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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com
In Paul’s 2nd letter to Timothy he gives Timothy advice and encouragement by telling him what Godly Leadership looks like. In so doing he gives excellent advice to all Christians about how to respond to adversity. He says that Godly leaders will rejoice when they face persecution for Christ’s sake. They will endure hardships for the cause of Christ. The same should apply to all who believe.
Godly leaders must teach sound doctrine under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. They should do so in the faith and love found in Jesus. The same should apply to all who believe.
Godly leaders should accept the challenges laid down by the saints who have paved the road for the Gospel of Peace. They should persevere with the determination of the soldier in battle; they must press on to win the prize of the high calling of Jesus Christ; and, like the farmer, they should wait patiently on the Lord because they know that He Who began a good work in them will be faithful to complete it in Christ Jesus. The same should apply to all who believe.
This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, August 21, 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
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: email@example.com
Throughout the month of June 5 planets can be seen in the pre-dawn sky. This sky chart shows where these planets will be on Monday, June 13 at about 5:45 am. Mercury may be a little tricky and may require binoculars but it’s there. The fine tuning of the universe is such that these planets as well as all of the constellations seen in this chart can be pin-pointed on any day and at any time. Only an omniscient and omnipotent God is capable of the level of fine tuning necessary to design, create, and maintain a universe which stretches even beyond what we can see or even imagine.
~Job 26:7~ He stretches the northern skies over empty space; he hangs the earth on nothing.
~Job 9:4-9~ He makes the stars: the Bear, Orion, the Pleiades, and the constellations of the southern sky.
~Psalm 8:3-4~ When I observe your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars suspended in space, what is a human being that you remember him, a son of man that you look after him?
~Colossians 1:16-17~ For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together.
It’s also interesting to note that the gods for which these planets were named have long since been considered nothing more than the musings of mortals trying to make sense of their universe. In actuality, The God who hung these planets in space – the God Who created everything we see in the night sky – is the same God Who still moves in the hearts of those who will listen. The other gods have fallen silent, but the God of all creation speaks. The other gods have shown just how powerless they are while the power of the One True God is witnessed every day. The other gods have become the fodder of fairly tales and fantasy, while the Omnipotent and Omniscient God is attacked regularly – along with His followers – BECAUSE He alone is the One Who stands in the way of those who choose to pursue evil, selfishness, greed, and power. He’s not going to change. The universe in its constant, consistent march through the eons of time should be proof enough that He – the Creator – is worthy of total trust, worship, and praise. Hallelujah!
In his reign of terror on Believers of the Way, Paul was very much like the “radicals” we see around thee world who are persecuting Christians. Think of the men in the black hoods executing Coptic Christians on the beach in Egypt. He was no different
But God called him to a higher purpose. Similarly, God has called us to new life and a new purpose. Therefore, . . .
We must respond to God’s call and not wait for Him to “get our attention.” (as Paul did)
We must follow God’s instructions even when they seem foolish. (as Paul did)
We must boldly proclaim the gospel to ALL people no matter their backgrounds or viewpoints and no matter what you think about them nor what they think about you. (as Paul did)
And no matter the situation, we must always remember that the ultimate problem our world faces is a sin problem. Until Christians get serious about obeying the call of God on their lives we can expect no different world than the fallen, depraved, and violent world in which we now reside. Without the Spirit-led proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Zietgeist – the spirit of this age – will continue to lead our culture down of path of destruction, pain, and hopelessness in which we will become more angry, more violent, and more immoral than anything we have seen before. Only God can stand against this onslaught and Christians must be following the call to go into all the world with the message of Jesus Christ. Truly, our only hope at this point is Jesus.
This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, May 29, 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
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: email@example.com
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: firstname.lastname@example.org