November 10, 2019

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

 

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

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

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

Doing the right thing will make you a target

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

Faithfulness is more important than popularity or acceptance

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

God will protect and reward

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

Close:

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

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

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

November 3, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

The fall of Babylon

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

The feast of Belshazzar

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

The fingers of God

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

The failure of the wise men

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

The fearlessness of Daniel

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

Close:

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

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

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

Take-aways:

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

We have four major elements to our lives:

THE WILL

THE MIND

THE BODY

THE SOUL

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

October 27, 2019

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

 

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

Open:

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

Focal Passage: Daniel 4:1-37

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

The Patient Heart of God: Nebuchadnezzar’s Humiliation

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

The  Sovereign Power of God

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

The Restoring Hand of God

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

Take Aways

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

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

Close:

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

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

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

 

October 20, 2019

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

 

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

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

1. The pressure of compromise never goes away

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

2. Trusting God is more important than personal comfort

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

3. God will never leave you on your own

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

October 14, 2019

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

 

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

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

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

Focal Passage: Daniel 2:1-49.

Life’s not fair

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

All we can do is trust God

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

God is our only hope

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

Who or what will you trust?

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

October 6, 2019

THE STORY OF DANIEL
October 06, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

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

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

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

Focal Passage: Daniel 1:1-21.

Open:

Sometimes God allows the enemy a victory

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

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

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

God will always reward faithfulness

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

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

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

Close:

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

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

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

September 28, 2019

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

 

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

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

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

Focal Passage: 1 Corinthians 13:1-7.

Open:

Love unconditionally

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

Love authentically

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

Love completely

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

Love strategically

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

Close:

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

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

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

 

September 22, 2019

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

 

 

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

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

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

Opening:

Demonstrating God’s love

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

What can you give them that costs you nothing?

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

Secure in your identity in Christ

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

How To Establish a Life That Affirms

Focus your thought life

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

Hang with like-minded people

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

Keep focused on your mission

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

Close:

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

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

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

 

September 15, 2019

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

 

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

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

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

Focal Passage: Matthew 5:43-48.

Be a Blessing

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

Be a Servant

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

Be a Prayer Warrior

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

Result: We’ll Make Our Father Proud

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

 

Close:

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

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

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

September 8, 2019

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

 

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

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

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

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

“Who is my neighbor?”

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

The Three Travelers—The Parable of the Good Samaritan

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

A Current Re-telling!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing:

Which were you?

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

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

September 1, 2019

Jesus in the House
September 1, 2019
Charles Billingsley

 

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

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

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

Focal Passage: Mark 2:1-12.

A story of friendship, faith and forgiveness

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

The Impact of Friendship

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

The Result of Faith

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

The Power of Forgiveness

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

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

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

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

August 25, 2019

Get Into The Game
August 25, 2019
Jonathan Falwell

 

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

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

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

Focal Passage: James 1:5-8

The mission statement of TRBC*

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

A pure heart

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

A ready heart

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

A passionate heart

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

Close:

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

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

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

___________________________________________

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

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

 

August 18, 2019

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

 

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

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

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

Focal Passage: 2 Peter 3:1-18

People will mock what you believe

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

But God will never be mocked

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

The end is a reality

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

Remain faithful because God is faithful

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

August 11, 2019

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

 

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

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

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

Focal Passage: 2 Peter 2:1-22

Open:

We will encounter False Teachers

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

Two destinations reserved for mankind

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

The depravity of the false teachers

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

What is our defense?

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

Close:

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

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

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

 

 

August 4, 2019

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

Open:

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

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

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

Focal Passage: 2 Peter 1:1-21

The Door has been unlocked

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

So walk through the Door

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

The later is gets, the more important it becomes

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

This is the real deal

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

Close:

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

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

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

 

July 28, 2019

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

Open:

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

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

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

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

Reality #5: Our suffering will never end

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

Response #5: Jesus gives the victory

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

Be encouraged: God calls us to encourage

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

Be encouraged: Our suffering helps us to reach others

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

Be encouraged: Joy is the result of our suffering

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

Be encouraged: God will never leave you

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

Be encouraged: We stand together

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

Close:

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

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

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

 

 

July 21, 2019

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

Open:

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

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

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

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

 

Discuss:

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

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

Response #4: God’s protection is real.

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

Be encouraged: God protects your reputation.

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

Be encouraged: God protects your heart.

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

Application:

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

Be encouraged: God protects you from your past.

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

 

 

Close:

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

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

 

 

April 28, 2019

Survive or Thrive
April 28, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

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

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

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

Focal Passage: John 10:1-10.

 

Discuss:

Thriving begins with security

Protection:

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

Intimacy:

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

 

Thriving grows from experiencing life as God intended

Life-Giver:

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

 

 

Close:

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

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

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

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

April 21, 2019

Easter Sunday – 2019
April 21, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

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

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

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

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

 

Discuss:

WE HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR:

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

TO LIVE IS CHRIST, TO DIE IS GAIN

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

April 14, 2019

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

 

Open:

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

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

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

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

 

Discuss:

Silenced:

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

Shunned:

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

Secure:

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

Salvation:

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

 

Close:

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

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

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

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

March 31, 2019

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

 

Open:

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

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

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

Focal Passages: Mark 1:21-28.

 

Discuss:

The Word of God Amazed:

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

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

The Word of God Changed:

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

The Word of God Traveled:

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

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

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

 

Close:

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

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

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

April 7, 2019

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

 

Open:

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

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

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

Focal Passage: Matthew 26:36-46.

 

Discuss:

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

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

Complaining is not okay:

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

To do the will of God requires dependence on God:

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

 

Close:

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

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

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

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

March 17, 2019

The Impact of a Godly Man

March 17, 2019
Dr. Rick Rigsby

 

Open:

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

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

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

Focal Passages: Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

 

Discuss:

Teach it in your home:

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

Model it in your neighborhood:

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

Telling the truth:

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

 

 

Thinking the best of others:

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

Doing what we say we will do:

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

Go. Teach. Baptize. Make Disciples:

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

 

Close:

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

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

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

 

March 10, 2019

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

 

Open:

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

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

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

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

 

Discuss:

Blameless:

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

Pure:

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

Calm:

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

 

Respectable:

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

Honest:

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

Godly:

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

 

Close:

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

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

 

March 3, 2019

Love In Action
March 3, 2019
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

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

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

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

 

Discuss:

Be Ready:

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

Be Right

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

Be Tough

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

Be Tender

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

 

Close:

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

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

February 24, 2019

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

 

Open:

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

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

Focal Passage: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

 

Discuss:

Background:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Close:

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

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

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

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

February 17, 2019

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

 

Open:

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

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

Focal Passage: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.

 

Discuss:

Love is patient and kind:

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

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

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

Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude

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

 

Close:

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

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

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

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

February 10, 2019

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

 

Open:

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

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

Focal Passage: Matthew 4:18-22.

 

Discuss:

Give to the church:

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

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

Go from the church:

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

 

Close:

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

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

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

February 3, 2019

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

 

Open:

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

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

Focal Passage: Matthew 4:18-22.

 

Discuss:

Go to church:

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

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

Grow in church:

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

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

 

Close:

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

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

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

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

January 26, 2019

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

 

Open:

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

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

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

 

Discuss:

Accept others…no matter what:

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

Pray for others…always

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

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

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

Forgive them

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

Tell them

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

 

Close:

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

January 20, 2019

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

 

Open:

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

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

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

 

Discuss:

Know His Word:

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

Know His Way:

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

Respond:

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

 

Close:

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

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

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

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

January 13, 2019

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

 

Open:

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

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

 

 

Discuss:

Results of Christ talking through the scriptures

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

 

 

Close:

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

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

 

January 6, 2019

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

 

Open:

Everyone messes up! Mistakes made in the past are very hard to forget, and it takes a strong person to move on after a life-altering choice. We can ruin our lives wishing we could live certain times over again, but to put a bad event behind us is necessary for mental health. Can someone share a memory?

This past year has been a season when we’ve been constantly encouraged to make Christ the priority in our lives, grow daily in Scripture, and live godly lives. Now it’s time to look back to see if those messages bore fruit. At the same time, we have the opportunity to put past failures behind us and start with a clean slate in a new year. We will look at the great apostle Paul and learn life lessons of “keeping on keeping on” past adversity.

 

Discuss:

Recognize the pain and failures of the past are not the description of our future:

  • Read Philippians 3:7. The NLT quotes Paul as saying the things that were important to him at one time are now worthless. Can you share some things you have done in the past that are now meaningless because of what Christ has done, and that what is really important is Christ?
  • That verse also tells us we are to forget the past and look forward to what lies ahead. It’s easier said than done. Among your group discuss the difficulty of doing this.
  • Read Genesis 50:14-21. This passage is the perfect biblical example for pastor Jonathan’s message today on letting go of the past and moving on to the future. What were Josephs brothers afraid of? Would someone be willing to share a fear of something in their past they carried for a long time they felt would follow them for all their life? We cannot allow our past to keep us fearful and shape our future. Discuss that we cannot change our past.

Take the right steps …. Seek forgiveness:

  • What are Joseph’s brothers doing in Vs 16-17a? The same steps they took are the same steps we must take for salvation. What two things did the brothers do? These are the same steps we must take with others. Why is this hard?

Respond the right way… forgive

  • When it is reversed and we are the ones being asked to forgive, what must we do? Discuss how hard it is to ask someone for forgiveness.
  • In vs 17b, why do you suppose Joseph reacted the way he did?

Know that the job of judge is not ours

  • In vs 19b Joseph asks an important question. Discuss the question and its effect? A judge in our judicial has an important and weighty duty to perform once someone has been declared guilty. What is it? Do we sometimes try to mete out punishment on someone who has wronged us? In Romans 12:19 it tells us to let God handle the punishment. Talk about why we should do that.

Know that the job of peacemakers is ours

  • Vs 21b tells us Joseph reassured his brothers by speaking kindly to them. He forgave them then proved it by offering to move on. Discuss how this corresponds to God’s forgiveness of ourselves.

 

 

Close:

As we look forward to 2019, it is imperative that we put things behind us that we cannot change. We never find joy by continuing in strife. The solution to strife is to pray about it, pursue resolutions, and be persistent to pray about those conflicts. We will have freedom that comes as a result. For 2019 let’s keep the focus we discussed last week:

  • Stay in God’s Word – read and study His Word daily
  • Talk to Him daily – a strong prayer life is the only way to keep the line of communication open with God
  • Keep a journal of what you’re learning, reading, and praying about
  • Read books, stories, articles about faithful followers of Christ
  • Connect with others in the journey to remain to remain accountable – Christians were not meant to live in isolation
  • Prioritize your faith walk over EVERYTHING else – this includes a commitment to regular, intentional worship services.
  • Don’t quit
    • If you get behind in your devotions and bible reading, you can catch up
    • Falling behind yesterday is not an excuse for today

Doing these things will change the way you live and feel. It will change everything,

 

December 23, 2018

 For Unto You… A Savior
December 23, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

This time of year brings a huge roll of emotions for everyone! Whether it’s gifts to buy and give, a loved one missing at the table, health crises, or a multitude of possibilities, everything seems to be magnified or take on extra anxiety at this season. Can you share what causes you stress?
We have spent much time in the Old Testament over the past few weeks, looking at prophecies that foretold the Messiah. We determined that Jesus Christ, who came to the earth as “God with us,” fulfilled all prophecies that told of a coming Savior. Today we’re going to be in Luke 1, where the scene unfolds in Jerusalem, as the story of John the Baptist is narrated.

 

Discuss:

God Visited:

  • To set the background for today’s study, someone please read Luke 1:5-25, and someone else read verses 57-66. Because this story sets the stage for the appearance of Jesus Christ, it never grows old. Someone else read our passage for today, verses 67-79.
  • What does Zechariah prophecy in verse 68a? What had he just experienced firsthand? (Who had been in his home for three months?)
  • What was the meaning of the Greek word used for visited? Read 2 Chron. 16:9a for a help as to the reality of God “visiting” man. What is His watchfulness like? Read Psa. 121:3-4. How do we know God watches us?

God Redeemed:

  • Read Luke 1:68b. What did Zechariah say God would do besides visit His people?
  • Why was He going to provide salvation for the world? What is the saying we hear often: “He paid a debt….”? Could you have done this with your child?
    Just as He Promised:
  • Read verses 69-70. Can you think of any OT scriptures we read recently that foretold Jesus’ birth? What was the first promise that gave man hope that a Savior would eventually come?
  • Read verses 71-73. In verse 71, what does God promise us? What kind of enemies do we have? Are we the target of hate in this era? How?
  • Who were the promises of the sacred covenants made to (vs. 73)? How would Jesus fulfill those?

So We Can Serve:

  • Read verses 74-75. What type of service does God have in mind for us?
  • Read Matt. 11:29-30. Does anyone have experience with a team yoked together? Who was put on the inside? If we are yoked together with Jesus, what does He promise us? If His yoke is easy, and our burden light, what type of service—yoked together with Him—does that indicate?
  • What is the best way we can serve Him?

So We Can Share:

  • Read verses 76-77. What does Zechariah say John would do? What would he tell the people?
  • John was going ahead of Jesus, preparing the hearts of the people to be receptive to salvation. How is that like the Secret Service preparing the way of our President when he is going to visit a state or city?

For the World to Have Hope:

  • Read verses 78-79. What are the final promises Zechariah expounds to those around him as he finishes his prophecy?
  • How many people this Christmas season do you know who have no hope? Do names immediately come to your mind? How can you give them the greatest hope in the world?

 

Close:

Like other stories of great people of faith in the Scripture, the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth is one we never tire of reading. Imagine the years they longed for a child—especially in a culture where the importance of the family was based on the number of one’s sons. In various places through the Bible we are told of barren women who felt shame or condemnation because of their childlessness. Yet had John been born earlier, he could not have been the forerunner to the Messiah. It was necessary, even during the years Elizabeth grieved for a child, that she trust God that His will was working for her good. As she and Zechariah spent three months with Mary in their home during Mary’s first trimester, pregnant with Jesus, you can imagine them sitting near the fire at night, with Mary and Elizabeth talking over and over of the visit by Gabriel to Mary. Zechariah, who knew how to write (vs 63), probably penned his own story of the angel’s visit inside the Holy of Holies. What joy and gladness they must have anticipated! Perhaps they invited others into their home, sharing their happiness.
So it is with us: we have had just as miraculous a beginning, being dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), when Jesus quickened our spirits and made us alive together with Him (Eph. 2:4-6)! What a story to share with the world, we who have been dead and now will live for eternity!

KEY VERSE: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6.

 

December 30, 2018

 The Final Word
December 30, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Everyone messes up! Mistakes made in the past are very hard to forget, and it takes a strong person to move on after a life-altering choice. We can ruin our lives wishing we could live certain times over again, but to put a bad event behind us is necessary for mental health. Can someone share a memory?

This past year has been a season when we’ve been constantly encouraged to make Christ the priority in our lives, grow daily in Scripture, and live godly lives. Now it’s time to look back to see if those messages bore fruit. At the same time, we have the opportunity to put past failures behind us and start with a clean slate in a new year. We will look at the great apostle Paul and learn life lessons of “keeping on keeping on” past adversity.

 

 

Discuss:

Nobody’s Perfect:

  • Read Philippians 3:12a. Even the great apostle Paul indicated elsewhere that there were periods of his life he would like to do over. Can you share a time when you thought you were right, and wouldn’t listen to advice, only to learn later you were wrong? What did you learn from this?
  • Think of the people you know, whom you feel are “practically perfect in every way” and discuss why you think of them like this. God knows no one is perfect. Read Psa. 103:13-14. Why do you compare yourselves to others?
  • Read Romans 7:15-25. How did Paul say he struggled? How can you relate to the spiritual battles he fought? What can you learn from him?

Keep Trying:

  • Read verse 12b. How does this verse inspire us, when the going gets tough?
  • Read 2 Cor. 11:23-28. Have you suffered as Paul did? How was he able to keep going, through the perils he endured? How do yours compare with his?
  • What is the biggest reason you believe may be a factor in people giving up? How can you help them?

Let Go of What’s Behind:

  • Read verse 13a. Who is the great accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10)? Does he accuse you of your past?
  • No matter how much we agonize over past choices, most can’t be undone. What are some ways we can leave that baggage in the past and move on?
  • Can you think of scriptures that would help break the chains that bind us?

Look Forward to What’s Ahead:

  • Read verse 13b. How do we keep our focus on the years ahead, when we are able to serve Christ through whatever gifts He has given us?
  • The beginning of 2019 is upon us; what are some ways we can increase our joy in this new season of our lives?

Do What’s Needed:

  • Read verse 14. Have you ever run a race? Where do you keep your focus as you move ahead? How can you get there if you get sidetracked? What causes you to keep moving forward? Read Prov. 24:16. Does this help?
  • Share verses to memorize that will furnish strength when you are overcome by the weights you carry in this world? Read Matt. 11:28-30.Does Christ want to help you shoulder these burdens?

Take Away:

  • Stay in God’s word daily! Learn more of scripture each day this year.
  • Talk to God daily! How would your relationships be if limited to 30 sec. daily?
  • Keep a journal for your thoughts, lessons, prayers and growth.
  • Read books by people who have had victory in battles that you are facing.
  • Connect with others who can encourage you. Isolation kills spiritual growth!
  • Don’t quit! Don’t allow challenges to make you throw in the towel—victory is probably just around the corner.

 

 

Close:

Another year! It seems we just put last year’s Christmas decorations away, made our resolutions, and suddenly the stores begin putting up the tinsel again—and you realize a new year is coming fast. How does time pass so quickly? More importantly, has your spiritual growth shown an upward trend this past year? When you made those resolutions last year to be more faithful in church, Bible reading, and prayer, did it happen? If not, start again! There will always be challenges that Satan puts in our way, or hindrances to carrying out our mission, but it is with a new lease on life that we realize whatever is past is PAST. Let it go—it can’t be redone. If you need to ask forgiveness from someone, restore something to someone, do so, but don’t carry the baggage that causes your spirit to suffer and your joy to be suffocated. Christ has forgiven you—what better news could you have to start 2019? Go out, find a friend, and tell them your story. It may change the new year for someone you love!

KEY VERSE: Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” Philippians 3:12.

 

December 16, 2018

 For Unto You… Messiah
December 16, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

When is a time that you were supposed to be waiting for someone, perhaps a long-lost friend, relative or even someone else’s kin, and were stressed, afraid you would not recognize them at that moment of your responsibility? Can you share an example?

We have been looking at prophecies from the Old Testament concerning the Messiah and find that Jesus fulfilled all of those about the birth of the promised Savior. Today we are going to read passages that seem to contradict other scripture concerning His birth, but find both true. Jesus is without a doubt the Messiah who came into the world to take away the sins of those who would come to Him. We will also see that His lineage includes both Jews and Gentiles, and characters both good and bad—an inspiration to us all that God can use anyone, at any time, no matter the past sins we carry.

 

Discuss:

Messiah Will Be in the Line of David:

  • Read 2 Samuel 7:12-16. Whose seed was the Messiah to come from? How long would this promise endure?
  • Read Jeremiah 23:5-6. How did God reinforce His promise nearly 400 years later?

Messiah Will Not Be in the Line of Jehoiachin

  • Read Jeremiah 22:24-30. God was fed up with the sins of Jechoniah, king of Judah and David’s offspring through Solomon. Yet we know God does not make mistakes, nor does His word contain errors. What is the worldly issue (from the sermon) that people say indicates Jesus did not come from the line of David?
  • Comparing the lineage of Christ in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 shows discrepancies. Can someone explain where the blood lines separate, and where the truth lies?

Messiah Will Be in the Line of the Good [People]:

  • Look at Matthew 1. Who are some of the people listed in this lineage whose faith was great?
  • Look at Luke 3, beginning at verse 23. Whom do you see listed here, whose lives reflected a living faith in the One, True God?

Messiah Will Be in the Line of the Bad [People]:

  • Look again at both Matthew and Luke. Who are some you note whose history recorded in the Bible included sins that had to be dealt with?
  • Why do you suppose God permitted them to be in the Messianic line?

Messiah Can Use Anyone at Any Time to Change the World:

  • What had Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all done? What had Judah done?
  • What was Rahab’s profession? Whom did she marry? What was her relationship to David?
  • What, had David, “a man after God’s own heart,” done that was despicable?
  • What had Bathsheba done? Opinion only, but could she possibly have been aware, living next to the palace, that her display of nudity might be seen?
  • Solomon, the wisest man on earth, at the end of his life had become incredibly weak in the flesh. What were his sins?
  • ARE YOU ALLOWING HIM TO USE YOU, or are you spending much of your time beating yourself over the back for your past, thinking your sins have been so great that He cannot use you? Read that list again, if so!

 

 

 

Close:

The lineage of Jesus Christ does not leave room to doubt that He was a direct descendant of David, whether you read Matthew or Luke, or any option that might present itself. No one has ever lived except Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, who fulfills the 300+ prophecies of the Old Testament concerning Messiah. In the virgin Birth alone, not one woman who has “not known a man” has ever conceived and bore a son (although certainly many girls have probably tried that tactic to avoid punishment!) For one man to fulfill even a few of them is not possible. We can not get sidetracked into a worldly argument that Jesus was only a “good man.” His fulfillment is so far beyond miraculous as to fill us with awe and wonder.

It is a conundrum that we take the genealogy in Matthew 1 and in Luke 3 both to be true, but separating at the sons of David, Nathan and Solomon. When faced with something we can’t understand from scripture, it is well to go the earlier Church fathers. Here is a direct quote from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Luke, Chapter 3, verses 23-38:

The difference between the two evangelists in the genealogy of Christ has been a stumbling-block to infidels that cavil at the word, but such a one as has been removed by the labors of learned men, both in the early ages of the church and in latter times, to which we refer ourselves. Matthew draws the pedigree from Solomon, whose natural line ending in Jechoniah, the legal right was transferred to Salathiel, who was of the house of Nathan, another son of David, which line Luke here pursues, and so leaves out all the kings of Judah. It is well for us that our salvation doth not depend upon our being able to solve all these difficulties, nor is the divine authority of the gospels at all weakened by them; for the evangelists are not supposed to write these genealogies either of their own knowledge or by divine inspiration, but to have copied them out of the authentic records of the genealogies among the Jews, the heralds’ books, which therefore they were obliged to follow; and in them they found the pedigree of Jacob, the father of Joseph, to be as it is set down in Matthew; and the pedigree of Heli, the father of Mary, to be as it is set down here in Luke. And this is the meaning of hos enomizeto (Luke 3:23), not, as it was supposed, referring only to Joseph, but uti sancitum est lege—as it is entered into the books, as we find it upon record; by which is appeared that Jesus was both by father and mother’s side the Son of David, witness this extract out of their own records, which any one might at that time have liberty to compare with the original, and further the evangelists needed not to go; nay, had they varied from that, they had not gained their point. Its not being contradicted at that time is satisfaction enough to us now that it is a true copy, as it is further worthy of observation, that, when those records of the Jewish genealogies had continued thirty or forty years after these extracts out of them, long enough to justify the evangelists therein, they were all lost and destroyed with the Jewish state and nation; for now there was no more occasion for them.

KEY VERSE: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6.

 

December 9, 2018

 For Unto You… Righteousness
December 9, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Knowing an up-coming event is going to happen can keep one in joyful anticipation! All of us look forward to special occasions that occur as a rarity. Can you think of something you were anxious to see finally come to fruition—and the enjoyment was amazing?

Last week we looked at the Old Testament, focusing on some of the many prophecies that Jesus Christ fulfilled when He left heaven, coming to earth in the form of a tiny baby, born in a stable. He was the Enemy of Satan, the coming Blessing, Ruler, Presence and Hope for the world. Today we look at the response we should have to His coming, and how it impacts our lives.

 

Discuss:

A Call to Righteousness:

  • Read Jeremiah 23:5-6 and Zechariah 3:8. Who is Jeremiah quoting in these verses, who was going to raise up the Branch? Why is He called a “Branch”?
  • What was He going to do on the earth?
  • What is His name by which He is called? Read Isaiah 64:6. How can we sinners be righteous?
  • Where is the presence of God here on earth? How should His presence affect our actions?

A Call to a Higher Standard:

  • Read Colossians 3:5a. What does this command mean to the Christian living today?
  • Read Col. 3:17. How are we representing the Lord Jesus each day? Can our representation be a negative testimony? Will anyone want the relationship with God if they see us in church on Sunday, but living (speech, actions) as the world during the week?
  • Read 1 Cor. 10:31. What are some ways we can show Christ in our lives each day?
  • Why do you think Christians are finding it easier and easier to use profanity in daily conversation, or using God’s name carelessly (omg, etc)?

A Call to Point the Way:

  • Read Malachi 3:1-2. This was written about 400 years before Jesus was born. Who was Malachi referring to? Read John 1:6-9 and Matt. 3:1-6. How did Matthew and John describe John the Baptist?
  • How and where did John announce that Jesus was now among the people?
  • Read verse 2b once more. How was Jesus described? Read Job 23:10. How does He test and refine us?
  • When we tell someone our story of salvation, what is the major thing that they should notice about us? (2 Cor. 5:17).
  • John came into the world to fulfill the prophecy that the Messiah would have a forerunner. How did people miss this fulfilment?
  • We, as John, have a responsibility to point others to Jesus Christ. As the time draws closer for His return, will you have souls in heaven whom you have witnessed to? Read Prov. 11:30b to see God’s take on this!

 

 

Close:

The wonder of Christmas forever remains the same, no matter how much the world desires to take Christ out of the season. The story of the angels’ coming to Mary and Joseph, the trip to Bethlehem, and the birth of the Christ Child in the manger will never lose its appeal to anyone whose heart is open and willing to accept the glorious facts of the Gospel.

Can you imagine life without hope, without Someone who has the power to change your life, and save you from your sins? It would be a dismal existence without Him. The millions of people around the world are waiting for someone like you to tell them there is a way to have their sins forgiven, and hope for a future. How can we turn down so great a responsibility? Have you imagined standing before God and seeing faces of those you’ve passed by, willing to let someone else witness to them? What if they spend eternity in hell because you did not go? We need to take the story of the gospel, preaching it to anyone who has open ears. Say with Isaiah, “Here am I, Lord, send me!”

KEY VERSE: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulders. And His Name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6.

 

December 2, 2018

 For Unto You… A Son is Given
December 2, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

There are probably not too many older adults who aren’t familiar with The Farmer’s Almanac or The Old Farmer’s Almanac, all studying predictions for weather, planting, moon cycles and more. Can anyone share a current use or a memory? Do you remember if most were correct?

We are now in the wonderful, awe-inspiring, Christmas season, counting down the days with our children or loved ones until December 25. We Christians will celebrate the gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who came into the world to save, through His death on the cross at Calvary, those who are spiritually lost. Today we will look at Old Testament prophecies for God’s promises of a Savior for mankind. When Jesus Christ was born, the OT prophecies regarding a coming Messiah had been fulfilled, which could only have been done by the true Son of God.

 

Discuss:

The Coming Enemy of Satan:

  • Read Genesis 3:15. Why is there a difference in the small letter “s” referring to Satan, and the capital “S” for the woman’s Seed? Who was the Seed?
  • How did this first prophecy of the coming of a Savior say He would give the serpent a mortal wound? How was this scripture fulfilled at the cross?
  • Read Isa. 53:10. What does this verse prophecy? How was it fulfilled?
  • Read Galatians 3:16 and John 3:16. In these promises, how was God’s plan for salvation to be through one means, and only one?

The Coming Blessing:

  • Read Gen. 22:18. Who was God talking to? How would all nations be blessed through the Jewish nation?
  • What does His blessing mean to you personally?
  • Read John 1:28-30. What did John mean when he said that the Lamb of God was “before him”?

The Coming Ruler:

  • Read Isaiah 9:6-7. This was written about 700 years before Jesus was born. After Isaiah prophesied this Messianic promise, what type of ruler did the people look for during those 700 years? What would you have looked for?
  • Read Numbers 22:14. How did this fulfill the prophecy by Isaiah?
  • What is a scepter?

The Coming Presence:

  • Read Isaiah 7:14. Someone describe the OT ritual of atonement for sins. What do you know about the functions of the High Priest? What type of relationship did the people have with God in Genesis-Malachi?
  • Read Matt. 1:18-23. Although they were told that Immanuel means “God with us,” why would it have been incredibly hard for the orthodox Jews to understand that He would indwell the hearts of His children?
  • Read Joshua 1:5 and Nehemiah 9:19. The nation of Israel had had reminders that God had been with them through the wilderness. How is that a reassurance that He will never leave nor forsake you, even when you are in some type of “wilderness”?

The Coming Hope:

  • Read Isaiah 11:1-5. What are the Spirits that would be upon the Messiah? Are             there any of those qualities that you have a problem with? Can you share and discuss?
  • Read Psa. 33:18 and Rom. 8:23-25. What can happen to you that you can’t find the answer for, in Jesus Christ? Is He your hope?

 

 

 

Close:

What comes to your mind when you hear that you who are saved are actually indwelt with the Spirit of God? Not only do you have Him as “God with [you]” but no matter your circumstances, your troubles, your pain, or even through death, He will never leave you nor forsake you! When He has made a promise, He will not break His word.

We have no idea how blessed we are to live with the Word of God, which we can pick up and read, study, research prophecies and commit to memory! The words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 13:17 helps us understand those OT times better as He said, “17 for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” We need to take this special time of ending 2018 to search our hearts for shallow faith, sin, or any other thing that needs to be repented of and put behind us. If you have loved ones who feel that Jesus was only a “good” person, sit down with them and show them the Old Testament scriptures that rightly predict the Messiah, and remind them there is no human possibility of fulfilling the amount of prophecies that Jesus Christ did, except through the life of the true Son of God (see Luke 24:27 or Luke 24:13-27). And now He has adopted us as His children, as we wait for the day when we will join Him in heaven. Hopefully, the mere thought excites you!

KEY VERSE: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6.

 

November 25, 2018

 Being Thankfull is Not Enough
November 25, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

With our thoughts recently centered on gratefulness, did you find any part of your life that you could not adequately express thanks for? For instance, maybe someone who’s spent years desiring a child and finally gives birth, and can hardly speak of that joy without crying! Can you share?

As Thanksgiving week winds to a close, we want to properly thank God for being the giver of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17). Some of His gifts, however, are so great as to fall outside our ability to thank Him enough. As we look at those gifts, we want to write their significance on our hearts, daily praising Him for what He has done, and how He has changed our lives.

 

Discuss:

God’s Love:

  • Read John 3:16-17, and personalize it in your own Bible. Can anyone share their testimony of salvation? How do you feel your love for Jesus compares today to what you felt the day you first accepted Christ as Savior?
  • Read Rom. 5:8. Can you share a recent moment when the reality of what Jesus did on the Cross made a new impact on your life? How can you keep the significance of that incredible act fresh, giving God praise daily for it?

God’s Power:

  • Read Col. 1:15-17. How powerful do you see God? By what method did He bring creation into being? How did Jesus do many of His miracles?
  • What does His power mean to you personally?
  • Read Heb. 2:9. How does it impact you that God the Son left the glory of heaven, came to earth as a human, fully man but fully God, and died on a cross to save you? Would you give your child to die for the sins of the world?
  • If He has the power to speak creation into being, to die for the sins of everyone who trusts in Him, what does that mean He can do with your problems?

God’s Healing:

  • Read John 3:14-15, again personalizing verse 15 with your name. Who does this verse say is able to be saved?
  • Read Num. 21:5-9. What was the sin of the Israelites? How did God intervene in order to provide a way of forgiveness? Do you think any of the people refused to look upon the serpent because it seemed “too easy”?
  • Does anyone recall the story of Naaman, the captain of the Syrian army who became a leper, and his servant girl? Paraphrase it for the group if you do, then read 2 Kings 5:10-14. How did the provision for Naaman’s healing differ from that in Num. 21? Why do we think healing should be hard for God?
  • Can you think of an area where you need God’s healing touch, but feel you are not worthy, or the “steps” given in counseling are too easy? Share only if you want.
  • God’s Gift:
  • Read John 1:29 and again, personalize the gift of salvation with your name. Do you struggle with thinking that belief in Jesus as God’s son, Who died for your sins so that you can be forgiven and become His follower, is too simple?
  • Read 1 John 2:2. The simplicity of the gospel is so applicable to all ages that children and adults, poor or rich, may understand and be saved. How can you keep from becoming complacent about the size of the cross? What does it mean to you?

 

Do you recognize the significance of the gift (read Rom. 5:12-21 at home)?

Have you received the gift? If not, what hinders you?

 

 

 

Close:

No matter the area of your life, the subject discussed, or the initial impact something has made on you, it is difficult to keep an attitude of joy about it day after day. Eventually, we find ourselves expecting the day to bring what it has been: whether a daily rose from a loving spouse, to a clean house with supper ready. Perhaps the gladness of a new baby might last longer, as he falls asleep in your arms, but one day when he’s starting down the road to independence your expectations might become less ecstatic. When you are contemplating the gifts of eternity, however, the wonder of the Cross should never become less than a constant delight. Realizing  the eternal impact it has on your life—you who are unworthy, sinful, and make a myriad of mistakes daily—should give you pause to stop and glorify God for His continued goodness to you! What would you be doing, and where would you spend eternity if He had not stepped to your “grave” and called you by name, out of your tomb, as He did Lazarus? “Even when [you] were dead in sins, [you] has He made alive with Christ!” (Eph. 2). Last week’s key verse is also powerful for today: “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” How appropriate for those things that mean the difference between life and death!

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

 

November 18, 2018

 Multiplied Blessings
November 18, 2018
Scott Bullman

 

Open:

Holiday traditions are often passed down from one generation to the next, and remembered  by the family for decades! Can you share something your family enjoys every year?

The week of Thanksgiving seems to kick off the season of family fun, parties, eating more than we should—and, of course, celebrating Christmas. In reality, Thanksgiving originally was a time set aside to thank God for the generous blessings received during the past year. Today Scott Bullman will encourage us to make this holiday not just a one day event, but a lifestyle of worship that is an everyday tradition.

 

 

Discuss:

A Lifestyle of Thanksgiving requires….

Awareness:

  • Read Psalm 50:23. It is easy to become oblivious to and take for granted so many daily blessings—like breathing. What are some of God’s gifts that we seldom think of as “blessings”?
  • Read Psa. 31:19 and 103:2. What can we do to help ourselves be more aware of God’s goodness to us?

 

ATTITUDE 

Contentment:

  • Read Phil. 4:6, 12-13. During different seasons in our lives, God blesses us in different ways. What did Paul learn in his years while serving Christ?
  • Have you found a way to be contented during your seasons? Would you like to share, to encourage others?

3 Enemies of Contentment:

Complaining:

  • Read 1 Thess. 5:16-18. What do you have control over?
  • How can you teach yourself to CHOOSE to praise and give thanks, over choosing to complain?

      Comparing:

  • On Social Media, everyone posts pictures that show them or their family at their best. What do you find yourself thinking as you see these postings? Do you conclude they are living a “happily ever after” life, and yours is going downhill? Why?
  • Why do we feel that God must be fair in dealing with His children?

      Coveting:

  • Read Eccl. 6:9 and Luke 12:15. What is coveting?
  • Why should we be aware of it in our lives?

 

ACTION

Giving:

  • Read 2 Cor. 9:6-8. Last week we talked about giving non-monetary gifts to others. Can you recall what some of those are?
  • John Calvin wrote, “All the blessings we enjoy are Divine deposits, committed to our trust on this condition, that they should be dispensed for the benefit of our neighbors.” Would someone paraphrase that significant sentence?

Serving:

  • Read Gal. 5:13-14. Why is it important that we learn to serve others?
  • What are some ways in which you can serve your neighbors?

Telling:

  • Read Psa. 107:1-2 and 1 Chron. 16:8. We are thrilled to tell about a new baby, new restaurant, etc. Why is it so important to tell your story to a lost and dying world?

Worship:

  • Read Psa. 100. We can sum up the importance of giving thanks by being grateful. Read Lam. 3:24. How can gratitude evolve into worship in your life?

 

 

 

Close:

Developing attitudes of gratitude, giving, and sharing should be qualities present in our lives every day of the year—not just at Thanksgiving. Scott told the story of a farmer who was discouraged with the work that went into his farm, and the unending care of his herds. He called a realtor to put it up for sale. When she called him to okay the sales description, he stopped cold. After having her read the ad one more time he remarked, “I’m changing my mind. I see now that what I’ve wanted for years is right here under my nose.” (Slight paraphrase). So often that is our focus: always looking for something better, rather than giving glory and praise to God for what He has given us already. May we be more aware of this daily, until our praise is a posture of worship.

KEY VERSE: “Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

 

November 11, 2018

Giving, Gaining, and Greed
November 11, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

What brings you the most joy? Is it giving a very essential item or gift to someone truly in need, giving a new toy to your child to add to his shelves of previous gifts, or receiving a gift to add to your own collections? Can anyone share?

We are entering the season of Giving. Whether it is the giving of Thanks, the giving of Christmas items for children in foreign countries, or the giving of ourselves to help others, these next few months will determine whether you desire to be a giver or a receiver. Most people will admit to desiring more “stuff,” but this is not Biblical. Today, we will talk about giving, gaining and greed.

Focal Passages: Jeremiah 22:13-16; Acts 20:35, 2 Cor. 8:9; Luke 14:12-14

 

 

Discuss:

“Having” (stuff) never leads to contentment:

  • Read Jer. 22:13-155a. The scripture records Jeremiah’s words to Jehoiakim, the king. What does God have against him?
  • How does this remind you of two other kings who were consumed with getting things, including adoration and worship? Read Dan. 4:29b-30 and Eccl. 2:10-11.
  • Thinking of your own home, does it reflect a lifestyle of spending to display it in pride, or is it a home where a family lives and loves? Can anyone share?
    • Has your pride in a beautiful home, new cars, or personal collections made you a better Christian? How can it be a stumbling block?

Giving is what brings joy:

  • Read Jer. 22:15b. What were the things about Josiah that God commended?
  • How were the two kings—Josiah and Jehoiakim—different?
  • What did you do in 2018 that gave you the most joy? How was someone helped by what you did? Can you share?

Giving is what brings you closer to Christ:

  • Read Jer. 22:16b. What was God referring to, regarding Josiah? Did it strengthen Josiah’s relationship with God to share what he had?
  • Why do we have a new appreciation of God when we share ourselves?
  • Why did God give you the resources you have?

Giving is what makes you more like Christ:

  • Read 2 Cor. 8:9. What were the riches of Christ throughout eternity past? What was His poverty when He came to the earth? What are the riches we receive from Him?
  • John 3:16 begins, “For God so loved the world that He GAVE”; so why does giving make us more like Christ?
  • What are some things we can give to others daily?

Giving is what leads to reward:

  • Read Luke 14:12-14. What was Christ telling us in this passage?
  • When is the last time you invited someone out to eat, to your home, or gave in some other fashion, when you knew they would not be able to repay you? Can you share?
  • Why would we get rewards in heaven for doing that which we should be doing?

 

 

Close:

Almost everyone has heard the famous response of John D. Rockefeller, considered to be the richest man in modern history, when asked how much money would be enough. His reply? “Just a little bit more.” Many of us live our lives desiring “just a little bit more,” and find it never satisfies. The truth is, we all love gifts. But do you love “getting” more than giving? What does your home witness about you? There is another truth Paul quoted Jesus as saying, in our Key Verse for the day, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” It might interest you to know that a foreign country, where Christianity is growing daily, considers America to be a country in need of prayer. Not prayer for our ungodliness, but beseeching God to take away our enormous wealth, as they see it as a huge obstacle to following Christ whole-heartedly.

Not everyone receives with genuine gratefulness: some feel the action tends to make them indebted to the giver. How sad! True generous giving is an essence of the Godhead. God’s greatest gift to the world, Jesus Christ, was the ultimate gift to pave the way for our eternal life. Christ gave His life, the most He could give, for us who are unworthy and could obtain salvation in no other way. The Holy Spirit gives gifts to men, comfort, conviction of sin, and so much more. Giving of ourselves—our time, our gifts (listening, counseling, meals, etc.) in times of pain, and our resources to bless others—transforms us, as Paul tells us in Romans 8:29-32, into the likeness of Christ. And he goes on to say, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Giving is beautiful, giving is Christ-like, and giving will bring rewards to throw at the feet of Jesus.

Key Verse: Acts 20:35: I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

 

November 4, 2018

Masquerade : A Final Word
November 4, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Can you be very vulnerable for a moment, and share an area in your life where you have a struggle being real—not wearing a mask to hide an insecurity? Will someone share?

Over the past weeks we’ve been given tools to remove those masks of pretense we tend to wear to show the world the person we would like to be. The person we really are, hopefully a follower of Christ, has now added deceit and dishonesty to continue the masquerade. This keeps us from being everything God created us to be. We have learned that freedom is available, hope that we can remove the mask and be ourselves, and find a freedom that is in Christ and Christ alone.

Focal Passages: Ephesians 6:10-20

 

Discuss:

A Final Word:

  • Read Eph. 6:10a. What does it really mean when you express thoughts, commands, or lessons, and end with “finally”?
  • How does this indicate the speaker or writer has given all the instructions necessary? Does anyone remember the meaning of “the rest of the whole”?

Be Strong:

  • Read 10b. How are we to be strong? Why does physical strength seldom get us through a heavy trial?
  • Read Psa. 20:7 and 103:14. Why is it not possible to be strong on our own?
  • Read 2 Cor. 6:14. Why is it not possible to keep a mask on while maintaining a close fellowship with our Father in heaven? Why can our human nature not handle trials without God’s help?

We Have Everything That We Need:

  • Read Eph. 6:11-13a. Where do you get your self-worth? Who does God say you are? What are some of the words He uses to describe you?
  • What would happen if our soldiers went to war in jeans, tee shirt and no weapon? (Ask yourself: Is that me daily?) How do we know God wants us to win the victory? What has He provided?
  • Read John 10:10. What is Satan’s first target? What does he want to steal? What does he want to kill? What does he want to destroy?
  • What is the only thing that keeps us from winning?

 

Stand Your Ground

  • Read Eph. 6:13b-14a. Do your children ever test you? What happens when you stand firm on the issue that is being challenged? What is the parallel?

Truth Matters

  • Read Eph. 6:14b. What is the belt of truth? Why did Paul use the picture of a warrior going into battle? How is that like us?

The Truth of the Truth

  • Why is it important that we acknowledge God? Does Truth ever change?
  • Read Proverbs 12:19. Why is it necessary we always act in Truth ?
  • Read John 8:32. How does Truth set us free? Free from what?
  • Read John 14:6 and Isaiah 61:1. Why is truth so important?

 

The End Game

  • What are some of the chains that bind us?
  • Read Eph. 6:19-20. Once we take off the mask(s) we wear, how can God use us? Why?

 

 

 

Close:

Perhaps, as you watch someone you love grow to adulthood, you see the characteristics and passions they have in a certain area and know that they would excel in a particular vocation. That is a close analogy of our life in Christ, created as a new being through salvation, with gifts and talents God can use. However, if we put on a mask to seem more than we are, our goals shift from pleasing God to pleasing men. This makes us a vessel unfit for the Master’s use, and we need to beg God to free us from that mindset, to one that pleases Him in all we do and say. Recently someone was overheard saying, “I can hardly carry this burden, but no one really wants to listen to me!” That is an indictment on the circle of friends this person has, but ask yourself “Do I cut off friends by passing by quickly, or replying ‘God has a purpose..’ or something else that would indicate I don’t have time to share their burden?” Don’t let a mask of lifestyle, religiosity, apparel or beauty be so important to you that you cannot fulfil the plans and purposes God had in mind when He made you! Beg Him to set you free, and then be available to say, “Here am I, Lord, use me!”

Key Verse: Ephesians 6:10: Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

 

October 28, 2018

Masquerade : Be Real
October 28, 2018
Dr. Ben Guterriz

 

Open:

Have you attended a function where someone tried to impress those present, yet their family or close friends knew their words were not consistent with the person they are at home? Can someone share an example, and tell how you felt for the family?

As we continue our series Masquerade, today we focus on the Mask of Religion. Wearing this mask, we try to appear spiritually as someone we’re not. We wish to appear perfect, which is not only deceitful—therefore sinful—but ruins opportunities to show the world how faithful and loving God is during our worst trials. Dr. Ben Gutierrez teaches us how important it is to be transparent, so our testimony becomes powerful and gives praise to God for His grace to us.

Focal Passages: Matt. 23:1-6, 11-12; Mark 5:1-15, 18-20; Mark 7:31-33a; Eccl. 7:20; Jas. 3:2; 1 John 1:8-9.

 

Discuss:

THE DANGERS OF WEARING THE MASK OF RELIGION

It Has No Spiritual Benefit:

  • Read James 3:2. What signals do you pick up when someone you are talking to is not authentic? Do you notice a lot of emphasis on “I”?
  • What impact does portraying a spiritual manner have on one’s own character? What are some of the sinful qualities that wearing this mask hides?

It Repels People:

  • Most people have some idea of the kindness of Jesus as a man, and how He lived His life. They see through someone who claims to be a Christian; how?
  • Read Eccl. 7:20. What type of feelings might a child experience if they see their parent or guardian act in a holy attitude at church, yet be the opposite at home? What might happen as they get old enough to leave home?
  • Read 1 John 1:8-9. Why do people resort to wearing a mask to cover a life of discontent with themselves or their circumstances?

It Is Not Believable

  • Back to the reference from Ecclesiastes, what do other people think when they know you are pretending to have “all your ducks in a row”?
  • How does it alienate friends or acquaintances if you are not authentic in portraying your lifestyle?
  • What is at the root of wearing a mask? Read 1 Peter 5:5. How will your testimony reflect the fact that you are covering a perceived flaw?

 

 

BIBLICAL EXAMPLE OF GOD’S BLESSING ON BEING REAL

Two Examples of those Who Wore Masks

  • Read Matt. 23:1-6, 11-12. Who were the two groups in this passage whom Jesus was using for an example of how NOT to be?
  • What were some of the reasons they were an offense to God?
  • Their lifestyle was summed up in verse 5a: what was it? Do you know anyone who lives like this, perhaps with their clothes, home, yard or other pretense?

 

An Example of Someone Who Was Real

  • Almost everyone knows the story of the Gadarene Demoniac. Will someone paraphrase the story from the book of Mark (for time’s sake)?
  • Read Luke 8:37. What was the reaction of the people to Jesus because of the now fully-restored man?
  • Read verse 18-19. How did Jesus respond when the man asked to go with Him and become one of His followers?
  • Read verse 20. This man was known by everyone in the region of the Gadarenes. What was their reaction when he told them what had happened?
  • Read Mark 7:33a. Jesus decided to return to the towns where the demoniac had lived. What impact did his testimony have on the people? How do you know this?

 

 

 

Close:

No doubt many of us have recognized in the past few weeks areas where we have continually worn a mask. It would be the prayer of every pastor who has spoken during this series that we are able to break free from the bondage this mask gives us. It is not hiding anything: those who are authentic realize immediately that we are fooling only ourselves. There is a universal law among financiers that to recognize a counterfeit bill, one must become so familiar with genuine currency that the false is spotted instantly. It is the same with the masks we wear: true Christ-followers will spot those whose life does not line up with Truth. At the same time, for those who don’t know us well, our family will recognize the deceit and it will alienate us from them eventually. Unbelievers may not know Jesus as their Savior, but most people will be able to tell you that He was someone who lived a life of being real and will know you are not living that life. All in all, the result will be that a mask will be holding back its wearer from a life of fullness and joy. It is not unlike an elderly woman (or man) who keeps themselves fit, wearing clothes and make-up meant for youth. The evidence is there for everyone to see—except the one looking from the inside out.

Key Verse: Matthew 23:12: But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

 

October 21, 2018

Masquerade : Breaking Free
October 21, 2018
Dr. Tim Clinton

 

Open:

How does one break free from an addiction, whether food, medication, or something that tempts you beyond your resistance? Wherever you go, it seems you are offered that which you are struggling to be free from. What are some methods that may be helpful?

One of the masks we wear in society is that of being completely in charge of our lives, when the truth is that something has many of us in slavery. Satan—our adversary—not only knows our weakness, but preys on it, trying to keep us broken, overwhelmed, and chained to something we try to escape from. Today Dr. Clinton shares a professional perspective on recognizing the downward spiral we are on and gives us insight into breaking free and recovering our heart.

Focal Passages: 2 Corinthians 11:1-3, James 1:19-20; Gen. 2:18; Rev. 12:10.

Discuss:

LOSING HEART

  • Attack: 
    • Who is at the root of deceiving us? Whose choice is it to ultimately take the step that starts the downward spiral?
    • Read 2 Cor. 11:1-3.
  • Anger:
    • What happens when something in your life gets out of control and you have no way to fix it? What emotion do you find beginning to occur often?
    • Read Jas. 1:19-20. What does it say?
  • Anxiety:
    • When life is out of control and anger sets in, what is the next reaction that turns the downward spiral into a tight coil? This creates what psychologists refer to as the “flight or fight” response.
    • What does that mean?
  • Aloneness:
    • Once someone is in the throes of anxiety and/or depression, and God does not seem to show up to relieve the situation, what is the next downward spiral?
    • Why does one want to be alone?
    • How does this cause more alienation?
  • Adulteries of the Heart:
    • Read Gen. 2:18.
    • When someone feels so alone, and it seems no one cares, what does the natural man begin to do?
    • Does it have to be a person?
    • What other types of “adulteries” are used to cover the pain?
  • Addiction:
    • Now we reach the area where Satan has his field day.
    • What happens as we find temporary solace in a situation or medication (or another form of indulgences)?
  • Accuser whispers lies:
    • Read Rev. 12:10.
    • What is another of Satan’s evil tactics?
    • Not only does he accuse us to God, but where does he start first?
    • What are some of his accusations?

RECOVERY OF THE HEART

  • Affection of/for God:
    • Read Matt. 22:37.
    • What is the first commandment?
    • Why is that like a building block, or a foundation for our temple (our life)?
    • Why is that more necessary to have in place than a great marriage, kids, etc.?
  • Assessment:
    • Read Psa. 139:23.
    • Once we truly believe God loves us as a loving Father cherishes his child, what tests can we apply to our lives?
  • Awareness of God:
    • How can we develop a daily awareness of God in our lives?
    • What will that eventually do for us?
  • Attachment:
    • Read John 15:1-5.
    • What is so special about having an attachment bond to Christ?
    • What about the bond you have with your spouse or child—can you imagine that bond being so great as the one you can have with God?
    • What Actions will that bond produce in your life?
    • Read 1 Tim. 11:1.
  • Accountability:
    • Why would it now be vital to find someone who will speak truth to you, and be an accountability partner who will keep you close to Christ?
  • Alive Again:
    • As you press in against God, drawing near to Him, you will find Him faithful and you’ll become alive again. A three-fold cord is not easily broken, Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes. Rejoice in that!

 

Close:

This message is one we all need to hear as everyone either struggles with an addiction or knows someone who does. These steps are desperately needed to identify addictions and break free. God has told us that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, and all of us need the reality that Satan’s lies can no longer keep us chained to things that will ultimately kill us. Take time to hit the highlights of Dr. Clinton’s powerful sermon and sit down with someone God has brought to your mind, going over each item slowly with them, then continuing on the path with them as they break free. You’ll gain a brother and pull a soul out of the teeth of the Devourer.

Key Verse: 2 Corinthians 11:3: But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

 

October 14, 2018

Masquerade : Our Digital Masks
October 14, 2018
Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

What happens when you look through Facebook at the profiles of those you graduated with? Do you become discouraged as they appear so gorgeous, handsome, or look younger than you feel you do? Does it occur to you these may be intentionally misleading photos? Can anyone share an example?

Today we continue “Masquerade,” seeking to take off the masks we wear so others may see the real you, rather than an inaccurate picture of who we try to be. We want to focus on the digital world we live in—and the issues caused by modern technology. Are you open to having God shine His light on your spirit, exposing the masks you use on social media?

Focal Passages: Romans 8:5-8, James 4:1-8, Galatians 6:10, Ephesians 4:15, Proverbs 11:2, 16:5.

 

 

Discuss:

Rage and Anger

  • As we have done on previous weeks, will someone please explain why we feel the need to present a false front to others?
  • Read James 4:1. What example can you give that has caused you, or someone you know, stress or anger through social media over the past year? How did you (or they) respond?
  • Read Gal. 5:19-16. Why will you always have conflict between the flesh and the spirit? Read Rom. 7:15-25. As you exercise the fruit of the Spirit, what happens to the things of the flesh?
  • Read Gal. 6:10. Who are we to be good to? How is responding to a negative tweet or post in the same manner as the one who posted the original, lowered you to their standard? Can you explain how hard it is to refrain from a rebuttal, and why it’s a victory to overlook what has taken place?

Jealousy

  • Read James. 4:2-3. What is the root cause for posting pictures of new homes, new cars, or new possessions? How does that cause a feeling of covetousness? How is that wrong? Why do we always want more?
  • If we seek the things that would enrich our lives for Christ, what would be our emotional feeling?

Desire for Acceptance

  • Read James. 4:4-5. What are some of the things the world throws at us that are hard to resist?
  • Why do we feel the need for acceptance so strongly that we go to great lengths and sometimes sinful actions? Why is our understanding of how much God loves us not sufficient for all our needs at all times, in all ways?

Pride

  • Read James. 4:6. Where does pride ultimately lead us? Can we be proud and serve God at the same time? Read Prov. 13:10 in KJV (if possible). What does this verse say about all disagreements?
  • Read Prov. 11:2 and 16:5. How much does God hate pride, which is at the root of the need to wear a mask?
  • What matters to God: how we look or whether we are pointing others to Him for salvation?

Our Response

  • Read James. 4:7-8. What are the instructions in these two verses?
  • Why does James say that our loyalty is divided between God and the world? Is that the way it should be?

 

 

 

Close:

Wearing a mask has become such a normal part of who we are, that it might seem an impossibility to be transparent with our feelings. Yet through God’s help, we can overcome any sin, realizing the lies come from Satan. One of the surest methods of defeat is to spend hours on social media, where our mentality is fed with large helpings of things that would encourage worldly feelings—covetousness, jealousy, anger, wrath, gossip, and so much more, including the temptation to interact with someone of the opposite sex—or an old flame. How does God feel about these hours? They could be put to such good use by witnessing of things He has done for you, blessings He has given you, and His love for you. One lady (many people, actually) makes it a point each day to write a short devotion, overflowing with God’s love. It will not be known until eternity the impact her short posts have had on people, and those whose lives she has touched. Would that we all used social media to further God’s kingdom!

Key Verse: Romans 8:5: For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

 

 

October 7, 2018

Masquerade : Building Real Relationships
October 7, 2018
Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Last week we opened as we discussed those people we know who seem to wear a mask—never really showing their true self. But what about you? Will anyone share an area of life where you tend to cover up your feelings, in order to present a false front?

Today, as we continue our series on Masquerades, we want to look at the relationships we have that may be unhealthy and a hindrance to our spiritual well-being. As God’s Word sets forth clear definitions of healthy relationships, we want to define what a toxic relationship is, and remove any mask we might wear, thereby being vulnerable to expressing our truest heart. Anything less does not come from God.

Focal Passage: Colossians 3:12-17.

 

 

Discuss:

How we wear masks in our relationships that create toxic and unhealthy futures

A.   False presentation and unrealistic expectations

  • What did we establish last week are the dangers in wearing a mask?
  • Why does our perception of others usually assume their life is perfect? Is this normally a correct assumption? Why not?

B.   Self-serving motives

  • What do we hope to achieve by wearing a mask? Do most see through it?
  • Read 1 Thess. 2:1-7, in the NIV. What was Paul saying?

C.    Secretly holding on to past hurts instead of forgiveness

  • How is it possible to put on a pleasant face when withholding forgiveness toward someone? Can anyone willingly share such a situation?
  • If past hurts continue to affect us, does that person still control you?

D.   Treating your relationship in a defensive manner

  • Think of people—perhaps in close relationships—whom you always assume have an ulterior motive when dealing with you. How do you react with them?
  • How can a defensive manner be toxic?

E.   Hiding what’s truly going on

  • When you think of putting on a mask—that is, acting in a manner not in line with truth—what is the root cause of such actions? Talk this over.
  • If something isn’t true, where does it originate?

 

Building Real Relationships

A.   Approach every relationship with holiness

  • Read Col. 3:12a. What did God do for us according to this verse?
  • Read 1 Cor. 6:19-20. How are we able to make every choice from the perspective of truth? (Phil. 4:13).

B.   Approach every relationship with the right motives

  • Read verse 12c. What are the five definitions of a healthy personality?
  • Think of your relationships: how would they be transformed if you handled those with whom you come into contact, with these qualities?

C.   Approach every relationship putting others first

  • Read verse 13. What is a definition of forgiveness? Does that mean the person did not intend you hurt? Who is it now hurting?
  • Look at C in the first section: as long as you are not forgiving someone for a past hurt, how do they continue to control you? Read Eph. 6:12.

D.   Approach every relationship as an opportunity

  • Read vv. 14-16. What are several “do’s” in these verses? What will others think if you discipline yourself to choose these qualities?
  • Every choice you make is for your good, or the good of another person. How can this be?

E.   Approach every relationship with Christ at the center

  • Read verse 17. As you consider unhealthy or healthy relationships, is it possible for you to give thanks to Christ if you choose to wear a mask? How? How does that reflect on the body of Christ to unbelievers?
  • Can you glorify God wearing a mask?

 

 

 

Close:

This has been a long study, but one that is critical as we make choices each day to be kind and loving or to put on a mask to hide our inadequacies.  Wearing a mask will tear down everything God is trying to do in your life. Can you leave your house this week, determining to make the day brighter for everyone you meet? How long does it take to smile? To toss out a “Good morning!”? To tender a compliment to an older person (who gets few)? To share a sentence that of inspiration? We are told to treat others as we want them to treat us. Can you do that? Re-read 1 Cor. 13 at some point this week, realizing the masks we wear will not achieve the love that Christ desires. Let us all make new commitments to love as we have been loved by God. The last verse in 1 Cor. 13 emphasizes the Key Verse for this week: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Key Verse: Col. 3:14: But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

 

 

September 30, 2018

Masquerade : The Art of Covering
September 30, 2018
Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Do you know someone who acts in a certain manner, but their words just do not seem to ring true? Without naming names or gender, what is it about them that you believe indicates they are playing a part which is false?

Today we begin a new series that will cut many of us to the quick: the unveiling of the mask we wear to appear as if we have everything in our life together, even if we’re falling apart on the inside. Over the next few weeks we’ll examine the dangers in this action, hiding the real person in order to keep our imperfections from the eyes of the world. Today we set the stage by looking at the general reasons and risks some feel the need to wear a mask.

Focal Passage: Genesis 27:1-29.

 

 

Discuss:

Putting on our masks starts with deceit

  • Do you recall ever going to a costume party? What was the primary thing you wanted to achieve?
  • Once your costume was on, did you find yourself acting in character with how you were dressed? Explain what you mean.
  • Read Gen. 27:1-10. Why did Rebekah choose to deceive her husband? What other option could she have chosen, which would have been right in God’s sight?

Putting on our masks starts with feelings of inadequacies

  • Read verses 11-12. What was wrong with the protests Jacob laid before his mother? What could he have said if he did not want to sin against God?
  • Read Gen. 25:20-26. What had God told Rebekah? How do you see her actions? What was she teaching Jacob by instructing him to do this deed?
  • If we put on a mask of perfection, which is ultimately a lie, what are some of the feelings we may be trying to cover up? Why is it lying?

Once we put on the mask, it starts a never-ending cycle

  • Read verses 18-24. Although Rebekah began the charade, Jacob was now making his own choices. What five lies did he tell to keep the plan together?
  • What could Jacob have done at any point while before Isaac, to redeem himself in the eyes of his father?
  • Why does one lie lead to more? Who is the “Father of Lies”?

Our masks will all be removed

  • Read Heb. 4:13. No matter how hard we try to cover up our inadequacies , what will happen?
  • Why should we cultivate a lifestyle of truth, without any masks of hypocrisy?
  • Read Matt. 10:26. If you choose to live a lie in order to appear something you are not, who will possibly remove that mask at a time you least expect it—and possibly in a very humbling way?
  • If you have been saved, what is your position before God? What are some of the descriptions of your relationship that should make you feel valuable and
  • valued? (Child of God, etc.) How does this speak against the act of deceit?

 

 

 

Close:

This passage leaves us with the feel of a modern novel: barren wife finally gets pregnant and learns she is going to have twins. God Himself tells Rebekah the “older shall serve the younger,” leaving her with a promise she could/should have trusted. The story progresses as the father prefers one child, the mother prefers the other. At that point you begin to sense a conflict in the home that will cause immense problems. Then comes an evening when Isaac, old and of bad eyesight, wants to give the blessing to the older son Esau, the firstborn who had already rejected his birthright for a meal (cf Heb. 12:15-17)—thereby himself thwarting the words of God to his wife many years before. Rebekah, overhears the conversation between Esau and Isaac, and takes it upon herself to control the situation by deceiving  her husband, to make certain that her favorite son, Jacob, would receive the blessing (already promised by God, Who would have brought it to pass in a holy way). Consequently, she is not only usurping her authority over Isaac, but teaching Jacob that it is permissible to lie. Jacob, consenting to do her will, offered token reservations, to which she had the answers. As Jacob goes in to his father, he himself now takes the responsibility of the choices to deceive, when—five times—God gives him ample occasion to throw himself upon Isaac’s mercy.

How like Jacob we can be! Not wanting to seem less holy, less perfect, or less rich than our neighbors, we put on our mask, remembering to play our part when we are in the position where it matters. We may be looking for admiration, gain, power or anything else the world offers, but it’s tiring to keep that role going all the time. How much better if we could see the truth: that those who know us well realize we are far from perfect, and in their hearts they label us a “hypocrite.” Yet even with our imperfections, we were chosen by God to be His child! If we could get that from our head into our heart, we would be full of awe that would humble us; we would have the mask we wear torn away and would be given beauty for ashes.

Key Verse: Matt. 10:26: Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known.

 

September 23, 2018

How Church? : Confidence for the Misson
September 23, 2018
Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

When you’re asked to do a task you’re hesitant about, what is normally your first response: “I have too many things on my mind”; “I am not good enough”; or “I am too busy”? How can these be excuses you use because you really don’t wish to do the job or activity?

We’ve been in a series looking at God’s ordained Church, and at His desire to see us change our world through our commitment to Him as we serve in and through a local body of believers. The past two weeks we looked at “How” to carry out that commission. Today we are looking at hindrances we use as excuses to keep from fulfilling the command Jesus gave us.

Focal Passage: Acts 1:4-8.

 

 

 

Discuss:

The Mission Statement for Thomas Road

  • What is the Mission Statement of Thomas Road?
  • How are you helping carry this out?
  • Our church has six values we adhere to in order to accomplish the Mission Statement: A Commitment to Scripture; A Culture of Prayer; A Lifestyle of worship; Being Connected to Community; A Heart for Serving; and A Passion for Sharing. Can you give one-word answers illustrating what would help achieve each of these values?

Confidence for the Mission

  • Read Acts 1:4-8. Why is this passage so important to believers?
  • What three things did Jesus tell the disciples to do in verse 4a?
  • Who is to Tell their story? How can you Grow as a believer? Where are we to be Sent?

 

HINDRANCES TO OBEDIENCE

Distractions

  • What are some distractions that we allow Satan to use to keep us from fulfilling God’s calling?
  • What is the difference between distractions and necessary obligations?
  • Why is it wrong to let entertainment or activity take the place of doing what God has called us to do?
  • How can we be intentional about being “about our Father’s business”?

Not Good enough

  • Read verses 4b-5. What were His followers to wait on?
  • When did we have a “Day of Pentecost” in our lives?
  • Read 1 Cor. 3:16. As we are a vessel in which the Holy Spirit dwells, what kind of power is filling us? Does that mean the story of the change in our life is worth telling others about? How does God equip those He calls?

Too Busy

  • Everyone seems to be juggling outrageous schedules. What are some ways in which we can slip a word of testimony into various situations during our day?
  • How long does it take to plant a seed? What would happen if someone wanted to ask you more about Jesus; would you plead a packed schedule?
  • Read Mark 16:15-16. Why is it so urgent that you take every opportunity to share the good news of the gospel?

 

 

 

Close:

When you closely examine the values of our church, you will see that they build upon each other, just like building blocks on a foundation. How many people do you know who never open a Bible? Statistics show the average Christian spends very little time reading God’s Word, which means most find God through the witness of someone. Hearing the foundational truths that Jesus is the Son of God who came to this earth to die for the sins of the world, was buried, raised again the third day, and paid the sin-debt for any who would receive His free gift of salvation is good news. The Word of God is the cornerstone for a belief in Jesus Christ. When that reality sends shards of light throughout the mind, a Culture of Prayer is the next inevitable step, as the sinner can’t wait to begin a conversation with this wonderful God who paid for their salvation. Constant communion, person to Person, is food to the spirit just as eating is food to the body. Next comes a desire for an immediate Lifestyle of Worship, never able to fill up the reservoir of singing “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD God Almighty!” Being Connected to Community is a step easy to take as you become aware how many of those you love are lost, and gradually—or quickly—you cultivate a Heart for Serving. Your Passion to Share what Christ has done for you becomes a boundless flow of gratitude that you want to see others enjoy. Values? Yes. Invaluable for a life of joy.

Key Verse: Acts 1:8: But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

 

September 16, 2018

How Church? : Tell, Grow, Send
September 16, 2018
Matt Willmington

 

Open:

Most people will tell you they have continued to learn new things on a regular basis. Can you share something you’ve recently learned? We’ll relate it to the topic in a few minutes!

The past few weeks we’ve looked at the God-established body called “the church.” We’ve examined the importance of it, how relevant it is in today’s world, and how much a local body of believers can achieve. Today we look at “how” we do this thing called Church. We will find that it is a very simple but effective way to obey the calling of God on our lives.

Definition of a living, active church: It is the Family of God, under the Authority of God, living out the Word of God, on a Mission for God.

Focal Passages: Matt. 4:18-20; Matt. 11:28-30; Matt. 28:16-20; Dan. 7:13-14; Rev. 7:9,10.

 

 

Discuss:

The Church Is: The Family of God

  • Read Matt. 18-20. What happened as Jesus walked through life?
  • Who is He calling now?
  • What relationship do those who follow have with Him (read Mark 3:33-35)?

Under the Authority of God

  • Read John 14:21. If we are the children of God, how will we live our lives?
  • Read 1 John 2:3. What is our authority?
  • Read 1 John 2:17. If we love God, will we be happy to obey Him? What type of attitude will you have?

Living Out the Word of God

  • Read 1 John 3:16,17. How do we live our lives?
  • Do you react to those you meet during the day the same way you would if they were friends? Is this as Jesus would do?

On a Mission for God

  • Read Matt. 11:28-30. How often do people who are in a spiritual storm search out a church?
  • What should we do, especially for those who are facing the storms of life?
  • There are promises in these verses; what are they? How can we convince others that they need His yoke of grace?

TELL

  • How can we begin to help those who do not know the love of God?
  • Why does it matter that we ask them to tell us their story?
  • How important is baptism to you? It is the first ordinance that Jesus told us to do after salvation, even as He was baptized as He began His ministry. Why do people put it off? Have you?

GROW

  • There are always plenty of people who were not raised as you were, and who know so much less about Jesus than you. How can this be important to you?
  • What are other ways you can continue to grow, in order to “sprout seeds” that can be planted in someone else’s life?

SEND

  • If you know you must be prepared to leave home in an instant, what are some preparations you will make? How is that the same as being “instant in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2)?
  • Are YOU willing to go?

 

TEST YOURSELF: On a scale of 1-10—if 1 is close to Jesus, 10 is far from Him, where are you?

HOW do you walk closer? WHO are you following? WHO is with you that you are bringing with you?

 

 

Close:

How many people do you know who have storms of life raging, yet never go inside the church building? If they have never been to church, they may have no idea of the peace and joy that can found in Jesus Christ. You may be the only one who will ever tell them. It is important that you gently and lovingly show them you care about where they will spend eternity, then listen as they tell you their story. Most people love talking about themselves: give an interested, listening ear. Are you aware that many converts to cults are those who have been hurt in their youth, believing that God is good, yet feeling betrayed and leaving the church when a parent, sibling or loved one dies, as God answered their fervent prayers with “No”? There was no “trust” factor built into their thinking.

We need to take the Great Commission to heart, not choosing to leave it to the pastoral staff. It was not given to pastors—it was given to fisherman who chose to follow Jesus, learn from Him, and then carry His message to their world. We, too, need to carry this message to our community, our neighbors, co-workers and friends, so that they will not be lost for eternity. Can you imagine standing at their judgment as God orders them to “Depart from Me—I never knew you,” and they turn to look you in the eye, and ask why you never told them of the saving grace of Jesus? It is vital that we make use of the time we have left. Do you know how to witness? It’s never too late to learn! Ask any of the staff of the church, and they will guide you to someone who would be willing and happy to help you. Answer like Isaiah, “Here am I Lord, send me!”

Key Verse: Matt. 28:18-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” Amen.

 

September 9, 2018

Why Church? : The  Promise of The Church
September 9, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Although being alone is sometimes a beautiful respite from a chaotic world, in a time of tragedy or disaster we long for the company of others who understand what we’re going through. Can anyone share?

For the last few Sundays we have focused on the role of the church and its importance in our lives. Today we will look at the characteristics of the local body where we can enrich our lives with like-minded believers, as well as impacting the world with humanitarian and spiritual aid. Let’s look at some of the blessings that come from the unity of worshiping in a local body.

Focal Passage: Acts 2:42-47

 

 

Discuss:

Encouragement

  • Read Acts 2:42a, 44-45. One of the by-products of being part of a group of believers is the encouragement you receive. What are some examples?
  • What did Luke mean by the “apostles’ doctrine”? What truths were they constantly discussing among themselves, and teaching new converts?
  • According to the verses you read, what were the characteristics of the early church? Are those qualities found in churches today? Why or why not?

Fellowship

  • Read verse 42b. What comes to mind when you consider “fellowship”? Can you have fellowship with unbelievers? Read 2 Cor. 6:14. How can you have fellowship with the world? Read 1 John 1:3. Is your answer still the same?
  • What are some benefits in having a church family to turn to in times when you need support?
  • Why would Satan prefer that you listen to a message on television, rather than belonging to a local church?

Communion

  • What goes through your mind when you think of “communion” within the context of church?
  • We generally call the “breaking of bread” communion. Why would the early church want to partake of the ordinance of communion in the home of a believer, rather than the Temple or Synagogue?
  • If you and another person—or more—are sharing a time of prayer together, how is that also communion?
  • Are you having communion with the Father?

Impact

  • Read verse 47. What are some of the differences you can have as a member of a local, thriving church body, as opposed to sitting in your living room watching the sermon on television (i.e., for those individuals who have no health restrictions)?
  • Read Heb. 10:25. God knew Satan would try to isolate us from other believers; what is clear in this verse regarding God’s desire for us? Why is that isolation? Read Proverbs 18:1.
  • Have you made an impact this year in any area, along with your church, that would have been impossible on your own?

 

 

Close:

It is almost impossible to understand how the early church grew so quickly, teaching the doctrines that Jesus had communicated to His disciples. It boggles the mind that the small number of disciples—the size of a small-town evangelical church—could turn the world upside down in one century. One can only assume they wrote down as much as possible, trying to spread the words of the Lord as widely and quickly as possible. We, in the generations of technology and hard-copy Bibles, would possibly be lost trying to communicate something so important without means of books and reference materials!

God, who sees the end from the beginning, knew the plans He had for the church, both visible (the local body) and invisible (the church of believers worldwide). Satan will fight both God and us every step of the way, and it is imperative that we do not fall into any of his schemes to thwart the spreading of Christianity. The church body is no longer bound by geography: we can spread His love to all countries where we are able to traverse by foot or reach by way of technology. We will know that it is getting near the end of time when all nations have heard the gospel (Matt. 24:14). Is your church making an impact in the world? And within your own family unit, are you being blessed by the gathering together of like-minded believers, preparing yourself and your family for the great Day of the Lord? We pray that you are!

Key Verse: Acts 2:42: And they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers.

September 2, 2018

Why Church? : The  Purpose of The Church
September 2, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

When you hear someone ask, “What on earth am I here for? Why was I even born?” do you have an answer for them? Share some of your thoughts.

The past two Sundays we have looked at the incredible, beautiful gift from God called “the church.” There is the local church—that body of believers who worship and do life together, and the Universal church, encompassing believers all over the world. We have also looked at the importance of gathering in a large or small group of like-minded believers, and asked what God meant when He “built” His church. Today we look at the results we need to be achieving in the local church to change our world.

Focal Passage: Ephesians 1:6-8, 12-14; 4:14-15

 

 

Discuss:

We give Him Glory

  • Read Eph. 1:12-14. Two times in these short verses Paul tells us why the church gathers together each week. What does he say?
  • Who are the Gentiles? What happens when Christ saved you (vs. 13)? What is our response to be after salvation?
  • How can we know we are carrying out the purpose God had for the church?

We bring Him Growth

  • Read Col. 1:28-29. If we are in the church, what should we be doing? Read Matt. 16:18. Who built the church? What will destroy it?
  • When should we present the gospel to those with whom we come into contact?
  • Read Eph. 4:14-15. What are some of the lies the world tells us? What do you reply when someone says they don’t need to go to church to be a “real” Christian? Who are some of those who try to devise clever lies against truth?

We celebrate Grace

       Because we have been saved from our sins

  • Read Eph. 1:6-8. What was our condition before salvation? After salvation, does He stop forgiving our sin? How do you know?
  • Why did God forgive YOU, and not someone else whom you know intimately? Did you deserve it more? Why or why not?
  • Do you live your life so that those you meet want what you have?

       By how we show grace to others

  • Read 1 Pet. 2:9. Why should we show grace to others?
  • Read 1 Pet. 4:8-10. We see scriptures that exhort us to be different from the world, and to do good to those around us. What does verse 9 tell us?
  • Does it matter to God if we choose to obey Him or not? Read 1 John 2:3. What does this verse tell us?

 

We recognize His Grip

  • Read Heb. 7:25. Does Christ have to die again because the world is still sinning? Why was His death sufficient for all people, for all time?
  • Read 1 Cor. 1:8-9. Will He ever leave you? Are you convinced in your soul that God will never leave you, or let you slip through the grip He has on your life? What will make it such a part of your heart that you will want to shout?

 

 

 

Close:

The local church, like our physical body, has no limit on the amazing functions it can perform. When twelve men were turned loose on the ancient world, they turned it upside down with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet millions of believers around the world today struggle to make an impact that changes their family or community. Have you asked yourself why not? What can you do differently? Do you truly desire to change your community for the Lord, working with other believers in your local church? You can start with the people you know who, for whatever reason, do not get out on Sunday morning and gather to worship Christ. Yet they believe themselves to be saved, and they desire not to go to hell. How can you help?

God’s love for us is beyond our understanding; the closest we can come to grasping it is the love we have for our children, but even that is flawed by our humanity. Most of us who have had small ones have, at some time, let their grasp on our hands slip, and immediately we are in panic mode. Their existence is so important to us that we cannot act calmly until they are back in our arms. Yet has it ever occurred to you that the grip God has on you will never let go? If we lose sight of this truth we need to search Scripture for verses that reinforce His constant and abiding love for us. Perhaps when we get a genuine grasp of His intense love for us, we’ll want to share it with those we meet. As Dr. Falwell would tell his son, Pastor Jonathan, “if a microphone is stuck in your hand, use it to tell folks about Jesus Christ!” Whenever an opportunity presents itself, share the good news that saved you.

Key Verse: Ephesians 1:13-14: In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

 

August 19, 2018

Why Church? : The Importance of Together
August 19, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Are you a member of a local club or organization, but when the day of the meeting comes, there seems to be too many hindrances to going? Perhaps it’s busyness, exhaustion, a need for personal time, or other obligations. Do you miss the camaraderie? Can anyone share?

Today and next Sunday we are going to examine the importance of the church: whether our church attendance is a priority that we consider a “given,” or whether we do it only when there is nothing of significance on the calendar. We are going to see what scripture says about the church, and why God created the church’s existence.

Focal Passage: Hebrews 10:11-25

Background:

For those of us who have been born and reared in the twentieth or twenty-first century, it is a hard concept to wrap our minds around the idea of sacrificing animals as a means of receiving forgiveness of sin debt. Many countries still practice this today, just as the Israelites did before Jesus Christ. As you read Hebrews 10:1-10, you will see that people felt the weight of their sin still a heavy burden. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples took the message of forgiveness through the name of Jesus Christ to the world, as His sinless death paid the debt once for all. Now forgiveness was available to any who would believe in His name and repent of their sins, receiving the gift of eternal life (John 3:16).

 

Discuss:

What Was and What Now Is:

Christ’s death on the cross provided the way

  • Read Hebrews 10:11. What is the contrast between verse 11 and verse 12? Where is Jesus now?
  • Read verse 14. When Jesus took our sins and hung them on the cross (Col. 2:13,14), and we, in turn, asked for forgiveness, what happened to us?
  • How much of our sin was hung on that cross? Read Romans 8:38-39. What will separate us from Him?

A final payment for our sin

  • Read verses 16-17. Can anyone share categories of baggage that has held you back from living a life of victory, always feeling so much shame from your past? Why does Satan glory in this weight on your shoulders?
  • Read Hebrews 8:12. What has Christ intentionally done with our sin?
  • When you ask for forgiveness for the “umpteenth” time, what does He say? The past no longer affects us, and the future has not yet come. How should we be living life while it is “today”?
  • Why do we waste time carrying guilt that He has already paid for?

 

Our Response:

Desire to be in His presence

  • Read verse 19-22. Who remembers the yearning desire to be constantly in the company of the person when they fell in love? Why should this be the way that we should feel if we are in a right relationship with Jesus?
  • What did the writer to the Hebrews mean when he referred to the “Holiest,” the “new and living way,” and the “veil”? How had Jesus obliterated those?
  • What does verse 22 tell us to do? Read James 4:8a. Does James also tell us to draw near to God? What four things signify we can do this in confidence?

Complete confidence in our faith

  • We just saw our condition in verse 22 and the list of changes in us when we are saved. How do we get this amazing confidence?
  • Read verse 23. Has God ever failed you or broken a promise? Sometimes we do not like His answer, but it is always best. Do you really believe that? Read 2 Tim. 2:13. Does Paul say the same thing to Timothy?
  • Why can we rest in the confidence we have in Him?

  Recognition that we need each other 

  • Read verse 24. What are some reasons we can’t do life—or church—on our own?
  • List some of the ways our church is being effective worldwide because the individuals are pulling together. Why are you thankful to be part of this?

 

 

 

 

Close:

As we focus on the knowledge that Christ loves the church and gave His life for her (Eph. 5:25b), we rejoice in the family atmosphere that comes from fellowshipping with other believers regularly. As individuals, we could never achieve the impact throughout the world that we are seeing as our church effectively ministers all over the globe. Yet we also recognize that many in our own community are bound by health or other reasons to sit in their homes and worship in spirit only. Does this concern you? Perhaps, knowing how many shut-ins are unable to gather inside a church, we can take the church to them. Pray that God would raise up a small group who would love to meet with those in your community who cannot drive, sit for long periods, or be among crowds. Let that burden you, just as you carry a burden to see that the lost are found and brought into the church. There is so much work to be done for the kingdom. The work truly is plentiful, the fields are white waiting to be harvested, and the workers are few! Will you go?

Key Verse: Hebrews 10:10: By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

 

August 12, 2018

Flannelgraph Faith: Passing it on
August 12, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Parents will tell you how difficult it was the first time they left their infant in the church nursery or day care! Placing them on a school bus for the first time usually brings on tears for Mom. Why is it so hard to trust the responsibility of our precious possessions to someone else?

We are continuing our series of learning lessons from Bible characters who were strong in the faith, using the vintage style flannel-graph with modern-day technology. Today we see how Paul rejoiced that his passion of taking the gospel to all places was to be handed off to the next generation. The years were passing, enemies increasing, and Paul knew his time on earth would eventually end. Let’s join him in Acts, chapters 16 to 20, learning from him how to pass our faith on to those who will hold dear the beloved Scriptural doctrines.

 

Discuss:

Changing Our World Must Include the Next Generation

  • Read Acts 16:3-5. What kind of reputation did Timothy probably have that Paul would have taken him “under his wing” for mentoring?
  • Paul was continually subjected to persecution (2 Cor. 11:23-28) and knew his ministry needed to be given to those who could carry it forward after he was gone. Why was/is this necessary?
  • Why is it normally so hard to turn our responsibility over to the someone in the younger generation?

Trusting the Next Generation

  • Read Acts 17:14. Paul, Timothy and Silas arrived in Berea, only to have Paul’s dissenters attack him again. Why was he willing to leave Timothy and Silas in Berea and himself leave that area?
  • How are you pouring your life into someone who will be able to carry on your love for Jesus? Why is it important that you are willing to give what you value most into their possession?
  • Share some ways in which you are trusting someone of the next generation.
  • For those who are parents, what was it like to come to a milestone: school, driving, college, even marriage? Why?

Commissioning the Next Generation

  • Read Acts 19:22. How did Paul show Timothy that he trusted him to carry on Paul’s burden for the churches?
  • What did your teen understand the first time you confidently handed them the car keys and asked them to go pick up ______ (sibling, grocery, etc.)?
  • How will you know when it is time to hand over responsibility?

Celebrating the Next Generation

  • During the next couple of chapters, we read of Paul having reunions with his co-workers. What must the joy have been as they reported to each other?
  • Read 2 Tim. 1-2. What relationship did this older apostle have with the younger one whom he had mentored? Do you have a son or daughter in the faith? How are they carrying out what you passed on?
  • There is no greater joy for the Christian than to see one’s children walking in truth! (3 John verse 4) Can you describe the feeling?

Take Away:

  • Are you raising the next generation for Christ? What are you doing?
  • Are you sending out the next generation (are you handing them the keys?)
  • Younger generation: are YOU ready to take over?

 

 

 

Close:

As you read from these chapters in Acts, it is impossible not to mentally examine your life to make certain there is someone from the next generation, whether grandchild, child, friend, etc., that you are investing your life in. Are you praying that they are ready to receive the baton and carry the church forward? All investments in life indicate that there has been time put into knowing the person or firm. One does not knowingly invest their precious goods into something or someone whom they do not trust. Who in the next generation are you investing in?

The investing of your time and talents may seem a small thing. You may not see results in your lifetime, but God has the timeline, not you. As long as you are faithful as a steward in your Father’s house, He will bring about the increase. Let those you love see you putting what you love into God’s work. It will pay great dividends one day!

Key Verse: Acts 18:5: When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.

Focal Passages: Acts 16-20. Take some time this week to read these four chapters that tell of Paul’s trials and victories!

 

 

August 5, 2018

Flannelgraph Faith: God can use anyone, anywhere
August 5, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Many of us feel we have a great idea, only to face obstacles at some point while trying to carry it out. We may consider them as challenges that must be overcome, or we may find they are a complete roadblock, and have to modify our original idea. Does a memory jog for anyone?

Paul and Silas set their focus to travel from the area of Galatia, where Timothy had joined them, to go west into Asia, planting churches as they traveled. The Holy Spirit stopped their journey, only to eventually give Paul a vision. This study continues the modern-day flannel-graph series, giving visual images that tell of Paul’s missionary experiences.

 

Discuss:

God can use anyone!

         The Macedonian Call

  • Read Acts 16:6-10. Does someone have a Bible map, showing Paul’s location in Galatia, and where he and his associates planned to take the gospel into Asia? Who joined them in this endeavor?
  • What was the reason for Paul’s vision? Where was Macedonia in relation to their present position? What would they have to do to get to Macedonia?
  • How long did Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy hesitate?

 

The gospel taken west

  • Read verses 11-13. What was Paul’s usual routine on arriving in a city? Why would he seek out the synagogue? Without a synagogue in the colony, why would they meet at the river?
  • Read verses 14-15. Whom did the men meet there? What are some qualities you see in Lydia’s character? Was she already saved? Why or why not?
  • What did God do? When were she and her household baptized? What is significant about Lydia for present-day believers, as well as her own town?

   God can use anyone anywhere!

      Paul and Silas in prison

  • Read verses 16-19. Did everything go smoothly as Paul & Silas preached in Philippi? Why not?
  • What was the result of casting the demonic spirit out of the girl?
  • Read verses 20-24. What sufferings did Paul and Silas endure? How were they secured in prison?
  • What do you think you would do if you were in a like situation undeservedly?

      Salvation comes to the jailer

  • Read verses 25-26. Although Paul and Silas had every right to be angry about their circumstances, what did they choose to do? Were they suffering? Why?
  • What happened to the stocks securing them to the ground? Were all prisoners freed?
  • Read verse 27-30. What did the jailer do when he woke? Was he aware Paul and Silas had been having a worship service? How do you think he knew that Paul and Silas were the instruments through which he was not going to be killed? Why did he beg to know how to be “saved” and that that was his need?
  • Read verses 31-34. What was the result of their being thrown into prison?

 

 The mission trip ends well

  • Read verses 35-40. Did Paul let the magistrates off easily? Why?
  • After they were released from prison, what did they do?
  • Their work in Macedonia now included a church in Lydia’s house and a church plant in the home of the jailer. Was their job there finished? Why?
  • Has God called you (anyone) to a certain task (anywhere)? Are you being obedient? How?

 

 

Close:

As we read Acts 16, it is hard not to wonder how often we—as individuals—seek to carry out a personal plan, only to run into roadblocks. It is often extremely hard to determine if the challenge was put there by Satan to keep us from doing a particular work, or from the Holy Spirt, who might have an alternate plan. Usually we try to climb over the obstacles, feeling our plan was good. We learn from this scripture that a roadblock should be bathed in prayer before proceeding.

Paul and Silas tried going to several different cities before Paul had the vision to go to Macedonia. Is it possible that God is giving you signs to show that He desires you to do a certain work, and you are missing them? Listening carefully to the Spirit’s call is a must. Look for unusual responses to things that would seem out of place, be watchful for open doors, and be careful to be prayed up at all times. If you desire to do the work of the ministry, prepare your heart ahead of time, studying, praying, and ministering, so that, when the call comes, you are ready to say “Send me!”

Above all, be willing to go where He asks you. Don’t back off and assume you are to go somewhere else and think that God has misunderstood. He knows exactly where He wants you and will tell you so, leading you all the way. Worship, Listen, and Be Willing—the three steps to answering God’s call for your life!

Key Verse: Acts 16:31: So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (NKJV)

 

Focal Passage: Acts 16.

 

 

July 29, 2018

Flannelgraph Faith: The Power of Purpose
July 29, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Do you have a purpose for your life, one that motivates you to actually accomplish it? Or perhaps, in the different seasons of living, your purposes have changed. Can you share either?

Today we look at a married couple from the New Testament who had such love for Jesus that they had completely committed themselves to His work. They were willing to go anywhere they felt led, at any time, to do the work of the ministry. This study continues our series using a modern day flannel-graph, giving visual images to tell a story of love for God and each other.

 

Discuss:

 

Reputation Matters

  • Read Acts 18:1-4. Aquila and Priscilla, Jewish believers who lived in Rome, were forced to leave by a decree of Claudius. They were strong believers of Jesus Christ and made their way to Corinth. When Paul arrived there, he was introduced to them. Why do you think he was led to them?
  • What was their occupation? What was Paul’s trade? What did Paul accomplish by earning his own living while preaching the gospel?
  • Surely the reputation of Aquila and Priscilla was such that Paul felt equally yoked in abiding in their home in Corinth. Why would this have been important?
  • What do people say about you (you don’t have to answer out loud)? How do you stand out differently from those you work with, or have for friends? Do they know you are a Christ-follower?

   Solidarity Matters

  • Read verses 5-11. When the message of Jesus Christ was rejected by those in the synagogue, what did Paul do? What did Jesus tell him in a vision?
  • Why is it so much easier to quit, or be silent, in the face of adversity than to continue?
  • What did God do by way of encouragement while Paul was being verbally attacked often?
  • When you are going through difficult situations, why does it give you so much confidence when God sends others to come along beside you?

 Commitment Matters

  • How long did Paul remain preaching in Corinth? Can you remember a job or situation that you endured, only to see it result in victory? Can you share?
  • Read verses 18-21. From what you’ve read, how can you conclude Paul left with the young church doing well? Whom did he take with him when he left?
  • After visiting with the Ephesian believers, Paul felt he had to leave. Speculate as to why Aquila and Priscilla remained in Ephesus. Was their work finished?
  • Has God called you to a certain task? Are you being obedient?

Growth Matters

  • Read verses 24-28. What were some of the qualities Apollos had? What was his greatest lack? Does this possibly reflect the reason why Priscilla and Aquila were needed in Ephesus? They now had a new church plant! How would that make youfeel?
  • Are you being used to grow the kingdom of God? If you are not growing, God cannot use you the way He desires. What are some ways that you grow? Are you willing for Him to use you?

 

Close:

This study of the life of two individuals who were committed to God gives us several options to serve as a great study! These two people had a marriage that could provide a role model for any couple who desires to serve God. They were faithful to each other, with a common goal, not holding onto material possessions or home, but willing to carry out God’s plans for their lives. They saw fruit not only in planting churches, but in discipling and mentoring others also.

It also gives us a picture of the great apostle Paul, often regarded as one who lived in the Spirit always. Yet small verses like Acts 18:6, Acts 15:37-39 or Romans 7:18-19 show us that he was human just as we are, sometimes reacted with frustration, just as we do, and was even ready to quit—yet he was on the verge of victory! It should give us extra courage to know that we can do great things for God if we grow, draw near Him moment by moment, and be ready in any situation to let Him use us. That only comes about if we have prepared our heart ahead of time.

Key Verse: Acts 18:9-10:Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” (NKJV)

 

Focal Passage:Acts 18:1-28.

 

July 22, 2018

Flannelgraph Faith: The Importance of Action
July 22, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

How many times have you bought some healthy food products, or maybe a bottle of vitamins, intending to change to better eating habits—only to throw them out later? Perhaps you had an impulse to do a good deed for someone but didn’t follow through. Can you share an example?

In our current series of New Testament characters who had lives we can learn from, (by way of modern flannelgraph), we are going to focus today on Peter, the apostle many of us can relate to as he often spoke before thinking. Peter’s example of action and obedience will teach us that God will call and equip anyone who is willing to be the His servant, despite one’s faults.

 

Discuss:

 

Action is actually obedience

  • Read Acts 10:1-8 for a background of Cornelius, an unsaved Roman soldier who hungered after God, although he had never heard of Jesus Christ. What is significant in verse 7?
  • Read Acts 8:26-39. How does this passage of the unsaved eunuch parallel the story of Cornelius? Because of Philip’s obedience, what happened?
  • Will someone tell the story of Peter’s vision on the rooftop of the house of Simon the tanner?
  • Read Acts 10:13-14. What did Peter reply to God, after He had told Peter to “kill and eat”? How many times did God show him the vision? Why could three be significant in this passage?

   Action is obedience that fits God’s plan

  • Read verses 19-20. What did God tell Peter outright?
  • Peter did not fully understand that God was going to include the Gentile world in His plan of salvation. Yet how did he respond in verse 23b?
  • Cornelius invited his household and friends to hear Peter. What did he tell Peter in verse 33?
  • What are some repercussions that might have occurred if Peter had continued to say “No!” when told to eat all food in the prior vision?

 Action is what results in impact

  • Read verses 44-46. What happened while Peter was still speaking? What reaction did the Jews who had come with Peter have? Why were they so surprised?
  • Read Matthew 21:28-32. How is this passage different, yet could have been similar?
  • All of us have had a call from God to do something, although we may have thought it to be merely an impulse. How is it possible you may have missed a blessing by not obeying? What might the impact have been?
  • Because Peter acted with obedience immediately, what was the impact that resulted?

 

Is there something that God is calling you to do? James 4:17 tells us that “to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

 

Close:

Many years ago, a homeowner showed a pastor on visitation his Bible, which he kept laying on the coffee table. “I like having it in my home. Every now and then I rub the cover of it, and it brings me peace.” The peace he received was not likely from a relationship of salvation, or he would have been hungry for the message inside. It is not unlike having a bottle of vitamins in the cupboard, feeling as though you are growing healthier since they are in your kitchen! The same analogy is true with the word of God. In order to draw near to God (James 4:8), we need to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Righteousness comes from knowing God more each day and knowing Him more comes from prayer and Bible reading. Recognizing His desires for us, and the plans and purposes He has for us, keeps us on our toes when it comes to our actions. If we see someone in the grocery store, digging for change to pay for a few basic groceries, and could easily give them the $10, do we? It probably goes through your mind to do it—so do it. It’s a seed planted, and someone else may well come along and give it water. Action is obedience, and obedience has an impact.

What will you do this week to make an impact on someone’s life? Can you pray as you get out of bed, “Lord, give me just one soul this week to help, to encourage, or to plant a seed in their life?” If you mean it, He’ll do it. When it happens, be ready!

Key Verse: Acts 10:42-43: And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He Who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins. (NKJV)

 

Focal Passage: Acts 10:1-43.

To think on (from sermon): “If one hears the call of God and rejects it, he incurs the wrath of God.”

 

 

July 15, 2018

Flannelgraph Faith: The Courage of Conviction
July 15, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Some people seem to have the gift of courage, while others struggle with stepping out of their comfort zone. Can you think of an example when you showed courage even though you were scared?

Today we continue our series using the modern version of the flannelgraph, choosing godly characters from the New Testament. This week we will focus on Stephen, a righteous man who became known as the first martyr of the Christian religion

 

Discuss:

 

Courage in our faith comes from above before it comes from within

  • Read Acts 4:23-31. Peter and John had just been arrested and taken before the Sanhedrin. Can anyone tell the story of what had happened?
  • These two men were perceived to be “unlearned and ignorant” (vs. 13) yet stood boldly before the ruling Jews. Where did their courage come from?
  • Why is courage not natural for us? What are some areas where courage is desperately needed in our families? Why do we not take a stand?
  • Read Acts 6:8. Why would God give us courage to defy fear?

 

Courage in our faith is from the overflow

  • When are you—in any situation—the most confident? Why is that? As you spend more time with God, do you become “filled and overflowing” with His promises and faith in what He says?
  • Read Acts 22:14. What do you know about Stephen? What did he answer when he was taken before the High Priest? Why did he have so much courage? Read Acts 6:8.

 

Courage in our faith will protect us from beginning to end 

  • Read Eph. 3:19, and Romans 15:13 (in The Living Bible if possible, or one that translates abound as “overflowing.”) Why do we have to have conviction in our faith before we can be used by God in courageous ways?
  • Read Acts 7:57-60. You may ask, “where was God’s protection for Stephen as he was being stoned?” Will someone answer?
  • Why did Stephen cry out to God to receive his spirit, and how could he find the love for those gnashing their teeth in hate as they killed him?
  • Probably none of us feel we can face a death of martyrdom, yet every day across the world this is happening. Where do they get their courage?

 

Close:

The life and age of Stephen is one we know nothing about, although probably he was a husband and father. The Bible records he was a man “full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:3-6). Would that we all had such a eulogy from God! Yet he had such faith that he was able to preach a very long sermon to the ruling Jews, laying the guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at their door, not fearing his coming death. His conviction that Jesus was truly the Messiah gave him a courage that would face any attack against his belief.

Stephen had the courage of his convictions because he was confident in Whom he believed, and in what he believed. While we will not take a stand for our preferences, we will for our convictions. Do you know the difference? You may prefer a movie with no cursing, but if you continue to watch it, you do not have a conviction. Turning it off and removing it from your home means you have a conviction and will take a stand against it. That difference gives one confidence to face ridicule or back down! Those around Stephen that day saw a good man die; the Jews thought they were squelching the growing community who believed that Jesus was the Messiah; God saw the result: that those who would flee Jerusalem would take the news of the gospel of His Son and spread it throughout the world (Acts 8:1). May we all be so courageous in our conviction as to simply tell our neighbor before it’s too late.

 

Key Verse: Acts 4:19-20: But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (NKJV)

Focal Passages: Acts 4:19-20, 23-31; 6:8; 7:57-60 and Romans 8:38-39.

 

 

July 8, 2018

Flannelgraph Faith: When He Calls, Listen!
July 8, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Most of us have seen a flannelgraph used to illustrate a story at some time in their early life. They were pictorial representations long before technology developed highly sophisticated visual aids. Can someone share a favorite memory using the flannelgraph?

This week we begin a new series using the modern version of the flannelgraph, choosing some of the familiar characters from the New Testament. With a technological visual depiction of our characters, we are going to “revisit” the lives of powerful people. Today we will focus on Saul who later was called by his Roman name, Paul

Focal Passages: Ephesians 4:1-7; Hebrews 12:1, Phil. 3:13

 

 

Discuss:

 

When He Calls, LISTEN!

  • Read Acts 22:3-4. What had Paul (at that time, Saul) been brought up to do as his life’s work? Did he feel he was doing God’s will?
  • Read Acts 9:1-2. With letters giving him authority to persecute followers of Jesus, he headed toward Damascus. What happened?

God’s Call is Unmistakable

  • Read Acts 9:3-4. What occurred next? Why would Jesus ask Paul to acknowledge to Christ what he was doing through persecuting His followers? (1 John 1:9). Does He ask us to acknowledge our sins?
  • Read Acts 22:14. Paul knew he was seeing Jesus yet had to hear it from the lips of Christ. Why?
  • None of us have had the experience Paul did. However, what are some ways God uses to speak to us? How do you know it is Him speaking to you?

God’s Call Can Be Confusing

  • Read 9:10-15. Ananias had been granted by God to know what was happening to Paul. How would you feel if God gave you a job to do such as He gave Ananias?
  • Sometimes God’s commands are not what we (or Paul) expect—or desire. Read Job 3:1-3, Jonah 1:1-3 and Ezekiel 3:14. These three great men were in “bitterness of spirit” such as we might feel. How can you overcome your fleshly desires and obey, such as Paul did?
  • How had God been using Paul’s lifetime background to be the incredible apostle that he became? What benefit came about because of his knowledge of prophecy and of the scriptures?
  • When we receive knowledge in our spirit that God has a job for us, what must we do?

God’s Call is Urgent

  • Read Acts 9:20-22. Paul did not waffle between continuing his former life and his new command from God. Why has that been so important to the church?
  • If Paul had not obeyed God, what would God have done (probably)? Has there been something in your life that you needed to do, but did not, and eventually someone else got the opportunity to serve God through those plans? (Answer in your heart if you’d rather).
  • We all feel that this earth has a limited time left, given the rise of sin and anti-Christian activities. Why does that make winning souls urgent?

 

Close:

The life of Paul is one of intense interest, as we see him raised in a strong Jewish home, studying the Scriptures in the Torah at the feet of the most revered teacher of the Pharisees, and passionate to do what he thought was God’s will. Unfortunately, just as today, those can be qualities that can be had, but the person can still be headed for Hell, as Paul was.

It took a miracle of huge proportions to bring about Paul’s vocation as the last apostle. It is like a page out of a novel to imagine the light of God, the voice, and godly Ananias being asked to go get the worst persecutor of Christians that existed, bring him to the house, and feed and care for him. Few of us would have had the courage to obey God’s will. Yet His will in our lives can be just as catastrophic for us: perhaps a relocation to another country where Christians are few, or perhaps a call to work in a Muslim country, helping them through their trials. God calls many to come to Christ because of the love they see from Christians. Perhaps He asks you to be single for life, or childless.

Whatever God has called you to do, do it as Paul did: immediately, urgently, and with all your might, thanking Him for using you.

 

Key Verse: Acts 9:20: Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. (NKJV)

Focal Passages: Acts 9:1-22.

 

July 1, 2018

The Church There and Here
July 1, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

So often in businesses, additional help is needed to cover shifts when vacation time occurs. Most are hesitant to volunteer, hoping someone else will take the responsibility. Can someone give an example?

This week we want to continue last week’s sermon, looking at the way in which Christ uses believers to build His church. Today we will examine our individual role, our mission, and the reward we know we will receive in heaven. We were given a personal responsibility (gift) whenwe received salvation. Now we must identify our task and apply ourselves to it.

Focal Passages: Ephesians 4:1-7; Hebrews 12:1, Phil. 3:13

 

 

Discuss:

We are called

  • Read Ephesians 4:1. Paul begs us not to forget our calling. What is he referring to?
  • What is required for us to accomplish our own calling?
  • Read Romans 12:4-5. Is everyone’s work the same? Why not?

To live differently than the world

  • Read Eph. 4:2. Why is this the opposite of what society, the media, and commercials would have us believe to be the correct way? If you are living a life of humility (putting others before your own needs), discuss why this is so difficult when it comes to overtly sinful persons who cross our paths?
  • What is the opposite of those virtues in verse 2?
  • Read Titus 2:11-13. How does God desire that we be separate from the world?

To be united in mission

  • Read Eph. 4:3-4a. Occasionally we see people who cannot control a part of their body because of a physical malady. How difficult would this be if the body of Christ operated as dis-unified members? Are we striving for unity?
  • Why does the world not take the church seriously in these days of turmoil?What can each of us do about it? What focus must we have?
  • We can each make our own calling our focus. Where do we start?

To celebrate our future

  • Read Eph. 4:4b. If we are saved, what is our hope for the future?
  • Read Phil. 3:13. Paul was able to forget his former life. Can you forgive yourself past sins in order to be effective for the calling God has given you?
  • Read Heb. 12:1-2. This is a description of how we should approach life. Name some of the witnesses that make up this “Hall of Faith” and tell why it is amazing that God used them. What does verse 2 tell us to do?

All because of Him

  • Read verses Eph. 4:5-6. What truths should our lives center around?
  • Read Heb. 12:2 again. What did He do for us while we were “dead in trespasses and sins” and what is He going to do to see that we finish well?
  • If our church body—we as individuals and corporately—are going to be effective in a world of upheaval, what does our focus have to be?

 

 

Close:

The church is a body universal, made up of every nation, people and language. Have you had the experience of meeting a Christian in an unlikely country or situation, and immediately a sense of the same Spirit dwelling in each of you comes over you? That is how Christ wants the body to work: healthy, growing, and full of love. It is His plan for our lives, and the best life that can be had for all of us.

Individually, we all need to be members focused on Him throughout our day, looking for ways we can bring glory to Him. To be like the world—go the same places, take in the same entertainment, use profanity, or wear the same clothes—causes us to take away that “set apartness” that God desires for us. It also gives the world the right to call us hypocrites, as we say we’re holy, but act like them.

No outside force will ever destroy God’s church. However, we can destroy our own effectiveness if we do not keep our focus on our calling and on our future! God has prepared a place for us, one that is so great that our finite minds cannot even imagine the glory of it. Let’s keep that thought central as we faithfully endure each day.

Key Verse: Matthew 16:18: And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock [confession] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (NKJV)

June 24, 2018

The Church There and Here
June 24, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

What dreams are in your bucket list? How long have some of them been a special hope?

Today and next week we are going to look at the “dreams” we have for our church, both for now and for the future. We want to celebrate what God has done through this healthy, vibrant church, and establish new visions as we go forward.

Focal Passages: Matthew 16:18-19; Ephesians 4:7-16.

 

 

Discuss:

It is Christ Who builds the church

  • Read Matt. 16:18. Why was Peter’s confession so important, both as an apostle and as a believer? Reminder: what is the church?
  • When did Jesus mean when He said He would build His church? Why is it comforting to know that not even Satan can destroy the body of believers which make up the church?

Christ has chosen us to be His tools

  • Read Eph. 4:7. Why do you think God chose us—mere humans, to be the instruments by which He would build the church?
  • Read Romans 10:13-15. How would unbelievers hear the good news that Jesus can save all men unless someone takes the Scriptures and tells them? Who will go? If not you, will God eventually choose someone else?

He has equipped us for the job

  • Read Eph. 4:11-12. What is the primary job of the pastors, teachers, and evangelists?
  • Read 2 Tim. 3:16-17. Besides being equipped through the teaching of the Word, what are the two most important ways we can prepare ourselves?

He uses the church to grow us

  • Read Eph. 4:13. What result in our own lives are we looking for, so that we know we are ready to be used?
  • Most Christians are afraid of witnessing because they fear not knowing the answer to a question (just as school children fear tests when they have not properly studied!) What is the solution?

And then He uses us to grow the church

  • Read 4:15-16. What are the reasons why we want to see spiritual growth in ourselves?
  • What are some of the opportunities our own church provides so that we can get comfortable being used in different situations?

 

 

Close:

The church is likened to the body of a person, as the many parts—some external, most internal—function together for the person to carry out daily living. Some of our parts seem insignificant, until they hurt. Suddenly we realize they have a very real reason to be in our body! In the same way, all members of the body of Christ who make up the church, have responsibilities. Each one is necessary to function together to spread the good news of salvation found in Jesus Christ. If some do not carry out their task, others must pick up the slack and take over the job. Although we do so because we want to see the gospel going forward, the person who has not fulfilled their God-given role will eventually be replaced and lose many precious rewards in serving. Proverbs 11:30 tells us that he who wins souls is wise.

We look at our world and think the end of it as we know it is drawing near, and the urgency to sow the seed of the gospel to all we meet is becoming more and more critical. Hebrews 3:13 admonishes us to “work while it is called today,” because we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Take up the challenge to help our church achieve the goal of planting 10,000 churches by the year 2020—a goal very attainable if we all “work, for the night is coming, when man works no more!”*

Key Verse: Matthew 16:18: And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock [confession] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (NKJV)

*Hymn, Lowell Mason

 

 

June 17, 2018

Our Responsibility as Christ Followers
June 17, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

What are some responsibilities you have? Tell when or how you learned they would be something that would be in your life long-term.

We tend to look to the Bible, the church, Life Groups or Home Bible Studies as our greatest means for learning how to conduct ourselves as Christ-followers. Have you ever given much thought to the early Christians, who had nothing but word-of-mouth or home gatherings to learn and encourage each other? We are so blessed to have the Scriptures and can see exactly what God expects from us as believers.

Focal Passage: Galatians 6:1-10

 

Discuss:

We are responsible to and for one another

  • Read verse Gal. 6:1a. We all know that getting married or having a child brings responsibilities we have not previously had. Why would God want us to help care for the believers He brings into our lives after we are saved?
  • Read Heb. 2:11 and 1 Pet. 2:17 and 5:9. Does God consider believers to be a family? What are some of the responsibilities He expects from us for our new “family”?
  • What are some ways in which we can tear down a fellow believer who has fallen into sin? Are these things pleasing to God? How can we gently restore those who are in sin and out of fellowship? (Where would prayer rank as one of the ways?)

We are responsible to God

  • Read verse 1b. Why did Paul feel it important to warn believers to be careful lest the same temptation that overtakes a brother or sister in Christ also overtake us? Why did Jesus warn us often about falling into temptation?
  • Read Heb. 12:1. We all have an area (or areas) where we are weak, and Satan has that weakness targeted. Why does he want to see us fall?
  • How can we avoid the traps he sets in those areas where we are most vulnerable?

We are responsible to care

  • Read verse 2. Does anyone recall the meaning for the word “burden”?
  • What keeps us from being willing to let others know we have a burden too heavy to carry by ourselves? What should we do?
  • Read verse 3. What is the connection of thought between restoring a fellow Christian who is in sin (vs. 2), and not caring (verse 3)?
  • Read verse 4. Paul now admonishes us to keep ourselves under a microscope, so that no-one has a reason to accuse our behavior. There are many verses that can be used as a self-examination; why is it important that we do this often?

We are responsible to do what’s right

  • Read verse 5. What is the difference in the burden of verse 2, and the “burden” used in verse 5?
  • Read verses 7-8 and Jas. 3:18. We must accept responsibility for our actions. Who is watching us because we call ourselves Christ-followers?

We are responsible to NOT QUIT

  • Read verses 9-10 and Hebrews 10:36. Why is perseverance so important?

 

Close:

Many years ago, a young lady from a broken home dated a young man whose family was large and close. She was captivated by the love and general caring she saw within the family unit. She married him and became a part of that close-knit family. That’s how the church body should be. When a person accepts the free gift of God’s grace, they immediately become a part of the large family of God—adopted children of God, and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, as we read in the Scripture passage today. That brings responsibility, just as being a part of any family does. You sorrow when someone sorrows, laugh when they are filled with joy, hold them accountable and in general see that they are always on the path to a closer walk with Christ.

Above all, we all need to carry each other’s burdens, and at the same time hold ourselves accountable for seeing that we walk in close fellowship with Jesus Christ. Today’s world will try to get us off the right path as often as possible, but the tight closeness of family will insure that we maintain a healthy, vibrant Christ-like spirit.

Key Verse: Galatians 6:9: And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Dr. Jerry Falwell, “Don’t quit! Have a 4th Quarter Ministry!”

 

June 10, 2018

Spirit Led Living
June 10, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Without a doubt, you have an issue with something that creates an on-going battle: it may be two children who don’t even try to get along, an issue with the numbers on your scale, foul language or something else. The conflict never seems to end. What comes to your mind, and can you share?

The past weeks we have been looking at the power, presence and purpose of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Scripture tells us that we received the gift of the Holy Spirit when we became a believer. He indwells us, providing the same power that enabled Jesus Christ to raise Himself from the grave. At the same time, we still have a body of flesh, with fleshly desires. The battle between the flesh and spirit is a continual struggle within us. How can we let the Spirit lead?

Focal Passage: Galatians 5:16-26

 

Discuss:

Live in poverty

  • That doesn’t sound attractive, does it? What types of poverty come to mind?
  • If you have spiritual poverty, what would be your condition? How can God help?
  • Read verse 16. What does God desire from you? What does it mean to be completely guided by Him as you go through a day? Can you think of analogies?

Because it’s an uphill battle

  • Does anyone have a daily battle that you can share, and have you ever given thought to the reason it has become an issue? (You might care for an elderly parent who needs constant supervision.)
  • Read verse 17. Why would it be helpful to list blessings from God, helpful Scriptures, or favorite praise songs for those times when you want to give up?
  • Read Rom. 7:15-25. Paul struggled just as we do. Why does that encourage us?

But you CAN do it

  • Read Phil. 4:12-13 and Daniel 1:8. What battles did these two godly men live with daily? Were they able to endure? (Daniel was about 13-15 at the time, which tells us that even teens can commit their way to the Lord).
  • Read Rom. 8:32. God oversees every moment of our lives. He will give us whatever we need to carry out His purpose. How do we know we can trust His promises?

He will make you what you need to be

  • Read verse 22. Before we knew Christ, what were some of the sins listed in verses 19-21 we might have struggled with? Do you find yourself doing battle with any of these former sins during a day? Who would be trying to tempt you to leave the Holy Spirit’s leadership?
  • Read 1 Thess. 5:19. How can we do what this verse admonishes us to do? Why is it so important that we keep the armor of God (Eph. 6) on us always?

And He will give you victory

  • Read verse 24 and Col. 2:13-14. What sins of yours were nailed to the cross when Jesus was crucified?
  • Read 1 John 5:3-5. How can you best keep your faith strong, letting the Holy Spirit lead you, as you daily battle obstacles?

 

Close:

Daily battles are just that—daily, and battles! There is seldom a day that goes by that an issue you deal with constantly gives place to a day of victory. Perhaps you have two children that you call “Oil” and “Water!” It seems that they can’t play together five minutes without a fight or loud screaming. Or possibly you’ve been dealing with losing weight: suddenly it appears everyone you know is having a party or bringing pizza by your house, just “because.” Maybe you’ve been raised by a parent whose vocabulary was filled with cursing, and you considered it normal language until you were saved and noticed the people you now associate with never use profanity. Now you’re trying to clean up your sentences, and suddenly you trip, hit your thumb with a hammer, or have someone in your face, confronting you, more than ever before! Satan knows exactly what pushes your buttons and is determined to have you give up on your faith. But God knew exactly what you would encounter each day. He planned that not only would His only Son die for you, but He also would give you the gift of the third Person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit. He now inhabits your life, giving you the power that you need to be victorious each day.  The list of items in question 5 is a good sword to have on hand when battle times get tough: pick it up and remind yourself how God has blessed you; read the Scripture verses aloud, or sing one of the songs. Resist the devil and He will flee from you! That’s a promise—and God honors all His promises. You can trust Him.

Key Verse: Galatians 5:24: And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

 

June 3, 2018

Keys to Living Right
June 03, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Reading the Instruction Sheets that come with a new DIY piece of furniture is a prudent step. Often, however, we feel we are sensible enough to navigate the task of assembly without the need for the instructions. Can you think of an example and tell what occurred?

The past two weeks we have looked at the work of the Holy Spirit in witnessing and in speaking. Today we will look at Psalm 119, as we are presented with the “keys” to a life of joy.

Focal Passage: Psalm 119:9-16

 

Discuss:

Obey His Word

  • How would you describe the Bible to someone who is unfamiliar with it?
  • Read verse Psalm 119:9. What does the word “psalms” mean? In the section of Scripture called “Psalms,” who did they magnify?
  • If you answered question one by saying the Bible is God’s instruction manual for believers, so that their lives can be empowered by and glorify Him, you would have been correct. Read Romans 10:17 and Heb. 11:6. How does one get the faith to believe that God exists?

Seek Him

  • Read verse 10. If you were an unbeliever, not in church, how would you begin to search for God?
  • What is the promise God has given in Deut. 4:29? Does anyone remember how the Greek was translated in describing how the Psalmist had searched for God? Why would we actively seek Him with our entire being?

Memorize Scripture

  • Read verse 11. When are we tempted to sin? Read Rom. 6:11-14. Why should we NOT sin? What can keep us from obeying the lusts of the flesh?
  • Read Heb. 4:12. If God’s Word is living (and God says it is!) and we have it in our heart, will it be present with us when we want to run from sin? How?
  • Read Deut. 6:6-8. Can anyone relate their experience with teaching their young children to memorize Scripture?

Worship Him

  • Read verses 12, 13. What are some ways in which we worship God? Are there other things in your life that you worship? If so, what are they?
  • Read 1 Cor. 10:31. Why should we give God worship?

 Find Joy in Following

  • Read verses 14-16. What are some of the joys you experience from following Christ as your Savior?  Are you following Him? If you are not, He’s not that “big of a deal” for you, is He?
  • Read 1 Pet. 1:6-9. Is this the testimony of your life?

 

Key thoughts: Just as a parent sets boundaries for his child, every boundary that God has set around us is there to give us the best life possible. Does this truth bring you amazing happiness? Find joy in following Jesus Christ, as it leads to the happiest life that is possible.

 

 

Close

Peter—that brash, often outspoken disciple—was a different man after seeing Jesus in His resurrected body. He became a bold testifier of the faith, and his letters were filled with nuggets of gold. In chapter 3 of his first letter, he writes that if we want to love life and see good days, we should keep our tongues from evil, and our lips from speaking deceit. Last week we learned that controlling the tongue is one of the hardest virtues to acquire, but we are to strive for it. He goes on to say that we should turn away from evil and do good; to seek peace and pursue it (in fact, run after it). In his second letter, he says that God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, and His word is filled with “exceedingly great and precious promises”

Reading these short passages from the small books of 1 and 2 Peter, we can see that Peter summarizes the sermon for today: we are to obey the Word, to seek God’s way within the Scripture, memorize it, worship Him for Who He is, and find joy in following His way, so that we have life and godliness. Do these guidelines illustrate your lifestyle? As said in question 11, if He’s not first and foremost in your life, then He’s not that big of a deal to you. Another statement heard today from a believer was “if my iPad dings to say I haven’t clicked on my Scripture app in three days, I know I need to read some!” Would your family be okay if you only spoke to them every few days? Probably not. Timothy reminds us that we are to flee sin, and pursue (run after) righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and gentleness (1 Tim. 6:10-12.) Let’s make new commitments to pick up these “keys to living” and live a life of righteousness.

 

 

 

May 27, 2018

The Power of Words
May 27, 2018
Scott Bullman

 

Open:

Have you had the experience of asking a friend if she’s pregnant, to learn she’s not? That experience teaches a life-long lesson, right? Will someone share a time when you’ve spoken, and immediately would give anything to take the words back?

Today we are focusing on the power of the words we speak. James tell us that the person who can control his tongue has the power to control the whole body as well (James 3:2). Let’s examine the words we speak, making sure they build up, not tear down; that they encourage, not cause incredible harm.

 

 

Discussion:

Our Words Can Be Life-Giving

Words that Encourage

  • Read 1 Thess. 5:11. List some simple ways to give encouragement that can be the spring board for beginning someone’s day in a joyful manner?
  • What are some effects of encouraging words?

Words that Inspire

  • What results can words of inspiration have?

Words of Kindness and Gentleness

  • Read Prov. 15:4a, and 16:24. What is the effect of kind or gentle words?
  • Read Col. 3:12. What is our responsibility because we are children of God?

Words of Truth and Honesty

  • Read Prov. 6:16, 17b, and 19a. What is the most important reason that we are to be truthful in all we say and do?
  • Read Eph. 4:15 and contrast it with John 8:43-44. Does this include “white lies” and any type of deceit? Why is truth sometimes difficult for us?

 

A Timely Word

  • Read Eccl. 3:7b. How can you know if you need to speak or need to keep silent? Was there a time when you know you were placed in a situation in order to speak God’s word to someone?

A Smart Word

  • Read Neh. 2:1-5. Often we may need wisdom from God in a certain situation but are caught off guard. How can we be prepared for this? How long between the question from the king, and Nehemiah’s answer did he have to pray? Was he prepared, being “prayed up” ahead of time?

 

Our Words Can Be Toxic

Critical Words

  • Read Prov. 26:18-19. What do these verses tell you? (Respond). Is it possible that many unkind remarks are laughingly made under the guise of “Just kidding”?
  • What is the effect of critical words if not spoken in love?

Slanderous Words

  • Read Prov. 25:18. What is slander? Would you even consider wounding or killing a fellow believer? How is that analogous to slander?

 

Gossip

  • Read Prov. 11:13. Have you ever played the game of “Telephone”? If so, you know that the original statement becomes very distorted as it goes down the line of players. How is that like gossip? Why?

Inappropriate Words

  • Read Prov. 4:23-27. Why is it so important to refrain from flirting with anyone other than your spouse, or revealing harsh details of your marriage, thereby causing a friend of the opposite sex to see you as unfulfilled and have the desire to “fix it” or “help”?

 

 

 

Close:

This has been a great time of reflection to examine the ramifications of the things we say, both good and bad. Undoubtedly, we need to strive for a godly answer in everything we say, and to set ourselves apart by a holy conversation. We need always to keep in mind that we will answer to God for our careless words.

It is a sickening thought that some pastors are now speaking profanity from the pulpit, trying to “be all things to all men, so that [they] might win some [for Christ] 1 Cor 9:22.” Christ did not resort to profanity. James said, “Out of the same mouth comes both blessings and cursing—my brethren, these things ought not to be.” (Jas. 3:10). We need to remember we are a testimony to unbelievers, not being so like them the world cannot tell the difference.

The power of our words in this sermon are horizontal: those spoken to people with whom we come into contact, or those people whom we talk about. However, the vertical words that we speak are just as important, if not more so. We are instructed to praise God, to pray without ceasing, to intercede for others as needs arise, to hold conversations as we would with our best friend, and above all, to listen for His reply in our spirit. You will find your kind, gentle words, spoken fitly in season, reap great rewards (Prov. 25:11)!

