Sunday School Lessons

Formations lesson for Jan. 11: Meeting God in Judgment

December 31 2008 by Shane Nixon, Director of Development/ Church Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: Isaiah 5:1-13

In a not so previous life, many Biblical Recorder readers knew me mainly for my technical acumen.  From the voice behind and content creator of the “Cyber Tip of the Month” on UpClose, to a “church technology coach” many got to know me in that “more geek than I want to admit” role. Well, as hard as I try to shed the computer guy mantra, it seems to stick with me like flies on honey.

I must concede that occasionally knowing that techno-lingo pays off.  In computer programming jargon there is a term known as JIJO which means literally “junk in/junk out.” It is used by programmers to describe the actions of a computer when the underlying code on which it acts is bad. If the programming is bad then the computerís actions will be also. If you put junk in (by way of bad code) you’ll get junk out (in the resulting malfunctioning computer.)

As much as I try to move on, it just may be that old computer programming jargon has a place here. The prophet Isaiah speaks in the focal passage of a disappointing vineyard. In verse four of chapter five he asks why a vineyard produced the wrong kind of grapes. The answer is the old computer programmer mantra; junk in, junk out.

In the next two verses, Isaiah speaks of a field laid waste, burned and trampled. The prophet goes on to list various things from intoxicating drink to staying out all night as possible junk which causes the judgment to be harsh.  Each of us would have our own take on what is and isn’t junk here, but the truth is it varies from person to person. Of course there are some obvious things we might all agree on, but there are just as many we would argue. The point is to know what actions your intake are going to produce.

God is watching our actions, all of our actions; every single one. He is aware of everything we do. He alone stands worthy to judge us, and He in fact will. We need not to try and avoid God’s judgment, for it is unavoidable. Rather we need to be living lives that make the judgment of God a positive one. We must limit the amount of (all) junk which goes into our lives and bodies, so we can keep (any) junk from coming out.

12/31/2008 10:20:00 AM by Shane Nixon, Director of Development/ Church Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes of North Carolina | with 2 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for Jan. 11: Discover Fresh Hope

December 31 2008 by John Pond, Director of Missions, Chowan Baptist Association

Focal Passage: Psalm 42:1-43:5

Overwhelmed!

This one word seems to express that walled-up flood of turbulent emotions and piercing heartaches that opens up the worshipper to Book Two of the Psalter. This worshipper has been away from Jerusalem, the “wadi (spring of water in the parched desert)” of spiritual refreshment and has felt the estrangement deep within his/her very soul. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” Like a gaping hole begging to be filled, the traveler seeks respite even in fragile memories of another day, a holy day of celebration and processions. But now, oh the drought … the depths!

The psalmist asks, “Why are you so cut down, O my soul, and why do you groan tumultuously deep within me?” The drought … the depths! Is there no hope? “Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” Vulnerable because of such thirst for God, he/she experiences the mockery and taunts of onlookers and the barrenness of the landscape. Is there really no hope?

Then in quiet refrain the worshipper responds “Hope in God: for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.”

With that comes the realization that though in danger of being permanently engulfed by the boiling, seething turmoil of wave upon wave of deep evil, his/her footing will not slip nor faith falter (even if forgotten by God (v. 9). Instead, hope in God … my salvation and my God. Why? “Because by day He commands His steadfast love and at night His song is with me…”

Psalm 42 defiantly asks twice (v. 5, 11) about the despair and tumult of apparent divine abandonment (v. 9) and turns to joyous memories of a better time. Now in Psalm 43 the question is affirmed with grateful confidence as the psalmist recognizes the situation and calls upon his God to send out His light and truth. “Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause … Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me … to your holy hill and to your dwelling.” Instead of “why have you forgotten me?” the writer asks, “why have I forgotten you?”— He/she declares, “For you are the God in whom I take refuge.” There is hope! There is hope in spite of possible silence or even perceived rejection.

George Knight writes, “Hope is knowing that God is there and so hope means waiting for God. But hope arouses us to praise the God we are waiting for when we seem to have lost him from sight. Moreover, just doing so means putting out your hand into the darkness and finding it gripped by Another.”

As the hymnist has written,

“I’m overshadowed by His mighty love.
Love eternal, changeless pure.
Overshadowed by His mighty love
Rest is mine, serene, secure.”

12/31/2008 10:17:00 AM by John Pond, Director of Missions, Chowan Baptist Association | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Jan. 4: Meeting God in Renewal

December 23 2008 by Shane Nixon, Director of Development/ Church Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: Isaiah 2:1-6, 13, 20-22

For some reason I always thought “new” was one of those words. Do you know what I mean? There are certain words which simply do not need a qualifier of any kind. Not some overused adverb or even a well placed adjective. There is no such thing as “very pregnant.”

One cannot be “seriously dead” as opposed to some other kind of not living state. What is the difference after all between new and brand new? And can something really be “new again?” Split the semantic hair with me if you must, but really isn’t “new” descriptive enough by itself? Aren’t things pretty much either new or old?

In church circles we don’t add a qualifying descriptive word to new, instead we add a prefix. (Of course we also often add a suffix, but the significant part is the “re” we put in front of new.) When we do, we are saying exactly that we are “new again.” Is this possible? More specifically, we talk of being made new again through some process of renewal that an encounter with the Most High God brings on. Back in western N.C. where I grew up, “a come to Jesus” meeting wasn’t exactly something you looked forward to, as it usually involved discipline of a parent, not coming closer to God.

We go even a step further. We speak of spiritual “mountain top experiences” and of having an “ah-ha” moment with God. We come down from, or out of such an experience with a renewed vigor in our daily Christian walk. Maybe the word fails us, maybe it isn’t exactly new again, but fresh or revived, but the point here is made.

When speaking of what one biblical commentator calls the “Future of the House of God” the Prophet Isaiah talks of many people coming and going up to the mountain of the Lord. The imagery is so real and is used to remind us that in our humanity, we do occasionally fall away from the high and lifted up place that should be our walk with God. We must then seek out ways we can see, as Isaiah labels it, the “glory of His majesty” as if viewing it for the first time.

We must, in our spiritual walks at least, constantly find ways to become new again!

12/23/2008 5:42:00 AM by Shane Nixon, Director of Development/ Church Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes of North Carolina | with 1 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for Jan. 4: Gain Fresh Perspective

December 23 2008 by John Pond, Director of Missions, Chowan Baptist Association

Focal Passage: Psalm 19:1-14

Immanuel Kant once wrote, “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and the more steadily we reflect on these: the starry heavens above and the moral law within.” The psalmist elucidates both points in this symphonic hymn of declaration and revelation. He moves from heaven’s “wordless” declaration of God’s glory (v. 1-6) to the clarity of the written word’s revelation of God’s grace (v. 7-10) and then personally responds in faith and humility (v. 11-14).

1) The wordless declaration of God’s glory. I find a breathtaking clarity in winter skies. The crispness of the air seems to purge away all unnatural impurities and effluence leaving only a crystal blue sky shouting out exuberant joy to its Creator. Each day irrepressibly bubbles over with expressions of praise to and reflections of God and His creative thoughts.

Hymnist Joseph Addison writes:

“What though nor real voice nor sound
Amid their radiant orbs be found;
In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
For ever singing as they shine,
‘The hand that made us is divine.’”

2) The written revelation of God’s grace. Today the need for rediscovering the filial joy and wonder of divine relationship is essential as time for personal prayer and study is tested by mounting cultural and economic challenges. Undaunted by his own disheartening trials, the psalmist points to six components of divine revelation or encounter: the law (Torah) or God’s revealed will, the testimony (statutes) or truths attested by God in covenant, His precepts and commandments by which God addresses us, holy reverence (fear) in response, and His ordinances (mishpat) or judgments. Arthur Weiser writes, “For the poet the law is the point at which an encounter takes place with the living God who reveals himself in the law…” Thus through encountering God and His word of revelation the believer is embraced, redeemed and sustained.

In the face of divine revelation and glorious majesty, the worshiper moves not by a false pride but prayerful humility recognizing his/her inadequacy and assured by faith that each prayer will be answered by his/her Redeemer’s forgiving and preserving grace — “O Lord, my rock and my redeemer!”

12/23/2008 5:30:00 AM by John Pond, Director of Missions, Chowan Baptist Association | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Dec. 28: Faith

December 19 2008 by Shane Nixon, Director of Development/Church Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: Hebrews 11:1-7

Faith may be the most clearly defined term commonly used in the religious vernacular. In the dictionary, regardless of which version you use, you’ll find common words used in the definitions like “belief” and “fidelity.” Most dictionaries have as many as eight definitions of the word! From hymns we hear that faith is “the victory that overcomes the world” and that “our faith looks up to God.” And of course there is Hebrews 11:1, giving as clear a scriptural definition as one will find for any word used in the Bible.

And yet do we really know what it is to have faith? I mean of course we do, but can we “define it” such that others, specifically those without it, can know what we mean? If we explain that our faith is “what we believe in” then a pastor friend of mine has an interesting exercise which makes my point. He says that trying to explain to someone what you believe, is like trying to describe yellow to someone born blind. You simply can’t. None of the terms we would use to describe yellow work for someone who has never seen. Light, bright, pastel — those things mean nothing if you were born blind.

It is a good thing that faith is the evidence of things not seen. Faith is not something we can adequately describe; it is something we live. Faith is not something we can properly delineate; it is something we use to subsist. Our faith is how we live, not some vague part of who we are.

Faith is one of those things that, for Christians, you don’t need eyes to know it when you see it!


12/19/2008 5:51:00 AM by Shane Nixon, Director of Development/Church Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes of North Carolina | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for Dec. 28: Wanted: Missionaries

December 19 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passage: Acts 13:1-3; 14:26-27; 26:15-19; Galatians 2:6-10

When John and I were new missionaries in Rwanda, Africa, a young woman who would be working with us said, “My people know that you love them because you are learning our language, and not making us try to speak yours.”

It takes a lot of time, money, and hard work for adults to learn another language, or in some cases, two or three. Yet, as my young Rwanda friend put it so well, look at the love shown when that effort is made. Long-term missionaries live out their Christian witness daily, showing Christ’s love consistently to the people with whom they live and work.

I am still in awe of those who answer God’s call to be career missionaries, as I have been since I first heard of missionaries when I was a Sunbeam (remember Sunbeams?). I am in awe of those here at home, the parents and grandparents, who let go of their sons and daughters called to be long-term missionaries. I will always praise and thank God for those who go and those who let go.

For this reason, I found it very difficult for me to learn that I am hypocritical. God has put a love of England in my son’s heart, as He has put a love for the Jamaican people in mine, and love for French-speaking Quebec, Canada in John’s heart.

One day, as Marcus (our son) was excitedly looking up churches in England, I thought, what if God is calling Marcus to be a missionary to England!

Marcus is pastor of Woodland Baptist Church in West Chowan Baptist Association, where his dad is the director of missions, and I am Marcus’ secretary. As you can see, we three work very closely together, and the thought of Marcus being called someplace far away, made me panic.

Then I realized that one of my fervent desires is to see Marcus following his Savior’s leading no matter where that may be. I also know when that happens, God will be with me as He was with my mother, and with John’s parents when we were called to Africa.

I will continue to pray that my Heavenly Father calls laborers for His harvest, even if that laborer is my son.

12/19/2008 5:50:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 0 comments



Formations Sunday School Lesson for Dec. 21: Love

December 11 2008 by Shane Nixon, Director of Development/ Church Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: 1 Jn. 4:7-12

In Phillip Yancey’s book What is So Amazing About Grace, he quotes Dorothy Day as follows: “I really only love God as much as the person I love least.” When I originally read that I thought it was an exaggeration. I assumed it was exaggerated to make a point, and further assumed that I had gotten the point. I moved on.

In reading 1 John, I now realize that wasn’t an exaggeration. The writer of the tiny epistle would have us believe that “loving” is who we are as Christians by definition. That in order to be ourselves and be like God, we must love and we must do so completely. In the focal passage there isn’t even any mention of degree, nothing like loving most or least, just an expectation that those who know God would love.

When we learn to love the way God loves, there are no “levels” of love. We can’t love this person a little and that person a lot. There may be different types of love, and those may apply in our lives to the different human relationships we have. But inside the family of God, degree is replaced with completeness. There are no shades of gray on God’s “black and white love scale.” Either you love or you don’t.

I’ve concluded that Day’s words might, in fact be true. I may only love God as much as the person I love least. My problem is there are some people I haven’t loved as I am commanded to do, as God love requires. You see, it isn’t how much I love but that I love that is important.

12/11/2008 7:20:00 AM by Shane Nixon, Director of Development/ Church Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes of North Carolina | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Dec. 21: The Message of Missions

December 11 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passage: Luke 2:8-12, 16-18, 25-32

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11, KJV).

The words of the angel of the Lord to terrified shepherds are familiar, yes, but still breathtakingly exciting. The Christ is born and by His coming, God has given all people His way of salvation.

In Luke 2:10, the angel says to the shepherds, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people (emphasis is the author’s).”

Later when Mary and Joseph take Jesus to Jerusalem to offer a sacrifice according to the law of the Lord, the worshipper, Simeon, devout and filled with the Holy Spirit, was allowed to see Jesus before he, Simeon, died. In his prayer of thanksgiving to his Lord, Simeon prays, “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel (author’s emphasis)” Luke 2:30-32.

Jesus says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matt. 28:19).

My Lord Jesus came to be the way of salvation for all people, and I love Him so much, because He first loved me, that I cannot stand the thought of the people of all nations not being able to learn of Him. That is why I love missions.

That is why I pray that the Lord of the harvest will call laborers to work in His fields (Matt. 9:38). That is why I have promised my Savior that I will go wherever He sends me. That is why I give to missions, so that those God calls can go and make disciples wherever He wants them to go; places that I may not be able to go. That is why I pray for our missionaries in other nations, because they have acted on God’s call, and have planted their lives among those who need to be shown by the missionaries’ witness that Jesus truly does love them so much that He died for them.

I praise God with my whole being that He allows me to be able to help proclaim, by praying, giving, educating, and going, that my Jesus is Savior of the world.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

12/11/2008 7:18:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for Dec. 14: Joy

December 1 2008 by Shane Nixon, Director of Development/ Church Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: James 1:2-8

Some time in late January, I begin the annual process of preparing the Nixon family income tax return to be taken to the preparer we use. I gather the paperwork, organize it all, and take it over to the tax service. And so it was that late in the first month of 2003, I began the gathering of my 2002 tax return.

The previous month we experienced an addition to our family with the birth of my son Jack on Dec. 1, 2002. If you already know what these two things, tax preparation and childbirth, have in common, then you are a step ahead of where I was that January. I had not made the connection, but quickly had it made for me.

Did you know that, for tax purposes, the best time of year to have a child is December?

You see, by law, you get to count that child a dependent for the year, the whole year, even though almost none of that year’s income will have actually gone to support the child. Sometime around April of 2003 I got the single largest tax return of my life — all because of the birth of an additional dependent I had not counted when paying my taxes for that year. Joy indeed!

There is another, more popular story about taxes, and a child being born, and joy that calls for our attention this advent season.

The joy that particular story brings isn’t a one-time thing by way of some kind of healthy rebate. It is a deep, inner joy that comes from knowing Christ. It is a lasting, permanent joy that comes from experiencing relationship with Him daily.

James writes about this joy, even about its ability to endure through trials.

It is joy for the whole world, because the Savior has come.

12/1/2008 8:38:00 AM by Shane Nixon, Director of Development/ Church Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes of North Carolina | with 2 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Dec. 14: Your Missions Involvement

December 1 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passages: Matt. 9:35-38; 28:18-20; Rom. 15:23-28

When John and I were missionaries with the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) in Africa, and were home in the States, we were so often touched at the ways members of churches wanted to take care of us.

One person provided a car for our use, and when a man in another church found that the car’s air conditioning system was broken, he fixed it for us, telling us that we needed to be comfortable in the summer heat.  I thought his loving and much-appreciated gift to us was such a wonderful example of giving.

During our time “on furlough” as it was then called, we were fed, housed, and sometimes even clothed, by members of different churches.  I don’t believe that it was so much a matter of the people putting us on a pedestal, as wanting to lovingly spoil two brothers in Christ, John and our son, Marcus, and a sister, me. I was so grateful for all the spoiling, and yet the thing that mattered most to me was when they told us that they would continually pray for us.

Sometimes they would say, “That’s the least we can do,” to which we would reply, “That’s the most you can do.”  

I always let them know that I didn’t want to be in Rwanda and Burundi without their prayers, and now, I don’t want to go to Jamaica without the prayers of my Christian brothers and sisters.

I also was so thankful to our Heavenly Father and to our churches for the financial support we, and our fellow missionaries, were given. By giving through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, Christians made it possible for us to work in Africa, and now are making it financially possible for missionaries to work throughout the world.

Please, if you do not believe anything else that I say or write, please believe that your prayers for those who have been called to work in the Lord’s fields and your giving to support them make a difference in God’s harvest.  This I know.

12/1/2008 8:37:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 0 comments



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