October 2015

Explore the Bible Lesson for November 8: Where Wickedness Rules

October 22 2015 by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal passage: Genesis 18:20-25; 19:12-16
Our context in scripture this week includes disturbing indications of the wickedness of mankind, the depth of our depravity. The Lord describes the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah as “very grave” and deserving of destruction (Genesis 18:20).
Clearly, these cities had a “bad rep.” Still it is so easy for me, in my own deceitfulness, to point to the evil that lurked in Sodom and Gomorrah and not confess my own wickedness.

Maybe there is a city in the world that you point to as being overtly immoral or possibly even a specific person. In our conceit, we thank God we are not like the “Sodom and Gomorrah” [person, location and so on]. We overlook the truth that apart from Christ, wickedness rules in our own hearts as well.
It is true God does not allow disobedience and rebellion against Him to continue unrestrained.
But it is equally true that He rescues by grace alone. In our focal passage this week, man’s sin does demand God’s judgment.
God reveals His plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah to Abraham. Because of the intimate relationship they share, Abraham humbly comes to the Lord and appeals to His justice – surely, He would not sweep away the righteous with the wicked (Genesis 18:23).

At the end of their conversation, God reveals to Abraham that there are not even 10 righteous people found in those cities (v. 32).
Therefore, God will destroy them. Yet in His grace, God mercifully rescues Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and his family from the impending judgment. Genesis 19:16 says, “The Lord being merciful to him [Lot], and they brought him out and set him outside the city.”
Being consistent with His character, God extends grace even in the midst of judgment. Let us not be blatantly disobedient to God nor let us be self-righteous in our comparison with others (see the parable in Luke 18:9-14). “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus …” (Romans 3:22-24)

10/22/2015 12:57:24 PM by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for November 8: Live Humbly

October 22 2015 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church

Focal passages: Daniel 4:28-35
Maybe the Lord is trying to teach me something. I have the privilege of writing this commentary on how pride leads to downfall, and how God honors humility. I also have the wonderful opportunity to preach on the subject of humility at a revival service in the near future.
The truth is I have very little opportunity for pride; my wife may say differently. Seriously, whenever I think I might be close to getting it all together, the Lord has a way of helping me see that apart from Him I can do nothing. The same was true in Nebuchadnezzar’s life. As we see in this week’s lesson, Nebuchadnezzar’s pride forced God’s judgment upon him. Thankfully, after his judgment, Nebuchadnezzar humbled himself and God restored his kingdom (Daniel 4:34-37).
A particular pastor had prepared all week to deliver a message as a guest speaker at a church. He had worked very hard on the sermon and was feeling perhaps a little too confident about his work. As he and his wife were getting into the car to drive over to the church that got into a disagreement which led to an argument. Long story short, they did not speak to each other for the entire drive, which took over an hour.
When they arrived at the church, he did not attempt to reconcile. As he began to preach he knew what needed to take place before he could go any further. There, before the whole congregation, the pastor explained what happened before they arrived and he asked his wife to forgive him. From that point on he had complete freedom to preach his sermon. However, what was so humorous was that after the service no one commented on how good his sermon was. Instead, they all spoke about how much his confession meant to them.

He said he should have forgone all the sermon preparation and just had the argument. Although he was kidding, it’s true that God has a way of making sure we remain humble.

10/22/2015 12:54:20 PM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for November 1: A New Name

October 20 2015 by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal passage: Genesis 17:1-8, 15-22
My husband and I enjoy reading through the Psalms together in the mornings. I was blessed when we read Psalm 105 recently, particularly in light of our study of Abraham.

Verses eight through 10 read, “He [the Lord our God] remembers His covenant forever, the word that He commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that He made with Abraham, His sworn promise to Isaac, which He confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant.”
The psalmist reiterates our lesson summary this week – God is capable of fulfilling His covenant promises.
In Genesis 17, the Lord appears to Abram, who is 99, and gives him a new name. God declares his name as Abraham for he will be the father of a multitude of nations.
El Shaddai – God Almighty – renews His promise that through Abraham all the families of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 12:3). As a sign of His covenant, God commands Abraham to have every male in his household circumcised (vv. 9-14).
In the next verses, Abraham casts doubt on God’s ability to deliver on His promise of a son. In fact, scripture records that Abraham “fell on his face and laughed” at God’s declaration that Sarah (changed from Sarai) will bear a son at the age of 99.
In his finite mind, Abraham offers what seems like a more reasonable alternative: Ishmael as the heir.
Yet God purposefully called Himself El Shaddai when he appeared to Abraham to declare His almighty power. He contradicts Abraham and insists that Sarah will indeed bear a son within the next year that will be the heir to God’s covenant.
His name will be Isaac, fittingly, because Abraham laughed when he learned that he and Sarah would bear a child in their old age. As we have witnessed through the narrative of Abraham, nothing is impossible with God.
God brings life. He is Creator and Sustainer. He is Almighty and capable of fulfilling all of His promises. What a beautiful picture of His promise fulfilled in the generations that are listed in Psalm 105.

10/20/2015 11:09:29 AM by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for November 1: Stand Courageously

October 20 2015 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church

Focal passages: Daniel 3:13-18, 26-28
Would you be willing to give up your life for the gospel?
Not long ago I was in a meeting and the speaker shared a story about a Christian family in the Middle East. Evidently, the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) had come into their community and was going house-to-house seeking Christians. When they determined this particular family was Christian they marked their house and gave them three options. First, they could recant their faith in Jesus Christ and turn to Islam. Second, they could pay an extremely large amount of money, which they did not possess. Or, third, they could be put to death.
When the family would not recant their faith, ISIS took their young son and impaled him on a post.
As the mother attempted to run toward her son they grabbed her and dismembered her arms. All the while the father was forced to watch while hanging on a cross.
When I think about this unbelievable tragedy my heart goes out to the many believers all over the world who are standing courageously in the midst of death and persecution. Christian families like this are modern day examples of individuals we find in the Bible. Men like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3:8-30 stood in the face of death and remained true to God. They had a choice: worship a golden image or be cast into a fiery furnace.
I love their response to the pagan king. They said, “we have no need to answer you in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). I hope as we read and hear about the great heroes of the faith we will be encouraged to stand firm in the face of persecution. Life is too short and eternity too long to do otherwise.   

10/20/2015 11:04:43 AM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for October 25: Waiting for the Promise

October 8 2015 by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal passage: Genesis 15:1-7, 13-16
Have you ever waited on something, or someone, expectantly? Maybe it was a future spouse or a child. Maybe it was provision for a job. It could even be the small, daily things like waiting for an email to arrive or dinner to be finished. My husband and I are currently waiting on a car to arrive at a local dealership. As each day passes, we wonder if it is “the day” we will be called to pick up our vehicle. As the days continue to pass with no word, we have admittedly become frustrated. Our attitude stems from a word called “expectations.”
Abram had expectations and rightfully so. He was promised to be a great nation (Genesis 12:2). He was told that his descendants would be as numerous as the dust of the earth and the stars in the sky (Genesis 13:16, 15:5). Yet he still continues childless in our passage this week (Genesis 15:2). After receiving a vision from God, Abram expresses his frustration over not having an heir, not even one descendant.
God graciously responds to Abram’s frustration with a promise. He does not punish him for his vulnerability but rather asserts His sovereignty and control by promising Abram a son. What may seem impossible to man is possible with God. Abram’s frustration turns to faith in verse six: “And he believed the Lord.” Because of his faith, God declares Abram righteous. It was not anything that Abram earned; righteousness was granted as a result of his belief in God (see Romans 4:1-5).
God, then, establishes His covenant relationship with Abram and his offspring. He lays out His plan for Abram and his descendants, including the eventual conquest of the Promised Land.
Although Abram eventually gets to witness the realization of the promise of his son, he does not live to see the fulfillment of all of God’s promise to him. Yet, he had faith that He who promised was faithful.
Faith in God and His provision is the only path to righteousness. Take time to read about those who demonstrated great faith in Hebrews 11.

10/8/2015 10:12:58 AM by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for October 25: Pray Fervently

October 8 2015 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church

Focal passage: Daniel 2:13-21, 26-28a
God loves it when His people fervently pray. Throughout Christian history, God has been faithful at answering the prayers of His children. Just as we have seen in the Book of Daniel, God always meets the need (according to His wisdom) of those who diligently seek Him.
We should note that God’s faithfulness is not limited to those just in the Bible. One of the great missionaries of our time is Helen Roseveare. She was a missionary to Zaire (now known as The Democratic Republic of the Congo). You can find information about her powerful testimony on the Internet and in her book, Give Me this Mountain.
She also wrote Living Faith, where she gave a powerful testimony of answered prayer.
She said, “A mother at our mission station died after giving birth to a premature baby. We tried to improvise an incubator to keep the infant alive, but the only hot water bottle we had was beyond repair. So we asked the children to pray for the baby and for her sister.
One of the girls responded: ‘Dear God, please send a hot water bottle today. Tomorrow will be too late because by then the baby will be dead. And dear Lord, send a doll for the sister so she won’t feel so lonely.’
That afternoon a large package arrived from England. The children watched eagerly as we opened it.
Much to their surprise, under some clothing was a hot water bottle! Immediately the girl who had prayed so earnestly started to dig deeper, exclaiming, ‘If God sent that, I’m sure He also sent a doll!’ And she was right!
The heavenly Father knew in advance of that child’s sincere requests, and five months earlier He had led a ladies’ group to include both of those specific articles.”
When I read the scriptures and hear stories of God’s faithfulness in lives of His people it inspires me to become a greater person of prayer. How about you? I hope we can all make a fresh commitment to be fervent in prayer. I believe God is eager to display His glory through us.

10/8/2015 10:10:13 AM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for October 18: When God Calls

October 6 2015 by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal passage: Genesis 12:1-9
There is a pattern in scripture of God pointing back to His faithfulness, reminding His people of how He has provided for them. It’s a pattern that we should emulate. It makes me think of the story of Hansel and Gretel and how they dropped pebbles along the path to remind themselves how to make their way home again. In the same way, we can leave a trail that reminds us of God’s faithfulness to us when there are times that we wander off the path or cannot see it ourselves.
In our greater context this week, we see Abram doing a similar thing (Genesis 12-13). As the Lord appears to Abram, he builds altars to worship God. It is those altars that remind Abram of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness toward him (see Genesis 13:4). How critical that must have been in a time of uncertainty and walking by faith.
In Genesis 12, God calls Abram to leave the land of his ancestors and move to a new place.
He calls Abram to obey Him in faith; to leave the familiar and comfortable, even in the face of risk. How does he respond to God’s call? Abram goes. “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him” (v. 4).
Abram’s obedience to the Lord results in multiple blessings. God promises to make him into a great nation and to make his name great (v. 2).
But it doesn’t stop there. Notice the reasoning behind the promise – “So that you will be a blessing.” In Abram, all the families of the earth will be blessed (v. 3).
This blessing is not about prestige, wealth and prosperity. It is pointing to the future hope of Christ. It is through the line of Abraham that the promised Messiah will later come (see Matthew 1:1).
Abram (later named Abraham) is considered the father of our faith. He believed that God would do as He promised and was therefore obedient to God’s call. He built altars in worship that served as a reminder of God’s never-ending faithfulness.

How is our faithful God calling you to obey?

10/6/2015 10:30:16 AM by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for October 18: Develop Conviction

October 6 2015 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church

Focal passage: Daniel 1:3-5; 8-13; 17-19
According to Dictionary.com, the term conviction means a fixed or firm belief. I like to think of conviction as a firm belief that will empower you to stay the course regardless of the danger involved.
As we have seen in our lesson this week, Daniel’s conviction compelled him to stay the course and not eat the king’s food.
God has also given us other examples of people who had strong convictions. One in particular was a man named, Henry “Box” Brown who was born into slavery in Virginia during the 19th century.
In 1848, while living in Virginia, Brown’s master sold Henry’s wife and three children to a plantation in North Carolina. After this tremendous loss, Brown was determined to go to a place where slavery had been abolished. Through the help of a friend and fellow church member, Brown devised a plan to ship himself to Philadelphia.
Taking money from his savings, Brown paid $86 to be shipped in a box 3 feet long, 2 feet 8 inches deep and 2 feet wide. One source stated that “Brown’s box was transported by wagon, railroad, steamboat, wagon again, railroad, ferry, railroad and finally delivery wagon, being completed in 27 hours.
Despite the instructions on the box of “handle with care” and “this side up,” several times carriers placed the box upside-down or handled it roughly. Brown remained still and avoided detection.”
When Brown arrived at his destination, one of the men remembered Brown’s first words as, “How do you do gentlemen?” and following those words he began to a sing a Psalm from the Bible.
When I think of Brown’s experience, I cannot help but to believe how difficult it was to stay inside that box. Being turned upside down and tossed around for 27 hours must have been extremely painful.
However, because Brown believed that he would be free, he did not allow pain or the threat of death to destroy his victory. How about you? Would you be willing to suffer for what you believe?

10/6/2015 10:24:12 AM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church | with 0 comments