Ever since we started the renovations at our place in the country, it has always been a treat to go sit on the back porch and soak in the beauty of the Texas countryside. I can sit out there in the morning and listen to the birds awakening with the dawn and then enjoy the croaking of what must be ten thousand frogs and crickets in the evening. It is peaceful, quiet, and still – the way I long for my heart to be in the midst of the chaos of life. And it is in those quiet moments – when I am "still and know that He is God" – that God speaks to me and calms the storm within. That is what I want to share with you in these posts. I want to share my view from the back porch. Some of my posts will reflect a few of the things I have learned in my journey through life. Some will simply be statements of what I see in our culture and how we as Christians should respond. I teach a Bible study class each week to an extremely eclectic group of adults and some of the posts and videos I share will be taken from those lessons. I have no delusions of profundity but rather I hope to cause you to think, to laugh, to ponder anew your life as Christ would have you live it. Furthermore, I hope this will be a conversation and not just a monologue. I would love to hear your thoughts, hopes, fears and anything else you would feel comfortable sharing with me. It's wonderful to relax here on the back porch enjoying the view, so pour yourself some coffee (or the beverage of your choosing) and let's talk.
Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and then end in all of creation, in our church, and in our personal lives. The entire book of Revelation points to this truth – that Jesus is, was, and always shall be supreme – our all in all.
When John had his vision he was on the Island of Patmos. Patmos was an island penitentiary just off the coast of Asia or what we now call western Turkey. He was put there by the Roman Emperor Domitian because of his belief in the risen Christ. In the midst of his vision he is instructed by Christ Himself to write down all of the things he had seen and would see. This writing was to be sent to seven churches – also in Asia – for their edification.
The churches in Asia faced serious persecution especially at the hands of the Roman government. While Revelation is eschatological and apocalyptic, it first offered instruction, encouragement, and hope for those churches in Asia, but also for all Christians and all churches facing persecution. Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, truly is the first word in all of creation and, in the end, He will have the last word as well.
This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, December 4, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Handouts are also available at: fromthebackporch.org .
As we enter into the Advent Season – joyfully celebrating the coming of our Messiah – we should never forget what Jesus has done for us in His coming. Even from infancy He was destined to die for our sins. Even from infancy He was destined to change the way mere mortals could gain access to God. Even from infancy He was destined to change the world.
He was born in an obscure village
The son of a simple peasant woman.
He grew up in another small town
And worked with his father in a carpenter shop until He was thirty.
And then for three years he was what we might call a traveling preacher.
He never owned a home – never married and never had a family.
He never wrote a book. He never held political office.
He never went to college and never set foot inside a big city.
He walked wherever He went
And He never traveled more than 200 miles from the place he was born.
He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness.
While still a young man the tide of public opinion turned against Him.
Most of His friends deserted Him; one denied even knowing Him
And One betrayed Him and turned Him over to His enemies.
He went through the mockery of a trial
And was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While He was dying His executioners gambled for His only possession – His robe.
When He was dead he was taken from the cross
And laid in a borrowed grave.
Almost twenty centuries have since come and gone
And today this man is the centerpiece of the human race.
I think I am well with in the mark when I say
That all the armies that ever marched –
All the navies that ever sailed –
All the parliaments that have ever sat and
All the kings that have ever reigned –
All put together have not affected the life of man here upon this earth
As powerfully as has that one solitary life.
And I can definitely add that no one has affected my life as powerfully as has that One Solitary Life.
I developed this version of the essay “One Solitary Life” by Dr James Allan Francis by using his words and other phrases that I have heard and used in stating the significance of Jesus Christ. It is a powerful statement that is true in its content and will strike true in the heart of anyone who considers it with an open mind and searching soul.
For other From the Back Porch resources you can go to:
In our culture there are innumerable philosophies vying for our attention as well as our devotion. How do we know what’s best; what’s right; what’s wrong; what’s true? Even in our churches, in which we should find the very truth of God, there are competing doctrines and biblical interpretations which seem to muddy the waters. And then there are those who use the platform of biblical instruction to promote themselves as they advance their ideas and philosophies for personal satisfaction and gain. This is why Jude pens his letter – to counteract those who would seek to coop the early church for their own purposes.
Jude begins with a brief salutation and then states his purpose – to encourage the believers to contend for the faith. Contending for the faith is something we need to do as individual Christians and as the church. The spiritual warfare is real. It is a real struggle – an agonizing struggle – and one that we can’t naively ignore. In our culture there are innumerable philosophies vying for our attention as well as our devotion and we tend to avoid the conflict of competing ideals. Conflict is stressful whether it is internal or external. To avoid the stress and pain of conflict we simply go along to get along. Indeed, tolerance has become the ultimate test of morality as opposed to the absolute truth of God’s word. If you choose to not follow the path of agreeably going with the societal flow, you will be branded as the most evil among us.
Therefore, we must contend for the faith – defend the faith – and do so with the love and compassion of Christ. The first step in contending for the faith is knowing the faith. Study the scriptures to “present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
The next step in contending for the faith is openly and honestly discussing the truth, but we must remember that our fight is not with people, but with demonic forces of evil who are dead set (pun intended) on opposing God and the One Who is the way, the truth, and the light. The struggle is not against those who espouse such errant thoughts, but against the evil forces that perpetuate them. Furthermore, as we defend the faith, we must not become defensive. While we argue for the faith, we must not become argumentative. In our contending for the faith, we must not become contentious. We must stand firm on the truth of God ‘s word – firm in our salvation – firm in the saving grace of Jesus.
We love because He first loved us. We speak truth because He spoke (and speaks) truth to us. And we speak the truth in love because His love and truth is the only thing that will save this dying world.
This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, November 27, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: email@example.com .
Handouts are also available at: fromthebackporch.org .
(Note: This video was taken from a backup recording so the audio and video quality are not up to standard. Please forgive these inferior qualities. However, the message is one we need to remember and let it compel us to respond by loving God and loving others in His name.)
In John 8:31 Jesus says, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.”
Then in John 14:15 He says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
John expands on this connection between love and obedience in his letter, 1 John. He reminds us of what Christ has done for us. He reminds us that we owe Him our whole lives. And it is out of gratitude and our love for him that we choose to follow Him in every way. We don’t do what He tells us to do because we think it will improve our standing with Him; we don’t do it to pay it forward so to speak; we don’t do it to work our way into heaven. We do it because we love Him. We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, November 20, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Handouts are also available at: fromthebackporch.org .
The shortest of Paul’s letters was addressed to Philemon. In it he urged Philemon to welcome a man named Onesimus. In fact, Paul sent the letter with Onesimus who delivered it to Philemon in Colossae. The problem is that Onesimus was once a slave belonging to Philemon and to make matters worse Onesimus was a runaway slave who apparently stole property from Philemon before making his escape.
Onesimus (whose name means “useful”) joined with Paul while Paul was in prison in Rome. He proved to be quite “useful” to Paul and, in the process of spending time with Paul, gave his heart to Jesus. Paul had also led Philemon to Jesus and he wanted his brothers in Christ – Onesimus and Philemon – to transition from a slave-slave owner relationship to a relationship as brothers in Christ.
It was a significant request that Paul made of Philemon, considering how things had worked out in the past. Philemon would have been within his rights to beat his former slave, make him work even more to pay off his debt, or worse, take his life.
The thing is that God has the right as God to treat us according to our sins. We are deserving of death in the presence of a holy, righteous God. We have sinned and the payment for sin is death. And yet, God has paid our debt and forgiven our sins all through the work of Jesus. When we consider how we have been forgiven by God, we have no choice but to forgive those who have wronged us.
This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, November 13, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: email@example.com .
Handouts are also available at: fromthebackporch.org .
In his post “Sigh,” Steve Brewer expressed so well what I was thinking yesterday as I listened to talk show hosts and commentators (they weren’t extraordinary taters, just common taters) express both their joy and sadness as well as their hope and despair over the previous day’s election results.
3Do not trust in politicians, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
4When their campaign is over, they return to the State House.
In that very day their thoughts and plans evaporate.
(Psalm 146:3-4 YEV [Young Extrapolated Version] as inspired by Steve Brewer
3Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation (help).
4When his spirit leaves him, he returns to the earth;
In that very day his thoughts and plans perish. (Psalm 146:3-4 AMP)
Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground, on that very day their plans come to nothing. (Psalms 146:3–4, NIV 1984).
My Musings – “I wish my American brothers and sisters would stop trying to change America through politics. It will never happen. The only way to change America is thru the power of the Gospel and bringing people into a relationship with Jesus Christ. I wish my fellow Christians in the USA were as passionate about sharing Jesus as they were about their political views (sigh).” (Jason Stuart, Bible translator, PNG).
I agree with Jason. No matter how high (or low) the blue or red “wave” is, it will ultimately disappoint. We spend two years griping out how bad things are, and how our elected officials are not following the will of people. Yet, by…
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Voting is both a right and a privilege here in the United States. But whether you live in the U.S. or in some other county, the admonition Paul gives Timothy applies to us today. Here in the U.S. we have begun to think that our future is determined by the vote. As citizens we should be salt and light within our country and, consequently, we should be involved in the political process as much as is in our power to do so. However, our faith must be in the One Who establishes and allows governments to exist. Our hope must be in Him. Only then can we walk in wisdom and in peace in the midst of a political storm, a geo-political conflict, or a peace–squelching effort on the part of any human or institution.
Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him.
Friday night we were anticipating some serious weather as a cold front approached. We heard reports of high winds, hail, lightning and tornadoes associated with this front. We took precautions to try to mitigate damage from high winds and other effects of the storm. We turned on the television to watch the weather reports and waited for the front to blow through while we reviewed our response actions should a tornado warning be sounded. The front blew through mildly in our area even though there were dozens of tornadoes that did plenty of damage across 4 states. We had rain and lightning and strong winds though nothing was severe.
We all face storms in different ways. Even my wife and I have different ways of responding to the approach of a storm system. However, one thing is universal – we all face storms whether they be weather related or the storms of life. Paul dealt with storms in his missionary journeys. In fact, 4 times he was shipwrecked at the hands of those storms. Three of those shipwrecks are mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11:25 and one is recorded by Luke in Acts 27 & 28.
Paul was being transported to Rome because he had appealed to Caesar during his trials in Judea. The ship they sailed on the Mediterranean Sea ran into a violent storm and set them adrift for over 2 weeks. The storm terrified those onboard – even the sailors for whom this was their way of life. However, Paul remained steadfast and was the calming influence for the entire ship. God’s faithfulness was demonstrated in Paul’s life and in his response to the storm. Because of God’s providential care and Paul’s God-given peace, all 276 people onboard the ship made it safely to land. Because God is always faithful we can trust Him always – especially when we seem to be adrift in our lives or when all seems lost.
This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, November 6, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: firstname.lastname@example.org .