Sunday School Lessons

Bible Studies for Life lesson for Aug. 2: Do You See the Big Picture?

July 20 2009 by Catherine Painter, author, speaker, Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passages: 2 Peter 3:8-9; 1 Thess. 4:1-5; I Thess. 5:15-22

Years ago, a woman out West wrote, “I read your Sunday school lessons and believe you can help me. I became a Christian at 11 and have doubted my salvation ever since. At first, my pain was emotional; now it’s physical. At 81, I know I won’t live on and on. If I die tonight, however, I have no idea where I’ll wake up. I don’t share my doubt because everyone assumes I’m saved. I’m a regular worshiper and have served in various leadership roles in the church. Will you help?”

I shared Christ with her, how to accept Christ’s assurance, and asked her to write again to say how things are going.

She wrote, “For the first time since childhood, I sleep in peace knowing I’ll wake up in heaven when I die.”
Perhaps you’ve prayed for someone for years, yet the person has not accepted Christ.

Peter wrote that Christ delays His coming because He’s patient, “not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

Christ’s delay provides us time for evangelism.

No lost person wanders into a church crying, “Find me; I’m lost.”  

Jesus counts on us to find the lost (see Matt. 28:19-20). He has no other plan.

Next, the big picture includes moral purity.

Our lives must prove what we profess to believe. A Christian friend shares that when opportunity arises for infidelity, his response is ready. He asks himself, “Why would I order hamburger when I have steak at home?”

A safeguarded life, with strategy in place ahead of attack, avoids temptation; and, because God makes His will known through His word, we’re wise to make Bible study a priority.

Paul wrote that Christians should live “not with lustful desires, like the Gentiles who don’t know God” (1 Thess. 4:3,5).

Finally, the big picture reveals God’s desire for us to pursue “what is good for one another and for all” (5:15).

An unknown poet said it well:

Isn’t it strange that princes and kings, and clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
And common people like you and me are builders for eternity?
Each is given a bag of tools, a shapeless mass, a book of rules;
And each will make, before life has flown, a stumbling block or a stepping stone
.”

7/20/2009 4:52:00 AM by Catherine Painter, author, speaker, Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for July 26: Sodom: A City in Need of Intercession

July 14 2009 by John Carpenter, pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Yanceyville

Focal Passage: Genesis 18:16-33

Corporate bodies, like nations, cities, or even churches, have a culture, a character that generally describes the whole, if not every individual.

Kind, righteous Germans living in Berlin in 1945 suffered alongside the cruelest Nazi because even the kind and righteous in Hitler’s Germany were part of that depraved nation.

So too, an unbelieving, arrogant city — or church — contaminates the best in their midst.

Abraham is told that the notorious Sodom was to be destroyed.

The Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave” (Gen. 18:20). Abraham is no Jonah. He seeks God’s mercy, even for that depraved society.

Abraham pleads that God not sweep away the righteous with the wicked.

“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (18:25).

So the Lord says that even if there are only 50 righteous people in the entire city, He will spare it.

But Abraham knows there may not even be 50 righteous left in that filth. Sodom’s sin was sexual perversion; it was saturated in “the sensual conduct of the wicked” (2 Peter 2:7), particularly homosexuality.

Many in our day are seeking to justify this and all forms of eroticism — the uninhibited search for fulfilling our sexual passions.

Every second $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography. So we now live in a sex-soaked culture.

Abraham must know the permeating and polluting effect of rampant eroticism. So he carefully, respectfully pleads with God. He gets God down to 10.

If there are 10 righteous, he’ll spare the city. Abraham is satisfied that surely in a city that size, there’ll at least be 10.

Even he was too optimistic.

The Lord only found one: Lot. His wife looked back, too attached to that depraved society. His daughters molested him, so twisted in their minds by the perversion they saw in Sodom. Sodom may have been in need for intercession but even the best intercessor wasn’t good enough.

In this case, the Lord didn’t sweep away the righteous with the wicked. But He only found one and rescued that one.

Sodom was finally a city in need of destruction as are all societies that surrender to eroticism.
Peter tells us that what happened to Sodom was a foretaste of the judgment to come on the whole world.

And yet, no matter how bad things get before the end, the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial (2 Peter 2:6-10).

Meanwhile, like Abraham, we need to be interceding.


7/14/2009 2:46:00 AM by John Carpenter, pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Yanceyville | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for July 26: Key Questions about the Triune God

July 14 2009 by Catherine Painter, author, speaker, Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passages: Matt. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 2:12-13; Eph. 1:3-14

 “I wish I understood the Trinity,” I moaned. My husband Jack groaned in return, “I wish I did too.” Then he compared the Trinity with the three-in-one egg: shell, white, and yolk; and with water: (liquid), gas (steam), and solid (ice). His illustrations helped, but questions remained.

1. Why is the concept of the Trinity important? (Eph.1: 3-14). Answer: Without the Father, creation wouldn’t exist. Without the Son, we’d have no Savior to redeem us, and without the Holy Spirit, there’d be no Counselor to guide us.

2. How can we know that God is Three? Answer: While the word Trinity is not in the Bible, the doctrine is assumed. Paul’s benedictions to churches praise Three Persons. (See 2 Corinthians 13:14.)  

The Trinity took part in Mary’s Annunciation (Luke 1:30-35), and at Jesus’ baptism, the Father spoke from heaven, the Son was baptized, and the Spirit descended in the form of a dove (Matthew 3:16-17). The dove, the only bird sacrificed in the Jewish Temple, symbolized Jesus’ earthly mission—to die for our sins.

3. How might we understand God’s mysterious nature? (See 1 Cor. 2:12-13.)

Answer: While we needn’t explain the Trinity to believe it, it’s impossible for the Spirit to render His greatest benefits when His presence goes unrecognized.

I came to know the Spirit, rather than know about Him, while filling an extensive vacancy for a choral teacher. Until then, I referred to the Spirit as “it.” Daily planning periods provided me opportunities to write. As pages accumulated, I needed three paper clips to separate chapters.

When I reached for clips in Joe’s desk, the Spirit convicted me that the clips were not mine to take.

I justified, “If Joe were here, he would give me the clips.”

The Spirit responded, “The clips are not Joe’s; he’s only a steward over them. They belong to the school system.” Convicted, I withdrew my hand, deciding to buy clips on my way home.

But Satan persisted. There was no harm in taking three clips; that many could disappear on any given day. I opened the drawer and fingered them. Then I recalled that Jesus quoted Scripture when He was tempted. I said, “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). I closed the drawer and drove to the store on my way home.

7/14/2009 2:44:00 AM by Catherine Painter, author, speaker, Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for July 19: Nazareth: A City in Need of Correction

July 6 2009 by John Carpenter, pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Yanceyville

Focal Passage: Luke 4:16-30

Some people think they can be saved just because they belong to the right group: they’re Americans, or Israelites, or the right race, or they are members of the Baptist church.

In Luke 4, Jesus begins His public ministry. He started in a synagogue.

“Synagogue” literally means an assembly, what the Greek word behind “church” also means.

And He started with the Bible.

He quotes from Isaiah 61:1-2: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.”

That was His way of saying that He was the “anointed one,” literally the Messiah.

At first things began well.

The people are amazed that this young man, from a carpenter’s home, is so well-spoken.

But then He begins to bring out the implications of what He’s just read. He’s implied He’s a prophet.

But prophets aren’t accepted in their hometown.

Some churches will see a boy grow from a silly rascal to a serious man of God.

But because every time they look at him they only see the kid who used to run around the church in shorts, they can’t take seriously his message from God. They may be entertained by his speaking.

But to them, it’s just entertainment.

A church that can’t look past the messenger to the message, that treats preaching as a form of entertainment (not an opportunity to repent) is a church in need of correction.

The Lord Jesus then slams their assumption that they are God’s people simply because they are Israelites.

Elijah went to a non-Israelite for safety; Elisha healed a non-Israelite leper.

His point, in the words of the Apostle Paul: “Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel . ... It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God” (Romans 9:6, 8).

That is, no one is one of God’s people simply by being born into the right family, nation or even church.

Salvation is not inherited like a family heirloom.

Religious hypocrites — who trust in something other than the work of Christ for their salvation — hate to have their salvation questioned.

They hate the suggestion that they may not be one of God’s people.

That’s why one of the most dangerous things a modern pastor can do (for his employment) is to suggest to life-less church members that they may not really be saved.

In Luke 4:29, they try to kill the Lord Jesus. Today the hypocrites will try to have the pastor fired. Both are in need of correction.

7/6/2009 3:47:00 AM by John Carpenter, pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Yanceyville | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for July 19: Living in the Spirit

July 6 2009 by Catherine Painter, author, speaker Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passages: Gen. 1:2; John 7:37-39; Acts 4:29-31; 5:3-4; 1 Cor. 12:4-7

In her book, The Hat on the Hall Tree, a minister’s wife discussed her dealing with church members.

She wrote, “I keep a hat on the hall tree. When the doorbell rings, I put on my hat before opening the door. If I like the person, I say, ‘You’ve caught me at a good time; I was just coming in.’ If I don’t want to be bothered, I say, ‘You’ve caught me at a bad time; I was just going out.’”

One thing is clear: the Holy Spirit did not control her life.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

He is God, the third person of the Trinity.

Genesis 1 says that He was active in creation.

He is neither an “it” nor an impersonal being.

He is God with all the attributes of Jesus.

Before He died, Jesus promised, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17).

“When He comes, He will convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:7-8).

I experienced His attributes while driving out West. Entering Arizona, I noted a “Welcome to Arizona” sign.

Soon a patrolman stopped me.

“Lady,” he said, “you were traveling ten miles over the speed limit” (Conviction).

“Before you crossed the line, there was a sign noting the correct speed” (Righteousness).

“I didn’t see it,” I said. “I was admiring your welcome sign.”

Unimpressed, he replied, “Here’s your ticket” (Judgment).

Imagine with me that an unrepentant sinner dies.

God charges, “You broke my laws” (Sin), but “I provided a sign, the Cross, whereby you might be saved” (Righteousness).

The sinner might plead, “I didn’t see the cross. My eyes were on the world.”

Jesus will answer (John 14:6), “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Judgment).

Years ago, a startling news headline read: Princess Diana and companion dead.

Her intoxicated driver was traveling ninety miles an hour through a Paris tunnel, and Diana was not wearing a seatbelt.

I cried, “Lord, I pray that Diana was not traveling so fast that she missed seeing the cross.”

Let’s survey the cross — while we have time.

Eternity depends on it.      

7/6/2009 3:46:00 AM by Catherine Painter, author, speaker Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for July 12: Ninevah: A City in Need of Grace

June 29 2009 by John Carpenter, Pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Yanceyville

Focal Passage: Jonah 3:1-4:11

Individualistic Americans may be surprised that God often deals with people in groups, as nations, cities, or even churches.

Corporate guilt passes to the individual members of the group.

Nineveh was one of the greatest, largest, most powerful cities in the world.

It lay on the eastern banks of the Tigris, across the river from modern day Mosul, Iraq. It was the capital of the Assyrian empire.

But Assyria was an atrociously cruel empire. Even the king of Assyria acknowledges, in 3:8, that “violence” was the key sin of that city.

And, that violent empire was threatening Jonah’s homeland of Israel. In Jonah’s eyes, Nineveh was a city in need of destruction.

Jonah fled, when God called, because he was afraid what happened, would happen. He was afraid they would repent and God would, in His mercy, spare them.

It would be as if God called someone to go preach the gospel in Berlin during World War II or personally to Osama bin Laden now.

What if they repent? Then they won’t be destroyed. And that’s not what we want.

To Jonah’s dismay, the people of Nineveh believed God and repented. They even specifically named their characteristic sin of violence. Some today think sins can just be excused, unconfessed.

But that’s wrong. True repentance produces the kind of contrition the people of Nineveh show: they afflict themselves, they fast, they name their sin. Then — not before — there is forgiveness and God turns from judgment.

In one church a man seeking to undermine his pastor said, “Some of us are Joshuas and some are Jonahs.”

He likened his going around gathering and encouraging complaints to be either like a brave prophet or a reluctant prophet.

His pastor responded, “Some are Judases!” Jonah is not a story about easy-believism, forgiveness without repentance.

It’s about a God so merciful, he sends a prophet to bring true repentance.

In God’s eyes, Nineveh was in need of grace. They repented. God relented of the disaster He had planned for them. Jonah was angry.

Their salvation was what he feared his preaching would produce. He had more mercy on the plant that gave him shade than he did on the people of that city.

He could only think of himself.

Are there people – individuals or groups (like races) — you don’t care about the gospel going out to?

Does your church care more for their little comforts (like padded pews, familiar hymns, old fashioned dress and Bible versions) or the salvation of sinners?

6/29/2009 7:24:00 AM by John Carpenter, Pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Yanceyville | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for July 12: Exalting the Son

June 29 2009 by Catherine Painter, Author, speaker Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Colossians 1:15-23

Wayside witnessing is my favorite way to exalt Christ.

It’s fun and risk free since I’ll probably never see the prospect again.

Sometimes I plant gospel seeds; at other times I’m blessed to harvest a soul for Christ.

Jesus’ last recorded words before ascending into heaven included His command for us to share our faith (Matthew 28:19-20).

Jesus never commanded the lost to come and hear; He commanded the church to go and tell.
Recently, my husband Jack and I were in a restaurant.

We asked the waitress if we might include her in our prayer before eating. Wasting no time, she spattered us with her pain.

Wherever you and I look, we see people needing Christ. Many await an invitation to express their needs, providing us opportunity to exalt Christ.

Although we love our church, Jack and I don’t brag about it, the pastor, the music, or youth programs.

Instead, we talk about Christ.

Once unbelievers accept Christ, they’ll often choose our church.

It’s important to remain positive while discussing the church.

Christ died for it; why should we complain? Suppose a business advertised this way: “The number of our customers is dropping, and many who do come are dissatisfied with what we offer, but please take your chances and drop in. It might not do you any good, but it will please us.”

How many businesses would grow with such advertising?

Throughout Colossians 1, Paul bragged about Christ. Count the ways he exalted Jesus and the Church in verses 15-20 and know that Jesus is equally committed to you and the church where you worship.

While problems plagued the early Church, its members spread their faith, not their faults, and stormed the world for Christ.

Has Jesus changed your life? Then say so.

Review your past. Was God there?

Look around. Is He present? Yes, a negative blood test can evoke fear, but it won’t have the final word.

We needn’t fear the future, for “He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).

Therefore, the smallest seeds we sow for Christ today will reap results, for as the adage goes, “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but who can count the apples in a seed?”

6/29/2009 7:23:00 AM by Catherine Painter, Author, speaker Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for July 5: Jerusalem: A City in Need of Peace

June 22 2009 by John Carpenter, Pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Yanceyville

Focal Passage: Luke 19:41-48

Cities, like individuals, have personalities — and needs. Here it is for Jerusalem that the Lord Jesus pines, that they would know “the things that make for peace.”

“This day,” the Lord Jesus speaks of is the day He arrives at the city, beginning the chain of events which would lead that city to crucify Him. It was, “the time of your visitation.”

Sometimes God comes to us, as individuals or corporate bodies (like cities, nations, or churches), with an offer of peace.

What makes for peace is Himself, if that proud city would only accept Him. They’ve just received Him happily; celebrating His arrival.

But they’re only interested in a triumphant king to conquer their enemies, the Romans, not the sacrificial King come to conquer their hearts. Jesus says “They” (the secrets of peace) “are hidden from your eyes.”

Yes, they are responsible for not accepting Him. But here Jesus points to the ultimate source of their inability to see: God’s purpose in election. God’s peace comes from God’s grace and is withheld from those He does not enable to see (c.f. Mt. 13:13-16; Romans 11:8).

Because they wouldn’t have peace, they would know war.

In verses 43-44, the Lord Jesus foretells the First Jewish-Roman war of AD 66-73, within a generation of Him.

We don’t need to look into our future for the fulfillment.

They’ve already come to pass when the Roman general Titus, a future Caesar, besieged Jerusalem, destroying the city and the temple in it, killing thousands.

Titus reportedly refused to accept a victory wreath, as there is “no merit in vanquishing people forsaken by their own God.”

The price for refusing to receive Jesus as Lord is high.

Then Jesus cleans the merchants out of the temple. The powers that be — “the chief priests and the scribes and the principal men,” what we would call the religious people and the “good ol’ boys” — don’t like that one bit.

They’re not looking for a Lord of any kind.

They’re just looking for business as usual. So they’ll bide their time, looking to destroy Jesus not knowing they are sealing their own destruction.

Today individuals, cities, and even churches have opportunities — times of visitation, when they must repent, change, turn from business as usual to the Lord.

Tradition-bound religious folk and the good ol’ boys will try to protect the status quo. But you must know the Lord who makes for peace and let Him cleanse the “temples” of our hearts or churches. Or pay the price.

6/22/2009 3:38:00 AM by John Carpenter, Pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Yanceyville | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for July 5: Getting to Know the Father

June 22 2009 by Catherine Painter, Author, speaker, Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Exodus 33:18-23, 34:5-8; Micah 6:6-8; John 4:21-24

Following Discipleship Training, a young man asked, “Do you know God as well as you know your husband?”

I answered, “I know God better because I spend more time with Him.

“With God’s Spirit within me, we commune throughout the day.”

Then I shared a story.

Vacationing at the beach, Craig, our son-in-love, remained inside the resort the first day.

I asked our daughter Melanie why he didn’t come out. As if it made all the sense in the world, she said, “He’s spending the day with God.”

I thundered, “At the beach? Can’t he spend time with God after he goes home?”

I was curious, even a bit jealous. Just what would he and God do together all day?  

I began seeking God in earnest.

Soon I realized that I’d traded the best for the good, so busy doing good things “in His name” that I forgot my need for Him. My soul was dry and thirsty.

“Can I know God?” the young man insisted.

“How much time do you spend with Him?” I responded.

He named prayer before meals, time at Sunday School, church, and weekly Bible study.

“That’s admirable,” I said, “but you won’t get to know God that way.

“You’ll learn about God, but you won’t know Him until you spend time alone with Him. Moses grew hungry for God and begged to see Him (Exodus 33:18-23).”

I believe when we ask with open arms, God pulls us to Himself.

Until we really know God, we can develop content with a religion based on two hours a week, often lacking commitment or lifestyle change, and find ourselves filling the void with religious activity.

God sometimes uses despair, illness, fear, loss, or other ways to reveal our need for Him. In Micah 6:6-8, God demanded more from us than external acts of piety.

Jesus said that God wants us to worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24).

Ritual, worship, praise, and teaching become meaningful only after we’ve been with Him.

Then everything from sweeping the floor to cruising the world takes on significance because it’s bathed in God’s presence.

George Trumbull said, “Our hope is not Christ plus our efforts, but Christ plus our receiving. It isn’t Christ and us, but Christ in us.”  

Which do we crave — a theologically correct outline, or the opportunity to sit at His feet?

6/22/2009 3:37:00 AM by Catherine Painter, Author, speaker, Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for June 28: The Spirit’s Prayer

June 22 2009 by Ed Beddingfield, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: Rom. 8:12-17, 26-27

Sometimes we just can’t pray.

Dennis Apple is a staff minister at a Nazarene church in Kansas. His book, Life after the Death of My Son, chronicles his journey of doubt and faith when his teenage son died unexpectedly.
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Apple was in “a spiritual fog,” unable to pray or read the Bible, feeling abandoned by God, just going through the motions of ministry.  

At the same time he was afraid that if his church people found out how he really felt, he’d be fired.

Eventually, though, he decided to tell his story to the congregation in worship.

What surprised him was the support he received, and the number of people who came to him afterward seeking pastoral care, needing to tell their own stories of spiritual crisis.

It’s more common than we think, or would like to admit. But we shouldn’t be surprised.

We are not compartmentalized people.

What affects us mentally, emotionally and physically can also affect us spiritually. Sometimes we just can’t pray.

Other times we can, but we’re not sure what we should pray for.

I visited a neighbor, a member of another church, in the hospital.

He was an elderly man, near death after a long illness. The family asked me to pray.

I prayed realistically, asking for the patient the peace of God and the hope of heaven, and for the family endurance and comfort.

After the “Amen,” a family member grabbed me urgently by the arm and pleaded, as much with her eyes as with her words: “You didn’t pray for him to get well!”

It’s the only time I’ve ever been asked to redo a prayer.

So what to pray for? For the man to “depart and be with Christ,” as I did the first time, or for him to “remain in the flesh” on account of his family (Phil. 1:23-24)? Is “Thy will be done” sufficient? What’s best? Who knows?
God knows.

The Bible says God “looks upon the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7), and “even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, You know it completely” (Ps. 139:4).

Prayer is not a matter of giving God information He otherwise wouldn’t have. Prayer is a relationship. It’s placing ourselves in God’s presence, at God’s disposal, and in God’s hands.

When sense and expression fail, when we don’t know what to pray for, when all we can cry is “Abba! Father!” or the best we can manage is “sighs too deep for words,” God hears (8:15, 26-27).

It may be the most eloquent and effective prayer of all.           

6/22/2009 3:36:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments



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