May 2015

Explore the Bible Lesson for June 7: The Truth Presented

May 21 2015 by Michael Wilkes, pastor, New Life Baptist Church, Henderson

Focal Passage: 1 John 1:1-4
I moved to North Carolina almost four years ago. My wife and I were born and raised in Louisiana and graduated from Louisiana State University (LSU). I don’t run into many LSU Tigers fans here, but at my daughter’s soccer game recently someone noticed my purple and gold hat and yelled, “Go Tigers.” Of course we had a great conversation after that about our beloved team. He informed me about a group of alumni in the Raleigh area that meets regularly for things like watching ballgames and boiling crawfish. There is always camaraderie when I meet Tiger fans.
This collegiate camaraderie pales in comparison to the fellowship we are to experience as the church. John wrote his letter to the churches, in what is now Turkey, to invite people into this deep fellowship among those who truly know Jesus. John knew Jesus. He walked with Him, learned from Him, saw the miracles He performed, saw Him die on the cross and saw Him resurrected from the grave. John knew the truth about Jesus – that our Savior is fully God and lived fully as a man. It bothered John to see the gospel distorted by false teachers. He wanted people to know the real Jesus that he knew and loved. 
Yet, what is more troubling than distorted facts about Jesus? That so many, though they believe the right things about Jesus, do not truly know Him. God invites us to have fellowship with Him. Fellowship with Jesus means having an intimate relationship with Him. The benefits unique to this relationship include eternal life (v. 2) and fullness of joy in this life (v. 4). Our churches exist so we can celebrate and enjoy this fellowship with Jesus together, and as a result be his witnesses to our neighbors and the nations. God assembled us together to help each other know Jesus and make Jesus known to the world. This bond is stronger and even more exciting than the camaraderie between fans of the same team. Don’t let anything keep you from enjoying fellowship with Jesus and His church.

5/21/2015 2:32:42 PM by Michael Wilkes, pastor, New Life Baptist Church, Henderson | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for June 7: Accept Your Leadership Role

May 21 2015 by Manny Prieto, lay pastor, Imago Dei Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Joshua 1:1-9
Some years ago, as a college student looking for a way to make some extra income, I applied for a job with the U.S. Census Bureau. I was expecting a low-level job, but based on some of the skills I gained as part of my college degree-program, I was assigned a supervisor role over a survey crew. While I was flattered, I was in over my head. How was I, a young student, supposed to supervise and manage folks much older and more experienced than me?
Imagine Joshua’s predicament as he inherited leadership over Israel as they prepared to take the Promised Land – a job previously held by none other than Moses. Yet Joshua was not left on his own to fill those shoes. Just as Moses had been inadequate on his own, Joshua too would need to depend on God for the wisdom and strength to lead.
We may not be called to the same type of leadership as Joshua, but there are certainly some principles we can gather from the text and apply to our lives.
We have all been called to some form of leadership: it may be formal leadership in your work or school, or it may not come with a fancy title at all. You might be a leader in your home or in your local church. Regardless of the form our leadership may take, we must remember the ultimate goal: lead them to Christ!
What does this mean? In whatever form of leadership you are involved in, you are ultimately called to reflect the character of Christ and to point not to your glory, but to His! This is no easy task. It is a task rooted in complete dependence upon God. How can we be strong and courageous and not turn right or left from what He commands? We must look to Christ! Submit to His authority and direction as you lead. It is in the scriptures that we know what He commands, and it is in communion with Him that we find the power to do it!

5/21/2015 2:25:45 PM by Manny Prieto, lay pastor, Imago Dei Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for May 31: A Pure People

May 19 2015 by Lindsey Pope, Christ Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal passages: Malachi 3:1-7; 3:16-4:2
It’s difficult to watch the news. Interviews with family members who have lost a loved one in a tragic shooting, video clips of corrupt or irresponsible business practices and stories covering destruction and discord caused by natural disasters often fill the newscast time slots. We long for Christ to come again, restoring His creation, upholding what is good and revealing what is evil. We also see difficulty in our own lives: disgruntled family members, economic strain, selfish desires or cold apathy in our relationship with the Lord.
Creation is groaning.
Malachi spoke to the people of God, reminding them of the Day of the Lord, describing the coming of a Messiah that will purify a people for Himself. This incredible, universal day will be one of horror for those who do not know the Lord – they will be laid bare before Him. It will also be a day of long-awaited joy for those who do know Him. God will judge with fairness, justice and power. He will recognize the faithful who trusted in Him.
The Day of the Lord hasn’t come yet. Until then we wait confidently in the unchanging character of the one true God and we reach out to others, sharing the gospel with all who don’t know the Lord. Our hope is secure in Christ.
We don’t have to fear the coming day because we know that we stand before God covered in the sufficient, pure blood of Christ. Such knowledge ought to strengthen our resolve to live as those who have been forgiven, cleansed and secured by the sacrifice of Christ. It also ought to disturb us toward action in the world. We recognize their need of the gospel by the Word of God, the illumination of the Spirit and the encouragement of a local body of believers.
We fight together, out of love and concern, for our neighbors here and overseas, that they would repent of their sin and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior, prepared to meet him face-to-face with joy and expectation.

5/19/2015 1:05:32 PM by Lindsey Pope, Christ Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for May 31: Stick with Acceptance

May 19 2015 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church, Eure

Focal passages: Romans 14:1-4, 13-19
When I became pastor of the church I serve, there was a man attending the church named Gary. During those early months, we had quite a few conversations about what it means to be a Christian. One day Gary came to my office and prayed to receive Christ as his Savior. He had a difficult time accepting that a simple prayer could forgive him of all his sins.
His faith wasn’t easy. Former addictions didn’t magically disappear. His relationship with his wife would eventually end, and Gary struggled with both his faith and loneliness. In all honesty, even though I invested countless hours into Gary’s life, I wasn’t sure that we – referring to the church and myself – were helping Gary progress spiritually. To make matters worse, Gary revealed he was dealing with cancer. He later moved, and I lost contact with him for years.
Life is complex. The issues that Paul and the Roman Christians struggled with were not easy. The three main issues that first century Christians struggled with were (1) Jewish holy days, (2) dietary rules and (3) sexual immorality. The great difficulty was differentiating between that which was accepted or rejected by God and that which was accepted or rejected by men. Paul spoke of two laws in Romans, the law of liberty and the law of love. In the Christian life the Kingdom is defined by their healthy convergence (vv. 17-19).
In a recent phone conversation, he described to me in precise detail that day he asked Christ into his life. Furthermore, he remarked how he was getting healthier physically, and was cancer-free. Some days later his new pastor called to thank me for investing in Gary’s life, and to tell me that Gary was their deacon vice-chairman.
I am grateful that our church stuck with Gary and accepted him, even when – like the Roman Christians – he was going through turbulent times.

5/19/2015 12:56:43 PM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church, Eure | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for May 24: Faithful

May 7 2015 by Lindsey Pope, Christ Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Malachi 2:10-17
The most beautiful and troubling thing about God is that He changes us. A relationship with Him transforms the way we think, speak and act. He creates in us a new nature – that of Christ.
While the people of Judah in Malachi’s day didn’t know of the incarnate Christ, they did have the Word of God, the books of the Law, Wisdom and Prophets. They knew what God required of them according to his clear, direct Word: live lives of holiness, justice, honesty, wisdom, commitment and faithfulness.
They decided to pursue what seemed desirable to them, rather than commit to what God had already revealed. Men of Judah married pagan women who did not love the Lord, completely rejecting what God had commanded as they entered the Promised Land.
Even worse, men divorced their first wives to take new, pagan wives instead. Such acts were so disgusting in the sight of the Lord that He told them, “[they cover their] garment with violence” when they do so.
God then reminds the people of His presence in their marriage. Did He not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? Yes!
By rejecting their first wife, the men were not only spurning the one whom they had committed in covenant marriage. They were also spurning the wisdom and presence of the Spirit in their marriage.
Rather than being a picture of faithfulness and justice in the world and in their homes, they enjoyed sinful passions, turning from the Lord to pursue their desires instead.
Because they refused, disobeying the clear command of the Lord, God Himself would bring justice. 
Today we also have the Word of God in the Old and New Testaments. God has never hidden His desires from us. He has clearly revealed what is right and good for Christians, how we ought to live in the world and in our homes. We are to live pure lives, reflecting in our marriages and relationships the same faithfulness He shows us each day.

5/7/2015 11:22:43 AM by Lindsey Pope, Christ Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for May 17: Stick with Humility

May 7 2015 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church, Eure

Focal passage: Philippians 2:1-5, 13-15
Cloistered in the Nonnberg Abbey, Maria Kutschera told herself that her life centered upon communion with God.
Orphaned at a young age, she grew up among the mountains of Vienna, Austria, and found solitude and peace in the hills. Her world of solitude was interrupted when the Mother Abbess gave her the assignment of teaching and caring for the children of a widowed navy commander, Georg von Trapp.
In the movie version, Maria fell in love, but feared the passions stirring within her might somehow betray her commitment to God. Fleeing back to the abbey, she hid her sadness from her fellow nuns. The Mother Abbess, however, convinced her to face her fears. 
The Mother Abbess’ wisdom, and Maria’s willingness to risk, led Maria to a new life of putting others’ needs before her own.
Today’s texts include what’s known as the “kenosis passage.” Literally, “kenosis” refers to Christ’s emptying Himself of any personal, human ambitions so that He could give His life for others.
Philippians 2:1 begins with the word “if.” We often think of “if” as doubt. A better translation would be “since.” The encouragement in Christ, the consolation of love, the fellowship with the Spirit and the affection and mercy Christ has for His followers are not debatable. Therefore, “since” we who are Christians have received these amazing gifts from Jesus, we are commanded to consider others needs and interests above our own.
In other words, practice humility. Our attitudes are to match our actions. We are to serve with joy. Paul knew this quality of service was contrary to the world’s standards (vv. 13-15), yet our attitude standard is Christ and Him alone.
When Maria dared to discover a new reality for her life, she serendipitously found joy. She and her family also found purpose and joy in music. Paul’s hope for joy, the sweet music for his ears, was in the Philippian believers serving one another in Christ-like humility.

5/7/2015 11:18:37 AM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church, Eure | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for May 17: True Hope

May 5 2015 by Lindsey Pope, Christ Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Malachi 1:1-11
When God spoke to His people through Malachi, they were struggling. Though God had protected them during the Babylonian exile and provided for their return home, they arrogantly doubted His commitment to them.
“‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’” They questioned not only His commitment, but also His sincerity – “You don’t love us. What have you done for us, anyway, if you say you love us?”
Like an immature child, the people of God responded with entitlement, forgetting all He had done for them. So He reminded them. Though He is worthy of honor, they thought only of themselves. Though He is worthy of reverence and fear, they despised His name.
Even the priests, the spiritual leaders of the community, ignored and disdained Him. Instead of preparing and committing the best sacrifices they had, they offered Him what was left after setting aside what they wanted for themselves.
“Would you offer this to your governor and ask for favor? No! Yet you ask the favor of the Lord?” They offered pathetic sacrifices and then expected God to bless them, and when He didn’t they became cynical. But God, in His kindness and mercy, reminded them of His covenant with them.
They were to honor His name, both in word and in sacrifice. Instead of worshipping God out of their love for His holiness, the people worshipped out of their love of personal reward. God was faithful to His covenant people, because He promised He would be, but He did not ignore their dismissal of His commands.
This is still true today. How often do we take God’s faithfulness, intimacy and presence for granted in our own lives? God declared His name would be great among all nations of the world – that His power, strength, goodness, kindness, holiness and presence would be manifest to all of His creation for their good.
When we doubt God’s love and respond to Him in careless worship, we declare something very different about God’s nature.

5/5/2015 11:01:49 AM by Lindsey Pope, Christ Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for May 17: Stick with Service

May 5 2015 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church, Eure

Focal passages: Galatians 5:13-15; 6:1-5, 10
Back in the fall, a man from our community came by my home requesting financial assistance. I had helped him years earlier on behalf of his son’s basketball team. Now the need was for him. Sensing that more was at stake here than dollars, I asked him to come in and sit down.
For the next half-hour, he poured out his soul – a sad tale of a dysfunctional family that needed the support of a Christian community. We prayed and I helped him in a minor way. Then he left. Three weeks later he unexpectedly returned; whereas before he seemed depressed and defeated, now he seemed relaxed and relieved. He shared how the Christian community had come to his aid, and he asked that I anoint him with oil and pray God’s power upon his life.
Today’s scripture is about serving one another. It never implies that loving your neighbor is easy. It is often messy, complicated, difficult and painful. Let us put ourselves in the shoes of the Galatian believers. Have we ever caught someone doing something unethical (6:1)? If yes, did we do all we could to restore that person to wholeness? Have we ever carried someone else’s burden (6:2), even while we were already feeling overwhelmed with our own bucket of life issues? Have we ever been guilty of thinking or saying, “I’m glad I’m not like that!”
As Paul wrote to his friends in Galatia, he recognized that in order for there to be church growth and unity, the word “service” needed to be lived. It needed to cross racial boundaries. It needed to be freely given. It needed to hurt sometimes. It needed to be “we,” not “me.”
The experience I described in my opening paragraph wasn’t about me. I could have given him some money the moment he knocked on my door and sent him away. Sometimes money helps, and sometimes it hurts. The blessing I received was in the “we,” the “we” of the church serving my neighbor by listening, caring, praying, giving and loving just as Christ commanded.

5/5/2015 10:55:39 AM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church, Eure | with 0 comments