October 2009

Formations Lesson for Nov. 8: The Mourner

October 31 2009 by Victor Lyons, Academic Dean, Foothills Christian College, Wilkesboro; Pastor, Union Cross Baptist Church, Elkin

Focal Passage: 2 Sam. 12:15b-25

Bathsheba plays a secondary role throughout this passage.

She is Uriah’s stolen wife (Regina M. Schwartz affirms that “the king’s adultery is a violation of a property right”; Cf. Adultery in the House of David, Women in the Hebrew Bible, 1999, 344), the dying child’s mother, and David’s mourning wife (v. 16, 24).

The lingering grief over her husband’s death is now intensified with the death of her unnamed child. It would outlast that of David who comes to comfort her.

Joy Osgood tries to repair the situation by affirming that “the death of the child was a severe mercy ... a token of the divine compassion for Bathsheba in the longer term. ... It removed the possibility of any future gossip occasioned by an innocent query to the child’s identity” (1 & 2 Samuel, The IVP Women’s Bible Commentary, 2002, 177). 

Horatio Spafford who lost his daughters by drowning when the ship Ville du Havre collided with another ship in 1873 understands Bathsheba’s despair. Grieving, he wrote: “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.” Grief overwhelms Bathsheba.

Center stage is King David who fasts during the seven-day illness. Learning of the child’s death, he immediately bathes and eats. The servants view the king’s behavior as bizarre. David’s fasting was a plea for God to spare the child’s life (v. 22).

The theological secret unknown to the servants is that the child’s death is atonement for David’s sin (there is a vicarious nature about it; Cf. P. Kyle McCarter, Jr. II Samuel: A New Translation with Introduction, Notes and Commentary, 1984, 301).

Nathan’s words in 2 Sam. 12:1-14 confirm that David’s misbehavior could be used by Israel’s enemies to blaspheme God. As Jesus challenged his disciples to be light in the world (Mat. 5:14-16), so Israel was to be special among the nations (2 Sam. 7).

With prophetic words, David is told that future blessings have evaporated and that the remainder of his rein will be filled with violence (this begins immediately with the incestuous rape of Tamar, the premeditated murder of Amnon the rapist, and the unavoidable rebellion of Absalom the avenger — three of David’s children).

Bathsheba is finally the subject/actor when “she (gives) birth to a son” (v. 24). Nevertheless, the naming of the child is left to others. Beyond doubt, Nathan’s words assure Bathsheba of this child’s survival.

Had not God “struck” the first one? Thankfully, God loves this child. No doubt, the joy of a new baby is mixed with the feelings of loss and unanswered questions.

10/31/2009 3:17:00 AM by Victor Lyons, Academic Dean, Foothills Christian College, Wilkesboro; Pastor, Union Cross Baptist Church, Elkin | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Nov. 8: Celebrate Your Trials

October 31 2009 by John Pond, Director of Missions, West Chowan Baptist Association

Focal Passage: James 1:2-18

We were traveling through the Nairobi National Game Park located outside the Kenyan capital. It is a beautiful reminder of what life was like before the advent of the tribal society which now inhabits the nation. In the park is a rich diversity of African wildlife and flora that remind one of primeval Africa.

The mini-safari we took was filled with breathtaking views of herds of zebras, antelopes, and gazelles. In dense pockets of the preserve were hidden lions and hyenas. And along the lake were hippos and crocodiles. It was an incredible and dangerous experience!

One such danger occurred when we approached a herd of cape buffaloes. At first it appeared to be a small group, so we continued driving ahead. Suddenly, we were literally surrounded by a herd of at least 100 buffaloes. We could not back-up nor move forward. For an instant, we were immobilized and powerless. Knowing that cape buffaloes are the most unpredictable and dangerous animals in Africa, we could only sit still in our truck and wait until the herd moved on. Gratefully, they ignored us and moved on to an awaiting pool of water, allowing us to proceed gingerly and quietly ahead.

James describes a similar experience in relation to facing trials and temptations. He writes, “Count (consider) it now whole and unmixed joy whenever you fall into the midst of manifold temptations or testings.” The term he uses describes the experience of being totally surrounded by trials, not sought or pursued but fell into. He recognizes that sometimes we fall into testing (sometimes positive but more often negative) situations, like our herd of buffaloes, and encourages us to face it with full joy.

For James each unexpected trial is part of a larger story that God is telling through the lives of his people. If faced in the right way it produces what William Barclay calls unswerving constancy (patience) — that is, the ability to turn those trials into something great and glorious, making us perfected and completed, lacking in nothing.

In the midst of trials we are called to be joyful, and when we face temptations and remain unscathed, we are truly blessed. We are not mere puppets to an unpredictable God who changes with every passing mood and passion, but instead, we are chosen and protected by the God “who does not change like shifting shadows” (NIV). Thus, life becomes more abundant and rich when temptations are encountered and defeated by God’s grace, for there is nothing which comes from God which is not good and does not re-create our lives showing us that we belong to Him (1:17-18).

10/31/2009 3:14:00 AM by John Pond, Director of Missions, West Chowan Baptist Association | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for Nov. 1: The Adulteress?

October 20 2009 by Victor Lyons, Academic Dean, Foothills Christian College, Wilkesboro; Pastor, Union Cross Baptist Church, Elkin

Focal Passage: 2 Sam. 11:2-5, 26-27a

Bathsheba appears in the genealogy of Christ (lit. her of Uriah; Matthew 1:6). Matthew presents Bathsheba — along with Tamar, Rahab and Ruth — in order to assure his listeners/readers that in spite of the irregularities of the situation, Mary is indeed part of God’s providential plan.

While hard to believe, Bathsheba becomes a spiritual forerunner to Mary. Frank Tupper explains: Behind Mary, moreover, Matthew has already included four women in his genealogy: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah (Bathsheba) ... These four women have two biographical features in common with Mary: First, each of these women had a well-known story of marriage that contained varying elements of sexual scandal — unions, however “irregular,” which continued the lineage of the Messiah. Second, each woman actively participated in events that became part of God’s purpose in the fulfillment of the messianic heritage, identifying them as instruments of the providence of God (A Scandalous Providence: The Jesus Story of the Compassion of God, 1995, 95).

Addressing the four women in Matthew’s gospel, Ulrich Luz writes that “the greatest Jewish female figures are missing: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel … A divine irregularity is a common denominator among the four women. God’s saving activity sometimes takes unexpected turns. This interpretation would permit a connection to the virgin Mary, with whom the irregularity reached a peak” (Matthew 1-7: A Commentary, Hermeneia Series, 2007, 83-84).

The initiative for the adulterous relationship resides in David.

The narrative in verses 2-4 reads that “David rose ... he saw ... he sent someone to inquire ... he sent messengers to get her ... he lay with her.”

So insignificant are Bathsheba’s feelings that they remain unrecorded.

She is the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah, both elite warriors of King David. She is beautiful, and David is filled with lust.

This adulterous act becomes a royal nuisance when she informs him “pregnant I-am” (heb. harab anoki; v. 5). This two-word declaration represents the only recorded words of Bathsheba.

Unwanted pregnancies are one of the consequences of disorderly sexual relationships. For Bathsheba this could mean death, thus her haste to notify the king.

David unsuccessfully attempts to provide a liaison between Uriah and Bathsheba.  

King David’s alternative solution involves betrayal and murder. When Bathsheba’s legal period of grief is over, David sends for her. King David has the habit of “gathering the wives of other men” upon the men’s death as is the case of Saul’s wife Ahinoam, Paltiel’s wife Michal (to whom he had formerly been married), and Nabal’s wife Abigail (Tikva Frymer-Kensky, Reading the Women of the Bible, 2002, 153).

10/20/2009 7:55:00 AM by Victor Lyons, Academic Dean, Foothills Christian College, Wilkesboro; Pastor, Union Cross Baptist Church, Elkin | with 1 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Nov. 1: Live Your Faith

October 20 2009 by John Pond, Director of Missions, West Chowan Baptist Association

Focal Passages: James 1:19-25; 2:14, 18-26

In the gospels, Jesus told a parable about a sower and his seeds.

In this parable, seeds were cast upon four types of soils: a barren, hardened pathway, a shallow, rocky place, a cluttered, thorny place and a fertile soil.

On the shallow, rocky soil, the seed is received joyfully, but because it has no root it quickly dries up.

Among the thorny soil, the seed takes root, but becomes choked and dies. Jesus likens these soils to individuals responding to the spoken word, or gospel.

Both are unfruitful and deceived because of troubles or worries. Both are hearers of the word, but not doers!

James writes to a people who were experiencing difficult persecution and were unsettled by the many concerns that were pulling them apart and causing them consternation as believers. How does one live out vibrant faith in Jesus Christ scattered among the nations (James 1:1)?

In our relationships with one another, James recommends, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”

The Jewish Fathers had a saying, “There are four characteristics in scholars. Quick to hear and quick to forget; his gain is cancelled by his loss. Slow to hear and slow to forget; his loss is cancelled by his gain. Quick to hear and slow to forget; he is wise. Slow to hear and quick to forget; this is an evil lot” (William Barclay).

In our relationship with our Lord, James recommends looking intently (gazing at, perceiving into) and obediently into God’s perfect and liberating law, which is perfect and liberating because it rests upon the work of Christ who sets us free. In the words of classical writer, Seneca, “To obey God is liberty.”

James reinforces this truth by calling the believer to not be careless as if glancing at him/herself, then turning away and immediately forgetting what was seen (or heard). But, instead, to be continually doing what that word or law says.  

James asks, “What good is it; what is the profit of it all if we say that we have faith and it does not produce righteous deeds?”

To what end do we arrive if we talk a good and impressive talk, but our daily lives prove barren and vain?

Have we succumbed to the deception that a careless and casual Christianity is what is required of us?

Yes, we are saved by grace through faith, but there is also a sense that we must live out that salvation. Profession without practice and words without deeds is dead (Barclay).

10/20/2009 7:54:00 AM by John Pond, Director of Missions, West Chowan Baptist Association | with 2 comments



Formations Lesson for Oct. 25: What Keeps Me From Following Jesus?

October 13 2009 by Victor Lyons, Academic Dean, Foothills Christian College, Wilkesboro; Pastor, Union Cross Baptist Church, Elkin

Focal Passage: Luke 18:18-27

Serious questions about the meaning of life are a sign of maturity.

Society today might rephrase the official’s question in the following way: “Is there life after death? If heaven does exist, how does one go there?”

The ruler’s declaration of Jesus’ goodness comes at the beginning of the dialogue. To accept this declaration of “goodness” is to grant him the authority to declare someone good or evil. Jesus rejects this.

Emphasizing the repeated affirmations of the Psalms, he declares the singular goodness of God (Psalms 25:8; 86:5; 100:5; 119:68; 135:3; 145:9).  

Indeed, Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1 quoted in Romans 3:10 states there is no one who is good.
Jesus then identifies five commandments that affirm the nature of a positive relationship with one’s neighbor (Exodus 20).

The ruler responds that these have always been a part of his life. Absent from Jesus’ questioning are those commandments that address one’s relationship with God. In this case, that which was lacking.

Jesus then shares with the official that something is lacking in his life. Perhaps this feeling that something is missing from his life motivated his journey to speak with Jesus.

Out of this encounter, he will discover the piece of the puzzle missing from his life. Are we willing to take the risk and ask the Lord, “What is missing from my life?”

The ruler’s wealth separates him from God.

The challenge to the official calls for the liquidation/distribution of his wealth.

Then he must follow Jesus. In Luke 8:38, a liberated man previously filled with demons asks to follow Jesus. He is told to “return” to his home and “show how great things God hath done unto thee” (Luke 8:39).

The rich ruler, however, receives the call to follow Jesus.

The ruler’s response is immediate and tragic. He went away “sad; for he was very rich” (v. 23).  

We often emphasize the joy found when someone responds positively to the message of Christ.

However, no is also an answer. It is a response that God acknowledges. The right to say yes is also tragically the right to say no.

There is surprise at the official’s depth of grief and the grip of wealth on his life.

Jesus responds that “it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Jesus compares the “largest of Palestinian animals…to the tiniest of commonly known openings (Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel according to Luke X-XXIV, 1204).

Quickly, Jesus affirms that “with God” camels can go through the needle’s eye, and rich men can go through the gates of the Kingdom.

10/13/2009 7:50:00 AM by Victor Lyons, Academic Dean, Foothills Christian College, Wilkesboro; Pastor, Union Cross Baptist Church, Elkin | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Oct. 25: The Hero Victorious

October 13 2009 by John Pond, Director of Missions, West Chowan Baptist Association

Focal Passages: Mark 15:1-5, 12-13, 32, 37-39; 16:1, 5-7

How far would we go because of our faith in Christ? Would we truly go all the way, even if it meant death? Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “Whenever Christ calls us, his call leads us to death.” Those familiar with his story know that his words were not empty speculations, but lived-out commitment.

His name was Vincent. He was the Baptist Mission’s Rwandan translator, office manager and close friend. Regardless of what was needed, Vincent could find it and provide it. His life was a constant witness to his faith in Christ. I cannot recall a single instance of complaint or negative word from him. He was always an encouragement and prayer support to the kingdom work that blossomed throughout Rwanda. He, his wife and children were true servants of Christ asking nothing and giving all to the Lord’s work among his people.

On the eve of the Rwandan genocide as the U.N. began carrying out all non-Rwandans, mission leadership tried to persuade Vincent to take his family and leave (they were Tutsi) for safety in Kenya, but he resisted. He told them that he had to remain with his people because of the Lord’s calling on his life. They tried again, but to no avail. And Vincent saw them off at the airport.

Several weeks later word came back concerning Vincent’s fate. Hutu gangs came to his home in Kigali numerous times threatening him and his family and each time he would share his faith and he would give them their belongings and money sparing their lives for a time. Finally, the day came when nothing was left but their faith and their lives and the gang came one last time.

Though Vincent shared with them the love and forgiveness Christ offers to all who will believe, they took him and his family lined them against the wall of their home and shot them. They were faithful up to the very end.     

Jesus was faithful to the very end (which became a greater beginning for all humanity). He suffered the indignity and mockery of an unjust trial, false witnesses and an incited mob. He stood innocent before an accusing crowd of religious leaders and onlookers. He suffered death on a cross, burial in a borrowed tomb, alone and abandoned by all; but, God did not abandon him.

A torn curtain, a Gentile’s testimony, an unnaturally darkened midday sky and an empty tomb witness to the epic victory of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. And now, with his appearances, we, like the women and the disciples, must go and tell, not what we know about Jesus, but that we have seen and know Jesus, the resurrected, living Saviour.     

10/13/2009 7:49:00 AM by John Pond, Director of Missions, West Chowan Baptist Association | with 1 comments



Formations Lesson for Oct. 18: Am I My Brother or Sister’s Keeper?

October 5 2009 by Victor Lyons, Academic Dean, Foothills Christian College, Wilkesboro; Pastor, Union Cross Baptist Church, Elkin

Focal Passage: Luke 16:19-31

Today’s passage highlights the parable of the rich man and the beggar.

Their lives intersect at the gate of the rich man’s home. Surprisingly, the rich man remains anonymous while the beggar’s name is revealed as Lazarus (Greek form of the Hebrew name Eleazar, meaning “he whom God has helped).

The parable easily divides into two sections (vv. 19-23; 24-31).

The narrative section includes 19-23, less than 40 percent of the parable. The contrast between the unnamed rich man’s extravagant lifestyle and the helplessness of Lazarus who lives in extreme poverty is revealed in 19-21.

Lazarus’ life is one of hunger, disease and uncleanness (the licking of dogs make him ritually unclean; Cf. Robert H. Stein, Luke, 423).

As is often the case throughout history, the poor man dies first.

Eventually the rich man dies — details of his elaborate funeral procedures are completely ignored, more important than funeral arrangements is one’s eternal destiny — and he finds himself in Hades being tormented, separately from the expected Jewish blessings of Abraham.

The second section is found in 24-31 and makes up more than 60 percent of the parable.

The dialogue between Abraham and the rich man is the heart of the parable.

The rich man recognizing Lazarus asks twice that he be sent as an errand boy on his behalf, once to bring him water, and again to carry a warning to his brothers. Abraham refuses the requests and affirms the Jewish obligation to hear “Moses and the prophets.”

The parable calls for engagement in the life of the needy. Indifference is rejected and the call to love thy neighbor as thyself is affirmed.

Guidelines place a person in poverty if one is earning less than $10,991 (four-person family $22,025).

The Census Bureau’s annual report on poverty released Sept. 10, 2009, reveals the largest number of Americans in poverty since 1960, 39.8 million or 13.2 percent of Americans, including 14 million children.  5.5 percent of “married-couple families” have income below the poverty level, while 28.7 percent if “female-householder-with-no-husband-present families” live below the poverty line (www.census.gov).

African-Americans have a poverty rate of 24.7 percent, Hispanics 23.2 percent and Asians 11.8 percent. Non-Hispanic Whites have a poverty rate at 8.6 percent; 3.7 million of those 65 years and older live in poverty.

The United Nations defines poverty as someone who lives on less than four dollars a day, extreme poverty as less than $ 1.25 per day. 1.4 billion or 21 percent of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty throughout the world (www.un.org/millenniumgoals).

“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).



10/5/2009 9:28:00 AM by Victor Lyons, Academic Dean, Foothills Christian College, Wilkesboro; Pastor, Union Cross Baptist Church, Elkin | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Oct. 18: The Hero Betrayed

October 5 2009 by John Pond, Director of Missions, West Chowan Baptist Association

Focal Passages: Mark 14:27-34, 37-38, 43, 48-50

Possibly one of the saddest moments in my missionary career came in late 1993 during the coup d’etat that devastated the nation of Burundi (where we lived). About two weeks after the assassination of President Ndadaye we were able to leave our home in the interior by U.N. convoy.

Having already experienced the tragedy of Rwanda earlier, we were somewhat prepared for what awaited us during the long trek to Bujumbura. What we were not prepared for was an event that occurred at an area called Matongo. This place was the site of a restaurant we frequently visited when in the area and a new church we had helped start.

We had spent many days there sharing and encouraging the new work and watched it grow in strength and witness.

On Oct. 21, 1993, the world was turned upside down as military troops assassinated Burundi’s newly elected president and much of his cabinet. When word got out to the hills bloody reprisals paralyzed the country. At Matongo many of those we had worked with banded together and rounded up members of another denomination and tribe into the courtyard of that restaurant and massacred them, leaving them exposed to the elements.

Only a few weeks before they had testified of their love for Christ and all people; that day in the name of tribal security they betrayed that name.

The disciples had spent three years with Jesus.

They had heard the teachings and witnessed incredible miracles. They themselves had personally experienced the joy of performing miracles and announcing the coming kingdom of God. Thus, it was only natural that they would protest passionately their pending betrayal of the One they held so dear. But he warned them — they were going to be scattered (like sheep without a shepherd), yet they would also be regathered (14:27-28); their defection would not be the end of the story! Though “the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak (14:37),” there is still the open invitation for courage and steadfastness — Stay awake and pray! I have learned that none of us are immune to the temptation of betrayal and abandonment.

We can strenuously protest and assert the contrary, but if we are not fully focused and centered in Christ regardless of the consequences, we can and will slip and flee from our boasted affirmations. But, the good news is that He remains faithful even when we are faithless (2 Timothy 2:13).

10/5/2009 9:27:00 AM by John Pond, Director of Missions, West Chowan Baptist Association | with 1 comments