January 2015

Explore the Bible Lesson for February 8: Get an Understanding

January 27 2015 by Randy Mann, lead pastor, Central Baptist Church, Henderson

Focal Passage: Nehemiah 8:1-8

Men are notorious for not wanting to read and follow instructions. After all, how hard can it be, right? However, if we really thought about it, we would realize the one who made the thing would be the best one to tell not only how the project goes together, but also how it is to be used.

If that is the case with something as simple as a home project, how much more should we seek understanding for our lives by going to God’s Word? God alone can tell us who He is, who we are and how we are to live His way in His world. More importantly, we need to realize that God’s Word is far more than an impersonal “life instruction manual.” It is His gracious and loving gift to His people initiated by God to reveal Himself to us. Ezra had returned to Jerusalem well before Nehemiah. His role was as priest and “teacher,” responsible for keeping the law of God before the people. In Nehemiah 8, the Israelites called Ezra for the public reading of God’s law. Their commitment to hearing the Word of God read was obvious in several ways.

First, the Word of God had a prominent place as they had erected a platform from which the Word would be read. Second, there was a commitment to having God’s Word read among all the people. Third, their desire was not simply for a brief devotional thought for the day. They sat under the reading of the law from morning until midday. Fourth, their desire was not only to hear the law proclaimed, but also to understand it with a view to obey.

As we consider our own lives, do we have such a commitment to the Word of God? Do we give it a prominent place in our lives? Do we keep it not only before ourselves, but before our children? Do we simply want a little “verse for the day,” or do we really desire to meditate on God’s Word? And, do we read God’s Word seeking understanding in order that we might obey it also? Solomon charged his son to “Get wisdom. Get understanding” (Proverbs 4:5). We will only find true wisdom and understanding in God’s Word.

1/27/2015 10:04:17 AM by Randy Mann, lead pastor, Central Baptist Church, Henderson | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 8: Ready When Sex Destroys

January 27 2015 by Thomas Marshall, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Wagram

Focal Passage: Ephesians 5:1-10

Statistics in 2007 claimed that 45-55 percent of married women and 50-60 percent of married men engaged in extramarital sex at one time or another during their relationship. Nothing is more devastating to a marriage than infidelity. Adultery is a great tragedy. God tells us that all sin will have consequences. When one commits adultery he or she risks all that they have built over a lifetime – marriage, family, ministry, respect and honor. The law of sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7) teaches that we will reap what we sow. Many sow while praying for a crop failure.

Although the steps and process following infidelity can take a long time, we can be assured that healing of the marriage and recovery for both partners is possible by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Christian counselors instruct us to take the following steps toward restoring and rebuilding the shattered marriage. The first step is for both spouses to spend time each day in prayer, Bible study and seeking God to give them the ability to grow in Christ-like actions and attitudes. There must be no further contact between the sinning spouse and the third party.

This means that the unfaithful person must make a radical commitment to rebuild trust. They must be open to any inquiries of their spouse.

Importantly, the unfaithful one must seek God for forgiveness in true repentance. As the unfaithful person is assured that God is “faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, HCSB), they need to seek the forgiveness of the spouse. Forgiveness is a journey and will take time.

Forgiveness is required, but reconciliation of the couple is based upon true remorse and repentance.

While the Bible never advocates divorce and many couples do stay together and heal, some may not be able to work through the broken relationship. Sexual sin can be very appealing; remember that to violate this bond will lead to pain, grief and self-destruction.

1/27/2015 9:41:54 AM by Thomas Marshall, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Wagram | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for February 1: Do Your Appointed Part

January 15 2015 by Randy Mann, lead pastor, Central Baptist Church, Henderson

Focal Passage: Nehemiah 7:1-8
 
My family generally travels around Christmas to visit our family in Alabama. Often, this will result in me missing a Sunday at our church. When this happens, I have one of our other pastors preach. This year was unique. I had asked our worship pastor to preach on the last Sunday of the year. What I did not know was that the back-up worship leader became ill. So, what we decided to do was switch roles for that Sunday. Our worship pastor still preached the sermon, and I led worship. The bottom line was this: there was a need. God had given us the gifts and abilities to meet those needs. So, we just allowed God to use us to serve Him and to meet the needs of our congregation.
 
Nehemiah had accomplished the primary task God had sent him back to Jerusalem to accomplish: rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.
 
While the threats of the naysayers and adversaries had not been realized during the rebuilding of the wall, Nehemiah knew there was the potential for ongoing difficulty from Israel’s enemies. The long-term health and security of the nation could not be accomplished by Nehemiah alone. Everyone would have to do their part. Nehemiah challenged the people and appointed them to different tasks. Some were given the task of oversight. Others were given specific responsibilities for securing the gates around the city. Yet, all of the people were serving according to their God-given assignments, in obedience to God’s direction and for the good of God’s community.
 
God has given gifts and abilities to all His people for the purpose of serving Him. We are simply stewards of those gifts. Every person who is a part of the family of God, the Body of Christ, does not have the same gifts or abilities. That is by God’s design. God’s church functions as He intends when each believer is doing his or her part.
 
Are you simply coasting along on the service of others? Or, are you actively serving God with the gifts and abilities He has entrusted to you – for the good of God’s people and for the sake of His glory.

1/15/2015 9:51:31 AM by Randy Mann, lead pastor, Central Baptist Church, Henderson | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 1: Ready When Sickness Comes to Stay

January 15 2015 by Thomas Marshall, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Wagram

Focal Passages: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 12:7-10
 
Her name was Ellen. I met her about five years go. She was a petite lady with a generous smile. When I first met her, I did not realize she had a progressive illness. In fact, you could not determine this from her words and actions. However, as time and our relationship as pastor and church member developed, I learned about her struggle. Over time, this progressive illness took a greater and greater toll. Even as her health deteriorated, her attitude never failed. She would often say to me, “You’ll never hear me complain. As long as I am able I am going to keep going.” And that she did. I remember the day in her hospice room where she said, “I’m fine; don’t worry about me, as I know where I am going.” The next day she went to be with her Lord.

What do we need to consider when God allows sickness to come upon one of His children? Sometimes He allows healing. Sometimes He allows sickness to continue until death.
 
Nevertheless, everything is for His glory. He promises in His Word that He will provide the grace a person needs during trials. Paul in these verses pleads with God, and God revealed to him that He would provide the needed grace to live and exalt Christ in the midst of this trial. I believe God allows a Christian to have a disease just as an unbeliever has, so the world can see the difference.
 
Ellen, through her grace received from God, was able to teach those of us around her some very valuable lessons. She taught us that we should never give up in the midst of hard trials. She taught us that joy is possible even in the pain. She showed us that confidence in God during tribulations brings hope. She shared her confidence with everyone she could. She displayed that one can live with hope in the midst of trying circumstances. God used her to teach a church that grace is available and possible for those who trust in Him. I hope that if you are going through this difficulty that the life of Ellen will help you also.

1/15/2015 9:34:56 AM by Thomas Marshall, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Wagram | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for January 25: Be Faithful in Adversity

January 13 2015 by Randy Mann, lead pastor, Central Baptist Church, Henderson

Focal Passage: Nehemiah 6:1-19
 
Earlier this year my son was participating in a school activity where his group was instructed by his teacher to do a certain activity. Some of the students tried to get my son to do something other than what the teacher said. In fact, several different students told him different things to do that were contrary to what the teacher had said. Some of the students even chided my son for not following their instructions. What was my son to do? Following the instructions of any of those students would have caused him to disobey the one with authority who had given the instructions in the first place. He decided to go back to his teacher, report the situation and follow the teacher’s instructions. I encouraged him for taking such action.
 
Nehemiah had been following God’s instructions for rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, and God was faithful to provide the resources to strengthen the hands of Nehemiah and the people of Judah. Sanballat, Shemaiah and Tobiah all brought difficulty against Nehemiah in different ways. At least five different times, Sanballat sent letters threatening Nehemiah to stop working on the wall. How did he respond? According to truth (v. 8). Shemaiah tried to distract Nehemiah with an action that would have shown a disregard for God’s law and a lack of faith in God to protect His people. Tobiah sought to create disunity. Yet through it all, Nehemiah kept His focus on the Lord, demonstrated faithfulness as a leader and saw God accomplish what only God could do – the rebuilding of the wall in 52 days.
 
Some say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” For Nehemiah, “When the going got tough, Nehemiah got praying … and kept going.” Adversity will certainly come into our lives. Jesus promised it for His followers. The questions then are: “How will we respond when it comes? Will we cower under the threats of men? Will we break under the load of difficult circumstances? Or, will we walk faithfully and keep going, with trust in the Lord, empowered by His Spirit, all for the sake of His glory?”

1/13/2015 11:04:52 AM by Randy Mann, lead pastor, Central Baptist Church, Henderson | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for January 25: Ready to Help the Poor

January 13 2015 by Thomas Marshall, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Wagram

Focal Passage: Deuteronomy 15:7-11
 
Nearly half of the world’s population – more than 3 billion people – lives on less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty, which is less than $1.25 a day.
 
According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. Most who are reading the words on this page have a home, food, income and provisions.
 
Too often in America we have a wrong view of the poor who are around us. The poverty we are faced with today is not because the world lacks resources; it is because we have set our priorities in the wrong areas. Some people today do not have concern for those who lack.

Most of those held in the chains of poverty are not there because of what they have or have not done. Some are there because of the sinful choices of others. In fact, it could be our own sinful choices that help to keep them there. As Christians, God wants us to love our neighbors (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39). We say we truly believe this, however, it is not what we believe that counts. It is what we believe enough to live out before the world that makes a difference.
 
George Bernard Shaw, an avowed atheist and later part of the New Age movement, said, “The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.”
 
Giving our money is important, but often we give so that we can salve our conscience and feel that we have done what God desires. Showing God to those around us involves our personal interaction with those in need. Richard Stearns, president of World Vision says, “If we truly love God, we will express it by loving our neighbors, and when we truly love our neighbors, it expresses our love for God.”
 
If we want the world to see Jesus, we need to be out there living like Him. We must give of our time and talents to those we meet. Remember: do not fail to do something just because you cannot do everything. We must do what we can, with what we have, for as long as we can.

1/13/2015 10:59:55 AM by Thomas Marshall, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Wagram | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for January 18: Protect Human Life

January 2 2015 by Randy Mann, lead pastor, Central Baptist Church, Henderson

Focal Passages: Genesis 9:1-7; Psalm 8:4-8; Proverbs 24:10-12; Philippians 2:12-16a
 
The Sanctity of Human Life issue often arises in abortion discussions. This past October/November demonstrated the importance of understanding this issue across the lifespan. Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old California woman, chose to move to Oregon where she could legally end her own life. She had been diagnosed with a stage four glioblastoma, an inoperable and incurable brain tumor. And from her perspective, she thought: “My quality of life, as I knew it, would be gone.” The question is: “Who gets to define life’s quality and value?”
 
God Himself has determined human life’s value as He uniquely created mankind – distinct from all the rest of creation – in His image. Human life’s value, then, is found here. It is to this very fact that God points Noah when God both tells Noah to go and fulfill the creation mandate to multiply the earth with more image-bearers, as well as to value all human life (Genesis 9). The Psalmist likewise recognized the unique value of human life, rooted in the creation purpose of God.
 
Contrary to our contemporary culture’s perspective, the value of human life is not based on functionalism (what I am able to do) or Epicureanism (where the presence of pleasure and the absence of pain are the greatest goods).
 
In the Disney movie, “Pirates of the Caribbean,” Captain Jack Sparrow was guided by a special compass that pointed not toward true north, but toward “the thing you want most in this world.” If man is guided by “what he wants most,” then when pain and suffering come, we want relief at any cost. When man is guided by the compass of God’s Word, it will always point us toward truth. It is God’s Word that tells us that life’s value is determined by our being created in God’s image, not simply the absence of suffering. This is the truth we must proclaim to a world tossed upon the sea of confusion, pain and suffering. Humanity’s only hope for finding the port of rest is ultimately in God.

1/2/2015 10:52:19 AM by Randy Mann, lead pastor, Central Baptist Church, Henderson | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for January 18: Ready When Injustice Prevails

January 2 2015 by Thomas Marshall, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Wagram

Exodus 23:1-3; 6-9
 
Injustice. Dictionary.com defines the word as “violation of the rights of others; unjust or unfair action or treatment.” We are in the midst of the continuing struggles over the cries of injustice surrounding us today. The debates are ongoing about immigration, abortion, civil rights and personal rights. These are being approached as if injustice is something new. However, if you study the issue, you find that injustice has been around for a very long time. Why? Because it is an outpouring of man’s sinful nature.
 
Consider the book of Genesis where we find injustice as far back as Cain and Abel. We see the conflict between Sarah and Hagar carries images of injustice. What about the life of Joseph? Did he suffer injustice? Repeatedly we can find images of injustice in the scriptures. In Proverbs 6:16-19, the writer lists six things that God detests. These six things all can be related to some form of injustice. How does God view injustice? How does He want those of us who claim a relationship with Him to deal with this issue?
 
Many in our world today are treated unfairly or unjustly. Billy Graham has said, “Racism and injustice and violence sweep our world, bringing a tragic harvest of heartache and death.”
 
In addition, we are familiar with the oft-quoted adage from Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
 
This Sunday’s lesson hits both Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, and the remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King, a great advocate for Civil Rights once said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Inaction speaks louder than any spoken words.
 
Our lesson this day shows us that God wants us to take action, to stand for those who cannot stand for themselves.
 
Seek God and discover how He wants you to be involved in ministering to those facing injustice in this world – and thus ministering to Him.

1/2/2015 10:45:50 AM by Thomas Marshall, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Wagram | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for January 4: God Commands Obedience

December 23 2014 by Randy Mann, lead pastor, Central Baptist Church, Henderson

Focal Passage: Ezra 7:1-10
 
As a parent I command obedience from my children. Sometimes my commands are easily understood, and sometimes they may not be from their perspective. They may see my commands as burdensome or restrictive. I know the things I am asking of them will bring them both freedom and joy. Their obedience will not only cause them to avoid punishment. It will also allow them to walk in joyful fellowship with their father.
 
The people of God had disobeyed Him in many ways, resulting in exile to Babylon. In the immediate context of Ezra 7-10, one of the clear ways they had disobeyed was by intermarrying with pagan nations. God had warned them against this practice, knowing that marrying those who worshipped false gods would cause the hearts of God’s people to turn away from Him. But, wanting their own way and ignoring God’s commands, God’s people disobeyed and suffered the consequences.
 
Ezra’s response, upon returning to Jerusalem, was threefold. First, he “set his heart to study the law of God.” He knew that if he and the people were going to walk in obedience, they must first know God’s law. They must meditate on it day and night (Psalm 1:2). Second, Ezra set his heart to “do” God’s law – that is, to obey it. God has not given us His law so that we might simply read it, know it or memorize it. He gave us His law so that we might do it (James 1:22). Third, Ezra set his heart to teach God’s statutes in Israel. He would remind the people of the necessity of obedience to the law of God.
 
We know, ultimately, we will not perfectly obey God’s law. In fact, Paul says in Galatians that God did not give us the law so we could keep it and be good, but rather to show us that we could not keep it and thus needed a savior. Christ perfectly obeyed and fulfilled God’s law. This does not mean, then, that we can live however we want. It means that because His Spirit now lives in us, He has empowered us to study God’s truth, obey it and teach it to others. Living in obedience to God’s commands, by the power of His Spirit, always results in our good and His glory.
12/23/2014 1:51:30 PM by Randy Mann, lead pastor, Central Baptist Church, Henderson | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for January 4: The Shelter of God’s Peace

December 23 2014 by Thomas Marshall, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Wagram

Focal Passage: Psalm 46:1-11

Selah. A word used 74 times in the Hebrew Bible – 71 of these are in the Psalms. We find it used three times in Psalm 46 – possibly marking the end of each stanza or thought in this Psalm.
 
So, what does Selah mean? Many believe it is a musical interlude, a pause or a rest. I like the way the Amplified Bible states it: “pause, and calmly think of that.” We struggle day-by-day facing obstacles, fears and turmoil. If we listen to the news, it is enough to “scare us to death.” In verse two, the Psalm tells that “we will not be afraid.”
 
How can he say this? How can we know peace in a world that seems so out of control? The Psalmist begins by telling us “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.” God is our Peace. God is in control. The answer to finding peace is not complicated. Selah. Pause. Rest easy. We should never expect life to make sense. We should not fear because surprises occur. Life is full of surprises, shocks and senselessness. However, remember that nothing takes God by surprise.
 
Consider the three stanzas in this Psalm. First, even if the whole world should crumble, we can find Selah (v. 1-3) because God is our refuge. Then, even through floods and nations collapsing, we can find Selah (v. 4-7) because God is our stronghold. Finally, the Psalmist invites us to witness the works of God – He is exalted, with us and the Stronghold.
 
Horatio Spafford in 1871 lost most of his investments in “The Great Chicago Fire.” He sent his wife and daughters for some rest and recovery. The ship they were on sank, and all of his daughters drowned. He boarded a ship to go to his wife’s grieving side in England. As the ship went past the spot where this had happened, he went on deck; then he went back to his cabin and penned the words that would become a beloved hymn during crisis – “It is Well With My Soul.” This reminds us to settle, to pause and to find rest in God. God our Refuge, our Stronghold, our Selah.
12/23/2014 1:49:01 PM by Thomas Marshall, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Wagram | with 0 comments