Sunday School Lessons

Bible Studies for Life lesson for Sept. 28: Use It or Lose It

September 19 2008 by Jim Baldwin, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Wallace

Focal Passage: Matt. 25:14-30

There is a stark contrast in this parable between the two servants who are rewarded and the one who is punished. The one operated out of fear. The others operated out of joy.

The Bible says that joy comes from being in a right relationship with the Master. The unfaithful servant only saw his master as a “hard man.” He had no love or respect for him. He just hoped to avoid punishment. The other two servants were eager to please the master. They were not afraid of the risks involved in their dealings. They went “at once” to invest the master’s money and were excited to show him what they had gained.

The joy they had led them to do the master’s will. David wrote in Ps. 51:12-13 — “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.”

Picture the women who had come to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. When they heard the news that Jesus was alive they “hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell His disciples” (Matt. 28:8). Paul describes the situation in the church of Macedonia: “Their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Cor. 8:2).

Joy was also the reward for the faithfulness of the two servants: “Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matt. 25:23). When Jesus sent His followers on an evangelistic journey, preparing the way for Him to come, ‘The 72 returned with joy’” (Luke 10:17).

The only lasting motivation for Christian ministry is knowing that it will bring a smile to the face of God. In his book, Wishful Thinking, Frederick Buechner wrote: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

By that I think he means that we should find our calling in life by looking first at what God has entrusted to us. Perhaps it is the knack of conversation or the gift of teaching or the quiet spirit that allows us to listen to others. Then we need to find where we can invest that gift into the lives of other people. We need to keep our eyes and ears and hearts open to the places of need around us. When the thing that brings us joy also brings joy and life to others, God smiles.

9/19/2008 11:00:00 AM by Jim Baldwin, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Wallace | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for Sept. 21: A Time for Boundaries

September 9 2008 by Lamar King, retired minister, High Point

Focal Passage: 2 Kings 23:1-28

In almost every church where I have served, I have taught a younger married couple’s Sunday School class. I have enjoyed contributing to the spiritual growth of young couples and young parents. One Sunday morning, years ago, I was teaching a class on marital fidelity. When I paused for questions, one young man, seated beside his wife, raised his hand and asked a question that surprised me. “Dr. King,” he said, “Why has God set boundaries on sexual relations in marriage?”

Before I could answer, he continued: “If I go to a convention in another state and I meet a woman who is attending the same convention, and we are lonely because I miss my wife and she misses her husband, what is wrong with us spending the night together?”

He was like the Energizer bunny. He just kept going and going and going. “Nobody but the two of us would know,” he argued. “She still loves her husband and I still love my wife, but we meet a God-given need in each other by keeping each other from being lonely and by sharing Christian love. Why is that wrong?”

His wife looked at him as if he had poured scalding water on her. Every set of eyes in that class that had been transfixed on him now turned toward me. I took a deep breath and hesitated before I answered him. I wanted my answer to be clearly understood.

I sensed that other young men in the class had a feeling that his argument made some sense. Indeed, the question, “Why are there boundaries in the Christian life?” is one that a great number of married men and women who faithfully attend church are asking in our culture today.

I called his name and said, “The Bible is a guide for faith and order in our lives as Christians. The Bible sets boundaries for Christians. I did not write the Bible. If I had written it, I probably would have omitted some things it does say and added other things that it doesn’t say. But I didn’t write it. It was written by people who were divinely inspired by God. It is God’s word to us. If we obey God’s word, we walk into joyous life. If we disobey God’s word, we walk toward a certain living death. We are faithful in marriage because God said we must be. And faith is the absolute certainty that God’s word can be trusted to bring abundant life.”

Any other questions?

9/9/2008 4:02:00 AM by Lamar King, retired minister, High Point | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life lesson for Sept. 21: No Time Like the Present

September 9 2008 by Jim Baldwin, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Wallace

Focal Passage: Matt. 25:1-13

In March of 2006 our daughter was married on the beach in El Salvador. She had met and had fallen in love with a Christian man from that country. Part of our planning with them included wedding invitations. “We want the wedding to conclude as the sun is setting,” they said. “What time does that happen?” we asked. “Usually around 5:15. So I guess we need to invite everyone to come around 3:30.” “You don’t expect the service to last that long, do you?” “No,” they said, “but that way they will be there by 4:30.” Sure enough, some guests arrived at noon, others at 3:30 and the last ones arrived by 4:15. The wedding started at 4:30, right on time.

The uncertainty of when a wedding ceremony will actually begin seems very strange to us. We know exactly when the grandmothers and the mothers will be seated. We calculate to make sure the ceremony begins precisely on the hour.

The point of Jesus’ parable about the wise and foolish virgins is clear: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (Matt. 25:13). Much of Jesus’ discussion about the end times centers on this point: “You must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him” (Matt. 24:44).

The uncertainty about when Jesus will return should not lead us to question the certainty of His coming. We often live as though Jesus is not coming back to reclaim His bride and to transform this world. We are negligent in preparing ourselves and others to meet Him when He comes.

Several years ago the group, Newsong, wrote a song called “Fingertips and Noses.” It tells a story of a school for special children in Kentucky. The teacher tells the children about Jesus’ love and about His coming back to take us all to heaven. Suddenly all the children are at the windows, looking for Jesus to come. The chorus paints this picture:

Fingertips and noses pressed to the windowpanes.
Longing eyes, expectant hearts for Him to come again.
All they know is that they love Him so.
And if He said He’d come, He’s coming.
And they can’t keep their windows clean.
For fingertips and noses.
Where will Jesus find us when He comes again?
Will we be like little children waiting just for Him?

9/9/2008 4:00:00 AM by Jim Baldwin, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Wallace | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for Sept. 14: A Time for Teaching

September 2 2008 by Lamar King, retired minister, High Point

Focal Passage: 2 Kings 22:3-20

Experience has taught me that, consciously or subconsciously, we are always teaching something to somebody. Our responsibility as Christians is not only to be willing to teach but also to be aware of what we teach.

In 1980, Dr. Henry Crouch led my congregation in several days of spiritual renewal. My wife and I invited him to dinner one evening before a service, and while I helped her finish preparation for the meal, our six-year-old son Chris entertained Dr. Crouch in our den. Several years later, Henry Crouch and I crossed paths in Raleigh, and he told me of that experience. He said that he and Chris shared light conversation for a few minutes, and then Chris said to him, “You see that clock on the mantle?”

Henry acknowledged that he did. Chris continued, “Don’t touch it. That clock is the only thing my daddy has that belonged to his Granddaddy King. And if this house catches on fire, he’s going to run get that clock and take it outside, and then he’s going to come back and get me.”
This revelation was both humorous and alarming. For several days I kept asking myself, “What have I taught my son about his value to me?”

Without thinking, I had said several times to him: “Chris, that clock on the mantle is very precious to me. In fact, it’s priceless. If this house catches on fire, I’m going to grab that clock on the way outside.” 

Chris thought I was saying that the clock was more valuable to his father than anything else. Of course, that was not what I intended to teach my son. After my conversation with Dr. Crouch, I made an opportunity very quickly to sit down with my son and tell him, “You are very precious to me, and I want you to forgive me if I have given you the impression that you are not. You are far more valuable to me than any old clock.”

There is a poem that suggests, “You are writing a book, a chapter each day, by the deeds that you do, and the words that you say.” We can all teach a pretty good Sunday School lesson if we have a Bible and a good commentary and a little time to prepare. But, the most important lessons we are teaching in life are not with our words but with our lives. What are you teaching by your life and your witness?  

9/2/2008 8:56:00 AM by Lamar King, retired minister, High Point | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life lesson for Sept. 14: Come One, Come All

September 2 2008 by Jim Baldwin, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Wallace

Focal Passage: Matthew 22:1-14

In his later years Mark Twain became pretty cynical about spiritual matters. In his book, Letters from the Earth, he discusses his amazement at what he perceived was the Christian view of heaven. None of the pleasures that excite mankind to the point he will risk life, reputation, everything, is there. Prayer takes its place.

There is singing — the kind of singing that would empty the house in two hours here goes on night and day, constantly, incessantly. And harps — every person is playing a harp — those millions and millions! Whereas not more than 20 in 1,000 of them could play an instrument on earth, or ever wanted to.

If that is the picture we have of what God has in store for us it is vastly different from the picture Jesus gives us. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.”

Both of my children have gotten married in the last two years. Their weddings were festive times of celebrating and dancing with our best friends. We shared wonderful food, laughter and conversation around the tables. We rejoiced that our son and daughter both had found someone to love and share life with. If God is planning a feast for us in heaven that feels like a wedding banquet, it is not something we will want to miss.

The invited guests do not seem very excited about their invitation. Those who had received a Save the Date notice found other things more important to do when the day finally arrived.

These were not emergencies that prevented their appearance, but were routine matters of business. To put it mildly, the king did not take their refusal well. He expanded his invitation list to include all sorts of people. Those who had never been included in any event that would make the society page suddenly found themselves at the party of the decade.

The king’s treatment of the man improperly dressed seems out of character for one so generous. We are tempted to offer excuses for the man’s attire. Perhaps he couldn’t afford better.

According to ancient mid-eastern tradition the host of the party would have provided wedding
clothes for all the guests. The man must have thought his clothes were adequate for the occasion, refusing to wear what his host provided.

The Bible is clear that “All our righteous acts are filthy rags.” Unless we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ we cannot stand before God.

9/2/2008 8:53:00 AM by Jim Baldwin, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Wallace | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for Sept. 7: A Time For Nurture

August 26 2008 by Lamar King, retired minister, High Point

Focal Passage: 2 Chronicles 34:1-7  

In 1975, while pastor of First Baptist Church in Duncan, S.C., I was asked by a local helping agency to organize a ministry at the Duncan Prison Camp. I began by leading an early Sunday morning worship service. I usually had from 40-50 inmates to attend, and most of them seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.

One morning, I began my sermon by quoting Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If.” It had a mesmerizing effect:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too …

I finished the first verse and started on the second:

If you can dream and not make dreams your master,
If you can think and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same …

In the middle of the second verse, a young inmate in the front row interrupted. He stood up and tearfully asked, “But what if you can’t?”

I was startled. My first thought was, “You can’t ask questions in a sermon. I don’t have answers, I just have words.”

But when he asked the question, every head in room looked at him, and, then, in sync, every head turned and looked at me. I smiled, I frowned, I looked at my feet, and I realized he wanted an answer. I looked straight at him and said: “Sure you can.”

From the back of the room came another voice, “Sure you can, man.” And suddenly, other men in that room started nodding their heads and saying: “Yeah, you can,” and “Man, you can make it,” and “Go for it.”

That’s as far as my sermon got. One after another they made their way down to the front of the room and stood around the young inmate, and, one after another, they began to nurture him by telling of circumstances in their lives where they thought they couldn’t but they did. It was a moving service.

Webster’s dictionary defines nurture as “that which nourishes.” Ephesians 6:4 says Christian parents are to bring children up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Our task as Christians is to encourage those about us “in the Lord.” To the discouraged and disheartened in this world, we affirm in the Lord, “Sure you can!”  

8/26/2008 2:57:00 AM by Lamar King, retired minister, High Point | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life lesson for Sept. 7: Forgive Early and Often

August 26 2008 by Jim Baldwin, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Wallace

Focal Passage: Matthew 18:21-35

You may remember the movie from a few years back called, “Pay it Forward.” The movie begins with a student who comes up with an idea for a class project. If someone does something for you, you don’t pay it back. You pay it forward by doing something good for three other people within 24 hours. Each of those three people then does something for three other people and so on. After two weeks of this process more than four million people will be touched by a good deed.

Apparently the servant in our story didn’t see the movie. If he felt gratitude, joy or thanksgiving he certainly didn’t pass it forward to anyone else. At the beginning of our story we see the servant has incurred a debt of millions of dollars. How did he get such a huge debt — embezzlement, misuse of funds, stealing? We have to assume the master trusted this servant and gave him a lot of freedom with his money.

Although the servant offered to repay the debt, a servant simply does not have access to that kind of money. The master canceled the entire debt, telling the man, “You are free to go.”
The first person the servant saw was someone who owed him something like $20. We might expect, “Hey guess what just happened to me? I want to show you grace like that.” Instead he grabs his friend by the neck and demands his money.

The other guy says, “Be patient with me and I will pay you back.”

But our forgiven friend is not going to cut him any slack. He is not going to show any mercy.

When the master heard what happened he threw him in jail, where this time he is to be tortured until he pays his debt. It seems the servant’s debt was settled but his heart was not. He should have come from his experience overwhelmed with the generosity of his master so that he wanted to pay it forward to others. Instead he took the gift for granted and never considered the implications.

We sympathize with the main character, then rejoice in his good fortune. We stand in shock when he grabs his friend and demands his money, then cheer when he gets thrown in jail. It’s all good until you realize that Jesus is talking about you and me. Look again at the main character — he’s got our face.

As a saying attributed to Confucius goes, “Those who cannot forgive others break the bridge over which they themselves must pass.”

8/26/2008 2:55:00 AM by Jim Baldwin, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Wallace | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for Aug. 31: Transitions

August 19 2008 by Lamar King, retired minister, High Point

Focal passage: Philippians 4:4-9

It was the late 1880s, and he was a cowboy from Oklahoma. He had been to Kansas City seeing things he had never even imagined.

His eyes had been opened on that visit, and he went back to Oklahoma singing to his friends, "Everything's up to date in Kansas City. They've gone about as far as they can go."

He then proceeded to describe just how far they had gone. He saw 23 gas buggies in one day.

He put his ear to a strange apparatus and heard someone talking. They called it a telephone.

He saw a skyscraper seven stories tall, "about as high as a building ought to go."

No wonder then that he went back home shaking his head in wonder at all those folks in Kansas City who have "gone about as far as they can go."

That cowboy reflected an instinct as old as humanity and one that is still a problem for us today.

It is the feeling that we have gone about as far as we can go.

In 1886 the United States Patent Office very nearly closed its doors because some congresspersons balked at including it in the budget, feeling that the country had already gone about as far as it could go. One congressman stated in the Congressional Record, "It now appears that everything practical has already been invented."

Fortunately, the Patent Office remained open, and that office went on to approve patents for such things as automobiles, gas engines, airplanes, telephones, radios, televisions, and you know the rest of the story.

The history of humanity is the story of change, of transitions from one world to the next. Our task as a church is not to decide whether we will change as we transition in life, but how we will change. We do not fear change because we have a changeless core — Jesus our Lord. His word does not change. His character does not change. His message of love and salvation for all people does not change.

In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey says that having something changeless anchors us in the midst of a changing world.

"People can't live with change if there's not a changeless core inside of them," he said. "The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, and what you are about, and what you value."

That "changeless core" in the believer is Christ Himself. "My hope is built on nothing less ..."

8/19/2008 4:54:00 AM by Lamar King, retired minister, High Point | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life lesson for Aug. 31: A Consistent Life

August 19 2008 by Jim Baldwin, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Wallace

Focal passage: Hebrews 12:1-15

I picture this scripture as a conversation between God and a Christian full of good intentions, but missing some important information about what it means to lead a consistent life in Christ.

Are you ready for the race?

What race?

God: The race I have called you to run will lead you to a better country — a heavenly one (Heb. 11:16).

Christian: That's it! That's the race I want to run.

God: What's with the backpack?

Christian: That's where I carry all my past sins and guilt.

God: Doesn't that weight slow you down?

Christian: Well, I guess you are right. I never thought about it before.

God: If you want to finish this race you have to throw off everything that hinders so you can run with perseverance the race marked out for you (Heb. 12:1).

Christian (setting backpack aside): Boy, that feels better!

Are you ready now?


On your mark, get set...  (Christian takes off running.)

You started before I said "Go!" That's cheating.

But I want to win.

I have given you rules to follow so that you can finish the race.  You can try to break those rules, but it never turns out like you thought it would. That is why I discipline you — to keep you on the right path and to help you avoid the pitfalls of sin (Heb. 12:5-11).

Christian: You're right. I've tried cheating before and it isn't worth it, even if I do win.

God: OK, let's try again. On your mark. Get set. Go! (Christian takes off in the wrong direction.) Wait a minute! Where are you going?

Christian: I don't know. Does it matter?

God: Sure it does. You will never reach the goal of eternal life unless you know where you are going. You need to keep your eyes on Jesus. As long as you follow Him, you will reach your destination (Heb. 12:2).

Christian: OK, now I know where I am headed. Let's try again.

God: On your mark. Get set. Go!  (Christian starts in the right direction determined to finish the race. After a while he becomes tired and discouraged.) Look around you at all the other believers who have run this race. They are watching you and encouraging you with prayers.  You are not alone. Don't give up (Heb. 12:1).

8/19/2008 4:48:00 AM by Jim Baldwin, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Wallace | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for Aug. 24: Challenges

August 13 2008 by Lamar King, retired pastor, High Point

Focal passage: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

I read a story about a woman named Annie. She had no family, lived alone, and had worked for 30 years at the same job. Her only companion was her cat.

When one cat died, she got another. Every year she was given four weeks of vacation leave, but she had never taken it nor had she ever taken a trip outside the town where she lived.

Many of her friends had asked her to go on trips with them, but she always replied, "I can't leave my cat. He's never been outside the house for any reason."  

Finally, a few of her friends planned a trip, made reservations for Annie, and confronted her with a demand that she go with them. They even arranged for Annie's neighbor to take care of the cat.

Annie reluctantly agreed to go, but she gave explicit instructions to her neighbor: "Whatever you do, don't let my cat outdoors. He has never been out in his life, and he would not know what to do."

The neighbor heard nothing from Annie for two weeks, and then came a postcard which stated, "I am having a wonderful time. Please let my cat out."

Our lesson this week is on "challenges." Challenges inevitably demand changes. Unfortunately, we Baptists often find ourselves reluctant to change. The message of the church never changes, but the method for sharing that message must change as each new generation arises.

Several years ago an editorial in the Biblical Recorder caused me to change the way I was sharing the message of Jesus.

The article stated that since 1980 the population of North Carolina had grown by 29 percent but membership in North Carolina Baptist churches had only grown by 5 percent. Why? Many churches are not adequately prepared to transition to the challenges of the future. We do not effectively understand the cultural shifts that surround us, and, therefore, we have not learned how to focus our message and our ministries through the lens of culture. The need exists to offer the gospel through new and innovative ways.

Our willingness to change is almost always contingent on our willingness to trust a Lord who says "Behold, I make all things new." Faith is not a creed; it is a passion.

Our message is not a doctrine; it is a person. That person is our Lord. He is calling us to "follow me." If we can begin a new journey with Jesus, then we may also find the courage to "let the cat out."

8/13/2008 5:45:00 AM by Lamar King, retired pastor, High Point | with 0 comments

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