July 2011

Formations Lesson for August 7: Ruth and Boaz: Partners in Providence

July 21 2011 by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Ruth 3:1-18

This lesson begins a new unit entitled “Partners in Marriage.” In this unit we will study the relationships of four couples and explore what God’s Word has to say about our closest relationships.

We begin with Ruth and Boaz.

The Book of Ruth is a story about a family in trouble.

The story begins with Elimelech, Naomi, and their two sons fleeing famine-ravished Judah and going to Moab because they heard things were better there.

Soon after their arrival, Elimelech died, leaving Naomi with two sons in a foreign land. Her sons, Mahlon and Kilion, took Moabite wives, Orpah and Ruth.

Ten years after their arrival in Moab, Naomi’s sons died.

Naomi felt that she had no choice but to return to Bethlehem. One daughter-in-law, Orpah, remained in Moab.

But the other one, Ruth, helped Naomi return to Judah.

It was Ruth’s loyalty and support to Naomi that eventually won for Ruth the notice of Boaz, who was Naomi’s kinsman on her husband’s side.

Indeed, Boaz was impressed not only by Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi, but also eventually by her loyalty to him in spite of the fact that she could have attracted younger men (3:10).

Thus, Boaz and Ruth married (4:10).

A couple in my church has displayed on their wall a framed piece of needlework they received as a wedding gift. On it appears their names, their wedding date, and the phrase “God gave us each other.”

I think many Christian couples believe that they were brought together by God’s providence.   But why would we think such a thing?

I’ve never known anyone who said God literally told them who to marry. Yet, we believe God is guiding His people. If that’s true, how does it happen?

The story of Ruth tells us about God’s way of carrying out His plans, and about how we become aware of God’s work in our lives. Ruth’s story tells us that God wields the power to change things.   The picture of Ruth at the beginning of the story is one of sadness, poverty and hopelessness.

At the end of the story, Ruth is happily married to Boaz. They have a son, Obed.

Obed would become the grandfather of none other than King David, from whose lineage came Jesus.

The amazing reversal in this story is brought about by God, who is the master of transformation.

Often, God’s work is seen only in hindsight and requires complete trust in Him to guide our lives.
7/21/2011 5:59:00 AM by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 7: Love One Another

July 21 2011 by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh

Focal Passages: John 13:4-35; 1 John 3:10b-12, 16-18; 4:7-13, 19

In the upper room on the night He was betrayed, Jesus opened His heart more fully to His disciples than ever before. They leaned forward, intent upon hearing His every word. He called them His children (John 13:33), and like a parent consoling a child, explained that everything would be all right, and that God would be glorified through His death.

The disciples were anxious like children being torn from their parent, wishing to go along but being told they could not go (v. 33b).

To comfort them, Jesus said in effect, “This is how you can help one another when I am gone: I give you a new commandment: Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (v. 34-35).

Jesus did not require miracles, prophecies, or anything else as a prerequisite for discipleship.

Love alone would distinguish them as Christians (little Christs) after He was gone, and the future of the Church hinged upon their love for one another.

Would they pass the test? History proves they did, for the early Church flourished and grew like wildfire. You and I are beneficiaries of the love that passed down to us as testimony of how the disciples excelled, so that observers commented, “How those Christians love one another!”

Are you blessed to belong to a church known for its love? If not, seek ways to help it become such a church.

Nothing grieves God’s heart more than to see professing Christians eating each other up with bitter words and unkind deeds.

A teacher once asked his students how they could tell when night ends and day begins.

“Could it be,” one student suggested, “when you see an animal at a distance and know whether it is a sheep or a dog?”

“No,” replied the teacher.

“Could it be,” said another, “when you see a tree in the distance and tell whether it is an apple tree or a peach tree?”

“No,” the teacher said. “It’s when you look at any man or woman and see that person as your brother or sister; because, until you do this, regardless of what time it is, it will still be night.”

If you and I are to touch the world for Jesus, it will be through loving as Jesus loved and doing whatever we can to ensure the happiness and well-being of others.
7/21/2011 5:57:00 AM by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for July 31: He Will Bring Forth Justice

July 18 2011 by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Isaiah 42:1-9

Oh, to be chosen! As a kid I remember agonizing over whether I would be chosen to play on the all-star baseball team.

In high school, I wondered what senior superlative I would be chosen to receive. Preparing college applications, I hoped to be chosen by my school of choice.

When building up the courage to ask my wife to marry me, I prayed that she would choose to say “yes” to my proposal.

Today’s Old Testament lesson reports an act of choosing someone for a task. God announces that a servant has been chosen for God’s task.

The name of the chosen one is not mentioned, nor are any personal qualifications given.

The servant could be a nation, a ruler, or a religious leader, but in God’s good time it came to its ultimate expression in the person of Jesus Christ and His mission to the whole wide world.

For us today, however, what matters is the character of servanthood and how it shapes a sense of who we are and what our lives ought to be about.

In the text, the servant comes upon the human scene as one whose purpose is to set things right. Listen to these lines: “He will not cry or lift up his voice … a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth” (v. 2-4).

What a wonderful combination of means and ends!

The servant has a high purpose, but he knows that the character of the means will determine the character of the ends.

The servant’s intention is to heal and repair whatever and whoever is hurting and broken, but it will not be done through a rough-and-ready style.

The servant brings justice to the nations.

The servant manifests God’s love and grace to all people. In feeding the hungry, in acts of healing, in setting the prisoner free, this called servant is mediating God’s love to all the earth.

In Jesus, we have the ultimate realization of Isaiah’s vision of the Servant of the Lord.

Now, as His people in the world today, working to establish God’s justice on earth is not merely an alternative we might consider as part of our call; it is our call.  
7/18/2011 7:55:00 AM by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 31: Personal Service

July 18 2011 by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh

Focal Passages: Galatians 5:13-16, 22-26; 6:7-10

When division erupted among his church members, the pastor resigned and pursued secular employment. Later, a fellow minister asked, “What are you doing now that you have no congregation and pulpit?”

He answered, “Who says I have no congregation as long as there is grief and pain in the world?”

Pondering his response, I wonder if we sometimes limit our personal service by asking wrong questions, such as, “Do people who ask for my help deserve it?” and “Would they even appreciate my help?”

Jesus never questioned people. He saw and met their needs, expecting nothing in return. I wonder too, if while thinking of serving others, is it possible to think too big? Society urges us to dream and plan extravagantly, but God thinks small. David killed the giant Goliath with one small pebble targeted correctly (1 Sam. 17:50). Moses parted the Red Sea with his shepherd’s stick (Ex. 14:15-16). And Jesus fed 5,000 with five barley loaves and two small fish (John 6:1-15).

So when we cannot travel the world distributing Bibles to the lost, we can cross the street to share Christ with un-churched neighbors.

And when our tithes can’t build a hospital, a tip wrapped around a gospel tract can meet a restaurant waiter’s spiritual need.

In Galatians 5, Paul convinces us that no amount of legislation from the outside in can change sinful nature, but love issuing from the inside out makes all the difference.

Reading the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, we can feel Paul taking our spiritual temperature, and realize that there are many ways to serve others when we become concerned enough to do it. In fact, until we can define our lives in terms of service to others, we cannot consider ourselves genuine followers of Christ.

I think of Anna, the teenager whose mother died, leaving Anna to rear four young siblings. Life was difficult on her father’s meager salary, and in time Anna developed tuberculosis. As she lay dying, an over-zealous religionist came and peppered her with questions.

“Do you know Jesus?” “Yes.”

“Do you go to church?” “No.”

“Then what will you tell Jesus when you meet Him in the judgment?”

“I won’t tell Him anything,” Anna whispered. “I will show Him my hands.”
7/18/2011 7:51:00 AM by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for July 24: Let the Nations Be Glad

July 7 2011 by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Psalm 67

It was a worship service to remember! In 1988, I attended my first convocation service held in Binkley Chapel on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I will never forget the experience. The preaching was stirring, the music played by the organ was majestic, but what was truly memorable for me was listening to the most beautiful and heartfelt congregational singing I had ever heard.

The people of God love to sing the praises of God. The Psalms are the hymn book of the church. Psalm 67, we are told, was to be sung to the accompaniment of stringed instruments.

Now we know from 2 Chronicles 29 that the instruments, instituted by David at the direction of God, were used in conjunction with the sacrifices in worship at the Temple. These sacrifices, of course, preceded the great sacrifice of the Lord Jesus for the sins of His people. As we meditate upon this Psalm, let us keep this fact in mind. All of the blessings that we receive come as a result of the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the first three verses of this Psalm is a prayer of God’s people that they might make known the way of eternal life to the nations of the world. When the eternal kingdom comes, and the King of kings reigns and judges the earth, then all the redeemed shall “be glad and sing for joy” (v. 4). The last three verses proclaim the blessedness and fruitfulness of that day.

Psalm 67 belongs to the tradition of giving thanks to God for the mercy, blessing, and favor He has shown His people. What makes Psalm 67 unique, though, is that the Psalmist has his eyes on something bigger than just his own community.

This is surprising because, normally at a time of abundance, the tendency is to thank God for what He has done for you. In Psalm 67, we have a person who at a time of abundance, even while he thanks God, focuses on God’s larger purpose in the world.

We are blessed to be a blessing. This is a theme that runs throughout the Bible.

It goes all the way back to the call of Abram where it says, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” (Gen.12:2). It’s at the very heart of God’s covenant relationship with His people.

I think back to that heartfelt singing I heard as I attended my first seminary chapel service and ask, “Does my life bear witness to a God worth singing about?”
7/7/2011 9:39:00 AM by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 24: Personal Responsibility

July 7 2011 by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh

Focal Passage: Romans 6:8-18

During Bible study, Bill took issue as I discussed several ways a person cannot be born again, including baptism and good works.

He argued, “I was reared to believe I will go to heaven because I’ve been baptized and I keep the Ten Commandments.”

He recited several good works in which he engages.

Gently, I said, “Bill, everything you’ve shared is something you can do without help from God.   “So, what part did God have in your salvation?”

When Bill didn’t answer, I suggested he claim Ephesians 2:8-9: “By grace are you saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast.”

Bill asked what his responsibility might be.

Should he just wait for salvation to happen to him?

No, but salvation does require action on our part, beginning with the conviction that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). While conviction reveals our need to break with sin, however, conviction doesn’t save us.

For example, I’m convicted to get out of bed when my alarm goes off, but struggling with sleep continues until action takes place: my feet touch the floor.

Confession, which is agreeing with God: “Lord, You’re right; I’m wrong.” also plays a part. Even then, the sincerest confession cannot save. I have shared Christ with someone who confessed her sins and wept bitterly, but she remained lost because she wouldn’t part with them.

Repentance is our turning point — turning from every known thought, word and deed we confess to be wrong.

Then, at our invitation (Rev. 3:20), Jesus enters our hearts and sets us free to live no longer “under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).  

God has removed our sins from our accounts and placed them on Jesus’ account, and Jesus has paid the price for them all on the cross.

Now we no longer pluck the spiritual daisy of doubt: “He saved me; He saved me not!” Instead, we claim His promise that “The one who comes to Me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).

Strange, isn’t it?

While we cannot save ourselves, we can condemn ourselves.

Our choice is all-important — whether we receive or reject Christ as Savior, and eternity will provide us a long time to live with our choice.
7/7/2011 9:17:00 AM by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for July 17: That All May Know Your Name

July 6 2011 by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church

Focal Passage: 1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43, 59-60

Most leaders want to be remembered for at least one outstanding accomplishment. As king, Solomon expanded the empire handed to him by his father, David, and without doubt his greatest achievement was building the Temple.

The text for today describes the dedication of the Temple. The day of dedication was scheduled to take place during the Festival of Booths. The Temple was dedicated during a time when the people would remember their ancestors’ time in the desert. The location of the Temple also had great significance because it was built on the threshing floor, the place where, years earlier, David had built an altar to worship God.

The famed Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Temple, which would be its new permanent home.

The feature that set apart the Solomonic Temple from other temples in the ancient world was that there was no idol in it. It contained only the Mercy Seat over the Ark and the Cherubim overshadowing the Mercy Seat. This declared to the world that idols were unnecessary for God to be present. The God of Israel was not localized or bound in any sense.

Years later, the Christian martyr, Stephen, said to an unruly crowd, “… Solomon built God a house. However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: ‘Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me?’ says the Lord, ‘or what is the place of My rest? Has not My hand made all these things?’” (Acts 7:47-50, quoting Isaiah 66:1-2).

Solomon realized that God could not be limited to one particular place (1 Kings 8:27).

God cannot be limited or inhibited by human hands or buildings. God is beyond our control. Solomon’s finest moment came as he dedicated the new Temple to the glory of God. At that inspired moment, it was as if Solomon could see into the future when he prayed, “When a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name — for they shall hear of your great name” (v. 41-42).

The day would come when people from all over would visit this magnificent Temple and be told of God’s mighty works. The Temple would become a link between the people and God. May this story encourage us to look beyond our church buildings to the “foreigners” who are in our midst and share with them the story of God’s mighty works, so that they too may know His name!
7/6/2011 6:27:00 AM by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 17: Personal Relationship

July 6 2011 by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh

Focal Passages: Galatians 4:1-7; 1 John 1:5-9; 3:1-3

Luther, my lead tenor, wasn’t feeling any connection between his soul and the notes of the spiritual, “Too Late, Sinnuh!” that my chorus was rehearsing for state contest. Impulsively, he stood, faced the group, and exclaimed, “Set yourself free, class; set yourself free!”

While calling for more “soul,” Luther overlooked the need to master first the elementary knowledge of the music — notes, pitch, rhythm, and dynamics — before the spiritual could progress from the students’ heads to their hearts and eventually resonate in the ears of their listeners.

Today, cries for political, religious, financial, and physical freedom reverberate throughout the world.

Centuries ago, while addressing the Galatian Christians, Paul stressed still another kind of freedom — spiritual freedom from sin, made possible by Christ’s death and resurrection.

Since the time Paul last preached in Galatia, many Christians there had allowed the Judaizers to convince them that Christ’s death and resurrection were not sufficient to save them from sin; they must renew their practice of circumcision and keep the Mosaic law.

Paul argued that this legalism would not promote spiritual maturity, but would drive them backward to the ABC’s of spiritual infancy. In the childhood of the world, the law served as guardian for people of faith (Heb. 11).

But God intended for grace, not law, to be the way of salvation (Eph. 2:8-9). Paul used the word stoicheia, which meant the ABC’s of faith, to describe the elementary forces of the world that currently enslaved the Galatians.

Now, in God’s time, He had sent His Son to free them from the bondage of the law (Gal. 4:3-5).

Therefore, Paul insisted, “But now, since you know God, or rather have become known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and bankrupt elemental forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again?” (v. 9).

Once my chorus mastered the elementary aspects of the music, and performed the spiritual in contest, receiving A’s from all judges, why would I, the following morning, go back to teaching the notes all over again?

Today I remember Luther’s appeal as reminiscent of the centuries-old cry of Paul: “Now that you live under grace, don’t return to slavery under the law. Set yourselves free, Christians, set yourselves free!”
7/6/2011 6:22:00 AM by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh | with 0 comments