May 2017

Explore the Bible Lesson for June 18: The Shepherd

May 31 2017 by Emily Carter, member, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passage: Psalm 23:1-6
For the past three years I have been battling cancer.
When I first began the journey I naively thought that God would heal me, and we would be done with cancer.
Just before my six-month follow up, the doctor noticed new spots, which led to more radiation.
Then a few months later more spots on the other side – more chemotherapy and another surgery.
Then the original trouble was back and, for almost a year now, we have been trying various medicines to halt this disease and prolong my life.
An even healthier diet was put in place. But God in His mercy continues to use this cancer in ways I never thought possible. I’ve learned so much about Him. It is through the hard times that I am able to see God most clearly.
In Psalm 23 we see some wonderful aspects of God’s character. The first three verses show us that God provides. He provides for my needs, gives me rest, gives me peace, restores my soul and shows me the way to righteousness. (Psalm 23:1-3)
What more could you or I need?
He not only provides, but He guards me. Stage four cancer may take my body one day, but it cannot take my soul. It is sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13).
Eventually everyone faces the valley of the shadow of death.
But do not fear. Fix your eyes on Jesus and watch the light shine brighter and the shadows
fade away.
Your Father will protect you and bring you comfort.
Finally, God hosts us. He invites us into His house forever. He prepares the table, He anoints our heads and He overflows our cups.
Remember from John 14:2 that Jesus goes to prepare a place for us as well.

Oh, the things that God has for us when we are together with Him!

5/31/2017 7:29:20 AM by Emily Carter, member, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for June 18: Respect Authority

May 31 2017 by David Crowther, pastor, Mount Olive Baptist Church, Pittsboro

Focal passage: 1 Samuel 24:3-12
We live in a society that is rapidly changing. Unfortunately, respect is a value that seems to be eroding at an ever-increasing rate.
As we listen to the nightly news, we see disrespect shown toward those in authority, whether they are politicians, police officers, teachers, pastors or parents.
Such disrespect toward authority stands in total contrast with the respect David showed to those in authority over him. In 1 Samuel 24:3-12, the Bible describes an encounter in which David had the opportunity to take the life of King Saul, a man who was actively seeking to take David’s life.
As David hid in the dark recesses of a cave high in the cliffs of the Judean desert, he made a decision to respect authority. David did not spare Saul’s life simply because he “chickened out” in the moment, but respect was a godly virtue by which David lived (1 Samuel 26).
David respected authority because he respected God and realized that God had placed certain persons in authority. Thus, he referred to the king as “the Lord’s anointed” (1 Samuel 26:6, 9-10, 12).
Just as David respected those in authority over him, believers today are called to respect individuals in authority (Romans 13:1-7). We are not only to respect the respectable, but even those who we do not deem worthy of respect.
Surely David had little personal respect for a man like Saul who sought to kill him and who perpetually lied to him. Nevertheless, David respected Saul’s office.
Because David could live under authority, God eventually gave him authority and made David king over all of Israel. God has called all Christians to respect His authority and the authority of parents, teachers, pastors, bosses and government leaders.
God will not bless us and put us in authority over others until we have submitted to the authority under which He has placed us (Matthew 25:23).

5/31/2017 7:29:06 AM by David Crowther, pastor, Mount Olive Baptist Church, Pittsboro | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for June 11: The Past

May 31 2017 by Emily Carter, member, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal passage: Psalm 78:5-8, 32-39
My Uncle Jack is researching our family’s ancestry. So far, he’s discovered that our family came from England, settled in South Carolina and fought in the Revolutionary War. It is fascinating, but it is not the best part of my ancestry.
The best part is that my great grandfather, William Wallace, helped build a church and taught his children, including my grandmother to believe in Jesus. She in turn taught her children, and they taught theirs.
I am so thankful that my grandmother taught us to teach for the future.
In Psalm 78:5 we are told of God that “He established a testimony in Jacob and set up a law in Israel,” in order that His people might teach it to their grandchildren “so that they might put their confidence in God and not forget God’s works, but keep His commands” (Psalm 78:7).
Asaph reminds the Israelites of all God had done throughout their history under Moses’ leadership in Psalm 78. He wants them to remember the past. “In spite of all this, they kept on sinning …” (Psalm 78:32). We keep sinning too.
I once heard a speaker say that every time she began to complain about someone else’s sin she would add “just like me” to her sentence. For instance, if I am complaining about someone’s gossip then I would add “just like me” to my objection. This not only reminds me of my sin, but it causes me to seek God’s forgiveness and reminds me almost immediately to pray for myself and the one whom I have grumbled about.
After all, we are all sinners saved by God’s grace. Praise the Lord, “Yet He was compassionate; He atoned for their guilt and did not destroy them. He often turned His anger aside and did not unleash all His wrath” (Psalm 78:38).

God has offered us compassion for the present that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

5/31/2017 7:24:55 AM by Emily Carter, member, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for June 11: Forge True Friendship

May 31 2017 by David Crowther, pastor, Mount Olive Baptist Church, Pittsboro

Focal passage: 1 Samuel 18:1-4; 19:4-7; 20:10-13
Some of my closest friends are people that I met in college and lived with in the university dormitories. As I look back, these friendships were formed almost instantaneously and deepened with time. Deep friendships are often forged in such ways.
First Samuel 18:1 tells us, “When David had finished speaking with Saul, Jonathan committed himself to David, and loved him as much as he loved himself” (HCSB).
There is really no introduction to Jonathan or explanation for David’s friendship with him. All we are told is that after David killed Goliath, Saul brought David into the royal household (1 Samuel 18:2) and David and Jonathan quickly became friends.
But what was it that caused David and Jonathan to remain lifelong friends? Their friendship, like all true friendships, was based on commitment. After all, David and Jonathan’s commitment is seen in the covenant that they made with one another (1 Samuel 18:3).

Commitment is not just a word; it is an action.
For David and Jonathan, their friendship commitment was expressed through concern and care for one another. For example, Jonathan was concerned for David’s welfare in several ways.
He gave David special armor to protect him on the battlefield (1 Samuel 18:4), and he defended David verbally (1 Samuel 19:4-7) as well as physically (1 Samuel 20:10-13).

David and Jonathan had a shared commitment to their friendship and that resulted in Jonathan and David always acting in the other’s best interest.
Does that describe your relationships with others? Are you committed to others and similar causes? Are you a friend that others can depend on?
If you bash your friends behind their backs, berate them or fail to help them in their time of need, you are not a true friend. God desires that we should act as friends to others because He has demonstrated the ultimate act of friendship toward us in dying for our sins (John 15:13).
All of us know that it is sometimes hard to find true friends in life, but the best place to start is to heed the advice of Proverbs 18:24, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly” (KJV).

5/31/2017 7:18:14 AM by David Crowther, pastor, Mount Olive Baptist Church, Pittsboro | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for June 4: The Path

May 15 2017 by Emily Carter, member, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passage: Psalm 1:1-6
As a child, one of my favorite places to play was near the creek that flowed through the pasture at my parent’s farm. Who can blame me? On a hot, humid summer’s day in Alabama; the creek and its wonderful shade trees were a real treat. In Psalm 1, readers are encouraged to avoid the wicked and not to take their advice. Instead we are to take our delight “in the LORD’s instructions” (Psalm 1:2).
Meditating on God’s Word will allow us to experience His blessings more fully. Spending time focusing on God’s Word will allow our relationship to grow “like a tree planted beside streams of water” (Psalm 1:3). A tree’s roots will seek out water and nutrients wherever it is planted. It is the same for us, in order to grow in our faith we must spend time in the scriptures.
The second portion of Psalm 1 warns us of a difference between the wicked and the righteous: “For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous” (Psalm 1:6). The wicked simply blow away.

Those are comforting words when we look and see so much wickedness and sin around us! It is nice to know that in God’s economy, righteousness wins. In this world where the wicked seem to be gaining power and prestige, God is still taking notice of the righteous and the things they do. Two years ago, I walked the pasture to see the creek scene of my childhood expeditions. To my disappointment the trees had thinned out and the creek had run dry due to multiple years of drought conditions. It is the same way with our relationship with God. If we don’t spend time meditating on His Word then our relationship grows dry. Spending time with the Lord and drinking the water of His Word, will bring rain to the dry creek bed of our souls and allow our relationship to be well nourished.

5/15/2017 10:28:06 PM by Emily Carter, member, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for June 4: Love Like Christ

May 15 2017 by David Crowther, pastor, Mount Olive Baptist Church, Pittsboro

Focal passage: John 15:9-17
In the “Farewell Discourse” (John 13:31-17:26), Jesus gives some final instructions to His disciples on the eve of His execution.
In John 15:9-17, our Savior commands us: “Love one another” (John 15:17). As disciples of Jesus, we should love others just as He loves us. Of course, in order to love others like Jesus loves us, we have to experience His saving love through faith. Once God’s love has filled our hearts, we are able to love others from the overflow of His love. After all, because we are friends (John 15:13-14) with Jesus, His love for us is demonstrated by His willingness to lay down His life so that we may have eternal life.
Likewise, as His friends we are called to follow Him with loving obedience. The Bible also says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Due to God’s unconditional love toward us, we can show love to others – whether they deserve it or not.
The 2000 film, “Pay It Forward,” tells the story of a troubled boy named Trevor who develops a plan to make the world a better place by helping others. Instead of paying one person back when he receives help, Trevor starts a movement of “paying it forward” by finding opportunities to help three new people.

The idea of “paying it forward” directly follows the logic of Jesus’ commandment to love others. Christ first loved us and while we can love Him and remain in His love, we must pass His love on to others. Later in his life, John the Apostle said, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). What about you? Do you love others? If we are really Jesus’ friends who remain in His love, we will forgive others and show kindness and compassion to those in need.

5/15/2017 10:24:31 PM by David Crowther, pastor, Mount Olive Baptist Church, Pittsboro | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for May 28: What Do We Do Now?

May 15 2017 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church

Focal passage: Matthew 28:16-20
“Disciple-making? It’s not that difficult. Here are a few practical tips. First, become omniscient. By being ‘all-knowing,’ you can easily identify where a Christian is on his journey toward spiritual maturity. Next, master predestination so you can map out an efficient path for him. Of course, his own ‘free moral agency’ might give you trouble, but if he’ll devote himself to you body, soul and spirit, your difficulties should be few. Then, become omnipresent. If you’re with him every moment of every day, you can help him sort through his various experiences. In fact, the best plan would be to beam him directly to heaven, into an environment perfectly suited for spiritual growth. Oh, and don’t forget to lay in an infinite supply of love, patience, time and energy.”
Chris Adsit wrote these words in the introduction of his book, Personal Disciplemaking, making the point that helping believers mature in their faith is impossible without God.
This is why, in our focal passage, before Jesus ascends to the Father, He gives clear instructions (Matthew 28:16-20). First, Jesus assures them that all authority has been given to Him. Second, He commissions the disciples to make disciples. Third, He promises to be with them always.
The expectation Jesus has for making disciples is clear.  Jesus said, “go,” which meant you should go about life with a mission mindset. Once individuals are saved, they should be baptized as a way to express their new faith in Christ. And, we should teach them the truths of scripture and how to live in a way that pleases God.

None of this can be done apart from the presence and power of God. The next time you begin to invest in someone else for the gospel, don’t do it in your own strength. Rely on the “One” who commissioned you!

5/15/2017 10:22:16 PM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for May 28: Life on Mission

May 15 2017 by Chris Hefner, pastor, Wilkesboro Baptist Church

Focal Passage: 1 Corinthians 9:19-27
Many of you know the feeling – the sweaty palms, your heart beats just a little faster, you’re not sure exactly how or where to begin, you’re nervous because you expect rejection. No, I’m not thinking of the first time you asked a girl on a date. I’m thinking about those moments just before sharing the gospel. Even as a pastor, I often experience nervousness right before sharing the gospel. But nerves don’t negate the mission.
Paul shared his experience in 1 Corinthians 9 about personalizing the mission by contextualizing the gospel to his audience. Being on mission is an everyday challenge to anticipate opportunities for sharing the gospel.
A number of years ago I remember a family that was leaving church. A young girl stopped me and said she wanted to be saved. I shared the gospel with her and spoke with about her why she wanted to trust Jesus. Then I asked her, “If you could trust Jesus today or wait a week, what would you do?” She thought about it and said, “I’d like to wait.” (I ask that question with children to sense their urgency, a clue the Holy Spirit is working.)
But when she and her mom got to their car, she turned around and told her mom that she didn’t want to wait. They came back to find me, and she placed her faith in Jesus. Living on mission sometimes requires more than just readiness.
Another example is a friend I met for lunch. He was curious about faith, but hung up about evolution. We met for lunch. He had good questions, and I tried to give him good answers. But he didn’t trust Jesus that day. My arguments could not overcome his doubts. However, just a year ago, he came to faith in Jesus. Why?
His neighbors built a relationship with him and showed him love. Living on mission means we must always be ready, must consistently show love and must faithfully share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

When we do, God is faithful to fulfill His mission through us.

5/15/2017 10:18:50 PM by Chris Hefner, pastor, Wilkesboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for May 21: Crucified

May 2 2017 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church

Focal passage: Matthew 27:41-52
How do you know God loves you? Some people might say I know God loves me because every day He gives me blessings I do not deserve.
Others might say I know God loves me because He gave me His Word to guide and lead me.
Both of these reasons are correct, but I believe the greatest expression of God’s love for us is seen in His crucifixion.
Our focal passage describes how Jesus was mocked, forsaken and crucified on the cross for us (Matthew 27:41-52). Consequently, it was through Jesus’ death that the chasm between God and us was removed making it possible for us to have a relationship with Him, which is the ultimate expression of love.
I like how Bill Lobbs expressed God’s love for us when he wrote: “Does God really love us? I say look to the crucified Jesus.
“Look to the old rugged cross. By every thorn that punctured His brow – by every mark of the back lacerating scourge – by every hair of His beard plucked from His cheeks by cruel fingers – by every bruise which heavy fists made upon His head.
“God said, ‘I love you!’ – by all the spit that landed on His face – by every drop of sinless blood that fell to the ground – by every breath of pain which Jesus drew upon the cross – by every beat of His loving heart – God said, ‘I love you!’”
Periodically, we sing a hymn at our church that freshly reminds me of God’s love for us.
Verse three and the chorus reads, “In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine such a wonderful beauty I see; for ‘twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died to pardon and sanctify me. So I will cherish the old rugged cross till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown.”

If there is ever any question in your heart that God loves you, just look to cross and you will find the answer.

5/2/2017 10:59:31 AM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for May 21: Life in the Community

May 2 2017 by Chris Hefner, pastor, Wilkesboro Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Matthew 25:34-40
Jesus used a parable to indicate the kind of person who would enter into the Kingdom of heaven. Placing sheep on the right hand and goats on the left, Jesus explained that genuine righteousness is revealed in one’s compassion toward others.
Timothy Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, noted the broad nature of the activities Jesus listed for His followers in Matthew 25: “It is a remarkably comprehensive list. This is the kind of community that Jesus said [H]is true disciples would establish. Believers should be opening their homes and purses to each other, drawing even the poorest and most foreign into their homes and community, giving financial aid, medical treatment, shelter, advocacy, active love, support and friendship.”
In this gospel, Jesus directs many of His charges against the self-righteousness of the Pharisees and religious leaders. They embodied the outward appearance of righteousness and religion. They wanted people to know about their fasting and obedience. The righteousness of the Pharisees and religious leaders was self-righteousness. They pursued justification before God by the way they looked on the outside.
Many were entirely unconcerned with the condition of those around them (like the goats in the parable). Self-righteousness cares only about the outward appearance of righteousness – not the inward righteousness and compassion that comes with genuine faith.
In this parable, the contrast could not be more poignant. True righteousness is found only by the grace of Jesus Christ. As a result, the truly righteous (the sheep in this parable) show concern and compassion for their fellowman. They are blissfully unaware of their own righteousness as they asked the Lord, “When did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or in prison, or naked?”
Genuine righteousness is comprised of building a community of compassion and service toward others. The genuinely righteous care precisely because they’ve been changed and redeemed by Christ – who modeled this community of compassion throughout his earthly ministry. 

5/2/2017 10:58:00 AM by Chris Hefner, pastor, Wilkesboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments

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