July 2014

Explore the Bible Lesson for August 17: Never Give Up on Prayer

July 31 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passages: Daniel 6:3-7, 10-11, 16-23
 
Prayer. When surveyed, most Americans will acknowledge prayer is important in their life. Indeed, since researcher George Barna began asking about people’s prayer habits, more than eight out of 10 Americans have consistently said they prayed in the previous week. Other polls indicate people are often confused as to the purpose of prayer. For example, according to a Beliefnet poll, only 38 percent said intimacy with God was the primary purpose of prayer, while 56 percent indicated their families were the primary focus of their prayers.
 
We can learn much about prayer from Daniel’s experiences in Daniel 6. Following his interpretation of the handwriting on the wall, King Darius ascended to the throne. Daniel was one of the 120 satraps (provincial governor) Darius appointed. His character was impeccable and he possessed an “extraordinary spirit.”
 
The satraps set themselves against Daniel and sought to destroy him. They decided to use his faithfulness in prayer as a weapon against him. They played on the king’s pride by suggesting that no one be allowed to pray to anyone other than him for a period of 30 days. The king agreed and issued the decree, with the lion’s den as punishment.
 
Consider for a moment that Daniel’s enemies knew him and his prayer life so well that they were aware he could not go 30 days without praying. Could you? If some act of Congress or a local government made it illegal to pray for 30 days, what would you do? What if it was only for a week? A day? How long would you be willing to not pray, under the threat of persecution? Who knows you well enough to know whether you would avoid praying, especially at the threat of death? For too many of us prayer is an add-on to our spiritual lives. It is something we do at mealtime or during a worship service, but it is not an indispensable part of our lives. It was for Daniel. He faced the lion’s den with confidence because he knew his God. That knowledge was derived through his prayer life. For Daniel, prayer was essential for his life. Is it for you?

7/31/2014 9:27:03 AM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 17: Victorious Faith

July 31 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student

Focal Passage: 1 Peter 5:6-11
 
Madonna once said, “No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you’ve come from, you can always change, become a better version of yourself.” Our culture believes the lie of self-improvement. This lie parades on our television and computer screens and is evident in talk shows, books and movies.
 
C.S. Lewis said it much better, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” If you’re looking down at someone, or if you’re looking inward to yourself, as Madonna hints above, you’re not looking in the right place. You’re not looking to God.
 
Peter directs our gaze in the right direction. In the preceding verses, he is giving instructions to the elders and young men scattered throughout Asia Minor. He charges them to humble themselves under God’s mighty hand (v. 6). Notice the contrast from the prideful, self-improvement stance above. They are to cast all their anxiety upon Him (v. 7). In doing these things, God will lift them up. Peter is emphasizing “God-help.”
 
He also issues three imperatives in verses 8 and 9: “[You] be self-controlled; [You] be alert; [You] resist Satan.” Last week, we talked about how imperatives in the Greek are direct commands. Yet instead of focusing on self-effort, Peter explains how these believers are to obey these imperatives in verse 9 by “standing firm in the faith.” Read about standing firm in the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18.
 
Peter encourages the believers by giving them hope for the future. He promises God will restore them and make them strong, firm and steadfast because of their present suffering (v. 10). As believers, we too can take hope that regardless of our trials, God will strengthen and restore us. We should not look to “self-help” advice that is inwardly-focused. Instead, we should rely on “God-help,” and recognize that He has given us a victorious faith that is rooted in our triumphant Savior.

 
7/31/2014 9:20:18 AM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for August 10: Tell It Like It Is

July 29 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passages: Daniel 5:1-6, 16-17, 23c-28
 
In our culture it seems that the ultimate insult is to warn that a behavior is sinful. Admittedly, some have “warned” with tremendous insensitivity or even condescension. But, in the face of obvious sin, what is a Christ-follower to do?
 
In the first four verses of Daniel 5 we learn Belshazzar stoops to a new low. He takes the gold and silver vessels Nebuchadnezzar had removed from the temple in Jerusalem and uses them as dinnerware for a big party. Fundamentally, Belshazzar takes items set aside to bring glory to God and uses them to further the frivolity of his guests.
 
God does not take such action lightly. Rather than simply striking Belshazzar or his partygoers, God issues a warning of His impending judgment with a hand that appears and begins writing on a wall (5:5-6). God warns prior to judgment because He loves us and desires that we repent. Sometimes those warnings are as dramatic as handwriting on a wall. Sometimes it is as simple as the warnings in God’s Word. And sometimes it is as controversial as a believer unwilling to concede biblical morality for the sake of popular opinion.
 
When the king discovers that no one is able to interpret the writing, he becomes terribly frightened. Finally, someone mentions that maybe Daniel can do it. Belshazzar brings Daniel in and offers him royal clothing, gold chains and a position of power, if he could just interpret the writing. But, Daniel rejects the trappings of the king. Rather than fall victim to pride, he recognizes that he is but an instrument to be used by God. His humility in warning the king who held him captive was borne out of his understanding of the king whom he ultimately served. Rather than bravado or condescension, such knowledge was humbling to Daniel.
 
Be not mistaken, however, such humility does not result in passivity. Humility does not ignore sin or its consequences. Rather, humility demands that a warning of the judgment to come is issued. We do not love if we do not warn. But humility is the key: if we do not love, our warnings fall on deaf ears.

7/29/2014 9:46:28 AM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 10: Joyful Faith

July 29 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student

Focal Passage: 1 Peter 4:12-19
 
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
 
It was unbearably warm in that small, one-room church building. I felt weary and tired from very little rest the night before. My stomach was in knots from unfamiliar food and spices. I felt grumpy and wanted to dwell in it … this was the day that I was responsible for training the South Asian Christians on how to share the gospel. Yet my attitude that morning reflected little of the Good News of great joy that was for all the people (Luke 2:10). The local missionary opened our training session by playing a simple song on his guitar. And immediately I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit in regards to my sinful attitude and ungratefulness.
 
This is the day that the Lord has made; I will be glad and rejoice in it. This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made.”
 
It was a new day full of God’s mercies. It was a day made for the sole purpose of bringing Him glory. In my weakness, I had a choice: to wallow in self-pity or to rejoice in the day that belonged to Him. I chose the latter and He gave me the strength to joyfully teach the gospel. In our passage in 1 Peter 4:12-19, Peter gives the early believers an imperative, or command, in verse 13 and says, “[You] rejoice.”
 
Rejoice in the midst of suffering. In verse 14, he shares that those who suffer and go through trials because of the name of Christ are blessed. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matthew 5:10). Finally, he encourages those who are being persecuted to persevere because their suffering brings praise and glory to God.
 
How have you faced suffering, trials or persecution for your faith? Have you been mocked for being a Christian? What is your response? Do you respond with anger, feistiness or passive resignation? Do you respond with self-pity when things get tough? Remember Peter’s imperative, “[You] rejoice.” What does that look like in your life this week? How can you choose joy in the midst of life’s difficulties?

7/29/2014 9:36:38 AM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for August 3: Risk Everything for God

July 17 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passages: Daniel 3:1, 8-12, 15b-18, 24-25, 28
 
It seems like we value physical security and safety above nearly all else in our culture. Sadly, that mentality also creeps into ministry life. We worry about going on that mission trip to Africa or the Philippines. What will we eat? Is there running water? Do they have poisonous snakes? Is the region/area/nation safe? I am not suggesting these questions aren’t worth asking. I am suggesting the fact that we ask these questions first reveals something terribly wrong with our view of eternity.
 
If we are going to be faithful in fulfilling the Great Commission, we must adopt a mentality similar to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. In Daniel 3 the king issued a decree requiring every person in Babylon to bow down to a statue or face a brutal death. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to do so, and their disobedience was reported (Daniel 3:8-12). The king ordered them brought before him with one final opportunity to obey or face the consequences.
 
They had no intention of doing so (v. 15-18). Rather, they let the king know that their God was capable of delivering them from the fiery furnace he threatened them with. More than that, even if he did not deliver them, he was still worth serving. 
 
The king was enraged and ordered the furnace heated seven times its normal temperature. It was so hot that the guards taking Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to the edge were consumed by the heat; but they were unharmed. Indeed, they were even seen to be walking around in the furnace, with one who appeared to be “a son of the gods.” Many theologians believe that the fourth person in the furnace was, in fact, a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus. A great encouragement to us that Jesus is with us in the midst of the trouble that may result from our obedience.
 
The actions of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are a reminder to us that physical safety is not nearly as important as obedience to the revealed Word of God. They were willing to die before they would willingly disobey God. Are you?

7/17/2014 12:09:23 PM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 3: Ready Faith

July 17 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Carmel Baptist Church, Matthews

Focal Passages: 1 Peter 3:13-16; 4:1-2
 
We, as Christians, talk a lot about the “refining” process. “God is really refining me through this struggle,” we may say. So what do we really mean? A quick search on the Internet for how to refine gold reveals the lengthy and deliberate process that is involved in separating the impurities from this precious metal. Heat, fire, acid – all are used to separate what is pure from what is not. 
 
Although we give a lot of lip service to the refinement process, I fear that most of us do not actually expect to go under the “heat” in our lifetimes. Tim Keller said, “In the secular view, suffering is never seen as a meaningful part of life but only as an interruption.” I think that view can also be said of the American church. We somehow forget that we are being sanctified – made more pure and holy – through the work of the Holy Spirit in our suffering.
 
Peter exhorts those who suffer for the sake of righteousness and calls them blessed. Not plagued with misfortune: Blessed. God is purifying us so that we are conformed into the image of His blameless and righteous Son. Scripture calls us to “rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
 
It’s important to keep in mind several things: (1) Suffering for our faith is not permanent. (2) Suffering gives us the opportunity to point to the hope we have in Christ (v. 15). (3) Suffering is not about us. Peter says in 1 Peter 1:7, “These [trials] have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
 
We must see suffering through the lens of the glory of God. Billy Graham said it this way, “Many a life has come forth from the furnace of affliction more beautiful and more useful than before.”
 
Let us take joy in the “refining” process, recognizing that God is removing our sin so that what remains is the purity and righteousness of Christ.

7/17/2014 12:01:28 PM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Carmel Baptist Church, Matthews | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for July 27: Draw the Line

July 15 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passages: Daniel 1:3-6, 8-9, 11-21
 
A father once told his son not to swim in the creek near their house. The son said he understood. A couple of nights later the boy came home wearing a pair of soaking wet swim trunks. “Where have you been?” asked his father. “Swimming down at the creek,” replied the boy. “The same creek I told you not to swim in?” asked his father, incredulously.
 
“Yes sir,” said the boy. “Why would you swim there after I told you not to?” asked his father, his impatience growing by the minute. “Well,” said the boy, “I was walking down there with my swim trunks, and I just couldn’t resist the temptation.” The father asked, “Why did you have your swim trunks with you?” “Well,” said the boy, “I figured I better have them along just in case I was tempted to swim and, sure enough, I was!”
 
Too often Christians are like that young boy. We know our areas of spiritual weakness, but we have our swim trunks along, just in case. If we are on vacation or a long way from home, the inclination is even stronger.
 
Daniel was a long way from home when he was asked to violate the dietary restrictions God had established (Daniel 1:3-5). Rather than reason that he was far from home or that God had abandoned him, Daniel evaluated the request of his captors in light of the Word of God. He quickly realized that obedience to his captors would mean disobedience to God (v. 8-10).
 
Daniel boldly offered an alternative (v. 12-15) that would allow Daniel to remain obedient, though it would not be easy. Daniel proposed to eat only vegetables and water for 10 days. Afterwards, the official could determine whether Daniel and his companions were healthy. Sure enough, they were. God rewarded their obedience with wisdom and understanding beyond the other “wise men” in the king’s court (v. 17-19).
 
Christians need to determine to honor God daily. Doing so is a moment-by-moment decision to yield to the Holy Spirit rather than to temptation. As a result we will experience a spiritual discipline that keeps us from spiritual compromise.

7/15/2014 12:05:23 PM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 27: Enduring Faith

July 15 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Carmel Baptist Church, Matthews

Focal Passage: 1 Peter 2:13-23
 
What comes to your mind when you hear the word, “submission?” Do you think “door mat?” Weakness? Loss of self? Does the description of “Christian” even pop into your mind? It should.
 
As Christ followers, we are called to a life of radical submission. After all, we follow the example of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings who emptied Himself and became obedient to death on a cross. He could have come to earth in power, prestige and luxury but instead came as a humble servant. Peter reminds the first-century Christians, who were facing persecution, of their calling. For the Lord’s sake, they should submit [or subject] themselves to every human institution (v. 13), including those that are practicing discrimination. Peter commands the believers to honor all men, love the brotherhood, fear God and honor the emperor (v. 17). He reinforces the need for submission again in verse 18, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect.
 
Peter also encourages Christ followers to endure any hardships that result from faithfully surrendering to those in authority. To patiently endure through suffering is commendable before God (v. 20) and brings Him glory. Christ set the example of patiently enduring through suffering (v. 21) and trusting God in every circumstance (v. 23). Jesus tells His disciples multiple times that a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a student above his teacher. Just like He humbled Himself and did not try to seek vengeance on those who were causing affliction, we too, must submit to others out of love for God.
 
The idea of submission in our culture is not a popular one. Our Savior set the example of denying self by surrendering to the will of the Father by laying down His life. He trusted the Father even unto death. Because He endured the cross, He triumphed over all powers and authorities and was given all authority in heaven and on earth.
 
How can you, as a Christ follower, exemplify the radical submission of your Savior this week?

7/15/2014 11:48:23 AM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Carmel Baptist Church, Matthews | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for July 20: Hope of New Worship

July 3 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: Ezekiel 43:1-12
 
One of the tragedies of the last 20 years (or so) has been the so-called worship wars. It is tragic because our insistence on preferences demonstrates a terrible narcissism that is counter to true worship.
 
True worship is not about what pleases us, or even what reaches unbelievers. True worship is about what pleases God.
 
In the Bible there seems to be a pattern associated with people encountering God in worship. That pattern includes recognizing God for who He is, repenting of our own sinfulness and experiencing empowerment for holy living.
 
In Ezekiel 43:1-5 the prophet sees the glory of God returning to the temple. His only response to the presence of God is to fall facedown.
 
God’s glory is so overwhelming that Ezekiel cannot even stand. We are told God’s glory fills the temple (v. 5), which is exactly what Isaiah experienced (Isaiah 6:1).
 
Such a description is intended to remind us of God’s greatness. What is the proper response to God’s glory filling the temple? Repentance.
 
In Ezekiel 43 it is repentance over our willingness to set idols next to God (v. 8).
 
How often do we do that? We may not put a wooden or metal object beside us in a church service, but when we place our preferences above God’s glory we have fashioned a false idol in our own image.
 
Finally, after repenting for our sin we are empowered for holy living.
 
This is seen when Ezekiel puts into place God’s plans for the temple. The idea is that, if you are truly repentant, you will do what God has called you to do.
 
Another way to say it is: holy living is obedient living.
 
The real test of worship is whether we are living obediently to Christ. It seems obvious, but honoring God has more to do with our obedience and less to do with our preferences. If your response to worship is not greater obedience, then you haven’t worshipped – regardless of what style of music was played during the service.

7/3/2014 11:28:39 AM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 20: Active Faith

July 3 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Carmel Baptist Church, Matthews

Focal Passages: 1 Peter 1:14-19, 22-25
 
Reading through the book of Leviticus, one can begin to see a common theme or purpose to why God is commanding the Israelites to adhere to specific laws and regulations. In Leviticus 19:2, the Lord tells Moses to say to the Israelites, “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” This command was not just specific to the Israelites in the Old Testament.
 

We know this because Peter refers to it again in the New Testament, “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

 
In last week’s lesson, we learned that faith must be focused on and founded in Christ. In our passage this week, Peter shares what we must do in obedience as a result of our faith. In other words, we must have an active faith that pursues holiness.
 
The process of being conformed into the image of Christ is called sanctification. When we become more holy, we become more like Christ. An abbreviated way to think of holiness is to be “set apart.”
 
God, in His holiness, is set apart from sinners. To be set apart is to be separate or distinctive.
Jesus said, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world” (John 15:19).
 
He says again in reference to His disciples, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth” (John 17:16-17). As God is holy and set apart, so we must be as well. We must no longer conform to the pattern of this world.
 
How can we be distinct from the world? Peter gives us at least three ways in our passage:

  • We must be obedient and not conform to evil desires (v. 14);

  • We must live our lives in reverent fear of God (v. 17); and

  • We must also love one another deeply (v. 22).

What are other ways can we pursue holiness?

7/3/2014 11:24:31 AM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Carmel Baptist Church, Matthews | with 0 comments



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