December 2011

Explore the Bible Lesson for January 8: Stay Focused on the Goal

December 21 2011 by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Numbers 32:1, 5-8, 16-18, 20-24; 33:51-53
 
When I read through this passage, I did not expect to have a musical flashback to a Disney movie. But, that is exactly what happened. As I pictured in my mind the request of the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and then Moses’ subsequent response, I must admit, one of the songs from Disney’s movie High School Musical came to mind – “We’re All in This Together.”
 
Moses interpreted the request of the Reubenites and Gadites as a statement of their desire to avoid participating in the taking of the land of promise. The leaders of these tribes very quickly dispelled this idea, strongly declaring their readiness to participate in the conquest alongside their brothers, while maintaining their personal request for a certain provision of land.
 
While thinking about this exchange, I could not help but think about God’s grand plan of redemption and our part in it. God is now working toward the end goal of the final establishment of His kingdom, where His will is being done on earth as it is in heaven – the end toward which Jesus taught us to pray.
 
With the first coming of Christ, this kingdom is, in a sense, “already.” That is, Christ ushered in the kingdom, which is being built and established now in and through the lives of those who know and follow Him. In another sense, however, that kingdom reality is “not yet” – awaiting final fulfillment as Christ returns to overthrow the powers of darkness and establish His rule and reign forever among His people.
 
Between now and then, we, as the people of God are “All in This Together.” We do not seek or serve our own wills and desires. Instead, we stay focused on the goal of serving our King and the advancement of His kingdom. This does not mean that we are not concerned for our individual needs and desires, but it does mean that our own needs and desires are always viewed as secondary when compared to the pursuit of the God-given task of serving together with His people for the sake of His glory.
12/21/2011 2:49:41 PM by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for January 8: Seeking Purity in a Sensual Culture

December 21 2011 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Ephesians 5:1-5, 8-12, 15-16
 
In 1819 Washington Irving published the short story “Rip Van Winkle.” It was the fictitious tale of a lazy and unproductive man who meets up with some strangers, drinks their drink, and finds himself asleep for the next 20 years. When he awakens the world as he knew it had drastically changed. I’ve often thought about how our world has changed in the past 20 years. Twenty years ago we didn’t have so-called “gay marriage” in any state, or rampant porn on the internet. And then I wonder what the next 20 years will bring us.
 
Dealing with morality within the church has always been a struggle. Does a pastor marry folk who are “living together?”
 
Does a church grant membership to the same? What does a congregation do when they discover their pastor has a problem with pornography, or is having an affair with his secretary, or announces to the congregation that he is a homosexual?
 
These issues are not just theoretical, unfortunately they are sometimes real.
 
While the pendulum of social mores may change, right now we live in a most sensual culture. Is the church going to become like the “world,” or is the church going to be the light that transforms culture?
 
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “If you want to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.” The word “walk” is key to this passage (v. 2, 8, 15). J.B. Phillip’s translation calls it our “sense of responsibility.” I call it our lifestyle.
 
It begins with what we put in our thoughts, and continues with how we live every moment of every day. As Paul wrote this passage, he gave us a proactive formula for winning the battle of the mind and heart. Be imitators of God (v. 1), let our actions be dominated by love (v. 2), and let our speech be filled with thanksgiving (v. 4). Ultimately it is all about relationship. None of us can live a truly holy life apart from a living, vital, real relationship with Jesus Christ.
12/21/2011 2:47:24 PM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for January 1: Stay Grateful for God’s Care

December 20 2011 by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passages: Numbers 22:4b-6, 31-35; 23:19-23
 
It’s a new year! For many, this brings thoughts of gratitude about the previous year and excitement about the year ahead. There is overwhelming thankfulness for all the blessings God has provided. There is excitement and anticipation about all that God is going to do.
 
For others, however, the beginning of a new year is different. There are the ongoing burdens of last year – relationship burdens, financial burdens, family burdens, occupational burdens. And, if anything, the burdens of last year seem to be snowballing into an avalanche this year. In the midst of such challenges, our minds can easily gravitate toward these difficult circumstances rather than resting in our knowledge of our great God who sovereignly reigns over our circumstances and loves His people with an unconditional, everlasting love.
 
If you happen to find yourself in the latter category, allow God to use this week’s lesson to encourage you. Despite the fact that God’s people were in the midst of God’s 40-year discipline for their unbelief and unwillingness to enter the land God had promised to them, God still showed His covenant love for them and His faithfulness to keep His promise (Gen. 12:1-3). God did this in order to demonstrate His glory among the nations. In this particular case, God used some unusual circumstances and characters to demonstrate His covenant-keeping faithfulness. God used a pagan king’s desire to curse God’s people as an opportunity to show His determination to bless His people. God used a Gentile diviner to proclaim His blessing. And, God used a faithful donkey to save the life of this hot-tempered spokesman from immediate divine judgment. Even when His people didn’t see it, God was working.
 
So, are you rejoicing today in God’s faithfulness to you through Christ – perhaps in spite of your circumstances? Praise Him! If, today, you are overwhelmed with burdens and difficult circumstances, remember, God is sovereign and faithful. Trust Him, today and throughout this year, being grateful for His loving care for you.

12/20/2011 1:23:33 PM by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 2 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for January 1: Thriving in a Fast-Food Culture

December 20 2011 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church

Focal Passages: Prov. 23:20-21; Daniel 1:8, 11-16; Rom. 13:12-14
 
In 2004 actor Morgan Spurlock produced a documentary entitled “Supersize Me.” For 30 days Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald’s restaurant foods, with many of these meals being supersized portions. Can you imagine eating 90 McDonald’s meals? The healthy 32-year-old Spurlock gained 24.5 pounds and increased his body mass by 13 percent. As a result of his increased weight, loss of muscle, and increasingly sluggish arteries, he experienced a dramatic loss of energy and noticeable mood swings. It took him 14 months to lose the weight and regain muscle tone. There is no doubt that obesity is epidemic in America today, which was the point of doing the documentary. The saying “you are what you eat” has much truth to it.
 
Good health is a biblical issue. One finds in the life of Daniel the exact opposite of Spurlock’s experiment. Daniel and his friends had been taken into exile in Babylon. They were chosen to serve in the king’s court because of their youth and vigor and intelligence. But Daniel drew the line regarding what he put into his body.
 
When presented with the fatty foods and alcoholic beverages of the royal court, Daniel abstained. He asked permission to eat only vegetables and drink water for 10 days to prove that the Hebrews’ diet was healthier. His request was granted, and his test succeeded. From that time forward, Daniel and his Hebrew friends were allowed to eat and drink according to their traditions and conscience. Being healthy was one of the reasons Daniel excelled as a leader.
 
Likewise King Solomon and the Apostle Paul identified the dangers of indulgence. Not only was it unhealthy to be gluttonous or drunken, it was a poor witness to one’s faith. Paul encouraged the Christians to put on the “armor of light.” This was a call to reflect Jesus in everyday living. While we Baptists might prefer potluck dinners or “buffets” to “vegan,” there is something to be said for eating healthy. Bon appétit!
 
12/20/2011 1:21:31 PM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church | with 3 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for Dec. 25: The Messiah Has Come

December 8 2011 by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passages: Numbers 24:17; Matthew 1:16-21; 2:1, 7-11
 
On Christmas Day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us. During this time our family often reads the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ birth in Matthew and Luke. In Matthew’s account, as we see in today’s lesson, Jesus’ birth was not a new idea, but rather a fulfillment of what God had promised long before. The Holy Spirit inspired Matthew not only to consider Jesus’ family lineage, but also to trace it out for us as evidence of God’s fulfillment of His covenant promises.
 
The lesson’s reference to Numbers 24:17 highlights just one of many Old Testament prophecies pointing to the coming Messiah. Immediately after man’s fall in the Garden, God promised to send One who would crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). He promised the Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). He promised the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Matthew notes on several occasions that the events surrounding Jesus’ birth were in fulfillment of what God had spoken “through the prophets.” Scripture is clear. God is faithful. He keeps His promises.
 
There will continue to be much “Christmas talk” over the next couple of weeks.
 
The questions will come: “What did you do for Christmas?” “What did you eat for Christmas dinner?” “What gifts did you get for Christmas?” The question for us as followers of Jesus Christ will be: “Will we be faithful to make the most of these opportunities and share with others about the Messiah who has come – the Christ of Christmas?”
 
In Jesus Christ, God has given us the greatest of gifts – Himself. And, God’s gift of salvation to us in Christ is not just about what we get, but also about what we get to do. In Christ, God saved us for Himself, so that we might live our lives for Him and for His glory.
 
We have the great opportunity and responsibility of sharing with others about our glorious, faithful God who has given us salvation through His Son. We must go and tell – the Messiah has come!

12/8/2011 1:40:50 PM by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Dec. 25: Rejoice in God’s Gift

December 8 2011 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Luke 2:8-20
 
Recently the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series. While everyone recognized they were a good team, it seemed improbable they would become a great team. Nevertheless, this wild card team vaulted teams with better records to win the supreme prize. There was great rejoicing in St. Louis when they won game seven to end the series, a wild and wonderful celebration. But the next day their manager resigned. Surprised? Not really. Tony LaRussa had achieved great success over his 33 years of being a Major League manager. He had won three World Series titles, and he believed it was time to “move on” with his life. There is another chapter to be written.
 
Some might say that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was improbable. Few people other than the prophets had predicted it would happen. It was a miracle, and it was a time of great rejoicing. Furthermore, God had ordained that it be ordinary folk, represented by the shepherds, who would be the first outsiders to see and celebrate the new-born Messiah. God’s angel told them to not be afraid.
 
Fear of the unknown was to be replaced with joy; the “good news of great joy” was for everyone (v. 10). To accentuate the message, God sent a whole army of angels to proclaim the wonderful message of inner and eternal peace for those who accept His holy gift. The shepherds heard the angelic celebration, and they witnessed the glorious scene of Mary and Joseph with their new-born son, lying in the simplest of beds, a manger.
 
They heard, they rejoiced, but then it was time to go and proclaim the message of all they had experienced. In a few hours they would be back with their sheep, but their lives would never be the same. They, too, had a new chapter to write in their lives as they had been uniquely privileged to witness, and share Christ. Like the shepherds we need to make a personal response to Jesus Christ. He is the greatest treasure. Nothing, not even a World Series ring, compares. 

12/8/2011 1:39:13 PM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for Dec. 18: Stay Fearless in Your Obedience

December 5 2011 by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Numbers 13:26-28, 31; 14:6-9, 17-23
 
There he stood on the end of the diving board. His toes were white as they tried to grip the fiberglass platform beneath him. In front of him was his destination: the deep end of the pool. He knew the joys that awaited, unhindered enjoyment of the full expanse of the pool – no more confinement just to the shallow end.
 
There would be the exhilaration of springing from the diving board and splashing into the water below. But, there was a large enemy standing in the way – fear. What would he do?
 
My son knew what I had told him. “I will be with you. I will not let anything happen to you. I will be in the water before you even jump. Just trust me. It will be everything I have told you it will be.” He could also consider my track record. All the previous times I had promised to be with him, take care of him, or protect him, I had done so.
 
He was faced with a decision. Would he trust his dad’s character, promises and track record?
 
Or, would he let fear override what I had asked him to do, causing him to disobey and miss out on all that I wanted him to enjoy?
 
We think about this situation and see the folly of it.
 
Why would the child not trust his father – his character, his promises and his track-record – and simply jump into the joy and freedom of the deep end.
 
However, before we respond too harshly, we should think about the Israelites ... and ourselves. They stood on the brink of the Promised Land, virtually seeing the fulfillment of God’s promises in front of them, with memories of God’s previous deliverance and provision fresh in their minds. And yet, they cowered away from obedience in fear.
 
What about you? What has God put before you to do that you are avoiding because of fear, satisfied to walk in defeat and disobedience?
 
Will you trust His character, His promises and His track record and experience the joy and freedom of obedience today?
12/5/2011 1:47:20 PM by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Dec. 18: Respond to God’s Gift

December 5 2011 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Matthew 2:1-15
 
Several years ago a lady visited our church. She attended about a half dozen services, and then I didn’t hear from her again until about two months ago. She called me, explaining she was moving to the mountains and needed help moving furniture and boxes from her mobile home into a U-Haul. We undertook the job as a mission project for our youth ministry, and upon completing the task, Charlotte offered to give something to the church. I told her “please, no,” this was a project we wanted to do and were glad to help her. One of the lessons we try to teach our young people is that we are to be “givers, not takers.”
 
Today’s lesson is about two different responses to the birth of Jesus. Will we be like the magi or will we be like Herod? Will we be givers or takers? Will we be selfless or selfish?
 
The wise men or magi represented the selfless givers. They had traveled for many days over a long distance to see the new king.
 
Fittingly, they brought gifts appropriate for royalty. Although they were masters of astronomy and astrology, they were unsure where this king might be found.
 
They assumed that he would be in the capital city of Jerusalem, and that King Herod would know his whereabouts. They were wrong on both accounts. Yet, they continued to follow the star God had provided and found Mary and the child Jesus in a house in Bethlehem, just as Micah the prophet had foretold.
 
Herod the king represented the selfish takers. He was a vindictive and ruthless man. He lived in paranoia, afraid that someone else might take away his throne and power. History tells us he killed many of his own family members, including his “favorite” wife. Therefore, it is not surprising that Herod madly sought to kill the Christ Child.
 
You see, Herod was a taker. The most important person in his world was himself. He had no room for Jesus, and he would die a miserable, pitiful, pathetic man.
 

12/5/2011 1:45:42 PM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church | with 0 comments