March 2014

Explore the Bible Lesson for April 13: Forge Godly Friendships

March 27 2014 by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford

Focal Passages: Proverbs 22:24-25; 17:14, 19; 26:21; 25:19; 13:20; 14:17, 22, 29; 15:18; 16:32; 19:11; 3:3-4; 16:6; 20:6; 10:12; 11:17; 15:17; 17:17; 18:24; 27:9
 
The way we define “friend” changes considerably between childhood and adulthood. A child will call someone a friend simply because they like to play together and have certain shared preferences. When I was young I had certain friends that I never got to spend the weekend with because my parents knew they wouldn’t be going to church. Although I held on to similar friendships through adolescence, my early adult years confirmed my parents’ convictions. I wanted friendships built on shared Christian beliefs and foundational principles. As Solomon said, “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20). My friendships deepened with my convictions, and most of them remain today. We must choose our friends carefully.
 
Although most people like to stand with the tough guys, Solomon warns that a hot-tempered person promotes foolishness (Proverbs 14:29). A retired pastor once told of a time in his adolescent years when his father would not let him hang out one night in town with a group containing some rather hot-headed boys. He became very angry at his father, but wisdom unveiled her beauty the next morning when the future pastor was not at city hall with those boys paying for the street lights they had shattered.
 
Even if you aren’t actively involved in your friend’s mischief, you will be guilty by association. One of my fifth grade classmates went to the principal’s office and got a paddling for merely observing the group that hung me on a coat rack. While that incident was relatively harmless, it revealed within the young observer a budding character flaw. The last I heard he was in jail and HIV positive, most likely due to drug abuse. Friendships built on righteousness will yield friends that are closer than brothers (Proverbs 18:24), but friendships built on sin will crumble as sin screams, “Every man for himself!”
 
3/27/2014 2:13:25 PM by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for April 13: Hope Needed

March 27 2014 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passage: 2 Samuel 9:6-13
 
Growing up, my Dad would tell me stories that he had heard as a young man. Some of the stories were fictional and quite humorous, but all were designed to teach valuable life lessons. One of the stories was about a young country boy who had very little education and was traveling down an old, dusty road.
 
As he was walking, an older farmer, who was very much a practical joker, came up beside him in a wagon. Although, the wagon was full, the farmer invited the young man to climb atop the cargo and rest his feet while they traveled. The young boy gratefully obliged and jumped up on the rear of the wagon with his back toward the farmer. Not long into their trip the farmer spotted a low hanging limb and thought it would be a great opportunity to have a little fun at the young boy’s expense.
 
As he approached the limb he quickly dunked his head and grabbed it with his free hand. Because the boy was facing the opposite direction he could not see what the farmer was doing.
 
The farmer held onto the limb as long as he could causing as much as recoil as possible. At the very last minute, the farmer yelled, “Watch out for the limb!” In perfect timing, the boy turned just in time for the limb to collide with his face knocking him clear off the wagon. The farmer, laughing inside, was amazed at the boy’s response.
 
After picking himself up from the ground the boy said, “Boy I sure am glad you held onto that limb as long as you did, otherwise it would have probably killed me!”
 
I guess there are various life lessons we could gain from this story, but the one I would like to leave you with is that no matter what life throws at you, with the right perspective, there is always hope.
 
Maybe it is hard for you to believe in hope today. My prayer is you will have the right perspective and know God loves you. With Him all things are possible. Don’t ever give up!
 
3/27/2014 2:06:00 PM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for April 6: Exercise Financial Responsibility

March 25 2014 by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford

Focal Passages: Proverbs 16:16; 22:1-2; 23:4-5; 28:20; 30:7-9; 13:11; 15:27; 20:17; 21:6; 22:16; 28:6, 8, 24; 3:9-10; 11:28; 16:8
 
If I had a dollar for every time my dad quoted, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches” (Proverbs 22:1a, KJV), I could afford a rather nice dinner this evening. He quoted this verse among others to remind me that many things in life are worth more than a dollar. Unfortunately, modern American culture seems to affirm another quote, “It’s all about the Benjamins!” This quest for financial gain leads people to cash in even their integrity to make money. The greedy drug lord enslaves both dealers and clients, and doesn’t care that he is destroying their lives, families and futures. Our country has multiple lotteries and other forms of gambling that destroy more fortunes and futures than they will ever create, because the government’s hunger for money is fed by the citizen’s love of money. Most people who try get-rich-quick schemes get poor quickly, and the few that manage to fulfill their lust for wealth forget that someday soon their money will make wings for itself and fly away (Proverbs 23:5). Often funeral directors and pastors are the only people who see the little drawer in the lids of some coffins. Sadly, some people take jewelry and other valuables to the grave, but they never take them to their final destination, be it heaven or hell.
 
One of the greatest evangelistic challenges we face is witnessing to wealthy people. How do we tell people who want for nothing that they lack what matters most? Jesus did not hesitate to tell the rich, young ruler that he lacked one thing. Imagine his disappointment as he prepared to check the last thing off his self-righteous list only to hear that he needed to sell all that he had and give the money to the poor in order to have treasures in heaven (Matthew 19:22). The Bible says he walked away grieving because he had great wealth. Instead of using his wealth to honor the Lord, wealth had become an idol that kept him from the Lord. He chose what was temporally valuable but eternally worthless.
3/25/2014 11:31:48 AM by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for April 6: Give Work a Rest

March 25 2014 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passage: Exodus 31:12-17
 
In our passage this week, God commands Israel to keep the Sabbath as a holy day of rest and celebration (Exodus 31:12-18). Although we are no longer under the Old Testament law that does not mean keeping the Sabbath is unimportant. In fact, there is still much disagreement about the nature of the Sabbath and biblical rest in the New Testament among biblical scholars today. Nevertheless, I would like to give several thoughts concerning this issue that could be applied to our lives.
 
First, biblical rest should never be seen as laziness. We live in a society that praises the workaholic and the tendency is to consider a person lazy if they take a day off. God is very clear, in six days He made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed (Ex. 31:17).
 
Now, certainly God did not have to rest, but He modeled for us a way of life that honors Him and benefits us. So when a person does not take time for biblical rest, he is living contrary to God’s design, which is quite foolish.
 
Second, biblical rest is not inactivity. When God gave the Sabbath He had a purpose in mind. He wanted His people to reflect and remember that He alone is the One who provides (Ex 31:13). Without God, nothing is possible. So, taking time away from work not only gives your body an opportunity to rest, but it also gives you the opportunity to actively remember and honor the Lord for His provisions.
 
Third, biblical rest is a gift not a hardship. There are so many recreational sports that conduct their activities on Sundays that many believers are made to feel bad if their children can’t make it to the game. Secular organizations see Sunday worship as a hardship and a hindrance to their objectives. Christians must help our society remember that having a day of biblical rest is a precious gift that must be treasured and not neglected for something less meaningful. What can you do to help the next generation embrace the beauty of biblical rest?
3/25/2014 11:27:28 AM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for March 30: Don’t Be a Slacker

March 13 2014 by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford

Focal Passages: Proverbs 13:4; 14:23; 20:4; 24:30-34; 26:13-14; 28:19; 6:6-8; 10:5; 14:4; 21:20; 24:27; 27:23-27; 11:24-25; 19:17; 22:9; 28:27
 
A few years ago I noticed that the Bible has nothing good to say about laziness. As many people in my generation have demonstrated, laziness can become a lifestyle. Solomon reminds us that this problem is not new: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to rest, and your poverty will come like a robber, your need, like a bandit” (Proverbs 24:33-34). A seminary professor once warned our class that people who seek to avoid one ditch often end up in the ditch on the opposite side of the road. For example, Christians who want to avoid living like their works will earn them God’s favor may be tempted to avoid work altogether. Similarly, Christians who embrace the “You can’t take it with you!” approach to avoiding materialism, may neglect biblical stewardship of their money and possessions. We must faithfully manage even the temporary tools we will leave behind.  
 
Solomon reminded the slacker that hard work is part of life, even for the ant. Ants not only work hard, they work wisely. I come from a line of ancestors who sometimes were known to work an hour to figure out how to save five minutes. While that choice probably seemed like a waste of 55 minutes to many people, they knew that five minutes saved on a process repeated hundreds of times would pay off quickly. Even though ants have no supervisors (as we think of them), they do the right work at the right time to prepare (Proverbs 6:6-8). 
 
Financial author and radio host Dave Ramsey encourages his readers and listeners to “Live like no one else, so you can live like no one else.” He frequently follows that statement with the explanation that people who work hard and work smart can get out of debt and give like never before. Christians who give generously will continue to give, and the ones who hoard will never have enough (Proverbs 11:24). God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), so let us not be slack in our generosity.
 
3/13/2014 1:13:50 PM by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life for March 30: Work Your Plan

March 13 2014 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passage: 2 Corinthians 9:6-13
 
Do you want to make God happy? If you answered yes, listen to this verse: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7, ESV). It is evident that the implication for this verse is that a cheerful giver makes God happy. Have you ever considered why a cheerful giver makes God happy? I would like to suggest four reasons.
 
First, the attitude with which you give is an indicator of what is occurring in your heart. When a person gives with a cheerful heart it means they see giving as a privilege and not a burden. When a person gives begrudgingly it means he does not understand who his true source of income is.
 
Second, cheerful givers are a conduit of God’s blessings, not a clog. When you give in God’s name for God’s purposes you are the channel by which God impacts the lives of others. When you are stingy with God’s resources you rob people of God’s blessing.
 
Third, a cheerful giver reflects God’s character better than someone who gives begrudgingly. When a believer gives cheerfully it provides a clearer picture of what God is like than someone who gives with a reluctant spirit. Throughout scripture God is extremely generous. When we ignore His Word and don’t model God’s nature through our giving we do God a disservice and detract from His true beauty. 
 
Finally, God loves a cheerful giver because it gives Him cause to bless the giver. The Bible says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him …” (2 Chronicles 16:9). I believe God is looking for people to bless, and when His people respond in obedience to His Word with a pure heart, He takes great joy in blessing them. 
 
Will you join me in making God happy? I believe it is a decision you will never regret. Start this week by giving with a cheerful heart.  
3/13/2014 1:07:59 PM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for March 23: Guard Your Speech

March 11 2014 by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford

Focal Passages: Proverbs 17:27-28; 21:23; 18:19-21; 11:13; 26:20-24; 10:18-19; 12:17-19; 25:11-13; 31:8-9
 
When I was a child one of the songs we sang in church warned, “Oh be careful little mouth what you speak.” The tongue, because of the words it speaks, has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). We could compare it to a large crane that can be equipped with a wrecking ball for destructive purposes or with a hook for constructive purposes. First Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “encourage one another and build each other up.” Unlike the three little pigs, we can’t build with straw, sticks or bricks. Even kind thoughts and hugs won’t truly build up fellow Christians; we must use carefully chosen words. Just as a reputable carpenter wouldn’t nail up the first board he could find simply because it was on the top of the stack, we must sort through all the things we could say and build up the body of Christ with edifying words. Too often believers blurt out thoughtless words and try to justify them because they somehow delivered the truth. While such words technically get the job done, they could be compared to tacks driven by a sledgehammer. The harm clearly outweighs the good. 
 
Gossip, while usually is built on hearsay, can also be made up of truths that simply don’t need to be repeated. Although Christians may be wrongly accused of gossip because they expose hidden sin, often they unwittingly contribute to gossip by not concealing a matter (Proverbs 11:13) that needs to die for the good of God’s people. This error may involve private sins that don’t need to be made public, or known matters than bring greater hurt and dissention when they are repeated. On the farm we learned a valuable lesson pertaining to all things rotten:  the more you stir them, the more they stink!
 
As people redeemed by the blood of Jesus, we must remember that our new hearts should produce new, redemptive words that give grace to their hearers (Ephesians 4:29) and display the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 2:20).
3/11/2014 10:41:53 AM by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford | with 1 comments



Bible Studies for Life for March 23: Put Your Money to Work

March 11 2014 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passages: 2 Corinthians 8:10-15; 9:1-5
 
In our last lesson we considered the importance of Kingdom giving. In this lesson we will develop a plan that will put us on course to make Kingdom giving a priority.
 
There are numerous ways to develop a plan for Kingdom giving; however, I would like to offer my personal approach to handling God’s money. First, I take the sum total of my salary for the month, before taxes. From that amount I set aside 10 percent of the total to be given to my local church. I know we are no longer under the Old Testament law as it relates to tithing, but the 10 percent gives me a practical starting point for allocating funds to Kingdom giving. It is important to understand that God is more interested in your attitude about giving than He is your percentage of giving. The minute your giving becomes legalistic or even ritual it is time for a reevaluation of your heart.
 
After I set my tithe amount, I make sure I can pay my taxes. Once my taxes are funded I allocate the rest of my income into different spending categories (food, housing, auto, etc.).
 
Basically, it is the old envelope system, but I use an online version called Mvelopes
Once everything is budgeted out I strive to underspend my budget category. If I have surplus at the end of the month I can use it for helping others in need as the Apostle Paul directed in 2 Corinthians 8:14. He writes, “your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need.”
 
There are many times unexpected expenditures occur that bust my budget. When that occurs I don’t give up on the process.
 
I continue to follow the steps of good biblical stewardship, and God always seems to provide. In fact, I am amazed at how generous God is to me on a daily basis. It is like the old farmer said, “I keep shoveling into God’s bin, and God keeps shoveling back into mine, and God has the bigger shovel.”
3/11/2014 10:30:40 AM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments