Preaching in All Circumstances

Paul had been told by the Lord that he would be going to Rome and that he would proclaim the Gospel message to the gentiles and to kings. (Rom. 23:11; Acts 9:15) Because God was moving in him and through him in such a profound way, Satan unleashed all of the hounds of hell on him. Gentiles were outraged because his preaching was interfering with their profit margins and their religious and moral way of life. Jews wanted him dead, and some even vowed to not eat until they had killed him. You could say that Paul was a controversial figure in the Roman Empire. However, a more appropriate statement would be that the Gospel message which he proclaimed was the point of controversy – and the controversy stemmed from Satan’s hatred for that message.

In Chapters 24-26 of Acts we see the Apostle Paul in three “trials” in Caesarea. The first involves Felix, the Governor of Judea. The second happens some 2 years later with the new Governor of Judea, Festus. The final “trial” occurs when Paul appears before King Agrippa II and his entourage. In each one of these trials Paul briefly responds to the feeble charges brought against him by Ananias (Chief Priest) and the other Jewish leaders from Jerusalem. However, most of his time is spent on telling those assembled who Jesus is, what Jesus had done for him and all mankind, and what Jesus could do for them.

In the process of these “trials” Paul used a right granted to him as a Roman Citizen – he appealed his case to Rome. Jesus had said that Paul would go to Rome and that he would preach to kings. Now he would have the opportunity to do both at the same time by addressing Caesar himself in Rome. I put the word “trials” in quotes because a trial usually leads to a verdict or outcome. However, in these “trials,” the outcome had already been determined by our sovereign God.

Throughout it all God was guiding Paul, sending Paul, and controlling the circumstances so that Paul was right where he needed to be and Paul did exactly what he needed to do. So it is with us. God is guiding us and sending us and so orchestrating the circumstances of our lives that we might be in the exactly the right place at the right time to proclaim His truth. We must be prepared for those moments – those divine appointments – so that we can be faithful as Paul was faithful to give a defense of the hope that is within us. (1 Peter 3:15)

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

Handouts are also available at: fromthebackporch.org .

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Email – fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Pressing Toward the Goal

Everyone who has ever participated in competitive sports knows how important the mental attitude is an athlete’s performance. Paul knew this, too. I personally believe he was at the very least an avid sports fan and possibly even a competitor at some level. Otherwise, he would not have made extensive use of sports metaphors. (See 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 1 Tim. 4:8; 2 Tim 2:5 & 4:7-8; and Hebrews 12:1-2. [Yes, I believe Paul wrote Hebrews and this sports reference is one reason why I believe so.]) He also uses the athletic mentality to express how we should live our lives as Christians in Philippians 3.

We must run the race set before us (Phil 3:7-11 & Heb. 12:1-2) without hindrances. Paul saw everything in his past as just that – in his past. And he encourages us through his writings to see things the same way. We need to lay aside those things that would stand in the way of us following the commands of our Lord. Me must rid ourselves of the things that slow us down in our Christian walk.

We must run the race set before us by pressing forward toward the goal. (Phil 3:12-14 & 1 Cor. 9:24-27) We press on to receive the prize of the high calling of Jesus. And all along the way, Jesus is encouraging us, empowering us, and giving us all we need for godly living so that we can, in fact achieve the goal He has set before us.

We must run with victory in mind. (Phil. 3:15-21) We must set our minds on things above – not on earthly things. (Col. 3:1-3) We must be transformed by the renewing of our minds. (Rom. 12:1-2) We must take every thought captive. (2 Cor. 10:5) But it’s not just a mental exercise – a positive thinking mantra that will see us through to victory. It is a total focus on Jesus while totally blocking out the things of the world. It’s fixing our eyes on Jesus – the author and finisher of our faith. (Heb. 12:2)

If we don’t set our minds on Him, then we will be swept away by cultural thoughts and ideas. If we don’t set our minds on Him, then the transformation that He wants to bring about in our lives will never happen. If we don’t set our minds on Him we will be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will be swayed when people try to trick us with lies that sound good to us. (Eph. 4:14)

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

Email – fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Breaking Down Barriers

Breaking Down Barriers

The Main Problem and the Thing that Unites Us – Our Sin (Ephesians 2:1-3)

All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

There is no one who is righteous. (Romans 3:9-18)

When it comes to our human nature we are totally depraved – not one of us has measured up to the perfect standard of God. We’re all in the same boat and that boat is sinking and it is sinking in the middle of shark-infested waters.

The Hope We have in Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-10)

“But God” – sweet words when your boat is sinking and all seems lost. We were sinking as individuals and as the human race, but God sent Jesus to pay the price for our sin and bring us from death to life – from shipwreck to safety. Jesus did not come to make bad people good but rather to make dead people live.

It is fait accompli. It’s a done deal – Jesus paid the cost with His perfect life and subsequent perfect sacrifice on the cross and then sealed the deal with His resurrection providing us not only eternal life now but also eternal hope for the future.

The Unity We Know In Jesus (Ephesians 2:11-22)

Verses 11-13 highlight the problem Paul was addressing – that the uncircumcised Gentiles were on the outside looking in. They weren’t even in the boat. And so are all who have yet to accept Christ as Savior.

Verses 14-22 highlight the solution for the problem – that in Jesus all are made one. Those who believe in and put their trust in Jesus become fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s family and a temple in the Lord, a dwelling place for the Spirit of God.

Because of the saving grace of Jesus, the barriers of the Jewish law and today, our American moralistic code, have been broken down. We are free to live in the grace of our Lord and enjoy fellowship with all who believe – all in the same boat. Hallelujah!

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, October 16, 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@texassongweaver

That Wascally Wabbit Paul

Ignoring the advice of friends and fellow Christians, Paul goes to Jerusalem after completing his 3rd missionary journey. Paul has been opening the doors of salvation to allow non-Jews – Gentiles – into the fellowship of believers. These interlopers were not circumcised and did not follow the Jewish law. They had no right to enjoy the blessings of the family of God.

After causing a riot at the Temple, he is taken by the Roman authorities to the Sanhedrin in order to determine why things were so tense. Things got off to a rough start when Paul was professing his good standing before God – a profession that led to him being slapped full on the mouth. He then proclaimed his belief in the resurrection which was a great source of contention in the Sanhedrin with the Pharisees believing in the resurrection and the Sadducees not believing. Things got so heated that the Roman commander had Paul taken out.

Paul was taken immediately taken to the Roman barracks for his safety. Back in the custody of the Roman authorities, Jesus appears to Paul to congratulate him on his faithfulness and to tell him that He is going to send Paul to Rome so he can share the Gospel there as well.

Forty zealous Jews committed themselves to not eating until they had killed Paul. Paul got word of the assassination plot and made sure the commander knew about. With this information in mind, the Roman commander put together an overwhelming military escort to get Paul out of town and on his way to Rome.

And what did we learn in today’s lesson. 3 things:

1. When we follow Jesus, opposition will come.

2. When opposition comes, Jesus will be there with us.

3. When the opposition comes we are safe in the arms of Jesus.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, October 09, 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

God Works

The book of Acts is actually The Acts of the Apostles. However, a more definitive name for the book might be The Acts of God through the Apostles. Throughout the book we see God building His church with the Apostles taking the lead in carrying out the work. But it was God Who added to their number daily those who were being saved – being saved by God. It was God Who empowered the Apostles to do perform signs and wonders as evidence of God’s power. And it was God who inspired the Apostles to speak boldly in His Name. And so we come to Acts 19 in which we see God work in numerous ways to bring glory to His name and expand His church.

The Holy Spirit – the very presence of God within us – is the driving force in anything and everything we do which honors God. In Acts 19:1-7 we see Paul bringing new Ephesian believers into the family of God. They had heard and followed the teachings of John the Baptist and Paul helped them understand that John’s focus was on Jesus. As they received the Good News – the Gospel – they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak in tongues thus verifying to Paul that they had done so. It was all the work of God. Paul’s trip to Ephesus; Paul’s encounter with these people; Paul’s telling them about Jesus; their response – it was all God’s work.

As we move into Acts 19:8-10 we see God working in Paul as he spoke boldly in the synagogue and then in a public hall. God’s work through Paul was so pervasive that in 2 years the entire region known as Asia (now Southwestern Turkey – an area about the size of Texas minus the Panhandle) had heard the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.

God’s work continued in verses 11-17 where Paul was able to do things sometimes even by proxy. It makes sense when we know that the real power behind his acts was the omnipresent God. Paul cast out demons, but when some traveling exorcists tried to do the same the demons turned on them and it, in my opinion, led to some rather comical results.

When we get to Acts 19:18-20 we see God working in the lives of those who practiced all sorts of magic and sorcery. They were changed. They were changed dramatically. They turned their backs on their evil ways and even burned their books (worth about $13M by today’s standards) containing the incantations and teachings of their black magic arts. They sacrificed their heritage, their livelihood, their future, their combined knowledge, and their identity to follow Jesus.

The Acts of the Apostles is a book which describes how God worked through his Apostles then. But God is still at work. What will be in your book of Acts?

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, October 02, 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@texassongweaver

The Hope of the Resurrection and the 2nd Coming of Christ

Paul, in his first letter to the church in Thessalonica was hoping to encourage the believers with the hope of the resurrection and, more specifically, the 2nd coming of Christ and the resurrection of all believers who had already died. In 1 Corinthians 15:14-17 Paul explained that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then our faith is useless. But the New Testament proves that Jesus did in fact rise again after His death and is seated at the right hand of the Father interceding on our behalf. Because Christ rose from the grave, we too will rise again. That is the hope of the Gospel.

There will come a time when those who put their faith and trust in Jesus will experience first hand the light of the resurrection. “And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them.” (Revelation 22:5 NLT) We will pass from the dimness of this dark world into his glorious light. From the time God created light in the midst of the dark, formless, and void earth He has been moving from darkness to light. And the ultimate expression of God’s desire to move us from the dim, dark, world in which we live to His place of eternal light is the resurrection.

Therefore, encourage each other with these words. Paul gives this exhortation to the Thessalonians in both the 4th and 5th chapters. We should likewise take to heart this call to the ministry of encouragement. We must spread the news that in Jesus we can know victory over death; we can know victory over the darkness of this world; and we can walk in the light even as He is in the light – no matter how dark the world may grow around us.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, September 25, 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

Galatians: The Rule (and Domination) of Law

The Rule of Law is the system under which we live in America. We press for law and order. If something doesn’t seem right we want to pass a law or at least a rule to fix the problem. We live daily with thousands of laws and rules and guidelines and procedures – some of which we can live with and some of which cause us great irritation.

When Paul addresses the Galatians he actually calls them foolish for following the law. But specifically he was saying that the law was given to show us our transgressions, but that it was incapable of saving anyone. Salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The Galatians and we, by extension, cannot be good enough to earn our way into heaven. To accept the grace of God as found in the atoning work of Christ and then decide we are going to try to be good enough for God to accept us is nothing more than a slap in the face of God. It’s not just foolish – it’s ungratefully rude.

Jesus said in John 14:15 that if we love Him we will keep His commandments. He did not say that if we keep His commandments we will love Him. We must do the things He wants us to do, but not because it’s some kind of fraternal initiation to get us into heaven, but because we truly love Jesus and want to honor Him in all we do.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, September 18, 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@texassongweaver