January 2014

Explore the Bible Lesson for February 16: Live in Resurrection Power

January 30 2014 by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passages: John 20: 15-23, 26-29
 
As Christians, we have been taught that God transforms our wretched, sinful nature into His image and likeness. We are familiar with 2 Corinthians 3:18, “We all, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” But do we live like we believe it? Our lesson this week challenges us to live in the power of the resurrection of Christ! We will see from these post-resurrection accounts that people can go from a place of grief to joyful testimony. We can leave the place of fear and enter into bold mission for Christ. We can leave our doubts behind and live in confident faith! These are all examples of the transformational power of Jesus. In John 20:15-18 Mary Magdalene is expressing her intense grief for Jesus, then turns around and sees Jesus standing there! Mary Magdalene believes Jesus is dead and then is presented with the living truth that Jesus is alive! She is given the immense privilege to go tell His disciples this news.
 
How difficult it must have been for Mary Magdalene to get her mind around the fact that Jesus had just spoken to her and yet she demonstrated immediate obedience. In John 20:19-23, we find the disciples hiding in fear. They had witnessed what could happen to them and it was terrifying. They had “the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews.”
 
Jesus demonstrated His power over the things they feared by showing them that locked doors could not keep Him from coming to stand among them. We witness Jesus transforming the belief of one believer, Thomas, in John 20:26-29. Once again, the disciples are behind locked doors and Jesus “came and stood among them.” Jesus offers the disciples peace and then proof. He says, “Don’t be an unbeliever, but a believer.” 
 
Those who believe without seeing are blessed” (John 20:29). We each have the same opportunity to respond to Jesus and be transformed like Thomas by saying, “My Lord and my God!
1/30/2014 1:59:23 PM by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 16: How Did We Get Here ... and Why?

January 30 2014 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passages: Genesis 1:1-3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 26-27
 
Ken Ham wrote an article in 1999 called, Creation: ‘Where’s the Proof?’ In the article, he helps the reader understand how creationist and evolutionist, Christian and non-Christians all have the same facts about the world. The difference, however, is how each person interprets those facts.
 
Ham explains, “We all exist in the present – and the facts all exist in the present. When one is trying to understand how the evidence came about (Where did the animals come from? How did the fossil layers form? etc.), what we are actually trying to do is to connect the past to the present. However, if we weren’t there in the past to observe events, how can we know what happened so we can explain the present? It would be great to have a time machine so we could know for sure about past events. Christians of course claim they do, in a sense, have a “time machine.” They have a book called the Bible which claims to be the Word of God which has always been there, and has revealed to us the major events of the past about which we need to know. On the basis of these events (Creation, Fall, Flood, Babel, etc.), we have a set of presuppositions to build a way of thinking that enables us to interpret the evidence of the present.”
 
I concur with Ham. Giving proof that God created the world must involve the creation narrative in Genesis.
 
Likewise, when we answer the question, “How did we get here … and why?” it only makes sense to start with the Bible. Think about it. If the facts are the same for all people, we have two major options.
 
One, we trust God’s explanation of how the world began, or two, we believe the opinions of finite men. Ultimately, both options require faith because we were not there in the past.
How will you respond? Will you trust God at His word or will you rest in the thoughts of man? For more information, check out answersingenesis.org – it is a helpful resource.       
1/30/2014 1:40:41 PM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for February 9: Our Savior: Crucified!

January 28 2014 by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passages: John 19:23-30, 38-42
 
As we read the story of the crucifixion of Jesus in John 19, there is a beautiful reminder to us of God’s sovereignty. In verse 24, we are told that the actions of even the soldiers were intended to fulfill the prophetic scripture. Psalm 22:18 states, “They divided my garments among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing.” A survey of scripture prophecies reveals they were fulfilled through the death of Jesus. We can conclude from such a survey that we can have confident assurance that Jesus is our Savior! Jesus completed the work He came to earth to do, and in doing so, provided the way of forgiveness of sins for each of us. Jesus completed His work by making sure that His mother was cared for as she finished her life on earth. As a wife and mother, I am so encouraged by the tender, loving care Jesus demonstrated in John 19:26.
 
As she stood there, grieving the horrible death of her son, Jesus spoke to her and to the disciple John to make sure that John would care for her. The scripture states, “from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” In His intense suffering, Jesus still took time to care for His mom.
 
Jesus also completed His earthly work in John 19:28, when He knew that “everything was now accomplished,” He was able to say, “It is finished!” He then, “gave up His spirit” (John 19:30). Jesus completed the work God had Him to do and showed that there is victory in finishing well.   
 
John 19:38-42 provides the description of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus showing their devotion to Jesus.
 
These men, most likely both risked their reputation to provide for the body of Jesus in these ways.
 
They made the personal decision to be bold in their devotion to Jesus because Jesus had set the example for them in completing His work, no matter the cost.
 
We are challenged to show our complete devotion to our Savior by daily completing the work that God has called us to do.    
1/28/2014 1:15:38 PM by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 9: Why Should I Trust the Bible?

January 28 2014 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passages: Psalm 119: 1-8, 137-144
 
A lot of people say they value the Bible, but valuing it does not mean they know what’s in it. Nor does it mean they have structured their lives according to its truths. In a sermon illustration, Paul Carson, quoted George Barna who conducted a survey of self-pronounced Christians’ knowledge of the Bible, and here’s what he found:
  • 48 percent could not name the four Gospels.
  • 52 percent cannot identify more than two or three of Jesus’ disciples.
  • 60 percent can’t name even five of the 10 Commandments.
  • 61 percent think the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham.
  • 71 percent think “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse.
Barna went on to say, “Americans revere the Bible, but by and large they don’t know what it says. And because they don’t know it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”

These statistics, although older now, still reflect, I believe, the current condition of many believers in America. Perhaps as equally sad, there are Christians who have a firm knowledge of the Bible, but are not applying that knowledge to their lives.
 
Could you imagine having a choice of the finest foods or table crumbs every day and you choose to eat the table crumbs? In a similar way, many Christians neglect God’s very best when they don’t read and obey the scriptures. Instead, they settle for spiritual crumbs the world offers and consequently live defeated lives.
 
With that in mind, there are numerous ways to demonstrate that the Bible is reliable and true, but perhaps what the skeptic needs more than anything is for Christians to back up what they believe by the way they live.
 
A great place to start your journey is Psalm 119:11, which says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (ESV). Challenge yourself to memorize one scripture verse per week and do what it says.
1/28/2014 1:11:09 PM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for February 2: Our King: Condemned!

January 16 2014 by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passages: John 18:33-19:3, 9-11
 
When confronted with the person of Jesus Christ each person has a free will to choose how they will respond. We often are shocked and dismayed by the response of someone to the beautiful offer of salvation. It is some comfort as we study our lesson this week to see that these sinful responses are not new, and we know God has the ultimate victory. 
 
The lesson provides a review of Pilate’s questioning and sentencing of Jesus to death. Our heart breaks as this ruler had the immense privilege of having a one-on-one conversation with Jesus and missed his opportunity to respond personally to Jesus. Pilate asks, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Pilate responds to truth with confusion. Then we see in John 18, the crowds’ response to Jesus as one of rejection.
 
The crowd has the opportunity to free the innocent Jesus but instead chooses to free a criminal, Barabbus (John 18:38b-40). 
 
John 19:1-3 is the heart-wrenching account of the mistreatment of Jesus by the Roman guards. Time and time again throughout history, we see when people do not understand someone or a belief system, they feel a need to attack it. Out of their own spiritual darkness, they seek to destroy that which they can’t understand.
 
When we took our five children to serve on the mission field in South Asia, we were told of an example of this type of attack. A missionary dad and his two sons were camping in the country. A rioting group was formed and their camping trailer was set on fire. They were unable to escape and perished. There was no reason for the attack other than those who did it felt threatened by the family’s Christian beliefs
 
We do not despair, for our lesson concludes with a word of hope. What Jesus did, He chose to do. No earthly power could make Him lay down His life. He chose to do it, because He loves us. He was unjustly condemned, but is our eternal King forever. Victory!
1/16/2014 11:32:28 AM by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 2: What About People Who’ve Never Heard?

January 16 2014 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passage: Romans 1:16-25
 
How can you help believers work through the question, “What happens to people who’ve never heard about Jesus?” First, make sure you allow the Bible to speak to the issue. When it comes to difficult theological questions it is easy to allow our emotions to have greater influence than the Bible. Second, determine why the question is so challenging in the first place. Does it make you question the character of God? Does it challenge your worldview?
 
Oftentimes, difficult theological questions reveal false assumptions one has about God or humanity. Third, don’t get side-tracked on other questions that are not related to the original question. Charting your thoughts on paper can help you stay focused.
 
This week’s question is best answered in Romans 1:18-20. These verses address the condition of a person who has not been saved by the gospel of Christ (v. 16-17 provide context). According to these verses, God has revealed Himself through the creation of the world, but the ungodly suppress that truth. Consequently, they will be without excuse when they stand before God’s judgment. Many people struggle with this truth because it seems God would be unfair if a person who never heard about Jesus would perish in hell. I believe there are two false assumptions many Christians make when thinking about this issue. First, they assume people are not accountable for their sin if they do not hear about Jesus. According to our focal passage, people are without excuse not because they did not hear about Jesus, but because they suppress the truth God has revealed to them in creation.
 
In other words, not hearing about Jesus is no excuse for a person’s sinful actions. Secondly, many people in America think hearing the gospel is an unalienable right. That is not true; hearing the gospel is an act of grace – one that we should cherish with all our heart. Furthermore, because it is an act of grace we should be compelled every day to share it with those who have never heard. Are you willing to go? 
1/16/2014 11:25:33 AM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for January 26: Our Messiah: Abused!

January 14 2014 by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passages: John 18:1-6, 17-24
 
Suffering is a subject that brings about a myriad of emotions. For some people, they may picture a beloved person who is suffering or a people group who seems to be synonymous with the word. For some precious people in our Bible study groups, they may immediately picture a person who has inflicted suffering and the word is equated with abuse in their own personal experience. For many, the word suffering is one that brings the image of the cross readily to mind. As we study this lesson and may even be the one teaching it, we want to be sensitive to the various responses of our listeners to the subject of suffering.

The lesson encourages us to reflect on the fact that Jesus was betrayed (John 18:1-6), denied (John 18:17-18) and reviled (John 18:19-26). Each strong, action verb communicates pain and suffering. It can be sobering to meditate on these very words and what they meant to the experience of our Savior.
 
Jesus was willing to suffer each of these forms of abuse because He understood the purpose. Jesus knew He would suffer abuse as a part of God’s plan to provide the way of forgiveness for sinners. The lesson does not leave us in a place of pain though, but directs us towards a response of gratitude to Jesus. 
We can joyfully show our gratitude for what Jesus was willing to do on our behalf. We can be sure that we demonstrate gratitude in worship and joyful praise.
 
As we honor Jesus in lifting our voices in song or speaking a testimony of thanksgiving, it is as if we are writing a “thank you” note to Him. A second way we show our gratitude to Jesus is through acts of obedience.
 
We want to reflect our commitment to Jesus so that we do not betray our relationship to Him, deny Him in our words or actions, or revile Him by using words that abuse who He is by not properly showing Him respect. We should sincerely hope that our lives will demonstrate a daily attitude of gratitude.
1/14/2014 11:09:28 AM by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for January 26: How Can I Be Sure God Exists?

January 14 2014 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passage: Psalm 19:1-14
 
When I was in Romania in 1998 on a mission trip, I learned what it meant to truly value the Word of God. In certain parts of the Romanian evangelical Christian community, if you were a professing believer and had a Bible but did not read it, I was told that it could be taken away from you and given to someone who would read it.
 
When I contrast that with the Christian culture in America today, there is sufficient reason why belief in God is no longer assumed or even valued in our country.
 
The psalmist can assist us in this area. In Psalm 19, David helps us understand that God has revealed Himself to us in creation and also through His revealed Word.
 
We learn that there are wonderful benefits in God’s law – benefits such as the way to salvation, purity, joy, wisdom, truth and righteousness (v. 7-9). In fact, the Word of God is more valuable than the most opulent lifestyle one can imagine (v. 10).
 
However, the truth of David’s words would be difficult to prove based on the actions of many believers in America. I have often asked if I were taken in front of a judge and made to give proof that I was a believer based on how often I read my Bible, would there be enough evidence to convict me? How about you?
 
If we affirm Psalm 19, there should be certain characteristics in our lives that we exhibit on a daily basis. Like the psalmist, we should pray that sin would not have dominion over us resulting in living an upright and blameless life (v. 13).
 
We must understand that the Bible was not given to us just for intellectual acknowledgement of the existence of God. It is also meant to transform our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit, giving greater clarity to God’s redeeming work. So, as you strive to read through the Bible this year, seek to apply its truth to your life. I promise you, it will make all the difference in the world – literally.      
1/14/2014 10:52:51 AM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for January 19: Value Every Life

January 2 2014 by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passages: Psalm 139:1-10, 13-16, 23-24
 
We take a brief detour from the Gospel of John to the book of Psalms this week in order to observe the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.
 
Many churches set aside this Lord’s Day in a special effort to be advocates for the unborn.
 
As the church, we can make a difference by sharing with our culture the biblical teachings regarding the sanctity of human life.
 
Psalm 139 was selected for this lesson to challenge us to value every human life from conception to the end of natural life.
 
Through David, God communicates our precious value to Him by describing His detailed knowledge of our actions and thoughts (Psalm 139:3).
 
These verses are not just a comfort to us but a reminder that each person is valuable to God.
 
It helps to pause a moment and think about the people you encountered in the last few days.
 
Did you treat each one as if they are a valued human being whom God created? If not, then we can be challenged to ask God to show any “offensive way” in our heart and make a new commitment to see each and every life as worth relating to (Psalm 139:7-10, 23-24).
 
David was able to confidently express that there is not one single place in heaven or on earth that would place a person outside of the presence of God. God is there to lead and to hold (Psalm 139:10).
 
As my children have grown into young adults, they are no longer the age of holding my hand as we cross the street or enter a new situation.
 
They are driving, working and spending the majority of their hours away from my presence.
 
Yet, I am very aware that they are constantly in the all-knowing presence of God who will lead them and hold them. 
 
As we walk with the Lord, may we renew our commitment to value each person with whom we interact and those yet to be born.
1/2/2014 3:58:07 PM by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for January 19: Is Every Life Sacred?

January 2 2014 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passages: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
 
Is it possible that America has an erroneous paradigm for what defines a person as valuable? Consider for a moment what tends to be the expected progression of a child growing up. There is our educational system. A child is evaluated based on academic performance and assigned a grade. The child’s grade will, for the most part, determine their progression to the next grade level. This continues through high school and into college. During the educational process extra-curricular activities are made available. For example, the strong athletes are awarded starting positions and the appeal to become a famous and wealthy athletic star becomes the goal.
 
Most of our work places require a college degree to be employed. Without the degree you are considered unqualified regardless of your competency level. I am not saying those things are bad. In fact, I think our societal structure has been instrumental in producing a great and prosperous nation. However, could it be that our model also produces a paradigm that says life is not valuable unless it meets the world’s standard of success?
 
I share this with you because until I had two sons with special needs I never realized how disheartening life can be when your children don’t fit the mold for what is a normal child. Although most people would never say anything publically about your children disabilities you know privately they feel pity for you. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a blessing when people can empathize with your journey.
 
But, over the years I have come to push back against the world’s ideas for what makes a person valuable and have chosen to see my boys from God’s perspective. The Bible proclaims, “… you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. … My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth” (Psalm 139:13-15 ESV). It is hard to explain how much these verses mean to me. I agree with God, I’ve got the greatest kids on earth. Just like yours!
1/2/2014 3:50:59 PM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments