May 2016

Explore the Bible Lesson for June 5: Answered!

May 19 2016 by Thomas Marshall, member, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Wagram

Focal Passage: 1 Samuel 1:10-18; 26-28
A town was suffering from a severe drought. A local pastor called for a town-wide prayer meeting to seek God for rain. The night of the meeting, the church was standing-room only. The pastor stood behind the pulpit and spoke these words, “You might as well go home. The prayers are not going to be effective.”
Outraged, the people wanted to know why. He replied, “Look around, where are your umbrellas?”
In our study today, we find Hannah, the wife of Elkanah, coming and pleading before God because she was unable to have children. In those days, a barren woman was held in disgrace. They thought that God was punishing her for some unknown sin.
She came to the Tabernacle at Shiloh as the family did each year. Verse 10 says that she was deeply hurt and cried many tears.
She knew the only answer to her dilemma lay in God, and Him alone. Her prayer was made in assurance that God would hear and answer her. 
Verse 18 tells us that when she had finished praying her countenance and spirit was lifted. She had faith that God heard her, and she could count on Him to do what was right.
This speaks to us today, we can come to God in faith with our heartaches, our fears, our desires, our frustrations and be assured that He listens.
He sees beyond just the words that we say, He sees our very being.
He knows what is best for us and what He plans for us. In His way and in His time, we can rest assured that He will respond.
Today, consider, “Where is your umbrella?” When you come to God with your prayers do you trust Him to hear? Do you believe that He can and will answer? If not, what hinders you from having faith in the One you approach?
Confess to Him your shortcoming and ask for His empowering grace to have the faith to believe Him.

5/19/2016 10:39:55 AM by Thomas Marshall, member, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Wagram | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for June 5: Transformed in My Worship

May 19 2016 by Emily Anthony, member, Imago Dei Church, Raleigh

Focal passage: Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18
As a child, my favorite board game was Candyland. What little girl does not love a world full of chocolate, lollipops and princesses? Of the hundreds of times I played the game with my mom, my most vivid memory is the day I proudly suggested she draw the first card. I set up the game, shuffled the deck and with a beaming smile exclaimed, “OK, Mom. This time I’m letting you go first.”
Though Mom was initially impressed with my humility, moments later she discovered it was a sham. I had stacked the deck, placing the winning card second from the top. I was allowing my mom to draw first, knowing that in doing so I would win the game.
It is easy to chuckle at my strategy, but this problem of doing right things with wrong motives is not unique to four-year-olds. As Christians, our actions of obedient worship are far too often marred by the sinfulness of our hearts. 
Jesus addressed the motives of his followers in the Sermon on the Mount when He cautioned, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them” (Matthew 6:1). He warned that the spiritual disciplines of giving, fasting and prayer do not honor God when done for self-promotion.
Jesus came to redeem every aspect of our lives, even worship. He longs to transform the inner motivation of our hearts so our worship glorifies Him instead of ourselves. When we give, pray and fast in secret, we proclaim to God that He alone is worthy of our worship, and as a result, He lavishes us with an immeasurable reward.
I won the game of Candyland that day, but there was no real reason to celebrate. My reward came, but it was empty. In the same way, unless we allow Christ to transform our worship, our spiritual reward will be empty.
But, praise God, if we seek to make Christ the focus of our worship, He will reward us with Himself!

5/19/2016 10:32:26 AM by Emily Anthony, member, Imago Dei Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for May 22: Accepting

May 5 2016 by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford

Focal Passage: Acts 10:9-15, 43-48
I’ve raised and sold a lot of watermelons over the years. I’ve picked and culled them to decide their prices and destinations, and some melons haven’t made the cut. They simply didn’t look good to buyers, even though they looked and tasted the same as picturesque melons on the inside.
We tend to accept the people who meet our minimum requirements and reject everyone else, even though God sees the same need on the inside. 
God prepared Peter to share the gospel with Cornelius and his friends and close relatives (v. 24) by giving him a vision of something like a large sheet filled with all kinds of four-footed animals, crawling creatures and birds of the air being lowered from the sky to the ground.
God commanded him, saying, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” Peter, who had been a faithful Jew, replied, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” God responded, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy” (vv. 10-14).
God was not merely giving Peter a lesson on acceptable foods.
While the world teaches us to pick and choose people for the sake of personal advancement, the gospel calls us to witness to every person in every tribe, tongue, people and nation. Until we see the beauty of the image of God in all people, we won’t deem them worthy of our time and effort.
Although Peter had felt that way about the idolatrous and unclean Gentiles, God was going to show him the power of the gospel to break every barrier and save Cornelius and his friends and close relatives. Do you long to see God save people who seem beyond hope? We cannot pray for their salvation and refuse to witness to them. Either we will embrace our comfort and forsake the Great Commission, or we will trust God for our security in every situation and take the gospel where He leads us. May He prepare us to say, “By all means, Lord!”

5/5/2016 11:06:15 AM by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for May 22: Redeemed From An Unbelieving Past

May 5 2016 by Rob Pochek, pastor, First Baptist Church Park Street, Charlottesville,Va.

Focal Passage: Acts 26:9-20
The name Jeffrey Dahmer still brings a shudder to many people. Dahmer was a serial killer in the Milwaukee area, responsible for the death of 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. His crimes were too unspeakable to recount here. What is noteworthy, however, is what happened shortly after his trial and imprisonment. Dahmer requested a Bible prior to his incarceration, and just two years after his trial concluded, he professed faith in Christ and was baptized. Just six months later, he was beaten to death by fellow inmates.
The reaction of many Christians to the news that Dahmer had made a commitment to Jesus Christ was disbelief.
I can recall hearing people question the legitimacy of his conversion and some going so far as to suggest that God could not (and would not) forgive someone like him. For those of us who are committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, such an attitude must not be allowed to take hold.
The testimony of the Apostle Paul reminds us that there is no one beyond the grace of God. Indeed, Paul’s testimony is not unlike that of Dahmer. While he was not a serial killer, per se, Paul admits to having a hatred of Christ followers that resulted in his all out effort to destroy them (Acts 26:9-11).
We know that he oversaw the killing of Stephen (Acts 8:1) and that he was on his way to do harm to believers in Damascus when he was converted (Acts 9:1-3).
The Apostle Paul’s conversion was so shocking that Ananias, the believer the Lord called upon to minister to Paul, was reluctant to believe it (Acts 9:13-14).
Only the Lord knows what happened in the heart and life of Jeffrey Dahmer. Did he repent and trust in Christ alone for his salvation? Only God knows for sure.
But, the story of the Apostle Paul reminds me that there is no one beyond the grace of God. That, after all, is what makes it grace. And, come to think of it, grace is exactly what you and I need too.

5/5/2016 10:59:39 AM by Rob Pochek, pastor, First Baptist Church Park Street, Charlottesville,Va. | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for May 15: Bold

May 3 2016 by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford

Focal Passage: Acts 9:36-43
Have you ever noticed that many Christians seem to want to do big temporal things and small eternal things? If you check the average Christian’s bucket list, you’ll find many of the same endeavors included on lost peoples’ lists. What is our obsession with skydiving, extreme mountain climbing, marathon running, travelling the world, and others? Most of our ancestors never did any of these things, yet they still lived full and meaningful lives. Aside from the experience and the adrenaline rush, do these challenges really change us? The answer depends on the kind of change we are seeking.
While Peter ministered in Lydda, two men from Joppa came to escort him, without delay, to the bedside of Tabitha, their deceased sister in Christ. When Peter arrived, he found a group of widows tearfully displaying the garments she had made.
He could have comforted them during the wake and proceeded to preach the hope of the resurrection at her funeral, but God had other plans.
The exhortation to come without delay revealed that the believers in Joppa hoped for a miracle. Peter sent everyone out of the upper room (as Jesus did in Matthew 9:25), and proceeded to kneel and pray.
He then said, “Tabitha, arise,” and God brought her back to life.
Peter helped her to her feet and presented her alive to the mourners. The wake had become an awakening!
Although we live in a different time under different circumstances, God still calls His people to be instruments of His power.
If we desire to see our churches rejuvenated and God’s glory put on display as we’ve never before seen it, then we must begin to take bold steps of faith. Consider a spiritual bucket list consisting of things that will bring glory to God.
Here are a few possibilities: witnessing to a lost person you keep avoiding, going on a mission trip, caring for neglected people, putting your money toward the Great Commission.
Wouldn’t you rather meet Jesus with these experiences than a photo album and memories of an adrenaline rush?

5/3/2016 10:50:53 AM by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for May 15: Redeemed From Devastating Failure

May 3 2016 by Rob Pochek, pastor, First Baptist Church Park Street, Charlottesville,Va.

Focal Passage: Luke 22:54-62; Acts 4:8-13
I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the apostle Peter. Perhaps it is because he often spoke without thinking; a bad habit that I share with him. Or, maybe it is because he drew back from associating with Gentiles for fear of the crowd; a tendency to avoid conflict that many of us can identify with. But, if I am honest, it is because he denied the Lord on the night he was arrested.
The soft spot is not for his denial, but for his humanity.
Peter was flesh and bone, just as we are. And he failed our Lord at a critical moment. Sadly, because of the connectedness of our world today, our failures can often be broadcast to the whole world in a manner of seconds.
Just as Peter’s failure was very public and very painful, his failure was not final. Because of God’s grace, our moments of failure do not have to be permanent. While it may be easy to think that we would never have done what Peter did, we need to remember that his failure is a reminder that the strongest among us can fail.
It was, after all, Peter who made the glorious declaration that Jesus was “the Christ, the son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). And yet, later, he would call down curses on himself to prove he did not know Jesus (Matthew 26:74).
But, then, an amazing thing happened.
This same Peter who had called down curses on himself, had seen the risen Lord, been restored by Him, and received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.
His horrific failure was now a thing of the past.
The one who cowered before a servant girl’s questions now stood fearlessly before the most powerful religious body in Israel and boldly declared Jesus to be the Messiah (Acts 4:8-13). What a powerful reminder for us that failure does not need to be permanent. But, God’s grace is sufficient to redeem us from our worst failure.

5/3/2016 10:42:08 AM by Rob Pochek, pastor, First Baptist Church Park Street, Charlottesville,Va. | with 0 comments