September 2011

Explore the Bible Lesson for October 16 – It’s All About Certainty

September 29 2011 by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Romans 8:9-17, 26-32

In John 14:16-17, Jesus says to His disciples, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever ... He remains with you and will be in you.” Paul, in Romans 8:9, shows God has fulfilled His promise, “You (believers), however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you.” With such an incredible – and necessary – provision, surely every believer joyfully embraces and walks daily in this wonderful reality, right? Apparently not.

Francis Chan’s 2009 book, Forgotten God, and Robert Morris’ 2011 book, The God I Never Knew, both deal with the absence of teaching on the person and work of the Holy Spirit among God’s people. According to A.W. Tozer, the Holy Spirit’s absence is found within the church’s teaching and practice: “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 (%) of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 (%) of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.”

The Spirit is always present and confirms in our hearts that we are God’s children. The Spirit intercedes for us to the Father. The Spirit is the down payment of our redemption (Eph. 1:13-14), guaranteeing that nothing will separate us from God’s love for us in Christ.

Because these things are true, this lesson should challenge us to live as if we really believe them. The believer who is fearful should live in peace, comforted by the Spirit’s abiding presence. The believer struggling with self-worth should listen to the Spirit’s quiet voice whispering to her heart that her worth is found in realizing she is a child of the King, with God as her “Abba, Father.” The believer who sits in silence, unable to pray, can rejoice knowing God the Spirit is expressing, in unutterable words, his heart’s burdens to the Father. It is the Spirit of God who illuminates the Word of God in believers’ hearts and transforms believers by that Word to live lives that glorify God. May we live surrendered lives that demonstrate the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of our great God.
9/29/2011 9:59:00 AM by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for October 16 – Hope Discovered

September 29 2011 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Luke 7:1-17

David Livingstone loved the African people. Experiencing a call to missions as a young man, he prepared himself theologically and medically for a career as a missionary. Although his first choice of destinations was China, God and the London Missionary Society sent him to Africa. Over the course of his life, Livingstone would explore one-third of the vast continent of Africa. He would gain the respect of many African tribes, and upon returning to Britain on short furloughs, would expose to any who would listen the horrid cruelties of the slave trade. In 1866 he went into the heart of Africa a final time. When he was not heard from again for 5 years, Henry Stanley was hired to find him, “at any cost, dead or alive.” Stanley found Livingstone at Lake Tanganyika. He was deeply impressed with Livingstone’s faith and the devotion of the natives to him. Stanley vainly attempted to convince Livingstone to leave Africa.

Livingstone was a humble servant of Christ. When others tried to make him into someone great, he remarked that he was just a poor imitation of Jesus, THE great missionary and healer. The two life events found in this passage reveal the authority of Jesus over sickness and death, and the compassion of Jesus to people who were not of His race, culture or position. The first was a Roman centurion who was faced with the likely death of one of his favored servants. A man of imposing authority himself, he implored his friends to find Jesus. In the eyes of the Jewish observers, this army captain was deserving of help. He had shown his love for the Jewish people, even giving of his money, reputation, and influence so a worthy synagogue could be built in Capernaum. In response, Jesus came to heal the ailing servant. But Jesus never arrived. Instead the centurion asked that Jesus just “say the word,” and he would believe that his servant would be healed. And so it was.

In the second instance, a widow’s son had died. The funeral was in process, and Jesus stopped the proceedings by speaking to the deceased, who instantly sat up and spoke. Jesus healed because He is the healer. Jesus raised the dead because He is the resurrection and the life. Jesus did these miracles, not because the people were worthy, but because they were willing to believe, and in so doing, hope was discovered.
9/29/2011 9:58:00 AM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for October 9 – It’s All About Victory

September 26 2011 by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Romans 7:7-25

The title of this lesson seems a bit misplaced when considering the bulk of the content of Romans 7. Paul describes struggle, conflict and frustration. In fact, this struggle, conflict and frustration apparently caused some to ask, “Is the law sin?” (v. 7) To this question, Paul immediately responds, “Absolutely not!” What, then, is the function of the Law of God?

One way of thinking about God’s Law is viewing it as a spiritual thermometer given by the Great Physician. The standard by which the thermometer (the Law) measures is nothing less than the character and nature of God Himself; that is, divine perfection. When used to measure the spiritual condition of a person, the thermometer always reads “sinful.” The only one who measured up was the Son of God, who came “not to destroy, but to fulfill” the Law (Matt. 5:17).

So the Law is a good tool from a good God, showing us our sinfulness. If you have a fever, you do not fault the thermometer for telling you that you are sick. You are thankful to have the tool to expose your sickness. Herein, however, lies the problem. Rather than using the law as a diagnostic tool, some tried to use it as a remedy. The Pharisees tried to use the Law to show they were not (spiritually) sick. In fact, they not only sought to walk according to the Law of God, but also added additional requirements. Jesus’ diagnosis is that they were “whitewashed tombs,” looking good on the outside, but dead on the inside (Matt. 23:27). They sought to use the thermometer of the Law as the cure, showing themselves to be both spiritually sick and blind.

Paul looked into the thermometer of the Law and read “sinful.” In fact, his exclamation was, “What a wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body?” When he considered truthfully his spiritual diagnosis, he was able to see the only remedy, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

We experience spiritual victory today – both in coming to salvation and growing in sanctification – not by trying harder to obey God’s Law, but by acknowledging and surrendering to God’s Son who has delivered us from bondage to sin and death.
9/26/2011 9:31:00 AM by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for October 9 – Forgiveness Offered

September 26 2011 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Luke 5:17-26, 29-32

One of my great Christian heroes is Polycarp. Polycarp would eventually become the pastor of Smyrna, appointed by the Apostle John who had mentored Polycarp for years. Polycarp was a humble man, and a faithful servant of Jesus Christ. Although many prominent Christian leaders were targeted for death, Polycarp remained free for many years. But as an elderly 86-year-old saint, the Roman authorities made the execution of Polycarp a priority. Three days before he was to be arrested, however, Polycarp received a message from the Lord that he would be taken away and “burned at the stake.”

Polycarp’s friends wanted to hide him, but Polycarp would have nothing to do with deception. When the soldiers came to Polycarp’s home, Polycarp welcomed his enemies and fed them. His request, which was granted, was that he might pray. According to tradition, he prayed for two hours, resulting in some of the soldiers weeping and asking for forgiveness. A few hours later he was readying himself for his execution. He refused to deny Christ. He would state that he had served Christ for 86 years, and Christ had never let him down.

How could he blaspheme his Savior and King?

Offering and receiving forgiveness for wrongs committed makes us better people. Polycarp learned this truth from John. John learned this truth first-hand from Jesus.

The disciples were able to see forgiveness in action.

As Jesus was teaching in a particular home, the men who wanted their friend healed realized the only way to get the man to Jesus was by letting him down through the roof. These helpers had great faith in Jesus, and they were kind to their friend.

Jesus would heal their friend, but Jesus would also declare that their friend was freed (forgiven) of his sins. A struggle was going on in Jesus’ ministry. While His following was steadily growing, so was the contingent bent on doing Him harm.

Refusing to admit the divine nature of Jesus, these Jewish religious leaders claimed He was a mere man pretending to be God. They were not appreciative of Jesus “forgiving sins.” After healing the man, Jesus went to the home of one of His disciples, Matthew (Levi). Although the scribes and Pharisees were present, Jesus did not back down. Forgiveness, calling sinners to repentance, was His No. 1 mission.
9/26/2011 9:28:00 AM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for Oct. 2: It’s All About New Life

September 15 2011 by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Romans 6:1-23

We have all seen, either on television or in person, criminals who are in shackles. They are bound, not free. Those shackles, by design, prevent escape and freedom. Further, until the prisoner meets the demands of his sentence, he will continue to be under such bondage. Now imagine the prisoner is set free, not because he met the demands of his sentence, but because someone came and fulfilled his sentence. At once, he is released and the shackles are unlocked from his wrists. What do you think this prisoner will do next?

Everything within us would expect the once-criminal, now free man, to drop the shackles immediately, living according to the new freedom he has been given. But what if that did not happen? What if the prisoner was seen walking down the street, with the shackles draped over his wrists? Oh, they are unlocked, just as they were the day of his release. However, he continues to walk around living in bondage, though he has been set free. This scenario sounds insane, right? No one would really live like that. He would drop the shackles and live in freedom. Or would he? Spiritually speaking, the Apostle Paul is admonishing the Roman believers to avoid such a scenario.

He reminds them that their baptism symbolized their identification with Christ’s death on their behalf (v. 3-4). He further reminds them that identification with Christ in His death also meant identification with Christ in His life. Therefore, in light of Christ dying their death and giving them His life, they are now to “walk in a new way of life” (v. 4). In other words, the fact of their freedom through Christ should result in the practice of them living a new life in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We, like the Romans, were “enslaved to sin” (v. 6), under the “reign” of sin (v. 12), and bearing the fruit of sin leading to death (v. 21). But, because of our identification with Christ in His death and resurrection, through repentance and faith, we now have God’s gift of eternal life (v. 23) and should be bearing fruit accordingly (v. 22).

The life we have been given in Christ should be evident as we “walk in a new way of life.” This “new way” means no longer living for ourselves, under the bondage of sin, but living for Christ and His glory (2 Cor. 5:15). Are you living in bondage to sin — though its shackles are loosed from your life? Or, are you living a “new life,” by God’s grace and for His glory?  
9/15/2011 9:10:00 AM by Randy Mann, minister of education and evangelism, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Oct. 2: Glory Revealed

September 15 2011 by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focus Passages: John 1:14, 18; 2:1-11

“It’s a miracle!” Have you ever said that? The university where I went to college had a motto of belief — it was this: “expect a miracle.”

While there are people who don’t believe in miracles, miracles are a natural part of the Bible’s witness. From creation to resurrection, miracles are woven through the fabric of human experience. Furthermore, miracles were commonplace in Jesus’ ministry. Some, however, might wonder why God and Jesus perform miracles?

Is what we deem supernatural common or natural works for Them? Are they given and revealed so that our faith can incubate and grow? Are they displayed so that we who are mere humans can get a glimpse and taste of God’s glory?

The days our children were born were “miracle” days. Our son is now 26, and our daughter is 24, but as long as they live they will have characteristics of mom and dad. Features such as freckles, hair color, and the shape of their feet were passed down from us and previous generations.

They represent the best and worst of who we are genetically. On our best days, we hear the remark that they have some quality that is “just like us.”

The primary word in this lesson is “glory.” God’s glory is the manifestation of who God is — His majesty, splendor, and power.

Perhaps it could be said that God’s glory is the radiance of who He is. In John 1:14 and 2:11 in particular, this “glory” is equally reserved for Jesus Christ, God’s One and Only Son. Jesus Himself would repeatedly say that when one saw Him, one saw the Father, and that He did the works of the Father. Jesus the Son and God the Father were (and are) equal in nature and actions.

The miracle of the turning of water into wine is regarded as Jesus’ first miracle. Jesus and His disciples were at a wedding feast.

Jesus’ mother, Mary, had some responsibility with the vast wedding plans, and when the wine ran out, the wedding that had been touted as glorious would soon be remembered as a fiasco. Although reluctant to inaugurate His ministry on that day, Jesus nevertheless met their need. He performed the miracle, turning about 150 gallons of ordinary water into the very best wine the wedding party and guests had ever tasted (2:1-11).

Jesus displayed the glory of God, and in so doing, displayed His own glory. As a result, His disciples “believed” (2:11). Glory has the ability to dispel doubt, and to increase our belief in who God is.
9/15/2011 9:07:00 AM by Wayne Proctor, pastor, Eure Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for Sept. 25: Gideon Is Remembered

September 12 2011 by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church

Focal Passage: Judges 8:22-35

Our text this week showcases the best and worst aspects of Gideon’s life. This special man had just led the nation to victory over their enemies, the Midianites. Three hundred men defeated an army that numbered over 135,000 men. It was a great victory, and it was carried out in such a way that it left no doubt that God had performed it.

Following this spectacular victory, the Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also; for you have delivered us out of the hand of Midian” (Judges 8:22). Gideon had the good sense to decline their offer to make him a king. Thomas Paine, in his epic work Common Sense, explained how Gideon refused the Israelites offer of their crown (the words in all caps were capitalized by Paine):

“‘I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you. THE LORD SHALL RULE OVER YOU.’ Words need not be more explicit. Gideon doth not decline the honour, but denieth their right to give it; neither doth he compliment them with invented declarations of his thanks, but in the positive style of a prophet charges them with disaffection to their proper Sovereign, the King of Heaven.”

What Paine did not mention, however, is that even though Gideon turned down their offer to be king, he lived as if he was king.   He acquired a fortune in gold jewelry from the people as well as purple royal garments worn by the kings of Midian. He even named one of his sons Abimelech, which means “my father is a king.”

Success is seductive. Popular leaders are all around us, even in the church. It is a sad reality that many people experience a major crisis in their faith when their favorite preacher is no longer with them.

Our study of the life of Gideon does not end happily: “As soon as Gideon died, the Israelites relapsed and prostituted themselves with the Baals, making Baal-berith their god. The Israelites did not remember the Lord their God, who had rescued them from the hand of all their enemies on every side: and they did not exhibit loyalty to the house of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in return for all the good that he had done to Israel” (Judges 8:33-35).

Sometimes great success can lead to great defeat.

What a shame it is to live a life in victory and power, to the glory of God, just to see it all come to nothing because of foolish pride.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Coming soon readers will see the Oct. 2 lesson for Explore the Bible lesson, a curriculum published by LifeWay. This Formations lesson will be the last lesson from Formations, a curriculum printed by Smyth & Helwys Publishing. LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life will continue to be printed.)
9/12/2011 8:17:00 AM by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Sept. 25: Go and Tell

September 12 2011 by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh

Focal Passage: John 1:29, 35-46, 49-51

Witnessing is not optional. Jesus commanded, “Go, therefore, and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19). So, when someone says, “I’m not gifted in evangelism; I just let my life be my witness,” I insist, “But lives can’t speak; lips speak; and on my best day, my life doesn’t measure up to Christ’s. Yet Jesus left winning the world to you and me.” Christ’s earliest disciples began their ministry by witnessing to their families and close friends. For example, Andrew brought Peter to Christ (John 1:40-41), and Philip reached Nathanael (v. 45-46).

My witnessing notebook includes a page titled, “Family Evangelism.” It’s a graphic of concentric circles. In the center circle is my name. Am I saved? Yes. In the next circle labeled “My Nuclear Family,” are names of my husband, our daughters, their husbands and children. Are they all in Christ? Yes.

The next circle is labeled, “Close relatives.” Are they all saved? I confess that I don’t know. How can I share Christ without offending them? To one relative, I wrote a letter saying, “You and I have enjoyed many wonderful times together, and I want us to share heaven, too; so I’m writing to tell you about the most important thing in my life — my relationship to Christ.”

Then I shared my testimony and invited him to receive Christ, using the booklet, “Have You Heard of the Four Spiritual Laws?” He accepted Christ, and later became a deacon in his church. In the next concentric circle I write names of “Friends and Acquaintances.” To witness to them, I turn something they say into a spiritual conversation. I might say, “That reminds me of a question I heard a minister raise. He asked the person if they were to die tonight, how would they respond to God asking why they should be allowed in heaven.” How would you respond?

Many answer, “I don’t know,” but however they respond, I say, “I’m glad I asked because I have good news.”

Then, I share Christ and invite them to receive Him. Family evangelism worked in the start of Jesus’ ministry, and it works today.

Jesus never commanded the world to come to church; instead, He commanded the church to go to the world. He didn’t ask the world to “come and hear;” He commanded the church to “Go and Tell.” So, let’s go, remembering that successful witnessing is sharing Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.
9/12/2011 8:11:00 AM by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for Sept. 18: Gideon Leads the Attack

September 1 2011 by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church

Focal Passages: Judges 7:1-8, 19-23

When we first looked at Gideon two Sundays ago, we learned the importance of seeing ourselves from God’s perspective. We saw Gideon portrayed as a fearful farmer hiding from the Midianites; but when the Lord appeared to Gideon, He declared Gideon to be a mighty warrior.

Last week, before going to war, Gideon tested God twice with the fleece. In our lesson for today, it is God’s turn to test Gideon.

In Judges 7:2, God shocked Gideon: “The troops with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand. Israel would only take the credit away from me, saying, ‘My own hand has delivered me.’”

Gideon must have questioned, “What Lord? Too many men?” Gideon was the commander of an army with 32,000 troops, while the Midianite army numbered at least 135,000 (Judges 8:10).

When given the opportunity, 22,000 men left Gideon’s army because they were too afraid to fight. The 10,000 that remained were taken to the river for a drink. Some knelt on the bank, put their faces in the water, and lapped like dogs. Some of the soldiers bent over, cupped their hands, and brought the water up to their mouths.

From this exercise, the Lord shrank Gideon’s army to 300 men!

Gideon must have really been scared now, facing those thousands of enemy troops with just 300 men. How could he possibly experience victory against such crushing odds?

Haven’t we found ourselves in similar situations?

Many centuries later the apostle Paul wrote that God is more concerned with our spiritual strength than our physical power. Paul illustrated it with his own example, revealing his request of God to heal him from a physical debilitation. God did not heal Paul, but responded: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

For this battle, the Lord told Gideon to use a form of psychological warfare. Each soldier was given a trumpet and a torch enclosed in a jar. In the middle of the night they surrounded the enemy. When the signal was given, the soldiers broke the jars, revealed their torches, blew on the trumpets, and shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” Gideon led the attack, but God was leading Gideon as the Israelites were victorious in battle. Like Gideon, may we learn to be obedient, facing our battles in trust that God will lead us through in His way to His victory.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Coming soon readers will see the Oct. 2 lesson for Explore the Bible lesson, a curriculum published by LifeWay. The Sept. 25 Formations lesson will be the last lesson from Formations, a curriculum printed by Smyth & Helwys Publishing. LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life will continue to be printed.)
9/1/2011 8:01:00 AM by DuPre Sanders, pastor, Roxboro Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Sept. 18: Find Your Place of Service

September 1 2011 by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh

Focal Passage: Romans 12:3-15

While our daughter Melanie was in labor, Jack and I made ourselves “small” in her hospital room. We wanted to be present to welcome this newborn with no past, only a future, into our family.

As Nathanael inhaled his first breath, the doctor and nurse hovered to assist him in getting a healthy start in life.

The following Sunday, we returned to the church Jack served as interim pastor. At the invitation, a woman named Janie responded.

She had just breathed spiritually for the first time. She, too, was a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

The members lined up and welcomed her into the church, but because Janie was an adult, the church failed to recognize her as the spiritual infant she was.

At first Janie was regular in worship, but soon her attendance became sporadic.

In time, she stopped coming. Knowing how critical the months are following an adult’s spiritual birth, we kept in touch, but in time, without being assimilated, she dropped out of church.

Months later, a church leader asked me whether I remembered a young woman who once sat in the middle of the worship center during church. Snapping his fingers, he said, “Oh, you know, What’s-Her-Name?”

I compared Janie’s spiritual birth to Nathanael’s physical birth. How impossible it would have been for his excited siblings ever to address him as “What’s-His-Name.” But by failing to assimilate Janie, the church silently communicated, “From now on, you’re on your own.”

Hopefully your church maintains a heightened alert to the needs of new Christians as they find their place of service. Both church and new members bear responsibility.

New members should introduce themselves, understanding that members have forgotten how it feels to be new. They attend every session of the new members’ class and refer to the church as we, not they. They note activities listed in the church bulletin that they can participate in and study the church’s pictorial directory to put names with faces. They attend fellowships and meals, mingling with different people each time.

The church’s responsibility includes introducing themselves until new members can call their names.

They invite new members to socials, offer rides or directions, and include new members in their conversations. The church draws new members into tasks in the church so they can find their paths to service through their talents and spiritual gifts (Romans 12:4-5).

Spiritual gifts are listed in Ephesians 4:11, 1 Corinthians 12:8-11, and Romans 12:6-8.

Reviewing these lists might reveal gifts you need to rediscover and put to use for God’s glory.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Coming soon readers will see the Oct. 2 lesson for Explore the Bible lesson, a curriculum published by LifeWay. The Sept. 25 Formations lesson will be the last lesson from Formations, a curriculum printed by Smyth & Helwys Publishing. LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life will continue to be printed.)
9/1/2011 7:59:00 AM by Catherine Painter, author, speaker from Raleigh | with 0 comments