August 2015

Explore the Bible Lesson for September 13: Made in His Image

August 27 2015 by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal passages: Genesis 2:4-9, 15-18
Throughout scripture, God’s breath signifies the imparting of life. In Ezekiel 37, it is the Lord’s breath that enters dry bones to make them truly live. “Thus says the LORD God to these bones: Behold I will cause breath to enter you and you shall live …” (v. 5).
In our passage this week in Genesis 2, we have the privilege of taking a closer look at day six in the creation account in which God creates His masterpiece, mankind.
As the crown of His creation and His final work, God formed man out of dust and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life …” (v. 7).
In both of these passages, the Hebrew word for breath can also be translated as spirit.
How beautifully significant that God’s breath is what makes man a “living being” (v. 7).
Not only does God give life to Adam, He also gives him a place to call home. In verse 8, we learn that God puts the man in the Garden of Eden. He gives him purpose in the Garden – “to work it and keep it” (v. 15) – and commands him to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (v. 17).
This prohibition was not the stinginess of an uncaring, uninvolved God. It was a warning issued for the protection of life. It was a call to obedience and trust in God’s provision.
After all, God had given every other tree in the Garden to Adam for food and ultimately knew what was best for His creation (v. 16).
God also addresses Adam’s need for a life companion by creating a complementary helper suitable for him.
From the very beginning in the goodness of His creation, God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman. Both Adam and Eve were living beings made in the image of God and created with specific and unique roles to fulfill.
He gave them important work to do as stewards of the earth.
Next week, as we study the fall of humanity, we will recognize that obedience to God brings fulfillment and disobedience leads to death.

8/27/2015 10:12:27 AM by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for September 13: God’s Promise of Eternal Life

August 27 2015 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church

Focal passage: 1 John 5:6-13
Many years ago Dr. W.B. Hinson expressed his thoughts of eternal life shortly after he was diagnosed with a terminal illness.
He wrote, “I remember a year ago when a doctor told me, ‘You have an illness from which you won’t recover.’ I walked out to where I live five miles from Portland, Ore., and I looked across at that mountain that I love. I looked at the river in which I rejoice, and I looked at the stately trees that are always God’s own poetry to my soul. Then in the evening I looked up into the great sky where God was lighting His lamps, and I said, ‘I may not see you many more times, but Mountain, I shall be alive when you are gone; and River, I shall be alive when you cease running toward the sea; and Stars, I shall be alive when you have fallen from your sockets in the great down pulling of the material universe!’”
Hinson’s words serve as reminder that death is not the final state for the believer. Death is but a portal into the presence of God for all eternity.
This week’s lesson teaches us that God wants us to live with security and confidence because we have eternal life in Jesus Christ. God never intended for believers to live in fear of death. Jesus conquered death and when a person places his or her trust in Him they have the promise of eternal life. Knowing we have eternal life is extremely important when our time on earth comes to an end. But it is not just about death.
It is also about life. Having the promise of eternal life in Christ should propel us to take greater risk for the gospel. Someone once said, “If a person can overcome the fear of death, there is nothing he cannot accomplish for Christ.” I agree.
How about you? What is keeping you from doing great things for Christ?

8/27/2015 10:05:06 AM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for September 6: God Creates

August 25 2015 by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal passages: Genesis 1:1-5, 26-31; 2:1-3
Museums are built specifically to house and display manmade creations. We pay admission to stand in awe and marvel at the magnificent creativity of artists around the world. I have been told that it is difficult to even get close to the Mona Lisa in the Louvre Museum in Paris because of the countless tourists huddled around it. Amazing works of art by renowned artists are deeply revered. Yet have you ever stopped to ponder the majesty of the Creator who made the entire universe? His artwork is on display all around you. Not only did He design the highest mountains and the richest hues but He crafted mankind – you and me - as His magnum opus.
In the beginning, God created …” (Gen. 1:1). We learn a crucial truth within the first five words of scripture. God creates the heavens and the earth – all matter, space and time – and He does so ex nihilo (Latin for “out of nothing”). As verse 2 reiterates, “The earth was without form and void.”
Unlike Leonardo da Vinci who used his paintbrush and his skill, God created out of nothing through the infinite power of His Word. He speaks and creation comes into existence (“And God said …”).
Not only does He speak to create, He also names His creation (“God called…”). This is significant because the act of naming indicates dominion over that which is named. God later gives this privilege to humans as well.
As we read through the first chapter of Genesis, we can detect a specific, intentional order to creation in each of the six days.
Mankind is created last, in His image, as the crowning point of creation. Both male and female are made in the image of the Triune God and designed to be in relationship with Him. They are given stewardship over the earth and purpose in caring for it. The seventh day is consecrated as holy to celebrate that His “good” work is finished.
Do not neglect to worship the Master Artist this week, for all things were made through Him and for His glory.

8/25/2015 10:48:34 AM by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for September 6: God’s Promise of Faithfulness

August 25 2015 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church

Focal passages: Psalm 89:1-2, 5-8, 15-18
Sometimes when you are in a difficult situation it is easy to forget that God is always faithful. The pressures of life or the uncertainty of particular events may cause us to question God’s faithfulness. What can we do during those times?
First, and most importantly, we must look to God’s Word for help. In our focal passage this week we see how the psalmist praises God for His faithfulness and power.
We are reminded that God never fails to keep His promises. Perhaps, you are like me.
As you look back on your life you can recount the many times God has been faithful to you even when you were not faithful to Him.
A second way to be reminded of God’s faithfulness is by keeping a spiritual journal.
Over the years I have kept a written record of how God has been faithful in my life, especially as it relates to answered prayers.
I can remember one of the first entries of my journal that demonstrate God’s faithfulness. Over 20 years ago I was a young man deeply in love with a young lady. Looking back now it does not seem as dramatic, but back then I was extremely nervous about our future.
This is what I wrote in my journal, “I pray Lord you will give me the keys to Beth Mackey’s heart and that I will see evidence of your work” (March 17, 1995).
Then, six months later I wrote, “Thank you for answering the prayer above. I will officially put the date down as an answered prayer when I marry her (Sept. 6, 1995). Prayer answered July 27, 1996.”
Now, for some that may seem trivial.
But for me, I can look back and see how God was so faithful in leading and guiding me during that time.
Just think, if you have years of journal entries that affirm God’s faithfulness it can serve as a helpful tool to remind you that God is worthy of our praise because He is the only one that is always faithful.

8/25/2015 10:44:05 AM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for August 30: The Final Act

August 13 2015 by Michael Wilkes, pastor, New Life Baptist Church, Henderson

Focal Passage: Revelation 21:1-7
Spoiler alert! – It’s what a true friend should say before giving details important to the ending of a movie you haven’t seen or book you haven’t read.

Most of us don’t want to know the ending ahead of time. Of course, there are always those who read the last chapter first – the same ones who feel they must try to figure out what their gifts are before it’s time to open them. 
You don’t need a spoiler alert before you read about the perfect new heaven and new earth in the presence of Jesus with no more pain, sorrow, suffering or death. In these final chapters of our Bible, God tells us how our struggle with sin and Satan will end if we trust in Jesus. Because our struggles are real and sometimes extremely difficult, we need this glimpse of the end.
A boxer who doesn’t think he can defeat his opponent almost certainly will not. He must be prepared for the fight and be convinced that he has what it takes to win. God knows this about our nature because He created us. Though your adversary is a much bigger and stronger opponent that you, God has given you all the equipment you need for the battle.
In Christ, He gives you the armor of God to stand against the devil. He empowers you with His Spirit, and He consistently reminds you in Scripture that our foe has already been defeated.
We must remember that the end has already been written. Victory over Satan is not just possible, it is guaranteed if we trust in Christ. As many preachers have said, “We are not just fighting for victory. We are fighting from victory!”
This view of the end reminds us – as we incur wounds amid the conflict of our life – “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). That is, of course, if we keep fighting and keep trusting in Jesus.

8/13/2015 11:23:11 AM by Michael Wilkes, pastor, New Life Baptist Church, Henderson | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 30: Hospitality: How ordinary people can live on mission

August 13 2015 by Manny Prieto, lay pastor, Imago Dei Church, Raleigh

Focal passage: Luke 14:12-24
What is the best meal you’ve ever had? Think past the menu and think of a specific occasion. Our best meal may or may not line up with the best food we’ve ever tasted. In fact, when I think about my favorite meals, the food is secondary. I think first of the people and the occasions. Meals mean more than the food that is served. Meals are shared experiences with others, opportunities to build and deepen relationships, and for the believer, meals are a mission field.
As we meditate on the parable of the Great Banquet, we are confronted with the reality that our greatest meal is yet to come. For those of us who are in Christ, our greatest meal will be at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, when we, the Church, the sanctified Bride of Christ, will finally behold our King and Savior. I can hardly begin to wrap my mind around that coming feast, yet it is the sure reality of all who are in Christ.
At the same time, looking forward to that great feast should remind us that the work here is not yet complete. There are many who have not yet heard of this coming feast. As the church, we have received our command from the our gracious host: we are to bring many to the feast, those who are far off and in darkness.
Brothers and sisters, are we thinking Christianly about our dinner tables and our meals? Are we practicing hospitality with a missional mindset? All of us must recognize that at one time we were far off, unworthy guests of such a great feast. Yet we were brought in, as unlovely as we were, and we have been given seats at the King’s table. This should result in a distinctively Christian hospitality. May we use our dinner tables and feasts as vessels of good news to invite others to the King’s coming feast! I pray we would open our homes to many as a picture of the King who has opened his table to the lost.

8/13/2015 11:15:38 AM by Manny Prieto, lay pastor, Imago Dei Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for August 23: Jesus Defeats Satan

August 11 2015 by Michael Wilkes, pastor, New Life Baptist Church, Henderson

Focal Passage: Revelation 12:1-17
Unstoppable. Unconquerable. Invincible. Impregnable. Do these words enter your mind today as you think about the Kingdom of God?
It may look as though God’s Kingdom is losing ground. The so-called Islamic State and other enemies of the gospel are mercilessly killing our brothers and sisters in numbers greater than ever. In our country, the ethics of God’s Kingdom are becoming a stigma. Christians are increasingly seen as a hindrance to progress. It’s easy to think Satan is winning.
Yet, remember how God has carried out his plan throughout history. This isn’t the first time it appeared unlikely that God’s Kingdom plans would triumph.
It appeared Satan hindered God’s plan in the beginning when he successfully led Adam and Eve to sin, bringing corruption to God’s good creation. Yet, God had redemption planned through the seed of woman who would crush the serpent’s head. Throughout the Old Testament Satan fought to prevent the coming of that Son.
Satan corrupted the world to the point of total destruction, but God preserved Noah. Athaliah killed the sons of Judah’s lineage, but God preserved Joash. Judah was threatened by the Babylonians, but God promised through Isaiah that His plans would be fulfilled through the miraculous virgin birth of Immanuel. When it looked like every Jew would be exterminated under the reign of Ahasuerus, God raised up Esther to preserve His people and His plan.
When the promised seed was finally born in Bethlehem, Herod decreed all children his age to be killed, but God gave Mary and Joseph escape in Egypt. Satan still didn’t give up. He tempted Jesus to sin – unsuccessfully. He roused people to brutally kill the Messiah, but he failed to understand that the death of Jesus would be the crushing of his own head.
The blood of the lamb has defeated Satan. Still today he inflicts suffering upon the people of God, but God has a proven record of turning suffering into triumph. Trust in our victorious Savior, and watch God carry out His perfect plan even if it costs us our lives.

8/11/2015 11:37:34 AM by Michael Wilkes, pastor, New Life Baptist Church, Henderson | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 23: Return to the task

August 11 2015 by Manny Prieto, lay pastor, Imago Dei Church, Raleigh

Focal passage: Acts 13:1-3, 44-52
Can you imagine a basketball team playing a championship game without unity of purpose and mission? Perhaps the star player is focused on getting his stats to look good or a support player is determined to make a three-pointer, cementing himself in everyone’s memory. Regardless of motivations, it’s not difficult to imagine that such a team would probably be ineffective. Without unity built around a common purpose, distraction and failures abound.
In Acts we find the church experiences a unity around a common mission and purpose that is noteworthy. The church at Antioch understood their mission was not to build the best social club in the region or to ensure that everyone was as comfortable as they could be. On the contrary, their mission, the Great Commission, was to spread the gospel and make disciples.
It should come as no surprise then that they did not hesitate when the Holy Spirit called on them to send Paul and Barnabas out to spread the gospel. They understood their mission and knew what it would take to advance. Are we committed to the advance of the kingdom, even when it means sending out our best and brightest to be missionaries and church planters? Or are we more committed to building our own particular brand of Christianity?
Notice that it is God who leads the church at Antioch to send out Paul and Barnabas and yet they face rejection. The passage shows us vividly that the work of evangelism and mission is not without difficulty and rejection. Yet we find the power to persevere knowing He is sovereign and He will save! In the very same passage, we see the joy that flows from sinners coming to Christ. The joy of harvest is the reward of remaining united in our mission through rejection. We should not fear sending out our best and brightest. Likewise, we shouldn’t fear or retreat when we face rejection. Rather we should trust in God’s purpose to establish His Kingdom and in His sovereignty to accomplish it.

8/11/2015 11:28:27 AM by Manny Prieto, lay pastor, Imago Dei Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments