Sunday School Lessons

Bible Studies for Life lesson for June 21: Grounded in Truth

June 9 2009 by Kenny Byrd, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Sylva

Focal Passage: 1 John 2:18-27; 4:1-6

Our middle child is a boy of six named John Isaac. He is a precious little fellow, and I am not very biased, just a proud daddy. He has a smile that can warm any heart, and eyes that my sister says make it impossible to say, “No!” My response to her is a simple, “Let me show you how it is done.”  

I love all three of our children, but I seem to end up with John Isaac quite a bit and he is a miniature image of me. Why do I say this you might ask? When I was a small lad I was quite inquisitive, and he has inherited my trait. If you spend time with him you had better be prepared to answer numerous questions in a broad range of categories. Right now I am fortunate, daddy is smart. I cannot wait for those teenage years!

As we walk along and he asks me questions I respond to him and he accepts my answers. He takes the words that I give him and he happily thinks that I have given him a gem of truth. I do my best to answer him with honesty and sometimes I might joke with him and we laugh together. But I always make sure that he knows the right answer and most importantly that I love him.

As we continue further into chapter two of 1 John we are warned about false teachings from “Antichrists” or what we could easily refer to as counter-Christs. These had appeared and taught in contrast to the teachings of Jesus.

Some had even been a part of the early church and left. John is pointing out that those true teachers had been filled, or touched, by the Spirit which can be referred to as an “anointing.”  

For Christians there were, and are, those who would wish to lead you astray. John was warning them to remain faithful to what they had been taught to ground themselves in the truth they had been taught.

He also encouraged them to rely upon the Holy Spirit for understanding and continued growth in learning that which is right.  

An ultimate danger for John is in the fourth chapter where he warns that those who claim to be prophets yet deny Jesus Christ are false teachers. He realized that many were searching for truth in their life and could be drawn in by persons claiming to have a message to deliver, but without Christ the message was void. Today there are countless messengers seeking to deliver false hope to fill the emptiness that many are feeling.  

When encountering false teachings you can ask some questions:

What is the source of the movement’s authority for doctrine and practice?

How does the movement explain the way of salvation?  

Do its leaders affirm salvation by grace through Christ alone, or is it by works, church membership, or obedience to the group’s leaders?

Must you be a member of their group to be assured of salvation?

6/9/2009 9:59:00 AM by Kenny Byrd, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Sylva | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for June 14: The Struggler’s Prayer

June 2 2009 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: Mark 9:14-29

Our doubts are traitors

And make us lose the good we oft might win

By fearing to attempt.

— William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, I, 4

Doubts are ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.

— Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking

I think Dr. Buechner and Mr. Shakespeare are talking about two different kinds of doubt.

One Sunday in the Protestant chapel at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, Chaplain Robert Moore preached a sermon I’ve never forgotten.

Be thankful, he said, for the honest, healthy and helpful doubt of the mind. In proper doses it can be a good thing.

Doubt keeps us from being gullible, from falling for every half-baked idea that comes along, even (especially) those that are deliberately deceptive. Doubt can save us from being led astray.

Doubt keeps us from settling for hearsay.

It doesn’t matter what somebody else says or thinks about God. What matters is my own relationship with Him, and what difference it makes in my life.

Doubt prompts us to learn and grow and seek an ever higher truth.

It recognizes, and is not satisfied with, limited understanding. It wants more.

But be careful, Chaplain Moore said, about the crippling, debilitating, paralyzing doubt of the heart.

This is not the doubt that fails to believe; this is the doubt that fails to believe in — in oneself, in others, even in God.

A person can have all the information in the world, all the evidence that is necessary, and still be incapacitated by doubts of the heart.

The father in today’s lesson is struggling with his doubts. He has heard about Jesus. He has even asked the disciples to “cast out the demon” from his epileptic son, but they failed. He’s not sure Jesus can do much better. His “if you are able” (9:22) reflects the honest doubt of the mind.

Jesus replies, “If you are able! All things are possible to those who believe” (9:23). It’s more an invitation than a rebuke.

Jesus is asking the father to move from his head to his heart, from believing (or not believing) something about Jesus to believing in Jesus.

The father’s cry — “I believe; help my unbelief!” (9:24) — is instinctive, immediate and desperate. It clarifies where the power of prayer is located: in God, not us. You can have doubts the size of watermelons, as long as you have faith the size of a mustard seed.

Angelus Silesius said it well: “Whoso draws nigh to God one step through doubtings dim, God will advance a mile in blazing light to him.”         


6/2/2009 5:48:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life lesson for June 14: Know That You Know God

June 2 2009 by Kenny Byrd, pastor, First Baptist Church, Sylva

Focal Passage: 1 John 2:3-11, 15-17

Something comes natural to many of us when we meet a new person, we play a little game that we can simply call “association.”

Once we learn where a person is from, we begin to make connections, if possible, with the ever familiar question, “Do you know ...?”

Recently as visitors were departing the Sunday morning worship service I learned that they were from Kentucky and the husband was from a small town named Lancaster.

It just so happens that my family has visited there numerous times throughout the years, and we have a mutual acquaintance, what a small world.

As Christians we have an association that is not a game, it is an honor, a lifelong commitment.

It is made when we give our hearts to the Lord through our relationship with Jesus Christ, and there might be opportunities for the question to arise, “Do you know Christ?”

It might just as easily not be presented, and that allows our lives the important task of genuine Christian witness.

In 1 John 2 we are told that Christians can know beyond a doubt that they know God if we obey His commandments (v. 3).

This is not a claim of works righteousness, but a statement of simple truth. Your life will be evidence of God by that which you do.

A life lived for the Lord is a life filled with love and John references this as “living in the light.” 

And those who hate a brother or sister will be living in darkness without knowledge of the way to go.

And further in verses 15-17 we are urged to keep from allowing secular values to get in the way of our commitment and love for God.

Worldliness can easily draw many Christians into its snares of pride and pleasure.

The danger can be summed up in one word, success. The world has a definition that is often in stark contrast to the kingdom, and to “knowing the Lord.” 

Verse 17 tells us, “this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. 

“But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.”

Success in knowing God is pleasing God and that is our ultimate hope in our witness.

Do you have no doubt that you know God? Does your witness provide no doubt to the world?


6/2/2009 5:47:00 AM by Kenny Byrd, pastor, First Baptist Church, Sylva | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for June 7: The Sinner’s Prayer

May 26 2009 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: Luke 18:9-14

On Sunday evenings before Training Union some of us junior boys would hang out in an upstairs classroom at church.

One summer afternoon a family was having a cookout in their yard across the street. Several of us stuck our heads out the window, somebody counted to three, and we all shouted together, “Why aren’t you in church?”

We could have been poster boys for today’s parable.

This is the first of four lessons on prayer, starting with the Sinner’s Prayer, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.

Actually, the parable is not strictly about prayer. It’s about self-righteousness and humility (v. 9,14). But one sure way to demonstrate either quality is by the way we pray.

It’s a mistake to picture all Pharisees as wicked. They didn’t set out to become prideful and arrogant.

They really wanted to please God. But some of them were just too good at it, at least in their own eyes.

In his biography of Southwestern Seminary professor W.T. Conner, Stewart A. Newman recalls Dr. Conner being asked if overly pious and self-righteous people would get into heaven. His answer? “If they don’t overshoot it.”

Take the man in our parable. The result of his scrupulous adherence to the Jewish law, as well as to the additional rules and interpretations designed to enforce and amplify that law, was his attitude of spiritual superiority. He trusted in his own goodness and looked down on others (v. 9), and his attitude was reflected in his prayer (v. 11-12). For him, prayer was showing off. Some translations (KJV, RSV) say he “prayed thus with himself.”

God, if He was listening at all, was not impressed.

It’s clear who Jesus likes in this story: the one nobody else does. Why? “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17). Remember the old hymn, Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy? “All the fitness He requireth is to feel your need of Him.”  

Unable to trust in his own goodness, the tax collector could only cast himself on God’s mercy.

But the Pharisee didn’t need any help, from God or anybody else. Both men got what they prayed for. Prayer can open the door to God’s grace, or slam the door in God’s face.

We boys knew we had done wrong. As soon as we yelled out the church window, we ducked out of sight. Fifty years later I still remember it. Even we good religious folk need to be forgiven, and often. So let us pray.  

5/26/2009 3:43:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life lesson for June 7: Purposefully Connected

May 26 2009 by Kenny Byrd, pastor, First Baptist Church, Sylva

Focal Passage: 1 John 1:1-2:2

When people see you having a good time they want to be a part of what you are doing.  This is a hard fact for many churches to realize, when the fellowship is good it will produce results.

It is definitely OK to have fun and be a Christian.

That does not mean that you have a “wild” party, whatever that definition might be, each time you come together.

However, it does mean that there is an intrinsic joy that is to be present when God’s people come together.

The writer in 1 John is sending a message to counteract false teachings that were present as the early church was establishing itself.

