January 2012

Explore the Bible Lesson for Feb. 12: Be Honest and Fair

January 30 2012 by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Deuteronomy 16:18-20; 19:14-20; 25:13-16
 
The lesson focus for this week calls on believers to “be honest and fair.” Specific examples are given for areas in which this conduct should be lived out: living justly toward all people; respecting the property of others; telling the truth always and fully; maintaining integrity in all business dealings. The question is, “Why did God spell out the laws in these chapters and how/why should believers live in this way?”
 
Some seem to believe that God gave the law so that, as we live it out, our lives will go along more smoothly and God will be happier with us.
 
Therefore, when such a person believes himself to be keeping God’s law more faithfully, he believes God is happier with him.
 
When he is not doing as well, he believes God is not happy with him. Further, if everyone else would simply keep God’s law, our society would be a “better place.”
 
The problem with such a view is that it gives far too much credit to man’s ability, and results in a works-based righteousness. God did not give man the law so that man could keep it and, in so doing, be righteous. God gave the law in order to reveal His own holiness and to make known His holy standard.
 
Because of the sinfulness of man’s heart, man cannot keep God’s law. And, while the law can show man his sinfulness, it cannot change man’s heart. As I shared in a previous lesson, God gave the law not as a cure to make man well, but as a thermometer to show man the sickness of man’s heart (Galatians 3).
 
We do not become righteous by being honest and fair. We are declared righteous – given the very righteousness of Christ – by faith, which ushers forth in surrender and obedience.
 
We can be honest and fair, not by trying to keep the law, but because Christ fulfilled the law on our behalf. As we live with honesty and fairness toward others, they see not our strength and goodness but God’s power and goodness at work in us.

1/30/2012 3:01:19 PM by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Feb. 12: Center of My Church

January 30 2012 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Colossians 1:24-27
 
Iranian house church pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was sentenced to death by hanging in November 2010 after being convicted of apostasy. Nadarkhani, who had been in prison for over a year, was convicted of converting from Islam to Christianity and for encouraging other Muslims to do the same. The court ruled that Nadarkhani was born Muslim, and ordered him to “repent” of his Christian faith. The pastor replied, “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?”
 
The judges ordered him to return to Islam. Nadarkhani refused. Iranian Christians say the government targeted pastor Nadarkhani because of the rapid growth of the house church he pastors, which now has more than 400 believers.
 
Nadarkhani’s spiritual journey parallels that of the Apostle Paul. Paul was born a Jew, not a Christian.
At a particular point in his life (Acts 9) he became a Christian. His conversion was dramatic, and in obedience to God, he was led into a ministry of church leadership and evangelism. Although he targeted fellow Jews for conversion to Christianity, invariably the real success in his ministry came from Gentiles. For his faithfulness as a Christian pastor and minister, Paul was arrested and put into prison on several occasions. The letter to the Colossian Christians is one of the four prison letters that Paul wrote. Paul knew suffering. Paul could rejoice that he had been deemed worthy to suffer for his Lord.
 
Of particular note here (v. 26-27) is Paul’s use of the word “mystery.” In Paul’s Jewish world, Gentiles were second-class citizens. To become “God-fearers” was a step up for them, but the idea that Gentiles could be true spiritual equals to Jews was a stretch. But this was Paul’s point.
 
It is Christ’s Church, not man’s. Therefore, in Christ all are equal. There is no Jew or Gentile, just Christian.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – As of Jan. 30, 2012, Nadarkhani was still alive.)
1/30/2012 2:59:21 PM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for Feb. 5: Be Different

January 19 2012 by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Deuteronomy 14:1-2, 9-11, 19-23; 15:7-11
 
If a person is a U.S. Marine, one thing is certain, his life is different from that of most people. There is a level of discipline, respect, fitness, etc., that is simply not present in most other people. The Marine Corp has that expectation. You simply cannot be a part of “the few” and “the proud” and live like the rest. There are guidelines and expectations that you must live by if you are to be a United States Marine.
 
In a far greater way, God outlined His requirements and expectations for His people – holiness.
 
He told them why they must live different lives: “for you are a holy people belonging to the Lord your God.” (14:2a, HCSB). God’s plan, seen in His covenant promise to Abraham, was to give His people the “good land” that He promised to them, and to use them as a light to the nations, demonstrating His glory.
 
For God’s people to receive this land and to dwell in it richly as God intended, they must walk with God, by faith, and “be careful to follow all the statutes and ordinances” (Deuteronomy 8:1) God set before them. But they didn’t.
 
In fact, they couldn’t. While the law could cause them to try to change their behavior, the law could not change their sinful hearts. Only God could change their hearts.
 
So, in the fullness of time, God sent Jesus to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law and to give new hearts to those who would repent and believe in Him by faith.
 
Therefore, when a person receives the grace of God in Christ, it changes him. As Paul says, “old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
 
As a Christian, is your life different from those around you in the way you love, forgive, help others, and give? If not, ask God, by His grace, to change your heart. You see, the Marines exert external pressure to make you act different. God changes your heart to make you different. As those who have received God’s grace, through the power of His Spirit, be different!
1/19/2012 3:03:36 PM by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Feb. 5: Center of Everything

January 19 2012 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Colossians 1:9-23
 
Tim Tebow has caught the attention of American football fans. Why? Because he is passionate about Christ, and that passion transfers itself into the sport he plays. I’ve watched clips of him singing “Our God is an Awesome God” while warming up before a game, and I’ve heard him talking with little boys and girls and his teammates and the media. He never speaks without praising Jesus. Tim Tebow seems to have a proper perspective on who he is in relation to who Christ is and to God’s bigger plan for his life. In a world in which many glamour figures obsess over themselves, it’s refreshing to watch in real time someone who understands life as God intended.
 
Colossians 1:9-23 is a Christological passage. Christ is the center of all God’s intentions and plans. In verse 15 Paul wrote that Christ is the “image” of the invisible God.
 
This means that Jesus Christ was God in flesh.
 
People could see Him, touch Him, experience Him. A few years ago there was a TV commercial that stated, “image is everything.” The commercial pictured sports stars drinking soda pop, a rather vain attempt to associate success with a product. In Christ, however, “image is everything” because He is the reason for all that exists. He is the pre-existent One, but He also is the “pre-eminent” One (v. 18), the first and the best. He was not created (as some cults incorrectly interpret “first-born”). He was with the Father in creation, participating in every aspect of life. As such, Christ was and is the “agent” of creation. Everything – all life – has been created by Him, through Him, and in Him.
 
Some rightly call Jesus Christ the “glue” of creation. He is the One who keeps the cosmos from becoming a chaos. The place of Christ is that He is the beginning. The function of Christ is that He is the head of the Church (v. 18). He created the Church through His own blood, sweat, and tears. True forgiveness and reconciliation happened at the cross (v. 20).

1/19/2012 3:01:34 PM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for Jan. 29: Be Passionate

January 16 2012 by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Deuteronomy 6:4-14; 7:6-9
 
What are you passionate about? Perhaps the best way to answer that question is to ask the people around you. Ask them what you talk about the most. Ask them where they observe you spending most of your time. Ask your check register – in what are you financially investing? The answers to these questions will demonstrate where your passion truly lies.
 
In this week’s passage, Moses reminds the people of Israel of God’s past faithfulness and their past failures. He also tells them of the coming danger of their hearts once again being drawn away from God by the idols of their own hearts and those of the surrounding nations. Therefore, based on the unique character/nature of God (6:4), His grace toward them (7:6-8a), and His covenant-keeping faithfulness (7:8b-9), Moses calls them to pursue with passion a love for God and God alone. This passionate pursuit of, and commitment to, the one true God is described in terms of a unique love relationship: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (6:5, HCSB). In the New Testament, Jesus said this is the greatest commandment (Mark 12:29-30). As Thom Rainer recently put it, “We can’t escape the fact that nothing else really matters in life if our relationship with God isn’t what it should be.”
 
Why must we so passionately pursue a love relationship with God today, with God as the singular focus and object of our affection? Because our hearts will drift if we don’t. In the words of the hymn writer, my heart (and yours) is “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”
 
We must, therefore, not only demonstrate such a passionate pursuit in our own lives, but also teach our children to passionately pursue a love relationship with God as well (6:7).
 
Those who have a relationship with Christ have it because of God’s grace toward them. We must never forget, however, that God’s grace changes us. Therefore, we must passionately love and obey God, by His grace and for His glory.

1/16/2012 2:47:28 PM by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Jan. 29: Giving in a Greedy Culture

January 16 2012 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Deuteronomy 15:7-11; 24:10-15, 17-18
 
In the community where I pastor is one of the most active Ruritan clubs in the area. They are constantly doing for others. For example, prior to Christmas they put together about 150 Christmas baskets that they deliver to the county nursing home and to the many whom are homebound and lonely. It makes me proud because many of these Ruritans are members of my own congregation. Caring for the poor, destitute, and otherwise needy in our communities is a biblical mandate. Furthermore, for those of us who are so fortunate to have the resources to give, giving should be deemed a joyful opportunity and a gracious blessing.
 
God commanded Moses and the Hebrews to have a compassionate and generous heart when it came to giving. There was the recognition that economic inequality would always exist.
 
There was also the recognition that there would always be folks who would be poor, and that people would fall on “hard times,” whether it be caused by personal neglect or circumstances beyond one’s control. God’s message was not to punish the poor and destitute, but to give practical remedies that His people could apply.
 
Here are three: (1) If a poor man is working for you, pay him at the end of each work day. He has no savings account to fall back on (24:15). (2) If a poor man gives you his most comfortable garment to you as collateral for a debt incurred, don’t personally benefit by sleeping in it on a cold night. Give it back to him before sunset so that he can stay warm (24:12-13). (3) Every seventh year cancel the debts of those who owe you (15:1). This would give opportunity for folks to start over in life, to “hopefully” learn the lesson to not get in debt again, and to treat others with dignity and respect. In the course of human history there have been few societies that have actually practiced what God has preached.
 
As God said to Moses and His people, “Open your hand. Give. Don’t have a stingy heart.”    

1/16/2012 2:43:37 PM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for Jan. 22: Be Exclusive

January 5 2012 by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Deuteronomy 4:5-10, 15-19, 39-40
 
This week’s lesson calls us to “be exclusive” – to live with exclusive devotion to God. God’s instructions to Israel, calling for their exclusive devotion, flowed directly from His exclusive worthiness of their devotion and worship as the One, True and Living God. God could demand such exclusivity from them (and us) because He alone was worthy of it.
 
Like everything else God gives His people, the laws of Sinai (Exodus-Numbers) and Moab (Deuteronomy) were given for Israel’s good. The laws restrained Israel’s sin but could not change their hearts. In fact, Israel’s sin under the laws would lead to exile (4:26-28; 28:58-68; 29:22-28). After this exile, God’s saving hand would change hearts to love Him truly and completely (4:29-31; 30:1-10) through a future return from the exile of sin, at the end of the days. It is a fulfillment of His promise to Abraham, which Jesus Christ fulfills as the only answer to sin. Until that time, however, these laws will teach Israel to love God by being wise so that they may reveal God to the nations (4:6-8; 29:22-28).
 
Ultimately, God’s people would not live exclusively for Him or according to His statutes. Instead of walking by faith in the God who created them and made them His own, they would make gods for themselves, a practice God had strictly forbidden (v. 15-31).
 
We, like the Israelites, fail to live exclusively for God. And, the law stands before us (as it stood before them) as a teacher, instructing us about our sinfulness and need for a savior (Galatians 3). That is why we need Jesus. He fulfilled God’s law, forgives our sin, and empowers us by God’s Spirit to live obedient lives that will reflect His glory.
 
Are you – enabled by the Holy Spirit – living a life of exclusive devotion to God? Or, have you made your job, your health, your finances your god? Living a lifestyle of exclusive devotion to God is not only for our good, but also for His glory. Are you living exclusively for God so that, through you, others are drawn to know Him?
1/5/2012 2:44:52 PM by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life for Jan. 22: Love in a Divided Culture

January 5 2012 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Acts 10:9-15, 22-23, 28-29a, 34-36
 
One day young John Woolman was throwing rocks at a robin’s nest. Surprisingly, one of his tosses hit the mother robin, killing her. Realizing the baby robins were helpless without their mother, John became grief stricken. He vowed that he would not knowingly mistreat another being. John was a Quaker from New Jersey.
 
Over the course of his 52 years he would be a farmer, a merchant, an author, and a preacher. He would travel the Atlantic seaboard, England, and Ireland, and he would always preach the message of equality and freedom of all peoples, including native Americans and black slaves. Of note to North Carolinians, in 1746 he traveled with Isaac Andrews 1,500 miles in three months, going as far south as North Carolina. As one might imagine, preaching against slavery was controversial. Even among Christians, few truly believed all men and women were equal. In fact, it wasn’t until after John’s death that the Quaker’s (Society of Friends) petitioned Congress for the abolition of slavery. John sought to model his life after Jesus. He would only wear undyed clothing because slave labor was used in the process of dying clothes.
 
In today’s text we have the example of Simon Peter, who also was struggling with the issue of racial inequality. He had been raised to believe that circumcised Jews were superior, even in God’s eyes, to uncircumcised Gentiles. Although he had watched Jesus heal and save Samaritans and Gentiles, and had listened to many parables and sermons delivered by Jesus on the subjects of compassion, equality and love, Peter had never quite reconciled the issue in his own mind and spirit.
 
Enter Cornelius. He was a Roman leader, a God-fearing man who had a proven track-record of generosity to Jews (v. 22). An angel told him to send for Peter. God would bring them together, and God would reveal that He has no favorites, that all who fear Him and live righteously as followers of Jesus Christ are His children (v. 34-36).
1/5/2012 2:42:33 PM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for Jan. 15: Be Resolute About Life’s Value

January 3 2012 by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Deuteronomy 5:17; 19:7-13; 24:6-7; Matthew 5:17-20
 
This week’s lesson focuses on the value of human life, in honor of Sanctity of Human Life Day. There is no doubt we need such an ongoing emphasis. Just this morning the local news reported two stories about men being tried for murder. One was an appeal of a murder case where the man allegedly killed his wife, while the other involved the senseless kidnapping and killing of a promising young college student whose life was taken – all for a small amount of money. These stories appear almost daily, indicating a clear disregard for the value of human life. But these stories are only a small part of a bigger picture.
 
According to the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), over 50 million abortions have been performed in the United States since 1973. While the number of annual abortions has slightly decreased over the past decade, the number still stands at about 1.2 million per year. “Abortion rights” continues to be a hotly debated topic with every passing election. Less visible issues such as euthanasia, elder abuse and human trafficking also serve to illustrate both the depth and breadth of the sanctity of life issue.
 
The focal passages today remind us the root of the sanctity of life issue is not sociological, but theological. God’s command not to murder was not simply to help people get along more peaceably. David Jones, a professor at Southeastern Seminary, points out that God’s negative command “Do not murder” reflects a larger, positive theme – value and protect human life. Why should Christians be committed to this?
 
Because every human life is created by God, in God’s image, and is therefore valuable. God demonstrated His commitment to protecting human life both through forbidding murder (the intentional taking of human life) and through providing cities of refuge for the innocent. Christians today must show we value and protect human life. As Solomon admonishes, we must “rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11).
1/3/2012 3:45:41 PM by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life for Jan. 15: Caring in an Expendable Culture

January 3 2012 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church

 Focal Passage: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
 
Abby Johnson is a convincing advocate for the unborn. Why? In her compelling book Unplanned, Abby chronicles her journey into and out of Planned Parenthood. She became involved with this agency because she was deeply concerned about the health of women.
 
Prenatal care, birth control, and other reproductive services were important to her, and she believed abortions were justified as long as they were rare, early-term, and safe. She vehemently opposed late-term abortions, and would not let her clinic perform them.
 
But Abby knew the business she had invested into was full of contradictions, just like her own personal life. In her younger adulthood Abby had been promiscuous; twice she chose to end her pregnancies through abortion. This haunted her, but God had given her a wonderful pro-life husband named Doug, and together they would have a beautiful baby daughter named Grace. Abby was living in two worlds, and what eventually caused her to decide for life was her personal involvement in an ultrasound-guided abortion. That experience devastated her. And when she started believing that Planned Parenthood was more concerned about making money off abortions than providing health and healing, she left. God removed the scales that were blinding her eyes.
 
The sanctity of human life is an important issue for Christians, and not just for the unborn. An equally sacred arena for Christian care and comfort is for those at the other end of life, for those about to die. The psalmist speaks to the fact that we have an all-knowing (omniscient) and ever-present God. He knows everything there is to know about us, and has personally planned our lives (v. 16).
 
We are not an accident. We are not unworthy. We are special in God’s eyes, and “all” life should be viewed as special in our eyes. The psalmist also cautions us regarding how we live. God sees all, knows all, and whether we do right or wrong, we cannot get away from Him. Abby Johnson’s life was changed when she realized this truth, and God gave her “Grace.”
1/3/2012 3:43:24 PM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church | with 0 comments