Sunday School Lessons

Formations lesson for Nov. 23: Walking a Narrow Line

November 14 2008 by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: Daniel 1:1-21

“Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.” That is how the New King James version of the Bible translates the first part of Daniel 1:8.

A careful study of the words translated “purposed in his heart” will lead to something akin to “setting one’s mind” to doing something, but I think this is more.

Daniel decided in his heart to follow God. It wasn’t an intellectual realization, though the decision seems well thought out.

It was not a rational conclusion, though everything about it seems logical.

It wasn’t a head thing, it was a heart thing.

Jesus made reference to this kind of purposing of the heart.

When preaching the Sermon on the Mount, He told His listeners that where their riches were, their hearts would be there also. When you make something the purpose of your heart it becomes your treasure.

In a strictly clinical or anatomical sense, the purpose of the heart is to pump blood. The heart pumps blood to all our vital organs. On the web site for the Franklin Institute, a non-profit organization for science and education, the following is said of the human heart:

“In an average lifetime, the heart beats more than two and a half billion times, without ever pausing to rest. Like a pumping machine, the heart provides the power needed for life. This life-sustaining power has, throughout time, caused an air of mystery to surround the heart. Modern technology has removed much of the mystery, but there is still an air of fascination and curiosity.”

Our hearts have life-sustaining power, this we know. But what happens when we turn the purpose of our hearts, in a less anatomical way, to being like God?

Daniel was called to make a stand and he purposed his heart to that very goal. God was the treasure of his heart and so the stand was an easy one to make. He was willing to clearly identify himself as a child of God because Daniel’s heart was in the mission.

When we decide with our heads to follow God, will our hearts be in it?

11/14/2008 10:15:00 AM by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for Nov. 23: My Heart-Healthy Church

November 14 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passage: Romans 14:1, 10-13, 19-21; 15:1-6

When John, Marcus and I were home on what was then called “furlough” from serving in Africa, we went to visit a friend of ours. She was a retired missionary, and we had a meal with her and her 90-year-old aunt. The aunt watched as I ate and kept shaking her head, until finally, she asked me, “What are you doing?”

I’ll explain now what I was doing. With certain food combinations, I prefer to eat all of one type of food before starting on another. For example, if I were eating hamburger, potatoes, peas, and rolls, I would eat all of the peas, then the potatoes, then the roll, and finally the hamburger, not necessarily in that order, but finishing one thing before starting on the next.

I didn’t even realize that I was doing this, but the aunt did. I explained my preference for finishing some foods entirely before starting the next, and she became very angry.

“That’s so stupid!” she kept saying. “You’re supposed to mix your foods. It is very stupid to eat all of one thing before you start the next. You are really stupid!”

I was surprised, and my friend was embarrassed, but she chuckled as if to say, “Well, that’s just our Aunt, and please remember that she is in her 90’s.”

Even if you agree with the aunt’s way of eating, and disagree with mine, I hope that you see that my intelligence is not based on the way I eat some combinations of food. And yet, some disagreements that happen in our churches are just as silly.

When you consider our Lord, and what needs to be done to lift Him high in our world, some things we become so upset over become almost non-existent in importance. When we focus on Christ, ask Him to help us love with His love, and look at others in that light, we see that many disagreements have come about because we want our own way, instead of Jesus’ way.

If you have an incident where you think that what another person does is “stupid,” ask Jesus to help you see that person the way He does, and see if your differences can still be seen in the light of His love.

11/14/2008 10:13:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Nov. 16: Rocking the Boat

November 7 2008 by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: Amos 2:6-16

If you ask the friend I have had the longest what he does for a living, his answer will immediately be “TMI.”

TMI, for those of you who don’t know, is the 21st century way to say that someone has shared too much; they have given you too much information. He is now a tobacco and cattle farmer in my hometown but that won’t be his entire answer. Actually to call him a farmer is a bit of a stretch, as doing so seems to imply that farming is how he makes his living. While indirectly farming is a part of what he does, a one-word name for his occupation would be “breeder.”

My friend is a cattle breeder. He uses the latest in science, technology and veterinary medicine to impregnate heifers, and his descriptions of his “call” really are just too much for most people’s imaginations much less their stomachs. If you can pardon the bad pun, I will tell you that the off-spring of his labors, have proven to be award-winning steers.

Well I don’t know if Amos’ sheep were award winning, but we do find out in Amos that he was a “sheep breeder.” He was also a “tender of sycamore fruit” and while all of that is interesting, even important, it isn’t the point. Amos’ occupations are interesting because, well how many sheep breeders and/or fig farmers do you know? They are important for two reasons; one was their parts in the greater economy of his day. The second reason, though, is the one of consequence for us here and now.

Amos was willing to risk everything he had, up to and including his very livelihood to speak
the word of the Lord. The minor prophet wails against the ills of the land in three areas. He speaks about legal problems, social injustices and religious dilemmas.

Though not a scholar or politically important man, Amos was willing to step out of his roll, because God called him to say something. Amos was willing to rock the boat, for the simple reason that the boat, God told him, needed rocking.

Maybe it is easier for folks who haven’t climbed “so far up the ladder” to be willing to risk everything because theoretically at least, they’d have less to lose. But isn’t your everything — everything, no matter where you start? How willing would we be to risk our livelihood to speak up for God?

11/7/2008 4:54:00 AM by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for Nov. 16: Key Christian Duties

November 7 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passage: Romans 13:1-14

I just finished a series of lessons for 10-year-old children in Sunday School at my son’s church. With the help of their teacher, I was trying to let the children catch a glimpse of life in Jesus’ time. We had a time of “school,” but we also visited two marketplace shops each Sunday. We tasted, smelled, touched, looked at, and most fun of all, bargained for, different items in each shop. The children became very good at bargaining (with play money, of course).

One Sunday, a woman (the children’s Sunday School teacher) covered in rags visited. I drove her away from the children and chastised her because she wasn’t carrying a bell to ring to announce to everyone that she was “unclean.” She told us that she was very hungry, and I promised to get her food, but said that she must get away from the children. She left, but returned shortly, with her face and hands uncovered. I began to drive her away again, but she told us that she had seen a man called Jesus, and He had healed her. I questioned her closely to see if she had been to see the priests of the Temple to be declared healed (and clean), and she said that she had. Jesus, as healer, came alive for these children.

The next Sunday, as they were bargaining at the perfumer’s shop, the tax man came to collect taxes. I handed him a fair amount to pay my taxes, but he took all my money. I asked him how I was going to buy food for my family, and he said that it wasn’t his problem. The children were amused until he held out his hand and took all of their money, too. He told them that everyone must pay taxes. They stopped being amused, but soon after this, the tax man returned and gave us back most of the money he had taken. He told us that he had met a man named Jesus, had eaten with Him, had been changed by Him, and now he wanted to return all our money, except what was actually owed for taxes.

The children were very glad to have some of their bargaining money returned, but they still weren’t happy to render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s ...” (Matt. 22:21).

11/7/2008 4:53:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 11 comments



Formations Sunday School Lesson for Nov. 9: Avoiding Offense

October 28 2008 by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: Titus 2:1-15

In response to the presenter’s honest attempt to say something in a non-offensive way at a recent seminar I attended, a person from the back of the room shouted out mockingly that “Jesus never worried about being politically correct.”

Now I know a strong biblical case can be made that there were times when Jesus was intentionally politically incorrect, but I don’t read in the New Testament of a Jesus who just trampled the existing legal, moral, or social codes. As I read the gospels, I find that for each speaking to a woman at a well scene, there is a “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” directive. I think there were times when Jesus was very politically correct. And I know there were times when He wasn’t.  

Paul writes to Titus that we must have sound speech that cannot be condemned, but also that we should live soberly, righteously and godly lives. It is not about “speaking” a certain way or “acting” a certain way, it is about being a certain way. There are no warnings about the implications of those actions. Paul seems to be saying, “be godly and let the chips fall where they may.” If that is accurate, then there is no need to bother with political correctness as such will take care of itself. Politically correct? No, godly. In being godly there is enough room to stand firm and yet not judge. Paul seems to be saying be like Christ and if that offends anyone, well then so be it.

Maybe the mocker from the back row of my seminar was right, maybe Jesus never “worried about” being politically correct. Jesus just lived righteously and let the political chips fall wherever they fell.  

10/28/2008 8:11:00 AM by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for Nov. 9: Not Conformed But Transformed

October 28 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passage: Romans 12:1-8, 14-21

A few weeks ago I was talking to a woman who is a member of the church where my son is pastor. We were discussing how our mothers made us take piano lessons, and she shared that the wife of the former pastor told the church, “My mother made me take piano lessons because she said that I might marry a preacher.” I laughed, but said that I didn’t think that was the reason my mother wanted me to take piano lessons, even though I did marry a preacher.

I have to admit that for many, many years, when people asked if I could play the piano, I would answer, “Not very well at all” and then run in the opposite direction. It is the truth, I do not play very well, but I found that wherever John and I served, I had to play the piano because there was no one else to do so.

Also, everywhere I became the pianist, I followed a great musician. That is very humbling. At one of our churches, when they asked me to become their pianist, I said, “Well, I only play by the notes.” The chairman of the deacons answered, “Well, honey, we only sing by the notes.”

I am glad that I can play enough to fill a need, but it is not false modesty that keeps me from taking any credit when I play. If I can keep folks on key, I am happy. If they are happy that they don’t have to sing without music, they can give God the glory!

Once, in a Sunday School class, the teacher asked us, “Is it harder to mourn with those who mourn, or rejoice with those who are rejoicing?” Immediately, one of the members answered, “It is harder to mourn with the mourners!”

We were all silent for a moment, and then in one voice we reacted, “Oh, no, it isn’t. It is harder to be happy for someone who is rejoicing than to cry with someone who is hurting.” The one who answered so quickly said, “You’re absolutely right. I spoke too quickly.”

As Christians, we are expected to hurt with those who are hurting, and try to help them, but when something wonderful happens to another person, there can be that horrible little voice inside us which says, why couldn’t that have happened to me? I deserve it more.

We need to squelch that voice before it even begins, and repeat Romans 12:15a — I will rejoice with those who rejoice.

10/28/2008 8:10:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 0 comments



Formations Sunday School Lesson for Nov. 2: Standing Apart

October 27 2008 by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: 1 John 2:18-27

Ever drawn a line in the sand?  Now wait a second, I am actually being literal here.

Ever been at the beach and drawn a line, for one reason or another, in the sand?

People playing any variety of beach games from paddle ball to volleyball will often use nothing more than a simple line drawn in the sand to indicate the limits to the field of play.

Children draw a line in the sand around their freshly made castles. Romantics will draw a fancy line in the shape of a heart as they stroll down the beach hand in hand. The interesting thing here is that in almost every situation the “line” is so short-lived it hardly serves its purpose.

From tides coming in, to people trampling on it, to others drawing new ones, lines in the sand seem never to last.

What about a figurative line in the sand, and what about one specific to our spirituality?

In 1 John 2:18-27, we hear about “letting truth abide in us.” Truth is one of those “line-in-the-sand” kind of ideas, and here we are encouraged to let truth be the line for us.

Taking the things we know as true, the things about Christ, and applying them to the living of our days in an uncompromising way is what we are called to. It is tricky business. How does one draw a line to secure truth, while still showing the compassion and lack of judgment Christ-likeness demands?

The web site www.englishforums.com makes the following observation about the origin of the phrase “drawing a line in the sand”: It seems that one of the Macedonian kings, a bit short of cash, decided to invade Egypt, then a Roman protectorate. His army was met at the border by a lone Roman senator named Popillius Laenas, who ordered the king to withdraw. The king began to stall for time, so Popillius Laenas drew a circle in the sand around the king and demanded that the king agree to withdraw his army before he stepped out of the circle. The king, apparently impressed by the senator’s nerve withdrew. Incidentally, not only is this account verified by contemporary historians, but it also may be the only known instance of a line drawn in the sand actually stopping someone.

Sadly, drawing lines in the sand has come to mean very little as evidenced by that last line. Where the truth of all Christ is serves as our spiritual place where the proverbial buck stops, we must make sure it isn’t just a line in the sand.

10/27/2008 2:23:00 AM by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina | with 2 comments



Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for Nov. 2: Jesus Is The Only Savior

October 27 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passage: Romans 9:33-10:15

Whenever I think about the word zeal, I think of a man I met many years ago when John and I were attending the Billy Graham School of Evangelism in conjunction with the Washington, D.C., Crusade. This man was a Messianic Jew and he told me, “I have such a zeal for going to my people and showing them that Jesus is our Messiah.”

His zeal was for God, but also according to knowledge of the scriptures (Rom. 10:2).

A few months later, this man, and his pastor, came to our house just before we went to Africa, to pray with us and for us. We read the Bible together, and had a time of singing and prayer. When the two men left, my mother said, “I feel like I have been a part of a worship service of the early church.” We were so moved, and I have prayed for this man, and his calling to his people throughout the 22 years since I met him.

Romans 10:14-15 are two of my favorite verses. Just before we packed our crate for Africa, I cross-stitched three pictures for John. The first was Isaiah 6:8; the second, was the chorus to the song Lord of the Harvest, and the third was Romans 10:14-15. Those pictures now hang in John’s office at the Mission Resource Center of the West Chowan Baptist Association, as they have hung in every office he has had since I gave them to him. Along with the verse, the picture with the verse from Romans has a cross-stitched world with the shadow of a cross covering it. I think that this is my favorite because it represents God’s call in our lives, in Quebec, Jamaica, or wherever He sends us to “bring glad tidings of good things” (v. 15).

Verse 12b of chapter 10 states for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. How true that is, and every day I am amazed that He allows me to partake of His riches, not worldly riches, but the wonderful privilege of being a part of His work and calling me to take His gospel of peace anywhere He sends me. I am so grateful that God has allowed me to work with the women of Elim, Jamaica, and pray that He gives me tireless zeal to work in His field there.

10/27/2008 2:21:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Oct. 26: Christ’s Act of Worship

October 13 2008 by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: Hebrews 10:1-10

In the Old Testament, animal sacrifice was literally a way to “find God.” The blood of the sacrifice atoned for the sin of those who offered it and helped them rediscover their own connection to the almighty God.

The writer of Hebrews wrote that such sacrifice, while necessary then, is now no longer enough for us today.

Hebrews 10:1 calls it a mere shadow of the real sacrifice, that being Christ.
We learn that even sacrifices offered “according to the law” are no longer sufficient (Ps. 40). Christ is now the only all-sufficient sacrifice.  

OK, Christ sacrificed for us, this we know. But that He did so as an act of His own worship?

If we aren’t careful it can get a little confusing here. In His godliness, and He was fully God, Christ would have no need to worship God. He would be worshipping Himself. But in His humanity, and He was equally as fully man, Christ gave us the example of what our worship is supposed to look like. We are supposed to “give ourselves” totally to the worship of God. We should give 100 percent.

In Dr. Suess’s book Horton Hatches an Egg, lovable elephant Horton expressed the total giving of self perfectly with his timeless and classic line, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant’s faithful 100 percent.”

Horton was committed to his task and did it with everything he had. In spite of supposed
friends who laughed at him, neighbors who mocked him, and in spite of whatever came his way — Horton gave 100 percent.

Jesus gives us an example of 100 percent worship, and calls us to do the same, to follow His example. And He meant what He said and said what He meant.


10/13/2008 9:11:00 AM by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for Oct. 26: The Holy Spirit is Essential to a Holy Life

October 13 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passage: Rom. 8:5-17, 26-27

Only last night John and I were watching, but due to reading, not concentrating on, a program about wedding jewelry. I happened to focus on several women interviewed who were basically saying that a girl should make her fiancé give her a two or three carat diamond for an engagement ring. The consensus was “the bigger, the better.”

I turned to John and said, “Can you say ‘wood, hay, and stubble’?” (1 Cor. 3:11-15.)
I actually surprised myself in feeling that way, because I have been known to be fond of diamonds — not owning, just looking. I realized that no diamond, nor gem of any type or size, could mean as much to me as what God has called me to do, take teams of women to women in the interior reach of Jamaica, to do Bible studies and health education. I realized that it had to mean that I am becoming more Spirit-minded.

When John and I were in college, he obtained a loan from an organization started by an elderly couple who, throughout their married life, had been helping keep students in school. Instead of buying a diamond engagement ring, they used the money to help a friend stay in school.

Throughout the years, whenever he would mention buying his wife a diamond, she would tell him to put the money in the scholarship fund instead.

I was astounded by this beautiful picture of being Spirit-minded because, as I said, I was fond of diamonds. I understand a little better now. To that Spirit-led wife, no diamond was as important as helping young people get a good Christian education.

To me, if I happen to be drawn to a “sparkly thing,” expensive, but with not much eternal value, I know that I don’t want it if it keeps me from adding to the OtherSide Jamaica* account.

Being Spirit-minded and Spirit-empowered means finding great joy in following the Lord’s leading and call, and finding less and less worth in things that the world may find desirable.

*(OtherSide Jamaica is the name of my organization — taking teams of nurses, health educators, and Bible study teachers to Jamaica to work with women in the interior of the island.)

10/13/2008 9:10:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 11 comments



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