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!

September 6, 2020

A BOLD FAITH
September 06, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Lately we’ve heard much about the “silent majority.” Who does that apply to, and if we are the majority, why are we silent? What could we do if we pulled together?

Open:

The past many months have been strange and difficult. Loved ones in hospitals without family visitation, no school activities, and so much more. Now small changes are taking place, but there’s a long way to go before we are back to normal. The writer to the Hebrews encourages us in today’s sermon to be bold in our faith, not silent, not fearful, not afraid that God is going to fail us!

Focal Passage: Hebrews 10:19-25

The Confidence of a Believer

  • Read Hebrews 10:19. We all know what it’s like to lack confidence in life; can you give an example, and explain why you lacked confidence? If you knew you couldn’t fail, how would you react? What does the blood of Jesus enable us to do?
  • Read verse 20. What was the significance of the veil in the temple being torn in two from top to bottom when Jesus was crucified? Why did the writer to the Hebrews stress the fact that the new way was “living”? Jesus called Himself the ___, the truth and the life. What was the significance of the “way”? Why were the new Christians called people of the “Way”?

The Closeness of the Believer

  • Read verse 22. What are the two best ways to draw near to God? What keeps the fellowship between you and God open? Read James 4:8a. Is this a promise?
  • How would you describe a “true heart”? What will God do if we have a true heart and draw near to Him? How do we keep our conscience “sprinkled” and our bodies clean? Why is it so important that the moment a sinful thought enters our mind, we confess it? What are some ways we can immediately threaten Satan’s kingdom as soon as we have confessed?

The Consistency of the Believer

  • Read verse 23. Can you give some examples of things you hold to tightly? How can we hold so tightly to our faith that no one can doubt that we believe in Jesus Christ? What about our language-does it contain profanity?
  • Read James 1:5-8. How does God view our wavering when we are asking Him for something? What does being “double-minded” mean?
  • Read 1 Corinthians 1:9. How do you stake your life on the word of God?
  • Pastor read a thought-provoking quote today: “Faith reposes completely in the love of God: Hope vividly anticipates that God will fulfill His promises in a particular way.” Can you have some discussion how this brings a feeling of joy to your heart when you meditate on these words?

The Commitment of the Believer

  • Read verse 24. What are some ways which you’ve found that encourage others to serve with love and good works? How can you do these two duties with joy, rather than wishing you hadn’t committed to doing them?
  • Read verse 25. Putting Covid to the side, what are some reasons people stay at home and watch church on the tv? Why is that the wrong way to participate in a service if you’re able to go to a local church? When God said not to forsake the gathering together with other believers, was that a command or a suggestion? Read Prov. 18:1a. Why is isolation wrong? Can you fulfill the commandment to love, if you isolate yourself?
  • What Day is the writer speaking of in Hebrews? Is 1 Thess. 4:16-18 the Day the Hebrews writer meant? How can our own particular “day” come sooner?

Close:

We have entered a new phase in living the past 9 months. We began hearing about Covid 19 months before it reached the point of isolation and quarantine. Now we are seeing those in power making decisions that are against the rights available to American citizens through the Constitution. We seem to sit and wait for the next law to be enacted, rather than cohesively rising up against such actions.

How does this relate to our salvation and eternal life? In our sermon today, we find we are to be bold as we come before the throne of God, imploring Him on behalf of our country. We are His children and should all be seeking Him!! We don’t have to quake and fear as we see our rights taken away—God is much stronger than the evil around us. But how many of us plead for revival in our land?

We also are told not to forsake the assembling of ourselves with other believers. God said do that, period. Do it. We get encouragement and strength from being with other Christians. We can’t do this life on our own—as much as the government tries to impose laws to isolate us. Would that those in power could see the armies of the Living God encircling our country and the believers! Be bold, share your faith, and love even those in authority.

August 30, 2020

GRACE THAT IS GREATER THAN ALL OUR SIN
August 30, 2020
David Nasser

It is reported that in the back of the Bible belonging to William Borden (of the Borden family fortune) was written “No Regrets.” Can anyone in this group say this about their life? Explain why or why not.

Open:

This morning, Liberty University’s Campus Pastor, David Nasser, brought us a message that shows where sin can lead us, how we can be filled with shame for our actions, and how great God’s grace is. It can overcome any “weight that so easily besets us.” As LU goes through weeks of turmoil and rebuilding, we who call ourselves children of God must act as Jesus acted while He was on this earth: with love for the sinner, knowing that we, too, commit sin every day, proving the reason Christ had to die on a cruel cross: because no one, no one, is exempt from sin.

Key Verse: Romans 5:20b: But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.

SIN IS STRONG

  • Read Romans 3:23. Who does this verse say has sinned? Does God categorize sin into small ones and big ones? If you say yes, back up your answer with chapter and verse.
  • What is the meaning of “sin”? Do you set boundaries for your children? Why? Does God have the right to set boundaries for His children? What are some of them?
  • Read 1 John 2:15-17. How does sin enter a person’s life? Where are you letting down your guard for sin to enter?
  • Read James 1:12-15. What is the sequence of events that shows the strength of sin’s hold on a person who doesn’t repent?
  • Read Romans 7:18-20. While we have a choice NOT to sin, why do we do it sometimes without thinking?

SHAME IS GREAT

  • Read Psalm 44:15. How are the words of this psalm a picture of what we go through for times we have failed God?
  • Pastor Nasser quoted Jeremy Pierre who said, “Shame is a privilege. Remember that the next time you experience it. It shows that God values you enough to beckon you to the righteousness that He alone can provide.” What did Mr. Pierre mean?
  • Read Psalm 83:16. What is the Psalmist asking God to give these whom he has in mind?
  • What were the two types of reactions that were the result of Liberty’s news this past week? Can you share which one you felt?

JESUS IS GREATER

  • Read Colossians 2:13. What was our condition before Christ saved us? What is our condition now?
  • Read Psalm 51:1. What did David beg God for? Read Jeremiah 31:19. What was hoped for after repentance?
  • Read 1 John 1:9 and Philippians 3:20-21. How are we restored to fellowship with God?

Close:

This past week on social media, it was so comforting to read the thousands of posts from people who were praying for Liberty University’s family of students, their parents, alumni, and the Falwell family. One such post had more than a hundred prayers offered, with only one dissenter.

We don’t expect everyone to love a large Christian university. At the same time, we know that those who are celebrating the news of the fall of a leader of such a prestigious school would rejoice at news that any Christian college or university would go through what LU has and is. We can’t expect sinners to act like Christians, but we certainly can expect Christians to act like Christians!

David Nasser said he had seen two types of those who call themselves Christians these past couple of weeks: the ones who are grieving over the pain that has befallen our beautiful university and the family name associated with it, and then there are those who celebrate the news of a fall of a brother in Christ—especially one who is in a high position of leadership. This second group now justifies any wrongs in their own lifestyle (which now doesn’t seem quite so big to them). Let’s be truthful here: the ones who are grieving for their school, praying God will have mercy on it, that He will have compassion on those who are hurting so deeply, praying heavily for the families involved and asking for comfort, wisdom, and grace, and who are asking God for miracles, are in a right relationship with Him. Speculation as to the salvation of those who are celebrating what has happened is not going to happen in this closing statement. But above all, God has given us a commandment in Galatians 6:1 that “if a man [or woman] is caught in any trespass,  you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, each one looking to yourself, lest you, too, be tempted.” Love all of those you come into contact with, and leave their salvation in God’s hands. Forgiveness has already have been granted at the Cross. But above all, abstain from every form [or appearance] of evil (1 Thess. 5:22). Let us in truth and love be Champions for Christ.

August 23, 2020

NO MATTER WHAT—MAKE A DIFFERENCE
August 23, 2020

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Do you have a passion for a certain work, or a talent for something that you love doing? How have you used that to benefit others?

Open:

Do you ever wonder what kind of impression you made on a person (or a group of people) after you have left them? Perhaps you self-criticize everything you said, replaying it all in your mind, wishing you had said or done a million other things. Paul had a very succinct admonition to Timothy: Command and teach [the things I’ve taught you], don’t let Satan make you feel less than you are because of your lack of years, and be an example in your speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. Those are sound instructions for each of us, every day, leaving the impression we make to God.

Key Verse: 1 Timothy 4:11-13: (CSB) Command and teach these things. Let no one despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching.

Focal Passage: 1 Timothy 4:11-13.

BE AN EXAMPLE

  • Read 1 Tim. 4:11. When have you had a doctor or someone in authority “command” you to do what you know is good and profitable for you physically? Explain. How was it profitable for Timothy to command and teach the various churches those things that Paul had taught him?
  • Read verse 12. There is really only one way that people will listen to what you have to say; what is it? If you are a young person (Timothy was perhaps 30), how do you need to conduct yourself so that others listen to you?
  • What were some ways in which Timothy had to be an example to the new believers, and the ones he hoped to win to Christ? Would this come about naturally, or did Timothy (or we) have to be intentional?

SPEECH

  • Read 1 Tim. 12 (again). What are ways words that come out of our mouths are able to destroy our testimony? What are some examples?
  • Read Matt. 12:34. Where did Jesus say the words that come out of our mouths originate from?
  • Can you share how you handle conflict behind closed doors? How do your spouse and children see Christ in you when you are in conflict with one of them? Do they hear what you say as godly, reflecting whom you say you love? Read James 3:6-12. Is this someone you know when they’re at home?
  • What are some ways in which your speech reveals the inner spirit of Christ, so that you don’t have to worry about what might come out of your mouth?

CONDUCT

  • What are some examples of your conduct that makes an impression on others? Which of your actions do you need be concerned about when someone knows you call yourself a Christian?
  • Is there ever a time when your life can be used for worldliness, and it not come back to bite you? Share your thoughts.
  • Read 1 Peter 2:12. How does Peter tell us how to live in such a way that those around us will observe our holiness?

LOVE

  • What are some of the issues on Facebook that get you stirred up? How would Jesus have handled those people who have made the remarks?
  • Why is it so hard to love unconditionally? As followers of Christ, do we have any luxury to hate another person? What is in 1 Cor. 13 that effects you most?

FAITH

  • Do you have little trouble believing that Jesus was God, came in the flesh, lived a sinless life, died a cruel death, and rose to return to heaven? Why, then, is it so hard to trust Him with our finances, our children, our desires?
  • How would you define your faith in Christ?

PURITY

  • What are some of the most prevalent areas of sexual immorality? How can we minister to someone who’s fallen into one of those deep pits?
  • Read 1 Cor. 6:18-20. What about in your own family, are you able to calmly discuss the sinfulness that is the bottom line in the life of one of your children?

Close:

Recently a passage in a book had a mother, taking her sons’ faces in her hands as they left for school, and saying, “Don’t forget who you are!” It was her way of instilling self-worth into the lives of her boys. It would be good for us to look in the mirror daily and remind ourselves, “Don’t forget Whose you are!” Being a Christian is not an on-again, off-again relationship.

The instructions that Paul gave to Timothy have often caused us to assume he was a young man, perhaps around 20 years of age. It is amazing that Timothy was approximately the age of Jesus when He began His ministry. Paul was able to encourage, edify, build up, and instruct his young disciple to keep himself from the world, in order to gain Christ. Do we live our lives in this way?

If there are areas in today’s sermon where you feel weak, or feel the enemy can easily get a foothold, go back and read the entire books of 1 and 2 Timothy until your inner spirit has absorbed the tremendous truths and instructions that are found in them.

August 16, 2020

 WHOM DO WE SERVE
August 16, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Have you ever been asked to compromise what you believe to be right or wrong? Has temptation ever gotten the upper hand in an area of your life when you wanted to stand firm?

Open:

We’ve been focusing for the past weeks on pleasing God with what we say, how we act, and the daily life we live. Sometimes, though, the beliefs we hold dear, or the life we try to live to please Christ, may not have been tested by fire. We will learn today that the time of testing our faith is coming more quickly than most of us thought. Today we watched the news to learn if Christians in California were arrested for attending worship services this morning against a late night ban on services. It was to the glory of God that their government stepped in at the last moment, saying the order was unconstitutional. But how will you act if persecution comes to your city?

Key Verse: 1 Thessalonians. 2:4: Instead, just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please men, but rather God, who examines our hearts. (CSB).

Focal Passage: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4.

OPPOSITION CAN NEVER STOP THE IMPACT OF THE GOSPEL

  • Read 1 Thess. 2:1-2. How were Paul and Silas treated in Philippi? Where did they travel to because of the persecution?
  • Read Acts 17:1-4. If you had been persecuted and treated “outrageously,” for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, would you have gone on to another city to continue preaching? How can you know how you would react?
  • How did the persecution in Philippi cause them to react in Thessalonica?What was the result in Acts 17:4?
  • Satan is very well aware of the fate awaiting him in the book of Revelation; why does he continue to persecute the church?

TEMPTATION CAN STOP THE IMPACT OF THE GOSPEL

  • Read 1 Thess. 2:3. We know how Paul and Silas reacted to the torture they endured at Philippi, and later in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5ff). Is there anything you currently do that brings you ill treatment of some type? How do you react? How do you react within your family when you become the victim of someone’s ill treatment?
  • What are the three things in verse 3 that Paul said he and Silas did not let stand in the way of their preaching the gospel of Christ?
  • Can you relate any preaching that you have heard that goes against the word of God? Has any sermon you’ve heard had content of impurity (cursing, bitterness, making light of hell, etc.)? What about a sermon where the intent was to deceive the hearers?
  • As you go about your daily activities, if you observe or hear a false statement about Christ, are you strong enough to refute it? Explain.
  • If you are not able to stand against sin in your peer group, are you having an impact on any of them? Explain how you justify being quiet.

NEVER FORGET YOUR PURPOSE

  • Read 1 Thess. 2:4. What did Paul say was his purpose? Why? Whom did he wish to please? Whom do you try hardest to please, God, your spouse, your boss, or someone else?
  • If you read any news going across America in this present age, you know that persecution is becoming more and more an anti-Christian movement. When it comes to where you live, how will you react? Has your faith been tested yet? How?
  • During Covid 19, what did we see happen to the church of Jesus Christ?
  • What do you consider your purpose in life? How does that mesh with Matthew 28:19-20?

Close:

We are living in fearful times now, aren’t we? Every day, somewhere in the world, some tragedy is happening that makes one wonder just how much longer God will endure wicked and evil men. The terrible truth is that 2 Timothy 3:13 tells us that “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” That is very scary, right?

Our only way out is to follow Christ fully, carrying our own cross daily, and being ready to defend our Christian beliefs even to death. Be in His word until it is so deeply rooted that for every action you see, a verse comes to mind. Teach your children and grandchildren what to watch for, especially if their focus as young people is to have the friendship of the world and be accepted by peers.

Most of all, stay away from sin. We have been freed from the bondage of sin, but its temptations can still sway us. The instant a sinful thought comes, give it to Jesus. Satan no longer owns you, because you have been bought by the precious blood of Christ. However, we still listen to the voice of the deceiver at times. Remember that, and be bold to speak out, knowing the light of Christ will shine through you.

August 9, 2020

PSALM 46
August 09, 2020
Teaching Pastor Charles Billingsley

Riots, violence, political unrest, covid virus, earthquake, hurricanes—has 2020 caused you to wonder if there’s a safe place to move and make a new life?

Open:

Over the past few weeks we have looked at the very practical book of James, followed by how to incorporate the things we learned into our lifestyle. Today we are going to go from practical, every day living, to impractical, God-centered living. What do we mean? Practical living is the life lived for the benefit and love of others. Impractical living is what the world thinks of as crazy—trusting God for our daily living that does not come from the practical side (work, teaching, etc.), but from His word: do not fear, realize He’s with us always, His Spirit indwells us and He leads us through life. Are those impractical? Not for the son or daughter of Almighty God!

Focal Passage: Psalm 46

GOD’S PRESENCE IS WITH US

  • Read Psalm 46:1. Do any of you recall how safe you felt when your father or mother was with you during a time when you might have been afraid? In this present day of violence and civil unrest, how often do you consciously consider God as your refuge? If you feel trouble coming, what steps do you take to make sure you realize He is your very present help?
  • Read 1 Peter 5:7. What does it mean to you that God is your Protector?What are some other descriptive terms for Him as He takes care of you?
  • How can you live for any given moment without it being the “present”? Did God limit His protection to the past, or to the future? Why?

WE HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR

  • Read Psa. 46:2. What are some things going on right now that cause you anxiety? How do you handle the fear they inspire?
  • How many verses are there in the Bible that encourage us to not fear? Why would God go to such lengths to give us one for each day?
  • If, when you feel overcome by fear, you remind yourself that you are a child of God, how does that help you?
  • Read Psalm 91:1. What is conditional about the safety of God’s protection?
  • Read Psa. 46:3. Have you ever been in a severe natural disaster (hurricane, etc.)? Were you afraid? What is the worst thing that can happen? Has God left us at that moment?
  • Selah. What did the psalmists mean when they inserted “selah” in a Psalm?

GOD’S SPIRIT IS IN US

  • Read verse 4. What are some of the nouns that the word “river” can stand for in scripture? If you remember the global trajectory as Charles expanded on the Gulf Stream, beginning in the southern tip of Florida and ending in the Arctic Ocean, what did he liken the amazing spinoffs from that river to?
  • Think of our church, located here in central Virginia; how far do the “spinoffs” reach that begin with our congregation? Explain your answers.
  • Read John 4:13-14. Was Jesus speaking of literal water? What water did He mean? (Read John 7:37-39. What was the Water?)

WE HAVE NOTHING TO FLEE

  • Read Psa. 46:5. Who is the “her” Jesus is speaking of in this verse? What is Satan powerless against? Do we need to flee before him? Why?
  • Read verses 6-8. Who is raging? Read Psalm 2:1-3. Why are they raging?
  • Why do we not need to fear what man may do to us? Read Hebrews 13:6. Does this verse bring you comfort?

