November 2008

Formations lesson for Dec. 7: Peace

November 20 2008 by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: Romans 12:14-21

Peace is a topic that the Bible makes no bones about addressing. Those who wrote the portions of the Old Testament we know as history mention it with what can only be described as a sense of yearning. Prophets talk about its coming. Even in specific reference to those parts of scripture which foretold and tell of the Christmas narrative there is the mention — the not so casual mention — of peace. In his prophecy, Isaiah spoke of a “Prince of Peace.” And in the most familiar of all the scriptural words of the season, Luke has the angel telling shepherds of peace on earth and good will toward men. A quick scan of any reputable concordance of any good biblical translation or paraphrase will find the word peace in some form or another more than 400 times.

Paul had no shortage of things to say about peace. He makes what almost looks like a summary statement on the subject in the center of the focal passage for this lesson: Rom. 12:18.

“If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

The interesting thing to me is that Paul puts the “burden” for peace on us. He says to do everything we can to live in peace with our fellow man. His words “so far as it depends on you” seem to suggest that it is our responsibility to do everything within our power to make peace, instead of just hoping things will go peacefully. Of course Jesus’ words confirm this when He preached in the Sermon on the Mount that, “blessed are the peace makers.” There is a slight nuance here we will do well not to miss. Peace or “living peaceably” with our fellow man is not a call to being passive. Quite the contrary, we are called to make peace, to do something to cause it to happen. We should be asking ourselves, especially as we celebrate it during advent, what we are doing to bring peace.

11/20/2008 9:46:00 AM by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina | with 1 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for Dec. 7: God’s Missionary Heart

November 20 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passage: Isaiah 49:1-6; 56:3-8; 66:18-20, 23

John and I returned last week from my fifth mission trip to Jamaica. The experience was amazing, and yet heartbreaking. It was amazing to see the growth in the church we work with: Elim Baptist Church has added a Sunday night service, a women’s Tuesday morning prayer and fasting session, a Wednesday night Bible study, and a counseling session for new Christians. They have done this with the Lord’s guidance, and yet without a pastor.

My trip was also heartbreaking because this time I actually was able to visit homes, and I saw so much more poverty than even I knew was in that little community. We saw hunger, children unable to go to school, sick people skipping days of medication to make the medicine last longer. I was overwhelmed by the poverty, and didn’t think I was making any difference in the lives of the Jamaican people.

Then I read today’s focal passage: “Then I said, I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain; yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God” (Isaiah 49:4, KJV).

I have my answer. What I must do is exactly what God shows me to do in Elim, St. Elizabeth parish. I will keep going and working in this community, doing what God has for me to do there, and the results are in His hands. He can take my poor efforts and multiply them to help the people in the most efficient way.

God also showed me what was accomplished in our very short five days in Elim: (1) the people at Elim Church heard Spirit-filled preaching from John, my husband, on Sunday morning and night; (2) those at the new start in Junction heard Spirit-filled preaching from J. Brabban, of Chowan University, on Sunday morning, and Elim heard an incredible Bible study from him Wednesday night; (3) Betty Brabban and I did countless blood pressure screenings, one man with stroke level pressure was taken to the hospital, and two to the clinic; (4) Betty did an amazing amount of one-on-one health education in homes; (5) I was able to set up an Emergency Medical Fund so that if great medical needs happen, those who have no money can get to a clinic; and (6) the team prayed for and with many people in Montego Bay and Elim.

Our Lord is moving in Elim, Jamaica, and throughout the world. What we must do is ask Him what He would have us do wherever in the world He sends us.

11/20/2008 9:44:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Nov. 30: Hope

November 20 2008 by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: Hebrews 6:13-20

C.R. Snyder is a University of Kansas psychologist. He is not widely known, even in academic psychology circles. He developed, in 1995, what he called the “hope test.” The test was designed to measure the general level of hope a person possessed and by doing so put them into one of three categories. Using a series of questions, visual stimuli, situational stresses and the observations of the people responding to each, Snyder was able to label incoming college students as having high, moderate or low levels of hope. Snyder discovered that incoming students in the high hope level group did best during their first semester of college. He discovered this by posing the following hypothetical situation to them:

“Although you set your goal of getting a B in a class, after your first exam, which accounts for 30 percent of your grade, you find you only scored a D. It is now one week later. What do you do?” Snyder also compared the actual academic achievement of freshman students who scored high and low on hope, he found that hope was actually a better predictor of their first semester grades than were their SAT scores. Snyder found that hope made all the difference. In summary of his findings, Snyder was quoted as saying, “People with hope simply do better.”

If Snyder is right, and I believe he is, if people with hope do better, then we Christians ought to be on the fast track to an enhanced state. We have hope, the hope we celebrate most at this time of year. We sing carols, but the fabled old hymn “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand” may say it best:

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.”

As we enter into this season of advent, we turn our attention to an event two thousand plus years ago. We look to a night that was, for the most part, unspectacular. We see a city that was overrun with ordinary people. Our quest to answer “in whom” our hope lies sends us to the lowliest of places, a stable. The hope of all humanity, realized by we who claim His name as ours, is Jesus Christ, the baby in the manger. Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus.

11/20/2008 9:42:00 AM by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for Nov. 30: My Ongoing Mission

November 20 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passage: Romans 15:14-21, 30-33; 16:25-27

As I write this lesson, I only have two weeks more before taking a team to Jamaica. I cannot wait. As my fellow team members and I teach Bible studies, I tell the Jamaican women, “I pray constantly for the people of Jamaica, and one thought runs through my mind: Jamaica for Jesus, Jamaica for Jesus. There is no reason why the fire of revival in Jamaica can’t start here in Elim — and start with you!”

Each time I tell them that, they look at me with disbelief because they have such a hard time believing that God has a plan for their lives, and they can make such a difference in their world by living entirely for Him. I pray that they can see they can be Christ’s instruments in ministry, and can be so much more effective than I can, because, even though I love the people so much, and possibly am an “accepted outsider,” I am still an outsider.

Almost in the same way, when I tell church members of my work in Jamaica, and tell them that by their prayers, they can also be Christ’s instruments in the ministry in Jamaica, they also look at me with disbelief, or worse, with amusement. They think that they have to go with me, which God may very well call them to do, to have a part in His work. I so want them to know that by lifting me and the team members in prayer, they are part of my team. I want them to know that I don’t want to go to Jamaica without their prayers for me.

When I take a team to Jamaica, I leave a daily prayer guide so that people will know what we have planned for each day of the week we are there. We may not always follow that exact plan, but the point is that believers are praying for us whatever we are doing in Jamaica.

During one of my trips, we met a Christian sister in the marketplace in Montego Bay. We didn’t even expect to go to the market, but this woman met us and led us to her shop. After finding that we were sisters in Christ, she shared a terrible burden that she was carrying, and by trusting us with this burden, she found three women who have been praying for her for almost a year now. She needed prayer, and God sent us to her to pray for her.

For that, and for countless other reasons, I say, with Paul, “to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (v. 27).

11/20/2008 9:40:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Nov. 23: Walking a Narrow Line

November 14 2008 by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: Daniel 1:1-21

“Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.” That is how the New King James version of the Bible translates the first part of Daniel 1:8.

A careful study of the words translated “purposed in his heart” will lead to something akin to “setting one’s mind” to doing something, but I think this is more.

Daniel decided in his heart to follow God. It wasn’t an intellectual realization, though the decision seems well thought out.

It was not a rational conclusion, though everything about it seems logical.

It wasn’t a head thing, it was a heart thing.

Jesus made reference to this kind of purposing of the heart.

When preaching the Sermon on the Mount, He told His listeners that where their riches were, their hearts would be there also. When you make something the purpose of your heart it becomes your treasure.

In a strictly clinical or anatomical sense, the purpose of the heart is to pump blood. The heart pumps blood to all our vital organs. On the web site for the Franklin Institute, a non-profit organization for science and education, the following is said of the human heart:

“In an average lifetime, the heart beats more than two and a half billion times, without ever pausing to rest. Like a pumping machine, the heart provides the power needed for life. This life-sustaining power has, throughout time, caused an air of mystery to surround the heart. Modern technology has removed much of the mystery, but there is still an air of fascination and curiosity.”

Our hearts have life-sustaining power, this we know. But what happens when we turn the purpose of our hearts, in a less anatomical way, to being like God?

Daniel was called to make a stand and he purposed his heart to that very goal. God was the treasure of his heart and so the stand was an easy one to make. He was willing to clearly identify himself as a child of God because Daniel’s heart was in the mission.

When we decide with our heads to follow God, will our hearts be in it?

11/14/2008 10:15:00 AM by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for Nov. 23: My Heart-Healthy Church

November 14 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passage: Romans 14:1, 10-13, 19-21; 15:1-6

When John, Marcus and I were home on what was then called “furlough” from serving in Africa, we went to visit a friend of ours. She was a retired missionary, and we had a meal with her and her 90-year-old aunt. The aunt watched as I ate and kept shaking her head, until finally, she asked me, “What are you doing?”

I’ll explain now what I was doing. With certain food combinations, I prefer to eat all of one type of food before starting on another. For example, if I were eating hamburger, potatoes, peas, and rolls, I would eat all of the peas, then the potatoes, then the roll, and finally the hamburger, not necessarily in that order, but finishing one thing before starting on the next.

I didn’t even realize that I was doing this, but the aunt did. I explained my preference for finishing some foods entirely before starting the next, and she became very angry.

“That’s so stupid!” she kept saying. “You’re supposed to mix your foods. It is very stupid to eat all of one thing before you start the next. You are really stupid!”

I was surprised, and my friend was embarrassed, but she chuckled as if to say, “Well, that’s just our Aunt, and please remember that she is in her 90’s.”

Even if you agree with the aunt’s way of eating, and disagree with mine, I hope that you see that my intelligence is not based on the way I eat some combinations of food. And yet, some disagreements that happen in our churches are just as silly.

When you consider our Lord, and what needs to be done to lift Him high in our world, some things we become so upset over become almost non-existent in importance. When we focus on Christ, ask Him to help us love with His love, and look at others in that light, we see that many disagreements have come about because we want our own way, instead of Jesus’ way.

If you have an incident where you think that what another person does is “stupid,” ask Jesus to help you see that person the way He does, and see if your differences can still be seen in the light of His love.

11/14/2008 10:13:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Nov. 16: Rocking the Boat

November 7 2008 by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: Amos 2:6-16

If you ask the friend I have had the longest what he does for a living, his answer will immediately be “TMI.”

TMI, for those of you who don’t know, is the 21st century way to say that someone has shared too much; they have given you too much information. He is now a tobacco and cattle farmer in my hometown but that won’t be his entire answer. Actually to call him a farmer is a bit of a stretch, as doing so seems to imply that farming is how he makes his living. While indirectly farming is a part of what he does, a one-word name for his occupation would be “breeder.”

My friend is a cattle breeder. He uses the latest in science, technology and veterinary medicine to impregnate heifers, and his descriptions of his “call” really are just too much for most people’s imaginations much less their stomachs. If you can pardon the bad pun, I will tell you that the off-spring of his labors, have proven to be award-winning steers.

Well I don’t know if Amos’ sheep were award winning, but we do find out in Amos that he was a “sheep breeder.” He was also a “tender of sycamore fruit” and while all of that is interesting, even important, it isn’t the point. Amos’ occupations are interesting because, well how many sheep breeders and/or fig farmers do you know? They are important for two reasons; one was their parts in the greater economy of his day. The second reason, though, is the one of consequence for us here and now.

Amos was willing to risk everything he had, up to and including his very livelihood to speak
the word of the Lord. The minor prophet wails against the ills of the land in three areas. He speaks about legal problems, social injustices and religious dilemmas.

Though not a scholar or politically important man, Amos was willing to step out of his roll, because God called him to say something. Amos was willing to rock the boat, for the simple reason that the boat, God told him, needed rocking.

Maybe it is easier for folks who haven’t climbed “so far up the ladder” to be willing to risk everything because theoretically at least, they’d have less to lose. But isn’t your everything — everything, no matter where you start? How willing would we be to risk our livelihood to speak up for God?

11/7/2008 4:54:00 AM by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for Nov. 16: Key Christian Duties

November 7 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passage: Romans 13:1-14

I just finished a series of lessons for 10-year-old children in Sunday School at my son’s church. With the help of their teacher, I was trying to let the children catch a glimpse of life in Jesus’ time. We had a time of “school,” but we also visited two marketplace shops each Sunday. We tasted, smelled, touched, looked at, and most fun of all, bargained for, different items in each shop. The children became very good at bargaining (with play money, of course).

One Sunday, a woman (the children’s Sunday School teacher) covered in rags visited. I drove her away from the children and chastised her because she wasn’t carrying a bell to ring to announce to everyone that she was “unclean.” She told us that she was very hungry, and I promised to get her food, but said that she must get away from the children. She left, but returned shortly, with her face and hands uncovered. I began to drive her away again, but she told us that she had seen a man called Jesus, and He had healed her. I questioned her closely to see if she had been to see the priests of the Temple to be declared healed (and clean), and she said that she had. Jesus, as healer, came alive for these children.

The next Sunday, as they were bargaining at the perfumer’s shop, the tax man came to collect taxes. I handed him a fair amount to pay my taxes, but he took all my money. I asked him how I was going to buy food for my family, and he said that it wasn’t his problem. The children were amused until he held out his hand and took all of their money, too. He told them that everyone must pay taxes. They stopped being amused, but soon after this, the tax man returned and gave us back most of the money he had taken. He told us that he had met a man named Jesus, had eaten with Him, had been changed by Him, and now he wanted to return all our money, except what was actually owed for taxes.

The children were very glad to have some of their bargaining money returned, but they still weren’t happy to render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s ...” (Matt. 22:21).

11/7/2008 4:53:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 11 comments