November 2015

Explore the Bible Lesson for December 6: The Way Prepared

November 18 2015 by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton

Focal passage: Matthew 3:1-12
Growing up, I played football in any and every way possible, including the popular Madden video game franchise. I remember the excitement that would build in my heart every year as the late August release date inched closer. However, it was four months away from Christmas! Oh the agony of waiting! But the wait exploded into joy as I received the long-awaited gift on Christmas morning. If a few months felt like forever to a little boy waiting for his favorite game, imagine what four centuries felt like to the people of God during the Intertestamental period of silence.
Imagine the longing to hear God speak through one of His prophets. Then imagine the joy when people realized that John the Baptist’s preaching in the Judean wilderness was the fulfillment of God’s 700 year-old promise in Isaiah 40:2.
God was speaking with His people again – and now through the promised forerunner, Elijah (Malachi 4:5) – the one making way for the King.
Yet God’s message at first glance does not seem to be a gift. His message is that the reign of Messiah is near, therefore people should turn from their sin and trust in the coming King.

Christ Himself would begin His ministry by preaching the same message (Matthew 4:17).
Repentance comes as an unexpected announcement – especially to the most religious (Matthew 3:7-10). But repentance is God’s gift: the call to reject our enslavement to self and submit to the merciful reign of God. It is the call to be transformed by the King Himself such that we display His beauty and experience His joy. This should characterize the lifestyle of those who belong to the King.
We are unworthy to lace His sandals, yet He is willing to wash not only our feet, but also our hearts with His very blood. Such grace and kindness leads us to live a lifestyle of repentance and faith (Romans 2:4). 

11/18/2015 2:20:21 PM by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for December 6: Adopted into God’s Family

November 18 2015 by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex

Focal passage: 1 John 3:1-10
I will always remember the moment that Laura and I received Solomon into our care. We were in the city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Our driver came and picked us up from the guest house and drove us through the city into the hills and up to a gated house full of orphaned children. Laura and I stood outside the gate while one of the agency case workers went inside, and after a few moments, our agency worker opened the gate and walked out into the street and handed us our son.
We turned and got back into the van and got situated. As the van pulled off Solomon started screaming and crying frantically. This little child had no clue what was going on. We were pulling baby Solomon away from everything he had ever known. But after a few minutes, he reached his little arms around Laura’s neck and tightened his grip and held on for dear life.
It was moving to see Solomon hold onto Laura, but what really mattered, was Laura holding onto Solomon. Laura and I knew where we were going. We also knew that he was our son.
Solomon came to understand this reality as time went on.
Since that moment, I have never been able to read passages like 1 John 3:1-10 the same: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
As J.I. Packer once said in his classic book, Knowing God: “If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father.”
As we live the Christian life, we must realize that years may transpire before the believer who is adopted by God may know that he is adopted, have a deep sense of feeling of it. We live in the comfort and hope of our loving Father’s arms. And as we grow, that reality shapes us more and more as we head towards eternity. 

11/18/2015 2:09:05 PM by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for November 29: God Provides

November 17 2015 by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal passage: Genesis 24:1-17
How fitting that we are in the midst of a season that is designated for giving thanks when we close this series on the story of Abraham. We have much to be thankful for in how God has provided so abundantly in our lives and in the lives of those who have gone before us in faith.
How He has provided for the needs of His people in a way that is consistent with His eternal plan. We see this displayed in the beautiful (and romantic) unfolding of how He brings Rebekah to Isaac in Genesis 24. First, there is an assignment given by Abraham to a trusted servant: “the oldest of the household, who had charge of all that he had” (v. 2). He tells his servant to return to his homeland and find a wife for Isaac. He desires for his son to have a bride from his kindred, and not from the daughters of the Canaanites (vv. 3-4).
Abraham confidently declares that God will direct his servant to the right woman. The servant is obedient to his master’s directions and makes the long journey back to the land of Abraham’s relatives. Upon his arrival, he prays and asks God to bring the one whom He has appointed for Isaac. As a sign, the servant asks for a woman who will not only provide water for him to drink, but also for his camels as well. By this, he will know that the Lord has shown steadfast love to Abraham (v. 14).
Scripture records that “before he had finished speaking,” Rebekah appears (v. 15). God answered the servant’s prayer immediately with her arrival at the well. Although Rebekah was described as “very attractive in appearance,” the servant observes her first to test her character before he reveals his assignment. Later in the chapter, we witness the servant sharing the story of God’s provision to Rebekah and her family as well as to Isaac, giving God the glory for His providence. How will you testify to the faithful provision of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?

11/17/2015 10:35:12 AM by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for November 29: When Opposition Strikes

November 17 2015 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church

Focal passage: Acts 4:23-31
Some time ago, The Daily Bread shared comments from 20th century evangelist Paul Rader concerning the Christians who were martyred in the early church. They wrote, “In ancient Rome, crowds by the tens of thousands would gather in the Colosseum to watch as Christians were torn apart by wild animals.” Paul Rader, commenting on his visit to this famous landmark, said, “I stood uncovered to the heavens above, where He sits for whom they gladly died, and asked myself, ‘Would I, could I, die for Him tonight to get this gospel to the ends of the earth?’”
“I prayed most fervently in that Roman arena for the spirit of a martyr,” Rader continued, “and for the working of the Holy Spirit in my heart, as He worked in Paul’s heart when He brought him on his handcuffed way to Rome.” Those early Christians “lived on the threshold of heaven, within a heartbeat of home, no possessions to hold them back.”
Rader’s words serve as both inspiration and prayer for us to stand bold in the face of persecution. Have you ever thought how you would respond if you were threatened for sharing your faith?
I believe this week’s lesson can give us much needed help in answering that question. Prior to our focal verses the disciples Peter and John were warned not to speak the good news of the risen Christ or they would face severe punishment. When they returned to their friends they shared what happened to them and they all began to seek God in prayer.
Instead of praying for God to deliver them from future suffering, they asked the Lord for continued strength to speak the word boldly (Acts 4:29). I believe their prayers serve as a catalyst for us not to back down when suffering comes, but to fully trust in God’s sovereign hand. I believe Rader had it right – just like those early Christians – the temporary suffering in this world cannot compare to the eternal reward of being found faithful before our King. Will you stand up for Christ? 
11/17/2015 10:27:45 AM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for November 22: The Faith Test

November 5 2015 by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal passage: Genesis 22:1-14
In last week’s lesson, we finally had the privilege of witnessing God’s promise fulfilled in the birth of Isaac. All of the waiting and trusting came to fruition as God provided a son for Abraham and Sarah after 25 years of expectation. This week’s story line is heartbreaking in comparison. God calls Abraham to give up this son – the one he waited so many years for; the son that was to be his heir and the offspring in which the nations of the earth would be blessed; the only son born of Sarah – by sacrificing him on an altar to the Lord.
We resonated last week with the rejoicing that surely surrounded the birth and celebration of Isaac, the tangible life that represented God’s faithfulness to His promise. In the same way, we can feel the grief and turmoil that must have beset Abraham as he obediently followed the LORD’s instructions for his faith test presented in Genesis 22.
Scripture continues in the narrative to tell us how Abraham prepared for the test. He arose early in the morning, saddled the donkey, cut wood for the burnt offering, gathered the necessary items for the sacrifice, and took two of his young men along with Isaac. They journeyed three days to the mountain. So much was unknown to Abraham, just like his initial journey to Canaan. Yet each step forward – signifying his obedience to God – was an act of worship. Even as father and son continued on alone, Abraham expressed confidence in God and His ability to provide.
After binding his son and laying him on the altar, the angel of the Lord stops Abraham from sacrificing Isaac – giving approval of Abraham’s faith. He proved that he was willing to obey God, whatever the cost, and demonstrated faith in His power to save (see Hebrews 11:17-19). God, therefore, provides a lamb for the sacrifice in Isaac’s place.
This provision beautifully points to the future substitutionary sacrifice of God’s only Son, Jesus, the Lamb of God, who would die in our place and take away the sins of the world.
11/5/2015 11:25:17 AM by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for November 22: Act Faithfully

November 5 2015 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church

Focal passages: Daniel 6:6-10, 13-16, 19-22
Bob Moorehead published a prayer in his book Words Aptly Spoken that was contained by a believer in Africa who was martyred for his faith. As we consider Daniel’s faithfulness in this week’s lesson I believe this prayer will encourage us to act like Daniel and remain faithful no matter the cost. The prayer is best known as “The Fellowship of the Unashamed.” 

I’m part of the Fellowship of the Unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of His and I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still.
My past is redeemed. My present makes sense. My future is secure.
I’m done and finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living and dwarfed goals. I no longer need preeminence, lavish wealth, position, promotions, plaudits or popularity. I don’t have to be right, or first, or tops, or recognized, or praised or rewarded.
I live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer and labor by Holy Spirit power. My face is set. My gait is fast.
My goal is Heaven. My road may be narrow, my way rough, my companions few, but my Guide is reliable and my mission is clear.
I will not be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed.
I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice or hesitate in the presence of the adversary. I will not negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won’t give up, shut up or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up and preached up for the cause of Christ.
I am a disciple of Jesus. I must give until I drop, preach until all know and work until He comes. And when He does come for His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me.

My colors will be clear.

11/5/2015 11:07:39 AM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church | with 1 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for November 15: Keeping His Promise

November 3 2015 by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal passage: Genesis 21:1-8
Can you imagine the anticipation and excitement in Abraham’s household as they awaited the birth of the promised heir? The fulfillment of a promise made to Abraham nearly 25 years earlier? That is a significant amount of time to trust and wait upon the Lord. Like our lesson said, “Perhaps the long wait made the joy all the more greater.”
Going back to Genesis 12, Scripture tells us that Abram was 75 years old when he departed from Haran. He is promised by God that he will be made into a great nation (v. 2) and also that his offspring will inherit the land (v. 7). Yet, it is not until he is 100 years old when God’s promise is realized and Isaac is born to him. The first verse in our passage of Genesis 21 says, “The Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as He had promised.” Just as God promised, in His predicted timing of one year later (Gen. 18:10), Sarah and Abraham become the proud parents of a son that would be the heir to God’s everlasting covenant.
The naming of this heir in the following verses points to God’s promise remembered. Scripture says that Abraham called the name of his son, Isaac, and then he circumcised him on the eighth day, just as God had commanded him in Genesis 17. Both Isaac’s circumcision and his name would serve as a constant reminder of God’s covenant and His faithfulness.
In the next verses of chapter 21, we witness God’s promise rejoiced. At the appropriate time, once Isaac was weaned, Abraham and Sarah celebrated his birth with a great feast (v. 8). This was not only a day of celebration but a rite of passage for Isaac. After all, God had promised Abraham that it would be through Isaac that his offspring shall be named (v. 12).

How amazing is our God! Not only is He faithful to keep His promises but He can be trusted to fulfill them in His perfecting timing and in His almighty power.

Praise Him today for His never-ending faithfulness!

11/3/2015 10:57:08 AM by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for November 15: Confront Sin

November 3 2015 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church

Focal passage: Daniel 5:17-28
We have become confused in our culture today about what it means to genuinely love someone. I have the privilege of parenting three children. One way my children know that I love them is because I continually observe their lives and when danger seems near I move into action to correct, warn and help them to move to a safer place. I feel certain any parent in the right state of mind would do the same.
Danger can come any many forms. Sometimes there is a true safety issue that can impact a person physically. There are also moral and spiritual dangers as well. As we see in our lesson this week, Belshazzar had allowed pride and greed to consume his heart. Consequently, God brought judgment upon him.
We all know people like Belshazzar who are moving in a direction that would not please God. Perhaps we have been there ourselves.
The question I have is, “Will we love them enough to confront them?” Unfortunately, I believe many Christians do not equate loving someone with confrontation. Of course, loving involves many more things than confronting a person’s sin, but if you love someone and you know they were heading toward destruction it seems right you would seek to stop them.
Let me give you an example. I have a personal policy that I will not officiate a marriage for two people if they are living together. You would be surprised how often I have been perceived as not only archaic, but also as unloving because of my stance. But, the truth is I will not marry them because I love them.
I think living together before marriage is not only unhealthy but also a sin. God cannot bless what He is clearly against (Ephesians 5:3). So, my approach has been to gently confront and explain why I think what they are doing is wrong. Sometimes they respond positively and other times they choose to use someone else. Let me assure you confronting individuals about their sin is never easy, but I have learned that God is always honored when we do the right thing.         

11/3/2015 10:51:56 AM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church | with 0 comments