There were those who denied the true humanity of Christ, and 1 John opens with a strong statement of Christ’s divinity and His humanity as John experienced ministry alongside our Savior who was in existence from the dawn of time.

It is a solid theological foundation that allows believers to have the understanding to go into the world and stand against the false teachings of our present time.

Those who live in right fellowship with other believers or in the light as John calls it in verses 5-7 means that we will try to avoid sinful lifestyles.

This connection to others within the church helps to create a sense of accountability and connection so that our walk does not suffer from sin that could be a barrier to us and a stumbling block to others.  

The ultimate realization is that sin will creep into our lives and our fellowship.

The right thing to do is to confess that sin.

To stand before God and to brazenly say that we are without sin is to fool ourselves and to think God a liar. None are perfect, and sin will creep into our lives no matter how hard we try to avoid it.

The great and wonderful gift we have been given is that in confessing our sin we can be forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  

What greater gift could we require?

Fellowship within the body is of much greater importance than we realize.

When the world has the opportunity to see the church working together in a spirit of cooperation and unity it sends a positive message to the surrounding society.

Instead of seeing our squabbles over power struggles and personal agendas it is much more powerful to show a passion for the one that, “. . . is the Word of life” (v. 1).

When true fellowship and connection is there people will want to enter the doors of the church and allow Jesus to enter their hearts.

5/26/2009 3:42:00 AM by Kenny Byrd, pastor, First Baptist Church, Sylva | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for May 31: The Jews Prevail

May 20 2009 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: Esther 8:3-9:3, 26-28

Haman is dead.

Mordecai is saved, elevated with Esther to the highest echelons of power.   

But what about the other Persian Jews? There’s still an edict in effect ordering their destruction.  

The king would like to help, but a royal edict, once issued, cannot be revoked. The solution?

Esther and Mordecai may write an additional edict if they choose (8:3-8).

They go for self-defense, matching their enemies blow-for-blow and word-for-word.

Haman’s original edict gave orders to “destroy, kill and annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children … and plunder their goods” (3:13). Mordecai’s new edict allows the Jews to “destroy, kill and annihilate” whoever attacks them, “with their children and women, and plunder their goods,” and on the very day that Haman picked for the extermination (8:11-12).

During the Cold War it was called MAD — Mutually Assured Destruction. Our nation’s principal deterrent against a Soviet nuclear attack was the sure and certain knowledge that if they shot first we could, and would, shoot back, with equal or greater force.

Destroy us, and they would be destroyed, blow-for-blow. “Mad,” maybe, but effective.

Is deterrence what Esther and Mordecai are after? Faced with mutual destruction, everybody might just stand down. If not, the Jews will defend themselves. Or are they planning a preemptive strike?

Another lesson writer accuses the study guide of “sanitizing” the account by overlooking the carnage in Chapter 9.

The text is ambiguous about who starts the killing spree, but the Jews are strongly implicated and clearly have the upper hand: 500 enemies dead in the capital alone (8:17-9:6).

Even the king seems appalled: “What more do you want?” Esther requests a one-day extension to mop up the stragglers, including Haman’s ten sons (9:7-14).

The final body count empire-wide is 75,000 (9:16). To the Jews’ credit, “they did not touch the plunder” (9:10, 15). Robbery is not the motive here.

Purim is the two-day festival celebrating the victory (9:17-28): “a day for gladness and feasting … for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.” In this final reversal, the day Haman intended for sorrow is now remembered joyfully as one of deliverance.

The book clearly wants us to recognize God’s hand, even unnamed. Haman the Amalekite almost certainly would have gone after the Jews, sooner or later.

That Mordecai and Esther were on the scene and able to help was providential.

But the slaughter! Was God pleased with that? No wonder we need Jesus.       

5/20/2009 6:45:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life lesson for May 31: Philip Loved To Tell Others About Jesus

May 20 2009 by Kenny Byrd, pastor, First Baptist Church, Sylva

Focal Passage: Acts 6:2-3, 5a; 8:4-8, 26-31, 34-35; 21:8-9

We often share that of which we are proud. It can be seen as a parent brings out the photos of children to show to someone. I carry a family picture in my billfold with Shelley and all three of our children smiling at the camera happily. I want to have it ready when I have the opportunity to speak to someone that I have not seen recently. I am often asked, “How’s the family?” and I can show them, not just tell them.  

As a part of the body of Christ we are called to have an unashamed pride in Christ that calls us to share Him with the world by showing and telling. One such person was Phillip in the scriptures as we see him chosen as one of the seven in Acts 6:1-7 when a misunderstanding arose concerning the serving of Greek widows at the table. They were being overlooked and the Apostles realized that assistance was needed.

The congregation looked amongst themselves and chose persons for these tasks within the body with three characteristics: good reputation, filled with the Holy Spirit, and filled with wisdom. The main point of their task would be service to the body and it would allow the Apostles to concentrate on teaching the Word.  

Following the choosing of the seven Stephen became the first Christian martyr and persecution of the church became severe.

The early believers became scattered and Phillip went to Samaria to preach the gospel. His going to Samaria was quite amazing within itself considering the historical tension between the Jews and Samaritans, but in Acts 1:8 Christ Himself included Samaria in His commission. Many responded to Phillip’s preaching, believed and were baptized.  

We then find Phillip in chapter 8 of Acts in contact with an Ethiopian eunuch in the service of the Queen Mother of ancient Ethiopia. The eunuch is an official from a country that would be located in the present area of Sudan and was most likely traveling in a simple ox drawn cart. Phillip is led to the eunuch by the Holy Spirit and heard him reading from Isaiah about the “Suffering Servant” and Phillip takes the opportunity to discuss the passage with him and share the gospel message with him.

And finally in Acts 21:8-9 we see Paul stopping at Phillip’s house in Caesarea as he was returning to Jerusalem from his third missionary journey. Caesarea is where Phillip went following the event with the eunuch and he most likely founded the church there. This city was the seat of the governor of Judea and was 60 miles from Jerusalem as well.

In these verses we see a simple glimpse into the family of Phillip the evangelist, and his family. Not only was he ready to share Christ with others, but he had shared Christ with his family and now his daughters were given to the gift of prophecy, truth telling.

How proud of Christ are we today? May our life and words tell the truth of our pride!     

5/20/2009 6:44:00 AM by Kenny Byrd, pastor, First Baptist Church, Sylva | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for May 24: Esther Takes a Risk

May 11 2009 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: Esther 5:1-8; 7:1-8:2

Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all. 

— Friedrich Von Logau (tr. Henry W. Longfellow)

An insomniac king with a beautiful love interest; palace intrigues, comic twists and dramatic reversals; a slapstick mixup of Shakespearean proportions; an arch-villain who gets his just desserts — it doesn’t get any better than this.

Esther melts Xerxes’ heart when she enters, unbidden, into his court. He knows her concern must be serious and offers whatever she asks, even half the kingdom. Instead she invites him to bring Haman to dinner, twice. She has a lot of buttering up to do. As for Haman, he’s overjoyed at his apparent good fortune (5:1-9).

But out in the street Mordecai again refuses to do obeisance. Haman is livid. Power, wealth, status — nothing matters as long as this Jew defies him. Egged on by his wife and friends, he constructs a gallows for Mordecai (5:9-14).

That night the king, unable to sleep, rereads the legal notices in the paper (better than counting sheep?). “Did we ever reward Mordecai for disrupting that assassination plot?” The answer is no. When Haman comes to ask permission to carry out the hanging, Xerxes asks his question first: “How to honor a faithful subject?” Certain that it’s all about him, Haman suggests an over-the-top appreciation ceremony which the king orders him to carry out — for Mordecai (6:1-11). Irony, anyone?

Stung by the humiliation, Haman forgets all about the second banquet and must be collected by the king’s men. There Esther makes her startling pronouncement: Haman! He’s the villain who is threatening her and all her people (6:12-7:6).

The king storms out in a rage. Returning to find Haman literally flung across Esther begging for mercy, Xerxes mistakes it for an assault on his queen. A servant notices the new gallows outside.  How convenient! “Hang him on that” (7:7-10).

Esther gets Haman’s house and Mordecai gets his job, symbolized by the king’s ring, formerly on Haman’s finger. Next to the king, two Jews are now the most powerful people in the land (8:1-2; remember Joseph and Daniel?).

It can seem like forever. The innocent suffer while the wicked go free. But sometimes — not always, but sometimes — the chickens come home to roost. The evil a person intends toward others becomes his own undoing, and justice prevails.

More than eight years have passed since Vashti was deposed (1:3, 2:16, 3:7). Meanwhile God, unnamed, stands patiently waiting, having placed the advancement of His divine purposes into the hands of two ordinary people. Imagine that.

5/11/2009 6:05:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life lesson for May 24: Barnabas: The Man Who Encouraged Others

May 11 2009 by Kenny Byrd, pastor, First Baptist Church, Sylva

Focal Passage: Acts 4:36-37; 9:26-28; 11:19-26; 13:14-15, 42-43

My daughter Kenley is doing something for the first time, playing little league softball. One of the church members is coaching the team, and he asked her if she would like to play. Her initial response was one of enthusiasm, and we were glad to see her excited about something. The move to Sylva was difficult for our two oldest children in 2006. They left friends, a sense of comfort, and in their minds moved a long way from family.  It has been especially hard on Kenley.

She has struggled with batting, and I have tried to be an encourager as I go to practices and tell her, “Good swing!” Unfortunately, that has been the main result because the bat hardly touched the ball until the last two games.

In her most recent game she got a hit three out of four at bats. And as I stood there at the fence clapping and shouting for her I could see her smile and her face gleaming as she ran to first base. She had wanted to quit, but we kept encouraging her not to give up.

In the Book of Acts we see a man named Barnabas whose name means “Son of Encouragement.”

He is an early benefactor of the church, selling land and giving the proceeds to the church in Acts 4 so that the money could be used to help those in need. He is later seen in Acts 9 reaching out to the Apostle Paul when the disciples were skeptical about receiving him because of his past. Barnabas vouched for Paul and shared how Paul had proclaimed Christ in Damascas so that they would know he had been converted.

Barnabas reached out to Hellenistic Jews from Cyprus and Cyrene preaching in Antioch at the request of the Jerusalem church and worked with them for a year. He sought the assistance of Paul, and they saw great things happen for the sake of the Lord.

They realized that the gospel was open for all. It should be noted that in this section of Acts 11 in verse 24 Barnabas is described as “good” and he is the only person Luke describes as such.

And finally in Acts 13 as we see Paul and Barnabas outside of a synagogue in Antioch their final words to a group of believers are to continue in the grace of God.

They are left with words of encouragement so that these believers will go with the understanding to grow in their faith.

Barnabas is given his name for a reason, and that reason is evident. 

I would not trade anything for that smile that I saw on Kenley’s face as she ran the bases at the ballgame, as she heard me yelling her name and telling her, “Way to go!” I could almost feel tears in my eyes after the first hit because her success was not just encouraging for her. 

It gave me a sense of hope as well. We all need that sense from time to time. We all need encouragement. Find someone who needs encouragement and share it today, be a Barnabas. 


5/11/2009 6:02:00 AM by Kenny Byrd, pastor, First Baptist Church, Sylva | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for May 17: Mordecai Intercedes

May 4 2009 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: Esther 4

“Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” —
Mordecai to Esther (4:14).

A study I once read indicated that a significant number of preachers are the firstborn sons of willful mothers, thus high-achieving, more compliant than rebellious, and having a strong need for approval. I fit the profile (mostly). But does that mean the calling I felt as a college senior that led me into the ministry was not also the voice of God?

Events in the book of Esther are building. Queen Vashti is deposed; Esther is chosen.
The egotistical Haman is prime minister. Mordecai, Esther’s cousin and adoptive father, angers Haman by refusing to bow to him.

Haman retaliates by bribing the king to order all Jews exterminated. God’s people are in mourning.

But there is one person the king values above Haman: Esther. With nowhere else to go, Mordecai gets a message to her inside the palace, where she remains blissfully ignorant of Haman’s scheme. “You’ve got to help!” Mordecai says. “Besides, your life is in danger too, once the king learns who you are” (4:8, 13).

And then the most famous line from the book, the closest it comes to acknowledging the hand of God: “If you don’t do something, deliverance will come from somewhere else. But who knows? Maybe this is why you’re there in the first place.”

God rarely appears to us in a burning bush or a blinding light on the road. If we’re going to find God where He is, we have to take Him as He comes, whether in a pagan king’s choice of a queen or a budding minister’s family of origin.

“If I perish, I perish.” — Esther to Mordecai (4:16).

Esther agrees to intercede, but there’s a problem. To protect the king, the Persian Secret Service forbids approaching him unsolicited.

The penalty is death. And the king hasn’t asked for Esther in a month (4:11).

Why does Esther agree to risk it? Despite Mordecai’s warning, nobody, not even Haman, suspects she is a Jew until she reveals it herself (7:4). She might have gotten away free.

Instead this seems like an act of courage, of determination, of taking her fate (and her people’s) into her own hands, of serving a higher cause and answering to a higher power, regardless of the cost. “If I perish, I perish” is not really that far removed from “Nevertheless not my will, but Thine, be done.” God’s activity often requires the cooperation of God’s servant, even to the point of sacrifice.

The Bible has only two books named after women. Esther is one of them. Surprised?    

5/4/2009 7:22:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

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