December 2013

Explore the Bible Lesson for January 12: Honor Jesus

December 31 2013 by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passages: John 17:1-8, 20-26
 
As the New Year has begun, have you set goals for 2014? Our lesson title for this week is “Honor Jesus.”
 
How would your life change if that was your one goal for 2014? We often think first about goals in the category of exercise or diet, but spiritual goals are so much more important! 
 
In John 17, Jesus states, “I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave me to do” (John 17:4). As we consider how we can honor Jesus by completing God’s work, we may want to reflect on our life to this point and evaluate if we are heading in the direction that would result in our coming to a similar conclusion.
 
As we plan our commitments for 2014, is there a mission trip, an investment in a relationship or a gift we need to follow through on in order to complete the work God has called us to do? Now is the time for us to make that commitment. 
 
Our lesson continues by Jesus stating the ways He had been obedient to God (John 17:6-8).
 
In order to honor Jesus, we need to be intentional in our obedience. The New Year is a time to choose specific points of action that would illustrate your commitment to obeying God.
 
In John 17:20-23, Jesus teaches that all believers are to live in unity.Therefore, we look at our relationships in the body of Christ and consider if we are doing all that we can do to live in unity. 
 
We are also reminded in John 17 that we can anticipate that in heaven.
We will be able to honor Jesus forever.
 
Jesus states, “Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am” (v. 24). Oh, glorious day!
 
Our lesson suggests that we can honor Jesus by completing God’s work through demonstrating obedience, through living in unity and by anticipating that we will live with Him for now and forever.
 
Whatever the specific goal we may have for this year, may it honor Jesus.
12/31/2013 11:54:44 AM by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for January 12: A Life You Can’t Live on Your Own

December 31 2013 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passages: Romans 8:8-17, 26-27
 
Several months ago I decided it was time to teach my son how to ride his bike. Throughout the process I learned several lessons. First, in order for my son to be successful I needed to keep my hand on the back of seat at all times.
 
Especially early on, if I would remove my hand from the seat he would fall over because he couldn’t keep his balance.
 
Second, he needed me to help push the bike in the beginning because he did not have the strength to pedal it on his own.
 
Third, I had to warn him of dangerous obstacles because he would not pay attention to the road ahead.
Finally, if he fell off the bike I was there to pick him up and encourage him to try again.
 
My son’s riding experience reminds me of the important lessons God is trying to teach us through our lesson this week. First, in order for us to glorify God, we must have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us (Romans 8:8-13).
 
To use the bicycle analogy, the Holy Spirit must be the One to keep us upright.
 
His presence in our lives is a non-negotiable factor if we intend to glorify God.
 
Secondly, we need the Holy Spirit to empower us to live righteously. Just as I gave my son a push to help him get started on his bicycle, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to push us forward in the sanctification process.
 
Third, we need the Holy Spirit to bear witness in our hearts when sin is near.
 
Living in the flesh is like heading toward a dangerous obstacle, and we need the Holy Spirit to warn us of the danger. Finally, we need the Holy Spirit to affirm in our heart that we are His even when we fall short of His glory (Roman 8:14-17).
 
When my son would fall, he needed me to pick him up and reassure him everything would be OK. Knowing the Father loves you can sustain you even in the most difficult times.           
12/31/2013 11:47:40 AM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for January 5: Depend on the Spirit

December 19 2013 by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passages: John 15:26-16:15
 
Hate is a strong word and one I certainly have not allowed to be used by our children as they relate to one another. But, in the Christian life, we have to recognize that our faith may bring such a strong reaction that we may feel hatred directed towards us. In John 15, Jesus makes it very clear that the world will hate those who follow Him. Our testimony may meet real resistance and even hostility. 
 
I recently was personally challenged when hearing about an eight-year-old girl in our church who consistently shares John 3:16 with strangers. Her parents described how she approaches each person and asks if she can share the scripture with them.
 
She has had mixed responses and some not so positive. Her parents observed that it is hard to understand when someone makes it very clear that they want her to be quiet. A couple of weeks ago, it was all worth it though when she shared it with someone who said, “I just saw a bumper sticker yesterday with John 3:16 on it and I wondered what it meant.” The Holy Spirit continues to give her courage in experiencing both positive and negative responses. The Holy Spirit will also be clearly present for us when we experience sorrow (John 16:5-7).
 
Jesus assured His disciples that they would be comforted by the Holy Spirit, when He departed to heaven. I have witnessed families who exhibited such strength and peace, even as they lost someone who meant so much to them. The Holy Spirit has upheld them in their time of deep sorrow. 
 
The Holy Spirit fulfills additional roles by battling for us when we feel Satan is trying to take control (John 16:8-11) and giving understanding when it is needed (John 16:12-15).
 
We can trust the Holy Spirit to convict the person who needs to see their sin and make needed changes. The Holy Spirit will also help make the gospel message clear to those who need clarity. So we can depend on the Spirit to be there for us in every situation.
12/19/2013 1:31:52 PM by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for January 5: A Fight You Can’t Win By Yourself

December 19 2013 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passage: Romans 7:14-8:2
 
I recently watched a documentary on the U.S. Army 101st Airborne division that served during World War II. Part of the documentary series focused on the replacements that would join the division during the war. Many of the “replacements” were men fresh out of military training.
 
They would enter the war replacing the men who were wounded or killed in action. Most of these men entered the war enthusiastically, but it was just a matter of time before they realized the magnitude of the battle. In fact, if it were not for the veteran soldiers in their company, many of the replacements would not have survived their first encounter with the enemy.
 
In the same way, I like to think of Paul’s words in Romans 7:14-8:2 are like the veteran soldiers’ words were to the replacements.
 
Like Paul, they knew what it was like to be in the heat of battle. They saw many of their friends fall to the attacks of the enemy. I’m sure many struggled to remain steadfast amid the barrage of enemy fire.
 
They knew what it was like to be blindsided. They understood what could happen if you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
 
The war had a way of tearing down pretenses and helping the men realize they could not survive without each other.
 
Indeed, the veterans were trying to help their inexperienced brothers learn how to navigate the contours of war.
 
I think Paul is trying to help us understand the contours of a spiritual war. He wants us to know that believers will continually struggle with sin. He wants us to know that the battle with sin is real and extremely difficult. Paul also wants us to know we are not in the battle alone.
 
His very words – God’s words, are a source of comfort and strength to us. Most importantly, he wants us to know that though we battle with sin daily, the war has ultimately been won by the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.  
12/19/2013 1:28:09 PM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for December 29: Stay Open and Obedient

December 17 2013 by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passage: John 15:1-17
 
Gardening is an area of limited knowledge for me, and I am thankful for the work my husband puts into our yard and garden.
 
One thing I have been able to observe is that if you prune something at the wrong time of year, you can kill it. We are aware that pruning is part of the spiritual life, and thankfully God always does it at the right time.
 
In John 15:2, Jesus states that it is the vine that bears fruit and that the Father prunes so it will bear more fruit. Therefore, being pruned can be an encouraging experience because that means we have been bearing fruit.
 
After all, the options stated are being taken away or pruned, so let’s embrace pruning! Jesus does not leave us wondering how we can bear fruit. In John 15:5-8, Jesus states that as we abide in Him, we will bear fruit.
 
As Christians, we must understand that in John 15:5 we can do nothing apart from the Lord. As we obey Him, we remain in Him and bear fruit. It is a daily challenge for a Christian to choose to abide with Christ in a world that so often denies Him.
 
So, how do we abide in Christ?
 
For me that means starting each day with Jesus by reading His Word and praying. The Word enables us to go out into the world to live for Him. 
 
John 15:9-10 brings us back to the fundamental truth that our obedience is rooted in love. Jesus exhorts His disciples to love as the Father has loved Jesus and as Jesus has loved them.
 
He makes sure they understand that as they continue to be obedient and keep His commandments, they will be able to abide in His love. 
 
We then take the love that Jesus has lavished on us and show it to those around us.
John 15:11-17 challenges all believers to be ready to love others.
 
Jesus chose you “so that you will love one another.”
12/17/2013 12:38:58 PM by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for December 29: An Identity You Must Embrace

December 17 2013 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passage: Romans 6:8-18
 
Why do so many Christians struggle with sin? I am not talking about the occasional sin, but rather a lifestyle that seems to breed continual hardships and dysfunction. In his book, Broken-Down House, Paul Tripp says living in this world is like living in a broken-down house. He writes, “Every single room has been dirtied and damaged by sin. Not one part of it shines with anything like the pure glory that was so evident when it was first made. Sin has left this world in a sorry condition. You see it everywhere you look.”
 
I agree with Tripp, sin has left its mark. Unfortunately, many believers never seem to rise above the brokenness and move forward in God’s restoration process. Certainly, there are numerous reasons why Christians struggle in life, but God does have the solution to our problems, in part, in Romans 6:8-18.
 
Out of the three solutions mentioned in our lesson this week, I believe embracing our identity in Christ is paramount (6:8-11). When a person becomes a believer, he is no longer confined to a sinful disposition. In fact, Christ’s finished work destroys the power of sin and transforms the believer into a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Tragically, many believers do not embrace their new identity. Instead, they settle for spiritual poverty and destructive living. 
 
Imagine if you were a poor commoner, and a king adopted and anointed you heir to the throne. Would you remain outside the king’s gates and continue to live in squalor? No, you would humbly assume the role of nobility and enjoy the fullness as the king. In a similar way, many Christians refuse to embrace their new identity as heirs of God. King Jesus has provided everything needed to enjoy the blessing of God, but many continue to remain outside the gates. They refuse to walk in the good that Christ provides and thus live a life with very little meaning and significance. Will you embrace your identity in Christ and enjoy the King’s provisions?
12/17/2013 12:32:43 PM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for December 22: Celebrate Jesus at Christmas!

December 5 2013 by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passages: Luke 1:30-35, 38, 46-49; 2:4-7
 
How do you like to celebrate? I recently celebrated with a friend who told me that the cyst she had was in fact benign. How sweet it is to hug and praise the Lord with a sister in Christ who has seen such a joyous answer to prayer! At Christmas we have so many reasons to celebrate! There are many ways to celebrate Jesus, but in our culture we find the need to be intentional about it. 
 
One way to celebrate Jesus at Christmas is to find ways to declare who He is to us. It is important to ponder how you can declare the precious name of Jesus in your workplace, while you shop and in our personal Christmas traditions. For example, at work I love to decorate the cabinets above my desk with beautiful Christmas cards that declare the name of Jesus.
 
People of all faiths come by my desk each day, and I find such joy as they read the cards. During Christmas shopping have you thought about intentionally looking for ways to be a blessing to those around you in the long lines and at the checkout counter? Our personal Christmas traditions might need a little sprucing up to more clearly declare the name of Jesus. 
 
The reasons abound for celebrating Jesus at the special time of Christmas. Our lesson this week reminds us to appreciate how Jesus came to earth, to praise God for His greatness and to welcome Jesus in all that we do. Let’s spend time reflecting on the fact that Jesus came to earth in such a humble manner and through the miraculous work of God (Luke 1:34-35, 38).
 
Mary provides a beautiful example of praising God for His greatness, even in the midst of circumstances that would not make sense to anyone in her community and family (Luke 1:46-49). Mary gave birth in difficult circumstances, then gently laid Jesus in a manger as she welcomed Him to life on earth. How can we welcome Jesus into our Christmas celebrations today?
12/5/2013 2:06:12 PM by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for December 22: Courage

December 5 2013 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passages: Matthew 1:18-25; 2:19-23
 
When we celebrate the birth of Christ there will be many people who struggle during this time of year. Not because they despise Jesus, but because they miss their loved ones who have gone on to be with the Lord. Therefore, this week’s lesson is about having courage, regardless of our circumstances. We will explore how Joseph responded with courage to God’s message of the incarnation and apply it to our lives. Out of the numerous lessons we could take from Joseph’s life, I would like to suggest three that could help us be more courageous.
 
First, we should always listen to God over the opinions of man (Matthew 1:18-20). Joseph initially intended not to marry Mary once he found out she was pregnant, but instead he chose to obey God. There will be times in our lives when the crowd is going in one direction and God’s Word is going in the opposite direction. A truly courageous person will always obey God over man.
 
Secondly, it is better to do what is right than to do what is easy. Joseph could have easily separated himself from Mary, but He knew God called Him to something greater. There will be many people this Christmas who will have to make an important decision. They will throw off the chains of discouragement and get out of the house to make a real difference for Christ or they will shut their doors and live in loneliness. I pray God will give them the strength to do the right thing and make such a meaningful difference.
 
Finally, a truly courageous person will put others before himself. Joseph had the legal right to divorce Mary, but out of obedience to God, he put Mary’s well-being first. Perhaps, this Christmas will provide an opportunity for us to step out of our comfort zone to be bold in order to serve others. Given our consumer-minded culture, anyone willing to serve others during this time of year could make a significant impact for the cause of Christ. What will you do?
12/5/2013 1:59:09 PM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for December 15: Believe Exclusively

December 3 2013 by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passages: John 14:1-14, 27-29
 
If you live in Charlotte and you ask folks how to get to Myrtle Beach, S.C., you will get a variety of responses. Each person may tell you a back road that they prefer to take and offer choices about how to get there the “best” way. There might be a best way, but there is definitely not just one way.

It is a bit different when we are asked how to get to God. Jesus tells us in John 14:6 that there is one way, and only one way. 

When we choose to believe in Jesus, He then provides a way to be with God for eternity. Jesus promises the disciples in John 14:1-6 that He will go and prepare a place for them with the Father. He states that the only way to be with the Father is through Him.   

When we choose to believe in Jesus, He provides a way for us to know and to grow in the knowledge of God now (John 14:7).

As Jesus healed, He taught us that God is compassionate.

Because Jesus demonstrated His commitment to prayer, we understand that prayer is important to God. Jesus said, “The Father who lives in Me does His works” (John 14:10). As Jesus went about His ministry on earth, He revealed the Father to us. 

Jesus went on to assure the disciples that, even when He left the earth, communication with the Father would continue.

When we believe in Jesus, we learn to pray in the name of Jesus. Jesus said, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14). 

In addition, when we believe in Jesus we are able to enjoy God’s peace. “I do not give as the world gives,” Jesus reminds us (John 14:27).

Peace is a supernatural gift from God that is very real. Don’t we want those we love to know true peace? There is only one way to know that peace, and it is through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
12/3/2013 1:35:53 PM by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for December 15: A Love You Can Experience

December 3 2013 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passages: Romans 5:6-11, 18-21
 
One of the greatest threats facing the church in America is we have forgotten what it means to be helpless, lost and in need of a Savior. Have you ever been separated from your parents as a child?
 
Do you remember the fear that came over you as you realized your parents were no longer by your side? On the other hand, do you remember the extreme joy you felt when you were reunited with them?
 
I believe many Christians have forgotten what it is like to be completely desperate and separated from God. For example, if God’s love is so amazing, why do so many Christians act like it makes little difference in their lives? I believe it is because they do not rightly understand or have forgotten the depth of their sin and the grace that has been extended to them by Christ.
 
One of our focal verses for this lesson is Romans 5:8: “… but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (ESV).
 
We need to remind each other that God loves sinners. In other words, Christ died for the ungodly which includes you and me.
 
We bring nothing of worth to the table when it comes to salvation. In fact, as I wrote in past lessons, our best efforts are filthy rags before the Lord. However, this teaches us that even at our worst, God still loves us. His love for us is not based on our own goodness, but on Christ’s finished work.   
 
So, how can we experience that love in a more real and impactful way?
 
First, be honest with yourself. Pride can deceive your heart. If you think you’re special, that is a sign you are probably not.
 
Second, spend time meditating on the cross of Christ. The cross is where God’s love is most profoundly demonstrated. You will not regret it.
 
Finally, practice what you have been given, namely, unconditional love. Seek out the unlovely and smother them with love.   
12/3/2013 1:18:37 PM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments