To Infinity and Beyond

Take a moment to consider the heavens – the work of God’s fingers; the moon and the stars which He has set set in place. With our most creative imaginations we cannot begin to comprehend the vastness of the universe which God created with nothing but a spoken word.

This NASA image was captured by the Webb telescope during its mirror alignment, known as “fine phasing.” The object of the photo, the bright star in the middle of the photo, is named 2MASS J17554042+6551277. I would have called it something a little more personal . . . like maybe, oh, I don’t know – Bob.

Bob is some 2,000 light years from earth and Bob is gorgeous – which is what we would expect from a star named Bob. However, the most amazing part of this photo is who is photobombing Bob’s glamour shot. Webb’s optics are so sensitive that the galaxies and stars seen in the background show up very clearly even though they are millions, if not billions of light years from the Earth. Look closely and you will see galaxies shaped much like our own Milky Way.

The universe is vast, but no more vast than the love the Creator has for us. He has not only created Bob and the wonders of space, but He has also created you. He has made you and loves you so much that He has made provision, though the death and resurrection of Jesus, for you to live eternally with Him. People often ponder what we will do for all eternity. I plan to wave to Bob as I sail by him on the way to visit all of those galaxies behind him and the ones we can’t see. Now that’s what I call a road trip. To Infinity and Beyond!

Transformed by the Spirit – Part One

Following His resurrection Jesus was with His disciples and “He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. ‘Which,’ he said, ‘you have heard me speak about; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days.’” (Acts 1:4-5) Shavuot was only 10 days away and they did as Jesus had commanded them – they waited.

Shavuot is a celebration of the day that God gave the Torah to His people on Mt. Sinai. It occurs 7 weeks after the first day of Passover. The Greek term used for this celebration is Pentecost which means fiftieth – the 50th day after Passover and our Christian Pentecost is the 50th day after Easter. It is so fitting that the One Who gave the Law on Mt. Sinai on Shavuot would also give us the Holy Spirit on the same day. It was a fulfillment of the promise made to the nation of Israel in Jeremiah 31:31-33:

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

At Pentecost the very Spirit of God filled His believers, transferring the written Law of God into a personal understanding of Who He Is and who we are in Him. Jesus said that He did not come to abolish the law, but rather to fulfill the law. (Matthew 5:17) He fulfilled the law on the Cross and He completed the full purpose of the law by giving us His Spirit to guide us into all truth including the truth of the law and the truth of grace. Acts 2 marks a new beginning for God’s people – an opportunity to live intimately with the One Who Was and Is and Evermore Shall Be.

Next week we will continue to look into Acts 2 – the Birthday of the Church – to see what this new beginning means for us in the here and now.

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

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

You Have One Job

You have one job . . . but it’s huge.  As Jesus was preparing to ascend to the Father after His resurrection, He gave His disciples – and us, by extension – His marching orders.  After stating His authority to do so, He charged His followers to make disciples wherever they went.  He further charged them to teach these new disciples all that He had taught them and to baptize them in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This was at the end of Matthew’s gospel – chapter 28, verses 18-20.  He gave us one job – make disciples.  There’s so much involved in making a disciple but that is our one job as Christians.  Furthermore, there is so much involved in living our  lives in communion with Christ and being disciples ourselves, but we still have one job.  Make Disciples.

In the 1st chapter of Acts, we see that Jesus refines the specific location of our one job.  Essentially, it is everywhere.  We start at home and go from there to the very ends of the earth.  Our job is never ending as long as there is one person in this world who does not know Who Christ is and that He came to save all mankind.  After all, Jesus also had one job “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost”  (Luke 19:10)

Next week we will see how the disciples began their new job and helped give birth to the church.

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

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Seeing Is Believing – Part 2

Thomas, one of the 12 Disciples, also called Didymus or The Twin, has been saddled with the name “Doubting Thomas” for centuries. Is is a fair moniker? I don’t think so. As we look at the scriptures to see who he was and what he was like, you could make the case that he was always a skeptic. However, you could also use those same passages to show that he was cautious and even bold in his responses to the Lord’s commands. No doubt Thomas was facing what so many of us face from time to time – doubts and questions that cause us to cry out to God with a loud “WHY?”

By looking at the example of Thomas, we can see the times when we are most susceptible to doubt – when we are close to being labeled a doubter. We are more prone to doubt . . .
. . .when something tragic happens in our lives. Thomas had not just lost a friend, a teacher, His Lord – but also his entire worldview had been stripped away.
. . .when cognitive dissonance sets in and we can’t think straight because of internal conflicts. Thomas knew Jesus had died. His friends said He was alive. Those two opposing thoughts created a storm of mental confusion.
. . .when we don’t recognize or when we forget the truth we have been taught when things were calm and peaceful. Thomas had been told by Jesus Himself that He would die. Jesus had also told them that He would rise again, but according to John 20:9 the disciples still didn’t understand what that meant.
. . .when we are afraid. Thomas was in tenuous and even dangerous position. To not experience some fear in his situation would mean that he is less than human.
. . .when we are alone and left only to self talk which can be riddled with fear and anxiety. We don’t know why Thomas wasn’t with the others when Jesus first appeared to them. However, we do know that he was with them a week later and with Jesus as well.

When we prepare for those situations that can cause to question our faith by reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on God’s Word we give tools to the Holy Spirit which He can use to strengthen us. When we spend time with fellow believers discussing the Word, sharing our spiritual victories and defeats we have a place to go when the trials come. Jesus has already warned us that things on this earth will not necessarily go well for those who choose to follow Christ. In fact, he told us that the world hated Him and that the world would hate us too because we are not of this world. (John 15:18-19) We need to prepare our hearts, minds, and spirits now so that we won’t be hiding behind locked doors when the world seems to be crashing in all around us.

Next Sunday we will look at the commission Jesus gave to His disciples to go – not hide.

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

Seeing Is Believing

The disciples were hiding behind locked doors the first day of the resurrection. They were afraid and confused. They were unsure of what would come next -wondering if they were going to be arrested as part of a spiritual house cleaning on the part of the Pharisees. They were emotionally, mentally, and spiritually adrift. Then Jesus entered the room and everything changed. He spoke and brought peace into the room and those frightened little mice were suddenly full of joy. And those same mice became became unstoppable men and women who would spread the message of the Gospel around the world.

In our session Sunday we witnessed the transformation that always comes when Jesus is present. Next week we will continue in this same passage of scripture from John 20 where we will see both the doubt and the confident proclamation of Thomas. Do you ever have doubts concerning your faith? Do you ever have questions you want to ask but don’t because you fear being labeled a “Doubting Thomas” or worse, an unbeliever? That’s where we’re going next week. I hope you’ll join us for “Seeing Is Believing – Part 2.”

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

We’re Off on the Road to Emmaus

The human mind is the most amazing computer ever created. And the human mind is constantly seeking to store and organize the information it receives. This is the work of our cognitive ability – the way we think. And if something doesn’t line up with our natural thought processes it creates a state of mental discomfort known as cognitive dissonance. In music 2 notes that clash with one another are called dissonant. In the same way, 2 ideas that clash with one another are dissonant and hence, the cognitive dissonance.

Cleopas and his traveling companion were dealing with cognitive dissonance. Their soon-to-be victorious Messiah had been crucified. They heard reports that Jesus was indeed alive, but they had no proof to counteract the fact that they knew He was dead. Their knowledge of the facts and what they had witnessed was being challenged at every turn.

The wonderful thing about cognitive dissonance is that it provides the foundation and opportunity for the deepest and most profound learning. Something that “does not compute” in our brains demands resolution. Teachers use cognitive dissonance to facilitate learning because when the points of dissonance – the clashing thoughts – are resolved, the brain records those moments as special and memorable. Jesus, the Master Teacher, used the cognitive dissonance of the Emmaus Road travelers to teach them how the entire Bible was pointing to Him. And it was an exceptionally memorable moment for them.

If you are experiencing cognitive dissonance, Jesus always has the resolution even if that resolution is not necessarily the solution you wanted in your situation. Let Him use your point of conflict and your clashing ideas to teach you by the power of the Holy Spirit Who is in you. The mind that finds resolution to the dissonance finds peace and sometimes peace in the midst of the storm. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Next week we will examine some of the other post-resurrection appearances of Jesus.

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

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org
Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast
Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

First Look at the Evidence of the Resurrection

The first to give witness and testimony to the birth of Jesus were the shepherds. The first to give witness and testimony to the resurrection of Jesus was a woman. You would be hard pressed to find two groups of people lower in social standing within the 1st century Jewish community than shepherds and women. No offense to either group – that’s just the way it was. The shepherds first beheld and worshiped the new born king and a woman, Mary of Magdala, first beheld the empty tomb after the resurrection and worshiped the One she called Rabonni.

The first few verses of John 20 give great insight into the mindset of those who were following Jesus. At first, they just didn’t get it. Nothing made sense.. John 20:9 says, “As yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” They didn’t get it then . . . but that was then. What happened after that transformed them into a Spirit-led force that couldn’t be silenced. What they saw at the beginning of John 20 was just a beginning of the things they would witness after the resurrection of our Lord – things that undeniably prove that Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead. Hallelujah!

The next 3 sessions will be devoted to events which followed the resurrection. We will see more evidence of His resurrection and direction of how we are to live because Jesus died and rose again.

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

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org
Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast
Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Jesus Is Tried and Crucified

In the Old Testament we find God’s Law which provides a way for God’s people to be reconciled to Him. And even though that Law provided for blood sacrifices as a necessary part of that reconciliation (Leviticus 17:11) it was the heart and faith behind the sacrifice that God was most interested in. “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)

Jesus fulfilled the Law on both counts. His blood, shed on the cross – as the spotless, perfect Lamb of God – met the requirement for the shedding of sacrificial blood and His heart, acting in perfect obedience to the Father, met the requirement for the heart behind the sacrifice. He paid the price for our sin and reconciled us to our holy Father. In so doing, He turned what was a ghastly, horrible means of execution – the cross – into a beautiful, glorious symbol of God’s love for us.

That is why, when we survey the wondrous cross, we sing:
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Next week we will see and glory in the resurrection of our Lord.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, January 30, 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

Keep Watch

In today’s culture we are told over and over again that we must be true to ourselves. We must strive to be the “authentic me.” In our study of Mark 14 Sunday morning, we saw that Jesus was true to His nature in doing the Father’s will even though He knew what that obedience would entail. Even though He faced great anguish, betrayal, abandonment, ridicule, beatings, and even being spit upon, He never wavered from His one true mission in life – the salvation of the world.

We as Christians, who literally bear the Name of Christ, must have the same focus on His mission – the salvation of the world. In other words, we must Keep Watch and be true to our new “authentic me” as Christians and, in so doing, deny ourselves, take up His cross and follow him. Just to make it totally clear – in order to be true to ourselves as Christians, we must deny ourselves.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 we read, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Next week will look at the ultimate price which Jesus had to pay in order to complete His mission of reconciliation.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, January 23, 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