Ever since we started the renovations at our place in the country, it has always been a treat to go sit on the back porch and soak in the beauty of the Texas countryside. I can sit out there in the morning and listen to the birds awakening with the dawn and then enjoy the croaking of what must be ten thousand frogs and crickets in the evening. It is peaceful, quiet, and still – the way I long for my heart to be in the midst of the chaos of life. And it is in those quiet moments – when I am "still and know that He is God" – that God speaks to me and calms the storm within. That is what I want to share with you in these posts. I want to share my view from the back porch. Some of my posts will reflect a few of the things I have learned in my journey through life. Some will simply be statements of what I see in our culture and how we as Christians should respond. I teach a Bible study class each week to an extremely eclectic group of adults and some of the posts and videos I share will be taken from those lessons. I have no delusions of profundity but rather I hope to cause you to think, to laugh, to ponder anew your life as Christ would have you live it. Furthermore, I hope this will be a conversation and not just a monologue. I would love to hear your thoughts, hopes, fears and anything else you would feel comfortable sharing with me. It's wonderful to relax here on the back porch enjoying the view, so pour yourself some coffee (or the beverage of your choosing) and let's talk.
(Note: This video was taken from a backup recording so the audio and video quality are not up to standard. Please forgive these inferior qualities. However, the message is one we need to remember and let it compel us to respond by loving God and loving others in His name.)
In John 8:31 Jesus says, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.”
Then in John 14:15 He says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
John expands on this connection between love and obedience in his letter, 1 John. He reminds us of what Christ has done for us. He reminds us that we owe Him our whole lives. And it is out of gratitude and our love for him that we choose to follow Him in every way. We don’t do what He tells us to do because we think it will improve our standing with Him; we don’t do it to pay it forward so to speak; we don’t do it to work our way into heaven. We do it because we love Him. We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, November 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: email@example.com .
Handouts are also available at: fromthebackporch.org .
(This is the second half of the lesson entitled “The Roll Call of Faith.” Part 1 was presented on Sunday morning, July 17, and is available at this site.)
The writer of Hebrews is led by God to remind the Hebrew people of the great heritage of faith that they posses in their ancestral line. Names like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, Sampson, and David highlight the list along with many others. They were all men and women who walked in faith in spite of their human frailties and failures and they all held a place of high regard in Hebrew history. They were faithful (at times imperfectly) to the God Who was perfectly faithful to them.
In the first 2 verses of Hebrews 12, we are transported to an Olympic Games stadium. Those faithful Hebrews mentioned in Chapter 11 are the ones in the stands. They have run their race and now they are cheering for and encouraging those on the field. The Hebrews to whom the epistle was written are taking their places on the field of competition – and, by extension, so are we.
Our “race” is the living of the Christian Life. Our race is well defined. In Hebrews 12:1, the Greek word usually translated “race” or “struggle” is ἀγών – agón. It is the root word from which we get the English words agony and agonize. The race would be more like what we would call an obstacle course. Euripedes indicated that these competitions could be so grueling that they led to the collapse of the strongest of competitors. Furthermore, our Christian Life obstacle course is not a triathlon with 3 segments or a decathlon with 10 segments. The Christian Life is more like a centathlon with a 100 segments and that could be within the first hour of the day.
On the field with us is our coach – Jesus. He is the originator of the race called the Christian Life. He has run the race perfectly and, having successfully finished the race, He is our greatest source of training, instruction, tactics, inspiration, and encouragement. In fact, He fills us with His Spirit so that He runs the race not along side us, but in us – empowering us before, during, and after each segment of the race. We can try to run the race without Him, but we will fare no better than those athletes of old who simply collapsed mid race in agonizing defeat.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (TPT)
1As for us, we have all of these great witnesses who encircle us like clouds. So we must let go of every wound that has pierced us and the sin we so easily fall into. Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us.
2We look away from the natural realm and we focus our attention and expectation onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. His example is this: Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God!
This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, July 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com
While I was at Baylor I had three jobs from my sophomore year until I graduated. I was a music theory lab instructor, a music theory tutor, and I was the Youth Minister for Memorial Baptist Church in Temple, Texas. Needless to say, I spent many hours driving back and forth to Temple on I-35. I made two trips each week and often three or four. As it is the aorta of Texas, there were thousands of people who traveled that stretch of highway every day, including some without cars.
You don’t see a lot of hitchhikers these days, but they were plentiful then. Sometimes they were out of town a bit and sometimes they were there waiting when I pulled onto the interstate – thumb up and suitcase, backpack, or duffel bag sitting on the ground beside them. I could only take them thirty-five miles down the road, but they were grateful to be that much closer to their destination and, if they were already out of town at night, they were grateful to make it to someplace with light.
I had a friend in Temple, Gary Castleberry, who was a seasoned hitchhiker. He gave me a couple of tips on picking up hitchhikers. The first was never to pick up a hitchhiker with no suitcase or bag. They might be running from someone or something. A second rule was to never pick up more than one hitchhiker at a time. Two or more could overpower you or one could distract you while the other one did you in.
I tried to follow his advice, but there was One Who I listened to even more than Gary when it came to picking someone up. I always prayed and asked God if I was supposed to pick up a person when I saw them on the road. Almost always the answer was “yes.” A few times it was “no” and there were even a very few times when I wasn’t sure and started to pull over when I looked in my rear-view mirror to see someone else pulling over to pick the guy up. And yes, I did violate Gary’s rules occasionally. I had as many as four hitchhikers in the car at one time – two from one pickup and two more a mile down the road. Those without bags were indeed often running, but not from the police – they were running from their own lives.
When I had the time I would pull into McDonald’s to get them something to eat. Someone who is truly hungry doesn’t savor the moment. There was no time to chit chat over the meal. They couldn’t get the food in fast enough – head down, right over the burger, much like a dog who doesn’t want another animal to get his food. Even as I write this I recall vivid images of those hungry souls.
I used these opportunities to get to know the people, usually by starting with a simple question – “Where are you headed?” After exchanging small talk I tried to introduce them to Jesus. It was easy to broach the subject. I was either on my way to or from work and my work was in a church. We had many philosophical conversations, many curiosity driven conversations, and a few quick ending conversations, but in all of the conversations they knew who my Lord was and what He could do for them. No one made a “profession of faith” during those trips, but I like to think that some did later. But whether they did or they didn’t, I knew that I had been obedient to God’s still, small voice saying “pick up this one” and I know that I was being obedient to his command to do such things for the least of these.