Sunday School Lessons

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 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

Formations lesson for Oct. 19: Genuine Worship

October 10 2008 by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

I have often wondered what kept Paul going in reference to the Corinthian church. Clearly and obviously the church at Corinth was the most troublesome of all the churches Paul was involved with.

Though accepted canon ascribes only two books to “Corinthians,” most good biblical scholarship believes Paul wrote as many as nine separate letters to these early Christians. If it wasn’t one thing, you might say of the church, it was 10.  

Doctrinal arguments stopped only long enough to fight over ritual. Religious practice lasted until they could quarrel over problems in and of the body. But could all the “problems” of the Corinthian church be hung on one theme?

Could it be that their experiences had just become too fake, that they lacked a genuine quality which Paul saw as necessary?

Verse 7 of Chapter 9 of 2 Corinthians is a familiar one to us, at least in part. We have all heard the “God loves a cheerful giver” line. Too often, perhaps, it has been as part of some sort of church giving campaign, or stewardship sermon series. But Paul is talking about “ministering to the saints.” He is talking about doing church in general. He is talking not about smiling as we get out our wallets, but rather about being real as we express our love of God, being genuine as we worship Him.

Bill McCartney was among those who founded the movement we know as Promise Keepers. With the ultra conservative theology and evangelical leanings, it is hard to imagine McCartney in the Mother Teresa camp of the social gospel. But when asked about her, McCartney answered that he had “genuine respect for anyone who truly has given their life to Christ.” A great answer and what we could hope for no doubt. But I think Paul would switch modifiers, saying instead that he had “true respect for anyone who genuinely gives their life to Christ.”

Genuinely giving ourselves to Him starts with genuine worship.

10/10/2008 2:10:00 AM by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina | with 8 comments

Bible Studies for Life lesson for Oct. 19: All Christians Struggle with Sin

October 10 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passage: Rom. 7:9-25

I was once teasing a dear saintly lady of the church where my husband was pastor by telling her that there was only one thing in the Bible I absolutely did not believe. With a horrified look on her face she asked me what in the world that could be. I told her that I didn’t believe where Paul stated that he was the chief of sinners, because I know full well that I am (1 Tim. 1:15). She dissolved into relieved laughter, saying, “Oh, you silly! You had me worried.”

I heard her, throughout the morning, telling other women, “You know what Sharon said? She said she didn’t believe in the Bible where Paul said that he was the chief of sinners because she said that she was the chief of sinners.”

I did regret saying that to her because of the worry it initially caused her, but, nevertheless, it is true. I do believe that the title of “Chief of Sinners” belongs to me.

I was on the cradle roll of a Southern Baptist church. I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was a little girl. I was at my church whenever I could be and loved every minute of being there. I attended and graduated from two of our Baptist colleges, and was a missionary with the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) in Africa. My brother has even said,
“You’re the good one of the four of us!” How could I be the chief of sinners? Very easily.
I know what Christ did for me in preferring to leave the riches of glory, living an impoverished life here on earth, and then dying a horrible death, so that I could be reconciled to my Father. I know that He loved me so much that He would rather go through all of that horror, than live without me in eternity. I have accepted His indescribably wonderful free gift of eternal life.

Yet, I still do not pray as I should, seek my Father’s guidance as I need to, study His word as I must, love people the way He wants me to. I know I disappoint my Lord again and again, but when I confess my sins, either of omission or commission, “He is always faithful and just to forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

I will never fully understand my Lord’s love for me, but I praise Him and thank Him with all my heart for His amazing love and mercy.

10/10/2008 2:07:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for Oct. 12: The Priority of Worship

October 6 2008 by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: Lev. 23:9-14

Can you call it a lecture if it is only six words?  

Dr. Walter Barge walked into the "seminar" class for history majors and began a rousing discussion by simply saying:
"There is no priority among essentials."

He then stood silent and let the debate begin. I have heard some really fine educators say that if you can get a class to own a discussion then you have really achieved something. Well on that night, Barge was ripe with achievement. For about two hours, my fellow would-be historians and I talked about the fact that you will die of suffocation before you die of thirst.

And so while both air and water are essential to human survival, air really is a priority among those two essentials. We went back and forth about those six words until long after we should have packed our back packs and headed for the dorm.  

Again, I think Barge won that night. And if him having won by getting young minds to embrace a topic and hammer it out on intellectual anvils wasn't enough, I think each of us also left the room that night having gotten his point. When something becomes a priority, it is so for a reason.

Is worship a priority for you?

Can it be?

Should it be?

In Lev. 23, God is giving instructions to Moses on how the people are to worship. At verse 14 the instructions begin to, if you will, prioritize essentials. God tells the people not to eat or drink until they have brought their offering, which is an act of worship. It is as if God is saying don't even do the things "essential" to life until you have worshipped. Really? Don't feed the hungry or do disaster relief until after we have taken care of the life essentials that are in such desperate need?

Well that sounds like a question that would make good fodder for a classroom discussion. And like Dr. Barge, the way it's asked isn't even the point.

We live busy lives today, so busy in fact that even our "church" time is filled with meetings, work sessions, rehearsals, and the list goes on. But where does worship come in this line of essential things we must do?  

God says it must be first.

10/6/2008 11:16:00 AM by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina | with 9 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Oct. 12: God Loves Sinners

October 6 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passage: Rom. 5:6-19

I do not like conflict. I do not like fighting. I do not like disagreements, battles, or unpleasantness in any form.

I like happiness, calmness, and everyone getting along. However, bad things happen. Conflicts, money problems, sickness, injuries, and even death of friends or family members arise in our lives, when we only want things to be consistently fun and enjoyable.

I was old enough to know better when I realized that, when conflicts came about, I would take it to my Heavenly Father, but I would complain, letting Him know that I don't like unpleasant situations. I would say, "Lord, You can't love me to let that happen to me."

That was a situation where, when I realized how foolish it was, I understood 1 Cor. 13:11: "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things." When I am going through tough circumstances, I can find myself drawing closer to Him, as He is with me throughout the fear or pain.

Many years ago, I read of a man who was imprisoned for political reasons during the first years of Castro's reign in Cuba. Increasingly barbarous things were done to him, until, finally, he was put into a coffin-like cubicle, and left there, lying on his back, with not enough room to move at all.

The man was finally released due to the efforts of his wife and friends in America, needing extensive medical care and physical therapy just to be able to walk again. However, his testimony was amazing. He actually mourned the loss of his time in the cubicle because he said that, in that terrible place, it was only Jesus and himself, together, and alone. He developed a love relationship with his Savior, and the distractions of the world made him miss that time alone with Him.

If we ever doubt how deeply our Lord loves us, we only have to think of Jesus' sacrifice to bring us to Himself, and to read Rom. 8:37-39. After the question, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (v. 35) and a list of everything that exists, is added: "nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." That's our answer: nothing shall separate us from God's wondrous love.

10/6/2008 11:14:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for Oct. 5: Acceptable Worship

September 26 2008 by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: Gen. 4:1-16

I am not sure I remember the first time I heard the word "countenance." 

I am positive I had never heard it used such that I knew what it meant with certainty until I attended the funeral of my great uncle a couple of years back.

The preacher described Uncle Ruben as having a "constant countenance" and added that Rube could "laugh and cry at the same time without counterfeit." Most of my family cried at the insightful description. There was nothing counterfeit about my uncle Ruben, and his countenance gave witness.  

The American Heritage dictionary defines countenance as "appearance, especially the expression of the face."  

In both the original and "new" King James versions of the Bible, Gen. 4:5 tells us that Cain's countenance fell. That is, Cain's facial expression, we might say, dropped.  In picturing those words I clearly see a smile "dropping into" a frown signifying sadness. In the case of the biblical text here though, we are told Cain was angry. The particular emotion which "fell" onto Cain's face however isn't the important thing. It is the fact that whichever it was, it was not the one God was looking for.

When we worship, God has some expectations for us. The prospect of worshipping our God should have us so happy that we smile coming. The act of having worshipped our God should have us leave with a big grin as well. Worship, for us, has to be an act of "lifted countenance" both coming and going. It isn't quite "If you're happy and you know it, say amen" as the old song goes, but it isn't far from that either.

Acceptable worship is worship that makes us happy to come and do it. Acceptable worship is worship that makes us glad we did. Worship can't be just another item on our list of things to do, something we check off and move on. Our worship of God, like the description of my uncle's life has to be one without counterfeit; our worship has to be genuine, and it has to change us.  

Worship is something that we must do with a lifted countenance.

9/26/2008 8:31:00 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. 5: Everyone is Lost in Sin

September 26 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passage: Rom. 1:18-25, 28-32, 3:9-10

Many years ago I worked as a kindergarten teacher at a privately owned childcare center. The woman who owned the school had a way of instantly "getting to the heart of a matter."

One morning, as she came into her office, I was waiting for her, breathing fire because I was so angry at another person.

My boss saw my anger, smiled, and said, "OK, tell me what is going on."

I proceeded to do just that for about five minutes, and finally, as I slowed down, she laughingly told me, "I see. She just isn't doing to suit you."

Nothing she might have said could have stopped me any faster. She isn't doing to suit me? Why should she have to "do to suit me"?

In our scripture passage, Romans 2:8 — "but to those who are self-seeking ..." what could be more self-seeking than becoming irate over something someone did that did not suit me?

Our Lord showed me so clearly that I might become concerned or upset if people were not doing to suit Him, but suiting myself was not something to seek or desire.

I have not always succeeded since that time, but I do try to go take it to the Lord immediately if I feel the beginnings of anger or hurt over something someone does. Do I feel this way because I am concerned that they are not doing things my way? Am I concerned that they are not obeying God's truth, or am I feeling some possibly imagined slight because I want things done differently? I never, never want to "exchange the truth of God for the lie" (Rom. 1:25).

"For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you, as it is written" (Rom. 2:24).

What a terrible indictment, to cause the blaspheming of my Lord by others because of something I have done.

My son, Marcus, tells of working with a man who was always extremely negative. It seemed as though nothing ever went right in his life. Unfortunately, he claimed to be a Christian, and so whenever he left a room, those who heard his negativity would shake their heads stating, "Those Christians are such hypocrites."

We know that, in many cases, the charge that unbelievers have against us, that of our being hypocrites, is both unfounded and unfair. Yet, as in this case, we have to always be on our guard, and constantly be in prayer, so that we can point others to Christ, instead of causing them to blaspheme Him.

9/26/2008 8:28:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 0 comments

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