December 2012

Explore the Bible Lesson for Jan. 6: Restoring the Repentant

December 20 2012 by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem

Focal Passages: Hosea 13:4-6; 14:1-9
 
In Hosea 13 the threat of death, especially as punishment for idolatry, is the horrifying reality that the people faced. Imagine the shame and guilt that would have landed on the shoulders of God’s people when the words of Hosea were dropped on them.
 
The verdict was in. God’s people had turned their worship toward man-made gods and refused to repent. By their stubborn refusal to return to the one true living God, Israel had abandoned all hope from a human perspective.
 
As so many times before, God shows his compassion and longsuffering toward His stubborn people. We see over and over in the Old Testament, God’s people turn from Him.

Then the prophets cry out, “Return to the Lord your God.” They eventually repent, but later fall away again. Israel’s vicious cycle of sin and idolatry is exhausting.
 
But God is always in redeeming pursuit of His people. In Hosea 14 God allures His people with promises of healing and love.
 
Consider the power of God’s grace as it breaks through the darkness of the shame and guilt of idolatry. This power is seen most clearly on the cross of Jesus. Jesus consumed the wrath of God against sin – along with its accompanying guilt and shame – so that we, God’s wayward people, could return to God. The vicious cycle seen in Israel, and in ourselves, ended on the cross of Christ. And the promises of flourishing were finally established in Jesus’ resurrection.
 
God has made His case against sin and has offered redemption. Hosea has an apt ending, reminiscent of Jesus’ words: “those who have ears let them hear.” Hosea leaves the hearer with an obligation to respond.
 
“The ways of the Lord are right and the upright walk in them.” This is a call for repentance and faithfulness.
12/20/2012 3:28:30 PM by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Jan. 6: Nahum: A Message of God’s Judgment

December 20 2012 by Bartley Wooten, senior pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passages: Nahum 1:7-9, 12-13; 2:8-13; 3: 18-19
 
Many Americans believe we should live in an entitlement society – a place where the government guarantees the rights to certain benefits, regardless of a person’s actions or circumstances.
 
This entitlement mentality has crept into our religious climate as well. Many people believe that God owes them something regardless of how they live. They assume God is only a God of love and consequently will only hand out blessings regardless of their actions or deeds.
 
However, this is not the case according to scripture. In the Book of Nahum, we find a message of God’s judgment to a city that had been morally corrupt for many years. The city was Nineveh and was known as one of the most evil places in Assyria. For years, Nineveh committed terrible atrocities on various nations surrounding the Southern Kingdom and even defeated several towns located within Judah’s borders. When Nahum prophesied of Nineveh’s fall it assured Judah that God is always faithful and would hold the wicked nation accountable for its sin.
 
God has not changed. The same God that pronounced and executed judgment on Nineveh is the same God today. Too often, we see what is happening overseas and in our own country and we assume God will have mercy on us, even though we transgress His laws and disobey His Word. Nahum serves as a reminder that God will not be mocked and, unless true repentance occurs, we, along with many other nations, will face His righteous judgment.
 
I heard a pastor once preach on how many people God killed in the Bible. He thought as he prepared for the sermon that his view of God might be diminished. But after careful study of the scripture, he came to the conclusion that God should have killed us all.
 
You see, the reality is that God does owe us something. He owes us His just condemnation. However, in His mercy, for anyone willing to repent, and by faith trust in Christ alone, God will withhold his judgment. Instead of receiving His wrath we will receive His favor and enjoy Him forever.                    
12/20/2012 3:27:16 PM by Bartley Wooten, senior pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for Dec. 30: Remembering Compassion

December 18 2012 by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem

Focal Passage: Hosea 11:1-11
 
The imagery of God as Father is deeply embedded within the narrative of scripture. Of the many characteristics we can draw from the analogy of God as Father, this passage points to God’s care for His children. Alister McGrath teaches that the Old Testament in particular “often compares God’s relation with His people to a father’s relationship with his young son.”
 
The patterns of family life seem instructive here. In most cases, when a son is young he is very close to his father and totally dependent on his father’s care (11:1-4). In human relationships we usually see that as the son grows older he breaks away from the father asserting his independence, but when it comes to our relationship with God as Father, we are always dependent. This passage in Hosea reminds us of that, and reminds us of God’s fatherly affection as His “compassion grows warm and tender” for His people.
 
Notice that Israel is labeled as God’s corporate “son” in this passage (see Ex. 4:22). Hosea references the movement of God’s son Israel being delivered out of Egypt in Exodus 14. Though God delivered His son Israel out of slavery, they had become “bent on turning away” from His loving care. Israel had turned away from the Father.
 
But like a loving father He pursed his wayward son with affection, so much so that He sent Jesus His perfect Son to obey where Israel had failed. Jesus embodied the desired sonship that both Israel and we could not obtain. Yet, He also imputes His perfect record as the obedient Son to us so that we may be delivered from slavery greater than Egypt, sin and death. Because of Christ we can come to the Father restored to our home, His loving and caring, but strong and mighty arms. In this passage we see God’s holiness and love kiss the cheek of His child.
12/18/2012 3:14:42 PM by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Dec. 30: Jesus Our Shepherd

December 18 2012 by Bartley Wooten, senior pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passage: John 10:7-16

Shepherding is an ancient occupation dating back several thousand years. Pastoral in nature, the shepherd’s primary responsibility was to keep the flock intact and protect them from predators. In Jesus’ day, tending to sheep was a viable occupation.
 
Although most farms utilized family members to take care of the sheep, there were opportunities to be paid to watch the flock.
 
The shepherd was very important. It is widely known that sheep require constant attention and have little means of defense. Their welfare depends solely on the care of the shepherd. Those who listened to Jesus describe Himself as the “Good Shepherd” (John 10:11) culturally understood the value of a shepherd who did his job well.
 
In most cases, people’s livelihood depended on the shepherd’s faithfulness and commitment to protect and care for the sheep. With that in mind, Jesus used the shepherd’s role as a metaphor to help those listening understand that He is the only way to God, and once we are saved He is there to guide us through life’s difficult terrain.
 
When our middle child (Mack) was around 15 months old, he was diagnosed with an arachnoid cyst in his brain. There were no guarantees it would remain dormant.
 
At that time, Mack’s speech and language development was delayed for his age. Now, some eight years later, he still battles with the same issues. My wife and I have frequent conversations about what is the best plan to help Mack succeed in life. What we have found to be the most helpful and important thing for us is to trust the Good Shepherd with our son. Not that we negate our responsibility to do private speech lessons or to help Mack every day, but in the process of our planning we yield our decisions to the One who knows what lies ahead. Christ knows the pitfalls and dangers of this world.
 
He knows which path leads to destruction and which leads to safety. Most importantly, we know Jesus loves us and will take care of us because He was willing to lay down His life for us. 
12/18/2012 3:13:12 PM by Bartley Wooten, senior pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for Dec. 23: Seeking the Savior

December 6 2012 by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem

Focal Passage: Matthew 2:1-15
 
The story of Matthew 1-2 finds its roots in the Old Testament stories we read as children in Sunday School. We all know the story line of the book of Exodus. In the first pages we find that while in Egypt Israel had been “fruitful and multiplied.” Israel became so many that Pharaoh became fearful and enslaved, even killed the sons, of all these people known as “God’s son” (Exodus 4:22-23).
 
But God raised up a deliverer by the name of Moses who called for Israel’s release. When Pharaoh refused to release Israel from slavery, God threatened to execute judgment on every first born son in Egypt. Keeping to His covenant love, God instructs the Israelites to spread the blood of a spotless lamb over their doorpost so they will be graciously spared from death. God judged Egypt, and He also delivered Israel out of slavery with His servant Moses leading the way.
 
It is interesting that here in Matthew we find that Jesus, God’s Son is immediately seen as a threat to Herod. Like Pharaoh, Herod became so fearful that he also executed all the male children in Bethlehem and the surrounding regions trying to kill God’s Son. But God called Joseph to flee and take Jesus into Egypt for safety. And once Herod died, Joseph is instructed to bring Jesus “out of the land of Egypt” echoing Hosea 2:15.
 
What you see is that Jesus is whispered in the Exodus account. Furthermore, if you are seeking Jesus, every story in the Old Testament points to Him. Jesus, God’s Son, is even more than the true and greater Israel. Jesus is also the spotless lamb whose blood is spread over our hearts to spare us from death (1 Peter 1:18-20). Jesus is the true and greater Moses who delivers us out of slavery to sin. This is the Good News of Christmas, proclaimed long ago in the book of Exodus.
12/6/2012 2:21:12 PM by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Dec. 23: Jesus Our Immanuel

December 6 2012 by Bartley Wooten, senior pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passages: Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 1:18-25

Christmas time is more than exchanging gifts and visiting with family. It is about celebrating the arrival of God Himself. Isaiah prophesied about the birth of Christ in the Old Testament (Isaiah 9:6-7).
 
In the New Testament, the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, and told him that Mary would give birth to a son and they would call him “Immanuel,” which means God with us (Matt 1:18-25).
 
The significance of these proclamations about Jesus is more than just the birth of a child.
They are about who Christ is and why He came. God is not some cosmic force; He is Jesus, God in the flesh, who came not only to die for us and save us from our sin, but also to be with us in every facet of life.
 
Many years ago my oldest brother was putting up groceries with his wife when a neighbor stopped by to visit.
 
Unknowing to them my brother’s youngest son, Zeb, not quite two years old, snuck out of the house to play with his older brother and sister.
 
Tragically, as little Zeb walked close to the road, a man driving under the influence of alcohol struck and killed my brother’s son. It was a horrific day in the life of my family.
 
Over the next several days after the accident we watched as people poured out love to our family. More importantly, I was amazed at God’s all-consuming presence as He comforted us in the time of loss.
 
I really don’t know how people deal with tragedy apart from the presence of Christ. Since Zeb’s death we light a candle and leave his stocking out every Christmas at my parent’s house.
 
When we read the Christmas story and glance up at Zeb’s candle we are reminded that life is too short and too difficult without the presence of God. Jesus has made it possible that you and I could know Him personally and not just theologically.
 
Christ is real, and we know that because He dwelt among us (John 1:14).
12/6/2012 2:19:55 PM by Bartley Wooten, senior pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for Dec. 16: Deciding on Discipline

December 4 2012 by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem

Focal Passages: Hos. 8:1-3, 7-10; 9:7-8; 10:10-12
 
Sadly there are many people who attend our churches that claim to be Christians, but whose lives prove otherwise. According to author David Kinnaman, one of the primary perceptions of Christians among outsiders is that we are hypocrites. They say Christians pretend to be something unreal, conveying a polished image that is not accurate. 
 
Recall the words of Jesus in Luke 6:44: you will know a tree by its fruit. Based on Hosea’s extensive list of Israel’s idolatry, politics, and false worship in chapter 8, one would conclude that Israel did not know and love their God. But interestingly enough, despite the fruit of their lives, Israel still claimed to be the people of God with their lips. However, because of the hypocrisy their sacrifices to God were made in vain.
 
Hosea is clear in chapters 9-10 that God will punish the unrepentant. Because of Israel’s rash ingratitude they will be as a root dried up and bear no fruit. But even in judgment God’s salvation is extended to those who repentantly seek Him.
 
This is the heart of the Good News. There is one who succeeds in righteousness where Israel and we fail. His name is Jesus. Unlike us, and unlike Israel, Jesus was truly righteous and His sacrifice for sin was accepted before God.
 
Without Christ we are all like the root dried up, bearing no fruit. But Jesus is the true vine, and those who abide in Him bear much fruit. Bearing fruit requires pruning, accepting discipline from the Lord as grace. A hypocrite is a “Christian” who sins and doesn’t admit it. A Christian is a saint who still sins, repents, and continually clings to Christ’s perfect righteousness. This is gospel discipline.
12/4/2012 2:47:40 PM by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Dec. 16: Yahweh Our Righteousness

December 4 2012 by Bartley Wooten, senior pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passages: Jeremiah 23:5-6; Romans 3:21-26; 10:1-4, 9-10
 
Have you experienced tragedy or suffering in your life? If you have lived long enough, it is most likely that your answer will be, “Yes.” Sometimes, suffering or tragedy comes because we live in a sin-saturated world or because of our own sinful actions. Other times suffering comes because it is God-appointed – either for our judgment or for our holiness – sometimes both. Such was the case for Israel.
 
God was bringing judgment upon His people for their unfaithfulness and rebellion.

But, in Jeremiah 23:1-6, God promises that after the judgment He would gather up the remnant of His people and set a King over them and His name will be called, “The LORD is our righteousness.” Of course, this is a prophetic promise that is ultimately fulfilled with the advent of Jesus Christ.
 
Jesus’ name, “The LORD is our righteousness,” is extremely significant because it reveals His character and nature. Everything about Jesus is good and right. His thoughts, actions, and attitude are perfect.
 
Indeed, there is no sin in Jesus Christ. This doctrinal truth is important for the Christian because, as mentioned earlier, life can be filled with suffering and hardship.
 
How one responds to the suffering is oftentimes connected to how a person views Jesus. For example, knowing that Jesus is righteous does not mean that you don’t hurt when tragedy hits. It does not mean you don’t experience depression or pain in stressful situations. It does not mean you will not have feelings of sadness in times of loss.
 
But, what it does mean is that when the difficult times occur you can rest in the fact that God’s decision to permit or appoint hardships in your life is not and will never be motivated by malice, sin or wickedness, but only by His infinite righteousness, justice and love. It is like the old hymn says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.”    
12/4/2012 2:44:43 PM by Bartley Wooten, senior pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments