May 2010

Formations Lesson for June 13: Sins of Desire: Greed and Envy

May 31 2010 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: Proverbs 3:27-28; 11:24-28; 23:17-19

Each lesson in the Learner’s Study Guide begins with a question: today, “Whom do I harm in my desire to acquire things?”

I once heard John Vannorsdall, longtime chaplain at Gettysburg College and Yale University, distinguish between what he called “hot” and “cold” sins.

He identified the hot sins as sins of passion, excess, and losing self-control — well-known sins, easily identified, widely condemned. Examples from vice lists in the New Testament include theft, murder, fornication, adultery, sodomy, licentiousness, wickedness, drunkenness, carousing, reveling, a hot temper, and filthy language.

In contrast, the cold sins are calculating, callous and unsympathetic — interior sins, often more effectively concealed, more plausibly denied. Jealousy, conceit, haughtiness, selfishness, anger (as in vengeance or grudge-bearing), gossip, slander, backbiting, deceit, lying, and bitterness make the New Testament lists. So do greed and envy. (Could we add bigotry and prejudice?)

Vannorsdall noticed that most of us are quick to spot the hot sins and focus our moral attention on them. After all, they get the most publicity. It also helps when they’re done by somebody else.

The cold sins get less scrutiny. Besides being lower on the radar, they just don’t seem as bad. Is it because that’s where we do so much of our own personal sinning? Better to point the finger in another direction.

All sin is harmful: some hot sins, like murder, especially so. But Vannorsdall wondered, which sins — hot or cold — cause more harm to more people more of the time? (A clue: In the Gospels, Jesus says more about money than any other topic besides the Kingdom of God.)

Greed is when I want more. Envy is when it belongs to someone else. Both are harmful.

Greed harms those I take advantage of, pursuing more. Greed harms those I neglect, chasing after more. Greed harms those I look down on after I get more. Greed harms people the world over who must live on less because I must have more. Greed robs me of my own joy and contentment, desiring more.

Envy does the same, with a dose of resentment, spite and bitterness thrown in. The antidotes to envy and greed are trust and generosity: “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. You will be enriched in every way for great generosity” (2 Corinthians 9:8,11).

A bumper sticker says, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.” Don’t you believe it.
5/31/2010 5:34:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for June 13: When Religion Fails

May 31 2010 by Dale Austin Jr., associate pastor, Wakeminster Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passages: 1 Samuel 4:3-5, 10, 20-22; 5:1-4; 6:19-21

Christianity is not a religion. Religion is man’s attempt to reach God, while Christianity is God reaching down to a sinful man to provide salvation and fellowship.

Christianity is not a religion, but it is a perfect relationship initiated by God and sealed with the blood of Jesus, the Messiah. Religions always fail.

The passages we will be studying this week show us how religious actions on our part do not influence God to follow our lead or for God to support our choices and actions. 

Our study this week picks up where we left off in our June 6 study. Samuel confronts Eli, the priest, with the behavior of Eli’s priestly sons, and he informs Eli of God’s displeasure.

A period of time has passed, and Israel is encountering issues with the Philistines.

The sons of Eli (Phinehas and Hophni) take the Ark of the Covenant to lead Israel’s army to battle the Philistines.

This initially looks to be a good idea, but what happens is a disaster for Israel, because God had not authorized the Ark to be moved.

The Ark ends up being captured, the armies of Israel are defeated, and the sons of Eli perish.

Eli is so distraught that he falls out of his chair, breaks his neck, and he also dies. Things don’t go much better for the Philistines. They do not respect the Ark of the Covenant, and God sends a curse on each city that ends up housing the Ark until the Philistines, in desperation, send the Ark back to the people of Israel. The people of Israel were misled by the leadership of the priests, Phinehas and Hophni.  

These two priests treated the Ark as a good-luck charm instead of something holy that belonged to God.

They had wrapped religion around the Ark, and it had replaced the leadership of God.

Today, it is so easy to fall into the same trap that the people of Israel did. Our society displays crosses on common jewelry not as a declaration of the crucifixion but more as a good-luck charm just like these priests did.

I can remember a co-worker from many years ago that had a keychain full of various religious symbols that she kept attached to her purse.

When I asked her about it, she said that she had them “just in case.”

Well, that is not how God works. He wants us to have a relationship with Him and to follow Him by active prayer, Bible study, and meditation on Him instead of trying to use some religious symbol, donation, or some other religious action to influence God’s hand into standing with us.

Do you treat your time with God as a religion, or is it a growing relationship where we become more like Him?
5/31/2010 5:31:00 AM by Dale Austin Jr., associate pastor, Wakeminster Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for June 6: Sins of Excess: Lust and Gluttony

May 26 2010 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: Proverbs 7:4-5, 21-23; 23:1-3, 19-21  

“Do this! Don’t do that!”

“This is right, that is wrong.”

Time-honored admonitions, for children and adults alike.

In the first century, philosophers and teachers composed lists of virtues for their students to cultivate and vices for them to avoid: “Do this! Don’t do that!”

The New Testament writers followed suit. Remember the six vices in 1 Peter 4:3, cited in last week’s lesson? (See also Mark 7:21-22, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 2 Corinthians 12:20, Ephesians 4:31, Colossians 3:8 and Revelation 21:8 for vices; Philippians 4:8 and 2 Peter 1:5-7 for virtues.)

Paul lists 15 sins, “the works of the flesh,” followed by nine virtues, “the fruit of the Spirit,” in Galatians 5:19-23. Of the sins he says, “Those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of  God.” Pretty deadly.

In Romans 1:29-32 he cites 17 sins of the Gentiles, commenting that “those who do such things deserve to die.” Really deadly.

So a fourth century monk — some say John Cassian of Marseilles, others Evagrius of Pontus, in Greece — who listed eight especially insidious habits was on solid biblical ground. Two centuries later Pope Gregory I, writing about Job, reduced the list to what we now call the Seven Deadly Sins.

For her high school history class, Danielle, one of our youth, memorized the sins using the acrostic WASPLEG: Wrath (anger), Avarice (greed), Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy and Gluttony. 

We know that all sins, not just seven, are deadly: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). And it doesn’t say “sins” (plural), but “sin” (singular) — that rebellion of heart by which “we have turned every one to our own way” (Isaiah 53:6). Individual sins are the outward symptoms of an interior spiritual condition.

Still, enumerating particular sins helps focus our attention. Today we begin a series of four lessons, taken from the book of Proverbs, on the Seven Deadly Sins. We start with lust and gluttony, paired together and labeled “sins of excess.” 

It’s a perfect match. TV programs oozing sensuality are paid for by commercials enticing us to buy junk food. Screenwriters and advertisers know our weaknesses better than we do.

The problem is not sex or food, both created by God and declared “good.” It’s when they become obsessions, dominating our lives.

It’s when they become perversions, used in ways God never intended. It’s when they become destructive, to ourselves and to others.

And we can’t condemn one and wink at the other. Both are sins and, without Christ, deadly.  
5/26/2010 7:11:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for June 6: When Leaders Fail

May 26 2010 by Dale Austin Jr., associate pastor, Wakeminster Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passages: 1 Samuel 2:22-25; 3:11-21

When leaders fail, the accepted practice is to kick them while they are down.

Well, at least that is what happens if you are a religious or political leader, and the media gets hold of your story.

This week we start a new four-part Bible study with the theme of “God Is Still In Control.”

Often when we see our leaders slip or fail, we become discouraged and angry.

During the next few weeks, we will be discussing how God is still in control even when we fail, our leaders fail, and things just get tough.

Our passages from 1 Samuel detail the events leading up to a major period of change for Israel.

God was moving from a time of the judges into the time of the prophets and kings.  

Eli was the elderly high-priest with his sons assisting as priests.

Eli becomes a foster father for a young Samuel who comes to live with Eli in Shiloh after being dedicated to God.

Eli does an excellent job in raising the young Samuel, but Eli’s sons have strayed far from the path that God intended for His priests.

The sons of Eli began making their own rules regarding the sacrifices for God; they also sank into the pit of sexual immorality.

We have only one recorded half-hearted attempt by Eli to confront his sons and assert his parental duties/priestly responsibilities to address their sins.

Nothing changes, so eventually God speaks with Samuel to let Samuel know that something extraordinary is going to happen in Israel.

God was going to begin the process of moving away from judges to lead the people to prophets who could more accurately spread God’s Word to the people.

Samuel was going to be the last of the judges and the first of the prophets, while Eli and the sons of Eli would miss out on a great blessing because of their failing spiritual leadership.

How does this biblical account apply to us today?

All leaders fail at some point, since we are all sinners.

This is not an excuse for failure, but it is just a simple fact.

Just as God expected Eli to handle the priests under his leadership (including his sons), we as leaders have to be willing to take God’s word and apply it to use in our lives, our churches, our communities, and our country. 

What can we do to become the leaders that God intends for all of His followers to be?

Christians should be willing to accept new leadership as God raises them up — just like Samuel was “promoted” to be a new type of leader for Israel.

