August 2011

Formations Lesson for Sept. 11: Gideon Tests God

August 29 2011 by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Judges 6:25-40

When we invite the Lord Jesus into our lives, we begin a journey of faith. In our spiritual journey, sometimes the paths we are to travel are not clear to us. At times, we sense that we are lost. Uncertainty sets in, and we grow fearful and insecure.

In this series of lessons, we are traveling with Gideon on his journey of faith. Last week, we learned that God approached this timid, fearful farmer as he was beating out his wheat in a winepress, and called him to be a “mighty warrior” (6:12). In spite of all his fears, Gideon was willing to step out and obey the Lord.

Today, we continue to walk with Gideon as he takes steps toward fulfilling God’s call to him. His first step of faith was to take a stand in his own village before he faced the enemy on the battlefield (v. 25-32).

The assignment wasn’t an easy one. God told him to destroy the altar dedicated to Baal, build an altar to the Lord, and sacrifice one of his father’s valuable bulls, using the wood of the Asherah pole for fuel.

Gideon obeyed, but he fearfully carried out his instructions at night. He did so with 10 servants to help bolster his flagging faith. He lacked confidence. He was weak and timid; but he obeyed.

After a good first step at home, Gideon was ready to take the next step in his faith journey (v. 33-35). The Midianites and Amalekites were preparing to attack the Israelites.

We read that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon” (v. 34). Literally, the Spirit “clothed Gideon.” The word translated “clothed” referred to a man putting on his clothes (Gen. 28:20) or a warrior putting on a suit of armor (Is. 59:17). The Abiezites, together with their allies (Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali), positioned themselves to follow Gideon. At this point Gideon became nervous and hesitated (v. 36-40). Gideon asked God to make a fleece of wool wet with dew one morning, then totally dry the next morning.

Gideon received the sign that he asked for from God, and then went out to war, defeating the forces of Midian.

Gideon tested God, but Deuteronomy 6:16 clearly states: “Do not test the Lord your God as you did at Massah.” Although we are not to seek signs, God knows that, like Gideon, we are fearful and timid at times. May He grant us the grace to know Him more clearly, love Him more dearly, and follow Him more nearly. Amen.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Coming soon readers will see the Oct. 2 lesson for Explore the Bible lesson, a curriculum published by LifeWay. The Sept. 25 Formations lesson will be the last lesson from Formations, a curriculum printed by Smyth & Helwys Publishing. LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life will continue to be printed.)
8/29/2011 9:10:00 AM by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Sept. 11: Grow in Spiritual Maturity

August 29 2011 by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh

Focal Passage: 2 Timothy 3:1-17

While rummaging through an old trunk, I discovered my birth announcement. Among other things, it stated my weight and length. No doubt my doctor observed me periodically to determine whether my growth progressed normally. Concern to the contrary would have triggered immediate action. My story would have appeared in medical journals and tabloids, along with photographs of “the baby who never grew!”

In contrast, when I was born spiritually, I received little assistance in promoting my spiritual growth as God requires, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, (growing) into a  mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” (Eph. 4:13).

Afterward, when I united with a church, only a few members lined up to welcome me into the fellowship. Perhaps to the majority I was just a college student who would graduate soon and move away; therefore they felt little responsibility to get to know me and help me grow in Christ. Without a class for new members, I remained on “the spiritual delivery room table” until I married a seminarian whose sermons shaped my theology and spurred my spiritual growth. Eventually I claimed the definition of Christian growth as “journeying steadfastly in the direction of Christ-likeness.” Paul’s advice to Timothy challenged me to grow as it gave me guidance, urged me to keep my faith strong, discern and flee false teachings, and hold fast to truth and Christian morals (2 Timothy).

I could not play with evil influences and expect them not to influence me. I could not read defiling literature and be none the worse for it. Sin always exacts its price.

When a cadet was being expelled from the Air Force Academy for cheating, he argued, “There are not 10 men in this academy who would not cheat on an exam.” To that his superior responded, “Has it occurred to you that you could have been one of those 10?” Paul advised Timothy to flee youthful lusts, follow after the good, and hold fast to Scripture (3:14-17). He reminded Timothy that the Scriptures had been his from childhood, providing wisdom unto salvation, usefulness for teaching the truth, and direction for correcting error.

Someone said, “Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.” God disagrees. He commands, “Like newborn infants, desire the unadulterated spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it in your salvation, since you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2-3).

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Coming soon readers will see the Oct. 2 lesson for Explore the Bible lesson, a curriculum published by LifeWay. The Sept. 25 Formations lesson will be the last lesson from Formations, a curriculum printed by Smyth & Helwys Publishing. LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life will continue to be printed.)
8/29/2011 9:07:00 AM by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for Sept. 4 — Gideon Doubts His Call

August 16 2011 by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Judges 6:11-24

Fear is paralyzing. Who can forget the color-coded threat system that was put in place following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001? The five levels of the system were green for low, blue for guarded, yellow for elevated, orange for high and red for severe. The colors were intended to identify a risk of a terrorist attack. However, the recently replaced system taught many Americans to be scared, not prepared.

The Book of Judges tells the story of Israel during a similar time of widespread fear. The raiding parties of the Midianites devastated the people by taking their food and leaving them in poverty. For that reason, the angel of the Lord found Gideon at the bottom of the wine press, a pit, threshing his wheat in an attempt to go unnoticed by the Midianites.

Imagine Gideon’s surprise when the angel greeted him with these words: “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (v. 12). Gideon was no mighty warrior and he knew it. If anything, he probably felt like a coward.

Gideon asked the angel, “if the Lord is with us why has all this happened to us (v. 13)?”

Gideon then thought of the Exodus and how God had favored the people through the plagues, parting of the Red Sea, the cloud by day and fire by night, water from rocks, manna and quail, and their eventual arrival in the Promised Land. But now, as he saw the oppression, poverty and fear of the people, he couldn’t help but wonder if the Lord was with the nation.

Gideon’s second question was, “how can I save Israel (v. 15)?” Gideon was from the tribe of Manasseh. It was the smallest and weakest of all the tribes. He saw his life as small, his resources limited, inadequate for the job.

Many congregations begin a new church year today. Some members feel inadequate and wonder about their place in God’s plans. Like Gideon, they feel as if they are least in the family (v. 15). They doubt if God could use them in His plans.

The answer to all of Gideon’s questions, and ours, is in verse 12, “The Lord is with you.” Whatever the task, the mission, the ministry the Lord is all anyone needs.

How could Gideon become a mighty warrior? Simply, by following the Lord and obeying His commands. Nothing has changed. Are you the next mighty warrior? Are you ready for the Lord to use you for His purpose and plans?

(EDITOR’S NOTE — In the Sept. 17 print issue of the Biblical Recorder you will see the Oct. 2 lesson for Explore the Bible, a curriculum published by LifeWay. This issue will have the last lesson from Formations, a curriculum printed by Smyth & Helwys Publishing. This lesson will be dated for Sept. 25. Most likely the Sept. 25 Formations lesson will be updated online Sept. 12. The first Explore the Bible lesson for October will be posted online that same week.)
8/16/2011 8:33:00 AM by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Sept. 4: Connect to CommUnity

August 16 2011 by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh

Focal Passages: Psalm 133:1-3; 1 Cor. 12:12-18, 21-26

Growing up, I was impressed with ways my parents connected to the community. They invited friends home from church for “dinner,” relatives dropped in at meal time, and Mama entertained Home Demonstration Club members on the front porch. I remember my father’s habit of throwing up his hand to greet oncoming drivers.

Reentering the world today would startle them as they found adults isolating themselves from the community. Instead of David’s assessment of community as “good and pleasant when brothers can live together,” (Ps. 133:1), they would encounter some opposite situations.

Stopping to welcome a newcomer to the community would not guarantee an invitation to enter the house and visit, even if Mama presented a home-baked dessert. Asking one’s surname might gain it reluctantly, and instead of Father’s highway greetings returned, he might encounter road rage. With pizza parties replacing church covered-dish meals, and communication limited to Facebook, my parents might wonder whatever happened to community.

In contrast, Paul described community among believers as necessary, rather than optional, comparing the church to the human body where all parts work in unity to form the whole (1 Cor. 12:12-18).

I’m grateful that before mentioning God’s name in the classroom became frowned upon, my literature teacher required the class to memorize the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. A framed copy hangs today on my study wall.

The words serve me well while connecting to new communities of believers; for since retiring, my minister husband Jack has served one interim pastorate after another, and presently he pastors the lovely Carolina Pines Baptist Church in Raleigh.

Among the different renderings of St. Francis’ prayer, my favorite remains the one I memorized long ago: “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is despair, hope; where there is doubt, faith. Where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

When Christians live the prayer, connecting to commUnity becomes certain, the Body of Christ remains healthy, and blessings are enjoyed by all.
8/16/2011 8:30:00 AM by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for Aug. 28: Mary and Joseph: Partners in Righteousness

August 15 2011 by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church

Focal Passages: Matthew 1:18-20, 24-25; Luke 1:26-31, 38; 2:21-24

We conclude our series on “Partners in Marriage” with a taste of Christmas in August, examining Mary and Joseph as models of faith and faithfulness.

In Matthew, the story of Jesus’ birth follows directly after a genealogy. The genealogy should be understood as setting the context for the interpretation of the birth narrative. Matthew’s genealogy, in particular, is striking in its references to women.

It was unusual for a first-century Jewish genealogy even to include women.

But Matthew doesn’t simply include women; he includes some scandalous characters in Old Testament history: Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba. Even Ruth, whose name has more positive associations, took some rather bold action to gain Boaz as her husband. Why did Matthew choose to introduce the birth of Jesus in such a way?

Matthew and Luke tell us that Mary was a virgin. Jesus’ miraculous birth certainly emphasizes His divinity, His sinlessness because He was divine, His supernatural life, and the sovereignty of God in salvation.

However, in order to arrive at an even fuller understanding of the virgin conception, we need to examine the biblical meaning of virginity. In the Old Testament virginity is a characteristic of a people, not of individual persons. The relationship of Israel to God is described as a marriage covenant. As a people, Israel had “covenantal virginity” as she was faithful to God.

But Israel was often declared a “harlot” as she forsook her “covenantal virginity” by going after other gods.

Keeping in mind that virginity and harlotry in the Old Testament have to do with the corporate faithfulness of Israel, we might conclude that the four women of the genealogy represent Israel the harlot, and that Mary the virgin remnant represents those who are pure in their devotion to God.

If Mary was righteous, so was Joseph. Joseph is explicitly called a “righteous man” (Matt. 1:19). His righteousness, moreover, is implicit throughout Matthew’s Gospel. He responded to the angel’s explanation of Mary’s pregnancy by marrying her, as the angel had instructed (1:24-25). When commanded to leave Bethlehem to flee to Egypt, he “arose and took the child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt” (2:14).

When told to return to Israel, he returned, despite apparent misgivings about the safety of the return (2:19-23).

Through Mary and Joseph we are reminded of God’s desire to have a committed people who remain faithful to Him. They were partners not only with one another, but with God as they followed the path He laid for them.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — In the Sept. 17 print issue of the Biblical Recorder you will see the Oct. 2 lesson for Explore the Bible, a curriculum published by LifeWay. This issue will have the last lesson from Formations, a curriculum printed by Smyth & Helwys Publishing. This lesson will be dated for Sept. 25. Most likely the Sept. 25 Formations lesson will be updated online Sept. 12. The first Explore the Bible lesson for October will be posted online that same week.)
8/15/2011 8:07:00 AM by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Aug. 28: Agree with One Another

August 15 2011 by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh

Focal Passages: Genesis 13:1-18; Romans 12:9-21; 15:1-6

Experience teaches that even godly people face conflict at times, both with others and with world conditions. Regardless of the spectacles we wear — optimistic or pessimistic — the world today does not give off a rosy hue; instead, it appears to be submerged in smog we cannot see through, with weight too heavy to bear.

But along comes our Scripture with Paul’s advice to church members in Rome, and the smog begins to clear. Paul suggests that, while we cannot avoid all circumstances, we can control how we respond to them, and suddenly hope is renewed (Rom. 12:12).

Paul suggests that in dealing with conflict, love must be genuine and not a form of role playing. Love has the capacity to connect us with others as we “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (v. 15).

Long ago Chrysostom commented, “It requires more of a Christian to rejoice with them that rejoice than to weep with them that weep.

For there is none so hard-hearted as not to weep with someone in calamity; but the other requires a nobler soul, so as to keep from envying, and also to feel pleasure with the person who is held in esteem.”

It is only when self is dead, and one’s life is controlled by the Spirit, that a person can take as much joy in the success of others as in his own.

When we’re wronged by others, there are three steps in the ladder of possible responses. One way is pathological — to repay good with evil. A second way is natural — to return evil for evil and good for good. That we can do in the flesh. The third way is to return good for evil, which is Christian and pleasing to God.

Scripture forbids taking revenge. God said, “Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay” (Deut.32:35). He alone is qualified to judge another. Besides, treating a person with kindness is the way to win his heart, while stooping to vengeance indicates that one is evil.

Booker T. Washington said, “I will not allow any man to make me lower myself by hating him.” We might add, “The way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.” And Jack, my pastor husband, would say, “When love doesn’t work, don’t try anything else.”
8/15/2011 8:05:00 AM by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for August 21: Priscilla and Aquila: Partners in Ministry

August 5 2011 by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church

Focal Passages: Acts 18:1-4, 11; Romans 16:3-4; 1 Corinthians 16:19

The texts for this lesson introduce us to a couple who are partners in ministry: Priscilla and Aquila. For those of us who are married, they provide for us a needed model. When we read the New Testament, Jesus and Paul are the two main characters, and yet neither of them married. We know that Peter was married, but we never learn anything about his wife. We don’t even know if any of the other disciples were married. Perhaps because of this, we might feel that in marriage we can’t serve God as effectively as if we’re single. Priscilla and Aquila give us a glimpse of how well we can serve God as married couples.

Priscilla and Aquila appear six times in the New Testament (Acts 18:2-3, 18-19, 26; Romans 16:3-4; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19). In Acts 18:1-3 we read the passage that introduces them: “Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.”

So, this couple was in Rome when Emperor Claudius ordered all the Jews to leave the city. We know from historical records that Jews were expelled due to disputes among those who disagreed as to whether or not Jesus was the Messiah.

It is hard to imagine how hard this was for Priscilla and Aquila. It would have been easy to become discouraged. Yet, when they were forced from their church in Rome, they became an important part of the church at Corinth.

When Paul arrived in Corinth, Priscilla and Aquila offered him hospitality by opening their home and business to him. Hospitality is an important part of a God-pleasing life.

It is also important to note that Priscilla, Aquila and Paul managed to earn a living while doing a lot for the Lord. We are tempted to think we cannot serve God because we have to work our normal jobs. Priscilla and Aquila found their identity more in being a follower of Jesus than in their work.

Priscilla and Aquila were partners in life, business, and ministry. They are an example of how God can use married couples to work together in effective ministry.
8/5/2011 6:10:00 AM by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 21: Don’t Criticize One Another

August 5 2011 by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh

Focal Passages: James 4:11-12; Romans 14:1-12, 19

I remember with amusement an incident when my husband Jack and I were young and new to ministry. As I entertained a church member, I went to check on food in the oven. When I returned, my visitor was missing. In time she returned and explained, “I was just looking for a better place for you to hang that picture.” The incident is funny now, but I don’t remember laughing at the time.

As I have grown in Christ, I’ve learned, as I’m sure you have, certain things about criticism that warrant review:
  • Criticism can be verbal or non-verbal.
  • Raising the eyebrows, or rolling one’s eyes can speak volumes without saying a word.
  • Refusal to acknowledge others with conversation or eye contact is another non-verbal way to criticize, as it communicates disdain.
  • Everyone from time to time encounters criticism; the only people who don’t are in the graveyard.
  • Criticism of another person doesn’t make it true. When criticism comes from friends, there may be truth in it that can help us to grow in Christ.
  • Studying our critics can reveal what makes them critical by nature. Perhaps they have a painful home life, a crippling debt, or illness.
  • The cost of  “losing one’s cool” is high. It can affect our health and that of others when we give way to fits of anger at home or at work. No one enjoys being around someone with a “short fuse.” The writer of Proverbs said, “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath” (Prov. 15:1).
  • Prayer and practicing the presence of God conquers a critical spirit, and renews fellowship with God.
Paul said, “For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God’” (Rom. 14:11).

James warned, “There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (Jas. 4:12).

We are wise to leave it to God to “set others straight” and make Jesus our example. He completed His work while enduring harsh criticism.

The Pharisees were jealous of Him and envied His great following. He was accused of blasphemy, called the son of the devil, and charged with being insane.

Paul declared that one day, “Each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12). Until then, whenever we’re criticized, let’s forgive and remember to forget.
8/5/2011 6:02:00 AM by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for August 14: The Bride and the Beloved: Partners in Intimacy

August 2 2011 by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church

Focal Passages: Song of Solomon 1:2-4, 9-2:7

To observe that we live in a society that is suffering greatly from sexual confusion, and also sexual misconduct, is not a novel insight. A few minutes spent watching television; listening to any rock, pop, or country music station; or perusing the corner-store magazine rack reveals that we live in a sex-saturated culture. Unfortunately, the Christian response to the sexual excess we see is to offer condemnation without providing biblically sound guidance as to how one can have a healthy, active sex life.

The Song of Solomon offers us help in understanding sex in a positive way. Although this book is often interpreted allegorically to illustrate Christ’s love for the church, it is clearly written as a love poem containing several segments. The book reveals the way men and women in love should conduct themselves in attitudes and activities.

As the book begins, the young woman and young man have already met and “fallen in love.” In verses 2-4, the girl voices her desire for her betrothed’s affection. The girl speaks first, and there is a sense that she is the major character in the poem. She seems to see herself as of equal stature with her beloved. Much more of the text comes from her mouth and mind than from his, though there is no failure on his part to declare his love and admiration for her.

In verses 9-11, the young man thinks of his betrothed as a person to cherish, comparing her to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots.

Although this would probably not be received as a compliment today, the Pharaoh’s horses were decorated to show off their beauty and splendor.

In 1:12-2:7, the love of the young man and his beloved continues to intensify. The metaphors at the beginning of chapter two show that the young man satisfies three needs of his betrothed: protection, intimacy, and public identification as her beloved.

Perhaps the outstanding characteristic of this first major section of the book is the sexual restraint that is evident during courtship. The restraint contrasts with the sexual intimacy that characterizes the lovers after their wedding (3:6-8:4).

Solomon, as author of the poem, offers a charge: “Do not stir up or awaken love until it is ready!” In regard to matters of the heart, patience is needed. Wait for love to blossom; don’t hurry it!  
8/2/2011 3:41:00 AM by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 14: Forgive One Another

August 2 2011 by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh

Focal Passages: Colossians 3:12-13; Philemon 8-22  

At the fragile age of 13, Susie transferred to another school. There she found girls in her class intent upon keeping her outside their tightly knit circle. Among them, Mary seemed the most open to Susie’s friendship. One day after school, as the two walked home together, Sarah suddenly rushed from behind, pushed Susie and Mary apart and placed herself between them. She related only to Mary, making no eye contact or conversation with Susie.

Gradually, Sarah steered Mary and herself ahead, leaving Susie to walk alone behind them. Emotionally crushed, Susie related the incident to her mother. “You must forgive Sarah,” her mother suggested. “She hasn’t asked me to forgive her,” Susie answered.

“She won’t,” her mother said. “The injured always does the forgiving. Until you forgive Sarah, however, you have bound her to you — the very thing you don’t want. Once you forgive, you’ll both benefit: she’ll be released and you’ll be free, leaving the door open for future friendship.” The Greek word that Paul used for forgiveness in Colossians 1:13-14 means “to send away.” Paul wrote, God “has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Centuries ago, Paul intervened for Onesimus, a slave who ran away from Philemon, his owner. Writing to Philemon, Paul begged him to forgive Onesimus and take him back, “no longer a slave, but as a dearly beloved brother” (Philem. 16).

Jesus personified forgiveness though many offended Him: Jewish leaders plotted His death, Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, and Pilate, although believing Him innocent, ordered His crucifixion. The mob screamed, ‘Crucify Him!’ and the soldiers drove the nails, but no one on record begged His forgiveness.

Instead, it was Jesus, the offended, who prayed, “Father, forgive them.”

In colonial America, John Wesley pled the case of an offending colonist before the British governor, James Oglethorpe. The governor quipped, “Wesley, I never forgive.”

Wesley responded, “Then I hope you never offend!”

Jesus said, “Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive your wrongdoing. But if you don’t forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your wrongdoing” (Mark 11:25-26). With that in mind, let us forgive those who offend us, and leave the Sarahs of the world to God.                                       
8/2/2011 3:35:00 AM by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh | with 0 comments