Close:

What did we learn today? God’s presence is with us, so we have nothing to fear. God’s Spirit is within us, so we have no reason to flee! Take those two statements and make them your watchwords for the week. He is, as we read, a very present help in trouble—and definitely we are in troublesome times right now.

Since God is a God or order, it should cause each of us to realize that He made a verse of encouragement—or verses saying “do not fear” (or some version of those words) for each day of our year! Would that we had had a calendar for 2020 that had one of the verses telling us not to fear on the top in bold for each day of this calendar year! For many of us, we will look back upon 2020 and tell it to our grandchildren, those who are too young to be impacted by the isolation, the lack of eating out whenever we wanted to, the lack of school, the virtual online subjects (good and bad), and the year of no sports. It has been a year most of us want to forget.

But through it all, hopefully in the worst of times, we have remembered that our Father, who is in heaven, has never given up control of the events that have over-shadowed us this year. He is with us, never leaves us, and will always be there to take our burdens. May we all praise His holy Name!

August 2, 2020

A LIFE WORTH LIVING
August 02, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Have you recently been in a situation where you had no idea what to do, how to answer, or what action to take? Can you share?

Open: Last week we finished a series based on the book of James. Today we will take what we have learned and see how to apply it to our everyday living. Everything we learned the past five weeks fits perfectly with the days we are living now. Today’s culture tries to drag us away from God. The words to music, the movies, television  shows, clothing, education, businesses—most of these would pull us away from the Savior who gave His life for us. When we don’t know what to do next, we go to God’s word, which has “everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness” (2 Pet. 1:3). Let’s look at the IMPACT we are making as we live each day.

Key Verse: Colossians 2:10 And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

Focal Passage: Colossians 2:6-10.

WALK IN HIM

  • Read Col. 2:6. Have you ever had your parents remind you, “You’re a ___ (family, employee, etc.), now ACT like it!”? What did they mean? How do we remind ourselves that we are Christians and should “walk in Him”?
  • What are some actions that show you are a Christian?
  • How is your GPS like your Bible? If you are lost, how can your GPS help? How can you navigate your life to walk in truth if you are not in the Word?
  • What have you done in the past few days to make an impact on someone? Can someone tell you are a Christian by the way you live? What are some examples of the ways you can impact others?

ESTABLISHED THROUGH HIM

  • Read Col. 2:7. Growing plants, just like growing humans, need a root system. What happens if the roots are not fed in some form? How does that apply to Christians?
  • How can you be established in the faith? Liken this to a family who has become established in a community; what is common between the two?
  • What does a grateful heart have to do with being established in the faith?
  • Read verse 8. How can we be led astray? Do you have a friend who is of a denomination that requires another book along with the Bible? Have you tried to explain why this is not saving Christianity? Explain your answer.
  • Why does Christ “plus” (anything) cause destruction?

GUIDED BY HIM

  • Read Col. 2:9. What do we mean to be guided by Christ? Where do we get His directions for a right path? Read Psa. 119:105. How does this compare to your answer?
  • Many Christians don’t feel the need to teach their belief in Jesus to their children. How does Prov. 22:6 refute the idea of letting a child grow up with no religious training?

COMPLETE IN HIM

  • Read Col. 2:10. What does it mean to be complete in Jesus Christ? If we don’t know which way to go or what to do, how will He help us?
  • If you don’t know what you are to do, who is at fault—you or Christ? Is it possible He may be giving you the option of either decision being alright?
  • Read Eph. 3:16-19, and liken any part of it to this lesson from Colossians.

Close:

Plants can be totally different, can’t they? Hydrangeas, for instance, need to be watered (in the heat of summer) at least every other day, and sometimes every day. Others, like Hibiscus, can go slightly longer. But the amount of flowers produced on a hydrangea bush is much greater than the flowers that beautify a hibiscus. How is that like the Water of Life being poured on a Christian? The more often one is exposed to Truth, serving, giving, and fellowshipping with other Christians, the more fruit is produced, and a lovely life is evident.

The Christian life is able to make an impact on everyone we meet, whether it is simply a smile, a quiet action, or initiating a friendship. The closer we live to Jesus Christ and are grounded in Him, the more impact we have. At the end of any given day, do you ask yourself, “What have I done this day that has furthered the kingdom of God here on earth? It’s a good habit to cultivate, if only to make you become aware of the need to daily pick up your cross and follow Him.

Most of all, decide who is going to be the ruler of your life, you or Christ. Are you going to let the world woo you away from what you have learned about Jesus Christ, so you can follow the pleasures of sin for a season, or are you going to pray fervently that Christ put a hedge of protection around you, so that He might present you to His Father, saying, “I died for him/her, and they have lived for Me”?

July 19, 2020

FAITH WITH FEET: JAMES 5
July 19, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

All of us have a conscience that is (or should be) activated in a moment if we react quickly with anger or impatience, don’t we? If we ignore it often enough, it becomes almost silent. Can you share a time when you know you reacted badly?

Today we finish our series, “Faith With Feet.” This last chapter of the book of James is filled with four sections that are all connected by the depth of our commitment to God. Do we observe the rich focusing on their riches, forgetting God and mistreating people? Learn from their sin. Do we need patience if we are being treated unfairly?  Do we need more patience waiting on God to act in a situation? Do we have trusting faith  that He really hears our prayers? We will finish this practical book with help to live knowing we matter to God more than we can imagine!

Key Verse: James 5:8: You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Focal Passage: James 5:1-20

MOTIVES MATTER

  • Read James 5:1-6. Who had James addressed this book to in chapter one? Many of those scattered Jews had become rich and forsaken the faith, mistreating their brethren. Why did James need to address this?
  • Is it wrong to have money? Then what is the issue here? Why would rich people want to hoard their money and possessions, when they can’t “take it with them”? What would be their motive to get richer?
  • Can you think of someone wealthy who gave most of their money away? Why would a person like that be such an example of God’s heart?
  • Can you be poor and love money? How is that possible?
  • How do motives involving money matter in life? Give some examples.

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE

  • Read James 5:7-12. Every generation for two thousand years has thought Jesus would return in their lifetime. Why would James say it was at hand? Why is it even more likely that we really are in the “last days”?
  • Does Jesus have to return to this earth before His “coming” happens to thousands of people every day? Why is it so important to be in a right relationship to Him?
  • What is the connection to patience that James brings into this passage ?
  • Why is it such a virtue to have patience? How many prayers have you prayed that Jesus has answered at the last hour—when you’re about to give up? Why do you think He may wait like that?
  • What was the circle of trials and patience that we learned in James 1:2-4?

THE PROPER POSTURE OF PRAYER

  • Read James 5:13-18. As we read this passage on prayer, rather than taking it apart verse by verse, focus on the passage as a whole. Why would James mention Elijah as an analogy of a man of prayer? Was Elijah perfect? How did he describe Elijah?
  • What are the three answers to prayer that God gives? (Don’t forget: He answers every prayer!) If He says “No,” how do you react? Read Matthew 26:38-39. How did Jesus pray to His Father? What lessons can we learn about prayer from these two verses in Matthew?
  • When should you ask yourself, “Why am I praying for this?” What would be the advantage of learning to ask yourself this before every prayer?

THE POWER OF PURPOSE

  • Read James 5:19-20. What is so encouraging about these verses? Does anyone ever get too sinful to be able to be saved?
  • Have you carried burdens of sin that you’ve committed since you were saved, that have made you fear God has blotted your name out of His book?
  • Read Romans 38-39. What does that verse mean to YOU?

Close:

Has James become someone you can hardly wait to meet in heaven? A half-brother of Jesus, obviously scoffing at His being the Messiah, yet doing a complete 180 after he sees Him beaten, crucified, and buried, only to rise from the grave by His own power and show Himself to James, in particular. What a meeting that was!

His leadership in the church at Jerusalem became his focus later. As the leader of the church, he must have remembered much of what Jesus had said and did at home before His ministry began. James’ personality shines through the book, and his practical style of living out your faith—which, he reminds us, if not bearing fruit, is dead—will enrich your walk. He takes almost every “common” sin known to man, and tells us how to handle it: trials, pride, giving, teaching, clean living, lying, cursing, money, power, prayer… if you want to know how to live the Christian life in a nutshell, go to James. The book will give you advice in almost all areas.

Do you still memorize? This small book is easy to commit to memory: most of his passages flow from a word or phrase (or thought) used in the preceding passage. Get a grip on the thought, and the passage is easily memorized. It will come in handy for the rest of your life!

July 12, 2020

FAITH WITH FEET—WHAT WE SAY AND WHAT WE SOW
July 12, 2020
Charles Billingsley

Can you think of a time when you’ve said something that was totally inappropriate, mostly because you didn’t stop to think? Arguments, stupid questions…they all come back to haunt us, don’t they? How long has it been, yet you still remember?

Open:

Today we continue our series, “Faith With Feet,” from the book of James. James wrote practical advice and instruction that is not too difficult to understand—but may be very hard to carry out! For instance, “ joy in tribulation,” :be humble,” “ be slow to speak, quick to hear”—and the hardest for some of us, “be slow to get angry”! Today we will concentrate on the tongue. Do you consider yourself (as Mary Poppins) “practically perfect in every way”? If so, you have your tongue under total control. Is that possible? James says it isn’t. Let’s open to the third chapter of this amazingly down-to-earth book of the Scriptures.

Focal Passage: James 3:1-18

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY

  • Read James 3:1-2. Why did James use the term “we”? What if someone does not say anything that he has to regret? Is this possible?
  • Read verses 3.-5  What three examples does James liken to the power that is in the tongue? What do each of these have in common?
  • How many of you have had experience with a horse and bridle? If so, you know they do not like the bit in their mouth, and yet without it, what would the horse do? What is the analogy to the tongue?
  • Can you think of other examples where something small or insignificant  on its own can have consequences that may result in catastrophe?
  • What are some uses of the tongue that can destroy another person? What are some examples of words that can build someone up?
  • Read Proverbs 20:19, 16:28, and 17:27-28, How does God feel about gossip?
  • Read verses 7-8. Why does James say the tongue is full of poison? Can you give an example of hurt that happened in the past that scarred you?
  • Read verses 9-12. What are some examples of Christians who “speak out of both sides of their mouth” (as the saying goes)? Is there one that bothers you more than any other?

BE CAREFUL HOW YOU SAY IT

  • Read Proverbs 15:23. Do you know someone like this, and what is so special about them?
  • Read verses James 3:13. What two character qualities does James point out here? Why do some people feel the need to assert to others that he has those attributes? When someone boasts on himself, do others see that?
  • Read Proverbs 15:23 and Psalm 141:3. What are some ways we can seek to put these into use in our everyday lives?
  • What are some ways we can build up people who cross our paths during the day, whom we don’t know?
  • Read verse 17. When you have something you want to say, is this a good list to hold up against your comment? Even more so, are your actions in line with this list of heavenly wisdom?

FOUR THINGS YOU CAN’T RECOVER FROM YOUR WORDS

1. The word after it’s been spoken

2. The blow to the heart after it’s been delivered

3. The pain from the blow

4. The scar that it leaves

Close:

Have you ever played the (old) game “Telephone”? Everyone is in a circle, and the first person whispers a sentence to the next; they, in turn, whisper it to the next person, and so on until it has finished going around. The last person repeats out loud the sentence. Generally, it is nothing at all like the first person began it. That is a perfect example not only of rumor or gossip, but also how our words—to us—sound plausible, but the hearer may interpret the words to mean something completely different. At some point, most husbands and wives need to say, “What did you just hear me say?” in order to keep an argument from beginning. In fact, if something important is being discussed, that it is an excellent communication skill that avoids potential conflict with anyone!

It has been assumed a fact that financial problems are the biggest causes of dissension in a marriage. However, if you take the few verses in the third chapter of James, one wonders if perhaps our words are not the thing that cause the most friction. Arguments can start with “You said…” “I said…” This chapter (and the next two) lays out the way to have a life of peace. As you bring up a subject for discussion, quickly run down the list in verse 17: is it true? Will it bring peace? Is it gently said? Are you open to reasoning it out? If the subject is not as you see it, are you open to being merciful about it? Will it be fruitful for it to be discussed? Are you open to being corrected? Do you have a sincerity about it? Those are great questions if it’s something that you want to have a good outcome! As 1 Peter 3:10 says, “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.” That’s taming the tongue in a quick synopsis!

July 5, 2020

FAITH WITH FEET – FAITH AND WORKS
July 5, 2020
Jonathan Falwell

Can you think of a time when a celebrity, politician, or someone of wealth or fame came near you, and you asked for a photo or autograph? Can you share?

Open:

The new series, “Faith With Feet,” from the book of James, gives us practical insights on how to conduct ourselves as Christians—not only by our actions, but also by our verbal witness. Many of us think that others should see “Christ in us” as we do our daily living. However, unless we confess with our mouth that Jesus Christ is our Lord, it is possible others may just consider us a “good” person. Today we will see that it is by our fruits that the world will know that we are Christians (Matthew 7:17-20).

Focal Passage: James 2:1-26

Everyone Matters

  • Read James 2:1. Who is James writing to? Does someone have a translation other than “partiality”? If not, perhaps we could say, “Do not make distinctions between the people you meet while you are striving to maintain a walk of faith.” Why is that important?
  • Read verses 2-4. If someone who is dirty or smells badly sits in a pew near you at church, what might be our natural reaction unless we are very good at guarding our tongues and expressions? Read Lev. 19:15. How does this verse back up James 2:2-4?
  • What might be a word other than “attention”? You could substitute the word “court” (the old-time dating word), which would mean you go to some length to ingratiate yourself in order to get their attention. In plain terms, you are ________.
  • Why does the Holy Spirit (through James) say that showing partiality (preference) between the rich and poor is judgment with evil motives? What does he mean? What type of message might this send to those individuals?
  • Read verses 5-7. How does God view the poor man? Why do you think that is the case? How do rich people often act? Whose name are they blaspheming? What is at the core of their actions?
  • Read verses 8-9. What is the “royal law”? If you give honor or disdain to someone because of their station in life, why is this sin?

Everything Matters

  • Read James 2:10-11. Would you say that each of the Ten Commandments vary in degree of sinfulness? Why or why not? How many sins does it take to make a person a sinner?
  • Read verses 12-13. What would be some of the ways in which a godly person would treat both the rich and the poor? Which one would be more affected by the Christ-like actions?
  • If the Bible is the book from which we will all be judged, and it is opened as we come forward, how will that make you feel? What is the only reason you can have peace about it?
  • Read verses 14-18. As you read it, substitute the word “fruits” for works, to be less confusing today. Remember the verses from Matthew 7 in the opening? If you have friends who say they are Christians, do their words or actions cause you to wonder if their salvation is real? Why or why not?
  • To paraphrase verses 15 and 16, James says “If you are aware of a Christian brother or sister who needs food, or even clothing, and you see them on the street, talk to them, and then leave, saying ‘Have a great day,’ what good is the faith you say you have?” What should you do in that case?
  • Read verses 17-18. James is NOT saying that faith + works = salvation; he is saying faith in you is alive, and you are rooted in God. As such, you (with a live faith) will produce fruit. If you are not producing fruit, your faith is dead. Read Romans 7:4. Should all Christians produce fruit?

It All Matters

  • Read verse 19. When you affirm that you believe in God, how do others know that you are not just “talking the talk”? What else does it take?
  • Read verses 20-26. Why does James continue to focus on the importance of believers understanding that their actions speak much louder than their words? 
  • What two examples of faith with action does he use? What part of Abraham’s life did James cite as a defining evidence of his faith? Could you have done what Abraham did?
  • Who was the second example, and what do we know of Rahab? What could have been the outcome of her action of faith? Did she let that stop her?
  • Read verse 26 again. Is that the same as verse 20?

Close:

Each chapter of James is filled with statements that convict that average Christian who warms a pew on Sunday, puts in tithe, eats, works and sleeps the next six days, and returns to church. Definitely that is a generalization, but it is unfortunate that the number of those who are comfortable in their lifestyle, versus those who want something deeper, is not equal. We can all think as we listen to James of the areas where we fall down. Hard.

A long-haired, dirty young man in hiking boots, with his girlfriend, walked down a church aisle and sat on the front pew. Instantly some people in that church became uncomfortable, but others made them welcome. The pastor, led by God, preached a sermon straight from the heart, not knowing the young man was a drug user and dealer. God reached down and saved that couple, and as soon as he was able to graduate from college and seminary he began preaching. He is still preaching after 40 years. Many souls have been saved and lives changed as a result. What if he had been told to sit on the floor in the back?

Recently a popular book had a main character whose life was spent so quietly that his own sisters had no idea if he was saved, and did not have the courage to address the situation with him for fear of alienating him. They asked a friend to talk with him. Amazingly, he had a deep faith, prayed often and fervently, studied his Bible, but thought his life would be a testimony even if he did not say anything. Learning to communicate turned out to be a journey for him that was a great trial, but he persevered. Many Christians are like this fictional character, assuming a testimony doesn’t need words.

James belabors the point of faith producing fruit, knowing it is the only way others will learn the way of salvation. As Romans 10:14 says, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” There are countless ways we can minister, from taking meals, helping with children, using our talents such as carpentry, painting, etc., cleaning—too many to list—all with the aim of opening up a path of friendship that, as Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr. used to say, “earns us the right to be heard.” Our faith is put into action to fulfill a need, giving us the possibility of proclaiming Christ as our Savior.

June 28, 2020

Father of Fathers
June 28, 2020
Jonathan Falwell

 

Having a sentence come out of your mouth that immediately causes you embarrassment, pain, or begins an argument, is easy to do—and you wish the ground would open up and swallow you! Can anyone share an example?

Open:

This week we begin a new series from the book of James, one of the most practical books in the New Testament. Our faith is the most precious thing we have. Putting it into action—during the hard times as well as the good ones—is how we show the world how deeply we love God. Life seems to be a constant series of troubles, and we sometimes wonder where God is in all the testing we go through. The truth is, He is right beside us, encouraging us, refining us, and molding our heart to be more like His. Each day is filled with dozens of opportunities to do or say what is right, and James gives us practical help to make those choices with wisdom.

Key Verse: James 1:26: If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.

Focal Passage: James 1:1-27

FEET TO THE FIRE

  • THE FIRE PERFECTS US: Read James 1:2-4. Which of the following would you consider to be the literal meaning of this verse: “Regard the trials that come into your life as opportunities to rejoice, knowing you will grow as a Christan,” or “Oh, here comes a difficult trial, which makes me so happy!”
  • Why should we rejoice at the opportunity to be tested? Read 1 Peter 4:13. How did Peter say the same thing as James?
  • What is the difference between daily irritants (flat tires, heavy traffic, etc.) and trials that test your faith? What are you really saying when your faith is tested? Do you sometimes feel that God has left you alone? Has He?
  • Can you see verses 2-4 as a circle? Will someone explain what they see?
  • HOW TO PERSEVERE: Read verses 5-8. James now continues his thought: if you need more wisdom to get through a trial, what do you need to do? What will God do? Who will He give it to? How much will He give? What does it mean that He not reproach you? What is the one condition that you must meet in order to receive the wisdom?
  • THE REWARD FOR DOING RIGHT: Read verse 12. What are some of the things the tempt you? What does he mean that you “endure” temptation? Could you say, “Blessed is the man who walks through a situation with blinders (such as a horse uses to eliminate peripheral vision) so that he is not swayed by worldly things that might cause him to stumble”? What will the Lord give this person?
  • THE WRONGS OF THIS WORLD AND THE RIGHTS FROM HIM: Read verses 13-18. Who tempts us to sin? Why are we tempted in a certain area? What area are you NOT tempted in? What happens when we give in to temptation? What does that lead to? When sin is full-blown, what does it bring? How can you know if something is from God?

LISTENING IN THE FIRE

  • Read James 1:19-20. What are the three “social” rules that would make most relationships work according to God’s plan? Which one causes the most trouble? Why?
  • What is the underlying reason that anger controls some people? Is it about controlling those around them, or about the pride to win the argument? What do you base your answer on?

THE ACTION OF THE FAITHFUL

  • Read verses 21-22. How do you step away from moral uncleanness that tempts you in your life? Recently we learned the meaning of meekness; does anyone recall what it was? The more literal meaning here is to “take hold of it with your heart.” Can you explain how you would do that?
  • What happens to those who hear God’s word taught, and then “live like the world the rest of the week”? What about those who hear and do God’s word?
  • HYPOCRISY: Read verses 23-25. How long do you spend looking in the mirror, in order to go out in public? What do you think when you see someone who looks as though they’ve gotten out of bed, and gone straight to their car? How is that analogous to being in God’s word, and continuing in it, versus reading a passage, and shutting the Bible for another week?   
  • What will be the reward of the person who loves God’s word?
  • DANGER OF WORDS: Read verse 26. Does something ever just pop out of your mouth without thinking? How many times do you wish you had been silent? What relationship with God does that type person have?
  • SAFETY IN ACTION: Read verse 27. What are the two things that shows we have a right relationship with God? How do those two things tie in with Matt. 22:36-40? How do we do either of these in our daily living?

Close:

Have you ever envisioned the family life of Mary and Joseph, with Jesus as the oldest “son,” and several younger siblings? By the time Jesus had started his ministry at the age of 30, his siblings seemed to have an attitude of “social distancing!” When Jesus indicated to Mary that John would take care of her after His death, and to John that he would take Mary into his home, it was obvious none of the brothers would have cared for her as tenderly as John.

But what about AFTER the resurrection? 1 Corinthians 15:7 specifically tells us that Jesus sought out James, his half-brother. Can you imagine all that went through the mind of James as he replayed the years that he had lived with Jesus, and disregarded any words that He was the Christ? After he understood the deity of Jesus, would he have taken Mary into his home, or did she die? Questions without answers, but James became mighty both in the words of the Lord, and as the leader of the church at Jerusalem.

His writing is a book to be memorized, meditated on, practiced, and preached whenever possible. Each verse is a sermon in itself, and his habit of playing off one of the words in the previous verse makes it easy to commit to memory. The circle of faith, which is so singular to James’ writing (verse 2,3), indicates a trial enters our life, we thank God for the opportunity to trust Him as He walks beside us through it (thereby also bringing us joy), getting wisdom for the way we conduct ourselves through it, being patient as God grafts us in the process of the trial, looking back when it’s over and seeing the faithfulness of God through it all, which increases our faith even more—just in time for the next trial! It’s a marvelous circle that shows our growth as a Christian, and enables us to carry out the following characteristics he lists in the rest of the chapters for the Christian life. 

June 21, 2020

Father of Fathers
June 21, 2020
Pastor Matt Wilmington

On this Father’s Day, can you share some who most influenced you to strive to become a great dad?

Open:

All of us have heard it said that our views of God are usually based on the relationship we had with our earthly father when we were a child. The truth is, no matter what our earthly father was like, spending time in God’s word daily, learning all we can about His character, along with a faithful prayer life, all give us a perfect picture of the Father we have in heaven. Men, especially fathers, need to be so sold out to Christ that you can immediately tell by their countenance that they are a child of God the Father.

Focal Passages: John 14:1-10; John 15:1-2, 8, 16; John 17:11, 17:21

Men: YOU have a Father who has a HOME for you

  • Read John 14:1-2. Who was Jesus speaking to in these verses (go back to John 13:1-5, if you’re not sure)? What did He promise believers in this passage?
  • What kind of home has He prepared for you? How do you know there is room for all?
  • Read verses 3-6. What is the only way to the Father who is in heaven?

  Jesus was telling His disciples of the Father; what can you learn about God from these verses?

  • Sometimes we ignore our earthly father because of his past actions. Why should we never want to ignore God, as our heavenly Father?

Men: God desires FRUIT for you, and through you

  • Read John 15:1-2. Can you share something about gardening? Why does Jesus say God is your “gardener”? What are some of the things a gardener does?
  • Why is it necessary to prune away branches that are dead or those that sap the strength of the main vine? Why does God prune us? What are some ways He does this?
  • Read verse 8. What glorifies God? How do we produce fruit? What is the best fruit that we can bear?

Men: God desires for you to be pure in your relationship with Him

  • Read John 17:11. What does Jesus have on His heart as He is about to endure the cross and return to His Father? Why does He ask God to protect us? What does protection assume? Who is the adversary? What other kinds of protection do we need to be guarded from?
  • Read 1 Peter 1:22. How did Peter say we are purified? Which Person of the Godhead helps us obey the truth? What is the fruit produced by a pure heart?
  • Read 1 Thess. 5:23. What is the end result that God desires for our lives, so that we’ are ready when He calls us home?

Men: God desires all believes to live in unity

  • Read John 17:20-21. What does Jesus desire for all believers? Why is there so much division between races throughout the world?
  • What can we do to make an impact on the problems of division in our land?
  • Is is possible that an honest smile, a sincere compliment, a good deed, an invitation to lunch to a person not of your race…could help bridge the chasm that has developed between people?

Close:

Father’s Day. Like Mother’s Day, this celebration of the life of the earthly man we call “father” has been different, as we are now about one hundred days into COVID 19. We’re excited that perhaps we may be beginning Phase 3 of returning to some sense of normalcy this coming weekend. But has it changed your heart?

This sermon for the men who need to be reminded that although they are the anchor for their family—providing shelter, clothes and food (and a million other items)—they do not have to shoulder the burden all by themselves. They have a loving Father in heaven who cares so much about them that He has promised He will provide for their needs (Matt. 6:25-34). Yes, He asks obedience and purity from His believers, but in turn, the riches which He supplies will be more than we can ever think or imagine! (1 Cor. 2:9). There are definitely times He has to prune us, but it results in more fruit in our lives. He’s a trustworthy, faithful, loving Father, and no one on earth can compare to Him.

June 14, 2020

RUN THE RACE: RUN IT WITH HEART, Part 2
June 14, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

We are now in Phase 2, slowly emerging from fourteen weeks of the pandemic isolation. What are some things you’re looking forward to experiencing again, that will bring some “happiness”?

Open:

Today we continue our series, Run the Race. Life can be very tough (as we all know), but God gives us everything we need to complete our race victoriously.  Last week we covered the first four Beatitudes, as Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. Today we’ll examine the next group of four, looking at the rewards for being merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and those persecuted for following Jesus Christ. These “happiness” attitudes are just as important today as they were the day Jesus spoke to the crowd on the mountain in Israel.

Key Verse: Matthew 5:7: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Focal Passages: Matthew 5:7-10; Ephesians 2:14-15

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy

  • Read Matthew 5:7. What is the greatest mercy you have ever been shown? Because we ourselves have received mercy, what is our responsibility?
  • Who are some to whom you ordinarily show mercy? How do you feel toward those on Facebook (or other social media) who disagree with you—perhaps even lambasting you for a stand you have taken? What kind of mercy do you show other drivers? Your spouse? Those of an opposing political view? Why do they deserve your mercy?
  • What is the difference between mercy and grace? As a sinner, which are you going to get:061004
  • Grace or mercy? Did you earn it? Do you deserve it? Then to be a Christ-follower, why does it mean you must show the same mercy?

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God

  • Read Matt. 5:8. How can one be pure in heart? Can you name anyone in scripture who had a pure heart (that is, judging by man’s judgment)?
  • Read Matthew 23:25-26. How does this illustrate the impure heart, while assuming a posture of religious perfection for men to observe?
  • Read Hebrews 10:22. What are some qualities here that a pure heart involves?
  • Read John 1:47-49. How can you infer that Nathanael was “pure in heart”?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God

  • Read verse 9. What do you think of when you hear the phrase “be a peacemaker”? Where does peace in man’s heart begin? Read Romans 5:1. How can you have any type of peace in other relationships until you yourself have experienced peace with God?
  • If you have peace with God—no longer a slave to sin—how can you become a “peacemaker”? What is the greatest thing you can do for others who do not have peace with God? Is this why God wants us to be peacemakers?
  • Read Romans 16:20. If God is a God of Peace, how can we justify our actions of violence or intolerance or hatred?

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

  • Read verse 10. What are some ways in which you can be persecuted for being a follower of Jesus Christ? How does persecution make you feel? If you have experienced such affliction, has it caused you to pull into a shell, or did you keep witnessing?
  • How did those of you who were completely changed upon salvation experience withdrawal from friends or loved ones, or activities? Did you weigh the benefit of being a child of God with the loss of those friends?
  • Does the way you live your life now attract others to know the Savior? Why or why not? Should they see Jesus shining in you?

Close:

As you read through these Beatitudes, are you convicted that the life you are living is one of lethargy, or are you confident that God is pleased with your performance? It is so easy to sit in church and sing praise songs, raise our hands, and offer God praise. It’s totally another to get on Facebook (or any of the choices), and see a post that makes your blood boil. You want to reach through the phone or computer and choke that/those person(s)! Let’s see: which Beatitude did that just nullify?

Being like Jesus is easy when we’re alone. We have our coffee and devotions, truly hungering and thirsting to be righteous before God. We try to make certain we have no things in our home that would offend Him. There used to be an old saying, “If Jesus were coming to your house, what would you have to quickly hide or throw out?” Oh, but wait! What are those movies that are rated R? What about the slip of the tongue when you bang your hand? Job says in 31:1 that he made a covenant with his eyes—he was not willing to sin by viewing movies filled with porn, sinful situations or idolatrous items; James 3:10 condemns the man (or woman) who  presents a saintly image to others, but within the family uses profanity with every sentence. James says, “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so!” James was talking to the church—he called them “Brethren.” He wasn’t speaking to the unsaved. Are you aware profanity has become so commonplace as to be almost “normal” among Christians? God does not honor that. He honors those who are pure in the innermost part of their being —their heart—and are self-controlled with their language, who hunger and thirst to be righteous, and who rejoice that they are counted worthy to suffer for His sake. May we all strive to run this race of life, knowing He is basking in our victories, saying, “That’s my child!”

June 7, 2020

RUN THE RACE: RUN IT WITH HEART!
June 07, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

It seems crazy that someone would hope to win a game or competition without knowing the rules, doesn’t it? Yet it happens! Can you think of an example?

Open:
Today we continue our series, Run the Race, as we realize there are responsibilities we have as believers, so that we can not only endure the hills, valleys and hurdles in life, but finish well. Jesus was very clear as He gave us the foundations for our training—telling us what godly actions will produce positive results when we live according to His word. Jesus called them “blessings,” or literally “Happy are those who,” have the heart attitude that will bring us to crossing death’s finish line with a “well-done, good and faithful servant.” Today we will look at the first four Beatitudes.

Key Verse: Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the gate of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.

Focal Passage: Matthew 5:3-12

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

  • Read Matthew 5:3. For the next several verses, Jesus taught that one would be “blessed” by accepting the truth in each one; what did He mean by blessed? Can you think of any other verses that begin “Blessed is “?
  • Did God mean these would bring happiness to you? What are some things the world (and possibly believers) consider equivalent to happiness? Is this what Jesus meant, or did He mean a much deeper fulfillment?
  • What kind of poverty was Jesus speaking of here? What would cause you to be poor in spirit? Read Isaiah 29:19. Does this verse refer to the same heart attitude? What will the reward be for those who humble themselves before God in repentance?

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted

  • Read Matt. 5:4. What would the world assume the word “mourn” refers to? What did Jesus mean? Had the Old Covenant of sacrifices created a life of sinless perfection? Is there anything we can do to earn our salvation? Is this why we mourn?
  • Besides grieving over our own sinful state, what are some other issues that will give us a broken spirit of mourning? Read Psalm 34:18. What can God do with a broken heart or contrite spirit?
  • What are some of the ways people look for for comfort? Was this what Jesus meant? If you come to Him mourning your sinfulness, realizing that you can do nothing to merit His favor, what will He do with your repentance? Why does this explain how grace and healing begins?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth

  • Read verse 5. What do most people think the word meek means? Is this correct? Can someone explain what it actually means? Does anyone have an example of meekness? 
  • Do you know anyone who is meek? Will you share why you perceive this person to be powerful, yet filled with kindness and gentleness? In this past week, have you seen meekness displayed by anyone during the turbulent, violent actions that have gone on in America?
  • What will be the inheritance of the meek? Do you think Jesus was speaking of the earth as we now know it? Why or why not?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled

  • Read verse 6. Other than for a time of fasting, have you ever gone without food or water for a period long enough to trouble you? Can you conceive of hungering and thirsting so completely for righteousness that it would break your heart? What are some things we sometimes crave? Have you ever craved righteousness that much?
  • What does God promise to those who crave to be righteous before Him? Where does the change in one’s life have to begin?
  • Do you feel confident as you think about the Bema Seat judgment, and what it will be like? What can take away your concerns?

Close:

Can you imagine what it must have been like for the common people who were listening to Jesus on the hillside in Galilee? As is mentioned in the scriptures, “the common people heard Him gladly,”(Mark 12:37), and “He taught as One having authority, and not as one of the scribes” (Matt. 7:28-29). They were being filled with teaching so different than what was taught in the synagogues that many perceived it as Truth, and recognized Jesus as the Messiah.

Jesus began this discourse with people gathered all around Him. If you’ve been to Israel and stood on the area where He taught the Beatitudes, you can easily imagine the scene. There had to have been a sense of awe that filled them. Some, no doubt, were the ones who said, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s Son?” Others, representing the religious leaders, would have been furious that Someone who had not had the benefit of their teaching would take it upon Himself to teach the people. But the others—the ones whom God had loved from eternity past, were taking it all in, trying to understand what He meant, and in effect, hungering and thirsting to be clean from their sinful nature. How many had only hours or days before death? Would they have absorbed His words, like the thief on the cross, and believed that He was the Messiah?

No one is promised tomorrow—or, for that matter, two minutes from now. Make certain that you are ready to cross the finish line, ready to throw your arms around Jesus, praising Him for what He’s done for you.

May 31, 2020

RUN THE RACE: A NEW BEGINNING
May 31, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Being in an on-going stressful situation can sap our strength! You long for the ordeal to be finished. Have you had such a time? What did you realize you had learned, after it was over?

Open:

Last week we looked at the three main elements in running our individual races of life: Remove (hindrances to winning), Renew (our strength through Christ), and Return to the source of our strength constantly. Today, we will focus on the beautiful promise of God to be with us every step of this journey.  As we continue in this 11/12th week of the havoc wreaked by Coronavirus, we probably all feel that our strength is low, and we’re running “against the wind”—wondering when and how this will end. We don’t need to worry: Jesus is right beside us.

Key Verse: 1 Corinthians 15:57: Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.

Focal Passage: Acts 2:22-28

You are never alone

  • Read Acts 2:25b. How many of you walk or run on a regular basis? How would you rather do so, with someone else, or by yourself? Explain your answer.
  • Read Hebrews 13:5. Why do we have such a hard time accepting the reality of God’s presence being with us at all times? Does that give you confidence?
  • David knew the reality of God being with him. Have you ever tried to develop the habit of talking aloud to Him as you would to a friend who is beside you?

Joy comes in the journey

  • Read Acts 2:26. David, as we know, went through many trials; what were some of them? Yet he continually gave God glory with his life. Can you think of some examples?
  • What about you: as you think back upon your life, what are some examples of faithfulness that He has shown you? Has He ever let you suffer alone?
  • When is the last time that you thanked Him for His gracious blessings to you, that often you (perhaps) take for granted? What are some of them?   

His victory is our victory

  • Read Heb. 2:27. There are many passages in Scripture where someone prophesied unknowingly. Can you think of examples? 
  • Read Romans 6:4. Why does Jesus defeating death flow over to eternal life for us? Read John 5:24. What does Jesus promise here?
  • How do you think of death? Is it an ending, or a beginning? Why?

The path is clear

  • Read verse 28a. What is the relationship with this verse and Proverbs 3:5?
  • Does this mean you will have a trouble-free life? Read John 6:67-69. If you reject Jesus, where will you seek a satisfying life?
  • Read Luke 9:23 and 1 John 2:3. Is being a believer a “walk the aisle” one time action and live for yourself after that?

Close:

For the teams who play baseball, there are scientific rules that every batter must know. For instance, if a right-handed batter swings 1/100th of a second too soon, the ball will go foul down the left field side; if he swings 1/100th of a second too late, it will go foul down the right field seats; and the decision to swing has to happen within 4/100th (1/25th) of a second!

Another example we are familiar with is the return of fish (salmon, rainbow trout, and coho) to the place of their birth, usually causing them to swim against the natural stream of the river. Can you imagine being a fish, swimming against the pull of the body of water? We also know of a riptide, and understand those who die yearly as they innocently get caught in the current. Although the figure is normally around 100 per year, for those families it is a senseless death, which could have been avoided.

As you have been running your race of life, especially during the past several months of COVID 19, have you often felt as though you were running against the wind—or swimming against a current? Not only that, but does it often feel as though you have to make major decisions that will impact your health, finances, or your family’s health in 4/100th of a second?! The good news is that you do not have to be alone. You may feel that you are, but we can’t go by feelings, but by “every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” His promises are sure, constant, and never-changing. He accepts everyone just as they are, with all the baggage, sins, and shame, offering salvation in exchange for repentance. He pays your sin debt and gives you eternal life. How can you go wrong?

May 24, 2020

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

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

Open

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

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

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

THE ELEMENTS OF THE RACE

Remove

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

Renew

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

          

Return

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

Close

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

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

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

May 17, 2020

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

Dr. Jerry Falwell, Video

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

Open

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

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

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

A Trouble Free Life?

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

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

Victorious in Trouble

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

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

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

           Spurgeon.

Don’t Let Satan Discourage You

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

TRUTH: ARE YOU TRUSTING GOD?

Close

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

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

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

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

May 10, 2020

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

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

Open:

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

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

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

LEARN TO LEAN

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

LEAN TO LEAD

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

LEAD IN LOVE

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

LIFE LESSONS TO TAKE AWAY:

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

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

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

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

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

May 3, 2020

ACORNS AND OAK TREE
 May 03, 2020
Charles Billingsley

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

Open:

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

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

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

The beginning of our trial

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

Life is fragile

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

Faith is essential

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

Fear is not an option

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

No matter what, keep your eyes on Jesus

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

Close:

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

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

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

April 26, 2020

AND YOU SHALL…
April 26, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

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

Open:

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

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

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

Jesus commanded it

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

Jesus taught it

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

The world needs it

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

You can do it

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

Close:

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

April 19, 2020

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

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

Open:

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

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

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

FEAR NOT

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

MAKE A DIFFERENCE

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

DO THE RIGHT THING

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

YOU’RE NOT ALONE

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

Close:

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

April 12, 2020

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

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

Open:

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

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

His work was accomplished

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

The Scriptures were proven

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

His love displayed

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

His power confirmed

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

His promise fulfilled

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

Close:

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

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

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

April 5, 2020

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

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

Open:

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

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

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

HIS PAIN

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

HIS HUMANITY

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

HIS PURPOSE

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

March 29, 2020

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

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

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

Key Verse:

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

Forgiveness

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

Hope

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

Comfort

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

March 22, 2020

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

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

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

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

Focal Passage: Jonah 2:1-10.

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

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

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

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

Worshiping our Master is more important than worrying about our mess

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

Our crisis is never greater than our God

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

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

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

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

March 15, 2020

LIVING THE DASH
March 15, 2020
Charles Billingsley

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

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

Focal Passage: John 11:1-44.

Living the Dash—through the waiting

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

Living the Dash—through the weeping

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

Living the Dash—through the watching

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

Living the Dash—through the wonder

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

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

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

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

March 8, 2020

A CHANGED LIFE
March 08, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

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

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

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

Focal Passage: Titus 2:11-15.

We are saved by the grace of God

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

Which should affect the way we live and act

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

As we wait for the great promise

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

Because He has changed us for a reason

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

So we can change the world through Him

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

Close:

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

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

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

March 1, 2020

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

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

Open:

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

Focal Passage: Titus 1:1-4.

We don’t have a choice

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

Not just to know truth, but to live truth

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

This truth matters

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

It’s our job. It’s our joy

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

Given to us all

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

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

February 23, 2020

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

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

Open:

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

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

Focal Passage: Exodus 13:17-18a.

From God’s Perspective

1. Letting go is better than taking charge

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

2. From Man’s Perspective

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

3. The easy way is not always the best

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

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

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

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

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

Close:

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

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

February 16, 2020

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

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

Open:

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

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

Focal Passage: Psalm 41

1. Forgiveness frees me forever

  THE EMOTIONS OF BETRAYAL

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

  THE STEPS OF FORGIVENESS

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

2. Forgiveness frees me from the person who betrayed me

  LIES TO RENOUNCE

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

  WHAT IS—OR IS NOT—FORGIVENESS

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

3. Forgiveness frees me from the pursuit of my betrayer

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

4. Forgiveness frees me from the pain of my betrayal

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

February 9, 2020

ALONE: AND AFRAID
February 09, 2020
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

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

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

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

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

Background:

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

1. Feeling alone is a common condition

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

2. Feeling alone should not shake your confidence in God

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

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

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

4. Trusting God requires seeking God

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

5. When all else fails, trust Him

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

Close:

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

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

February 2, 2020

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

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

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

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

I. The Importance of Reaching

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

It is COMMANDED BY GOD

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

It is GOD’S PLAN FOR ALL OF US

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

His love COMPELS US

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

The world NEEDS JESUS

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

Time is SHORT

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

II. Reasons Why We Don’t Reach

    What keeps us from sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ?

We don’t know the GOSPEL OURSELVES

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

We don’t care where some people SPEND ETERNITY

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

We worry about what PEOPLE MAY THINK

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

III. Let’s Remember the Gospel

    A synopsis of sharing our faith

God is our LOVING CREATOR

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

His creation is FULL OF SIN

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

Jesus paid FOR OUR SINS

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

We receive this payment THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST                                                               

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

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

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

Close:

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

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

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

January 26, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STRUGGLE OURSELVES.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II. Our RESPONSIBILITY to be Faithful

It all BELONGS TO GOD

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

WE belong to God

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

OUR STUFF belongs to God

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

Our HOPE comes from God

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

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

Give ABUNDANTLY

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

Give REGULARLY

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

Give JOYFULLY

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

IV. Our ACCOUNTABILITY in being Faithful: 

We are accountable to OURSELVES                                                                 

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

We are accountable for OUR POSSESSIONS

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

We are accountable for OUR TIME

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

We are accountable for OUR GIFTS

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

Close:

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

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

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

January 19, 2020

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

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

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

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

Focal Passage: Luke 17:11-19.

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

We live entitled lives.I DESERVE THIS AND MORE

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

We live discontented lives.IF I ONLY HAD MORE…

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

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

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

LIVING WITH GRATITUDE

TURN EVERY BLESSING INTO PRAISE

Praise God for your NEW POSITION

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

Recognize the MASSIVE DIFFERENCE GOD HAS MADE IN YOUR LIFE

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

Recognize WHERE YOU WOULD BE IF IT WERE NOT FOR JESUS

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

Praise God for HIS PROVISIONS

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

Praise God for THE POSSIBILITY OF IMPACT

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

For what GOD HAS DONE                                                                 

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

For God IS OUR REWARD

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

For GOD IS OUR GOD AND HE WILL NEVER CHANGE

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

For GOD SAVED US FOREVER

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

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

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

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

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

January 12, 2020

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

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

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

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

Focal Passage: Mark 9:14-29.

Prayer is the reflection of our relationship with God

A relationship between THE CREATOR AND HIS CREATION

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

A relationship between the KING and HIS SUBJECTS

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

A relationship between a FATHER and HIS CHILDREN

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

Why we miss out on GOD’S “MORE”

Our LACK OF FAITH

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

Our LACK OF COMMITMENT

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

Our LACK OF ASKING

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

The Importance of BIBLICAL FASTING

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

SEEKING MIRACLES                                                                  

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

SEEKING REPENTANCE

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

MAKING DECISIONS

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

Why PRAYER AND FASTING MATTERS

We rely on HIS STRENGTH

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

We FOCUS ON THE ETERNAL

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

We REPENT OF OUR SINS

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

We RECEIVE THE DIRECTION WE NEED

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

HOW TO PRAY:

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

HOW TO FAST:

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

spiritual growth for the church.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James wrote.

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

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

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

January 5, 2020

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

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

Open:

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

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

The Importance of God’s Word

You can TRUST THE WORD OF GOD

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

It NEVER CHANGES

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

It will always CHANGE YOU

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

The Power of God’s Word

It is our WEAPON AGAINST SATAN’S ATTACKS AND LIES

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

It FEEDS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST

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

It keeps us FOCUSED ON ETERNITY

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

The Integrity of God’s Word

           Jesus Christ IS THE WORD                                                                     

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

The Word is LIVING AND ACTIVE

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

The Word is the ROADMAP OF THE WAY

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

Our Commitment to God’s Word

We need to HEAR GOD’S WORD

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

We need to READ GOD’S WORD

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

We need to STUDY GOD’S WORD

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

We need to MEMORIZE GOD’S WORD

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

We need to OBEY GOD’S WORD

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

December 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

It was certainly from God

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

It was exactly what was needed

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

It was always God’s plan

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

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

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

Close: John 1 excerpts, NKJV.

December 29, 2019

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
December 29, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

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

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

Focal Passage: Ephesians 3:14-21.

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

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

Our contentment is based on our connection

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

God wants us to trust Him that much

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

We will be complete

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

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

Close:

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

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

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

December 15, 2019

O HOLY NIGHT
December 15, 2019
Charles Billingsley

 

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

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

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

He is Holy

“O, Holy Night”

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

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

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

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

He is Here

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

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

He is Hope

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

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

Close:

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

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

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

December 8, 2019

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

 

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

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

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

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

What the Bible teaches about Angels:

Angels are CREATED beings.

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

Angels are SPIRIT beings.

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

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

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

There are RANKS of angels.

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

Angels are POWERFUL beings.

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

Angels are FUNCTIONAL beings, with Purposes.

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

Christ the SAVIOR is Born:

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

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

 

Close:

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

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

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

December 1, 2019

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

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

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

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

Christmas Carol: The First Noel

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

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

Confusing and scary

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

Life Changing

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

Miraculous!

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

November 24, 2019

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

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

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

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

Focal Passage: Ephesians 5:17-21

Don’t be drunk with wine

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

Be filled with the Spirit

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

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

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

Giving thanks always in all things

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

Take Aways:

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

November 17, 2019

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

 

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

Open:

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

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

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

God wants us to give

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

God wants us to give properly

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

God wants us to give with the right heart

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

God’s response to our giving

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

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

November 10, 2019

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

 

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

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

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

Doing the right thing will make you a target

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

Faithfulness is more important than popularity or acceptance

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

God will protect and reward

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

Close:

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

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

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

November 3, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

The fall of Babylon

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

The feast of Belshazzar

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

The fingers of God

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

The failure of the wise men

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

The fearlessness of Daniel

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

Close:

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

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

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

Take-aways:

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

We have four major elements to our lives:

THE WILL

THE MIND

THE BODY

THE SOUL

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

October 27, 2019

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

 

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

Open:

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

Focal Passage: Daniel 4:1-37

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

The Patient Heart of God: Nebuchadnezzar’s Humiliation

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

The  Sovereign Power of God

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

The Restoring Hand of God

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

Take Aways

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

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

Close:

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

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

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

 

October 20, 2019

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

 

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

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

1. The pressure of compromise never goes away

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

2. Trusting God is more important than personal comfort

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

3. God will never leave you on your own

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

October 14, 2019

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

 

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

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

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

Focal Passage: Daniel 2:1-49.

Life’s not fair

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

All we can do is trust God

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

God is our only hope

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

Who or what will you trust?

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

October 6, 2019

THE STORY OF DANIEL
October 06, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

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

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

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

Focal Passage: Daniel 1:1-21.

Open:

Sometimes God allows the enemy a victory

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

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

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

God will always reward faithfulness

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

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

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

Close:

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

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

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

September 28, 2019

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

 

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

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

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

Focal Passage: 1 Corinthians 13:1-7.

Open:

Love unconditionally

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

Love authentically

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

Love completely

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

Love strategically

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

Close:

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

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

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

 

September 22, 2019

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

 

 

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

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

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

Opening:

Demonstrating God’s love

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

What can you give them that costs you nothing?

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

Secure in your identity in Christ

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

How To Establish a Life That Affirms

Focus your thought life

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

Hang with like-minded people

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

Keep focused on your mission

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

Close:

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

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

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

 

September 15, 2019

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

 

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

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

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

Focal Passage: Matthew 5:43-48.

Be a Blessing

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

Be a Servant

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

Be a Prayer Warrior

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

Result: We’ll Make Our Father Proud

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

 

Close:

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

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

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

September 8, 2019

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

 

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

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

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

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

“Who is my neighbor?”

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

The Three Travelers—The Parable of the Good Samaritan

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

A Current Re-telling!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing:

Which were you?

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

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

September 1, 2019

Jesus in the House
September 1, 2019
Charles Billingsley

 

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

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

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

Focal Passage: Mark 2:1-12.

A story of friendship, faith and forgiveness

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

The Impact of Friendship

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

The Result of Faith

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

The Power of Forgiveness

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

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

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

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

August 25, 2019

Get Into The Game
August 25, 2019
Jonathan Falwell

 

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

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

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

Focal Passage: James 1:5-8

The mission statement of TRBC*

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

A pure heart

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

A ready heart

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

A passionate heart

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

Close:

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

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

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

___________________________________________

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

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

 

August 18, 2019

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

 

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

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

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

Focal Passage: 2 Peter 3:1-18

People will mock what you believe

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

But God will never be mocked

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

The end is a reality

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

Remain faithful because God is faithful

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

August 11, 2019

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

 

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

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

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

Focal Passage: 2 Peter 2:1-22

Open:

We will encounter False Teachers

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

Two destinations reserved for mankind

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

The depravity of the false teachers

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

What is our defense?

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

Close:

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

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

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

 

 

August 4, 2019

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

Open:

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

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

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

Focal Passage: 2 Peter 1:1-21

The Door has been unlocked

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

So walk through the Door

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

The later is gets, the more important it becomes

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

This is the real deal

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

Close:

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

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

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

 

July 28, 2019

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

Open:

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

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

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

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

Reality #5: Our suffering will never end

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

Response #5: Jesus gives the victory

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

Be encouraged: God calls us to encourage

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

Be encouraged: Our suffering helps us to reach others

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

Be encouraged: Joy is the result of our suffering

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

Be encouraged: God will never leave you

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

Be encouraged: We stand together

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

Close:

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

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

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

 

 

July 21, 2019

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

Open:

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

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

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

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

 

Discuss:

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

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

Response #4: God’s protection is real.

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

Be encouraged: God protects your reputation.

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

Be encouraged: God protects your heart.

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

Application:

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

Be encouraged: God protects you from your past.

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

 

 

Close:

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

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

 

 

April 28, 2019

Survive or Thrive
April 28, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

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

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

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

Focal Passage: John 10:1-10.

 

Discuss:

Thriving begins with security

Protection:

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

Intimacy:

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

 

Thriving grows from experiencing life as God intended

Life-Giver:

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

 

 

Close:

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

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

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

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

April 21, 2019

Easter Sunday – 2019
April 21, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

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

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

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

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

 

Discuss:

WE HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR:

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

TO LIVE IS CHRIST, TO DIE IS GAIN

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

April 14, 2019

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

 

Open:

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

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

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

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

 

Discuss:

Silenced:

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

Shunned:

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

Secure:

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

Salvation:

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

 

Close:

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

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

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

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

March 31, 2019

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

 

Open:

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

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

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

Focal Passages: Mark 1:21-28.

 

Discuss:

The Word of God Amazed:

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

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

The Word of God Changed:

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

The Word of God Traveled:

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

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

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

 

Close:

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

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

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

April 7, 2019

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

 

Open:

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

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

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

Focal Passage: Matthew 26:36-46.

 

Discuss:

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

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

Complaining is not okay:

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

To do the will of God requires dependence on God:

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

 

Close:

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

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

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

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

March 17, 2019

The Impact of a Godly Man

March 17, 2019
Dr. Rick Rigsby

 

Open:

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

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

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

Focal Passages: Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

 

Discuss:

Teach it in your home:

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

Model it in your neighborhood:

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

Telling the truth:

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

 

 

Thinking the best of others:

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

Doing what we say we will do:

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

Go. Teach. Baptize. Make Disciples:

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

 

Close:

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

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

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

 

March 10, 2019

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

 

Open:

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

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

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

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

 

Discuss:

Blameless:

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

Pure:

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

Calm:

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

 

Respectable:

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

Honest:

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

Godly:

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

 

Close:

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

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