January 2013

Explore the Bible Lesson for February 17: Pursuing Those Called to Tell

January 31 2013 by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem

Focal Passages: Jonah 1:1-4, 7-12; 2:1-4
 
Most likely you know the story of Jonah from Sunday School. The first few chapters describe Jonah’s call from God to go and cry out against the great and evil city of Nineveh. Instead of obeying God’s call, Jonah traveled downward in the opposite direction of Nineveh toward Tarshish and away from the presence of God.
 
While Jonah was on a ship full of pagan sailors headed for Tarshish, God hurled a great wind at the sea.
 
The storm was so strong that the boat was close to breaking apart. The pagans called out to their gods and begged Jonah to call out to his God with the hope that He would save them from death.
 
It is revealed that Jonah’s disobedience had brought about this judgment of God in the form of a storm. Finally, the pagan sailors hurled Jonah into the sea and the storm stopped. While this story is already amazing it also points to something even more magnificent, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we read this story through the lens of Jesus we see that the saving of pagans through the sacrifice of Jonah points to the salvation of all nations through the death of Christ (1 John 2:2). Moreover, Jonah’s rescue from death points to the resurrection of Christ from the dead (Matthew 12:40). In a certain sense, Jesus is like Jonah in that He hurled himself into the storm of God’s wrath so that we could be brought in to safety.
 
Oftentimes we read this story and apply it to ourselves through the perspective of Jonah. But, I believe that we are more like the pagan soldiers. It’s only because of Jesus that we are saved from the judgment of God.
 
Unlike Jonah, Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. It was you and I who needed to be hurled into the storm. But Jesus offered Himself on our behalf. So let us, like the pagans in the story, offer sacrifices of praise for what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
1/31/2013 3:04:33 PM by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 17: The Practice of Godliness

January 31 2013 by Bartley Wooten, senior pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passage: 1 Timothy 4:7-10; Titus 3:1-9
 
I love setting New Year’s resolutions. This year I tried something new. Someone once said, “You know how to achieve your goals – by setting them low enough.” One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to take a multivitamin each day. My wife told me she was proud of me for setting that goal. She went on to say that I normally set goals like run an Ironman or race in Baja 1000 – goals that unless God intervened I would never achieve. Besides, getting in shape is overrated. It is like shuffling the chairs on the Titanic – no matter where you put them on the ship it’s still going to go down. Seriously, I think staying physically healthy is extremely important, but I don’t think it is as important as staying spiritually healthy – not that they are mutually exclusive. A person should strive for both, physical fitness and godliness. However, when you examine the scriptures, the Apostle Paul puts the greater value on training in godliness. He writes, “… Rather train yourself for godliness, for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8, ESV).
 
What are some of the benefits of a godly life? Some of the benefits include a deeper love relationship with God, a life that produces more spiritual fruit (John 15:5), greater rewards in heaven (1 Corinthians 3:10-15), and a life that is filled with contentment (Philippians 4:10-13).
 
Practicing godliness means you invest your time in eternal matters. Years ago I read a book by Christopher Adsit called, Personal Disciple-making.
 
In the first part of the book he shared a quote that has significantly impacted my life.

He writes, “God, the Word of God, and the souls of men … According to the Bible, these are the only things that will last eternally. To the extent that you are involved in these three things, you are involved in eternity.”
 
If you want to make a difference for eternity, make practicing godliness your first priority. 
1/31/2013 3:00:58 PM by Bartley Wooten, senior pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for February 10: Let the Verdict Be Read!

January 29 2013 by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem

Focal Passages: Amos 8:11-12; 9:8-15
 
At this point in the Book of Amos “the long summer” of God’s patience had come to an end. There was no harvest of repentance from Israel, only silence. Ironically, Israel had become so hardened by their sin that their consciousnesses had been easily appeased by empty ritual. In other words, God’s people still saw themselves as devoutly religious while at the same time trampling and killing the needy – people who are close to God’s own heart. 
 
Amos stands and declares that because of their hypocrisy, destruction would rush in over Israel like flooding from the Nile. What a horrible picture! But the people had continually rejected God’s Word and ignored His warnings. In fact, the Israelites had actually attempted to manipulate God with their sacrifices. At this point judgment was inescapable.
 
Yet there is pause, because God declares that He will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob (Amos 9:8). And, again we are reminded that God had committed Himself to bless His people and eventually the world through the family of David (2 Samuel 7:15-16). This promise sees its fulfillment in Jesus Christ – who is from the line of David and is the eternal King of Kings (Matthew 1:1, Hebrews 1:1-5).
 
As Christians we can look back at this Old Testament passage and see its fulfillment in Jesus Christ whose reign is inaugurated in His resurrection, or to use the words of Amos, “when David’s fallen tent is raised” (9:11). Moreover, 9:12 points us to see that when Jesus is raised, the nations become included in God’s blessings, in fulfillment of the promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:3).
 
For now we wait for the consummation of His kingdom where we experience abundant blessings much like those described in Amos 9:13-15. But for those who do not turn from their sin, there waits an eternal judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). As the “summer ends” proclaim the Good News because the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
1/29/2013 2:33:31 PM by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 10: The Character of Leadership

January 29 2013 by Bartley Wooten, senior pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passage: 1 Timothy 3:1-15
 
I had the wonderful privilege to serve at First Baptist Indian Trail several years ago as a college and single adult pastor. One of the most valuable lessons I learned at Indian Trail was that a lot of people want to lead, but very few are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to set themselves apart to lead. Because First Baptist Indian Trail is a great church genuinely making a difference in that area, it attracts a lot of guys who want to be in ministry. Sometimes those guys lack the qualification to lead, and I’ve watched Pastor Mike Whitson help those men evaluate their qualifications according to scripture.
 
Sometimes those men were very appreciative of Preacher Mike’s counsel and other times they were too prideful to see their deficiencies.
 
For the men who would listen, they went on to have faithful ministries. For those who were less teachable I’m sure they are still struggling today.
 
Perhaps you know someone interested in church leadership.
 
Maybe there is a person in your Sunday School class or small group that has thought about going into ministry or wanting to serve as a pastor or deacon. Where can they go to find out if they are qualified to lead? A great starting point is 1 Timothy 3:1-13. In his letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul gives a list of qualifications that are necessary to serve as a pastor or deacon. The list was not meant to be exhaustive, but the qualifications that Paul gives are certainly essential.
 
Maybe you know a church looking to hire a pastor.
 
Unfortunately, in today’s culture, many believers do not know what to look for in a pastor. They assume if he has a theological education or is a good communicator he meets God’s standard to lead. Although those things are important, the church would do well to utilize all of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 as a non-negotiable standard for selecting a pastor.
 
Twenty years ago this summer, I was one of those men Preacher Mike counseled about going into ministry. I pray I was one that listened well.  
1/29/2013 2:30:59 PM by Bartley Wooten, senior pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for Feb. 3: Can I Get A Witness?

January 17 2013 by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem

Focal Passage: Amos 7:4-17
 
At this point in the Book of Amos the nation of Israel is too far gone to avoid judgment. Even so, Amos pleads to God on behalf of the nation for mercy. But, God repeatedly showed mercy to His defiant people only to have them continue in their smugness toward Him. God does not desire to destroy His people. He is very patient and has promised to relent in response to repentance.
 
But the only thing left for Israel was judgment. Judgment would fall on Israel like a plague of locusts, like a fire so intense it would evaporate the sea and char the land.
 
The sin of Israel was so terrible that the high places and sanctuaries had become dens of snakes. One would think that the priesthood would have held Israel accountable to the Torah. But, the priesthood itself was corrupt. There was no standard being applied by which Israel’s true condition could be recognized.
 
Plus, all the people wanted to hear were the messages of blessing and success, not messages about sin, obedience and judgment.
 
Sometimes it is hard to let God’s Word sift through our souls. Spiritual enlightenment and reflective Bible reading has a jarring effect on us. God uses the truth of His Word to show us our sinfulness, and most people are not comfortable with that.
 
Any casual walk through a Christian book store makes it apparent that we, like Israel, want to hear about blessing and success.
 
But the only true blessing is Christ. And the only success that matters is His victory on the cross over our sin. Because of the gospel we can finally see ourselves for who we really are – broken sinners dependent on the mercy and grace of God. That is good news that refreshes the soul.
1/17/2013 3:22:34 PM by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Feb. 3: The Truth of the Gospel

January 17 2013 by Bartley Wooten, senior pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passages: 1 Timothy 1:3-7, 12-20
 
When I was in seminary I worked at UPS. While at UPS I had the opportunity to share the gospel with numerous people. Most of the people were receptive, or at least kind enough to listen to me.
 
There was a man named Ross that I had been witnessing to for several months, and on April 1 he came to work all excited. He said, “Bartley, I’ve got great news! God did a wonderful thing in my life. I got saved this weekend!” I immediately began to congratulate him with a hug and handshake and shared how excited I was for him.
 
As we went back to work he turned to me with a smirk on his face and said, “Hey Bartley, April Fools!”
 
It is difficult to express how I felt at that moment. My heart sank into my stomach.
I was angry that he would treat Christ so flippantly.
 
I was also angry that throughout the course of our working together I treated him with dignity and respect and now he was making a mockery out of the thing that was most important to me. How would you have responded to that situation?
 
If you are unsure, God’s Word can give you help.
 
In a letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul reminds us about the power of the gospel and why Christ came to earth.
 
He wrote, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15, ESV).

Prior to this verse, Paul described his life before Christ saved him. He was a blasphemer, persecutor of the church, and insolent opponent of the gospel (1 Timothy 1:13).
 
Paul’s point is simple. Regardless of how wicked we are, God’s grace is more than sufficient to radically change our lives for the glory of Christ.
 
After reflecting on Ross’ comments for a few minutes, I went from anger to having great pity for him. I remembered the Apostle Paul and my own life before Christ saved me.

I, too, was the chief sinner.  
1/17/2013 3:21:28 PM by Bartley Wooten, senior pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for Jan. 27: Court Is in Session

January 15 2013 by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem

Focal Passages: Amos 5:4-6, 18-24; 6:1a, 4-7
 
This section of Amos’ prophecy is centered on God’s pleading for His people to return to Him. It is clear that Israel faces impending destruction. It is also clear from the lamenting tone of the passage that God does not take delight in these pronouncements of disaster, but grieves at what lies ahead for unrepentant Israel.
 
In God’s righteous court Israel had no case. God’s justice is pure and upright, unlike Israel’s shady gatehouses where justice went to the highest bidder. And Israel’s sin flooded well beyond their city gates. They had been prostituting themselves in pagan religious activities and had become narcissistic and self-indulgent. To make things worse, they continued in their own religious activities with no regard to how they were living their lives. But God hated and despised their hypocritical, religious activity because they were so unrepentant.
 
The only hope the Israelites had was in the power of God made available through repentance, but Israel saw no need for that. Instead of mourning and grieving over their sins the Israelites were living extravagant lives. Prayerfully, we would never be so blinded by our own sin. But if we ever find ourselves there, we can always find hope in God. All throughout these passages we hear the same call – “seek the Lord and live.” God graciously extends His fellowship and forgiveness to those who repent and turn to Him.  Idolatry, pride and self-indulgence are the same today as they were then. And God is the same, judging righteously.
 
The only hope we have is in Christ who was slaughtered on the wood of a cross and walked out of a cold grave three days later. It is through Christ that we are presented pure and righteous before the great Judge. And if we seek Him we will live. This is the power of the gospel.
1/15/2013 1:22:30 PM by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Jan. 27: Haggai: A Message of Hope

January 15 2013 by Bartley Wooten, senior pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passages: Haggai 1:2-9; 2:4-5, 9, 18-19, 23
 
Spring 1993, I sat on a bench in front of the student center at N.C. State University contemplating my future. For years I had planned to be a mechanical engineer, hopefully working for a large automotive corporation. I had worked my way through the community college system and was finally in a place to pursue my dream full time. One would think I would have been filled with great excitement, but as I sat on that bench, it felt like I was in Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken. I had two paths to travel but only could choose one. You see, at the time, I was also extensively involved with Campus Crusade for Christ and my home church.
 
Over the course of the semester, God had been using those ministries to change the desires of my heart.
 
For so long I wanted to be a mechanical engineer, but now the possibility of doing full-time ministry was becoming more prominent in my life. What would I do?
 
Perhaps you are struggling with a similar decision. It may not involve a complete vocation change like me, but it may be a question of reordering your priorities.
 
We all have battled with keeping God first in our lives at different times. This is not new with our generation. Historically, Judah, in the Old Testament dealt with the same issue (Haggai 1:2-9). They were enamored with their own pursuits and neglected the rebuilding of God’s temple.
 
God sent the Prophet Haggai to instruct them that His agenda must take first place in their lives. Thankfully, Haggai’s message did not end with a rebuke. God promised that as they rebuilt the temple He would abundantly bless those who faithfully served Him (Haggai 2:1-9).
 
Haggai’s message of hope is still true for us today. When we are willing to make Christ first in our lives, God promises to take care of us and meet our needs (Matthew 6:33).
 
Almost 20 years ago this spring I made a decision to make God’s agenda the highest priority in my life. And that has made all the difference.   
 
1/15/2013 1:20:36 PM by Bartley Wooten, senior pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for January 20: Value All Human Life

January 4 2013 by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem

Focal Passages: Genesis 1:26-27: Exodus 1:15-17; Psalm 139:13-16; Mark 10:13-16
 
Orthodox, protestant, evangelical, conservative Christians must value human life, from conception until death. Genesis 1:26-31 informs us that God intimately created humans in His likeness, male and female. We see that humanity is set apart and crowned with authority over the earth and its creatures, a position of honor and responsibility.
 
Theologian John Hammett rightly argues that creation in the image of God is the basis for human dignity and that killing a human or to even curse one is an affront to and an attack upon the living God. 
 
The utterly depraved and unimaginably horrible actions of the gunman in Newtown, Conn., are close as I write this study.
 
The emotions are raw and fresh as our country weeps over the unjust slaying of the 20 beautiful children, and the 6 brave adults who lost their lives that day. For we know that all human beings are, as Psalm 139 describes, knitted together in their mother’s womb.
 
The God of the universe has His loving eyes on every single one of us and always has even when we were “unformed substance,” to use modern language “an embryo.” But we also understand that we live in an entirely broken world. 
 
In horrible events like these we are brought to the precipice of life and forced to look down at our hopeless plight because of sin.
 
As Christians we run to the cross, where the truly innocent God-man gave his life in our place, for our sin, to make all things new.
 
And while death is a perpetual reminder of our fragile humanity, we have a greater and eternal hope. That one day Christ will return.
 
And in that day He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more (Revelation 21).
1/4/2013 2:59:45 PM by Matt Capps, associate pastor for adult ministries, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for January 20: Obadiah: A Message of God’s Justice

January 4 2013 by Bartley Wooten, senior pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passages: Obadiah 1-4, 10-15, 17-18, 21
 
Every person has an ultimate authority source in his or her life. An authority source is someone or something whereby we yield our thoughts and actions and allow it to influence our decision making. It might be a parent, teacher or boss. It may be someone in history or it may be you.
 
Hopefully, if we are wise and humble, our ultimate authority source will be God and His Word. Such was not the case for the Edomites, Israel’s perennial enemy. For years, the Edomites lived a life of pride and arrogance that fueled an attitude of self-confidence and indifference toward those who have been victimized. They had become their own authority, and it led them to a life of wickedness.
 
We can see this same attitude creeping into our own nation.
 
God has blessed America, but we have taken it for granted. We have become great in our own eyes and believe we are invaluable to God’s providential plan. It is also apparent that other nations do not see us in the same light as they did in the past.
 
About 10 years ago, I had the privilege to travel to the Middle East for 21 days.
 
We visited six different countries and explored dozens of ancient sites. I assumed because I was an American that people would want to speak with me and inquire about life in the United States. I soon realized that much of the Middle East did not see America as a great country.
 
Certainly, a large part of their attitude toward America came from Islamic influence, but, many saw America as an arrogant nation that had lost its Christian influence.
 
How do you see America? Are we becoming more prideful and less dependent on God? Patriotism is good and right, but has our attitude as a nation become an affront to God?

If so, how do we respond as Christians?
 
One thing is for certain. If we do not repent and humble ourselves as a nation we can expect the same outcome as Edom – a future that I do not care to experience. 
1/4/2013 2:58:02 PM by Bartley Wooten, senior pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



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