February 2010

Formations Lesson for March 7: A Question of Piety

February 24 2010 by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Luke 13:10-17 

In this, the third of five stories in our series on Jesus and His critics, a miracle occurs. The story begins with Jesus teaching in one of the synagogues, “and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for 18 years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all” (Luke 13:11).

I believe there is something significant about the length of the woman’s deformity.

We designate 18 years as the proper amount of time for a child to mature into an adult in our society.

At age 18, a person is old enough to be independent, and is his or her own separate entity. A long-term illness or deformity can mature into an entity that takes on a life of its own and controls a person. I once worked with a woman who suffered daily “visits” from “Arthur” (severe arthritis). For her, “Arthur” had become an independent living entity that controlled her life.

Our text tells us, “When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity’” (Luke 13:12). Jesus then touched her.

As she was healed, she immediately began to praise God.

The picture appears to be perfect. Jesus is in the synagogue, a place of worship. A woman is healed. She who was bent is now straightened up in the house of the Lord!

However, once the leader of the synagogue saw that the woman was healed, he became upset. He told the people there that the Sabbath was not a day for healing.

Healing was considered to be work, and work was prohibited on the Sabbath. To the leader of the synagogue this woman could have waited for one more day to be healed. For him, there was no sense of urgency — piety was seen as more important than pity.

Most people categorize something based on how it affects them directly. It is amazing how the amount we benefit from a particular situation controls our sense of urgency.

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a piece entitled, Why We Can’t Wait.

In it he noted that those who would not benefit from Civil Rights legislation felt change was moving too quickly, while the African-American people felt change was happening too slowly.

Keeping the rules was of utmost importance to the Pharisee. Freeing the oppressed and healing the sick was important to Jesus (Luke 4:18-19). Jesus was rebuked in the synagogue. How well would He be received in our churches today?   
2/24/2010 3:04:00 AM by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for March 7: When Members Won’t Get Along

February 24 2010 by A. Shane Nixon, Director of Church and Community Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes

Focal Passages: 1 Corinthians 1:10-15, 26-29; 3:1-4

Remember Rodney King? Whether that name jolts your memory to scenes of lawlessness or police brutality, and at some point each is appropriate, most any of us over a certain age do have some memory of King.

We may not remember specifics on either side; like the fact that he was more than two times the legal limit for blood alcohol level while driving when he led officers on a high speed chase. Or like 7 officers dished out more than 56 blows to King, many of which came after he was handcuffed.

But perhaps what King is most remembered for is what he said after the whole deal.

“People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?

“Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids?... It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything.

“We’ll, we’ll get our justice. ... Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while.

“Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it.

“Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out.”

King was speaking in the face of race riots, street looting, and a nearly martial law state. And sadly, he could have been talking about the church. 

Maybe we aren’t looting the church buildings, but many of the issues that are breaking up churches are just as charged as Los Angeles in the wake of the King mess.

Church people need to learn to get along.

It made me cringe when I heard a friend say, “The worst I’ve ever been hurt emotionally was in the church by church people.”

Paul reminded the Corinthian church that they should not be divided.

He called for same mind and same judgment. He called for Christians to “just get along.” 

The world is watching. There is enough turmoil and conflict outside the church that people won’t go if there is no difference inside.  
2/24/2010 3:02:00 AM by A. Shane Nixon, Director of Church and Community Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for February 28: A Question of Authority

February 10 2010 by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Mark 3:19b-30 

Have you ever been misunderstood or misrepresented? Has anyone ever twisted your words or motives and used them against you?

I remember a time in my ministry when I learned that some local ministers were listening to tapes of my sermons in an effort to discredit my ministry. I was shocked and hurt at the time, but it was a good lesson for me. It reminded me to think before I speak and to be ready to give an account for my words.

The earthly ministry of Jesus was surrounded by constant controversy. Many people misunderstood Him. The things He did and said in love were used to attack Him in hate!

As we saw in last week’s lesson, the religious leaders had no use for Jesus (Matthew 9:9-13).

Our passage for today shows Jesus being misunderstood not only by the religious leaders, but by His own family as well.

Jesus’ family feared that He had lost his mind.

Although this part of the story is not developed, they probably “went to take charge of Him” in order to care for Him and possibly protect Him from being embarrassed.

The teachers of the law, however, seemed to be more sinister in their response to Jesus.

They determined that He was possessed by Beelzebub. “Beelzebub” is a Hebrew word meaning “Lord of the flies.” The Greek equivalent is “Beelzeboul” which means “dung god” or “god of the dung heaps.”

I think you get the picture of how these people felt about Jesus and His ministry!

The religious folks accused Jesus of doing Satan’s work. Jesus responded that Satan never drives demons out of people because he uses them to control their lives.

Jesus cast out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That is why Jesus told the teachers of the law that they had blasphemed the Spirit of God by speaking irreverently about God’s work and calling it evil.

As a pastor, I am often asked, “What is the unforgivable sin?”

The unforgivable sin, as I understand it based on this text, is not an act that is committed; it is a way of life that tells God He is not wanted in the person’s life.

Hebrews 10:29 leaves us with this question, “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?”  
2/10/2010 3:21:00 AM by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 28: How Can You Keep from Losing Your Mind?

February 10 2010 by A. Shane Nixon, Director of Church and Community Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes

Focal Passages: 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-17

With the state of health care in this country “in flux” at best, and with care for those with mental health difficulties not even at that nebulous position, how to keep from losing one’s mind might be a better question to ask now than ever!

Of course, 2000 years ago it was spiritual health that had Paul’s attention as he wrote to churches in Corinth and Ephesus.

In both cases of the focal passages, Paul uses a war analogy to make his point.

In the Corinthian passage he speaks of captives and strong holds. In the familiar Ephesians verses he talks of the “armor of God.”

As relevant today as then, the question of how a Christian keeps his mind in a trying age is a good one.

The war, clearly, rages on.

There are more things than ever that vie for our attention.

From multi-media outlets like the Internet and TV, to talk spheres like radio and instant messaging, our minds are a spiritual battlefield.

Keeping our focus and not letting our concentration stray from Christ is difficult.

But we are empowered with God’s resources, as Paul points out.

I ran cross-country in high school for one season.

My coach is a legend in track/cross-country coaching circles and he taught me many wonderful things.

Maybe the best was a method to retain a mental edge. 

He told me simply to run for a tree.

To be more precise, he told me to pick out a tree, somewhere in the distance, amidst all the other things I saw, and then, at all costs “run to the tree.” Focus and just run to the tree. I asked what happened when I got “to the tree” and found I wasn’t at the finish line. His answer was so predictable and obvious I am almost ashamed I asked. He said “pick out another tree.”

Fortunately, we never have to change our focal point. We must simply focus on God and run toward being like Him.
2/10/2010 3:19:00 AM by A. Shane Nixon, Director of Church and Community Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for February 21: A Question of Fellowship

February 8 2010 by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Matthew 9:9-13 

I was a senior in high school applying for a scholarship to a liberal arts college. A letter of reference written by my pastor caused a member of the scholarship committee to identify me as a person who didn’t “smoke, curse, or chew; or run around with those who do.”

I was shocked to learn that he viewed this negatively. My parents had instilled in me the importance of good behavior and the need to be careful about the company I kept. I went to the college without the benefit of a scholarship!

Looking back on that experience, I realize he was condemning the arrogant attitude, not the attributes. Arrogance causes us to feel superior to others and to treat them as if they are inferior.

Haughtiness is not a helpful attribute in God’s Kingdom work. That is the lesson in today’s Bible story.

Like most good stories, this one is driven by conflict between the protagonist (Jesus) and the antagonists (the Pharisees). It begins with Jesus’ encounter with Matthew, a tax collector. Tax collectors were hated and despised in Jesus’ day. The Jews hearing this story certainly would identify Matthew as the villain because he worked for the Roman government collecting taxes for a healthy commission.

The tax collectors were disbarred from attending the synagogue and were considered unclean by Jewish law. 

The shocking moment in the story is when Jesus approaches Matthew and, instead of condemning him, says, “Follow me.” And Matthew does.

As the story continues, we see Jesus and Matthew dining with a group of tax collectors and others who are identified as sinners. Who invited these people to the dinner party? Apparently, Matthew invited them to come and meet Jesus. It reminds us of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well and her invitation for her friends to come and see Jesus.

In recent years, churches have gone to great effort and expense to make their facilities handicap accessible. We provide special parking, wheelchair ramps, handicap-approved restrooms, elevators, and special seating for those with physical needs.

We welcome people into our congregation with physical infirmities. But what happens when a spiritually handicapped person comes into our presence? Do we really welcome them, or do we separate them from the true fellowship by not including them in the church’s ministry. Do we, like the Pharisees, leave those we consider to be spiritually inferior on the outside looking in?

Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13b).      
2/8/2010 6:23:00 AM by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 21: What’s on Your Mind?

February 8 2010 by A. Shane Nixon, Director of Church and Community Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes

Focal Passage: Colossians 3:1-14

In 1972, the United Negro College Fund began an ad campaign that continues today. The slogan “A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste” has become a catch phrase used by parents and teachers alike to get students to sit up and pay attention; to value the learning process and material before them.

So, one could deduce, a wasted mind is one that isn’t used beyond daily subconscious existence; one not stretched by education or challenged by opposing views but just existing in the matter surrounding it. A wasted mind does not control but rather is controlled. A wasted mind is, well, a waste.

But what about when it comes to our faith? What part does our mind play in our Christian walk? In Romans, Paul encourages us to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds.”

He uses such eloquent words that we become dazzled by their rhythm while missing their point entirely. In our scripture focus today, he gets a little more pointed.

Paul says “set your mind on things above.” Teachers say “focus,” coaches say “get in the game,” but it’s all the same meaning.

Determine right now for yourself where your mind will be and put it there.

Notice that Paul doesn’t say, “see how you feel and follow that path” or “tune into emotion and let it lead you” or even “let the things of Christ fall upon your heart and mind” but SET your mind … it’s a call for action, an intentionality on the part of the person to willfully and deliberately make their minds focus on things above.

It’s as if Paul could hear generations to come ask the same question, “How can I do that?”

One can almost imagine Paul rolling his eyes as he spends the next few minutes going into great detail about how to “set your mind on things above.”

He talks about the “old” things we need to avoid and the “new” things we need to focus on.

He talks about attitudes and actions to trash and virtues consistent with new life in Christ. He speaks of how we are to treat each other (hopefully a product of our new-found focus of our minds) and how it all works together in love.

It’s almost as if Paul is saying, “if you control your mind — focus — you will be transformed in all things.”  
2/8/2010 6:21:00 AM by A. Shane Nixon, Director of Church and Community Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for February 14: Rejoice!

February 2 2010 by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Zephaniah 3:8-20 

As we conclude our series of lessons from the Minor Prophets, the writings of Zephaniah contain components similar to the others: the announcement of a coming judgment for sin; a call to repentance because God is just and desires to forgive; and a promise that the remnant who make God their refuge will be saved.

Zephaniah communicates his message with picturesque language, describing the wrath of God as well as the love of God. He sees God traveling the streets of Jerusalem with a lantern in order to find and punish the unholy (1:12). His prophecy that describes “the Day of the Lord” is arresting: “....a day of wrath, of distress and anguish, of trouble and ruin, of darkness and gloom, of clouds and blackness, of trumpet and battle cry….” (Zephaniah 1:15-16a).

The repetitive use of the term “the Day of the Lord” indicates that the Book of Zephaniah contains a message about the end times when the righteous will be rewarded and the unholy punished.

Although Zephaniah’s message has future significance, Judah and the neighboring nations awaited an immediate fulfillment of the prophecies. Beginning with Assyria, the judgments were fulfilled in a few years, when the temple was completely destroyed and the Jews were carried into Babylonian captivity.

Zephaniah’s prophecy certainly included judgment for the sin of the people, but it also included hope: ‘“At that time I will gather you;….I will bring you home. I will give honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,” says the Lord’ (Zephaniah 3:20). I remember the words of my homiletics professor in seminary, Dr. Chevis Horne, as he spoke to a class of future preachers: “Always preach the truth of scripture, but never end the sermon without offering the hope of Christ.”

The significance of the name Zephaniah (“the one whom Jehovah has chosen”) has a relationship with the ministry of Jesus. Jesus said, “I tell you that…there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7). Zephaniah offers the figure of a joyful redeemer: “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, He will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

When the divine work of redemption is done in the life of an individual, God Himself breaks forth in singing and rejoicing. Therefore, let us rejoice!
2/2/2010 6:10:00 AM by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 14: What Will It Take to Change Your Mind?

February 2 2010 by A. Shane Nixon, Director of Church and Community Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes

Focal Passage: Philippians 3:2-15; 4:8

How often do we think about excellence?  Maybe when we see it or experience it? But beyond that, do we make an effort to think about the concept of excellence? When Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, he urged them to “think about” (among other things) excellence. 

Paul includes in his list of suggestions for thought:

“ . . . whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable . . .” Philippians 4:8, (NRSV).

The encouragement here, it seems, is to be thinking of excellence so that we will know excellence — so that it will be on our minds. When I first looked at this lesson, specifically at its title, I made an assumption that the question was somehow “in the negative.”

That is, I saw it asking that question “What would it take to change your mind?” hoping your answer would be nothing. But I think now it speaks to mindset as opposed to conviction. 

Paul is asking what it will take to get you to keep your mind on the things of Christ. 

Much is made about which TV programs Christians should and shouldn’t watch; which songs they should/shouldn’t listen to, and where they should and shouldn’t go on vacation. But what if our mindset made those decisions easier? What if our mindset made it so that there weren’t any decisions to make, only a course of action to follow; a course of action that had excellence, the excellence of Christ, as its goal?

Most of us can’t stop long enough to think in our daily lives. We are busy and when we have some down time, we prefer the mindless, the droll. We don’t want to have to think about anything, much less excellence. But we need to change our minds.

What WOULD it take to change your mind? What would it take to go from the droll of day-to-day life to the excellence that is worthy of our praise? 
2/2/2010 6:02:00 AM by A. Shane Nixon, Director of Church and Community Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes | with 0 comments