Do You Really Believe That God Answers Prayer?

In Acts 12 we see Herod executing James, one of the Sons of Thunder. We also see Herod arrest Peter so that he can kill him and thus incur even more favor with the Jewish authorities. While Peter is waiting for His execution, an angel delivers him much to his confused delight. He goes to the house where people are praying for him. At first they don’t believe that it is actually him. They think he must be a ghost. After all, Peter was to be put to death. Even though they were praying for him, he could not be there in person.

There are times in life when life itself seems too awful for life to continue. Fear grips us. Despair sets in. We go beyond worry to the point where we go through the stages of grief. Things seem out of control and we mourn that loss of control in the light of the event which brings on our fear. We deny that things have gotten out of hand and we deny that there’s anything we can do about it. This leads to anger. After all, as a Christian, we should not fear – we should be able to handle this. We get angry with God and with ourselves. Then we move, not to trusting God, but to bargaining with Him. We want Him to remove the attack or show us a way around the issue and when that doesn’t happen – when things don’t go the way we think God should take them – we despair. We become depressed because even God won’t help us when we need Him most. We also despair when we come to the end of ourselves and realize that we are not enough – that “we ain’t got this.”

The final stage of grief is acceptance. When we come to the end of ourselves – when we accept the fact that “we don’t got this” – can follow the instruction of Psalm 56:3. “But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You, God.” We can either trust in God or we can continue to go down the road of despair – the road that leads to impotence, immobility, and incapacity. What began as an event that caused us to worry and fear becomes our ruin. And all because we did not trust in God.

By trusting in God we not only find peace and victory in the midst of the trial, but we also find freedom and strength to keep on living in spite of whatever life might throw our way.

So we pray. We turn it over to the Lord. We have prayed. We have turned it over to the Lord. The next step should be to “stand firm, without fear, and see the salvation of the Lord which he will accomplish for you.” “God will fight for you and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:13a & 14) This was the truth Moses declared to the Israelites as they were being pursued by the Egyptians and it’s true for us as Christians as well. Jesus promised us that He would never abandon us or forsake us.

However, in spite of what we know to be true about the ability of God to deliver us and/or sustain us in every situation, we quite often pray and then go right back to dwelling on the situation that brought us to the point of prayer in the first place. Instead of looking to Jesus in the midst of the storm we focus on the storm allowing our fear to increase and our faith to dissipate.

So we pray. We turn it over to the Lord. We stand still and see God work as only He can and we experience relief or we experience strength to see us through the crisis. And we rejoice knowing that God has once again proven Himself faithful.

Or . . . we deny that God has worked and think that there must be a more rational explanation. For example, you pray for someone you love to be freed from alcohol addiction. There have been numerous times in the past when you thought that God had accomplished the deliverance only to shortly learn that the deliverance was only temporary. Therefore, even though this time seems different, you don’t see it as the work of the Lord but rather just another trip down the endless road of rescue, redemption, and relapse. So instead of standing still and enjoying the salvation of the Lord, we see this event as one of those times in life when life itself seems too awful for life to continue.

One final thought – If God is sovereign, why do we pray? We pray “in Jesus’ Name” because we are submitting to His authority. Then God, in His sovereignty, can and does act according to what He knows is the best course of action. When Moses “changed God’s mind” (Exodus 32:14) it wasn’t that God didn’t know what was going on at the bottom of the mountain and Moses explained to Him why He was wrong. He wanted Moses to be involved in the process – to turn on the faucet of His divine plan and grace. God knows what we need before we ask Him. (Matthew 6:8) Still, He wants us to pray. He wants to live in close relationship with us and He wants us to trust Him before, during, and after the trials that come our way.  He wants us to ask.  He wants us to come to Him in prayer.  Being able to reconcile our freewill choice in prayer and God’s sovereignty in the situation we bring before Him )even before we ask Him) is something we may never understand this side of heaven, but exercising our freewill choice in prayer is something we must do.

We must pray at all times and trust God to not only hear our prayers but also to respond to our prayers. We must wait patiently and expectantly to see how God works to bring about His good in the midst of our situation.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, when you are facing difficulties see it as an opportunity to rejoice! Your faith is being tested and, as the problems grow, it develops endurance within you. Rejoice! And then as your endurance grows stronger, you will move from victory to victory until there is nothing nothing lacking in your character. Rejoice! If you want to understand what all this means, ask God for wisdom and he will give it! Just make sure you ask with confident faith and without doubting that you will receive. The ambivalent person believes one minute and doubts the next. Being undecided makes you become like a wave in the ocean – driven and tossed by the wind. You’re up one minute and down the next. When you are half-hearted and wavering it leaves you unstable. God won’t give you the understanding you seek when you’re in that vacillating state of heart and mind. (James 1:2-8 – Paraphrased)

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, July 31, 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

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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

Empowered by the Spirit

In Acts, Chapter 3, we find Peter and John going to the temple to pray. As they arrive at the temple they are met by a man who has been paraplegic since he was born. This man was carried to the temple each day to beg for alms – his only known source of income. As Peter and John approached, this man asked them to help him with the financial assistance he urgently needed. Peter’s response was simple and direct. “Silver and gold have I none, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6) Peter helped him up and immediately he could walk and even leap for joy.

In this encounter there is an encouraging lesson for those who are struggling – for those who are paralyzed by some physical issue as well as those who have been immobilized by stress, fear, anxiety, and the often overwhelming cares of everyday living. The lesson is that there is hope, there is healing, and there is unfathomable help in the Name of Jesus. And moreover there is salvation in that same Name – the Name above every name – the Name of Jesus.

However, in this encounter there is also a sobering lesson for the church. We, as Christians, have available to us the same power that allowed that man to walk. As a church we have the same Spirit of God Who empowered Peter and John. God hasn’t changed since the 1st Century AD. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8) So who has changed?

In showing St. Thomas Aquinas the room in which the money of the church was being counted, Pope Innocent IV proudly said, “The church is no longer in an age when she can say, ‘silver and gold have we none.’” Thomas replied, “It is true, holy father, nor can the church now say to the lame man, ‘Rise up and walk!’” In class Sunday morning, I misattributed the statement to St. Augustine when it was actually St. Thomas Aquinas. Nevertheless, the point remains the same and it raises the following question – “Is the church operating in the power of the Holy Spirit or is the church relying on it’s own power, resources, and programming to accomplish God’s work?”

(Note – The video quality is less than optimum as is the audio quality. It will be back to high definition next week.)

Next week we will be in 1 Peter 1&2 where we will look at how to live as Christians in world that is at times hostile to our Faith.

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

In the PDF below you will find the presentation slides for this lesson.

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