July 2013

Explore the Bible Lesson for August 11: Can I Keep on Going?

July 30 2013 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church

Focal Passages: Ecclesiastes 7:11-14, 15-18; 8:10-12, 16-17
           
He was born in a log cabin in Kentucky. Through his boyhood years his family would move to Indiana, then to Illinois. He endured a strained relationship with his father, who was described as illiterate and lazy. This young man, Abraham Lincoln, believed in education and hard work. He worked first as a shopkeeper, then as a postmaster, and finally became a store owner. He loved conversing with people and became a master at storytelling. Later he would teach himself law, and become an activist for the rights and freedoms of all peoples in an era where there were few who stood up for the rights of slaves. His path to the White House, however, was not without setbacks. He unsuccessfully sought to unseat Sen. Stephen Douglas. While a lesser man might have quit and returned to a successful law practice, Abraham Lincoln pressed ahead. He famously said, “I walk slowly, but I never walk backwards.” In the 1860 national election Lincoln won, defeating Douglas this time around. He realized slavery was an issue that might very well divide the country, and by the time of his inauguration in 1861, seven southern states had already seceded. The next three plus years would test his mettle as a politician and as a believer in God. His decision to formally end slavery as an American institution lacked popular support, yet President Lincoln chose that which was right over that which was expedient.
 
In these passages the Teacher deals with one of the great contradictions of life. The righteous, those who fear God, cannot help but question the observed lack of divine retribution exacted on those who are the most wicked. The wicked seem to prosper, and some people even praise them for their subterfuge. And when they are finally caught, it seems to take forever for justice to be properly adjudicated. The best we can do is to not get distracted or discouraged, but to be faithful to God, love life, serve others, and leave our future and its final results to God.
7/30/2013 3:55:20 PM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 11: Jesus Is Crucified and Raised

July 30 2013 by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro

Focal Passages: Mark 15:33-39; 16:1-7; 1 Corinthians 15:17-19
 
Several years ago I visited Banff, Alberta, Canada, and took the ski lift to the top of the mountain. The ascent was beautiful, but the view from the top was breathtaking. When we open the Bible to Genesis 1, we begin a biblical climb that takes us to the apex of the cross of Christ. From Calvary we can look back over the Old Testament and see where God was headed as His plan of redemption unfolded. When we look forward to the consummation of the ages, we know it is all made possible by the finished work of Jesus. Even the wonderful truth of resurrection from the dead would not be possible apart from Jesus defeating death at the cross. As the puritan John Owen wrote, the death of Christ brought the death of death.
 
On the cross Jesus endured alienation from the Father so that our alienation from the Father would be wiped away through faith in His finished work. As God tore the veil in the temple from top to bottom, He showed what we would have through a living Savior – direct access to Himself. Even a pagan Roman soldier realized that Jesus was the Son of God. What a profound inner change comes through the gracious provision of the cross!
 
The resurrection proved the power of Jesus’ atoning death through the display of His resurrected life. Paul warned that apart from the resurrection of Christ believers past and present have a worthless faith and are still in their sins. Belief in the resurrection means we trust in Christ in this life and we anticipate our future resurrection. The liberal interpretation of the resurrection as Christ rising in our hearts not only guts the gospel, but also raises the question once posed to me by a classmate, “How stupid do we think early Christians were?” They would neither believe nor maintain unto death a message built on false claims of life after death. Christianity that stops at the grave is a sad counterfeit of the resurrection power of Jesus Christ.   
7/30/2013 3:41:08 PM by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for August 4: Am I Headed for Failure?

July 18 2013 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church

Focal Passages: Ecclesiastes 5:8-16, 18-20; 6:7-12
           
When one hears the name Enron one thinks of scandal. Until the scandal was revealed in October 2001, many people lauded Enron and its brain-trust as examples of exceptional leadership. Enron, founded by Kenneth Lay in 1985, was an energy (natural gas) company based in Houston, Texas, that rapidly grew to become one of the largest U.S. companies. In 2000 its stock price rose to a high of $90 per share. After shareholders filed a $40 billion lawsuit, the share price plummeted to less than $1 per share. On December 2, 2001, Enron filed for bankruptcy protection. Its assets of $63.4 billion made it the largest corporate bankruptcy in American history at the time. The result was that some of Enron’s top executives were indicted for fraud and sent to prison. Corporate greed is a reality. When Enron collapsed many investors lost much or all of their life’s savings. 
 
The Teacher describes a situation where the fabulously wealthy lose it all. On the one hand it is a “sickening tragedy” (5:13). Any number of factors can cause wealth and its lifestyle to disappear – a bad business deal, a collapsing economy, a compromise of integrity. The man who loses the ability to provide for his family invariably feels like a failure. The man who intentionally breaks rules and defrauds his own business can expect no pity.
 
While unpleasant, failure is an important part of living. It can cause us to reexamine, refocus and reorder our lives. It can lead to making healthier life adjustments and choices. The Teacher found that it is far wiser to prize happiness, hard work and a good family over possessions that may disappear in our lifetime – and that will surely disappear from us at our death. In a society that largely glorifies instant gratification, success and wealth, it is sobering to consider what often happens when possessions are lost. The Teacher says a better course is to be content with that which will endure.
7/18/2013 11:02:42 AM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 4: God Sends His Son

July 18 2013 by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro

Focal Passages: Matthew 4:17-24; John 1:1-2, 11-14, 18, 29
 
Heresies both ancient and modern have arisen over the rejection of the biblical teaching of the person and work of Jesus Christ. John clearly declared His deity as God the Son. Jesus is not one of three gods (Mormonism), a unique created being (Jehovah’s Witnesses), or one of god’s relational modes (Oneness Pentecostalism). Jesus is the unique Second Person of the triune God, coequal and coeternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He has existed from the beginning in His deity so that He did not begin to exist in a stable Bethlehem.
 
Rather, God began there to display the Son’s incarnation. As a result of divine conception by the Holy Spirit, Jesus took on human flesh in order to tabernacle among us and to display His glory.
 
Although many people believe that all people are children of God, John 1:12-13 tells us that we as sinful human beings are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3) who may join God’s family only through faith in His Son.
 
This faith comes from God and allows us to affirm the person and work of Jesus. As people who were not eyewitnesses of Jesus, we are placing our faith in the Bible, the only authoritative and inerrant source on the nature of Jesus. The Bible teaches us that Christ’s atoning death served, as Chris Rice sang, to “rob our sin and make us holy.”
 
Joining God’s family isn’t about being the long lost cousin or strange uncle that the rest of the family knows but never sees. We must actively meet with the family of God in worship and fellowship, and regularly walk alongside those family members to do the work of evangelism, discipleship and ministry.
 
We must be walking billboards carrying the eternal message of Jesus Christ as King of kings, and Lord of lords. May God give us the boldness not to cave in to the rising tide of political correctness, but to consistently proclaim the gospel of repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ.
7/18/2013 10:56:38 AM by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for July 28: Why Do I Feel Empty?

July 16 2013 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church

Focal Passages: Ecclesiastes 3:1, 10-14; 4:9-12; 5:1-7
           
Depression is difficult to predict and understand. When I was a student at the local community college many years ago, I became interested in playing tennis. For the first time in my life I observed the game, and there was one young man in particular who was worthy of observation. Although I knew him only by name, he was an extremely good looking and talented athlete, probably the best tennis player in the area.
 
My perception was that he had it all. Fast-forward a couple of years. I’m working a summer job in a Christian camp, and our lifeguard tells me the sad story of this same young tennis star committing suicide.
 
I was dumbfounded; she was suffering, and she asked me about his eternal destiny. I gave her the best answer I knew at the time. In retrospect I probably gave her a poor answer, a non-comforting answer. She and her friends were unaware of their friend’s internal struggles. This hurting young man obviously felt empty inside. I surmise he asked the question “why?” Sadly, he did not discover a reason to live.
 
The Teacher’s theme is that God has made everything appropriate in His time. He acknowledges we only partially understand the ways of God. Just as there are seasons in nature, there are seasons in life. We cannot fully predict or control them, yet we must learn to accept them. One of his conclusions is that the best we can do is to rejoice and enjoy life. Another insight, found in 4:9, is to not make life’s journey alone. Good companions are compared to the increased strength of a three-strand cord.
 
Unlike a single strand (the solo life), it is not easily broken. God made us relational, and having good friends certainly is a good deterrent to loneliness and depression.
 
Furthermore, in 5:1-7 the Teacher calls for personal integrity. Fear God. Fulfill your spiritual vows. What you do is of far greater value than what you say.
7/16/2013 10:52:34 AM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 28: God Promises the Messiah

July 16 2013 by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro

Focal Passage: Isaiah 53:2-12
 
Our modern American society has some rather shallow ideas about beauty; the right height, weight, shape, hairdo, and smile define “beautiful.” According to Isaiah, Jesus could not pass the modern cultural test for American beauty. He lacked the swagger and suaveness to be considered attractive, and was despised and forsaken. Jesus became like us in the flesh to provide righteousness, that which is so unlike us in spirit. God knew that lost people needed a Savior who was beautiful because of His divine nature and perfect obedience to the Father – not a passing handsome face. The true beauty of Jesus was put on display by God the Father when He offered His Son as the once-for-all sacrifice for sins. Far from being a victim of circumstance, Jesus was God’s sin offering from the foundation of the world.
 
Many people suffered the physical torment of crucifixion, but Jesus suffered both physically and spiritually as he experienced the never before known horror of separation from the Father. Jesus never ceased to be God the Son, but He experienced a break in His eternally perfect fellowship with the Father that we cannot fully comprehend. Some Christians tend to limit the scope of Jesus’ healing (Isaiah 53:5) to temporal physical healing, but His stripes brought healing that went far deeper than our physical ills. He came to redeem sin-sick souls who had rejected the One who could meet their greatest need – eternal spiritual healing from sin. How often do we consider that Jesus, the sin bearer, never committed the first sin, qualifying Him to cleanse us and make us the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:17)? God’s own sin offering takes away His righteous anger toward all who believe and allows us to have fellowship with Him. We rebelled and yet God provided the solution to our hopeless predicament so that we might be reconciled to Him. Of all the rescues we’ve experienced (broken down car, fire, flood, etc.), none compares to our spiritual rescue through Christ.
7/16/2013 10:50:55 AM by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for July 21: Can I Find Meaning?

July 3 2013 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church

Focal Passages: Ecclesiastes 1:1-4, 12-14; 2:1-3, 12-14, 24-26
           
The biography of Louis Zamperini as told by Laura Hillenbrand  in the book Unbroken is compelling. As a teen he was incorrigible, into constant mischief until he discovered a talent for running. His talent gave him national recognition as he vied to become the first four-minute miler. Although injury cut that quest short, Zamperini was able to participate in an Olympics. Then came World War II, and Zamperini joined the military, serving his country as an airman. He and his compatriots completed many successful bombing operations until their plane went down in the Pacific. Miraculously, Zamperini survived almost three months adrift at sea, only to end up in a series of Japanese concentration camps. Zamperini remained “unbroken” through it all.
 
Against all odds, Zamperini survived the war, and returned home a hero. Life post-war was a struggle. Few people understood the psychological impact of post-war trauma, and Zamperini displayed all the signs. His escape was drinking and was headed toward full-blown alcoholism and losing his wife and family when out of desperation, his wife begged him to attend a Billy Graham crusade. Zamperini unwillingly consented. Reaching the altar, the man who could not be broken by the horrors of war, was broken by God’s spirit.
 
Zamperini finally found inner peace and meaning. Following his conversion, Zamperini would use the platform God had given him to speak for Christ.
 
The author of Ecclesiastes pens under the name Qoheleth, which means “leader of the assembly.” He begins by describing man’s pursuit for meaning in life as “absolute futility (1:2).” The party spirit is futile, as is finding happiness and joy by accumulating possessions (2:1-11). But writing as one becoming more enlightened, he recognizes the value of wisdom over folly, comparing it to the advantage of light over darkness (2:13). Another way to find meaning is through work, and giving God thanks for all of life (2:24-25).
7/3/2013 10:57:52 AM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 21: God Restores His People

July 3 2013 by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro

Focal Passages: Ezra 1:1-5; Nehemiah 8:1-6; Jeremiah 29:10-14
 
Do you really believe that God will work all things together for your good (Romans 8:28) when your current circumstances are terrible? When we walk by faith and not by sight we will sometimes stand on nothing but the promises of God. The people of Judah were told through the prophet Jeremiah that God had plans of prosperity and hope for His exiled people that would unfold in seventy years. In addition to the length of time, the people had to live those years in pagan Babylon. The people who endured captivity would observe the long stretch between divine promise and fulfillment. Christians are now in the midst of a much longer wait for Christ’s return. Will we stand on the promises of God?
 
As God prepared to keep His promise to the people of Judah, he used the Persians to conquer the Babylonians. Sometimes we need to be reminded that God is sovereign over the universe and uses even unbelievers to bring about His purposes, some for judgment and others for blessing. When we hear missionaries pray for people of peace, they are asking God to lead them to helpers, often unbelievers, whom God will use to open doors for the gospel.
 
Imagine the joy the people of Judah must have felt when they saw foreign invaders defeating their captors and then opening the way for a new temple for God! God knows His plans for us and will fulfill them with greater beauty and joy than we could ever imagine.
 
After the temple and the wall had been rebuilt the people of Judah stood for hours to hear Ezra read the law. They responded with firm amens and bowed low to worship God, the same God they had previously forsaken and rejected in order to worship idols. After 70 years in idolatrous Babylon, idolatrous Judah realized they should never have forsaken the True Love found at home. Take an inventory of your blessings in the center of God’s will before you step out with the gods next door!
7/3/2013 10:45:59 AM by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for July 14: What Am I Supposed to Learn?

July 2 2013 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church

Focal Passages: Job 38:1-4; 42:1-12a
           
When Bud was about 10, he was invited to spend a day with a neighboring family as they visited relatives. Bud’s job was to help watch over their son, Andrew, who was about 5. All was going well until Andrew wandered toward the pig pen in the woods, where there was a sow with her piglets. Bud knew this might be dangerous, but little Andrew wanted to play with the little pigs, and Bud did not stop him from climbing over the fence into the pen.
 
What happened next is something Bud will never forget. Mother hog jumped all over little Andrew, biting and tearing at his face. Bud screamed and ran for help; fortunately, it was not too late. Little Andrew was rushed to the hospital and survived, but bears the scar on his face to this day.
 
Bud was not chastened or punished by Andrew’s family. There was no retribution, only compassion. It was an unfortunate accident that none of them would ever want to replay. Of all the tragic events that Bud has faced over his life, he will never forget that he could have prevented Andrew’s scar, and the family’s pain.
 
While he knows that God has forgiven him, Bud will carry regret for that day as long as he lives. We have all heard it said that “experience is the best teacher,” but experience does not benefit us unless we learn something that changes our life.
 
God asks the question, “Who is this who obscures My counsel with ignorant words?” He then proceeds to describe His creative activity, doing things that only He knows of, and why.

Job and his friends are necessarily humbled. For his part, Job wished to take back his words and repent in dust and ashes (42:6).  Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar were more severely rebuked. God indicted them for untruthfulness and required them to offer sacrifices for their sins.
 
Moreover, Job was to pray for them; God would honor Job’s prayer on their behalf, for Job alone was a righteous man.
7/2/2013 1:28:11 PM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 14: God Disciplines His People

July 2 2013 by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro

Focal Passages: 2 Kings 17:7-15, 18-20
 
Idolatry happens every day. It had no place in ancient Judaism, but they repeatedly turned to it. The Northern Kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians because Israel began to revere other gods, forgetting the God who brought their people out of Egypt. They became enamored with the supposed results of worshipping the nations’ gods and began to follow their pagan customs. You’re probably thinking, “I’d never do that!” Is anything (material possessions, career, relationships, etc.) distracting you from the daily worship of God and stealing the passion you should have for Him? Has your church chosen something else (entertainment, numbers, popularity, etc.) over the true worship of God? Behold your idols!

Because of His grace, God is the God of second chances. He repeatedly calls us to repentance so that we might walk with Him. Just as God often warned Old Testament Israel of the judgment He would send on their disobedience, He warns New Testament Christians by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. When God reveals our sin we will either agree with Him and repent, or, as in this passage, stiffen our necks and go our own way. “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15).
 
If we refuse to heed God’s gracious warnings, we can expect to see judgment rolling in like a storm on the horizon. The Northern Kingdom, and later the Southern Kingdom, lost their homes, their land and much of their cultural and spiritual identity because they refused to stop committing spiritual adultery. My mother tried to lift me out of our van when I was two, but I refused and did things my way. I jumped out the door, and my head broke my fall.
 
I still have the scar to prove that I can be determined and still wrong. Heed God’s warning and avoid the scars that sin leaves behind. Remember, idolatry begins when reverence for God is hijacked by something or someone else. “You shall fear only the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 6:13a).
7/2/2013 1:26:09 PM by Troy Rust, senior pastor, Somerset Baptist Church, Roxboro | with 0 comments