January 2011

Formations Lesson for February 6: Unauthorized Prophets

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

Focal Passage: Numbers 11:10-15, 24-30  

A number of years ago, Robert McAfee Brown asked the question “How is it possible to see the hand of God in the work of non-Christian writers?”

This question was asked in a series of lectures that became the book The Pseudonyms of God. He responded that theologically believers have responded in three ways.

First, some have stated non-Christians have been unintentionally influenced by a Christian environment, therefore whatever they write that portrays truth, goodness and beauty is Christian.

Secondly, there are those who believe that “All truth is God’s truth” (Justin Martyr) thus one need only selectively look for the truths exhibited in the work.

The last response is Brown’s. He writes that “God can use all things for the fulfillment of the divine purposes, including the full message of non-Christians rather than only selected congenial portions.”

Perhaps, literature and the media (films, art, music, etc.) can serve as unauthorized prophets for the purposes of God.

Our God is full of surprises.

He speaks through His Word and He speaks “in divers manners” (Heb. 1:1) in order to make known and accomplish His will and desire. Our Lord works in uncommon ways.

Robert K. Johnston, professor of theology and culture at Fuller, tells of such a moment when God spoke to him.

He had sensed a calling to the Christian ministry, but felt inadequate and unholy.

He saw his pastor and minister of youth as very holy individuals and himself not very saintly.

Struggling with whether to respond positively to this calling, he went to the movies and saw the film “Beckett.”

As he watched the transformation of Thomas a Beckett from close friend of Henry II and companion in wine, women, and song to a faithful, uncompromising Archbishop of Canterbury, Johnston heard God say, “You need not be holy. Thomas was not. You only have to be obedient to my call.”

He responded to the Lord, “God, I will be loyal to you with all my being.”

Like Eldad and Medad in today’s text, there are those individuals or circumstances that may not follow the right format or procedure or instructions and yet are used of God. 

Though this may make us feel uncomfortable, we should rejoice at God’s unpredictability and grace in expressing Himself.

In Luke 9:49-50, a similar incident occurred where John stopped someone from ministering in Jesus’ name.

Jesus replied to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”

(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.)
1/21/2011 7:52:00 AM by John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 6: God Loves the Unlovely

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

Focal Passage: Hosea 1:2-9; 3:1-5  

It wasn’t the first time I had said that I was going to “run away from home;” but it was the first time I actually did it. I was 7 years old; practically an adult. And I was sure my parents’ archaic rules were infringing on my rights.

Who were they to tell me that I had to clean my room or eat my vegetables? After all, if it was my room, why couldn’t I choose to leave it be? If they were my vegetables, why couldn’t I feed them to the dog?

I was fed up with it. I packed my lunchbox and hit the road. It was exhilarating. I was free. I traveled a full tenth of a mile to one of our barns and established my new home.

No rules. No baths. No green beans. What could be better?

It’s amazing how lonely one gets when the thrill passes.

I don’t know how long I was out there; no more than an hour, I’d guess.

But it seemed like a week.

Suffice it to say that I had enough time to think through the situation. My animal crackers were almost gone. My juice supply had dried up. I had no bed, no clothes, no bathroom, and — worst of all — I was alone.

And that’s the part that I was sure couldn’t be fixed. After what I’d done and said, I was sure my mom wouldn’t ever let me back in that house. I had burned the most important bridge in my life.

Idiocy is hard to accept, even when you’re 7.

My regret began to grow into a mountain. That’s when I heard the sound of crunching gravel. It was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.

Hope sprang up in me that I still can’t describe. And, sure enough, as I peered around the corner of the barn, there she was. My mom had come looking for me!

Our reunion was all hugs and tears: her hugs came after my tears. The rules hadn’t changed about the room or the vegetables. Discipline was certain. But at least I was going home again.

Have you run away from your spiritual home? Has reality set in yet? Has loneliness begun to tighten around your heart?

If so, listen carefully and you will hear the sound of gravel crunching under God’s feet. He’s come to bring you home again.

His rules are unbending; but His love is unending. Listen with your heart. Hear Him saying, “Are you ready to come back home?” 

(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.)
1/21/2011 7:49:00 AM by Joel Stephens, pastor, Westfield Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for January 30: God’s Word Must Be Interpreted

January 18 2011 by John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association

Focal Passage: 2 Peter 1:16-2:3  

We are all translators/interpreters” was a comment made a number of years ago by French philosopher Jacques Derrida. It expressed the idea that we all interpret or translate experience, etc.

Another version of that concept is the statement heard in many religious circles,

“Everyone interprets the Bible in their own way.”

In one way both statements are correct — each individual interprets their world through personal lenses and in the context of biblical study each reads the text through those same lenses. The end product will be an interpretation unique to their particular worldview.

This can be understood as one person’s guess is as good as another’s. That said, this conclusion is not necessarily completely true.

Though we may see different truths or realities in a particular text, there is still a correct or meaningful interpretation to any given text. Scholars use a plethora of methods for discovering the meaning and significance of a text for believers.

In the end, the scripture comes alive and the reader encounters God’s Word.

Peter in his second letter is concerned about the apparent delay of Christ’s Second Coming and the subsequent detractors and false prophets who had arisen within the Church.

These false teachers dismissed the gospel by assigning it to the level of “cleverly devised myths” (1:16). 

Peter’s response is first to personal experience “we had been eyewitnesses of his (Christ) majesty” here referring to his witnessing of Jesus’ transfiguration — “We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain”(1:18).

Peter in effect states, “I was a privileged eyewitness of the experiences of God” (Wm. Barclay). Thus, “I know!” Secondly, Peter appeals to the prophetic word, i.e. the scriptures. In order to not force the scriptures into his own personal “experiences” mold, Peter states, “no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will” (1:21).

Here Peter is declaring that no writer or prophet spoke as he wished or by personal opinion. They spoke as directed by God (Holy Spirit).

Thus, “no man can go to scripture and interpret it as it suits himself” (Barclay). Though Peter validates his preaching and teaching with legitimate experience and the divine inspiration of the scriptures (teachings), the reality of false teachers continues to loom over the young church.

While he speaks from a full heart of love and faith, they speak from hearts covetous and greedy. They exploit, Peter encourages and empowers.

“Their destruction is not asleep” or as the NEB translates it “perdition waits for them with unsleeping eyes” as promised long ago (Deut. 13:1-5; Jude 4). 

(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.)
1/18/2011 9:38:00 AM by John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for January 30: A Lifestyle of Meditation

January 18 2011 by Joel Stephens, pastor, Westfield Baptist Church

Focal Passages: Ps. 1:1-3; 119:11-16; Mk. 1:35-39  

No offense, but are you a digital zombie? Americans spend way too much time answering e-mails, surfing the web, tweeting, blogging, googling (just to mention a few of the ‘new’ technological verbs that have recently become a part of our language).

No matter where you go, you’ll find people with their nose stuck in a screen: at the office, on the street, on the park bench, and even on the highway.

According to a recent study of viewing habits, adults spend an average of nearly three hours a day interacting with computer screens. Add TV viewing and you get a screen time of about 8-1/2 hours.

“People are spending more time in media and especially screen media than anything else they’re doing in life,” says Bill Moult of Sequent Partners, one of two organizations that provided the study.

It’s become so much of a part of our culture that in October of 2009, two Northwest Airlines pilots flew their passenger jet 150 miles past their destination because they were distracted by their laptop computers!

Don’t get me wrong. Technology has more advantages for communication than you can shake a memory stick at. But all our efforts to communicate more efficiently have produced a disastrous side-effect: we are numbed by the volume of voices that vie for our attention.

We are losing the ability to prioritize information. All information should not inform equally. We may be communicating more than ever, but what’s being said?

We are undoubtedly connected, but to what? If God wanted to speak to us, would He need our cell number to get through?

The scriptures uphold the art of meditating on God’s Word. After all, shouldn’t what God says be infinitely more important than anything else?

Meditating implies reading, re-reading, studying intently, reflection, contemplation, and perhaps discussion. Meditating takes time; time that must be taken from something else.

No one “finds” time. Every one of us has the same amount. There will never be “more hours in the day.” We only have 24.

So it’s not a question of “can I find the time” to mediate on God’s Word. The question is: will I choose to invest the time?

The most needful communication we can have is with God. He is speaking.

But are we listening?

(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.)
1/18/2011 9:35:00 AM by Joel Stephens, pastor, Westfield Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for January 23: God’s Word Must Be Obeyed

January 5 2011 by John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association

Focal Passage: James 1:22-27

If we believe that the Word is God-breathed, dangerous, and points to Christ — how must we respond? Do we listen attentively and politely only to walk away untouched by the radical demands each word makes upon us, or are we literally transformed by its translation of our quotidian lives into the life of Christ?

James, without reservation or hesitation states: “Be doers of the word and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” 

He explains that the hearer is like a person looking into a mirror — he/she either forgets or acts upon what has been seen.

In the classic Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan speaks of a mirror shown to characters Christiana and Mercy:

“Now the glass was one of a thousand. It would present a man, one way with his own features exactly; and turn it but another way and it would show him the very face and similitude of the Prince of pilgrims Himself. Yea, I have talked with those that can tell, and have said they have seen the very crown of thorns upon His head by looking into the glass; they have therein also seen the holes in his hands, in his feet, and His side. The man who continues looking into the mirror of God’s Word sees in it things far more wonderful than his own face. He sees not only his filthy garments, not only the spots and stains on his life; he sees in it Christ, the Christ of the thorn-crowned brow, the Christ of the Cross, his Saviour, whose blood cleanses him from all sin.”

Is it possible to stand before the mirror of God’s Word and turn away without responding? James admits that there are those who do and “immediately forget what they were like.”

Then there are those who are impelled to respond:

A story from the 18th century tells about a missionary who had a mirror out in the bush hung on a tree for shaving. One day the local witch doctor happened by and curiously looked into the strange glass.

When she saw her hideously painted features she jumped back! Without hesitation, she tried to bargain with the missionary for the mirror.

Though he didn’t want to give it to her, he realized that she wasn’t going to give up, so he gave her the mirror. Once she had possession of it, she threw it to the ground breaking it into pieces, shouting, “There … it won’t be making ugly faces at me anymore!”

Before the Word of God we see ourselves as we truly are and thus respond practically towards the other we encounter — “care for orphans and widows in distress” — and realistically towards ourselves —“keep(ing) oneself unstained by the world” (1:27).

(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.)    
1/5/2011 7:56:00 AM by John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for January 23: A Lifestyle of Sacrifice

January 5 2011 by Joel Stephens, pastor, Westfield Baptist Church

Focal Passages: Lk. 9:23-24, 57-62; 21:1-4; Rom. 12:1-2

“What in the world is wrong with people?” That was the exasperated question shouted to the wind by the recent victim of a random act of selfishness. She had waited patiently for a parking space to be vacated with her turn-signal flashing.

Then, as you probably guessed, some selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed, self-worshipping jerk recklessly swooped in and brazenly stole the parking space as she sat waiting. Jumping out of his car, the villainous thief slunk hastily into the store, carefully avoiding eye contact with his victim so as not to acknowledge his crime. I was amazed at the overwhelming selfishness — the unbridled disregard for others — that had obviously become a way of life for him. “What in the world is wrong with people?” Great question! My answer: Selfishness!

Now before you conclude that my diagnosis of the world’s problem is overly simplistic, take a look at what got us into this shape. Remember Lucifer? He desired to be the boss regardless of what or whom he destroyed in the process. And when we seek our own pleasures and comforts at the expense of others, we prove ourselves to be no better.

Allow me to suggest a few random acts of kindness that will change the world and revitalize your joy. One — wherever you go (especially at church), park as far from the building as your health will allow and walk. Leave those closer spaces for someone else. Besides, the exercise will do you some good. Two — walk fast! Be the first one to the door so that you can hold it open for everyone else. Three — smile. Yes, smile. You may not feel like it. You may have had a crummy day. But the smile you selflessly give away may brighten someone else’s day (and yours too). Four — sincerely ask someone how they are doing and take the time to listen. Engage them in conversation about them.

OK, maybe these random acts of selflessness won’t change the entire world, but they will change your world. And if everyone thought less about themselves and more about others, then just imagine how different the world would be!

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:3-5, 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.)    
1/5/2011 7:53:00 AM by Joel Stephens, pastor, Westfield Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for January 16: God’s Word Points to Jesus

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

Focal Passage: John 5:39-47

Perhaps one of the greatest mysteries in the scriptures lies within our text. How was it possible for Israel’s religious intelligentsia who had meticulously studied the scriptures to miss Jesus? They constantly, diligently searched them looking for life, but refused to recognize the results! Jewish rabbi, Hillel, once stated, “the more study of the Law the more life … if he has gained for himself words of the Law he has gained for himself life in the world to come.”

Where was the disconnect? Jewish scribes truly studied (the term implies keen scrutiny, tracking down the message) the scriptures devoting their whole lives to its interpretation and analysis. Sadly, it was not for discovering the truth, but simply for the minutia of the text.

They seemed more concerned with enumeration and semiotics, seeking the fullest meaning and significance of each word. They believed that by the intensive study of the scripture alone they would receive life.

Thus, more concerned with “jots and tittles,” the scribes ignored the message of that word. D.A. Carson writes, Jesus “insists that there is nothing intrinsically life-giving about studying the scriptures, if one fails to discern their true content and purpose.”

They had missed the important key to understanding scripture — i.e., Christ. How many today search the scriptures to find proof for their theology rather than allow Christ to speak and reveal himself through those scriptures? 

In light of Jesus’ challenge to the religious leaders, we are reminded that “the criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ,” for Jesus said to them, “it is they that testify on my behalf!” (5:39b).

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus told the parable of a rich man who lived in opulence and a beggar, Lazarus, who lived in poverty and disease. At death Lazarus went to Abraham’s bosom and the rich man to Hades. Suffering in Hades the rich man begged for relief (but a great gulf separated them) and for Lazarus to return to warn his brothers. Abraham makes this statement: “They have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them … If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Lk. 16:29, 31).

In order to fully understand the resurrection one must embrace the scriptures, reading and believing the scriptures which all point to Him, the final authority and ultimate interpreter of scripture. For in the end it will be those scriptures (“There is one who accuses you; Moses on whom you have set your hope” — Jn. 5:45) that will condemn. 

(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.)      
1/4/2011 1:29:00 PM by John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for January 16: A Lifestyle of Service

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

Focal Passages: Matt. 25:19-21, 29, 34-40; Mk. 10:42-45

A sharp, young intellectual once asked Jesus a question, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus forces the guy to answer his own question by pointing him back to the scriptures.

And after quoting the two great commandments as a synopsis of the Mosaic Law, Jesus answers: “You’ve got it. That’s it. Do that and you will live.”

Then the young intellectual asks a typical lawyer-like, hair-splitting question: “And who is my neighbor?”

Really what he was getting at was something like this: “Define in precise legal terms who it is that I can get away with not loving, because there are some people I don’t want to have to care about.”

Sound familiar?

Are you aware that out of the 6.5 billion people in the world, over 3 billion live in desperate poverty?

Over half of the world’s population struggles to survive on less than $2 per day!

That’s less than what we spend on a drink and a candy bar for a snack!

Across our globe, 26,000 children will die today from starvation or preventable diseases.

They are dying because they don’t have adequate nutrition, access to clean drinking water, or proper sanitation. In short, they will die because they lack something that we take for granted as “necessities.”

Are they not in the same shape as the man the Good Samaritan found in the ditch?

Hasn’t life in a fallen world robbed them of hope, stripped them of their daily needs, and left them half dead? What will we do about it?

Will we pass by on the other side, pretending we don’t see them?

Will we justify our inaction with empty claims of being too busy?

Or will we do the typical “Baptist thing:” write a check so that someone else can take care of the dirty work?

It’s time we get off our padded pews and get down in the ditch where the people in need can be found.

After all… “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:15-17, 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.)    
1/4/2011 1:23:00 PM by Joel Stephens, pastor, Westfield Baptist Church | with 0 comments