August 2012

Explore the Bible Lesson for Sept. 16: Living in a New Household

August 30 2012 by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem

Focal Passage: 1 Peter 2:1-10
 
The people of God are just that, God’s people, defined by belonging to God. Moreover, this “household” of God is built on a solid foundation, Jesus Christ. Peter proclaims that Jesus is the cornerstone, the solid basis for construction of the whole building.
 
In other words, the cornerstone provides stability, longevity, and holds everything else up.
 
Now, consider the words of Ed Clowney who once wrote, “… the status of Christians depends upon the status of Christ, for they are joined to him.”
 
This should give the church great confidence because in Christ we are secure! May the Spirit remind us of this great truth continually.
 
Even more so, Peter declares that God’s house is made of “living stones,” being “built up” and growing as the dwelling place of God.
 
One cannot help but recall Eden as the first dwelling place of God.
 
Adam and Eve were commissioned to expand this dwelling place throughout the world. But with sin, to use the words of John Milton, paradise was lost.
 
Sure, God dwelt with Israel in tent and temple, but now because of the work of Christ, God dwells within the church through his Spirit.
 
And the church is commissioned to expand the household of Christ to all nations by proclaiming his excellencies.
 
There is only one edifice that will stand the course of time.
 
There is only one building that will hold through the toughest of storms and not be destroyed.
 
There is only one household that will continue throughout eternity, the household of God.
 
This household is full of people who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, so let us long for Him as we grow up into salvation. 
8/30/2012 2:28:22 PM by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Sept. 16: Right Motives

August 30 2012 by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro

Focal Passages: Matthew 6:1-13, 16-18
 
Have you ever seen the guy with the oversized money clip. He’s carrying a few hundred dollars and wants you to know it! Even if he’s only carrying one $100 bill with 50 ones packed inside, he wants you to be impressed. Jesus warned His hearers of public, trumpeted giving that men honor but God does not reward. Conversely, He taught us to give secretly so that God will be honored and we will be rewarded.
 
Who are you glorifying with your money?
 
I grew up attending church with an older man my sister and I referred to as “The Great Oz.”
 
I admit we should have been focusing on God instead of him, but his prayers always sounded like a presentation of smoke and fire while the real person remained hidden.
He prayed the same repetitious, self-glorifying prayer with no mention of the grace or mercy of God. According to Jesus, we must be hidden, both physically and spiritually, in God’s divine priorities.
 
Have you ever noticed the priorities of the model prayer?
 
Before human needs are mentioned, we are called to focus on our Heavenly Father’s name, kingdom, and will.
 
When Jesus comes to our needs, only one is material and it is limited by the parameters of necessity.
 
This need is outnumbered by our need for forgiveness and the averting of sin in the future. In other words, God’s will and our alignment with it far outweigh our material needs.
 
One of the most awkward moments of my seminary years happened one afternoon during class prayer time.
 
Some of us knew a classmate had been fasting and was beginning to look very weak and hollow-eyed.
 
That day she praised God that she had been fasting for 21 days!
 
In the midst of our disbelief the professor said, “According to the Bible, you just lost your blessing!”
 
She made the mistake of both displaying and announcing the pain of fasting.
 
Jesus exhorts us to avoid trying to impress people, and to remember that God knows and will reward our secret devotion.
 
Who are you trying to impress?
8/30/2012 2:26:43 PM by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for Sept. 9: Living in Holiness

August 28 2012 by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem

Focal passage: 1 Pet. 1:13-25
 
The words “be holy, for I am holy” can be terribly unsettling to the Christian when considering “the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy” as Isaiah asserts. By declaring that God is holy, we proclaim that He is utterly set apart from all things as perfect and pure.
 
And we as Christians recognize that we are radically sinful and depraved. So the command to be holy seems to be an inexorable demand on us, completely impossible for us to accomplish. And it is. As C.S. Lewis is quoted in A Severe Mercy, we are “hopeless if this is to be done on our own … God must do it.”
 
This is the good news and the paradox of holiness! God acts to judge everything that is unholy and yet provides a way of cleansing for sinners.
 
Simply put, in Christ one is made holy before God.
 
Once one has truly experienced the grace of God in the gospel they are released from the slavery to ignorant passions and set free to live in a way that is pleasing to God. Yet we all struggle with sin.
 
We will not experience holiness in its fullness until Christ comes and makes all things new.
 
So, when I struggle with sin in my own life I have found it valuable to adopt Peter’s method in this passage of looking to Christ:
 
First, reflect on the love of Christ, namely, that he shed his precious blood to cleanse us from sin.
 
Second, consider the holiness of God as the beautiful pattern to mirror in a shattered world.
 
Lastly, the imminent coming of Christ and the judgment of the Father should spur us on to pursue what is good, and we do so knowing that the Spirit purifies us through the living Word.
 
The call to be holy is terribly comforting.
8/28/2012 2:17:27 PM by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Sept. 9: High Expectations

August 28 2012 by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro

Focal Passages: Matthew 5:17-22, 27-28, 31-34a, 38-39, 43-44, 48
 
What should New Testament believers do with the Old Testament law? Some people completely disregard it while others try to fulfill old covenant and new covenant commands simultaneously. The writer of Hebrews made a distinction between the two covenants, stating that Jesus is “the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises” (8:6b), so “He has made the first obsolete” (8:13). Jesus gave us the key to understanding the relationship between the two covenants, when He stated that nothing from the law would pass away “until all is accomplished” and that He came to fulfill the law (Matt 5:17-18). The old covenant law that reveals our sin points us to the new covenant which provides redemption for our sin through the blood of Jesus. Old covenant animal sacrifices foreshadowed the crucifixion of Jesus, the once and for all sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:1-18).
 
Our culture praises the self-made man who pulls himself up from poverty to attain riches by his hard work and determination. However, there are no self-made children of God. The scribes and Pharisees tried to make themselves righteous by strict adherence to the Old Testament law, but Jesus said our righteousness has to exceed theirs. The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector seems to clarify that Jesus was contrasting outward legalistic righteousness and true righteousness that marks the hearts and lives of Jesus’ followers (Luke 18:9-14). Our completion in Christ will not come by our works but by faith in what He can do through us as people who have been “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20).
 
When speaking of a person who seemed a bit crazy we used to say, “The lights are on, but nobody’s home.” The scribes and Pharisees proved that people can have a similar spiritual condition. Everything can look good on the surface, yet his heart can be cold and dead toward God. Jesus proved that the sins of murder and adultery can be committed in one’s heart, and that the sins of divorce, lying, revenge, and hate can be easily, but wrongly, justified in the eyes of men. May God convict our hearts of inward sins and outward justifications for disobedience.
8/28/2012 2:15:53 PM by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for September 2: Living with Hope

August 15 2012 by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem

Focal Passage: 1 Peter 1:1-12
 
The Apostle Peter penned First Peter to be circulated among God’s elect scattered throughout modern-day Turkey, an area that covered about 130,000 square miles. The purpose of the letter was to encourage the people of God in remaining faithful. We are reminded that Peter’s precious Savior Jesus Christ once charged him to feed the sheep. Here he does so very sweetly reminding them of the hope they have in the work of the triune God.
 
If there is anything that a troubled person needs, it is hope. And if there is anything that the promises of God in Christ offer, it is a hope that cannot be sabotaged. But sometimes Christians need to be reminded of this truth, especially when the cold dark clouds of suffering, distress and uncertainty block the horizon. Hope, according to Paul, calls believers to look beyond present circumstances towards an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading.
 
This eternal hope has undeniable implications on how we face difficulty in the present life. There are many people around us who hold on to the empty philosophies of the world. Nevertheless, people continue to sacrifice their lives for these empty promises. Yet, for Christians we realize that Christ offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice so that we could be brought to God, the only one in whom our deepest needs could be met.
 
We need to be reminded of the hope we have in Christ. May the Spirit stir up a longing for our true home with God, and for the inheritance we have in Christ. As Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “observe that the inheritance is kept for the saints, and the saints for the inheritance.” This is certainly a message that should circulate among believers as we are scattered as strangers in a fallen world, awaiting the glorious appearing of our Savior. Our hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
 
 
8/15/2012 3:56:54 PM by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life for September 2: Back to Basics

August 15 2012 by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro

Focal Passage: Matthew 5:1-16
 
Have you ever noticed that the Christian life is a bit like a new house? When you first purchase the house you are most enamored by things such as the size of the rooms, the layout, and the beautiful exterior. But if the plumbing stops working or the foundation shifts, you suddenly realize there are more important aspects of the house. Similarly, new Christians tend to focus on their wonderful circle of new friends and the absence of the pains of the old life. While these things are certainly important, people who don’t go deeper in the faith tend to fall out of fellowship with the local church. Knowing that even a lost person could sustain an outward remodeling for a season, Jesus urged His hearers to focus on the inward realities of the Christian life that no one could successfully counterfeit. For example, a person who pretends to be a Christian can exchange one lifestyle for another, but he cannot demonstrate absolute dependence upon Jesus.
 
In addition to the inward evidences of faith in Christ, we must also maintain an outward display of Christianity. Some people would think that Jesus’ priority list would include all the things you can mark on a traditional Sunday School offering envelope. Compare that to Jesus’ list: mercy, purity of heart, peacemaking and persecution. By capping the list with persecution Jesus made it quite clear that He was speaking of the God-honoring characteristics produced in Christ’s Kingdom, not the hippy-dippy alternatives. Jesus brought together both the inward and outward characteristics of the Christian life by calling us to be salt and light. Like the average kitchen, we have no shortage of salt or light.
 
In North Carolina alone we have tens of thousands of Christians who can show their neighbors a display of new life in Christ, but what difference will we make if we don’t get the salt out of the shaker and flip on the light? He’s looking for a demonstration, not just a recitation, of the power of the gospel.
8/15/2012 3:54:57 PM by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for August 26: Embracing Responsibilities

August 13 2012 by Thomas Marshall, pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Laurinburg

Focal Passages: Ruth 3:1-4:22
 
We can’t help but laugh at the small child with chocolate smeared on his hands and face when confronted with “Who ate the cupcake?” answers back “Not me.” He is just doing what his “dad” does.
 
I’m actually referring to Adam, the father of mankind. In Genesis 3 after Adam and Eve sinned, God asks if they ate of the fruit. Adam answers quickly, “The woman You gave to be with me‌ ... .” We live in a world that continually passes the buck. The concept of taking responsibility is far from people’s minds. It is always someone else’s fault. We seek to shed any ounce of responsibility. “My family was ….” “No one will give me a break ….” “They dared me to ….” The reason why some people have trouble with the Bible is because it keeps holding their feet to the fire. It doesn’t let us off the hook. God expects us to take responsibility for our actions. And that includes being responsible for our relationships.
 
Fathers, God has given us the responsibility to be the spiritual leaders of our families. Dad, God has tasked us with responsibility to watch over the physical and spiritual well being of our wives and children. We can’t neglect our families and then blame what happens on someone else. Be a man! Stand up and take responsibility.
 
Moms, God has given you the awesome privilege of shaping and molding your children into what God has designed them for. Our father Adam displayed at the start our human concept of not taking responsibility. He blamed Eve, but as you ponder what he said, he blamed God.
 
God, if You hadn’t given this woman (It’s interesting that he didn’t use her name) I wouldn’t be in this mess. We make mistakes; we sin and seek to blame it on someone or something else. It is time that we stop looking at others, and start taking our responsibilities seriously. We are responsible for our relationship with God and others.
8/13/2012 2:40:11 PM by Thomas Marshall, pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Laurinburg | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life for August 26: Persevere in Obedience

August 13 2012 by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro

Focal Passages: Jeremiah 37:11-17; 38:4-6, 14-18
 
Jesus warned his hearers of the treacherous nature of a hireling (John 10:11-13). A hireling never risks his life for the sheep. When he sees the wolf coming he leaves because he doesn’t care about the sheep. To put it in modern terms, he says, “They don’t pay me enough for this!” Conversely, the shepherd will give everything for their deliverance, just as Jesus gave His all for our deliverance from sin. Jeremiah lived in a time of many hirelings.
 
Instead of protecting the sheep, the shepherds of Israel did whatever seemed best to them. Knowing the truth was best for God’s people, whether they wanted to hear it or not, Jeremiah endured persecution to the point of accusations, beating and imprisonment. Will you stand firm even when it hurts?
 
It’s one thing to serve God when it hurts, but what do you do when obedience brings the threat of death? What do you do when even the king wimps out and refuses to defend you because your prophetic words are bad for morale? Jeremiah stood for God even when he had to sit in the mud in the bottom of a cistern. Jeremiah remained faithful to God when he did not know what the days ahead would bring. Will you stand firm when others waffle?

While Zedekiah obsessed over the stability of his rule (38:19), Jeremiah cared more about faithfulness to God than his own popularity, comfort or survival.
 
Like believers of every generation, Jeremiah could have been pulled in several directions. He could have spoken what the people, the king, or the Chaldeans wanted to hear, but he stood on God’s Word. As children we sang “The B-I-B-L-E,” and as adults we need to put it into action by standing alone on the Word of God.
 
While the song seems to refer to standing only on the Word of God, we also need to commit to standing alone when no one else will stand. Will you stand by faith on God’s Word?
8/13/2012 2:37:49 PM by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for Aug. 19: Expressing Love

August 2 2012 by Thomas Marshall, pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Laurinburg

Focal Passages: Ruth 1:1-2:23
 
Leo Tolstoy is quoted as saying, “All happy families resemble each other, but each unhappy family is unhappy in it’s own way.” In my studies I have seen that many believe that well over 60 percent of American families can be called dysfunctional. This is the cause behind the violence, broken relationships and divorces in our country.
 
I believe that in actuality, we are looking at 100 percent. Why? Because all families are made up of dysfunctional people. You and I are dysfunctional because we have the sin nature. This sin nature causes us to put ourselves first over others. We put our needs over anyone else’s needs.
 
God wants us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39). God wants us to understand that love is not an emotion; it is an action verb. It is the words and actions we use with each other.
 
So, how do we build a better relationship? We can start by seeking to build better communication.  Don’t be critical; be constructive. Is what you are about to say necessary? Will it build up or bust up? Today, seek to speak words that improve those around you.
 
Another way is to refuse to hold a grudge. Has someone done something against you? Welcome to this world we live in. What was done is not as important as how we dealt with it. I realized one day that I had done something horrible to One who loved me so much. But, to my delight He didn’t hold it against me. He forgave me. Of course you know I am talking about God. No one could ever do as much to me as I have done to God. When I am tempted to hold a grudge now, I think about how God has dealt with me.
 
Finally, we show our commitment to our loved ones by spending time with them. To say we love them is not as important as showing them that we love them. And, as has been said, love is spelled T-I-M-E.
 
Build a better relationship by communicating, forgiving and spending time.
8/2/2012 2:01:29 PM by Thomas Marshall, pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Laurinburg | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life for Aug. 19: Rise Above Discouragement

August 2 2012 by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro

Focal Passage: Jeremiah 20:1-13
 
The sources of discouragement seem endless at times. Sometimes we are discouraged by what we lack, and other times by what we wish we could unload. One of my seminary professors told about a church plant he once pastored which included one of the most negative people he’d ever met. He said there were Sundays when he wanted to ask, “Ma’am would you please open us with a word of criticism?” In hindsight such trials may bring laughter, but when we’re walking through them they provide overwhelming discouragement. Jeremiah endured both negative words and physical suffering, but he continued to stand firm on the Word of God. In order to follow Jeremiah’s example we must focus on our unchanging Lord instead of our temporary circumstances.
 
Discouragement causes us to turn inward. Even Jeremiah began to believe that God had deceived him. In the midst of mockery and the vengeful plotting of his friends, Jeremiah simply got honest before God. When was the last time you did that? Jeremiah wasn’t informing God but humbling himself, admitting he couldn’t stop preaching the truth no matter how he felt. As we confess our frustrations to God, He draws near to us and we begin to understand His purpose for them. As Laura Story’s song, “Blessings,” asks, “What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?”
 
Although Jeremiah continued to struggle with discouragement, he knew victory would come. The circumstances that produced this spiritual depression in his heart were overshadowed by the truth of God’s Word. He had already warned in 17:9, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick.”
 
John also reminds us that when our heart condemns us “God is greater than our heart and knows all things” (1 John 3:20). When you become heart sick over the weight of God’s calling, remember that the same truth that set you free is all-sufficient to sustain you in the valleys of life.
8/2/2012 1:59:50 PM by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro | with 0 comments