April 2015

Explore the Bible Lesson for May 10: Seek Him First

April 23 2015 by Lindsey Pope, Christ Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passages: Haggai 1:1-11, 2:5-9
Picture this. You’ve just moved into a new house. All of your furniture is in place and each room is filled with stacks of moving boxes, scribbled in permanent marker: Living Room, Kitchen, Bedroom, Bathroom, Office.
You’ve had a few moments to rest, and now it’s time to start unpacking and settling into your new home. Which room would you unpack first? Your kitchen, maybe? Everyone needs food, after all. Or perhaps you work from home, so you’d go straight for your office equipment.
Or, say you’re like me – you can’t stand living out of a suitcase for long – so you start with your clothes. You fold them, stack the piles neatly into your dresser drawer, and then work towards your closet.
The first room you choose to unpack reveals a lot about your life habits and priorities.
What do you think is vital, what you simply can’t live without? That’s where you start. So it is for the people of God in the book of Haggai.
After being released from Babylonian captivity, the exiles returned home to Judah. When the people started rebuilding their community from the ruins of invasion, their first priority wasn’t the Lord – it was their own homes.
They labored to build elaborate houses for themselves and forgot about God’s temple. What was intended to be the very mark of God’s presence among His people, the center of their life and community, uniting them and setting them apart as a holy people, remained rubble.
Apparently, they thought the Lord could wait. He was the one who had promised their deliverance and who had brought them safely home from judgment to live as His holy people, glorifying Him and blessing the nations. So, He sent His prophet to remind the people of their first priority – their relationship with the Lord. The same is true for us today. We constantly face the temptation to choose between our personal wants and the needs of the people of God and His Kingdom.
Will we be like Judah, focusing on our personal glory rather than the community God has established for His glory?
4/23/2015 10:22:19 AM by Lindsey Pope, Christ Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for May 10: Stick with Forgiveness

April 23 2015 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church, Eure

Focal Passage: Matthew 18:21-28, 32-33

In the old TV show “Happy Days,” Fonzie was too cool to admit he ever made a mistake. When pressured to say the words, “I was wrong,” he could never get beyond the “wr” in “wrong.”

No matter. Fonzie’s inability to admit failure or error never dampened or destroyed his relationship with his friends. While all this was good for a laugh, it does not mimic real life.
Today’s text – the parable of the unforgiving servant – is Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question of how many times must we forgive? Peter and his gang figured that two or three times was plenty, and seven times was extravagant.
Jesus’ retort, “not seven times, but seventy times seven,” was both unexpected and shocking. Knowing they needed further explanation, Jesus presented a parable where a servant owed his master, the king, more than a lifetime of debt. Since the servant had no viable options for repayment, and knowing that most folks in his situation lost everything they owned, he begged. Amazingly, his master had compassion and forgave 100 percent of the debt. The man was free.
The parable, however, had an unusual twist. The man who had experienced the miracle of forgiveness showed zero mercy to a man who owed him very little, throwing the unfortunate man in prison.
The other slaves took notice of the man’s callousness and brought it to the attention of the master. In anger the master rescinded part of his previous declaration of forgiveness, making sure the man experienced the horrors of prison life. The unforgiving man had sealed his own fate. He would never again enjoy freedom. Admittedly, it is difficult to admit our failures to others, and we relish mercy when we fail. Yet, many times we want others to pay when they hurt us.
According to Jesus, we can’t have it both ways. How many times must we forgive those who have “sinned against me” (v. 21)? The correct answer is “infinity.” Christians don’t have the luxury of not forgiving.

4/23/2015 10:13:29 AM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church, Eure | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for May 3: Awestruck

April 21 2015 by Lindsey Pope, Christ Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Habakkuk 3:1-6, 11-13, 16-19
The Grand Canyon is immense. The sweeping landscape of red-rock canyons and sinuous trails attracts nearly five million people every year.
The summer of my freshman year in college, I had the chance to visit the canyon while living as a North American Mission Board summer missionary in Phoenix, Ariz. The other students and I had been in town only a few weeks, but when a host family from our local association found out a few of the others had never seen the canyon, they made it their mission to get us there.
“You HAVE to visit the Grand Canyon,” they remarked, as if it was a rite of passage, a true welcome to their home state. So we packed into a church van and drove the three and a half hour trip to the national park. When we arrived, we filed out, walked around a bit, and then made our way to the rim. We chatted, laughed and joked, but the moment we glimpsed over the edge, we all stood silent.
The deep vastness and overwhelming grandeur was surprising. No matter how many photos you’ve seen, that first look at the canyon stuns you.
The draw of the Grand Canyon isn’t simply the overwhelming beauty; it’s the humbling wonder of standing near something so great, so different from your own self. No one feels invincible at the edge of the Grand Canyon.
In our passage for the week, Habakkuk is filled with a similar, though much greater, kind of awe.
The presence of God – His intimacy, faithful governance and power – overwhelmed Habakkuk to point of irresistible worship. Regardless of the power and wickedness of Babylon, God’s reign and good purpose were secure. No enemy feels invincible at the feet of the Lord.
Just as Habakkuk responded to God’s overwhelming presence and magnificent work with worship and trust, so too can we find security in God’s rule of all of creation and history. We can draw near to Him, rest in His strength and trust His good will, regardless of the unstable circumstances around us.

4/21/2015 10:31:22 AM by Lindsey Pope, Christ Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for May 3: Stick with Encouragement

April 21 2015 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church, Eure

Focal Passages: Acts 9:26-28; 11:21-26
The plight of Saeed Abedini came to my attention in 2012. The Iranian-American pastor was arrested and imprisoned in Iran while helping a Christian orphanage. His wife, Naghmeh Abedini, and children have since met with U.S. leaders, advocating for negotiation and the release of Abedini. His wife said to a convention in Maryland, “I’m proud to see my husband stand up for his faith in the face of evil.”
The plight of Christians in the first century was similar. They faced danger; they needed advocates and encouragers.
Stephen had been stoned to death (Acts 7) and James, the brother of John, would soon be executed (Acts 12). Christians were nervous about who they could trust. Could they dare trust the man known as Saul of Tarsus, who had given assent to Stephen’s murderers? Was his reported conversion experience real? Or, was Saul engineering some kind of seductive trap for them?
Barnabas, whose very name means “son of encouragement,” bravely took a chance with Saul. He advocated for Saul and asked those who were the leaders of the infant church in Jerusalem to also give Saul a chance to prove that his conversion was genuine.
Given the opportunity (Acts 9:28ff), Saul spoke boldly in the name of Jesus in Jerusalem, debating the Hellenistic Jews. Opposition immediately arose, however, and in order to keep him alive, his new friends sent him back to Tarsus. A few months later, Barnabas had become God’s leader within the Antioch church. The church was growing, primarily within the ranks of Gentiles. Needing help with this growing ministry, Saul came to his mind. He traveled to Tarsus, secured Saul’s services, and for the next year they discipled the Christians in Antioch. Out of a bold decision to encourage a new believer, a dynamic missionary relationship was forged.
Christians of every generation need encouragement in dangerous situations. It is the gift that keeps on giving. Pray for pastor Abedini, his wife and children.

4/21/2015 10:26:40 AM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church, Eure | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for April 26: Hard Questions

April 21 2015 by Lindsey Pope, Christ Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passages: Habakkuk 1:1-6, 12-13; 2:1-4
Have you ever noticed that the most common objection to God isn’t centered on God’s existence, but rather God’s goodness?
If God exists, the age-old argument goes, why are there addicted men, hungry children or abused wives? “Because God is obviously not doing anything about the evil in the world,” some say, “He must not actually exist.” Others say, “If He does exist and yet allows evil and suffering, then what kind of God is He anyhow?”
These are common objections. Even the prophet Habakkuk questioned God’s power to stop evil and correct the injustice he witnessed around him.
Where are you, God? Why are you letting this happen? Why aren’t you doing anything? How many of us have prayed such painful, desperate prayers, too?
God is not threatened by our questions. We can come before Him in prayer, search Scripture, and ask Him about what we don’t understand. But sometimes God answers our hard questions with a difficult answer: “Just trust me.”
God doesn’t fully explain Himself to Habakkuk; He doesn’t need to. But He does reassure the prophet of His sovereign purpose and goodness. God will bring about His purposes in His timing and by His own ways.
We may not always understand why God allows certain things to happen. We don’t always need to understand. We need to learn how to trust God when we don’t understand.
If you read through Habakkuk’s prayer at the end of the book, you’ll notice something important: He begins listing what God had done and ends His book worshipping God for His character and strength.
God was active all along, but not in the way Habakkuk expected. We don’t always need to know why things happen. What we do need to know is what God has revealed in His Word – His character. God is good and sovereign and active in the world, whether we recognize His work or not. He will accomplish His plans and right every wrong in His perfect timing. We can trust Him.

4/21/2015 10:01:10 AM by Lindsey Pope, Christ Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for April 26: Stick With Love

April 21 2015 by Wayne Proctor, Pastor, Eure Baptist Church, Eure

Focal Passage: John 15:9-14
Love is a difficult word to live. Jesus gave it to us as a command – not just to love Him, not just to love God, but to love “one another” with this perfect agape love.
One of the great children’s stories, which also serves as a parable about love, is The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams. The main character is a boy who treasures above all else in the world a velveteen rabbit given to him one Christmas. The toy rabbit’s great prayer is that he would become real. But he didn’t know what “real” meant.
Then one day he and another toy, the skinned horse, had a life-changing conversation. Here is part of the skinned horse’s wisdom: “Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become real. … It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter, because once you are real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Love is what Jesus wants us to become. The key word in John 15 is “abide” or “remain.” It’s all about relationship. If we want to produce Christian fruit, we must stick with Jesus no matter what.
In Williams’ tale the boy was taken ill with scarlet fever. In order to arrest the disease, all of his belongings, including the velveteen rabbit, had to be burned. As the toy bunny shed a human tear, he miraculously became real.
When we love, even to the point of sacrificing deeply for another, we likewise become real. Jesus is our model for love; furthermore, because He loves us so much, He gives us the ability and power to love.

4/21/2015 10:00:36 AM by Wayne Proctor, Pastor, Eure Baptist Church, Eure | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for April 19: A Refined People

April 7 2015 by Lindsey Pope, Christ Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Zechariah 13:1-9
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that God is a person.
We can read page after page in the Old Testament of how God interacted with His people – how He walked with Adam and Eve, how He called to Moses, how He caught Sarah laughing, how He inspired David or how He instructed His prophets.
Even still, because God doesn’t manifest Himself to us today in the kind of physical presence we read about, we can be tempted to imagine Him as an abstract, distant being who once interacted with His people in a direct way, but doesn’t anymore.
We might even begin to believe that our sins at hand are more real than the seemingly far-off promises of God. We may acknowledge the truth that God is present and sovereign and good, but do we always believe it?
Zechariah’s prophecy called to a small Jewish remnant of the Babylonian exile that was re-establishing the Hebrew kingdom.
The immediate circumstances were dismal.
How could this struggling nation be the people of Almighty God?
Zechariah spoke to them to focus their attention not only on the present, but the future: God would restore and refine His people from sin for Himself, and He would fulfill His promises.
A pierced Messiah would come to triumph over the sins and idolatry of God’s people, and this Messiah would be a cleansing fountain to remove their sin, making them a pure people dedicated to the Lord. In the fire of suffering, the hand of their loving, attentive God would refine them, and through the work of the Messiah, they would be freed from their sin and idolatry.
Jesus Christ, the Messiah foretold by Zechariah, came as God promised. By embracing Him through faith, we are cleansed from the guilt of sin and freed from the power of sin by the indwelling Spirit of God as our promise. In difficult circumstances, we can trust that God is working in our trials to purify us, making us more like Christ.

4/7/2015 3:15:08 PM by Lindsey Pope, Christ Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for April 19: Exalted Like No Other

April 7 2015 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church, Eure

Focal Passage: Ephesians 1:7-10, 18-23
If one were to take a vacation to first-century Ephesus, one of the highlights would be the Temple of Diana (also known as Artemis). It was one of the “seven wonders of the world.” The temple was a financial boon to the city for centuries. An ancient myth says that Diana was born in the forest of Ephesus when her image of wood fell from the sky. She became known as the “goddess of life,” the mother of everything living and existed everywhere there was life.
The temple that housed her shrine was four times the size of the Parthenon in Greece. Because of what she represented to the Ephesians, she was exalted like none other.
Diana was not, however, invincible.
Her shrine was destroyed by natural causes and human greed multiple times. Each time it was destroyed, though, it was rebuilt larger and grander than before. Today, however, its only evidence of existence is a rusted sign and abandoned stones.
During Paul’s ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19), he battled firsthand the Diana cult. He and his team were no strangers to spiritual warfare. Although they lived in the world of emperor and idol worship, they were unwavering in their proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord.
The contrasts of Diana and Jesus are stark. Diana reputedly fell as wood from the sky, was the mother of the fertility cult and became rubble for good around A.D. 400.
Jesus left his heavenly home to become fully human, giving His life as a living sacrifice for the salvation of those believing in Him.
Today’s scripture text speaks of why Jesus, not Diana, is exalted like no other. In verses 21-23 the apostle Paul rightly positions Christ as “far” above any human ruler or manufactured deity. As history has proven, idols will come and go, but Jesus will remain true and constant for every generation. As God’s exalted One, everything and everyone is subject to Jesus the Christ. As the Church, no one and nothing comes before our Lord.

4/7/2015 3:11:07 PM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church, Eure | with 0 comments