We also need to understand that misconduct by some leaders (political or spiritual) does not excuse us from obeying God’s Word.

Lastly, we are to try and bring any leader or follower back to the correct path if they do stray from God’s leadership.  
5/26/2010 7:07:00 AM by Dale Austin Jr., associate pastor, Wakeminster Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for May 30: Resist Temptation

May 17 2010 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: 1 Peter 5:6-14  

“I don’t drink, cuss, smoke, or chew, or run around with girls that do.”

Is that what Peter has in mind when he talks about resisting temptation?

Surely Peter would never deny the necessity for personal morality.

Check out his list of vices to avoid: “licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry” (4:3). In today’s passage, though, he has bigger fish to fry. Consider three clues:
  • “Cast all your anxieties on (God)” (v. 7).
  • “Resist (the devil), firm in your faith” (v. 9).
  • “And after you have suffered a little while...” (v. 10).
Peter’s readers are anxious. They’re in danger of actually abandoning their faith. That’s the temptation Peter worries about.            

The reason for it? They’re suffering, precisely because of their faith.

This entire letter is written under the cloud of persecution. And not just your garden-variety ridicule, as when people role their eyes when you mention God, and eventually stop inviting you to their parties.

This is serious business. These Christians are being called “wrongdoers” (2:12). They’re “enduring pain” and “suffering unjustly” (2:19). They’re being “abused” and “reviled” for their “good behavior” (3:16).

Even when faced with “the fiery ordeal which comes upon you,” Peter warns, “don’t be surprised!” (4:12). Persecution is commonplace, at least for these believers.

No wonder they’re anxious. No wonder they’re thinking of giving up. So Peter pleads: “Get serious! Be alert! Resist! Stand firm! Cast all your cares on God” (5:6-9). The costs may be high, but the stakes are higher.

I suppose most of us don’t normally face such a choice: to stand up for Jesus and pay a price, or to surrender our faith and get off free. Is it because we’re not paying enough attention?

Warren Carr was longtime pastor of the Wake Forest Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. At Carr’s funeral, friend and professor Ralph Wood told how Carr started out preaching in a small Virginia coal-mining town. One benefit of the tiny church was that the local mine-owner was a member, and he provided the parsonage with enough free coal to keep the family warm.

That is, until Carr protested publicly about some young women who had been brought to town to “entertain” the miners. The powerful mine-owner promptly warned his upstart young pastor to keep out of other people’s business, reminding him who had delivered that coal. Carr replied, “Sir, you can come take that coal back today.”

Whatever the costs, the stakes are higher. Resist temptation!
5/17/2010 6:36:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for May 30: From This Day Forward

May 17 2010 by Dale Austin Jr., associate pastor, Wakeminster Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passages: Psalms 51:6-10; Song of Songs 2:15; Acts 18:24-26; Romans 16:3-5a  

Marriage is the never ending construction project. I don’t know about most of you, but my projects around the house never seem to end. Cleaning out my garage has taken on a life of its own, and the end is nowhere in sight. A simple definition of marriage from my dictionary is “a never ending home project.”

Marriage requires that both partners give 100 percent each to continually building and improving this relationship. In this week’s Bible study, we will explore some of the requirements to continue to build on our marriages from this day forward.

The scripture passage from Psalms 51 deals with a way to better communicate with God, and we can take this example and expand it into communicating with our spouse. God desires integrity (truthfulness) from us. There are eight petitions that David notes in this scripture passage to have a growing relationship with God.
  1. David asked to be purified. We also need to admit to each other when we have messed up. Confession is a requirement in our relationship with God and with our spouse.
  2. David asked to be washed and made whiter than snow. God was going to forgive David. We need to put this example into practice and forgive each other.
  3. David asked to experience joy and gladness. There is no joy when we are in the midst of sin against God or our spouse. We have to come to the realization that our sins bleed the joy out of our marriage too.
  4. David requested that his crushed bones rejoice again. There is no joy like that of being truly forgiven. Marriages that have endured any number of problems can have this same rejoicing when forgiveness enters the relationship.
  5. David begged for God to turn His face away from his sins. David was not asking God to just ignore the problem and look the other way, but he asked God to remember the sin no longer. This is a key point in our marriage relationship — when a past sin has been confessed and forgiven, it should never be brought back up during a future argument lest the wound be reopened.
  6. David pleaded to have this guilt blotted out. Our slates should be wiped clean in our marriage.
  7. David petitioned for the creation of a clean heart. Some marriages need a new beginning. Some sins can penetrate so deeply and hurt so profoundly that only God can help us repair them. The word here for “create” a new heart means that something new and pure is created by God.
  8. David asked for a steadfast spirit. Marriage is not complete without a spiritual relationship with God through His Son, Jesus the Messiah. Our marriage relationships need to have Jesus as the foundation.
In marriage, little issues can grow into big issues or even major sins if ignored.  

Communication with our spouse and with God is vital to keep this special relationship growing.  
5/17/2010 6:21:00 AM by Dale Austin Jr., associate pastor, Wakeminster Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for May 23: Use Your Gifts

May 12 2010 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Back in the ’80s some self-proclaimed prophet predicted the end of the world. He even named the date. His announcement made the national news.

A man in our community, faithful and active in another church, was terrified. He called me up: “Tell your people! They’ve got to get ready!”

I asked him, “Do you believe in Jesus?” He did.

“Do you believe Christ died for your sins?” Of course!

“Do you trust God?” Absolutely!

“Then what is there to be afraid of?”

I did throw in one piece of free advice: “If you live every day as though it might be your last, then you don’t have to worry if it is.”

Peter believed it was any day now: “The end of all things is at hand” (4:7). So what was his advice? Any special precautions?

Not really: Pray seriously. Love one another. Practice hospitality. Use your gifts (thus our lesson title) for one another. In everything honor God (4:7-11).

Don’t get caught up in wrongdoing. But don’t expect to be exempt from difficulties just because you’re a believer. Sometimes troubles come precisely because you are a believer. Whatever happens, good or bad, trust God (4:12-19).           

Now, about those church relationships: Leaders, lead happily, gently and with integrity — no hidden agendas or selfish motives. Followers, respect your leaders. Everybody, be humble (5:1-5). 

None of this looks too out of the ordinary to me. Hard? Sometimes. We have to be intentional. But whether it’s the last day or every day, this is how we’re supposed to live. No other special precautions are needed.

On the Christian calendar today is Pentecost Sunday, the fiftieth day after Easter. The Jews were in town for the Feast of Weeks (for the seven weeks since Passover) at the end of the spring harvest. The Holy Spirit arrived with tongues of fire and jump-started the apostles’ preaching ministry (Acts 2). Pentecost is sometimes called “the birthday of the church.”

Pentecost also begins a new season of the church year called — get this — “Ordinary Time.” It stretches for a whole half year, until Advent.

At Pentecost Peter preached like it was the beginning. In his letter he writes like it’s the end. And here we are, 2000 years later, in Ordinary Time.

If Peter had known it would go on so long, would his advice be different? Probably not.

No special precautions required: Just live each day as if it were your last. Then live the last day like any other. You’ll be ready.  
5/12/2010 11:47:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for May 23: I Pledge You My Faithfulness

May 12 2010 by Dale Austin Jr., associate pastor, Wakeminster Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passages: Matthew 5:27-30; Proverbs 5:15-21; 6:25-32  

Sex sells. I can’t even go and view one of the national news web sites without some side ad on the web site trying to get my attention for some questionable television show coming on tonight, prompting me to try some new online dating service for singles or married people, or to take a look at some new revealing clothing designs for the season.  

Everywhere we go, it seems that we are bombarded with temptations.

As our society comes to accept this, we can see how marital faithfulness is no longer a practice that is required. Just take a look around at our actors, actresses, political leaders, community leaders — faithfulness in marriage is the exception and not the rule, but just because our society has that viewpoint does not mean that it is God’s viewpoint.

God’s standard still stands, and He calls for husbands and wives to be faithful to one another in a loving relationship under the leadership of Christ.

Jesus addresses the problem of marital unfaithfulness in Matthew 5.

Adultery starts with a deep desire or longing which is the original meaning of lust.

To lust in our hearts is the beginning of mental adultery, and Jesus warns us that lusting for another person can be just as destructive as the physical act of adultery.

In Matthew 5, we see where Jesus warns us of this and that it is a very serious issue in which to become involved. In fact, it is so serious that Jesus says that if our eye should offend us, then we should go ahead and remove it instead of staring down the path of lust and eventual physical unfaithfulness. 

Now, Jesus was not being literal when He said to remove your eye, but He was trying to stress how this sin can sneak into our lives and poison our relationships with our spouse, children, and friends.  

The Bible is not silent about physical intimacy between a husband and wife. In many different passages the reader is advised that sexual intimacy is only between a husband and wife. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 5 that physical and emotional intimacy is only truly fulfilling between a husband and wife.

Solomon goes on in Proverbs 6 with the consequences of adultery — what appears fun and exciting like fire will only burn you in the end. Current statistics show that 34 percent of marriages that involve physical infidelity eventually end up in divorce — the husband, wife, children, and extended family are harmed because of the actions of a few.

How are we to apply these words of wisdom to our daily lives? First, we should take all precautions to guard against temptation.

This includes questionable conversations, very close emotional attachments to the opposite sex in place of the same emotional attachment that we should have with our spouse, and what we watch or read. Men crave physical intimacy; women crave emotional intimacy.

We are warned by Jesus to be vigilant; if the opportunity arises that may lead us astray, that we should address the issue immediately.  
5/12/2010 10:17:00 AM by Dale Austin Jr., associate pastor, Wakeminster Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for May 16: Share Your Faith

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

Focal Passage: 1 Peter 3:13-4:6

In the city where I attended divinity school a certain man preached regularly on a busy downtown street corner. He didn’t have a pulpit: he paced. He didn’t have a microphone: he yelled. His words were as hostile as his tone.

He held his oversized Bible open in his left hand, the pages flapping in the breeze.

The extended index finger of his right hand pointed sometimes at the text, sometimes at the sky, often at us.

People scurried by with their heads down, gazing at their feet. Most gave him a wide berth. Nobody stopped to listen, not even me.

Why not? Maybe we were disinterested at best, pagans at worst. Besides, he was way too angry.

Mainly, though, it’s that he was talking at us, not to us, and certainly not with us.

And what about the lady who rings my doorbell on Saturday morning, wanting to give me a two-minute presentation of her version of the gospel? Does she really think she can change my mind — and capture my heart — when she doesn’t even know my name? When she doesn’t have a clue what’s going on in my life?

Peter has a better idea: “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (3:15).

For someone to “call you to account” means that they’ve seen enough of you, and the way you live, to ask questions. Sharing the faith starts with living the life.

“With gentleness and reverence” means that you’ve seen enough of them to treat them kindly and respectfully — to know them, to understand them, even to care for them. Evangelism isn’t just about talking. It’s also about listening.

You have to earn the right to speak. 

Our lesson mentions two contexts: those who persecute us (3:13-18) and those we used to run wild with (4:3-4).

Negative examples, to be sure, but at least we know something about each other. Real faith isn’t communicated in a vacuum. It takes a relationship.

Don’t get sidetracked by the hard questions in the text: the “spirits in prison” and the “days of Noah” (3:19-20), and whether baptism really “saves you” (3:21).

If we’re not careful, they’ll just distract us from the main issue:

Is my faith revealed in the way I live?

Is it a positive influence on those around me?

If someone asks about it, do I have an answer?     
5/4/2010 3:41:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for May 16: To Love and Cherish

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

Focal Passages: Ephesians 5:21-33; 1 Peter 3:7  

Nothing frightens people more than to enter into a new relationship thinking that it will be a situation where you are in a submissive role.

The biblical understanding of submission is so far from the common understanding of submission in today’s society that we will need to understand what the Bible shows us about submission to understand this passage in Ephesians where wives are to submit to their husbands. 

Well, that phrase for wives to submit to their husbands sinks like a rock in a pond when it is thrown out in casual conversation.

The term used for submit literally means to “arrange under,” and it is to be done in a voluntary way.

This is better understood as wives voluntarily respecting their husbands and letting them be the spiritual and physical head of the household. This term for submit never is to mean that someone is to become like a forced slave to another person. 

Paul continues with this marriage relationship theme and turns his attention over to the husbands.

The very first thing that Paul says to the husbands is to love your wives. Now we think to ourselves that this is a no brainer, but that was not the case 2,000 years ago.

Love did not usually come into the equation for marriages in that time.

A woman was looked upon as property and when she displeased her husband in any manner, then he (and only he) had the option to write her a certificate of divorce and kick her out of his house for any reason whatsoever.

“Love your wife, just as Christ loved the church…” was an idea from way out in right field. These believers knew how much Christ loved them and when Paul told them that the husband was to have this same type of love for his wife, then a new understanding of this marriage relationship began to take place.

How did Christ love the world?

We see in Mark 10:45 that Jesus came not to be served by us but to serve us and to give His life for us.

This is the type of love and service that a husband is to have for his wife.

The wife was not just to be a submissive servant.

Both the husband and wife were to have a new type of relationship of mutual submission to each other.

Wives, give due respect to your husbands in private and in public. Husbands, cherish your wives in private and public.

When we do this under the leadership and example of Christ, it will change our marriages and families in ways we cannot even imagine.
5/4/2010 3:37:00 AM by Dale Austin Jr., associate pastor, Wakeminster Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments