Pray!

Politicians can talk freely of what they will do to rebuild America — grand plans and designs, budget reforms and tax reforms, imports and exports, peace at home and peace abroad, safety and security. “Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a  certain town and will stay there a year.   We will do  business there and make a profit.’   How do you know what your life will be like  tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a  little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’ Otherwise you are  boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16)

Now is the time to trust God instead of the plans of those who do nothing but boast of what they will do.

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

Saturday

“Waiting for the other shoe to drop.” You’re dozing off to sleep when you are jolted back to alertness with a reverberating thud coming from the apartment above you. In your grogginess you determine that it was nothing more than a shoe dropping on the floor. You are now fully awake – and you wait anxiously for the other shoe to drop. You don’t let yourself fall asleep because you don’t want to be in that never-never land between sleep and wakefulness when the next boulder falls.

On Saturday, following the crucifixion, the followers of Christ were waiting for the other shoe to drop. They had met Jesus, traveled with Him, listened to His teaching, believed His teaching, and believed in Him. Now their world was filled with silence and solicitude. They were in hiding behind locked doors waiting for the other shoe to drop. Jesus had told them He would rise again, but His death seemed like the final act of the play. What now?

In a sense, our lives parallel those of the earliest disciples of Jesus. We have met Him, traveled with Him, listened to His teaching, believed His teaching, and believed in Him. However, we often come to those times when all we hear is silence – when something has happened in our life that jerks us to full alert and we wait in silence and solicitude for the next blow. We question our faith and our very relationship with the One Who, even in silence, is with us every step of the way. It’s Saturday. Thursday started with a celebration of faith and ended in confusion. Friday began in confusion which devolved into pain and profound sadness. Now it’s Saturday. Silence. Solicitude. What’s next? You dare not say, “Could it get any worse?” because you fear it could.

It’s Saturday, but Sunday will soon be here. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5b) And the truly good news is that, just as Jesus rose on Sunday in victory over death and the grave, He will come again in victory – victory over the long “Saturday” that we call “life.” And, in the meantime, He has given us His Spirit so that in those temporary Saturdays of life – those days when all seems lost – we will not be alone. And that same Spirit guides us through the long Saturday of life on earth. We may not feel Him, but He is here and He is waiting for us to call out to Him from the silence and solicitude. He says, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3) “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15)

“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:15-21)

“These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:25-27)

It’s Saturday, a day of silence and solicitude, but He is with you through all of your Saturdays . . .

and Sunday is coming. Hallelujah!

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

The Decline of the Church

Photos by Roman Robroek

The link below will take you on an emotional journey through a reflective essay by Roman Robroek, a Netherlands-based urban exploration photographer. I found both the photos and Roberoek’s written reflections to be both disturbing and melancholic; interesting and depressing; beautiful and yet gut-wrenching.

Photographer Captures the Decline of the Church in Italy

However, the eye-opening moment came when I realized that this is a picture of our life in Christ and our bodies as a living temple in which dwells His very Spirit. In his conclusion Robroek writes:

Today, abandoned churches in Italy and elsewhere offer a unique glimpse into the past. A source of reflection, perhaps, as they prompt us to think about the future. If a church, once the most important haven in the community, can become a pile of ruins, what does that say about what we hold certain today? These are the traces of the past of many communities, and if we follow them, we can see where we all came from and perhaps where we’re going.” ~ Roman Robroek

Many, if not most, of the churches were abandoned due to the influence of socioeconomic influences as well geopolitical forces. However, no matter the cause, these buildings did not suddenly decay – it took years of lack of use and neglect for them to devolve to this state. And so it could be with the temple of the Lord. “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

When we fail to glorify God in all we do and when we neglect our relationship with God, deterioration begins. It may not seem like much at first, but over time our lives can become spiritually empty and the worship of God a thing of the past. As we neglect the things that once brought us closer to God – things like Bible study, prayer, worship, and fellowship with other believers – our spiritual lives become empty shells left to fall to the natural forces of the world. What was once a person who was a shining beacon of the Truth of Jesus Christ in the community becomes a monument to the ineffectiveness of the gospel to stand up against the ravages of the society in which the Christian dwells.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” 2 Peter 1:3-7.

“Because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises” and we must “make every effort to respond to God’s promises.” We do these things not to gain salvation nor to gain favor with God, but rather because of the life we have in Jesus. We do these things, not in our own power, but by the power of the Spirit Who dwells within us. We do these things in response to His great love. We do these things so that others will see Jesus in us. We do these things so that God’s Temple – the body of the believer – will be a walking and talking testament to the Truth of the Gospel. And that testimony is not of what once was, but for what is and what ever more shall be – the living and vibrant love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

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