September 2013

Explore the Bible Lesson for October 13: The Power to Heal

September 26 2013 by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passages: John 5:2-3a, 5-17
Jesus demonstrated his concern for those who are physically suffering when he healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda. Jesus addressed the man’s physical need first (John 5:5-9a) and then addressed his spiritual need (John 5:14). We can follow the example of Jesus. 
Reflect for a moment on whether or not you have ever experienced chronic pain or prolonged suffering. For some, it might be a history of migraines and for others it is the constant presence of arthritis.
We may try to identify with the suffering of the man in our Bible story, but like this writer, the majority of us would not have any idea of what it feels like to be an invalid for 38 years.
But, we do understand that when you are hurting, it is difficult to focus on anything other than the pain.
The man must have felt helpless as he could not get to the pool first to be healed. The point is not whether or not he would have been healed by the pool, but that he had no hope of it happening. And yet, he was there for a reason – for the Healer to meet him and provide physical and spiritual healing.  
Jesus chose to help the lame man, even though it was the Sabbath. For you, the obstacle to helping the physically hurting might be something else. I am fortunate in that as a social worker at an outpatient clinic for children, I am daily around those who are suffering physically.
If I thought their physical suffering was all they could look forward to each day, it would be a depressing place to work.
But, instead, they often receive treatments that result in physical healing. As physical needs are met, I can explore issues such as how they are coping with their chronic illness.
We talk about the role of faith in their ability to cope. As physical needs are met, then spiritual needs can be met too. What opportunity do you have today to meet a physical need and then point someone to Jesus?
9/26/2013 6:56:26 PM by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for October 13: Even Christians Collide

September 26 2013 by Troy Rust, writer, Hurdle Mills

Focal Passage: Luke 10:38-42
Several years ago a Christian author tackled the subject of Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. Our culture seems to raise the bar continually on busyness. The masses want to do more and be more as they spend their lives on activities and aspirations which mean nothing in light of eternity. When we narrow our focus to observe Christians we find a disheartening amount of carryover from the world. Are we spending our time on Christian activities without spending time with Christ? 
Mary and Martha set very different priorities when Jesus came. Martha was busy with various preparations to serve. While her work seems praiseworthy, Luke described her as “distracted.” She was so focused on the urgency of cultural norms that she missed what mattered most. Mary, although considered a slacker by her sister, set aside her usual duties to spend time with the Master. Jesus told Martha that she was “worried and bothered about so many things.” Furthermore, he told her that Mary had chosen that which was necessary, good, and would not be taken away. How many people in the average church love serving more than worship? If they serve in a seasonal ministry do they attend worship in the offseason? Every church needs workers to do jobs that aren’t very spiritual (cleaning, landscaping, counting money, etc.), but are those the only things they do? Work without worship could be performed by any lost person. As Christians we are called to do our work “as for the Lord rather than for men” (Colossians 3:23). We must not merely produce results; we must worship God in all we do.
What are your spiritual priorities? On Sunday do you seek a Christian concert or true corporate worship? Do you long for motivational speaking or biblical preaching? Is your small group built on mere social interaction or making disciples of Christ? Ultimately, are our Christian activities based on our expectations or God’s priorities? Let’s make intimacy with Jesus priority one! 
9/26/2013 6:47:46 PM by Troy Rust, writer, Hurdle Mills | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for October 6: The Power to Save

September 24 2013 by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passage: John 4:39-54
How do you decide who to believe? Whether it is trying to decide who to believe when it comes to a sibling conflict or political rivals, there has to be some basis for making a decision of who to believe. It is definitely true when making decisions about religious beliefs, too. Why do you believe that Jesus has the power to save? In our scripture passage this week, we see reasons that people chose to believe that Jesus has the power to save. 
The Samaritans believed at first “because of what the woman said when she testified” (John 4:39-42). Then, they believed “because of what He [Jesus] said.”
In Galilee, the Galileans believed “because they had seen everything He [Jesus] did in Jerusalem during the festival” (John 4:43-48). Then, a royal official believed because Jesus did what He said He would do (John 4:49-54). 
One reason I choose to believe someone is when they have experienced what I need to know about. For example, if I want to know more about what to expect in my Mom’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, I go to my dear friend whose Mom has Alzheimer’s.
I can believe what she tells me, because she has experienced it. And, when we come to the time of life to plan our first wedding, I know exactly who I will go to for advice. The friends I am thinking of are the very ones who I can believe because of their personal experience and what I have seen them do.
So, why do you believe Jesus has the power to save? It is essential that you know, and know how to articulate it, because then you can influence others to believe in Jesus. As you go through this week, take the time to write down the reasons you believe Jesus has the power to save. Reflect on your personal experience and all the wonderful ways you have seen Jesus work miracles and do what He said He would do!
And then, pray that God will open doors of opportunity to share this knowledge and personal experience with others.
9/24/2013 10:46:48 AM by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for October 6: The Pressure of Retaliation

September 24 2013 by Troy Rust, writer, Hurdle Mills

Focal Passage: James 5:1-11
No obedient Christian would steal his neighbor’s car and claim it for himself. However, he may be tempted by a more subtle form of theft: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it” (Proverbs 3:27).
Simply stated, theft is sometimes a matter of withholding instead of taking. James spoke against rich land owners who failed to pay their field laborers, but continued to live in the lap of luxury. He warned these men that their theft cries out to God against them.
Frugality may be a virtue, but God has nothing good to say about cheapskates and thieves. A former farm equipment dealer once told my father, “A deal is only a good deal if it’s good for both parties.” I used to think a good deal meant that I negotiated a sale far below the sticker price. On the contrary, the Bible calls us to do to others what we would have them do to us (Matthew 7:12). We should want a good deal for both parties.
James exhorted offended believers to be patient and strengthen their hearts as they await the Lord’s return. While we should be wise in our business and interpersonal transactions, we should expect the evil dealings of a fallen world.
When we keep our eyes on Jesus we are reminded that He’s in control of our finances, relationships and future.
Furthermore, we must avoid groaning against each other and bringing judgment upon ourselves. James exhorts us to follow the examples of the prophets who endured suffering with patience. He further highlighted the endurance of Job and God’s compassion and mercy toward him.
When we seek to get even with the people who have wronged us, we ignore Scripture’s exhortation, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord” (Romans 12:20).
While we merely attempt justice with our limited knowledge and power, God knows the heart and addresses the real problems. Let’s trust in Him, even when we have been wronged. 
9/24/2013 10:39:37 AM by Troy Rust, writer, Hurdle Mills | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for September 29: The Power to Give Life

September 12 2013 by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passages: John 4:1-15, 25-26
If you had the power to give someone any gift you could give them, what would you choose? It is amazing to understand we have the opportunity to be a part of giving someone the gift of life, the abundant life, in Jesus Christ! Our scripture passage encourages us to be intentional about witnessing so that others may receive this gift!
Jesus had the power to communicate the message of salvation, and He had the power of choice. He chose to leave Judea, then, He made a second choice by choosing to travel through Samaria. Most Jews would have chosen to NOT travel through Samaria. Instead, Jesus chose to be intentional to go where the gospel needed to be shared. Like Jesus, we need to do the same! As missionaries decide where God is calling them to serve on the mission field, they may choose a country, for that very reason. They are being intentional to go where there are the most lost people in the world. In our community, we can have an intentional witness in our places of employment, schools, shopping and recreation. We can pray daily for those opportunities. 
As Jesus completed His journey, we understand He was tired. How often do we get somewhere, we are worn out and the last thing we want to do is to make meaningful conversation? Yet, Jesus was willing to do just that. Jesus chose to go outside the normal comfort zone to engage a woman who needed to hear the gospel. Are you? Jesus used a basic need of thirst to explore what the Samaritan woman knew about the gospel. She had partial knowledge, but needed the truth clarified so she could respond to the gospel. If a person responds to an invitation to your church, it does not clarify their understanding of Jesus and the gospel. Being intentional about sharing the gospel is so much more than just an invitation to church. It takes getting to know someone and being intentional to create those types of places for conversations – conversations which are intentional and full of truth!
9/12/2013 2:08:20 PM by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for September 29: The Pressure of Conflict

September 12 2013 by Troy Rust, writer, Hurdle Mills

Focal Passage: James 4:1-10
In our modern consumer culture people often search for churches based on a predetermined shopping list that doesn’t necessarily prioritize the characteristics of a true New Testament church. If they don’t get what they want at one location, they shop for another. If the new destination disappoints, the search will resume.  The hidden deception in this approach lies in the assumption that church is about what people want, not what God demands.
James noted that quarrels and conflicts among God’s people come from pleasures that wage war against them. These illicit pleasures hijack the believer’s prayer life, turning it from sweet fellowship with God to a recitation of self-love. When love for God is no longer our supreme motivation, the church becomes an outpost of worldliness covered in religious veneer. Desire and envy (James 4:2) don’t always come in a seedy package. The grace of God provides our only escape from carnality’s trap. The same God who saved us by grace continually leads us by grace.
As the hymn states, His graces is greater than all our sin. Consequently, we are able to fulfill scriptures commands – submit to God, resist the devil, draw near to God (James 4:7-8) – where we couldn’t when we were lost.  Before the new birth we were children of wrath who served the devil (Ephesians 2:1-3) and were unable to come to Jesus (John 6:44). As new creations we are called to demonstrate the heart of repentance that goes with salvation. James called his readers to reestablish clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm 24:3-4) and to be broken over their sin. 
Speaking on ministerial integrity, the evangelist Bailey Smith once said, “I’ve never seen a humble man fall.” While we are tempted to bow to the demands of the world and seeks its praises, God promised to exalt people who humble themselves before Him. Though some conflict in life is unavoidable, let us pray that God will deliver us from conflicts of our own making.
9/12/2013 1:43:20 PM by Troy Rust, writer, Hurdle Mills | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for September 22: Salvation Offered

September 10 2013 by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal Passage: John 3:1-16
I recently had the privilege of meeting a new co-worker who has just left the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have had conversations that have given me insight and knowledge about her religious background. Now, as I try to witness to her and talk through many issues with her, I found the lesson this week to be a great guide in how to direct our conversations. 
First, I had to find out if she was even interested in learning more about Christianity. She had called herself a Christian her whole religious life, but was heavily entangled in the rules of the Mormon religion. She has described it as being in a cloud and not being able to see clearly. She is definitely interested in seeing clearly now! In our scripture passage, Jesus used a statement about being born again (John 3:3) to prompt a response of interest or disinterest from Nicodemus. 
Second, I needed to do my best to find out what questions my co-worker had about what it means to be saved. Nicodemus demonstrated his interest in knowing more by asking questions that led to Jesus’ description of what it means to be born again. Thankfully, my co-worker has indicated to me that she really is interested in finding out more about a relationship with Jesus. She is open to visiting churches and asks me very direct questions about my faith.   
Third, I have tried to determine what truth my co-worker did understand and what beliefs were still very confused. Jesus knew all about religious leaders who did not understand the truth, and challenged Nicodemus for not knowing it. Jesus clearly explained to Nicodemus that “whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:15). 
Fourth, I hope to have the opportunity soon to determine if she is ready to believe in the simple truth of the gospel.
Once, she fully understands the truth, then she will be able to answer the question of whether or not she will believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and her Savior. Oh what a glorious day that will be!
9/10/2013 12:25:15 PM by Sherra Still, writer, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for September 22: The Pressure of Words

September 10 2013 by Troy Rust, writer, Hurdle Mills

Focal Passage: James 3:1-18
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Who are we kidding? Why teach children such a universal lie? We’ve all faced situations where we tried to deny the destructive power of words, but we still walked away with pain and scars. With disproportionate power like a horse’s bit or ship’s rudder, the tongue can deliver love or hatred, unity or division, peace or war. No wonder James compared the tongue to a fire! On June 30, 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots from the Prescott (Arizona) Fire Department died in the midst of an insurmountable wildfire. While our hearts go out to families impacted by the destruction of physical flames, we rarely think of the devastation of the tongue. How many lives have been destroyed by the wildfire of the tongue? For how much verbal destruction are you and I personally responsible?
I first heard the term “two-faced” when I was a child. I learned that although people don’t have two faces they sometimes pretend to love people when they don’t. James reminds us that praising the Lord on Sunday doesn’t mean you rightly represent Him on Monday. If we walk by the flesh we will try to convince others of Christ’s Lordship over our lives while simultaneously pursuing the lordship of self. John warned, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). 
When I took voice lessons in college, I learned the value of vocal line. Vocal line means that whether one is singing at the bottom, middle or top of his range his tone quality must be the same. When we face the difficult, ordinary or high times in life, are we displaying a consistent faith? James warns us of the two enemies of spiritual consistency: jealousy and selfish ambition. These enemies will produce disorder and evil, but consistent love produces true wisdom, righteousness and peace. Which fruits are on your tree?
9/10/2013 12:23:42 PM by Troy Rust, writer, Hurdle Mills | with 1 comments