August 2001

Family Bible Study lesson for Aug. 26: The Mind of Christ

August 3 2001 by Catherine Painter , Philippians 2:1-11

Family Bible Study lesson for Aug. 26: The Mind of Christ | Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

Family Bible Study lesson for Aug. 26: The Mind of Christ

By Catherine Painter Philippians 2:1-11 Jack is more apt to be late for any appointment other than the one with his supper dish. One evening, arriving late, he said, "I saw Charlie staggering down the busy two-lane road. Fearing he'd be hit, I stopped and offered him a ride." "You don't want me in your car, preacher," he argued.

"Get in Charlie," I said.

"Preacher, there's something in my bag you don't want in your car."

"Get in," I insisted, "and took him home and got him in bed before I left."

"Who's Charlie?" I asked, suspecting another 'stray' - those people Jack finds along his way, not members of our congregation.

"Charlie's one of my friends," he answered.

I thought I glimpsed the mind of Christ, and remembered something I'd clipped:

Would you be chief? Then serve. Would you go up? Go down. But go as low as e'er you will, The Highest has been lower still.

Our Goal (Phil. 2:1-2) "A proud person has few teachers." It takes humility to know Christ's mind, the one thing Paul craves for the Philippians. Nothing depresses a minister more than sensing disunity among his flock, whether social or theological.

Reading ahead, we learn that pressures exist from false teachers outside the church (see 3:1-3), and from disgruntled members Eurodia (fragrance) and Syntyche (fortunate) within the membership (see 4:1-3). Paul asks, "Do you want my heart to overflow with joy? Then show the evidence of unity, love and purpose in your lives."

Our Guidelines (Phil. 2:3-4) Paul offers the "how-to" in achieving the task. Self will survey the field in terms of its own advantage. Love, in contrast, will not boast, be proud or seek her own (see 1 Cor. 13:4-5).

The only competition tolerated in the church should be for lowest place and toughest service, not meaning that we are to become "spiritual doormats."

Paul intimates that while the Philippians are perfectly saved (v. 1), they're not perfectly matured, a fact not understood by those who point to so-called "hypocrites in the church." His word "also" allows the right to consider one's own interests, but never at the expense of others.

Our Model (Phil. 2:5-8) In earlier years, it was proper to sign one's correspondence: "Your obedient servant." Today, pretending we're somebody's servant seems distasteful, even undemocratic, as though the idea came from George Orwell's Animal Farm, where a character observes, "We're all equal, but some are more equal than others."

Paul insists the church remember the supreme example of Christ, who, not hesitating to shed His divine status, became a man, making Himself a servant.

When someone asks, "What is life?" Jesus answers, "Service" (see Matt. 20:28). After washing His disciples' feet, He said, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you" (John 13:15).

When I read verse 5, I feel I'm being given a spiritual check-up: how's my attitude toward life, work, church, people - all people, even the "Charlies" who delay my suppertime.

A tourist, watching Mother Teresa minister to lepers in Calcutta, said, "I wouldn't do what you do for a million dollars."

"I wouldn't either," she answered, "but I would do it for the love of Christ."

Jesus was surrounded by disinherited and sick people - the "Charlies" of our world. He never got used to it, and neither can we who follow Him. Those we serve will not always be lovable, but we have our orders.

Our Purpose (Phil. 2:9-11) Paul reminds the Philippians that a day will come when "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow ... and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." Atheists, agnostics and those who delayed too long will not decide to bow. They will bow.

Paul leaves us two choices: we bow before Him now, as our Lord, and spend eternity with Him (see John 14:1-3); or bow before Him later as judge (see Matt. 25:41-46) and experience eternal separation.

Often, during quiet time, I read scripture, write my response and sign my name. Following no other passage do I feel more like writing a "thank-you" note than this, to Him who performed a miracle in my life. I don't understand the cross, nor do I need to; I only need to bow before it, saying: Thank-you, Lord. In my imperfect love I'll follow, seeking to serve those for whom you died. Your unworthy, but obedient and grateful servant, Catherine.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
8/3/2001 12:00:00 AM by Catherine Painter , Philippians 2:1-11 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for Aug. 19: Deborah

August 3 2001 by F. Calvin Parker , Judges 4:4-23

Formations lesson for Aug. 19: Deborah | Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

Formations lesson for Aug. 19: Deborah

By F. Calvin Parker Judges 4:4-23 During my first visit to Hong Kong more than 40 years ago, I preached in the English-language service at Kowloon Baptist Church. I used a sermon on Deborah that I had first prepared for a seminary class in Hebrew exegesis. The sermon was devoid of jokes, funny stories or levity of any kind. But throughout the delivery, I was painfully aware that the folks in the congregation were not taking my presentation seriously. Their faces were marked by smirks, cryptic smiles, stifled laughs. I wanted to interrupt my sermon and cry out, "What's so funny?" Never before had my listeners' mood clashed so sharply with my own. Only when the service had ended did I learn why. Sitting directly behind me in the choir was a young woman named Deborah. Every time I spoke that name, which was umpteen times, she flinched or grinned or contorted her face to the amusement of the congregation. Unknowingly, I was competing for attention with the biblical Deborah's namesake. She was the undisputed winner. I have never again preached that sermon on Deborah, but perhaps I can write about her and not be confounded by the response.

Prophetess and Judge (Judges 4:4-10) Like the Old Testament characters Miriam and Huldah, Deborah is called a prophetess. She is a woman in tune with God's Spirit, one blessed with wisdom and insight. She is the only female judge in the book of Judges and the only judge described as actually hearing and deciding judicial cases. Her superior gifts enabled her to exercise leadership in a male-dominated society.

The names in this dramatic story are memorable. Deborah means "bee." She was married to Lappidoth, "torch," and she chose as her general, Barak, "lightning." The bee was an epic figure who outshone both the torch and the lightning.

Military Savior (Judges 4:11-16) Unlike Joan of Arc, to whom she is often compared, Deborah led no troops into battle. But under divine guidance, she selected a commander, gave him specific instructions, and went with him into battle to assure him of God's presence. She ordered Barak to descend from Mount Tabor with his 10,000 troops and attack Sisera with his 900 chariots of iron and larger army. That is comparable to an infantry unit attacking a tank battalion, but Deborah and Barak utterly destroyed the superior forces.

The story of this battle is repeated in chapter 5, in one of the most brilliant poems ever written. The poetic version reveals that a sudden downpour swelled the Wadi Kishon and flooded the plain, bogging Sisera's chariots and rendering them useless. This situation was repeated in the 1799 Battle of Mount Tabor, when 6,000 French infantry defeated a Turkish force of 30,000 that boasted a strong cavalry. Many fleeing Turks were swept away by the torrents and drowned.

Another Strong Woman (Judges 4:17-23) Deborah warned Barak that "the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." That woman was Jael, a non-Israelite. She offered Sisera a safe refuge in her home, encouraged him to sleep soundly, then drove a tent peg through his temple - not a good model of hospitality.

Women judges of Deborah's rank are still rare in our society. More than 100 men have served on the U.S. Supreme Court, but only two women - Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In North Carolina, Susie Sharp made history in 1974 when she became chief justice of the state supreme court. She was the first woman popularly elected to this office in any state. Earlier, this trailblazer was the only woman in her class at the University of North Carolina Law School.

Deborah was an exception even as a prophetess. But she demonstrated that a woman can be an effective spiritual leader, one to whom men will come for inspiration and advice. The first woman to be ordained a Southern Baptist minister was Addie Davis, a graduate of Meredith College and Southeastern Seminary. She was ordained in 1964 by Watts Street Church in Durham. More than a thousand women have followed her example, but they are a small minority in a denomination suspicious of their calling from God.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
8/3/2001 12:00:00 AM by F. Calvin Parker , Judges 4:4-23 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for Aug. 26: Samson

August 3 2001 by F. Calvin Parker , Judges 16:23-31

Formations lesson for Aug. 26: Samson | Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

Formations lesson for Aug. 26: Samson

By F. Calvin Parker Judges 16:23-31 Samson is one of the most fascinating characters in the Bible. He is a super man, often compared to Hercules. He is a folk hero likened in our country to John Bunyan. He is memorialized in Handel's oratorio "Samson" and Milton's dramatic poem "Samson Agonistes." His exploits live on in paintings by Van Dyke, Rubens and Rembrandt. He is one of the towering figures of all time. For Christians, Samson is a warning, not an example. Dedicated to God as a Nazirite, he made a mockery of his vows. He can be described as a brawling, blustering brute with more brawn than brains. Webb Garrison called him "a prankster who derived equal pleasure from tricking his enemies, killing dangerous beasts and conquering women." Unlike Gideon, he never led an army. Unlike Deborah, he never held court. Yet Samson "judged Israel twenty years."

Circus Strong Man (Judges 16:23-27) The earlier portion of this chapter tells how Delilah, bribed by the Philistine lords, wheedles Samson until he reveals the secret of his strength. She then lulls him to sleep, has his locks shorn and betrays him, now weakened, into the hands of his enemies. They gouge out his eyes and set him to work, like a beast, grinding grain in the prison.

In this passage the Philistines gather to worship their chief deity, Dagon. Perhaps the lords and ladies sit in the inner chamber of the temple while the commoners watch from the roof. They all chant a triumph song in praise of their god for subduing Samson. Then they call in their prize captive, who entertains the crowd as though a strong man performing at a circus.

A Prayer for Vengeance (Judges 16:28-30) In desperation, Samson prays for strength to get even with the Philistines for putting out his eyes. Nothing is said about avenging wrongs done to his nation. On one occasion Samson allowed the tribe of Judah to turn him over to the Philistines rather than suffer on his account, and no doubt his personal exploits helped keep patriotism alive. But the overall picture of Samson is that of an individual looking out for number one. Still, his prayer is answered and Samson literally brings down the house. Like a modern suicide bomber, he dies a hero to his own people.

Keitaro Yoshida was a member of Parliament in prewar Japan. When he learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor, he made a speech urging the government to sue for peace on grounds that Japan could not defeat so strong a nation as the United States. Though a true patriot, Yoshida was accused of treason and thrown into prison. He seethed with anger over the unjust treatment and vowed revenge against Prime Minister Tojo and his cohorts.

As the bleak months passed and he grew weak from malnutrition, Yoshida came across a New Testament in the prison library and began reading it straight through. He was deeply moved by Jesus' teaching and example on forgiving one's enemies. When he was reading Paul's letter to the Romans, one passage brought him to his knees: "Beloved, never avenge yourselves. ... 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord'" (Rom. 12:19). Yoshida turned all his resentment over to God and vowed to follow Christ as Lord. After the war he served as pastor of Wakayama Baptist Church as well as mayor of the city. He is a better example to follow than Samson.

The Prodigal Returns (Judges 16:31) After Samson's death, his brothers and other family members came into hostile Philistine territory to claim his remains. They buried him with his father, Manoah. Thus the prodigal son came home at last to his waiting father. Manoah had opposed Samson's marriage to a Philistine woman but had tried to be supportive of his rebellious son. In Milton's version of the story, he even tried to ransom the blinded Samson. The chorus sings to Manoah:

Fathers are wont to lay up for thir Sons, Thou for thy Son art bent to lay out all; Sons wont to nurse thir Parents in old age, Thou in old age car'st how to nurse thy Son, Made older than thy age through eyesight lost.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
8/3/2001 12:00:00 AM by F. Calvin Parker , Judges 16:23-31 | with 0 comments

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