November 2010

Formations Lesson for Dec. 12: He Named Him Jesus

November 30 2010 by Christopher Moore, minister of education, children and senior adults, Durham Memorial Baptist Church, Durham

Focal Passage: Matt. 1:18-25  

My daughter just turned 2, and I must confess: I worry about her. (Yes, I know Christians aren’t supposed to “worry,” so I make myself feel better by claiming I’m just “hyper-concerned.”) My wife and I have cabinet locks, drawer locks, outlet covers — you know, the standard safety paraphernalia.

But as any Christian parent can tell you, it’s not just my daughter’s physical safety that causes me “hyper-concern.” I think about her spiritual well-being, too.

What kind of Christ-like example will I be for her?

What decisions will she make as she grows older?

How can I guide her in the faith without pushing her away?

All in all, it’s a lot to think about, and the pressure at times can feel overwhelming.

But there is one resounding truth that helps me sleep at night, and it’s this: God is more concerned about my little girl than I am.

His parenting is perfect, even when mine falters.

Though God can work through me, God reserves the right to work in spite of me.

For an uneasy father, I find it comforting to know that God’s plan is much bigger than my own.

In today’s passage, Joseph had a tremendously difficult decision to make. Joseph had just discovered that his future bride was pregnant; nevertheless, God instructed him through a dream to take Mary as his wife.

While we aren’t given the inside scoop on the myriad of doubts and concerns that may have flooded Joseph’s mind at this point, we know that he acted in obedience. 

Do you ever wonder how this angelic message affected the way Joseph reared the young Jesus? Did this dream serve as a constant reminder that Joseph was parenting a child who was not his own?

If so, then Joseph’s reminder is one all parents should take to heart.

In other words, mothers and fathers must never forget that children belong to God first, and to parents second.

As a witness to Jesus’ birth and life, Joseph saw the remarkable role he was playing in God’s unfolding drama. In a wider sense, Joseph’s story speaks to all believers.

For Christians, Jesus still serves as a reminder that we aren’t calling the shots. We aren’t writing our own story; instead, we are finding our place in God’s story.

Just as Joseph’s plans for his son had to take a backseat to God’s plans for His Son, believers must remember that we are living lives that belong first and foremost to God.

Worry not. God’s concern for us far outweighs our concern for ourselves.  
11/30/2010 2:38:00 AM by Christopher Moore, minister of education, children and senior adults, Durham Memorial Baptist Church, Durham | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Dec. 12: Go and Do

November 30 2010 by Catherine Painter, Raleigh speaker, author

Focal Passage: Luke 10:25-37  

A lawyer, attempting to argue theological matters, asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded with the well-loved parable of The Good Samaritan — a story that exposes three different attitudes toward life.

Jesus said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. “They stripped him, beat him, and fled, leaving him half dead” (Lk. 10:30). The robbers’ attitude was, “What’s yours is mine, and I’ll take it.”

Laying by the road, the wounded man saw someone in clerical garb approaching. Surely the priest would offer assistance. By birth and by calling, the priest was meant to be a neighbor to the wounded man. But when he saw him, the priest passed by on the other side (v. 31).

Later, a Levite, a priest’s servant, approached. He, too, saw the man and passed by on the other side. Neither inflicted additional harm to the man; they simply refused to become involved. Their attitude was: “What’s mine is mine, and I’ll keep it.”

Finally, a Samaritan, a mixed breed despised by the Jews, approached. While mercifully binding up the man’s wounds, he asked no questions and made no judgments. He neither sought reward for his help, nor felt inconvenienced. His attitude was, “What’s mine is ours, and I’ll share it.”

How recently have you and I played the Good Samaritan? Do we claim just anyone as our neighbor and see everyone as our brother? Can we be kinder than necessary and hold back judgment of others’ feelings and actions?

How about doing something good secretly, like giving money to causes that feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and offer medical help to the suffering around the world? And is there someone whose inner wounds we can help God heal?

Do we forgive those who wound or disappoint us? And do we remember to thank those who are Good Samaritans to us?

Jesus asked the lawyer in verse 36, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

“The one who showed mercy to him,” he said. Then Jesus challenged the man as He challenges us: “Go and do the same.”
11/30/2010 2:35:00 AM by Catherine Painter, Raleigh speaker, author | with 2 comments



Formations Lesson for December 5: In the Fullness of Time

November 18 2010 by Christopher Moore, minister of education, children and senior adults, Durham Memorial Baptist Church, Durham

Focal Passages: Gal. 4:1-7; Matt. 1:1-17

I recently received a birthday card from my in-laws.  It was signed “Love Mom and Papa.”

Though I’m not related by blood, my in-laws like to remind me from time to time that I’m part of their family, and each time they do, I feel special.

Consequently, I’ve embraced my role in the family with gusto.

I have sung the praises of their favorite burger joint, cast evil glances at their rival high school, worked a little on the farm, and even developed a taste for boiled peanuts. 

When they are anxious, I fret. 

When they celebrate, I laugh. 

When they speak of ancestors and family connections, I listen. 

I want to know more about their story, because along the way, I’ve adopted that story as my own.

When we read the genealogy of Jesus, it’s important to remember that we aren’t just trudging through a list of faceless names, even though many of them may not be familiar to us. 

As my wife reminded me recently, we are actually reading a list of stories, and the author of Matthew presumes we know something about this who’s who of Israelite history. 

A childless Abraham becomes the father of a nation. 

A duplicitous Jacob becomes the namesake of God’s people. A giant-slaying David rises to power, and yet falters by sinning with the “wife of Uriah.” 

For obvious reasons, perhaps my favorite name in the list is Ruth. Though not an Israelite herself, she too adopted the story of an in-law, and thus secured her place in the most famous genealogy of all time.

When Paul tells the Galatians that they are children of God, Paul references the unfolding drama that led to Christ’s birth (Gal. 4:4). History pointed in the direction of Jesus, and when the “fullness of time” came, believers were adopted into God’s family.

Now we as believers adopt God’s story as our story. By reading Matthew 1, we are not just rehashing Christ’s genealogy; we’re delving into our own.  Just as each individual in Matthew’s litany of ancestors played a role in the story of Jesus, we too are invited to participate in what God is doing here on earth. How do we participate? We must embrace our role in God’s family.

We learn to like the things God likes, do the things God does, care the way God cares, and love the way God loves. 

My in-laws sent me a card to remind me I was a part of the family. Likewise, God sent his Son as a resounding message that humans no longer have to be outsiders.  Because of Christ, we’ve been taking in and embraced as one of the Father’s own.  
11/18/2010 6:47:00 AM by Christopher Moore, minister of education, children and senior adults, Durham Memorial Baptist Church, Durham | with 2 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for December 5: Value What God Values

November 18 2010 by Catherine Painter, Raleigh speaker, author

Focal Passage: Isaiah 61:1-11 Luke 4:16-21

records that Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath. Jewish custom was to enlist a reader for the day.

Jesus stood, and was handed the scroll of Isaiah. He chose to read chapter 61:1-3.

We can imagine that as Jesus read, He internalized the needs of those He read about: naked people with no one clothing them; hungry, with no one feeding them; sick, and no one visiting them; imprisoned — most of them for debt — and no one delivering them; ill beggars at the gates of the wealthy, but no one caring; widows with two half-farthings separating them from destitution; laborers waiting all day to be hired, but left unwanted.

Throughout the gospels Jesus acted with compassion (with suffering) while dealing with needy people. He felt and shared their suffering (Matt. 9:36-38). Therefore, we can interpret all need as His need. Every hungry baby is a hungry Christ child; every weary traveler is Jesus, walking miles to preach and minister. Anyone experiencing need has Christ with him; therefore, whoever provides food or drink to the suffering is serving the needy Christ.

St. Francis of Assisi was such a person. Legend says that one day while riding his steed, he came upon a beggar who was also a leper, shivering in the cold. On impulse, St. Francis got down from his horse, embraced the beggar, and wrapped his coat around him. That night St. Francis dreamed that he died. In heaven he saw Jesus sitting on His throne, wearing the coat.

Jesus said, “I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40). But here ends only half of our lesson. Jesus also prayed for you and me when he said to the Father, “As You have sent me into the world, even so have I sent them” (Jn. 17:18).        

To serve Jesus, we don’t need to leave home. We can simply value the things God values. Often this means thinking small. I can’t provide funds for a college dorm, but I can offer water to the thirsty. I can’t pay a needy person’s rent, but I can offer sympathy and provide  listening ears.

The Bible promises, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again” (Eccles. 11:1 NIV).
11/18/2010 6:46:00 AM by Catherine Painter, Raleigh speaker, author | with 3 comments



Formations Lesson for November 28: Heirs According to the Promise

November 17 2010 by Christopher Moore, minister of education, children and senior adults, Durham Memorial Baptist Church, Durham

Focal Passage: Gal. 3:23-29

The day of my swimming test had finally arrived. For almost an entire week of Boy Scout camp I had been relegated to the Red swimming area, the portion of the lake reserved for “beginner” swimmers.  Now I had my sights on the Blue area of the lake, the deep water where only “advanced” swimmers could tread. With the swimming instructions I had received over the course of the week racing through my mind, I plunged into the murky water.

Lowering my head and gritting my teeth, I swam until I could barely feel my arms. A few minutes later, I emerged from the lake a Blue swimmer. I can still remember how hard and fast my heart was beating, not from exhaustion, but from euphoria. I had done it. Now I was finally free to swim with my friends, most of whom were “advanced” swimmers already. I felt a celebration was only appropriate, so upon receiving my Blue swimmer credentials I leapt with carefree abandon into the water … of the Red area. Free or not, I wanted to stay where my feet could touch the bottom.

Perhaps in no epistle is Paul’s anger and disappointment as evident as it is in his letter to the Galatians. Why? Simply put, the Galatian congregations have somehow managed to sneak back into the Red area. Though Paul has proclaimed Christ’s grace and freedom to these believers, they’ve once again sought refuge in the law. Paul explains that, up until the time of Christ, the law served to “imprison” and “guard” (Gal. 23:3). Now Christ provides freedom. Why on earth would a person return to imprisonment instead of embracing freedom? As frightening as it sounds, many of us know exactly why someone would do that.

The notion of “freedom” may seem appealing, but it’s a dangerous idea. Remember that even when the Hebrews were released from slavery in Egypt, they pondered returning to captivity (Num. 14:3-4). Many felt there was greater safety in bondage than in daily reliance on God.

Likewise, humans have a proclivity to retreat into legalism. After all, legalism is more well-defined, and we feel much safer when we know the rules. Perhaps it was this way of thinking that fueled some of Jesus’ poignant words in Matthew 5. Jesus taught that both adultery and murder were more than “acts”; instead, they were matters of the heart. In short, Jesus instructs his listeners to eschew legalism, not because legalism makes following Christ seem too hard, but because legalism makes following Christ seem too easy. Being a disciple of Jesus entails more than following a checklist.

Christians must vigilantly guard themselves from legalism. Like the Galatians, if given half a chance we’ll head for the shallow water  
11/17/2010 5:36:00 AM by Christopher Moore, minister of education, children and senior adults, Durham Memorial Baptist Church, Durham | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for November 28: Life Worth Sharing

November 17 2010 by Catherine Painter, Raleigh speaker, author

Focal Passages: Romans 1:14-17; 9:1-3; 10:1, 14-15; 15:17-20

After accepting Christ as my Savior, years passed before I shared my faith with anyone except my children.

I would eagerly have shared a book, a recipe, or an idea. Why was I tongue-tied about sharing my faith — my most valuable possession?

Jesus commanded us to “Go, and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19-20). Research reveals that Jesus’ command to go is more accurately translated as the present participle going. Jesus virtually said, “While going, make disciples.”

The enemy had convinced me that verbalizing my faith was not necessary — that living a good life was sufficient. Then one day the Holy Spirit reminded me that since I accepted Christ, no one ever said, “I have observed your life; therefore Jesus died for my sins.”

Still I hesitated to witness verbally. Suppose I offended people? Suppose they asked questions I couldn’t answer?

To my knowledge, I’ve not yet offended anyone; and when I’m asked a question I can’t answer, I smile and say, “I don’t know the answer to that. Can I research it and get back in touch with you?” If their question is a “smoke screen,” such as, “Did Adam have a belly button?” I laugh and answer, “I don’t know, but one thing I do know — once I was spiritually blind, and now I can see,” and I continue sharing my faith.

Why didn’t my life inform people that I was a Christian? Because lives can’t talk; only lips can speak. Of course, my life should verify my speech, (walk the talk), but witnessing is a matter of show and tell.  Many non-believers live good lives and know about Christ, but knowing about Christ is far different from knowing Him.

I experienced new joy in Christ the day I chose Romans 1:16 for my signature Scripture: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes.”

Where I once saw vacationers on the beach, fans at the game, and shoppers in the mall, I now see lost people as our Lord did — like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus came to earth on a rescue mission “to seek and to save the lost” (Lk. 19:10). He urges us to join Him. Witnessing is simply sharing Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.
11/17/2010 5:34:00 AM by Catherine Painter, Raleigh speaker, author | with 2 comments



Formations Lesson for November 21: Turning the Other Cheek

November 4 2010 by Christopher Moore, minister of education, children and senior adults, Durham Memorial Baptist Church, Durham

Focal Passage: Luke 6:27-36  

This past summer my friend told me a story I will not soon forget. Voice trembling, she recounted an awful experience she had at a local fast-food chain.

While waiting in a drive-through line, the driver in the car behind her began to honk and scream, spewing a torrent of profanities and insults directed at my friend.

Face flushed, heart racing, throat closing, my friend contemplated how to respond. Listening intently to her story, I did too.  I felt my blood pressure skyrocketing as I searched the files of my mind for the best comebacks I had ever heard or used. I shook my head slowly and breathed heavy through my dilated nostrils as I fantasized about the tongue-lashing I would have loved to unleash.

Oh, what I would have said! Oh, what I would have done!

And then, as is the case more times than I’d like to admit, it happened.

Our focal passage for the day hit me right in the teeth.

My friend told me that she didn’t understand what would make a person speak so venomously toward another, and feeling pity on this insanely impatient individual, she drove up to the window and paid for the meal this driver had just ordered.

Ouch.

Why hadn’t I thought of that? Embarrassed, and a little ashamed, I immediately felt like a member of the crowd Jesus was addressing in Luke 6. For all our talk about love, often it is painfully obvious that we Christians have not seriously dealt with Jesus’ words concerning our enemies.

We have qualified, justified, and de-radicalized Jesus until he is little more than a Mr. Rogers in sandals.

Jesus is not encouraging Christians to be nice; he is demanding that we genuinely love those who want nothing more than to destroy us. 

Love of family and friends is certainly good, but it is also expected, and oftentimes we even have trouble doing that!

No, the love Jesus describes is a love that makes Christians stand out in a crowd. It is a selfless, shocking, confounding love that makes others take notice. It is the love of a people set apart — holy, just as God is holy (Lev. 11:45; cf. Lk. 6:36). 

What might Jesus have said to my friend? Perhaps he would have reminded her (and me!) that loving our enemies enough to pay for their meals is not icing on the cake. In truth, it is the only love that really counts.  
11/4/2010 5:40:00 AM by Christopher Moore, minister of education, children and senior adults, Durham Memorial Baptist Church, Durham | with 1 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for November 21: Life Together

November 4 2010 by Catherine Painter, Raleigh speaker, author

Focal Passages: Acts 2:41-47; Hebrews 10:23-25  

When my husband Jack retired from ministry, we began serving interim pastorates. One church had no young adults except two whose parents remained in the church. We located absentees who lived in the area, retrieving as many as possible through telephone “exit interviews.” We discovered that many loved God and enjoyed daily quiet time with Him. Some even expressed gratitude for our attempt to lure them back to the church.

Absenteeism is not a disease but a symptom, and, thankfully, symptoms don’t kill; they merely serve as aids in diagnosing problems that can kill a church (Heb. 10:25).

Among the diseases we discovered were disbelief (faith “educated out of them”), love grown cold, lust resulting in feelings of unworthiness, and worldliness.

One explained, “I thought everybody expected us to leave church once we entered college,” and another confessed, “The weather’s too beautiful not to play tennis.” A few griped to justify their absenteeism, but most agreed they had simply drifted away without any axes to grind.

Sadly, their names were listed as “inactive” in the back of a record book. First, they were out of sight, then out of mind, and finally off the church’s collective conscience and forgotten.
With nurturing, however, some returned.

We found de-churched members harder to reach than un-churched prospects. The un-churched often agree they need the church, while the de-churched have tried church but have given it up, filling their time with other matters.

When our interim church called a pastor, Jack and I left behind a healthy Sunday School class of formerly absentee church members. Today, one of them is a deacon.

Many modern churches would be humiliated if they compared their church to the early church described in Acts 2:42-47. I suggest you list the nine characteristics of the early church, underlining those that define your church. Then talk with your pastor privately about incorporating any missing characteristics into your church, and state your willingness to help.

Mimic bird hunters. Instead of aiming at the whole covey; target one at a time. Jesus’ favorite number was one. He called His disciples one by one. He healed one blind man, forgave one adulteress; witnessed to one woman in Samaria (Jn. 4) who won one entire village.

The early Church grew because her members experienced a togetherness that attracted others. No wonder their hearts were glad.              
11/4/2010 5:38:00 AM by Catherine Painter, Raleigh speaker, author | with 1 comments



Formations Lesson for November 14: Longing for Peace

November 2 2010 by Christopher Moore, minister of education, children and senior adults, Durham Memorial Baptist Church, Durham

Focal Passage: Isaiah 2:1-4  

During the American Civil War, the Union general William T. Sherman implemented a devastatingly effective tactic to cripple the supply lines of the Confederate armies.

Sherman ordered his men to rip up railway tracks in the South, heat the rails until they were malleable, and then twist the heated bars around trees. Nicknamed “Sherman’s neckties,” what resulted was a host of gnarled rails that were often irreparable.

Sherman’s “necktie” strategy was one of many he hoped would serve as the decisive blow to break the Confederate will to fight, thus ending the war.

However, in our passage for today, Isaiah describes a day when the tools of war will be “reshaped” for a much different purpose. Isaiah envisions the time when weapons will not be misshapen to defeat an enemy, but will instead be reshaped to defeat war itself.

Swords will be used for plowing; spears will be used for pruning. The tools once used to end life will one day be used to create it.

So what might Isaiah say to Christians who long for a more peaceful world? First of all, Isaiah’s vision reminds us to be responsible with the tools God has given us. Take our speech, for example.

Our words are tools that can be used to build up or tear down. When we use our words in a destructive manner — say, when we judge another person — we are using our God-given tools in ways for which they were never intended. In essence, we are bending our farming tools into weapons! 

Look again at the picture Isaiah paints of the coming kingdom. It is a world in which God judges (v. 4). Christians are prohibited from judging one another, not because God wants all the vengeance for himself (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19), but because humans are unqualified to arbitrate for themselves. If left to our own, we will use our tools for war, not peace. The kingdom Christ proclaims is one in which humans, recognizing our skewed sense of justice, defer to God’s adjudication.

It is a kingdom in which humans have not simply sheathed their swords, but instead have reshaped them into instruments that can never again be used to destroy God’s creation.

Increasingly distraught with the violence of our world, we may pine for the day when God will bring this kingdom to fruition. Yet perhaps God is waiting on us, too.

After all, it is humans who reshape their weapons, not God.

How serious are we about asking God’s peace to reign in us and among us?

What if this kingdom was as near as our willingness to participate in it?   
11/2/2010 3:46:00 AM by Christopher Moore, minister of education, children and senior adults, Durham Memorial Baptist Church, Durham | with 3 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for November 14: Life in Light of Eternity

November 2 2010 by Catherine Painter, Raleigh, speaker, author

Focal Passages: Luke 12:13-21; Philippians 1:21-26  

Jesus’ parable concerns a rich man whose greed for temporal belongings robbed him of eternal possessions.

Without assigning a name, God calls the rich man a fool — strong language for someone who has all the answers to his dilemma — an overabundant crop.

Many farmers would welcome his problem. God calls the rich man a fool for three reasons. First, he mistakes his body for his soul.

“Soul,” he says, “you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry” (Lk. 12:19, KJV).

Jesus knows that the man’s soul has nothing laid up. There’s no gratitude laid up for the grain that grew in God’s earth, drank God’s rain, and ripened under God’s sun. He overlooks God’s forests that grew the timber from which the barns were built. Not even his soul is his own. It came from God and will return to God at a time of God’s choosing.

We read of no concern laid up for the needs of others. Instead, he groans, “What should I do, since I don’t have anywhere to store my crops?” (v. 17, HCSB).

We shake our heads in disbelief. Surely there’s room in mouths of the hungry and in homes of the destitute. But the word, “my,” keeps occurring — “my crops, my barns, my grain, my goods, my soul.”

Secondly, he mistakes time for eternity. With goods laid up for many years, he can take life easy. This philosophy invades our thinking as well when we’re encouraged to “Buy now; pay no interest for a year.”

Thirdly, he mistakes man for God, using the phrase “I will” repeatedly as if he, not God, will have the final word (vs. 17-19).

When George W. Truett pastored First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, a wealthy rancher invited him for dinner.

On the front porch, he said, “George, look east. I own all the land you see in that direction. Now look north, south and west. I own everything in that direction, too.”

Dr. Truett was unimpressed. He pointed upward and asked, “How much do you own in that direction?”

Jesus’ parable ends with God’s saying, “‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared — whose will they be?’

“That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
11/2/2010 3:44:00 AM by Catherine Painter, Raleigh, speaker, author | with 1 comments