Do You Really Believe That God Answers Prayer?

In Acts 12 we see Herod executing James, one of the Sons of Thunder. We also see Herod arrest Peter so that he can kill him and thus incur even more favor with the Jewish authorities. While Peter is waiting for His execution, an angel delivers him much to his confused delight. He goes to the house where people are praying for him. At first they don’t believe that it is actually him. They think he must be a ghost. After all, Peter was to be put to death. Even though they were praying for him, he could not be there in person.

There are times in life when life itself seems too awful for life to continue. Fear grips us. Despair sets in. We go beyond worry to the point where we go through the stages of grief. Things seem out of control and we mourn that loss of control in the light of the event which brings on our fear. We deny that things have gotten out of hand and we deny that there’s anything we can do about it. This leads to anger. After all, as a Christian, we should not fear – we should be able to handle this. We get angry with God and with ourselves. Then we move, not to trusting God, but to bargaining with Him. We want Him to remove the attack or show us a way around the issue and when that doesn’t happen – when things don’t go the way we think God should take them – we despair. We become depressed because even God won’t help us when we need Him most. We also despair when we come to the end of ourselves and realize that we are not enough – that “we ain’t got this.”

The final stage of grief is acceptance. When we come to the end of ourselves – when we accept the fact that “we don’t got this” – can follow the instruction of Psalm 56:3. “But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You, God.” We can either trust in God or we can continue to go down the road of despair – the road that leads to impotence, immobility, and incapacity. What began as an event that caused us to worry and fear becomes our ruin. And all because we did not trust in God.

By trusting in God we not only find peace and victory in the midst of the trial, but we also find freedom and strength to keep on living in spite of whatever life might throw our way.

So we pray. We turn it over to the Lord. We have prayed. We have turned it over to the Lord. The next step should be to “stand firm, without fear, and see the salvation of the Lord which he will accomplish for you.” “God will fight for you and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:13a & 14) This was the truth Moses declared to the Israelites as they were being pursued by the Egyptians and it’s true for us as Christians as well. Jesus promised us that He would never abandon us or forsake us.

However, in spite of what we know to be true about the ability of God to deliver us and/or sustain us in every situation, we quite often pray and then go right back to dwelling on the situation that brought us to the point of prayer in the first place. Instead of looking to Jesus in the midst of the storm we focus on the storm allowing our fear to increase and our faith to dissipate.

So we pray. We turn it over to the Lord. We stand still and see God work as only He can and we experience relief or we experience strength to see us through the crisis. And we rejoice knowing that God has once again proven Himself faithful.

Or . . . we deny that God has worked and think that there must be a more rational explanation. For example, you pray for someone you love to be freed from alcohol addiction. There have been numerous times in the past when you thought that God had accomplished the deliverance only to shortly learn that the deliverance was only temporary. Therefore, even though this time seems different, you don’t see it as the work of the Lord but rather just another trip down the endless road of rescue, redemption, and relapse. So instead of standing still and enjoying the salvation of the Lord, we see this event as one of those times in life when life itself seems too awful for life to continue.

One final thought – If God is sovereign, why do we pray? We pray “in Jesus’ Name” because we are submitting to His authority. Then God, in His sovereignty, can and does act according to what He knows is the best course of action. When Moses “changed God’s mind” (Exodus 32:14) it wasn’t that God didn’t know what was going on at the bottom of the mountain and Moses explained to Him why He was wrong. He wanted Moses to be involved in the process – to turn on the faucet of His divine plan and grace. God knows what we need before we ask Him. (Matthew 6:8) Still, He wants us to pray. He wants to live in close relationship with us and He wants us to trust Him before, during, and after the trials that come our way.  He wants us to ask.  He wants us to come to Him in prayer.  Being able to reconcile our freewill choice in prayer and God’s sovereignty in the situation we bring before Him )even before we ask Him) is something we may never understand this side of heaven, but exercising our freewill choice in prayer is something we must do.

We must pray at all times and trust God to not only hear our prayers but also to respond to our prayers. We must wait patiently and expectantly to see how God works to bring about His good in the midst of our situation.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, when you are facing difficulties see it as an opportunity to rejoice! Your faith is being tested and, as the problems grow, it develops endurance within you. Rejoice! And then as your endurance grows stronger, you will move from victory to victory until there is nothing nothing lacking in your character. Rejoice! If you want to understand what all this means, ask God for wisdom and he will give it! Just make sure you ask with confident faith and without doubting that you will receive. The ambivalent person believes one minute and doubts the next. Being undecided makes you become like a wave in the ocean – driven and tossed by the wind. You’re up one minute and down the next. When you are half-hearted and wavering it leaves you unstable. God won’t give you the understanding you seek when you’re in that vacillating state of heart and mind. (James 1:2-8 – Paraphrased)

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, July 31, 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: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Email – fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

The Roll Call of Faith (Part 2)

(This is the second half of the lesson entitled “The Roll Call of Faith.” Part 1 was presented on Sunday morning, July 17, and is available at this site.)

The writer of Hebrews is led by God to remind the Hebrew people of the great heritage of faith that they posses in their ancestral line. Names like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, Sampson, and David highlight the list along with many others. They were all men and women who walked in faith in spite of their human frailties and failures and they all held a place of high regard in Hebrew history. They were faithful (at times imperfectly) to the God Who was perfectly faithful to them.

In the first 2 verses of Hebrews 12, we are transported to an Olympic Games stadium. Those faithful Hebrews mentioned in Chapter 11 are the ones in the stands. They have run their race and now they are cheering for and encouraging those on the field. The Hebrews to whom the epistle was written are taking their places on the field of competition – and, by extension, so are we.

Our “race” is the living of the Christian Life. Our race is well defined. In Hebrews 12:1, the Greek word usually translated “race” or “struggle” is ἀγών – agón. It is the root word from which we get the English words agony and agonize. The race would be more like what we would call an obstacle course. Euripedes indicated that these competitions could be so grueling that they led to the collapse of the strongest of competitors. Furthermore, our Christian Life obstacle course is not a triathlon with 3 segments or a decathlon with 10 segments. The Christian Life is more like a centathlon with a 100 segments and that could be within the first hour of the day.

On the field with us is our coach – Jesus. He is the originator of the race called the Christian Life. He has run the race perfectly and, having successfully finished the race, He is our greatest source of training, instruction, tactics, inspiration, and encouragement. In fact, He fills us with His Spirit so that He runs the race not along side us, but in us – empowering us before, during, and after each segment of the race. We can try to run the race without Him, but we will fare no better than those athletes of old who simply collapsed mid race in agonizing defeat.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (TPT)

1As for us, we have all of these great witnesses who encircle us like clouds. So we must let go of every wound that has pierced us and the sin we so easily fall into. Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us.

2We look away from the natural realm and we focus our attention and expectation onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. His example is this: Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God!

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, July 24, 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: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

The Roll Call of Faith (Part 1)

(This video covers the first half of the lesson entitled “The Roll Call of Faith.” Part 2 will be presented on Sunday morning, July 24.)

The writer of Hebrews is led by God to remind the Hebrew people of the great heritage of faith that they posses in their ancestral line. Names like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, Sampson, and David highlight the list along with many others. They were all men and women who walked in faith in spite of their human frailties and failures and they all held a place of high regard in Hebrew history. They were faithful (at times imperfectly) to the God Who was perfectly faithful to them.

In the first 2 verses of Hebrews 12, we are transported to an Olympic Games stadium. Those faithful Hebrews mentioned in Chapter 11 are the ones in the stands. They have run their race and now they are cheering for and encouraging those on the field. The Hebrews to whom the epistle was written are taking their places on the field of competition – and, by extension, so are we.

Our “race” is the living of the Christian Life. Our race is well defined. In Hebrews 12:1, the Greek word usually translated “race” or “struggle” is ἀγών – agón. It is the root word from which we get the English words agony and agonize. The race would be more like what we would call an obstacle course. Euripedes indicated that these competitions could be so grueling that they led to the collapse of the strongest of competitors. Furthermore, our Christian Life obstacle course is not a triathlon with 3 segments or a decathlon with 10 segments. The Christian Life is more like a centathlon with a 100 segments and that could be within the first hour of the day.

On the field with us is our coach – Jesus. He is the originator of the race called the Christian Life. He has run the race perfectly and, having successfully finished the race, He is our greatest source of training, instruction, tactics, inspiration, and encouragement. In fact, He fills us with His Spirit so that He runs the race not along side us, but in us – empowering us before, during, and after each segment of the race. We can try to run the race without Him, but we will fare no better than those athletes of old who simply collapsed mid race in agonizing defeat.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (TPT)

1As for us, we have all of these great witnesses who encircle us like clouds. So we must let go of every wound that has pierced us and the sin we so easily fall into. Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us.

2We look away from the natural realm and we focus our attention and expectation onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. His example is this: Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God!

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, July 17, 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: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

https://www.nasa.gov/webbfirstimages

The first images from the Webb Telescope were released by NASA today. These images reveal parts of space that, before today, had not been seen by humans. Just when we think we’ve seen it all, God smiles and says, “Wait until you see this.”

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.”

Psalm 19:1-3

Click on the photo or the link below the photo to the other released images.

Proclaiming the Superiority of Jesus

The letter we know as Hebrews was intended for Jewish Christians – Christians who were first Hebrews. At the beginning of the church all of the Christians were Jews. Even Jesus was a Jew. When you grow up in a household of faith, you become familiar with the ways of that faith – the practices, beliefs, and basic tenets of that faith. Those aspects of faith were at the heart of their Christian worship and beliefs. Christianity in its early stages was a sect within the Jewish world. The writer of Hebrew saw a problem with the Hebrew Christians holding on to their old ways of living out their faith and not allowing for grace alone through Christ alone. They quite naturally maintained their Old Way of thinking even though Jesus had come to show them a New Way – a Better Way – a Superior Way.

In this study we see that Jesus is better revelation of God. In the Old Testament, God revealed Himself in many different ways and through numerous people. However, Jesus is the exact representation of God in human form – a Better Revelation.

In this study we see that Jesus is a better High Priest than those who served through the centuries in the tabernacle and temple. He is in the one true Temple and intercedes on our behalf – a Better High Priest.

In this study we see that Jesus is a better sacrifice than those offered by the priests for the atonement of sin. Jesus Himself was the perfect sacrifice and the final sacrifice. And his sacrifice not only paid the price necessary to cover our sins, but it moreover removed those sins from those who trust in Him. He paid the price once for all so that we don’t have to keep getting redeemed all over again. His work is finished and our salvation is complete. Truly He is a Better Sacrifice.

And, because He is a Better Revelation, High Priest, and Sacrifice, He is the BEST hope for the world.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, July 10, 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: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Can an Empire Rise [and/or Continue] Without His Aid?

When things were heating up in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Ben Franklin called the body to prayer. Without this submission to God’s providence we might never have become the nation we are today.

Likewise, things are heating up in our nation and we must once again listen to the words of Ben Franklin – not for the founding of the nation, but for its continuation.

As we are admonished in 1 Peter 5:5b-9a, we must dress ourselves in humility and not pride as we relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (Proverbs 3:34) We must humble ourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift us up in honor.  We must give all our worries and cares to God, for he cares about us. Furthermore, we must stay alert and watch out for our great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  We must stand firm against him, and be strong in our faith.

It is true a nation cannot rise without the power and aid and supervision of the Almighty Creator. “He removes kings and raises up kings.” (Daniel 2:21)  Therefore, can we expect our nation to continue without Him? At this time of the year when we celebrate our Independence we must also acknowledge our total Dependence on God and call on Him to once again intervene in the public and private affairs of the citizens of this great nation. Then and only then will we experience in 2022 that which Abraham Lincoln declared in 1864 in his Gettysburg Address “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

To Face Injustice We Must Begin With Prayer

When faced with a situation that caused great concern to the Colonists, the first thing our Founding Fathers did was to pray. Their prayer was met with anger by the political powers. This led to the establishment of the Continental Congress which ultimately led to the Declaration of Independence. And it all began with fasting, humiliation, and prayer.

After the Boston Tea Party, King George punished the city by instituting the Boston Port Act, March 7, 1774, effectively closing the harbor to all commerce. Upon hearing of the Boston Port Act, Thomas Jefferson drafted a Day of Fasting, Humiliation & Prayer resolution, to be observed the same day the blockade was to commence. It was introduced in the Virginia House of Burgesses by Robert Carter Nicholas, May 24, 1774 and was supported by Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee and George Mason. It passed unanimously. It was to be “a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, devoutly to implore the Divine interposition, for averting the heavy calamity which threatens destruction to our civil rights.”

The King’s appointed Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, was so angered by this Day of Fasting, Humiliation & Prayer resolution that two days later he dissolved Virginia’s House of Burgesses. Virginia’s colonial leaders went down the street and gathered in Raleigh Tavern, where they decided to form a Continental Congress which met in Philadelphia a little over three months later. Less than two years after that, the Continental Congress voted for Independence.

Many today are concerned with the existing and potential loss of freedoms in our nation. Many today are angry over the injustices which seem to abound in our nation. While there are actions which can be taken to stand against such wrongs, those actions are pointless unless we begin with prayer. And not just any prayer. It must be the prayer of a contrite, humble, and yes – humiliated – people who acknowledge that God and God alone is their source of help. By fasting and praying we place ourselves in the proper attitude of submission that will lead to actions which can and will produce results.

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. ~1 Peter 5:6~

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

Throughout the month of June 5 planets can be seen in the pre-dawn sky. This sky chart shows where these planets will be on Monday, June 13 at about 5:45 am. Mercury may be a little tricky and may require binoculars but it’s there. The fine tuning of the universe is such that these planets as well as all of the constellations seen in this chart can be pin-pointed on any day and at any time. Only an omniscient and omnipotent God is capable of the level of fine tuning necessary to design, create, and maintain a universe which stretches even beyond what we can see or even imagine.

~Job 26:7~ He stretches the northern skies over empty space; he hangs the earth on nothing.

~Job 9:4-9~ He makes the stars: the Bear, Orion, the Pleiades, and the constellations of the southern sky.

~Psalm 8:3-4~ When I observe your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars suspended in space, what is a human being that you remember him, a son of man that you look after him?

~Colossians 1:16-17~ For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together.

It’s also interesting to note that the gods for which these planets were named have long since been considered nothing more than the musings of mortals trying to make sense of their universe. In actuality, The God who hung these planets in space – the God Who created everything we see in the night sky – is the same God Who still moves in the hearts of those who will listen. The other gods have fallen silent, but the God of all creation speaks. The other gods have shown just how powerless they are while the power of the One True God is witnessed every day. The other gods have become the fodder of fairly tales and fantasy, while the Omnipotent and Omniscient God is attacked regularly – along with His followers – BECAUSE He alone is the One Who stands in the way of those who choose to pursue evil, selfishness, greed, and power. He’s not going to change. The universe in its constant, consistent march through the eons of time should be proof enough that He – the Creator – is worthy of total trust, worship, and praise. Hallelujah!

We’re Off on the Road to Damascus

In his reign of terror on Believers of the Way, Paul was very much like the “radicals” we see around thee world who are persecuting Christians. Think of the men in the black hoods executing Coptic Christians on the beach in Egypt. He was no different

But God called him to a higher purpose. Similarly, God has called us to new life and a new purpose. Therefore, . . .

  1. We must respond to God’s call and not wait for Him to “get our attention.” (as Paul did)
  2. We must follow God’s instructions even when they seem foolish. (as Paul did)
  3. We must boldly proclaim the gospel to ALL people no matter their backgrounds or viewpoints and no matter what you think about them nor what they think about you. (as Paul did)

And no matter the situation, we must always remember that the ultimate problem our world faces is a sin problem. Until Christians get serious about obeying the call of God on their lives we can expect no different world than the fallen, depraved, and violent world in which we now reside. Without the Spirit-led proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Zietgeist – the spirit of this age – will continue to lead our culture down of path of destruction, pain, and hopelessness in which we will become more angry, more violent, and more immoral than anything we have seen before. Only God can stand against this onslaught and Christians must be following the call to go into all the world with the message of Jesus Christ. Truly, our only hope at this point is Jesus.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, May 29, 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: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Do You Believe in Jesus? Proclaim It!

Philip, one of the seven deacons chosen to administer the food distribution in the early church was a man full of the Spirit. As persecution rose against the church in Jerusalem, Christians left Jerusalem and, in so doing, began the spread the gospel to Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world. Philip was preaching and performing miraculous signs and wonders in Samaria when he was told by the Spirit to go a desolate place and find an ethiopian eunuch who needed to know the Christ. He did as he was instructed and made the long journey.

The result of his obedience may well have led to the evangelization of the continent of Africa. There is no way of knowing who will be saved when we are obedient to God’s call to proclaim the gospel and there is no way of knowing how far reaching that proclamation will live on long after we have done our part. God knows and that is why He leads us in the first place.

May we always be responsive to the call of God on our lives – the call to trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior; the call to serve Him with our lives; the call to proclaim His Name to all we meet. Furthermore, may we always be diligent to study His Word so that we can rightly handle it and use it in that proclamation and may we always be prepared to give a defense to everyone who asks us the reason for the hope that is in us. (1 Peter 3:15)

Next week “We’re Off on the Road to Damascus” as we remember the conversion of the Apostle Paul.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, May 22, 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: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas