August 7, 2022

            THE LETTERS OF JOHN: THE HOPE OF LOVE

     August 7, 2022

        Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Someone has said, “Love is how you act, not how you feel.” Is this statement true?

Last week we finished 1 John, written by the last living apostle of Jesus near the end of the first century—more than sixty years after Jesus’ resurrection. Today, we hear what John wrote in his 2nd letter to the church, as these Christians were being attacked for their faith, just as we are today. John reiterated the counsel he had written in the first letter of John, reminding the believers that love has to be the primary motive for everything they do. This would be both love for God and love for people, born out of the greatest love they have, that of their heart for God as was shown by their obedience to His commandments.

Focal Passage: 2 John.

The Hope of love

  • Read 2 John verse 3. As believers, what is the promise we are assured of as we “remain in Christ’s teaching”? What is the difference between Grace and Mercy? Where does peace come from?
  • What is another word for “Hope,” as we understand it from the New Testament? Why are you assured of eternal life if you are a believer? What are the two qualities we are to walk in daily, as Christians?

Love comes through obedience

  • Read verses 5-6. Who was the “dear Lady”? How can we as believers know we are doing things “in love”?
  • What is God’s definition of love? Read Phil. 2:3. Is this how we are—or how we should be? Do you ever examine yourself to see if your motives are from truly loving others, or a desire to appear godly?
  • How does that statement in verse 6 reflect 1 John 2:3, 5? Does anyone recall the song as a child, “Obedience is the very best way…”?

Love can be deceived and destroyed

  • Read 2 John verses 7-9. As you are living life, how do you identify deceivers or false teachers? What are some of the lies they will try to perpetrate? What is their hidden agenda? Who has sent them?
  • As the end of the world seems to be drawing closer, who will people need to be alert for? Are you already identifying some as Anti-Christ? How can you guard yourself against the attacks of deceivers?
  • What are some things that can destroy love? How do you remain in Christ’s teaching? Can you live however you want? Why or why not?

Love is to be protected

  • Read verses 10-11. What are some ways you can be alert to protect your love for God? If someone who is preaching false doctrine knocks at your door, do you invite them in? Why or why not?
  • What does John mean by greeting (or your translation) them? How will this impact your life before God?

Love is the reward

  • Read verse 12. What is the biggest drawback that we endure when we read—or send for someone else to read—a handwritten missile (or email, text, etc.)? Why is body language so important?
  • As the church body, what are some things we get to enjoy when we meet together? Can you experience the same kindred feelings when you meet in a group for another reason? Can you give some examples?
  • Do you often think of heaven? What are some things you are looking forward to? Dr. Ed Hindson, late professor at Liberty University, often remarked, “If we can trust Jesus with our eternal soul, don’t you think we can trust Him to prepare a place for us that is beyond our imagination?” How do you agree with that statement?

Close:

If you had only thirteen verses you could give someone who had become a believer, but had no further instruction, you might consider giving them the second letter of John! These verses encapsulate the teachings of Jesus Christ, in that John encourages them that, if they know Truth, it will remain with them forever. He further states that, because of the truth, we will always have grace and mercy “to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16), as a promise.

He continues with an exhortation to “love one another.” As John repeatedly wrote in 1st John, “if you can’t love your brother whom you have seen, how will you love God whom you have not seen?” Love is vital. It is the composite of all the commandments: “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and spirit, and Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no room or excuse for hostility toward a Christian brother or sister, globally, and we have the command to love our enemies, direct from Jesus.

Always be careful not to listen to or bless those who preach false doctrine, which could undermine your faith (verse 8). Stay in the study of God’s word, meditate on it, memorize it to protect you from sin, talk about it with your family, and let the words of Scripture surround you as you live—it will guard your heart, protect your mind, and bring you to Jesus when you leave this life. What a blessed assurance!

 

July 31, 2022

        THE LETTERS OF JOHN: THE CONFIDENCE OF A BELIEVER

                 July 31, 2022

                Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

By nature, are you a confident person, comfortable in your own skin, or are you insecure, always thinking the worst of yourself? Can you share?

Today we finish 1 John, absorbing the encouragement that John gives us as he tells, from first-hand experience, why, as children of the Living God, we can have the confidence of eternal life. As we’ve learned, John was writing to the  believers at Ephesus because Agnostics—men who believed they were set apart because they supposedly had more knowledge of God than other people—were undermining their faith with lies. In case you ever question your security as God’s child, join us as we are taught from the last living apostle, just as he had learned from Jesus Christ Himself.

Focal Passage: 1 John 5:13-21.

Confidence in His promise

  • Read 1 John 5:13. What is the key word we will often be finding in these next verses? How does the knowledge that we can believe God’s promises give us confidence in our faith?
  • Who does John say he is writing these things to? What is the reason he is writing to them? How do you know that his words are for us as well?
  • If you are a believer, discuss why you will never lose the security you have of eternal life, knowing God will never let you out of His hand.

Confidence in His care for us

  • Read verses 14-15. Here, John writes concerning the importance of the prayers of a believer. What does he say we can be confident of?
  • What is the conditional statement in verse 14? How can people misinterpret what John says?
  • In verse 15a, how do we know that God hears us? Read John 9:31. Does John mean we must be free of sin? If not, what does he mean? What are examples of a lifestyle someone may not wish to be free from?
  • Everyone has a sinful thought, a slip of the tongue, etc. What steps can you take to conquer those sins or lessen Satan’s power to tempt you?

Confidence in our responsibility for others

  • Read 1 John 5:16-17. Before we get confused, read the last sentence in verse 17 again. What is the only sin that will certainly lead to spiritual death? What, in verse 16a, does John call this person who has committed a sin that does not lead to death? What would be the difference between a sin that does not lead to death, and one that does? Can you give a Biblical example of a sin that led to death? (Hint: Acts, and more). What about an example for a sin that did not lead to death? (Hint: David, and others).
  • As believers, what can we take away from this passage? Should you tell the sinning believer that you are praying for them?
  • If rejection of Jesus Christ and the pardon He provided sinners is the one spiritual sin unto death, why can we believers not commit this sin?

Confidence in His protection

  • Read 1 John 5:18-19. We know from our own life that a believer does sin. What, then, does John mean? How do you react when a thought from the evil one comes into your mind? By taking the thought captive, and immediately turning it over to God, are we winning against Satan?
  • What comes to your mind when John says, “the evil one does not touch him”? What do you remember about Job? Satan, we saw, had authority to go before God, hurt Job, strip him of everything; what, though, did Satan have to have first? Is that why John says he doesn’t touch us?
  • The whole world is under the reign of whom? Do you think this why all nations seem to be going downhill?

Confidence in Who He is

  • Read verses 20-21, and Colossians 2:13-15. How is the Colossians passage a parallel to verse 20? What did Christ do for us? What has He given us?
  • As further proof that we belong to God, who resides in us? How can we tell He is there? Is there any way He will lead us wrong? Will He allow the devil to snatch us away?
  • What does he mean, “Guard yourselves from idols”? What is an idol? Name some examples. How can you guard yourselves from them?

Close:

There are few things that give us confidence more than knowing something with every fiber of our being! If we’re going to be tested, it’s in knowing the material; if it’s in cooking, it’s knowing the recipe is perfect; if it’s your driving, it may be the confidence that there are angels all around you all the time! Confidence isn’t usually in our ability—it’s in the object of our faith. We are confident the professor will test us on the information he’s taught; the recipe has been a winner for decades; the angels are on assignment from God.

So it is with God. We have confidence, not because we are super-spiritual, or someone worth God’s notice, but because He sent His Son, who paid our sin debt, gave us a pardon, and adopted as His child for all eternity. With that promise in the Bible, we can know that we are His when we confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and repent, turning to Him and giving Him free reign in our lives as King of Kings. Do we think Him to be a liar? No! Can He lie? No! So why would we not have confidence? Our faith is in Him—He will never leave us, forsake us, or let us go out of His hands.

 

July 24, 2022

THE LETTERS OF JOHN: THE MARKS OF A BELIEVER

July 24, 2022

Charles Billingsley

 

We are known to make snap judgments, especially upon first meeting people, aren’t we? We decide instantly whether we like or don’t like someone. What do you base your decision on in those first moments of meeting strangers?

Today we continue the series on the Letters of John, the last remaining apostle who had been with Jesus. As we enter 1 John 5, John sums up the life of a person who has become a Christ-follower: they believe Jesus is the Son of God, He paid for our sins by dying in our place, was crucified, buried, and three days later rose from the grave, giving us eternal life and the hope of spending eternity with God and all believers who have died in the faith. John’s last words spoken to the believers in the Ephesian church was simple: “Love one another!” When asked why this was all he said, John replied: “If that’s all they do, it will be enough.”

Focal Passage: 1 John 4:20-21, 5:1-13.

We love God

· Read 1 John 5:1. What is the first mark of a believer? What does it mean to believe that Jesus is the Christ? What is our faith based on? Can someone explain the difference between faith and trust? If we have faith in Jesus, and trust Him with our heart, how will that effect our actions?

· What are some of personal indications that we love God? Read 1 John 4:19. How do you know that God loves you with a personal love? How can you love God whom you’ve never seen?

We love God’s Son

· Why do we love Jesus Christ? What are some things He has done for you? If you feel your love for Jesus is insufficient, what are some ways you can choose to cause it to grow?

· Love is an action verb. Can you decide to love in a way that will give glory to Jesus Christ? Where must that start?

We love God’s Children

· Can we serve other people “in the name of the Lord, as doing it for Him,” asking God to let His love for them flow through us? Will it? If this is your mind set, after a while will you find you are truly loving them? Why must love be what we do, not how we feel?

· Read Eph. 5:1-2. As we put actions to our love, what does God consider those actions to be? Do you feel you are giving God “sacrifices and

offerings” by your actions? How can we teach our hearts to see other believers as God sees them?

We obey His commandments

· Read 1 John 5:2. What is the purpose of God’s commandments? What two statements are all the commandments able to be summed up as?

· Read verse 3. Why does God say His commandments are not meant to be a burden to us? Read John 14:20-21. The longer we serve and obey God, the more our love will grow. Can you look back a few years and see you have moved closer to God? Why or why not?

We are overcomers of this world

· Read verse 4-5. What does John mean, to “overcome the world”? What is the one thing that enables us to overcome the world and its lusts? If we love Jesus Christ, why is it that we will overcome the world?

· Read John 15:4-5. Has anyone grown a garden this year? What happens to the produce when it is plucked from its vine? How is that analogous to our lives if we don’t stay “attached” to God?

 

We live in confidence

· Read 1 John 5:6-13. What is the source of our life? What is meant by the “testimony”? Why has God given us eternal life? What can break that fellowship that we have with God?

· Can you have eternal life without acknowledging that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?

Close:

Do you normally search your heart and examine your life regularly to see that you are serving God more gladly, loving Him more deeply, talking to Him more often, and seeking His presence more constantly than you were last year, or the year before? It is a joyful thing to see your soul prosper and grow in the Lord!

John was a remarkable—but ordinary—man who was used by God to do amazing and extraordinary things. When he and his brother James (the first apostle to be martyred for the Christian faith), came to Jesus as disciples, they were possibly a little “hot-headed.” Jesus actually called them “The Sons of Thunder.” Later, their mother sought Jesus to beg Him to allow them to sit on either side of Him in heaven, making the other disciples quite irate. Toward the end of John’s life, he was boiled in oil by the emperor, but God miraculously preserved him just as He had once saved Daniel from lions, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace. John was then sent to the Isle of Patmos, where God wanted him. There, he received revelations that he wrote as The Revelation of Jesus Christ—the last book of the Bible. May we all have the grace to grow from the thunderous child to the child entrusted with God’s precious promises!

July 17, 2022

        THE LETTERS OF JOHN: HOW DO I KNOW?

   July 17, 2022

   Pastor Matt Willmington

At the risk of causing a tiff between a married couple, do you remember the first time you “fell in love” or experienced puppy love? Can you tell us about it?

Many people have been raised on Bible verses such as, “Do unto others as you want them to do unto you,” and “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” We may have been taught that a neighbor is the person next door or across the street. Jesus, in Luke 10:25-37, said that a neighbor is anyone who may cross your path at any time. John continues this first letter to the Ephesians by concentrating on the love a true believer must have for other believers in the church—as well as for people outside the church. He knew if Christians can get God’s concept of love into their hearts —both for God and people—the church would be able to face the world’s attacks. Join us as we study 1 John 4:7-21.

Focal Passage: 1 John 4:7-21

If you love the Father, you love the family

  • Read 1 John 4:7, 8, 16, 19. Who is God saying we must love in these verses? Why must we? If we lack love for the brothers and sisters in the church, why is it so important that we figure out why?
  • When do you get the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? Is He God, equal to God the Father and God the Son? What are some of His character traits? If He is living within you, how will you conduct yourself?
  • What did verse 7 tell us? Read Romans 12:10 and Eph. 4:2. What quality do you especially notice in these two verses? If we take the lead to do the right thing, and to love others in the “family of God,” how is that glorifying God?

Love sends, serves, sacrifices

  • Read verses 9-11,14. Why did God send His Son to the world? Read Phil. 2:6. What example of service did Jesus set for us here? Read Rom. 8:9. Is anyone naturally humble? How can we teach ourselves to be humble? Why is humility necessary, if we wish to be like Jesus?
  • Read Rom. 12:16 and Gal. 5:13. Why was Matthew Henry correct when he wrote, “We must bear a resemblance to [Christ’s] life, if we would have the benefit of His death”? What quality must we continually seek to develop in our lives?

We love what we see, to love what we can’t see

  • Read verses 12, 14, 20. Has anyone seen God at any time? For those who were with Jesus, was this like ‘seeing’ God? Who else do we see that is in His image? How does love for God develop from loving others?
  • If you hate a true brother or sister in the faith, and you are striving to please God, what are some actions you must take to get your feelings within God’s boundaries? What would you do?
  • Read 1 Thess.5:11, Eph. 4:32, Rom. 14:19 and Jas. 5:9. What are some of the fruits that we will bear indicating we are growing in our capacity to love?

Live in God because He lives in you

  • Read verses 12-13, 15-16. What are two affirmations in our lives that will let us know we belong to God? If we take a spiritual test each year, what should we see?
  • Read 1 Thess. 5:15, Jas. 4:11 and Gal. 5:26. These are verses on what NOT to do! What actions are you to stay away from? If God the Holy Spirit is living in you, why will you find these impossible to tolerate?

Completed love gives confidence

  • Read verses 12, 17, 18. Who loves to put fear into our lives? What are some of the things that fear will center on? How can we drive fear out?
  • Why should we not be afraid of facing God in judgment? When did we “put off the old man”?
  • Read Rom. 14:13, Gal. 5:15, Eph. 4:25 and Titus 3:3. What are some things that we used to do, but should no longer be doing once we belong to God?

Haters don’t love, lovers don’t lie

  • Read verses 20-21. Why should we find it impossible to hate our believing family if we are confessing and believing in Jesus Christ? Read Rom. 15:7. If they confess and believe in Jesus, how should we treat them? Is that how God treats us?
  • Read Rom. 15:14, Eph. 5:21 and Gal. 6:2. Why is this how we should be acting toward our church family?
  • Read Jas. 5:16, 1 Pet. 4:9, 5:5. These are ways our actions and our fruits will show we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Why is this so important?

Close:

At first it may seem slightly intimidating to read all the “dos and don’ts” in the Scriptures, but what may seem difficult here on earth will be momentary in the light of heaven! Think of what you will have: eternal life, not only with God as your Father and Jesus as your brother, but also with all the family and friends who have died in the Lord and gone to be with Him! How amazing is that? Is obedience too much to ask? No!

For a few short years we will be reaching toward that holy perfection God has asked of us (“Be holy, as I am holy”), in order to be rewarded with no tears, no sin, no sorrow, and so much more! Is that too much to pay for what you will be receiving? Not at all.

This has been a long lesson, but the summary is so short: Love God, and love your brothers and sisters in the faith. Love your neighbor more than you love yourself. As 1 John 1:7 says, “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin!”

June 10, 2022

THE LETTERS OF JOHN: STAND ON THE TRUTH

June 10, 2022

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

It is often very aggravating to find someone has lied to you, isn’t it? When you found out, how did you handle it?

Today we move into the fourth chapter of 1 John. John begins this chapter by writing about the importance of Truth. Some people are able to spot a lie instantly, while others, more naive, believe what they’re told. When it comes to matters of our salvation, John lays out why it is so vital that we be able to discern between what is true and what is false. Satan would like nothing better than to see us taken down and devoured. We must always know the truth, stand on the truth, and speak it in our hearts.

Focal Passage: 1 John 4:1-6

Knowing truth makes all the difference

  • Read 1 John 4:1. What is meant by “do not believe every spirit”? Who are the spirits? Are they friends or enemies of Christ-followers?
  • Why is it so important to test the spirits? Where are the spirits who are in the world, and what is their mission?
  • Read 2 Timothy 3:1-5a. How is this an accurate analysis of the world we live in today? Read 2 Timothy 3:5b-7. What will be the result of those who are gullible, living immoral lives? How could they make a different choice?
  • How do we continue to grow in truth? Read 1 John 3:24. Our salvation is more precious than gold. Why is it imperative that we continue to abide in Him, never quitting?

Jesus is the source of truth

  • Read verses 2-3. How do you recognize the Holy Spirit of God? There are spirits who do not believe Jesus is God, who came in the flesh to this earth; who are they? Read Jeremiah 9:3. Why is this so descriptive of those who don’t know truth?
  • Who else are described as spirits that do not know truth? Does verse 3 apply to our world today? How?
  • Why is it so necessary for our lives as children of God that we know truth? Read Hosea 4:1. Why does this sound like people in our world?
  • Read John 14:6. If we have Jesus, and hold tightly to Him—abiding in Him, why will we overcome?

The truth gives us power

  • Read verse 4. Who is in you? Read John 14:17. If the Holy Spirit is in you, but you do not appropriate the resurrection power, can you overcome the evil one?
  • Read Ephesians 6:10-11. Why is it so important to put on the pieces of armor (i.e., what each piece represents)? Is there any other way to be able to overpower the devil, other than knowing God’s truth? In Matthew 4:1-11, how did Jesus overpower Satan? If Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, vanquished him by Scripture, should we use it to fight our battles?

The truth reveals truth

  • Read verses 5-6. Who is “they,” referenced three times in verse five? What was John speaking of when he used the word “world”? How else can you interpret it?
  • What are some things in this world that cannot coexist with each other?
  • Read Psalm 40:10. If we confess Jesus Christ as Lord, and know truth in our hearts, what are we to do?

Close:

Those of us who lived during the middle years of the past century remember well when most movies were stories of good vs. evil. Those made by reputable film producers almost always showed the victory of the good winning over the evil. Now, life seems to have turned into a gigantic movie set, with a stage representing good and evil, and evil is seemingly winning everywhere we turn—and it can get us discouraged unless we know the truth of the Word of God. We must hang onto the Revelation of John that the devil and his demons will, at the end of the ages, be cast into hell for eternity. It is hard to believe someone would choose to be so evil, with no repentance, and try to take as many with him as he can. We must hold on tightly to the truth that Jesus is God, and is for us, and has overcome the world.

But we have to see the bigger picture, don’t we? We, who were raised as Christ- followers, have raised several more generations in the church, but have seen many of our family going “the way of Balaam.” They have been tempted beyond what they can endure, have chosen evil over good, the world (those ‘against God’) rather than God, sin over holiness. Why? What is so attractive in the world that it trumps heaven?

Evil and Truth cannot coexist. But when the polls are read and we understand many Christians spend only minutes a day, if even that, reading the Bible, or a couple of chapters although they can’t recall what they read, we see they are not being fortified by truth in God’s Word. Those who abide in Him have the seal of the Holy Spirit by Him indwelling us, giving us His power by which to overcome temptations the world throws at us. We can’t defeat the devil if we haven’t hidden God’s Word in our hearts when God has provided the power for us to overcome, by recognizing the devil’s counterfeit lies. God has won the victory, battle by battle. He deserves all the praise we can give Him. We are to believe in Him, confess Him before men, and share the truth of the gospel. We need to stay in His Word, know the truth, and the truth shall set us free. Truth is Jesus.

July 3, 2022

THE LETTERS OF JOHN: LOVE MATTERS

July 3, 2022

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Can you share a true blessing that happened this week, and also a challenge that you faced, and tell how you handled it?

Today we will study the second half of chapter 3 in 1 John. Last week, in the first half of the chapter, we learned we could make a change in our lives by seeking purity and avoiding sin. Many of us, if given the option, would make many changes in our lives, especially in those things that impact our lives, causing us to sin. In today’s sermon, John wants us to go to a new level of change as he tells us that love for our Christian brother or sister is paramount—as is also loving our neighbor, the unsaved, different from us by politics, creed, lifestyle, etc., which is how Christ lived. He is our example. Now we need to be the example to the world.

Focal Passage: 1 John 3:11-24

Love is not a choice

  • Read 1 John 3:11 and Lev. 19:18. What are some definitions of love? In verse 11, did God—through John—say whom we should love?
  • Why did God not give you an option? Why did He not say we could pick and choose the people we want to love?
  • Read verse 14. Who are we to love in this verse? Read James 2:8-10. Did James mean just the Church here, or neighbors?
  • Lest there be any who needs an excuse to not love a neighbor, can someone share the highlights of the Good Samaritan parable?
  • Why is loving others not a good gauge of salvation? Can you be lost and still love others? Can you be saved but NOT love others? Why not?

Jealousy is the enemy to love

  • Read verse 12-13. Why did Cain kill Abel? What do you remember about the account of Cain and Abel’s problem as described in Genesis? Why was Cain jealous of Abel? How could he have chosen differently?
  • (Think): Do you ever see this scene playing out in your own life (substitute hatred for murder)? What are some things that make you jealous? What can you do to stop jealousy in your life?
  • What is it about Christ-followers (like Abel) that is so hard for others (like Cain) to tolerate? In other words, why does the world hate Jesus?
  • Read verse 15. Do you know any one who hates someone else? Why would God identify hatred as murder? What is murder driven by? Read 1 Samuel 16:7b.

Love needs to be connected to action

  • Read verses 17. How can—as John asked—the love of God reside in a person who will not meet the needs of others whom they know about? Read James 2:14-17. How does the kind of faith that meets needs manifest itself?
  • What are some of the ways in which our love for God and for other people shows itself? What does John mean when he says that we need to love “in truth”?
  • If you had to list the most important thing that, as a Christian, you experience, what would it be? Why is your behavior while among the unsaved a sure sign of your heart?

Love can only come through Christ

  • Read verse 23. What is the difference in the command of God saying “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and spirit,” and what John says, “believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ”?
  • Read verse 24. Read Deut. 27:10. Is this an OT mate to the NT verse by John? How do you know the Spirit remains inside of you?
  • Why is obedience so essential?
  • Do you desire to be holy above all things? Read Rom. 7:21-25. Does the desire to be holy ever war with your flesh?

Close:

What a magnificent lesson on love John gives us! Often, in the chaos of life, and the busy-ness of our schedules, we let opportunities slip by that could be turned into a time to put actions to our faith, meeting needs as we go to Walmart, the grocery store, or some other retail store. How many times have you been in a check-out line and the person at the register didn’t have enough money to pay for their purchases? It probably won’t bankrupt you to pull your wallet or purse open—or get out your credit card—and tell the clerk you’ll pay for their groceries. It is an action that says you love them.

Everyone is not lovable; we all know that. If you’ve found a way to love just about all the people who cross your path, teach the lesson at church! However, since the feelings can’t be seen, except as you allow your face to reflect them, at the very least you can smile, greet them happily, or compliment something about them. Those endorphins are going to pop into their hearts, leaving a good feeling for a while. There will always be those who don’t respond to overtures of encouragement but that shouldn’t stop you from offering them. It is an action that says you love them.

Life is very rough right now. Most people are suffering in some manner or are in some type of pain. Ease it when it’s within your power to do so—it won’t cost you anything to smile or say hello. It might also save their life, and the “ripple effect” will go on for days. Just remember how Jesus looked at people and “had compassion” on them (as in Luke 7:13), or even “loved them” (as in Mark 10:21). Can we do any less? These actions tell them you love them. Just like Jesus did.

June 26, 2022

           THE LETTERS OF JOHN

             June 26, 2022

            Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Have you ever struggled with one of the characteristics that makes you, “you”? We often see our strengths as weaknesses. Can anyone share?

We are continuing our series through the letters of John, as we examine 1 John 3:1-10. These three letters (1, 2, & 3 John) were written to believers who were trying to stand against those who were so opposed to Christianity—just as it is today. John was the last apostle remaining alive, and the only one who is thought to have died of old age, rather than of martyrdom. However, if the legend that he was boiled in oil but escaped unscathed is true, he was willing to die for the truth he proclaimed about Jesus and the gospel. His letters help us to understand the attacks from the outside are to stop us from doing what we are commissioned to do!

Focal Passage: 1 John 3:1-10

Don’t be surprised by the lack of love

  • Read 1 John 3:1. When you reflect on the majesty of God, does it overwhelm you that He will adopt you as His child, through Jesus?
  • What are some of the benefits of being His child? What are we delivered from?
  • Why are there people who do not like you because you are a Christian? Why would anyone turn away from the gift Jesus offers?

The best is yet to come

  • Read verse 2. What do you envision when you think about heaven? Why does no one know what we will be like?
  • What were some of the characteristics of Jesus after He rose from the grave? Will we have those characteristics?
  • What do you think John meant when he said “we will see (Jesus) as He is?

So prepare for the best?

  • Read verses 3-6. What “hope” is John talking about? What does he mean that we purify ourselves?
  • Some people are confused, as verse 4 sounds as though we will no longer sin. What is the meaning of the phrase?
  • (Verse 6) Do you know people who call themselves Christians, but whose lifestyle is contrary to God’s Word? Why is that type of sin “lawlessness”? Why is it not pleasing to God?
  • How can one lovingly help the sinner see that his unwillingness to give up his sin is making a mockery of his declaring himself saved?
  • When you sin, what are your reactions? If you can share, what are some of the sins that you commit that grieve you immediately, yet you can’t seem to over-come them? What can you do?

Even though Satan wants the worst

  • Read verses 7-8. What are the two types of people around us every day?
  • How can you tell the difference? Read 1 Cor. 6:9-11, Rev. 21:8, 22:14-15. Could Scripture be any more explicit about the righteous inheriting eternal life? What are some of the sins listed that we have gotten used to?
  • Why does Satan want to take as many Christians down as he possibly can? Why does He hate God so much?

Close:

Have you ever noticed that no one but Christians seems to realize that there are only two camps of people in the world: those who know Jesus Christ as their Savior because they believe in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, and believe He paid their sin debt that we—none of us—could pay ourselves, have confessed and repented of their sins; and those who reject Jesus, never accepting His free gift of salvation by grace. If they could but see into Hell for a few minutes it would scare them into changing their lifestyle.

What do you say to people you have a chance to witness to? Are you able to do it in love, “hating the sin, but loving the sinner”? That’s very hard. It’s hard to look past the sin to see a soul on their way to Hell. But what if no one has ever told them what Jesus has done for them? In America, where there is a church on every corner, it is easy to assume that everyone has heard of Jesus, knows what He did for us, and has chosen to reject Him. That’s simply not true. If you start witnessing to people you will find that many of them have not been raised to know anything about Jesus except that His name provides a curse-word for them to use.

What does it mean to be righteous, or to be holy, as He is holy? It means you are not in first place in your life, but your God is, your spouse is—in fact, the Bible says “in humility consider every man better than yourself.” (Phil. 2:3). Always be on the look-out to do a good deed, to help a person in need, give an encouraging word, but most of all, to share the gospel of Jesus Christ—being instant in season and out of season!

June 19, 2022

THE LETTERS OF JOHN: WALKING IN THE LIGHT

June 19, 2022

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Sometimes a memory surfaces and it brings us a special, happy feeling. Those are memories to cherish. Can anyone share something that happened that you enjoy recalling?

As we continue to study 1 John, we immediately see that the problems the church faced almost two thousand years ago are the same ones we face today. John was warning the believers to avoid those who were teaching false doctrine. Peter had also warned the church in 2 Pet. 2:1 of these people who were causing the flock to turn away from the truth they had believed when they were saved. Today the global world is in chaos, very confused about what is truth. It is sad that we who know that Jesus Christ can save people from an eternity in hell have been so slow to carry out the great commission. John’s summary is from God: if you love the world, you can’t love God. Our responsibility is to obey the truth and be committed to sharing it.

A Universal Message

  • Read 1 John 2:12-14. Who were the three categories of believers that John was writing to? Who did these three groups represent?
  • What did the “little children” believe? What else does he say about them? Why is repentance necessary for one to become a believer? Is this what enabled them to be saved? What else was necessary?
  • What do the “fathers” know? What does it take to know God? Will you ever finish that learning on this side of the grave?
  • What have the “young men” done? What else does he say about young men?
  • Why do you think John writes the same things to the young men and the fathers? Which category do you fall in, no matter your age in the faith?

Walk from the world, walk toward the light

  • Read 1 John 2:15-17. What is the warning throughout these next few verses?

What is meant by the world? Read Matt. 16:26. What is there in this world that is worth losing your eternal life for? Do you ever think of telling the world this?

  • What does John mean that you should not “love the world”? Can you love the world and love God at the same time? Read James 4:4. What are some things that are in the world that can take the place of your love for God?
  • What are the three categories of things in the world that one can love, and which will displace your love for God? Can you give some examples of things that fall under the “lust of the flesh”? And “the lust of the eyes”? And “the pride of life”? Read Mark 4:18-20. How is this the same concept that Jesus told?
  • What is eventually going to happen to this world? What will eventually happen to those persons who believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, have repented of their sins, and who love to do the will of God?

Now is the Time

  • Read 1 John 2:18, 21, 25. What does John mean by saying it is the last hour? When does the Bible say that the man known as the “Antichrist” will come? What did John mean that many antichrists (plural) have come? Why is he warning them?
  • When had these believers known the truth? Who was he referring to as “many antichrists”? What does this mean? “no lie comes from the truth”? Read John 8:44. What is the promise that God has given to us?

Stand strong

  • Read verses 28-29. Of the 3 original categories of people, which is the one most likely to be swayed by false doctrine? Discuss how this affects school subjects.
  • If you “remain in Him,” why would you have confidence? Can God, or Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, lie? For those who remain in Him, what is promised in verse 25?
  • Read Mark 16:15. What does God expect from us? Did you ever feel the call of “going,” but never went? Can you share? How do we “remain in Him”?

Close

Few persons who contemplate marriage would ever consider becoming the spouse of someone who loves another person. Why? Because we know that we would never meet their expectations, and they—loving another person—could never really love us or meet our needs. This is a very weak but true illustration of the love that God expects from us. If we love the world, we can’t also love God.

If we are exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, believing that He came to this earth, fully man yet fully God, to be the payment for our sin debt, that He died, was buried, and three days later came out of the grave so that we could have eternal life by believing in His name and what He did—but yet we love the things that are in this world, do you think God would say, “Well, okay. It’s not what I had hoped for, but I have part of their heart, so I’ll settle for that.” No. Not at all. With God, it’s either all in, or all out. Yes, He does “consider our frame [our humanity], that we are but dust” (Psa. 103:15). In other words, He realizes we will sin—but if we become truly saved it will not be a lifestyle. Yes, we may sin for a moment, but as soon as we “come to ourselves,” we dissolve into raw emotion, broken in heart and sorry for the sin with all our heart. He hears (I John 1:9), forgives, cleanses, and restores. We can then comfort others who mess up. Read Proverbs 24:16: the righteous fall seven times but get up!

How do we remain strong? By staying in His word, committing it to memory that “we might not sin against God; we stay in prayer, praising God and lifting up those who need our prayer: for salvation, healing, or any another need. He cares that we pray for the salvation of others—it is His will, as He doesn’t wish to see anyone perish and it is why He came to this earth. But His perfect will of healing, or the restoration of relationships, financial crisis, broken hearts and more, may be prayers we don’t see answered. Not because He doesn’t hear, but because the answer is “Not yet” or “Wait.” But ask in faith, believing that He cares, and that He’s working. As the praise song says, “Even when I don’t see it, You’re working—You never stop, never stop working!” Believe it. He is.

June 12, 2022

  THE LETTERS OF JOHN: OBEDIENCE MATTERS

            June 12, 2022

         Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Do you recall your years of growing from a young child to a young adult? Were you obedient to your parents? Can you share?

One of the first songs taught a child in church is “Obedience is the very best way, to show that you believe.” No matter your age, in all of life there are always going to be times you must obey someone in authority. John, in his second letter to the church at Ephesus, had to remind the Christians who were being corrupted by the Gnostics that following Christ is proven by our obedience to His Word. In his summarization, he uses verses 5 and 10 by writing that you can be assured of your salvation if 1) you love His Word and any sin you commit bothers you greatly, and 2) you love your Christian brethren. Please join as we study 2 John.

Focal Passage: 2 John vv 1-11.

Obedience

  • Read 2 John vv1-2. What do you know about sin? Will you ever get to the point where you completely overcome it? Read Rom. 3:23. Can someone also give a short paraphrase of Paul’s struggle in Rom. 7? Did Paul believe sin could be removed from one’s life? What is the assurance God has given the believer in vs. 1?
  • What are some things that cause you to sin? In your mind, are there “little” sins and “big” sins you commit? What do you think causes you to be unable to conquer a particular sin? Do you usually shift the blame? How do you react when you sin?
  • Read 2 Cor. 10:5. Have you tried praying the moment a thought that used to make you fall enters your mind? Do you consciously realize Satan knows your weaknesses and puts thoughts into your mind—as well as into the minds of others who interact with you, to possibly try to get you to sin?
  • Do you stay obedient to Christ? Do you love the saints? Does that always mean you like them?

Obedience makes a difference

  • Read 2 Jn. vv 3-6. Why is it a good thing to exam yourself that you are obedient to God? What does verse 5 tell us? John tells us that if/when we keep God’s commands, we are striving for perfection. What does he mean? What are some of the facts we know about Jesus Christ? How can we walk as He walked?
  • Why will we move “toward completion” (perfect=teleo) as we try to be obedient in all our ways? Is this perhaps the meaning of Phil. 4:13?

Love and Obedience go hand in hand

  • Read 2 Jn. vv 7-11. What did John mean when he said he was giving an old commandment? Read Lev. 19:18. Who was this verse given to? John is trying to connect the dots between the OT and the same thoughts in the NT. Read Gen. 22:17. Who is God talking to? Did Abraham obey God? Read James 2:23.
  • What is the connection between respect and love? Will most people obey someone in authority if they respect them? Read Ex. 5:2. How is this today’s world?
  • Read Lev. 18:5. Did the people obey? How long? Why did they stop? Do you know people who have thrust God aside because He did not answer their prayer? What is the error in that? Read 1 Sam. 12:15. There are serious consequences to disobeying God. What are they?

Close:

There are many times we as women or men do not enjoy doing a task, volunteer work, or even something simple like taking food to someone. But—like Martha—would you still do it? That’s when you need to say, “Lord, You know in the flesh I’m tired, and don’t really want to do this; however, in my spirit I want to please You, and I know that this job of ____ will bless the person who receives it if my heart is right. I offer it in Your name!” So, as you cook, or clean, or help, say, “Jesus, I’m doing this in Your name! May it bring glory to Your name!”

When a thought comes into your mind that shocks you (like “where did that thought come from?!”), immediately stop the thought and squash it (The Bible says, take it captive). Pray that God will deliver you from the evil one, who wants you to fall. You might want to add, ‘”Lord, please help me to do whatever I need to to take those sinful thoughts immediately captive when Satan puts them in my mind,” and start singing hymns or songs or quoting the Scripture. Satan hates that.

Loving God so much that it grieves us when we sin does not mean we will not have times when we don’t want to go out and serve, but are tempted to sit back and relax. Paul, when he listed all the burdens and tribulations that he bore, still considered himself to be a bondservant to Christ. Let us obey Him in all we do—whether it is fun, a chore, dirty, clean, tiresome, or whatever, doing it for Him is OBEDIENCE to His Word. May it get easier and easier as the years go by.

June 5, 2022

        THE LETTERS OF JOHN: TAKE A WALK IN THE LIGHT

     June 05, 2022

        Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Statistics tell us that most people have three to five close friends. In today’s age when we often need encouragement, how important are your friends? Can anyone share?

John, the beloved apostle, referred to himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved.” While we can’t be certain exactly what was in John’s mind when he wrote that of himself, all true Christ-followers can insert their name as being beloved by the Lord. It means He is Lord of your life. You strive to make choices that reflect “What Would Jesus Do,” and your walk and your talk match. The fellowship with Him is unparalleled, as the hymn “In the Garden” says, “And the joy we share, as we tarry there, none other has ever known!”* There is nothing more humbling, more peaceful, more filled with security, than having the God of the universe show you that He loves you. You can take it to the bank, for “The Bible Tells Me So.”

Focal Passage: 1 John vv 1-10.

Jesus is still the Way, Truth and Life

  • Read 1 John vv1-2. What do you know about John 1:1, Gen. 1:1 and 1 Jn. 1? What is the important truth common to those three verses? Read James 2:23b, Ex. 33:11a and Jn. 1:47. What testimony does God give about each of these men? Do you doubt His word about them? In Jn. 21:20, what is he called? Would God allow this if it were not so? By establishing John’s veracity, why do we believe he would not lie?
  • What did John say he had witnessed? When friends tell us of something they’ve witnessed, how do we respond? Can we believe what John says about Jesus? He saw, heard and touched Him after His resurrection. Why would people not believe?
  • Why is it not possible for a human—under his own power—to get out of his grave? What did Jesus have? When do we receive the same resurrection power?

We are one family because of Jesus

  • Read 1 Jn. Vv 3-4. Why does John say he’s writing this letter? Who is able to have fellowship with the “family of God”? What makes a family? Read 1 Cor. 8:6. How does that verse confirm this passage in John? How do you have fellowship with the world? Why is it not possible? If you are hanging on to a worldly friend in order to save them, why is that not likely to happen? Read 1 Cor. 15:33.
  • Why will we not get along with everyone who says they are a Christian? Who does true fellowship exist between? Why does John say he is writing these things?

Hypocrisy destroys the family

  • Read 1 Jn. vv 5-6. What is the hardest part of dealing with a person you can’t trust? Why can you not trust someone who lies, exaggerates, and twists the truth? What if they say they are a Christ-follower?
  • What is the difference between one who loves the world and one who loves Jesus? Read James 4:4. How does God expect us to live?
  • Do you know people who claim to be saved but live a sinful lifestyle? What is wrong with that? What should their life be like if they are truly saved?

Obedience builds the family

  • Read v 7. Why is it that some people at church or in your circle of friends are like “soul mates”? Is there anything quite as wonderful as having a friend you can truly count on, no matter how you mess up? How can we have this communion?
  • Why is it not okay to assume we can have a sinful lifestyle because He has paid for all our sins? Read Romans 6:1. (Read the entire chapter when you get time!)

So let’s be honest

  • Read vv. 8-10. Do you know there are some who believe we can attain sinless perfection in this life? Why is that not true? How does verse 10 check our spirit?
  • Why is verse 9 so marvelous for the Christ-follower? What does it mean to “confess” our sins? Do your sins bother you and make you miserable until you confess (agree with God that you have done wrong) them and get right with God again?

 

Undoubtedly, within your family are those who are not saved and whose souls you are very concerned about. Perhaps they follow “another gospel,” perhaps they have rejected Jesus Christ as the only Way to eternal life, or perhaps they have grown lukewarm and nothing you say influences them. According to these verses written by the “Beloved apostle,” you can’t have real fellowship with them until they turn to Christ in confession and repentance.

In this short letter that was meant to be circulated among all the churches at that time, as well as the future, does John help you understand any relationships in your family that are dysfunctional? Perhaps there’s someone whom you seem to irritate no matter what you say or do. Is it feasible they are not right spiritually, and until they get their life straightened out before God, it may not be possible for you to have the love exist between you that you would like? God is light, John says in verse 5, and if someone has darkness in them, how can you expect to have a beautiful relationship?

Perhaps there is someone whom you love, and with whom you desperately want a good relationship. You may have no control over them whatsoever, and the loss of their friendship breaks your heart. However, you know the one in the Person of Jesus Christ, who was foreordained to come and heal the brokenhearted (Psa. 147:3, Isa. 61:1), and Jesus Himself said He had come to heal the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18). You can pray, daily lifting up the one you love, that they will get sick of their sin and desire to turn to Jesus. You will be praying in the Lord’s will, as He says that He does not desire that any should perish, but that all would come to Him in repentance. It may not be in your lifetime, but the seeds you sow will eventually result in a harvest.

May 29th, 2022

   Family Matters: Healing Broken Families

  May 29, 2022

Charles Billingsley

Because all of us come from different backgrounds and upbringings, we can learn much from each other. What are some ways in which you’ve learned to handle life’s hardest times?

Today we end our series, “Family Matters.” The sermon, from Genesis 3, illustrates our topic of broken or dysfunctional families, as we see that from the beginning of man there have been few people who have been able to live as God created them to. As was pointed out this morning, not only has brokenness affected nearly every family you know outside the church, but also within your church as well. How can they be healed? Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.” We can be healed from brokenness by seeking after God and following His Word with our whole heart.

Embrace the truth

  • Read Gen. 3:8. Who was in the garden in this passage? Why did God come? Why did they hide and try to run from God? Read Psa. 139:7-8. Do you ever run from God? Why is it useless?
  • When God asked Adam and Eve if they had transgressed His law, what did they each say? Think of the last argument you had with someone (don’t share). Did you try to transfer the blame? What is the reason we all do that? What does it change?
  • Read Gen. 3:11-13. We can’t read their body language, but do you pick up on any sense of sorrow from reading these verses? What was their punishment? Do you think they could have been eligible for reconciliation to God if they had fallen on their face in repentance? Why are we so much more blessed than Adam and Eve? Why is it so important that we grab hold of God’s Word and do not turn from it?

Talk to each other

  • Read Matt. 5:23-24. How does your family handle “intense conflicts”? Does one of you shut down or build walls so that they are not as hurt when/if it happens again? Read Matt. 18:15. Who has the responsibility to initiate reconciliation during conflict? If you are the one in the wrong, or the one in the right, does it really matter? What does it show for you to be the one to try to “mend the fence”?
  • Why is it so hard to say to someone you love, “I’m sorry”? What kind of attitude does it take for us to say that?

Speak the truth to them but do it in love

  • Read Eph. 4:26. What are some ground rules that couples need to establish for the times when quarrels will come? Do you have rules established that you can share?
  • Why is it important that you restore the relationship, so that you can resolve a conflict? What happens if you do not resolve the conflict on the day that it happens?

Trust each other

  • Can someone define trust, as it exists in relationships between two people? How is trust formed? If you have been the victim of someone’s betrayal, how will that affect other relationships in your future?
  • What can you do to learn to trust others? Do you trust God? How did you learn to?

Forgive each other

  • Read Eph. 4:32 and Matt. 6:12. Why is it crucial that we forgive those who have sinned against us? Why must it be done face to face? What if it’s too late?
  • Do you recall the statistics showing how much body language plays into our every day conversations? (55% of facial expressions and 79% of body expressions interpret what our words mean). Why is that critical in this day and age?

Let God do His work

  • Read 1 John 4:20. In families where you are aware of great division among siblings, do they claim to be Christians? What does God have to say about that?
  • What should they do?

Close:

Do you know anyone who hates admitting they have erred, caused a problem, or taken out their anger on someone else? The idea of denying any wrongdoing and deflecting the blame to another person is almost as automatic as breathing. Yet we are missing out on God’s best if we act as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden.

Paul experienced inner conflict as he wrote Romans 7:14b-25. “I do not understand what I am doing…I do what I hate…nothing good lives in me…the desire to do good is with me but there is no ability to do it…!” Do you often feel like that? We all are broken and full of sin. If you were in the service this morning, or watched it via media, you saw almost the entire congregation stand in groups as Charles asked if certain dysfunctional categories (divorce, abuse, addiction, etc.) had touched their families. That was a very emotional time, as almost everyone testified by standing in front of others, “I am not perfect. I am in your church, worshiping God with you, but I am a broken vessel that God is restoring. He is using me. Our church is a place for sinners who are in need of God’s mercy and grace, not a place for perfect people to come and be glad they are not like others.” It is a hospital for broken spirits, who need Jesus Christ to heal their brokenness, not a country club for social cliques to isolate themselves with their own kind.

Many of us over the past several weeks of this Family Matter series waste moments wishing we could have had these messages preached to us decades ago. However, we can encourage young parents to listen to these sermons through www.trbc.org—it’s not too late for them to hear them. And for the older ones, grandchildren are all around us, like fallow ground that needs the Living Water poured on it. It’s never too late to start.

One last thing: is there anyone in your life that you need to forgive? Someone who wronged you, causing years of pain? If you can, go to them and offer forgiveness. Perhaps they have forgotten you, but they are not the prisoner—you are. Forgive them, and free yourself.

May 22, 2022

Family Matters: Diversions, Distractions, & Deceit

May 22, 2022

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

What is one of the hardest situations you find yourself in when asked something and you feel a lie come to mind (like, “Isn’t my baby beautiful?”) Can anyone confess? What do you do?

Our series, Family Matters, is affecting lives weekly as we are given messages of truth on walking the narrow path through this evil world, being a positive impact on our family and our children, and having the ripple effect on our community and our world. Today’s’ sermon, taken from Proverbs 4, is directed at every individual who can hear it. At times we can get hung up on Solomon’s older years as he let his wives turn his heart from his God, but we must keep in mind that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, and ultimately this is God speaking to each one of us.

Focal Passage: Proverbs 4:20-27

Know that God has a path for us all

  • Read Prov. 4:20-22. Why would you, as a parent, tell your child to “pay attention,” then emphasize “listen closely”(CSB)? What would you be saying? Do you think that’s why it was repeated? Read James 1:22-25. Why is it so important to not only hear God’s word, but obey it? What is the promise for obeying?
  • What did He mean to “not lose sight” of His words? How can you keep His words in front of you? Read Psa. 119:11. If you memorize, where are you storing up the Word? How is committing God’s Word to memory an asset for the believer?
  • If your “eyes” are on God’s Word, how does the world try to divert it? Read Psa. 101:3. In this age of technology, what are some of the unholy things we see? How will God hold us accountable? Read Psa. 26:3. What are “holy things” we can keep our focus on? How do we keep unholy things from crossing our minds?

It starts in the heart

  • Read Prov. 4:23 and Rom. 10:9. If you have become a child of God, where did your faith begin? Read Matt. 6:21. What do you value most in life? During a normal week, aside from your forty hours of work, what do you spend the most of your time on? How can “good things” divert us from God’s Word?
  • Read Col. 3:1-2. What are some of the “things above”? What would you say to someone who thinks following Jesus will mean they have to give up everything that is enjoyable? What was promised in verse 22 to the one who loves God’s Word?

Honesty is the best policy

  • Read Prov. 4:24-26. What is the normal word we use for speaking dishonestly? Who is the father of lies? What are some of the lies he tells you about yourself? How can you combat those? How do you try to vanquish those thoughts?
  • What does God mean to look neither right nor left? What is the warning we have in verse 26? What is the promise He gives? In Psa. 23:3, where does God lead us?
  • Daily, we are tempted to sin. Do you ever give in, just to avoid conflicts or stress?

Don’t let the world get you off track

  • Read Prov. 4:26-27. We can often see when a young person is “on the wrong path”. Is it always as easy to see when we ourselves are off track? How does it happen?
  • Why is it easier to get distracted than to keep our focus on God? What is the area where Satan is most able to push you into quicksand? What can you do to win?

Close:

So often in Scripture we will find a passage that has a huge amount to say within just a few verses. These verses from the Book of Proverbs are a great example. In these, we find many of our senses displayed with an enormous amount of information for living our lives as believers. We also see that being victorious is possible when we are obedient to God’s word because we want more than anything else to please Him who gave Himself for us.

God, in this passage, tells us to use our ears to listen to Him. We are told not only to “pay attention,” but to “listen closely.” You might reason that if you are paying attention, then you consider yourself to be listening closely. Because He repeats it in the same verse, it is imperative we listen to what He says. We need to also couple it with like verses, as in James 1:22ff, where we are told that if we listen but do not obey what we hear we deceive ourselves (point 3) and our religion is worthless!

We are told to use our sight to keep His Words in front of us, and to keep our eyes looking straight ahead so we’re not distracted by the things of this world. In other words, avoid the “lust of the eyes,” which are things that will trip us up. Think of how many sights entice our eyes!

We are to speak with honesty and not be deceitful in what we say. There are no white lies. If we have Jesus, we have TRUTH, and will not want to lie.

When the Bible speaks of the heart, it is the organ that shows that eternal LIFE, in the Person of Jesus Christ, is present, because we have asked Him to take control of our lives. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the LIFE.”(John 14:6). God says “above all” guard your heart, for out of it the issues of life are proceeding, revealing whether our heart is godly or condemned. Do we speak words of life, or words of death? James warns us in Jas. 3:2-12 to be careful that our words do not condemn us. “Out of the same mouth should not come both blessing and cursing!” Does it with you?

Lastly, His “Words” are mentioned many times in these few verses. They are the source of life, they will establish our way, and keep our feet from evil. They will keep us from sin. There can be no testimony without a test. Keep these Words of Life and you’ll have a testimony.

May 15, 2022

Family Matters: Discipleship in the Home
May 15, 2022
Pastor Jonathan Falwell/ Cody Mummau/ Jeremy Rader/ Derek Idol

 

Everyone seems to have a favorite story they will tell on one—or all—of their children. Can someone share a light-hearted moment?

Today we continue our series, “Family Matters.” Three of the youth pastors from Thomas Road will join Pastor Falwell on the platform today as they discuss important factors that need to be present in our homes as the children and grandchildren are taught the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was encouraging to hear that 79% of children who grow up in homes where both parents are committed to a genuine walk with Jesus Christ and exhibit godly behavior in the home, remain faithful to Jesus once they leave home to begin their own life. The good news, as Dr. Maxwell said last week, is that if you’ve blown it so far, you can change that “while it is today!”

Focal Passage: Deuteronomy 6:4-9

How important is it to have a plan for discipleship within the home?

  • Read Deut. 4:6-9. What did Moses tell parents? Why was it so important for parents to take these actions? How important is it to “plan” how you wish to bring up a child?
  • Why does God put the responsibility onto parents to take the role of teaching? Why must parents be committed to Jesus? Why will being a godly parent never happen accidentally?

Why is this something that can’t be left to the church to handle?

  • How many hours each week are your children in church, or at a church activity? (Not Christian school or being with friends). How many hours each day are your children in an activity with you (eating, conversation, activity)? How many hours each week are they in school? Where will they get their role models?
  • How can you make more time during the week for church activities for you and your child? What activities could you take advantage of? Will you be there with them?

What are the roadblocks to discipleship?

  • Read 2 Cor. 11:13-15 and 1 Pet. 5:8. List the hindrances that will occur as you commit to seeing your child is discipled (not “disciplined”)? How can you lessen the influence the school, technology, or friends have on your child?
  • Read 2 John vv. 7-8. What do you see as the largest roadblock to your child’s spiritual walk? How can you work with your child to do overcome it?
  • In your heart (think), do you feel you could be a roadblock to your child’s spiritual growth? Can you change whatever you are doing to bring about change for your child?

How do we develop practical steps to disciple our families?

  • Read 1 Pet. 2:21. Why is it so important that you model a love for Christ with your lives? How do you do that? How do you model taking up your cross daily?
  • What are some other practical steps you can take to set an example for your child? Why is delegating the responsibility to the church wrong?

Where do we start?

  • Again, what were you told to do in the passage in Deut.? Is this a good place to start? Why should the husband and wife sit down and make a plan for what they wish to accomplish for their child(ren), even before a child is born?
  • Why are conversations with your child about your beliefs so important? Why is it important to admit you don’t know something, but will find the answer?

So what happens when you didn’t start right? What do you do then?

  • Read Hebrews 12:1-2. How can you apply this passage to someone who has just gotten saved? If the children see a complete, 180* change in you, what effect will it have on them? Will God hold your past sins over your head? Why not?
  • Why is it so foolish to stress and worry about whether you really meant it when you went forward down an aisle? If you are alive, what can you do today?

When does it end?

  • Hopefully, there will be people of all ages in your group. If so, let the older ones answer this, as they probably know the right answer! Hint, don’t expect it to end.

What’s the ultimate goal?

  • In Genesis, what was the first thing God said to Adam and Eve, and later to Noah?

In Matt. 28:18, what does He desire from believers? Is this the same thing?

  • Who has He graciously given us to set the example for? What is our greatest goal for our children?

Close:

Our greatest job in life will be to see our children embrace our love for God, wholly, completely, mind, soul and spirit, in their own lives. That’s why John wrote in 3 John v. 4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” However, it takes a whole community to raise a child to follow Jesus. This means the parents, the extended family, the church, mentors, and those who make up the family’s social circle of friends. It is never a part-time job.

We would never build a house without a plan, yet we birth a child and seldom ask advice from Christians whom we admire. Last week Dr. Maxwell gave us five areas of life that will help us put a plan into action as we raise our children: faith, responsibility (in all areas), relationships, attitude, and generosity. These apply today as we strive to fulfill Deut. 6:4 and have the goal of raising children who will love the Lord God, with all their heart, soul, and strength, and love other people more than they love themselves. We want them to Love God and Love People.

May 8, 2022

                                                                                                              Family Matters: Children

 Jonathan Falwell and Dr. John Maxwell

                                                                                                                                         May 08, 2022

Do you have a habit—either good or bad—that you have noticed has been passed on to one of your children—intentionally or inadvertently? Can you share?

As we continue our series on Family Matters, we welcome Dr. John Maxwell to share the podium with Pastor Falwell today. We will examine the subject of our precious children, and how we are teaching them the values we want them to learn. We must be aware of the impact our actions have on them, as Dr. Maxwell informed us that 89% of what children do is what they have seen. Therefore, we parents need to determine what they are learning from our actions. He suggests five goals that should be the main focus for any Christian parents.

Focal Passages: Ephesians 5:1-2 and 6:1-4

Faith

  • Read Romans 3:23 and 6:23. Why is it so important we teach our children about God? What do we mean when we say God doesn’t have “grandchildren”? Why should one’s life be committed to Christ?
  • Read Prov. 22:6. What is the best way to teach a child how to love God?
  • If what you do is going to be copied by your children in their actions, what are some precepts we can live by that will turn their hearts toward God?

Responsibility

  • What are some of the areas of life in which we wish our children to learn responsibility? How can you teach them to be forgiving, and to be humble? How can you teach them to finish what they start, and to have a good work ethic? Do these things “just happen” as they grow? Why or why not?
  • List the areas in your own life that you have not yet conquered. What are your children learning? What would happen if you sat down with them and discussed this?

Relationships

  • Read Eph. 6:1-4. This is the first relationship that your child will have after birth. Why is it so important? Fathers, why does God specifically point to you that you not anger your child?
  • Read Matt. 22:37-39. Why is it so important that you learn to love others and put them before your own desires? How can you teach your children to do this?
  • When you have messed up before your children, do you tell them you’re sorry, and ask their forgiveness? Why or why not? What is so important about transparency? 

Attitude

  • Read Gal. 5:22-23. Why is attitude so very important? Think of your own life: are you pleased when something is done for or given to you, but the attitude is all wrong? Why does it bother you? Is God different?
  • Read Col. 3:15 and Phil. 4:11. What is contagious about a great attitude? What does that teach our children?

Generosity

  • Read Prov. 11:25, 2 Cor. 9:6, and 1 Tim. 6:18. What does the Bible teach about giving and generosity?
  • What is the principle that is taught over and over in Scripture about giving? What are some ways we can foster a love for giving in our children or grandchildren?

Close:

If you did not hear today’s sermon, please go back and watch it. You will miss a huge blessing if you haven’t heard it, as it’s not possible to include a complete message in a Group study. The advice Dr. Maxwell gives for raising healthy Christian children is unparalleled and we hope you are able to watch it and internalize it.

If you have older children, you may feel you have blown it, and should give up. No! Start over! Dr. Maxwell stressed that there is no time like the present to sit down with your children, admit your faults, and ask them to help you live as you should. Huge credibility is lost when we don’t model a love for Christ and for others, so ask their forgiveness, and begin immediately.                                                                                                                                                                   

Here are some jewels from the message:                                                                                                                                       

 You don’t have to win every battle! There are no perfect parents. It is always important to be open with your children, so they can come to you about anything. Take responsibility for your actions, show humility, and be accountable. It’s impossible for us to have great dreams for our children if our life is a nightmare. Everything valuable is an uphill task—hopes, dreams, etc.—if you have downhill habits. You don’t accidentally go uphill, you must be intentional! The dream is free, but the journey isn’t. Model habits that help your kids see what a committed life looks like. Good intentions are a waste because they never begin. Understand it’s never too late to start. Engage children in serving in Christian activities—expose them to service for Christ. You develop great Christian children by being a great Christian parent! Transformation happens because of what we do, not what we say.  Concerning generosity, we are to be rivers, not reservoirs. AND, WE TEACH WHAT WE KNOW, BUT WE REPRODUCE WHAT WE ARE!

 

May 1st, 2022

Family Matters: Marriage Made in Heaven

May 01, 2022

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

When we do things much the same way, every day, it’s easy to go onto “auto pilot” with some of our actions. How do you practice taking “intentional” time in your marriage, rather than habit?

We are now in a new series, “Family Matters.” Today we will look at marriage from God’s perspective, and see if ours follows His pattern. The perfect marriage that He ordained when He created Adam, a male, and Eve, a female, was forever destroyed when they chose to sin. Can we still have a great marriage? Yes! It won’t be perfect, but it can be great with His help.

Honoring Spiritual Roles

  • Read 1 Peter 3:1b-2, 5. What was God’s perfect plan for a perfect marriage? What is the role of a wife? When the word “submission” is used in this context, what goes through your mind? If you think logically, would God ever mandate a law that would denigrate a woman, to whom He gave beauty, value, and the incredible worth of carrying the next generation to birth? Why, when He loves us so much, are we so ready to believe He makes women of lesser value as a person here? So, what does He mean? Are there ways in which you submit to Christ now, even when you’d rather not? Then why do you? Is this the same type of submission?
  • Read 1 Pet. 3:7 and Eph. 5:25-26. How is the husband to love and treat his wife? What are the consequences if he does not honor her? Have you and your spouse ever sat down and discussed these verses? If not, why not?
  • Can you think of examples of a man rebelling against being submissive to God (Eph. 5)? What is God establishing with these relationships?
  • How does a man lead?

Rejecting Cultural Pressure

  • Read 1 Pet. 3:3-4. What are some outside (cultural) influences that women in the church can get caught up in? How can those influences destroy a marriage?
  • Read Matt. 5:6. How would all homes look if the husband took the spiritual lead, the wife served him with love (as unto the Lord), and brought the children up with love, boundaries, and an expectation of obedience? What are some ways in which children can ruin the relationship of the husband and wife (mother and father) because of cultural pressure?

Following Christ’s Example

  • Read 1 Pet. 2:22-25. Let’s ask ourselves how much are we like Jesus: Are we ever deceitful? Do we ever retaliate or threaten, when attacked? Do we always have to have the last word? Do we always have to be right? Do we contradict almost everything our spouse says? If you answered yes to any of these, repent, tell your spouse you are very sorry, and start afresh!
  • Will Satan eventually give up on trying to ruin our marriage? Why will attacks keep on happening as long as you are trying to know and serve God better? Read Eph. 6:12 and 1 Peter 5:8. Do these verses explain the attacks?

Recognizing the Enemies

  • One thing is sure: if you do not recognize the enemy, you may let him in. Read 1 John 2:16. What are the enemies listed here? List all you can think of that will try to wreck your marriage. Did you list competition? Lack of forgiveness? Money?
  • Read James 4:7b. What are some ways you can resist the devil?

Implementing the Remedy

  • Read Heb. 12:1. Can anyone share if the sermon caused you to have seen an area that you need to work on, for the sake of your marriage?
  • What are some options available if some feel it is too late and they think their marriage is over?
  • If you are going to do the right thing, what ONE thing does that involve?

Why do wives get so upset when it comes to submitting to their husbands? Do they fear being beaten with a whip? God has a perfect plan for relationships: Jesus is under the authority of the Father; the husband is under the authority of Jesus Christ (or is supposed to be!); the wife is under the husband, and the children are under the parents. In your job, if you can think faster, or are somewhat smarter, than your boss, does that mean you become the boss? No. You are hired to work under him, and hopefully have a good relationship where you can explain your thought processes, but it does not give you authority over him. A general may not be as smart as some of his privates, but he’s still the one who has the responsibility by reason of his role to lead the others. It should be a comfort to a wife that she can let her husband make decisions that relieves her of many responsibilities. If there needs to be a conversation about a situation, if both are striving to please God, that conversation should be productive and the marriage made stronger. The point is, a great marriage is very hard work. It doesn’t get easier the longer you’re married. Sometimes it just means you have learned to put up with each other’s faults. That, too, is not God’s best. His will is that both you and your spouse desire to live before Him with a hunger and thirst to be righteous (Matt. 5:6), a desire to live pure and holy lives (Rom. 12:1), and a desire to serve each other as Christ served the people with tremendous love, having compassion on them, throughout His ministry, and with His sacrificial death.

Why is it so hard? Because we tend to sweat the small stuff; because we remain so exhausted from all our busyness that we don’t have much left when we get home; because the world beats on our door through social media, technology, comfort food, and the list goes on and on. In the end we have to remember, it is not people we’re fighting, not even our spouses. It is Satan, who is going around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. If he can get you and your spouse, then he can get your children, their children, and possibly their children’s children. Are you strong enough to stop it, do what is right, now, and turn everything in your marriage in the direction of Jesus Christ?

April 24, 2022

FAMILY MATTERS: GOD’S DESIGN FOR THE FAMILY

April 24, 2022

Scott Bullman

Life can be hard in these chaotic times. Can you share an example of a time you were so grateful that your family was close by?

We have entered a new series entitled “Family Matters.” God never changes—therefore His plan for the family in Genesis 2 is still His plan today. When He created Adam and Eve as a male and female, husband and wife, in the Garden of Eden, He was creating a family. God’s first recorded words to Adam and Eve were “be fruitful and multiply.” Later, when Noah and his family emerged from the Ark in Genesis 8, God’s recorded conversation with Noah at that time included the same words, “be fruitful and multiply.” His plan for mankind, then, was to be a family of one husband and one wife and produce children. In today’s world, Satan is using any means he can, including governments and leaders, to destroy the family. Even worse, he is pitting family members against each other so that he may destroy them from within. Let us commit to standing on God’s ways, His promises, and His strength to see that all of our family is with us on that day we stand before Him.

God’s Design for Marriage

  • Read Genesis 2:20b-24. What was God’s original design for marriage? Read Mark 10:6-9. How did Jesus reinforce that God’s plan had not changed? What does God mean when He says that the husband and wife shall be “one flesh”?
  • Read Colossians 3:1-3. What is the greatest threat to our family? What instructions does Paul give here? Read 2 Peter 1:8. How can you relate this verse to the passage in Colossians, applying the teaching to those husbands and wives who are trying to live godly lives? How does the path of our life affect our marriage? What are some fiery darts that Satan throws at marriages in this day?
  • In the verses in Col. 3:1-3, Paul uses the conditional term “if.” If you did not have a life change once you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior, what may that mean?

The Wife’s Role

  • Read Col. 3:18. What is the Biblical definition of the word “submit” in verse 18? How has culture today redefined what God desired? In life, is there anyone exempt from being under some type of authority? Think it through carefully!
  • From another viewpoint for the husband/wife, how and why do you wish your children to “submit” to your authority as the parent? When is it your intention to trample on their tender hearts? What is your motive? Could that be your husband’s motive as well even when you may think of it as a control issue?
  • What are some examples of times when submitting to your husband is a relief to your mind, and when does it cause conflict?
  • Wives, can you accept dropping a situation even if you are in the right? Don’t ever let being right usurp your desire to be kind.

The Husband’s Role

  • Read Col. 3:19. Husbands, what are some ways you show love to your wife? What is the warning Paul gives? What are some ways in which you can become bitter at your wife? Read Eph. 5:25. How does Christ love the church? What is the common denominator between marriage and the church?
  • Why did this model for loving the wife anger men in those days?
  • What are some of the expectations that a newly married husband may have? Are these all practical?

The Children’s Role

  • Read Psa. 127:3 and Prov. 17:6. How does God view children? What “children” does this verse refer to? Do you have children in your home who are older, but still being provided for by you? Do you view them as those who should obey, or as adults making their own rules? Which is correct according to this verse?
  • Read Col. 3:20. If you are the parents of children at home, how are you teaching them to obey you in everything? How do you take as much responsibility for their minds as you do for their bodies? Why does this verse have a promise attached to it? What is that promise?
  • Read Romans 1:28-30. What are the characteristics of pagans who were not saved? Why is disobedience to parents one of those listed? If you are letting them slide with their obedience, how will they react to teachers and later, employers? Will you have to answer to God for your child’s behavior?

The Parent’s Role

  • Read Col. 3:21. What are some ways in which you can discourage your children? Were you ever made to feel unloved as a child? Are you still paying the price?
  • Read Eph. 6:4. Why would a child get discouraged if they are always made to feel they are not meeting your expectations? Read Joshua 24:15. Can this be you?

Close

A healthy family is one in which there is so much more than nutritious food! To see that your child is fed a diet of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains is great—and probably extremely rare—but is not nearly enough. In this age of technology, we are concentrating on the internal processes of the body, but leaving the processes of the mind and heart in a position to take in the garbage that is going to sow seeds of rebellion, discord, social ineptitude, and isolation from God. Yes, there are good things available on the web, just as there are on television, but more than likely those are not the programs that will excite the passions of the mind.

Because we will be in this series over the next several weeks, we will enlarge on God’s design for our family. It is the only institution God-ordained, other than the church. It is the one that is meant to raise godly children, just as the church is meant to “be fruitful and multiply” by adding disciples.  Let us be committed to getting a firm grasp on God’s perfect plan for families during this series.

April 17, 2022

EASTER SUNDAY

April 17, 2022

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Having something turn from a crisis of nightmare proportions into a reason to be joyful is one of the great life occurrences, isn’t it? Can someone share an example?

This past week Christians around the world celebrated the passion of Jesus Christ and His victory over death two thousand years ago. Sometime during that third day, His lifeless body, which had been beaten, crucified, and put into a tomb before the hour of the Sabbath, began to renew itself. His heart began beating again by His own power, given Him by the Father, as He came to life again (John 10:18) and walked out of the tomb, alive forevermore! That is what the Bible calls the Resurrection Power! Long hours before, the loving disciples watched as their dying hero hung on a Roman cross, their emotions in torment as King Herod, Pontius Pilate, and the religious leaders of the Jews tried to squash the Nazarene whom people were calling the Messiah. Filled with Satan’s power, the evil ones watched to be certain He was dead and buried. Yet Sunday morning dawned and with the morning came renewed hope that the world has celebrated since that first Resurrection Day.

The Pain of Waiting

  • Read Matt. 26:36-38. After the Passover had been eaten, Jesus and His disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Who were those who were aware that there was going to be much pain endured over the next few days? Did Jesus call upon His Deity to escape the pain or was He in agony in the Garden?
  • Read Matt. 27:36-44 and Luke 23:47-49 silently. Who were the different groups of people watching Jesus on the cross? How did each group react? If you had been watching at this time, how would you have been feeling?
  • On that Sunday morning, Jesus showed He has power over and above any that mankind has. How has Jesus said that He is willing to share that power with you?
  • As you think over the past years of your life, can you recall circumstances when the waiting and pain were so very great, due to an uncertain outcome?

The Uncertainty of Our Circumstances

  • Read Mark 16:2-3. What were the women heading to the tomb for? What was their main concern?
  • Why would the women be concerned about the weight of the stone at the tomb? Where were the men?
  • Why can few of us relate to the turmoil the friends were going through?
  • Somehow, it is hard to consider that none of His friends let their minds think about Him coming back from the dead. Why is that?
  • Do we have the same type of concerns when we are in a problem? Why do we fixate on concerns of the moment, rather than the big picture?

The Surprise of the Unexpected

  • Read Mark 16:4. Have you ever heard that about 95% of what we worry about never happens? How does that stand up to this passage?
  • We have no idea whether Jesus moved the stones, or if angels did. He could have spoken the words, as in Genesis! What are some miracles you recall that happened without fanfare while Jesus was ministering? If we needed to know who had moved the stone, wouldn’t God have included it?
  • Read 1 Cor. 15:3-8. How do you think these people reacted to the risen Lord?
  • Are we surprised when God answers our prayers? Why is that?

The Promise of the Miraculous

  • Read Mark 16:5-6. What was the significance of the long, white robe? How many times during the life of Jesus can you think of angelic beings having interaction on His behalf? What about other instances throughout Scripture? Were the people nearly always afraid?
  • There has not been one promise in prophecy that has not been fulfilled on time. In John 14:2-4 is there any reason not to believe that Jesus will come again, just as He promised? Have you made preparations for your soul when He returns?

Close

This is such a day of jubilee for the church of Jesus Christ! There are about 4,200 religions on the earth, but there is no other religion where the founder was dead, buried, and yet lives again. Not only did Jesus come out of the grave under His own power, but He was seen by those who had followed Him so very closely, by His family, and at one time, by over five hundred people, who, as Luke wrote in Acts, were mostly still alive! One has to wonder since His brothers had mocked Him openly while He was ministering, what He said to James, that James immediately threw himself into full-time ministry!

Do you think about Heaven often? How can you not? It is almost as if you know for sure, while you are married, that you will retire to a perfect place where you’ve always wanted to live. You prepare as much as possible, dream about it, talk with others about how excited you are… Is that how you feel about going to your heavenly home?

As Pastor Falwell spoke today, every promise Jesus made has come true (in it’s correct time frame). His birth was foretold, the town was foretold, and He came, born in a stable in Bethlehem. He did not come as a full-size adult male who would lead Israel against Rome, but as a tiny King in a manger. He foretold His followers about His death, and it happened. He told them He would rise again, and it happened. He has told us that He has gone to prepare a place, and will come back and get us—it hasn’t happened yet, but there is no doubt that it will occur at the right time. He has never lied, will never lie, and what He says, He says by the word of God.

It is imperative that people choose, while they “it is today,” where they will spend eternity. One day it will be too late. Don’t put off your soul’s eternal future. Decide while you are able!

April 10, 2022

THE RESURRECTION EVIDENCE

   April 10, 2022

  Dr. Gary Habermas

 

Have you ever been called for “jury duty”? It’s a rather daunting feeling, knowing that you may be making a decision that will determine the freedom of someone. Can you share?

As we welcome Dr. Gary Habermas today, we prepare our hearts to listen to the truth that the Messiah had indeed come to the people of Israel, testifying that He and the Father are one. For those who believed in Him, His death was perplexing and seemingly the end of His ministry. The certainty of His death was recorded not only by those who followed Him but also by secular historians of the day. Three days later, the morning of the first day of the week dawned, and there was no question the tomb was empty. Over the next forty days, over five hundred people saw Jesus alive in the flesh, with the scars in His hands and feet. His disciples ultimately saw Him go up into the sky, then out of sight, as He returned to Heaven. His deity, His death, and His resurrection are the basis of the truth of the Christian faith.

Focal Passages: 1 Corinthians 15

The Deity of Jesus Christ

  • Read Isaiah 53:1-3, Daniel 9:25-26, and Micah 5:1-2. What do these passages have in common? About how many years before Christ was born were these prophecies spoken? Read Isa. 7:14, Matt. 1:21, Luke 1:30-32, and John 1:14. What do these verses promise? Were the New Testament verses speaking of an event that would soon come to pass?
  • Read Gen. 1:26, Psa. 2:7, John 1:1-3, 10:30, 17:11, 21, and 1 John 5:7. What is the message that each writer was making clear? Read Mark 3:21. What did Nazareth believe of Jesus? Why do you believe Jesus when He claimed equity with God?
  • Read John 1:19-28. What was John’s testimony? Read John 1:32-34 and Matt. 17:5. What was the testimony of God the Father and the Holy Spirit?
  • Luke 1:39-45. What was Elizabeth’s testimony? Only Mary and Joseph knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. What was their testimony?
  • Only Christianity believes Jesus is God’s only Son, who came in the flesh, and the only way to the Father. Why is this the foundation of our faith?

The Death of Jesus Christ

  • Read Isa. 50:6 and 52:14. How would you describe the beating that Christ endured to pay for our sins? What can you envision from His crown of thorns, and from the exhaustion and loss of blood that caused Him to be unable to carry the cross?
  • Read Matt. 27:50. Remind yourself how the Bible came into existence (2 Tim. 3:16). Would God lie in this verse, but the rest of Scripture be true?
  • There is no documentation ever known to be in existence that states any man ever lived through a Roman crucifixion. The Journal of the American Medical Association made a scientific study of the torture Christ endured on the cross and wrote: “Clearly the weight of the evidence indicates that Jesus was dead even before the wound to His side was inflicted.” Atheist Gerd Ludeman said, “Historically, it’s indisputable that Jesus was dead.” Many secular historians mentioned the death of Jesus. Do you think anyone would have gone to such lengths for a farce? Why or why not?
  • Read Luke 24:46. Jesus Himself stated He had had to suffer and be dead. Would He lie?
  • What conclusion can you come to other than that His death was the absence of life?

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

  • Read Deut. 19:15 and 1 Tim. 5:19. What is the point of these passages to determine someone’s quilt? Read Matt. 28:5-6, 8, 16 and Luke 24:36-39. How many witnesses to His being alive after the resurrection did Jesus have?
  • In his book, The Case for Christ, former Atheist Lee Strobel found nine ancient sources other than the Bible that record twelve separate occasions when people saw Jesus alive and well after the cross. He also appeared to a crowd of over 500. Why is it unthinkable that those who were martyred for their faith would die for a lie?

So, What Do We Do?

  • Be Steadfast: We must recognize that we are living in a world that is changing by the minute. Our faith is going to be challenged, and we will be persecuted. Hang in there!
  • Know your labor is not in vain: rewards will be given in Heaven. Read Matt. 10:42. Even a cup of cold water given in the name of Jesus will be rewarded.
  • Death is conquered: God has promised that those who believe and commit their lives to Jesus Christ will close their eyes in death and open them in the presence of Jesus!

Close

Do you ever examine the faith you have in your relationship with Jesus Christ? You are staking your entire future on the Bible being true, on it being God’s words to us, and on its truth that Jesus Christ died for your sins. Many people think you are crazy, don’t they? Do you believe it enough to tell others, so that they don’t have to spend eternity in hell? Are there some that you don’t share your faith with because you really don’t care where they spend eternity? Those are hard questions, aren’t they?

We believe the Bible contains God’s letters to us, without error in the original scrolls, infallible, and every book included is inspired by Him—or “God-breathed.” It is everything we need to live in peace and righteousness. It is meant for our instruction, reproof, correction, and training.

To believe that Jesus is God is to believe what He has said about Himself. To believe that He died

on the cross is to believe that He said He had come to earth to die. And to believe that He rose to life again is to believe His “only sign, the sign of the prophet Jonah, who was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.” He is good, He does not lie, and He loves us. Putting our life into His hands is not taking a chance—it is accepting by faith that He will take care of us, just as He promised. And one day—maybe soon—”He will come back to receive us unto Himself, that where He is, there we may be also.”

So, be steadfast, always abounding in the work of the Lord, know your labor is not in vain, because He keeps a record of all you do and say as unto the Lord, and know death is conquered and you will win!

 

References:

Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ: a Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.

 

 

 

 

April 3, 2022

THE SONG OF THE REDEEMED

April 03, 2022

Charles Billingsley

Often we hear a sound that seems to capture something within us, giving us a moment of pure pleasure. Other times a certain noise will drive us crazy! Can you share whatever comes to your mind?

We have entered the Easter season, preparing to celebrate that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, defeated death when He gave His life to pay for our sins by being nailed to a cross, then buried, and three days later rising to life again! No other religion except Christianity celebrates an empty tomb. Today Charles Billingsley gives us the theme song of Christians everywhere. Revelation 5:9 and 14:3 both speak of the Song of the Redeemed. Let’s prepare our hearts as we study and learn.

Focal Passage: Genesis 1, John 1.

The Song of Creation

  • Turn to Genesis 1:1-25. Are you aware that all of the atoms of creation make tones? Let’s study creation! On days one to five and part of six, what did God create? What was His statement of satisfaction at the end of each day?
  • Read John 1:1-4. Who was present at creation? Where was the Spirit?

What role did Jesus have in creation? Read Psalm 33:9. How was everything made?

  • What are some parts of creation that we now know makes sounds as if nature is singing? Read Job 38:7 and Psalm 19:1. Does anyone know what has been discovered concerning the stars? What are some things listed in Scripture that “sings”? Read Luke 19:40, Psalm 96:12, Isaiah 55:12, and Song of Sol. 2:12. Was God being literal in these verses and we have assumed He was being symbolic?
  • What are some of the animals that “talk” or sing? How are some animals used in Scripture? Read Joel 1:18 and Romans 1:20. (Why are there no true atheists?)
  • When God created man, what was different in His method? What did He say when man was finished? Why are we masterpieces of God’s work?

The Song of Sorrows

  • Turn to Genesis 3. At some point, the Song of Creation became a Song of Sorrows. Why do you think there was no surprise indicated when the snake spoke to Eve? After having intimate fellowship with God for some length of time, how could she and Adam be so ready to believe Satan?
  • Read Romans 5:12. What was the consequence of the sin of Adam and Eve? How did this usher in a time of sorrow? What are some other effects of the curse?
  • Read 1 Peter 1:20 and John 17:24. When had God already made the plan for our redemption? Read Gal. 4:4. When was “the fullness of time”? When sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, was that the final moments of the fullness of time?

The Song of the Redeemed

  • Why do we call Christmas the “greatest story ever told”? What did Jesus leave when He came to earth? Read John 1:14. Who sings the Song of the Redeemed?
  • So often the original Greek language involves word pictures that create a whole new dimension to a verse of Scripture. Read Phil. 2:7. How did Jesus illustrate the four actions that slaves knew well when He came to redeem His children?
  • Why was a marketplace used for slaves? Why should we be the ones who were on the block to be sold? Why did Jesus draw us out of that slave block? We were slaves to sin at that time. Read Gal. 3:13. How did He pay the amount owed for the sins of the world? Read Col. 2:13-14.
  • Once the debt of our sins was forgiven, what were we released to do? Read Gal. 5:1. Although Jesus died our sins on Him, can we still reject the gift He has made available to us?

Close

The slave block that was so prevalent in America many years ago is a prime example of our lives before salvation. Although you will have to search diligently, you will be able to find written forensic evidence indicating white slavery was widespread in America in the 17th and 18th centuries, along with black slaves. As they were beaten, tortured, disrobed, and sold, they knew—in most cases—they were heading to their death.

But over 2,000 years ago, Jesus came from heaven’s throne to a manger in a small Israeli village called Bethlehem. He entered the world of darkness, where Satan held people captive, creating slaves as they gave themselves to sin. Jesus stepped in and drew us out of the slave market, then paid the price for us when His blood was shed on the cross of Calvary. The writer of the book of Hebrews says, “without the shedding of blood, there is no remission [of sin]” (Heb. 9:22). He paid the full price. Then, He set us free, giving us the choice to accept His payment for our sin and become a child of God, and inherit eternal life (John 3:16).

Does it seem beyond you to wonder why there are people who prefer to hold on to their anger, their bitterness, addictions, or lifestyles, and forego the love of Christ? Do the drugs love you? Do the one-night-stands care what happens to your soul when you leave this earth? In this day of global chaos, more and more godly leaders are “having dreams and visions” (Joel 2:28), indicating we are in the last days, which seem to be getting closer and closer. We don’t have to be theology experts to read of an anti-Christ who will arise to usher in a one-world government, as we watch and see the puzzle pieces being slowly fitted together.

Don’t wait! If there’s one message that we know the world needs to hear, it is that you don’t want to put off making Jesus your Lord and Savior. He gave His blood to redeem you—how can you ignore Him? He loves you more than anyone on this earth has ever loved you. Why would you want to keep your empty life when you can have “fullness of joy”?

There is one final Song: it is the Song of the Second Coming. A trumpet will sound, and suddenly dead bodies will be coming out of grave, people will be ascending into the skies, meeting their Lord. Are you going to stand and wish you had taken care of your soul?

March 27, 2022

THE DOCTRINE OF ESCHATOLOGY: “THE LAST THINGS”

March 27, 2022

Dr. Ed Hindson

Unrest is all around the globe. If you knew life as we know it today would not last but a few more years, what are some things you would like to do or accomplish in that time?

Today we look at a doctrine of the Christian faith that has become a common subject in magazines, books, and social media, and is a question everyone wants answered: are we living in the last days of the world? God revealed throughout the Bible the signs that will be evidenced as life as we know it winds down and changes forever. Many scholars and authors have predicted dates, but the truth is no one knows when Christ will return! Each week we have used the doctrinal statement of our church to show how our beliefs line up with the Biblical subject: “We affirm that the return of Christ for all believers is imminent…to be followed by…tribulation and then the coming of Christ to establish His earthly Kingdom.”

The Rapture

  • Read John 14:1-3. Who is Jesus speaking to? Who had just left the Upper Room?
  • 1 Thess. 4:13-17. Who will be impacted when Jesus comes from heaven into our atmosphere? Who will be raised to meet Him first? What kind of body will we have? Read Luke 24:36-43. Is it possible this is how our glorified body will be?
  • Read 1 Thess. 5:1-4, 7-9. Why did Paul comfort the Thessalonians that believers are not appointed for God’s wrath? Does that apply to us?
  • What is the promise that we can take away from this portion of God’s Word? 

The Bride to Father’s House

  • People must know the significance of the ritual of the Jewish wedding in the days of Jesus Christ. Can anyone re-tell Dr. Hindson’s explanation of the wedding custom? What was the first action? Was the betrothal a binding, legal agreement between families?
  • What did the groom do once the betrothal was set? What did he do when he returned to his father’s house? How is this ritual analogous to Jesus’ return?
  • Read Matt. 25:6. Once the groom had prepared the home for himself and his bride, who told him to go get his bride? Read Mark 13:32. Is this why the virgins were watchful, but not knowledgeable, of the time the groom would come?
  • When we read 1 Thess. 4:17, where does it say we will meet Christ? Where will we go at that time? What is the promise we can take away from this?

The Judgment Seat of Christ

  • Read 2 Cor. 5:10. When do theologians believe the Bema Seat judgment will be?
  • What will it be for? Why are there many reasons to think this will not include answering for our sins? What will we be repaid for? Is there a promise here?

The Marriage of the Lamb

  • Read Rev. 19:7. What will the “bride” (the church) receive when we arrive in heaven? Who supplies the Fine Linen, “bright and clean”?
  • Read verse 8. What does the fine linen represent? What are we promised here?

The Triumphal Return

  • Read Rev. 19:11-13. After the marriage supper of the Lamb, it is time for Him to return to the earth. How will He come?
  • Read verse 14. Who will be with Him? How will they be dressed?
  • Read verses 15-16. Will the saints who are with the Lord help Him to fight? What promise do these verses contain?

The Millennial Reign

  • Read Rev. 20:4-6. There is much we don’t know about the Millennial Reign of Christ, but what is factual is the length of time. How long will it be?
  • Read Rev. 20:1-3. Where will Satan be during this period of one-thousand years?

Who will put him there? Are these promises we can believe?

The Eternal City

  • Read Rev. 21:1-2. This is now the final event when the glorified saints begin a life that will last for eternity. Read 1 Cor 2:9. How does this comfort you?
  • Read 1 Cor. 6:9-10. Who are the unrepentant sinners who will not be in heaven? Why will none of these people be there? Would they have had their chance to accept Jesus as Savior while they lived?
  • What promise is made in these verses for believers?

The Invitation

  • Read Rev. 22:17. What is God’s final plea to those who read His Word? Why?

Close

This sermon took into account many verses, passages, and theological doctrines, knowing that for every statement of faith we believe, there are equally learned men on every other side who might believe differently. It is not our intention to present every viewpoint, but only what God has given us as facts—those things that we can believe with certainty, and that we can have as a foundation for our faith. Our founding church fathers wrote our Doctrinal Statement after much prayer and fasting, always comparing Scripture with Scripture. We hope today’s sermon has been a help to you that has reinforced your beliefs, with you always going back to God’s Word to be certain what you believe is what God has said. The bottom line is, always be ready! It is not the how, when, or in what manner–in the end, all that will matter will be are you truly ready to meet Christ? If so, He will call you: “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matt. 25:34).

March 20, 2022

THE DOCTRINE OF HEAVEN AND HELL

March 20, 2022

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

As we live our lives, it is almost constant that we must make decisions requiring simply a “yes or no”—even something as simple as “Do you want a hamburger?” Can you think of an example?

This series on the basic doctrines of the Christian faith has been filled with information that can increase our faith. These doctrines are non-negotiable and are the foundations of Biblical faith. We have used the doctrinal statement of our church to give you a plan of action should you ever need to relocate and choose a new church, or even assess your current church, being certain it stands on Biblical values. From TRBC: “We affirm that at the end of this age the unsaved will be raised and judged according to their works and separated forever from God in hell. The saved, having been raised, will live forever in heaven in fellowship with God.”

The Coming Wrath

We affirm that at the end of this age the unsaved will be raised and judged according to their works and separated                  forever from God in hell.

           The Doctrine of Sin: They are therefore subject to eternal punishment, under the just condemnation of a holy God.

  • In Genesis 3, sin enters the perfect world God had made. Can someone paraphrase what happened there? Read Romans 5:12. What was the punishment God gave man? Why did He create man with free will?
  • Read Romans 3:23. What has been the condition of man’s heart since the Garden of Eden? Where do we all deserve to spend eternity?
  • Read Hebrews 9:27 and Romans 6:23. What can mankind expect after death?
  • Read Matthew 22:12-13 and 25:41. How is hell described? Read Rev. 20:14-15. Who was hell originally designed for?
  • Read Gen. 3:15. In eternity past, God knew man would choose to sin, and made a way for him to be forgiven. Can you think of other Old Testament passages that promise a Redeemer?
  • Read Matt. 25:46. What is the hope that will save us from the coming wrath?

The Promised Path

The saved, having been raised, will live forever in heaven in fellowship with God.

            The Doctrine of Salvation: The believer is declared righteous, born again by the Holy Spirit, turned from sin and                      assured of heaven.

  • Read John 3:16-17. Although God knew man would choose sin in his free will and would deserve separation from Him, what did He prepare for His Son to do? Read Romans 5:17. Why was it necessary for God to take upon Himself the payment for our sins?
  • Read John 14:1-3, 6. What is the consequence of rejecting Jesus as Savior? Does God send mankind to hell? Why is Jesus the only way to eternal life?
  • Read Rev. 21:3-5. What are some of the joys that will be experienced eternally by those who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior? What are some of the things that will never be known in heaven?

So, Let’s Do the Math

The Doctrine of Salvation: assured of heaven

  • Read Ephesians 1:3, 10. There are so many promises that tell us about heaven! What has He given us already, just as if we have already received it?
  • Read 2 Cor. 5:17. Do we wait for heaven before beginning life as a new creation? What are some of the fruits that will show we are a new person in Christ?
  • What are some reasons people reject Jesus Christ? Do you think they have made their decision from the word of God, or movies, fake news, and hearsay?
  • If a person walks the aisle, or raises their hand in acceptance of Jesus, but never gives up their sinful lifestyle, have they truly met and loved the risen Lord? Why?
  • Read Romans 7:22-25. How can we be victorious until the day we meet Christ?

Close

Many years ago a documentary was made on the life of a man who had been on drugs since a young child but had accepted Jesus as his Savior. The reporter asked how it had come about, and the man was clear in his message: “I was sleeping on the streets, not knowing if or when I would get another meal; I had no job, no home, no friends, and no parents in my life—nothing but drugs. One day, as I was passing a church, I felt led to enter the doors into the sanctuary. Although it was a weekday, it was only a few moments before a pastor approached and began to speak to me. As I listened, God awakened something inside me, and I felt as though He was saying, “You have nothing but pain and suffering. Accept my Son and let Him be your Lord, and I will meet your needs each day.” Can you wonder that I would be so dense as to not understand I was holding on to nothing and God was offering me a new life? It was a “DUH?” moment for me!” He went on to become a preacher.

The truth is, it’s easier for people to hope that the goodness of God will cause Him to disregard His plan of salvation on that day (if they believe there will be one) when they stand before Him than to accept Jesus now. They are certain He will relent and allow them into heaven because, as we hear so often, “My good outweighs my bad, so I’m sure God will accept me.” Wrong. Can you imagine martyrs by the thousands who have given their lives, been burned at the stake, crucified, enduring excruciating deaths, watching as God says, “You’re right! Go on in.” That’s absurd. He is a loving Father, but a holy God. We get the just recompense for our deeds, Ezekiel 9:10 tells us, unless our sins are forgiven.

What is at stake during these few years on earth is our eternal soul! The choice is very clear, and Jesus spoke nearly 170 times about an eternity in hell. It is a place of pain, suffering, darkness, fire, and more. Think of the vilest people you have ever known, and multiply their number by millions, including Satan and his demons. Those are the residents of hell, and there will be no parties, no friends to hang out with, and no good days. Then envision the eternal life lived by those who have trusted in Jesus Christ to save them. There is eternal light, eternal joy, eternal deliverance from all that hurts, and eternal celebrating the God who loves us. For the rest of eternity, we will be with the millions who love Jesus Christ. Only the truly foolish would choose hell.

March 13, 2022

DOCTRINE OF ANGELS & DEMONS

March 13, 2022

Matt Willmington

 

There are many areas of life where beliefs or opinions can be taken to the extreme, and which can create complications. Does an example come to your mind?

For the past couple of months, we have been in a series where we are examining the doctrines of the Christian faith. Each week we have cited the corresponding section of the Statement of Faith of our church, which references the doctrine for that week. As we examine what the Bible teaches on angels and demons, we will reference only the Bible. God has given us a complete overview as we see what He says about these created beings.

Two Dangers to Avoid Concerning Angels

  • Saying too much. What do we mean when we say we can put too much emphasis on the angelic world?
  • Saying too little. While we should not give undue recognition to the angels who are ministering to saints, what is the caution we need to take in giving demons (fallen angels) too little thought?

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS CONCERNING ANGELS

WHAT ARE ANGELS?

  • The word in Hebrew means “mighty ones,” “valiant men” or even “champions.” Read Psalm 103:20-21. What did David say about them in these verses?
  • Read Psa. 104:4 and Hebrews 1:14. What were angels created to do?

HOW DID THEY ORIGINATE?

  • The Bible does not tell us when the angels were created. Read Job 38:1-7. What did God say they were doing when He created the earth? Read Psa. 148:1-6. What can be learned about angels from these verses?
  • Read Rev. 12:3-9. When Satan waged war against God, how many of the angels fell with him? Read Luke 20:35-37. What are some additional characteristics of angels we see in this passage?

WHAT KINDS OF ANGELS ARE THERE?

  • FALLEN: What are some of the terms used for those angels who chose to go with Satan? What do we commonly call them? Read Jude verse 6 and 2 Peter 2:4. What punishment is already being suffered by some of those fallen angels?
  • GOOD: Reread Heb. 1:14. What is one of the primary jobs of these angelic beings? Read Rev. 7:11. What actions do you recall angels doing in Scripture?
  • ARCH: Who are the two angels you think of immediately who are Arch Angels? What did they do? How would you classify the hierarchy of Arch Angels?
  • CHERUBIM: Read Gen. 3:24 for the first reference to a Cherub Angel, possibly the second-highest order of angels. Read Ezek. 10:19-21 for their description.
  • SERAPHIM: Thought to be the highest order of the angels. They are mentioned only a few times in the Bible, in Isaiah, with similar features of the Cherubim. Their role seems to be to praise God.
  • LIVING CREATURES: Mentioned only in Revelation (4, 5, & 6), these are magnificent, powerful creatures similar to the Cherubim and Seraphim.
  • RULING RANKS: Many of these ranks are listed by Paul in Eph. 6:12.
  • GUARDIANS: These are the ministering spirits in Hebrews 1:14.

ARE THEY DEAD PEOPLE?

  • NO! Forget your preconceived notions that dead people roam the earth. Read 2 Cor. 5:8. Upon death, the saved go to be with the Lord, the unsaved will be forever in hell. Read Psa. 9:17 and Luke 16:19-26 for a clearer understanding.

DO WE NEED TO SPEAK A SPECIAL LANGUAGE?

  • NO! Read 1 Timothy 2:5. There is no one but Christ to mediate for mankind. We are not to attempt to establish a personal relationship with them.

DO THEY HAVE BODIES?

  • Reread Psa. 104:4. Angels are spirits unless they must take on a physical body temporarily, as in Genesis 19:1-22, when their mission requires bodies.

DO THEY HAVE LIMITS?

  • Although angels possess free will (else 1/3 could not have followed Satan), they have no “Omni” powers, or ability to read thoughts, etc.

CAN I BE POSSESSED OR OPPRESSED BY DEMONS?

  • BELIEVERS, belonging to God and indwelt with the Holy Spirit, can be oppressed but not possessed. Read 1 Cor. 6:19-20. UNBELIEVERS, belonging to Satan and the kingdom of darkness, can be indwelt by demons. They still can choose to call out to God for salvation and receive freedom. Read Mark 5:1-20.

DO THEY CAUSE ILLNESS?

  • PHYSICAL, yes. Scripture gives us many passages to affirm this: Luke 8:27-28, 9:39, 13:10-16; John 9:1-5
  • MENTAL, they can be, but definitely not always: 1 Samuel 16:14-23.

CAN I CONTROL THEM?

  • Use these passages: Colossians 2:18; Revelation 22:8-9 and Jude 1:9; Luke 9, 10.

 

Close

The topic of angels is popular both in Christian and non-Christian cultures. A problem can occur if there is an undue emphasis on their roles and their responsibility to guard or protect mankind. As with other categories of the supernatural, angels can be sinfully idolized or worshiped, when, because it is a created being, it is only the Creator who is worthy of worship.

The Bible speaks of children having a guardian angel (Matt. 18:10), as well as being ministering spirits to us who are God’s children (Heb. 1:14). We give God the glory for His protection, but do not try to form a relationship.

At the same time, Satan desires to sabotage us by assigning a demon, or a “familiar spirit,”  to try to take us down, as he knows our every action. They cannot read our thoughts but can whisper to our minds, trying to ruin our faith in God. Because he knows us intimately, he knows our weaknesses. Don’t underestimate Satan but don’t give him any unnecessary attention. He will be in hell one day. It is God and God alone who deserves the glory and the praise!

March 06, 2022

DOCTRINE OF MAN

March 06, 2022

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Do you wish you were perfect? (Your spouse probably does, too). What was your worst action this past week? Could you have controlled how it went? What did you learn?

This week we continue our series on Doctrines of the Christian faith, focusing today on creation in general and humanity in particular. We cite the corresponding doctrinal statement formed by the founders of Thomas Road: “We affirm that human beings were directly created, not evolved, in the very image of God. As reasoning moral agents, they are responsible under God for understanding and governing themselves and the world. Adam, the first man, willfully disobeyed God, bringing sin and death into the world. As a result, all persons are sinners from conception, which is evidenced in their willful acts of sin; and they are therefore subject to eternal punishment, under the just condemnation of a holy God.”

How we got here

  • In Genesis 1:1-25, God, through Moses, records the creation of the universe. What are the three major views that the world believes explain creation? Why do Bible-believing Christ-followers believe the Biblical account is true? Read John 1:3, Romans 1:20, and Isaiah 42:5. Which view takes more faith to believe? Why?
  • How does the Bible record the creation for each day? God said to rest on the 7th Why is this additional evidence of a twenty-four-hour day?
  • Why is it imperative that we believe Genesis 1 as God has recorded it? If you don’t believe God’s account of creation, why would you believe the Bible?

How we were created

  • Read Gen. 1:26b. Who do “Us” and “Our” refer to? What did He mean by image? Why must the characteristics of “image” be in our spirit? What are the three characteristics from the sermon that show we are created in God’s image?
  • What did the word “likeness” refer to? Were Adam and Eve created without sin?
  • Think of your children or those in your family. What are some of the “likenesses” that they have inherited? Are these traits physical, spiritual, or both?
  • Read 2 Cor. 5:17. When do we obtain a spiritual likeness to Christ? When will we receive a character likeness (Rom. 8:29)? When will we receive a physical likeness?

Why we were created

  • We read in the Doctrinal Statement that “as reasoning moral agents..” we have responsibilities. What are they?
  • Read Rev. 4:9-11. Almost everyone has struggled with a “why am I here” scenario. Why did you have children (if you did)? What situations did you imagine? How did you envision a life of love with them? Is it possible God wanted you that much, with plans, hopes, and a purpose to enjoy you forever?
  • Read Jer. 29:11. Why did God say He created you? Can you insert your name in that verse? Read Mark 16:15. What work did God give you to do?

How we messed it all up

  • How did Adam and Eve sin? Read Gen. 3:1. Why was the serpent intent on ruining man’s relationship with God? Read Rom. 5:12 and 3:23. What was the result? How does he do this to us today? Read Eph. 6:12 and John 10:10.
  • Read Gen. 3:15. Because we have free will and are prone to satisfy the flesh, what did God have to do? Is His plan of redemption open to anyone? Why? Read 2 Pet. 3:9. Why is God being “slow” in telling Jesus to “go get His children”?
  • Read Rom 6:12-15 and 2 Pet. 1:2-4. Is it inevitable that we sin or is it a choice each time? Read 2 Pet. 1:5-9. Should we be able to resist choosing to sin?

God’s great plan of redemption

  • Read Rom 5:8-11 and 6:23. Why did Jesus love us so much that He endured the Cross?
  • Read Rom. 5:18-19. Why did God make a way out? Are you able to grasp how much He loves you?

 

Close

Have you ever thought of Creation as one of the most magnificent works of art there can be? Sunsets, sunrises, flowers, music, animals…the list goes on. We humans can make nothing without imagining things we have seen, yet God spoke everything into existence—from nothing!

Do you want to witness to friends or acquaintances about the goodness of God and His plan of redemption, but feel you lack the tools? Just look around you! Romans 1:19 tells us that everyone who can think or reason can see there is a God who reigns over everything because God has shown it to them through creation. Verses 20-23 says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” People can see that God exists, but if they admit it, they will be responsible for their actions.

What about you? Have you waffled about the topics of evolution or creation? As Pastor Falwell stated, If you don’t believe in the literal 6-day creation, you will eventually question the rest of the Bible.  And to believe that the six days of creation were eons of time, rather than twenty-four-hour periods, would leave the Day of Rest open to various interpretations as to how long we rest in it! Try telling your boss you’re taking the next million years off.

The bottom line: God spoke all things into existence, knew man would sin, made a plan for redeeming us, and paid that price Himself. He is good—all the time. You can trust Him.

February 27, 2022

THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH

February 27, 2022

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Goals in life are not just made at New Year’s—we often plan to discipline ourselves to do something that will require persevering. Then something, whether a bitter word, an antagonistic friend or a million other excuses causes us to quit. Can someone share?

As we continue our series on the basic doctrines of the Christian faith, we see that the founding fathers of Thomas Road Baptist Church drafted a doctrinal statement of beliefs that covers all that is necessary to lay the foundation for the existence of a local church. Each week we have quoted a portion that applies to a different doctrine, as we do today concerning the local church body: “We affirm that the church is a local assembly of baptized believers, under the discipline of the Word of God and the Lordship of Christ, organized to carry out the commission to evangelize, to teach, and to administer the ordinances of believer’s baptism and the Lord’s table. Its officers are pastors and deacons, and it is self-governing. It functions through the ministry of gifts given by the Holy Spirit to each believer.”

What is the church?

  • The Ekklesia. Read Acts 2:41-42. How did Luke define the beginning of the church? What does ekklesia mean? What are we “called out” from?
  • Those are Called Out for a purpose. What did the church look like during this time? Where were they meeting?

What is the church supposed to do?

Reach: organized to…evangelize

  • What was the first thing listed in the doctrinal statement above that the church was to do? Read Acts 2:41 again. What was the main function of the church? What do communion and baptism represent? Read Matt. 28:18-20. Who was Jesus speaking to? Why is this command as relevant today as it was at that time?
  • What is the only thing that will limit the reach of the church of God? How can we make sure we are not lukewarm in carrying out His command in Matt. 28:18-20?
  • Is our God whom we serve today in 2022 the same God who drew souls by the thousands in the days of the apostles?

Teach: and…administer the ordinances

  • Read Acts 2:42a. What do we need to be teaching? Read 2 Tim. 2:15. How can we accurately tell others if we are not saturated by the Word in our own lives?
  • Read Eph. 4:14. How does this illustrate the lives of those who never read God’s Word? Why is it so important that we share the gospel with unbelievers?

Serve: submitting to God and Christ…

  • Read Acts 2:44-45. Why did the new believers do the things listed in these verses? What were some reasons they were pulling together as one in this manner? What is our responsibility today to other believers? Read Gal. 6:10 and Phil. 2:3. Is this how Paul saw our service in meeting the needs of others?
  • What are some of the ways we are currently serving God by being a servant in our church and community? Is this possibly what Jesus meant in Matt. 10:42?

Fellowship: ..a local assembly of baptized believers

  • Read verses 42b and 46. As we read about the fellowship of these believers, we realize their inability to travel far often created problems we do not have. How do today’s local churches pull together in similar ways? What are some hindrances we incur? How does God desire to use the local church today?
  • What are some ways our church meets the need for friendship with people around us? Do we tend to congregate with our “own kind” (clique, money, etc), shutting others out?

Worship

  • What are some acts of worship that we perform collectively as a church body?
  • What are some of the ways we worship God in private? Read Psa. 29:2, 95:1, John 4:23, 9:31. What can be some personal ways to worship?

Close

What does the local church body mean to you personally? Take another look at the doctrinal statement as to the purpose of the church, asking yourself, ‘as a member of (whatever local church), do I do each of these things, or do I have areas where I am lukewarm, or unconcerned, or lacking in skills that I can learn? Do I congregate with those who are like me (money, status, etc.) to the exclusion of those who make me uncomfortable?’ Make it a priority to be friendly to those you don’t know, and learn a new name each week. Remember our mission statement: “Love God, love people.”

Do you attend a church that is everything a church should be? Does the pastor preach God’s Word with authority, or does he focus on unimportant illustrations or stories? Ponder this as you study this lesson, being certain your church is above all, solid in doctrine, as well as involved in reaching the lost of your community, meeting the needs of those around you, and spreading the gospel to other places. If it isn’t, be the catalyst!

Churches today should be a sanctuary for anyone who comes. They should be a place to embrace worship, to see opportunities to serve, to teach those who need guidance, to make friends, and to exercise the gifts that encourage and edify others. They should be ready to love the addicted, the rejected, and the lost. They should be like a large family where people are accepted for who they are, and their habits or differences become part of the diversity. Color should not matter, habits should not irritate, and love should always be in plentiful supply. You should look forward to going to your church with as much enthusiasm as you would exhibit if you were going to visit a beloved part of your family. Help your church become a role model in your community!

February 20, 2022

DOCTRINE OF SALVATION

February 20, 2022

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Often, an action made as a child or young adult will have effects that continue for years or a lifetime. For instance, marriage is often made in beautiful bliss but requires much work over many years! Can someone tell of an example or experience?

We are in the middle of our series on some of the basic doctrines of the Christian Faith, looking today at salvation. The mission statement of our church describes it perfectly: “We affirm that each person can be saved only through the work of Jesus Christ, through repentance of sin and by faith alone in Him as Savior. The believer is declared righteous, born again by the Holy Spirit, and assured of Heaven. We affirm that the Holy Spirit indwells all who are born again, conforming them to the likeness of Jesus Christ. This is a process completed only in Heaven. Every believer is responsible to live in obedience to the Word of God in separation from sin.”

The truth about Salvation

  • Everyone needs to be saved. Read Romans 3:10a, 3:23, and Psalm 14:1-3. Why did God declare man unworthy to be in His presence? Can you put your name in each verse? Why do you believe that Jesus would have died for you alone?
  • No one can accomplish being saved on their own. Read Isaiah 64:6, Eph. 2:1, and Eph. 2:8-9. There is nothing you can do to work hard enough or sacrifice enough to earn salvation. What can a person who is spiritually dead, do to live?
  • There must be a payment made for our sin. Read Heb. 9:22, Psa. 79:9, and Rom. 6:23. All sin must be paid for. Why did it take a sinless person to satisfy God’s wrath?
  • Only Jesus can accomplish it. Read Acts 4:12, 1 Tim. 2:5, and Romans 5:6, 8. How is He active in our lives?
  • Therefore, everyone is born with a nature that completely separates all of us from God and there is nothing we can do on our own to earn it. There has to be a payment paid against the sin debt, and only Jesus was sufficient to pay this. Read Isaiah 59:2.

 

What is Salvation

Belief:

  • Read Rom. 10:9-10. What are the two processes of conversion? Read Rom. 10:14. Which comes first, belief or repentance? Can you be saved if only one of these processes is evident? Read John 6:47. Is faith (belief) mandatory? Why?
  • Read John 16:8-9. Why is it necessary to be repentant and turn in obedience toward God? Read 1 John 5:2. Is this what John speaks of in this verse?

Justification:

  • Read Rom. 5:1-2. What is the definition of justification?
  • Read Rom. 5:18. Does this verse mean all men are justified? When are you declared righteous before God?

Sanctification

  • Read 1 Thess. 4:3a. Why is it impossible to get rid of your filth before coming to God? Will someone please define sanctification?
  • What does sanctification mean to a believer? As in the opening ice breaker, when you accept Jesus as Savior, is sanctification a constant work that will continue all your life?
  • Read 1 Thess. 5:23-24 and John 17:16-18. What is one way we can be sanctified? Can you name some other ways, as well?

Glorification

  • Read Rom 5:1-2, again. At the moment of salvation, we are declared justified, and legally become God’s child. Sanctification then continues as you grow from faith to faith. What is glorification? When will it be completed?
  • Read John 3:14-17. What is the hope in this passage? Read 1 Cor. 13:12. Does this verse describe some of the wonders that we will know in Heaven?

Close

Have you ever paid for an item and watched the cashier swipe a pen mark on your bill to verify its authenticity? Have you ever been paid with counterfeit money? While most of us have never even seen a counterfeit bill, nearly all have experienced the frustration of having been paid, either for goods or for services, by a check that turned out to be worthless. Getting cash for the bad check can be difficult!

Imagine how much worse it is for a righteous, holy God to have someone reject Jesus and try to earn their way to Heaven, giving their insufficient attempts at righteousness to satisfy His holiness! He speaks of this in  Matthew 22. Jesus tells the parable of the man who gave a lavish wedding feast for his son. The wedding guests who were invited did not come, so the servants were sent out to the highways and brought others in. Knowing they would be ill-dressed, wedding garments were furnished to them. In verse 11, when the father saw a man without a garment, he had him removed for trying to get in on his own merit. In John 10:1, Jesus tells of someone trying to get into the sheepfold by some means other than the door. Each of these can be seen as those who insist on trying to get to Heaven by their own means, rather than accepting the only Gift that has ever been given for salvation, Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Have you tried for many years to do enough good that God will overlook your faults? So many people believe if their good deeds outweigh their bad ones, God will relent and let them in. In that case, they are rejecting the perfect sacrifice of God’s only Son, who would have not had to die if you could earn your own way. Please, if this is you, repent of your wilful rejection of Jesus, acknowledge to God that you believe Jesus is the only way, separate yourself from the sins of the world, and live for Him. One day you will stand before Him clothed in a perfect garment of righteousness.

 

February 13, 2022

DOCTRINE: THE BIBLE

February 13, 2022

Charles Billingsley

 

Many books can help us as we journey through life—like a cookbook, for instance. Do you have a special book that has helped you tackle the unknown?

 

We are currently in a series that focuses on some of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. We have examined the doctrine of the Trinity, (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). Understanding the foundational truths will be invaluable as you navigate the mountaintops and valleys of daily life. Today, we examine the one Book in the world which was written by God and contains “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), for “in it, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17)—the Holy Bible.

Focal Passage: 2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:12.           

Background

  • General revelation: What is meant by “general revelation”? Read Rom. 1:19-23. What are the two ways God has revealed Himself to all people throughout every age? What are some of the things in creation that show evidence there is a Creator who knows His creation intimately?
  • What is the second way? Read Genesis 20:9. Who recalls the background in this story of Abraham and Sarah? What did Abimelech, a Philistine king, inherently understand by his conscience? Is it only Christians who know right from wrong?
  • Special revelation: What do we mean by “special revelation”? Who did God choose for His supernatural communication? Were all those people qualified or extraordinary? Can you give some examples of them? Read 2 Peter 3:15b-16a. This is Peter writing about Paul! How should that encourage us?
  • There are three steps in God’s revelation from His heart to reach us. What did the men to whom God revealed His will, do with their knowledge (Revelation)? How do you envision them getting God’s word out to others (Inspiration)? Read Heb. 4:12. How do the words that are heard or read quicken and penetrate our hearts (Illumination)?

Read it

  • Read Psa. 144:3. When you read your Bible, do you have a sense of awe that God has said these things to you? What are some reasons you read your Bible? What are some of the things God has revealed in the OT and the NT? Is it necessary for your salvation that you understand everything you read?
  • Are you disciplined as you read, perhaps making yourself reread a passage when you realize your mind has wandered? What are some ways you have found that you get the most from your reading? Why are you committed to reading it?

Believe it

  • How can you explain the unity that flows through 66 books, over 1500 years, and 49 writers, yet meshing together to read as one single book?
  • As you sit down to have a time with God’s word, what is the most important thing that you expect from the reading? How do you know that God has “breathed” every verse in this Bible (2 Tim. 3:16).
  • Are there areas where Satan attacks you to cause you to question God’s Word, your faith, the forgiveness of your sins, or any other relationship factor, to destroy your peace?
  • Why has God revealed His love to us in this book?

Apply it

  • Read 1 John 5:2-3. In Deut. 11:13, God demands obedience. Many centuries later, John writes the same thing. Why? If someone is in a lifestyle of sin, yet continues it with no guilt after accepting salvation, are they truly saved?
  • Love God, love people. It sounds easy, but what are some very difficult commands that are hard for you to carry out?
  • Why do we hold back on obeying God completely? What is the cry of your heart?
  • We live out about 60-70% of what we say we believe. How can we strive to obey God more fully during the remainder of 2022?

Close

Over the past couple of centuries, we have lost much of the reverence that once was held for God, His church, and His Word. Yet through the years, the Bible has remained the number one best-seller, selling approximately one hundred million copies each year. The content sets this Book apart from any other, being the infallible, inerrant Word of God. He chose men who would be filled with the Spirit of God, who would listen as He “breathed” His word to them. Eventually, their scrolls or letters were canonized, and the 66 books chosen by Him were made into one. It is complete, and Jesus warns in Rev. 22:18-19 to neither add nor take away from the words of this Book. Any additional books that may be thought of as “lost” books have discrepancies that clash with the true Word.

The message is not too hard to understand, especially with translations of modern English. Yes, sometimes some commands are difficult to obey, but the result is a new level of joy when carried out, and an increase in faith. We read His word because we know it will reveal Him. We believe it because we have faith in Him. We apply it because He has asked us to tell the world about Him.

John concluded his gospel with these words: “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. (Jn. 21:25).

February 6, 2022

DOCTRINE: GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT

February 06, 2022

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Sometimes, as adults, a subject will come up in conversation that causes us discomfort, perhaps because of things we were taught in our early years. Can you share such an example?

The past two weeks we have examined the doctrine of the Trinity in God the Father and God the Son. Today we will look at God the Holy Spirit, searching the Scripture for His personality (who He is), His function, and His work in our lives. We will also look at the Doctrinal Statement of our church, written by godly men who were part of the formation of Thomas Road Baptist Church, and see for ourselves that the affirmations they assigned to the Holy Spirit are completely Biblical.

Focal Passage: Titus 3:3-7

Doctrinal Statement: “We affirm that the Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity, proceeding from the Father and Son, and equal in deity. He is the giver of all life, active in the creating and ordering of the universe: He is the agent of inspiration and the new birth; He restrains sin and Satan; He indwells and sanctifies all believers.

“The believer is declared righteous, born again by the Holy Spirit, turned from sin, and assured of heaven. We affirm that the Holy Spirit indwells all who are born again, conforming them to the likeness of Jesus Christ.”

Who is the Holy Spirit

  • Read John 14:26. What did Jesus call Him in this verse? What did He say the Holy Spirit would do for the believers? Read Psa. 139:7. Is He God?
  • Read Matt. 28:19. The Trinity is laid out specifically in this passage. What assurance can you gain from the words of Jesus?
  • Read Mark 12:36, 1 John 5:7, and Acts 2:38. Is there any doubt that the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity, and equal in deity to both the Father and the Son?
  • Read Acts 16:7, Acts 20:28, and Romans 5:5. How is He active in our lives?

 He indwells us at salvation

  • Read Titus 3:3-5. Who is active in your salvation in these verses? What part did God the Father have? How did He save us? What part did God the Holy Spirit have? Read 2 Cor. 5:17. How can you connect the actions of the Holy Spirit making us a new creation? Read Rom. 8:9. How do you know you have the Spirit residing in you?
  • Read 2 Tim. 1:14. The indwelling spoken of in this verse indicates existing as an inner activating spirit; or, to dwell in a person and influence him for good. What thoughts come to your mind as you realize you have, within you, God the Holy Spirit, never leaving you, and influencing you for good? How can you quench the Holy Spirit? Read 1 Cor. 3:16. Does this give you fear or hope?

He seals us forever

  • Read Titus 3:6. What was your situation when Jesus saved you (Eph. 2:1)? Read John 10:28-29. Why should this verse give us peace?
  • Read 2 Cor. 1:22. What is special about the promises of God, and especially in this verse? The original meaning is to confirm, make sure, or establish. What does this mean to you, knowing God is the author of what is said?

He fills us with His power

  • Read Titus 3:7. What is the basis on which He justifies us? What is the result of His justification? What does justification mean to a believer?
  • Read Acts 1:8. When do you receive the power of the Holy Spirit? Is it the same power the disciples had? What is the reason for the filling of the Holy Spirit?
  • Read 2 Tim. 1:7. We know we often have fear when it comes to witnessing. Why should we not? How can we overcome it?

He corrects us when we are wrong and makes us more like Christ

  • Read John 16:7-8. Why did the Holy Spirit have to wait until Christ had gone back to the Father before He could come? What was He going to do? Read Rom. 8:5. How can we tell if we do not have the Holy Spirit?
  • Read Rom. 8:28-30. Again, what is the main goal He has as He indwells our lives?

Close

If you are more than half a century old and raised in a traditional church, chances are you were raised on the King James Version of the Bible. This was the preferred version in almost all Protestant churches that were “mainline” until modern translations began coming out in the second half of the Twentieth Century. The unfortunate characterizations of that era were the superstitions that abounded in those days: as immigration was prolific, the people brought their backgrounds of the occult, witchcraft, legalism, and false teachings. Even with the Bible, most schools taught the theory of evolution as fact, and children seldom heard Creationism taught.

The KJV, with its old-fashioned language, referred to the Holy Spirit as “the Holy Ghost.” Because of “ghost” stories told around the fireplaces before going to bed, children often grew up with a very misguided sense of spirits, ghosts, and the spirit world. To read of the Holy Spirit—whom we today understand to be not only the Third Person of the Trinity but also our indwelling Comforter and Guide—we know no fear is to be considered in the same breath when referring to His character. However, it has left impressions on our lives that possibly can still infiltrate our thoughts. Hopefully, this study of His character and work will give you a new reverence for Him. Take some time this week to use www.blueletterbible.org or www.biblegateway.com to do a study on this Person who dwells inside us, and knows us—our beauties and our sins—better than anyone else!

 

January 30, 2022

DOCTRINE: GOD THE SON

January 30, 2022

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Have you noticed people today seem unable to think logically, interpret facts correctly, or understand clearly what they read or hear? Can you give recent examples?

Last Sunday we began a new series on the basic Doctrines of Christianity. We listened as Matt Willmington described the Doctrine of the Trinity in the First Person of God the Father. Today we continue the Trinity, looking at the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, Jesus Christ. There are more than 500 prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the coming of a Messiah, and Jesus fulfilled a number that defies possibility. Therefore, to read Old Testament predictions of what was expected of the Messiah means also going to the NT to see Jesus’ fulfillment. For instance, in Luke 7:19-21, we read Jesus answer John the Baptist as whether He was the Messiah. Later, in John 7:31, the crowds watched Jesus, as He, in evidence of His Messianic authority, stood in front of them, fulfilling Isaiah 42:6-8.

Focal Passage: Colossians 1:15-20

GOD THE SON

The Son of the Past

“We affirm that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity. Eternally begotten from the Father, He is God. He was conceived by the virgin Mary through a miracle of the Holy Spirit. He lives forever as perfect God and perfect Man, two distinct natures inseparably united in one person.”*

  • Read Colossians 1:15-16. Where did we first see Jesus Christ introduced in the Bible? What was the title usually given to Him in the Pre-incarnate Old Testament appearances? Name some of the times He appeared to OT saints.
  • Read John 1:1-3. What are some of the conclusions we can draw from these verses? Read Rev. 22:13. What did Jesus say of Himself in this verse?
  • Read John 4:25-26. Jesus made a factual statement here. Given His compassion, integrity, and actions, why would anyone delay accepting His salvation?
  • Read John 1:10-14, 6:38, and 10:27-30. Why did Jesus say He had come to the earth?

The Son of the Present

“We affirm that Jesus Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice by the appointment of the Father. He fulfilled the demands of God by His obedient life, died on the cross in full substitution and payment for the sins of all, was buried, and on the third day, He arose physically from the dead and ascended into Heaven where He now intercedes for all believers.”*    

  • Before we look in the Scriptures, what are some of the things you know Jesus is doing at this present time?
  • Read Col. 1:17-18. Does Jesus act today in the lives of believers? What are some examples?
  • Did you include these: To give salvation (John 10:10); To prepare a place for us (John 14:2); To give believers spiritual gifts (Eph. 4:10-14); To offer encouragement to His followers (Heb. 4:14-16); To make high priestly prayers on our behalf (Rom. 8:34); To send the promise of the Father (John 16); To care for His churches (Rev. 1:10-3:22); To work through His people (John 14:12); To wait to return as King of Kings (Heb. 10:12)?

The Son of the Eternal

“We affirm that the return of Christ for all believers is imminent. It will be followed by

seven years of great tribulation and then the coming of Christ to establish His earthly

kingdom for a thousand years. The unsaved will then be raised and judged according to

their works and separated forever from God in hell. The saved, having been raised, will

live forever in heaven with fellowship with God.”*

  • Read Col. 1:19-20. Besides being Holy, what are some of the other attributes of God the Father that keep Him from looking upon anything evil? When man was created, could Adam have taken a stand against Satan when he and Eve were tempted? How has that sin affected all of mankind?
  • What chance would we have to be in fellowship with God, without a mediator? Read 1 Tim. 2:5. Is it any wonder that one would be condemned to hell if he scorns the very reason the Son of God came to earth to die for us?

 

Close

It is clear that modern generations, raised to spend much of their time on technological games, social media, or mindless television and movies, would have a difficult time thinking through the irony of assessing the secular and ecclesiastical information concerning Jesus Christ. They can accept that He was someone who truly lived in history, did many incredible miracles, taught with authority, yet they discount His claim of being the Son of God and the foretold Jewish Messiah. It boggles one’s mind that they accept all that He said and did as being highly moral and erudite, yet assume Him a liar when He claimed to be God Incarnate.

What about you? Do you long for sweet fellowship with God the Father, free from sins and habits that seem to plague your existence? Do you have a broken heart when you sin, and confess it immediately? Perhaps those things that are the “weights that so easily beset us” could be the things God allows in our lives over and over until we get so sick of them we finally are willing to “lay them aside” (Heb. 12:1). Pray continually for a heart like His, and for eyes that see life from His perspective.

 

* Doctrinal Statement, Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, VA.

 

 

January 23, 2022

DOCTRINE: GOD THE TRINITY, GOD THE FATHER

January 23, 2022

Matt Willmington

 

Nearly everyone has a button that can be pushed or a soapbox if the right subject comes up. What are some topics that can quickly get your attention?

Doctrine. Some people cringe when they hear the word, others look forward to hearing what the teacher has to say. Many know the phrase, “Doctrine divides,” but that can be a misleading statement for such an important study. We live in an age where many are weak in theology, with people outside of a strong faith-based church lacking discipline or leadership in maturing in Christ. We also are in an era when people are constantly moving from one location to another. If you are a Christ-follower, it is vital to your faith walk that you know what the Bible teaches on certain subjects, and what the core beliefs—or “non-negotiables”—are when it comes to picking a church. Over the next several weeks, we will be studying many of the basic doctrines taught in Scripture, and learn the truth in each one. Today we will begin with the doctrine of the Trinity, specifically as it pertains to God the Father.

Focal Passage: Genesis 1:1-3, 26, 28, 31; John 1.

           

GOD THE TRINITY

“We affirm our belief in one God, infinite Spirit, creator and sustainer of all things, who exists eternally in three persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

These three are one in essence but distinct in person and function.”*

  • Read Genesis 1:1-3. As you read these three verses with faith, what attributes can you discern about God? How do you know that God is a person? Who else is mentioned here?
  • Read Psalm 33:6, 9. How did God create the world (verse 3)? Read John 1:1-3. Who is the Word? What is said about Him in this passage? What power did it take for God to create?
  • Read Gen. 1:26-28, 31. Who is God speaking to in vs 26? Why are humans special? Why would God want to bless us?
  • Read Isaiah 48:12-13, 16, and Matt. 3:16-17. Who do we see listed in these passages? Who is in Revelation 22:1, 16-17?

“We affirm that the Father is the first person of the Trinity and the source of all that God is and does. From Him the Son is eternally generated and from Them the Spirit eternally proceeds. He is the designer of creation, the speaker of revelation, the author of redemption, and the sovereign of history.”*

  • Read John 20:17. After the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, what did He call the apostles? How did He refer to God?

GOD IS…

  • What do these mean?

Spirit (John 1:18)                                Eternal (Deut. 33:27)

Self-Existent (Isa. 41:4)                       Omnipresent (Psa. 139:7-12)

Self-Sufficient (Job 41:11)                   Omnipotent (Gen. 18:14)

Omniscient (2 Kings 19:27)                 Wise (Job 36:5)

Immutable (Num. 23:19)                    Sovereign (Psa. 135:6)

Incomprehensible (Deut. 4:35)          Holy (Lev. 19:2)

True (Deut. 32:4)                                Faithful (Deut. 7:9)

Merciful (Exo. 34:7)                            Gracious (Psa. 103:8)

Love (Deut. 4:37)                                The Lord (Gen. 15:7)

Close

As Matt Willmington went over the attributes of God as our Father, he emphasized that many people have never had a father who provided a good role model to compare to a loving Father God in heaven. That is a sorrow that remains after Satan steals the figure whom Solomon writes is “the glory of children.” But God becomes a Father to the fatherless, and if this is you, take an evening and search out how much He cares for orphans (or those who have been raised without a father), and you will see that His heart is turned toward you for blessing. He is so loving that Jesus said we can address Him as “Abba,” which is like calling Him Poppa!

Another category of people whom God loves in an extra-special way is widows. In 1 Timothy 5, Paul paints a very graphic picture of those who are “really widows,” and urges the churches to take them under their wing, providing special care. James tells us that those who honor widows and orphans are practicing pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God.

Just as our lives as children are centered around our parents or guardians, so our lives as believers should center around the Trinity: God our Father, who is in heaven and loves us with an everlasting love, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. James 4:8 tells us to draw near to Him, and He will draw near to us. William McDowell wrote a beautiful praise song that begins, “You are not a God created by human hands…”*** Soak in the lyrics to praise songs that glorify God; spend those final moments as you fall asleep listing God’s attributes. Let Scriptures that tell of His glory saturate your mind when people treat you with impatience or roughness, letting His love and grace heal the hurt. He’s good. Even when He has to correct us, He does it in love. He’s a good, good Father. And it is our delight to experience His blessings and enjoy Him forever.

 

*, ** Doctrinal Statement, Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, VA.

*** William McDowell, “You Are God Alone.”

January 16, 2022

START THERE: DO SOMETHING!

January 16, 2022

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

What has gotten you so excited lately that you wanted everyone you met to know what you’ve experienced? Can you share?

 

The past two weeks we have discussed three of the six values that make up our church’s Mission Statement. We looked at our commitment to reading and studying Scripture, our time to develop a meaningful prayer life, and how much time we incorporate into our daily living to worship our God and make worship a lifestyle. Today we are going to look at the connection we have in our community as we come and go among both friends and strangers, loving them enough to have a heart for serving them, using Christ as our example. Above all, we want to love Him so deeply that sharing how our relationship with Him has changed our life is something we wish for everyone else to experience.

 

Focal Passage: John 13:4-17.

           

Do Something Unexpected

  • Read John 13:4-5. If you had been one of the apostles in the room with Jesus on the night of the Last Supper, how would you probably have responded? Do you identify more with Peter, or with those who did not say anything? Have you ever been in a situation when you washed the feet of those around you? Can you share? What was the main point Jesus was trying to get across?
  • What are some of the hang-ups you have that you might find hard to overcome to help a stranger? Have you ever tried to discern the root cause of the dread?
  • Read Phil. 2:3-4. Can you share a time when you did some deed such as is listed here, and tell what occurred?
  • Do you usually wait until you’re asked before performing a service? What would it take for you to step up to the plate and grab an opportunity when it happens?

 

The Eternal Impact

  • Read John 13:6-8. Above, in the first bullet, we saw Jesus was making a point that the Christ-follower should have a servant’s heart. Did Peter realize this at first? What was his reaction when he realized what Jesus meant by His reply? Can you think of other Scriptures that speak of washing, as in new creation? Read Eph. 5:26 and Titus 3:5. Do these verses confirm the washing we should have as Christians? How was this a picture of His substitutionary death on the cross?
  • Read Matt. 28:19-20. When we repent of our sins and accept Jesus’ gift of salvation, what types of responsibilities do we have? How are some of the ways He calls us?
  • Read Matt. 25:40. What are some examples of actions we can do on any ordinary day that could make a difference to the recipient? How can we train our eyes to be open to opportunities to be of service, such as Jesus was?
  • What are some ways we can be ready to share the importance of the gospel?

 

Christlike Service

  • Read John 13:13-15. Are there parameters that you feel must be met to meet your expectation of serving Jesus? When Jesus was giving us the example of how to live our lives, was He teaching us anything else? Why is doing the right thing, in any given situation, the right thing?
  • Who are the people you will not help, or those whom you stay away from? In order to be of service to Jesus Christ, how can you teach yourself to make special efforts toward those you don’t like?

 

Where do we get started?

  • Pray! Pray to be alert to opportunities every day where you can be of service.
  • Don’t wait for an invitation to serve! Take a step of faith and offer yourself.
  • Don’t wait for the right fit! If you don’t find a fit at first, try something else.

 

Close

As you read the Gospels, are you sometimes overwhelmed with all the things Jesus did every day? It seems He spent much of the night talking to His Father, and from the time He rose in the morning until He “escaped” from the crowds, He was being followed, dogged, stalked by the religious rulers, always with a mass of people looking for healing, food, or His help. Just the thought of keeping that kind of schedule is intimidating when we think about service!

At first glance, it would seem as though we can never achieve the number of “rules” to be good enough to be saved. But what did we read in Titus? “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior (3:4-6), we see again that our salvation is grace alone, “not of works lest any man should boast.” Why do we have to be reminded of this so often?

If we could remember, internalize, and put into practice that God’s will is that we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and spirit, and then love others more than we love ourselves, we would find ourselves happier and more fulfilled as we serve Him. Approach the day with the intent to be watchful of every opportunity to serve others—even if it’s only a smile or a compliment. A baby or a young child has to be taught to do the things that make him/her into a responsible adult. Isn’t it logical, then, that a new Christian must also learn the ways of the Lord? Ask Him to show you the next step. You don’t need—nor will you get—a complete road map, but He will lead you down the path He has for you.

 

 

 

 

January 9, 2022

START HERE: THE POWER OF PRAYER AND WORSHIP

January 09, 2022

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, at the end of the day, we have made someone mad or had some angry thoughts! Can anyone relate a recent experience that did not go as planned?

Last week, with the advent of a new year, we focused on beginning a new challenge of daily reading the Bible for 2022, just as we had done at the beginning—and again in the middle—of  2021, reading through the Bible in one year. This commitment, along with others, will enrich our walk with God, and yield new levels of spiritual growth. Today, we will look at the commitment of Prayer and Worship from the mission statement of our church, which goes hand in hand with the discipline of daily Bible reading. We will accomplish these through values that should undergird everything we do.

Focal Passage: Hebrews 4:14-16.

 

He has invited us in

  • Read Hebrews 4:14a. In the Old Testament, what were the duties of the High Priest? How was he different from other men in the tribe of Levi? Read Romans 3:23. Was he prone to sin? How was Jesus different from the other high priests who had officiated up until His crucifixion and ascension back to heaven?
  • Read Acts 4:12. What is a role that only Jesus qualifies for? Where is He now?
  • His role as our mediator involved three areas. Can anyone recall what they are? One was our protector. How does Jesus protect us? Read Philippians 4:19 and Matthew 6:31-32. How is He our provider? What does He provide?
  • Read Hebrews 2:17 and 1 John 2:2. What does propitiation mean? Did you deserve to have Him die for you when He paid the price for your sins?

 

He welcomes us as we are

  • Read Heb. 4:15. When was a time that we know Jesus was tempted? Did He ever sin? What are some times during His ministry that were probably very trying, yet He never sinned? How would we have handled antagonizers dogging our footsteps constantly?
  • Read Psalm 103:13-14. Does Jesus have any expectations for us that we cannot meet? Read Eph. 2:1-2. What were we like when Jesus called our name? Read John 1:12-13. If He had not called us just as we were, could we have ever gotten good enough to merit salvation? Why is this such a hard concept to grasp?
  • Read Heb. 5:2. How does the Bible say He deals with those who are going astray? Why? Read Rom. 2:4. What is it that leads us to repentance?

 

Take advantage of the invitation

  • Read Heb. 4:16 and Eph. 3:11-12. How does God want us to enter His presence? What do you envision when you realize God is sitting on a throne, in such majesty as we are not able to imagine? What are some hindrances you sometimes feel that prevent you from approaching Him boldly and in confidence? How do you rectify it (1 John 1:9)?
  • What does He promise us when we approach His throne? Why do we continue to need grace and mercy? What times of need could be examples?

 

Honor Him as a result

  • Read Colossians 3:22-23. What do these two verses mean to us, so that we are not filled with pride as we serve God? Why is everything we do an opportunity to honor God?
  • Read 1 Cor. 10:31. How can we put this into practice daily?

 

Close

Have you been to a wedding recently? If so, you listened to the vows that the bride and groom made, committing to be faithful to each other for the rest of their lives. Although we may not see our profession of faith as a vow to stay faithful and true to God, it is. We are committing our lives to Him, to obey and to love Him. There are several things we can learn from these verses.

Our first commitment should be to seek Him daily, both for our needs and our failings. Both 1 John 1:9 and James 4:17 give us rules to follow as we seek to serve Him—though we often fail. We also need to seek Him daily for opportunities to impact the lives of others. This is said in Luke 10:27 by Jesus, as He tells us to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. With the current world in turmoil, above what most of us can ever remember, this is a very difficult thing to do! We know, even in the most difficult of times, that praying for those whom we do not like will gradually change our hearts, even though it may not change the “neighbor’s.”

We need to answer God’s call to be used no matter how difficult it may be. We must trust Him enough to know He will not only be with us every second of every day but will also give us whatever we need to fulfill the calling we know He has for us. Being willing, as Isaiah was in Is. 6:8, even though he felt he was not qualified. He saw himself as a man of unclean lips,  yet God cleansed him and turned him into one of the greatest prophets in Scripture. Lastly, we need to give Him the glory for every win. How many times are you complimented for something, and say thank you, rather than giving God the glory for the place, the time, the finances, and more? He is good! He is faithful, loving, and constantly watching over us. Nothing we can do will repay Him for what He has done for us,

 

 

 

January 2, 2022

START HERE: THE POWER OF THE WORD

January 02, 2022

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

On New Year’s Day, many people resolve to change behavior patterns that need to be adjusted or eliminated, while other people have learned by experience that they will not carry such resolves through. Can you share if you have made some resolutions that began this week?

 

People who are in the financial world will tell you that it is only by constantly handling genuine money that a counterfeit bill can be spotted quickly. The same is true with our beliefs. To know Scripture well will enable us to recognize false teachers or false doctrines which are so rampant in today’s world. This past Sunday we will look at the authority of the Word of God and consider its power, its function, and guide for living. The words of Scripture are necessary when you are fighting in the spiritual realm (Eph. 6:17). Knowledge of God’s word is necessary if you want to lead someone to Christ (1 Thess. 2:13). We have in our hands a book that was “God-breathed” and has lasted through all generations since the time of Moses. Today we will look at some of the reasons this book is so powerful and living.

 

Focal Passage: Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 3 16-17.

           

 THE POWER OF THE WORD

  • Read Hebrews 4:12. As you read the first phrase of this verse, what is the significance of the first three words from Genesis 1:3, 6, 9? Read Mark 4:39. Does God require anything except His spoken word to create, exercise authority, etc.? How would you explain to an unbeliever that the Bible is “living”? What are some of the examples of power from the Scriptures?
  • The Bible is also inerrant. What does this mean? With various translations and versions available that differ, how can we say that the Bible has no error?
  • What is meant by “infallible”? What is so special about the scrolls that have been found over the past centuries?
  • Which is more important, what we believe and think is true, or what the Bible says? How do you line up your beliefs with God’s word?

Read what it says

  • Read 2 Tim 3:16a. What is meant by the “inspiration” of the Bible? If this is true (and it is), how will you be able to please God if you ignore reading and knowing the Bible, or assuming a sermon on Sunday will be all you need?
  • Read 2 Tim 2:15. What are some of the keywords in this verse? What is the basic intent of this verse? Is it a priority for you to read your Bible? Why or why not?
  • How can you find the will of God for your life? Is it in Scripture? As you read your Bible this year, will you find His will if you write down every reference (as in 1 Thess. 4:3, 5:18)? How can you learn what God wants from you unless you spend time in His word?

Learn what it means

  • Read 2 Tim 3:16b. What is meant by doctrine? What are some major doctrines that are non-negotiables when you look for a church home?
  • What is reproof from a Scriptural point of view? If you are familiar with God’s word on a certain activity, are you likely to engage in it if you know it’s wrong? Why not? If you are not sure what God says, why are you more likely to get carried away by false teaching? Where can that eventually lead you?

 

Put it into practice

  • Read 2 Tim 3:16c. What is meant by “instruction in righteousness”? Read 2 Peter 1:3. What is the way through which this information will come to us? Does this mean that whatever question we have will probably be answered in God’s word?
  • Read James 4:17. What excuse does this verse give you to not be of service to God? Read Psalm 119:11. Why is memorization so important?

 

Close

Were you one of those who raised your hand this past Sunday at the end of the church service, indicating you commit to reading a portion of Scripture every day during the coming year? What did you have in mind when you raised your hand—a verse, a chapter, a certain amount of time? Do you hope to read the Bible through in 2022?

If you had to commit to eating every day this coming year or doing something you enjoy, you wouldn’t have hesitated!. The truth is, many people believe the Bible to be boring or unnecessary. It is only when the people within the chapters come to life as real persons, with real problems, temptations, or crises just like you, that they begin to be seen as someone you can learn from. Questions regarding situational ethics may always arise, but it’s helpful to stop at that point, seek out a commentary by a solid Christian, and try to figure out what is meant.  Technology in this modern-day can make the Bible much more meaningful than a hundred years ago, by using sites designed to give original meanings.* Whatever it takes, make it a priority! You will never be convinced of God’s will for your life until you read it in the Bible. Keep a notebook handy, and write out your progress—you will be amazed at the growth in your spiritual life.

God didn’t give us the Bible so that we would be bored. Consider it His love letter to you, filled, as Peter wrote, with everything that you will need to live a life of peace and godliness, but it is through the knowledge of Him who has called you that that knowledge will come. Make this year count. If you know the Bible well, pick a topic that perhaps will cause you to concentrate harder as you read: the names of God, the prayers of those within the books, situations that you question (i.e., why did Jacob not recognize Leah the night of their marriage??), or any topic that will spark your interest as you read. Most of all, remember it is living! It may speak to you this year differently than it did last year, just because your circumstances have changed. Remember your commitment and read it with purpose every day.

 

*www.biblegateway.com; www.blueletterbible.org.

 

 

December 26, 2021

REVELATION: LET EVERYONE COME

December 26, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Do you find it frustrating to know the correct answer to an issue, yet those around you do not believe you see the truth? What is the method you use to resolve these conflicts?

 

With the Book of Revelation, we end the sermons for 2021 that began last January, as our church was challenged to read through the Bible, and sermons focused on the various books. This week we finish the last book, Revelation, written by the apostle John, as he describes scenes and visions which came to him while he was exiled on the Isle of Patmos. The Bible tells the complete story of God’s work from the time of creation to the final days when His purposes and plans for the earth are completed. It tells the events surrounding Jesus Christ in His role as a Babe coming to earth, fully God, yet fully Man. He ended His earthly ministry on a Cross at Calvary and is seated at the right hand of God the Father, waiting to be told to return to earth to get His children.

 

Focal Passage: The Book of Revelation

           

            Jesus is the Answer

 

  • Read Revelation 1:1-3. In verses 1 and 2, what did God tell Jesus, and what did Jesus then do? What was John to do with the revelations he saw?
  • In verse 3, what are the promises made to the readers and hearers? What is the responsibility of those persons? Is there an age at which we retire from service?
  • Why is obedience so important in the last phrase? Read 2 Peter 3:10. Is this the same “Day of the Lord” that John speaks of as being near? How can today, two-thousand years later, be termed “near”?
  • Read Rev. 22:16. In the last verses of the Word of God, Jesus tells John His last words. What are His instructions for the Scriptures?
  • How does He describe Himself? What is significant when He calls Himself the “Root” of David, as well as the “offspring”? What can be amassed from the title “the Bright Morning Star”?

 

For the World Today

 

  • Read Rev. 22:17a. Who is speaking? What type of invitation is He giving? Who does the invitation come from? What are some of the functions of the Holy Spirit? Who is the bride? What are some of the functions of the Church?
  • Read Rev. 22:17b. Who is the one who hears? Does everyone who hears have the responsibility to invite others? Can we as believers shirk this duty?
  • Read verse 17c. Who can be thirsty? Read John 4:14. Is this the same water referred to in 17c? Read Rev. 21:6. What is one thirsty for? What did Jesus tell the Samaritan woman in John 4:13-14? How did her story end?
  • Read verse 17d. Who is the invitation for? Can blessings be enjoyed now or must we wait for heaven? What are some of the benefits of serving Christ here on earth?
  • Why are the Christians around the world today anxious for Christ to return? Read 2 Peter 3:9. The Lord has the opposite viewpoint. What is it?

 

Jesus is the Way

 

  • Read Rev. 22:18-19. Again, as in the first chapter, Jesus refers to His coming again as “soon.” How does the church respond? Are you one who says, “Come, Lord Jesus”, or would you prefer He wait so you can enjoy your home, job, etc., a little longer? What if it is your time to go to Him this evening? Are you ready?
  • Amen is a declaration of faith in what has been said; what does it mean?

 

Close

 

Have you ever asked yourself how a book could have been written throughout a period of about fifteen hundred years, finished over two thousand years ago, and yet remain the best-selling book of all time, year after year? God spoke the world into being, then inspired writers to put down every word He wanted to say to mankind. Is that phenomenal? No other book has come close to selling as much as the Bible. Why?

Without God, we would not be here. The account of His creation begins in Genesis. When you read the Bible for the first time, you are probably amazed that it contains the good, the bad, and the ugly—and at times, even repelling! It tells of lives filled with sin, biographies of love, and accounts of human degradation. Eventually, leaving the Old Testament with its Law, animal sacrifices, and prophetic warnings of God not tolerating sin indefinitely, we get to the New Testament where the Law is replaced by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. It tells us that all humans are sinful, that no one searches for God, and that there is no payment capable of wiping out of the debt of sin that each man owes God. Until Jesus Christ. The New Testament becomes His story, God with Us, able to live in human form although without sin, and therefore able to pay the debt of sin by shedding His blood on a cross. Without His gift of payment for sin, we would go to a very real place called Hell.

It is often said but vitally important to know that no matter what age you are, the most significant thing you can do is recognize the certainty that you will die and meet God. If you are on social media often, you know that you are warned of taking care of your eternal destiny time and time again, and it is often from people who have lost someone at a time they did not expect, and no one had led their loved one to Christ. If you hear the Gospel even once and ignore it, you will have no defense when you stand before God. You have rejected the one Way He planned for sin to be paid for.

With John’s account of Revelation, the Holy Bible was complete, and everything we need to know about how to get saved is contained within. If we are saved, it is our joy each day to serve Him—never a hardship. He is the only way to the Father, because two thousand years ago He left the glory of heaven, and entered our world as a baby. He was raised to adulthood to fulfill the ministry for which He came: to die on a cruel cross because the wages of sin is death—and He took that responsibility to pay for our sins. Believe it, confess it, tell others, lead them to the Savior. It’s your duty as a Christian

 

 

December 19, 2021

JUDE: STAND UP AND BE COUNTED

December 19, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

There are over 51 volumes of laws for Americans, some as archaic as “it is unlawful for a customer to pump their gas”! Some we know and obey, but most are not even known to us. Do you have a problem obeying all the known laws? Which one gives you the most trouble?

 

The Book of Jude, the short letter immediately preceding the book of Revelation, was written by the brother of James (verse 11). Both were half-brothers of Jesus. Jude was perhaps not revealing his relationship to Jesus out of humility and reverence. To have grown up in the home with Jesus yet not believed Mary’s or Jesus’ story of His birth must have saddened Jude greatly after the resurrection when the truth of Jesus’ deity was obvious to him. His short letter, which he desired to write to encourage believers, had to be changed to one of warning, as many false teachers had infiltrated the churches. Again, as the God-breathed living Word, Jude’s letter is as applicable to us today as it was to those who lived in Bible times.

 

Focal Passage: The Book of Jude

           

            We are called to stand up for what we believe in

 

  • Read Jude 3. What is another word for contend? In verse 4, what was happening? Do we see this today? Have you known of anyone who joined your church to cause division? Can you share?
  • Read verses 5-7. Jude reminds the church not to assume all of those who sit in the services are saved. Who does he give as examples? Does this apply to today?
  • Read verses 8-10. What are some ways you can identify “wolves in sheep’s clothing”? If you thought of someone in the first point, do you recall what brought about the feeling that something was off?
  • Read verses 16-19. In verse 17, what did Jude say the apostles warned them about? Why was it so important to warn believers that false teachers would come into the flock?

 

We are called to grow in what we believe

 

  • Read Jude 20. What does he mean by “build yourself up”? How can you do that?
  • If you were learning to play a musical instrument, how would you build yourself up? What does Jude list as a critical point in growing in your faith?

 

We are called to love through what we believe

 

  • Read Jude 21. What does Jude mean to “keep yourselves in the love of God”? Does someone have another translation? Read 1 John 2:5, 3:10, and 3:17. How do these verses tell us how to keep ourselves in the love of God?
  • What happens when we study the Scriptures faithfully? As you grow in your love for God, what do you desire to do? As you obey Him, what happens in your heart? How does this become a circle, growing you into a mature believer?

 

We are called to help others in their belief

 

  • Read Jude verses 22-23. What is the first group of people Jude tells us we will encounter? How are we to help them? What does that mean to you personally?
  • What is the second group he mentions? How does this line up with the Great Commission in Matt 28:19-20?
  • What is the third group? What importance does “with fear” have for us? Read 2 Tim 3:1-5, 9. What are some precautions you would take to witness to these?

 

We are called to spend eternity with Him

 

  • Read verses 24-25. What is so encouraging in the first phrase of verse 24? Why would He protect us from stumbling? Read John 10:28-29. What is so reassuring about these verses? How will Christ present us to His Father?
  • Read Heb 1:3. How are these two verses similar?

 

 

Close

 

Recently we read through the book written by the half-brother of Jesus, James, and reflected on what it must have been like to be raised in the same household as Jesus, as well as several other siblings (Mark 6:3). Now we see Jude coming alongside his brother James in the role of a true believer of the Lord Jesus Christ. Both men (and probably the rest of the family, if we knew), were active in establishing the churches and beseeching the Christ-followers to remain steadfast as persecution and false teachers became worse and worse. Both letters, inspired as “God-breathed”, are very different in style, but keep to the same theme—that of encouraging and warning the churches. As we see Christianity today becoming the target of persecution, we, too, must remain faithful to our God, whatever a day brings.

Jude’s letter was written with one theme: warning of the apostasy in the early church. Nothing has changed during the past two thousand years, and as we are all aware, Christianity is a threat to every person who does not want to come under the authority of an Almighty God. The false religions which are not receiving persecution are not a threat to men, because they are recognized by Satan as man-made religions backed by idols, false gods, or ideologies written and fostered by men. Only Christianity, where the Creator God reaches down to bring man to Himself, is true. It is restricted to a narrow road, with Jesus Christ being the only way to eternal life. Acts 4:12 says, “For there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” And 1 Tim 2:5 says “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.”

Keep your focus on God, your prayer life open to Him at all times, and your heart consciously ready to obey His Word. Carry your cross daily! Be ready at all times to tell of the hope you have within you! Forsake all sin and everything that can pull you away from God. It will be so worth it when you see His face.

 

 

December 12, 2021

1, 2 & 3 JOHN: LOVE IS THE POINT

December 12, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

What does unconditional love mean to you? Is there anyone in your life who loves you no matter what you do? Is there anyone you love like that? It’s not easy, is it?

John, the only apostle who was not martyred, lived until his nineties. When he was in his last years he wrote the letters of 1, 2, and 3 John, which were passed from church to church. These short letters focused on encouraging the believers to grow in their faith and to remain steadfast. John, like Peter, saw the heresies invading the church, just as we see it happening today. False teachers can be spotted only if you spend so much time reading the Word of God that you know when a counterfeit statement hits your ears or mind. Your relationship to God, daily Bible reading, and prayer should be your highest priorities in the new year.

Focal Passage: The Books of 1, 2, and 3 John          

Love is not an option

  • Read 1 John 4:1-4. What were the special attributes that John could still declare from personal experience? In verse 4, why did he feel impelled to write?
  • Read verses 7-8. How do these verses reflect Jesus’ words in Matt 22:37-39? When is the last time you examined your life against 1 Cor 13? What is the biggest challenge you find as you focus on loving others? Why is our love for others not an option?
  • Why is it so vital that we who are Christ-followers love one another, and fellowship with one another often? What are some of the ways you have learned to show love by serving those of your community who may not know Christ as Savior? Why would it be easy to let our “works” of service gradually become the gauge of our salvation, rather than as fruit born of our redemption?
  • Read 3 John 11. What pertinent statement does John make here? Do you know someone who considers themselves Christians, but has “evil” in their daily life?

God’s love is absolute

  • Read 1 John 4:9-10. What is the reason we love God? How much did He love us? Read Eph 2:1-3. Would you be willing to let one of your children die if doing so would save many evil people for eternity? Can you grasp a love so amazing?
  • When you had your child, were they born already loving you as a parent? How did he/she learn to love you? How does that analogy apply as we learn to love God?
  • Read 1 John 5:13. What are the things John is speaking of? Does he desire us to be assured of our salvation? What does our hope of eternal life rest upon? Read Eph 2:8-10. How has God been faithful to you throughout your life?

You can’t fake love

  • Read 1 John 4:7-12. Why is there nothing greater than love? Read 1 John 5:2. How can we know that we love God?
  • Read 1 John 4:14-16? What is the test to determine if someone knows and loves God, and Jesus as Savior?
  • Read 2 John verse 6. We read in 1 John 5:2 this same thought. Why are our actions a direct reflection of the love we have for God?

Close

As you know from reading 1 Corinthians 13, Paul ends the chapter with these famous words: “And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Read it through again, and let your mind grasp the enormity of the thought. God has given us His Word which says “…without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:6). Faith, then, is so important that without it, we cannot please God. And in 1 John 3:3, John writes, “And everyone who has this hope [of eternal life] in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” So we are purified by the hope we have, based on faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. Yet, it is love that is greater than either of those. Why? As John wrote in 1 John 4:7, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”

Are we perfect? Definitely not. What about the many times we get angry in our homes and for a while—maybe minutes, hours, days—we don’t feel loving? At our job? At drivers on the road? In check-out lines that move slowly? How does our anger fit into our love? We’re in sin and definitely and quickly need to repent. Do we do that?

Can you even imagine what unconditional love is like, or have you experienced it? Won’t it be wonderful to be in heaven, have the tears wiped away, the disgruntled feelings melted away, enjoy true peace forever, and always be in the presence of God and His Son, Jesus Christ? Dan Womack wrote, “Tradition tells us that in his extreme old age when he could no longer minister the Word, John was carried into the church and when asked for a word of wisdom, would invariably say, ‘little children, love one another.’” It’s never too late to repent of your sin, to love God, and to love people.

 

 

December 5, 2021

1 & 2 PETER: BE HOLY

December 05, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

It’s hard to believe we are in December again! What is the most challenging part of this season for you? What have you learned about handling this challenge?

When Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote his two letters (1 & 2 Peter), nearly three decades had passed since Jesus Christ had been crucified, risen, and ascended back to heaven. Peter, the first of the apostles whom Jesus had chosen, was now months—or possibly weeks—away from being crucified himself. That fact makes these two letters to believers whom he had nurtured extremely precious. For three years Peter had daily been with Jesus, seeing His ministry, His miracles, and hearing Him teach, and now an additional thirty years had passed, as he carried out the work God had given him. Throughout both of the letters, Peter focuses on being citizens of heaven dwelling in a hostile world, yet remaining faithful. God never changes. His Word never changes. It is as “living and sharp” in our lives today as the day Peter wrote it, and as we go through days the likes of which we’ve never experienced.

Focal Passage: The Books of 1 Peter and 2 Peter

God’s presence in our lives gives us everything we could ever need

  • Read 1 Peter 1:14-16. Why does Peter remind these Christians that they were once living another lifestyle? As we go out into the world, why is it necessary for us to remember that we were once unsaved? Read Is. 51:1. Is that what Isaiah also says? Why did Jesus call us out of that life? What did we deserve?
  • Read 2 Peter 1:3. If someone told you that your parents had provided everything you needed to start your home and family, what would you expect when you stepped inside your first house? What did Peter mean when he wrote that God has given us everything we require (notice it does not say “want”) for life and godliness? What is the medium through which He provides this? How do we get that knowledge? What priority should the Word of God be in our lives?
  • More and more we are seeing our lives filled with uncertainty. Did God hold anything back when His Word was given to us? If we need to know how to act, to do life, to overcome….is it all in the Scriptures? How do we find what we need?

As a result, we should seek the things ABOVE THIS WORLD

  • Read 2 Peter 1:5-8. What are the character traits that Peter lists? Can people have these qualities and still be lost? Why does he say to “add” these to your faith?
  • Read Matt. 6:33, Psa. 27:4, 8, 34:14 and Col. 3:1. What are some other attributes that we are to see increase in our life? Why are we to grow in our life of faith?

Avoid the things OF THIS WORLD

  • Read 2 Pet. 1:4. We read that His divine power has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness; how do we know this is true? What will they help us escape? Read Ps. 119:11. Why is memorizing God’s Word a shield to protect us from sin? Read James 1:27. Why is it important to avoid the sins of this world?
  • Read 2 Pet. 2:1-5. What should we rid ourselves of? How would you do that?

Peter writes that we are to desire the milk of the Word. What gradually happens as babies drink milk after they are born?

  • As we grow, what happens in our lives? We often feel sacrifices are not necessary for our daily living. Read Ps. 27:6, 51:17, 116:17, Heb. 13:15. What are some sacrifices we can give God?

 

Close

No doubt you’ve seen pictures from the 1800s of the California Gold Rush, where men panned for nuggets of gold in the creeks and rivers in the west. In a way, that’s what we do as we read God’s Word daily, looking for those “nuggets” that will—as Peter wrote—help us navigate this life and our desire for godliness. How many times have you needed wisdom or guidance for something that seemed larger than life, and in your morning devotions a verse leaps out at you, giving you the way you should go? Many times, hopefully.

As you begin reading in 1 Peter 1, you see promise after promise. He says in verse 8, “whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory; receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” Reassurance of salvation is in this short passage. He says, “knowing you were not redeemed with corruptible things like silver or gold,…but with the precious blood of Christ.” In the second chapter he continues, “to you who believe, He is precious.” Later Peter speaks of our testimony among unbelievers, that because we “conduct ourselves honorably, they may, by our good works, glorify God.” And ladies, Peter has a message for you: that your “adornment” be not merely the outward arranging of hair, wearing gold, or fine clothing, but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”

His words flow over you as a blessing when he says we have a responsibility to “have compassion for one another; love as brothers [or sisters], be tenderhearted, courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling [sometimes so difficult!], but on the contrary, blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”

Those are only a few of the Words of life. If we were golddiggers, we would be leaving nugget after nugget. Yet if we just took these few short passages and applied them to our hearts, carrying out the truths in them, we probably would change our families within a few months; perhaps change our church within the year; and who knows? Perhaps we could change our nation within this decade.

November 28, 2021

FROM HOPELESS TO WHOLE

November 28, 2021

Charles Billingsley

 

Hope is something no one can live without. What are some things—or scenarios—that you’re hoping for as a new year approaches?

 

We are taking a break this week from our “Read the Bible through” sermons to be reminded of the importance of a grateful heart. As we celebrated Thanksgiving this past week, it was a time to remember God’s gracious acts toward us this past year. Today, we will concentrate on Luke 17, focusing on Jesus’ healing of ten lepers. As the ten left to show themselves to the priest, we see one return to Jesus in an attitude of worship and thankfulness. Most of us will be surprised to learn from the sermon that the attitude of gratitude has many benefits.

 

Focal Passage: Luke 17:11-19

The Hopeless Situation

  • Read Luke 17:11-12. What are some things you know about leprosy in Bible times? Why were the ten standing far from Jesus? Why was their life hopeless?
  • Read verse 13. What was significant in the phrase the lepers “lifted up their voices”? What was their cry? Why do you think they did not ask for healing?

The Hopeful Response

  • Read Luke 17:14a. What would you have thought if Jesus had responded to your cry by answering as He did? Does anyone recall the story of Naaman, the commander of the Army of the King of Syria, who sought out Elisha (2 Kings 5)? How were those two events similar? What did Elisha tell Naaman to do?
  • What was Naaman’s response in 2 Ki 5:9-10.? What were the ten lepers probably talking about as they obeyed Jesus’ words? What would have happened if they had not done as He instructed?
  • Why is it hard to know whether they left Him discouraged or hopeful? As they felt the change start occurring in their bodies, how were they probably reacting?

Why does Luke say, “as they went”? How do you know this had been one small step of faith with each footfall? Can you picture their excitement as healing began?

Their Health Restored

  • Read Luke 17:14b. When they had arrived where Jesus was, what did they have in life? Now, being cured, what did it mean to the men?
  • Why is it so sad that nine kept on going toward the temple?

The Happy Return

  • Read verses 15-16. What did the one man do? Possibly they had gone as many as a few miles. But what was uppermost in his heart and mind as he saw his healing? As he returned to Jesus, what did he do? Why is his nationality told?
  • How often do we have a spirit of worship when God answers prayers for us? How many times do you remember to tell Him “Thank You”?

The Healing Completed

  • Read Luke 17:17-18. If we liken these two verses to our church on a Sunday, how would it represent those in the pews? Why are many people ungrateful? Read Luke 18:13-14. How are the publican and the leper similar? What was the attitude of their hearts?
  • Read Luke 17:19. What were Jesus’ final words to the man? The Greek word for “whole” is sozo for “completely saved.” His faith was not misplaced in the Savior!

 

Close

There are many lessons we can learn from this event. These men, having a disease that would end in death, had no hope. They heard about Jesus and made the trip to find Him. As we felt compassion for them, we also felt their despair. They were given instructions and, taking one step at a time, they headed toward the temple. All are cured, but one returned with faith, thankfulness, and a heart of worship. He was saved—not only health-wise but also for eternity. He had met the Messiah. Those small steps of faith turned into great strides! Do we do that?

Sometimes we need to simply take the next step in obedience. We may not see the staircase, but we can take the step. If we don’t, we may never know the joy of what comes next. Martin Luther, the great reformer, was once asked to describe the nature of true worship. He answered, “the tenth leper turning back.” Our worship must be a lifestyle of loving Jesus more than we love ourselves, getting our way, or having our heart’s desire. When we want to do it “our way” we need to put that on our cross (Luke 9:23), and do life HIS way.

Can you imagine the electric atmosphere of joy when the lepers saw their bodies being healed? Then one says, “I’m going back.” Do you think he tried to influence the others to return with him? Probably! But they didn’t go. They were cured, but not “whole.”  Jesus asked him, “Where are the other nine?” We must remember we have a responsibility to bring others to Jesus. That is what He told us in Matt. 28:19, but we cannot force their decision.

Do you know what happens when you give thanks to God? Psalm 50:23 says “Giving thanks is a sacrifice that honors Me!” When you develop an attitude of gratitude, it increases your metabolism, your work performance, your overall well-being, your energy, and helps you sleep better. This week, make a list of one hundred things you are thankful for and present them in worship to your Lord and Savior. Jesus was there for those ten lepers—and He is here for you as well. Just fall at His feet and worship Him today, with a thankful heart! Our “Hope” has a Name—the Name of Jesus!

November 21, 2021

JAMES: THE CALL TO MATURITY
November 21, 2021
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Has anyone ever experienced a time of conversation with a stranger, only to later learn they were a well-known or important personality? How did you feel?

This week we have read the Book of James, half-brother to Jesus, who was in the household as Jesus grew to adulthood. Although He had grown up with James and the other siblings, they did not believe He was the Messiah and even asked Him to take His miracles elsewhere. Yet immediately after the Resurrection, the Bible states that Jesus sought out James (1 Cor. 15:7), and soon after notes the presence of Mary and “His brothers” praying with the others (Acts 1:14). Seeing his risen Brother alive had to have been a pivotal moment for James, and he became the leader of the church at Jerusalem. This short book is a picture of how to grow in the Christian faith and is a practical, powerful book encouraging us to be light in a dark world.

Focal Passage: The Book of James

A mature believer has a calm spirit

• Read James 1:19-20. James condenses most of his letter within these two verses, telling us three keys to Christian living. What are they? Is one more important than the other two? Explain how all three have a basis in love.
• What do you think he means by being “quick to hear”? What is at the root of the problem of waiting until someone stops speaking? How do we discipline ourselves to listen to others without interrupting?
• Read James 1:21-22. What result should be brought about if you are listening to someone teach? If your hearing does not turn into action, what is the problem? How useful are you to God if you simply listen, but do not “do”?
• What does James mean that we should be “slow to speak”? Read 1:26. What are some ways to discipline ourselves to control our tongue? Read James 3:6, 8. What is the ultimate grief the tongue can create? Read Psa. 39:1. Why is this a great verse to memorize?
• What is his final admonition? What is the reason he gives? What is usually the root of anger (Read Prov. 13:10)? How can anger destroy a family? Read Prov. 16:32, 19:11. How can an angry person achieve holiness, as God commands?

A mature believer is in a constant state of resetting

• Read James 1:21. How can we daily rid ourselves of the moral filth and evil that we hear or are subjected to? If left in our lives, what will eventually happen? What do you do to your computer to keep the viruses, malware, or other issues from getting into your hard drive? How is that like our hearts with evil?
• Read Psa. 119:11. Why is Bible study and memorization necessary to protect our hearts? What is another way we can shield our hearts from the world?

A mature believer speaks wisely

• Read Jas. 1:26. What is the defining truth in this verse? Read Prov. 10:19. This reinforces Jas. 1:19. How can we develop such control? Read Jas. 3:9-10. This is becoming a bad problem among believers. What can be done about it?
• Until we learn to speak wisely, how will we be able to be used by God?

A mature believer cares for others

• Read Jas. 1:27. What are the two areas where James says we should strive for fruit? How do those illustrate the mission statement of our church?
• Read Jas. 2:15. Why is he emphasizing this point concerning the poor? Besides giving our tithe to the church to distribute, how can we teach ourselves to keep our eyes open when among people, looking for those whom we can help, as it were “without our right hand knowing what our left is doing”?
• Read Jas. 3:16-18. These qualities are the essence of being a Christ-follower. Why do they sum up the different actions he has been suggesting that we follow?

Close

The book of James is one of the smallest, yet greatest, letters in the New Testament. Can you even begin to imagine what it must have been like to be raised in the home with Jesus, but ridicule Him, belittle Him, sometimes following at a distance watching His miracles, but with a hard heart? Probably James stood away from the crowd as the crucifixion and subsequent burial took place. Then, after the resurrection, to have Jesus seek him out and for James to see his Brother alive again? Oh, the anguish, the sorrow! Probably much greater than even Peter had suffered after denying Him. Immediately it seems James and Jude, if not also the other siblings, were part of those who believed, and with such joy!
James covers the main subjects that impact the life of a believer: the tongue, the speech, the listening ear, and the heart. Each of those can stand alone in importance and yet are covered in the rest of the letter by James. Recently we said that the book of Titus is great for encouragement, edification, and help, but James is right beside it! His writing is full of practical insight.
Re-read this book, and underline passages that God brings to your attention. Try to absorb the holiness that can be attained by learning the three important phrases: be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to get angry—all with a great attitude. Or, to sum it up as James did, pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God is to care for the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the sins of the world. Or, as chapter four ends, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

November 14, 2021

HEBREWS: STAY COMMITTED

November 14, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Sometimes we make an enthusiastic commitment to a project or relationship, only to find that after a while we no longer feel it to be important. Can anyone share?

 

We read the Book of Hebrews this past week, seemingly written to Jewish believers, many of whom appeared to be losing their zeal for the gospel of Jesus Christ. The persecution that had begun in Jerusalem after Jesus had risen was beginning to penetrate most of the world around Israel. The writer—unidentified–tried to encourage these to remain committed to the faith that they had believed. He particularly emphasized the New Covenant of Jesus Christ that had replaced the Old Covenant of the law given to Moses.

 

Focal Passage: The Book of Hebrews

           

            Christ’s promises are absolute

 

  • Read Hebrews 3:1-4. Why did the writer ask the Hebrews to think of Jesus as an “apostle” and “high priest”? What was the significance of both titles?
  • Change is never easy for most people. These believers had been raised with Jewish laws, and in verse 3 they were encouraged to place Jesus above Moses. How hard would that have been for them, but why was it necessary?
  • Read verse 6a. Why was the author concerned they were losing sight of the truth that Jesus is the Son of God?

 

Our commitment is not absolute

 

  • Read verse 6b. What is the conditional statement that is made here? What is the confidence that is being referenced? What is the hope he is speaking of?
  • Read Heb. 3:7-11. We know Jesus never fails to keep His promises. What are some reasons Israel provoked God until He had to punish them? Why are people punished for disobeying God’s commandments? Read Psa. 34:18, 51:17, and 1 Jn.1:9. What is the proof of our salvation?
  • How and why do some people harden their hearts? Do you think Peter would have believed himself capable of denying Jesus (Mark 14:31)? Did he lose his salvation?

 

Stay committed in your trust in God

 

  • Read verse 12. What are we warned about in this verse? The Bible has many passages that admonish us to examine our hearts to make certain we are still on the right path. Does anyone recall one? Why is doing so necessary?
  • Read 2 Cor. 13:5 and Gal. 6:4. Can you tell your love for God has grown this year?

Develop relationships that will help you grow

 

  • Read verse 13. Why is isolation so bad for us? What are some of the benefits of belonging to the church? Why are you more vulnerable to depression when you are alone? Why do we need regular encouragement?
  • What are some different ways in which you can participate with those who will encourage and edify you? What will cause you to step out of your comfort zone?

 

Christ’s promises are absolute!

 

  • Read Heb. 3:14. This is the second time the writer encouraged these believers to persevere in their faith; when was the first time? Why does he repeat it?
  • Many working people mentally shake their job off when they enter their homes at the end of the day. Can you be a part-time believer as a Christian? How long will it be before your testimony suffers if you don’t experience change?

 

Close

 

The book written to the “Hebrews” (no other designation is added), was written to a group of Christians, perhaps including new believers and even unbelievers, from the inference in some of the passages. They knew the Jewish law, as evidenced by the number of references that speak of sacrifices, atonement, rituals, and more. Unlike most other books in the Bible, no one is named as the author, and to be dogmatic that it was Paul is to discount the number of esteemed scholars well versed in the deep study of the Bible, who find many passages that seem to point to someone other than Paul. As is said, “Only the Holy Spirit knows who wrote Hebrews.”

The main theme the writer was concerned with was that the church transition from an orthodox Jewish view of God and the perceived Messiah, to accepting totally that Jesus Christ was (is) the Son of God, God in the flesh, fully man yet fully God, who paid the penalty for our sins, was crucified, risen, and is now at the right hand of the Majesty on High. This theme—the heart attitude and not external actions—may make some passages difficult to understand in Hebrews, but is plain enough that all believers can be encouraged by the content.

These Christians were either experiencing some persecution or saw it coming toward them. The writer was encouraging them to stand firm, and not to assume they would never fall away (Mark 14:31 and 1 Cor. 10:12). Today we can see the persecution of Christians around the globe and realize it is coming to America. Will we stand? We will if we don’t lose heart, and if we “hold on to our confidence and the hope in which we boast.” We will—only by God’s grace, His mercy, His longsuffering, and in His strength.

 

 

November 7, 2021

PHILEMON: RESTORATION IS OF GOD

November 07, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Many families have a member who has withdrawn from the rest, for tons of reasons. Can anyone share if you have been impacted by a situation like this, and tell how/if you were able to heal the rift?

Philemon, a man of Colossae, became a Christ-follower and, being well-to-do, was able to offer his home for use as a church. He also owned slaves, one of whom was Onesimus, who stole from his master and fled to Rome, where he met the prisoner, Paul, and became a believer. Paul, aware that God’s will is forgiveness and restoration of fellowship within the body of believers, decided to send Onesimus back to Philemon, with Tychicus, bearing a short letter. In it, he praised Philemon for his work in Colossae and asked him to forgive Onesimus and restore the relationship as brothers in Christ. This one-chapter book underscores the value of forgiveness within the body of Christ. We need this reminder today, just as Onesimus and Philemon needed it in Paul’s day, as we are so prone to cast aside those who have hurt or offended us.

Focal Passage: The Book of Philemon

Love is the key to doing what is right

  • Read Philemon, verses 4-7. Paul begins this letter by commending Philemon for all the good he was doing for the Colossian church. What does Paul mention? What was it that gave him particular pleasure?
  • How do you think Philemon was feeling as he read the accolades from Paul, who was a “big deal” and whose name was known to most Christians? We know what is coming next—Philemon did not. Why was Paul praising and emphasizing Philemon’s Christ-like love for the saints?
  • How do you think Philemon may have felt about the slave who had robbed him and ran away? Why do the things others do to us often leave us bitter? What must we do?
  • The law permitted Philemon to have Onesimus put to death if he ever returned. How do you think Onesimus may have felt returning to Colossae with Tychicus?

Restoration requires grace

  • Read verses 8-11. Paul used three different phrases in these verses to put some pressure on Philemon. What were they? Who were two other men whom Paul loved so dearly that he called them “sons”? Why would the use of “son” and “father” cause Philemon to think before acting?
  • How would Philemon have been justified by having Onesimus killed? What was Paul asking him to grant Onesimus? Do you think Onesimus deserved grace?
  • Why was Paul encouraging Philemon to forgive and show grace to Onesimus?

God will never give up on anyone

  • Read verses 15-17. If you had been the recipient of this letter, under these circumstances, how would you have reacted? Paul was asking that Philemon consider Onesimus now as a brother. Why was that a reasonable request?
  • Read verses 21-22. Why was Paul confident that Philemon would do the right thing? What would have happened to his testimony if he had not forgiven Onesimus?
  • Jesus said we must love others just as we love ourselves. What is the right thing for you to do if there are those believers whom you have cast off because there has been some type of conflict? What does God expect from you?
  • How is this the picture of what Christ did for us? Are you ever more like Christ than when you forgive and restore someone who has hurt you?

Close

Whether you have read the book of Philemon once a year for decades, or just a few times, have you ever realized that this letter, in twenty-five short verses, paints a complete picture of what Jesus Christ did for us? We have all been Onesimus.

We were born, grew to young adulthood, but probably just wanted to break the bond of parental control and live our own life. We envisioned a time when we might decide to follow Christ, but many of us possibly wanted to “enjoy” ourselves first. We “stole” years when we could have been following Christ, living for fun. Did we succeed?

Jesus left the splendor of heaven, fully aware of what God the Father had asked of Him. He was going to take on the flesh of a human body, born to parents who did not fully grasp the enormity of the incarnation. He preached salvation for three years, did miracles, fulfilled all prophecies that applied to His first coming. He was crucified to pay a sin debt that we all owed (but could not pay), was buried, and three days later rose to life again! After forty days of being with the disciples, He returned to heaven. All of this—and so much more—because of His great love for us.

For us, He continually offers forgiveness of the sins which we have committed. Philemon and Onesimus had to reconcile and Philemon had to grant him grace and forgiveness. We don’t have an ending for the story, but we know it came about just as our story with Jesus has come true. Christ saw our need, He made arrangements to pay for the need, and took us in as brothers and sisters when we believed in Him and repented of our sins. Now we have eternal life, based—not on what we’ve done—but on what Jesus did on the cross that crucifixion weekend. Have you let Him restore you to fellowship, after stealing years away from Him? If not, take care of it today. Then go out and do likewise to those who have hurt or offended you.

 

 

October 31, 2021

TITUS: THE CHANGE ORDER

October 31, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Have you ever made a major change in life? Perhaps you moved from the place of your birth, where so many memories had been made. Did you learn lessons that have served you well since then?

Paul, called to be an apostle by Jesus Christ after His return to heaven, brought a Gentile, Titus, to faith in Christ, and began a relationship that ended only when Paul was eventually beheaded. His letter to Titus, written possibly around 64 A.D., magnified the Lord as the example we, as Christ-followers, should always use as our pattern for living. Paul reminds Titus that the believers should be so changed from their old life that they bear the Fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) because they are now rooted in God. We are not saved by our works, but when a change of allegiance from a life of sin to one of salvation through Jesus Christ occurs, our new nature produces the fruits of good works, which testify of our new life.

Focal Passage: The Book of Titus

 We have a calling to be different in a difficult world

  • Read Titus 3:1-2. Paul uses Christ as our pattern throughout the book of Titus. Why is it good to apply “remind them” to our lives in this age? Why can it be so difficult at times to submit to authority? What should we be doing for the authorities in our culture (Read 1 Tim. 2:1-2)? When can we resist them? Were the days Titus lived easier than our present time? Why or why not?
  • How can you be “ready for good works”? Read Phil. 4:8. How can these prepare you to “be ready” to do good works? Why will good works not save you?
  • Slander or fighting may be something you gloss over quickly. However, if you change the words to “gossip” and “arguing” does that possibly convict you? How can you learn to avoid those two sins?
  • How can you teach yourself to intentionally be kind and gentle in all situations of daily life? Read Gal. 5:22-23. If you are rooted securely in Christ, how will the fruits occur? Do you examine yourself routinely for fruit?

Our calling comes from our changing

  • Read Tit. 3:3. These descriptions sound rather harsh, and we may think we never lived like that. Can someone share their testimony? Does it matter whether you were living a life of perversion or simply had not committed your heart to God? Why will they both cause a sinner to go to hell?
  • Read verses 4-5. Why is it so vital to realize that you had nothing to do with deserving your salvation? Read Eph. 2:4-5. What was our condition before salvation? Read 1 Cor. 5:17. What happens when we believe in Jesus Christ, repent of our sins, and ask God to save us? Why do we keep using 1 Jn. 1:9?
  • Read Rom. 6:21-23. Does this describe your change when you came to Christ?

This change leads to our hope

  • Read Titus 3:6-7. Did God give you just a small amount of the Holy Spirit? How does Romans 5:1-2 reinforce the truth of the statement in Titus? What is the hope Paul writes of? Does your spirit assure you that you are saved?
  • What does it mean to be justified? Is that a one-time action or continuous? What is sanctification? Is it one-time or continuous?
  • When you gave your life to Christ, did friends remark on the change in you? If so, what did they say? Is it still true today?

Close

The writer to the Hebrews wrote that the Word of God is living, powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). The book of Titus is a great example of that living spirit as we read it today and see that it is as pertinent to us in this world as it was at the time of the emperor Nero, possibly the vilest ruler ever to reign over Rome. Can you imagine the plight of the Christians in those days? Realistically, we are seeing hatred toward Christians grow more hostile in this age, so, yes, we probably can understand.

Yet life is uncertain in more ways than having a government that wreaks havoc. We can get in our car and never reach our destination. Our last breath will occur when God ordains, no matter how young or how old we may be. The important question is, are you ready?

Young people may feel as though they have plenty of time to make this crucial decision. It’s up to the parents or guardians to be certain their children understand we can step into eternity in one breath! Some even stress out often as to whether they are saved or not, not realizing that the mere concern can be removed instantly. If they are concerned about the state of their soul, then call out to God (“while it is today,” the writer of Hebrews tells us). In other words, if you are concerned, be certain you believe, repent of your sins, and confess all of them to God, turning your back on them. Be made clean! Then write the date in your Bible, so you can go back anytime Satan tries to bring up your past, point to the date and tell him, “It was taken care of on this date!”

The only thing that will keep you out of heaven, and rob you of eternal life, is your own choice. It is too critical to wait, for you never know what tomorrow will bring. We have seen multiple deaths of loved ones and friends over the past twenty-two months. Don’t take salvation for granted, or hope your good outweighs your bad. “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourself. It is the gift from God, NOT OF WORKS, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9.) Settle it today!

 

October 24, 2021

2 TIMOTHY: FINISH STRONG!

October 24, 2021

Pastor Charles Billingsley

 

Most people have had the experience of being in a race, a marathon, or even a deadline designed to give merit to those who finish well. Does this bring a memory you can share?

The Apostle Paul spent several decades and endured many tribulations preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. As he neared the time when he would become a martyr for the Lord, he wrote this letter to Timothy, with his thoughts centered on encouraging and edifying his “son in the faith” (2 Tim. 4:6-7). In captivity in Rome, in chains, isolated in a cold, damp, and dark cistern, no bed and little food, Paul still wrote with passion. His last words would carry Timothy through the next decades of his ministry as pastor of the church at Ephesus, and then he, also, would be martyred for the gospel. Today we will look at Paul’s admonitions to fight the good fight, keep the faith, and finish the race.

Focal Passage: The Book of 2 Timothy

 

Fight the Good Fight and Live your Life with No Retreats

 Choose your Battles Carefully

  • Read 2 Tim. 2:3. Why would Paul use the analogy of a soldier? As we live as Christians, how are our lives like a battlefield? What are some of the battles we face, perhaps even daily? Why is it necessary to choose our battles with care?
  • How would you decide which are important enough to fight for? Which areas in your life would this advice be useful?

Stay Prepared for Battle

  • Read Eph. 6:11-12. If any of you are or have someone in your family who is a First Responder, is there ever a time when one can “kick back and relax”? Why is there seldom a time when one can call Time Out?
  • Read Eph. 6:13-17. Why is it vital to know the pieces of armor? What are some other steps you can take after “putting on your armor” every day?

Fight from your Knees

  • Read Eph. 6:18. Why is this the ultimate weapon? Can anyone recite Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr.’s, favorite saying on prayer? Why is it true?
  • Read Phil. 4:6 and Col. 4:2. What is critical about the attitude of being in constant communication with the Father?

 

Keep the Faith and Live your Life with No Regrets

Faithfulness in the work

  • Read 2 Tim. 2:6-7. Why does Paul switch his example here? What are some lessons we can learn from the farmer? How does a farmer live his life?
  • Read 1 Cor. 3:7-8. How much control does the farmer have, other than sowing and reaping? How should we be looking to God for the same help in our lives?
  • Read 2 Tim. 3:13-15. How do we see this happening today? According to verse 14, what are we to do? What causes some to throw up their hands and quit?

Faithfulness to the Word

  • Read 2 Tim. 4:2-4. Who were Paul’s instructions meant for? Read Matt. 28:19-20. Were Jesus’ words meant only for the apostles? Do we take them seriously?
  • What were the action words Paul used in 2 Tim. 4:2? How can you be prepared?

Finish Strong and Finish your Race with No Reserves

Stay Alert

  • Read 2 Tim. 4:5. How had Paul done what he is now telling Timothy to do? When you’re exhausted, what are some techniques you use to get a fresh wind?
  • Charles gave the statistic that only 46% of people in any given situation are engaged with the speaker. Think classrooms, congregations, conversations; is this you? How can you change your mental gears to stay completely focused?

Stay the Course

  • If you had an example in the opening when your strength was giving out, what did you do to finish the course? Have you ever concentrated on taking just the next step? Did you eventually finish? How is that like our Christian walk?
  • Read John 6:66-69. We recently read this passage. How is it so important in the context of finishing strong, so that we may focus on the reward of eternal life?

 

Close

How many people have you had for friends who have deserted their Christian walk and turned away from God? It seems many people do not have the frame of mind that we find in Job 2:10b when he spoke to his wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” Trials are not always from God, as Job’s were, but most would feel that “if He’s God, then He could have prevented this.” Many people believe that if life goes “south,” He doesn’t love them.

Trust is always so very important! Think back over your life, and you’ll no doubt see times when you felt betrayed by God. Yet often, though it make take years, you can see what He was doing, or possibly what He needed you to learn, or—if you came through with flying colors—what new level of faith you found yourself living. An English poet from the late 1800s wrote, “Ah! Must—Designer Infinite—ah! Must Thou char [burn] the wood ‘ere Thou canst limn [draw] with it?” Sometimes, that is exactly where we find ourselves.

In the end, we have to stand with Peter, as we read in John 6 above: if you give up, as others do, where will you go? Who else has the words of eternal life? And what if time passes and you don’t return? Will Hell be worth the life you turned from? Remember the way we WIN. When life is tough when you don’t know what to do, where to go, how to keep on going, What’s Important Now? Just think about what you should do and take that next step. Matthew 10:38 says, “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” Carry your cross one step at a time, and you’ll make it to the Finish Line.

October 17, 2021

1 TIMOTHY: COACHING FOR GOD’S HOUSE

October 17, 2021

Matt Willmington

 

Often, teens are anxious to leave the parental nest to get away from the “rules” there. They haven’t learned that we all, regardless of age, live by rules! Can you give examples?

Although Paul never married and had children, he often called Timothy, a young man raised by a godly mother and grandmother, “my true son in the faith.” The Book of First Timothy is a personal letter from Paul to aid Timothy as he preaches the gospel he has learned from childhood. Full of guidelines for most classes of persons who make up a local body of believers, 1 Timothy is perfect for establishing churches today. With these instructions, most churches built on the foundation of the inerrant, infallible word of God will flourish. Within the teachings are doxologies, praises to God that seem to burst from Paul’s soul as he magnifies Jesus’ Name.

Focal Passage: The Book of 1 Timothy 

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17           

MEN-WOMEN

  • Read 1 Timothy 2:1-2. Before laying out guidelines for the working of the church, Paul gives instructions on how to live a peaceful life. How are we to do that? Why is this sometimes very difficult?
  • Read 1 Tim. 2:8. What is the simple exercise for the men in this verse? Why is it necessary for men to put away from themselves anger or arguing? Why can true prayer not be effective while in a combative mood? Read Jas. 1:19-20. Is this your answer?
  • Read 1 Tim. 2:9-11. What is the first counsel for a woman? Why is a woman’s clothing such a vital testimony? What are the abstract items that a woman can “wear”? How can a woman be so nice that she seems beautiful all the time?

God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory. 1 Tim. 3:16.

CHURCH LEADERS—YOUNG PEOPLE

  • Read 1 Tim. 3:1, 4, 5, 7. Why are the leaders of the church held to a higher standard than the flock? What are some of the qualities a pastor must develop? Read Jas. 3:1-2. How does James reinforce the duty of teaching?
  • Read 1 Tim. 4:12-16. What are the five areas of life that Paul counseled Timothy to excel in? If you lived this way, would you make an impact on your friends? What will be the result if Timothy is the example Paul exhorts him to be (vs. 15)?

WIDOWS—SERVANTS–WEALTHY

  • Read 1 Tim. 5:9-10. The church did not have money to waste, so restrictions were needed. When was a widow worthy of church support? Why did she need to be over sixty, and without family? What kind of testimony should she have?
  • Read 1 Tim. 6:1-2. Most of the people you know do not have servants. However, if you work, you qualify as a “servant” of your employer. What are the guidelines for you as you serve your employer? Are these recommendations only for good or kind employers? How can you ruin your testimony at work?
  • Read 1 Tim. 6:7-10, and 17-19. What will God provide that should make us content? Did we do anything for Him to bless us with more than this? What is it that drives people to desire more (and more, and more)? Why is this wrong? What is the key to wealth that is in verse 18? What is the treasure in verse 19?

He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. 1 Tim. 6:15-16. 

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Many of us in the church have had mentors: someone who took time from their busy lives to instruct, guide, or teach a young person many of the basics that would enable them to make choices leading to a life of godliness. Others of us wish we could have had someone to pour godly wisdom into our lives, causing us to avoid pitfalls that have scarred us for life. And yet, God can take any broken spirit, bad choice, or sinful lifestyle, and bring good out of the bad when there is a repentant heart, a broken spirit, and a believing soul. Praise God for His wondrous works to the sons of men!

Timothy served Paul as a son all the days of Paul’s life. Can you imagine the wisdom poured into this young man? It will be exciting to meet him in heaven and hear the stories of how he furthered the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Are we that sold out to God, that we can serve as a mentor, or have a desire to be mentored? As you read the guidelines for godliness, did you see yourself in any of the categories Paul listed? Perhaps you’re a widow, over sixty, with no one left in your family. The church, then, becomes your family and takes care of your needs. Your good works within the church family will bless you as it blesses them. You’ll find new beginnings in service to God. Perhaps you are a young person, looking for the good life. Did you notice Paul said in one of the verses that the counsel he had laid out would give you a peaceful and tranquil life? No matter your age or ability, almost everyone can identify themselves somewhere within these six chapters, and take them to heart. Meanwhile, Satan wants to isolate you, remove you from those who can help you, and devour your joy. Don’t allow it! As we used to sing, “Take the Name of Jesus with you..it will joy and comfort give you, take it everywhere you go!”*

 

*Precious Name, by Lydia Baxter.

October 10, 2021

2 THESSALONIANS: STAND FIRM, GOD IS FAITHFUL

October 10, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Have you ever had your credibility threatened even though you were innocent? How did you handle it?

Today we learn some very relevant lessons from the book of Second Thessalonians, written to the believers in Thessalonica. They were confused and disturbed, possibly by a letter slandering Paul and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul had to remind the church that they had believed the truth as he had presented it, and they needed to ignore those who were causing them distress. This short letter is so needed today, as it reminds us how to stand firm in our faith as the world becomes divided between good and evil, truth and lies. God’s word is truth, able to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Focal Passage: The Book of 2 Thessalonians

Thankfulness produces faithfulness

  • Read 2 Thess. 1:3-4. Sometimes we are so grateful for something amazing that thankfulness just seems to burst from us. Can you think of an example? Why did Paul feel that he had to praise God for the way the church at Thessalonica was handling persecution?
  • Read 2 Tim. 3:12-15. What are we to do when suffering persecution? What will determine whether you overcome or give up?
  • Read James 1:2-3. How can these verses be considered similar to the truth that being thankful to God produces faithfulness?
  • Read 1 Thess. 5:18. Why does God desire us to cultivate an attitude of gratitude?

How does being grateful enlarge our faith?

Faithfulness allows us to remain strong when under attack

  • Read 2 Thess. 2:15. What does Paul tell the believers they are to do while under attack? Does someone have another word for “traditions”? What instructions was Paul referring to?
  • Read Eph. 6:10-13. How can we fight the evil one if we don’t know what the armor of God includes? Can you list the weapons Paul tells us to put on in the verses following? How can you use them unless you know their function?
  • Why is it so important to remind yourself of God’s faithfulness in caring for you during times of trials or crises? Have you ever kept a journal of these times?
  • It is not uncommon to have a sense of heaviness if Satan is trying to attack. Do you recognize this, and have plans prepared for those times? Do your plans include thanksgiving, praise, and singing?

Faithfulness leads to deliverance

  • Read 2 Thess. 3:1-3. Why does Paul covet the prayers of the believers? How is this like our world? Why is it so important that we pray for each other? How do you know that God hears and answers all of your prayers?
  • Read 1 Peter 5:8. Peter also warns believers that Satan is real, evil, and spends his focus trying to devour God’s children. How are believers to resist him?
  • Read John 10:10 and 16:33. Did Jesus believe Satan is real? Why do some believers think if they don’t “bother him, he won’t bother them”?
  • Is this thinking Biblical? Why not?

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For most of us, our circles are immediate family, then the circle of friends, followed by a circle of acquaintances, those who help (doctors, pharmacists, business workers, etc.), and then community. Can you see why—as was mentioned last week—the burdens of the care for the churches and believers were a burden to Paul? Where we might be surrounded by friends numbering less than fifty, and casual friends at perhaps one-hundred-fifty, Paul’s concern was for the believers in all the cities where he had started churches, always being aware that the Jewish leaders would not hesitate to be used by Satan to destroy the new Christians.

Why do we think we are any less important to Satan than Christians in the days of Jesus? He has no reason to bother the unsaved, the wicked, or the evil person. He wants only to see the followers of Christ give up, get frustrated, have disputes with fellow believers, and throw up their hands. Is that how we’re supposed to react?

Paul reminds the believers at Thessalonica to remember the things they have been taught, the basics of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the word of God. In all these things they were to be continually giving thanks to God for His incredible gift of salvation, and His love and protection for them. These things are as needed today as they were then. Every day we can thank God for His faithfulness and give Him glory and praise for His constant care. As we reflect on His lovingkindness, our faith grows, for we know He loves us today as much as He did at any moment in the past, and will never love us any less the rest of our life. He loves us with a love we can only vaguely imagine. It is truly difficult to understand the reality of true, unconditional love. But He loves us so much that, while we were His enemy, He sent Jesus Christ to die for us. How can we ever repay Him? We can’t. But we can love Him with everything we have, thanking Him always for His care and faithfulness to us, and if we love Him, we will obey Him (John 14:21).

October 3, 2021

1 THESSALONIANS: KEEP IT GOING

October 03, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Who do you remember from your past simply because of the impression they made on you in those first few moments or hours?

How amazing to walk, ride a horse or camel, or be jostled on a wagon over 10,000 miles to spread the gospel! Paul was committed to not waste even a moment of his time after Jesus saved him, going from town to town and country to country starting new churches, and visiting those he had established. We recently read in 2 Corinthians 11 the persecutions he endured during those years, and he included among the list of sufferings, “the weight of the daily, deep concern for all the churches.” Yet he let nothing—not even imprisonment—slow him down. Are we that committed? Today we look at the lessons to be learned from the letter to this church, as Paul encouraged the believers to be faithful, and pointed them to the blessed hope God has waiting for all of us. We find our responsibility as a child of the King of glory in his admonitions.

Focal Passage: The Book of 1 Thessalonians   

 Our faith should drive us to action

  • Read 1 Thess. 1:2-3. What are the three areas in which the Thessalonian believers excelled, that Paul continually praised God for? How do these actions remind you of 1 Cor. 13?
  • How does a living faith produce works? Read James 2:14-18. Why does a healthy fruit tree or garden plant produce fruit? How is that like our Christian life?
  • Read John 15:1-4. Why does Jesus describe our lives in this way?
  • What did we read in James 2:17? Give some examples of fruit your faith produces.

Our actions should be reflective of our love

  • Read verse 3b again. What did the word “labor” mean in the original Greek? How satisfying is it to have your child do a chore with a bad or ungrateful attitude? How can that be us as we serve God?
  • Read 1 John 3:17. Why is it so important that our actions be done in love?
  • Read Luke 6:35. What standard will God hold us to?
  • Today we have many groups fighting against our way of life. How can we show God’s love without internally feeling bitter hatred for their wickedness?

Our love is strengthened in our hope

  • Read 1 Thess. 1:3c. What is the hope Paul is speaking of? Read Titus 2:11-13. Who receives this hope?
  • Why is endurance so important? Read Matt. 10:22. What does Christ ask of us?
  • Read 1 Thess. 4:13-18. How does this picture of the future encourage us?
  • If you feel you cannot endure further pain or sorrow, what are your options?

Our witness will change the world

  • Read 1 Thess. 1:7-10. Why does Paul commend these believers? What were some of the testimonies Paul was hearing about those at Thessalonica?
  • What does your faith in action say about you?
  • What is your testimony among unbelievers in your community?

Stand strong no matter what

  • Read 1 Thess. 2:4. Who alone should we be striving to please with our life? How can we know if our hearts are truly seeking God’s approval or that of man?
  • Read Jeremiah 17:9. What warning was God giving us?
  • Why is it so important that we do not let our hearts get fixed on the things of this world? Read 1 John 2:15. Why is this warning so needed by us today?
  • What are some passages in Scripture that we should use frequently, to examine ourselves to maintain a standard of holiness for Jesus Christ?

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You can almost hear Paul’s joy as he wrote this letter to the believers in Thessalonica, where their witness had gone not only into the area where they lived but further abroad. He was very encouraged as the evidence of changed lives gave testimony to others of the saving power of Jesus Christ.

We must realize that we, too, have a testimony whether we realize it or not. No matter what we do, other people are watching us, assessing whether someone who calls themselves a Christ-follower would be acting or talking as they hear us. This is especially true in an age when profanity is creeping into the church, but what is worse is that the people who use profane words see nothing wrong with it. It fits the adage, “If they’re Christians and do [whatever], then it’s okay for me as well.” Thus, they justify their behavior based on our performance. We may not like it, but as is also said, “We may be the only Bible many people read.” Our behavior must be above reproach. God says, “Be holy, as I am holy.” That is His will for our lives.

Paul leaves us with many lessons from this short letter to a beloved church. We immediately see God desires us to always be in an attitude of prayer and always be giving thanks for all things. If we are living our lives seeking to please God in all we say, do, and how we spend our time, we will have fruit that will reflect a life of faith. We don’t want a dead faith. As long as God gives us breath and a sound mind, we can at least pray; if we are housebound, we can do something quite extraordinary in this era: write letters or notes of encouragement! There are possibilities in every situation to praise and give God glory. Even the trial of being restricted in health could be God’s test to see how we respond as we put our faith into action. We must persevere, even when it’s hard. We have a hope that will endure.

September 26, 2021

COLOSSIANS

September 26, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Commitment to a hobby or vocation often succeeds only because of the self-discipline involved. How did you achieve a victory at something you wanted?

Paul, writing from prison around 60 a.d., penned a letter to the believers at Colossae (in the southwestern part of modern-day Turkey) with the same fervent passion he had used as he wrote to many other churches. Though Paul had never met the Colossian Christians, he had heard that heresy was infiltrating their faith, thus causing him to write and warn them of the danger of believing false doctrine. The letter is both an encouragement to stay the course of their original salvation experience, and an admonition against turning from the pure gospel available through Jesus Christ. It is a letter exceedingly applicable today, as there are many religions now preaching Christianity to be “Jesus PLUS something else.” Jesus is the only way, the only truth, and the only life.

Focal Passage: The Book of Colossians

Walking in His will

  • Read Colossians 1:9. During Paul’s greeting and opening remarks, he assures these Christians of his unfailing prayers made on their behalf. Looking back, we know Paul had learned false doctrine had permeated the faith of these dear souls. How would he then be praying? When you have a crushing matter, how does it usually impact your prayer life?
  • What is the most important thing he prays for them? Why is it important for Christians to know God’s will? If you do not know His will, how can you do it? How will an apathetic believer seek to follow God’s will?
  • If you are sold out to Christ, how will that translate into a desire to be filled with wisdom and spiritual understanding of His will?
  • Read verse 10. What did Paul pray the result would be? Apply this to your life: are these four phrases descriptive of your current spiritual growth?

Growing in His power

  • Read Col. 1:11. Which type of believer is more likely to be targeted for Satan’s purposes, (weak or strong)? Why? Which one’s destruction would ultimately cause the greatest impact to the church?
  • How does a Christian gain their greatest strength to overcome?
  • Read verses 12-14. What did Paul remind them? Why is it not as likely to get side-tracked from these great truths if one is seeking God’s face daily in prayer?
  • Reflecting on today’s global troubles, how are great patience, joy, and giving thanks able to help us be strengthened in the “inner man”?

Standing in awe of His presence

  • Read Col. 1:15-20. In verse 15, what does Paul say of Jesus? Read John 1:18. How does John confirm Paul’s statement? How do Paul and John support each other in Col. 1:16, and John 1:3?
  • What do verses 19-20 mean to you? What are they saying about Jesus Christ?
  • What does the cross mean to you personally?

  Living strong in His truth

  • Read Col. 2:4. What are some of the arguments that we hear today that could deceive believers who have not sought to know God deeply? How does Hebrews 5:14 tell us to prepare ourselves to be victorious?
  • Read Col. 2:6-10. Paul is full of encouragement for these believers. What does he tell them to focus on?
  • Are these admonitions just as important for us today?

Being committed to His plan

  • Read Col. 3:1-4. What are some steps we can take to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things? How can we be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” in the world?
  • When you find Satan trying to steal your joy, what are some steps you take to get your mind back onto Christ? 

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This letter from Paul to the church at Colossae becomes so much more appreciated when we understand he was not writing to a group of believers he knew, but to a church that was being heavily attacked doctrinally by Satan. Paul was trying to pray them through it in his own life, and encourage them by his words to strengthen themselves in God.

As you read the letter to the Colossians, you feel as though this could be written to nearly any country in our world, and be just as pertinent as it was when Paul wrote it. We are inundated on every side by Jesus plus certain clothes, Jesus plus certain music, or (as we know), the Bible plus another book—or even a certain translation of the Bible.

As we have spent this year of 2021 reading the entire Bible through, and now re-reading the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs, we find Revelation 22 ending thus: 18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. May we always live so committed to being filled with the deepest knowledge of God’s will, imbued with His power, that we will be strong enough to withstand the fiery darts Satan sends our way.

 

September 19, 2021

PHILIPPIANS: THE GOOD WORK OF GOD

September 19, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

When you’re in the midst of problems, what are some things you do to put the burdens of the day aside, so you can prepare for a good night’s rest?

The Apostle Paul began sharing the gospel in Europe by going to Philippi and establishing the first church for those who desired to follow Christ. Later, around 63 a.d., he wrote to the Philippian believers, in part to thank them for their generosity in supporting his ministry, but also to emphasize the importance of being confident in their relationship to God, which in turn produces peace and fills life with joy. These words of encouragement were penned as Paul sat in prison. The letter he wrote to the Christians at Philippi is as pertinent and encouraging to us today as it was to the believers of Paul’s era.

Focal Passage: The Book of Philippians

It starts in the Gospel (Chapter One)

  • Read Philippians 1:3-6. As you read these verses, what type of relationship does it seem Paul had with the believers at Philippi? Why did he feel confident they would continue to be effective?
  • Read verses 20-21. Where was Paul when he wrote this letter? How does that put a different light upon this passage?
  • Read John 14:1. How would the words of Jesus become even more encouraging if, like Paul, you knew your future was very uncertain?
  • If you are living in the power of the Gospel, why is it not likely that fear will take over? How did the recent events that occurred to the church in Afghanistan testify of this truth?

 

It is continued in love (Chapter Two)

  • Read Phil. 2:1-2. What message of encouragement was Paul trying to instill in the Philippian believers? Read verses 3-4. What is he saying? According to Scripture, what is the second greatest commandment? How do these verses illustrate that? Is this your heart and focus?
  • Can you explain how these verses of genuine love for others point to understanding the power of God’s work? Read verses 6-7. How do these verses illustrate what we read in verses 1-4?
  • How can we, as the body of Christ, learn to see other believers as God sees them? What were some of the things Jesus saw when he looked at the crowds of people? Why would this matter?

 

It is in focusing on what really matters (Chapter Three)

  • Read Phil. 3:7-10. Can someone paraphrase the message in this passage? How does this illustrate Matthew 6:20? Has anyone experienced learning this lesson that the snares of having “stuff” entails?
  • What are some of the negative results that can occur when one is absorbed in acquiring more and more treasures? What are some examples of how easy it is to get sucked into acquiring things?
  • Read verses 12-14. Paul still felt himself to be less than perfect. What is very important advice in these verses that each of us needs to take to heart?
  • What are you currently doing to teach yourself to love others more than you love yourself?

 

It is secured by His gracious hand (Chapter Four)

  • Read Phil. 4:6-7. What are the specific instructions in verse 6 that we should put into practice immediately? In verse 7, what will be the results if we learn verse 6?
  • Read verses 8-9. In today’s world, why is it so important to learn these valuable lessons?
  • How can you teach yourself to always be aware that you are indwelt by the Spirit of God because you are His child, and therefore He is always with you, never to leave you?

 

Close

Can you even begin to imagine the torture that could be Satan’s tool if we, like Paul, were waiting in a prison cell to be put to death? However, reading these four chapters, we see Paul did not focus on what might happen, but rather on what he had received from God.

Nothing about the Gospel has changed over the past two thousand years. From the time Jesus entered the earth to begin the task God had appointed for Him, His story was going to occur, be shared, and be believed. Those who believe in Who He is, in what He did, and why He died, can repent of their sins and accept His gift of salvation. Then they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to live within them, making life as His child secure. Do we believe this?

There is nothing else in our lives as important as realizing that we are now children of the King of Kings. We were spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins when He quickened our spirit and drew us to Him (Eph. 2:4-6); He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4); He gave us the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5); He will never leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5) and He has gone to prepare a place for us and will come again to receive us to Himself (John 14:1-5). But His grace is not cheap! It cost the life of Jesus Christ, and He expects us to be holy as He Himself is holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16); we are to produce the fruit of righteousness, not of the world (Gal. 5:16-26). Above all, we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and spirit, and love others more than we love ourselves.

September 12, 2021

EPHESIANS: GOD’S GREAT PLAN

September 12, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

What are some of the benefits or “perks” that your children or spouse enjoy because they belong to you?

This week we have read the book of Ephesians, written to the believers in Ephesus, where the apostle Paul had ministered for three years. The letter to this church includes most of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul was not certain he would be able to revisit Ephesus, so he summarized all vital doctrine in the first three chapters and the behavior expected of God’s children in the last three. This six-chapter book could stand alone if you were in a position to carry only a few pages of the Bible, yet still have what you need as the “whole counsel” of the word of God.

Focal Passage: The Book of Ephesians

 

 We are immeasurably blessed

  • Read Ephesians 1:3. What does God do for us when we become His child? What are examples of the blessings we receive? What does Paul mean by the phrase “in the heavenly places in Christ”?
  • Read Eph. 1:4. When did God choose us for salvation? Why would we have been on His mind at that time? How do you imagine this occurred?
  • What will happen to our heart, soul, and mind, if we are living our life with our thoughts centered on Him?
  • Could you enjoy life without Him walking with you? Explain your answer.

 

We are part of His great plan

  • Read Eph. 1:9-10. What was the mystery of God’s will? When had He predetermined that Jesus would come to the earth, die for the sins of mankind, be resurrected, and return to the Father? How did this “bring everything together in Christ”?
  • Read verses 11-12. Besides our salvation and daily blessings, what else do we receive? How can we praise Him and bring Him glory for what He has done?
  • Read verses 13-14. What happened at the moment you believed in Him, repented of your sins, and asked Jesus to save you? Besides being sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, what else does the Holy Spirit guarantee for us?
  • We know only a world where sin reigns. What will Christ eventually do?

 

We have an eternal hope

  • Read Eph. 1:18-19. What does Paul pray for us? What can we do to see that our lives are spent in the glorious reality of Christ walking with us?
  • Read verses 20-21. What did God do for Jesus? Why do we not have to be concerned about the turmoil in our lives in this millennium? How can you rest in the fact that God has complete control over this world?
  • What is the purpose of the church? Read Romans 8:34. What is Jesus Christ doing, even today, for us?

 

We are undeniably secure

  • Paul takes great pains to see that we believers realize who our enemy is. What does he tell us to do? What are the six pieces of armor, and what is the function of each? Read verse 18. What is the seventh piece of armor that is intangible? Why is it so vital?
  • Read Nehemiah 4:9, 17. How is this passage similar to our fight with Satan? How can we live in a world that is out of control?
  • Read John 10:27-28. What is so very comforting in these verses?

 

Close

Our faith walk often seems to be uphill, doesn’t it? Yet if we would spend as much time meditating on God’s word, committing it to memory, drawing on its ideal for our lives, and drawing near to God, more than we spend watching television, movies, or engaging in random entertainment, we would no doubt see a great increase in our love for our Lord.

Paul wanted nothing less for the believers he had brought to Christ than to see them grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord. Would we endure beatings, shipwreck, hunger, and so much more, with joyful emotion because we were counted worthy to suffer for Christ? It is hard to say a very resounding “Yes”, isn’t it? Many of us are wondering if today’s world will see a time coming when we have to take a stand for Christ that may cost us our lives. People around the globe are experiencing this every day.

The book of Ephesians is one with eternal perspectives that we need to internalize. Is it too much to begin to memorize these six short chapters, knowing that the doctrine in the first three gives us mighty promises of what God has done for us, what He is doing, and will continue to do? If you have these verses committed to memory, you will be able to answer nearly any question that is asked from the sincere heart of an unbeliever searching for God. Memorize the last three chapters and you will know the patterns for behavior that God wants to see from a regenerate heart. Were we to put these actions into our lives, each day would find us seeking His presence more than the day before. Without His strength, we can do nothing. With Him, nothing is impossible.

September 5, 2021

GALATIANS: JESUS, ONLY JESUS

September 05, 2021

Charles Billingsley

 

Have you ever accidentally gotten a small amount of “something” in or on something else—and you had to throw out the entire batch? What a mess! Can you share?

The apostle Paul traveled to the area of Galatia while on his first missionary journey with Barnabas, making disciples in each town they visited. Later, perhaps around 49 A.D., Paul received word that many Judaizers had infiltrated the churches in Galatia, causing turmoil among the brethren. The Judaizers were falsely saying they believed Jesus to be the Messiah (to give credibility), but told the Gentiles they needed to be circumcised, as well as “other Jewish traditions.” The newly saved believers were confused by these false teachers, and soon let the Satanic doctrine ruin their walk of faith. Paul wrote this letter, very angry at the Judaizers’ attempts to destroy the new faith of the Galatians by their teaching, and fervently warned the church that they needed to repent and get back to the pure gospel which he had taught them.

Focal Passage: The Book of Galatians

 We are justified by Faith

  • Read Galatians 3:1-3. What was the pure gospel that Paul had been preaching since his Damascus Road experience? What did the Judaizers insist was the only way to be saved? Why were they bent on destroying the faith of new converts?
  • What had been Paul’s title before God saved him? Once saved, how did his training quickly enable him to show others Jesus was, indeed, the Messiah?
  • Read John 20:30-31. This was the good news that Paul had shared with the Galatians. Why was he so angry with them (vs. 3)?
  • What did Paul do to be worthy of Jesus appearing to him to save him?

 

We are called to be Free

  • Read Gal. 5:1. What did Jesus free us from? Is this the same message Paul used in Romans 3:24?
  • Have you ever been free from the traditional debts you owed? What was your “vow” once they were all paid off? Did you keep that vow? Why, then, does Paul admonish the believers in vs. 5:1b? What were they again being enslaved to?
  • Will someone define “cheap grace” for the group? Growing up, did any of you come from a legalistic church or a liberal church? Can you explain what they mean? Why are both dangerous? Is salvation Jesus plus (something else)?
  • When the altar call is given, why must it always be clearly said that repenting of, and turning from, your sins is necessary when coming to Christ for salvation?
  • Why did Christ go to the cross for you? Have you been perfect since then? If not, why does He still consider you His child?

Our freedom produces Fruit

  • Read Gal. 5:16-18. What type of fruit does a tree bear? Why can a tree not produce two types of fruit (in normal circumstances)?
  • Read John 15:4-5. What is our position in God? Does fruit have to encourage the tree to bear it? How do we believers bear fruit? Do we have to work at bearing?
  • What type of fruit should we bear? Can you list some? What type of fruit will you bear if you’re not remaining fixed in Christ?
  • Is fruit always visible? Will it be consistent with the plant on which it grows? Why does it exist? Does it try to be something other than it is?

 

Close

Galatians is a book that has many different themes for growing in Christ. We encountered one that was the terrible consequence of listening to and absorbing incorrect doctrine. Many people are afraid of “doctrine,” believing it to be something that is meant only for the pastors. Not so! You must know the Scriptures well enough to be certain that lessons or sermons you hear always contain only the truth. We all need to be like the people of Berea, who would study the scriptures after hearing Paul preach to be sure what they heard was true!

False teachers did not appear as men with red outfits and pitchforks. These Judaizers came as religious leaders, manipulating the new believers by acting as if they, the Jews, just as the people of Galatia, believed that Jesus was the Messiah. They insinuated that Paul had not told the Galatians the entire truth, which was adherence to the law of Moses. It is not unlike the false religions in the world today, who revere another book in addition to the Bible or have other rules or traditions that must be observed. As scripture points out, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” It doesn’t take many lies to affect your faith in Jesus. As Satan said to Eve, “Did God really say that…,” causing her to doubt God.

Another application in Galatians is the evidence of a true-life change when we are saved. Paul succinctly lays out the truth of fruit being the natural confirmation of a healthy plant. In the same manner, a person whose heart, soul, mind, and spirit are deeply grounded in the word of, and their relationship to, God, will naturally produce the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.). If you are producing worldly fruit, (fulfilling the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life), you need to carefully examine why you think you are saved. Look for the breakdown between you and Jesus Christ, and fix it quickly, not knowing when you might take your last breath. Don’t ever take salvation for granted—it is all about Jesus, only Jesus.

August 29, 2021

2 CORINTHIANS: THE THRILL OF VICTORY

August 29, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Who doesn’t love a home that runs smoothly with peace and laughter? It takes a lot of work to balance a home where there’s unity! Does anyone have some advice that works well?

After Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, he then traveled to Ephesus and Macedonia. Eventually, he received word that his first letter had not been received well. As he wrote 2nd Corinthians, he gave guidelines to eliminate the disruptions, factions, disunity, sin, and more, that were so affecting the church there. Paul also defended his testimony and apostleship, being transparent with many details of his life that are not found in his other letters to the churches. Although it seems a number of the believers had been restored to a close relationship with the other Christians by the time they received this letter, Paul’s biggest concern was that the church at Corinth would recognize the amazing grace of God that was available to them all.

Focal Passage: The Book of Second Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 1, 8.

 Joy and sorrow can co-exist 

  • Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. What is Paul’s theme in these verses? Why does he deal so heavily with afflictions and comfort?
  • What were some of Paul’s afflictions (11:22—28 if you need to refresh your thoughts)? Why does he say Christ comforted him in them? In verse 4, what is the purpose brought about by Christ comforting us in our afflictions? How does David say this same in Psalm 51:13?
  • Read 2 Cor. 8:1-2. Although several chapters later, Paul still talks of afflictions. How is it possible to have both joy and sorrow at the same time? Can you give an example?

Joy is found in what we do, not what we have

  • Read 2 Cor. 8:3-4. How did the church in Macedonia act when they were in “severe” affliction? Is this a normal reaction for people who are in the midst of some type of large problem?
  • Think back to a time when your family was going through bad news or affliction. Did you request time to accept what was happening? How does that differ from what the Macedonian church asked? What had they learned?
  • Which do you believe: that riches, beautiful decorations, “stuff”, and treasures, are a hindrance, or are they wonderful? Can you share your feelings?
  • Why does a growing spirit of generosity indicate your faith is increasing? What is the most important thing you can acquire in this life?

It begins in giving all to Him

  • Read 2 Cor. 8:5. Who is the source of everything we have or are? What did Paul mean that they gave themselves first to the Lord? How do you give yourself to the Lord? Read Luke 9:23. Does this summarize your thoughts?
  • What is our position before God? On a normal day, how much does God figure in your thinking, reading, or talking? Is He getting the “left-overs” of your day, or is it built around Him? Can you explain? What does God want from all of us?

Growing in Him is important; going for Him is, too

  • Read 2 Cor. 8:7. Paul is now leaving the thought of the Macedonian church. He has been made aware of the progress being made by many of the believers. What does he commend them for? What does he ask of them?
  • What does he mean when he says they need to excel in the “act of grace”?
  • Do you see your actions of giving as worship, or is it an act of ritual—or even compulsion? What is the difference? Are you truly a “cheerful” giver?

Christ as our example

  • Read 2 Cor. 8:9. Who is the ultimate example for us to model our lives after?

What were some of the actions that Christ did that we should “abound” in?

  • What has God asked you to do? Are you doing it?

 

Close

There is no doubt our world today is fractured with problems that cause us affliction at every turn. We seldom get through a day without bad news or news that creates an emotional roller-coaster in our home, community, or country. When that happens, is our first thought “God, where were you?” Or do we realize that evil people exist, and until Christ returns to this earth, they will always be with us? Do we see the disunity in our country being brought about by the different beliefs, factions, or rules that protect certain groups—all from divisions that may never be healed, yet we continue to pray fervently for them? We can also pray with more fervor, “Lord, may Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven!”

Paul knew believers had to live together in unity, and his heart was broken over the discord in the church at Corinth. Does your heart grieve over discord in your home, or community—or your church? What do you do about it? Or better to ask, are you doing anything about it? We will always have clashes with the world, but God did not send His Son to this earth for the church to tolerate sin, envy, jealousy, or attitudes of preferences within it. Peace comes to the body of believers when all wish to follow the example that Christ gave us when He left heaven to come to the earth, and when we desire the best for others, more than ourselves, and love for God and people motivates us in everything we do.

We will have affliction—but we can have comfort from God. We can comfort others in their affliction, and it will become a chain that binds our hearts together. We must Love!

 

August 22, 2021

1 CORINTHIANS: THE END GAME

August 22, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Sometimes we get ourselves into situations that require us to step up to the plate and out of our comfort zone! We may experience enormous fear. Can anyone relate?

We have recently followed Paul from his early life of vicious acts as a Pharisee against believers in Jerusalem to falling off his horse as Jesus Christ met him on the Damascus Road. His life was turned completely around as God sent him on missionary journeys to evangelize throughout his world. Now, we have read the book of 1st Corinthians, where he must write a letter to the believers whom God loved and called, to rebuke the church for sins of disputes, factions, immorality, and more. Like a parent who lovingly births, teaches, and leads a child, there are times a pastor has to discipline his flock. Join us as we finish this book, written to Christ-followers whom Paul loved deeply.

Focal Passage: The Book of First Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 2.

The Message

  • Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-2. Paul had originally visited Corinth, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, a few years before this letter was written. What was his only purpose in going to the people of Corinth? Why do you get the impression he was not a gifted speaker?
  • Why did he limit his message to the subject of Jesus Christ, His life, death, and resurrection? What had Paul’s calling been before his conversion? How would his training as a Pharisee have enabled him to know the Old Testament well?
  • Why was it so important that he concentrate only on Jesus Christ, not getting sidetracked into other disputes?

The Method

  • Read 1 Cor. 2:3. Why was Paul careful to remind the Corinthian believers how he had originally come to them? How did he describe the inner struggles that he had felt at that time? Why is it so hard to believe that Paul experienced the same fears that we have?
  • Read Acts 18:9-11. Was Paul in the will of God when he had visited Corinth? How is it possible to be in the will of God, yet have tribulation or storms? Have you ever been where you felt God wanted you, but you incurred opposition?
  • Read 1 Cor. 2:4-5. Think of today: what happens for a short while after one is exposed to a motivational speaker? What can be the situation a year later? Is that possibly why Paul did not use flowery speech or the wisdom of men in his preaching? Who did he depend on? Read Mark 13:11. Do we allow the Holy Spirit to be all that He desires to be in our own lives?
  • Paul wanted to make sure that he wasn’t given the praise of growing the church in Corinth. Why did he strive to make himself “decrease” and Jesus Christ “increase”? Why would that build their faith?
  • Do you rely on Jesus Christ to get you through fearful situations? Who gets the glory when it is over?

The Mind

  • Read 1 Cor. 2:12-13. Who is the spirit who rules this world? Read Ephesians 2:2. Why does Paul describe believers before salvation like this? What happens at the time one is saved? Read Romans 12:2. Why do we see things differently than unbelievers?
  • Read verse 14. Why are we so surprised when unbelievers commit evil actions? Don’t we usually desire that everyone act in a way that reflects morality? Spiritual concepts are only able to be understood through what means?
  • Read verses 15-16. Why do we have no excuse for bad behavior, or for allowing sin to rear its head in our lives? What should we do immediately when we sin? 

Close

There is probably no one you can think of who does not—consciously or subconsciously—put someone on a pedestal because of their personality, gifts, power, or wealth. It seems to be (unfortunately) part of our makeup. In circles of Christ-followers, one of those past heroes we hold high would be the apostle Paul.

He had gone to the city of Corinth nearly twenty years after Jesus had risen from the grave and ascended back to the Father. Now, a few years later, he hears of rampant sin among the believers, and he is grieved. Paul did not hesitate to correct them, as we read in the opening of this letter written to the Corinthian church.

As he wrote of his original visit to Corinth, we see him confessing that he had been filled with fear, weakness, and much trembling. We can hardly fathom the great apostle experiencing these same inner agonies that we, too, endure. Perhaps it is at the thought of witnessing for the first time: what if we blow it, and drive the person away from salvation? What if they have real hurts or habits, and we feel we won’t know what to say? We tremble, we feel weak, and we fear.

A beautiful lesson can be learned from this glimpse into Paul’s life and be incorporated into our own: when God calls us “out of our grave” and into the light of salvation, He knows exactly what we have done, are doing, and will do in the future. Nothing surprises Him because He has “authored and finished” our story. So, He calls us to perform a task for Him, knowing our faults, but He still is willing to use us, flawed though we may be. As we need to remember, “Whom He calls, He equips!” We don’t have to worry about our lack of “enticing speech” or “wisdom”. He will give us the words we need at the right time. Not too early, not too late. He is a good, good Father!

 

 

August 15, 2021

ROMANS: PAUL’S PURPOSE, OUR PURPOSE

August 15, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Have some of you done any cold call selling (life insurance, books, etc.)? Did you find it becoming easier each time? Can you share your experience?

This week we finished the book of Acts, seeing the early church grow amidst persecution, and meeting Saul of Tarsus (whom God called Paul), breathing fire as a Pharisee against the followers of Jesus. He met the risen Lord, who transformed him from someone with an evil heart to a man with a passion to win his world for Christ. As we continue through the next several books, we will read his letters to many of the early believers, as the gospel began to spread. Paul’s passion was to bring Gentiles to follow Christ and experience a changed life. Today we focus on Romans 1, letting its power transform our lives as we follow Him.

Focal Passage: The Book of Romans, Romans 1.

            Paul’s purpose explained

  • Read Romans 1:1-2. What were the “credentials” Paul wrote as his greeting to witness what Christ had done for him? Read Galatians 1:13, 15-17. Did Paul’s previous lifestyle cling to his reputation even after his conversion? What did the word “doulos (servant)” mean, and what did it say to that culture?
  • Read Rom. 1:3-4. Paul gives a concise description of Jesus Christ. What do you see as you read these brief verses? Was Paul summarizing the whole gospel?
  • Read verses 5-6. What does Paul say his responsibility became when he was saved? Who else does he say has this same responsibility?
  • After God saved you, were (are) there still people who would bring up your past sins if the occasion permits? How do you handle it?

Paul’s passion explained

  • Read Romans 1:16-17. These verses contain the most important statement that can be made about the Gospel of Jesus Christ: what is it?
  • What is meant by the statement “ashamed of the gospel”? What are some ways you might feel you have some hesitation about sharing the gospel? How can you get past the feelings that hold you back from sharing? How is that like selling?
  • Who does Paul say the gospel should be presented to? Would that include groups like politicians who are the opposition, neighbors who dislike you, co-workers who are jealous of your ability, wicked rulers? Who else?
  • What happens when we share the gospel? As we prepare our hearts to be able to witness, what happens to our faith? What does Paul mean when he writes “the righteous [or just] shall live by faith” (quoting Habakkuk 2:4)?
  • How have you lived your life by faith?

The world’s desperation explained

  • Read Romans 1:28. As a reminder, who is Paul referring to as “they”? What did they do? What was God’s ultimate action?
  • Read verses 29-31. What does these groups of people remind you of? How much of this do you see in the news, in the movies, or on social media every day in our world? How bad is it really?
  • Read verse 32a. What happens to these persons?
  • Read verse 32b. What is a second group that is just as responsible as the sinner? Think about the education a child in your family-or extended family-may be receiving. What danger lies in the mandates they must “approve” that is being given to all who participate in grave sins? How can they overcome toleration?
  • Do you ever let Satan convince you that perhaps you have sinned beyond what God forgives? How do you handle these thoughts when they surface?

 God’s love explained

  • Read Romans 6:23. What is the bad news? What is the great news? Why, then, will only a few accept God’s free gift? What are they afraid of?
  • What do you see as the biggest problem affecting our nation at this time? What do you think is the biggest problem in the church?
  • What would happen if each Christ-follower sincerely and lovingly shared the gospel with one person each week, month, or year?
  • Could you commit yourself to share your faith this year?

Close

We tend to put Paul on a pedestal for his enormous passion for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, and his constant efforts at growing the church of Jesus Christ. Yet times have not changed—or if they have, they have perhaps gotten worse due to technology. Sin of any sort is at our fingertips instantly these days.

Do we feel we cannot make a difference because we are only one person? Then head to your local church and find others who have the same concern! One thing that can be learned by younger people is that if you have a thought, others also have thought it. If you have a burden, it is also on the back or shoulders of someone else. Let it be known through social media that you are looking for someone to witness with, do Bible study, fellowship…whatever it is you need or feel a passion for, there will be others who share it. Groups formed to help take care of the needs of the church was one of the first areas of service in the early church.

If you can’t leave your house, get a list of missionaries, and write a note of thanks to them for their work. We still have paper, pens, and stamps! If you cannot do anything physical, then grow yourself a prayer garden. The excuse for doing nothing is the lifestyle that has gotten our country where it is today. It’s past time for the church to work!

August 8, 2021

GROUP TIME – Part 6

PRISCILLA AND AQUILA – THE ORIGINAL POWER COUPLE

 

HOW TO GET STARTED:

It’s easy! Circle up with your friends and talk about the passage. We’ve set up the study with the same weekly routine.

 

A key practice of growing believers is readying, studying, and applying Scripture together.

The Scripture for our lesson today is: Acts 18:24-28

Each week we’ll READ the passage aloud, PRAY to ask the Holy Spirit to guide discussion, then follow these steps:

 

  1. DISCOVER: What is the passage saying?
  • Analyze: look for emphasized statements, repeated words, and the flow of the passage.
  • How would you summarize or paraphrase these verses?

 

  1. LEARN: What is the passage teaching?
  • Ask the group to discuss the passage. What do they see?
  • What was Apollos teaching? What was he missing?
  • According to the verses, what were Apollos’ strengths at this point in his ministry life?
  • How did Priscilla and Aquila respond to his teaching (v. 26)?
  • What do verses 27-28 teach us about Apollos’ impact as a minister of the gospel?
  • When we read that Apollos was competent in the Scriptures and showed that Jesus was the Christ based on “the Scriptures,” what Scriptures did he know and use? (Leader: only the Old Testament)
  • Read 1 Cor 1:12; 3:4-9; 4:1-6. Apollos had a significant ministry in Corinth and Paul regarded him well. Discuss Priscilla and Aquila’s role in Apollos’ ministry.

 

  1. APPLY: What is our response?
  • What is the Holy Spirit saying to you about this passage? Is He convicting you to do or change anything?
  • Are you competent enough in the Scriptures to show that Jesus is the answer? Discuss as a group specific studies or personal practices that have helped you grow in this area. 

 

READ the passage aloud one more time and allow people to pray out loud in response.

August 1, 2021

GROUP TIME – Part 5

SILAS – USE YOUR STRENGTHS TO STRENGTHEN THE TEAM

 

HOW TO GET STARTED:

It’s easy! Circle up with your friends and talk about the passage. We’ve set up the study with the same weekly routine.

 

A key practice of growing believers is readying, studying, and applying Scripture together.

The Scripture for our lesson today is: Acts 16:25-40

Each week we’ll READ the passage aloud, PRAY to ask the Holy Spirit to guide discussion, then follow these steps:

 

  1. DISCOVER: What is the passage saying?
  • Analyze: look for emphasized statements, repeated words, and the flow of the passage.
  • How would you summarize or paraphrase these verses?

 

  1. LEARN: What is the passage teaching?
  • Ask the group to discuss the passage. What do they see?
  • According to verses 22-24, what are some possible feelings Paul and Silas may have been experiencing when we see them in verse 25?
  • “In Roman law, a guard who allowed his prisoner to escape was liable to the same penalty the prisoner would have suffered” (Code of Justinian 9.4.4). In the darkness, without having checked the prison, the jailer was about to kill himself to avoid the shame of public execution from an empty prison. How did Paul and Silas choose to Love God and Love People in these verses?
  • According to verses 23-24, was the jailer easy to love?
  • What transformed the jailer’s heart?

 

  1. APPLY: What is our response?
  • What is the Holy Spirit saying to you about this passage? Is He convicting you to do or change anything?
  • Are there people in your life who are hard to love? How can you love them with your actions, even if they refuse to hear the words of the Gospel you may try to share? Read 1 John 3:18 together.

 

Read the passage aloud one more time and allow people to pray out loud in response.

July 25, 2021

GROUP TIME – Part 4

TIMOTHY – EVEN THE YOUNG CAN CHANGE THE WORLD

During the six weeks of our Acts of the Apostles series, the Group Time lessons shared here will be a deeper exploration of a portion of the sermon rather than our usual lesson based on the sermon itself.  

HOW TO GET STARTED:

It’s easy! Circle up with your friends and talk about the passage. We’ve set up the study with the same weekly routine.

A key practice of growing believers is readying, studying, and applying Scripture together.

The Scripture for our lesson today is: 2 Timothy 2:1-19

Each week we’ll READ the passage aloud, PRAY to ask the Holy Spirit to guide discussion, then follow these steps:

  1. DISCOVER: What is the passage saying?
  • Analyze: look for emphasized statements, repeated words, and the flow of the passage.
  • How would you summarize or paraphrase these verses?
  1. LEARN: What is the passage teaching?
  • Ask the group to discuss the passage. What do they see?
  • What do these verses teach about God (the Father, Son, and Spirit) and His character?
  • What are some life lessons Paul imparts to Timothy, and therefore to us, in this passage?
  1. APPLY: What is our response?
  • What is the Holy Spirit saying to you about this passage? Is He convicting you to do or change anything?
  • Paul refers to Timothy as his child, imparting wisdom as one further along in the faith with something worthwhile to offer. Paul has discipled Timothy in the faith and is confident Timothy can minister in his place while he is imprisoned. Who is YOUR Timothy right now? Who are you discipling, spending time with, having gospel conversations with, and equipping to do the same?
  • Is your life representative of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? If not, what is one thing you can begin to change this week?

READ the passage aloud one more time and allow people to pray out loud in response.

 

July 18, 2021

GROUP TIME – Part 3

PHILIP – OBEDIENT AND FAITHFUL

During the six weeks of our Acts of the Apostles series, the Group Time lessons shared here will be a deeper exploration of a portion of the sermon rather than our usual lesson based on the sermon itself.  

HOW TO GET STARTED:

It’s easy! Circle up with your friends and talk about the passage. We’ve set up the study with the same weekly routine.

A key practice of growing believers is readying, studying, and applying Scripture together.

The Scripture for our lesson today is: Acts 8:26-40

Each week we’ll READ the passage aloud, PRAY to ask the Holy Spirit to guide discussion, then follow these steps:

  1. DISCOVER:  What is the passage saying?
    • Analyze: look for emphasized statements, repeated words, and the flow of the passage.
    • How would you summarize or paraphrase these verses?
  1. LEARN: What is the passage teaching?
  • Ask the group to discuss the passage. What do they see?
  • According to the verses, how did Philip know to leave Samaria? Where was he told he should go? What do verses 26-27 say he was to do there?
  • List several ways the Ethiopian man is described. What was he reading? Consider why did he have that? Where might he have gotten it? How was he able to afford it?
  • Was it a coincidence he was reading Isaiah 53 at the precise time Philip approached? How might Ephesians 2:10 relate to this passage?
  • Where was the man going? Based on his attitude in Acts 8:37-39, what can we imagine would happen when he arrived?
  • Was Philips’ immediate obedience significant in this passage?
  1. APPLY: What is our response?
  • What is the Holy Spirit saying to you about this passage? Is He convicting you to do or change anything?
  • What are some ways you “hear” the Holy Spirit leading you? (Allow several to share) How can you practice listening to the Holy Spirit this week?

READ the passage aloud one more time and allow people to pray out loud in response.

July 11, 2021

GROUP TIME – Acts of the Apostles – Part 2

STEPHEN – A RESPECTED LEADER WHO STOOD STRONG

During the six weeks of our Acts of the Apostles series, the Group Time lessons shared here will be a deeper exploration of a portion of the sermon rather than our usual lesson based on the sermon itself.  

HOW TO GET STARTED:

It’s easy! Circle up with your friends and talk about the passage. We’ve set up the study with the same weekly routine.

 

A key practice of growing believers is readying, studying, and applying Scripture together.

The Scripture for our lesson today is: Acts 6:8-15

Each week we’ll READ the passage aloud, PRAY to ask the Holy Spirit to guide discussion, then follow these steps:

  1. DISCOVER: What is the passage saying?
  • Analyze: look for emphasized statements, repeated words, and the flow of the passage.
  • How would you summarize or paraphrase these verses?

 

  1. LEARN: What is the passage teaching?
  • Ask the group to discuss the passage. What do they see?
  • According to Acts 6:3,5,8, how is Stephen described?
  • When others rose up against Stephen (v. 9), how did he refute them (v. 10)?
  • What was the plan to silence Stephen?
  • How did Stephen react to the lies that were told about him?

 

  1. APPLY: What is our response?
  • What is the Holy Spirit saying to you about this passage? Is He convicting you to do or change anything?
  • Is sharing the Gospel of Jesus or Bible passages that relate to life situations a common practice in your life? Do you know your Bible well enough to share with others? What are some things that would help you grow in this area?
  • Has anyone wronged you recently? How did you respond? Have you forgiven them?
  • What are ways to hear, read, study, memorize, and obey God’s Word this week?

 

READ the passage aloud one more time and allow people to pray out loud in response.

July 4, 2021

GROUP TIME – Acts of the Apostles – Part 1

BARNABAS – A MAN WHO STOOD WITH OTHERS

During the six weeks of our Acts of the Apostles series, the Group Time lessons shared here will be a deeper exploration of a portion of the sermon rather than our usual lesson based on the sermon itself.  

 

HOW TO GET STARTED:

It’s easy! Circle up with your friends and talk about the passage. We’ve set up the study with the same weekly routine.

 

A key practice of growing believers is reading, studying, and applying Scripture together.

The Scripture for our lesson today is: Acts 15:36-41

Each week we’ll READ the passage aloud, PRAY to ask the Holy Spirit to guide discussion, then follow these steps:

 

  1. DISCOVER: What is the passage saying?
  • Analyze: look for emphasized statements, repeated words, and the flow of the passage.
  • How would you summarize or paraphrase these verses?

 

  1. LEARN: What is the passage teaching?
  • Ask the group to discuss the passage. What do they see?
  • According to the verses, how did Paul feel about taking John Mark with them to Pamphylia? Why?
  • Does a sharp disagreement mean that they split in anger and now ignore one another?
  • Read 1 Cor 9:6, Col. 4:10, 2 Tim 4:11 and Philemon 1:24. How does Paul treat Barnabas and Mark in these later writings?
  • How was the spread of the Gospel impacted by this sharp disagreement?

 

  1. APPLY: What is our response?
  • What is the Holy Spirit saying to you about this passage? Is He convicting you to do or change anything?
  • How can we move forward when we experience a disagreement with another believer?
  • Barnabas, the encourager, wanted to give John Mark a second chance and it made a world of difference. Are you like Barnabas? Are you willing to give others a second chance?
  • What are ways to hear, read, study, memorize, and obey God’s Word this week?

 

READ the passage aloud one more time and spend some time in prayer as a response to the lesson and discussion.

June 27, 2021

JOHN: THE PURPOSE OF JESUS CHRIST

June 27, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Have you ever met someone for the first time, but had formed an opinion of what you thought they would be like, only to learn they were completely different? What was the outcome?

This week we will finish the challenge issued in December 2020, to read the Bible through in the first six months of 2021. It has been a tough but rewarding time! The blessings of reading God’s word every day are amazing. Now we will re-read the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs during the second six months of the year, with appropriate sermons taken from those books weekly. Today, as we finish, we will hear from the book of John, as the “Beloved Apostle” writes of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, why He came to earth, and what His purpose was in dying.

Focal Passage: The Gospel of John, John 12:20-36

Jesus explains the importance of His death

  • Before we read the focal passage, does anyone recall where Jesus and His disciples were in Chapter 12? What was special about dining with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha? Why were the Greeks seeking Him? They had heard of His miracles; do you think they were expecting someone different than who Jesus was?
  • Read John 12:23. What do you think those hearing Jesus thought He meant by saying His hour had arrived? What did He mean? Do you think it would have been confusing for us if we did not know the whole story?
  • Read verse 24. Why did Jesus use an illustration of the common seed? Has there ever been a time since Adam when people did not grow their food? How does that preclude that every generation would understand what He meant?
  • Read verses 25-26. Why would someone who loves his life lose it? Why does our world today teach that it’s “all about me”? How can the one who hates his life have eternal life? What are some difficult things required to follow Christ?

Jesus explains the purpose of His life

  • Read John 12:27. Why do you think Jesus expressed that His soul was troubled? How could He have stated any more clearly that the reason He came was to die?
  • Why did they not understand Him? However, if we had been raised to expect a Messiah who would free our land from all oppressors, would we have understood?

Jesus explains the victory within His actions

  • Read verses 28-30. When God affirmed from heaven that His name had been glorified, what did He mean? How would it soon be glorified again?
  • Read verses 31-33. What did Jesus say would be accomplished by His death?
  • How can we comprehend the enormity of the judgment that would be rendered upon the world and upon the kingdom of darkness by Jesus’ resurrection?
  • Read verses 32-33 and John 3:14-15. What would have been the result if Jesus had not gone to the Cross?

Jesus explains the response necessary

  • Read John 12:34-36. By “light,” who was Jesus referring to? Why is He warning about walking in the light while you have it? Read John 8:12. Could it be any more clear?
  • Why do people procrastinate about accepting Jesus as Savior?

Close

What a great six months it has been, reading the entire Bible through while praying that God’s word would saturate our hearts. As we read the four Gospels, it is probably safe to say we can only guess at what it was like for Jesus to leave His place in heaven and come to the earth, to live among men. Then He submitted to being put to death by those whom He had come to earth to save—and being in agony, still loved them. Can we even begin to imagine the glory of returning to the throne of God in victory for having finished the task God had given Him?

From the foundation of the world—which we won’t be able to understand until we are in heaven—Satan has been the ruler of this world. In God’s unfathomable plan and omnipotence, He has allowed it. We know he has access to God’s domain (Job 1:6-7), and as the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10) was judged at the Cross and will eventually be cast out (John 12:31). This was something Jesus understood intimately, while we have no answers. Still, what a victorious day that had to have been, as He ascended back to heaven to sit at the right hand of His Father!

Don’t let the things you don’t understand keep you from accepting the things you do understand or those things you accept by faith. Jesus came from eternity-past, where He was not only present at creation but spoke it into being (John 1:2-3, 10). Yet He took on the form of a man and entered the earth, lived and dwelt among men, consented to men nailing Him to a cross to pay for the sins of any person who would accept His gift of salvation, rose on the third day, and forty days later returned to heaven. Now, as the church, we wait for Him to return, as He promised. He’s never failed us yet. Have you accepted this gift? As He said in John 12:36, “While you have the light, believe in the light.” Today can be your day of salvation!

June 20, 2021

LUKE: THE LOST AND FOUND

June 20, 2021

Pastor Charles Billingsley

 

Losing a valuable item can cause many hours of agony! Do you recall a time you spent every waking moment looking for a lost treasure because it was so important to you? Did you find it?

Luke, a Gentile doctor who wrote the third Gospel, shared many of the events that are also found in the books of Matthew, Mark, and John, but he also included an additional number of miracles and parables that are unique to his book alone. This week our study is from Luke 15, as Luke told of Jesus confronting the Pharisees with their religious hypocrisy. Jesus used parables telling earthly stories with heavenly meanings. This chapter illustrates the amazing love of God.

Focal Passage: The Gospel of Luke, Luke 15:1-31, Isaiah 53:6, Malachi 3:7.

            God pursues us with reckless mercy

            The Parable of the Lost Sheep

  • Read Luke 15:1-2 for the setting. Does anyone recall from two weeks ago some of the reasons tax collectors were so hated by the Jews? Why do you think the “sinners” referred to here were so drawn to Jesus?
  • Read verses 3-4. Why does Luke begin verse 3 with “So”? Why do we in our culture find it strange that the shepherd would be concerned that he had lost one sheep, but still had ninety-nine? Let’s rephrase this: if you are part of a large, remarkably loving, family, would you easily accept the death of one of them?
  • Can someone share what you remember of the actions of the shepherd if one of the sheep becomes lost? What did he have to do to get it back to safety?
  • Read verses 5-6. How does the shepherd react when he finds his sheep? Is that how you reacted when you found the valued item you had lost? Can you share?
  • Read verse 7. Can anyone paraphrase what Jesus is saying? Who in the crowd were the “righteous” ones who did not think they needed repentance? What does Romans 3:23 tell us?

God seeks us with patient love

The Parable of the Lost Coin

  • Read Luke 15:8. Please share what you recall of the actual nature of the “coin” in Jewish culture of that day. What is that equivalent for a woman today? In our opening, was anyone’s lost item their wedding ring? How did you feel?
  • Read verse 9. What did she do when she found the coin from her headband?
  • Read verse10. Why do you not worry about God losing you out of His hand?

God waits for us with infinite grace

The Parable of the Lost Son

  • Read Luke 15:11-12. Who remembers from the sermon the enormous burden of liquidating assets that a request of this type would have had for a Jewish family? What would the cultural shockwaves have been like as the news spread throughout the community? Why did the father do as the son requested?
  • Read verses 13-16. What soon happened to the son (“not many days later”—it probably did not take him long to waste it all, just as it usually happens today). Would you have felt that he got what he deserved, or would you have felt sorry for him? Read Prov. 19:4. How does this seem to describe this son?
  • Read verses 17-19. What were the words showing he truly repented? Why?

Read Psalm 51:17. Did he exemplify a life ready to be turned back to the father?

  • Read Luke 15:20-24. How did the faither receive him? Have you ever lost one of your children for a period of time? What did you do when they returned home?
  • In verses 22-23, what was the significance of the items the servants brought, as well as the feast? Have you ever felt this type of joy?

ARE YOU OUT OF THE FATHER’S HOUSE IN REBELLION?

Close

As we read the story of the Prodigal Son, our emotions run a gamut from intense anger at the impertinence of the boy to judgmental frustration with the father as he liquidated his assets and gave his child a third of the estate, then to gladness when the young man gets to the end of his rope, returning home in repentance, humility, and with a broken heart. Yet it is only part of the story at that point. The father sees the son coming and in a true godly fashion, runs—the worst of shame for Jewish men—to greet his boy. As the son tries to get his prepared speech said, his dad stopped him, ordered the servants to bring the items fit only for the son of the house, and kills the fattened calf (which was being readied for the older son’s wedding). A celebratory feast is held, as Jesus ended the parable, filled with happiness and rejoicing!

But turn the amazing reactions of the father to you and God. Did you ever rebel at some point after salvation, perhaps in your parents’ home, in your marriage, or in some other way, and deserve to have your name blotted out of the Book of Life? Or perhaps you feel that you have sinned away God’s grace and there is no hope. Re-read these three parables and emotionally let yourself experience how much God will go through to bring you safely to His fold. His mercy, patient love and infinite grace are never exhausted when a truly repentant heart is involved.

Don’t let time pass if you’re ready to return to the Lord. He will run to meet you with open arms, and He will never let you slip from His hand. Malachi 3:7 says, “..now return to Me, and I will return to you.” Do it today!

June 13, 2021

MARK: HOW QUICKLY WE FORGET!

June 13, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Lessons for daily living can come to us from many different directions. Have you almost missed something very important because at first you thought it to be insignificant advice?

We now have slightly more than two weeks left as we finish the Bible in the first six months of 2021—a major commitment for many, but so rewarding! After being in the book of Matthew last week, today we will glean lessons from Mark. Each of the four gospels, though similar in relating the ministry and miracles of Jesus Christ, include His death, burial, and resurrection, but are written to different groups of people or in different ways. Mark focused on Gentile readers and therefore eliminated much of the genealogy and Jewish traditions, as those did not concern them. He presents thirty-five miracles of Jesus, all declaring the Deity of Jesus Christ as the Messiah Israel had been expecting.

Focal Passage: The Book of Mark, Mark 8:1-8

            He is Always Sensitive to Our Needs

  • Read Mark 8:1-8, then re-read verses 1-2. Why was the crowd so engrossed in the teachings of Jesus that they were able to go without food for three days? Why were they not even yet ready to leave?
  • In Mark 6:35 who called attention to the crowd’s need for food? Who mentions it here in chapter 8? Why did the disciples not need to bring the plight of the crowd to Jesus’ attention? Why did Jesus have “compassion” for the crowd?
  • Do you recall a time when you’ve been moved with compassion for someone? Can you share? Have you ever consciously desired to be more aware of the needs of people you meet? If so, what did you do?
  • Do you sometimes feel that Jesus is not aware of your needs when you are in a situation that seems urgent to you? Have you ever felt like He’s forgotten you?
  • Do you constantly examine your faith to remind yourself that Jesus knows and cares about your every need even before you ask?

We Are All Too Quick to Forget

  • Read Mark 8:4. When is a time you recall asking a question that you later felt like could have taken a prize for “World’s Dumbest”?
  • How could the disciples have forgotten the recent miracle of feeding the 5,000 men? How do you think they felt when they asked Jesus where to go for food?
  • Read Mk. 4:35-41. What was the truth the disciples were slowly accepting?
  • How are some of the ways Jesus Christ has been faithful in taking care of you? When was the last time you felt He did not meet a certain need when you thought it was critical? What did you conclude?

He Is Always Quick to Remind Us of His Faithfulness

  • Read Mark 8:5. When Jesus asked this of the disciples, do you think they were reminded of the other similar miracle? Read Mark 6:38. How would you have felt to have just replayed this scenario? Do we remind those we love that we “just had this conversation…” and perhaps speak with impatience or sarcasm? Why does Jesus not get impatient at our slowness of heart? Read Psalm 103:14.
  • How did Jesus respond to them? Can you fathom being in the presence of God, and watching this miracle take place? What do you think you would have seen?

 He Will Never Let Us Down

  • Read Mark 8:6-8. How had the disciples just exhibited a lack of faith in this situation? How do you show that same lack of faith when He has been faithful in your past? Read Isaiah 51:1. What was Isaiah saying in this verse?
  • Can someone share the difference between the leftovers in Mark 6 and these leftovers? What were the differences in the baskets? Read Acts 9:24-25. What was the similarity between the basket that held Paul, and the ones the disciples gathered up?
  • Which miracle do you think the disciples would remember longer? Why?
  • Why is our God able to do greater miracles as our faith grows? Read Ephesians 3:20. Is He restricted by anything?
  • Who is Jesus to you—the One who can calm the sea, or the One you are not sure can duplicate a miracle? Why?

Close

The lessons in this passage of the feeding of the four thousand are those we can absorb into our lives, reminding ourselves of the care and faithfulness of our God. If we start thinking of Him creating the universe, we are soon boggled in mind at His omnipotence and can get no further than being able to take the proverbial baby steps. For instance, when the disciples saw Him calm the raging sea with just a word, it brought forth the exclamation, “Who can this be, that even the wind and sea obey Him?!” Yet soon after, when He—for a second time—was going to feed a crowd, the disciples asked, “What do you want us to do, go buy bread?” The enormity of what they were continually witnessing must have blown their minds.

He is a faithful, good, patient God, and loves us much more than we can imagine. As we strive for sanctification through obedience to His word, desiring to please Him, love Him, and rest in His care, may we always look to Him to care for us, knowing He has promised to see that we have what we need for life. He has pledged that if we hunger and thirst for righteousness, He will provide everything we need. And He will never back down on His word.

 

 

June 6, 2021

MATTHEW: THE JOURNEY CONTINUES

June 06, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Sometimes, for any number of reasons, we may be uneasy in a group made up of those outside our comfort zone. Will you share an experience that comes to mind and tell what happened?

This week we entered the New Testament era as we began the book of Matthew. We are now on the home stretch of reading the entire Bible during the first six months of 2021. The Jewish nation lived four hundred years between the Old and New Testaments, but God—though silent to the Jews—was working to bring about the fulfillment of the prophecies that would herald the coming Messiah. As the book of Matthew opens, the genealogy of Jesus Christ is given, followed by His birth, preparation for, and the beginning of, His ministry and teaching on earth. Join us as we learn important lessons from Matthew, chapter 9.

Focal Passage: The Book of Matthew

            God wants to use all of us

  • Read Matthew 9:9. What were typically some of the unfavorable words used to describe most tax collectors? If you were a Jewish tax collector, and therefore a traitor to your nation, where would you most likely have found friends?
  • What do you think Jesus saw as He looked at Matthew and told him to follow Him? What do you think Matthew saw that caused him to leave his job and follow Jesus?
  • What may have been going through the minds of the disciples as they realized Jesus had just invited a tax collector to join their intimate group?
  • What lesson can we learn when Jesus called a man who was an outcast in society to follow and be used by Him? Can a person get too far away for God to use?

God cares about all of us

  • Read Matt. 9:10. What was the significance of Jesus reclining at the table in Matthew’s house? How comfortable would you be in a large gathering of those who are completely outside your comfort zone?
  • Why do you think Matthew wanted his friends to meet Jesus, and Jesus to meet his friends?
  • What does it take to have the kind of passion to see your friends and family have the opportunity to meet Jesus Christ?
  • How do Matthew’s actions line up with your efforts to evangelize your circle of influence?

God wants to reach more of us

  • Read Matt. 9:11. Although Jesus is in the early months of His ministry, what opinions had the Pharisees already formed? Why were they criticizing Him for eating with those with whom they themselves would not mingle?
  • How did He respond? Read 2 Peter 3:9. How far away from God were you when He saved you? Did you take your own path at some point since then, and return?
  • Read Ezekiel 33:11 and Matthew 9:36. Why will the churches never be full enough to satisfy Jesus? Do you love people that much?

 God expects more from us

  • Read Matt. 9:12-13. Jesus had to rebuke the Pharisees for their attitude. How do you think this was received? What were some of the statements made about their character that you can recall from Scripture?
  • What did Jesus mean, God desires “mercy and not sacrifice”?
  • What more does God expect that we Christians do, besides ‘business as usual’?
  • What are some of the character flaws that we must guard against, so that we don’t unconsciously become like the Pharisees?
  • Why is it so much more important to point people to Christ, rather than telling them they do not deserve to be near Him?

Close

It is extremely easy to read through these chapters in Matthew, letting the familiar words wash over us, but miss the lessons to be learned. Had you been one of those whom Jesus called to follow Him, you might have been with some of your friends, perhaps even with those whose vocation was the same as your own. They were all no doubt forming a bond with each other and with Jesus. There may have been some curiosity as they grew in their relationship with Him, but there was probably also a thrill of being with someone so special.

Until Matthew. Can you imagine being in a group today of a similar type, when suddenly the one in charge calls to someone who is abhorred by your nation, working for another government, overtly cheating hard-working citizens, and saying, “Come, follow Me!” Then perhaps asking you to make him welcome? We would say, “Jesus—seriously? Really??” Do you think they perhaps grumbled that night? Yet they went with Jesus the next day to a feast at Matthew’s house.

It is much easier to read God’s word than to carry it out, isn’t it? In our case, we might need to show love to someone who has committed sins so vile our family never spoke of them; or someone whose political views are so removed from ours that we feel it might gag us to be nice; or someone from the other end of the financial spectrum who wants to date our daughter…and on and on. But Jesus gave us a responsibility when He returned to heaven that we would be the caretakers of His ministry, loving those who are around us and seeing that they are introduced to Christ. That’s our duty, and we will answer to Him as to whether we were faithful to Him who called us. Remember that to love God is to love people. It is like a coin, each side being a total of who we are. Or should be. May we never forget that.

 

 

 

May 30, 2021

MAJOR ON THE MINORS:

GOD LOVES YOU! HE ALWAYS HAS, HE ALWAYS WILL

May 30, 2021

Charles Billingsley

Don’t share a name, but do you know someone immediately becomes defensive whenever there’s a conflict? Is there a solution?

As we hear part two of our mini-series on the Minor Prophets (minor only when compared in length of their books to Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel), today we learn from Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Malachi is a beautiful book, not only in the amazing love language of God, but also because Malachi foresaw the coming of John the Baptist, the first coming of the Messiah, as well as His much anticipated second coming! As the church, we are in the age between His first and second comings. This sermon will wrap up the last of the messages from the Old Testament as we continue reading the Bible through in six months. This coming week we will begin reading the New Testament, after a four-hundred-year silence between the Old and New Testaments.

Focal Passage: The Books of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

 

            ‘This is the message that God gave to Israel through the prophet Malachi. “I have

            always loved you,” says the Lord! But you retort, “Really? How have you loved us?”’

            The question for us should be, “Do you love ME, says the Lord?”

 

What should our love for Him look like?

            God’s love deserves our Finest

  • Read Malachi 1:6. What is the first indictment (prior to destruction) that God brings to Israel’s attention? In our homes today, how do we feel when our children—or others—show contempt for our expectations of behavior?
  • What are the two ways in which we can best give glory and honor to God? Does anyone other than God deserve our worship and praise? What do these two things indicate we have in our hearts? How does worship require sacrifice?
  • Read Mal. 1:6b-7. How did the people show contempt for God? Read Deut. 17:1. About how many years before Malachi did God give this law to Moses?
  • What are some ways in which we today “offer” Him ourselves in a manner that is less than our best? Do we often give Him what is left over? How, or what?

God’s love demands our Faithfulness

  • Read Mal. 2:13-14. What was this accusation directed at? What are some issues that are fostered by such sins as the men of Israel were engaging in—both at that time and even in today’s world?
  • What are other areas of our lives where we can let an “unfaithful” spirit creep in? What if it is done in secret? Why does it matter so much to God how we live? How will our lifestyle impact our testimony within our sphere of community?
  • Can we truly worship God if there is unfaithfulness or a sinful lifestyle in our life?

God’s love is worthy of our Firsts

  • Read Mal. 3:6-10. How could God have been more gracious than to beg them to return to Him, and be restored to fellowship? How did the people respond?
  • In what manner had they cheated Him? What does He tell them to do? Why are people so afraid to give their money away and “prove” God?
  • If a tithe is 10% of our income, what are some other ways we can tithe the “first fruits” of our lives? Do you really believe that you can’t outgive God? Why?

 God’s love secures our Future

  • Read Mal. 3:1. Who is referred to as “My messenger? Read Isa. 40:3. Is this the same messenger? When were those two prophecies fulfilled?
  • Who was the Messenger of the Covenant he refers to? Did the people miss it?
  • Read Mal. 3:2. What is God referring to in this verse? Has this age come yet?
  • Is God worthy of our finest behavior? Of our faithfulness? Of our Firsts?

 

Close

The message from Malachi is one we wish we could have memorized in our heads. As we read the condemnations God brought against His beloved people, Israel, it oozes at the same time with love so rich and pure as He assures them—and therefore us—that He has always loved them, He currently loves them, and will always love them! Did you notice how defensive their attitude became with each of God’s questions? if we will but forsake our sinful ways, He says He will allow us to return to Him and He will return to us. Does that resonate in your soul, when you think back on the pit from which He saved you? The question-and-answer format that is displayed here is an amazing criterion for us to use for a self-examination.

Does the lack of respect in their answers indicate to you that they did not receive His love, which He had shown for millennia? It shows their hearts were not broken by their sin. Do you have a broken and contrite heart from the times you have chosen sin over faithfulness? Or possibly you are even now in a situation that is convicting you. Are you sick enough at the sin in your life to take real steps to end whatever it is that is causing you distress and grief? The return to God is one step, with a desperate cry for help. Don’t be unfaithful, even in your thought life, your secret closet, or with your eyes.

Do you trust Him with your finest worship? Or are you still seething because the hymnals have been donated to another church? Or someone was snippy to you? Put those things in the past, remembering that Christ died for you on the cross at Calvary when you were His enemy. You must not hold bitterness or anger, or any other emotion that will defile the temple of your body—causing you to offer Him a blemished sacrifice.

He is so worthy! Were we to have even a minor glimpse into heaven we would never be the same. The old dirt that sticks to us now would fade away, and all things one day will be new. We will be new creatures, with natures of love. But this world is a practice field, meant to train us in the way in which we should go. Are you learning these lessons and giving Him your best every day?

 

 

 

 

May 23, 2021

MAJOR ON THE MINORS

May 23, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Do you recall learning “cause and effect” phrases as a young person? Perhaps you recall “a rolling stone gathers no moss,” or “you reap what you sow.” Can you share a memory?

Today and next Sunday we will be looking at the twelve “Minor Prophets,” as we finish reading the last few books of the Old Testament. As we continue this journey of reading through the Bible in six months, we find the warnings of these prophets could have been spoken recently in any area of the world and the messages would have been just as relevant as they were nearly a few thousand years ago. This Sunday we will concentrate on Amos, followed by key verses from Hosea, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. Each of these men warned the people to seek the Lord God in order to avoid destruction!

Focal Passage: The Book of Amos

            God Calls Us to Be Holy and Punishes Our Sin

He calls us to listen

  • Read Amos 5:1a. Even though Amos was calling the house of Israel to listen to what he was saying, who, then and now, was/is asking us to listen? What are some of the distractions that assault our senses from the time we wake each day, causing us to possibly overlook the voice of God?
  • How can we develop the habit (or discipline) to “listen” for God during our time of prayer? Read Isaiah 48:12-13. Who was speaking in this passage? Who was He speaking to?
  • We want God to listen to us. How can we develop the habit of quietness when we desire Him to speak to us?

There are always devastating consequences to our sin

  • Read Amos 5:2 What were some of the heinous sins that God was going to punish Israel for? What hope did she have in this verse? Read Romans 3:23. Are we all under the same condemnation?
  • If a believer continues in a lifestyle of sin, how does his become desensitized to it? (De“sin”sitized!) What will eventually happen?
  • Read Job 4:8, Psalm 126:5, and Proverbs 22:8a. What do each of these verses promise us?

But He never leaves us without hope

  • Read Amos 5:4. How did Amos finish the scathing warning of coming judgment? Why did God give them hope if they would repent? How is this like Jonah as he preached in Nineveh?
  • Read Hebrews 2:3a, Rom. 6:23, and Psa. 32:2a. How do any of us have hope in this world? Are we passionate about taking this story of a living hope to a lost world around us? What are some ways we can do that if we’re just one person?

 But we must obey

  • Read Amos 5:6. What is the very important word in this verse? Why? If you personalize the verse with your family name and community, would you be honest with yourself as to which side of the “or” you are currently living on?
  • Read Romans 6:16. Is obedience a choice for believers? Read 1 John 2:3. Again, is obedience a choice for a believer?
  • Read Colossians 1:21-23. What will Jesus do that will bring Him glory as we stand before God? What will you have to offer Him from your days on this earth?

Close

The warnings of these prophets—ordinary men who were called by God to proclaim judgment was coming—are as important in this day in which we live as they were in the days long ago. Our world is a mass of confusion with most countries divided down the middle between those who desire moral values and godly living and those who live the motto of the ending of the book of Judges, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

What can we do? How can we change the world? It is so easy to feel we are alone in our thinking, and let despair overtake us. We look at our past and feel burdened with the failures we recall; we look at the future and the way seems unclear, the problems seem too big to handle and the help we see insufficient; we look at the present and are filled with fear of the next step. It’s easier to stay within our comfort zone, be silent, keep from making waves, and stay away from the news. But is it right?

Is that the life Jesus called us to live in Matthew 28? Hardly. The apostles, certainly, could have easily gone back to fishing. Few of them would have envisioned a death of martyrdom—until James was beheaded (Acts 12) and it “pleased the Jews” [religious leaders]. God does not want us to live afraid of men, either. Although we never foresaw a world where Christians are so hated, it is time for us to put fear aside and stand up; put our past behind us and remember all our sins were hung on the cross (Col. 2:11-15). The present day is a gift to us from God, that we should “rejoice and be glad in it. This is the day the Lord has made!” (Psa. 118:24). The future? There is only one way to handle it: stay in the Word, reading and memorizing, engrafting and meditating, until it is deep in your soul, ready to be a “lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path” (Psa. 119:105), so that you don’t sin. Love Him, talk to Him, pray to Him, obey Him, and LISTEN to Him! It may be a still, small voice, or it may be thunder. Be ready! 

Key Verses From the other Minor Prophets:

  • Hosea 5:15: “I will depart and return to My place until they recognize their guilt and seek My face; they will search for Me in their distress.”
  • Joel 2:12-13: “Even now—this is the Lord’s declaration—turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear your hearts, not just your clothes, and return to the Lord your God. For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger; abounding in faithful love, and He relents from sending disaster.”
  • Obadiah 1:3-4: “Your arrogant heart has deceived you, you who live in clefts of the rock, in your home on the heights, who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’ Though you seem to soar like an eagle and make your nest among the stars, even from there I will bring you down. This is the Lord’s declaration.”
  • Jonah 3:10: “God saw their actions—that they had turned from their evil ways—so God relented from the disaster He had threatened them with, and He did not do it.”
  • Micah 6:8: “Mankind, He has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
  • Nahum 3:4-5: “Because of the continual prostitution of the prostitute, the attractive mistress of sorcery, who treats nations and clans like merchandise by her prostitution and sorcery, I am against you. This is the declaration of the Lord of Armies. I will lift your skirts over your face and display your nakedness to nations, your shame to kingdoms.”
  • Habakkuk 1:12-13: “Are you not from eternity, Lord my God? My Holy One, You will not die. Lord, You appointed them to execute judgment; my Rock, You destined them to punish us. Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, and You cannot tolerate wrongdoing.”
  • Zephaniah 3:15: “The Lord has removed your punishment; He has turned back your enemy. The King of Israel, the Lord, is among you; you need no longer fear harm.”

 

 

May 16, 2021

DANIEL’S CRY FOR MERCY

May 16, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

As a child, did you ever wish upon a star? Those childhood wishes probably would reveal much about what you were like! Can you share?

Daniel was a young Israelite youth when Nebuchadnezzar invaded the land of Judah and took many Jewish boys captive to serve in his kingdom. By God’s grace, as he aged, Daniel became respected by the king and lived as an honored citizen for many years in Babylon. We read the book of Daniel this past week while reading the Bible through in the first six months of 2021 and find his life amazing. Daniel had many visions and extraordinary moments in his life as he stayed true to the Lord God. His writings not only reveal many prophecies that were fulfilled in Israel in OT times but also contain many far-reaching events that have yet to happen. Daniel was truly a man “greatly beloved” by God (Daniel 10:11)!

Focal Passage: The Book of Daniel

Know where deliverance comes from

  • Read Daniel 9:3a. Why was it astounding that Daniel turned to God when he needed answers to Jeremiah’s writings? How long had he been in Babylon by this time? What were some reasons that made his allegiance to God a marvel?
  • Read Hebrews 11:6. What must be in the heart before one can come to God with prayer? What did it mean for Daniel to prostrate himself in the act of humility and mourning?

Make things right with Him

  • Read Dan. 9:4. Why did Daniel begin his prayer with praise? What were the attributes he was praising God for? Explain why you think Daniel knew God well.
  • Read verse 5. Why does he say “we” as he aligns himself with his nation? Read Nehemiah 1:4-6a. What is strikingly similar in both passages?
  • Read Neh. 1:6b-7. How was Nehemiah’s act of identifying with the sins of his country the same as Daniel’s?
  • When you pray for America in this year of 2021, having seen the corruption and wickedness that is prevalent, why is it necessary for you to confess the sins of the USA by nationality, rather than personally?

 Just listen

  • Read Dan. 9:6-7. Whom had the people closed their ears to, that caused their country to be taken into captivity? How long was the captivity for?
  • What are some ways we have in the world today of hearing from God? How many do you take advantage of? Read Malachi 1:13a. Do you know anyone who attends church but resents it? How can you help them or love them?
  • How can you form the habit of listening to God?

Righteousness belongs to Him

  • Read Dan. 9:18-19a. Why did Daniel appeal to the Lord to act in compassion, rather than reciting his righteous acts?
  • Read Jeremiah 33:3. Does the knowledge that Daniel was reading and familiar with Jeremiah’s writings impact you in any way (see Dan. 9:2)?

Steps for putting Daniel 9:19a into practice:

  • Lord, hear! Cry out to God whenever you have a choice. Everything you do will be done for your good or the good of someone else. Choose to love them!
  • Lord, forgive! Go from praise to confession and repentance, for “there is no one who does not sin” (Eccl. 7:20). Be “broken and contrite” (Psalm 51:17).
  • Lord, listen! Let your requests, desires, and your needs be known to God and honor Him by being still and waiting for Him to commune with you (Psa. 46:10a).
  • Lord, act! When you call on God, you will see Him act on your behalf, and you will begin to understand what a living hope He is (Romans 10:14)!

Close

There are so many organizations that use the phrase, “Changing ____ One ___ at a Time!” Or they might say, how do you climb a mountain? One step at a time. The possible options are endless, but the point is always the same: the initial beginning requires just one step, one action, one moment in time when you choose to begin your goal. Some days you may feel as if you are taking the proverbial three steps forward, two steps backward, but you will make progress.

What is the goal for all of us? As we learned recently, it is “to bring glory to God and enjoy Him forever.” If we put the principles in verse 19a into action, we will see God act in our lives, and we will have an increase of faith that will amaze us. It takes commitment to begin those steps, and discipline to continue taking them, especially when you feel like quitting.

Daniel could have quit! Who would have blamed him? He had no parents, no teachers, or no insulated life that was able to shelter him from the world in Babylon into which he was thrust. Can you imagine a young teen being torn from his family and homeland, yet asserting himself with such character that the king of a country would see something extraordinary in his life? Over the years he saw God act in ways we never will: seeing his friends come out of a fiery furnace with joy, himself being thrown into a den of lions and surviving, interpreting dreams and visions, even seeing King Nebuchadnezzar graze for seven years and then returned to his throne! Daniel’s prophecies are not over—they are still being fulfilled today. Wouldn’t it be so awesome to someday hear God say of us as He did of Daniel, “You are greatly beloved”!

May 9, 2021

LAMENTATIONS: THE RIGHT CRY FOR HELP

May 09, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

What is the lowest point you’ve ever reached in life? Can anyone share? What lessons did you learn from it?

Sometimes the pain we experience seems more than we can bear. Those who have a solid relationship with God can see His faithfulness in past seasons of grief, but even then life can be very tough. Jeremiah the prophet, as he wrote the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations, found the destruction of Jerusalem and the spiritual destitution of his people Israel to cause him more suffering than he thought he could handle, and he cried out to God for relief. As we continue reading the Bible through in these first six months of 2021, we find there’s much  encouragement to be gleaned in this short book by “the Weeping Prophet.”

Focal Passage: the book of Lamentations

The Right Cry for Help

  • Read Lamentations 1:2. What were the circumstances under which Jeremiah wrote this lament for his beloved homeland? Why does he call the other nations “lovers”?
  • Read 1:5. This verse lists the reasons for Judah’s destruction by God. What had she done? Although different circumstances, who are some other OT saints who cried out to God for deliverance in times of emotional or physical agony

Our first turn should be to Him

  • Read Lam. 3:52-54. Why did Jeremiah feel that everyone had become his enemy? (In last week’s sermon, how was his message of warning to Judah received by the rulers, the religious leaders, and the people? Did they hate him for his dire warnings from God?)
  • Can a person go much lower in pain and sorrow than to feel like death would be a release? Explain your answer.
  • Read Lam. 3:55. How was Jeremiah able to pull himself out of his anguish enough to call upon God? What other options are generally tried first, as we seek to relieve our own suffering? Why is it usually a last resort to draw near to God rather than to go to Him immediately?

 His promises are absolute

  • Read Lam. 3:56-57. When Jeremiah cried out to God, what was God’s response? How is that restated in James 4:8a? How do you know that is a promise for us?
  • How was Jeremiah’s cry to God similar to David’s trust in Psalm 23:4? Read 1 Peter 5:7. Is this also a promise that we know we can trust? Can you share a favorite verse that promises God’s help during times of trouble?

He will do the heavy lifting

  • Read Lam. 3:58-61. Once Jeremiah breaks through his chains of agony, where does he begin to focus his thoughts? What does he start to thank God for?
  • How did Jeremiah relinquish control of the revenge he might have wanted to exact on his enemies? Read Romans 12:19. How have you been able to turn your desire to “get even” with someone over to God? Were you able to let it go?

Nothing is too hard for Him

  • Read Lam. 3:22-25. As Jeremiah began to focus on God, with His past faithfulness and constant care, how did he turn his own grief to faith? What promise did he give us as an anchor we can hold on to through our storms?

Close

Scripture is full of beautiful passages that have resulted in hymns and songs of worship throughout church history. Some, like those based on Psalm 23, are too many to number; others, like “I Am His and He Is Mine” (Jer. 31:3), “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” (Job 19:23), or “Grace Greater Than All My Sin” (Rom. 5:20), will probably be sung in churches until our Lord returns. A favorite hymn, though, was taken from Jeremiah’s words in Lamentations 3:21-23, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” He spoke words that resonate in our hearts as we remind ourselves of the faithful watch care our Father provides, but he went on to write, “His compassions fail not, they are new every morning.” Do you see the wonder of that?

Would our depths of pain, sorrow, or grief be lighter if we were truly able to grasp how much God loves us? Probably. We tend to think in finite terms of love, one that is often more conditional than unconditional. Sometimes we may even struggle with doubts that we love Him as He desires us to. God’s first commandment—that we love Him—should be our top priority. If we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and spirit, we will always be aware of having Him near, and when seasons in life get out of control, we grab that anchor that will be there no matter how bad the storm. We need to train our minds to recognize that we need Him every moment of every day for every need!

When night comes, when the thoughts on one’s pillow create unrest and worry, we call out His name and He’s there to comfort. Where can I go from Your presence, David asks in Psalm 139:7-12. He then concludes, nowhere, Lord. Or as Peter proclaimed in John 6:67-69 to Jesus, when He asked if the disciples wanted to leave Him, “Lord, to whom should we go? Only You have the words of eternal life.”

May that be our conscious refrain as we come into trials, as we go through them with His help, and come out on the other side with thanksgiving. Where else can we go? Only He has the words of eternal life for us.

May 2, 2021

WISE WORDS: THE RIGHT KIND OF PRIDE

May 02, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

How do you respond when you’ve said something you know to be true, and someone contradicts you, either publicly or privately?

Last week we read King Solomon’s wise words regarding the dangerous sin of pride, coupling it with like passages from Isaiah. As we continue reading the Bible through in six months, this week we read the book of the prophet Jeremiah, who time and again warned those in Judah that God was angry at their many sins—so angry, in fact, that they were about to go into exile. Today we ask, is it ever okay to have a sense of pride? We see that Jeremiah wrote there is a time when it can be acceptable to God to boast. The largest book of prophecy in the Old Testament, he wrote all under the inspiration of and authority of “Thus says the Lord.”

Focal Passages: Proverbs 16:18; the book of Jeremiah.

 Pride in Knowing God

  • Read Jeremiah 9:23. As we learned last week from Isaiah, pride is a sin that God hates. What does Jeremiah say that one should never boast about? Why?
  • Who is the braggart thinking of, as he boasts of wisdom, strength, or riches?
  • Read Verse 24a. What can we boast of within God’s framework? How is it possible to take pride in one’s knowledge and understanding of God without sounding self-righteous? In boasting that you know God, where must be the focus?
  • Read 2 Peter 3:18. How does this verse encapsulate the admonitions of Jeremiah, as Judah was embracing idol worship while rejecting God’s truth?

 

Pride in Seeking God

  • Read Jer. 9:24b. Have you ever made an appointment to meet with someone when you had no idea what to expect? As you search for God, what do you need to know and believe about Him in order to find Him? Read Prov. 8:17. What are some false expectations that must be cast away in order to find God?
  • Read Psalm 63:1. Was David seeking for God in a manner that was pleasing to Him? Explain your answer.
  • Read Jer. 29:13. What do you know about God’s promises? Can you trust Him?

 

 Pride in Seeking Truth

  • Read Jer. 9:24c. Why can no government or civil organization legislate laws to empower our country with love, justice, or righteousness?
  • Where is the only place you find Truth? Is it relative, as the world teaches? Read 2 Corinthians 5:17. What is the only way man’s heart can be changed?
  • Read John 8:31-32. Why is it so vital that we know the word of God?

 

Pride in Glorifying Him

  • Read verse 24d. What does “these” refer to? How does this verse end? What does that mean?
  • The Westminster Catechism’s first question is “What is the chief end of man?” If you ever memorized it, what is the answer? Read 1 Cor. 10:31 and Romans 11:36. Do these verses answer the question, “why was I born?”
  • Do you often meditate on God, contemplating His love for you, and your security within His hand? What can you do to know Him better?

 

Close

Becoming parents—or functioning in a role that requires parental control—gives us a glimpse of the excitement that comes to most families when they learn a baby is coming. Much time and preparation is involved in planning for a lifetime of joy, hoping for great happiness in watching them grow, and imagining the loving relationships in the family. If then, we are able to get so filled with gladness over an expected “bundle of joy,” how can we ever doubt that God has put all His resources together to provide a lifetime of delight for His children? He made us to be in a relationship with Him, as we learned, to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever, and our joy and humble pride that He has chosen us should fill us with awe and wonder.

Where does it often break down? Within a family, we see a child hit the “Terrible Twos,” so called because of behavior problems that begin about that age. In reality, most little ones are just then becoming aware of their small ability to accomplish tasks and they want to exercise their touch of independence. What they feel as a “Big Boy moment” may be seen by parents as a rejection of them, as the child becomes someone other than their sweet baby, resulting in times of friction. Is that what God sees from us? Do we begin to exert independence from Him, and decide to go our own way into the world?

The child who grows in knowledge and understanding of loving parents, and whose life is in harmony with them, brings joy. Is that how we interact with our heavenly Father? Are we bringing glory to Him by our lives, and in return enjoying His fellowship and goodness? These are not rhetorical questions but should be something we are concerned about in our spirit, just as we concern ourselves with physical and emotional needs. Those who love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and spirit will want to please Him in every way they can. And certainly, times of sin breaks our heart, and hopefully brings quick repentance. Anything less is not giving Him the glory due His name, nor enjoying Him as He desires. He has all creation at His call to share with us! Why would we settle for a life of mediocrity?

April 25, 2021

WISE WORDS: THE DANGER OF PRIDE

April 25, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Do you consider yourself to be capable of meeting most challenges, or are you low on the self-confidence scale and are constantly seeking self-help books?

Today we will finish our mini-series on the wise words of King Solomon, as he wrote in the book of Proverbs, concerning the dangers of pride. We will couple it with passages from the book of Isaiah, which we are finishing as we read through the Bible in six months. Both the prophet and the king illustrate the path of destruction that pride can lead us down, for it is a constant struggle nearly everyone faces. We know God hates pride, and is against anyone whose life reflects the modern adage “It’s All About Me.” Is there help, or an opportunity for change, if your life is filled with pride? Yes! Join us as we examine this insidious sin, and learn how to overcome it.

Focal Passages: Isaiah 12:1-4; Isaiah 14:12-15; Isaiah 25:1, 9; Proverbs 16:18.

            In our success, pride seeks to stop us

  • Read Proverbs 16:18. Everyone seems to battle the desire to be appreciated for what we look like, what we do, or how we act. As we experience praise for accomplishments, what are some results that can occur? How can moments of praise turn into pride?
  • Read Isaiah 14:12a. How do you think the person* in this passage possibly began to be filled with pride? How can a person be unaware that pride is slowly infiltrating their life?

Pride makes us believe what is not true

  • Read Isa. 14:13-14a. As this person continued to be constantly receiving praise, what did his mindset reflect? How did he build himself up in his thinking? Does he remind you of any other Old Testament figure? Read Daniel 4:29-30. How were these two men alike?
  • What was Satan probably whispering in his ear in times of achievement? What was the biggest lie that he was believing?
  • If someone tries to help one who is succumbing to pride, how do you think it may be received?

 Pride causes us to replace God with self

  • Read Isa. 14:14b. What was the final pinnacle this person aimed for, once he had achieved the goals in his life? Why did he believe he could attain the level of God?
  • When each successive accomplishment is a win, what happens to our belief that we can do it on our own? Who will get the credit for the great job? Does the person with that much pride need God at all?

Our pride never takes us where we believe we’re going

  • Where does the person who is filled with pride think his winning streak is going to end? Read Isa. 14:15. Does he ever believe he will eventually fall? Why or why not?
  • Does anyone recall what the term “the deepest regions of the pit” mean?
  • In their false picture of a self-made life, will they ever envision themselves doing anything except coming out on top?

The right attitude to defeat pride

  • Read Isa. 12:1-4. What are some obvious differences between this passage and the one we read in Isaiah 14?
  • If someone wants to truly change from a mindset of pride to one of humility, what steps can they put into effect to stop worshiping self and start worshiping God?
  • How can one learn to look to God for all things? How can we learn to put our faith, trust, and worship in God and God alone?

Close

Pride is a disease of the spirit that can destroy us just as surely as cancer can kill the body, for God is “opposed to the proud” (James 4:6) and will “destroy the house of the proud” (Proverbs 15:25).  Praise—or even the internal emotion of accomplishment—is very addicting. It is a euphoric feeling that we want more of, even though we may not consciously make a connection between the praise and the desire to keep riding the “high.” And it may be so gradual that it can be years before we attain to a level where we feel we are very special and therefore deserve the glory.

We seldom—if ever—come across someone who has a desire to self-destruct, yet the downward spiral is so subtle that it can be hard to recognize one is on the path to pride. The successes in life foster a sense of accomplishment—or praise from the world, which creates the desire for more of the same euphoria; Satan moves in, and starts feeding lies to the mind (“You are so awesome!” “Look what you did all by yourself!”); the pride goes deep into the soul; we become the enemy of God; we are destroyed. It is not an overnight happening.

The praise of men is an elixir. In John 12:43 John mentions that some of the rulers believed Jesus to be the Son of God, but they would not confess Him, fearing they would be put out of the synagogue, “for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” How very sad. Their choice was going to seal their eternal life, where they would have all of eternity to consider their actions.

There are hundreds of verses in the Bible that can be used to train our minds to glorify God. Isaiah 25:1 and 25:9 are two great verses of praise. Nothing is too much trouble to give to the One who paid for your sins!

Here are steps to be certain you are overcoming pride: 1) Be grateful for all the things God has done for you; 2) Deflect praise, giving it to another, or to God, but above all, don’t seek it; 3) Honor others, spending more time praising them for what they’ve done than spending time thinking of yourself; and 4) Make sure to always focus on God’s word.

 

*Opinion is divided whether the reference in Isaiah is the King of Babylon, or Lucifer (Satan) as he fell from heaven. The lesson to be learned and the result will remain clear in our lives, whichever it is.

 

 

April 18, 2021

WISE WORDS: UNDER THE SUN

April 18. 2021

Pastor Charles Billingsley

If you have a young person in your life, what seems to be their focus as they contemplate their agenda as an adult? Are you pleased to see the decisions they make, no matter how minor?

Today is our second message in our mini-series of “Wise Words,” as we focus on the wisdom of Solomon while reading the Bible through in six months. We will look at the book of Ecclesiastes, the last of his three books, written when he was an older man, looking back on his life. Even in a life journey fraught with mistakes on every side, he was able to come to a correct conclusion, that it is God, and God alone, who gives us everything we have in our lives and our whole duty is to Him. As we witness among acquaintances, it is a wonderful book to pull from the Old Testament, as it speaks to today’s generation who are searching for the meaning of life. We all know someone who longs to understand why their life is empty, and how they can fill the void.

Focal Passages: The Book of Ecclesiastes; James 4:14; Genesis 2:5-11; Colossians 3:1-3.

            Solomon’s Search for Meaning

                  In Education

  • Read Eccl. 1:1-3. Before looking at Solomon’s searches for meaning to life, we need to look at his manner of writing. What is the single word he used often in this book? What did it mean? Why was this word important to him?
  • Besides the word “Hevel” (vapor, smoke, short-lived), Solomon had an expression that he used often; what was it? What was significant about it? What did he mean by often saying “under the sun”?
  • Read Eccl. 1:12-18. How does it seem Solomon was feeling as he wrote this passage? In verse 14, why was he frustrated? In the same verse, he uses a phrase that he will use in most chapters: “striving after (or, chasing) the wind.” What sense of futility is implied by these words? In verse 18b, what has he learned from this pursuit? Was he fulfilled? Do you know anyone like that? Have they gained the happiness they tried so hard to find?

In Hedonism

  • Read 2:1-3. What pursuits does he strive for in these three verses? Did he find his heart’s desire?
  • As he ended verse 3, why did Solomon use a word that could be translated “few”? Is that how most of us view the length of our life? Why or why not?

In Personal Accomplishments or Materialism

  • Read 2:4-10a. What were some of the things Solomon sought to do or get during this time, as he tried to satisfy his emptiness? In verse 8, what does he seem to have acquired during this phase of his life?
  • Read verse 10b. What was his opinion of his accomplishments? Read verse 11. When we see “Yet,” what are we to assume? What was his final summation?

Conclusion #1—We all die

  • Read Eccl. 2:12-17. What conclusion did Solomon come to as he studied the differences of those who live foolishly and those who live wisely?
  • How did his attitude seem in verses 16-17? How much truth was in his statements? Can you explain your answer?

Conclusion #2—Someone gets your stuff

  • Read Eccl. 2:18-23. What was Solomon’s final conclusion as he looked at his wealth? Is this still a concern today for people who have riches? Should it be a matter that one gives considerable thought to? Explain your answer.
  • He ends by calling this conclusion “a great evil.” What did he mean?

Conclusion #3—But it’s all in God’s hands

  • Read Eccl. 2:24. What did Solomon think that he had learned? Was his lesson tied directly to his labor, or could it be separate from it? Explain.
  • Read 2:25 and 12:1, 13-14. What is Solomon’s final conclusion? Was he correct?
  • Would a person who wants to spend their life bringing people to Christ be more fulfilled than the person who lives for themselves? Can you reconcile both?

Close

Most of us will never have the riches nor wisdom of Solomon. Even so, to read of a man who had everything he could ever have wanted only to lose it, is one of the biggest catastrophes we can imagine. But in a lesser way, aren’t we all susceptible to such a falling away? To get fixated upon our “stuff” can turn our hearts away from the Giver of all things.

As you journeyed with Solomon through his highs and lows as he sought to find the purpose in life, did you often sense futility, anger, frustration, or confusion? Those are some of the real feelings of those who want to fill the void in their lives but don’t know how.

Can we help? As mentioned in opening, Ecclesiastes can make an open door into an unbeliever’s life if they read it, and then be open to discussion. When we were created, God placed a emptiness in our soul that is filled only by a relationship with Him. Until one decides to live for Him, life will be meaningless. If only the world could see this!

We must remember that life is “smoke”—a vapor that is here today and gone tomorrow, with the years flying by. We want to make our lives count for Christ. Even Solomon himself realized what was important as he wrote in Proverbs 11:30, “he who wins souls is wise.” May we internalize that truth!

 

 

April 11, 2021

WISE WORDS: HOW TO LOVE

April 11. 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

If you are married, can you share the best advice you have ever received, and tell how it has impacted your marriage?

In the midst of our challenge to read the Bible through in six months, we want to have a mini-series as we focus on the three wisdom books of King Solomon—the wisest man who ever lived. Solomon wrote Song of Solomon as a young man in love, anticipating marriage to his chosen. Later, as a middle-aged man, he wrote the Proverbs, and even later, Ecclesiastes, as an older adult looking back on his life and mistakes. As we center on both the literal and spiritual meanings of this Song, we learn God has established guidelines for the marriage of a husband and wife, meant to last through the great times as well as the trials. We will study the books in the order Solomon wrote them. Join us as we learn from these “Wise Words.”

Focal Passages: The Book of the Song of Solomon; 1 Cor. 7:3-5; Matt. 22:36-38.

            It Is a Love of Overwhelming Desire

  • Read Song 1:7. This woman longed to be with her intended. What struggle was she having as she searched for him? Why was she so concerned about searching for him among the other shepherds? How does her desire to protect her reputation compare with the actions of many young women today?
  • In the spiritual realm, what are some actions that today’s culture considers normal, but which can erode the testimony of a believing woman or man?
  • When you decided Christ was the only means for salvation and peace, did you experience difficulty in finding Him? Why or why not? Were you concerned about your reputation among your friends?
  • Can you share some of the feelings you recall as you anticipated the beautiful years of marriage to your chosen spouse?
  • We all know people who give up on their marriage because the desire fades with time, and they want that original feeling. Why does this happen? How is that like those who quit on God in order to look for peace or happiness somewhere else?

It is a Love that Gives Completely

  • Read Song 4:6-7. If we mentally hold something back when taking our marriage vows to our spouse, what may happen? Read 1 Corinthians 7:3-5. Why

was Paul inspired to write these words to apply to our marriages?

  • Read Matthew 22:36-38. When we accept God’s provision for salvation, how does He want us to come to Him? What happens if we have an area—or areas—that we don’t turn over to Him? Why will our relationship probably fail?

It is a Love that Overcomes

  • Read Song 5:6-9. Have there been moments so tough in your marriage that only knowing your spouse will be by your side at the end of the day makes it possible for you to see the crisis through? In your spiritual life, how is the same fact true of your relationship with God? Read John 6:66-68. How does this explain your love for Jesus Christ?
  • As you look back over your marriage, can you see that your love for your spouse has grown deeper through the years? In the same way, are you able to know that your love for God is much greater than when you were younger?

It is a Love that Lasts

  • Read Song 8:6-7. What does the Shulamite woman say about love? Did she and King Solomon have the kind of love that could not be defeated? Why or why not? What does this teach us about fighting for our marriages?
  • If we mess up (“…for there is no one who does not sin,” 2 Chron. 6:36—Solomon), how do we know that God is not going to let us go? Read Rom. 8:38-39. Why does verse 39 bring such comfort?
  • Read 1 Corinthians 13:8. What does the love that God desires we have for our spouse have as its crowning jewel? If we put God first in our marriages, are we able to have the kind of love that will not fail?

 

Close

It is hard in today’s world to find couples who take marriage seriously, isn’t it? Men and women alike can be charmed by members of the opposite sex who think that, for whatever reason, someone else may offer them a way out of their own marriage, or at least give them a better time than they feel they endure at home. Divorces are so cheap that almost anyone can afford them. There are government programs available to others who need to escape a marriage that is outside the guidelines of God’s best for us. Millions live by the motto, “When the going gets tough, get out!” A beautiful marriage is definitely a gift from God.

Have you learned to be certain that you know your possible mate inside and out? Hopefully, you were able to establish a friendship that held a spotlight on every facet of their personality. A pastor used the phrase “Every date is a possible mate,” to help his children—and those in his flock—put more thought into casual dating. The bottom line is, let God lead you to a person who becomes your best friend, fall in love, and marry according to His standard.

The successful marriage is one which has both partners committed to putting God in first place. Those who are secure in their relationship with each other, and in their position as children of God, will desire to live each day as a service to each other and to Him.

Hopefully, you have learned lessons about the sanctity of marriage, and God’s will for it to be holy. If you want that, it is never too late to ask Him to help you start now, making your marriage be all it can be. It’s never too late for God to bring good out of our circumstances!

 

 

April 4, 2021

BECAUSE OUR REDEEMER LIVES

April 04. 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

If, years ago, you had been shown one snapshot from your life today, would it have given you hope or a wakeup call at a time when you needed it? Can you share?

Resurrection Sunday! What a blessed time each Easter as Christians celebrate the Risen Savior. He is alive, without a doubt! Do you know there’s a sermon about the resurrection in Job? As we continued reading through the Bible this past week, we read of Job’s sufferings at the hand of Satan. One of the most beloved church hymns is from Job 19:25, as he exclaimed in his pain and loss, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth.” What a picture of hope from a man who had lost everything yet held on to his trust in his Savior. What a great book to study, with much to encourage us when we are enduring trials.

Focal Passages: The Book of Job; Psalm 16:9-11; Acts 2:29-33,36-38; Mark 1:14-15.

            There is hope in our loss

  • What were some of the tragedies that happened to Job in the first few chapters? He is accused by his three “friends” of committing secret sin; how do you know this was not the case?
  • Read Job 19:23-26. Do you remember any specific accusations that Job had to listen to? How could he still proclaim his faith in verses 25-26?
  • What is the original meaning of the word “Redeemer”? How does it tie in with today’s “hocking” or pawning something, or going to jail?
  • How could Job, David, and others be able to face their losses, but still maintain their faith in God’s protection, provision, and salvation? Are you able to do that?

There is hope in our heartache

  • Can anyone share a time when you endured a tragedy and felt all hope was destroyed, yet God brought you through it and gave you a new hope?
  • Read Psalm 16:9-11. What were some of the trials David had been through in his life? Read Psalm 16:8; can his profound statement here be the anchor for his life? How?
  • The world—particularly in this day and time—will come down on us, and it will hurt. Can you explain how something like that can occur? Can we keep it from happening? How can we control our reaction?
  • Often, our trials are not the result of our mistakes (as Job’s were not); why does that make them so much harder to bear than if we “deserved” them?

There is hope for our eternity

  • Read Acts 2:29-33. Does anyone remember the circumstances under which Peter was preaching this sermon in Acts? What had recently occurred? In verse 32, what does he say they had all witnessed? Why did Peter say that Jesus—who had been raised from the dead—was now a source of hope?
  • Read verses 36-38. What did the men cry out when they heard Peter accuse them of crucifying the Messiah? How did Peter respond?
  • Read Mark 1:14-15. What does this verse mean to you?
  • Have you reached a time in your life when you needed to confess that your sin will keep you from eternal life in heaven unless you throw yourself on God’s mercy? (Reflect). Are there those in your family that may not have eternal life unless they cry out for God to save them? Are you praying fervently for their salvation?

Close

Have you ever noticed how our tragic circumstances can bog us down in hopelessness or depression, until we talk with someone who seems to be going through even more than their fair share of disastrous times? It doesn’t take long before we are saying to ourselves, “I thought my life is bad right now, but theirs is so much worse!” As we read the book of Job, we see a man who had everything he could have wanted, then lost it all. His sufferings weren’t the result of a sinful lifestyle, and they make anything we are going through pale in comparison.

Few of us would be willing to trade the things that are bad in our lives for anything that Job had to endure, isn’t that right? And does it serve to remind you of times in your life when you may have asked a friend if their adverse situation could be the result of sin? If so, hopefully you did not pound it in the ground as Job’s “friends” did!

Most of us would come away from the book of Job begging God to not allow Satan permission to make us to suffer as Job did. But even if that happened, would we have the perseverance to hold fast to our faith? Consider carefully if terrible affliction would cause you to deny your God, for the coming years may definitely see the powers of Hell unleashed on the earth, and Scripture tells us repeatedly that it is those who will endure to the end who will be saved. The lesson we can learn from Job, David, and others, is that our walk with God has got to be a daily, close relationship. As David wrote in Psalm 16:8a, “I have set the Lord always before me.” David didn’t start walking with God when the going got rough—he began as a young boy. In the same way, we must be sure each day is spent with our hand tightly held by the hand of the Lord.

March 28, 2021

LOVE GOD LOVE PEOPLE:

RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME, RIGHT PURPOSE

March 28. 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

 

Can you recall a time when you just happened to be in the “right place, at the right time” and

later was able to reflect, awed that you had been able to help someone? Will you share?

Amazingly enough, we are about half-way through reading the entire Bible in the first six months of 2021! Today we look at the book of Esther, named for the Jewish girl born while in captivity, who became a queen. In the large kingdom of Persia, Esther was known for her beauty and grace. As queen, she was called upon to use qualities of honor and bravery to save thousands of fellow Jews from death. We can take the lessons from Esther and apply them to our own life, as we seek to serve God in a dangerous and bizarre time in history.

Focal Passage: The Book of Esther

            The Right Place

  • Esther and Mordecai, her older cousin and guardian, were living in captivity in Persia. Can anyone relate background facts that you recall? Read Esther 2:15. What can you surmise about her character just from her actions?
  • When we say she was in the “right place,” what do we mean? How do you see God’s supernatural power at work in her life?

The Right Time

  • Will someone tell of the short episode that happened to Mordecai in Esther 2:21-23? Why was the occurrence also supernatural? How was this important?
  • Read Esther 3:1-2, 5-6. What can we learn about Haman from this passage? Do you recall any verses that stood out as you read of his activities in the book?
  • Read Esther 4:1. What did Mordecai do upon finding out Haman was going to kill the Jews? What was Esther’s position by this time? Read Esther 4:2-3. Do you remember what she did when she heard of Mordecai’s actions? What do we mean that she was at the “right time” to help her people?

The Right Purpose

  • Read Esther 4:5-8. In verse 5, why did Esther seem insulated from the situation concerning her fellow Jews? In verse 8, why would she hesitate to approach the king? What besides the issue with Haman did she have to be concerned about?
  • Read verses 14-16. Esther had everything she could have wanted. How did she react when she had to make the decision to fulfill God’s purpose for her life?

What does Esther’s example mean to us?

We must speak!

  • Read verse 14a. Why do we keep silent in our community, whether on social media or by another way? Read Acts 4:20. What if Peter and John had been silent? Do you feel fear when asked to do something that takes courage?
  • Will we be responsible to God when we do not speak out?

We are here for His purpose.

  • Read verse 14b. Are you willing to ask God, in expectation and faith, ‘will You show me why You have put me here, in this time and place’? Can you share?
  • Has there already been a time when you recognized that God has placed you where you are for this moment? Can you share?
  • Do you have a particular character quality that might be used by God? How often have you told Him that you are available for Him to use?

Our only hope is to lean completely on Him.

  • Read Esther 4:16a. What actions did Esther tell Mordecai to take? What could she have done instead? Why did she not access her power, position, or status?
  • How do you react when you will be facing a real crisis?

We must sacrifice self for His purposes.

  • Read verse 16b. Why was Esther willing to go into the king, though it might cost her life?
  • What have you sacrificed this past week for God? This past year?

Close

Today is Palm Sunday, the day that begins Passion Week, when Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem in fulfillment of prophecies, was arrested, tried, beaten, and then crucified on Friday, to rise from the grave under His own power on Sunday morning. He was, in fact, the fulfillment of John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

Today’s story of Esther, so filled with situations that could only be brought about by God, is a perfect picture of the love that Jesus was speaking of in John 15:13. Only He knew the cost of what He had come to earth to accomplish, and only He knew the sacrifice it was going to require. Likewise, Esther would not only go into the king with no idea how it would play out, but could only say, “And if I perish, I perish.” She was ready to die, if necessary, hoping to save her people.

Few of us have had to sacrifice or suffer physical abuse for our faith. Yet if that is God’s purpose for us, He will give us the grace to endure when that time comes. Esther knew that nothing she held dear—her position, status, family, friends, wealth—could be a shield between her and the law to annihilate the Jews, but she was willing to be used by God. Are you?

March 21, 2021

LOVE GOD LOVE PEOPLE: NO RESERVES, NO RETREATS, NO REGRETS

March 21. 2021

Pastor Charles Billingsley 

 

Have you ever had an awareness of something you would like to accomplish? Did you actually do it? Have you ever forgotten that once upon a time you had a dream for yourself?

The books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, written shortly before the four hundred years of silence from God between the Old and New Testaments, furnished another incredible week showing God using ordinary people for extraordinary jobs. What encouragement to read of these servants of God, who did what many would have thought impossible, as they worked to see their countrymen able to return home to Jerusalem from the captivity of Babylon and Persia! As we continue the challenge of reading through the Bible in the first six months of 2021, we look forward to reading more of the men and women whom God called to do great works for Him.

Focal Passages: Ezra, Nehemiah

The Brokenness of Nehemiah

  • Read Nehemiah 1:1-3. What do you learn about Nehemiah, reading only these three verses? Have you ever felt a love or an affinity for a place you have never been? Can you share the emotion? Do you think this was how Nehemiah felt?
  • Nehemiah asks for information concerning Jerusalem and those who had gone back; what is he told? Why do you think the word “shame” is used?
  • Read verse 4. We have not yet read of Nehemiah’s vocation in Persia, but if (as some think) he was born while in captivity, what surprises you about this verse? Why would you not expect this depth of love for God by Nehemiah?
  • Why does the information break him? How does he respond? What goals did Nehemiah have as he fasted, prayed, and sought God? In verses 5-11, his prayer to God is recorded. Read verse 11. How does he finish his prayer?

The Boldness of Nehemiah

  • What was the last sentence in Nehemiah 1 (vs. 11)? What did the cupbearer do?
  • Why was it imperative that the cupbearer of Artaxerxes be a man of impeccable character? How much did the king depend on him?
  • Read Nehemiah 2:1-2. Why was he “dreadfully” afraid?
  • Read verses 3-4. What do you think the body-language of Nehemiah was as the king asked him what was wrong, keeping in mind that he could not be sad in the king’s presence? What do you imagine his prayer to God was between the king’s question and Nehemiah’s answer? How long did he have to pray? Have you ever had time only for “Help, Lord!”? Can you share?

The Vision of Nehemiah

  • Read Neh. 2:7-8. How could Nehemiah have such a ready answer when the king asked him what he needed? What is the last sentence in verse 8? Does that explain his thoughts?
  • What background did Nehemiah have that would be needed in organizing labor and resources for building a city wall? Would he have been “ordinary” if he had told God he was not qualified?
  • Did Nehemiah have faith and confidence in himself, and his own abilities? How can you testify that he trusted God to lead him, and to show him what to do and how to do it?

Close

There is so much more to read in the book of Nehemiah. His journey to Jerusalem, his ability to detect when enemies were trying to stop the work on the wall, and his leadership as he spent twelve years governing the people are just a few examples. There are many lessons that can be learned from this godly man who had faith in the only true God.

Anytime we read Scripture we need to look for applications that will help us grow in our own faith and trust in God, as well as look with open eyes, ears, and hearts for God to call us to do something for Him. Has He ever given you a vision to work for Him? Remember, He can do it without you—but He chooses to do it with you! Here are some actions you must take in order to prepare yourself to serve Him:

  1. Stop, fast, pray and work. Seek the Lord and His timing. Continue to let Him know that you are sincere in fulfilling the purpose He has ordained for you.
  2. Get ready to face opposition. It will take tenacity, determination, discipline, and so much more. You will encounter enemies, and they will be against the work you’re preparing yourself for. Obstacles may come in the form of problems with physical health, finances, family and more—Satan has a repertoire of devices he can use to try to distract or hurt you.
  3. A God-given vision cannot be accomplished alone. As you read further in Nehemiah, you find he assigned men to repair the section of Jerusalem’s wall that was near their home, so it was personal for them. Gather friends, your Life Group, your family—anyone who is willing to work. Neh. 4:6b: “The people had a mind to work.”
  4. Stay focused on the task at hand. When enemies tried to stop the work, Nehemiah coordinated the men to take their tools in one hand, and their swords in the other. Don’t let Satan distract you with lies.

Never forget, we are in a battle every day of our Christian lives. The Apostle Paul listed the pieces of armor for our warfare in Ephesians 6:10-18. But as we learned in last week’s study, the battle belongs to the Lord, and it begins on our knees as we bow before Him. He has told us He has a plan and a purpose for us (Jer. 29:11). If you will seek His will, wait on Him to answer, then you can go out and do it!

March 14, 2021

LOVE GOD LOVE PEOPLE: WORSHIP WARRIORS

March 14, 2021

Pastor Matt Willmington

 

 

Sometimes life hands us some pretty bleak times! How do you personally handle trials when they come? Is it sometimes easier to play the Ostrich?

 

This past week we persevered through 1 and 2 Chronicles as we continue to strive with our challenge to read through the Bible in six months. Did you assume at first that these two books were repeats of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings? They were actually not retelling those four books, but they form a recap of many of those events. Of King Saul’s life, for instance, only his death was retold. Once one becomes aware of the intent, it is easy to quickly move through the chapters, realizing the importance those genealogies and historical facts are to the Jewish nation. Today’s sermon, taken from a passage within the week’s reading, has a great lesson to help us endure the valleys in our lives, and by following certain guidelines, we will allow them to become Valleys of Blessing!

 

Focal Passages: 2 Chronicles 20:1-30; 6:28-30; 7:13-14.

 

            SEEK GOD

 

  • Read 2 Chronicles 1-4. What was Jehoshaphat’s first reaction when he was told armies had mobilized against him? What is usually your first reaction when told bad news?
  • What was the second thing the King did? The third? Why do you think he fasted for God’s favor? What do you think of fasting—is it something you do often as a Christian, or almost never? Why or why not?
  • Read 2 Chronicles 7:13-14. Who is speaking here? Do we know about any of these examples in today’s world? Why? What is the conditional clause God makes here?
  • Look back at Jehoshaphat’s internal responses: How did he fulfill the steps listed in 7:14 by his actions?

 

PRAY TO GOD

 

  • Read 2 Chron. 20:5-9. As you read this prayer of Jehoshaphat, what were some of the phrases that showed he was very aware of God’s power? Read verse 9 again. How much faith did he have?
  • What does he pray in verse 12? Why is that a great prayer for us to pray daily, especially during times of crisis?
  • Was he seeking God as just a cursory action? How was he throwing himself upon God’s mercy?
  • Have you ever set these four steps in motion when faced with an emergency?

 

  • Read Ch 20 verses 14a, 15, 16a, 17. How did God answer Jehoshaphat’s prayer through the priest Jahaziel? Does anyone recall when a similar exhortation has been used this year to calm the fears of Israel?

 

WORSHIP GOD

 

  • Read verse 18. How did Jehoshaphat and the people react when they received

God’s answer? If you have ever been as overwhelmed as he and his people by the power and majesty of God in an answer to a prayer, can you share it?

  • Can someone tell what happened the next morning as everyone went out toward the battle? What did the people do after that?
  • Read verses 27-30. How did these people return to their homes? Why did this valley –that seemed to be a prelude to catastrophe–get renamed as the Valley of Blessing? What do you imagine was the level of the people’s joy over the next months?

 

Close

 

It is good to read of a great experience of faith for one of the kings of Israel, isn’t it? We get almost jaded as it seems they usually have the epitaph of “doing evil in the sight of God.” When we read of one who was a faithful follower of God, it’s refreshing.

Is it possible this same scenario can also take place within our homes? Not that there has to be evil, but often just the tension, or disagreements, the continual bickering or even yelling gets so old that those who have to hear but have no control over the situations (the children, neighbors, renters, etc.) get “jaded” by our lifestyle, and it definitely has a negative impact on our testimony. Or maybe it’s not your family that is the cause, but the world that continues to creep in through the internet, social media, magazines, movies, or television—or “news!” Many of the people whom we watch for news, or a reality show, or some other type of performance, would never be allowed in the door if an unknown person came in bearing the politics, the slurs, the language, or the attitudes that we allow through media, and they leave a jarring note that can erode the peace in a family.

Just as we enjoyed reading the saga of someone like King Jehoshaphat, perhaps our families desire our testimony to be peace, joy, singing, or words of gratefulness! The take-away from 2 Chronicles 7:14 (as well as from the priest, Jahaziel), is a great formula for our lives. When is the last time that, as a family, you gathered together during a crisis and had a time of opening your hearts before God in true humility, praying with all fervency, seeking His face (and listening to what He might need to say to you), turning from any known sin or wickedness, and asking for healing? Or, once He gives His answer, SHOW UP to do whatever the situation requires or He asked of you, for without your active response, there may be no victory; then SING. How many times in the Bible are we told to sing, raising our voices to God in praise and adoration, giving back to Him the breath that He breathed into our lives? And always GIVE THANKS for His faithful love, which shall endure forever. You do not ever have to go through another crisis alone, and your home and family can choose to live a life full of joy!

 

 

March 7, 2021

LOVE GOD, LOVE PEOPLE—A SPIRITUAL REBOOT

March 07, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Our children provide us with memories that we store up forever in our hearts! Can you share one of the favorite phrases of wisdom or laughter that your child delighted you with?

Reading through the Bible during the first six months of 2021, plus hearing sermons taken from the chapters from the week, is building a great discipline in our lives. This week we read of the reign of kings in Israel, in 1 and 2 Kings, reading the phrase “[the king] did evil in the sight of the Lord” over and over. Of the forty-three kings for Israel and Judah, only six were commended as “doing right in the sight of the Lord.” Today’s sermon will showcase one who received the highest praise from God as his accolade was 2 Kings 23:25: “Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his mind and with all his heart and with all his strength according to all the law of Moses, and no one like him arose after him.”

Focal Passage: 2 Kings 22, 23.

            A Spiritual Reboot 

  • Read 2 Kings 22:1. What are some of the normal expectations that one might assume from an eight-year-old boy? What do you think the citizens of Judah expected from a king who was only eight?
  • What kind of spiritual atmosphere did Judah have at this time? What were some of the sins Josiah would have observed in his first eight years?
  • Read 2 Kings 22:2. What do you think of when you hear the names of Ahaz, Amon and Manasseh? Why is this verse so incredible, considering Josiah’s age and environment?
  • Read 1 Kings 15:11, 14a; 1 Kings 22:43; and 2 Kings 14:1, 3-4a. What were the pivotal words in each of these verses? How did they differ from 22:2?
  • At the time Josiah was eighteen, his desire was to restore Solomon’s damaged temple. Read 22:10-11. What was the book the priest found? What was Josiah’s reaction?

        A Spiritual Refocus

  • In most circumstances, when you see life going in a bad direction, what do you do? Read verses 12-13. What did Josiah command his officers to do when he was read the Book? What words did he use that showed his heart was suffering?
  • Read 2 Kings 23:1-2. What was the complete refocus Josiah committed to as he endeavored to bring Judah into an obedient relationship with God?
  • How can you tell from the action phrases in 23:3 that Josiah was sold out to God?
  • What are some situations today that could be benefitted by the same amount of commitment? 

         A Spiritual Renewal

  • Why was it possible for God to do such an amazing change in Judah with one young boy? Can you think of another young boy who was one of faith?
  • If God could use a young child whose heart was open to His purposes then, is it possible He could use one person to initiate change in America in 2021?
  • Is there any possibility that one person could be you?

         Close

How many eight-year-old boys have you known who would have had the ability, desire, or determination to govern a kingdom? What is even more incredible is the fact that Josiah, at his young age, had a will to lead his country to follow God! He, as we read, was reared by his wicked father, Amon, and his grandfather, Manesseh, was exposed to idol worship, pagan rites, with possibly little or no direction in life, and may not have been taught knowledge of God.

It is encouraging for grandparents to note that we will see a very few verses in 2 Chronicles 33:12ff that reveal Manasseh turned his life completely around in his old age, and possibly, in those last few years before he died, had an impact on his young grandson!

The remarkable faith Josiah had was honored by God. For those years between his coronation at eight, and the desire at eighteen to restore the damaged temple, little is really known. However, without a doubt God put the desire in his heart to bring back some of the beauty of Judah’s house of worship, with the result that the Book of the Law was found by the priest and brought to the king. Can you imagine such a scene? And Josiah sat for some period of time, listening attentively as Shaphan the scribe read the book, resulting in a tremendous fear at the possibility of wrath from God.

This story of one of the last kings of Judah leads us to look at our own lives, asking ourselves, is our life impacting anyone today for the kingdom of heaven? Are we living our life sold out to God with such a complete faith that the purpose and works He created us for is being served? Will we eventually leave this world a better place than it was when we arrived? But the most probing question of all is, Will there be anyone in heaven because we lived? Proverbs 11:30 says “He who wins souls is wise.”

There are few prayers that we can pray with more fervency than to beg God for a heart like His to do His will, and to let our life result in the salvation of someone who has previously chosen Hell. Will you pray that way?

 

 

 

 

February 28, 2021

THE RIGHT WAY TO MAKE THINGS RIGHT

February 28. 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Is there a situation in your life that you wish you could make right, with people who are still living? How would you handle it, if so? Is it something you can share with the group?

This past week we finished the book of Judges—men who had been ruling in Israel after the death of Joshua—and moved into the years when the people demanded a king. In 1 Samuel, we read of Saul, who was the first king of Israel. Because he did not obey God’s commandments, God raised up David, known throughout history as “a man after God’s own heart.” Certainly, David had times when he did not obey God’s commandments as well, but his actions at those times indicated David confessed his sin and repented and was restored to fellowship by God. Today we will look at one of the accounts of David’s reign, which may help in our own walk with God, providing lessons as we glean nuggets of truth from this episode of his life.

 

Focal Passage: 2 Samuel 21:1-14

 

Go to the Source

  • Read 2 Samuel 21:1. What are some results that will occur when a country is in the throes of a long famine? Why do you think David may have been concerned that the famine could be a result of sin? What happened immediately after David prayed? How did God respond?
  • Can someone paraphrase the original situation that occurred in Joshua 9? Read 2 Sam. 21:2a. What had Saul done? How do we know that David realized how seriously God takes an oath? What did David do to correct the situation to end the famine?
  • What are some types of famine that might occur in our lives today? Read Hebrews 13:8. In light of the situation with the Gibeonites, is there even a small possibility that any of our present sufferings are tied to unconfessed sin in our home?
  • If you answered yes to the last question, what should be done in order to bring about an end to what you are going through? (Think about it if you would rather not share).
  • Read 2 Chron. 7:14. Who are “my people” in this verse? Is there more than one answer?

For any of the answers, would the solution be the same? In America, is it citizens or Christians?

  • If God’s children are concerned that unconfessed sin is a problem, and they have a godly repentance, how will God respond? Will He ever turn a humble child away?

 

Act when He speaks 

  • Read 2 Sam. 21:2b-3. What were some of the options David had, after God told him what the problem was? Do you think David considered any of them?
  • As you read the verses of this narrative, what do you feel was in David’s heart regarding this whole situation?
  • If you have something that you know is causing a problem between you and God, is there any possibility that you have chosen to ignore it, or even compromise, rather than to take steps showing genuine repentance?
  • If you are aware of a problem, how do you think God might ask you to correct it? Can you share?

 

Be people of peace

  • Can someone relate what has happened between verses 4-10? Did David completely take care of the situation with the Gibeonites? Did he do everything he needed to? If this were your situation, would you feel you could say you were finished? (What would God say?)
  • Read 2 Sam. 21:11-14. We have a saying: “above and beyond [the call of duty].” How can you explain that feeling as you read of David’s actions after he has done what the Gibeonites have asked?
  • Again, if this were you trying to rectify a situation that had been causing you grief, do you honestly think you might “go the extra mile,” or would you just be so glad it’s over, and you want to put it all behind you? What is your natural response?
  • If you were truly striving to be a person of peace, which would be the obvious answer?

 

Close

The Bible, as we read in 2 Timothy 3:16, is for “instruction in righteousness,” and we find lessons in so many unlikely events. Today we remember the Gibeonites, who tricked Joshua into making a covenant with them soon after the Israelites began to enter the Promised Land. Yet even though the covenant had its origin in a lie, God still honored the oath that was a result. Four hundred years later, Israel suffered a long famine, and David is concerned that sin might be the problem for the famine. If we have a problem in our life, do we ever wonder if it could be the result of a sin that was never repented of, and seek God’s heart on the matter? What are some of the famines that you have experienced? Are you concerned that there could be a connection between what you are going through and some situation that was never taken care of?

There are few things that bring the sense of peace that we can experience when we have a right relationship between us and our heavenly Father. That is one reason He wants us to always keep a short account when it comes to sin of any kind—just as you want your child to come to you about any problem in their life, especially if it is something that has affected your relationship. God desires a bond between us that is free from the stain of sin.

As we leave the books of 1 and 2 Samuel to make our way into Kings, we want to remind ourselves that there is one more famine that the Bible speaks of: in Amos 8:11, we read, “’Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord God, ‘that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord.’” This seems to be even more possible now than ever before, as we take into consideration how much wickedness there is in the world. Be sure that you are committing scripture to memory. It will be not unlike storing away food for your body to use in a time of need. You never know when it might be the only word of God that you will have.

 

 

February 21, 2021

THE REVOLVING DOOR OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

February 21, 2021

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Were you a model child? What was the harshest punishment you ever received, and what had you done?

After the death of Joshua, Israel continued to serve the Lord during the lifetime of the elders who had outlived him, men “who had seen all the great works of the Lord which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:7). Then the people began to drift away from God until they were in such a sinful state that God was forced to remove His hand of protection from them, leaving them vulnerable to the domination of enemies. When they cried out to God, He delivered them, and peace would reign again for a period of time. They would again become immersed in idolatry, need to be punished, cried out to God for deliverance, and the pattern would begin over. It was a never-ending cycle of people whose lives were no longer sold out to God. Judges ends with the sorrowful verse, “In those days there was no king in Israel, everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Are there lessons to be learned when the most blessed people in all the earth cannot be faithful to the Lord God of the universe? Definitely. Let’s see how we can make sure no cycle of rebellion can get a stronghold in our lives, requiring God to punish us.

Focal Passage: Judges 2

Forgetting the goodness of God yesterday is the first step toward our disobedience of

            God tomorrow

  • Read Judges 2:10. Why were the parents in Israel not passing on a reality of God in their lives? Read Deut. 6:4-9. What did God desire them to do?
  • Why was it so hard for the children of Israel to remember the miracles God had done for them? How did that cause them do start worshiping idols?
  • Read Judges 2:11-12. Why does it seem they could not make the connection between idol worship, going into slavery, and God restoring them to their home?
  • What was considered a “good life” by these people? How is it possible for people to attribute qualities of beneficence to a man-made idol?
  • How could that mentality cause them to forget the goodness of God?

Disobedience requires punishment

  • Read Judges 2:14-15. What was the biggest reason that Israel continued again and again to turn to idolatry? Why did God have to punish them? Read Eph. 6:23. What does God say about sin?
  • Why can God not tolerate sin?
  • Does every sin have a consequence? Why or why not?

Punishment doesn’t mean God stops loving us

  • Read Judges 2:16-18. What are some of the most encouraging phrases in these verses? How do you know that these are as applicable today as they were to the children of Israel?
  • Did you read in these verses where God said He would stop loving Israel? Why or why not? Why was His action always to forgive and restore?

So, stop the cycle!

  • Read verse 19. Why was it so much harder for them to return to God with each successive period of sin? Why can that be a lesson for us?
  • What is the surest way to stop the cycle of rebellion?
  • Thinking back to the lack of teaching in the homes in question 1, what are you doing with your children or grandchildren, to teach them dependence on God?

     Close

Reading through the Old Testament can be overwhelming as we wonder if there were many who truly loved God and remained faithful to Him. The people did their ritualistic sacrifices, chose to worship idols, were punished by God, became slaves to their enemies, cried out to God, restored, and then the cycle was replayed over and over again! Why did they not “connect the dots”? Each time we read the next segment of their history we have to ask, will they be faithful this time?

We need to pray that the lessons we see in the lives of the children of Israel will help us avoid the pitfalls of life, as we hold tightly to the hand of our Father.

There are those who are now teaching sinless perfection (i.e., a person truly saved does not sin again) which is causing great grief to some of the body of Christ. This section of Judges gives us a beautiful statement of security in Judges 2:18b: “For the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them.” Most of our enemies are the invisible demonic forces that we sometimes overlook, yet we are “oppressed and harassed” by them. Keeping your prayer life as an active, constant discipline is your priority. No relationship can grow if there is no communication. Bible study—not just reading—is also imperative. This is also a discipline you need to keep strongholds away, as you are taught, reproved, corrected, and trained in righteousness through God’s word. Follow these diligently and you will stop the cycle as you keep God as the focus of your life. Remember—and talk to your children about—His presence and power in your life, and know at all times you are as dependent on Him as a newborn babe is on their parent.

 

February 14, 2021

GOD HAS A PLAN

February 14, 2021

Charles Billingsley

 

Have you ever faced a situation or crisis that seemed impossible to overcome? Can you share?

Over the past few weeks, we read through the first five books of the Old Testament, all written by Moses. This past week we transitioned from those books to being a sideline observer as the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land. They are now led by Joshua, who had taken over the leadership following the death of Moses. Joshua, faithful to the Lord God, is the perfect man to lead Israel’s fighting forces as they conquer the territories God had long before promised to Abraham and his seed. By the time Israel is ready to fight Jericho, the surrounding tribes were so fearful that they had now sought sanctuary within Jericho’s walls. In the ensuing battle, the harlot, Rahab, helped Israel, aiding them in the name of their God. She later married Salmon, becoming the future grandmother of King David, whose line led to Jesus.

Focal Passage: Joshua 2, 6

God Has a Plan

  • In the books of Moses, how long did Israel’s disobedience cause them to have to wander in the wilderness? What was the reason for their punishment?
  • During those years of wandering, what were some of the miracles of God that took place?
  • Why was forty years chosen as the length of time of their sojourn? At the end of that time, what happened?
  • If you had been living in any of the surrounding territories, what would you have observed about these people? What does this period show about the character of God, that He would continue to manifest His love and care even when they had been very disobedient?
  • What are some miracles we experience every day?

 

God Uses People You May Never Expect (Rahab)

  • Read Joshua 2:1-7. How did Israel’s two spies meet Rahab in Jericho? Why did she promise them sanctuary?
  • Read 2:8-9, 14. Why was Rahab willing to help the spies? Why were the spies willing to trust Rahab? Why did God not hold her lies against her?
  • Read Matthew 1:5. Who did Rahab marry? Read James 2:25 and Hebrews 11:31. What title did she have in these two passages? How would you have felt, knowing that for centuries to come, all readers would know of your sinful past?

God Uses Ways You May Never Expect

  • Read Joshua 6:2-5, 10. If you were in Jericho watching Israel’s maneuvers the first two or three days as they circled the city, what would you have thought would be the outcome of the battle? Why?
  • Read 6:20, 22-25. In a normal scenario, what would have been the chances of Rahab and her family living through the destruction, with her house standing years later? Why wasn’t this normal?
  • Read 2: 17-21. We touched on Rahab in a previous question, but what was her token of trust?
  • What three times of significance does the color scarlet have for the Nation of Israel (and by extension, us) from Egypt to the Cross?

 

Close

            One of the common sayings that we’ve all heard on the authorship of the Bible is that only an Omnipotent God would have included so many situations, scarred people, or tales with unorthodox endings as are in the Scripture! Certainly, we have come upon many of them already.

            So much of what we read should comfort our souls as we walk this road of faith. To see the incredible care God took of Israel day after day, year after year, even as they spurned His laws and His plans, should bring us much comfort, as we, too, are so sinful. Yet He continues to shower us with blessings! And He has purposed plans for each one of us, as is written in Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you…to give you hope and a future.” Even knowing this verse, how often do we ignore His will?

            It is mind-boggling that God led them for forty years with a pillar of Cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night! Yet again we contrast our own lives and see He has given to us—His children in this new millennium—His own presence in the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, as He leads, convicts, comforts, and so much more.

            Take a few minutes this week and read the notes that go along with this sermon, for they are filled with facts of interesting information, and it is not possible to include all of it here. Above all, take the lessons to heart that are being pulled out from these passages every week, praising God for the insight He has given to our pastoral staff as they seek to lead us in a closer walk with God until the day He calls us home.

February 7, 2021

WALK IN HIS WAYS
February 7, 2021
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Have you ever made the comment, “Well, living with ________ is better than living with the alternative”? Can you share the example?

Open: 

The month of January passed quickly as members of Thomas Road were challenged to read the Bible through in six months. Sermons on Sunday are being pulled from a passage read during the prior week. Today we finished with Deuteronomy, also known as the “Second Giving,” as Moses reinforced to Israel  the Laws God had given them. We know God had many blessings that He had promised His chosen people, but they hinged on Israel following and loving Him.

Focal Passage: Deuteronomy 11.

Walking with God is better than any other option

    • Read Deut. 11:13-15. What is the condition God gives Israel in verse 13? What are the blessings that follow in verses 14-15?
    • How is this similar to the actions of parents as they place rewards for conduct or goals in front of their children?
    • Read John 6:66-68. Peter realized that only Jesus had what no one else could give; what was it? Where would you go if you left Jesus?

Not walking with God has devastating consequences

    • Read Deut. 16-17. What is the conditional phrase that begins this passage? What are the curses that will come to the one who rejects God to follow some other form of idol or god?
    • How have you gone your own way when you felt as though God’s rules were too stringent to obey? Can anyone share?
    • What are some conditional rules in our everyday lives that can have dire consequences if we disobey them?

Hold His truths close and tell others

    • Read Deut. 11:18-21. In verse 18, who is the “you” that can be assumed here? Whom are the actions directed toward?
    • In verse 19, who will be on the receiving end of these actions? What are they being taught, and who will be doing the teaching?
    • In verse 20, what else will exhibit the testimony of God’s children? How? How should your home reflect your love for Jesus Christ?
    • What is the promise in verse 21? If this promise is yours, will you be happy?

The bottom line is clear: be a follower of Jesus Christ

    • Read Deut. 11:22-24. What are the two commandments in verse 22 that God again states as conditional?
    • What will be the blessings of someone who loves Him fully, and is faithful to Him? How—if you fulfill both these commandments—will your love for your neighbor be shown?

Will you be that person cited in verse 22?

Close:

It is hard to read the books of Moses and not criticize the Israelites for their continual grumbling, complaining, and pagan worship practices. It comes with our tendency to judge other people, even when we know we shouldn’t. That is, until God shows us the beam in our own eye. The swiftest challenge to a judgmental spirit is to ask God to show us if the bad habits that we detect in someone else are present in our own life! God doesn’t pull any punches in taking you at your word that you are asking because you really want to know. We definitely need to beware if we hold the Israelites to a higher standard than we hold ourselves.
As we read through Genesis to Deuteronomy, we assume that we would do so much better at being faithful to God than the Israelites were. We feel we would not have to bear any of the curses that were promised to come to them if they did not follow God. In reality, it is with this in mind that we need to focus on the instances during the day when we fail God because we are failing our brother. We often let anger, impatience, irritability, or dozens of other sinful actions to enter our spirit.

January 31, 2021

 

THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD
January 31, 2021
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Who is the most faithful friend that you’ve had for a very long time? What has made your friendship with them so special?

Open: 

Reading the Bible through sometimes means reading with concentration those books you normally gloss over or skip, doesn’t it? This past week, Numbers made dedicated reading a challenge, so today’s sermon will help bring some clarity and lucidity to passages, and probably pay dividends the rest of your life. In Numbers, we are shown many attributes of God as He interacts with Israel. His mercy, love, patience, goodness, provision, and many more qualities unfold as we journey through this beautiful book.

Focal Passage: Numbers 23.

Background

    • Until now, how had the people of Israel been acting after they had been saved from slavery and led toward the Promised Land? What miracles had they seen
    • Read Numbers 11:1. What were some of the things they had been complaining about as they were traveling?

Regardless of what others might say, if God is for you, who can be against you?

    • Read Num. 23:8. Can someone paraphrase the setting that has occurred since the 21st chapter? What do you think of Balaam and his actions in these chapters?
    • Had God not intervened, what do you think Balaam would have done? Have you—or someone you know well—been under attack, yet saved by an act of God? Can you share?

Regardless of our disobedience, God can always be trusted

    • Read Num. 23:19. How have you been able to minister to someone who feels they have strayed too far from God in their sin? What Scriptures did you use?
    • Read Hosea 14:1-2, 4. How does this passage illustrate the hope the backslider has in being reconciled to God?
    • Read Micah 7:18-19. How is it possible for us to have this confidence?

Regardless of the ugliness of our actions, God still sees beauty

    • Read Num. 24:5-6. What is the hardest truth for you to grasp that God still loves you unconditionally when you have sinned? Do you see yourself as “beautiful” in His sight? Why or why not?
    • Read Lamentations 3:22-23. How is the overwhelming beauty of God’s love for you evident in Jeremiah’s words in these verses?

Regardless of our past, God has secured our future

    • Read Num. 24:7-8. What did Balaam prophecy for Israel? What possibilities does God see when He looks at you?
    • Read 1 Peter 1:3-4. What does God give us when He saves us? What part of the promise is for us now, and what is for heaven?
    • Read Colossians 2:13-15. What did Christ do for you when you were saved? Will He take any of it back?

Close:

Were you able to see more clearly some of the attributes of God, as you read through these passages in Numbers? It is difficult for us who live in this world to grasp just how perfect He is, and also how incredibly much He loves us. By concentrating on His character qualities, we begin to understand that He has known us from eternity past, and desires to see us persevere until He calls us home. As we travel through the time we have on earth, we see the past decade bringing changes we never thought possible. It is imperative that we are solid in our beliefs of what God has done for us—and continues to do—as the teachings we hear in the world are filled more and more with apostasy. The Bible has to be our “fact checker” so that we do not believe what we read on social media. In fact, we need to take a stand when a post is false. Above all, let the word of God so permeate your being that it seeps into your dreams at night. You’ll wake with a sense of joy that His word is truly a lamp to your soul!

January 24, 2021

HOLY GOD, HOLY PEOPLE
January 24, 2021
Matt Willmington

When someone mentions “neighbors,” what comes to your mind? Do you think in parameters other than locality (perhaps work, etc.)?

Open: 

This past week we read through the book of Leviticus in our reading plan for the first six months of 2021. This book seems filled with rules and regulations that pertain only to the Israelites, until we go beneath the obvious and seek the hidden jewels of God’s concern that we be a holy people. Today we will look at the many people groups He wanted Israel to care about, as He spoke to them from Mt. Sinai. He desired them to become a holy nation, and wanted holiness in the camp at the foot of the mountain. We, as Christians of the twenty-first century, need to learn what we must do in order to be holy, as He is holy.

Focal Passage: Leviticus 19.

Respect

    • Read Leviticus 19:3-4. Why should a child be taught to respect their first authority figures? What is the connection between having respect for the parents and God’s law to keep the Sabbath?
    • Israel had to deal with pagan idols of wood, stone, etc. What are some of our idols? What dangers do they hold?

Sacrifice

    • Read 19:5-8. Israel did not remain faithful in striving for holiness. Read Malachi 1:7-8. What were some of the charges God brought against them? What had they done?
    • What are some of the ways believers nowadays sacrifice to the Lord? How is it possible to ‘profane’ those ways?

Generosity

    • Read 19:9-10. Will someone please explain the concept of Old Testament gleaning? Who was allowed to glean?
    • Read Ruth 2:5. How does this verse seem to indicate landowners paid attention to those who came to his field to glean?
    • Read Deut. 15:11. God was (and is) very concerned for the poor. Who are some of those you consider poor, and are willing to help? Who are some you are not willing to help? Why? Is this Biblical?
    • Who is the second group God was concerned for in these verses? What is the work ethic that the original text indicated?

Honesty

    • Read Lev. 19:11-12. Why is honesty important to God? What is the opposite of being honest?
    • Read John 8:44. Who is the father of lies?
    • The phrases in our passage all have a common theme: what is it?

Justice

    • Read verses 13-16. God has many “do not’s,” in these verses; can you use one verb that would remedy all of these?
    • Several of these commands are concerned with how you treat your neighbor. Who did Jesus say your neighbor is? 
    • Can anyone share which one listed in these verses is the hardest for you to do?
    • Read verse 16b in KJV; what does it tell us? Would you be willing to act on a neighbor’s behalf? Does anyone have an example?

Love

    • Read verses 17-18. God has many characteristics. What is the first one you think of?
    • Look back through the verses 1-18; who all does God want us to care for? Do you have a particular problem with any of them (don’t answer aloud)? If so, pray that God will help you conquer the fear.

Close:

Did you have a hard time reading through Leviticus this week? You can be honest, as there’s only you and God knowing the truth! You probably were thinking that Leviticus isn’t the most enjoyable book in the Old Testament—but did you gain new insight from this sermon?

It’s amazing how week after week, after hearing a sermon, we are reminded of the truth of Hebrews 4:12 where the author writes, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

May His word birth in you a holiness that will be obvious as you seek to “be holy, as He is holy.”

January 10, 2021

FROM THE DEPTHS…THERE IS GOOD
January 10, 2021
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Can anyone share if there has been a time when you were wrongly accused of something? How did you handle it, and how did it make you feel?

Open:

During this past year, we have faced obstacles that have defied the experience of most of us. Now, the past six weeks has seen unsettled and horrifying times in America that even goes beyond the reach of Covid 19, and has caused thousands of Americans to ask if God still cares. As we look today at the life of Joseph, son of Jacob, we see the comforting truth that God will never leave His children, He cares for them and loves them. At the same time, He is holding all things in the universe together by His mighty power. Our God is awesome!

Key Verse: Genesis 50:20: “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good..”

Focal Passage: Genesis 39:1-2, 39:19-21, 50:20.

In the most difficult of moments, God is with you

  • Read Genesis 39:2. What were some of the highs in Joseph’s life as he was growing up? What were some of the challenges he had faced prior to becoming a slave in Potiphar’s household?
  • Can someone give an overview of Joseph’s years with Potiphar
  • Based on what you know about the life of Joseph, how do you think he maintained an unswerving faith in God?
  • Do you personally know anyone who has gone through as many times of tragedy, yet kept a faith in God that remained as strong?

When you are treated badly by others, God doesn’t abandon you

  • Read Gen. 39:19b-21a. How did each of the three persons in this passage act? Could there have been deeper reasons that Potiphar reacted with fury? 
  • Read 1 Corinthians 10:13. Joseph did not know this verse! How was he able to resist Potiphar’s wife?
  • Had you been in the same set of circumstances as Joseph as he lived his life, do you think you would have given up on God? Why or why not?
  • What would have been some of the natural reactions for a person in Joseph’s place? Where would such a strong faith come from?

God’s best should be our focus

  • Read Gen. 39:23b. How did God reward Joseph during the two or more years that he was in the jail? What happened that could have defeated his spirit?
  • Young Joseph seems to have had the same powerful faith that the David had in his younger years. Did this mean that neither man would face trials? What about Christians today: will we never have trials if we do right in a fallen world? Why or why not?
  • Read Hebrews 13:5b. What is God’s promise here? Will His promises remain for us all of our days?

Close:

Sometimes we may think that life cannot get much worse—then another week goes by! We realize Satan is not about to leave any stone unturned that will bring disruption to our land if he can help it. So it has been again. Hopefully, what trials do is push us closer to God! He is with us, loving us, caring for our needs, and His arms are open as we run to Him. He will never leave us.

Joseph was a young man who seemed to have one trial after another, none of which were the fault of him living a riotous life. He seemed to come through each testing with an even more godly spirit. Yet who of us would have wanted to be Joseph? Did reading of his life put your life in perspective? No one in their right mind would have wanted to trade places with him.

His life, the challenges and the mountaintops, are so much more than most of us will ever experience. Although we might disagree with his telling his family that he had dreamed they would one day all bow down to him, we can’t find any time when he let sin rule in his spirit. And God used him time and again in mighty ways. What a great example of persevering he is!

What about you? Can you examine your heart in honesty, and see if you would have had the faith to have stood firm when everything around you shouted that God had left you on your own? Joseph never wavered in his faith in God. He could say as David wrote in Psalm 17:3, “You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.” Would that we could all have the faith of Joseph.

January 17, 2021

THE CALL OF GOD
January 17, 2021
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Have you ever been approached about a job or a commission, that—for whatever reason—you really didn’t want to do? You made excuse after excuse, to no avail! What happened?

Open:

As we read through the Bible over the next few months, our sermons will relate to a portion of that week’s text. This past week our chapters contained the stories of Moses, a great and respected father of the Jews. As we delve into his story, though, we see Moses nearly missed God’s call upon his life as he tried his best to resist God’s mission for him. What about you? Has God asked something of you that you have no desire to do? Let’s see what happened to Moses.

Focal Passage: Exodus 3:1-22, 4:1,10-11.

Never Ignore God’s Call

  • Read Exodus 3:4. During the forty years prior to our passage, how had Moses lived? When he saw the bush burning, do you think he was curious, or did he think it was an act of God? Why?
  • Did the Lord speak to him before he had turned aside, or after he come near the bush? What lesson can we learn from this verse?
  • How do you think Moses recognized God’s voice? What did God tell him to do (vs. 5)? What was his response (vs. 6)?

Never Question God’s Call

  • Read Ex. 3:10-11. Did God ask Moses if he would go bring the Hebrews out of Egypt, or did He tell him to? How did he respond? 
  • After Moses exclaimed that he was not qualified (vs. 11), what were the other excuses he used? What was his final plea?
  • Read Isaiah 6:1,5,8. How different was the reaction of Isaiah in being willing to serve God, versus Moses ? How was Moses like Jonah?
  • What had God promised Moses each time he protested? We tend to think he did not want his calm life shaken up, but what might have been other reasons he did not want to go back to Egypt?
  • We read this story based on our own experience and knowledge of God: had Moses been raised to know God’s nature? If he had been, might it have caused him to serve God more gladly?

Never Doubt God’s Power

  • Read Ex. 3:12a. God is omnipotent! What does that mean? What are some of His works?
  • Growing up as a “Royal” in Egypt, do you think Moses would have had much contact with the slaves, or known he was kin to them?
  • Why would Moses have doubted God’s power to strengthen him?
  • Do we make excuses to say no to God when He reveals a mission He wants us to do?

Always Trust God’s Heart

  • Read Ex. 3:14. Moses had argued with God one time too many!  What happened? How could it have turned out differently?
  • Do you have any fear of making God angry? Why or why not?
  • What do you know about God that would cause you to say ‘Yes’—or possibly ‘No’—to His call for you to go on a mission for Him?

Close:

When you were young, did you ever raise your hand in church, signifying your intention to do something with your life for the Lord? Perhaps you were willing to be a missionary, a pastor, a nurse, or enter some other ministry—only to let the vow slip through your fingers when you were an adult.

Many of us greatly desired to have a vocation that would serve and glorify God, only to allow it to crumble. Would you have fought for it if something in your life had been different? Possibly. Possibly not.

At this time in the life of Moses, he was eighty years old. We hope by that time we will have done great things for God! What if we have let the “What if,” or “No,” or “Later” excuses fill our lives? We can turn to Matthew 21:28-31 to see this illustrated by Jesus: “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? They said to Him, ‘The first.’”

Moses, albeit very hesitant to obey God, went with Aaron, his brother, and became a mighty leader of the Jewish nation. If we have said Yes to God but then pulled back, we see that God counts as obedience the one who does His will. Let us rededicate our lives to do whatever God tells us to do, having learned from these chapters that He believes the best of us—not because of our weakness but because He equips us with His strength.

January 3, 2021

 A FRESH START
January 03, 2021
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

When you were young, did you ever disobey, then hid from your mom or dad (or authority figure)? Can you share?

Open:

This new year, many—if not most—people are hoping for positive things to happen: a life without masks, or social distancing, able to go to movies and family dinners, and so much more. As 2021 begins to settle in, there are going to be days that will be wonderful, but there will also be days that will be really tough. The Bible has guidelines that will help us keep our focus on God as we seek to see an increase in the good days as well as the faith to make it through the hard times. As we begin this fresh start of 2021, we all need hope that this will be a year of positive changes.

Focal Passage: Genesis 3:1-26, 8:21-22.

What are you hiding from?

  • Read Genesis 3:8-10. Why would God’s word tell us that Adam and Eve “heard” the sound of God walking in the garden? What are some examples of times you relied on hearing someone coming, rather than watching for them?
  • Why did God ask Adam where he was? How did Adam’s answer reveal his state of disobedience? What was Adam “afraid” of?
  • In the opening Ice Breaker, why did you hide from a parent (or authority figure)? Why do we try to hide from God? Does it work?

Stop playing the “blame game”

  • Read Gen. 3:11-13. How did Adam reply to God? Why is it possible to get a sense of disrespect from him here? If this were your child replying, what attitude would you pick up on?
  • How did Eve answer? Why was her excuse of blaming the serpent no different than Adam blaming his wife?
  • Why is it possible that Eve was near the tree when Satan approached her? We have a tendency to attribute to him a silky, sexy tone but how might Satan have questioned Eve?
  • How does he work today, when he tries to make us doubt God’s word? Why does he desire to cause us to sin?

God has promised His presence..and His power

  • Gen. 3:14-15 show us the punishment God gave the serpent, Eve, and Adam. What was Eve’s punishment? What was the hidden blessing in her curse? What about Adam’s curse and blessing?
  • Read Gen. 8:21-22. Later, God made these statements. What is the promise that is still good in our generation of “global warming”?
  • Read Psalm 139:7. What did David realize about the presence of God? Is this the same promise we have in Hebrews 13:5?  

Close:  

The past nine months have been very difficult, haven’t they? At present, 2021 is just a change in the last digit of the year, not a guarantee that the next twelve months are going to immediately go back to a state of pre-Covid normalcy. The past week has seen a surge of hope that this new year will have a greater potential for days that are good, and it seems everyone is bursting with that hope.

Ultimately, though, there is really only one way we can have a true Fresh Start, isn’t there? The imagery the Bible uses is in 2 Corinthians 5:17, where the apostle Paul says we—i.e., any person who is alive—can be a brand new creature in God’s sight: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new.” That is truly a new beginning, a time when we have laid down our old life, and taken on a new life that will be lived to the glory of God.

We will continue to have both wonderful days, as well as tough ones. But when the world throws its barbs at us, hoping to cripple us, we can look internally and see new desires, new hope, new joy, peace, and so much more and know within ourselves that the proof of the existence of God is a life that is completely changed. The rest of our lives can be lived with the closeness of a Father who is greater than anything we’ve ever known. He came as a baby to the manger, and went as a sacrificed Lamb to the cross, just to pay the penalty for our sins that we should have paid. That gives us new direction! Our sins—every one we would ever commit in life—were hung on the cross! He will never let us out of His hand. That is the best start for any person there could ever be.

If you’ve never bowed down and called on His name, do so while this year is still beginning. What a marvelous thing, to have a true fresh start in your heart.

December 27, 2020

FORGETTING THE PAST WITH A HEART FOR THE FUTURE
December 27, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

What is in your life that you wish were removed? If so, is it up to you, or does it involve someone else making a change? Can you share?

Open:

Christmas 2020 is now behind us, and in a few days it will be a brand new year. We all hope that the COVID 19 virus, with all its extended problems, will soon be over and forgotten. Today we will focus on leaving yesterday behind and focusing on tomorrow. Paul encouraged us to forget those things in our past that keep us from a wholehearted commitment to Christ and press toward Him. Join us as we study.

Key Verse: Philippians 3:13-14: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Focal Passage: Philippians 3:7-14.

The things I thought mattered don’t matter at all

  • Read Phil. 3:7. When Paul came to faith in Christ Jesus, what were some of the things in his past that he would have considered “loss”? What became the focus of his total commitment after his conversion?
  • What are some of the things that you know are in your life but are not of any eternal good? What would it take for you to get rid of them?
  • Read Matthew 6:33-34. What should take the place in our lives of those things that are a loss from God’s standpoint?

Our ultimate goal is to know Him

  • Read Phil. 3:8. What do we call the part our life that wars with our Spirit? Of the things in your life that you would count as loss, why do you hold onto them?
  • What are some of the things you can do to see that your focus stays on God, as you go through your daily routine?
  • What daily impact on your life does Christ have? How can you know Him better?

Knowing Him requires commitment

  • Read Phil. 3:12. How does Paul say that he is committed to following after Christ? What are other translations?
  • With any commitment you make, what practice will yield the greatest victory in your life? What is the difference between discipline and intention?  
  • Read 2 Timothy 2:15. How will we present ourselves to God, if we have handled His word well?

Letting go of yesterday, focusing on tomorrow

  • Read Phil. 3:13-14. Why is the past able to have such a strong hold on our lives? What are some steps you can take to forget yesterday’s failures or sins?
  • How can you discipline yourself to follow Christ more completely in the coming year?
  • What are you committed to do, to make Him Lord of your life?

Close:

Most of us are so glad to see 2020 pass. As a church, we were challenged to fast last January, in order to focus on our relationship with Jesus Christ, and on what we would like to see our church accomplish as the year unfolded. At that time, we had no idea what would occur in the next months. Now we can look back and see we probably would have been more specific in our prayer and fasting, had we known that social distancing, masks, economic failure for many, and a host of other trials would enter our lives due to the Covid 19 virus.

Now, none of us can be sure that 2021 will be better, can we? Some companies already have directed their employees to assume they will not be going back to the physical offices until at least April, 2021. That tells us that we may not know the full extent of the damage done in this past year. Many would have a tough time seeing the rigid guidelines put in place during 2020 be continued into 2021.

So how can we prepare our hearts to cope with the new year if it doesn’t fulfill our hopes? We can study God’s word every chance we get, focusing on Him, His plans and most of all, recognizing His omnipotence and His sovereignty. He has not been surprised by the past year, and yet He allowed it. Our responsibility is to trust Him fully, being obedient in what He tells us, knowing His purposes are far beyond anything we could imagine. He is a good, good father!

December 20, 2020

A THRILL OF HOPE: HOPE FOR THE HEART
December 20, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

What is the greatest pain you have ever endured? Why do you still remember it today?

Open:

We continue our series “A Thrill of Hope” today, as we remind ourselves what Jesus Christ did to provide us with a hope that is certain, what He is still doing, and how He will bring us home to Himself when life is ended. We know we continue to sin while we are in these bodies, but nothing can take us out of His hand if we repent and seek His forgiveness. Today we look at the restored fellowship we can have with Him when we think we may have no hope left.

Key Verse: Isaiah 9:6-7a: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.”

Focal Passages: Psalm 6:2-3, 31:24, 51:17; Eph. 2:4-5; 1 Pet. 1:3-5; Rom. 8:35-39.

There is no pain too great

  • Read Psalm 6:2a. David had just experienced a season of sin with Bathsheba; what is his cry before God? How does he see himself?
  • What did he need to hear from God? How can emotional pain paralyze us?
  • What kind of experience have you gone through where you feel that everything has fallen apart after a season of sin (share if you can)?

There is no grip too strong

  • Read Psalm 6:2b. What is the difference between the first phrase he prayed, and this one? How does it seem as though his pain was escalating? How would you infer he was suffering both physically as well as mentally?
  • Bathsheba’s presence as a wife could only remind David of the depth of sin he had committed before God; do you think he felt that his sin had too much of a grip on him for God to forgive?
  • Read Romans 8:38-39. We have this testimony to assure us that no one is exempt from God’s forgiveness. How can one be certain of salvation like this?

There is no journey too far

  • Read Psalm 6:3a. Where has David now found trouble? What do the three areas he’s mentioned represent?
  • How does he end this verse? What are some endings he could have used to close the thought?  
  • Read Ephesians 2:4-5. What assurance does Paul give us in this passage? Read 1 Peter 1:3-5. What protects and keeps us?

Close:

The pain we bring on ourselves when we intentionally sin can be excruciating. Many of us can recall a time when we were in a self-inflicted season of sin. It brings such shame and pain in the years afterward that we can only cry out, “God, great is Your faithfulness, Your mercy and Your compassion, that you would take a lowly sinner and restore him to have fellowship with You!” We have to get to the place in our faith that we know we have been cleansed from the filth of the sin, so Satan is not able to throw it back into our face and destroy our peace.

           David knew the ultimate pain as he prayed for God’s mercy to cover him. In Psalm 51, another of his Psalms written after the season of sin with Bathsheba, he begs God to restore to him the glory of God’s salvation, and in the end prays that God will allow him to comfort others who may be caught in the web of sin, and sinners be converted to God. Have you prayed to be used like this?

  How fortunate that we have the Bible and can read the Word of God! We know the history of the cross that Jesus was sacrificed upon, and we know from witnesses in the Scripture that He conquered death and rose to life again! David did not have these marvelous truths. He did not know a man named John would write, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). How blessed we are.

Whatever the pain we have caused ourself, whatever the distance we have gotten away from God, if we repent and cry out for His mercy He will gather us to Himself and restore the relationship. It is incredible to have a Father like that, isn’t it? Nothing can ever be compared to the wonder of being God’s child, being loved and cared for. It should give us tremendous thankfulness, love, and peace that our God is everything we need. We have a Savior who paid for all our sins, continues to hold us in His hand, and will keep us to spend eternal life with Him. That is a sure Hope that should thrill our soul and heart every day.

December 13, 2020

A THRILL OF HOPE : HOPE HAS A NAME
December 13, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Have you ever been referred to a doctor, car repair shop or other specialist, for a problem that was driving you crazy? How did you feel after making the appointment?

Open:

Today we continue our Christmas series, “A Thrill of Hope.” We stand amazed that we are able to look at history and see the fulfillment of prophecies accomplished when the Son of God, Jesus Christ, came to this earth and provided salvation to those who believe. As was recently pointed out, 332 Old Testament passages prophecy of the first coming of the Messiah, and Jesus fulfilled every one. Knowing that He has provided a way for man to have eternal life is enough to give any born-again believer “a thrill of hope!” Today, we look at the Name of that hope, Jesus Christ.

Key Verse: Isaiah 9:6-7a: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.…”

Focal Passage: Isaiah 9:6-7a.

He redefines Hope

  • Where are some of the places people look for hope? When did you become aware that there is a complete difference between wishful-thinking type hope, and the hope that is based on the promises of God?
  • Why is Jesus the only place where we can be certain the hope is trustworthy?
  • Read Isaiah 9:6b. Why is He greater than we can ever imagine?
  • How do you know that Jesus will always be willing to guide us through any daily struggles we encounter?
  • Why is He called the Mighty God, as well as the Everlasting Father?
  • What is meant when we say Jesus “redefined” hope?

His hope has no end

  • In Israel at the time of the birth of Christ, what was one of the greatest hindrances for people believing Jesus was the Messiah? Why did the people expect a military leader?
  • Read Isaiah 9:7a. If you were reading Isaiah’s prophecies at the time he wrote them, how would you have interpreted this verse? Who will be able to oppose the Messiah’s authority? If His kingdom is not an earthly government, what will it be? What will be some of its characteristics?
  • Before Jesus came, what way of making peace with God did the people have? How did He also redefine salvation and forgiveness?

His hope has a catch

  • Read Acts 4:12. What are some facts you observe as you focus on this wonderful verse? If you know someone who does not believe Jesus is the only way for salvation, how does it bother you that they will go to Hell because of their choice?
  • Why do all other religions believe theirs is the only true religion? What makes Christianity different?
  • Read Phil. 2:9-11. What are the marvelous statements from this passage? How can you draw hope from what you’ve read here in Philippians?

Close:  

As we continue our series on hope, we “hope” you’re beginning to get the sense that this certain hope is something you want to understand well!  David grasped the significance of a sure hope in Psalm 16:9, when he said, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope.” Luke reinforces these words of David again in Acts 2:25-27, when he quotes the entire passage. Our confidence in Jesus Christ allows us to take the promises that God has given us in His word and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will come to pass.

When people say you can “take [something] to the bank,” if you’re familiar with checks, you might visualize it this way: set a blank check in front of you; date it with the date of your salvation; the payee line would have your name. What a wonderful thing, to put your name as the recipient of whatever comes next! That would mean no one else can steal your joy, your peace or your hope. The line for the payment would list “God’s Promises,” and any or all of the promises for us in Scripture would be valid here. It would be signed by Jesus Christ, who is God. You can then look at the check whenever you feel hopeless or discouraged. You can rest that you will receive the promises of God, and you can trust Him to fulfill His part in your life. This is why your Hope is certain.

He is our peace, our joy, our strength, our hope—and any “name” that can be named. He is “The Lord Your God.”

December 6, 2020

A THRILL OF HOPE : HOPE CHANGES EVERYTHING
December 06, 2020
Scott Bullman

What is the most hopeless situation you’ve been in, that you’re able to share? What did you do to get out of it?

Open:

Today we continue our Christmas series, “A Thrill of Hope,” as we look at the hope we have in Jesus Christ, and how it can change our circumstances. Hope based on wishful thinking will never satisfy, but hope that stands on the promises of God is a certain hope, and one that will always be able to anchor our souls—even during times of storms. Let’s see how Biblical hope can change everything.

HOPE CHANGES EVERYTHING

Hope

  • Last week we talked about two kinds of hope; today we will add one more. Do you remember what the three kinds are? How do they differ?
  • In today’s messy world, hopelessness abounds. The Bible tells us that those who forget God have no hope. How does one drift away from God? It happens very slowly, so how can we prevent that happening in our lives?
  • Will wishful thinking or expectant hope anchor your soul when trials come? Why can you be certain of hope that has its foundation in God’s promises?

Biblical Hope

  • Read Titus 1:2. What does Paul say we hope for? Does God ever lie? Who is the father of lies? How do you know God always keeps His promises?
  • Read Romans 15:13. If God is the source of hope, what does that mean to the Christian? What will we be filled with? What is the conditional statement here? What occurs when we trust Him?
  • Read Romans 5:2-5. What else does the Holy Spirit do, that adds to our faith and hope? What is the cycle here?
  • Read Isaiah 43:2-3. What are the four promises in this passage? Do you think these have to be real rivers and fire? How is it possible for us to  “drown” in sorrow or storms? How should these verses comfort God’s people?
  • Where do our battles for hopelessness begin? Read 2 Cor. 10:4-5. What are we to do with thoughts that can begin to stir up in us a hopeless situation?
  • Why are thoughts that center on a lack of faith in God sinful? Therefore, since they are sinful, what should we immediately do? Read James 1:14. What is the person doing in verse 14? Where can those thoughts take him/her? What will it lead to?
  • Why is this statement true: “Contending for what you believe in is harder than conceding to what you are afraid of.” (Mark Batterson)? Instead of giving in to panic, what should we do? Instead of worrying, we should ____?  And, don’t concede, ______!   What are some things we panic over? What about the things you worry over?

The 10 Most Common Causes of Hopelessness and Their Antidote

(Based on the Lord’s Prayer, written by Rick Warren)

  • You feel alone or abandoned—REMEMBER: Your loving Father will never abandon you. “Our Father, which art in Heaven…”
  • Life seems out of control—REMEMBER: God’s power is greater than any problem. “Hallowed be Your Name…”
  • You don’t see a purpose—REMEMBER: God fits everything into His plan. “Thy Kingdom come…”
  • Grieving a loss-REMEMBER: God has a great purpose. “Thy will be done..”
  • When you don’t have what you need—REMEMBER: God has promised to meet all your needs. “Give us this day our daily bread…”
  • You’ve done something wrong (guilt, shame, regret)—REMEMBER: Jesus died to pay for all you’ve done wrong. “Forgive our trespasses…”
  • Deeply wounded by someone (bitterness, resentment)—REMEMBER: God will settle the score someday. “As we forgive those who trespass against us….”
  • Temptation (constantly pulled in the wrong direction)—REMEMBER: God has promised to help you. “Lead us not into temptation…”
  • Hounded by fear (anxiety leads to hopelessness)—REMEMBER: Jesus in me is greater than any other power. “Deliver us from evil.”
  • When it looks like defeat—REMEMBER: This is NOT the end of the story! “For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, FOREVER.”

 Close: 

Before we began this series, were you aware there are so many facets to “hope”? Definitely we all use the word many times a day, but have you been aware whether you were using it as wishful thinking, as an expectant hope, or in the manner of knowing that the thing you are hoping for has been promised to you by God? Knowing that His promises are sure, that His word is never deceitful, and that He is good, and faithful, should thrill us. Possibly we need to be reminded often that He is the same One who spoke all the world into being, who holds it all together, and who will one day rule while we live for eternity in a new Heaven and a new Earth. Those are huge truths—definitely too huge for our human thoughts to understand.

Most of us have probably also felt the rivers of hopelessness washing over us at some point in our lives. Isn’t it amazing that we can most likely find the reason we suffered that pain, and its Biblical counterpart, in the Lord’s Prayer? At this season of the year, we’re all aware that families who have lost loved ones, or who are afflicted in some other way with a hopeless situation, need the promise of God’s certain Hope to “fill [them] completely with joy and peace…and overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13). Perhaps God has allowed you to be reminded of His great and certain hope in order to meet the need in someone else’s life during this Christmas season.

Whatever you need, God has already promised He will abundantly supply it. Can you trust Him for that? Trust is an act of faith. Don’t let Satan destroy you through your thought life and remember what we’ve learned: Don’t panic…PRAY! Don’t worry….WORSHIP! And don’t concede…CONTEND—for your faith, your family, your marriage, and your children! Realize your heart, soul, mind and spirit are to be used fully to love our God and Father.

November 29, 2020

A THRILL OF HOPE : HOPE REVEALED
November 29, 2020
Charles Billingsley

This has been a year like no other we’ve known. What are some things you are hoping to see happen as 2021 prepares to debut January 1?

Open:

We are entering one of the most joyful seasons of the year. Christmas—no matter where you live—is a season filled with love and hope, memories of childhood, gifts, and so much more. Definitely it can be a sad time for some, but as Christians, we focus on the greatest gift of all that happened in a manger in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago. Today we begin a new series as we recall that first Christmas, titled “A Thrill of Hope.” Let us dig deeply into history and the Word as we seek to focus on the birth of the Christ-child, the Messiah of the world.

Key Verse: Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

Focal Passage: Matthew 1:18-25

Hope Revealed—In the promise of the Christ

The Hope

  • What are the two kinds of hope? How do they differ? As you “hope” for 2021, is it wishful thinking or Biblical hope? Why can we not live without hope?
  • Why is Biblical hope thrilling? What is it based on? Give some examples.

The Prophecies

  • What was the approximate number of prophecies in the Old Testament that foretold the first coming of a Messiah? What were the odds of someone fulfilling any number of them? What were some of the prophecies?
  • When Jesus came, how many of the prophecies did He fulfill? How could He do that?

The Intertestamental Period

  • After the prophets were finished writing and prophesying, God went silent. How many years did the people not hear from God? What were some of the things they would have missed?
  • What are some things you know about this period of time?
  • What would be some of the things that would WE would miss if God were to go silent now?

The Incarnation

  • What do you think the prevailing belief is concerning Jesus: did He begin life as a baby in Bethlehem? What Scriptures can you think of that speak of  Jesus’ past glory with the Father? Read Colossians 1:15-18.
  • Read John 1:1-3, 14, 10-11; 3:16-17. These few verses tell the life of Jesus.

  Why was the incarnation necessary?

  • Without the birth of the Messiah, what could not have happened?
  • Read Hebrews 4:15. Why was He worthy to save our souls? Have you really taken it in that He went through the incarnation and death, just to save you?

Hope Revealed—in the power of the Cross

  • Read Romans 8:31, 37-39. What did the Cross reveal, that Jesus would go through such pain and suffering for us?
  • Read Phil. 2:8. Jesus’ death was a one-time sacrifice; how do you know it is just as effective today as it was in the days of the early church?
  • What can we do to receive this salvation? Can we earn it, or lose it? Why? Who gets the glory for this?

Close:

What a world of terror we live in—yet Jesus, through His glory as God the Son, His incarnation and death, and His resurrection and present glory in Heaven, has made it possible for us to live with perfect peace in our hearts, knowing He has everything in His hands and is overseeing all things with a purpose.

How can we have such hope? Because we can look at our own lives and see that He has been faithful (even during the times when we haven’t been). “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, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises,” Peter wrote. This assures us that it is the power of Jesus Christ that has saved us, given us—as Peter says—everything we need, and we can do nothing on our own to earn this salvation except cry out to Him from our pit, asking Him in faith to save us for eternity. What glory shall be ours one day! To be with Jesus Christ, with all the saints of the earth who have died in Him, with our family who were believers—what a reunion that will be. All because of Him.

Is His grace and salvation as effective today as it was in the days He walked the earth? Look around you. Whose life have you witnessed who came from the depths of a pit of sorrow, or sin, of cursing, of addictions, immorality, and so much more, yet they were changed by humbling themselves before God almighty and being willing to call Him Lord. What a thrill of hope comes to the one who believes!

November 22, 2020

AND ALWAYS BE THANKFUL
November 22, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Are you conscious of your commitment to thank people who invest in you, whether material or verbal? What are some things in life for which you are most thankful?

Open:

Have you really absorbed the truth that nothing about you—the way you look, the way you live, or the friends or family you have—has made you worthy of God’s love and the sacrifice that Jesus made? That’s a humbling realization. It should make you extremely thankful for your salvation, and foster a passionate will to live your life for His glory! It shows us how huge His love for us is, that nothing we did, have done or will do could make Him love us any less. We will still mess up, blow it, or fall, but He has made provision for us to be cleansed from sin by confession and repentance (1 John 1:9). What a great God! Do you have a fervor to serve Him with thanksgiving?

Key Verse: Colossians 3:15: “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.” (NLT)

Focal Passage: Colossians 3:1-15

Thanksgiving requires refocusing

  • Read Col. 3:1-2. What do we mean by “refocusing”? Where does the majority of your focus center on any given day? Does it need refocusing?
  • We live in the world; is this our home? Read Philippians 3:20 and 1 Peter 2:11. Describe our lives here on earth. As we are just “sojourners” here, why does the world have such a strong pull on our thoughts and emotions?
  • What are some reasons we are constantly being buffeted by the world?
  • Paul tells us to think about the things of heaven. What are some of them?
  • Read 2 Cor. 10:5b. What are some thoughts we should take captive in order to keep our focus on Jesus, heaven, and our eternal life?

Thankfulness requires recommitment

  • Read Col. 3:5. Why is it so important that we don’t dwell on our sinful past?
  • Read Phil. 4:8. Why does God desire us to keep our mind on things that will edify us? Where does Satan begin his work of drawing us away from God?
  • Why is it dangerous for us to go back to the temptations that we wrestled with prior to salvation—or sometimes, even afterward?
  • What are four spiritual exercises that we can use daily to keep us focused on God, and doing His will*?

Thankfulness requires reprioritizing

  • Read Col. 3:11. What are some groups in our culture we can replace with those listed in this verse, which might help us to understand that salvation is free to anyone who accepts it?
  • If God loves people from all categories you named in #1, are there any you personally would have a hard time accepting? What can you do about that?
  • If HE is all that matters (and He is), are there things in your life that need to be erased, forgotten, forgiven, or let go of? (Can you share?) How can you?

Thankfulness requires recognition

  • Read Col. 3:15. Can anyone share a personal testimony about peace n your life, coming after a time of great agitation?
  • Read Phil. 4:7. What are some ways we can receive this peace from God?
  • As members of the body of Christ, what are we called to do? Are there people you go out of your way to avoid at church? If so, what are some actions you can take to start building a relationship and letting God work?
  • Is it possible to have true thanksgiving to God if your life does not line up with His word? What can you do?

Close:

As the holidays roll around once again, we may all breathe a sign of relief that the year 2020 is almost over. Before we become too thankful that a new year is coming, and too ready to pick up our old life, we need to realize we are not in control, as our local and state governments continue telling us what to do.

The world around us will always be that which takes most of our attention, our energy, and our thoughts. How, then, are we to focus our hearts and minds on heaven, praising and thanking God—and being “content” in our circumstances?

One analogy would be a child, spouse or loved one who is deployed with the military, or possibly away at college. Although they are in another place, one that may well be an anathema to their spirits, they long for family, for home, and that sense of belonging. Desiring to return home as soon as possible, they endure their journey, thanking God that He will see them safely reunited with loved ones.

Isn’t that also a picture of our heavenly home? Who has preceded you in the faith? We long to see parents, siblings, other loved ones—but above all, Jesus! We dream of heaven, with its beauty, love, happiness, joy—all the things we wish we could have here on earth. But this isn’t heaven. This is a time to meet Jesus, solidify our eternal destiny, and be thankful for a coming day when we will meet Him. Thank You, God!

*Bible reading; Prayer; Serving Him; Sharing our faith.

November 15, 2020

THE BEGINNING AND END
November 15, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Have you ever had to defend a circumstance that you knew had happened because you were there, while others were saying it had not happened?

Open:

In the intervening years between the ascension of Jesus back to heaven, and the writings of the Apostle John, the church had experienced great growth. However, with the passing years, people within the church began to attack the deity of Christ, saying He was a “good man,” but not the Son of God. John had to defend his own testimony, realizing if the believers did not stand up for their faith in Christ, the church might collapse. Today, we are seeing believers waver in their faith as the church is being attacked more than ever before. Let’s examine the reasons we know Jesus is the only begotten Son of the Father.

Key Verse: 1 John 1:1: “We proclaim to you the One who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw Him with our own eyes and touched Him with our own hands. He is the Word of Life.” (NLT)

Focal Passages: 1 John 1:1-4; Rev. 1:8, 1 John 5:20-21.

Jesus has always been the only Way

  • Read 1 John 1:1a. Where is the first mention of Jesus Christ in Scripture?
  • Read Genesis 1:26. Who was God referring to?
  • Read John 1:1. What did John write about Jesus’ existence? Why was He called the Word?
  • Read John 14:6 and 17:21. What did Jesus say of Himself?
  • Why and Where do people look everywhere else for happiness, rather than Jesus Christ?
  • Why does the church exist? To whom did Jesus give the responsibility to proclaim the one way to heaven?
  • Who prowls the earth as a roaring lion? Why? Why is Jesus the only one who can deliver us from the mouth of the  one who seeks to devour us?

Jesus became like us to save us

  • Read John 1:14, then 11-13. What happened when Jesus came to earth?
  • Read 1 John 1:1b. John wanted to make sure that he was believed; why was his testimony certain? John spoke of seeing and touching Jesus; why was he emphasizing that He was fully man, yet fully God?
  • Read John 1:15. What did John the Baptist (not the apostle) say of Jesus?
  • Read John 12:27. Why did Jesus say that He had come for this hour?
  • Read John 3:36. What will happen to those who reject Jesus as Savior?

Jesus came to give us life

  • Read 1 John 1:2b. How does John reaffirm the statement Jesus made in John 14:6?
  • Read John 3:14-16 and 1 John 5:13. How are we promised eternal life?
  • Read John 5:24. Why did Jesus continue to tell the people how to have eternal life? Can Jesus lie? How do you know?

Jesus came to bring us home

  • Read John 6:67-69. Have you ever been this discouraged? What did you conclude? Read Acts 4:12. Why is this verse so full of hope?
  • Read John 10:28. Do we have to worry that Jesus will somehow let us go?
  • Read John 14:1-3. Do you ever doubt the words of Jesus? What do you do?
  • Read 1 John 5:20-21. What are some of the things that can take first place in our hearts, rather than God? Why do people reject Him?

Close: 

Recently a very moving conversation was had between an older adult and a young person. The subject was the airplanes that flew into the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001. The young person had read there was no evidence of planes uncovered in the debris, while the older person had seen the news channels the morning of the attack and watched in anguish as thousands were killed. Fortunately, this was before fake news was as prevalent as now. The young person listened with complete trust as the truth was told.

It has been only nineteen years since that fateful day. It is easy, then, to see how the deity, birth, death, and resurrection of Christ could be attacked, being two thousand years ago! Especially as the sinfulness of mankind seems to be growing worse and worse. Few want a religion that is based on one way to heaven, rather than a broad, wide way that allows any belief. No wonder John had to be alert to always present the Gospel in a timely manner whenever possible, and with clear truthfulness. As do we!

Faith, the evidence of things not seen, persuades us to believe in Jesus Christ as God’s only begotten Son. He was made flesh, fully God yet fully man, gave Himself willingly to die on a cruel cross for the sins of mankind, was buried, three days later rose again by His own power, and ascended to heaven. Now He waits for the Father to say, “Go, get your children!” May our faith never falter as we wait for the sound of the trumpet!

November 8, 2020

PEACE IN THE MIDST OF THE STORM
November 08, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

This year has been a year of trials and unknown paths! What is one of the biggest “storms” that happened to you during 2020?

Open:

As we are getting close to this year winding down, this is a good time to reflect on the challenges we have faced while dealing with a worldwide pandemic, the like of which has never been seen during the lives of today’s generations. Have you handled the storms in a way that gives glory to God? Perhaps you’ve tried to take care of all situations in your own strength. We still have seven weeks before the new year is here. Let’s examine ourselves to be certain we are going to finish strong, knowing God has sent His Holy Spirit to accompany us every step of the way.

Focal Passages: John 14:25-31; Psalm 34:17-18, 147:3; Prov. 18:10; 1 Cor. 15:58.

God is with us

  • Read John 14:26. What is one of the most hopeless times you have ever experienced? What was the turning point for you?
  • How does Satan use a storm to try to make us believe that we are truly alone, with no help coming? What are some scriptures that say this is a lie?
  • Why does the Holy Spirit come into our lives? What are some of His titles?
  • What are three of His very important roles?
  • What does He do to turn us back to a blameless life if we get off-track?

He still gives peace

  • Read John 14:27. What is God’s desire for us, through every trial? Read James 1:3. What is produced by having our faith tested in trials? How?
  • Read Phil. 4:7. How do we get peace beyond understanding? What are some of the things that will take that peace from us?
  • Read Rom. 5:1-3. How do we get peace with God initially? What should we do with it?
  • Read Psalm 34:18. Have you fit into either of these two categories this past year? Were you able to trust Him to pull you out of your troubles?

Nothing can stop it

  • Read John 14:30. What is the most assuring phrase in this verse? Do you often feel that Satan has the upper hand in making you miserable? How do you handle situations where he is making you feel defeated?
  • What is the only way Satan will be able to take us down? What can we do to prevent it?
  • Read Phil. 4:13. Why are we able to win the battle through Christ?

So Keep on keeping on

  • Read John 14:31 This verse, also, has a very reassuring phrase; what is it? Did you ever tell a sibling, or a friend, “Come on, let’s get out of here!”? What were some reasons you said that?
  • Read James 4:7. How can you teach yourself to recognize that it is Satan who is ready to attack you, and realize you need to flee?
  • Jesus didn’t want them “stuck” in the circumstance. Do you ever become mired in a situation, and remain uncertain how to get out? What are some things that can defeat us?
  • What situation do you need to leave today that is keeping you stuck in discouragement?

Close:  

Although most of us have had times this year when it seemed as if nothing was moving forward, incredibly the end of 2020 is almost upon us. That doesn’t mean the months afterward will improve, but it does show us that nothing—not even misery—lasts forever. Is that encouraging?

With the end of summer, we are experiencing beautiful weather. However, the beauty of fall does not make an idyllic atmosphere. This past week we’ve all experienced a range of emotions that has pushed our stress levels into high gear with our national election. For some of us, it has been a week when we’ve had to remind ourselves over and over, “God is in total control.” And although we know this with our heads, there have been times when it was necessary to “leave this place” of mud and filth to seek His peace.

The disciples were about to have their faith tried severely, as they watched Jesus being beaten, crucified, killed and buried. Their hopes were destroyed and they weren’t able to understand the warnings Jesus had given them that they would see this happen, and that He would rise again. In the same way, we often feel so overpowered by what we see that we let circumstances dictate our peace, rather than keep our focus on Jesus, who has power that we can’t even grasp. He spoke the world and all it contains into being—and He is still on the throne, while His Holy Spirit indwells us. That should be very comforting!

November 1, 2020

UNKNOWN GOD: THE GOD OF TRIBALISM
November 01, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Have you ever used the phrase “may your tribe increase” when talking to someone? What did you mean by it?

Open:

Today we are going to examine our lives for the sin of “tribalism,” as we conclude our series, Unknown gods. We have been looking for evidence in our lives of anything that has usurped our first love, which should be God. We see tribalism every day, though we may not recognize it. In America, we will be voting this week for our presidential candidate, and anger is taking over social media, with division on every hand. Political party hatred and personality conflicts are everywhere, while we still are dealing with Covid, social distancing, and financial woes crowding in on us. It is time to take up your cross today and follow Jesus, take it up tomorrow, and each of the following days God grants you, that you may please Him who called you.

Key Verse: Luke 10:27 : “He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

Focal Passages: Luke 10:25-37, 1 Cor. 13:4-8.

The only way to truly love your neighbor begins in your personal

Relationship with Christ

  • Read Luke 10:36-37. When the ‘expert in the law’ asked Jesus who his neighbor was, he did not expect Jesus to turn the question back onto him. How did Jesus answer, as He closed out the parable of the Good Samaritan? During your normal day, where do you talk with the largest number of people? How many would you guess that to be? How many of those are people whom you may never see again? How do you treat them?
  • In thinking about your answers for #1, would your behavior change if you are at a gathering of people of another religion, political view or group for whom you have no particular affinity? How? (That’s tribalism).
  • Can someone define tribalism (definition is at the end of the study, if no one can)? What are some examples you can give as to groups where you might feel on edge or stressed? Do you avoid such places, if you can?
  • Why is it so important to get your relationship with Christ right? If you don’t love God with your whole being, how will you be able to love those who are not like you? Is John 15:17 just for those in the faith, or for the world?
  • Read Colossians 2:6-7. Why should we be able to love those outside of our “circle” if we are rooted in Christ?

Loving your neighbor never is done passively

  • Read Luke 10:31-32. What groups did the first two men represent? If this parable happened today, what would you expect from a preacher or elder?
  • Had you been watching, how would you have felt about two of God’s men leaving the hurt man beaten and bleeding? Would you have mentally labeled their church hypocritical at that point, and gossiped?
  • If Jesus had told you the parable, what group (in your mind) would you have had a bad reaction to Him choosing a person from? (That’s tribalism).
  • So what is the pivotal question Jesus asked the expert? How would you answer Jesus?

Loving your neighbor always required an active step

  • Read verse 33a. What were the steps the Samaritan took with the victim? Did he (the Samaritan) go above and beyond anything the Jewish community would have even imagined? Why?
  • Re-think posts you’ve seen this past week on social media. In your mind, think of a couple that made you angry; did you convey that anger from the issue to the person writing? Do you see how easy it is to be entangled in tribalism? What are steps you can take to let go of the anger?

Loving your neighbor always requires reflecting God’s love

  • Read 1 Cor. 13:4-8. What are some ways God expects of us to love, in order to conquer the sin of tribalism? How can we begin?
  • What are some of the attributes of God? Since He is holy, and has told us to be holy, what are some of the character qualities He wants us to develop?

Loving your neighbor does not mean having to sacrifice your beliefs or

Biblical truth.

  • What is the hardest concept to grab hold of when you feel as though being nice to ( or loving) someone with a different agenda will cause you to choose between them and your beliefs?
  • What must we focus on in order to love those who seem unlovely (to us)?

Close: 

Isn’t it amazing how you can sit with your Bible and coffee, having your morning quiet time with God, pray, and all is well with your life, yet five minutes later you pull your phone out, open Facebook to see what has been posted through the night, only to have someone push your buttons with the force of their words so hard you want revenge? You decide you want to stay away from them, possibly wish them ill will, and unfriend them. Done. Was it in line with your devotions?

Perhaps we feel that life is much more peaceful when we leave those who cause stress out to the side. We call our best friends, get sympathy and encouragement from them, and try not to think about those who mangle us in word or deed. It’s easier to ignore people who are mean, who intentionally hurt us, who hate our beliefs, our God, or our church. But is it God’s way, to leave them alone?

It takes total faithfulness to Him to desire a life that has no penchant for being selfish. If taking up our cross daily and following Him—-while it is today—is too hard, when will it get easier? Do we want Him to carry it all? Are we going to pull out our track record when we stand before Him, and say, “Well, I did (this), and (this), and (that) and…” and He may say “I never knew you.” What are we going to say? “WHY?” And He’ll say, “You had no love for anyone but yourself, your clic of friends, and those who were just like you. You didn’t want to be My hands and My feet, loving on others.” Could you bear that?

Tribalism: the attitude and practice of harboring such a strong feeling of loyalty or bond to one’s tribe that one excludes or even demonizes those who do not belong to that group; or, loyalty to a tribe or other social group especially when combined with strong negative feelings for people outside the group.

October 24, 2020

UNKNOWN GOD: WHO MAKES THE RULES?
(REASONING WITH THE RELATIVIST)
October 25, 2020
Charles Billingsley

Is there someone in your inner circle who will argue with whatever is said, perhaps just to show you are wrong? If so, how do you handle it?

Open:

Today we continue to look for “gods” in our lives—those things that can take the place of loving Jesus Christ first and foremost. Some of us may not even know the full scope, but relativism is taking over America and we need to understand it thoroughly. It is a topic that can be uncomfortable, as it is not really a “god” as much as a philosophy, and involves the way people think. Do you ever hold your tongue in the name of “toleration” rather than speaking the truth in love? While it may make your own life more peaceful by not speaking out at all, it may imply to others that you agree with what is occurring, and may build up their platform. What can we do?

Key Verse: Judges 21:25: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did that which was right in his own eyes.”

Focal Passages: Col. 2:8; Isa. 5:20-21; Eph 6:13-16; Prov. 14:12; Matt. 10:16; 1 Pet. 3:15; Acts 17:16-17; John 14:6, 8:31-32; Rom. 3:23, 6:23, 8:2.

What is Relativism

  • Webster defines relativism as “a view that ethical truths depend on the individuals and groups holding them.” Can someone define “moral relativism”? What is wrong with the statement, “There is no absolute truth”?
  • How can someone believe the statement that what may be truth for you may not be truth for them? What word sums up relativism in God’s sight?

Wake up

  • Read Col. 2:8. How do we recognize relativism so we can talk to our neighbors and loved ones about it? Where do we find it in our world today?
  • Read Acts 17:21. Is relativism new to our generation? Why do you think it has taken so long to get deep roots of it buried here in America? How was America protected in her early days as a nation? What were some of the reasons that caused us to go into a downward spiral?
  • What are some very hot issues of our day? Why are they such hot points? How many people are willing to go to the Bible for clarification on each?
  • Read Isa. 5:20-21. How does this describe our country? Is relativism coming, or is it here? Give some examples.
  • Charles Colson wrote: “No culture in history has ever embraced moral relativism and survived. Our own culture, therefore, will either 1) be the first, and disprove history’s clearest lesson, or 2) persist in its relativism and die, or 3) repent of its relativism and live. There is no other option.” How does that warn us of what is happening in our country? How many people embrace relativism? Read Matt. 12:25. Can America survive? Why/why not?

Dress Up

  • Read Eph. 6:13-16.. How are we going to be able to stand strong in the world? What is the first piece of the armor? Why is Truth so important?
  • What important roles does the belt play? If we don’t have truth as our foundation, how can we survive?

Wise Up

  • Read Prov. 14:12. Who does the relativist believe to be right? How many “truths” are there? How do you know?
  • How do you get the courage to present to a relativist that there is an alternative based on absolute truth, and challenge them to examine the foundations of both worldviews—one with God and one without God?
  • Read Matt. 10:16. How can you present your view to those opposing you? Do you know what you believe? Can you articulate it?
  • Read 1 Pet. 3:15. Many seasoned Christians hesitate to witness because they are not certain they can “give their reasons.” What are some ways you can practice these important points around your dinner table?

Rise Up

  • Read Acts 17:17. Was Paul hesitant about sharing the gospel? How did he first reach out to the men of Athens? How often did he meet with them? How often do you witness? How can you find more time to share the gospel?
  • Read James 2:14-17. In our community and adjoining towns, how can we as the church earn the right to be heard?
  • What are some of the qualities of Truth?
  • Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” How do you know you can believe Him?
  • If you answered yes, you believe Him to be the only way, can you be saved? If you believe there are other ways, is your eternal life in jeopardy (think)?

Close:

Over two thousand years ago, the world was changed by the original eleven disciples and Paul. By 350 AD, it is estimated that there were more than 33 million Christians in the world. By 2015, there were approximately 2.4 billion around the world. All from twelve men!

If those numbers are correct, what has happened to the church in America? When it was founded, God was the cornerstone to worship Him in peace. It should have made an impact on the future generations, so that they were all living lives centered around God. What happened? There has always been sin, but when did it start escalating and swaying the lives of the people? It would seem that gradually the lives of the Christians became apathetic, peaceful, and with that playground, Satan moved in with his droves of demons. You would think that technology—which can get us around the world in minutes—could enable us to witness to everyone on earth. But with the advent of technology it also seems the opposite has become true: the world is growing more wicked every day. Why is that? As Charles Colson wrote, “When the church is truly the church, a community living in biblical obedience and contending for faith in every area of life, it will surely revive the surrounding culture or create a new one.” Right now, that’s a tall order.

At the present time, America has become embroiled in a battle between good and evil. Why? The trend toward moral relativism is one huge reason, and one that is drawing away young people who have had no firm religious foundation in their years of nurturing at home. And if revival would come to our land, who would benefit the most? The silent majority is no longer the majority, but we are still silent. How can we not see our country is being destroyed? God, help us! We need to have courage to come against Satan and his workers of evil.

May it be so, Lord, before our country is no longer.

October 18, 2020

UNKNOWN GOD: THE GOD OF STATUS
October 18, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Nearly everyone wants to be admired, either for a character quality, or for a possession. Can you think of something in your own life that you struggle with?

Open:

We are continuing our series, “Unknown gods,” identifying “idols” that may be in our lives. Today we are looking for the quest for status. We have to be honest, pride is prevalent in all our lives, but whether we quickly turn it over to Jesus as a sin, or let it grow into a stumbling block or a stronghold is something each of us has to search his life to find out. Remember that the heart “is deceitful and desperately wicked,” and it takes God’s flashlight to uncover all the hidden deceptions Satan may have placed in our lives. Let’s search to see how badly we want people to notice us, admiring us for a God-given trait, looks, or something we’ve acquired!

Key Verse: Matthew 20:28: …”just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Focal Passages: Matthew 20:20-28, 23:11-12.

The desire for status

  • Read Matt. 20:20-21b. Picture a dinner where someone very special was attending, and put this situation in that place with two guests and their mom; how would you feel? Was there any indication she thought Jesus might turn her down? What should a godly mother have done?
  • Assuming the two young men put their mom up to this performance, what would be the root cause to make them do something like this? What had to have been some of the feeling James and John had about the other disciples (or their comparison to them)? Why does it sound rather arrogant?
  • How long had they been with Jesus? Why would you not have expected this behavior from them? What did John call himself in other passages?
  • What are some of the things Christians today do to obtain status among their peers? Why do we feel the need to seek praise from them?
  • Again, what is the root cause of desiring status? Read Prov. 13:10a. What goes hand-in-hand with pride? How does God feel about pride?

An empty pursuit

  • Read verse 22. What type of Messianic kingdom did these two men still have in their mind, causing them to be misled as to God’s program?
  • In Jesus’ day, what did it mean to “drink the cup” of another? Why would James and John have no idea of the scope of suffering the early believers would endure? What are some of the things you know from church history?
  • How about us? Are we willing to go forward in church, do some good deeds, but pray, Please, Lord, keep us from suffering for being a Christian?
  • Why is it a good thing in this day and especially in this time in America, to ask ourselves whether we are willing to go through suffering for our faith?
  • If we envy someone for what they are or have, why will we never be satisfied if we set out to attain it? Also, what is envy in God’s sight?
  • Read Matt. 23:11-12. Why does this so go against human logic? When we stand before the Lord, what will our greatness be found in?

The right way

  • Read Matt.20:25-27. Why does Jesus say, “It must not be this way among you”? Who wants to be a servant or slave to someone else? Why not? If we humble ourselves to be servants here on earth, what are we exemplifying?
  • Read John 13:12-17. Have you ever washed a brother or sister’s feet? If so, how did you feel? What are some acts of servanthood that we should be doing?
  • Why does God desire humility from us? How can we squash pride?
  • Who was the one who was the epitome of beauty, and became a snare to mankind? Read Ezek. 28:14-16. How far away from God can sin take us?
  • What are some steps you can take to make certain you are not seeking status?

Close:

Everyone wants to be important to someone, to be admired by their friends or acquaintances, or given honor somewhere. We will often do extraordinary things in order to gain attention, or get accolades in some form.

Probably everyone in our church family is aware of the Barrick family, who were in a wreck in 2006, when a drunk driver hit their car at 80 mph. It nearly killed Jennifer, the 15 year old daughter of the family. Since that time, they have visited across America, as well as internationally, sharing their testimony and the miracles that God has brought about since that time. Thousands have been saved as a result.

We can look at the Barrick family and wish we could be used to win so many souls to Jesus Christ. But few of us would be willing to endure the path of suffering that this family of four has had to walk in order to be used so greatly. For example, Jennifer’s life has never been the same, the father has suffered a bout with cancer, and so has Jennifer. Their scars are deep.* The cost of suffering can have a high price tag on it, as James and John both learned before they died. John survived being boiled in a pot of oil, a miracle on par with Daniel in the den of lions.

When you’re tempted to take measures to be admired, to desire “stuff” to make others envious, it will never satisfy. Eventually someone will have a bigger car or house, be more beautiful, or be more admired for their wealth. Life is so much more than attaining status. God has prepared a place for us, that is more than we can ask or imagine; He has plans and purposes for us, if we’ll be sold out to Him—-and they will bring a lifetime of joy that nothing you can plan for yourself could bring. Won’t you trust Him today? He’s worth whatever status you have to give up!

*HopeOutLoud.com

October 11, 2020

Unknown god: The god of Materialism
October 011, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

As you think about your day, what do you focus on the most—your work, outside activities, what you want to do, or something else? Is your weekend like this also?

Open:

Today we continue our series “Unknown gods,” as we carefully examine our lives to see if there are things we put before our love for God. This series is based on the Apostle Paul when he visited Athens, observing altars and idols everywhere, all dedicated to non-existent gods. Lest they leave one out, they made an altar to the “Unknown god,” which gave Paul the opportunity to present the gospel of the living Lord. We are going to look at Materialism in today’s sermon, knowing that our hearts tempt us to enjoy or love “stuff”—but does it come before our love for God, or do we hold it loosely in our hands, knowing that it can easily slip away?

Key Verse: Matthew 6:33 (CSB): But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.

Focal Passage: Matthew 6:19-24.

What is the object of your focus?

  • Read Matt. 6:19a. Matthew opens this passage by stepping on our toes. Name treasures we might try to lay up for ourselves here on earth. What can be a sin associated with some of them?
  • Which ones are the most likely to take first place, moving God to a lower level? What can happen to many of those you listed?
  • Read Matt. 6:20a. How do you lay up treasures in heaven? What are some of them? Will they ever be destroyed?
  • Are there treasures you may think you are laying up in heaven, when you are actually looking for praise from men? Can you give an example?
  • If you are caught up in collecting treasures for yourself, what does that show you about your heart?

Our focus is based on how we view things

  • Read verse 22. What does Matthew mean, that the lamp of the body is the eye? How do we get knowledge, see our way, or see the danger in a certain path? (We are not speaking of someone who has been blind from birth). How do we interpret what we see, so that it gets to our heart?
  • Read James 1:8. How would a double-minded man represent someone whose eye is not “single”? What does James go on to say about him?
  • Name some other examples of what we can absorb through a single (or good) eye? (For instance, temptation).
  • Read 1 John 2:15-17. How do the things we see tempt us to take our focus off God, and put them on the world?
  • Read Matt. 6:23. How does our “eye” become bad? What can be another word for eye? When we love, we say we love with all our ____. Why?
  • If we look at things wrongly, what will eventually happen to our spiritual life?

Whom do you serve?

  • Read verse 24. What does this verse, which speaks of masters, have to do with verses 22-23? Read I John 2:15 again. Can you love both God and the world? Read James 4:4. How is this a mate to 1 John 2:15?
  • Does anyone have an example of trying to serve two masters?
  • Who is ultimately behind your desires to have a nicer ____? How?
  • How can your focus on “stuff” here on earth become your master? How can you keep that from happening?
  • What are some steps you can take to make certain you are controlling the things that come into your life?

Close:

Like weight, (a very sensitive subject), pounds do not come all in one night! In the same manner, “stuff” doesn’t accumulate overnight while you are sleeping. You actually see something with your eyes, decide you must have that in order to be perfectly happy, and buy or barter for it. A year or two later it probably goes to Goodwill or a garage sale.

Most of us have known a true hoarder. Several years ago in N.C. an elderly man died. When the realtor went in to arrange the house for sale for the heirs, he was astounded to find stacks of newspapers, piled from floor to ceiling and wall to wall, in rows and rows. There was no room except to turn sideways to get from the front door to the kitchen or bedroom. He apparently cared for nothing in his life except newspapers, even though he could never have found a certain one, even had he desired to re-read it. But it did not happen overnight—it took years for the man to acquire the collection. So it is with our accumulation of stuff.

What is your greatest desire? Is it a hunger and thirst to be righteous? If so, you are on a path that will lead you to one day hear “Well, done, good and faithful servant!” Or is your focus on things that will cause others to look at you with admiration, perhaps for your looks, your clothes, car, house, figure, or talent? Any of those things—in the right light—do not have to be bad, but if they’re your main focus, your eye is not single. Don’t be a person who is so talented, so admired, so wealthy, that those who are not, become too insignificant to get a hello when you pass them. Jesus would never have looked the other way.

October 4, 2020

Unknown god: The god of Pleasure
October 04, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

What is one thing that you love doing, that you can do alone? Has it ever gotten you into a situation that was comical or catastrophic?

Open:

We are in the second week of the new series, looking for “gods” that may be in our lives—though we may be unaware that we’ve placed them above our love for God. Paul had spent time in Athens, teaching men who had no idea there is one true living God, while worshiping gods of every created or imagined thing. Perhaps with that heathen nation in mind, he wrote 2 Timothy, warning Timothy to keep his life clean from the stains of the ungodly world around him, an admonition we all need to heed.

Key Verse: 2 Timothy 3:1-5: But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good. traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away.

Focal Passage: 2 Timothy 3:1-5

Lovers of Themselves

  • Read 2 Tim. 3:1-2a. When did the “last days” begin? Are we in them now as well? How long will they last? Explain why we are in perilous times?
  • What is involved in being a lover of yourself? How does one fall in love with themselves?
  • What is God’s plan for all of mankind? How does loving oneself turn God’s plan upside down?
  • Read Matt. 22:37-39. How does this passage illustrate God’s plan?
  • If one is a lover of self, how do they treat those around them? How do they see themselves in relation to others? Does life become “all about me”?

The result of messing up God’s plan

  • Read 2 Tim. 3:2b-4a. Why is there a natural progression between loving oneself in the sense Paul means, to being a lover of money?
  • What happens when you become a lover of money? Read 1 Tim. 6:10. How would a person live who has no limits to his wealth?
  • How does it feel to have a friend or acquaintance who is constantly telling of something their wealth enables them to do? Basically, what are they doing? What comes after boasting? What are some things the Bible says about pride?
  • What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “blasphemy”? Read Exo. 20:7 and Psa. 139:20. Why do Christians spend their days constantly taking God’s name in vain, never realizing they are sinning? What if we said, “Oh, my John!!” or “Oh, my Linda!!” The world exclaims OMG without ceasing—but why do Christians? Do you do this? How can you stop?
  • As Paul lists the next several sins, (go back to focal passage) where do we see these manifest? If they are in our children or grandchildren, what can we do? Are we afraid to call them to upbraid them, lest we ruin a relationship? If no one interferes, where will they eventually spend eternity?

A false worship

  • Read 2 Tim. 3:4b-5. Do you know someone who lives on the ragged edge of pleasure? What need is he/she trying to fill?
  • Read Eccl. 2:9-11. How did Solomon sum up his life? How did he die?
  • Read James 4:1-10. What did James tell us we need to put first? Yet he says the source of our unhappiness begins with what type of living?
  • For those we know whose life is filled with the list Paul gives to Timothy, what does Paul tell him (or us) to do, if they don’t change their lifestyle?
  • Are you strong enough to distance yourself from those you love whose life is listed in the focal passage?
  • How can you put God first in your life, every day, in every way? Read Eccl. 12:13-14.

Close:

The passage in 2 Timothy 3 gives a clear picture of those whose love for themselves leads to acquiring money. Their love for money—making it as well as spending it—often leads them to brag about the amazing or pleasurable things it allows them to do. Their life becomes filled with pride at what they’ve accomplished,  and self-sufficiency moves in, blaspheming the need for God to be in their lives. They may continue the downward spiral by preferring to place parents in nursing homes so they can carry on with their pleasure-filled lives, or it may skip to the next generation: children quickly pick up on the lack of personal love the parent has for them, and they themselves will give their own lives over to the sins of personal pleasure, spending the money that is abundant, trying to fill the need for love with a hate that spirals them down further. What a tragedy! Lives that could have been lived for Christ, lived for themselves and their own pleasure.

Searching out and repenting of sins that are hiding deep in our own flesh is a time-consuming, soul-baring job. But if you truly wish to be sold out to God, you will take each of these demonic evils and see that none of them are lurking in the depths of your soul. If you find one, beg God to clean you, and make you ‘whiter than snow.’ Follow 1 John 1:9, “if you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you, and cleanse you from all unrighteousness!”

September 27, 2020

Unknown god
September 27, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

It’s no fun to have taken the wrong road, especially without a GPS, and everything is unknown landmarks or road signs! Does someone have an example?

Open:

Life can be filled with unknowns, can’t it? Decisions that are not clear, commitments where we’re not sure what to do—life can be confusing. Or perhaps you’re trying to please everyone, but they all want different things, and you have no idea what to do! The philosophers of Athens were in constant confusion, trying to please all that they thought was a “god,” or the Stoics, who had no belief in any god. When Paul arrived, God immediately gave him the wisdom he needed to reach these men who were so confused. We start a new series today, to watch out for “unknown gods” in our lives.

Key Verse: Acts 17:30: Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent…

Focal Passage: Acts 17:22-31; 1 Peter 4:17

Refocusing on the one true God

  • Read Acts 17:23b. It is expected that people in foreign lands may never have heard of God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but do we in our country assume that many people are ignorant of the one true God? Do you know some personal examples?
  • What is a false god? If a god is anything that takes our mind off the one true God, what are some things that fill that definition in our lives?

The Creator of all

  • Read verses 24-25. What do these verses tell us about God? What does Genesis 1:1a tell us about Him? Read Isaiah 45:18. Is this the God you know?
  • Read John 1:1-5. How does this passage confirm the beginning of Genesis? Read Deuteronomy 4:39. What do both Old and New Testaments tell us?

Created to seek and worship Him

  • Read Acts 17:26. What is so pertinent about it that we need to heed? Read Malachi 2:10. What is so impactful about this verse, and its connection with verse 26 in Acts? What does this verse in Malachi ask us?
  • If Scripture tells us that we are all made from one blood, what do you think God feels about our racism? Do you recall how you were raised to think of other nationalities? How can we promote love between people groups?
  • How can racism work both ways? Read James 3:14-15. While this applies to wisdom, how can we liken it to the strife among the nationalities today?
  • Read 2 Chron. 15:2. What are the primary ways we can seek Him? What are the primary ways in which we worship Him? Read Deut.8:19. How does God feel about leaving our total commitment for Him and worship “things”?
  • Read Acts 17: 27-28. What are we to do? Read Isaiah 43:7. Why were we created? Read Hebrews 7:19, 25. What can we do to be close to God? Read Romans 12:1. What did God create us to do?

Close: 

Do you get perturbed when someone insinuates that you have put something above your commitment to God? Probably the truthful answer is yes, because it is so easy to look at a warm, sunny day and feel the golf course calling you, or the river where you love to put in your boat, or the beach (although the “calling” is the voice of Satan). We don’t consider a couple of Sundays a month as putting God second in our affections.

If you’ve had a personal experience of watching a new mom with her baby, you’ve seen how hard it is for her to let someone else take care of it, hold it, feed it, or the myriad of things one needs to do with the newborn. Poor or rich, usually a mom will sit for as long as possible while holding, rocking or tending to that baby. That is a love that transcends almost all others. (This is definitely a generalization in this day and time). That is the type of love God has for us, and the type we are to have for Him! What He did for us is something we can’t even fathom. Have any of us seen heaven? Jesus did. It is His dwelling place, but He had so much love for us that He was willing to leave it, walk this earth for thirty-three years, be beaten until He no long resembled a man (Isaiah 52:14), and be crucified on a cruel cross, He was buried in a borrowed tomb. Just for us. Just for love’s sake. The amazing news is that He came out of the grave and walked and talked with people He knew for forty days before ascending back to heaven.

Does that deserve your utmost love? In Revelation 2:4-5, God tells the church at Ephesus that they have left their first love. That love that consumed them when they first realized what Jesus had done for them. Do you still feel that kind of love? Do you daily ask Him to be your All in All, filling you with His love—especially love for those who do not deserve it? After all, we didn’t deserve it—but He saved us.

September 20, 2020

BETTER TOGETHER
September 20, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Everyone has probably had a bad day—or possibly a bad year! Can you share a particular memory of one of your worst days, and tell what you learned from it?

Open:

This pandemic period of isolation, quarantine, and social distancing has been very rough, hasn’t it? In most cases, people with families, jobs or responsibilities outside the home have found these seven months extremely hard. Has it caused you to appreciate the things we took for granted, like being with friends, going out to eat, going to church, movies, or shopping? Today Pastor will teach us from Hebrews of the strength and encouragement we gain when we do life together!

Key Verse: Hebrews 3:12-13 (HCSB): “Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God. But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception..

Focal Passage: Hebrews 3:12-13; Acts 2:46-47.

Spiritual Awareness In An Ungodly World

  • Read Hebrews 10:12a. Why does man have a nature that is sinful? Read Romans 6:23. What can be done about our sinful nature? How can a person profess God to be Savior, but then have to be careful not to be overtaken with an evil, unbelieving heart? Read Mark 4:14-20, for Jesus’ answer to this question. What are some things going on right now that would draw you away from God?
  • Think about this time in history: what is Satan trying to do to everyone? Why is it critical that we know the word of God? Read Psalm 119:11. Is this the answer?

A Breaking Away From God

  • Read verse 12b. Probably all of us know someone who has chosen to leave the church (or Christ). Can you share (no names, please), and tell what the results were? Should/could the church have been able to restore such a one  as written in Galatians 6:1?
  • What do we mean when we say that a person must be intentional or deliberate about his walk with Christ, so as not to be led astray? If you take your hands off your steering wheel while driving, what does the car do? How does that analogy serve to describe our human nature when we are not careful about guarding our relationship with Christ?

Better Together

  • Read verse 13. What have we learned about the importance of togetherness during Covid 19? What does verse 13 mean “to encourage one another”?
  • How often are we told to encourage each other? Why should we need encouragement every day? Read James 5:13-14. How many times do you procrastinate about doing a good deed, only to let the time slip by?
  • Does anyone recall a first-hand experience of someone who put off accepting Jesus, only to lose their life prematurely? Can you share?
  • What would be some reasons we are told to encourage each other “today,” so that no one is hardened by sin’s deception?

Gene Getz stated, “Though true Christianity uniquely involves a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, it is also a corporate experience…Christians cannot grow spiritually as they ought to in isolation from one another.”

Close:

Years ago an analogy of the sinful nature we humans labor under was likened to a bird: he has wings, and can fly, but he also has legs and feet, so he can walk. Yet in his normal state, he naturally goes from place to place by flying. We, as fallen man, have a sin nature which causes us to fall short of the mark that God wants. However, when we are made new through salvation, it is no longer our sin nature that is in charge, but we are a new creation, in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit. We have to jealousy guard ourselves against Satan’s offenses.

As we study isolation from a biblical viewpoint, it brings up the subject of the pandemic that has stolen most of a year of our lives (so far). How many people do you hear saying “Yes! I’d love life to be like this?” Not many, right? Few people, while they may enjoy peace and quiet for a time, do not desire a life of separation from their friends and families.

Acts 2:46-47 says, “Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.” Wouldn’t it be a joyous time here on earth if we could spend time with each other, loving on each other, and inviting strangers in to share our meals—and see them come to God?

As Corrie Ten Boom said, “When a Christian shuns fellowship with other Christians, the devil smiles. When he stops studying the Bible, the devil laughs. When he stops praying, the devil shouts for joy.” Let’s give him no reason to rejoice!

September 13, 2020

ALL IN
September 12, 2020
Scott Bullman

Do you have a recollection of being so disobedient as a child that the ensuing consequences last to this very day? Can you share?

Open:

Today Scott Bullman brings us a message that centers around the calling of Elisha, the prophet who came after Elijah. When Elijah called Elisha to join him and take over his calling after his death, Elisha asked only that he be allowed to kiss his parents goodbye. Are we always so ready to follow God’s calling, or the urging of the Holy Spirit? How often does He nudge your heart to perform an action and you ignore Him? Today let’s find out what it takes to be “All In”!

Key Verse: 2 Corinthians 5:20: “We are Christ’s ambassadors: God is making His appeal through us.”(NLT)

Focal Passage: I Kings 19:19-21 (NLT)

Elisha’s ALL-IN moment

  • Read 1 Kings 19:19-21. Most farmers owned only one yoke of oxen; how many did Elisha’s family have? What does that tell you? Where was he plowing when Elijah came along? How would you have felt to be the heir to a large fortune?
  • What was the significance of Elijah throwing his cloak over the shoulders of Elisha? What was Elisha’s immediate response? What did Elijah mean by his statement in 20b?
  • What did Elisha run home to do? How was this the same as us throwing a “goodbye” party for someone? What did he do then?

ALL-IN COMMITMENT requires ALL-IN OBEDIENCE

ALL-IN Obedience Will Be Tested

  • List some of the things that Elisha was probably giving up to follow Elijah?
  • In those three verses, what were some thoughts that the enemy could have used to test Elisha’s commitment?
  • Have you ever made a decision to do what you felt God was calling you to do, only to have things in your life fall apart? Can you share? What was happening? Did you let Satan discourage you through the testing?
  • On the other hand, have you given up for God what you desired most in life, only to be happier than you ever thought possible? Can you share?

ALL-IN Obedience often Releases God’s Miracles

  • Read 2 Kings 2:8. Elisha had been with Elijah several years when it was time for Elijah’s death (read verses 1-7 of this chapter at your leisure). What did Elijah do when it was time for them to cross the Jordan River? What did he ask Elisha in verse 9?
  • Read verse 10.-11 How did Elijah respond? What did Elisha see, in verse 10? What is so special about that?
  • Read verse 12.-14. What miracles occurred in just these three verses?
  • There are many miracles performed by Elisha in the rest of the book of 2 Kings. Can anyone remember some things he did in his role as prophet?

ALL-IN Obedience Always Requires Faith

  • How does your faith grow during your life? With each testing, comes more endurance (Jas. 1:2-3). What does that mean to you when you are being tested? Are you able to see God working in the test?
  • Our church sings a song that illustrates God’s faithfulness; can anyone recite some of the phrases in it?
  • What are some verses about His faithfulness that we need to have memorized, in order to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit moving us to do something?

Close:

We all should have stories that illustrate how faithful God has been in the past. The song in the question above says, “Your promise still stands, great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness; I’m still in Your hands, this is my confidence, You’ve never failed me yet!” (Elevation Worship). He has been faithful all our lives, but sometimes it takes a lifetime to see how many times He has rescued or delivered us; how many times we have been saved by Him as the enemy seeks to destroy us.

Today, fear is a by-word. It is on everyone’s lips, all wondering what the next weeks, or months, are going to bring to America. One thing is sure: if you’re not ALL IN, your commitment will not get you through. We may well face some days where it seems evil has been loosed upon our country. Whatever happens, make certain your faith is the faith of Elijah and Elisha, the faith of the disciples who saw Jesus after the resurrection, the faith of believers through the ages who have seen incredible miracles, the faith of those who have been martyred.

Probably all of us have heard the story of George Mueller, who had an orphanage of 300 children. One morning he had the housemother sit them at the breakfast table, although there was no food. He prayed, thanking God for food. Soon a knock at the door was heard, and a local baker brought loaves of bread. “God laid it on my heart last night that you would need bread this morning,” he said. Soon another knock was heard. A milk cart, filled with fresh milk, had had a cartwheel break, and the milk would be spoiled before the wheel could be fixed. Oh, that we would all have the faith of men like George Mueller!