June 2009

Formations lesson for July 12: Ninevah: A City in Need of Grace

June 29 2009 by John Carpenter, Pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Yanceyville

Focal Passage: Jonah 3:1-4:11

Individualistic Americans may be surprised that God often deals with people in groups, as nations, cities, or even churches.

Corporate guilt passes to the individual members of the group.

Nineveh was one of the greatest, largest, most powerful cities in the world.

It lay on the eastern banks of the Tigris, across the river from modern day Mosul, Iraq. It was the capital of the Assyrian empire.

But Assyria was an atrociously cruel empire. Even the king of Assyria acknowledges, in 3:8, that “violence” was the key sin of that city.

And, that violent empire was threatening Jonah’s homeland of Israel. In Jonah’s eyes, Nineveh was a city in need of destruction.

Jonah fled, when God called, because he was afraid what happened, would happen. He was afraid they would repent and God would, in His mercy, spare them.

It would be as if God called someone to go preach the gospel in Berlin during World War II or personally to Osama bin Laden now.

What if they repent? Then they won’t be destroyed. And that’s not what we want.

To Jonah’s dismay, the people of Nineveh believed God and repented. They even specifically named their characteristic sin of violence. Some today think sins can just be excused, unconfessed.

But that’s wrong. True repentance produces the kind of contrition the people of Nineveh show: they afflict themselves, they fast, they name their sin. Then — not before — there is forgiveness and God turns from judgment.

In one church a man seeking to undermine his pastor said, “Some of us are Joshuas and some are Jonahs.”

He likened his going around gathering and encouraging complaints to be either like a brave prophet or a reluctant prophet.

His pastor responded, “Some are Judases!” Jonah is not a story about easy-believism, forgiveness without repentance.

It’s about a God so merciful, he sends a prophet to bring true repentance.

In God’s eyes, Nineveh was in need of grace. They repented. God relented of the disaster He had planned for them. Jonah was angry.

Their salvation was what he feared his preaching would produce. He had more mercy on the plant that gave him shade than he did on the people of that city.

He could only think of himself.

Are there people – individuals or groups (like races) — you don’t care about the gospel going out to?

Does your church care more for their little comforts (like padded pews, familiar hymns, old fashioned dress and Bible versions) or the salvation of sinners?

6/29/2009 7:24:00 AM by John Carpenter, Pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Yanceyville | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for July 12: Exalting the Son

June 29 2009 by Catherine Painter, Author, speaker Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Colossians 1:15-23

Wayside witnessing is my favorite way to exalt Christ.

It’s fun and risk free since I’ll probably never see the prospect again.

Sometimes I plant gospel seeds; at other times I’m blessed to harvest a soul for Christ.

Jesus’ last recorded words before ascending into heaven included His command for us to share our faith (Matthew 28:19-20).

Jesus never commanded the lost to come and hear; He commanded the church to go and tell.
Recently, my husband Jack and I were in a restaurant.

We asked the waitress if we might include her in our prayer before eating. Wasting no time, she spattered us with her pain.

Wherever you and I look, we see people needing Christ. Many await an invitation to express their needs, providing us opportunity to exalt Christ.

Although we love our church, Jack and I don’t brag about it, the pastor, the music, or youth programs.

Instead, we talk about Christ.

Once unbelievers accept Christ, they’ll often choose our church.

It’s important to remain positive while discussing the church.

Christ died for it; why should we complain? Suppose a business advertised this way: “The number of our customers is dropping, and many who do come are dissatisfied with what we offer, but please take your chances and drop in. It might not do you any good, but it will please us.”

How many businesses would grow with such advertising?

Throughout Colossians 1, Paul bragged about Christ. Count the ways he exalted Jesus and the Church in verses 15-20 and know that Jesus is equally committed to you and the church where you worship.

While problems plagued the early Church, its members spread their faith, not their faults, and stormed the world for Christ.

Has Jesus changed your life? Then say so.

Review your past. Was God there?

Look around. Is He present? Yes, a negative blood test can evoke fear, but it won’t have the final word.

We needn’t fear the future, for “He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).

Therefore, the smallest seeds we sow for Christ today will reap results, for as the adage goes, “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but who can count the apples in a seed?”

6/29/2009 7:23:00 AM by Catherine Painter, Author, speaker Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for July 5: Jerusalem: A City in Need of Peace

June 22 2009 by John Carpenter, Pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Yanceyville

Focal Passage: Luke 19:41-48

Cities, like individuals, have personalities — and needs. Here it is for Jerusalem that the Lord Jesus pines, that they would know “the things that make for peace.”

“This day,” the Lord Jesus speaks of is the day He arrives at the city, beginning the chain of events which would lead that city to crucify Him. It was, “the time of your visitation.”

Sometimes God comes to us, as individuals or corporate bodies (like cities, nations, or churches), with an offer of peace.

What makes for peace is Himself, if that proud city would only accept Him. They’ve just received Him happily; celebrating His arrival.

But they’re only interested in a triumphant king to conquer their enemies, the Romans, not the sacrificial King come to conquer their hearts. Jesus says “They” (the secrets of peace) “are hidden from your eyes.”

Yes, they are responsible for not accepting Him. But here Jesus points to the ultimate source of their inability to see: God’s purpose in election. God’s peace comes from God’s grace and is withheld from those He does not enable to see (c.f. Mt. 13:13-16; Romans 11:8).

Because they wouldn’t have peace, they would know war.

In verses 43-44, the Lord Jesus foretells the First Jewish-Roman war of AD 66-73, within a generation of Him.

We don’t need to look into our future for the fulfillment.

They’ve already come to pass when the Roman general Titus, a future Caesar, besieged Jerusalem, destroying the city and the temple in it, killing thousands.

Titus reportedly refused to accept a victory wreath, as there is “no merit in vanquishing people forsaken by their own God.”

The price for refusing to receive Jesus as Lord is high.

Then Jesus cleans the merchants out of the temple. The powers that be — “the chief priests and the scribes and the principal men,” what we would call the religious people and the “good ol’ boys” — don’t like that one bit.

They’re not looking for a Lord of any kind.

They’re just looking for business as usual. So they’ll bide their time, looking to destroy Jesus not knowing they are sealing their own destruction.

Today individuals, cities, and even churches have opportunities — times of visitation, when they must repent, change, turn from business as usual to the Lord.

Tradition-bound religious folk and the good ol’ boys will try to protect the status quo. But you must know the Lord who makes for peace and let Him cleanse the “temples” of our hearts or churches. Or pay the price.

6/22/2009 3:38:00 AM by John Carpenter, Pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Yanceyville | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for July 5: Getting to Know the Father

June 22 2009 by Catherine Painter, Author, speaker, Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Exodus 33:18-23, 34:5-8; Micah 6:6-8; John 4:21-24

Following Discipleship Training, a young man asked, “Do you know God as well as you know your husband?”

I answered, “I know God better because I spend more time with Him.

“With God’s Spirit within me, we commune throughout the day.”

Then I shared a story.

Vacationing at the beach, Craig, our son-in-love, remained inside the resort the first day.

I asked our daughter Melanie why he didn’t come out. As if it made all the sense in the world, she said, “He’s spending the day with God.”

I thundered, “At the beach? Can’t he spend time with God after he goes home?”

I was curious, even a bit jealous. Just what would he and God do together all day?  

I began seeking God in earnest.

Soon I realized that I’d traded the best for the good, so busy doing good things “in His name” that I forgot my need for Him. My soul was dry and thirsty.

“Can I know God?” the young man insisted.

“How much time do you spend with Him?” I responded.

He named prayer before meals, time at Sunday School, church, and weekly Bible study.

“That’s admirable,” I said, “but you won’t get to know God that way.

“You’ll learn about God, but you won’t know Him until you spend time alone with Him. Moses grew hungry for God and begged to see Him (Exodus 33:18-23).”

I believe when we ask with open arms, God pulls us to Himself.

Until we really know God, we can develop content with a religion based on two hours a week, often lacking commitment or lifestyle change, and find ourselves filling the void with religious activity.

God sometimes uses despair, illness, fear, loss, or other ways to reveal our need for Him. In Micah 6:6-8, God demanded more from us than external acts of piety.

Jesus said that God wants us to worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24).

Ritual, worship, praise, and teaching become meaningful only after we’ve been with Him.

Then everything from sweeping the floor to cruising the world takes on significance because it’s bathed in God’s presence.

George Trumbull said, “Our hope is not Christ plus our efforts, but Christ plus our receiving. It isn’t Christ and us, but Christ in us.”  

Which do we crave — a theologically correct outline, or the opportunity to sit at His feet?

6/22/2009 3:37:00 AM by Catherine Painter, Author, speaker, Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for June 28: The Spirit’s Prayer

June 22 2009 by Ed Beddingfield, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: Rom. 8:12-17, 26-27

Sometimes we just can’t pray.

Dennis Apple is a staff minister at a Nazarene church in Kansas. His book, Life after the Death of My Son, chronicles his journey of doubt and faith when his teenage son died unexpectedly.
ital
Apple was in “a spiritual fog,” unable to pray or read the Bible, feeling abandoned by God, just going through the motions of ministry.  

At the same time he was afraid that if his church people found out how he really felt, he’d be fired.

Eventually, though, he decided to tell his story to the congregation in worship.

What surprised him was the support he received, and the number of people who came to him afterward seeking pastoral care, needing to tell their own stories of spiritual crisis.

It’s more common than we think, or would like to admit. But we shouldn’t be surprised.

We are not compartmentalized people.

What affects us mentally, emotionally and physically can also affect us spiritually. Sometimes we just can’t pray.

Other times we can, but we’re not sure what we should pray for.

I visited a neighbor, a member of another church, in the hospital.

He was an elderly man, near death after a long illness. The family asked me to pray.

I prayed realistically, asking for the patient the peace of God and the hope of heaven, and for the family endurance and comfort.

After the “Amen,” a family member grabbed me urgently by the arm and pleaded, as much with her eyes as with her words: “You didn’t pray for him to get well!”

It’s the only time I’ve ever been asked to redo a prayer.

So what to pray for? For the man to “depart and be with Christ,” as I did the first time, or for him to “remain in the flesh” on account of his family (Phil. 1:23-24)? Is “Thy will be done” sufficient? What’s best? Who knows?
God knows.

The Bible says God “looks upon the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7), and “even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, You know it completely” (Ps. 139:4).

Prayer is not a matter of giving God information He otherwise wouldn’t have. Prayer is a relationship. It’s placing ourselves in God’s presence, at God’s disposal, and in God’s hands.

When sense and expression fail, when we don’t know what to pray for, when all we can cry is “Abba! Father!” or the best we can manage is “sighs too deep for words,” God hears (8:15, 26-27).

It may be the most eloquent and effective prayer of all.           

6/22/2009 3:36:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 2 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for June 28: Confidently Victorious

June 22 2009 by Kenny Byrd, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Sylva

Focal Passage: 1 John 5:12-21

I always felt better asking my daddy if I could do something when I was riding the swell of an accomplishment.

Those weeks after graduation from high school were nice because for me, and for many young people, you feel like you own the world. A whole new horizon is before you, and it seems as though opportunities sit and wait for you to grab them.

It is at times such as this you can approach another person with confidence, and feel the assurance that the other person will listen.

As a believer we have the assurance that approaching our Lord gives an opportunity for the same confidence.

He is approachable, and He has given us a path directly to His throne of grace, prepared by the blood of Christ.

In 1 John 5 it simply states, “He who has the Son has the life.” You can’t get much clearer than that for assurance for those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ.

God will hear us when we go to Him in prayer and in hearing, He will know that which we desire and most importantly that which we need.

We are called to pray for others as well. With confidence that God hears our prayers it should be without question that we would offer prayer for our fellow believers.

We are instructed to pray for those that we see in sin (v.16). The world will constantly present temptation that is easily followed. Lifting up one another in prayer is a simple tool that God has provided for His church that is free for all to use.

But there are times when some will totally turn from the gospel (sin that leads to death) and we can only hope that something will impact their life to return them to the fold.

And because of the promises we have from the Lord, it is with all the confidence that we can be secure in knowing that we rest safely in the hands of Christ.

We are told, “We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them,” (v.18).

Even though the “evil one” may control the world around us, we are under the protection of the “True One” who is Jesus Christ.

We live in fellowship with God through our saving relationship that was secured by a loving Savior, and we are called to keep away from anything that might seek to take His place in our hearts.

The world readily offers its idols to us daily. What shall we offer the world in return?

With confidence we can go before the Lord, and with confidence offer Christ to the world!

6/22/2009 3:34:00 AM by Kenny Byrd, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Sylva | with 1 comments



Formations lesson for June 21: The Servant’s Prayer

June 9 2009 by Ed Beddingfield, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: 1 Samuel 3:1-10

One Wednesday night at church I decided to have a real prayer meeting.

We would pray, or at least be in a prayerful attitude, for the whole hour.

First, praise: a Psalm, a song, our praises spoken out loud.

Then confession: silently, between each of us and God, and a unison prayer.

After that, thanksgiving: sentence prayers expressing our gratitude.

Then the prayer list, always the most extensive and energetic aspect of our community prayer.  
We were now about halfway through the service.

Next I read aloud a scripture passage. Then we read it in unison, then silently to ourselves. Then we took turns reading verse-by-verse, pausing between verses.  

Finally I reread the passage, this time asking everyone to pick out one word or idea that caught their attention. I invited them to focus on that word, repeating it silently to themselves and letting it take them wherever it would. After 20 minutes I called time.

We discussed their words, what thoughts they had during the silence, and whether or not those thoughts might have been God’s voice.

Afterward a deacon grabbed me by the shoulder: “Don’t ever do that to us again!”

Why is it that in prayer we are so intent on talking to God, but so resistant to listening to God?

Why are we so quick to tell God what to do, but so slow to hear what God has to say?  

One layman says that too often our prayers simply inform God of what He apparently doesn’t know and then advise Him what to do, now that we’ve told Him all the facts.

The teaching guide for today’s lesson asks if “long, wordy prayers” can be “an evasion that keeps us from hearing and obeying God’s voice.”

Jesus wondered the same thing (Matt. 6:5-8).

Crusty old Eli understood. God doesn’t just sit around, hand cupped to ear, waiting to hear what we expect Him to do for us.

God also has things He expects us to do for and with Him. If “the word of the Lord was rare in those days” (3:1), maybe it’s because no one was paying attention (Ch. 2).

Eli told Samuel (3:9), “Next time you hear His voice, answer, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”

The boy did listen, and then the most amazing thing: when Samuel informed Eli about God’s judgment on his corrupt sons, Eli said, “It is the Lord; let Him do what seems good to Him” (3:18). Eli was listening, too.

Maybe prayer is not so much about getting God on board with our program as it is about getting us on board with God’s.

Speak, Lord; your servants are listening.       

6/9/2009 10:00:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 2 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for June 21: Grounded in Truth

June 9 2009 by Kenny Byrd, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Sylva

Focal Passage: 1 John 2:18-27; 4:1-6

Our middle child is a boy of six named John Isaac. He is a precious little fellow, and I am not very biased, just a proud daddy. He has a smile that can warm any heart, and eyes that my sister says make it impossible to say, “No!” My response to her is a simple, “Let me show you how it is done.”  

I love all three of our children, but I seem to end up with John Isaac quite a bit and he is a miniature image of me. Why do I say this you might ask? When I was a small lad I was quite inquisitive, and he has inherited my trait. If you spend time with him you had better be prepared to answer numerous questions in a broad range of categories. Right now I am fortunate, daddy is smart. I cannot wait for those teenage years!

As we walk along and he asks me questions I respond to him and he accepts my answers. He takes the words that I give him and he happily thinks that I have given him a gem of truth. I do my best to answer him with honesty and sometimes I might joke with him and we laugh together. But I always make sure that he knows the right answer and most importantly that I love him.

As we continue further into chapter two of 1 John we are warned about false teachings from “Antichrists” or what we could easily refer to as counter-Christs. These had appeared and taught in contrast to the teachings of Jesus.

Some had even been a part of the early church and left. John is pointing out that those true teachers had been filled, or touched, by the Spirit which can be referred to as an “anointing.”  

For Christians there were, and are, those who would wish to lead you astray. John was warning them to remain faithful to what they had been taught to ground themselves in the truth they had been taught.

He also encouraged them to rely upon the Holy Spirit for understanding and continued growth in learning that which is right.  

An ultimate danger for John is in the fourth chapter where he warns that those who claim to be prophets yet deny Jesus Christ are false teachers. He realized that many were searching for truth in their life and could be drawn in by persons claiming to have a message to deliver, but without Christ the message was void. Today there are countless messengers seeking to deliver false hope to fill the emptiness that many are feeling.  

When encountering false teachings you can ask some questions:

What is the source of the movement’s authority for doctrine and practice?

How does the movement explain the way of salvation?  

Do its leaders affirm salvation by grace through Christ alone, or is it by works, church membership, or obedience to the group’s leaders?

Must you be a member of their group to be assured of salvation?

6/9/2009 9:59:00 AM by Kenny Byrd, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Sylva | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for June 14: The Struggler’s Prayer

June 2 2009 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: Mark 9:14-29

Our doubts are traitors

And make us lose the good we oft might win

By fearing to attempt.

— William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, I, 4

Doubts are ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.

— Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking

I think Dr. Buechner and Mr. Shakespeare are talking about two different kinds of doubt.

One Sunday in the Protestant chapel at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, Chaplain Robert Moore preached a sermon I’ve never forgotten.

Be thankful, he said, for the honest, healthy and helpful doubt of the mind. In proper doses it can be a good thing.

Doubt keeps us from being gullible, from falling for every half-baked idea that comes along, even (especially) those that are deliberately deceptive. Doubt can save us from being led astray.

Doubt keeps us from settling for hearsay.

It doesn’t matter what somebody else says or thinks about God. What matters is my own relationship with Him, and what difference it makes in my life.

Doubt prompts us to learn and grow and seek an ever higher truth.

It recognizes, and is not satisfied with, limited understanding. It wants more.

But be careful, Chaplain Moore said, about the crippling, debilitating, paralyzing doubt of the heart.

This is not the doubt that fails to believe; this is the doubt that fails to believe in — in oneself, in others, even in God.

A person can have all the information in the world, all the evidence that is necessary, and still be incapacitated by doubts of the heart.

The father in today’s lesson is struggling with his doubts. He has heard about Jesus. He has even asked the disciples to “cast out the demon” from his epileptic son, but they failed. He’s not sure Jesus can do much better. His “if you are able” (9:22) reflects the honest doubt of the mind.

Jesus replies, “If you are able! All things are possible to those who believe” (9:23). It’s more an invitation than a rebuke.

Jesus is asking the father to move from his head to his heart, from believing (or not believing) something about Jesus to believing in Jesus.

The father’s cry — “I believe; help my unbelief!” (9:24) — is instinctive, immediate and desperate. It clarifies where the power of prayer is located: in God, not us. You can have doubts the size of watermelons, as long as you have faith the size of a mustard seed.

Angelus Silesius said it well: “Whoso draws nigh to God one step through doubtings dim, God will advance a mile in blazing light to him.”         

 

6/2/2009 5:48:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for June 14: Know That You Know God

June 2 2009 by Kenny Byrd, pastor, First Baptist Church, Sylva

Focal Passage: 1 John 2:3-11, 15-17

Something comes natural to many of us when we meet a new person, we play a little game that we can simply call “association.”

Once we learn where a person is from, we begin to make connections, if possible, with the ever familiar question, “Do you know ...?”

Recently as visitors were departing the Sunday morning worship service I learned that they were from Kentucky and the husband was from a small town named Lancaster.

It just so happens that my family has visited there numerous times throughout the years, and we have a mutual acquaintance, what a small world.

As Christians we have an association that is not a game, it is an honor, a lifelong commitment.

It is made when we give our hearts to the Lord through our relationship with Jesus Christ, and there might be opportunities for the question to arise, “Do you know Christ?”

It might just as easily not be presented, and that allows our lives the important task of genuine Christian witness.

In 1 John 2 we are told that Christians can know beyond a doubt that they know God if we obey His commandments (v. 3).

This is not a claim of works righteousness, but a statement of simple truth. Your life will be evidence of God by that which you do.

A life lived for the Lord is a life filled with love and John references this as “living in the light.” 

And those who hate a brother or sister will be living in darkness without knowledge of the way to go.

And further in verses 15-17 we are urged to keep from allowing secular values to get in the way of our commitment and love for God.

Worldliness can easily draw many Christians into its snares of pride and pleasure.

The danger can be summed up in one word, success. The world has a definition that is often in stark contrast to the kingdom, and to “knowing the Lord.” 

Verse 17 tells us, “this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. 

“But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.”

Success in knowing God is pleasing God and that is our ultimate hope in our witness.

Do you have no doubt that you know God? Does your witness provide no doubt to the world?

 

6/2/2009 5:47:00 AM by Kenny Byrd, pastor, First Baptist Church, Sylva | with 0 comments