February 2016

Explore the Bible Lesson for March 13: Empowered

February 25 2016 by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford

Focal Passage: Acts 2:1-15
 
During my junior year of high school the German music group Snap! released its popular dance hit, “The Power.” Although we were never told the source or nature of this power, many of us bobbed our heads and sang the famous hook, “I’ve got the power!”
 
The Day of Pentecost fulfilled God’s promise of the Holy Spirit who would fill every true believer and give them power for Kingdom service. As people observed with faith the holy invasion of God’s Spirit, they knew He was performing a supernatural work before their eyes. After the Holy Spirit set the stage for the gospel, Peter boldly preached the message of salvation through Christ and 3,000 people were saved! All these things happened as a result of God empowering a people who were waiting on Him. As soon as He moved, they didn’t “let go and let God.” Instead, beginning with Peter at Pentecost, they began to stand in the power of the Holy Spirit and proclaim the gospel with boldness.
 
The song mentioned above provides a silly reminder of a much more dangerous human tendency.
 
If we don’t take every thought captive to Christ, we’ll be tempted to choose form over substance in areas of eternal consequence. A song with a good beat and no meaningful message doesn’t do anyone much harm. Embracing shallow substitutes for spiritual realities can leave one deceived, spiritually starved and even lost.
 
Too often well-intentioned Christians try to reverse the way God works in evangelism. They begin with a number in mind and then manipulate the variables to get the desired results. Spirit-empowered witnessing gets replaced by religious salesmanship, and many supposed converts “sign on the dotted line” only to slip away in a few weeks with buyer’s remorse.
 
Paul proved such human means ineffective, declaring, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthains 12:3b). 
 
Since only God can save a sinner we should share the gospel in fear and trembling, but never in defeat. God can use a burdened, gospel-centered heart over a well-polished exterior any day!

2/25/2016 11:21:55 AM by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for March 13: Our Need for Direction

February 25 2016 by Rob Pochek, pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: John 8:12-19
 
In 2013 a buddy and I decided to make a cross country ride on our motorcycles. We left North Carolina and went to California primarily by way of I-20. When we were going through Texas, however, we decided to get off the interstate and take back roads to New Mexico.
 
About 50 miles from our hotel, the headlight fuse blew on my buddy’s motorcycle. So we pulled off the road in a store parking lot and began the repair.
 
By the time we were finished, darkness had settled in to west Texas. As we headed toward our destination, our headlights helped beat back the west Texas darkness.
 
Indeed, every direction we looked was cloaked in darkness, except one. The lights of the west Texas town we were headed toward blazed against the horizon, though they were nearly 50 miles away.
 
On that night in west Texas, I was reminded of Jesus’ words in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world.”
 
Jesus spoke those words standing in women’s court of the temple (John 8:20). It was also the site of another significant event, held during the Feast of Tabernacles, called “the illumination of the Temple.” In that ceremony, incredibly large menorahs (approx. 75 ft high) were lit in the Temple at night, reminding the people of how God led Israel through the desert. It was said that the light from Temple could be seen from anywhere in the city.
 
It is in that context that Jesus declares that He is the light of the world. Just as the pillar of fire illumined the dark desert for the children of Israel, Jesus himself illumines a world darkened by sin. And, only by faith in Jesus – the light of the world – can we walk in the light. That lonely night in west Texas, I was grateful for the light emanating from a town down the road. But, I am far more thankful for the light of the world, who gives me light. Light to see not only my sin, but the salvation God has provided in Jesus.

2/25/2016 11:13:00 AM by Rob Pochek, pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for March 6: Entrusted

February 23 2016 by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford

Focal Passage: Acts 1:1-11
 
“This offer is available for a limited time only, so don’t delay!” We’ve heard that televised sales pitch so often that some of us have included it in our evangelistic presentations. As we declare to lost people that today is the “day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2), do we realize that the same urgency to receive the gospel applies to sharing the gospel? Today won’t be the day of salvation for anyone if someone doesn’t share it with them. As theologian Carl Henry said, “The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.”
 
Before His ascension Jesus gathered His disciples and told them to wait for the promised Holy Spirit. The Spirit would empower them to witness for Christ from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
 
While they waited for His arrival, the disciples were distracted by expectations of the restoration of Israel, which were not for them to know. They were also left gazing after the physical ascension of Jesus, which the angels told them would be matched by the return of Christ.
 
Since the Day of Pentecost every Christian has been empowered at conversion by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, we have been given all the resources we need to effectively witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:3).
 
Are you wasting valuable time wondering about the fulfillment of your theological expectations instead of obeying the clear teaching of scripture? Are you still gazing at past victories through Christ and feeding on nostalgia instead of following the prompting of the Holy Spirit?
 
The angels told the disciples about Jesus’ return to remind them that the clock is ticking. We don’t know exactly where we are on God’s timetable, but we know we have less time than we did yesterday.
 
Even if Christ doesn’t return in our lifetime, we are all limited to a certain number of years in which we are physically and mentally able to share the gospel. We will all invest those years in something. Let’s not waste our resources on temporal pleasures when we can share the only truth that prepares people for time and eternity!    

2/23/2016 10:03:14 AM by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for March 6: Our Need for Contentment

February 23 2016 by Rob Pochek, pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: John 6:26-27, 35-40
 
I have a confession to make. It is not an earth-shattering confession. It probably will not make the evening news. But, here it is: I do not like liver and onions.
 
That is why I have never eaten it. I know what you are thinking. How can you say you do not like it if you have never eaten it?
 
That is a good question. I have had the opportunity to eat it.
 
I have had people suggest I try it before I pronounce such a harsh judgment on it. Yet, I have resisted.
 
When I say that I do not like liver and onions, what I mean is that I do not want it. In order to try it, I need to have my tastes adjusted.
 
My disposition toward liver and onions is very similar to the disposition that some people took toward Jesus during his earthly ministry.
 
In John 6, we meet a group of people who were not interested in Jesus as much as they were the things He could do for them (John 6:26).
 
Specifically, He has just fed them with five loaves and two fish (John 6:9-13).
 
Yet, Jesus makes clear to them that there is a deeper hunger and a more profound thirst that resides in every person. He tells them of a hunger and thirst that can only be filled and quenched by Jesus Himself.
 
To a crowd asking him to make more bread, He declares that He is the Bread of Life. Literally, He says He is the only One who can truly satisfy their hunger and thirst (John 6:35).
 
How can someone partake of this Bread? Jesus says they must look to the Son and believe in Him (John 6:40). He also says that this is not something that happens apart from God’s work in the person’s life (John 6:37, 44).
 
Literally, the Father must change our appetite.
 
When He does, we find that we long for and desire that which we previously had despised; the Bread of Life that truly, eternally satisfies.

2/23/2016 9:55:56 AM by Rob Pochek, pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for February 28: Access granted

February 11 2016 by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton

Focal passage: Matthew 13:1-13
 
Every year around this time people make New Year’s resolutions to read their Bible more. Yet, every year many people will give up on their Bible reading plans yet again.
 
Why is this? Why do we find it so difficult to read our Bibles like we ought?
 
While some of us are merely undisciplined, I believe that is not the main reason why our Bibles lay unopened on our coffee tables most days.
 
I believe the main reason we do not read the scriptures like we should is because we have a motivation problem.
 
We forget the privilege of being able to understand the powerful treasure contained in between the leather covers of our Bibles.
 
In Isaiah 55:11, God makes a wonderful promise about His Word saying that it “shall accomplish that which I purpose and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
 
In Matthew 13, Jesus uses the parable of the sower and the seeds to illustrate a similar point.
 
Jesus shows His disciples that though there are different responses to the Word of God, we can rest assured God’s Word works.
 
As the great prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon, once said, “the same sun that melts wax hardens the clay.”
 
This reality sparks a great question in the disciples causing them to ask, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Jesus responds by saying that it has been given to them to know the secrets of the Kingdom (v. 11) and that they will continue to gain more and more understanding of the great mysteries of God (v. 12), while those who have not entered the kingdom will not be able to comprehend the unsearchable riches of His teaching.
 
Brother or sister, when you repented of your sin and trusted in Christ and received the Spirit of God, you were given the ability to open your Bibles and read and enjoy the inexhaustible glories of the secrets of the Kingdom?
 
Go open the treasure chest lying on your coffee table and enjoy the riches therein!

2/11/2016 11:41:31 AM by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 28: Distinct in My Love

February 11 2016 by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex

Focal passage: Matthew 5:43-48
 
The election season is a good time to gauge fears of our fellow citizens. Politicians are experts at exposing and exploiting the suspicions of our culture. Right now, many people fear Middle Easterners because they merely resemble their religious extremist neighbors. Some candidates have proposed that we respond to entire people groups with fear by shutting them out.
 
However, Jesus calls us not to respond in fear, but in faith. To open our hearts to those who are different that we are. Even to our enemies: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
 
It is easy to love those who are like us, but what reward is there in that? Is God not sovereign over all things? Does He not allow His sun to rise on the evil and on the good? Does He not send rain on the just and on the unjust?
 
We know from scripture that God hates those who are resolutely and unrepentantly wicked. Those who do, and intend to do harm against us will face the judgment of God. In most cases, even those who resemble the enemy do not intend harm. Without reservation, we are called to reflect the grace that we so commonly enjoy.
 
Doesn’t God show grace and care for all of His creatures? Absolutely. Therefore Jesus’ disciples are called to imitate God and love both neighbor and enemy. I recently heard International Mission Board President David Platt say that “Only an Americanized Christianity would prioritize security over the proclamation of the gospel.” We must remember the power of Satan is limited by the prerogative of God. When we face the enemy, and the perceived enemy, our initial response should be love: pray for them; love them; open your hearts to them.
 
The power of the gospel dissolves fear and empowers us to act in faith. Perhaps the most poignant way to apply this text is to remind us of Christ’s command to love your neighbor as yourself. In other words, love others with the same amount of energy and tenacity that you would for your own well-being. How would you want to be treated?

2/11/2016 11:36:30 AM by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for February 21: What’s the Sign?

February 9 2016 by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton

Focal passage: Matthew 12:38-42
 
All too often we go to God in prayer asking that He would move in a specific way in order to prove His commitment to our good. We may dress it up to make ourselves look more pious in the moment, but behind our prayers often what we are saying to God is, “Speak to me by answering this prayer in the way that I am asking. Show me a sign to prove you are with me and able to help me.”
 
Then we go looking for signs or feelings to see if God is answering our prayer.
 
In Matthew 12:38, the Pharisees approach Jesus similarly, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
 
They do not cover it up with pious language, they just simply admit, “we want a sign.” I am always astonished at this request. A sign? Really?
 
Jesus had already healed a leper (8:1-4), the Centurion’s paralyzed son (8:5-13), Peter’s mother-in-law, everyone from the city who had demons or were sick (8:14-17), two demoniacs from the Gadarenes, (8:28-34), another paralytic (9:1-8), a woman who had severe bleeding (9:18-26), a dead girl (9:18-26), two men born blind (9:27-31), a mute man (9:32-34) and the man with a withered hand (12:9-14).
 
What more could they need? What more could we need?
 
When we pray prayers that ask God to prove His love or commitment to us, we are acting more like this group of scribes and Pharisees than we are faithful followers of King Jesus.

Jesus answers them (and us) by saying there is only one sign needed for a person to know the love and power of God, and that is an empty tomb in the Middle East. Jesus is the truer Jonah who was swallowed by a more sinister grave only to return from the depths three days later.
 
So may we keep making bold requests to God in prayer, but let us do so because the only sign we need to believe in His good and sovereign rule over our lives has already happened – His tomb is still empty.

2/9/2016 11:23:38 AM by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 21: Distinct in My Reactions

February 9 2016 by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex

Focal passage: Matthew 5:33-42
 
The natural mode of our hearts is expressed well in the Latin phrase lex talionis, which means “the law of retaliation.” When someone crosses us or makes demands on us our initial reaction is to respond in the same way. Why not? This is the way we’ve heard that the world works. Right? Retaliation is sinfully seductive and bitterly sweet.
 
However, as Christians we operate by the laws of a different world, the Kingdom of God. This is why in Matthew 5:38-42 Jesus says, “you have heard it said … but I tell you.” What does he tell us? Jesus demands that when someone insults us, we should not respond in a way that escalates violence. Instead, we should respond in love towards our attacker, in a way that prevents further attacks or stops the progression of violence.
 
Moreover, when someone takes your possessions, Jesus calls us to respond in the way of love, namely, to go the extra mile, to give freely to those in need. In many cases, those who pursue our possessions have an actual need they are trying to meet.
 
Doesn’t Jesus call us to give to those who are truly in need?
 
Now, we can split hairs on this passage and develop numerous scenarios where helping can hurt. Or we can think of many modifiers to these words in order to show how these things may or may not play out. But I think that misses the point of the passage.
 
In fact, the initial response of counting the costs to respond this way shows that retaliation is our natural desire.
 
However, Jesus calls us to think differently. Moreover, His Spirit enables us to respond differently.
 
In a unnatural way – better yet, a supernatural way – our need for retaliation and personal justice is not bound by the “pay out” on this earth.
 
If our self-esteem is found in our stance before God, we can lovingly stand in the face of sinful insults. If our treasure is found in the inheritance we have as children of God, we are not devastated when our earthly belongings are taken. This is the power of the gospel.

2/9/2016 11:04:50 AM by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex | with 0 comments