April 2010

Formations Lesson for May 9: Live Like a Believer

April 27 2010 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: 1 Peter 1:21-2:10 

The lesson is entitled “Live Like a Believer.” The Greek term for this type of writing is parenesis: moral instruction, advice, encouragement.

The technique was common among letter writers, secular or Christian, in New Testament times. Teachers (or preachers), now absent, wrote back to their former students (or converts). Letters began with greetings, followed by a philosophical (or theological) discussion. Finally came practical instructions as to how the readers were supposed to live in light of the teaching they had received: parenesis.

We see this pattern throughout the letters of the New Testament. First Peter is no exception.  Beginning with 2:11, the verse immediately following today’s lesson, the remainder of the letter — more than three out of five chapters, 70 percent of the book — is one extended parenesis. “Live like a believer,” Peter is telling his readers.

There are even a few parenetic verses in today’s passage: Love one another (1:22). No more malice, guile, insincerity, envy or slander (2:1). Nurture your spiritual growth (2:2). Stay close to Jesus (2:4-7).

But just as a sturdy house is built on a solid foundation, right living is based on right reasons. Before he tells us much more about how to live, Peter wants to make sure we understand why we live that way: because of the Easter faith.

“Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1:21). Jesus didn’t raise himself. God did it.

“You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1:23). We don’t save ourselves. God does it.

“Like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house” (2:5). It’s not just about me. Jesus died and rose for everyone. We believers are stuck together like bricks and mortar.

And it’s not just about us: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (2:9). Tell the others!

Jesus’ resurrection, our salvation, our life together in Christ, our calling to the world — all good reasons to live like believers.

Finally, “Once you were no people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (2:10). Why live like a believer? Most of all, gratitude! I’ll live for Him who died for me, my Savior and my God!             
4/27/2010 7:08:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for May 2: I Take You

April 27 2010 by Dale Austin Jr., associate pastor, Wakeminster Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passages: Genesis 2:23-25; Malachi 2:13-15  

How many people have the courage to write their own marriage vows? I can remember it as if it were yesterday when Terri and I were in our pre-marital counseling sessions well over 20 years ago, and the senior pastor discussed the various marriage vows.

I made sure to make it very clear to him that I only wanted to say “I DO.” I wanted to keep it simple so that I would not embarrass myself in front of all of our friends and family. Our scripture passage from Genesis 2:23-25 is the very first recorded marriage vow.

Adam publically declares that Eve is not just his wife, but she is also part of him. They are now one just as God intended from the very beginning. Today’s society glamorizes the wedding. By this, I mean to say that more time and energy is spent on the planning and choreography of the parties, showers, meals, and reception than on planning for marriage.

Marriage is to be a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman with God sealing this vow, but today we often see marriage not so much as a covenant between man, woman, and God but more as a casual agreement that ends when the relationship is no longer fun or convenient. The idea of a vow that lasts until “death do us part” is rejected in today’s society, and the sad part is that the average Christian marriage has about the same chance of surviving as does a secular marriage.

According to recent statistics, almost 50 percent of all marriages will end in divorce.

According to scripture, a vow is a sacred promise or covenant between two or more people with God sealing the agreement. Marriage should start acknowledging that this is a special relationship between a man and a woman and that Christ should be the foundation and focus of this very special relationship. The purpose of marriage is to grow together physically, intimately, and spiritually. God also had another very special gift as part of His plan for marriage — children. The original couple was encouraged to go forth and multiply. Nothing is more fun than having children, but at the same time, raising children can be just as difficult as working on and growing a healthy marriage. As parents, it is assumed by default that children are not just raised in a safe home, well fed, and educated; but it is also assumed the couple is to rear them to grow in their faith in Christ.

Christ takes the marriage vow very seriously — so seriously that He uses marriage to define His relationship with those who believe in Him. He demonostrated the ultimate vow by opening His arms wide on the cross with the thought in His head … “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  
4/27/2010 7:05:00 AM by Dale Austin Jr., associate pastor, Wakeminster Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for May 2: Praise God for Salvation

April 20 2010 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: 1 Peter 1:1-12 On the Christian calendar Easter is not just a Sunday, but a season. It lasts for seven weeks, 49 days, beginning of course with Easter Sunday. Day 50, the eighth Sunday, is Pentecost (this year on May 23).

This time period reflects the interval between the Jewish Passover (Thursday of Holy Week in the Gospels) and the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, at the end of the spring harvest in ancient Israel. (The name “Weeks” comes from “seven weeks”: Deut. 16:9-10, cf. Levit. 23:15. The alternate title, “Pentecost,” is from the Greek for “fiftieth day”: Levit. 23:16).

Celebrating a season, rather than a single day, is a pretty good idea.

Our church observes the season of Lent, the six weeks before Easter — not through ritualistic fasting or self-denial, but by remembering, in private devotions and public worship, that Jesus did in fact die, and why: for our sins. Lent gets us ready to celebrate the resurrection. It keeps Easter from sneaking up on us.

And Easter, once it comes, is too important to be relegated to one day on the calendar.

The letter of 1 Peter, our focus during the remainder of this Easter season, is perfect for our celebration.

The first two lessons boldly proclaim the resurrection and our part in it.

The lessons that follow explain how believers in and beneficiaries of God’s saving act in Jesus Christ are supposed to live.

Early Easter morning, while it was still dark, our inner city churches gathered in a downtown park.

The music of a brass ensemble echoed in the chilly air. We sang “Low in the Grave He Lay.”

The sky gradually lightened. One preacher read the story of the empty tomb. Another preached.

We sang “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” 

Then, just as the sun peeped through the trees, we confessed aloud the Easter faith so wonderfully proclaimed in our lesson today (vv. 3-4, 8-9, RSV):

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, kept in heaven for you.

Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls.

This is too good for just a one-day celebration.

Let’s take some time and do it up right.  
4/20/2010 8:03:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for May 2: In The Presence of God

April 20 2010 by Dale Austin Jr., associate pastor, Wakeminster Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passages: Genesis 1:26-28a; 2:7, 15-22 Most Americans in the 20th and 21st century get married at some point in their adult lives.

Of couples getting married, only one out of every five adults (22 percent) has never been married. Of those who have been married, more than one out of three has been divorced at least once with the divorced group having additional marriages and divorces.  

With almost half of all marriages that have been performed now ending in divorce, a biblical perspective needs to be revisited in our society to understand what God intended for marriage and how we can apply this to our lives and to the lives of others around us to have the marriage that God intended for married couples to have.

Our Bible studies during the month of May will be dealing with this special relationship of marriage.

Our scripture passages are from the section of Genesis that deals with the creation account.

God has just finished His creation of the heavens, earth, and life, and now He comes to His greatest earthly creation — mankind. Mankind was bestowed the highest honor of being created in the very image of God.

Because we are created in the image of God, we have the privilege of being able to have fellowship with God. He did not create us to be the same as Him, but we were created to be able to enjoy a close relationship with God and to complement Him.

In Genesis 2:7, we see that God was actively and personally involved in bringing about the creation of Adam. Of all of creation, man takes in the very breath of God to become a living soul. We would think that this is enough — man being in close fellowship with God and that everything is just fine and dandy — but something was missing from this equation.

Adam was alone, and God knew this, so He was going to do something about it. This is probably one of the best-known Old Testament passages when you ask children about the creation account — Eve was created from the rib of Adam by God.

While this is true that God did create Eve out of Adam, the Hebrew term used in this passage means more than just “rib;” it means the side of Adam.

Now God has created Eve from the side of Adam; she is not just made from a spare part, but she is Adam’s companion, one who stands beside him, his helper, his spiritual equal, and one who also has fellowship with God.

As we spend the month of May studying the biblical basis for marriage and how it relates to us and others, we should take note that the first marriage started out with a spiritual relationship with God.
4/20/2010 8:01:00 AM by Dale Austin Jr., associate pastor, Wakeminster Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for April 25: A Song of Trust

April 14 2010 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: Psalm 23; Hebrews 13:20-21

Psalm 23 is often called “the Shepherd’s Psalm.” If the order of the verses were reversed, it might be known as “the Party Psalm.”

The opening metaphor is plain and familiar. “The Lord is my shepherd” is a statement of faith: in God I trust, on God I depend, to God I belong. Think of Jesus: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

“I shall not want” might be less about what I have than about my attitude. Consider Paul: “Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content” (Phil. 4:11).

I “lie down in green pastures” and drink from “still waters;” “he restoreth my soul.”

On the wall of a soup kitchen in our town is a sign: “O God, we ask you for what we want, and in your divine extravagance, you give us what we need.”           

Rested and restored, I’m ready to follow where the shepherd leads: in “the paths of righteousness,” by the right road, to the right place.

In the final two verses the image changes. “Thou preparest a table before me” means a feast:  caviar and steak tartar (maybe barbecue and hush puppies in the South).

“In the presence of mine enemies” is an ironic reversal; one formerly persecuted is lifted up.   

Remember Jesus: It’s better to sit at the back and be invited to the head table, than to have to be asked to step down (Luke 14:7-11).

Psalm 45:7 mentions the “oil of gladness,” a gesture of joy and approval. “My cup runneth over” evokes a waitress at a crowded table, reaching over, generously filling the glass till the wine (or iced tea) spills over.

And this is no one-time party. It lasts “all the days of my life,” even “forever,” in a sumptuous palace, “the house of the Lord.” Jesus used the same concept in parable after parable.

The bridge from the first image to the second, from trusting the shepherd to partying in the palace, runs through the “valley of the shadow” (v. 4). Notice the change in pronoun from “he,” talking about God (vv. 1-3), to “thou” (“you”), talking to God (vv. 4-6).  Now it’s personal.

In the dark places of life, even facing death, God is truly with us, guarding (“thy rod”), guiding (“thy staff”), comforting. So “fear no evil.” Our trust is well-founded. Welcome to the party!
4/14/2010 5:38:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life lesson for April 25: The Right Support

April 14 2010 by A. Shane Nixon, Director of Church and Community Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes

Focal Passages: 2 Corinthians 8:8-15; 9:6-11

As I write this, my church is right in the middle of a major “stewardship campaign.” We are seeking to raise an overwhelming amount of money, for an obviously good reason, with some incredibly good help. And while the enormity of the task is not lost on me, the first thing our “campaign consultant” said was that we had to always focus on this being “over and above” our normal giving. The tithe, he emphasized, quickly, was not part of this.   

Paul isn’t, necessarily, talking to the church about tithing. But I think it is important that we realize that the tithe is the starting point for Christian giving. Without it, there is no foundation upon which other giving can be built.

Paul’s assumption with the Corinthian church is one I am afraid might no longer be valid with us today. Paul believed that giving “to the church” was a given, and so he began his teaching to them talking about other charitable giving.

It is not that God needs our money. He does not. But we need to give it. It is an act of worship, a show of sacrifice that, when done correctly brings us closer to God. But even teaching “giving” in the church context is almost a thing of the past. 

Most of the things we know about giving are cliché, scriptural or true for sure, but nonetheless cliché. We can all say with assurance that God loves a cheerful giver. We all know that it is not about, say it with me now, equal giving, but equal sacrifice.

We can’t help but remember that we can’t “out-give God.” But do we know HOW to give? Do we have the foundation of the tithe on which to build a strong giving principle?

Paul takes the time to write to the Corinthian church about giving. He instructs them very precisely and very specifically about not just that they should, but how they should. And while we have (unfortunately) made most of those things cliché to the point of trite, they are still very important.

I don’t know if my church will make its goal or not. Did I mention the amount was huge? But whether we do or not, we are using this time to relearn the principles of Christian giving.  Given that, I don’t think we can lose.
4/14/2010 5:35:00 AM by A. Shane Nixon, Director of Church and Community Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for April 18: A Song of Joy

April 7 2010 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage:  Psalm 30; John 16:20-22

The superscription of Psalm 30, “at the dedication of the temple,” suggests public worship (see Learner’s Study Guide, p. 124). But originally this psalm was very personal.

The writer had suffered some form of physical distress. Maybe it involved a conflict with an enemy (“You did not let my foes rejoice over me,” v. 1), more likely an illness (“You have healed me,” v. 2), perhaps even a brush with death (“What profit is there in my death?” v. 9).

But his was no fair weather faith. This psalmist understood: “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (v. 5), and God is the God of both.

It would have been easy to fall for what is called the “prosperity gospel:” that one of God’s main functions is to provide good health, personal happiness and material well-being to believers, and that we secure these blessings by having sufficient faith. In the psalmist’s own words, “As for me, I said in my prosperity, ‘I shall never be moved’” (v. 6).

It was not to be. Calamity struck. Did the psalmist deride himself for not having enough faith?

Was God to blame for not keeping His part of the bargain? Neither.

“You hid your face, I was dismayed” (v. 7); at the same time, “To you, O Lord, I cried, and to the Lord I made supplication” (v. 8). God may be closest to us when He seems farthest away.

“You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy” (v. 11). Suffering is real, life is hard and the world can be a dangerous place, but God has the last word (see John 16:20-22, part of Jesus’ farewell speech to the disciples after the Last Supper). 

“O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever” (v. 12). There is never a moment, in good times or bad, when it is not appropriate to praise God.

At 80, Miss Lula was almost completely blind. Her husband dragged one foot and his arm hung limp from a stroke. They lived alone in their little house. Now she was in the hospital with a broken hip.

The doctor asked, “Have you been hospitalized recently?” — a medical question, calling for a medical response. “Last year, with a detached retina,” she might have said. Instead she answered, “Not really.  The Lord’s been very good to me.”

She could have written the psalm.
4/7/2010 8:23:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life lesson for April 18: The Right Motivation

April 7 2010 by A. Shane Nixon, Director of Church and Community Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes

Focal Passages: 2 Corinthians 5:9-21

The first time I ever walked behind a self-propelled push mower, I had a very good reason for doing so ... or so I thought. My grandfather had promised me, his aspiring six-year-old grandson, $3 if I would help him mow our neighbor’s yard. That was many years ago and the toys of a six year old were much smaller then than now. I concluded that $3 was just enough to make me a rich man. Visions of new baseballs, Matchbox cars, and ice cream cones danced in my head as I mowed that day. 

I was a good helper (at least that day) and we finished the rather large yard in what I was sure was record time. I had seen my grandfather collect his mowing money many times before.

He had quite the little side business mowing grass in our sleepy little town and part of the gig was to just sort of “hold out your hand” to be paid when you were done.

I anticipated him doing so now, and waited eagerly for such, knowing part of the palm greasing would trickle down. He never even went to the door.

This neighbor had been in the hospital and we were mowing the yard on this occasion because it was the right thing to do.

Our “motivation” was to help our neighbor. Well, truthfully, half of our partnership was doing it for the right reason.

The other half, my half, was in it for the three bucks.

A person’s motivation for doing something can often be as important as their actual doing of it. Paul makes the case that such is true of the followers of Christ. Paul argues that our sole motivation ought to be a desire to follow Christ, a desire to show His love. 

Self righteousness can never creep in. Material gain should not be a part. Even public acclaim should never be a reason to do the will of God. We ought to do things for people because of Christ’s love for us and His gift to us, His life sacrificed on the Cross for our sin. 

I got my $3 that day from my grandfather’s wallet. And I quickly gave it back. I wanted to be as right in my motivation as he was in his. I can’t remember, but I probably gave it back for the wrong reason too. I suspect, in retrospect, that I did so to make grandpa proud. 

At least in our Christian walk, doing it to make the Father proud is motivation enough!
4/7/2010 8:21:00 AM by A. Shane Nixon, Director of Church and Community Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes | with 0 comments