November 2013

Explore the Bible Lesson for December 8: Serve Humbly

November 21 2013 by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passages: John 13:12-20, 33-38
 
As we read John 13:12-15, it is appropriate to ask, what does it mean today to follow the example of Christ in his washing of the disciples’ feet? My husband and I had an experience I will never forget that helped me gain understanding about this example of Jesus. We were appointed as missionaries for the International Mission Board in 2001.
 
During the appointment weekend, a vice president of the International Mission Board symbolized the washing of the feet by kneeling before us to clean and then brush our shoes with a shoe brush. It was so humbling to have him kneel before me and do such an act of service.
 
They gave us the shoe brush as a reminder to serve in the same way on the mission field. It was a meaningful and special experience!
 
There is a popular and true saying that the “ground is level at the foot of the cross.”
Jesus conveys that truth as we continue our reading in John 13:16-20. Jesus lists the servant, master and messenger as all significant ... if they are fully aware of Who sent them.
 
God is the sender, no matter what our role. Whether the person serving is the brand new missionary or the vice-president who served 30 years in one of the toughest places on earth. What matters is that we are sent by God. We go because He calls us. It is an act of obedience. 
 
And as we obey, John 13:33-35 reminds us to serve in love. For if we omit love we just sound like a “noisy gong, or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). Jesus also reminds us in John 13:36-38 to resist boasting.
 
Peter declared what he was willing to do, and Jesus questioned him to humble him. We can all think of that service-oriented person that we certainly admire, but every time we talk to them they are telling us all the things they are doing. In all humility, our focus of service must stay on the person of Jesus Christ.
11/21/2013 1:51:49 PM by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for December 8: The Gift You Can’t Give Yourself

November 21 2013 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

Focal Passage: Romans 3:21-28
 
As we saw in our last lesson, we have a problem we can’t solve. Because of sin, we stand condemned before the holy God. Thankfully, God intervened through His Son, Jesus Christ, and we are now forgiven through His sacrifice.
 
The Apostle Paul expressed it this way, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24).
 
The word “justified” in Romans 3:24 is a legal term that means to declare someone to be innocent or render one to be righteous. The meaning of this word was made clearer to me a few years ago.
 
As a pastor, I travel to the hospitals fairly often. One day I was coming back from the hospital and running late to pick up my son at school.
 
I had reasoned that it was better to break the speed limit than have my son waiting all alone at school. At the point the blue lights came on I was significantly over the speed limit so I pulled over immediately to expedite the ticketing process.
 
When the officer came to my window I explained why I was speeding. I knew I was guilty and was prepared to receive the ticket.
 
He went back to his car and a few minutes later he came back with a huge surprise – a warning ticket! My heart jumped with joy as I knew he had every right to condemn me, but he chose to have mercy and declare me innocent (or at least not make me pay the penalty for breaking the law).
 
As I continued on my way to pick up my son, I thought about the similarities between the police officer and my relationship with God.
 
Every day it seems I am guilty of breaking God’s law. But, because of the finished work of Jesus I have been justified and declared innocent before God. I no longer have to pay the penalty for my sin, but instead, I am the excited recipient of His mercy and grace.          
11/21/2013 1:48:15 PM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for December 1: Live Selflessly

November 19 2013 by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passages: John 12:24-33, 35-36, 44-48
 
How many books have been written on finding the secret to happiness? How many commercials have tried to illustrate how someone can find happiness? A life changing truth in being a Christian is gaining the understanding that temporary happiness is not important. Instead, we realize that true joy comes through dying to self and living for God.
 
Jesus illustrates this powerful principle of Christian living in John 12:24-26. Jesus calls us to serve and follow Him by dying to ourselves.
 
Dying to ourselves involves a cost that Jesus explained could involve a literal death. He predicted His own death in John 12:32-33.
 
As I read these words of scripture, I feel like I can hear the urgency in the voice of Jesus. He went on to tell His listeners that He would be with them “only a little longer” (John 12:35). He was pleading with them to understand that this life is temporary, and it is urgent that we believe in Him and follow Him. As we try to live a selfless life, we model a message for non-believers. A godly life is countercultural. The next time you sing, “I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back,” ponder if this is truly what you are doing on a daily basis. We can sing all the verses fully from memory but not practice it when we leave the steps of the church building. 
 
I strongly encourage you to take the time and read “When dying is gain” – a column on brnow.org. It was posted Oct. 18, 2013, under guest columns.
 
I strongly encourage you to take the time to read it. It is a beautiful and encouraging account of being willing to die well in two different ways. The writer describes his friend who experienced a physical death and truly sought the strength to die well by honoring God to the end of his earthly life. The writer died to his comfort level and chose to step out on faith to live for Christ. What is Jesus calling you to die to today?  
11/19/2013 1:16:10 PM by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for December 1: A Problem You Can’t Solve

November 19 2013 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulavill

Focal Passage: Romans 1:16-17; 2:5-11; 3:9-12
 
Every day in America we are bombarded with the idea that government owes us something, regardless of our actions. It seems we no longer connect American citizenship with hard work and responsibility, but rather with a sense of entitlement.
 
Much of our younger generation – “Generation Me” – believes they deserve the best regardless of how they live. Tragically, this entitlement mindset has influenced the church as well. For example, many Christians believe God owes them blessings regardless of how they live. They may not admit it, but their actions demonstrate a sense of entitlement toward God. For instance, when things go bad they oftentimes will become frustrated with God, blaming Him.
 
They ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The truth is, according to Jesus, no one is good but God alone (Mark 10:18). Even one of our focal passages teach us that “… None is righteous, no, not one” (Roman 3:10). The Bible also states that our best righteousness is as filthy rags before the Lord (Isaiah 64:6).
 
Sure, when we compare ourselves to others we can appear to be good, but God’s standard for goodness is perfect righteousness – a standard we cannot meet. You see, we have a problem we cannot solve. As good as we may think we are it is not good enough to please God. Even our best efforts fall significantly short of His glory (Romans 3:23). The problem gets even worse for us. Because God is holy and just we must face His judgment. The reality is that God does owe us something, namely, His just condemnation and eternal wrath (Romans 2:8). However, the story does not end there. As we will see in the next lesson, God in His grace and mercy has provided a solution for our problem in the person of Jesus Christ. Through the finished work of Jesus we are freely pardoned for our sin and declared righteous before God – for anyone who would renounce his sin and trust in Christ. How will you respond to this Good News?       
11/19/2013 1:09:49 PM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulavill | with 1 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for November 24: Dealing with Death?

November 7 2013 by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passages: John 11:21-27, 33-44
 
Martha provides an example for all of us in John 11:21. Believing that Jesus could have prevented the death of Lazarus, she acknowledges that “even now I know whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” What an affirmation of her faith in Jesus and her confidence in Him! Even in the midst of this confidence there were tears because the hurt of loss was so very real, but there was hope.
 
Jesus states, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die – ever.” Jesus asks Martha and asks you today, “Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). 
 
Growing up I was a fearful child. I did not want to dive off the diving board, ride my bike down the steep hill or risk my bodily safety in any form or fashion. As a teenager, and being the only child still at home, I was fearful something would happen to my parents. Then one day I understood the victory Jesus has in every situation and even over death. It makes a monumental difference in your life if you believe this.
 
In John 11, Jesus makes the promise to us that He has power over death, He expresses His concern for those who grieve and He raised Lazarus from the dead to the glory of God. He alone can deliver us from our fears and give us confidence, even in the face of death. 
On Oct. 18 it was reported on imb.org that a plane crashed in Laos and there were no survivors.
 
For the local community, the article explains that most would believe the river spirits/god was upset and caused the accident.
 
There will only be sadness and no hope of eternity for these families of devout Buddhists and animists. We have a message to share in our community and throughout the world that there is indeed hope because Jesus promised us eternal life. When we are experiencing grief, we can be confident in the promised resurrection.
11/7/2013 2:08:39 PM by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for November 24: Thank You, Lord

November 7 2013 by Troy Rust, writer, Hurdle Mills

Focal Passage: Psalm 100:1-5
 
Prosperity and ingratitude seem to go hand in hand. The more we have the more we assume we should have, so thankfulness to God gives way to a sense of entitlement.
 
The Psalmist exhorted God’s people to shout joyfully to the Lord, serve Him with gladness, and come before Him with joyful singing. In the midst of this musical worship, he urged, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving.” We cannot worship God without hearts overflowing with gratitude to God.

In order to serve God properly, we must continually reflect on His goodness toward us. If not, we will begin to believe that God has not blessed us or loved us in clear and tangible ways. 
 
How often do you give thanks to the Lord? Do you wait until He sends a new blessing, or do you realize that you could spend the rest of your life giving thanks to God for the things He has already done? We should give thanks to God for our most basic blessing, life itself. Not only has He created us, but He has also called us to be the sheep of His pasture. By God’s grace we have heard the voice of Jesus, our Good Shepherd, and followed Him as recipients of eternal life. 
 
When I pray I often find myself mixing adoration of God’s character with gratitude for what He has done. While there is a clear difference between these two aspects of worship, the Bible calls us to do both. In fact, we understand the character of God largely through what He has done, especially through giving us His Word.
 
Consequently, we too can say, “The Lord is good.” Do we ever pause to thank God for His inherent goodness? While Israel lived amid pagan neighbors who worshipped angry and unpredictable gods, God’s people praised their God for His goodness made evident through His lovingkindness (covenant faithfulness) toward them. As recipients of God’s grace, we can take great comfort in knowing that His favor is everlasting to every generation of His people.
11/7/2013 2:04:25 PM by Troy Rust, writer, Hurdle Mills | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for November 17: Feeling Insecure?

November 5 2013 by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passages: John 10:1-5, 7-10, 14-18, 25-30
 
Our lesson this week asks the question, are you feeling insecure? Like you I can easily think of numerous reasons someone might feel insecure. The government shutdown has recently effected the economic security of countless government employees, the daily needs of those relying on government programs and even the joyous plans of those families who had vacation plans to national museums and parks. The normal running of our government was not normal, thus causing insecurity.
 
Insecurity can affect us in an even more personal and private manner. Someone reading this may have just received a diagnosis of cancer or lost a loved one. The future seems insecure and frightening. Thankfully, scripture speaks to us where we are and gives us guidance. John 10 illustrates Jesus as the Good Shepherd and the One on whom we can depend. 
 
Jesus establishes in John 10:1-5 that the good shepherd guides his sheep and gives clear direction. There is such comfort in direction. We all understand what it feels like to lose our way, either on the road or in life. Thankfully, the invention of the GPS has assisted the directionally challenged person, like me, with travel directions. In day-to-day life, we can know that Jesus cares enough about His sheep to give us the direction we need. The scripture assures us this is done in a tender and compassionate way. 
 
Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, gives us life in two different ways. He guides us in the ways that save our life (John 10:9) and gives us abundant life (John 10:10). We don’t just exist, but live an abundant life!
 
Eternal life, then, is 100 percent guaranteed. It gives us security in a world filled with insecurity. On a practical level, if we are faced with a terminal diagnosis, we have the security that we will live eternally in the presence of Jesus. If we lose a loved one, we have the security that one day we will celebrate with them in the presence of Jesus, for eternity. Guaranteed!
11/5/2013 2:30:07 PM by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for November 17: The Big Picture

November 5 2013 by Troy Rust, writer, Hurdle Mills

Focal Passages: Genesis 37:5-8, 26-28; 50:15-21
 
Many of you will remember the famous line from the Smothers Brothers, “Mom always did like you best!” Joseph’s brothers resented their father’s clear favoritism of their baby brother, and became more indignant as he explained his dream about reigning over his brothers. Consequently, they sold him into slavery and faked his death. Things seemed to improve for Joseph after he was sold to Potiphar and put in charge of all that his master possessed. However, His righteousness and faithfulness to his master landed him in jail, falsely accused of raping his master’s wife because he would not have an illicit relationship with her. Joseph then oversaw all the other prisoners and interpreted the chief cupbearer’s dream only to be forgotten by him when he was released.
 
What do you do when life takes you where you don’t want to go, and the light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be a train? Surely Joseph faced unbelievable discouragement as he sat falsely accused in prison for two years, but the Lord was with him (Genesis 39:21, 23). We all have a tendency to become near-sighted in the midst of adversity and forget about the big picture. Do we really believe that God is working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28) even when our circumstances are terrible? Moses didn’t record what Joseph was thinking during his prison years, but he does reveal the fulfillment of God’s purpose for Joseph. Joseph forgave his brothers and realized that God had used their evil deeds to preserve the lives of countless people (Genesis 50:20). Are you in a troubling situation with an unpredictable outcome? Will you look for the big picture of God’s glory when the current snapshot tempts you to be anxious about everything? The same God who has delivered us from the darkness of sin and death through the sacrifice of His Son will deliver us from our temporary tribulation. Remember, when you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart. 
11/5/2013 2:25:58 PM by Troy Rust, writer, Hurdle Mills | with 0 comments