February 2011

Formations Lesson for March 6: A Final Rebellion

February 21 2011 by John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association

Focal Passage: Numbers 25:1-13

Jacqueline Lapsley, associate professor of Old Testament, Princeton, tells of an incident described several years ago by the then general secretary, Setri Nyomi, at Princeton University. He spoke of a meeting of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches that was held in a historic Reformed church in Ghana, Africa.

He and a group of church leaders were stunned to learn that for centuries this church had been the site of worship, yet had also been built directly over a holding pen where slaves were being held before their transport to the Americas. Nyomi asked what it was in these worshippers’ reading of scripture that “did not equip them to deal with the injustices taking place seven feet below them!”

Somehow, as in today’s passage, they had learned to compromise their faith and understanding of God’s Word, ignoring their responsibility in living it out. There is a very arduous path we as believers must walk in affirming the gracious love of God and yet recognizing the gravity of God’s holiness.

On the one hand we celebrate and declare God’s patience and love for all people and yet should not ignore His antipathy towards all that separates people from Him — i.e., their sin.

Thus in light of this challenge of demonstrating God’s love and God’s “jealousy,” do we compromise the biblical truth when we encounter the world or do we lovingly confront the world with that truth? 

Sadly, as a former international missionary and a director of missions, I have encountered those congregations who have lost sight of God’s calling upon them (His mission) and have stated to me that even though they know that they are wrong on a certain racial, moral or ethical issue (and disobedient to what scripture implores), they would not reconsider or respond positively to God’s leading.

They would gladly close the doors of the church, rather than open themselves to reaching and transforming their whole community for Christ.

In reality, God accomplishes his will regardless of whether we respond obediently or rebelliously.

In the midst of the compromise of the German Church in the time of Hitler, Dietrich Bonheoffer challenged the believers with these words: “Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedience and responsible action and in exclusive allegiance to God — the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God. “Where are those responsible people?”

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
2/21/2011 10:24:00 AM by John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for March 6: Faith Under Fire

February 21 2011 by Joel Stephens, pastor, Westfield Baptist Church

Focal Passage: 1 Peter 1:1-12

The story is told of a man in failing health that had been to the doctor, taken all the blood tests, and received the ominous callback for a consultation with the doctor. Most in the family had suspicions. And sure enough, when the doctor came in the exam room, he looked at the aging patient and said, “I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but it’s cancer. With treatments, you may have six months.”

Nobody was really surprised, but all the family was stunned. Questions swirled in every mind. How bad will it be? How much time do we actually have? Can this really be happening? Shock, fear, and deep concern registered on every face except one.

After several minutes of awkward silence, the brave patriarch looked up from the examination table and started singing: “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.”

A deep, rich baritone voice carried the tune alone at first. “Because He lives, all fear is gone.”

Then the rest of the family joined in one by one. “Because I know He holds the future. And life is worth the living just because He lives.” All their fear died because of their belief that Jesus lives.

What a perspective! What a testimony! What a glorious God we serve!

Have you paid attention to the truth in the words of that hymn lately? No matter what we face today, tomorrow, or forever; we can face it because Jesus lives.

We need not have any fear about what may come our way: disease, poverty, war, persecution, joblessness, family trouble, or whatever. Our life can be filled with a deep abiding joy that none of our circumstances can eclipse if our perspective is on Jesus. After all, if He’s conquered death on our behalf, can’t He handle anything else that might come along?

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39, HCSB). Our hope lives because Jesus lives!

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
2/21/2011 10:21:00 AM by Joel Stephens, pastor, Westfield Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for February 27: An Unexpected Prophecy

February 15 2011 by John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association

Focal Passage: Numbers 22:36-23:12

Israel had journeyed through the wilderness for 40 years.

They had faced many dangers and challenges. The Lord has brought them through. They had met and defeated various nations that had tried to obstruct their march through the presence and power of the Lord.

Now, they were on the verge of entering the promised land. The goal was within their reach. Suddenly, a figure appeared on the horizon — a prophet or seer.

But this figure was more than a prophet; he was a prophet of the Lord, a non-Israelite follower of the Lord (Yahweh). He was one who conversed intimately with the Lord daily. He was possibly the only true obstacle to the success of their journey.

His name was Balaam, son of Beor. In a rare instance, a non-Jew is presented as a formidable believer and servant of the Lord whose very words could bring down blessings or curses from the Lord.

The people of Israel had encamped on the east side of the Jordan “in the plains of Moab” (22:1). Rather than engage them in battle, Balak, whose name means “on who lays waste,” recognized the extreme danger that awaited his people.

He knew of all that Israel had accomplished from Egypt to the present and understood their powerlessness before them. In an intriguing maneuver Balak sent for Balaam: “Come now, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me…” (22:6). 

In a series of encounters, Balaam and the Lord meet face to face, leading eventually to four oracles that bless rather than curse Israel.

As Balak’s anger intensifies Balaam can only respond, “Did I not tell you, ‘All that the Lord says that I must do?’” In the context of a non-Israelite seer, the Lord’s sovereignty in revelation is presented and affirmed.

This “pagan” prophet not only served Yahweh, but he is possessed by the Spirit of God (24:2). Once more in a rare moment of honesty, Balaam is presented in the text as being possessed by the Spirit “enabling him to prophesy like the prophets of Israel … God has indeed blessed Israel” (Michael L. Barre).

When the first missionaries came to Rwanda, Africa, in the 19th century they found that according to the Rwandan ancient history there was one God who created all reality and lived in relationship with humanity. Then, in rebellion the first human couple tried to deceive God and that relationship was severed. Many years later, one came from heaven to mediate between humanity and God, giving his life for mankind by dying upon a tree (that annually bears red leaves reminding all of this blood sacrifice) providing salvation.

One can only imagine the joy those first missionaries felt when they discovered that God had provided an unexpected witness.

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
2/15/2011 4:03:00 AM by John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 27: God Loves to Welcome Us Home

February 15 2011 by Joel Stephens, pastor, Westfield Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Hosea 14:1-9

Without question, he had hit bottom. Sickened by the fact that he would have gladly filled his stomach with swill, he came to his senses there in the pig pen. His own idiocy became crystal clear. No excuses. No victim mentality. Just sincere repentance.

But then something happens that we often overlook in the prodigal’s story. Now that he had hit bottom, he had to decide what to do next.

There were tons of options. He already had a job. Why not work hard and advance his career?

Maybe he could find a different job. Maybe he could become a financial consultant; he certainly knew what mistakes to avoid. Maybe he could ease his guilt by entering the ministry, and live the rest of his life for the good of others. Any of these options would have been an improvement. In some sense, once you really hit bottom, every option is up.

But the prodigal chose to go back to his father’s house! Can you believe that? He had insulted his father by demanding his inheritance early. He had disrespected his father by wasting his wealth. He had trashed the family name. Home would seem to be the last place he would go.

Furthermore, when you’ve hit bottom, you don’t need anyone telling you, “I told you so.”

So why did he choose to go home? Because when you hit bottom, you turn to the option that presents the greatest hope of true help.

He knew his father; he knew his steadfast love and kindness. He must have witnessed his forgiving spirit during happier times at home. His father was his greatest hope.

Most dads would have laid him out, read him the riot act, and explained all the new rules and regulations that he was expected to tow the line on. But not his father; he could tell that the son was completely broken, and needed love more than a lecture.

The prodigal never even got to finish the speech he had prepared. He never got the chance to ask for a job as a hired servant. His dad simply forgave him, restored him, and welcomed him home as a son.

This beautiful parable pictures the forgiveness, restoration, and reconciliation that your heavenly Father longs to give you.

No matter who you are, what you’ve done, or how far you’ve strayed, you can always go back to Him. If you’ve hit bottom, then remember that your heavenly Father is, and always will be your source of greatest hope. Look to Him. 

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
2/15/2011 4:01:00 AM by Joel Stephens, pastor, Westfield Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for February 20: An Irate Leader

February 4 2011 by John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association

Focal Passage: Numbers 20

Paul writes, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12, KJV). 

At a former congregation I served in Virginia I had followed a retiring minister (who had been in a very fruitful ministry for over 60 years). This church was a small, yet vibrant rural work that was active in local and global missions.

Within this congregation was a man who was known as “the deacon who could make a preacher cuss.”

This deacon became a good friend and encouragement, but he really did make life for the former pastor very difficult.

On a mission project in Pennsylvania he pushed that pastor’s patience beyond its breaking point and in a fit of sheer exasperation and anger he told this deacon off.

After this encounter, the deacon walked away “innocently” wondering why his pastor was so profane and rude.

Sadly, though he had caused this incident, he never understood why any minister could lose control like that.

Moses and Aaron led Israel from Egypt through the wilderness towards the Promised Land. This journey had not been easy. Though Yahweh went before them and provided for the needs of the people, they still found reason to complain and whine.

At Kadesh, Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, died and was buried.

While encamped there the people began to complain — No Water!

This was not the first time they had complained about water (or food). Earlier at Marah they complained that the waters were too bitter. The Lord gave Moses a piece of wood and the waters were purified- bitter water was sweetened (Ex. 15:22-25a).

Then at Rephidim, they complained again — No Water! — and the Lord instructed Moses to strike the rock of Horeb where the Lord stood and water came forth (Ex. 17:1-7).

And now at Kadesh, there is no water and the people long for the enslavement of Egypt with its vines, pomegranates, grain and figs, rather then this “evil place” (Numb. 20:5).

Enough is enough! This time God gives a different response.

Moses must take his rod and speak to the rock before the people to release the water. But, since enough is enough, Moses hits the rock twice; “Listen, bitter ones, should WE make water come forth from this rock for you?” (Jione Havea).

The water does appear, but Moses has cast his lot. He spoke and acted in defiance and contradiction and the Lord will not allow His glory to be transgressed.

This event proved to be crucial for the future faithfulness of the Jewish people (Ps. 81:7; 95:8; 106:32). We read, “They angered him at the waters of Meribah, and it went ill with Moses on their account, for they made his spirit bitter, and he spoke rashly with his lips.”

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
2/4/2011 5:06:00 AM by John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 20: God Loves Like a ‘Grand’ Father

February 4 2011 by Joel Stephens, pastor, Westfield Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Hosea 11:1-11

I must confess that compassion is not one of my spiritual gifts. Just ask my kids.

They’d be the first to tell you that their dad constantly disobeys James’ admonition to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

It seems that I make a habit out of getting all three of those backwards. I can’t stand to be idle, so I usually (way) over-schedule myself; which of course puts me in a stressed disposition. I use my two-mile to-do list as an excuse as to why I seldom take the time to hear my children out.

They come to ask me a question, and I usually assume that it’s not important.

My previously mentioned bad humor, compounded by what I perceive to be a useless interruption on the part of one of my four children, tempts me to bark at them like a junkyard dog. I rarely resist this temptation and the yelling ensues.

Do I even need to mention that when I yell, I do so angrily?

I’ve battled this sin (and that’s what it is) for 12 years, ever since I became a dad.

I’m simply bent toward condescending criticism, rather than compassion. I thoughtlessly criticize the errors they make with harsh words, while nodding in silent approval when they get it right.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my children. I would give my life for theirs gladly.

Besides their mom, there is no one on this earth that means more to me than them. But my lack of compassion certainly fails to communicate my love for them.

When I snap at them, the cords of fellowship snap between us.

I have a real fear that my children will grow up to be yellers like me. But my worst fear is that they will glean a skewed image of their heavenly Father based upon the all-too-obvious flaws in their earthly father.

My heavenly Father is always quick to listen to whatever is on my mind. My heavenly Father always speaks wise, healing words. Sure, my heavenly Father gets angry with me, but not quickly. He simply overflows with compassion.

Maybe you had a dad like me. Maybe your image of God is distorted because your dad didn’t live out His character in front of you.

My prayer for you is the same as for my children: may God help you to see beyond your earthly father’s failings so that you may see the perfect fatherly compassion of God.

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
2/4/2011 5:04:00 AM by Joel Stephens, pastor, Westfield Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for February 13: Bold Spies

February 3 2011 by John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association

Focal Passages: Numbers 13:1-2, 25-33; 14:5-10a

On January 30, 1933, Adolph Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. He was received on a wave of popular support.

He promised the German people a new beginning of discipline and dignity for the nation. Germany had suffered under the Versailles Treaty and Hitler’s appointment promised a restoration of greatness and justice.

During that period the churches welcomed the change and challenged the German people to remember their moral heritage. With Hitler’s support, the church experienced a new vitality and the hearts of the public were stirred with a new will to live.

National Socialism appeared calling for a renewal of public life, the Church as the People’s Church and the partnership of political and church life working in harmony.

It seemed that a new hope had sprung from the ruins of Germany’s humiliation and despair and all joyfully welcomed it. Not all were enthusiastic and receptive to Hitler and his solutions to Germany’s problems.

There was a “minority report” given by a small group of academics and Christians.

Among them was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. On February 1, 1933, two days after Hitler came to power, Bonhoeffer broadcast on the radio “The Younger Generation’s changed view of the concept of the Fuhrer.”

In this broadcast he spoke on the concept of leadership in youth work.

He described theologically the structures of authority and warned of the dangers of the growing tendency toward making idols of the leader, or Fuhrer.

He further warned that whenever a leader gives in to the wishes of those he leads, who turn him into a idol, will ultimately believe himself and his office infallible, thus mocking God. The broadcast was interrupted and censorship began. 

Bonhoeffer, along with many brave individuals, opposed the Nazism and its cruel abuses. 

He spoke out against the persecution of the Jews, taught in an underground seminary, served as leader within the Confessing Church, and participated within the resistance movement. He ultimately paid the price with his own life, being hung in the early hours (around 5 or 6 a.m.) of Monday morning, April 9, 1945.

Sadly, the majority is not always right (and the minority is not always right either!), but there comes moments when we are called to stand, even when it is not popular or logical. 

Twelve spies went into Canaan to “spy out the land.” They returned with reports of unlimited resources and paradisiacal conditions. But 10 reported doom and destruction —catastrophes beyond comprehension.

Two came back with hearts afire with God’s Spirit, ready to take the land in His name.

The majority rule won out (or lost out) and after a 40-year interim in the wilderness, they finally took the land. 

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
2/3/2011 8:10:00 AM by John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 13: God Loves for His People to Be Loyal to Him

February 3 2011 by Joel Stephens, pastor, Westfield Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Hosea 6:1-7:2

“I know I shouldn’t, but I’m going to. I’ll ask forgiveness later.” Have you ever heard someone say that?

When you really think about it, that statement contains the utmost in arrogant treachery toward God. Please don’t think that is an overstatement. It’s not.

Such an attitude communicates a woefully deficient understanding of the heinous nature of sin.

It fails to calculate the treasonous depths to which we sink when we handle our professed devotion to Christ so frivolously.

Supposedly we have given our lives to His control.

Yet, sin is treason against the King we claim to serve.

Furthermore, with such an idea we assert that God is duty-bound to forgive us, in spite of the obvious insincerity of our confession.

When this attitude pervades our thinking, our professed worship and daily walk is nothing more than lip service and empty religious busyness.

But the outrageous beauty in it all is that He truly longs to forgive us in spite of ourselves. No matter how badly or how often we have failed.

If our hearts are sincerely repentant, then He will always receive us back to Himself. Such loyalty, such goodness and mercy is too amazing to comprehend. Human experience has taught us that every one of us has our breaking point — the offense that finally burns the bridge of reconciliation; and we cut our losses in the relationship and vow to never be so duped again.

But Christ is not duped. He knows all. His steadfast love for us has nothing to do with duty or naivety; it is all a matter of Him being loyal to Himself — to His own character. He stands ready to forgive because that’s just who He is.

“Come, and let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us. He has stricken, but He will bind us up” (Hosea 6:1, NKJV).   

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
2/3/2011 8:08:00 AM by Joel Stephens, pastor, Westfield Baptist Church | with 0 comments