Key Verse: Psa. 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.” (NKJV)

Conclusion:

A heart filled with BITTERNESS speaks ANGRY words A heart filled with FORGIVENESS speaks GRACIOUS words.
A heart filled with ENTITLEMENT speaks COMPLAINING words A heart filled with GRATITUDE speaks UPLIFTING words.

A heart filled with GUILT speaks HARSH words A heart filled with PEACE speaks TENDER words.
A heart filled with REJECTION speaks RESENTFUL words A heart filled with ACCEPTANCE speaks KIND words.

A heart filled with GRUMBLING speaks NEGATIVE words A heart filled with THANKSGIVING speaks POSITIVE words.
A heart filled with CONDEMNATION speaks JUDGMENTAL words A heart filled with LOVE speaks COMPASSIONATE words.

A heart filled with JEALOUSY speaks words of GOSSIP A heart filled with CONTENTMENT speaks words of BLESSING.
A heart filled with SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS speaks CRITICISM A heart filled with HOPE speaks ENCOURAGING words.

 

 

May 20, 2018

The Power of His Presence
May 20, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

We often are hesitant to speak out concerning a matter we feel may leave us open to stress, yet when someone else—smarter, stronger or more powerful—is behind us, we immediately have much more boldness. Can you think of an example?

Today we are focusing on the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. We open with the apostles gathered in a room in a house, praying, beseeching God to use them. The apostles, who had been ready to return to former trades after the crucifixion, were now gathered together, waiting for the promise from the resurrected Jesus that they should remain in Jerusalem until they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Focal Passage: Acts 2:1-21.

 

 

Discussion:

Pentecost

  • Although to us, Pentecost has become synonymous with this occurrence in Acts 2, was it actually a term for this event, or a word with a simple meaning? How long had it been since Jesus had been resurrected?
  • Can someone tell, in their own words, what happened as the disciples were gathered in that room?
  • In the Old Testament, what were some references to fire, and what did they generally represent? What about the effect of wind?
  • Tongues: the apostles were miraculously able to speak in other languages, so that everyone clearly could hear the gospel in their native language. Why would God do such a miracle?

 

The supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in our lives

  • It was promised
    • Read Acts 1:8. Jesus, who cannot lie, told the disciples to wait for this anointing. What did He say would be the result of the Holy Spirit coming upon them?
    • Read Romans 5:5 and 1 Cor. 3:16. Is the Holy Spirit promised to us as well?
  • It was obvious
    • Read Acts 2:6-8, 12. Why do we tend to put a limit on the power of God?
    • The apostles had seen three years of miracles. How do you think they reacted when they realized they could communicate with foreigners?
  • It was significant
    • How likely is it that these 3,000 who were saved that day would ever forget the occasion? Why?
    • What are some significant things you’ve experienced, never forgotten, and how did they impact your life?
  •  It was life changing
    • Read verse 41. What did these saved persons do next?
    • What has been the most life-changing part of the gospel for you individually?

 

ASK YOURSELF: Why is today’s believer not willing to “seek and to save those who are lost”?

 

 

Close:

This passage is the true beginning of the church. Although these individuals in Acts were miraculously anointed with the Holy Spirit, able to begin a ministry of bringing lost souls into the kingdom of God, He was not limited to that time, and that place. In the following years the disciples saw the Gentiles of all nations become empowered with the Holy Spirit as well.

As we saw in the references in Romans and Corinthians, we, also, have been given the same Holy Spirit, with the same resurrection power, and the same ability to be used significantly in bringing others to Christ. What is holding us back? In Isaiah 6:8 the Lord asked, “Who will go for us?” and Isaiah responded, “Here am I! Send me!” Have you said that to Jesus? He is looking for a heart that is sold out to Him, willing to put Him first before everything else in one’s life. He’s looking for a heart that is not held down by being close to family, to a beautiful home, comfort, a steady paycheck, safety, or so much more. He is waiting for us to say to Him, “Here am I, Lord—send me.” Will we be that one? We have the Holy Spirit’s power. Are we using it?

Key Verse: Acts 2:21: “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (NKJV)

May 13, 2018

Rashad Jennings
May 13, 2018
With Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Children are constantly asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Although some—like Rashad Jennings—know what they want, the majority are clueless as the options are so numerous. Does a memory surface for anyone?

Today we are privileged to have Rashad on the platform, in a dialogue with Pastor Jonathan. Rashad, a Forest, VA. native, has gone from a small community lifestyle to being a Hollywood/NFL household name, all the while maintaining his Christian testimony of living for Jesus Christ. The amazing highlights of his life show what God can do with a heart that is sold out to Him!

Key Verse: Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

 

Discussion:

A Child Hurts

Rashad shared that his early childhood reflected a very low self-image, even though he was surrounded with two loving, older brothers, and a wonderful mom. He was overweight, with red-rimmed glasses, no interest in academics, and the target of bullies.

  • Read Psalm 139:13-16. Why is it so important to present to children (or even adults who are not familiar with the Bible) how much God values them?
  • Can someone share how your life would have been different had you known God loves you with an unconditional love?
  • Read Luke 1:15 and Galatians 1:15. It is easy to look back at Rashad’s life and see God’s hand through the lows and eventual highs that made him the man he is. What are some of the ways you can identify with this in your own life?

 

A Child is Challenged

As Rashad continued his testimony, he revealed that his father, out of work and on disability, depended on cigarettes and alcohol to get through the days. Rashad developed asthma, and the smoke would send him into attacks that were life-threatening. When he begged his dad to stop smoking, he was challenged to become an NFL star without depending on those two addictions.

  • Why would seeing the effects of alcohol and smoking trigger a desire in a child’s heart to avoid those things in his own life? Can you think of an example you can share?
  • Read Proverbs 17:6b Why would the challenge from his father have caused Rashad to show him that he could rise above his dad’s expectations? Have you ever faced a challenge like that?

 

A Child Begins to Grow Up

As years passed, Rashad kept his love for football, as the #5 running back for his team. When a scout saw a play that featured Rashad when other players were hurt (which was ultimately God’s hand on his career), Rashad got his big break, with his life changing when the scout told him he saw he had great potential.

  • Ezra 7:28b says, “So I was encouraged, as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me.”   This could have been Rashad’s testimony at that time. Why is encouragement such a tremendous keyword in Christianity?
  • Have you had a time when someone’s word of encouragement changed the course of your life? Can you share?

 

Pulling Together

The words of the scout became a turning point in Rashad’s life, as his family rallied to make the desires of his heart become a reality. His brothers and his parents made financial sacrifices to get him a diploma, and soon he was in the NFL. His relationship with his father took a turn toward a solid bond of love.

  • Read Eccl. 4:12. Why is it so important to add people to our lives who can be called upon to be there for us during the good times as well as the bad?
  • Think of the people whom you influence. Can you say you’re there for them whenever they need you? What can you do to help them realize their potential?

 

Getting the Desires of Your Heart

From the time Rashad achieved a position as a running back for the NFL, he was aware his heart and ability belonged to God, and his goal was to glorify Him.

  • Read Psalm 86. What is our responsibility? The Shorter Catechism says the “Chief end of man is ‘glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’” Does this sound like your life?
     

Close:

The testimony of the life of Rashad Jennings has been told thousands of times over in the lives of other children. A snapshot of “Shad,” as his friends call him, when he was a child would never have told you that he would be known nationally for his faith and love for the Lord.

The truth we can take away from this conversation is that you never know what God has planned for those who you think are not going to amount to anything. We often judge by external behavior and looks, not considering the amazing ability of our God to bring plans and purposes to fruition in the lives of those who love Him. This should teach us to value the lives of those—especially children—with whom we come into contact, praying for them to become great in the kingdom of heaven.

 

 

May 6, 2018

HOPE IN THE HURTING
May 06, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

OPEN:

If you are someone who can honestly say that you have a great life with few problems, you are a blessed person! Most of us are often overwhelmed and sometimes feel we can’t take the next step. Can someone share?

Today we are looking at Psalm 34, a Psalm of David, written when he was running from King Saul by way of the wilderness. In it, we get the instruction needed to make it through any trial Satan could throw at us. It is a mini-sermon, filled with wisdom, and pointing us to the Source of Strength we can use throughout our days.

Key Verse: Psalm 34:1: “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

Focal Passage: Psalm 34:1-22

DISCUSS:

When you hurt–worship! (Vv. 1-3)

  1. Read Psalm 34:1-3. Why is it so important to take our attention off ourselves and our immediate problems and focus on God?
    2. What are some ways in which you can turn this into a worship experience?
  2. How often did David say he would praise the Lord? What did he boast in? Who else should speak God’s praise? (Is that us?) Whom should we tell of God’s greatness? What is special about praising Him with other believers?

When you hurt–pray! (Vv. 4-7)

  1. Read verses 4-7. Why is it so important to pray? Whose power are you seeking when you pray? Read Philippians 4:6. What does Paul (through the Holy Spirit) tell us about prayer?
  2. David knew that when he talked to God, God would listen and answer. What else does God do for the one who prays? How can we be free from all our fears? What will the results look like, for the one who looks to God for help? (vs. 5).
  3. It is okay to pray when we are desperate. David was running for his life when he penned this Psalm, and what does he assure us the result will be? What power had he tapped in to with his prayer? Is this meant for us as well?

When you hurt–run! (Vv. 8-10)

  1. Read verses 8-10. When you were a child, where did you run when you hurt? Why is this a good analogy for us, always running to God, but especially when we are hurting?
  2. Often, we take a taste of a food to see if we like it; David begs us to give God the opportunity to show us He is good. What does God promise if we are His people who fear Him?

When you hurt–listen! (Vv. 11-14)

  1. Read verses 11-14. David, knowing he was writing to those who could learn (his people and by extension, believers through the ages), desires to teach them the most important thing he knew. What was it? Why is “listening” so important, not only while we pray, but anytime God may speak to our hearts?
  2. We all wish to be joyful and live a good life. How is this possible? What else should we strive for? Read 1 Pet. 3:10-11. Does Peter echo the same thing?

When you hurt–trust! (Vv. 15-18)

  1. Read verses 15-18 and 1 Pet. 3:12. What is God doing for His children? Do you have someone you watch over with passionate vigilance? How can you trust God to watch over you or those you love with the same fervor you exhibit?
  2. Read 2 Chronicles 16:9a. What did this Old Testament author know of God’s watch-care?
  3. What happens to those who do evil and never turn to the Lord?

When you hurt–don’t quit! (Vv. 19-22).

  1. Read verses 19-22. David emphasizes again the benefits of trusting the Lord. What are they (name them one by one!)?
  2. Do these verses mean that we shall avoid all calamity? Read in KJV or NKJV if possible. Verse 20 was thought to be fulfilled by Christ on the Cross.

TAKE AWAY:
1) Spend at least 10 minutes each day thanking Him for His care for you
2) Spend time asking God for clarity and wisdom to navigate life each day
3) Read His word every day (1 Proverb and 3 Psalms each day will finish both books each month)
4) Don’t quit when the trials come
5) The greatest of all hope is salvation; when you hurt, God will deliver you

CLOSE:

Following the guidelines in these 22 verses will change your living! Can you imagine your life next year at this time if you put these principles into practice? When David writes to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” he was thinking of the true satisfaction you would have if you truly placed your faith and trust in God. With that thought being uppermost each morning, carried throughout the day, and meditated on at night, you would always be dwelling on God and His goodness. Does that seem impossible? No—God does not give us impossible tasks; He gives us tasks that He knows we can fulfill. Worship Him. Pray to Him, not in stilted, “King James” prayers, but talk to Him as you would to someone you know loves you with their whole heart.

We sing “He’s a good, good Father,” and the truth of that one phrase should be enough to give you encouragement through any trial you encounter. Finances going badly and not enough money? Marital problems? Turn them over to Him and then show the Christ-like behavior that He desires. Do you think there’s nothing left of your marriage, or nothing that can be done about your debt or addiction? That nothing can be done that will help you–even by God? Remember His creation? He had nothing to work with there, either. Yet the evidence of His eternal Power and Godhead is all around you. Don’t run away, don’t pretend your hurt doesn’t exist, give it all to Him and then listen to see if He wants you to do something. We can’t do all the talking and no listening–that’s not a relationship, but disconnection. You need to listen to the still, small voice well. Trust Him.

Above all, don’t quit. Some of us have a harder time standing our ground than others. Stand firm, remembering that God is not your enemy–Satan is. And he’d like nothing better than for you to leave God and go back to old ways. Keep on keeping on. “The Lord will redeem those who serve Him.” Salvation and joy are the result of unity with Christ. Hold tightly to that hope that will not fail you, especially when you’re hurting.

 

April 29, 2018

FOLLOWING A GOD-SIZED VISION—AGAIN
April 29, 2018
Pastor Sergio Guardia

Open:

There is no doubt that catastrophes are on every hand. Usually we take more notice when they are within our country or a favored country of the world, but sometimes they are within our own community and the effects are much more emotional. How do you normally respond when neighbors, fellow citizens or others are hurt by disasters?

We are looking today at a scene in heaven, where God is reigning. We focus on the model that the picture gives us, knowing if that is the “kingdom as it in heaven” (Lord’s Prayer) then we are to replicate it here on earth, and that is God’s desire for us. Let’s look more deeply.

Focal Passages: Revelation 7:9-10, Matthew 6:9-10

 Discuss:

God’s vision is UNITY IN DIVERSITY

  1. Read Matt. 6:9,10. What does Jesus mean when He says that we should pray for His kingdom to come to earth? What are some of the things you imagine would show that His kingdom has, indeed, come to earth? Is He speaking of the present?
  2. Read Rev. 7:9-10. What do you immediately notice about the multitude in the throne room?
  3. What countries did these people represent? If this multitude is a model, what does this mean to us? In heaven (as should be on earth), who is our family? If racial unity is important to God, why should it be important to us?


God’s vision is great, and the price to accomplish this vision had to be GREAT

  1. Because the cost of our salvation was so great, what did God have to do to adopt us into His family?
  2. Read Romans 9:1-5. Paul made a statement indicating how much he was willing to give for salvation for his Jewish brethren. Could you give your child to save humanity?
  3. If God desires that we be called to unity, how can we accomplish this?


God’s vision is DONE IN HIS POWER

  1. Why do we worship God? What are some of His attributes for which we give Him praise?
  2. What does God desire from us? How can we accomplish racial unity without totally depending on Him? Again, how can we—as a church—do this together?

Take Away: We need to take more than forward steps: we need to be a model for the world of what heaven will look like.

Close:

 When disaster strikes, people work alongside each other with no thought to the prejudices or inhibitions they may normally consider as part of their character. Yet when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are asking God to let us have a role in helping Him bring His kingdom and His will down to the earth, just as we read that it is carried out in heaven. As we saw in Revelation, around the throne are people of every tongue, nation and tribe. What do you consider appropriate on earth in our churches? Does your income level, culture or political persuasion influence you more than God’s will for your life?

Racial reconciliation has made huge strides in the past fifty years. Only those who were raised during the decades before 1970 will remember with clarity the tremendous uprisings of those years prior to integration. The younger generations have got it more correct: friends are friends, no matter the color of their skin, their nationality or their language. It is those who were raised in homes with hold-overs of bigotry who have had (or may still be wrestling with) a tough time making the transition, yet they expect to be in heaven beside those they counted enemies on earth—and in their churches. May God help them.

The church must be the bridge to help bring the kingdom to earth. By responding to our neighbors regardless of race, we can build relationships that will bring us into heaven with compassion and dignity for fellow believers, loving, encouraging, and uniting with them to establish God’s will for us.

 

 

 

 

 

Group Notes | April 22

A BRAND NEW DAY: A BRAND NEW DAY OF SERVING
April 22, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Some people love to help others in the capacity they enjoy most—for instance, cooking a meal for a new neighbor, —while others serve grudgingly. A radio pastor told of arriving in a country only to be ushered to the kitchen with a “Sleep here on the floor; I didn’t know you were coming!” presented in a sour tone. The result was awkward and inhospitable. Can anyone share an example that will illustrate ways to serve?

We are in the series, “A Brand New Day,” looking at the new life a believer has in Jesus Christ. We have learned that we are new creations in Him, with a new purpose in life. We have looked at our new walk, our growth, and the new relationships we have. Now we want to look at the ways in which we can serve others, knowing that is part of our new life and our “calling” from God.

Focal Passage: Ephesians 4:1-7

Discuss:

You have been CALLED

  1. Read Eph. 4:1. As believers, it is as though God has “called” us by name. Why would He do that? (John 10:27, 1 John 4:19).
  2. When will our calling end? Will we ever be worthy of this calling?
  3. Who were some Biblical saints called for a special job or vocation?

You are called to SERVE

  1. Read verses 2-4. The calling is to be a blessing to other people through our service. What are ways Paul mentions in these verses?
  2. How impactful is verse 3, i.e., making allowances for people’s differences from our own? Why do we feel our way is usually the right way?
  3. Verse 4 says our calling has a glorious hope. What is it?

You have been EQUIPPED

  1. Read verse 7 and Romans 12:4-13. How and why should this information fill us with comfort?
  2. What is a “gift” (in Scripture) and how can we liken the passage in Romans to our natural body? How is that the same as being a member of the church?
  3. Who are a few examples from the Bible of someone God called to a certain work, after having given him/her a background for what would be needed?

You have been BLESSED

  1. Read Eph. 4:16. What is the result of our service? Is this the life God desires for each of us, and why?

Key Verse: Ephesians 4:1: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.”

Close:

This past week in central Virginia, Christians were able to put their faith into action as churches and Disaster Relief teams organized efforts to provide help, resources and food to many who lost homes or household goods in tornadoes. The number of those seen working in communities was staggering as they aided overwhelmed homeowners in restoring their lives as much as possible. It was a testimony of Christ-followers being called to serve their neighbors, loving them, caring, encouraging and repairing. Meanwhile, citizens in the upper Mid-west of the US saw the same love expressed by churches and Christ-followers as they fought their way out of a record-breaking blizzard. Service in action was exemplified everywhere.

Just as we expect fruit trees to flourish, bloom, and produce luscious fruit in its season, so also believers in Jesus Christ, who are rooted in Him, will produce fruit that is both Godly and “worthy of the calling with which you were called.” The service that we give to benefit others must come from a pure heart of love, willing and passionate to do the Father’s business. Do you realize that someday we will all stand before God and give an account of ourselves? Does that cause you to desire a more holy life? What will you answer Him when He asks if you loved your neighbors?

The church has a multitude of ways in which you can serve with whatever gift God has given you. Get connected with a Life Group that is comfortable and fitting for you, and jump in. There will never be a better time to begin to serve than this brand new day of TODAY!

 

 

Group Notes | April 15

A BRAND NEW DAY: A BRAND NEW DAY OF RELATING
April 15, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Sometimes we meet a stranger, and the relationship morphs into a deep bond easily and quickly. Other times, a past wound by a friend may have led to a severed relationship, and we have to intentionally take steps to reestablish it, forgiving and moving forward. Can anyone think of an example of either?

Two weeks ago we began a new series, “A Brand New Day,” as we looked at the new life a believer has when he accepts Jesus Christ as Savior. Last week we looked at the growth we should have as a Christ-follower. Today we want to examine our new life in the area of relationships, cutting out those things that would bring us back into bondage, and learning to trust the Holy Spirit as He renews our thoughts and attitudes.

Focal Passage: Ephesians 4:17-32

Discuss:

  1. Sin will damage your relationships beyond repair
  2. Read Eph. 4:17-19. Paul, through the Holy Spirit, encourages these believers (and us) to leave the life in the world lived before salvation, and lists some habits to avoid in order to be Christ-like. What are they (8 of them)?
  3. How do these sinful actions sound like the things we see unbelievers doing daily? Why would they keep us from a close relationship with our God?

 The “TURN” that happened when you came to Christ is a daily commitment

  1. Read verses 20-24. What are you told to concentrate on after salvation?
  2. Give examples of some things that must be daily commitments for the good of our physical body?
  3. What are some reasons the intentional responsibilities in these verses have to be daily disciplines, rather than being a “once for all time” need?

How do these play out in our relationships?

  1. Honesty
  2. Read verse 25. What is this simple instruction?
  3. Why are relationships strong when built on honesty, while dishonesty wrecks them?
  4. Give some examples that seem to make complete honesty sometimes difficult.

 

Self-Control

  1. Read verses 26-29a. What are the three sins to avoid in these verses? Why is this so necessary?
  2. Read James 1:19-20. What are two reasons listed in Eph. 4:27 and James 1:20 that are so very important? How does this go along with the language we use?
  3. What are we to use our strength and resources for?

Building Up

  1. Read verse 29b. What does this verse tell us about our many interactions with others during our day?
  2. Why is this so important?
  3. Is this you?

A change in action and attitude

  1. Read verses 30-32a. Can anyone relate how you felt when you grieved your parent (or someone you loved) by a bad action as a child? We are instructed to be so conscious of the Holy Spirit that we do what (vs. 32)?
  2. Read verse 31 again. What are we to put away from us? Is this a daily commitment?

A life of forgiveness

  1. What kind of life did you live before you were saved?
  2. Did you deserve salvation—or Someone dying for you?
  3. Can someone give an opinion as to why it’s so very hard to forgive when a wrong has been done to us?

Key Verse: Ephesians 4:24: “…and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

Close

Sometimes we hear people say, “The Christian life is just a big list of do’s and don’ts!” If they were reading this passage, they might feel they are correct. However, when you dig deeply, you see the beautiful underlying love that surrounds the relationship we now have with our Creator Father! Verses 24 and 30 both show a love that existed before we were even formed in the womb! This love is so special that Jesus went to the cross just for YOU, and then called you to Himself, making you a new creation. The old you has passed away and the new has come. We want our lives to reflect glory to Him for what He has done, just as we tried hard to please our mom or dad when we were children. The things that the world engages in—the sinful desires of the flesh, the abusive lifestyles, the lack of self-control—will never bring happiness. They may give someone a power trip, but true happiness, peace and joy will never be found in anyone else except Jesus Christ. If you follow the principles laid out in these short verses, you will find a life filled with meaning, joy, and peace with God!

Group Notes | April 8

A BRAND NEW DAY: OF LIVING
April 8, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

If you are a parent, grandparent, or even a close, loving aunt or uncle, you know the entire dynamics of a home changes when a new baby arrives! What are some of the obvious—and less obvious–changes?

On Easter Sunday, the power of God was present in a stirring message of salvation, as many accepted the free gift of grace and faith available through believing on Jesus Christ, and experienced the beginning of a new life. This week we look at the changes that gift of salvation will bring about as you grow in faith, and assess some of the areas that will be most affected.  Did your life change in the past week? Let’s look at the picture of what the gospel should bring about.

Focal Passage: 1 John 1:1-10

Discuss:

A Brand New Day of Salvation

  1. Read John 5:24. Does this verse describe what has happened to you recently? Recognizing your need to be saved from your debt of sins (Rom. 6:23) is the first step in coming to salvation. Read Rom.10:13. Did you follow the recognition up by asking Jesus to save you and repenting of your sins?
  2. Read Rom. 3:23. How many—or what kinds—of sin will separate you from the love of Christ? Read Rom. 10:10. What, besides repentance, is necessary for salvation?

A Brand New Day of Action

  1. Read John 3:13-14. Jesus was ready, at thirty years of age, to begin His ministry. What was the first act of obedience that He performed? How does this give us a precedent as to the importance God places on baptism?
  2. What does baptism represent? Have you been baptized, even after salvation of some lengthy time? What has held you back from obeying this ordinance?

A Brand New Day of Living

  1. Read 1 Pet. 2:1-2. In the opening, a new baby requires the family or guardian to take responsibility for certain requirements the child needs. If you liken that to your salvation experience, what are some things your new life will require of you?
  2. Read 1 John 1:5-6, and 2 Cor. 5:17. Explain why you, as a newborn babe in Christ (or even as a seasoned believer) cannot go places, look at things, or have companions that would be contrary to your faith in Jesus Christ.

A Brand New Day of Walking

  1. Read verses 7-8. If you’re a new believer you might be asking yourself, “Where do I go? What do I do?” Read Matt. 6:33 and James 1:5. You now have a Creator who will “liberally” give you wisdom when you ask. How do you seek God and His righteousness before other things (Matt. 6:33)?
  2. Read 1 Thess. 5:16-18. When you read verses such as this, underline it so that you can find it at a moment’s notice. What does it mean to your new way of life?

A Brand New Day of Forgiveness

  1. Read verse 9. Why is it necessary to keep a “short account” of your sins? How is that analogous to letting debt on a credit card mount up?
  2. What are some ways you can keep your walk pure?

Memory Verse: 1 John 1:6: If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

Close

So often non-believers will scoff at Christianity, saying it is a list of rules—of “do’s and don’ts.” You may have felt that way yourself before Jesus called you to Himself. What they do not realize, however, is that He has taken the “old” you, the one who walked in darkness and had fellowship with darkness, and created a new being! You are no longer the same person, with the same desires for sin and its temporary pleasure. The old has passed away, and the new has come—and continues to keep coming.

If you remember, Pastor Jonathan used the organ as an example of a new creation. It had been a tree that was cut down, and fashioned by experts into a beautiful instrument that is used to worship God. You, too, have been changed from the person you were  into someone completely new, whose being can bring glory to God for the rest of your life. What a praise!

If you feel you need additional help—and most of us do!—connect with one of the Life Groups at church, and find one that meets your needs. There are studies for everyone, and they will help you grow as you seek this new life of joy and peace with God.

 

Group Notes | April 1

A BRAND NEW DAY
April 1, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

There are probably very few people who could honestly say that they’ve never had a period of time when they wished they could wake up the next morning in a completely different life or situation! Can anyone share?

This past week has been the memorial of Easter, remembering the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Coming in flesh to the earth as a baby, He became a man, and was crucified, buried, and resurrected three days later, birthing the Christian faith. This is best described in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Focal Passage: 2 Corinthians 5:21

Discuss:

The Symbol of the Cross

  1. Read Hebrews 12:2. Sometimes the reality of the heinous act of crucifixion does not impact our lives as it should, simply because we have never seen one. Yet what do we know about death on a cross that should cause us great grief to realize Jesus went through such suffering for each of us?
  2. Read Hebrews 9:22. The Jewish religion was based on the sacrificial death of animals. In what way did Jesus represent that atoning sacrifice? Read Isaiah 52:14, and chap. 53, and give God praise that Jesus did not resist the agony He would undergo.

Those Who Viewed the Crucifixion

  1. Read Matthew 27:36-44. Who were some of those who watched the crucifixion? How do you think the different groups acted?
  2. Jesus also endured knowing His mother was being tortured in her spirit seeing Him die without completely understanding. Read Luke 23:49. Who else was with her?

The Effect of the Crucifixion for Today

  1. Read Romans 3:23, 6:23, and Eph. 2:1-10.
  2. What was our condition when we cried out to God for the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ? Dead men can do nothing. Could we save ourselves?
  3. Read 1 John 2:2. Can anyone explain propitiation? How did He take our sins, making them His very own? Assuming our debts, covering our guilt, and taking our punishment: that is propitiation, and He did it for you.
  4. Read John 3:16. God has a purpose for everything He does, yet we know many people reject Jesus Christ as Savior. Why do you think this is so?

How Do We Get a BRAND NEW DAY?

  1. Going back to our opening, what are some things that worry you and hinder your sleep in the dark of night? Can you share?
  2. What is it about a new morning that causes the heaviest of worries somehow seem lighter? Read Psalm 30:5. How does this verse describe how you feel?
  3. Read 2 Cor. 5:17. What happens when we repent of our sins, and ask Jesus to save us? Will we keep sinning? Read Lamentations 3:22-23 for peace. How does God feel about you each morning? How does Easter morning add a whole new dimension when you consider what He went through for YOU?

Acts 2:21: “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved!”

 Close

Did you ever wonder how crucifixion began, and why it was chosen for Jesus’ death? Thought to have originated in Babylon hundreds of years before Christ, the Persians also began using it for criminals and unwanted citizens. Later, it made its way to Greece, then Rome. By the 1st century BC, the Romans had perfected it for killing slaves, criminals, foreigners—and later, Christians. Finally, about 400 AD, Constantine I abolished it. Placed next to roads or busy highways, the victims were examples to all who passed by as objects of shame. Such was the cross—usually a newly cut tree with bark and splinters—of Jesus Christ, the Creator of heaven and earth, and the Son of God.

Did you ever wonder why two thieves were crucified with Him? Is it possible those men—deserving their fate, by their own admission—represented all humanity in our choice of eternity? One turned away from asking the Savior to forgive his sins, while the other begged for mercy and grace. Soon he would no longer be able to speak; in a few hours he would enter Paradise with Jesus. There are only two choices for eternal life: heaven or hell. These men represent each.

Jesus died on such a cross, shedding His sinless, perfect blood, so that we do not have to endure hell. But it is a choice each of us must intentionally make. Our good works, family, church or wishes won’t get us there. Only the realization that we are dead in trespasses and sins, and know the wages of sin is death for eternity in hell, can we—like the thief—cry out to God for His grace and forgiveness from our sins. We will immediately be His child, and nothing can pluck us out of His hand. It is a decision that will matter for eternity.

Group Notes | March 25

Crossroads: Walking With Jesus
March 25, 2018
Dr. Jerry Vines, Guest Speaker

Open:

It is a terrible feeling to turn your head for a moment, only to look back and your child—parent, friend—is nowhere to be seen. Can you think of an example?

We are interrupting our series, “Crossroads: Where His Road Meets Our Road,” as we welcome Dr. Jerry Vines to the pulpit. At the same time, as he brings to our attention the life of Enoch from Genesis 5:21-24, we see the amazing story of the life of a man whose walk intersected with God and became incredible. He served and “walked with God” for three hundred years, and was one of only two people in the Bible who did not die, but passed from this life directly to heaven.

Focal Passages: Genesis 5:21-24; Hebrews 11:5-6; Gal. 5:22-23.

Discuss:

Enoch Walked In

  1. Read Genesis 5:21. How long had Enoch lived his life before he met God? There must be a moment at which you choose whether to walk with God or reject Him.
  2. What are some problems Enoch dealt with in his world that are similar to the same problems you face daily? Read Gen. 6:5-6. Because the ancient world was so evil, what did God do?
  3. When you—just as Enoch did—cry out to God that you want to know Him, what immediately happens? (Hint: just-as-if-I-had-never-sinned).

Enoch Walked On

  1. Read Gen. 5:22, and Amos 3:3. When two walk together in fellowship, what are some of the bonds that hold them together?
  2. What are some evidences of growth as you continue your walk daily? Read Gal. 5:22-26. How does this growth come about?
  3. The growth—sometimes sweet and sometimes painful—is a continuation of the justification gotten at the moment of salvation (question 3), and is called _________. (Hint: we are being “set apart.”)

Enoch Walks Out

  1. Enoch proved himself worthy in his walk for three-hundred years. Read Col. 1:9-11, and 1 Thess. 2:12. How are these verses—hundreds of years later—exactly what God meant when the Holy Spirit said Enoch “walked with God”?
  2. What happened to Enoch after three-hundred years? Read Heb. 11:5-6. He was not found! How many people do you imagine went looking for him? As in the opening thought, would his family have searched long and hard for him?
  3. When we pass from this life to the eternal life that is promised to believers, what is that step called (after sanctification, question 6)?

 Close

When we think of the highest praise given some men in Scripture, a few immediately come to mind: Enoch, of whom it was said (Heb. 11:5-6) that “he pleased God;” Nathanael, whom Christ said was “…an Israelite…in whom is no guile;” Abraham, who was a “friend of God; and Moses, with whom God spoke face to face as to a friend. These would indicate men who lived above the average in their godly walk.

Enoch was a man who was in a world very much like ours. For sixty-five years he was immersed in that culture—perhaps, like Lot, it could have been said of him that his righteous heart was “oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked.” However, when he cried out to God, God heard and saved him, allowing him to witness for Him for three hundred years. Jude, in verses 14-15, presents Enoch as a preacher and prophet, pointing the way to God. His walk was so filled with fellowship with his God that he was ushered into heaven, straight from the grim conditions of earth. What bliss!

Is that your walk? Do you start your day with devotions? Reading your Bible early in the morning means you are seeking to hear what God wants to say to you for your day, so you can meditate on it as you do chores. Lifting up holy hands in prayer, with your eyes open to heaven, indicates you are talking to Him. The conversation goes back and forth in fellowship. Out of the abundance of the comradeship comes the fruit listed in Gal. 5:22-23: gentleness, peace, etc. Is this your greatest desire? Seeking God, walking with Him, and persevering through trials and testing will mold you into a person whom God says is worthy of Him. Do you want to be that person?

Enoch’s world: Social disruption; emotional confusion; spiritual rebellion; and religious upheaval. Does this sound like the world in which you live?

Group Notes | March 18

Crossroads: Facing Points of Brokenness!
March 18, 201
Dr. David Wheeler

 

Open:

It is often we hear the expression, we are “at the end of our rope.” If you have recently used this to convey feelings that you are facing more than you feel you can deal with, what did you do to work through your situation?

We are in the third sermon of the series “Crossroads,” as we look at Biblical characters whose lives intersected with Jesus. Peter, the disciple known best for denying Christ prior to His crucifixion, is our subject today. We will see his strengths, his pride, and his weaknesses—much like our own. Let’s see what truths we can apply to our lives from this giant of a disciple.

Focal Passages: John 20:1-31; 21:1-16.

Discuss:

It always begins with the resurrected Lord

  1. Read John 20:19-20. How long had Jesus been out of the grave when this passage occurs? How did the disciples react?
  2. What is the one fact that makes all the difference between Christianity and any other religion in the world?

How did Peter respond?

  1. Read John 21:1-9. In previous verses of chapter 20, Peter is said to have been one of those who ran to the tomb. In chapter 20:10, how had he reacted to it?
  2. Peter saw Jesus at least two more times after the tomb, but with no conversation recorded. How do you think he was feeling inside? How do you feel inside when you have disappointed or disobeyed Jesus?
  3. Read 21:3. How many times when we are in despair, or circumstances which we feel we cannot overcome, do we turn again to an old way of life? Is this what Peter did?

It all changed when Peter was again confronted by the risen Christ

  1. Read 21:4-7. When John announced that it was Jesus, how did Peter respond? Do you think everything in him wanted to be restored to the relationship he had had prior to the crucifixion? Why?
  2. Read John 21:15-17. What was Jesus trying to get Peter to acknowledge?
  3. What was the condition of Peter’s heart when he cried out his last response to Jesus’ third question in verse 17?

What should we notice?

  1. Peter, who had been the main disciple to be brash, always speaking words that were unfiltered, and seemingly proud, was at last desperate and broken. Why is that important when finally coming to the Lord?
  2. He was now moldable and willing to surrender—this is always the key! Why can Jesus not use someone who is unwilling to surrender their will to Him?

“Lord, You know everything!”

  1. When Peter spoke those four words, his life was ready to be transformed. Have you spoken those words to Jesus, out of desperation and the desire to be restored to Him in fellowship?
  2. Peter was now on the brink of his most magnificent ministry, empowered by the Holy Spirit, ready to reach thousands for the kingdom of his Christ. Are YOU?

Close

Arrogance and pride are insidious sins, and will silently crawl in the back door of your life, slowly overtaking just one small facet of your life if you’re not constantly vigilant. Maybe it’s your hard work in your job, and the resulting accolades. Maybe it’s your pristine, clean house, or your shining, obedient children. Perhaps it’s the way you dress, your size, or the home you live in. Eventually the pride creeps slowly into more of your heart, until one day you find yourself in a position of being—or feeling—self-sufficient. God can’t really use you.

Perhaps you’re busy in the church, wanting others to notice how you’re dependable, always willing to serve, always singing with gusto. But it’s not quite as satisfying on the Sundays the pastor isn’t there to see you. When you find he’s not going to be there, you don’t go. God can’t really use you.

When is the last time you came to Him in brokenness of spirit, perhaps not wanting to do what He has asked, or follow where He is leading? Your way is familiar, your way is comfortable, and His way is scary. What then? Did you cry out “Lord! Increase my faith!” or “Lord—You know EVERYTHING! You know I’m scared, but I’ll go where You lead!” He can use you now. You are moldable, and on the brink of being used to reach people for His kingdom. Have you submitted yet?

KEY VERSE: John 20:21: So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you.”

Quotes: “In spite of the world’s attempts to trivialize Christianity, and to marginalize Christians, make no mistake that from the immaculate baby to the miraculous risen Savior, the message is the same: it’s all about hope and restoration.”

Jim Cymbala: “I discovered an astonishing truth: God is attracted to weakness. He can’t resist those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need Him.”

 

Group Notes | March 11

Crossroads: Hope for Tomorrow and Forever
March 11, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

We’ve all had the experience of hearing information but not quite understanding the complete significance of it. Often, not wanting to seem presumptuous, we have not asked enough questions, and thereby caused ourselves difficulties down the road. Can you think of an example?

This is the second week of the series “Crossroads,” as we look at Biblical characters whose lives intersected with Jesus. Today we study Thomas, the disciple who has been known throughout history as “Doubting Thomas.” However, closer scrutiny will reveal Thomas to be an enthusiastic follower of Jesus, ready to die with Him, but always trying to be sure he completely understood the significance of what Jesus was saying. He asked bold questions, not out of doubt, but to confirm the information he was hearing. Would that all Christ-followers would be so sure they have their facts straight when it comes to doing God’s will!

Focal Passages: John 11:1-16; 14:1-6; 20:24-29; Mark 8:31-37.

Discuss:

Thomas was unsure of what tomorrow might hold

  1. Read John 11:1-16. What reaction did most of the disciples have when Jesus told them he was going to go to Bethany? Who had a different reaction?
  2. Why would Thomas have been willing to go with Him, and possibly even to die? How do you think you would have reacted?

Jesus gave the answer

  1. Read John 14:1-6. What did Jesus tell His disciples in verses 5-6? Why do you think Thomas asked his question? If you were in Thomas’ place and was told you could go where Jesus was going, what questions would you ask to make sure you did not miss the way?
  2. How did Jesus answer? Why is He called the great “I AM”?

Thomas’ tomorrow came quicker than expected

  1. Read John 20:24-25. Thomas had followed Jesus for three years, had seen countless miracles, and watched Him be beaten and crucified. Now the other disciples are telling him they have seen Jesus, alive and well. What emotions were probably uppermost in Thomas’s mind and heart?
  2. How can you best understand his emotions? No analogy comes even close, but can you think of a time when you could not believe what you were hearing or seeing?

 Thomas forgot what Jesus had said

  1. How do you think he tried to reconcile Jesus’ words of going “to prepare a place for you” with the death he had seen Jesus die?
  2. What do you think Thomas did during that next week, hearing over and over how the apostles had seen Jesus? How far away from those closest to Jesus would you have strayed, had it been you? Why?

Jesus again gave the answer

  1. Read verse 26. Thomas made certain that he was close to the disciples during the week, and he was ultimately rewarded with the presence of Jesus. How did he probably feel, knowing he had not believed the disciples?
  2. Read verses 27-29. Jesus assured Thomas that it was He, and Thomas believed. How are we mentioned in verse 29?

Jesus’ answer is always the same—HOPE

  1. Read verses 25 and 26. What are the promises Jesus gives? Do you believe this? Do you share your story?

Close:

How like Thomas we are today! We know Jesus from the Scriptures, believe in Him, have our sins forgiven, and try to walk a holy life. Often we sense the presence, power and sometimes “feel” the voice of God. But the bad times come, the loved ones die, prayers seem not to get answered, the road gets very rocky, and we forget what Jesus tells us: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Thomas had seen it all, from the early days when Jesus called the twelve together, to the ascension as He disappeared in the clouds going back to heaven. But like us, he wanted evidence. He bluntly stated that he wouldn’t believe unless he could put his fingers in the hands and side of the pierced Savior. Often, we, like Thomas, demand signs before we’ll go further with Jesus. And yet He says, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believed.”

How many times can you look back and see that through the tough times, He was holding you, carrying you, leading you? The trust must be there when the going gets hard, when the faith almost deserts us, and you have to cry out “Lord, increase my faith!” And what keeps us going? His answer, that He is the Great “I AM” _______ (fill in the blank), He is whatever you need, at the moment you need Him. Share your story of HOPE for the world.

KEY VERSE: John 11:25: So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

 

Group Time | March 4

Crossroads: Where His Road Meets Your Roa
March 4, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

We’ve all experienced a time when we have arrived at a “T” in the road where we must make a choice—sometimes with no knowledge of direction—whether to go left or right. Can you share your story?

Today we begin a new series “Crossroads,” as we look at the opportunities to decide to follow God’s call, whether it is for the first time—deciding to become a believer—or as an experienced believer, rejecting or accepting the path to a new plan or purpose for our lives. This can be a time to be forever changed, alert to the encounters where we find our lives intersecting with Christ’s leading, and being willing to follow Him.

Focal Passages: Matthew 15:29-31; 20:29-34.

Discuss:

WHAT THEY DID…

They Heard

  1. Read Matthew 20:29-34. What type of life had these men probably led until their encounter with Jesus?
  2. What evidence would they have heard that led them to believe He could heal them?

They Called

  1. Why would they have desperately desired that Jesus would eventually come their way?
  2. What would have happened to the two blind men if someone had not told an amazing story of a miracle? How did they know that Jesus was not an “average” person?
  3. Read verse 30 again. Why did they cry out? What happened when the crowd told them to be quiet?

They Knew/Believed

  1. What was the significance of calling Him the Son of David?
  2. These men were blind. What could they have done on their own to find Jesus?

They Persisted

  1. Read verse 31. Why did they keep crying out? Was He their only hope of healing?
  2. Read John 9:32-33. Was their hope founded on the truth? Why?

WHAT HE DID:

He Listened

  1. Read verse 32. What would you change if you fully realized that whenever you call on God, He stops and He listens?
  2. How do you think these men felt when they knew they had the full attention of the Messiah Israel had been looking for so long?

He Cared

  1. Read verse 34a. How did Jesus react to the men?
  2. Do you see Him moved with compassion for your plight, or do you struggle with feelings that He doesn’t care?

He Healed

  1. Read 34b. What did He do for the blind men? At that time in His ministry, did Jesus ever walk away from someone?
  2. He doesn’t change; does He walk away from His children today?

They Followed

  1. What type of answers to prayers for healing does He perform today?
  2. Have you desperately prayed for healing for a loved one, and it did not happen? Did that affect your love for Him? What might change if you could see the answer from God’s viewpoint?

Close:

The passage from Matthew 15 was an illustration of people seeking Jesus, based on what they had seen Him do, or they had heard enough about Him that their curiosity or hope caused them to seek Him. The second passage, in Matthew 20, illustrates the Savior seeking out someone to intersect their lives and change them. What a picture of His love, that He would go out of His way to find a lost sheep!

Which background did you come from? Jesus healed the blind men, who not only were able to see but who turned their lives around and followed Him. Do you believe Jesus calling you to Himself creates a situation where you will never again come to a crossroads? What about the times when your life or situation hits the ground, and you need God desperately and His answer is not what you wanted? Do you continue to love and follow Him when the going gets tough? Hopefully you will follow Him throughout the good times and bad. The old hymn says, “I once was lost but now am found, ‘twas blind, but now I see!* Life will never be perfect on this earth, but with God beside us, whatever our ups and downs, we can be assured that He will never be but a call away. Just as parents recognize the cry of their child, so God will always have His ear tuned to us, listening for our call, and then giving us His undivided attention. May we remember this lesson!

Key Verse: Matthew 15:30: Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them. (NKJV)

*Amazing Grace, John Newton.

 

 

Group Time | February 25

Difference Makers: To Serve is to Give
February 25, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

For some, sharing your resources to help others is easy; for others—it can be very hard. Can you reveal the ways your heart responds to needs, and how you handle it?

Today we finish the series “Difference Makers.” This has been a time to learn ways to love people, and make a difference in their lives. We found that God commands that we give of our time, our talents, and the treasures we hold dear, so that we meet the needs of others. Sharing what we have, helping fill a need, or giving where our heart leads is each a part of giving, and we want to learn how to do it cheerfully and in abundance.

Focal Passages: 2 Corinthians 8:1-9; 9:6-9.

Recap from last week, Galatians 5:

Serving is an antidote to selfishness: You can’t be selfish while serving Serving is a picture of God’s command: Meeting the needs of others is a must Serving keeps us together: Serving someone leaves no room for animosity

Before we begin the last half of last week’s sermon, we’ll look at Biblical references for giving from Genesis through Malachi. Please read them at home (to save time):

Genesis 14:17-20: Abraham gives Melchizedek one-tenth of all he has;
Leviticus 27:30: 400 years later: A tithe is one-tenth, and belongs to God;
Deut. 14:22-29: 40 years later, Moses reminds the people of the tithe;
Malachi 3:6-12: 1,000 years later: Robbing God of tithes brings consequences;
1 Corinthians 16:1-2: On the first day of the week, set aside your tithe to give.

Therefore, the New Testament picture of giving reinforces the Old Testament.

Discuss:

FIRST:

  1. Read 2 Cor. 9:7-8. What is the first verb Paul uses in these verses for you to have a “Step 1” to follow for tithing?
  2. Was he speaking of money, talents, time or all three here?
  3. Go back to 1 Cor. 16: 2. Why should God want your gift set aside on the first day of the week? Does He mean the first DAY, or the first thing that should be taken out of the paycheck?

INTENTIONAL:

  1. How do you decide how much you can give? What is your guide concerning your tithe?
  2. How much faith do you have that if you make a commitment to begin tithing, God will provide for your needs?
  3. Read Malachi 3:10. What does God promise, if you give your tithe? What does “floodgates” (NIV) mean?
  4. If you are intentional about giving, what does Paul call that? How many other things in your life are you intentional concerning? Do you waver on those, and why not?

PROPORTIONAL:

  1. If you gave back to the Lord in proportion to what He has given you, how would you decide the amount to give? List some of your priceless treasures.
  2. How does God (through Paul) tell you to give? Does anyone know the Greek word for cheerful? (Hilarious). Do you give like this?
  3. What would you be doing in service or serving, if you tithed a tenth of your hours to God, or a tenth of your talents? What are some talents used for the good of others?

 Close

There was a couple many years ago whose bills were taking every penny that came in as wages. The husband figured their outgo (needs, not wants), and looked at his income. He calculated that he owed God $250 per month if they had the courage to begin tithing and believed that God would honor His promise in Malachi 3:10. The next pay period was followed by a weekend, and on Sunday they put their check in the offering plate. When he went to work the next day, his boss called him into his office. He was given a $250.00 per month raise, not anticipated. God is faithful!

Hopefully you have been motivated to make a difference in the life of someone—or more—during 2018. You may be well on your way, or it may be that you desire to do so but have fears. Go back and re-listen to the sermons, taking notes. Seek out Life Groups who will guide you through ideas, opportunities, or steps. The staff always knows of needs, whether it is for salvation, taking food to new families, inviting those who move into your area to church, or “owning your neighborhood” by doing all those things. God will be with you every step of the way, and there are always others who will go with you until you are comfortable alone. Test Him and see if He will not open the floodgates and pour out blessings on you!

Key Verse: 2 Cor. 8:9: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor that you, through His poverty, might become rich. (NKJV)

 

 

Group Notes | February 18

Difference Makers: To Send is to Serve, To Serve is to Give, To Give is to Love
February 18, 2018

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Doing something kind for someone—especially one who has hurt you, or even hates you—is very difficult, isn’t it? If you can think of an example, share how you felt after serving.

Recently we have focused our hearts and our minds on how we can be “Difference Makers” in the lives of people with whom we come into contact. We have learned that sharing our story of salvation, discipling someone who has accepted Christ so that they, too, can share their story, and serving are all “non-negotiables” in God’s plan for our lives. Let’s continue our ending thought from last week on our responsibility to serve.

Focal Passages: Gal. 5:13-15.

Discuss:

TO SEND IS TO SERVE

Serving is an antidote to selfishness

  1. Read Gal. 5:13. Some forms of freedom a Christ-follower is saved from is freedom from our past (2 Cor. 5:17), and freedom from the power of sin (Rom. 8:2, 6:11-14); can you think of others? How can one abuse those freedoms (read Rom 6:1-2)?
  2. Why would God warn you not to use your freedom for yourself, but to serve others? Name some reasons you hold back from serving others.
  3. Was selfishness a reason listed? Will you share if there are feelings of selfishness in your life? What happens when you begin serving someone else? Can the two feelings reside together in your heart?

Serving is a picture of God’s command

  1. Read verse 14. Give some examples of how much you love your own self. How does this go with Eph. 5:29?
  2. In the opening, you saw that God commanded you to serve one another; what must be your attitude as you undertake this (14b) and why?
  3. Read verse 15. What are some examples of “biting and devouring” each other? How can this destroy you, your testimony or your service?
  4. 6:2 lists a way you can serve: what are some others?
  5. When you serve others, what happens to your own Christ-like spirit? Read Heb. 5:14; how is that like making your spirit stronger?

Serving keeps us together

  1. You probably thought of someone in the opening discussion that has made a negative impact on your life; what are practical ways you can serve this person, differently than you might serve someone you are trying to win for Christ? Read Titus 3:1-3. Would you impact your world if you followed these few verses?

 

Close

It is very easy to think of taking a short-term missions trip, until, on reflection, you grow uncomfortable thinking of insects, dirt, food you haven’t experienced, and bathrooms. Then a feeling of “maybe sometime” comes. Being comfortable in your safe area becomes more important than ministering to others. Who are you putting first?

Perhaps the person next door has been an antagonistic neighbor: always finding something about the way (or frequency) you mow your yard, or allow your children to yell, or how you leave outside lights on at night. You decide to build an invisible wall between the two of you, waiting until he goes into his house before enjoying your yard. Who are you putting first?

The truth is, it’s not easy to serve, unless it’s someone you know, or like, or are comfortable with. But none of those requirements are in the command from God, are they? Everyone who calls himself a child of God is commanded to serve others, particularly those who are your “enemies” (Matt. 5:43-44). And God understands our emotions and says start by “pray(ing) for” those people. Service can take many forms, and prayer should be at the top of the list. Pray God would open doors that you can serve often and effectively, and that it would be with an attitude of love.

Key Verses: Gal. 5:13: For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (NKJV)

 

Group Notes | February 11

Difference Makers: What Does the Walk Look Like?
February 11, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Have you ever realized how many things you do foolishly because you are attempting something you are not experienced at? Sometimes raising children or taking care of a parent with dementia might fall into that category. Can you think of an example?

We have been in a series that will teach us how to be “Difference Makers” in our community if our hearts are open to doing God’s will. We have learned how to be certain we are a Christ-follower, how to recognize people who need Christ, and how to take the good news of the story of what He’s done for us to those we meet. Today we want to look at three steps we can take when we’re ready to share Christ, knowing that with each witness the task will become more familiar and less daunting.

Focal Passages: John 9:1-11, 26-33, 35-38; Matthew 28:19,20.

Discuss:

TELL: Tell them the Gospel story

  1. Read John 9:1-11. For years, the man in this account had nothing to tell. After Jesus healed him, what story could he share?
  2. Can someone refresh everyone’s mind with the recent sermon on the Gadarene demoniac? How did the people respond to that man’s healing? Read Mark 5:17-20. What do you think happened to that village after he returned and told his story?
  3. Everyone who is saved has a new beginning. What are some things that hold you back from sharing what Christ has done for you?

GROW: Help them grow in their awareness of, and identity in, Christ

  1. Read John 9: 26-33. Why were the Jews so focused on finding fault with Jesus? How did the healed man react?
  2. What do you notice about his responses—was he able to answer all their questions? Did this stop him from telling what had happened? How can this encourage you when you begin to tell others how Christ saved you?
  3. If someone wants to accept Christ, what steps would you take to help him/her grow in their faith? How would it help you if you searched for and wrote out verses or passages that encourage prayer or Bible memorization (Psa. 119:11)?

SEND: Help them map their mission

  1. Read verses 35-38. What did the blind man do after Jesus healed him? Thinking back to the demoniac, why did Jesus tell him to stay in his own country? How is that like the Samaritan woman last week, whose entire village was changed because of her story? Testimonies draw people!
  2. What would happen if you suggested you meet with the person you are trying to win to Christ one time a week to study together, or pray? How is it possible that your little two-some would grow to include more?
  3. Read 2 Timothy 2:15. Why did Paul instruct Timothy to “study”? What are some other ways in which you can grow as a Christ-follower?

Close

In the opening dialogue, you thought about efforts you have made when you have no previous experience. The first time you tell the story of your salvation, you may feel you should have said something else, added more, or feel in general you made a mess of it. But have you ever likened what you say in marriage to your witnessing? In marriage, one partner will make a statement; later, it is a “you didn’t tell me that” scenario. The difference is, they don’t always hear what you mean when you speak! When you tell the story of accepting Christ, the Holy Spirit, who is in you, and perhaps working in the other person, can cause them to hear what they need to—that is an awesome thought. And as we see in the passage of the blind man, he didn’t know the answers to most of the questions the Jewish leaders were throwing at him, so he kept repeating, “All I know is, whereas I was blind, now I see!” Perhaps that’s all you can say: “All I know is, whereas I lived a life of sin and pain for others, now I want to live it to glorify Jesus Christ,” and it may be all they need to hear.

There doesn’t have to be carefully worded stories. God has saved you. The change may be instant, or it may be gradual, but people will see the difference. Babies are not born ready for walking and eating meat; they are born, carefully taken care of, taught how to do things that will become lifestyles, and one day leave the home and begin their own life and family. That is what you want the hearers of your story to do. Nothing will be better than to stand before Jesus and see a room full of people whose lives you impacted for God’s kingdom. But you have to start. We have to start!

Key Verses: John 9:25: He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” (NKJV)

A DIFFERENCE MAKER:

  1. Can make a call, a visit, or write a letter;
  2. Stop and notice what someone is saying or doing;

Engage someone in conversation and listen with interest.

Group Time | February 4

Difference Makers
February 04, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Sometimes our “comfort zone” is the only place we feel as though we have peace. Can you share a recent time when you’ve had to step out of where you’re relaxed or calm?

We are in a series called “Difference Makers,” looking at 2018 with a goal of making a difference in our community through introducing lost souls to a Savior Who loves them. For some of us, it is a scary thing; for others, there is an exhilaration and adventure in bringing the lost to Christ. Let’s look at our responsibility, and how to carry it out.

Focal Passages: John 4:1-30; 2 Peter 3:9; Rom.10:1-4; Acts 26:15ff; Matt. 28:19,20.

BEING A DIFFERENCE MAKER

Last week

  1. We learned our responsibility as it is given by Jesus Christ, in telling our story to people with whom we come in contact. What does He expect of us?
  2. Read Matthew 28:19-20. How does He desire we keep up the discipling after they accept salvation?

Identify Them

  1. Read John 4:1-30. What are some categories of people that today we tend to avoid, just as the Jews shunned the Samaritans?
  2. If we open our church doors, what is the likelihood of the lost attending? Then how do we find them? Is this what Jesus did with the woman at the well?

Pray for Them

  1. Read Rom. 10:1-4. Why is it necessary to pray for them?
  2. Read 2 Peter 3:9. How does God feel about the lost? Why is this how you are supposed to feel? Can you work, go to school, or do life with them, but never say a word about their soul; how?
  3. Have you considered most people desire to go to heaven, but are confused or ignorant of how to get there? What if you prayed for them, and then told them your story? When is the last time you told anyone?

Invest in Them: Tell and Grow

  1. Read Matt. 28:20. What does God promise you? Will He give you words to speak as you witness?
  2. Why is it important that you continue to love and disciple those whom you’ve led to the Lord? How was this done for you?

 

Close

Recently on a radio broadcast, a pastor made the statement that most Christians feel that if the doors of their church are open, the lost will come in. As we know from experience, this is false. It generally takes about thirteen invitations before someone you’ve asked will eventually join you at church. Most of us don’t persevere that long.  And yet, think of the efforts you put into standing in line to see an opening night at the movies, sales of Black Friday, etc.—we tend to endure things that mean the most to us.

How does your soul feel about the lost around you? Do you evade the issue of salvation at family get-togethers? At Superbowl parties? We must take the message of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection to the lost, and not expect them to come to us. Read the story of the woman at the well again. Jesus went where He knew she would come, He initiated a conversation about her lost condition, He said He had the answers, and soon she had a story that she could hardly wait to share. She left her water pot and ran—with her bad reputation and immoral lifestyle—to tell the people she knew that the Messiah had come to the city of Sychar. Would that we were so enthusiastic about what Christ has done for us that we can’t wait to share the Good News of salvation!

Key Verses: John 4:28, 29: The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (NKJV)

A DIFFERENCE MAKER:

Sees things and people the way Christ does; Loves people, and uses things (not the reverse!); Has a heart for the hurting; Has a heart for the lost;  Is a Christ-follower; Is one who has believed and received the Gospel story of Jesus [His death, burial,   resurrection], has followed Jesus in baptism, is obeying all that Jesus taught, and is helping others do the same.

 

 

Group Notes | January 28

Difference Makers: Where Do I Start?
January 28, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

For some of us, a list of steps necessary to achieve a certain end is extremely helpful, while others do great without one. Can you share an example?

We are in a series called “Difference Makers,” looking at how we should be living out our Christian life in the world. Because we sometimes feel we’re in a gray area as to what we should be doing, today’s sermon lays out for us three steps that will help us examine our hearts to know that we are prepared to witness, who we should have a burden for, and why it is our job to share with them the Good News.

Focal Passages: 2 Pet. 3:9-10; 1 Cor.15:1-4a; John 14:6; Rom.10:9-13; Matt. 22:37.

BEING A DIFFERENCE MAKER: Where do I start?

Know who you are

  1. What have you learned in prior weeks that defines a “Difference Maker”? According to those passages above, what is your responsibility?
  2. How can you be a Christian, and not be a Christ-follower? What does a Christ-follower do?
  3. In 1 Cor. 15:1-4a, what did Paul do once he was saved by grace?

Know who they are

  1. John 3:16 says Jesus’ atonement for sins is available to whom?
  2. What are some normal characteristics of those who need Christ? How is it possible that their anger, profanity, or attitude might be covering up a deep desire to have someone love them?
  3. Read Matt. 22:37. Why is it so hard to love those who are going to hell (your “neighbors”)?
  4. What are some intentional things you can do to show love for these people?

Know what your job is

  1. Go back again to 1 Cor. 13:4. What did Paul do after salvation? What was probably said of him? (Remember, his reputation would have gone out among all those following Jesus Christ at that time. How hard would that have been for him to face those same people?)
  2. 28:19-20: What does Jesus tell you?

 

Close

If we are not careful, we can become insulated in our churches through Bible studies, evening groups, choosing friends, worship or Sunday School, and never reach our neighbors or the world. It takes intentional, daily discipline to be willing to be used to further the kingdom of God on earth. Usually work situations are not easy places to witness verbally, so we rely on our lifestyle to show our co-workers that we hold ourselves to another standard. But is this what Jesus desires of us? If we look at the early church, we find the disciples going out “street preaching,” sharing the good news of the death, burial and resurrection of a Messianic Savior to all who would listen. They didn’t just live their faith, they shared it. Have you examined your life to see if you love the lost with the same compassion Jesus did? Does your lost neighbor weigh on your heart? Until you get the courage to witness, you can at least lift him/her to the throne each day, asking God to open a door. If you are unsure of the status of their soul, you can usually pick up on it with just a few minutes conversation, or ask a non-threatening question like “Do you attend church?” Most people are not offended by that. Identify your job as a Christ-follower as someone who is a witness of what He has done for you, gives out the good news, and loves people into a relationship with Jesus. You’ll never be satisfied to live a life of mediocrity again!

Key Verses: 2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (NKJV)

A DIFFERENCE MAKER:

Sees things and people the way Christ does;                                                                  Loves people, and uses things (not the reverse!);                                                              Has a heart for the hurting;                                                                                             Has a heart for the lost;                                                                                                     Is a Christ-follower;                                                                                                              Is one who has believed and received the Gospel story of Jesus [His death, burial,   resurrection], has followed Jesus in baptism, is obeying all that Jesus taught, and is helping others do the same.

 

Group Time | January 21

Difference Makers: What does it mean?
January 21, 201
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

When is the last time you saw a need in your community, and responded by helping? Can you share?

Today we are beginning a new series called “Difference Makers.”  What does it mean to be a person who makes a difference, and what does that look like? We are going to look first at the words of Jesus as He gave us instructions for our lives, and then at Nehemiah, a man whose homeland had a great need, and who knew, with God’s help, he could fix it. Pray that God will open your heart to absorb the message, making it the catalyst to committing yourself to making a difference in your neighborhood.

Focal Passage: Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:18-20; John 20:21b.

Discuss:

  1. In Acts 1:8, what are the two promises Jesus made to the believers?
  2. In Matt. 28:18-20, what are the four action verbs (or commands) Jesus told the believers to do?
  3. In John 20:21b, what is Jesus’ will for us? How do these three passages apply to us today?

BEING A DIFFERENCE MAKER

Changes our thinking

  1. Read Nehemiah 1:1-4. What was Nehemiah’s reaction to the news concerning Jerusalem? Why were his emotions so affected, as he was no longer there?
  2. What are some usual responses when a tragic situation touches our heart? What should our first response be?
  3. Why must we not allow negative thinking to quench a desire to help?

Puts others first

  1. What are some reasons we hold back from stepping up to make a difference? If we “love others more than we love ourselves” (Mark 12:33), how should we react when we have Jesus on our side?
  2. When we sit back to see if someone else steps forward, what should that warn us about our heart attitude?

Looks for ways to help

  1. Read Neh. 2:4-5. What is so significant about these verses? The king asked a question, Nehemiah prayed (“Help!”?), and then answered. Why was he ready with an answer?
  2. When is the last time you fervently sought God that you would be ready to step in if/when faced with a need? How is that the issue here?

Starts from the perspective of Christ

  1. Read Matt. 9:35-38. What was Jesus’ reaction to the needs of the people, and how was He affected in His emotions?
  2. When you see people (or things), how do you discern their needs? Why are we not easily able to “read” people?
  3. Why does our “looking” have to start with love and with prayer to be ready?

A DIFFERENCE MAKER:

Sees things and people the way Christ does; Loves people, and uses things (not the reverse!); Has a heart for the hurting;  Has a heart for the lost; Is a Christ-follower; Is one who has believed and received the Gospel story of Jesus [His birth, death, burial,   resurrection], has followed Jesus in baptism, is obeying all that Jesus taught, and is helping others do the same.

Close

Did the opening thought cause you to remember times when you’ve filled needs in your neighborhood, or did it convict you that you’ve never—or seldom—felt it your concern to act? If you find yourself in the second category, what are you going to do about it? If we’re able to stand to the side, hoping someone else steps in and takes charge, we are not fulfilling the second greatest commandment. In our church’s Mission Statement, we are to “love God and love people.” Perhaps it’s time to be truthful with ourselves: do we love God and tolerate people? Love God and love our friends, but in general ignore the world? Love God, and like some people? When is the last time, as in Neh. 1:4, that we truly were broken over the plight of someone or something, and sought God with all our heart? It’s still January…let’s make the commitment to be a Christ follower with all that the phrase implies and use the 8000+ hours that we have left in this year to be a Difference Maker. With God’s help, we can pray that at this time next year we can look back at 2018 and see we truly made a difference in our neighborhood!

Key Verses: Acts 1:8: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (NKJV)

Group Notes | January 14

Our Response to Christ’s Church
January 14, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

When you were young, did you find it easy to obey, usually doing what you were told, or were you constantly finding it difficult to submit to authority? Can you share?

Last week we looked at the institution of the church—the cohesive body of believers that Christ established as a method to spread the good news of salvation available through Him. We learned what He planned for the church and how it is to function. Now we ask ourselves, “How do we respond?” Let’s look at the responsibilities of believers as we come together in small or large groups, in order to change our world.

Focal Passage: Ephesians 2:19: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”

Discuss:

Background

Last week we learned:

  • The Church is God-ordained, instituted by Him to preach the gospel (Matt. 16:18).
  • The Church is not a building or an organization, it’s YOU! Individuals are the church.
  • Jesus is the Head of the Church, (Eph. 1:22, 23)
  • Jesus gave a plan for the Church, (Acts 2:42-47)
  • Jesus gave us the keys to the Church, (Matt. 28:18-20)

We can see that God ordained the church and we should have a much clearer idea of the importance of it. Now, what are our responsibilities?

We are required to carry out His plan

  1. Read Matthew 28:18-20. Who did Christ give the job of spreading the gospel to? Does this apply to today’s churches? Why?
  2. Did He suggest this commitment, or give it as a directive, expecting believers to be obedient? Going back to the Ice Breaker, do you find it difficult to serve in your church, or does it excite you? Share your heart.
  3. Why do you think church members leave it to the pastor and staff? What three words are important in verse 19? 

We are required to serve within the church

  1. Read Romans 12:4-5. What is the analogy in these verses that is compared to the church? How do you see yourself as a member of a church body, just as your fingers or toes are functioning members of your own body?
  2. Read 1 Peter 4:10 and Romans 12:6-8. What is the charge here?

We are required to baptize believers

  1. Read Matt. 28:19b. Why do we baptize? Why did Christ set us an example to follow, when He was baptized by John?
  2. What does it symbolize? Is this a suggestion or commandment?

We are required to remember how Christ established the church

  1. What is the second ordinance the church is told to perform, in remembrance of Christ’s death on the cross? Read 1 Cor. 11:23-26.
  2. Both ordinances are holy. However, what are we told in verses 27-30?

We are required to pray that the world would believe

  1. 12:12, Eph. 1:18, 6:18, and Phil. 4:6 are just a few of the hundreds of verses on prayer. Why is that communication so important to your spiritual life and what does it mean in the lives of others?

 

Close

It is incredible to think that God gave frail, sinful humans the task of seeking out the lost in this world, and presenting them with the gospel. One feels the listener could turn and say, “But you used to ____!” This gives you an even greater reason to tell the story of your changed life—not yet perfect, not complete, but always striving for the goal that God has set before you. One of the responsibilities you have as a Christian is to be part of a local body of believers who come together to worship, praise, and pray (Heb. 10:24, 25). Would you pray the more earnestly if you knew that it was only by your prayers that someone you love would be saved? Yes, without a doubt you would be constant in coming before God on their behalf! The obligations laid on you for serving your Lord are contained in the Scriptures in today’s sermon. Write those on 3×5 cards, memorize them, and recognize that your job is to love the Lord your God first and foremost, and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. If you do these two things, you will find yourself serving and being effective in your church, your community, and your world.

Key Verse: Colossians 1:18 (NKJV): “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.”

 

 

 

 

Group Notes | January 7

A New Day in the Old Way
January 7, 2018
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Have you ever been so aware of a position you hold, whether possibly by birth or station, that you conduct yourself discreetly when you are in public? Can anyone give an example?

We have entered the new year of 2018, and already the first week has passed! Today we will look at the church, and its relevancy in the 21st century. It has had to evolve throughout centuries of change, but the past one hundred years has wrought the greatest transformation, as technology enables all parts of the earth to be interconnected. Is the church still important? Let’s see what God says.

Focal Passage: Matthew 16:13-18.

Discuss:

WHAT IS THE CHURCH?

The Church is God-ordained

  1. Read Matt. 13-18. In verse 18a, Who builds the church? What was Jesus speaking of?
  2. Most of us have lived at least a quarter of a century; what are some changes the church (as a unit) has gone through during the years you’ve lived?
  3. What are some signs your church is in line with New Testament doctrine?

WHY IS THE CHURCH IMPORTANT?

The church is not a building or an organization, it’s YOU!

  1. Read 1 Cor. 1:1-3. Who was Paul writing to? What did he call them? What were their common characteristics?
  2. In the ice breaker, you thought of the way you sometimes present yourself, either as a representative of your family or company. How do you see your behavior as a believer in Jesus Christ as being a testimony to others?
  3. Do you “go” to church, or are you the church, wherever you are? Explain.

IS THE CHURCH STILL RELEVANT TODAY?

Jesus is the Head of the church

  1. Read Col. 1:18. What does Paul say in this verse? How are the underground churches that meet in basements in foreign lands, groups who meet in Africa under trees, or Christians meeting in air-conditioned buildings in America the same? Which might possibly hold their faith more precious, and why?
  2. Each day newspapers are reporting businesses that are closing their doors after decades of trade. Verse 18b assures us of what fact? How can this be?
  3. Every business or organization has a focus, either on fashion, health, or spirituality. Why will people find no “rest” for their souls (Heb, 4:9) in any place except a solid Bible-teaching group of fellow-believers?

DO I REALLY NEED TO BE A PART OF THE CHURCH

Jesus gave a Plan for the church

  1. Read Acts 2:42. What were the apostles doing in the early days after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension back to heaven?
  2. Read Matt. 28:19. Why did the church in Jerusalem have to undergo tribulation to get them to begin changing the world?

Jesus gave us the Keys to the church

  1. Read John 1:12. What does Christ expect of you once you have given your life to Him?
  2. Read Eph. 2:19. Becoming a member of a family requires what responsibility? Is this the same as becoming a Christian?
  3. Read Heb. 10:23-25. What is so important about fellowship?

 

Close

God is so incredibly above “all that we could ask or think!” You will never figure Him out. When He ordained the church (the body of believers who meet to worship, praise and learn of Him), its purpose was to bring together those of like minds and common goals. We meet to know Him, praise and draw near to Him, depend on Him for our very life, and take care of each other. The church is magnificent in its function, and if we carried out its duties as He intended, we would see many souls added to it. In the early days after Jesus had returned to His Father, the apostles and believers shared what they had, met together, did life together, and took care of their own. There may be some civic organizations that take on some of those roles, but none focuses on the spiritual to the extent the church does. But do you realize that you—even when alone—represent the church? When people know you are a Christian, they observe what you do and how you speak. When you go out among strangers or friends, you need to keep your heart focused on the truth that you represent Him to those you meet. As we begin this new year, let us keep our thoughts centered on being the “church” that most people avoid. Do you smile at them? Say hello? You are drawing them to you, showing them a love they get few other places. Eventually you may earn their trust and a time will come when you can share your faith. Don’t be afraid of being the church in the world—embrace the possibility and be a pleasing aroma to God!

Key Verses: Matt. 16:18: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (NKJV)

 

 

 

 

Group Time | December 31

Pressing On
December 31, 2017
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Finding a time or circumstance in which to make a fresh start is a great thing. The beginning of a new year definitely seems to be the optimal time when we hope for a change in our lives! What other times might hold new hope?

As we end 2017, we know we answered firmly that Christ is the only reason for the Christmas season. Now we can’t help but hope 2018 might be a year of new beginnings. Perhaps it will be the year we achieve a long dreamed-of goal, or reach a new level of faith. Let’s strive with the apostle Paul toward the goal of knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection better than we ever have before.

Focal Passage: Philippians 3:1-14.

Discuss:

THE PAST SHOULD STAY THERE

Our beliefs about the past

  1. Read verse 13. Why did Paul give this piece of advice he himself followed? What happens to any living organism if it remains stagnant? Read verses 2-3. Why does he warn against holding onto traditions learned as immature believers?
  2. Read verses 6-7. All the good works in the world can’t save anyone. How did Paul find this out for himself? Read Eph. 2:8-9. What are some traditions the church is still holding onto today that should be put into the past?

What we should believe

  1. Read verse 8. What is the only thing worthwhile that will help you, keep you, protect you, and save you? What were some of them Paul counted as nothing? (Is there anything you are relying on for salvation, other than the work of Jesus Christ on the cross? Answer in your heart.)
  2. How can you commit to “knowing Him better” as one of your New Year’s goals—and then keeping a daily journal to see that you do?

THE GOAL IS CLEAR

  1. Read verse 10. If you set your goal for 2018 to know Christ better, what could that look like? What would change as you come to know Him more intimately?
  2. What is the fruit that begins to come as you know Him better? (Gal. 5:22-23.)
  3. Read verse 12. Paul wanted the church to know he had not “arrived.” What does he say he has to do?

THE GOAL? PURSUIT OF CHRIST AND THE PROMISE OF HEAVEN

  1. Read verses 13-14. What were the three things Paul disciplined himself to do?
  2. What are some ways you can take control in these areas? Read Heb. 12:1. 

Close

If you’ve ever stood in the sand at a beach as the waves roll in, you know that remaining in one spot will soon pull sand away from your feet, only to cover them higher with each incoming wave. Standing still in the Christian life will destroy your progress, just as surely. Paul knew that he could not let his family, his reputation as a Pharisee, his zeal for God and eventually his torture of Christians, define who he was: he became a child of the King the day Jesus met him on the road to Damascus, and from that point on he had to forget those things which had seemed to matter, to become the person God intended him to be. When you reach(ed) the point at which you surrender(ed) your heart to Christ, from then on you must pursue a life of knowing Him, serving Him, and letting the change in your heart be reflected in your lifestyle. What better time to discipline yourself setting these worthy goals than the beginning of a new year? Keep a journal of your progress, your prayers, and His answers this year, so you can see your growth. In a way, life as a disciplined Christian will never become any more of a habit than a new lifestyle of healthy eating habits. One piece of pie, one bag of chips, and suddenly the control slips. Be honest with yourself: admit the slip, and begin again (Prov. 24:16). Strive for the prize that Jesus Christ has promised! Keep pressing on, and if you stumble, get up, knowing the heavenly reward will be waiting when He calls you.

Key Verses: Phil. 3:14: I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (NKJV)

 

 

 

Group Time | December 17

The Point of Christmas: From Fear to Peace
 December 17, 2017
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Fear can immobilize us! It is terrifying to be in a situation where something horrific is happening, and we have no power to control the circumstances. Can you think of an example?

Our series for December has been asking, “What’s the point of Christmas?” This week we will look at the shepherds who were guarding their sheep, read of their frightful moment seeing an angel, and feel their fear. Their emotions run full circle when the events that began with fright turn them into witnesses that the Savior of the world has been born!

Focal Passage: Luke 2:8-18.

Discuss:

The shepherds were not expecting this arrival

  1. Read Luke 2:8-9a. If anyone in your group has farm animals, why is the night-watch so important?
  2. Imagine yourself guarding the sheep on a clear, cold night; how would you react if you saw an angel, sent from God, standing before you?

Fear was the first response

  1. Read Luke 2:9b. When something occurs that is totally out of your comfort zone or previous experience, why is fear the first response that you feel?
  2. Have you, or someone in your family, undergone a disruption to normal routine, and experienced something terrifying? What was the initial response of everyone close to them?

Alleviating fear requires listening

  1. Read verses 10-12. What was the correct reaction as the angel gave his message to the shepherds?
  2. Why is listening so important? Read James 1:19. Why would God command this in any situation we find ourselves in?
  3. Read verses 13-14. What message would they have missed if they had run in fear when the angel first appeared?

When fear vanishes, peace arrives

  1. Read verses 15-16. How do you know the shepherds believed the message given them?
  2. What was the other miraculous occurrence? How would this message bring peace to them?

When peace arrives, there’s a story to tell

  1. Read verses 17-18. Why would they have gone out, eagerly recounting what had happened?
  2. When you found that a Savior had come into the world to save you from your sins, did that give you a story to tell? Why? Do you honestly believe it is for others whom you love, and do you tell them? Why or why not?

 

Close

Most of us have never sat through the night on a hillside, guarding animals against predators who use the darkness to kill. However, most of us have sat through the night at some time, waiting—possibly interceding in prayer—for someone we love as Satan prowls, seeking “whom he may destroy.” We can learn so much from this short experience of the shepherds that wonderful night of Jesus’ birth. They were doing their job, not anticipating a change in their lives. We do the same. We get up, dress, and prepare for a normal day. But in a moment of time an angel from God stood in front of the shepherds, changing their normality to fear. Perhaps in our daily routine, we have an appointment where we get bad news, or have a death, or maybe a wreck occurs, and in that moment our day is changed. After the initial fear, the shepherds listened. Do you listen for God to speak, when you’re in that place where fear has taken hold? Suddenly, in an instant, the sky was filled with wondrous angels singing, and peace descended upon the shepherds. As God sends His “wonderful words, beautiful words of life,” does peace fill your heart? They immediately ran to find the Newborn Babe. Do you? Do you flee to Christ when darkness has come, fear takes over, and God disperses the fear, bringing peace? Do you want more of His attention, His love, His comfort? After they had tested and found the Truth was real, they had a story to tell. Hopefully, if you’ve found Christ to be real, your life has been changed. When that occurs, you have a story to tell. Draw a circle around the area where you live, and intentionally take your story to the ones who live within that space, and let them know the point of Christmas is the change in your life, when the Christ child who came as a baby became your Savior.

Key Verses: Luke 2:10-11: Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (NKJV)

 

 

Group Notes | December 10

The Point of Christmas Is: SACRIFICE
December 10, 2017
Matt Willmington and Dr. Harold Willmington

 

Open:

There is not a day that passes that we are not asked to make some type of sacrifice, whether it’s our time, money, a place in line or one where loss or cost is heavy. Can you think of an example to share?

We are in a series for December, asking “What’s the point of Christmas?” Today we will have Dr. Harold Willmington and his son, Matt Willmington, discuss how the Christmas story was one of a supreme gift, as God the Father sacrificed the life of His only Son, Jesus Christ, for sinners who are unworthy and uncaring. We will focus on Abraham and Isaac.

Focal Passage: Genesis 22:1-14.

Discuss:

The Testing

  1. Read Gen. 22:1. What are some pertinent facts you know of the life of Abraham? Why was he special to God?
  2. What does the Bible mean when it says God tested Abraham? Read Deut. 13:3b and Psalm 26:2. Why does God test you?
  3. Some versions translate the word “tested” as “tempted.” Read Matt. 4:1 and 1 Cor. 10:13. What is God looking for as He tests you? Who tempts you to do evil, and why?

The Ultimate Sacrifice

  1. Read verse 2. What was God asking Abraham to do?
  2. Put yourself in Abraham’s place, and imagine giving the life of your child, to obey a direct order from God? What would be some of your thoughts?
  3. Did God already know the outcome? Why would He ask Abraham to do this deed, as He knew what the result would be?
  4. Read verse 4. How many days did Abraham travel, expecting to fulfil God’s command. What was this a foreshadowing of (two thousand years later)?

Incredible Faith

  1. Read verses 5-10. As Isaac asked Abraham his amazingly perceptive question, what must Abraham have felt?
  2. Between the time God told him to go make the sacrifice, until verse 10 when he stretched out his hand to slaughter his son, had Abraham hesitated or argued with God? Do you believe he was unhesitatingly going to go through with it?

God Provides

  1. Read verses 11-14. What did God do to reward Abraham’s act of obedience?
  2. When has God asked something from you, and you have obeyed without hesitating or question?

ASK YOURSELF: WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO PUT ON THE ALTAR?

 Close

This passage from the life of Abraham, recorded in the book of Genesis, evokes so many emotions from us as children of God. We may feel disbelief that God would ask such a difficult—seemingly impossible—act from one of His own. What would Sarah say when Abraham returned? What would the Gentiles in the area think? What precedent would it create for human sacrifice, among the Jewish nation? The closest we can get to understanding Abraham’s feelings is when our child enters the military during wartime. The thought of losing him to save a nation who detests what Christians stand for is almost impossible, yet we somehow do it.

Abraham was instant in his obedience, not faltering or hesitating when God gave the instruction. He put together the articles needed for the sacrifice, got his servants and donkeys, and headed for the place he knew God wanted him to go. What did he think about during those three days of travel? How did he feel when Isaac asked the penetrating question “Where is the sacrifice?”? Was his heart broken, or did he trust God was going to provide an alternative at the last moment? Have you wondered why God tested him? The testing is not because God doesn’t know what the outcome will be (for He always does), but often our final response will open our eyes as to how much we trust God when He asks something difficult of us. Has He asked something of you, and you failed? Did you realize you lacked the will to fully obey? Or did you pass, like Abraham, with flying colors? What do you have in your life right now that needs to be placed on the altar, so that you can be fully and whole-heartedly obedient? Be “Abraham’s seed” (Gal. 3:29) and be prompt to do His bidding!

Key Verse: Genesis 22:14: And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the Lord, it shall be provided.” (NKJV)

 

Group Time | December 3

The Point of Christmas: The Covering
December 3, 2017
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

If you are a “to do” person, you probably have a long list of things needing to be taken care of. Often it seems there’s one item that either continually is back on your list, not working, or really needs to be replaced. Can you think of an example to share?

We are beginning a series for December, realizing many people ask, “So what’s the point of Christmas?” Today we will find the reason God the Creator sent His one and only Son to the earth, clothed in human flesh. We are loved so deeply by God, yet so flawed by sin, that Jesus came to be the sacrifice that would pay the sin debt nothing, or no-one, else could satisfy.

Focal Passages: Hebrews 10:1-18; Genesis 3:6-11.

Discuss:

All have sinned

  1. Read Heb. 10:1. What was the old law, given through Moses? Why was it given? Why were the sacrifices in the Old Testament repeated “over and over,” but never could attain perfect cleansing?
  2. Read Romans 3:23. Paul explained that we all mess up continually. How and why did man reject God’s dominion, and begin accumulating the debt of sin that separated him from God?

We needed an out

  1. Read verse 2. Even the most committed Christians continue to sin. Read 1 John 1:7-9 and Rom. 7:14-25. What hold does sin have over us?
  2. God gave the first covenant to Moses, but what did it show us that we are not capable of doing? Read Judges 21:25. How does this explain why we need a savior?
  3. In the opening, you thought of times when your best efforts provided no real help in fixing some items. How does that illustrate the futility of sacrificing animals to completely remove the debt of sin we owe?

The old way was never enough

  1. Read verses 3-4. If you made yearly trips to sacrifice animals for your sins, then had to do it all over again next year, what would that teach you? How does that explain that the sacrifices reminded the people that animals could not take away their sin?
  2. If you saw that nothing you were attempting was accomplishing a certain task, what would you eventually do?

We needed a covering

  1. Read verse 5. Jesus did not come to the earth against His will, or in ignorance of what He was going to endure. Why would He verbalize His birth to the Father, quoting Psalm 40:6-8?
  2. Read Genesis 3:6-11. Have things changed in man’s nature since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden? Read Romans 5:15b. Our choice to follow God’s will or choose evil will remain in conflict throughout time. Can you think of other verses that confirm His humble birth was to save us?* (end)

Jesus paid it all

  1. Read verse 10, and chapter 7:26, 27. Unlike the priests, who had to go into the Holy of Holies yearly, Christ’s blood was sufficient as a one-time sacrifice. Read Heb. 1:1-3, and 10:11-13. What did He do when He ascended back into heaven?

Close:

This past week was the 500th anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church, listing the offensive doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. Particularly, Luther was pointing out the heresy that required monetary payment be paid to the church for forgiveness of sins. This amazing young man—just 33—began the movement that was known as the Protestant Reformation. Protestant Churches owe a debt of gratitude to this man who realized that forgiveness of sins comes through Jesus Christ, and Him alone. Jesus sacrificed with His life for complete forgiveness in a “once for all” action, available to anyone who believes and repents.

At Christmastime it is unusual to hear a message taken from the book of Hebrews. How fitting that the book contains the story of salvation! We flesh it out with the wonderful Christmas stories found in Matthew and Luke, but the writer to the Hebrews made certain we are aware of the reason for the manger, as he tied together the prophecies surrounding the birth of a Messiah, and the fulfilment of His cry “It is finished” as He died on the cross, once for all. He wrote the life of Jesus, wrapping up His birth, death and resurrection. His death, more gruesome than we—or movies—can ever imagine, was His choice, because His love for us is so incredible. His grace should always amaze us. It should cause us to bow down and worship, overwhelming us as it covers our sin. Have you accepted the truth that He actually paid the price of your sin? Open your heart if you haven’t already, and ask Him in. Find a Life Group where you can grow, and learn to love Him with all your heart.

Key Verse: Colossians 3:17: Hebrews 10:5: Therefore, when He came into the world, He said, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.” (NKJV)

*1 Timothy 1:15; Luke 19:10; Matthew 1:21; John 3:17 (to name a few).

 

Group Notes | November 26

The Heart of Thanksgiving
November 26, 2017
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Parents whose young child attempts “Thank you” (in childish language) for the first time—without being prompted—experience so much joy! Even as adults we are grateful when someone commends us for a job or attitude done well. Can you give an example, realizing we’re doing it, not for boasting, but to make a point?

We are just finishing the last hours of four days traditionally known in America as the “Thanksgiving holiday.” These days are usually filled with an abundance of food, family, and thankfulness for blessings of the past year. Possessing a grateful heart is one of the important characteristics of one who wants to be genuine as a Christ-follower. Paul gives us much guidance in the short book of Colossians, knowing if we set our mind to be more aware of, and thankful for, our blessings, we will pass on a joyous legacy.

Focal Passages: Colossians 3:12-17.

Discuss:

The Heart of Gratitude

Be Different

  1. Read verse 12. We often hear the word “intentional” used today. What are the characteristics that Paul encourages us to be “intentional” about, in this verse?
  2. What is the connection between the qualities listed in the verse (which might differ according to translation), and the trait of being thankful? The deeper question is, what is the foundation upon which being thankful is situated?
  3. What is the relationship between gratefulness and humility? Explain.

Be Caring

  1. Read verses 13-14. No one is perfect, including you! What list of sins could Jesus recite against you, if He wanted to? Have you asked for forgiveness? What is the analogy between being forgiven by Christ, and you forgiving those who antagonize you?
  2. In verse 14, another action is intentional; what is it? What are some ways you can “put on” love? Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. Why in Col. 3:14 does Paul call love the “bond of perfection”? How is that linked with 1 Cor. 13:4-8a?
  3. Who does the world encourage you to put first? Why is that contrary to the Word of God?

Be Together

  1. Read verse 15. How do you attain God’s peace? How can you let it rule in your heart? Why is that important?
  2. Everyone has friends who do not know about or care about God. Why is it important to maintain most of your fellowship with believers? How are some ways you can love an unbeliever but not let them influence you?
  3. Why does Paul add “and be thankful” at the end of this verse? How does Peace and Thankfulness go together?

Be Consistent

  1. Read verse 16. As you look back at the previous four verses, how many of the actions that are addressed are “intentional”? What do the words “put on,” “let,” “do,” and “be” have in common?
  2. Read Ephesians 4:14-16. Why would the world want to take you down in your faith? What is the goal in verse 15? What is God’s purpose for us in 16b?

Close:

When was the last time you saw a two-year-old throw a fit when you tried to dress him? It is typical as they learn to express the desire to “do it myself!” We should be so adamant about appropriating the word of God, putting it on, taking it in, and teaching ourselves to be more and more aware of the reality of the characteristics until we do them as naturally as breathing. When your soul wells up in “Thank You!” to God, does that one time express your gratefulness? Certainly, it is good. But you can teach yourself, no matter your age, to remember to thank Him more than just one time when He has shown Himself involved in your needs. What has He done for you today? Did you say thank You? Yesterday? During the time when friends or family were gathered around a meal, did you have some time set aside when each one listed some of those things you are so very thankful Christ did for you this year?

Paul encourages us to incorporate gratefulness into our lives, so that no blessing comes our way without immediate thankfulness going up to God. Did you realize, in question 3, that thankfulness goes hand in hand with humility? Think of royalty, or movies where there are servants who labor long and hard to do their employer’s bidding. Are they used to hearing “thank you”? No. It was the expectation that the service would be done to please the one who hired them. Do you say thank you to your spouse for working all day, doing the jobs around the house, or keeping meals prepared? Begin with those small things that show you realize you don’t deserve all the time and effort made on your behalf; your children will see the “attitude of gratitude” and copy it. Soon it will become habitual, and you will carry it outside your walls into the world—and show them the difference as a true Christ-follower!

Key Verse: Colossians 3:17: And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (NKJV)

Group Notes | November 12

TINY GIANTS: Do What’s Right
November 12, 2017
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

As we recently learned, each day adults make about 35,000 choices. That is a staggering number, and most are made spontaneously, with only experience stored in the brain to be our deciding factor. Can you give some examples?

We have been focusing on the four smallest books in the New Testament, which are often passed as we go to Revelation. Today we search 3rd John, looking for hidden truths that will make our daily actions bring joy to God as we strive to please Him. This short letter seems to be a personal interaction between John and a man named Gaius, but contains a wise message of guidance for us as we make the thousands of choices each day we live.

Focal Passages: 3rd John.

Discuss:

Background

John was writing to churches after he had returned to Ephesus from the Isle of Patmos. These short letters (1, 2 and 3 John) reveal John’s passion that believers in the early churches would walk in truth and love. We find him referring to three types of individuals referenced by name and character, recognizing the same traits in members of modern-day churches.

Someone who encourages

  1. Read verses 1-8. Gaius, the recipient of the letter, was characterized by what qualities? How do people who encourage others make a difference in the lives of those with whom they interact?
  2. How do we “walk in truth” (verse 4)?
  3. The person who is an encourager has whose welfare as their focus?
  4. Today, what are some ways we can encourage any of our brothers or sisters who are having a rough season of life?

Someone to avoid

  1. Read verses 9-10. Every church has those who wish to be recognized for their leadership and actions, rather like the Pharisee in Luke 18:11. What were the things John said Diotrephes was doing?
  2. What are some character traits in the heart of someone who wants all the praise and honor? In your mind, go back to Genesis 3 or Isaiah 14:13. Who was being spoken of who desired all the glory?
  3. Read verse 11. What warning did John give to the church? We hear much about “judging.” John said it is easy to determine good and bad people; how? Does Matthew 7:15,16a back this up?

Someone to emulate

  1. Read verse 12. John spoke of a man in the church who was setting an example for others to aspire to. What was his reputation?
  2. Read 1 Peter 2:21. Who is our example? Can you tell others to follow your example?

Question:

If YOU were listed in this letter, what would John have said of your testimony? Have you ever given your life to Christ?

Close:

John’s letters are so filled with encouragement to walk in truth and love that it overflows from the pages, and leaves a path for us to follow. Today we label that someone’s “heartbeat.” It is the essence of their life, the passion they give themselves to, and the thought behind every decision they make. If your heartbeat is your job, you will give all your energy to it. If it is personal pleasure, you will make certain you miss nothing. Read Ecclesiastes 2:10-11. What did Solomon try? And, at the end of his life, after having satisfied every passion available, read what he wrote in 12:13-14.

Solomon is a good example of the person who wants glory and revels in his wisdom, has everything revolve around him, and yet in the end he found it was all based on “pride.” John, on the other hand, from the moment Jesus said, “Follow Me,” laid down his life to follow the Savior. Jesus Himself said “Follow Me,” and referred to all believers throughout the ages.

If you desire a closer walk with Him, get in the Scripture daily, learn to talk to Him aloud as you drive, work around the house, or have moments of quiet. He will never fail you, even when you question if He is there. He will give you peace and joy for living!

Key Verse: 3 John 3-4: For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth.  4) I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. (NKJV)

Helpful Websites: www.biblegateway.com; www.blueletterbible.org. Within both of those sites are resources such as original Greek or Hebrew, the meanings, commentaries, and more study materials.

Group Notes | November 5

TINY GIANTS: Truth in Love
November 05, 2017
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

Being told the truth about something in your life may result in hurt feelings. However, if the one who speaks what you need to hear loves you genuinely, does that help you absorb the correction better? Can you share an example?

We are currently looking at the second of the three shortest books in the NT, gleaning nuggets of wisdom that are often missed because the books are so short. This week we want to examine 2 John for God’s commandment that we walk in love, speak truth in love and serve people in love. We want to internalize these important qualities so that we are not a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal!” (1 Cor. 13:1).

Focal Passages: 2 John.

Discuss:

The encouragement of truth

  1. Read verses 1-3. Why is it such a fallacy to believe that it really doesn’t matter what you believe, if you are sincere? Who is Truth? Why can truth not exist apart from Him?
  2. What are the three blessings John prays for, for the church he’s writing to? How does one have access to those qualities?
  3. If grace, mercy and peace are from God, how intimately do you have to know Him to receive these gifts?

The requirement of love

  1. Read verse 4a. What do you need to be reminded of? Why is it so easy to get so bogged down with the ‘nasty now and now’ that love is often pushed aside for ‘duty’?
  2. Read verse 6. What does John say love means? Read John 14:15. What does Jesus say? Read 1 John 4:8; just as we know that Jesus is the Way, Truth and Life, what does this verse tell you?
  3. How does 1 Cor. 13:13 end? Why is love more important than faith and hope?

The importance of discernment

  1. Read verse 7a. John said that he was writing the previous verses (4-6), because there were so many different deceitful philosophies being taught. What are some ideas being stated as truth today that demonstrate his statement?
  2. Read verses 10-11. How can we protect our minds from being sucked into the false beliefs that are being propagated?

The value of fellowship

  1. Read verse 12b. Why did John hope to visit these friends and talk “face to face”? What are you missing today by interacting through social media, tv, etc? Give some examples of displacing true fellowship with other options.
  2. How much do you value the fellowship you have with Christian brothers and sisters? How often do you seek them out?

 Close:

John wrote this short letter to a church he loved, opening his heart to give words of warning he felt necessary for these early believers. His two main themes, reminding these brethren to show love to all people always, as well as warning the flock to be vigilant of false doctrine regarding Jesus Christ, were both very pertinent in their walk as believers. He begins his letter with emphasis on love and truth, not separating one from the other. He stressed the importance that Jesus Christ is both, and true believers show their love for Him by obeying His commandments, and loving each other.

We read this small book—about the length of a daily devotional—and find it as applicable today as it was two thousand years ago. Individually we all have turmoil, both from outside of our control, and internally from attacks of warfare, of human failings, and by sinful thoughts or actions. Yet it is love and truth that ultimately triumph in our lives. Seek out a Life Group that will help you grow in your faith, fight with the armor of God, and love unconditionally, so that others will know you are a Christ-follower!

Key Verse: 2 John 6: This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it. (NKJV)

*Matt. 18:15-17, 21-22; 1 John 2:9-11; Matt. 6:14-15; Col. 3:13

Helpful Websites: www.biblegateway.com; www.blueletterbible.org. Within both of those sites are resources such as original Greek or Hebrew, the meanings, Commentaries, and more study materials.

Group Notes | October 29

TINY GIANTS: Mercy Matters
October 29, 2017
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

When someone hurts us—or injures someone dear to us—the idea of revenge may seem like a logical step, but it is not the right thing to do. Can you think of a time when you showed mercy rather than having retaliated?

For three weeks we are going to look at the three shortest books in the Bible (according to the original Greek). We want to bring the wisdom that these small books contain to light and apply it to our lives, especially in these days of turmoil. As we look at the first, Philemon, we want to focus on learning lessons from the Apostle Paul.

Focal Passages: Philemon.

Discuss:

MERCY MATTERS:

            The Right Testimony

  1. Read verses 4-7. What was so amazing that Paul, a prisoner in Rome, would hear of the faith of Philemon? That would be about the same as someone in the Midwest hearing of you, in an eastern state—without benefit of electronic equipment or motorized methods of transportation. Read Proverbs 22:1. Is this still true today?
  2. Paul said he “keeps hearing”: what did that indicate? What were some of the good reports Paul was hearing about Philemon?
  3. When Onesimus fled from Philemon, he must have known that once he had damaged his reputation, there was a possibility Philemon would not forgive him; most people would continue to think of his past actions whenever they saw him. Why are people still like that? Can anyone share from experience?

The Right Response

  1. Read verse 8. What did Paul say gave him confidence to ask a favor of Philemon? What was Paul’s other option? Why did he feel he would not have to make it an order?
  2. Read verse 10. He was now bringing his desire to Philemon. What was it? Why did he call Onesimus his child? Why did he want to be certain these two were restored in relationship?

The Right Action

  1. Read verse 21; Paul had not lacked confidence to ask the favor of Philemon (verse 8) because he knew Philemon was in a right relationship with God. How did he expect Philemon to react when Onesimus eventually arrived in Colossae and sought out Philemon?
  2. How does this relate to the church today, as brothers or sisters harbor grudges or ill-feelings toward each other? What should they be doing? What Scriptures back up your answer? *(Listed at end of study.)

The Right Example

  1. Back in verse 1b-2, who was going to be hearing this letter from Paul? What impact would have been made on the early believers if Philemon had not been willing to forgive and forget?
  2. What should be your response for every negative action someone has taken against you?

 Close:

Showing mercy to someone who has not merited it, perhaps by a deed done to us or someone we love, is one of the hardest actions for us to take as humans—and believers. Every part of our emotions become involved, and revenge is easy to focus on. Yet as Christ followers, we must overcome the desire to retaliate, and from the bottom of our heart, forgive. How do you take that step? It is not going to be a giant leap, overcoming all the animosity you have built up: it will be tiny steps forward. The best way, and perhaps the hardest, is to begin to pray for your enemy. Pray however the Lord leads, as long as it is in line with what Jesus would have done. Pray for their recognition of the deed, their conviction of sin, perhaps pray that God will lead them to see that what they’ve done needs forgiveness. In whatever manner you pray, if you do it daily, eventually you will find that the hatred is leaving you, little by little. It is impossible to pray for someone and continue to call them an enemy.

Pray for yourself, as well. Bitterness is like a weed that gets hold of your life, and, like poison ivy, keeps spreading (Eph. 4:31), defiling everyone in your immediate circle. But gradually you will be able to grant mercy to the one who has been your adversary, as you realize that you, too, was once full of trespasses and sins, and yet God reached down and gave you forgiveness that you did not deserve. If the one who has hurt you will not accept a restored relationship, remember that God is not going to forget the offense, and will discipline the person as only He knows best. His way is always right, His timing will be perfect, and He will perhaps save them. What if they come to you, as Onesimus did to Philemon, and ask forgiveness? Will you give it?

Memory Verse: Philemon 7: For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother. (NKJV)

*Matt. 18:15-17, 21-22; 1 John 2:9-11; Matt. 6:14-15; Col. 3:13

Helpful Websites: www.biblegateway.com; www.blueletterbible.org. Within both of those sites are resources such as original Greek or Hebrew, the meanings, Commentaries, and more study materials.

Group Notes | October 22

START: Taking the Next Step of Service
October 22, 2017
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

If you learn of a need that someone has, what is your immediate response? Did you have to stop for a moment, or were you able to give a spontaneous anwer?

This week we finish the series “START: Taking the Next Step from the Step You’re On.” We have been seeking God’s direction for this journey of faith we are living. We want to follow the example Jesus set by serving those whom we meet along our path. We want to condition ourselves to be alert to their needs, then meet those needs as we are able.

Focal Passages: John 13:4-17; Matthew 25:40; Philippians 2:3-4.

Discuss:

THE NEXT STEP OF SERVICE:

Putting Jesus First

  1. Someone read the memory verse, John 13:15. Why should you learn to be a servant? Read Mark 10:44-45. What does that teach you?
  2. Read Matthew 25:37-40. What stands out as you read this passage? Were the “righteous” serving because they wanted to be noticed or because they wanted to show their love for Christ? Why does service have to start in the heart?

Putting Others First

  1. Share some examples when you don’t exactly excel at putting others first. (Did you say, “in traffic,” or “waiting in a line”?) How can you change these situations?
  2. Read Phil. 2:3-4. There are several suggestions of how to be more like Jesus in these two verses. What are they? Which of these things do you find the hardest?

HOW?

With What You Have

  1. In verses 4-5 of John 13, what did Jesus need to perform the humble task of washing the feet of His disciples?
  2. Can someone relate the oft-quoted maxim about God’s calling and equipping?* Use what He has already given you.
  3. What will happen if you wait until you feel you are prepared to serve before you can be useful to God?

With what you know

  1. Read verses 6-8 of John 13. The last phrase has a deeper meaning to Jesus than it did for the disciples. What was Jesus really saying?
  2. What should be the goal for every act of service you perform?

With Christ as your model

  1. Read verses 13-15. Why does Christ want you to serve others? Examine your acts of service to make certain your motive is to show the love of Christ.

WHAT’S NEXT?

 Pray

  1. Why should you pray? When you pray for the needs of others, are you also asking God to use you?

Offer

  1. What would happen if you prayed each morning that God would bring someone across your path who had a need, you see the need, and are able to meet it? Take that step of faith!

Try

  1. All believers have the responsibility to share the gospel, and to serve. In the Ice Breaker, you listed how you would react to a need. Now that you’ve had the sermon study, can you embellish on seeing a gift that might be more comfortable for you than you had thought? You may have to try more than once to find what niche is really yours.

Close:

Serving someone sounds like an uncomfortable step of faith, doesn’t it? Yet it is a heart attitude God wants us to have, and has said that we do it for His glory, not our own. We look into the eyes of those we meet and get a glimpse of their heart. If there is an obvious need, ask Him to reveal how you can help. Have you ever been behind someone in line at Walmart and they are digging for change to come up with sufficient money to pay for their groceries? You look, and see nothing but food. Don’t hesitate to hand the clerk the dollar in your hand! God will never let you go hungry for giving away what’s He’s given to you. Does someone have a yard that needs mowed? You don’t know their story, but you can take a half hour and push your mower down to their yard and mow. If you’re afraid they’ll take it wrong, take a basket of fresh-baked bread and a note to put on their porch. Give God the opportunity to start sending needs your way, and the satisfaction that comes will make you hunger for them more and more. If you go on a short-term mission trip, prepare yourself to feel as though you barely got started when you need to leave! You will look at the elderly people and your heart will cry that they may go into a Christ-less eternity before someone else comes to tell them of Jesus. Let every day be a day of opportunity to serve your Lord, and to follow Him.

Memory Verse: John 13:15: For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. (NKJV)

*”God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.”

Helpful Websites: www.biblegateway.com; www.blueletterbible.org. Within both of those sites are resources such as original Greek or Hebrew, the meanings, Commentaries, and more study materials.

 

 

Group Notes | October 15

START: A Fight Worth Fighting
October 15, 2017
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Have you ever realized that children do not have to be taught to like sugar, to fight, or get angry? We seem to be born with these negative behaviors! Can anyone remember an early fight?

This week we continue the series “START,” as we seek God’s direction for the next step in our journey of faith. We want to evaluate whether the fights we are engaging in are from selfishness in our heart, or from a righteous motive that makes the fight worthwhile, with eternal consequences. Let’s look at the fights that are worth fighting.

Focal Passages: Proverbs 4:23-24, Galatians 6:3, Philippians 4:8, Ephesians 5:25-33, and 1 Timothy 5:8.

Discuss:

FIGHT FOR YOUR HEART:

  1. Read Prov. 4:23. Why do you need to guard your heart? What are some things you guard with “all diligence”? How do you guard your heart? Read Psalm 101:3a. What are some things that would violate this phrase?
  2. What is meant by the “issues of life” coming out of your heart? Read Matthew 15:16-18. How does this passage parallel Prov. 4:23b?
  3. In verse 24 what are you warned to put far from you? Why do people feel they have to use profanity to embellish their speech? Does God approve of it?

FIGHT FOR YOUR MIND:

  1. Now, more than ever before, your mind is inundated with information that is against all that the Bible teaches. What are some common commercials that encourage you to put yourself first? What are they teaching the children?
  2. Read Gal. 6:3. Why is putting yourself first against everything that Jesus taught? What are you to do instead? How does your answer match Phil. 2:3?

FIGHT FOR YOUR FAMILY:

  1. Read Eph. 5:22-33. Why is the husband’s role greater? Who will have the greater responsibility when standing before God? How much does Christ love the church?
  2. If you do not fight for your family, who will? Who else cares about your family? Why is Satan determined to destroy the children through media and schools?
  3. Read 1 Tim. 5:8. How serious does God view the husband/father who does not make it a priority to care for his family?

FIGHT FOR THE CHURCH:

  1. You just read how much Christ loves the church. How much is it? Why did He ordain the church?
  2. Read Heb. 10:24-25. How are we to treat the family of God inside the church?

What type of testimony to unbelievers is it when we do not get along?

  1. What are some of the benefits of meeting together for worship as often as possible? Fellowship within the church is as necessary to your spiritual life as keeping a close relationship within your family is to your family unit. Why?

Close

Most people apparently love a good fight. Books and movies made without some type of confrontation are minimal! But the truth from the Bible is that pride is the cause of trouble, and trouble generally leads to arguments and fights (Proverbs 13:10). Children need to be taught from early childhood that those type of fights are wrong because their basis is to satisfy the pride of the fighter. They are not fought to protect those things God holds dear. Fighting for things that have eternal consequences is an entirely different set of circumstances. Satan is the great divider of families, the one who is behind the scenes for books and movies that destroy the mind, speech and heart, and behind the strife that goes on in the church. Those fights need to be fought with the armor of God protecting the warrior! If you need help learning how to fight with the armor that God has provided for our fight against principalities and powers, join a Life Group that is committed to fighting for those things that will ensure you, your family and your church follows Christ so closely that when the world sees you, it recognizes that you have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13)!

Memory Verse: Ephesians 5:15: See then that you walk circumspectly [carefully], not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (NKJV)

Helpful Websites: www.biblegateway.com; www.blueletterbible.org. Within both of those sites there are resources such as Original Greek or Hebrew, the meanings, Commentaries, and more study materials.

 

 

Group Notes | October 8

START: Prayer Matters
October 8, 2017
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Meeting someone who is well-known and respected, possibly powerful, can be intimidating—and often we feel foolish, on reflection, for what we said as our mind went blank! Can anyone think of an example you can share?

This week the series “START” continues as we realize the truth that God—who cannot lie—wants a conversation with us on a personal basis. That He would care enough to form us in our mother’s womb, see every detail of our lives (good and bad) from birth to death, and still desire a relationship with us, completely blows our mind. Yet we often treat Him with flippancy, offering “prayers” that are more like a recitation than a conversation. Let’s see what His word says about the importance of prayer.

Focal Passages: 1 John 5:14-15; 1 Peter 5:6,7; Hebrews 4:14-16; James 5:16b; Luke 11:1-4, 17:17.

Discuss:

Prayer Matters:

  1. Read 1 John 5:14-15. What do you mean when you use the word “if,” as in “if I go”? Why, then, do these verses say “if you ask,” and “if you know”?
  2. Assuming our heart is right with God’s heart, what does He promise? Are these verses a blanket promise we will get what we want?

Prayer is talking to God your Father:

  1. God is your Father if you are saved. In that case, how do you view prayer, and your ability to come before the Creator of the entire universe?
  2. Read 1 Peter 5:6-7. Sometimes we assume God is like those we talk to who give some attention to what we say, rather than truly focusing on us. Does it matter that He “hears” you?

Prayer is a conversation:

  1. Read Hebrews 4:14-16. In verse 16, how are we to come to Him? Do your children (if applicable) hesitate to tell you their needs? How does that relate?
  2. There are two sides in a conversation. After pouring out your heart, do you take any time to be quiet and see how He responds? If you don’t, why not?

Prayer is powerful:

  1. Read James 5:16b. Would God have this verse in Scripture if it were not true? How do you demonstrate that you believe it, as you pray?

How Do I Pray?

  1. Read Luke 11:1-4. The disciples asked this question of Jesus. Therefore, we need to internalize the answer.

Know Who God is:

  1. In verse 2a, what does “hallowed” mean? If you could describe God with one word, what would it be? Is this how you see Him as you pray?

Recognize the importance of God’s plan:

  1. In verse 2b, we are not told that it is our will that will be done. Why is it of utmost importance that we bow to God’s will, both in our prayers, and in our lives?

Know that God cares about YOU:

  1. Read verse 3. Jesus Himself says we need to ask for our “daily bread.” God cares so much about us that He wants to satisfy our daily needs. How often was the manna in the wilderness given? Why would He want us to ask daily?

Be in the right spiritual place for prayer:

  1. Read John 9:31. What must our lifestyle be like for God to hear our prayers? Why is it important that our lives be “holy” as He is holy? How does 1 John 1:9 fit in here? If we are His children, how does He view us?

Be in the right attitude for prayer:

  1. Read verse 11:4. What happens when we have unforgiveness for others?

Seek God’s leading in your life:

  1. How do we do this? Read 11:4c. Why should we want what God wants?

Be thankful for everything:

  1. Developing an attitude of gratitude is the key to being in God’s will. Why is that true?

Close

Cultivating a deep and meaningful prayer life is essential if you want a close relationship with your heavenly Father. As we have mentioned in numerous ways often, no relationship, whether with a spouse, your child, a family member, etc., will ever morph into a quality bond unless time is invested by conversation. If one side does all the talking, without giving the other an opportunity for answering and sharing equally, the relationship is nothing more than a power trip. We have learned much about prayer in these passages, but the most obvious is that our hearts must be in a condition where sins are confessed, a lifestyle is God-centered, no bitterness resides against our fellow man—in essence, we are in a right relationship with Him.  We cannot be living in sin and present our requests, expecting Him to overlook the things we are doing that are in direct opposition to His word. Paul wrote in Romans 6:1, “What? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!” Paul uses the most forceful word in Greek to imply “Absolutely Not” to emphasize our dependence on the relationship must be clean. “Be holy, as He is holy.” Do you want Him to answer your deepest needs? Then begin by lining up your life with His, desiring His will in all things, and being fervent with your prayer life. Above all, learn to be grateful for everything He blesses you with. As you do, you will find contentment, knowing He hears you, is answering in His time frame, and doing what is best. He sees the end, not the tunnel you’re in!  Trust Him.

Memory Verse: 1 John 5:14: Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. (NKJV)

Helpful Websites: www.biblegateway.com; www.blueletterbible.org. Within both of those sites there are resources such as Original Greek or Hebrew, the meanings, Commentaries, and more study materials.

 

Group Notes | October 2

START: The Power of the Word
October 1, 2017
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

Those of you who are parents or grandparents can no doubt remember the days when the children were 2 or 3, and you seldom let more than a few moments go by without knowing exactly what they were doing. Can anyone share a story when your watchfulness paid off?

Today we continue the series “START,” as we learn to recognize the different ways God directs us, guiding us to the next step in our walk with Him. Last week we made certain we are His child; this week we want to absorb what a perfect Father He is, constantly caring for us, and giving us guidance through His word.

Focal Passages: 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; Psalm 119:11, 105; James 1:22-25;1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

Discuss:

THE POWER OF THE WORD:

  1. Read Hebrews 4:12. What attributes does the Bible have?
  2. What does it mean that the Bible is “living?”
  3. If one is looking for a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching, evangelical church, what beliefs about the Bible should they teach that are “non-negotiables,” before you consider attending? (All start with the letter “I”.)

Read What It Says:

  1. Read 2 Tim. 3:16a. What is meant to say the Scripture is “inspired”?
  2. The Bible is God, speaking to you! How does that excite you?
  3. What are some reasons that less than 20% of “church goers” read their Bible daily?

Quote by A. W. Tozer: [The Bible] is God’s present Voice which makes His written word all powerful! Otherwise it should be locked in slumber within the covers of a Book.”

Learn What It Means:

  1. Read verse 16b. There is a difference in reading the Bible in order to check it off your “to do” list, and studying what God is saying. If you do not understand a verse, what sources are available to help you? (There is a list at the end).
  2. Read 2 Peter 1:2-4. According to these verses, why is it so necessary that you take time to study the Scriptures?

Put It Into Practice:

  1. Read verses 16c, 17. Why should you be instructed in the teaching of the Word? How do you believe you can handle the things the world throws at you, if you don’t know how God wants you to react?
  2. Read James 1:22-25. If you are going to be called by His name, how does He want you to act? 

Close

Do you stand in awe that a book could be written 2000-6000 years ago, yet prove to be applicable to every generation, for doctrine (guidance for being taught), reproof (an expression of disapproval), correction and instruction in righteousness? To the one who loves the Lord and wants a deeper relationship, nothing compares with the Bible, and your quiet time alone with Him, when you can focus on His Word. It should be compared to the same discipline you might have for working out, eating healthy meals, romancing your spouse, or spending quality time with those you love. Be aware that Satan will throw many curve balls at you (phone calls, interruptions, etc.) to break your concentration! If you read it year after year, decide to study it with different goals: perhaps look for prayers as you read one year, and write them in a notebook; another year focus on the promises that are contained within the pages as God speaks. If you read a chapter or section, and find your attention has wavered, go back and re-read it. Seek out Life Groups of Bible Studies that will help you understand it. It will generate a feeling of humility, of love, and a greater idea of what God has done for you, to read His word and put your name in places that refer to mankind. Eventually, realizing that He is not up in the sky, far away, but residing within you as God, the Holy Spirit, you should come to the place where you talk to Him often during your day, and He will become so much more to you—the best friend you could ever have.

Memory Verse: 2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (NKJV)

Notable quotes: A. W. Tozer: “Reading the Word of God is the only way to discover the Will of God. If you’re trying to discover God’s Will for your life without reading God’s Word for your life, you’re wasting your time.”  “God did not write a book and send it by messenger to be read at a distance by unaided minds. He spoke a Book and lives in His spoken words, constantly speaking His words and causing the power of them to persist across the years.”

*Ed Stetzer, September 13, 2012

Helpful Websites: www.biblegateway.com; www.blueletterbible.org. Within both of those sites there are resources such as Original Greek or Hebrew, the meanings, Commentaries, and more study materials.

Group Time | September 24

START: How Can I Be Sure?
  September 24, 2017
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Open:

There are so many decisions that must be made in life, and the right path is not always easy to know. For instance, “Is she/he the right person for me to marry?” Can you think of an example when you struggled with not being certain about something crucial?

Today we start a new series simply entitled “START.” All of us are on different levels of faith, of commitment, or maturity, but we want to know what the next step is for our situation. Dr. Falwell originally wrote a pamphlet, “How to Get Started Right,” outlining those next steps. Before we look at those steps, let’s be positive that we are in a right relationship with God, without any doubt of our salvation.

Focal Passages: Ephesians 2:1-9; John 3:16, 4:14, 8:52,10:27-29; 1 Corinthians 1:8,9; Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 13:5; 1 John 1:3-4, 5-10, 2:3-5, 2:15, 3:2-3, 3:5-6, 3:14, 3:22, 4:1-3, 5:1-2, 5:14-15.

Discuss:

Background:

  1. Read Eph. 2:1b-3. What is the condition of the person who has not asked Jesus to save them?
  2. Read verses 4-6. “But God” stepped in and did what? Why (vs. 4)?
  3. Read verses 8-9. How were you saved? Did you do something to merit it? If you had achieved it by being good, could you boast about it?

How You Can Be Sure:

You will want to know Him:

  1. Who will share the story of meeting your spouse, and the desire to know every little thing about her/him?
  2. If you are going to trust God with your life, what are some things you will want to know about Him (for instance, is He always trustworthy?)? Where are you going to find these character traits?

Conviction of your sin:

  1. Read John 14:26. It is said that there is no one more miserable than a true Christian who is living a sinful lifestyle. What can you conclude if you have a sinful addiction, and are not convicted about it?
  2. Read 1 John 3:6. How does the Scripture back up the conclusion you just came to concerning a lifestyle of sin?

Seek fellowship with other Christians:

  1. Read 1 John 1:7. Think of a fire: if you pull a piece of log out from the rest, what soon happens to it? How is that like a Christian who does not fellowship with other believers? Do you get that fellowship watching a service on the television?
  2. At our churches, what is the biggest benefit of being part of a Life Group?

Understand the power of prayer:

  1. In your family or work, how much of a relationship would you eventually have if you took no time to communicate with the others?
  2. The Person Who has taken up residence in your life wants a very personal, loving relationship with you. Do you have a special name for Him that signifies your deepest feelings for talking with Him? What does James 5:16b tell you?

Recognize the importance of God’s Word:

  1. Going back to family again, or even before that, to your relationship as it grew with the person who would be your spouse (if applicable), if you received a letter from her/him, how did you treat it? Discuss.
  2. How do you view the books of the Bible, in giving you a guideline to know God, His plan, and how to live your life? Read 1 Peter 2:2-3 and 2 Peter 1:3. What do these verses tell you about Scripture? Read Psalm 119:11. What is another reason for memorizing His word? 

Close

Have you ever asked people where they will spend eternity? It is very few who will answer “Hell.” Since almost everyone assumes they will go to heaven, you must follow your question up with “What are you basing your hope on?” You already know most will say their good must outweigh their bad. This is such an unfortunate situation, and brings great pain to those of us who have tried to reach family members who are in a works-based religion. The START of a journey with Jesus Christ is to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were “dead in your sin” and being so, were powerless to resurrect yourself. BUT GOD, through His great love with which He loved YOU, was willing to save you, and give you a new life of salvation. It was Grace—all grace—and nothing that you did. He offered it to you freely, asking that you live your new life with Him at the center. Did you accept that gift? If you did, He adopted you, and nothing you can do will cause Him to back out of this relationship. However, Romans 6 begins by telling us that the adoption by God is not a license to continue to sin. That is why you must do a self-examination with the points outlined above, making certain that your walk is in line with the Biblical precepts. If you have no desire to read your Bible, change your way of a sinful lifestyle, be with other Christians, or pray, you might need to reassess your conversion experience. However, if He is alive and well within you, and you are maturing in your walk with Him, begin by talking aloud with Him every time He crosses your mind! Nothing you say to Him will shock Him, cause Him to condemn you or think less of you, (He knows it anyway,) and the constant conversation will eventually morph into a close relationship that will flood your soul. You will “never find a friend so faithful!”

Memory Verse: Ephesians 2:4-5: But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). (NKJV)

Group Notes | September 17

Why Then Do We Suffer?
September 17, 2017
Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Open:

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

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

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

Discuss:

This World Is Not What God Intended:

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

Even Still There is Hope:

  1. Read Romans 5:18. What are some of the tribulations you face? Does God hold these against you? How can you back that up?
  2. Read Rom. 5:19-23. How did the fall affect God’s creation?
  3. Read verses 24-25. Why do people hold so tightly to hope? Read 1 Peter 1:3. (Is this your hope?)

Our God Is Still in Control and Taking Care of Us

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

Close

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

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

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

Group Notes | September 10

Nothing Is Impossible With God
September 10, 2017
Dr. Ben Guttierez

Open:

Sometimes, in making a decision to take a certain action, we realize we have started something where the task becomes too big, and we want to give up. Can anyone give an example?

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

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

Discuss:

Background:

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

Who Can God Use:

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

God—the Forgiver of Sins

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

No One is Too Wayward That God Cannot Use Them

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

God Changes Hearts

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

Can God Use YOU?

  1. Read Matt. 18:4. What does God desire from you?

Read Matt. 22:36-38. What else?

Can He use you?

 Close:

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

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

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

Group Notes | September 3

The Believer’s Exciting Future
September 3, 2017
Dr. Ed Hindson

 

Open:

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

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

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

Discuss:

Background:

  1. In this world today, everyone who believes in an eternity will assure you they will be in heaven. What are reasons they say their lives merit that destiny?
  2. What is the truth found in John 3:16?

Rapture:

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

Bride to the Father’s House

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

Judgment Seat of Christ

  1. Read 2 Cor. 5:10. What promise does this verse contain? Paul is speaking of rewards, as your sins have been covered by Calvary. What would merit a reward?
  2. What will be done with those rewards?

Marriage of the Lamb

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

Triumphal Return

  1. Believers have been taken to heaven to be with Christ, as a Bride going to her Father’s house; they have been taken before the judgment seat of Christ for rewards, and the marriage of Christ and the church has been accomplished.

Read Rev.19:14. What happens next? Is this a promise we can be assured of? Who are the armies following? How are they dressed?

Millennial Reign

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

The New Jerusalem

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

Close:

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

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

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