June 2010

Formations Lesson for July 11: Do Justice

June 29 2010 by Don Gordon, senior pastor, Yates Baptist Church, Durham

Focal Passage: Matthew 12:1-14

In the first 14 verses of Matthew 12 we see a conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees over the interpretation of Sabbath laws.

There are two incidents that highlight this conflict. The first is a conflict derived from his disciples picking grain on the Sabbath.

There was common agreement in those days that a religious leader’s disciples should be under his control. Their breaking the Sabbath law demonstrated that Jesus condoned breaking the law. The Mishnah, a Jewish commentary on the law, interpreted the 4th Commandment with the phrase “You shall not harvest grain on the Sabbath.” While the original Sabbath commandment was a call for rest, the Mishnah had moved it to a call for no work whatsoever.

Jesus offered the Pharisees a different method of interpreting the Law. He recalled a story about David and his soldiers being given bread that was supposed to be holy and reserved exclusively for the priests (1 Sam 21:1-6).

An exception to the law was made to meet the needs of these hungry soldiers. Jesus then brought up another exception when priests “worked” on the Sabbath by sacrificing some lambs (Num 28:9). Jesus was utilizing stories and exceptions in Scripture to demonstrate a more flexible use of the law. 

A second incident is then recorded centering on a man who had a withered hand.

The Pharisees didn’t really care anything about this man and his shriveled hand nor did they doubt Jesus could heal the guy. They were trying to trap Jesus and reveal his willingness to break the Mosaic law, thereby proving he was not a man of God. There was no immediate danger to this man. Jesus could easily wait one day to heal the man.

Jesus responded to their test by offering a revolutionary interpretation of the Sabbath laws. He said, “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Sabbath laws had increasingly become mired in petty details. Don’t do this, don’t do that. Jesus wanted to liberate the Sabbath laws from this impossible straitjacket and free men to do good on the Sabbath.

Jesus still wants to rest and keep Sabbath holy, but he doesn’t want to do this at the expense of avoiding doing good. Sabbath was made for man, not man for Sabbath. So Jesus healing this man’s withered hand was not merely an exception to the law, it was the fulfillment of it.

The Pharisees were consumed with being correct and oblivious to doing good. When doing good is the result of our biblical interpretation, then we will know we are correct.  
6/29/2010 6:29:00 AM by Don Gordon, senior pastor, Yates Baptist Church, Durham | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 11: The Power of Courage

June 29 2010 by Phyllis Elvington, speaker, author, member of Tabor City Baptist Church

Focal Passages: 1 Samuel 17:8-11, 32-39, 45-47

One of my all-time, best-loved movies is The Wizard of Oz. My favorite character in that movie is the Cowardly Lion.

And my absolute favorite scene in the movie (that I quote word for word every time I watch it) begins with the Lion asking this question: “What makes a king out of a slave?”

To which he answers quite emphatically, “Courage!”

The Wizard of Oz is a fictional tale dreamed up in the mind of author L. Frank Baum.

First Samuel 17, on the other hand, is a true story about the power of godly courage. To some, it may sound like a movie shot on location somewhere in the hills of Hollywood.

But this is not a movie script.

The story is real.

The characters are real.

The story begins as we are told of an impending battle between the armies of Israel and Philistia.

The three main characters — Saul, Goliath, and David — paint a picture of what courage looks like — and what courage does not look like.

First, the Philistine army had “a champion named Goliath” who “was over nine feet tall” (v. 4, NIV).

To the casual observer, the odds looked pretty good for this “uncircumcised Philistine” who defied “the armies of the living God” (v. 26).

From Goliath’s own perspective, victory was a done deal.

His courage was based on his physical attributes — he was bigger than everybody else! Next, we have Saul, the ruling king of Israel.

“On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified” (v. 11).

Instead of looking to God for help in his time of need, Saul focused solely on the problem and was overwhelmed by his circumstances.

Finally, David arrives on the scene.

Upon hearing Goliath’s threats, David responds: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel”(v. 45).

David didn’t focus on himself or the problem. David kept his eyes on the Lord.

He knew the battle was not between Goliath and him — he knew “the battle is the Lord’s” (v. 47). And therein lies the key to the power of courage.

We don’t have to fight the battle.

The battle is the Lord’s.

The next time you’re in a tough situation and you feel like the odds are stacked against you, remember these three promises from God’s infallible word: Joshua 1:9; Romans 8:15; and 2 Timothy 1:7.  
6/29/2010 6:23:00 AM by Phyllis Elvington, speaker, author, member of Tabor City Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for July 4: The Original Sin: Pride

June 25 2010 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: Proverbs 11:2; 16:5, 18-19; 27:1-6

God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened,” the serpent said to the woman, talking about the forbidden tree in the garden of Eden. “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).

Who wouldn’t want to be like God?

The serpent appealed to her pride, and she and her husband ate. Hence our lesson title: “The Original Sin.”

According to 1 Timothy 6:10, “the love of money is the root of all evil.”

In Genesis, the problem is pride.

One might argue that all six of the other deadly sins have their origins in an all-about-me attitude of superiority and self-indulgence: pride. Even figuratively, pride is at the center.

Remember WASPLEG, that mnemonic device used by the teenager in our church to memorize the Seven Deadly Sins?

The “P” is in the middle: Wrath (anger), Avarice (greed), Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy, and Gluttony. Pride is the linchpin, the keystone, with three sins before and three after.

Yet Jesus, quoting Leviticus 19:18, said that the second commandment, after loving God with your whole being, is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:28-31). His statement implies at least some measure of self-love. Pride can’t be all bad.

Tim Cannon, writing on today’s lesson in the May issue of Baptists Today, distinguishes between “an undue sense of one’s own superiority or a proper sense of one’s own dignity and worth,” between “self-infatuation and self-respect,” between “a healthy self-esteem or a smug arrogance.”

The key lies in a right understanding of where our worth comes from. If I think it’s because of my intelligence, my looks, my possessions or my achievements, then a superior and arrogant attitude is not far off. Or, imagining that I lack such things, I might consider myself to be less-than, not quite good enough.

On the other hand, knowing that I have value simply because God made me and Jesus died for me rules out any sense of prideful arrogance or quavering inferiority. I can love myself, in all my failures and achievements, with humility, acceptance, and even grace. And I can love others the same way, just like Jesus said.

A verse worth memorizing is Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” And how can we keep from being prideful? Try Romans 5:8: “But God shows His love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

That levels the field.
6/25/2010 2:09:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 4: The Power of Choice

June 25 2010 by Phyllis Elvington, speaker, author, member of Tabor City Baptist Church

Focal Passages: 1 Samuel 13:8-13; 16:6-13  

Seneca, a first century philosopher, wisely said, “You are your choices.”

How powerful is that! Who you are. What you become. Where you live. What you do for a living. How you live your life.

All of these things are the direct result of choices you make each and every day of your life. 

Think about it.

You have the power to choose when to get up and when to go to sleep. You get to choose what you will wear, what you will eat, what you will say, and even what you will think.

It’s mind-boggling to comprehend it all!

And one thing is certain. Every choice you make has a consequence that follows. Good choices reap good consequences. Bad choices reap bad consequences.

“Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years” (13:1 NIV).

God had chosen Saul to be Israel’s first king, but Saul chose to disobey God’s commands and the resulting consequences changed God’s plans for his life forever.

“You acted foolishly,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.

But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people because you have not kept the Lord’s command” (13:13-14).

Several key phrases in these two verses are critical to our understanding the power of the choices we make:
  • “You acted foolishly…”
  • “You have not kept the command the Lord…gave you…”
  • “If you had…”
  • “But now…”
Saul’s disobedience broke God’s heart. “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions” (15:11a).

Saul’s bad choices caused God to choose someone else to be king over Israel — David, “a man after His own heart.”

When choosing Saul’s replacement, God made it clear to both Samuel and Jesse what matters most to him. “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Obedience is the key. “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?

“To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (15:22).  
6/25/2010 2:05:00 AM by Phyllis Elvington, speaker, author, member of Tabor City Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for June 27: Sins of Vengeance: Anger

June 18 2010 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: Proverbs 14:16-17, 29; 19:11-12; 22:24-25  

My mother and I were arguing at the dinner table. We both got angry. I got grounded. I held my tongue, but I was still mad! I balled up my fist, under the table and out of sight — or so I thought. But she knew! How do moms do that? Grounded again, for another week.

If I couldn’t verbalize it, and if I couldn’t make a fist under the table, what was I supposed to do with my anger?

Store it away, obviously, and let it surface years later in a Biblical Recorder Sunday School lesson.

It’s going to come out, one way or the other, like steam in a boiler.

We can vent it in measured doses, like blowing the whistle on a locomotive.

We can put it to productive use, like driving the train or heating a building.

Or we can let it build up until the whole thing blows.

According to Ephesians 4:26, it’s not the anger that’s the problem. It’s what we do with it: “Be angry, but sin not.” And how do we do that?

“Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”

We can’t help getting mad, but we don’t have to hang on to it.

Like a fever, anger indicates that something needs attention. Settle it. Work it out.

Otherwise we might “make room for the devil” — in a word, sin. Today’s verses offer additional advice about how to “be angry, but sin not.”

The most consistent theme is not to be rash or quick-tempered. Instead, try exercising restraint (14:16-17, 29; 19:11; 22:24b).

Remember “count to 10?” That’s why my e-mail has a “Save Draft” button: to keep me from hitting “Reply” (or worse, “Reply All”) before I’ve thought through my response.

Also, nobody likes a “schemer” (14:17), someone who bears grudges and plots revenge.

Likewise for one who is “given to anger” (22:24a), constantly nursing and cultivating ill feelings. You just become sour and unpleasant.

When you’re angry, don’t use any power you may have over another person to take unfair advantage, like a king whose anger roars like a lion (19:12).

Be careful of the company you keep. Hanging out with hotheads or habitually angry people simply reinforces our own bad habits (22:24-25).

Most of all, how generous it is “to overlook an offense” (19:11)!

“Turn the other cheek,” Jesus said.

Anger comes out, one way or the other. It’s how we handle it that matters.

“Be angry, but sin not.”             
6/18/2010 5:31:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for June 27: When I Make Poor Choices

June 18 2010 by Dale Austin Jr., associate pastor, Wakeminster Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passages: 1 Samuel 8:6-9; 12:13-25  

We are presented with choices every day of our lives. Some choices are so minor that they really make no overall difference in our lives. Other choices can have a major impact not only on our life but also the lives of our families, friends, and even our entire country.

For a number of years, my wife and I worked as weekend house parents for a Christian maternity home for unwed women. Initially, this was an eye-opener for me.  

Many of the girls were in their teenage years who had made irresponsible choices, but their final choice to keep their child showed maturity beyond their years.

What started with a very bad choice because “everyone else was doing it” ended for many of them with an eternity-changing event.

Many of the young women become believers in Christ during their stay. Our Bible study for this week again focuses on Samuel who is now an older man.

The people of Israel begin to clamor that they want a king to lead them, so that they can be just like everyone else around them.

Samuel was hurt that the people wanted new leadership after he had been providing a strong spiritual example to them for so many years. Samuel thinks to himself that this request is sinful on the part of the Israelites but he decides to pray to God for guidance regarding the Israelites’ request.

God reaffirms Samuel explaining that the people are not against Samuel, but they are actually rebelling against God.

Since Samuel speaks for God, Samuel is slowly being pushed to the side too. Samuel warns the people about their request for a king and cautions that there will be some very serious consequences as a result of having kings.

God does grant their request and gives them Saul to become their first king, but Samuel does not just leave their poor choice alone. He emphasizes to the people that they need to continue to fear the Lord and obey Him. If the people continue down their current path and disobey the Lord and rebel against His commands, then the nation will reap some serious consequences.

This study stresses a number of things for us in our daily lives:
  1. Choices in life always carry consequences (good or bad).
  2. God wants us to trust in Him, and He will guide us to make correct choices.
  3. Just because “everyone else is doing it” does not necessarily mean it is a good choice to follow them.  
  4. Even if we do make poor choices, God is still in control and is waiting for us to turn back to Him.
6/18/2010 5:28:00 AM by Dale Austin Jr., associate pastor, Wakeminster Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for June 20: Sins of Indifference: Sloth

June 4 2010 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: Proverbs 6:6-11; 24:30-34  

Bernard Boyd taught New Testament at my college. One day he lectured on Mark 3:28-30:  blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the famous unforgivable sin. It wasn’t some legal technicality, he said, some secret word that, once spoken, damned you forever. People were accusing Jesus of getting His power from the devil, not God (v. 22). The sin was unbelief.

And it’s unforgivable, Dr. Boyd said, because if you don’t believe in Jesus, you certainly won’t ask for or accept His forgiveness. 

He told about a woman who was terrified that she had committed the sin against the Holy Spirit, whatever it was, and that God would never forgive her. Dr. Boyd told her, “Madam, if you’re worried about it, you haven’t done it.”

Sloth is like that. If you’re worried about it, you’re probably not doing it — not yet. But it can slip up on you.

Sloth is not common laziness, like not doing your chores. It’s a spiritual condition.

Neither is it just being spiritually slack, like sleeping in on an occasional Sunday morning. It’s much worse.

The Latin term is acedia (a-SEED-ee-a), from a Greek word for “carelessness.” It means deep malaise, utter indifference, apathy, unconcern. Spiritually, you couldn’t care less.

It can also mean failing to nurture or cultivate: not taking care. The metaphor in Proverbs 24:30-34 is perfect: “a vineyard in ruin due to sloth’s neglect,” the Learner’s Study Guide says. The weeds take over, the walls fall down, and nobody cares.

It happens. Spiritual neglect can lead to spiritual “care-less-ness,” then spiritual ruin. Skip enough church, and eventually church no longer matters. Don’t read your Bible, and one day you can’t find it. Fail to live intentionally for God and for others, and you’ll forget how.

The opposite of sloth is caring: loving God and neighbor, and showing it. But love, untended, fades. Not overnight, but sooner or later.

Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard told a parable: A wild duck, migrating south, stops in a barnyard for the free food and decides to spend the winter. Next spring his wild cousins soar overhead, flying north. The duck tries to join them, flapping his wings and echoing their calls, but he’s grown too fat to fly.

The wild ducks come again, southbound in the fall. The grounded duck watches the sky longingly as they go. Years pass, until the day comes when the wild ducks wing their way over the farm, uttering their haunting cries, and the duck in the barnyard no longer notices at all.

That’s sloth.     
6/4/2010 4:29:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for June 20: When External Threats Come

June 4 2010 by Dale Austin Jr., associate pastor, Wakeminster Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passages: 1 Samuel 7:2-17  

We are bombarded with alarming news every day — the economy is faltering, jobs are scarce, food prices are going up, there is unrest around the world, and no one has an answer. Life does bring challenges and tribulations, but will we have the courage to seek and rely on God? We are not the first generation to face such trials; our passage this week details a revival that began to take place in the lives of the people of Israel and how they were able to seek the Lord, get rid of their false gods, and dedicate themselves only to the one true God.

Our Bible study picks up 20 years after the Ark of the Covenant was captured (and returned) by the Philistines. Samuel begins to lead the Israelites as their judge. During the previous 20 years, the people of Israel had fallen back into worshiping false gods as well as keeping lip service to the Lord, but something begins to change, and a spirit of revival begins to take hold across the nation. Samuel leads the people in returning to the Lord with all of their hearts, ridding the land of their false gods, and dedicating themselves to the Lord. As a revival begins, the Philistines decide that this is a good time to march toward Israel. Of course, fear strikes in the hearts of the Israelites as a result of this impending danger. We are so similar to the people of Israel when we are faced with challenges. Just when we begin to grow closer to God, we allow other things in our lives to creep in and shake our very foundations. Samuel does not falter; he cries out to the Lord on behalf of the people of Israel, even in the midst of a terrible threat, and God listens. God moves the Philistines into total confusion so that they flee the land.

There are a number of things that we can learn from this passage and apply to use in our lives:
  1. God wants us; He wants 100 percent of us. God was not willing to share His people with false gods, and He feels the same about us today. We must put away anything that comes between us and God.
  2. The people of Israel rededicated their lives to God with repentance, confession of sins, and a commitment to God. We need to do the same thing with Jesus Christ as our focus.
  3. When trials came to the people of God in the form of the encroaching Philistines, the people cried out for God to protect them. Trials and tribulations are a constant occurrence in our lives. We need to rely on God to take care of us.
Samuel’s words to the people of Israel remind us that a relationship with God is founded on a decision to give our hearts to God and to trust Him with all we are.  
6/4/2010 4:26:00 AM by Dale Austin Jr., associate pastor, Wakeminster Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments