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

Fast and Pray for America!

Tomorrow. the first Thursday of May, is the National Day of Prayer.

In 1952, Congress passed a bill stating that every president would proclaim a Day of National Prayer on a date of his/her choosing. The first Thursday of May was set as the National Day of Prayer in 1988, but days of fasting, humiliation, and prayer have been practiced since before our nation’s founding. John Adams, on March 23, 1798, issued the following proclamation.

“As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety without which social happiness can not exist nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed. . .

I have therefore thought fit to recommend, and I do hereby recommend, that Wednesday, the 9th day of May next, be observed throughout the United States as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer.”

Fast and Pray for America!

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!