March 2016

Explore the Bible Lesson for April 10: Integrity

March 24 2016 by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford

Focal Passage: Acts 4:36-5:11
 
It was my fifth grade year. I had found out a couple of weeks before report card day that I would be making a “C.” I had been told on the previous report card day that the punishment I had just received would be doubled if I came home with another “C.”
 
When I received my report card I discovered not one “C,” but two!” Somehow, in the mercy of God, I escaped what was coming.
 
Although grades are an earthly concern, this story is one example of the kind of standards my parents set for their children. When I fell below my father’s expectations, he said, “You can do better! It would be different if you couldn’t do any better, but you can!” The same is true for the local church.
 
Ananias and Sapphira pretended to follow the example of Barnabas, and claimed to give the church all the income from a piece of land while they kept a portion of the money for themselves. God enforced this first example of church discipline because they had lied to Him and put Him to the test.
 
The early Church had enjoyed the favor of the people (2:47) from a distance, but they would not allow lost or spiritually immature people to set the standards for the Body of Christ. Most people who reject the idea of church discipline claim it is “unloving,” and bad for church unity. On the contrary, how can we say we love someone while we let them wallow in ungodly behavior?
 
How can a church be unified as part of the body runs toward sin while the other part runs from it? Such claims to unity are false.
 
Most established churches cannot make these changes quickly, because their members have never been taught the biblical and practical dimensions of church discipline. However, pastors must love the Lord, His Word and His Body enough to lead their congregations in an intentional process of establishing meaningful membership. Remember, God takes the health and holiness of His Church seriously, and so should we.

3/24/2016 11:44:57 AM by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for April 10: Our Need for Purpose

March 24 2016 by Rob Pochek, pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: John 15:1-8
 
As a kid I used to watch my dad tend to his flowers. It was a little strange to me because my dad was (and is) a big guy.
 
To see this large, hulking guy tending to roses, tulips, lilacs and rhododendron was peculiar. But dad loved his flowers. And, apparently, it rubbed off on me.
 
While I do not have anywhere near the size flower collection that my dad did, I have become a bit partial to knockout roses.
 
The first year that I planted them I had a bit of a learning curve, helped immensely by phone calls to my dad. One of the most shocking things my dad told me to do that first fall was to cut the roses back, way back.
 
I couldn’t believe they would survive, but they did. Indeed, they came back stronger and more vibrant than ever.
 
In John 15 Jesus shares an illustration from the world of horticulture with His disciples. He talks about being the vine and them being the branches (John 15:5).
 
There are at least two key elements in this dialogue that are vital for us to understand.

The first is that Jesus must be our very source for life. That is what the vine is to the branches.
 
The vine is the main source of nutrients, water and life itself.
 
A branch that is cut off from the vine withers quickly, just as the branches of my knockout roses do.
 
Likewise, we can only thrive when we are receiving the life giving nourishment that Christ provides.
 
We must remain in Him.
 
A second reality in this passage is that God (the gardener – John 15:1) sometimes has to prune us (John 15:2).
 
Though there is debate about whether “pruning” in this context is cutting back the branches or cleaning them, the point is the same. God acts on the branch in order to make it more fruitful.
 
He does this because our being fruitful brings Him glory.

So, remain in Christ and receive His pruning with joy, because both glorify your heavenly father.

3/24/2016 11:41:31 AM by Rob Pochek, pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for April 3: Courageous

March 22 2016 by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford

Focal Passage: Acts 4:1-13
 
Every Christian likes the concept of spiritual courage. We like it so much that we preach sermons, provide training and sing songs about being bold for Christ.

Unfortunately, such armchair boldness soon resembles the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.
 
He could snarl and pounce and sing of courage, but as he prepared to infiltrate the witch’s castle, he asked one thing of his friends: “Talk me out of it!”
 
After Peter and John healed the lame man at the Beautiful Gate, Peter preached his second sermon. In the midst of his bold proclamation, an entourage of Jewish leaders interrupted and threw him and John in jail for preaching the resurrection of Jesus.
 
Peter, who had failed to be bold at the arrest of Jesus, stood the next day in the midst of the most powerful Jewish leaders and spoke in the power of the Holy Spirit.
 
He boldly proclaimed the power of the resurrected Jesus and the guilt of the Jews in crucifying Him.
 
He continued with even greater boldness to declare, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (v. 12).
 
What a difference the Spirit’s power makes. Peter had been transformed from a boisterous coward to a man who loved the gospel more than his life.
 
The Jewish leaders were amazed by the boldness of Peter and John in light of their lack of education. Most of all, they recognized them “as having been with Jesus” (v. 13).
 
Do we bear the likeness of people who have been with Jesus?
 
When we strive to “set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Peter 3:15), we will face spiritual warfare. Our boldness in the flesh will wilt in the heat of opposition, and our Kingdom plans will be challenged by pressing temporal concerns.
 
Only the courage that the Holy Spirit gives empowers us to overcome the cowardice and poor priorities of our flesh.

3/22/2016 11:20:19 AM by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for April 3: Our Need for Peace

March 22 2016 by Rob Pochek, pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: John 14:1-7
 
Approximately 100 years after the resurrection of Jesus, a young man named Justin was converted. He was a philosophy student and a committed devotee of Plato. When he turned from his sin and trusted in the finished work of Christ, he began using his philosophical training to advance the kingdom of God.
 
Justin defended the Christian faith both in debate and in writing. His work came to be known as an “apology.” He was not, of course, apologizing for Christianity, he was defending it by giving a reasoned explanation for the faith that we hold dear.
 
In a stirring section of his writing, Justin makes clear that tyranny and threats against Christians are powerless because of the hope of the gospel. Indeed, he declares to the powers that be, “you may kill us, but you cannot harm us.” Where does such boldness and assurance come from?
 
If we examine Jesus words in John 14:1-7 the source of Justin’s boldness is evident.

In this section of scripture, Jesus tells his followers that by trusting in Him, we keep our hearts from being troubled. There is plenty of trouble in the world, but our faith in Jesus allows us to trust in the One greater than the world.
 
Jesus goes on to give two additional reasons to have peace.
 
First, he promises in John 14:2-4 that he is going ahead of us to prepare a place for us. He is, of course, speaking about an eternal dwelling, which reminds us that this life is not all there is.
 
Second, he promises in John 14:5-7 that only through knowing Him that we can know our Heavenly Father.
 
The picture Jesus paints is crystal clear. Our assurance is rooted in a relationship with Him; a relationship that means an eternity in heaven with the Lord Jesus and our Heavenly Father. That is why Justin could say that Christians can be killed but not harmed.
 
The death of the believer is a transfer from this life to the personal, glorious presence of our Lord. Embracing that truth brings us peace.

3/22/2016 11:09:48 AM by Rob Pochek, pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for March 27: Resurrected!

March 10 2016 by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford

Focal Passage: Luke 24:1-12
 
A few years ago I was going through the familiar process of making a gallon of iced tea, when something went terribly wrong. I boiled the tea, measured and poured the sugar, and filled the pitcher with water. As I prepared to place the freshly brewed beverage in the refrigerator, I discovered my mistake. I forgot the tea!
 
In all my tea related activity, I had made a gallon of sugar water. Despite my good intentions, the finished product didn’t even resemble tea.
 
A similar, but far more tragic, deletion occurs in an ever-widening stream of mainline congregations. In the name of political correctness and human reasoning, many churches fill the traditional church container with spiritual sugar water devoid of the primary content – the resurrected Jesus. These churches still talk about the resurrection of Jesus, but, as Jerry Vines has stated, they use our vocabulary but not our dictionary.
 
They redefine the resurrection with metaphorical meanings like “Jesus rising in our hearts,” choosing the disastrous conclusions of naturalism over faith in a Savior who died and rose again.
 
First-century Christians never would have risked their lives for a weak religious philosophy.
They took up their crosses daily because they believed Jesus had fulfilled the promises of God. They could not lower the priority of the death, burial and bodily resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), so how can we? Only this finished work of Christ secures our victory over death and power for new life. 
 
Although we believe these key doctrines, we are in constant danger of shelving them and creating dead orthodoxy.
 
Even if we’ve heard the gospel a million times, we must stand before the empty tomb in awe, just like the eyewitnesses that first Easter morning.
 
We must demonstrate faith that sees the resurrection as more than a past historical event.
We must show and tell the world that through Jesus’ resurrection we have been raised to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
 
If we focus on the pitcher, we’ll soon forget the tea.

3/10/2016 10:47:18 AM by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for March 27: Our Need for Hope

March 10 2016 by Rob Pochek, pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: John 11:17-27
 
Though there is debate about the origin of the phrase, the idea that “death is the great equalizer” has been present in literature for at least two hundred years. Death eventually comes to all of us. As I heard an old preacher once say, “we are all born terminal.” Those facts do not change the suddenness of loss or the emptiness felt by those who are left to mourn.
 
Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus were dear friends of our Lord Jesus. This small family hosted Jesus in their home when He passed through their region. They loved Jesus and believed in Him. So much so that they sent for Jesus as Lazarus was sick and near death. But, death came for Lazarus before Jesus arrived. His death was a painful loss.
 
But, his death was not final. In fact, his death served a greater, kingdom purpose. Jesus tells Martha that Lazarus will rise again. She assumes he is speaking eschatologically and affirms her believe that, yes, someday, Lazarus will rise in the resurrection to come at the last day (John 11:23-24). But, that is not the extent of Jesus’ meaning. In fact, it is in correcting Martha’s misunderstanding that Jesus issues one of the more famous “I Am” statements: “I am the resurrection and the life” (v. 25).
 
Martha had misunderstood Jesus to be thinking about the future. But, Jesus was not limiting His power to raise the dead to some future event. Rather, Jesus makes clear that those who believe in Him have eternal life in the present.
 
When we place our faith and trust in Jesus our spiritually dead nature is brought to life by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:1-5, Romans 8:11). That Spirit filled life is not bound by the constraints of this world, but lasts forever. When Jesus tells Martha that He is the resurrection and the life, He is saying that He not only provides the means by which the dead are raised, but that He possesses the life to which they are raised. A life that is as eternal as He is. What a blessed comfort!

3/10/2016 10:40:03 AM by Rob Pochek, pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for March 20: Unified

March 8 2016 by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford

Focal Passage: Acts 2:41-47
 
Many things in life are greater than the sum of their parts. When the squares of a quilt are sewn together they create something far more beautiful than a collection of pieces of cloth. They combine their individual worth to form both an extraordinary work of art and a useful tool for staying warm on a cold night. In a far more significant way, the local church brings together people with a wide variety of gifts, ages and experiences to produce more for the glory of God than they ever could separately.
 
Unfortunately, most local churches advertise themselves according to their programs and properties. While the world may be impressed by these largely material characteristics, every true church demonstrates what God has done without a single program or property. He has taken a motley crew of sinners, who would never unify in the flesh, and made the one by the blood of Jesus.
 
The Day of Pentecost yielded 3,000 new believers who displayed their acceptance of the gospel by submitting to public believer’s baptism.
 
Unlike the false professors of modern easy believe-ism, these new Christians wanted more than meaningless membership and a passing fling with faith. They understood that the church consisted of people, not property. Consequently, they wanted to live the Christian life with each other throughout the week and not just on Sunday.
 
They worshipped, observed the Lord’s Supper and ate together. Their transformed hearts were seen most clearly in their willingness to sell their property and possessions to help each other.
 
As a spiritual body, they functioned like the human body and depended on the presence and purpose of each member for the proper functioning of the body (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).
 
As the church continually displayed the power of the gospel, God added people daily to the church. Although no one is saved by merely watching the church, the church’s activity can attract people to or repel them from the gospel. Are we trying to attract them with the world’s tools or a demonstration of the Spirit’s saving and unifying power?

3/8/2016 10:02:18 AM by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for March 20: Our Need for Protection

March 8 2016 by Rob Pochek, pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: John 10:7-15, 27-30
 
As the presidential primaries unfold, one of the issues that candidates must address is that of national security. Of course, discussions about safety and security take many forms: personal security, securing the borders, school security and even church security. When we hear such a discussion, we are reminded of our vulnerability. Rather than recoil at that thought, we ought to use it as a reminder of our need for our Good Shepherd.
 
In John 10, Jesus continues to reveal himself as the great “I Am.” In verses 10-11 he uses two “I Am” statements as he reveals more about who He is for us. In verse 7 He declares Himself “the gate for the sheep.” Fencing has historically been a way in which shepherds protected their flocks from predators. In any fence, the gate is critical. It is the most obvious point where one can enter, if the gate is not secure. Jesus declares that He is that gate for us. Nothing can get to you without going through Jesus first. What a blessed thought!
 
In verse 11 Jesus continues by declaring Himself to be the Good Shepherd. While the gate is a static means of defense, the shepherd is dynamic. That is, the shepherd can respond to the needs of the sheep and move swiftly in their defense. The sheep and their shepherd have an intimate relationship. The sheep know the voice of their shepherd and listen to it (John 10:27).
 
More than that, the shepherd has an interest in his sheep that a “hired hand” does not (John 10:12-13).
 
But, Jesus’ protection of his sheep is not ultimately about national borders or even personal safety. Jesus offers us eternal protection from the Enemy, who only desires to steal, kill and destroy (v. 10). When Jesus says that He lays down His life for the sheep (vv. 11, 15), He is referring to His death on the cross. It is by His death that provides eternal protection to all those who believe in Him (v. 28). Praise God for our Good Shepherd.

3/8/2016 9:27:22 AM by Rob Pochek, pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments