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

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!

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

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

Beauty from Ashes

https://www.kentucky.com/news/state/kentucky/article256586146.html?utm_source=join1440&utm_medium=email&utm_placement=newsletter

I read this article and listened to this man play “Something About That Name’ and immediately thought of Isaiah 61:1-4. This message was given to the people of Israel but it is a Messianic prophecy that Jesus used as His first “sermon” so the proclamation is the same for all believers. Thank you, Jordan Baize, for reminding us of this truth.

1“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,Because the Lord has anointed MeTo preach good tidings to the poor;He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,To proclaim liberty to the captives,And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

2To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,And the day of vengeance of our God;To comfort all who mourn,

3To console those who mourn in Zion,To give them beauty for ashes,The oil of joy for mourning,The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;That they may be called trees of righteousness,The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

4And they shall rebuild the old ruins,They shall raise up the former desolations,And they shall repair the ruined cities,The desolations of many generations.”

Assisted Suicide Pod Approved for Use in Switzerland

This concept was troubling to me simply based on the headline. However, when I read that Philip Nitschke is the founder of Exit International, I had an immediate shift of thought to the nihilist Friedrich Nietzsche (different spelling – no relation) who often repeated and discussed his belief that God is dead and that absolute truth and morality itself are no longer valid. More and more we are headed down the path of meaninglessness that Nietzsche embraced. While I understand the human sentimentality of both euthanasia and assisted suicide, I cannot applaud the callousness with which we view the sanctity of God-given life.

Assisted Suicide Pod Approved for Use in Switzerland

https://thehill.com/changing-america/well-being/584513-assisted-suicide-pod-approved-in-switzerland?utm_source=join1440&utm_medium=email&utm_placement=newsletter