June 2011

Formations Lesson for July 10: A Kingdom of Priests

June 23 2011 by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Exodus 19:1-6

“Would you please pray for me, pastor? I’m not sure God is listening to me.” “I’m sure if you pray, Reverend, we will see results. You have a direct line to God!”  

As a pastor, I sometimes hear such comments. Certainly some of the comments are made in jest.   Still, I wonder how many people really do believe that the prayers of a minister have a better chance of being heard and answered by God.  

One of our Baptist distinctives is the priesthood of all believers.  

Simply, the doctrine declares that all of us, whether clergy or lay, share in a calling by God to be priests. So, what constitutes being a priest? In the Old Testament, the priests regularly made sacrifices on behalf of themselves and the people they served. Once a year the High Priest (and only the High Priest) would enter the temple and go behind a curtain to enter the Holy of Holies. No one else was to enter this sacred space. The High Priest then would make an animal sacrifice to atone for his sins and the sins of all the people. He was the mediator between God and man. In the New Testament Jesus is referred to as the Great High Priest. Jesus’ death on the cross as atonement for all sin caused the temple curtain at the entrance of the Holy of Holies to be miraculously torn in two.  

Now, because of Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice, all believers have access to God. We do not need a middle man. Through faith in Jesus, all believers’ prayers reach the ears of God. When Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenburg on October 31, 1517, he was declaring war against the idea that God’s favor was mediated through an ecclesiastical priesthood. Luther insisted that everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ is a priest. God declares to Moses in our text for today, “the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:5b-6a). As God’s priests in the world today, we are to be for Him a priestly kingdom.  

We are uniquely gifted and called by God for this task. When we know ourselves — our spiritual gifts, talents, resources, experiences and personalities — and surrender those to the lordship of Christ, we become the most effective priests we can be. We are equipped to give ourselves as living sacrifices to God so that others may know His love, grace, and mercy.
6/23/2011 10:09:00 AM by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 10: Personal Checklist

June 23 2011 by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh

Focal Passage: Galatians 3:1-3, 10-14, 19-26

A young serviceman suffered through his chaplain’s sermon on the Ten Commandments. Later, as he reviewed the list, his face brightened. He murmured, “Well, at least I’ve never carved a graven image!”

Everyone composes lists — for errands, shopping, appointments, and so forth.

Unfortunately, many adults approach their relationship with God the same way. Remember when offering envelopes included a checklist for present, studied lesson, brought Bible, made offering, and attended church? Checking those items suggested that we were winning God’s approval.

Now that we’re more spiritually mature, we make fewer lists. We’ve discovered that Christianity is a relationship with Christ, not a checklist.

In conversation with a friend recently, I asked where he planned to spend eternity. He said, “I believe I’ll go to heaven; I’m working on it.” He then recited an impressive list of his good works. I sensed he had fallen into the trap of legalism alongside some Galatian Christians who believed that Christ’s sacrifice alone did not provide sufficient basis for salvation; to become justified, they must add obedience to the laws of Moses.

In Galatians 3:10-14, Paul explained that justification by the law would require keeping the laws perfectly, and no one has ever done that. We are justified by God’s grace through our faith, plus nothing. Grace is a favor freely given without expectation of return. I like this acronym for grace: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

We might ask, “What then was the purpose of the law?” Paul answered that until Jesus came, the law guarded us like a schoolmaster, showing us right from wrong.

Then Christ came and took our sins upon Himself on the cross. Now we live in the freedom of the Spirit-controlled life (v. 23-26).

We approach the cross by faith alone, and depart to live lives that issue into good works.

Isn’t it wonderful that in heaven we won’t have to listen as people recite how they worked to get there? We will all have arrived the same way — by the unmerited favor of God.

This lesson inspired me to make a list of my favorite scriptures, beginning with Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast.” To Paul’s words I add one line from an old hymn: “Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.”
6/23/2011 10:07:00 AM by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for July 3: In You All Shall Be Blessed

June 20 2011 by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Genesis 12:1-3

Have you ever been blessed by someone? Blessings happen in different ways.

The church of which I was a member blessed me and my wife with their prayers when I answered the call to vocational ministry.

The blessing continued as they sent a monthly check to support and encourage us while I attended seminary. At my graduation from seminary, my father gave me the gift of a gold pocket watch, something his father had given to him.

This was his way of giving me his blessing.

In these contexts, blessing means approval.

But it means more than that. In Hebrew, the word is berakah, and it has to do with the declaration or the public announcement of blessings.

It is this declared blessing that God bestows upon Abram as He calls him at age 75 away from everything he knows into a new land.

However, the blessing of God on Abram doesn’t stop with him. This blessing extends beyond the original declaration.

It has reach. This blessing has purpose. God says, “I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2).

God’s purpose, then, in making a great nation out of Abram’s lineage was for him to become a blessing to others. Abram’s nation was blessed, and from that nation came a Savior; from that Savior, a Church; and from that Church, people committed to continuing Abram’s call.

Have we not been blessed in order to be a blessing?

This week we celebrate July 4.   We will wear our red, white and blue, and there will be signs that declare, “God Bless America!” When you stop to think about it, it’s an odd statement.

The phrase seems to overlook the inescapable truth that God has blessed America in so many ways: prosperity greater than any nation in history, natural beauty, abundant resources, and a wonderful citizenry.

Why has God so richly blessed us?

From Abram we learn that we have been blessed so that we can be a blessing. It is a call not to status and favor, or to amass blessings for ourselves.

Instead, it is a call to be a part of a kingdom where God’s master plan unfolds …

the blessing of all his children. Let us be a blessing to one another, to our community, and to our world!
6/20/2011 7:32:00 AM by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 3: Personal Rights

June 20 2011 by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh

Focal Passages: Philippians 3:17-21; 2 Peter 2:10b-19

At my new teaching job, when time for the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag arrived, I was shocked that only two of my 27 students joined me in reciting the pledge.

I questioned aloud whether any other country would allow them such freedom; and if so, would they choose to emigrate there?

A student explained, “The pledge is optional here.”

According to Peter, focusing on personal rights can become freedom to do whatever one wants to do, yet self indulgence did not begin with Peter’s generation.

Centuries earlier, Moses warned the Israelites, “You are not to do as we are doing here today; everyone (is doing) whatever seems right in his own eyes” (Deut. 12:8).

His words were echoed recently by a T-shirt I saw in the mall that read, “You’re right; it is all about me.”

Peter warned that self-indulgence, when left unchecked, can become enslavement to sin. He defined his generation as “those who follow the polluting desires of the flesh and despise authority” (2 Pet. 2:10b).

Joni Eareckson Tada has observed, “We live today in a world in which the thing that was once unthinkable becomes tolerable. And then acceptable. And then legal.

“And then applaudable.”

Every generation must guard against the power of Satan.

Jesus beseeched God, “I am not praying that You take them out of the world, but that You protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

James urged, “Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (Jam. 4:7-8a).

The work Christ left on His workbench for today’s Christians to accomplish is daunting but within our reach.

He challenged all who would follow Him to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20a).

Accomplishing this, we will grow spiritually, strengthened by Paul’s challenge:

“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2).

To fulfill this command, let us all pledge allegiance.
6/20/2011 7:29:00 AM by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for June 26: Listening to God’s Word

June 9 2011 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Acts 18:24-28

Each of us has our own story of how we came to follow Jesus. My own story goes like this: raised in church, early profession of faith, some years of spiritual lethargy, and then a time of inner spiritual revival.

What made a huge difference for me was reading and getting into the Bible.

It became a passion, and it still is. But, it wasn’t a solo journey. Whoever originally said “there are no lone ranger Christians” was absolutely right.

I had a support system which consisted of some peers and some wiser, more experienced adults.   Every day I am thankful for those lay men and women and those pastors who invested in my life.   My life story is not so radically different from that of Apollos, the man who is featured in this lesson.

Apollos was from Alexandria, Egypt. He was a Jew in a city of about 100,000 Jews. Apollos also grew up with educational opportunity.

Alexandria was home to the largest library of its time, so it is reasonable to expect that Apollos would have made the most of his opportunity to read the writings of many great philosophers and thinkers.

But at some point in his life, Apollos decided to become a Christian. We’re told that he knew something of the baptism teaching of John (the Baptist), but lacked a full understanding of Jesus’ ministry and the working of the Holy Spirit. We’re also told that Apollos was an excellent speaker. He “knew his Bible.”

I expect he had excelled at scripture memorization, public speaking, and debate in school. He was formidable in the pulpit.

Furthermore, he was bold in his conversation and witnessing to his people, the Jews. He did not shy away from confrontation, whether in private or public.

At the time we meet Apollos he was in Ephesus, probably taking care of some business matters.   While speaking in the synagogue, he was fortunate to be heard by Priscilla and Aquila. They were impressed, but they also saw a young man who could be far more effective if he was tutored or mentored properly.

Expediently, they talked to Apollos and made him an offer, saying something like this: “Let us help you. We can teach you things that Paul has taught us. We can tell you things about Jesus that you have not had the opportunity to know. We can teach you, and with our help, you can be even more effective as a Christian teacher and leader.”

Apollos said “yes,” and years later he would become one of the trusted leaders of the Corinthian church.
6/9/2011 6:18:00 AM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for June 26: Why Be Generous?

June 9 2011 by Jim Grieme, pastor, Watkins Chapel Baptist Church

Focal Passages: Luke 19:1-10; 2 Corinthians 8-9; 1 John 3:16-18

Anyone who has traveled in larger cities has come across beggars and panhandlers. They often gather along well-traveled thoroughfares, whether the off-ramps of freeways, heavily-trafficked sidewalks near stores and restaurants, or just by accosting you while entering or exiting your vehicle in a parking lot. They “look” needy, but are they really? USA Today once wrote some of these “panhandlers” make over $70,000 a year — just by looking pitiful!

As believers, those who profess to belong to Christ, we are to be different from those outside of a relationship with Christ.

This means we view the world, ourselves and what we have differently. We are no longer of this world since we belong to Christ and His kingdom. Since our “citizenship” is to another King, we should also act differently.

One of the most important characteristics of this difference is how we treat our belongings, our things.

When we reach the point we view our money, our stuff and our goods as not ours, but that money, stuff and good belong to Christ, it is then that people can see Christ in our lives most clearly!

In Luke 19:1-10, Zacchaeus demonstrates the changed nature of someone who has encountered Christ in a life-changing way. Jesus had announced to both Zacchaeus and the crowd He was going to the house of Zacchaeus.

Zacchaeus was so overjoyed, he stood and proclaimed how Jesus had changed him — he was going to give away “half” of all he possessed and restore four-fold what he had swindled. No one forced him.

Jesus had not made this a requirement of salvation. Zacchaeus was a changed man. When we realize who we are, then we have a chance to demonstrate what we are. Only after coming to this conclusion will anyone else be able to determine to whom we belong.

When we see Jesus, really see Him like Zacchaeus did, we will be unable to react in any other way except joyful worship! The Lord of all Creation has made us His! We will desire to tell everyone about the one who “called us out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

This will affect our character, our relationships and our wealth. We’re His, and all we have is His.

By giving some of His things away to accomplish His purposes, we will experience a joy beyond description and give proof of His love within us! What better reason is there to be generous?
6/9/2011 6:14:00 AM by Jim Grieme, pastor, Watkins Chapel Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for June 19: Listening to God through Creation

June 6 2011 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Acts 17:22-34

Of all the cities on Paul’s itinerary, there was none more like America and the western world today than Athens, Greece.

The citizens of Athens were, for the most part, quite educated and very religious (17:22).

Athens was the intellectual cradle of the Greco-Roman world. Philosophers abounded. And while there was the synagogue, it was really out in the marketplace that people spoke and listened to the ideas that changed minds and hearts. As to religious beliefs, most Athenians were polytheistic and/or pantheistic. A popular teaching was that the world and the gods were in union — the heavenly bodies and the forces of nature were part of the personality and actions of the gods, their heroes.

Moreover, they were guilty of worshiping at altars conceived more by superstition than reality. To such a world Paul sought to bring the message of Jesus Christ. But how?

How do modern day missionaries tell the biblical story of God’s plan to people who have a totally different world view?

Here was Paul’s six-part message:

(1) There is one God, not many. As such, God is the Lord of creation. Creation was ordered and planned by God.

(2) God does not live in shrines or altars. Humans did not, nor can they, create or alter who God is.

(3) God does not need anything from us to be God. All life proceeds from God. Our life (human life) is a gift from God.

(4) God’s purpose is that we seek and find Him. He is not far from any of us.

(5) God is Judge. God is justice, and God is righteous. As holy God, there is a definite right and a definite wrong. Righteousness is rewarded and wrong is punished. Our proper response to God’s righteousness and our sin is repentance.

(6) There is a resurrection from the dead. The resurrection is not a myth or a theory; the resurrection was proved when Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

One of the lessons we must understand is this: our obligation is to tell the story, and to tell it with compassion and grace.

Our obligation is faithfulness; the result is God’s job. I know we don’t like rejection. I doubt Paul did either. The outcome of Paul’s work in Athens was mixed.

Some of the intellectuals of Athens mocked Paul.

They called him a babbler, one who “peddled religion.”

He wasn’t a great hit at the Jewish synagogue either.

Further, as far as we know, no church was founded by Paul. But there was Dionysius. There was Damaris. There was a start.
6/6/2011 9:17:00 AM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for June 19: How Much Is Enough?

June 6 2011 by Jim Grieme, pastor, Watkins Chapel Baptist Church

Focal Passages: Philippians 4:10-20; 1 Timothy 6:1-19

In our culture, contentment is not only underrated, but it is ridiculed. We are told we have little appeal if we do not wear the right designers, if we don’t drink the right soda, have on the newest cologne or live in the best neighborhoods. Manufacturers place “new” and “improved” labels on all of their products to routinely boost sales. Our society thrives on “anti-contentment.”

The Apostle Paul in both of our passages this week reminds his readers true wealth is best demonstrated through giving, that success is found in contented dependence on the Lord, and a mark of maturity is when “wanting” is understood as being separate from “need.” Unfortunately, we live in a world where we are told to “get all we can and can all we get!”

Paul is merely expanding on the theme Jesus taught in Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount. Every parable and example Jesus gave — in addition to what Paul is teaching us in these passages — is an illustration of the Beattitudes found in Matthew 5:3-12.

According to the commercials and advertisements and those people who coat you in a mist of sweetness near the cosmetic departments, you are what you eat, what you wear and what you smell like. Yet according to the Bible, you are what you worship! When we begin to worship “stuff,” we start down a road of worshiping anything other than our Creator.

The problem is, when we are deceived into doing this, we will realize we will never find satisfaction. A new car will only make you happy until you see next year’s model.

The outfit or suit you bought that makes you look so good, does so until you see a different one (or until the Krispy Kremes start poking out).

When I was at Clemson studying history, most of my graduate assistant friends loved to party on Thursday nights. They would get “blasted,” but then they would go back and do it again the next week. One time I asked: “If getting drunk is so great, why do you have to do it again?

Better yet, why do you do something you rarely remember?”

What makes believers radically different isn’t having, wanting or experiencing things; it’s what we love and worship.

When we as humans seek to find fulfillment and contentment in anything other than Christ, we will find ourselves hungering for more.

No matter the allure or the advertising campaign, nothing in this world will be enough. It is only when we have “much Jesus” that we will have enough.
6/6/2011 9:14:00 AM by Jim Grieme, pastor, Watkins Chapel Baptist Church | with 0 comments