds” that can be planted in someone else’s life?

SEND

  • If you know you must be prepared to leave home in an instant, what are some preparations you will make? How is that the same as being “instant in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2)?
  • Are YOU willing to go?

 

TEST YOURSELF: On a scale of 1-10—if 1 is close to Jesus, 10 is far from Him, where are you?

HOW do you walk closer? WHO are you following? WHO is with you that you are bringing with you?

 

 

Close:

How many people do you know who have storms of life raging, yet never go inside the church building? If they have never been to church, they may have no idea of the peace and joy that can found in Jesus Christ. You may be the only one who will ever tell them. It is important that you gently and lovingly show them you care about where they will spend eternity, then listen as they tell you their story. Most people love talking about themselves: give an interested, listening ear. Are you aware that many converts to cults are those who have been hurt in their youth, believing that God is good, yet feeling betrayed and leaving the church when a parent, sibling or loved one dies, as God answered their fervent prayers with “No”? There was no “trust” factor built into their thinking.

We need to take the Great Commission to heart, not choosing to leave it to the pastoral staff. It was not given to pastors—it was given to fisherman who chose to follow Jesus, learn from Him, and then carry His message to their world. We, too, need to carry this message to our community, our neighbors, co-workers and friends, so that they will not be lost for eternity. Can you imagine standing at their judgment as God orders them to “Depart from Me—I never knew you,” and they turn to look you in the eye, and ask why you never told them of the saving grace of Jesus? It is vital that we make use of the time we have left. Do you know how to witness? It’s never too late to learn! Ask any of the staff of the church, and they will guide you to someone who would be willing and happy to help you. Answer like Isaiah, “Here am I Lord, send me!”

Key Verse: Matt. 28:18-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” Amen.

 

September 9, 2018

Why Church? : The  Promise of The Church
September 9, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Although being alone is sometimes a beautiful respite from a chaotic world, in a time of tragedy or disaster we long for the company of others who understand what we’re going through. Can anyone share?

For the last few Sundays we have focused on the role of the church and its importance in our lives. Today we will look at the characteristics of the local body where we can enrich our lives with like-minded believers, as well as impacting the world with humanitarian and spiritual aid. Let’s look at some of the blessings that come from the unity of worshiping in a local body.

Focal Passage: Acts 2:42-47

 

 

Discuss:

Encouragement

  • Read Acts 2:42a, 44-45. One of the by-products of being part of a group of believers is the encouragement you receive. What are some examples?
  • What did Luke mean by the “apostles’ doctrine”? What truths were they constantly discussing among themselves, and teaching new converts?
  • According to the verses you read, what were the characteristics of the early church? Are those qualities found in churches today? Why or why not?

Fellowship

  • Read verse 42b. What comes to mind when you consider “fellowship”? Can you have fellowship with unbelievers? Read 2 Cor. 6:14. How can you have fellowship with the world? Read 1 John 1:3. Is your answer still the same?
  • What are some benefits in having a church family to turn to in times when you need support?
  • Why would Satan prefer that you listen to a message on television, rather than belonging to a local church?

Communion

  • What goes through your mind when you think of “communion” within the context of church?
  • We generally call the “breaking of bread” communion. Why would the early church want to partake of the ordinance of communion in the home of a believer, rather than the Temple or Synagogue?
  • If you and another person—or more—are sharing a time of prayer together, how is that also communion?
  • Are you having communion with the Father?

Impact

  • Read verse 47. What are some of the differences you can have as a member of a local, thriving church body, as opposed to sitting in your living room watching the sermon on television (i.e., for those individuals who have no health restrictions)?
  • Read Heb. 10:25. God knew Satan would try to isolate us from other believers; what is clear in this verse regarding God’s desire for us? Why is that isolation? Read Proverbs 18:1.
  • Have you made an impact this year in any area, along with your church, that would have been impossible on your own?

 

 

Close:

It is almost impossible to understand how the early church grew so quickly, teaching the doctrines that Jesus had communicated to His disciples. It boggles the mind that the small number of disciples—the size of a small-town evangelical church—could turn the world upside down in one century. One can only assume they wrote down as much as possible, trying to spread the words of the Lord as widely and quickly as possible. We, in the generations of technology and hard-copy Bibles, would possibly be lost trying to communicate something so important without means of books and reference materials!

God, who sees the end from the beginning, knew the plans He had for the church, both visible (the local body) and invisible (the church of believers worldwide). Satan will fight both God and us every step of the way, and it is imperative that we do not fall into any of his schemes to thwart the spreading of Christianity. The church body is no longer bound by geography: we can spread His love to all countries where we are able to traverse by foot or reach by way of technology. We will know that it is getting near the end of time when all nations have heard the gospel (Matt. 24:14). Is your church making an impact in the world? And within your own family unit, are you being blessed by the gathering together of like-minded believers, preparing yourself and your family for the great Day of the Lord? We pray that you are!

Key Verse: Acts 2:42: And they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers.

September 2, 2018

Why Church? : The  Purpose of The Church
September 2, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

When you hear someone ask, “What on earth am I here for? Why was I even born?” do you have an answer for them? Share some of your thoughts.

The past two Sundays we have looked at the incredible, beautiful gift from God called “the church.” There is the local church—that body of believers who worship and do life together, and the Universal church, encompassing believers all over the world. We have also looked at the importance of gathering in a large or small group of like-minded believers, and asked what God meant when He “built” His church. Today we look at the results we need to be achieving in the local church to change our world.

Focal Passage: Ephesians 1:6-8, 12-14; 4:14-15

 

 

Discuss:

We give Him Glory

  • Read Eph. 1:12-14. Two times in these short verses Paul tells us why the church gathers together each week. What does he say?
  • Who are the Gentiles? What happens when Christ saved you (vs. 13)? What is our response to be after salvation?
  • How can we know we are carrying out the purpose God had for the church?

We bring Him Growth

  • Read Col. 1:28-29. If we are in the church, what should we be doing? Read Matt. 16:18. Who built the church? What will destroy it?
  • When should we present the gospel to those with whom we come into contact?
  • Read Eph. 4:14-15. What are some of the lies the world tells us? What do you reply when someone says they don’t need to go to church to be a “real” Christian? Who are some of those who try to devise clever lies against truth?

We celebrate Grace

       Because we have been saved from our sins

  • Read Eph. 1:6-8. What was our condition before salvation? After salvation, does He stop forgiving our sin? How do you know?
  • Why did God forgive YOU, and not someone else whom you know intimately? Did you deserve it more? Why or why not?
  • Do you live your life so that those you meet want what you have?

       By how we show grace to others

  • Read 1 Pet. 2:9. Why should we show grace to others?
  • Read 1 Pet. 4:8-10. We see scriptures that exhort us to be different from the world, and to do good to those around us. What does verse 9 tell us?
  • Does it matter to God if we choose to obey Him or not? Read 1 John 2:3. What does this verse tell us?

 

We recognize His Grip

  • Read Heb. 7:25. Does Christ have to die again because the world is still sinning? Why was His death sufficient for all people, for all time?
  • Read 1 Cor. 1:8-9. Will He ever leave you? Are you convinced in your soul that God will never leave you, or let you slip through the grip He has on your life? What will make it such a part of your heart that you will want to shout?

 

 

 

Close:

The local church, like our physical body, has no limit on the amazing functions it can perform. When twelve men were turned loose on the ancient world, they turned it upside down with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet millions of believers around the world today struggle to make an impact that changes their family or community. Have you asked yourself why not? What can you do differently? Do you truly desire to change your community for the Lord, working with other believers in your local church? You can start with the people you know who, for whatever reason, do not get out on Sunday morning and gather to worship Christ. Yet they believe themselves to be saved, and they desire not to go to hell. How can you help?

God’s love for us is beyond our understanding; the closest we can come to grasping it is the love we have for our children, but even that is flawed by our humanity. Most of us who have had small ones have, at some time, let their grasp on our hands slip, and immediately we are in panic mode. Their existence is so important to us that we cannot act calmly until they are back in our arms. Yet has it ever occurred to you that the grip God has on you will never let go? If we lose sight of this truth we need to search Scripture for verses that reinforce His constant and abiding love for us. Perhaps when we get a genuine grasp of His intense love for us, we’ll want to share it with those we meet. As Dr. Falwell would tell his son, Pastor Jonathan, “if a microphone is stuck in your hand, use it to tell folks about Jesus Christ!” Whenever an opportunity presents itself, share the good news that saved you.

Key Verse: Ephesians 1:13-14: In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

 

August 19, 2018

Why Church? : The Importance of Together
August 19, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Are you a member of a local club or organization, but when the day of the meeting comes, there seems to be too many hindrances to going? Perhaps it’s busyness, exhaustion, a need for personal time, or other obligations. Do you miss the camaraderie? Can anyone share?

Today and next Sunday we are going to examine the importance of the church: whether our church attendance is a priority that we consider a “given,” or whether we do it only when there is nothing of significance on the calendar. We are going to see what scripture says about the church, and why God created the church’s existence.

Focal Passage: Hebrews 10:11-25

Background:

For those of us who have been born and reared in the twentieth or twenty-first century, it is a hard concept to wrap our minds around the idea of sacrificing animals as a means of receiving forgiveness of sin debt. Many countries still practice this today, just as the Israelites did before Jesus Christ. As you read Hebrews 10:1-10, you will see that people felt the weight of their sin still a heavy burden. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples took the message of forgiveness through the name of Jesus Christ to the world, as His sinless death paid the debt once for all. Now forgiveness was available to any who would believe in His name and repent of their sins, receiving the gift of eternal life (John 3:16).

 

Discuss:

What Was and What Now Is:

Christ’s death on the cross provided the way

  • Read Hebrews 10:11. What is the contrast between verse 11 and verse 12? Where is Jesus now?
  • Read verse 14. When Jesus took our sins and hung them on the cross (Col. 2:13,14), and we, in turn, asked for forgiveness, what happened to us?
  • How much of our sin was hung on that cross? Read Romans 8:38-39. What will separate us from Him?

A final payment for our sin

  • Read verses 16-17. Can anyone share categories of baggage that has held you back from living a life of victory, always feeling so much shame from your past? Why does Satan glory in this weight on your shoulders?
  • Read Hebrews 8:12. What has Christ intentionally done with our sin?
  • When you ask for forgiveness for the “umpteenth” time, what does He say? The past no longer affects us, and the future has not yet come. How should we be living life while it is “today”?
  • Why do we waste time carrying guilt that He has already paid for?

 

Our Response:

Desire to be in His presence

  • Read verse 19-22. Who remembers the yearning desire to be constantly in the company of the person when they fell in love? Why should this be the way that we should feel if we are in a right relationship with Jesus?
  • What did the writer to the Hebrews mean when he referred to the “Holiest,” the “new and living way,” and the “veil”? How had Jesus obliterated those?
  • What does verse 22 tell us to do? Read James 4:8a. Does James also tell us to draw near to God? What four things signify we can do this in confidence?

Complete confidence in our faith

  • We just saw our condition in verse 22 and the list of changes in us when we are saved. How do we get this amazing confidence?
  • Read verse 23. Has God ever failed you or broken a promise? Sometimes we do not like His answer, but it is always best. Do you really believe that? Read 2 Tim. 2:13. Does Paul say the same thing to Timothy?
  • Why can we rest in the confidence we have in Him?

  Recognition that we need each other 

  • Read verse 24. What are some reasons we can’t do life—or church—on our own?
  • List some of the ways our church is being effective worldwide because the individuals are pulling together. Why are you thankful to be part of this?

 

 

 

 

Close:

As we focus on the knowledge that Christ loves the church and gave His life for her (Eph. 5:25b), we rejoice in the family atmosphere that comes from fellowshipping with other believers regularly. As individuals, we could never achieve the impact throughout the world that we are seeing as our church effectively ministers all over the globe. Yet we also recognize that many in our own community are bound by health or other reasons to sit in their homes and worship in spirit only. Does this concern you? Perhaps, knowing how many shut-ins are unable to gather inside a church, we can take the church to them. Pray that God would raise up a small group who would love to meet with those in your community who cannot drive, sit for long periods, or be among crowds. Let that burden you, just as you carry a burden to see that the lost are found and brought into the church. There is so much work to be done for the kingdom. The work truly is plentiful, the fields are white waiting to be harvested, and the workers are few! Will you go?

Key Verse: Hebrews 10:10: By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

 

August 12, 2018

Flannelgraph Faith: Passing it on
August 12, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Parents will tell you how difficult it was the first time they left their infant in the church nursery or day care! Placing them on a school bus for the first time usually brings on tears for Mom. Why is it so hard to trust the responsibility of our precious possessions to someone else?

We are continuing our series of learning lessons from Bible characters who were strong in the faith, using the vintage style flannel-graph with modern-day technology. Today we see how Paul rejoiced that his passion of taking the gospel to all places was to be handed off to the next generation. The years were passing, enemies increasing, and Paul knew his time on earth would eventually end. Let’s join him in Acts, chapters 16 to 20, learning from him how to pass our faith on to those who will hold dear the beloved Scriptural doctrines.

 

Discuss:

Changing Our World Must Include the Next Generation

  • Read Acts 16:3-5. What kind of reputation did Timothy probably have that Paul would have taken him “under his wing” for mentoring?
  • Paul was continually subjected to persecution (2 Cor. 11:23-28) and knew his ministry needed to be given to those who could carry it forward after he was gone. Why was/is this necessary?
  • Why is it normally so hard to turn our responsibility over to the someone in the younger generation?

Trusting the Next Generation

  • Read Acts 17:14. Paul, Timothy and Silas arrived in Berea, only to have Paul’s dissenters attack him again. Why was he willing to leave Timothy and Silas in Berea and himself leave that area?
  • How are you pouring your life into someone who will be able to carry on your love for Jesus? Why is it important that you are willing to give what you value most into their possession?
  • Share some ways in which you are trusting someone of the next generation.
  • For those who are parents, what was it like to come to a milestone: school, driving, college, even marriage? Why?

Commissioning the Next Generation

  • Read Acts 19:22. How did Paul show Timothy that he trusted him to carry on Paul’s burden for the churches?
  • What did your teen understand the first time you confidently handed them the car keys and asked them to go pick up ______ (sibling, grocery, etc.)?
  • How will you know when it is time to hand over responsibility?

Celebrating the Next Generation

  • During the next couple of chapters, we read of Paul having reunions with his co-workers. What must the joy have been as they reported to each other?
  • Read 2 Tim. 1-2. What relationship did this older apostle have with the younger one whom he had mentored? Do you have a son or daughter in the faith? How are they carrying out what you passed on?
  • There is no greater joy for the Christian than to see one’s children walking in truth! (3 John verse 4) Can you describe the feeling?

Take Away:

  • Are you raising the next generation for Christ? What are you doing?
  • Are you sending out the next generation (are you handing them the keys?)
  • Younger generation: are YOU ready to take over?

 

 

 

Close:

As you read from these chapters in Acts, it is impossible not to mentally examine your life to make certain there is someone from the next generation, whether grandchild, child, friend, etc., that you are investing your life in. Are you praying that they are ready to receive the baton and carry the church forward? All investments in life indicate that there has been time put into knowing the person or firm. One does not knowingly invest their precious goods into something or someone whom they do not trust. Who in the next generation are you investing in?

The investing of your time and talents may seem a small thing. You may not see results in your lifetime, but God has the timeline, not you. As long as you are faithful as a steward in your Father’s house, He will bring about the increase. Let those you love see you putting what you love into God’s work. It will pay great dividends one day!

Key Verse: Acts 18:5: When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.

Focal Passages: Acts 16-20. Take some time this week to read these four chapters that tell of Paul’s trials and victories!

 

 

August 5, 2018

Flannelgraph Faith: God can use anyone, anywhere
August 5, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Many of us feel we have a great idea, only to face obstacles at some point while trying to carry it out. We may consider them as challenges that must be overcome, or we may find they are a complete roadblock, and have to modify our original idea. Does a memory jog for anyone?

Paul and Silas set their focus to travel from the area of Galatia, where Timothy had joined them, to go west into Asia, planting churches as they traveled. The Holy Spirit stopped their journey, only to eventually give Paul a vision. This study continues the modern-day flannel-graph series, giving visual images that tell of Paul’s missionary experiences.

 

Discuss:

God can use anyone!

         The Macedonian Call

  • Read Acts 16:6-10. Does someone have a Bible map, showing Paul’s location in Galatia, and where he and his associates planned to take the gospel into Asia? Who joined them in this endeavor?
  • What was the reason for Paul’s vision? Where was Macedonia in relation to their present position? What would they have to do to get to Macedonia?
  • How long did Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy hesitate?

 

The gospel taken west

  • Read verses 11-13. What was Paul’s usual routine on arriving in a city? Why would he seek out the synagogue? Without a synagogue in the colony, why would they meet at the river?
  • Read verses 14-15. Whom did the men meet there? What are some qualities you see in Lydia’s character? Was she already saved? Why or why not?
  • What did God do? When were she and her household baptized? What is significant about Lydia for present-day believers, as well as her own town?

   God can use anyone anywhere!

      Paul and Silas in prison

  • Read verses 16-19. Did everything go smoothly as Paul & Silas preached in Philippi? Why not?
  • What was the result of casting the demonic spirit out of the girl?
  • Read verses 20-24. What sufferings did Paul and Silas endure? How were they secured in prison?
  • What do you think you would do if you were in a like situation undeservedly?

      Salvation comes to the jailer

  • Read verses 25-26. Although Paul and Silas had every right to be angry about their circumstances, what did they choose to do? Were they suffering? Why?
  • What happened to the stocks securing them to the ground? Were all prisoners freed?
  • Read verse 27-30. What did the jailer do when he woke? Was he aware Paul and Silas had been having a worship service? How do you think he knew that Paul and Silas were the instruments through which he was not going to be killed? Why did he beg to know how to be “saved” and that that was his need?
  • Read verses 31-34. What was the result of their being thrown into prison?

 

 The mission trip ends well

  • Read verses 35-40. Did Paul let the magistrates off easily? Why?
  • After they were released from prison, what did they do?
  • Their work in Macedonia now included a church in Lydia’s house and a church plant in the home of the jailer. Was their job there finished? Why?
  • Has God called you (anyone) to a certain task (anywhere)? Are you being obedient? How?

 

 

Close:

As we read Acts 16, it is hard not to wonder how often we—as individuals—seek to carry out a personal plan, only to run into roadblocks. It is often extremely hard to determine if the challenge was put there by Satan to keep us from doing a particular work, or from the Holy Spirt, who might have an alternate plan. Usually we try to climb over the obstacles, feeling our plan was good. We learn from this scripture that a roadblock should be bathed in prayer before proceeding.

Paul and Silas tried going to several different cities before Paul had the vision to go to Macedonia. Is it possible that God is giving you signs to show that He desires you to do a certain work, and you are missing them? Listening carefully to the Spirit’s call is a must. Look for unusual responses to things that would seem out of place, be watchful for open doors, and be careful to be prayed up at all times. If you desire to do the work of the ministry, prepare your heart ahead of time, studying, praying, and ministering, so that, when the call comes, you are ready to say “Send me!”

Above all, be willing to go where He asks you. Don’t back off and assume you are to go somewhere else and think that God has misunderstood. He knows exactly where He wants you and will tell you so, leading you all the way. Worship, Listen, and Be Willing—the three steps to answering God’s call for your life!

Key Verse: Acts 16:31: So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (NKJV)

 

Focal Passage: Acts 16.

 

 

July 29, 2018

Flannelgraph Faith: The Power of Purpose
July 29, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Do you have a purpose for your life, one that motivates you to actually accomplish it? Or perhaps, in the different seasons of living, your purposes have changed. Can you share either?

Today we look at a married couple from the New Testament who had such love for Jesus that they had completely committed themselves to His work. They were willing to go anywhere they felt led, at any time, to do the work of the ministry. This study continues our series using a modern day flannel-graph, giving visual images to tell a story of love for God and each other.

 

Discuss:

 

Reputation Matters

  • Read Acts 18:1-4. Aquila and Priscilla, Jewish believers who lived in Rome, were forced to leave by a decree of Claudius. They were strong believers of Jesus Christ and made their way to Corinth. When Paul arrived there, he was introduced to them. Why do you think he was led to them?
  • What was their occupation? What was Paul’s trade? What did Paul accomplish by earning his own living while preaching the gospel?
  • Surely the reputation of Aquila and Priscilla was such that Paul felt equally yoked in abiding in their home in Corinth. Why would this have been important?
  • What do people say about you (you don’t have to answer out loud)? How do you stand out differently from those you work with, or have for friends? Do they know you are a Christ-follower?

   Solidarity Matters

  • Read verses 5-11. When the message of Jesus Christ was rejected by those in the synagogue, what did Paul do? What did Jesus tell him in a vision?
  • Why is it so much easier to quit, or be silent, in the face of adversity than to continue?
  • What did God do by way of encouragement while Paul was being verbally attacked often?
  • When you are going through difficult situations, why does it give you so much confidence when God sends others to come along beside you?

 Commitment Matters

  • How long did Paul remain preaching in Corinth? Can you remember a job or situation that you endured, only to see it result in victory? Can you share?
  • Read verses 18-21. From what you’ve read, how can you conclude Paul left with the young church doing well? Whom did he take with him when he left?
  • After visiting with the Ephesian believers, Paul felt he had to leave. Speculate as to why Aquila and Priscilla remained in Ephesus. Was their work finished?
  • Has God called you to a certain task? Are you being obedient?

Growth Matters

  • Read verses 24-28. What were some of the qualities Apollos had? What was his greatest lack? Does this possibly reflect the reason why Priscilla and Aquila were needed in Ephesus? They now had a new church plant! How would that make youfeel?
  • Are you being used to grow the kingdom of God? If you are not growing, God cannot use you the way He desires. What are some ways that you grow? Are you willing for Him to use you?

 

Close:

This study of the life of two individuals who were committed to God gives us several options to serve as a great study! These two people had a marriage that could provide a role model for any couple who desires to serve God. They were faithful to each other, with a common goal, not holding onto material possessions or home, but willing to carry out God’s plans for their lives. They saw fruit not only in planting churches, but in discipling and mentoring others also.

It also gives us a picture of the great apostle Paul, often regarded as one who lived in the Spirit always. Yet small verses like Acts 18:6, Acts 15:37-39 or Romans 7:18-19 show us that he was human just as we are, sometimes reacted with frustration, just as we do, and was even ready to quit—yet he was on the verge of victory! It should give us extra courage to know that we can do great things for God if we grow, draw near Him moment by moment, and be ready in any situation to let Him use us. That only comes about if we have prepared our heart ahead of time.

Key Verse: Acts 18:9-10:Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” (NKJV)

 

Focal Passage:Acts 18:1-28.

 

July 22, 2018

Flannelgraph Faith: The Importance of Action
July 22, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

How many times have you bought some healthy food products, or maybe a bottle of vitamins, intending to change to better eating habits—only to throw them out later? Perhaps you had an impulse to do a good deed for someone but didn’t follow through. Can you share an example?

In our current series of New Testament characters who had lives we can learn from, (by way of modern flannelgraph), we are going to focus today on Peter, the apostle many of us can relate to as he often spoke before thinking. Peter’s example of action and obedience will teach us that God will call and equip anyone who is willing to be the His servant, despite one’s faults.

 

Discuss:

 

Action is actually obedience

  • Read Acts 10:1-8 for a background of Cornelius, an unsaved Roman soldier who hungered after God, although he had never heard of Jesus Christ. What is significant in verse 7?
  • Read Acts 8:26-39. How does this passage of the unsaved eunuch parallel the story of Cornelius? Because of Philip’s obedience, what happened?
  • Will someone tell the story of Peter’s vision on the rooftop of the house of Simon the tanner?
  • Read Acts 10:13-14. What did Peter reply to God, after He had told Peter to “kill and eat”? How many times did God show him the vision? Why could three be significant in this passage?

   Action is obedience that fits God’s plan

  • Read verses 19-20. What did God tell Peter outright?
  • Peter did not fully understand that God was going to include the Gentile world in His plan of salvation. Yet how did he respond in verse 23b?
  • Cornelius invited his household and friends to hear Peter. What did he tell Peter in verse 33?
  • What are some repercussions that might have occurred if Peter had continued to say “No!” when told to eat all food in the prior vision?

 Action is what results in impact

  • Read verses 44-46. What happened while Peter was still speaking? What reaction did the Jews who had come with Peter have? Why were they so surprised?
  • Read Matthew 21:28-32. How is this passage different, yet could have been similar?
  • All of us have had a call from God to do something, although we may have thought it to be merely an impulse. How is it possible you may have missed a blessing by not obeying? What might the impact have been?
  • Because Peter acted with obedience immediately, what was the impact that resulted?

 

Is there something that God is calling you to do? James 4:17 tells us that “to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

 

Close:

Many years ago, a homeowner showed a pastor on visitation his Bible, which he kept laying on the coffee table. “I like having it in my home. Every now and then I rub the cover of it, and it brings me peace.” The peace he received was not likely from a relationship of salvation, or he would have been hungry for the message inside. It is not unlike having a bottle of vitamins in the cupboard, feeling as though you are growing healthier since they are in your kitchen! The same analogy is true with the word of God. In order to draw near to God (James 4:8), we need to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Righteousness comes from knowing God more each day and knowing Him more comes from prayer and Bible reading. Recognizing His desires for us, and the plans and purposes He has for us, keeps us on our toes when it comes to our actions. If we see someone in the grocery store, digging for change to pay for a few basic groceries, and could easily give them the $10, do we? It probably goes through your mind to do it—so do it. It’s a seed planted, and someone else may well come along and give it water. Action is obedience, and obedience has an impact.

What will you do this week to make an impact on someone’s life? Can you pray as you get out of bed, “Lord, give me just one soul this week to help, to encourage, or to plant a seed in their life?” If you mean it, He’ll do it. When it happens, be ready!

Key Verse: Acts 10:42-43: And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He Who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins. (NKJV)

 

Focal Passage: Acts 10:1-43.

To think on (from sermon): “If one hears the call of God and rejects it, he incurs the wrath of God.”

 

 

July 15, 2018

Flannelgraph Faith: The Courage of Conviction
July 15, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Some people seem to have the gift of courage, while others struggle with stepping out of their comfort zone. Can you think of an example when you showed courage even though you were scared?

Today we continue our series using the modern version of the flannelgraph, choosing godly characters from the New Testament. This week we will focus on Stephen, a righteous man who became known as the first martyr of the Christian religion

 

Discuss:

 

Courage in our faith comes from above before it comes from within

  • Read Acts 4:23-31. Peter and John had just been arrested and taken before the Sanhedrin. Can anyone tell the story of what had happened?
  • These two men were perceived to be “unlearned and ignorant” (vs. 13) yet stood boldly before the ruling Jews. Where did their courage come from?
  • Why is courage not natural for us? What are some areas where courage is desperately needed in our families? Why do we not take a stand?
  • Read Acts 6:8. Why would God give us courage to defy fear?

 

Courage in our faith is from the overflow

  • When are you—in any situation—the most confident? Why is that? As you spend more time with God, do you become “filled and overflowing” with His promises and faith in what He says?
  • Read Acts 22:14. What do you know about Stephen? What did he answer when he was taken before the High Priest? Why did he have so much courage? Read Acts 6:8.

 

Courage in our faith will protect us from beginning to end 

  • Read Eph. 3:19, and Romans 15:13 (in The Living Bible if possible, or one that translates abound as “overflowing.”) Why do we have to have conviction in our faith before we can be used by God in courageous ways?
  • Read Acts 7:57-60. You may ask, “where was God’s protection for Stephen as he was being stoned?” Will someone answer?
  • Why did Stephen cry out to God to receive his spirit, and how could he find the love for those gnashing their teeth in hate as they killed him?
  • Probably none of us feel we can face a death of martyrdom, yet every day across the world this is happening. Where do they get their courage?

 

Close:

The life and age of Stephen is one we know nothing about, although probably he was a husband and father. The Bible records he was a man “full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:3-6). Would that we all had such a eulogy from God! Yet he had such faith that he was able to preach a very long sermon to the ruling Jews, laying the guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at their door, not fearing his coming death. His conviction that Jesus was truly the Messiah gave him a courage that would face any attack against his belief.

Stephen had the courage of his convictions because he was confident in Whom he believed, and in what he believed. While we will not take a stand for our preferences, we will for our convictions. Do you know the difference? You may prefer a movie with no cursing, but if you continue to watch it, you do not have a conviction. Turning it off and removing it from your home means you have a conviction and will take a stand against it. That difference gives one confidence to face ridicule or back down! Those around Stephen that day saw a good man die; the Jews thought they were squelching the growing community who believed that Jesus was the Messiah; God saw the result: that those who would flee Jerusalem would take the news of the gospel of His Son and spread it throughout the world (Acts 8:1). May we all be so courageous in our conviction as to simply tell our neighbor before it’s too late.

 

Key Verse: Acts 4:19-20: But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (NKJV)

Focal Passages: Acts 4:19-20, 23-31; 6:8; 7:57-60 and Romans 8:38-39.

 

 

July 8, 2018

Flannelgraph Faith: When He Calls, Listen!
July 8, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Most of us have seen a flannelgraph used to illustrate a story at some time in their early life. They were pictorial representations long before technology developed highly sophisticated visual aids. Can someone share a favorite memory using the flannelgraph?

This week we begin a new series using the modern version of the flannelgraph, choosing some of the familiar characters from the New Testament. With a technological visual depiction of our characters, we are going to “revisit” the lives of powerful people. Today we will focus on Saul who later was called by his Roman name, Paul

Focal Passages: Ephesians 4:1-7; Hebrews 12:1, Phil. 3:13

 

 

Discuss:

 

When He Calls, LISTEN!

  • Read Acts 22:3-4. What had Paul (at that time, Saul) been brought up to do as his life’s work? Did he feel he was doing God’s will?
  • Read Acts 9:1-2. With letters giving him authority to persecute followers of Jesus, he headed toward Damascus. What happened?

God’s Call is Unmistakable

  • Read Acts 9:3-4. What occurred next? Why would Jesus ask Paul to acknowledge to Christ what he was doing through persecuting His followers? (1 John 1:9). Does He ask us to acknowledge our sins?
  • Read Acts 22:14. Paul knew he was seeing Jesus yet had to hear it from the lips of Christ. Why?
  • None of us have had the experience Paul did. However, what are some ways God uses to speak to us? How do you know it is Him speaking to you?

God’s Call Can Be Confusing

  • Read 9:10-15. Ananias had been granted by God to know what was happening to Paul. How would you feel if God gave you a job to do such as He gave Ananias?
  • Sometimes God’s commands are not what we (or Paul) expect—or desire. Read Job 3:1-3, Jonah 1:1-3 and Ezekiel 3:14. These three great men were in “bitterness of spirit” such as we might feel. How can you overcome your fleshly desires and obey, such as Paul did?
  • How had God been using Paul’s lifetime background to be the incredible apostle that he became? What benefit came about because of his knowledge of prophecy and of the scriptures?
  • When we receive knowledge in our spirit that God has a job for us, what must we do?

God’s Call is Urgent

  • Read Acts 9:20-22. Paul did not waffle between continuing his former life and his new command from God. Why has that been so important to the church?
  • If Paul had not obeyed God, what would God have done (probably)? Has there been something in your life that you needed to do, but did not, and eventually someone else got the opportunity to serve God through those plans? (Answer in your heart if you’d rather).
  • We all feel that this earth has a limited time left, given the rise of sin and anti-Christian activities. Why does that make winning souls urgent?

 

Close:

The life of Paul is one of intense interest, as we see him raised in a strong Jewish home, studying the Scriptures in the Torah at the feet of the most revered teacher of the Pharisees, and passionate to do what he thought was God’s will. Unfortunately, just as today, those can be qualities that can be had, but the person can still be headed for Hell, as Paul was.

It took a miracle of huge proportions to bring about Paul’s vocation as the last apostle. It is like a page out of a novel to imagine the light of God, the voice, and godly Ananias being asked to go get the worst persecutor of Christians that existed, bring him to the house, and feed and care for him. Few of us would have had the courage to obey God’s will. Yet His will in our lives can be just as catastrophic for us: perhaps a relocation to another country where Christians are few, or perhaps a call to work in a Muslim country, helping them through their trials. God calls many to come to Christ because of the love they see from Christians. Perhaps He asks you to be single for life, or childless.

Whatever God has called you to do, do it as Paul did: immediately, urgently, and with all your might, thanking Him for using you.

 

Key Verse: Acts 9:20: Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. (NKJV)

Focal Passages: Acts 9:1-22.

 

July 1, 2018

The Church There and Here
July 1, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

So often in businesses, additional help is needed to cover shifts when vacation time occurs. Most are hesitant to volunteer, hoping someone else will take the responsibility. Can someone give an example?

This week we want to continue last week’s sermon, looking at the way in which Christ uses believers to build His church. Today we will examine our individual role, our mission, and the reward we know we will receive in heaven. We were given a personal responsibility (gift) whenwe received salvation. Now we must identify our task and apply ourselves to it.

Focal Passages: Ephesians 4:1-7; Hebrews 12:1, Phil. 3:13

 

 

Discuss:

We are called

  • Read Ephesians 4:1. Paul begs us not to forget our calling. What is he referring to?
  • What is required for us to accomplish our own calling?
  • Read Romans 12:4-5. Is everyone’s work the same? Why not?

To live differently than the world

  • Read Eph. 4:2. Why is this the opposite of what society, the media, and commercials would have us believe to be the correct way? If you are living a life of humility (putting others before your own needs), discuss why this is so difficult when it comes to overtly sinful persons who cross our paths?
  • What is the opposite of those virtues in verse 2?
  • Read Titus 2:11-13. How does God desire that we be separate from the world?

To be united in mission

  • Read Eph. 4:3-4a. Occasionally we see people who cannot control a part of their body because of a physical malady. How difficult would this be if the body of Christ operated as dis-unified members? Are we striving for unity?
  • Why does the world not take the church seriously in these days of turmoil?What can each of us do about it? What focus must we have?
  • We can each make our own calling our focus. Where do we start?

To celebrate our future

  • Read Eph. 4:4b. If we are saved, what is our hope for the future?
  • Read Phil. 3:13. Paul was able to forget his former life. Can you forgive yourself past sins in order to be effective for the calling God has given you?
  • Read Heb. 12:1-2. This is a description of how we should approach life. Name some of the witnesses that make up this “Hall of Faith” and tell why it is amazing that God used them. What does verse 2 tell us to do?

All because of Him

  • Read verses Eph. 4:5-6. What truths should our lives center around?
  • Read Heb. 12:2 again. What did He do for us while we were “dead in trespasses and sins” and what is He going to do to see that we finish well?
  • If our church body—we as individuals and corporately—are going to be effective in a world of upheaval, what does our focus have to be?

 

 

Close:

The church is a body universal, made up of every nation, people and language. Have you had the experience of meeting a Christian in an unlikely country or situation, and immediately a sense of the same Spirit dwelling in each of you comes over you? That is how Christ wants the body to work: healthy, growing, and full of love. It is His plan for our lives, and the best life that can be had for all of us.

Individually, we all need to be members focused on Him throughout our day, looking for ways we can bring glory to Him. To be like the world—go the same places, take in the same entertainment, use profanity, or wear the same clothes—causes us to take away that “set apartness” that God desires for us. It also gives the world the right to call us hypocrites, as we say we’re holy, but act like them.

No outside force will ever destroy God’s church. However, we can destroy our own effectiveness if we do not keep our focus on our calling and on our future! God has prepared a place for us, one that is so great that our finite minds cannot even imagine the glory of it. Let’s keep that thought central as we faithfully endure each day.

Key Verse: Matthew 16:18: And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock [confession] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (NKJV)

June 24, 2018

The Church There and Here
June 24, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

What dreams are in your bucket list? How long have some of them been a special hope?

Today and next week we are going to look at the “dreams” we have for our church, both for now and for the future. We want to celebrate what God has done through this healthy, vibrant church, and establish new visions as we go forward.

Focal Passages: Matthew 16:18-19; Ephesians 4:7-16.

 

 

Discuss:

It is Christ Who builds the church

  • Read Matt. 16:18. Why was Peter’s confession so important, both as an apostle and as a believer? Reminder: what is the church?
  • When did Jesus mean when He said He would build His church? Why is it comforting to know that not even Satan can destroy the body of believers which make up the church?

Christ has chosen us to be His tools

  • Read Eph. 4:7. Why do you think God chose us—mere humans, to be the instruments by which He would build the church?
  • Read Romans 10:13-15. How would unbelievers hear the good news that Jesus can save all men unless someone takes the Scriptures and tells them? Who will go? If not you, will God eventually choose someone else?

He has equipped us for the job

  • Read Eph. 4:11-12. What is the primary job of the pastors, teachers, and evangelists?
  • Read 2 Tim. 3:16-17. Besides being equipped through the teaching of the Word, what are the two most important ways we can prepare ourselves?

He uses the church to grow us

  • Read Eph. 4:13. What result in our own lives are we looking for, so that we know we are ready to be used?
  • Most Christians are afraid of witnessing because they fear not knowing the answer to a question (just as school children fear tests when they have not properly studied!) What is the solution?

And then He uses us to grow the church

  • Read 4:15-16. What are the reasons why we want to see spiritual growth in ourselves?
  • What are some of the opportunities our own church provides so that we can get comfortable being used in different situations?

 

 

Close:

The church is likened to the body of a person, as the many parts—some external, most internal—function together for the person to carry out daily living. Some of our parts seem insignificant, until they hurt. Suddenly we realize they have a very real reason to be in our body! In the same way, all members of the body of Christ who make up the church, have responsibilities. Each one is necessary to function together to spread the good news of salvation found in Jesus Christ. If some do not carry out their task, others must pick up the slack and take over the job. Although we do so because we want to see the gospel going forward, the person who has not fulfilled their God-given role will eventually be replaced and lose many precious rewards in serving. Proverbs 11:30 tells us that he who wins souls is wise.

We look at our world and think the end of it as we know it is drawing near, and the urgency to sow the seed of the gospel to all we meet is becoming more and more critical. Hebrews 3:13 admonishes us to “work while it is called today,” because we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Take up the challenge to help our church achieve the goal of planting 10,000 churches by the year 2020—a goal very attainable if we all “work, for the night is coming, when man works no more!”*

Key Verse: Matthew 16:18: And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock [confession] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (NKJV)

*Hymn, Lowell Mason

 

 

June 17, 2018

Our Responsibility as Christ Followers
June 17, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

What are some responsibilities you have? Tell when or how you learned they would be something that would be in your life long-term.

We tend to look to the Bible, the church, Life Groups or Home Bible Studies as our greatest means for learning how to conduct ourselves as Christ-followers. Have you ever given much thought to the early Christians, who had nothing but word-of-mouth or home gatherings to learn and encourage each other? We are so blessed to have the Scriptures and can see exactly what God expects from us as believers.

Focal Passage: Galatians 6:1-10

 

Discuss:

We are responsible to and for one another

  • Read verse Gal. 6:1a. We all know that getting married or having a child brings responsibilities we have not previously had. Why would God want us to help care for the believers He brings into our lives after we are saved?
  • Read Heb. 2:11 and 1 Pet. 2:17 and 5:9. Does God consider believers to be a family? What are some of the responsibilities He expects from us for our new “family”?
  • What are some ways in which we can tear down a fellow believer who has fallen into sin? Are these things pleasing to God? How can we gently restore those who are in sin and out of fellowship? (Where would prayer rank as one of the ways?)

We are responsible to God

  • Read verse 1b. Why did Paul feel it important to warn believers to be careful lest the same temptation that overtakes a brother or sister in Christ also overtake us? Why did Jesus warn us often about falling into temptation?
  • Read Heb. 12:1. We all have an area (or areas) where we are weak, and Satan has that weakness targeted. Why does he want to see us fall?
  • How can we avoid the traps he sets in those areas where we are most vulnerable?

We are responsible to care

  • Read verse 2. Does anyone recall the meaning for the word “burden”?
  • What keeps us from being willing to let others know we have a burden too heavy to carry by ourselves? What should we do?
  • Read verse 3. What is the connection of thought between restoring a fellow Christian who is in sin (vs. 2), and not caring (verse 3)?
  • Read verse 4. Paul now admonishes us to keep ourselves under a microscope, so that no-one has a reason to accuse our behavior. There are many verses that can be used as a self-examination; why is it important that we do this often?

We are responsible to do what’s right

  • Read verse 5. What is the difference in the burden of verse 2, and the “burden” used in verse 5?
  • Read verses 7-8 and Jas. 3:18. We must accept responsibility for our actions. Who is watching us because we call ourselves Christ-followers?

We are responsible to NOT QUIT

  • Read verses 9-10 and Hebrews 10:36. Why is perseverance so important?

 

Close:

Many years ago, a young lady from a broken home dated a young man whose family was large and close. She was captivated by the love and general caring she saw within the family unit. She married him and became a part of that close-knit family. That’s how the church body should be. When a person accepts the free gift of God’s grace, they immediately become a part of the large family of God—adopted children of God, and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, as we read in the Scripture passage today. That brings responsibility, just as being a part of any family does. You sorrow when someone sorrows, laugh when they are filled with joy, hold them accountable and in general see that they are always on the path to a closer walk with Christ.

Above all, we all need to carry each other’s burdens, and at the same time hold ourselves accountable for seeing that we walk in close fellowship with Jesus Christ. Today’s world will try to get us off the right path as often as possible, but the tight closeness of family will insure that we maintain a healthy, vibrant Christ-like spirit.

Key Verse: Galatians 6:9: And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Dr. Jerry Falwell, “Don’t quit! Have a 4th Quarter Ministry!”

 

June 10, 2018

Spirit Led Living
June 10, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Without a doubt, you have an issue with something that creates an on-going battle: it may be two children who don’t even try to get along, an issue with the numbers on your scale, foul language or something else. The conflict never seems to end. What comes to your mind, and can you share?

The past weeks we have been looking at the power, presence and purpose of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Scripture tells us that we received the gift of the Holy Spirit when we became a believer. He indwells us, providing the same power that enabled Jesus Christ to raise Himself from the grave. At the same time, we still have a body of flesh, with fleshly desires. The battle between the flesh and spirit is a continual struggle within us. How can we let the Spirit lead?

Focal Passage: Galatians 5:16-26

 

Discuss:

Live in poverty

  • That doesn’t sound attractive, does it? What types of poverty come to mind?
  • If you have spiritual poverty, what would be your condition? How can God help?
  • Read verse 16. What does God desire from you? What does it mean to be completely guided by Him as you go through a day? Can you think of analogies?

Because it’s an uphill battle

  • Does anyone have a daily battle that you can share, and have you ever given thought to the reason it has become an issue? (You might care for an elderly parent who needs constant supervision.)
  • Read verse 17. Why would it be helpful to list blessings from God, helpful Scriptures, or favorite praise songs for those times when you want to give up?
  • Read Rom. 7:15-25. Paul struggled just as we do. Why does that encourage us?

But you CAN do it

  • Read Phil. 4:12-13 and Daniel 1:8. What battles did these two godly men live with daily? Were they able to endure? (Daniel was about 13-15 at the time, which tells us that even teens can commit their way to the Lord).
  • Read Rom. 8:32. God oversees every moment of our lives. He will give us whatever we need to carry out His purpose. How do we know we can trust His promises?

He will make you what you need to be

  • Read verse 22. Before we knew Christ, what were some of the sins listed in verses 19-21 we might have struggled with? Do you find yourself doing battle with any of these former sins during a day? Who would be trying to tempt you to leave the Holy Spirit’s leadership?
  • Read 1 Thess. 5:19. How can we do what this verse admonishes us to do? Why is it so important that we keep the armor of God (Eph. 6) on us always?

And He will give you victory

  • Read verse 24 and Col. 2:13-14. What sins of yours were nailed to the cross when Jesus was crucified?
  • Read 1 John 5:3-5. How can you best keep your faith strong, letting the Holy Spirit lead you, as you daily battle obstacles?

 

Close:

Daily battles are just that—daily, and battles! There is seldom a day that goes by that an issue you deal with constantly gives place to a day of victory. Perhaps you have two children that you call “Oil” and “Water!” It seems that they can’t play together five minutes without a fight or loud screaming. Or possibly you’ve been dealing with losing weight: suddenly it appears everyone you know is having a party or bringing pizza by your house, just “because.” Maybe you’ve been raised by a parent whose vocabulary was filled with cursing, and you considered it normal language until you were saved and noticed the people you now associate with never use profanity. Now you’re trying to clean up your sentences, and suddenly you trip, hit your thumb with a hammer, or have someone in your face, confronting you, more than ever before! Satan knows exactly what pushes your buttons and is determined to have you give up on your faith. But God knew exactly what you would encounter each day. He planned that not only would His only Son die for you, but He also would give you the gift of the third Person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit. He now inhabits your life, giving you the power that you need to be victorious each day.  The list of items in question 5 is a good sword to have on hand when battle times get tough: pick it up and remind yourself how God has blessed you; read the Scripture verses aloud, or sing one of the songs. Resist the devil and He will flee from you! That’s a promise—and God honors all His promises. You can trust Him.

Key Verse: Galatians 5:24: And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

 

June 3, 2018

Keys to Living Right
June 03, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Reading the Instruction Sheets that come with a new DIY piece of furniture is a prudent step. Often, however, we feel we are sensible enough to navigate the task of assembly without the need for the instructions. Can you think of an example and tell what occurred?

The past two weeks we have looked at the work of the Holy Spirit in witnessing and in speaking. Today we will look at Psalm 119, as we are presented with the “keys” to a life of joy.

Focal Passage: Psalm 119:9-16

 

Discuss:

Obey His Word

  • How would you describe the Bible to someone who is unfamiliar with it?
  • Read verse Psalm 119:9. What does the word “psalms” mean? In the section of Scripture called “Psalms,” who did they magnify?
  • If you answered question one by saying the Bible is God’s instruction manual for believers, so that their lives can be empowered by and glorify Him, you would have been correct. Read Romans 10:17 and Heb. 11:6. How does one get the faith to believe that God exists?

Seek Him

  • Read verse 10. If you were an unbeliever, not in church, how would you begin to search for God?
  • What is the promise God has given in Deut. 4:29? Does anyone remember how the Greek was translated in describing how the Psalmist had searched for God? Why would we actively seek Him with our entire being?

Memorize Scripture

  • Read verse 11. When are we tempted to sin? Read Rom. 6:11-14. Why should we NOT sin? What can keep us from obeying the lusts of the flesh?
  • Read Heb. 4:12. If God’s Word is living (and God says it is!) and we have it in our heart, will it be present with us when we want to run from sin? How?
  • Read Deut. 6:6-8. Can anyone relate their experience with teaching their young children to memorize Scripture?

Worship Him

  • Read verses 12, 13. What are some ways in which we worship God? Are there other things in your life that you worship? If so, what are they?
  • Read 1 Cor. 10:31. Why should we give God worship?

 Find Joy in Following

  • Read verses 14-16. What are some of the joys you experience from following Christ as your Savior?  Are you following Him? If you are not, He’s not that “big of a deal” for you, is He?
  • Read 1 Pet. 1:6-9. Is this the testimony of your life?

 

Key thoughts: Just as a parent sets boundaries for his child, every boundary that God has set around us is there to give us the best life possible. Does this truth bring you amazing happiness? Find joy in following Jesus Christ, as it leads to the happiest life that is possible.

 

 

Close

Peter—that brash, often outspoken disciple—was a different man after seeing Jesus in His resurrected body. He became a bold testifier of the faith, and his letters were filled with nuggets of gold. In chapter 3 of his first letter, he writes that if we want to love life and see good days, we should keep our tongues from evil, and our lips from speaking deceit. Last week we learned that controlling the tongue is one of the hardest virtues to acquire, but we are to strive for it. He goes on to say that we should turn away from evil and do good; to seek peace and pursue it (in fact, run after it). In his second letter, he says that God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, and His word is filled with “exceedingly great and precious promises”

Reading these short passages from the small books of 1 and 2 Peter, we can see that Peter summarizes the sermon for today: we are to obey the Word, to seek God’s way within the Scripture, memorize it, worship Him for Who He is, and find joy in following His way, so that we have life and godliness. Do these guidelines illustrate your lifestyle? As said in question 11, if He’s not first and foremost in your life, then He’s not that big of a deal to you. Another statement heard today from a believer was “if my iPad dings to say I haven’t clicked on my Scripture app in three days, I know I need to read some!” Would your family be okay if you only spoke to them every few days? Probably not. Timothy reminds us that we are to flee sin, and pursue (run after) righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and gentleness (1 Tim. 6:10-12.) Let’s make new commitments to pick up these “keys to living” and live a life of righteousness.

 

 

 

May 27, 2018

The Power of Words
May 27, 2018
Scott Bullman

 

Open:

Have you had the experience of asking a friend if she’s pregnant, to learn she’s not? That experience teaches a life-long lesson, right? Will someone share a time when you’ve spoken, and immediately would give anything to take the words back?

Today we are focusing on the power of the words we speak. James tell us that the person who can control his tongue has the power to control the whole body as well (James 3:2). Let’s examine the words we speak, making sure they build up, not tear down; that they encourage, not cause incredible harm.

 

 

Discussion:

Our Words Can Be Life-Giving

Words that Encourage

  • Read 1 Thess. 5:11. List some simple ways to give encouragement that can be the spring board for beginning someone’s day in a joyful manner?
  • What are some effects of encouraging words?

Words that Inspire

  • What results can words of inspiration have?

Words of Kindness and Gentleness

  • Read Prov. 15:4a, and 16:24. What is the effect of kind or gentle words?
  • Read Col. 3:12. What is our responsibility because we are children of God?

Words of Truth and Honesty

  • Read Prov. 6:16, 17b, and 19a. What is the most important reason that we are to be truthful in all we say and do?
  • Read Eph. 4:15 and contrast it with John 8:43-44. Does this include “white lies” and any type of deceit? Why is truth sometimes difficult for us?

 

A Timely Word

  • Read Eccl. 3:7b. How can you know if you need to speak or need to keep silent? Was there a time when you know you were placed in a situation in order to speak God’s word to someone?

A Smart Word

  • Read Neh. 2:1-5. Often we may need wisdom from God in a certain situation but are caught off guard. How can we be prepared for this? How long between the question from the king, and Nehemiah’s answer did he have to pray? Was he prepared, being “prayed up” ahead of time?

 

Our Words Can Be Toxic

Critical Words

  • Read Prov. 26:18-19. What do these verses tell you? (Respond). Is it possible that many unkind remarks are laughingly made under the guise of “Just kidding”?
  • What is the effect of critical words if not spoken in love?

Slanderous Words

  • Read Prov. 25:18. What is slander? Would you even consider wounding or killing a fellow believer? How is that analogous to slander?

 

Gossip

  • Read Prov. 11:13. Have you ever played the game of “Telephone”? If so, you know that the original statement becomes very distorted as it goes down the line of players. How is that like gossip? Why?

Inappropriate Words

  • Read Prov. 4:23-27. Why is it so important to refrain from flirting with anyone other than your spouse, or revealing harsh details of your marriage, thereby causing a friend of the opposite sex to see you as unfulfilled and have the desire to “fix it” or “help”?

 

 

 

Close:

This has been a great time of reflection to examine the ramifications of the things we say, both good and bad. Undoubtedly, we need to strive for a godly answer in everything we say, and to set ourselves apart by a holy conversation. We need always to keep in mind that we will answer to God for our careless words.

It is a sickening thought that some pastors are now speaking profanity from the pulpit, trying to “be all things to all men, so that [they] might win some [for Christ] 1 Cor 9:22.” Christ did not resort to profanity. James said, “Out of the same mouth comes both blessings and cursing—my brethren, these things ought not to be.” (Jas. 3:10). We need to remember we are a testimony to unbelievers, not being so like them the world cannot tell the difference.

The power of our words in this sermon are horizontal: those spoken to people with whom we come into contact, or those people whom we talk about. However, the vertical words that we speak are just as important, if not more so. We are instructed to praise God, to pray without ceasing, to intercede for others as needs arise, to hold conversations as we would with our best friend, and above all, to listen for His reply in our spirit. You will find your kind, gentle words, spoken fitly in season, reap great rewards (Prov. 25:11)!

Key Verse: Psa. 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.” (NKJV)

Conclusion:

A heart filled with BITTERNESS speaks ANGRY words A heart filled with FORGIVENESS speaks GRACIOUS words.
A heart filled with ENTITLEMENT speaks COMPLAINING words A heart filled with GRATITUDE speaks UPLIFTING words.

A heart filled with GUILT speaks HARSH words A heart filled with PEACE speaks TENDER words.
A heart filled with REJECTION speaks RESENTFUL words A heart filled with ACCEPTANCE speaks KIND words.

A heart filled with GRUMBLING speaks NEGATIVE words A heart filled with THANKSGIVING speaks POSITIVE words.
A heart filled with CONDEMNATION speaks JUDGMENTAL words A heart filled with LOVE speaks COMPASSIONATE words.

A heart filled with JEALOUSY speaks words of GOSSIP A heart filled with CONTENTMENT speaks words of BLESSING.
A heart filled with SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS speaks CRITICISM A heart filled with HOPE speaks ENCOURAGING words.

 

 

May 20, 2018

The Power of His Presence
May 20, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

We often are hesitant to speak out concerning a matter we feel may leave us open to stress, yet when someone else—smarter, stronger or more powerful—is behind us, we immediately have much more boldness. Can you think of an example?

Today we are focusing on the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. We open with the apostles gathered in a room in a house, praying, beseeching God to use them. The apostles, who had been ready to return to former trades after the crucifixion, were now gathered together, waiting for the promise from the resurrected Jesus that they should remain in Jerusalem until they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Focal Passage: Acts 2:1-21.

 

 

Discussion:

Pentecost

  • Although to us, Pentecost has become synonymous with this occurrence in Acts 2, was it actually a term for this event, or a word with a simple meaning? How long had it been since Jesus had been resurrected?
  • Can someone tell, in their own words, what happened as the disciples were gathered in that room?
  • In the Old Testament, what were some references to fire, and what did they generally represent? What about the effect of wind?
  • Tongues: the apostles were miraculously able to speak in other languages, so that everyone clearly could hear the gospel in their native language. Why would God do such a miracle?

 

The supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in our lives

  • It was promised
    • Read Acts 1:8. Jesus, who cannot lie, told the disciples to wait for this anointing. What did He say would be the result of the Holy Spirit coming upon them?
    • Read Romans 5:5 and 1 Cor. 3:16. Is the Holy Spirit promised to us as well?
  • It was obvious
    • Read Acts 2:6-8, 12. Why do we tend to put a limit on the power of God?
    • The apostles had seen three years of miracles. How do you think they reacted when they realized they could communicate with foreigners?
  • It was significant
    • How likely is it that these 3,000 who were saved that day would ever forget the occasion? Why?
    • What are some significant things you’ve experienced, never forgotten, and how did they impact your life?
  •  It was life changing
    • Read verse 41. What did these saved persons do next?
    • What has been the most life-changing part of the gospel for you individually?

 

ASK YOURSELF: Why is today’s believer not willing to “seek and to save those who are lost”?

 

 

Close:

This passage is the true beginning of the church. Although these individuals in Acts were miraculously anointed with the Holy Spirit, able to begin a ministry of bringing lost souls into the kingdom of God, He was not limited to that time, and that place. In the following years the disciples saw the Gentiles of all nations become empowered with the Holy Spirit as well.

As we saw in the references in Romans and Corinthians, we, also, have been given the same Holy Spirit, with the same resurrection power, and the same ability to be used significantly in bringing others to Christ. What is holding us back? In Isaiah 6:8 the Lord asked, “Who will go for us?” and Isaiah responded, “Here am I! Send me!” Have you said that to Jesus? He is looking for a heart that is sold out to Him, willing to put Him first before everything else in one’s life. He’s looking for a heart that is not held down by being close to family, to a beautiful home, comfort, a steady paycheck, safety, or so much more. He is waiting for us to say to Him, “Here am I, Lord—send me.” Will we be that one? We have the Holy Spirit’s power. Are we using it?

Key Verse: Acts 2:21: “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (NKJV)

May 13, 2018

Rashad Jennings
May 13, 2018
With Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Children are constantly asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Although some—like Rashad Jennings—know what they want, the majority are clueless as the options are so numerous. Does a memory surface for anyone?

Today we are privileged to have Rashad on the platform, in a dialogue with Pastor Jonathan. Rashad, a Forest, VA. native, has gone from a small community lifestyle to being a Hollywood/NFL household name, all the while maintaining his Christian testimony of living for Jesus Christ. The amazing highlights of his life show what God can do with a heart that is sold out to Him!

Key Verse: Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

 

Discussion:

A Child Hurts

Rashad shared that his early childhood reflected a very low self-image, even though he was surrounded with two loving, older brothers, and a wonderful mom. He was overweight, with red-rimmed glasses, no interest in academics, and the target of bullies.

  • Read Psalm 139:13-16. Why is it so important to present to children (or even adults who are not familiar with the Bible) how much God values them?
  • Can someone share how your life would have been different had you known God loves you with an unconditional love?
  • Read Luke 1:15 and Galatians 1:15. It is easy to look back at Rashad’s life and see God’s hand through the lows and eventual highs that made him the man he is. What are some of the ways you can identify with this in your own life?

 

A Child is Challenged

As Rashad continued his testimony, he revealed that his father, out of work and on disability, depended on cigarettes and alcohol to get through the days. Rashad developed asthma, and the smoke would send him into attacks that were life-threatening. When he begged his dad to stop smoking, he was challenged to become an NFL star without depending on those two addictions.

  • Why would seeing the effects of alcohol and smoking trigger a desire in a child’s heart to avoid those things in his own life? Can you think of an example you can share?
  • Read Proverbs 17:6b Why would the challenge from his father have caused Rashad to show him that he could rise above his dad’s expectations? Have you ever faced a challenge like that?

 

A Child Begins to Grow Up

As years passed, Rashad kept his love for football, as the #5 running back for his team. When a scout saw a play that featured Rashad when other players were hurt (which was ultimately God’s hand on his career), Rashad got his big break, with his life changing when the scout told him he saw he had great potential.

  • Ezra 7:28b says, “So I was encouraged, as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me.”   This could have been Rashad’s testimony at that time. Why is encouragement such a tremendous keyword in Christianity?
  • Have you had a time when someone’s word of encouragement changed the course of your life? Can you share?

 

Pulling Together

The words of the scout became a turning point in Rashad’s life, as his family rallied to make the desires of his heart become a reality. His brothers and his parents made financial sacrifices to get him a diploma, and soon he was in the NFL. His relationship with his father took a turn toward a solid bond of love.

  • Read Eccl. 4:12. Why is it so important to add people to our lives who can be called upon to be there for us during the good times as well as the bad?
  • Think of the people whom you influence. Can you say you’re there for them whenever they need you? What can you do to help them realize their potential?

 

Getting the Desires of Your Heart

From the time Rashad achieved a position as a running back for the NFL, he was aware his heart and ability belonged to God, and his goal was to glorify Him.

  • Read Psalm 86. What is our responsibility? The Shorter Catechism says the “Chief end of man is ‘glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’” Does this sound like your life?
     

Close:

The testimony of the life of Rashad Jennings has been told thousands of times over in the lives of other children. A snapshot of “Shad,” as his friends call him, when he was a child would never have told you that he would be known nationally for his faith and love for the Lord.

The truth we can take away from this conversation is that you never know what God has planned for those who you think are not going to amount to anything. We often judge by external behavior and looks, not considering the amazing ability of our God to bring plans and purposes to fruition in the lives of those who love Him. This should teach us to value the lives of those—especially children—with whom we come into contact, praying for them to become great in the kingdom of heaven.

 

 

May 6, 2018

HOPE IN THE HURTING
May 06, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

OPEN:

If you are someone who can honestly say that you have a great life with few problems, you are a blessed person! Most of us are often overwhelmed and sometimes feel we can’t take the next step. Can someone share?

Today we are looking at Psalm 34, a Psalm of David, written when he was running from King Saul by way of the wilderness. In it, we get the instruction needed to make it through any trial Satan could throw at us. It is a mini-sermon, filled with wisdom, and pointing us to the Source of Strength we can use throughout our days.

Key Verse: Psalm 34:1: “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

Focal Passage: Psalm 34:1-22

DISCUSS:

When you hurt–worship! (Vv. 1-3)

  1. Read Psalm 34:1-3. Why is it so important to take our attention off ourselves and our immediate problems and focus on God?
    2. What are some ways in which you can turn this into a worship experience?
  2. How often did David say he would praise the Lord? What did he boast in? Who else should speak God’s praise? (Is that us?) Whom should we tell of God’s greatness? What is special about praising Him with other believers?

When you hurt–pray! (Vv. 4-7)

  1. Read verses 4-7. Why is it so important to pray? Whose power are you seeking when you pray? Read Philippians 4:6. What does Paul (through the Holy Spirit) tell us about prayer?
  2. David knew that when he talked to God, God would listen and answer. What else does God do for the one who prays? How can we be free from all our fears? What will the results look like, for the one who looks to God for help? (vs. 5).
  3. It is okay to pray when we are desperate. David was running for his life when he penned this Psalm, and what does he assure us the result will be? What power had he tapped in to with his prayer? Is this meant for us as well?

When you hurt–run! (Vv. 8-10)

  1. Read verses 8-10. When you were a child, where did you run when you hurt? Why is this a good analogy for us, always running to God, but especially when we are hurting?
  2. Often, we take a taste of a food to see if we like it; David begs us to give God the opportunity to show us He is good. What does God promise if we are His people who fear Him?

When you hurt–listen! (Vv. 11-14)

  1. Read verses 11-14. David, knowing he was writing to those who could learn (his people and by extension, believers through the ages), desires to teach them the most important thing he knew. What was it? Why is “listening” so important, not only while we pray, but anytime God may speak to our hearts?
  2. We all wish to be joyful and live a good life. How is this possible? What else should we strive for? Read 1 Pet. 3:10-11. Does Peter echo the same thing?

When you hurt–trust! (Vv. 15-18)

  1. Read verses 15-18 and 1 Pet. 3:12. What is God doing for His children? Do you have someone you watch over with passionate vigilance? How can you trust God to watch over you or those you love with the same fervor you exhibit?
  2. Read 2 Chronicles 16:9a. What did this Old Testament author know of God’s watch-care?
  3. What happens to those who do evil and never turn to the Lord?

When you hurt–don’t quit! (Vv. 19-22).

  1. Read verses 19-22. David emphasizes again the benefits of trusting the Lord. What are they (name them one by one!)?
  2. Do these verses mean that we shall avoid all calamity? Read in KJV or NKJV if possible. Verse 20 was thought to be fulfilled by Christ on the Cross.

TAKE AWAY:
1) Spend at least 10 minutes each day thanking Him for His care for you
2) Spend time asking God for clarity and wisdom to navigate life each day
3) Read His word every day (1 Proverb and 3 Psalms each day will finish both books each month)
4) Don’t quit when the trials come
5) The greatest of all hope is salvation; when you hurt, God will deliver you

CLOSE:

Following the guidelines in these 22 verses will change your living! Can you imagine your life next year at this time if you put these principles into practice? When David writes to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” he was thinking of the true satisfaction you would have if you truly placed your faith and trust in God. With that thought being uppermost each morning, carried throughout the day, and meditated on at night, you would always be dwelling on God and His goodness. Does that seem impossible? No—God does not give us impossible tasks; He gives us tasks that He knows we can fulfill. Worship Him. Pray to Him, not in stilted, “King James” prayers, but talk to Him as you would to someone you know loves you with their whole heart.

We sing “He’s a good, good Father,” and the truth of that one phrase should be enough to give you encouragement through any trial you encounter. Finances going badly and not enough money? Marital problems? Turn them over to Him and then show the Christ-like behavior that He desires. Do you think there’s nothing left of your marriage, or nothing that can be done about your debt or addiction? That nothing can be done that will help you–even by God? Remember His creation? He had nothing to work with there, either. Yet the evidence of His eternal Power and Godhead is all around you. Don’t run away, don’t pretend your hurt doesn’t exist, give it all to Him and then listen to see if He wants you to do something. We can’t do all the talking and no listening–that’s not a relationship, but disconnection. You need to listen to the still, small voice well. Trust Him.

Above all, don’t quit. Some of us have a harder time standing our ground than others. Stand firm, remembering that God is not your enemy–Satan is. And he’d like nothing better than for you to leave God and go back to old ways. Keep on keeping on. “The Lord will redeem those who serve Him.” Salvation and joy are the result of unity with Christ. Hold tightly to that hope that will not fail you, especially when you’re hurting.

 

April 29, 2018

FOLLOWING A GOD-SIZED VISION—AGAIN
April 29, 2018
Pastor Sergio Guardia

Open:

There is no doubt that catastrophes are on every hand. Usually we take more notice when they are within our country or a favored country of the world, but sometimes they are within our own community and the effects are much more emotional. How do you normally respond when neighbors, fellow citizens or others are hurt by disasters?

We are looking today at a scene in heaven, where God is reigning. We focus on the model that the picture gives us, knowing if that is the “kingdom as it in heaven” (Lord’s Prayer) then we are to replicate it here on earth, and that is God’s desire for us. Let’s look more deeply.

Focal Passages: Revelation 7:9-10, Matthew 6:9-10

 Discuss:

God’s vision is UNITY IN DIVERSITY

  1. Read Matt. 6:9,10. What does Jesus mean when He says that we should pray for His kingdom to come to earth? What are some of the things you imagine would show that His kingdom has, indeed, come to earth? Is He speaking of the present?
  2. Read Rev. 7:9-10. What do you immediately notice about the multitude in the throne room?
  3. What countries did these people represent? If this multitude is a model, what does this mean to us? In heaven (as should be on earth), who is our family? If racial unity is important to God, why should it be important to us?


God’s vision is great, and the price to accomplish this vision had to be GREAT

  1. Because the cost of our salvation was so great, what did God have to do to adopt us into His family?
  2. Read Romans 9:1-5. Paul made a statement indicating how much he was willing to give for salvation for his Jewish brethren. Could you give your child to save humanity?
  3. If God desires that we be called to unity, how can we accomplish this?


God’s vision is DONE IN HIS POWER

  1. Why do we worship God? What are some of His attributes for which we give Him praise?
  2. What does God desire from us? How can we accomplish racial unity without totally depending on Him? Again, how can we—as a church—do this together?

Take Away: We need to take more than forward steps: we need to be a model for the world of what heaven will look like.

Close:

 When disaster strikes, people work alongside each other with no thought to the prejudices or inhibitions they may normally consider as part of their character. Yet when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are asking God to let us have a role in helping Him bring His kingdom and His will down to the earth, just as we read that it is carried out in heaven. As we saw in Revelation, around the throne are people of every tongue, nation and tribe. What do you consider appropriate on earth in our churches? Does your income level, culture or political persuasion influence you more than God’s will for your life?

Racial reconciliation has made huge strides in the past fifty years. Only those who were raised during the decades before 1970 will remember with clarity the tremendous uprisings of those years prior to integration. The younger generations have got it more correct: friends are friends, no matter the color of their skin, their nationality or their language. It is those who were raised in homes with hold-overs of bigotry who have had (or may still be wrestling with) a tough time making the transition, yet they expect to be in heaven beside those they counted enemies on earth—and in their churches. May God help them.

The church must be the bridge to help bring the kingdom to earth. By responding to our neighbors regardless of race, we can build relationships that will bring us into heaven with compassion and dignity for fellow believers, loving, encouraging, and uniting with them to establish God’s will for us.

 

 

 

 

 

Group Notes | April 22

A BRAND NEW DAY: A BRAND NEW DAY OF SERVING
April 22, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Some people love to help others in the capacity they enjoy most—for instance, cooking a meal for a new neighbor, —while others serve grudgingly. A radio pastor told of arriving in a country only to be ushered to the kitchen with a “Sleep here on the floor; I didn’t know you were coming!” presented in a sour tone. The result was awkward and inhospitable. Can anyone share an example that will illustrate ways to serve?

We are in the series, “A Brand New Day,” looking at the new life a believer has in Jesus Christ. We have learned that we are new creations in Him, with a new purpose in life. We have looked at our new walk, our growth, and the new relationships we have. Now we want to look at the ways in which we can serve others, knowing that is part of our new life and our “calling” from God.

Focal Passage: Ephesians 4:1-7

Discuss:

You have been CALLED

  1. Read Eph. 4:1. As believers, it is as though God has “called” us by name. Why would He do that? (John 10:27, 1 John 4:19).
  2. When will our calling end? Will we ever be worthy of this calling?
  3. Who were some Biblical saints called for a special job or vocation?

You are called to SERVE

  1. Read verses 2-4. The calling is to be a blessing to other people through our service. What are ways Paul mentions in these verses?
  2. How impactful is verse 3, i.e., making allowances for people’s differences from our own? Why do we feel our way is usually the right way?
  3. Verse 4 says our calling has a glorious hope. What is it?

You have been EQUIPPED

  1. Read verse 7 and Romans 12:4-13. How and why should this information fill us with comfort?
  2. What is a “gift” (in Scripture) and how can we liken the passage in Romans to our natural body? How is that the same as being a member of the church?
  3. Who are a few examples from the Bible of someone God called to a certain work, after having given him/her a background for what would be needed?

You have been BLESSED

  1. Read Eph. 4:16. What is the result of our service? Is this the life God desires for each of us, and why?

Key Verse: Ephesians 4:1: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.”

Close:

This past week in central Virginia, Christians were able to put their faith into action as churches and Disaster Relief teams organized efforts to provide help, resources and food to many who lost homes or household goods in tornadoes. The number of those seen working in communities was staggering as they aided overwhelmed homeowners in restoring their lives as much as possible. It was a testimony of Christ-followers being called to serve their neighbors, loving them, caring, encouraging and repairing. Meanwhile, citizens in the upper Mid-west of the US saw the same love expressed by churches and Christ-followers as they fought their way out of a record-breaking blizzard. Service in action was exemplified everywhere.

Just as we expect fruit trees to flourish, bloom, and produce luscious fruit in its season, so also believers in Jesus Christ, who are rooted in Him, will produce fruit that is both Godly and “worthy of the calling with which you were called.” The service that we give to benefit others must come from a pure heart of love, willing and passionate to do the Father’s business. Do you realize that someday we will all stand before God and give an account of ourselves? Does that cause you to desire a more holy life? What will you answer Him when He asks if you loved your neighbors?

The church has a multitude of ways in which you can serve with whatever gift God has given you. Get connected with a Life Group that is comfortable and fitting for you, and jump in. There will never be a better time to begin to serve than this brand new day of TODAY!

 

 

Group Notes | April 15

A BRAND NEW DAY: A BRAND NEW DAY OF RELATING
April 15, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Sometimes we meet a stranger, and the relationship morphs into a deep bond easily and quickly. Other times, a past wound by a friend may have led to a severed relationship, and we have to intentionally take steps to reestablish it, forgiving and moving forward. Can anyone think of an example of either?

Two weeks ago we began a new series, “A Brand New Day,” as we looked at the new life a believer has when he accepts Jesus Christ as Savior. Last week we looked at the growth we should have as a Christ-follower. Today we want to examine our new life in the area of relationships, cutting out those things that would bring us back into bondage, and learning to trust the Holy Spirit as He renews our thoughts and attitudes.

Focal Passage: Ephesians 4:17-32

Discuss:

  1. Sin will damage your relationships beyond repair
  2. Read Eph. 4:17-19. Paul, through the Holy Spirit, encourages these believers (and us) to leave the life in the world lived before salvation, and lists some habits to avoid in order to be Christ-like. What are they (8 of them)?
  3. How do these sinful actions sound like the things we see unbelievers doing daily? Why would they keep us from a close relationship with our God?

 The “TURN” that happened when you came to Christ is a daily commitment

  1. Read verses 20-24. What are you told to concentrate on after salvation?
  2. Give examples of some things that must be daily commitments for the good of our physical body?
  3. What are some reasons the intentional responsibilities in these verses have to be daily disciplines, rather than being a “once for all time” need?

How do these play out in our relationships?

  1. Honesty
  2. Read verse 25. What is this simple instruction?
  3. Why are relationships strong when built on honesty, while dishonesty wrecks them?
  4. Give some examples that seem to make complete honesty sometimes difficult.

 

Self-Control

  1. Read verses 26-29a. What are the three sins to avoid in these verses? Why is this so necessary?
  2. Read James 1:19-20. What are two reasons listed in Eph. 4:27 and James 1:20 that are so very important? How does this go along with the language we use?
  3. What are we to use our strength and resources for?

Building Up

  1. Read verse 29b. What does this verse tell us about our many interactions with others during our day?
  2. Why is this so important?
  3. Is this you?

A change in action and attitude

  1. Read verses 30-32a. Can anyone relate how you felt when you grieved your parent (or someone you loved) by a bad action as a child? We are instructed to be so conscious of the Holy Spirit that we do what (vs. 32)?
  2. Read verse 31 again. What are we to put away from us? Is this a daily commitment?

A life of forgiveness

  1. What kind of life did you live before you were saved?
  2. Did you deserve salvation—or Someone dying for you?
  3. Can someone give an opinion as to why it’s so very hard to forgive when a wrong has been done to us?

Key Verse: Ephesians 4:24: “…and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

Close

Sometimes we hear people say, “The Christian life is just a big list of do’s and don’ts!” If they were reading this passage, they might feel they are correct. However, when you dig deeply, you see the beautiful underlying love that surrounds the relationship we now have with our Creator Father! Verses 24 and 30 both show a love that existed before we were even formed in the womb! This love is so special that Jesus went to the cross just for YOU, and then called you to Himself, making you a new creation. The old you has passed away and the new has come. We want our lives to reflect glory to Him for what He has done, just as we tried hard to please our mom or dad when we were children. The things that the world engages in—the sinful desires of the flesh, the abusive lifestyles, the lack of self-control—will never bring happiness. They may give someone a power trip, but true happiness, peace and joy will never be found in anyone else except Jesus Christ. If you follow the principles laid out in these short verses, you will find a life filled with meaning, joy, and peace with God!

Group Notes | April 8

A BRAND NEW DAY: OF LIVING
April 8, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

If you are a parent, grandparent, or even a close, loving aunt or uncle, you know the entire dynamics of a home changes when a new baby arrives! What are some of the obvious—and less obvious–changes?

On Easter Sunday, the power of God was present in a stirring message of salvation, as many accepted the free gift of grace and faith available through believing on Jesus Christ, and experienced the beginning of a new life. This week we look at the changes that gift of salvation will bring about as you grow in faith, and assess some of the areas that will be most affected.  Did your life change in the past week? Let’s look at the picture of what the gospel should bring about.

Focal Passage: 1 John 1:1-10

Discuss:

A Brand New Day of Salvation

  1. Read John 5:24. Does this verse describe what has happened to you recently? Recognizing your need to be saved from your debt of sins (Rom. 6:23) is the first step in coming to salvation. Read Rom.10:13. Did you follow the recognition up by asking Jesus to save you and repenting of your sins?
  2. Read Rom. 3:23. How many—or what kinds—of sin will separate you from the love of Christ? Read Rom. 10:10. What, besides repentance, is necessary for salvation?

A Brand New Day of Action

  1. Read John 3:13-14. Jesus was ready, at thirty years of age, to begin His ministry. What was the first act of obedience that He performed? How does this give us a precedent as to the importance God places on baptism?
  2. What does baptism represent? Have you been baptized, even after salvation of some lengthy time? What has held you back from obeying this ordinance?

A Brand New Day of Living

  1. Read 1 Pet. 2:1-2. In the opening, a new baby requires the family or guardian to take responsibility for certain requirements the child needs. If you liken that to your salvation experience, what are some things your new life will require of you?
  2. Read 1 John 1:5-6, and 2 Cor. 5:17. Explain why you, as a newborn babe in Christ (or even as a seasoned believer) cannot go places, look at things, or have companions that would be contrary to your faith in Jesus Christ.

A Brand New Day of Walking

  1. Read verses 7-8. If you’re a new believer you might be asking yourself, “Where do I go? What do I do?” Read Matt. 6:33 and James 1:5. You now have a Creator who will “liberally” give you wisdom when you ask. How do you seek God and His righteousness before other things (Matt. 6:33)?
  2. Read 1 Thess. 5:16-18. When you read verses such as this, underline it so that you can find it at a moment’s notice. What does it mean to your new way of life?

A Brand New Day of Forgiveness

  1. Read verse 9. Why is it necessary to keep a “short account” of your sins? How is that analogous to letting debt on a credit card mount up?
  2. What are some ways you can keep your walk pure?

Memory Verse: 1 John 1:6: If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

Close

So often non-believers will scoff at Christianity, saying it is a list of rules—of “do’s and don’ts.” You may have felt that way yourself before Jesus called you to Himself. What they do not realize, however, is that He has taken the “old” you, the one who walked in darkness and had fellowship with darkness, and created a new being! You are no longer the same person, with the same desires for sin and its temporary pleasure. The old has passed away, and the new has come—and continues to keep coming.

If you remember, Pastor Jonathan used the organ as an example of a new creation. It had been a tree that was cut down, and fashioned by experts into a beautiful instrument that is used to worship God. You, too, have been changed from the person you were  into someone completely new, whose being can bring glory to God for the rest of your life. What a praise!

If you feel you need additional help—and most of us do!—connect with one of the Life Groups at church, and find one that meets your needs. There are studies for everyone, and they will help you grow as you seek this new life of joy and peace with God.

 

Group Notes | April 1

A BRAND NEW DAY
April 1, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

There are probably very few people who could honestly say that they’ve never had a period of time when they wished they could wake up the next morning in a completely different life or situation! Can anyone share?

This past week has been the memorial of Easter, remembering the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Coming in flesh to the earth as a baby, He became a man, and was crucified, buried, and resurrected three days later, birthing the Christian faith. This is best described in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Focal Passage: 2 Corinthians 5:21

Discuss:

The Symbol of the Cross

  1. Read Hebrews 12:2. Sometimes the reality of the heinous act of crucifixion does not impact our lives as it should, simply because we have never seen one. Yet what do we know about death on a cross that should cause us great grief to realize Jesus went through such suffering for each of us?
  2. Read Hebrews 9:22. The Jewish religion was based on the sacrificial death of animals. In what way did Jesus represent that atoning sacrifice? Read Isaiah 52:14, and chap. 53, and give God praise that Jesus did not resist the agony He would undergo.

Those Who Viewed the Crucifixion

  1. Read Matthew 27:36-44. Who were some of those who watched the crucifixion? How do you think the different groups acted?
  2. Jesus also endured knowing His mother was being tortured in her spirit seeing Him die without completely understanding. Read Luke 23:49. Who else was with her?

The Effect of the Crucifixion for Today

  1. Read Romans 3:23, 6:23, and Eph. 2:1-10.
  2. What was our condition when we cried out to God for the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ? Dead men can do nothing. Could we save ourselves?
  3. Read 1 John 2:2. Can anyone explain propitiation? How did He take our sins, making them His very own? Assuming our debts, covering our guilt, and taking our punishment: that is propitiation, and He did it for you.
  4. Read John 3:16. God has a purpose for everything He does, yet we know many people reject Jesus Christ as Savior. Why do you think this is so?

How Do We Get a BRAND NEW DAY?

  1. Going back to our opening, what are some things that worry you and hinder your sleep in the dark of night? Can you share?
  2. What is it about a new morning that causes the heaviest of worries somehow seem lighter? Read Psalm 30:5. How does this verse describe how you feel?
  3. Read 2 Cor. 5:17. What happens when we repent of our sins, and ask Jesus to save us? Will we keep sinning? Read Lamentations 3:22-23 for peace. How does God feel about you each morning? How does Easter morning add a whole new dimension when you consider what He went through for YOU?

Acts 2:21: “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved!”

 Close

Did you ever wonder how crucifixion began, and why it was chosen for Jesus’ death? Thought to have originated in Babylon hundreds of years before Christ, the Persians also began using it for criminals and unwanted citizens. Later, it made its way to Greece, then Rome. By the 1st century BC, the Romans had perfected it for killing slaves, criminals, foreigners—and later, Christians. Finally, about 400 AD, Constantine I abolished it. Placed next to roads or busy highways, the victims were examples to all who passed by as objects of shame. Such was the cross—usually a newly cut tree with bark and splinters—of Jesus Christ, the Creator of heaven and earth, and the Son of God.

Did you ever wonder why two thieves were crucified with Him? Is it possible those men—deserving their fate, by their own admission—represented all humanity in our choice of eternity? One turned away from asking the Savior to forgive his sins, while the other begged for mercy and grace. Soon he would no longer be able to speak; in a few hours he would enter Paradise with Jesus. There are only two choices for eternal life: heaven or hell. These men represent each.

Jesus died on such a cross, shedding His sinless, perfect blood, so that we do not have to endure hell. But it is a choice each of us must intentionally make. Our good works, family, church or wishes won’t get us there. Only the realization that we are dead in trespasses and sins, and know the wages of sin is death for eternity in hell, can we—like the thief—cry out to God for His grace and forgiveness from our sins. We will immediately be His child, and nothing can pluck us out of His hand. It is a decision that will matter for eternity.