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

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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

Do You Believe In Jesus? Prove It!

Do You Believe in Jesus? Prove It!

The Book of James is a straight-forward, practical guide for Christian living. In the 2nd chapter the focus is on what constitutes real faith – authentic belief in God – true discipleship. In our current culture, God has been reduced to a situationally moral, kind-hearted being who exists only to make our lives comfortable and happy. We owe no true allegiance or devotion to our god, but we do expect him to show up and help us when we get in trouble. Faith consists of simply believing that he exists and it requires no devotion to him or anything he says.

God, through James, points out that true faith comes when we accept Christ, but that it doesn’t end there. Our faith is borne out in what we do in obedience to the Father. Faith without action is no faith at all – it is dead, empty, and useless. The things we do – the actions we take in the name of Christ – are the proof that we truly follow Christ and have truly accepted Him as Lord and Savior.

We like to point to scriptures like Ephesians 2:8-9 as proof that there are no strings attached to our salvation. (“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” – Eph 2:8-9 NKJV) And, while it is true, that salvation is a gift which we cannot earn by our own acts of kindness and goodness, our salvation is not the end of the story just as it is not the end of the totality of that passage of scripture. Verse 10 is the continuation of discussion of faith and good works.

An expanded rendering of Ephesians 2:8-10 might read as follows:

God saved us by his grace when we believed in Jesus and accepted Him as Savior and Lord. We can’t take credit for it –it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so we can’t brag about it. However, we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us as a brand new person in Christ Jesus – with a brand new design and brand new purpose and brand new way of thinking – so that we can and must do the good things He planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:8-10 BYT)

Do you believe in Jesus? Prove it by the way you live your life in loving obedience to your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Next week we will ask the same question – Do You Believe In Jesus? – but we will follow it with the imperative to Proclaim It!

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, May 15, 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 Amazing Grace of the Righteous God

God is righteous. He is perfect in every way and His justice is perfect. He does not need to submit to the laws of man, because He alone is the law-giver.

People are sinful – unrighteous. While God is the perfect law-giver, humans are the imperfect law-breakers. Every one has sinned and fallen short of the perfection of the perfect law-givver.

Just as in physics, no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time, neither can righteousness and unrighteousness occupy the same space. Therefore we, the imperfect, are separated from the perfect God.

God loves us. Even in our deplorable condition as sinful law-breakers God loved us and offered us a way to return to Him – to live with Him and occupy the same space as Him for all eternity.

As a just judge, He had no choice to pronounce judgment on the sinful actions of humans. However, Jesus lived a sinless life and offered Himself up in our place to take our judgment. The precious gift of salvation was purchased with the blood of Christ Himself on our behalf.

The righteous God pronounced judgment on sinful man and gave him the death penalty.

The penalty of death was paid by Jesus on the Cross.

The gift of salvation from God’s wrath and the penalty of sin is offered to all.

And now the gift must be accepted by trusting the One Who paid the price and offers the gift.

May we accept the gift and lead others to know the truth of this gift, so that they, too, may be saved by God’s Amazing Grace.

Next week we will look at the beginning of the book of James to see the proof in pudding.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, May 8, 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

Trusting Christ in Life and Death

Christ is trustworthy in every aspect of life. He gives us power to live and grace to die when the time comes. No where in scripture is this more evident than in the life of Stephen, one of the first seven deacons in the early church. It was said of Stephen that he was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 6:8 offers this description of Stephen: “Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people.” This was a man who knew how to live.

He lived his life boldly in the power of the Spirit who filled him. And he spoke boldly, even in the face of extreme opposition. The evidence of the filling of the Spirit in the members of the early was that they “spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31) When Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, spoke things happened – big things – explosive things – violent things – deadly things. He was stoned to death for his words spoken in the fullness and power of the Spirit.

And that’s when Stephen showed us how to die. In that moment when the storm was raging all around him, he looked up and saw heaven and Jesus ready to receive him. His death just a few moments later was met with peace and the calm assurance that he was releasing his very spirit into the hands of his Master, His Lord, His Savior.

Stephen knew that Jesus could be trusted in life and in death and lived his life boldly as the Spirit filled him and led him. And that same indwelling Holy Spirit gave him grace to die boldly. We are in a life and death situation every day. May we experience the same boldness in living and dying as we go forth “full of faith and the Holy Spirit.”

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, May 1, 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

Giving Is the Living of the Christian Life

Giving is the living of the Christian Life. When thee church was in its infancy there were many unusual events that helped establish the church and outline the role it would play in the lives of the believers and the world at large. In Acts 4 & 5 we find one of those times when things were happening that would lay the groundwork for the church for centuries to come.

The church’s financial position was sound because the members of the church were of one mind and one body. (4:32) They claimed no ownership of their possessions and shared willingly with those in need. They even sold houses and land and gave the proceeds to the apostles to distribute as situaltions arose requiting such funds. No one was lacking – all had all they needed to live.

(Note: It was not a communistic society, for no one was compelled to surrender their possessions to those in authority. The generous actions on the part of church members was totally voluntary.)

One such generous church member was Joseph – nicknamed Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement. He sold a piece of property and brought the money and gave it to the apostles in an act of worship. His gift was certainly an encouragement to the early church.

Another man, Ananias, also sold a piece of property after which he and his wife Sapphira kept some of the proceeds from the sale for themselves and gave the balance to the apostles. The Holy Spirit was grieved by this action but not because they kept some of the money. They had lied saying that they were giving all of the proceeds from the sale to the church. Peter (no doubt enlightened by the Holy Spirit) called their hand on the matter and each, in separate incidents, died as a result of their deception.

Giving is at the heart of Christianity. “For God so loved the world that He gave. . .” And while this foundational truth is real, so is the truth that truth is foundational to the living of the Christian Life. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He also said that the Father seeks those who would worship Him in spirit and in truth. And don’t get me started on passages like 1 Timothy 1:9-10 where liars are included in a list of sinners and reprobates. Lying is a big deal to God. After all, it is one of the Big 10!

So, in this one passage we have the high standard of giving and sharing juxtaposed with the low standard of deception and greed. And the lesson is obvious. Giving is the living of the Christian Life while lying is the living of the life honored and adored by the Father of Lies – Satan himself.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, April 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

Because God IS, We Can BE!

In 2 Peter we find Peter’s “last words” as indicated in 2 Peter 1:13-15: “As long as I live I will continue to awaken you with this reminder, since our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, has clearly revealed that my departure is near. Indeed, I’m passionate to share these things with you so that you will always remember them after my exodus from this life.” So what did Peter, as inspired by the Lord, say to these people who were being persecuted and facing even more tortuous treatment in the future?

He said this – Because God IS you can BE. Everything we could ever need for life and godliness has already been deposited in us by his divine power. (2 Peter 1:3) Because of what Christ has done and because the Holy Spirit works in us in the process of sanctification and simply because God IS God, we can be an overall better person (v.5) and be more knowledgeable about God (v.5). Because God IS, we can be more disciplined (v.6) and be patiently determined to endure hardships (v.6) and be more godly (v.6). Because God IS, we can be kinder to the people around us (v.7) and we can be more loving with everyone (v.7). Because God IS we can BE.

The process of sanctification is ongoing throughout the life of the Christian. Spiritual growth is the sign of “zoe” life in the Christian. If we’re not growing in Christ – if we are not allowing the Spirit to sanctify us – there isn’t much point in calling ourselves Christians, because we have cut ourselves off from the vine and are useless. If you ain’t growin’ or producin’ what are you doin’ callin’ yourself a Christian?

Because God IS, we can BE.

Because God IS, we ARE.

Because HE IS, we can be sure of who WE ARE in Him, and we can confidently live and grow spiritually and share that assurance with those who need Him.


This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, April 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

This World Is Not My Home

When the world is caving in around us and all seems lost, it is easy for us to lose our perspective. We begin to think that life is hopeless. No matter which way we turn we hit a dead end. Just when we seem to get our feet on the ground something comes along to undercut us and leave us writhing in pain or wallowing in self-pity. Our perspective is limited. We see only the problem, only the bleakness of our situation. In his first letter, Peter addresses the situations which can tear us apart and reminds us of where our focus should be. In other words, he brings things into proper perspective for proper living in an improper world.

This letter was written at a time when Christians were held in contempt by both Jews and Romans. And if this wasn’t bad enough, Nero – Emperor of Rome, blamed the Christians for burning down Rome which led to some 250 years of tortuous persecution of Christians all across the Roman Empire. 1 Peter was written in this time when Satan was doing all he could to snuff out the young church. 1 Peter offers excellent, practical advice on how to deal with such persecution but it also goes to the heart of the matter.

The fact is that we, as Christians, are aliens in this world. This world is not our home – heaven is. And since this world is not our home, we shouldn’t expect anyone to treat us as though we are one of them. Jesus said that in this world we would have tribulation. (John 16:33) That’s what we should expect. We have a different way of looking at things – a different perspective. And when we dare to express our perspective, we can expect people to laugh at us, look at us side-eyed, avoid us, ignore us, and treat us like the creepy neighbor who makes you shudder every time you see them. If we aren’t being treated differently, perhaps it is because we look and act so much like the rest of the world that they can’t tell we’re Christians. Ouch!

What we learn from 1 Peter is that our hope is held fast in heaven and our trials here on earth are but momentary interruptions on our way to glory. And those trials and tribulations actually make us stronger for the next trial. We keep looking ahead to Jesus and every step of the way on the bumpy road called life brings us one step closer to an eternity with Him. With that perspective we can endure the junk that Satan throws in our way and do so with joy – even laughing in his face. And it’s all because this world is not our home; we’re just a passing through. As we learn from 1 Peter 1:9 we are filled with joy in this world because we are receiving the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls in the real world.

Next week we will look at 2 Peter 1 as we study the Pursuit of Godliness.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, April 3, 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

Empowered by the Spirit

In Acts, Chapter 3, we find Peter and John going to the temple to pray. As they arrive at the temple they are met by a man who has been paraplegic since he was born. This man was carried to the temple each day to beg for alms – his only known source of income. As Peter and John approached, this man asked them to help him with the financial assistance he urgently needed. Peter’s response was simple and direct. “Silver and gold have I none, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6) Peter helped him up and immediately he could walk and even leap for joy.

In this encounter there is an encouraging lesson for those who are struggling – for those who are paralyzed by some physical issue as well as those who have been immobilized by stress, fear, anxiety, and the often overwhelming cares of everyday living. The lesson is that there is hope, there is healing, and there is unfathomable help in the Name of Jesus. And moreover there is salvation in that same Name – the Name above every name – the Name of Jesus.

However, in this encounter there is also a sobering lesson for the church. We, as Christians, have available to us the same power that allowed that man to walk. As a church we have the same Spirit of God Who empowered Peter and John. God hasn’t changed since the 1st Century AD. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8) So who has changed?

In showing St. Thomas Aquinas the room in which the money of the church was being counted, Pope Innocent IV proudly said, “The church is no longer in an age when she can say, ‘silver and gold have we none.’” Thomas replied, “It is true, holy father, nor can the church now say to the lame man, ‘Rise up and walk!’” In class Sunday morning, I misattributed the statement to St. Augustine when it was actually St. Thomas Aquinas. Nevertheless, the point remains the same and it raises the following question – “Is the church operating in the power of the Holy Spirit or is the church relying on it’s own power, resources, and programming to accomplish God’s work?”

(Note – The video quality is less than optimum as is the audio quality. It will be back to high definition next week.)

Next week we will be in 1 Peter 1&2 where we will look at how to live as Christians in world that is at times hostile to our Faith.

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

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

In the PDF below you will find the presentation slides for this lesson.

Transformed by the Spirit – Part 2

In the second chapter of Acts we are told of the birthday of the church. 120 followers of Jesus were gathered together as Jesus had instructed them to do. Then, with the sound of a violent, rushing wind the fire of the Spirit entered into the room and rested on each of those gathered there. In response to the commotion, people came to find out what was going on. What happened next amazed them. The followers of Jesus began to speaking to them about Christ, but in the languages of those who came to see what was going on. Well over a dozen different languages were heard by the people who spoke those languages. Sometimes the word “awesome” is used almost in a trite way, but this was an AWESOME display of the Spirit’s power.

There were those who scoffed and even accused the disciples of being drunk. I personally have never been around someone who got drunk and then started speaking fluently in a foreign language that they did not previously know, but when you’re trying to explain something away you’ll grasp at anything. Peter responded to them with the first sermon ever preached at church. God’s Spirit spoke through him and moved those who heard. The church grew from 120 to over 3,000 that day. Hallelujah.

Today’s lesson focused on Acts 2:41-47 – the characteristics of that first church. They learned from the teaching of the apostles. They ate together. They prayed. They shared their faith and they shared their money and belongings, helping out any of the group who were in need. We as individual Christians must follow their example by praying and worshiping; reading and studying God’s Word; fellowshiping with other believers and helping them in any way we can; and sharing our faith with those around us. And we as the church must also be worshiping and praying; reading and studying God’s Word; fellowshiping together; and sharing our faith and resources with the community in which we have been planted. This is what the first church did and the Lord added to their number DAILY those who were saved. God gave us the blueprints for the church. The first church followed the plan. So should we.

Next week we will move into Acts 3 to see how the Spirit moved through the apostles as they moved about in the city.

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

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas