September 2015

Explore the Bible Lesson for Oct. 11: Scattered!

September 24 2015 by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal passages: Genesis 11:1-9
 
Our passage this week hones in on Genesis 11 and the tower of Babel, so named because it was there that “the Lord confused the language of all the earth” (v. 9). Our wider context includes chapter 10 as well where we learn that Noah and his family were indeed obedient to God’s command to multiply. Just like Genesis 1 gives us an overall picture of creation and Genesis 2 focuses specifically on the creation of mankind, Genesis 10 gives us the genealogy of the descendants of Noah while Genesis 11 explains how they came to dwell in specific places with different languages.

In Genesis 11 we find that Noah’s descendants are united by a sinful purpose. They have congregated together to build a tower in direct disobedience to God’s command to fill the earth. They are trying to make a name for themselves while believing the same lie as Adam and Eve – that fulfillment can be found outside of God.

While they are building, verse five tells us that “the Lord came down” to review the construction of the tower. The verbiage used further emphasizes the futile efforts of the “children of man.”

God holds them accountable for their disobedience. As judgment, He scatters the rebellious people through confusion by giving them different languages. They in turn abandon their project and instead fulfill God’s purpose of spreading out across the earth. God reverses Babel in Acts 2 by bringing the nations together for the pouring out of His Spirit at Pentecost.

Even humanity’s best efforts cannot thwart His purposes. His will always prevails. It is His name that is uttered in the underground churches of China and in the mountains of Afghanistan despite the efforts of man to prevent it. It is the name of Christ – not any man’s – that is above every name.

There will come a day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess His lordship. All of the
nations, tribes, peoples and languages that have been scattered will gather again before the throne of God and attribute glory to Him alone.

9/24/2015 11:15:54 AM by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Oct. 11: God’s Promise of a New Home

September 24 2015 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church

Focal passage: Revelation 21:1-8
 
What do you think you will love about the new earth and new heaven? Allow me to make one suggestion. It will be a place where God will dwell with His people (Revelation 21:3).

When I was a kid I use to love getting off the bus at my grandmother’s house. There was something about her home that always made me happy. Maybe it was because she made my favorite sandwich or gave me some of her famous sweet tea.

I’m not really sure, but I know I enjoyed visiting because my grandmother was there. After she passed, the home stayed in our family for some time.

During the years before my parents sold it, I would stop by and walk through it on occasion. In fact, my wife and I lived in it for a short time.

Out of all the times I stayed there after my grandmother passed it never felt like it did when I was a child. Now, reflecting back, I realize why it did not feel the same.

It was because my grandmother was no longer present. I’ve learned over the years that it is not the walls of a home that make a place special; it is the people that live in it that truly make it meaningful.

When I think about the new heaven and new earth, I am sure it will be an unbelievable place to live. Streets of gold, walls adorned with every kind of jewel, gates of pearl, no need for the sun or the moon and no threat of danger or sin. I’m certain we will be blown away with its beauty.

However, I don’t think those things will make our heavenly home truly meaningful. I think it will be our ability to enjoy the very presence of God for all eternity.

Just think, each day will be filled with getting to know God better and learning more about Him. As an added bonus for me, because my grandmother was a believer, I get to share that heavenly experience with her.

9/24/2015 11:11:23 AM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for Oct. 4: A Fresh Start

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

Focal passages: Genesis 8:15-22; 9:1,11-16
 
It’s heartbreaking to read about the Syrian refugees that are fleeing their country for a fresh start. So many men, women and children have lost their lives or given up their livelihood in hopes of a better future.

They are selling everything they own in order to buy tickets to get to a country where they may have a new life. Sadly, some are basing their hope on a geographic location, which we know will never truly satisfy.

In this week’s passage, we read about the fresh start that God gives mankind after the flood.

After the waters recede, God commands Noah and his family to exit the ark and repopulate the earth. He gives them the same mandate as Adam and Eve – be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth.

Noah obediently goes out from the ark with his family, every bird, animal and creeping thing in an orderly fashion; just as God created in an intentional order in Genesis 1.

After exiting the ark, Noah built a new altar to God and worshipped Him with burnt offerings.

His response is one of gratefulness and recognition for God’s deliverance of him and his family. (Farther along in Genesis, we notice that Abraham responds similarly in recognition of the Lord’s faithfulness and provision).

God is pleased by Noah’s offering and promises to never again destroy the earth with a flood. He establishes His covenant with Noah, his descendants, and all of creation – the first covenant recorded in the Bible – and gives the rainbow as a sign of His gracious new pro.mise.

Thankfully, our God continues to be merciful. He has given us a new and everlasting covenant through the shed blood of His Son.

This new covenant, based on repentance and faith in Christ, is the fresh start that the Syrian refugees (and the world) so desperately need to know about; the good news that God offers all people regardless of circumstances or nationality. New life is found in a covenantal relationship with Jesus Christ that is offered freely by grace through faith.

9/22/2015 11:33:26 AM by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Oct. 4: God’s Promise of Victory

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

Focal passage: Romans 8:28-39
 
I want to give you five reasons why Romans 8:28 is so important to me. First, whenever I try to take charge of my life I always mess it up. I realize nowhere in scripture does God affirm or accept reckless or sinful living, but I am so grateful He can still take my poor and inadequate decisions and use them for my good and His glory.

Second, life can be extremely difficult at times.

When I think about my two sons who struggle to learn, and there is seemingly nothing I can do further to correct their problem, my heart breaks. Their circumstance forces me to cry out before the Lord and say, “God, I am fully claiming Your promise that all things work for the good who love You and are called according to Your purposes.”

Third, I can wake up every morning with a sense of expectation that everything that comes into my life that day can make me more like Christ and less like sin.

Scripture is clear; God is at work conforming us into the image of His Son (8:29). Sometimes, it is hard for us to believe God is interested in using the small things in life to sanctify us, but He does.

The Bible says, “And we know that in all things [that includes big and small] God works for the good of those who love him.”

Fourth, NFL quarterback Tim Tebow was released from the Philadelphia Eagles last month. For several years now I have been living vicariously through Tim Tebow. I know he is not the only Christian playing professional football, but when he was cut by the Eagles I was extremely disappointed. However, because of the Bible, I know God will work it out for His glory – I just hope it involves more football for Tebow.
Finally, Romans 8:28 is important to me because it makes life exciting and meaningful.

So many people view life as random acts but when you read scripture you realize we are playing a part in God’s magnificent providential plan. Can there be anything more important?        

9/22/2015 11:28:47 AM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for Sept. 20: God saves

September 10 2015 by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte

Focal passages: Genesis 6:11-18; 7:11-14
 
My four-year-old niece loves rainbows. At a recent festival, she chose to have her face painted with a rainbow. She has already requested next year’s birthday party be “rainbow-themed.” In light of recent events, all of her attention on rainbows has made me a bit uncomfortable. That’s because, in today’s society, the symbol of a rainbow holds many connotations, including an expression of support for homosexuality. But then I had to remind myself that the symbol of a rainbow goes much farther back than recent political campaigns.
 
Satan may be twisting it for his own agenda for this very purpose; to overshadow God’s beautiful covenant to Noah and “every living creature … for all generations” (Gen. 9:13). The rainbow, in all of its beauty, is a sign of God’s promise that He will never again flood the earth.
 
It is a symbol of His grace and mercy to mankind. Last week’s emphasis was on the fall of humanity and this week continues to show the wickedness of man.
 
In chapter six, we read that God “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). Being true to His character, God judges sin but is rich in mercy. He saves a remnant by extending grace to Noah, a righteous man, and his family.
 
The promise unfolds as God gives specific instructions to Noah to build an ark that would save his family and two of every kind of animal. Noah takes action by obediently following God’s instructions of preparation.
 
The flood was the Lord’s act of judgment against the wickedness of mankind. Disobedience to God leads to sure destruction. But do not miss the act of grace – God does not wipe mankind out forever.
 
He saves Noah and his family by providing a way out through the ark; He rescues those who are faithful to Him. As we focus on His covenant in more depth next week, keep in mind the significance of the rainbow and the great mercy of our God that it represents.

9/10/2015 11:11:18 AM by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Sept. 27: God’s Promise of Answered Prayer

September 10 2015 by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church

Focal passage: Luke 11:5-13
 
According to David Dykes, “One of the largest organizations in America is the Quitters Club. The reason you’ve never heard of the Quitters Club is because they never meet; the members quit coming. There are no dues; the members quit paying them.

The Quitters Club is comprised of people who faced a tough job, a tough marriage, a tough sickness or a tough failure – and they quit. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. But when the going gets tough, the quitters get going ... away. What we need in America and in the church are people who will exhibit good, old-fashioned “stick-to-it-ness.” That’s probably not even a word, but it needs to be!”
 
I can appreciate Dykes’ humorous words because they are extremely applicable to our lessons. For example, have you ever felt like giving up in your prayer life?
 
How many times were you ready to quit praying because you thought God was not going to answer you. I have shared before in earlier commentaries that I have two sons with special needs. I often wonder what the future will hold for them. However, it is passages like Luke 11:5-10 that keep me motivated to seek God on their behalf.
 
The Bible is clear – if we persevere in prayer and remain persistent in asking God, He will answer our prayers according to His great wisdom. So, every night I pray at least two things for my sons. First, I pray God will save them. Because of their learning disabilities it has taken them longer to grasp the gospel, but as I seek God in prayer I know He will do a great work in their hearts.
 
Second, I pray God will glorify Himself through my sons’ lives. For me, this is an exciting prayer. Only God knows what the future holds for my sons. However, God has told me in His word (Luke 11:11-13) that He gives good gifts to those who seek Him. So, don’t be like those in the “Quitters Club.” Stay strong and keep on praying. God always keeps His promises. 

9/10/2015 10:56:05 AM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for Sept. 20: Humanity’s Fall

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

Focal passages: Genesis 3:1-7, 14-19
 
“Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?” That famous line brings back memories of an extended stay with my maternal grandparents one summer. My “Omi” and “Opi” had filled their giant strawberry-shaped cookie jar with delicious treats that were very tempting to my siblings and I as young children.
 
We knew the cookie jar was only to be opened by Omi and Opi, but after pacing back and forth in the kitchen without a grandparent in sight, you can guess what my brother and I decided to do. Of course there were consequences to our disobedience – bellyaches, scolding and spanking.
 
Just as my siblings and I rebelled against our grandparents’ authority, Adam and Eve defied the boundaries that God set for them in the garden (Gen. 3:3). They were tempted by the serpent and led to believe that fulfillment can be found outside of God.
 
The crafty creature twisted the very word of God and portrayed Him as withholding good from His creation. Rather than acting in obedience and trust, Adam and Eve doubted God’s good intention and provision. They took things into their own hands – literally, they took fruit – which resulted in shame.
 
Scripture tells us they not only tried to cover their nakedness but they hid from the Lord too. What promised to be fulfilling (“your eyes will be opened and you will be like God”) only proved to be empty (Gen. 3:5).
 
As a result of their disobedience, Adam and Eve leave things in shambles. God’s once perfect creation becomes corrupted by sin. They exchange His blessings for judgment and a curse: God curses the serpent and the ground, Adam and Eve are punished and expelled from paradise, and the effects of sin are felt by all of creation. Yet in the midst of judgment, God still demonstrates grace. Genesis 3:15, referred to as the protoevangelium (“first gospel”) by biblical scholars, points to the future hope of Christ, the One who will crush the head of the enemy (Satan) and defeat sin and death forever.

9/8/2015 10:28:21 AM by Hilary Ratchford, member, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Sept. 20: God’s Promise of Provision

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

Focal passage: Psalm 34:4-14
 
Pastor Bill White of California wrote an illustration that included a Super Bowl Sunday FedEx commercial. The commercial was a parody of the movie Castaway. The main character of the commercial was like Tom Hanks, also a FedEx worker in the movie whose company plane went down, stranding him on a desert island for years.
 
White said, “The FedEx employee in the commercial goes up to the door of a suburban home, package in hand. When the lady comes to the door, he explains that he survived five years on a deserted island, and during that whole time he kept this package in order to deliver it to her. She gives a simple, ‘Thank you.’
 
But he is curious about what is in the package that he has been protecting for years. He says, ‘If I may ask, what was in that package after all?’
 
She opens it and shows him the contents, saying, ‘Oh, nothing really. Just a satellite telephone, a global positioning device, a compass, a water purifier, and some seeds.’”
When I think about White’s illustration, I am reminded of the many Christians who find themselves on a “spiritual” deserted island.
 
They walk through life defeated and alone because of a particular circumstance or because of a stronghold in their life.
 
They feel helpless and fearful. They see no hope in the future.
 
All the while God’s provision is available to them if they would only seek His face.
Much like the FedEx man, he had all that he needed to escape the island if he would have only opened the package.
 
Perhaps you are feeling spiritually stranded. Let me encourage you to open the scripture and study Psalm 34.
 
It describes God’s wonderful provision for those in need.
 
Don’t waste years of your life trying to rescue yourself.
 
Let God meet all your need according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19)
9/8/2015 10:22:19 AM by Bartley Wooten, pastor, Beulaville Baptist Church | with 0 comments