July 2012

Explore the Bible Lesson for Aug. 12: The Domino Effect

July 30 2012 by Thomas Marshall, pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Laurinburg

Focal Passages: Judges 17:1-21:25
Our lives that we live are a living instruction book to others on how to live. Someone has said that the Bible is not a book on how to make a living, but on how to live. The way we present ourselves to others becomes a workbook on how to live. We become examples and mentors, even if we don’t want to. And this is even more true in our families.
Consider these contrasting families. Family “A” had 10 dedicated, godly children. A study of their 729 descendants over five generations showed that 300 were preachers, 65 were college professors, 13 were university presidents, 60 were authors, three were congressmen and one was a vice-president.
Family “B” had 1,026 descendants which over five generations had 300 who died prematurely from wicked lifestyles, 140 spent an average of 13 years in the penitentiary, 190 were prostitutes, and 100 were alcoholics. They cost the State of New York $1.2 million to take care of them. The first family mentioned was that of the spiritual giant Jonathan Edwards. The second was the atheist Mack Duke’s family. You decide for yourself, does living a godly life as an example for others hold any importance? The sinful behavior of the Dukes led their children and other descendants astray. As we consider the whole picture, besides the immediate family that was away from God, consider how many others followed their example.
We might think that those little acts are harmless, those little white lies, taking the world’s way of achieving success, but who is watching? Casting Crowns have a song entitled “Slow Fade.” In this song we find the words, “People never crumble in a day, Daddy’s never crumble in a day, families never crumble in a day. Oh be careful little eyes what you see, oh be careful little eyes what you see. For the Father up above is looking down in love, oh be careful little eyes what you see.”
As a line of dominoes falls when the first one topples, homes, families, and nations fall because of one living astray.
7/30/2012 3:12:09 PM by Thomas Marshall, pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Laurinburg | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life for Aug. 12: Let Your Heart Be Broken

July 30 2012 by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro

Focal Passages: Jeremiah 8:4-13, 18-9:1
Christians sometimes know they are guilty of sin, but don’t want to admit it. However, we can become so calloused toward sin that we don’t realize what we’ve done and don’t avail ourselves of the Word of God, prayer, and other channels of the Holy Spirit’s conviction. Although David should have seen his relationship with Bathsheba as adultery, he was blinded by an ongoing whirlwind of sin. This dullness remained until he was confronted by the story about a stolen lamb to declare the bone-chilling words, “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7).
In Jeremiah’s day the spiritual leaders of Israel claimed to uphold the Word of God, yet God revealed they had less discernment than animals. God declared that He would take their wives and their land because even the prophets and priests were greedy and deceitful. The only healing they offered was the declaration of a peace that did not exist. Jeremiah grieved the people’s lack of shame and inability to blush. They embraced the law of God in theory, but rejected its proper application. In the 20th century, liberalism crept into the Southern Baptist Convention through theological double speak. Liberal scholars taught students to use the same Bible but greatly alter their interpretation. Consequently, bad theology led to bad practice. Many Baptists began to use the same vocabulary but a different dictionary.  
Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a teacher who wrote the words “ignorance” and “apathy” on the chalkboard. Afterward one student asked his friend, “A-path-y?  What’s a-path-y?” His friend replied, “I don’t know. Who cares?” Ignorance and apathy often appear like two peas in the same rotten pod. If we don’t realize we’re dishonoring God, we’re not going to care about the consequences. When God shines the light of His Word on the darkness of our sin, how can we not share Jeremiah’s broken heart over sin and its devastation? As people who have been transformed by the blood of Jesus and the life-giving power of the Spirit, let us pursue biblical knowledge and true repentance!
7/30/2012 3:10:26 PM by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for August 5: Trivial Pursuit

July 19 2012 by Thomas Marshall, pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Laurinburg

Focal Passages: Judges 13:1-16:31
I recently read a story about a banker who was driving his BMW through the mountains in a snowstorm. As he rounded the corner the car swerved out of control and went over the edge of the precipice. At the very last minute he was able to unbuckle his seatbelt and jump to safety. Although able to jump to safety, his arm got caught in the car door and was ripped off. A passing trucker stopped to run to his aid. The young banker was looking over the edge saying, “My BMW, my BMW!” The trucker looked at his missing arm and said, “Buddy, you’ve got a much bigger problem!”  The young banker glanced down and immediately began to cry out, “My Rolex, my Rolex!”
We might laugh at this story, however we too can get caught up in the trivial pursuits of the world.
God has gifted us to be able to minister in His Name. Each one of us fills a spot that He designed us for. And by designing us to fill these special spots, we have the responsibility to use those gifts He has given us. Jesus taught, that to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).
God’s blessings that are to be used in His service are often outside of our natural talents. He gives us opportunities to serve where we will be uncomfortable, or feel ill equipped, so that which happens will pass the glory to Him.
We turn from these opportunities and chase after trivial matters.
After a while of “playing” with what God has given, He allows us to become insensitive. We reach a point where our fellowship with God changes, God stops working through us, and we don’t even notice.
We never lose our position in Christ, however we do lose our power in Him. And, we begin to feel that it is all about the physical things around us.
We lose sight of calling and cry out over our “BMW” or “Rolex.”
We stop walking by faith, and start living by sight. The trivial trumps the trenchant.
7/19/2012 2:48:08 PM by Thomas Marshall, pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Laurinburg | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 5: Make No Excuses

July 19 2012 by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro

Focal Passages: Jeremiah 1:4-14, 17-19
As a father of four children, I’ve heard some pretty funny excuses for their disobedience. Our oldest daughter has claimed heart attacks and the inability to walk on multiple occasions. My wife and I, sometimes through laughter, simply repeat our directions to our children. How do our excuses sound to God? While we may scramble to find reasons we can’t obey, God has called us to service even before we were born! Furthermore, His calling isn’t based on our ability. While God often uses skills we possess, He never calls us to serve in the flesh. Since He’s empowering us for service, our inabilities, age, or intimidation don’t hinder His calling. One excuse goes down the tube.
God never says, “Go serve me!” without preparing us for the task ahead. For Jeremiah God gave words and the authority to declare them. His calling may require new job skills but it will certainly include passion and conviction for the people directly affected by our service. We can’t have a prophetic voice without a prophetic heart. Here we see the church’s indispensible role in equipping the saints for works of service in order to build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). Another excuse goes up in smoke.
God graciously affirmed His calling in Jeremiah’s life, by promising him success despite the opposition of His enemies. God affirmed His calling on my life before it was clear to me.
From testimonies of other preachers to the encouragement of friends, God was leading me to preach His Word even before I had such a desire. But the greatest affirmation of God’s call always comes from the interworking of the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Scriptures contain unchanging truth for every believer, and the Holy Spirit convicts and applies biblical truth in specific ways in each believer’s life. As a pastor I hear many excuses for disobedience, including lack of skills, busyness, disinterest, and many others.
When I think of how lame they sound to me, I can only imagine how they sound to a perfectly holy God who has taken care of all the details. To the work!
7/19/2012 2:46:46 PM by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for July 29: Family Feud

July 16 2012 by Thomas Marshall, pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Laurinburg

Focal Passages: Judges 8:22-12:15
This is a very challenging passage of scripture in our study of a “People in Crisis.” It is a strong lesson teaching about the decline of a nation.
In chapter 8:33-35 we find a brief passage that shows us the apostasy of an unthankful people. In a short period of time the Israelites moved from worshipping God to forgetting Him and those who led them in the right path.
And now, because they had moved away from God they had opened the door to the arrogance of an ungodly leader. In our study this week we see that he used bribery, bloodshed and blasphemy to establish his position. He bought followers; he eliminated any opposition, and made a direct move of opposition to God by having his inauguration at Shechem instead of Jerusalem.
In the parable in chapter 9, we find the apathy of an uncommitted people. Each of the trees in Jothan’s parable all basically said, “No, I don’t want to lead, let someone else do it.”
As you look, there is a downward progression in whom they sought to be the ruler of the trees. It starts with the olive tree, the most valuable of trees in that day. It supplied oil, light and food. Its leaves still are a symbol of peace. This was followed by the fig tree. Capable of producing food, it was what Adam and Eve used to cover their nakedness. Both of these trees said, “No, let someone else lead.”
The fig was followed by the trees asking the grapevine. It was held in esteem as a symbol of wealth. To sit under one’s own fig tree and vine was a proverb denoting peace and prosperity (Micah 4:4). When each of these rejected the call, the trees turned to the bramble – fit only to be burned. Producing no fruit and no shelter, it is full of thorns and causes constant unrest. This parable is a challenge for those who are capable to step up and produce godly leadership. Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
7/16/2012 3:38:14 PM by Thomas Marshall, pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Laurinburg | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 29: Confident

July 16 2012 by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro

Focal Passages: Romans 8:14-17; 2 Corinthians 5:1-5; Ephesians 1:13-14
Confidence sometimes comes from pretty strange sources. Over the years I’ve heard it comes from deodorant, cologne, hair dye, dental work and many other superficial sources.
Some people find confidence in personality, self-esteem, and other internal sources. Our greatest confidence as Christians comes from our eternal security.
God has not dangled salvation like a carrot on a string that’s just out of reach. By grace through faith in Christ Jesus we have become possessors of eternal life, which is guaranteed by the down payment of the Holy Spirit who lives within us!
Earthly guarantees are given in case a product or service fails. God gives us His guarantee because the greatest things are yet to come, and God will be faithful to save us, keep us, and deliver us into the presence of our Savior.
The Holy Spirit’s leadership in our lives demonstrates that we are no longer children of wrath, but now by faith are the children of God (John 1:12). This truth gives us confidence even when our feelings betray us.
Have you ever had a day when you didn’t feel as saved as you did on other days?
Remember, feelings must be subjected to the truth. If we know by the testimony of the Holy Spirit within us that we have been born again, nothing can change that wonderful state of grace. However, we do need to repent of the sins that produce doubts, and strive to produce the fruits appropriate for the children of God.
Because we are in Christ, we take great confidence in knowing that there’s more to life than meets the eye. While all the sources of human pride (good looks, intelligence, hard work, etc.) deteriorate with age, the source of our true confidence should become clearer as we get closer to home. Some day we will strike the camp of life and lay these broken bodies in the grave. While this truth may depress the unbeliever, Christians should long to lay aside that which we cannot keep to take up that which we cannot lose.
7/16/2012 3:36:44 PM by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for July 22: Risk

July 5 2012 by Thomas Marshall, pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Laurinburg

Focal Passage: Judges 6:1-8:21
I once did a series of sermons on how God uses those who are nobodies. One message dealt with the man in our lesson today – Gideon. It covered how the human hero of this account really could have received the “Super Chicken” award. For a number of years after a teenage boy would remind me of the “Super Chicken” sermon.
This historical account begins at the point in the cycle where Israel is in captivity and God is getting ready to send them a deliverer. They have been crying out to God, and they were seeking that super-human, mega-warrior to free them from their yoke of bondage. They knew God would send them a fearless captain of courage to deliver the nation.
And the scene opens with … Gideon. Their deliverer is not found on a mountaintop. He is hiding in the bottom of an Israeli winepress. He does not have flashing armor and majestic weapons; all he has is a winnowing fork. The deliverer of Israel is not chanting battle cries, he is whimpering and holding a pity party.
Imagine the scene. Gideon is hidden while small puffs of wheat rise above the edges of the winepress. 
And suddenly the Angel of the Lord declares – “Hail, man of valor.” Can you picture Gideon looking around to see who is being talked about. As we look at this play out, we can see some important lessons for us.
God sees what we can be, not what we are. Often we compare ourselves to others and develop feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. We miss out on God’s best for us because we are to busy focusing on ourselves and not on God. Achieving significance and success in God’s Kingdom is not based on our abilities, but on our availability. God calls us (a call being when He places a need before us) because He sees what we are capable of accomplishing through Him.
We need to focus not on ourselves, but on the One who makes Kingdom success possible. God rarely “calls the equipped, but equips the called” so He gets all the honor.
7/5/2012 3:35:35 PM by Thomas Marshall, pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Laurinburg | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 22: Wise

July 5 2012 by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro

Focal Passage: 1 Corinthians 2:1-16
Although we possess an unprecedented amount of knowledge, our world faces a drought of the wisdom that shows us what to do with that knowledge. Inventors had the knowledge to produce breakthrough items like the Edsel automobile and clear Pepsi, but they lacked the wisdom to understand that people wouldn’t buy them. If man isn’t always wise with the works of his hands, how can his wisdom produce the way to eternal life? In Paul’s day people praised the persuasive speeches of refined orators, but he warned that they could only produce a faith that rests “on the wisdom of men” (1 Corinthians 2:5a). James described such wisdom as the work of the devil.
Godly wisdom is rooted in the Holy Spirit’s unveiling of the gospel in the lives of believers. Although God’s messengers are weak, they proclaim the Word in fear and trembling knowing the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). While human wisdom led men to crucify Christ, God’s wisdom brought the fulfillment of His predestined plan to save sinners by faith in the revelation of the mystery of salvation through Jesus Christ. The same Holy Spirit who produced the new birth in us continues to search our hearts and minds and reveal God’s wisdom for our lives. Human wisdom leads people in numerous directions.
God’s wisdom is eternal and does not change. For example, human wisdom states that many paths lead to God even if He only exists in our minds. Consequently, no one is wrong and no one is right! God’s wisdom continues to reveal salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Several years ago Albert Mohler was featured on Larry King Live as the conservative evangelical view of salvation. As he continually stood on the gospel, a rabbi told him he sounded like a broken record. A few days later Dr. Mohler’s Sunday School class presented him with a framed broken gold record because he preached nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Wherever God leads His children, He never leads them away from the gospel.
7/5/2012 3:34:24 PM by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for July 15: Follow the Leader

July 2 2012 by Thomas Marshall, pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Laurinburg

Focal Passage: Judges 3:7-5:31
When my wife was carrying our first child I was studying about a judge in Israel called Deborah. Her courage and devotion to following God greatly encouraged and challenged me during this time in my life. After discussing it, we decided if our first child was a girl we would name her Deborah. The name Deborah means “busy as a bee,” and we prayed that she would be busy in serving and following God – and He honored our prayers.          
John Maxwell often says that if one is leading and no one is following they are just out for a walk. However, often the problem is not that there is no one leading in our churches today, it is that we choose not to follow. We give our attention to what we want, when we want it, in the way we want it. And if the leader isn’t meeting our plans, we just do our own thing.
What is it that God wants from us? How does He encourage us to be in our churches?
How can we support and encourage those God has placed in our lives to lead and guide?
First and foremost we need to pray for them. Not pray about them (or prey on them). We need to pray that they stay close to God, that they seek Him with their whole heart, and that they listen to Him. Leaders are placed in our churches to guide and direct (not dictate) the direction God wants His people to go. We should pray and find ways to help and encourage them.
It is important that if we want to truly see what God is doing to be personally involved in it. When God is moving we can’t understand or see it if we are sitting still on the sidelines. The only way that we truly see God’s hand and heart is being a positive participant in what He is doing.
Following this lesson, take a moment and write a short note of encouragement and appreciation to your leaders, letting them know you are praying and praising God for them.
7/2/2012 4:49:54 PM by Thomas Marshall, pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Laurinburg | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 15: Empowered

July 2 2012 by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro

Focal Passages: Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 5:17-21; 6:18
What controls you? While the world at large is controlled by numerous external influences, Christians are called to be controlled by the internal influence of the Holy Spirit. Both singers and preachers tend to follow the examples of their heroes, but computer programmers warn us of a potential danger when they say, “Garbage in, garbage out.” If you are drunk with wine, or anything else the world offers, you will be controlled by it. On the other hand, the continual filling of the Holy Spirit produces the fruits of the Spirit, including self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
While worldly influences produce self-glorification, the Spirit’s filling produces worship and humility that glorifies God and edifies the church. Instead of focusing on ourselves we worship God as we also exhort and encourage fellow believers. The influence of our flesh might lead us to groan about a song we don’t really want to sing, but the Spirit’s filling reveals that a brother or sister in Christ may need to hear that song. Doing things our way usually leads to ingratitude and arrogance, providing a basis for complaining when we don’t get our way. When we are filled with the Spirit we understand that we are called to thankfulness for all God has done for us in Christ Jesus. Such thanksgiving can only produce mutual humility since it’s not about us; it’s about Him!
The Spirit’s filling also transforms our prayer life. In our flesh, prayer becomes a laundry list of things we present to God while our minds wander toward more immediate concerns. Conversely, the Holy Spirit leads us to pray worshipfully and in line with the will of God. Instead of fast food drive-thru prayers, we pray passionately as we speak God’s heart back to Him. We not only persevere in prayer, but we also begin to pray for brothers and sisters in Christ as they seek to serve the Lord. Even if we are too overwhelmed to know how to pray, we can be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10) as the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.
7/2/2012 4:48:35 PM by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro | with 0 comments