Sunday School Lessons

Formations lesson for July 5: Jerusalem: A City in Need of Peace

June 22 2009 by John Carpenter, Pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Yanceyville

Focal Passage: Luke 19:41-48

Cities, like individuals, have personalities — and needs. Here it is for Jerusalem that the Lord Jesus pines, that they would know “the things that make for peace.”

“This day,” the Lord Jesus speaks of is the day He arrives at the city, beginning the chain of events which would lead that city to crucify Him. It was, “the time of your visitation.”

Sometimes God comes to us, as individuals or corporate bodies (like cities, nations, or churches), with an offer of peace.

What makes for peace is Himself, if that proud city would only accept Him. They’ve just received Him happily; celebrating His arrival.

But they’re only interested in a triumphant king to conquer their enemies, the Romans, not the sacrificial King come to conquer their hearts. Jesus says “They” (the secrets of peace) “are hidden from your eyes.”

Yes, they are responsible for not accepting Him. But here Jesus points to the ultimate source of their inability to see: God’s purpose in election. God’s peace comes from God’s grace and is withheld from those He does not enable to see (c.f. Mt. 13:13-16; Romans 11:8).

Because they wouldn’t have peace, they would know war.

In verses 43-44, the Lord Jesus foretells the First Jewish-Roman war of AD 66-73, within a generation of Him.

We don’t need to look into our future for the fulfillment.

They’ve already come to pass when the Roman general Titus, a future Caesar, besieged Jerusalem, destroying the city and the temple in it, killing thousands.

Titus reportedly refused to accept a victory wreath, as there is “no merit in vanquishing people forsaken by their own God.”

The price for refusing to receive Jesus as Lord is high.

Then Jesus cleans the merchants out of the temple. The powers that be — “the chief priests and the scribes and the principal men,” what we would call the religious people and the “good ol’ boys” — don’t like that one bit.

They’re not looking for a Lord of any kind.

They’re just looking for business as usual. So they’ll bide their time, looking to destroy Jesus not knowing they are sealing their own destruction.

Today individuals, cities, and even churches have opportunities — times of visitation, when they must repent, change, turn from business as usual to the Lord.

Tradition-bound religious folk and the good ol’ boys will try to protect the status quo. But you must know the Lord who makes for peace and let Him cleanse the “temples” of our hearts or churches. Or pay the price.

6/22/2009 3:38:00 AM by John Carpenter, Pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Yanceyville | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for July 5: Getting to Know the Father

June 22 2009 by Catherine Painter, Author, speaker, Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Exodus 33:18-23, 34:5-8; Micah 6:6-8; John 4:21-24

Following Discipleship Training, a young man asked, “Do you know God as well as you know your husband?”

I answered, “I know God better because I spend more time with Him.

“With God’s Spirit within me, we commune throughout the day.”

Then I shared a story.

Vacationing at the beach, Craig, our son-in-love, remained inside the resort the first day.

I asked our daughter Melanie why he didn’t come out. As if it made all the sense in the world, she said, “He’s spending the day with God.”

I thundered, “At the beach? Can’t he spend time with God after he goes home?”

I was curious, even a bit jealous. Just what would he and God do together all day?  

I began seeking God in earnest.

Soon I realized that I’d traded the best for the good, so busy doing good things “in His name” that I forgot my need for Him. My soul was dry and thirsty.

“Can I know God?” the young man insisted.

“How much time do you spend with Him?” I responded.

He named prayer before meals, time at Sunday School, church, and weekly Bible study.

“That’s admirable,” I said, “but you won’t get to know God that way.

“You’ll learn about God, but you won’t know Him until you spend time alone with Him. Moses grew hungry for God and begged to see Him (Exodus 33:18-23).”

I believe when we ask with open arms, God pulls us to Himself.

Until we really know God, we can develop content with a religion based on two hours a week, often lacking commitment or lifestyle change, and find ourselves filling the void with religious activity.

God sometimes uses despair, illness, fear, loss, or other ways to reveal our need for Him. In Micah 6:6-8, God demanded more from us than external acts of piety.

Jesus said that God wants us to worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24).

Ritual, worship, praise, and teaching become meaningful only after we’ve been with Him.

Then everything from sweeping the floor to cruising the world takes on significance because it’s bathed in God’s presence.

George Trumbull said, “Our hope is not Christ plus our efforts, but Christ plus our receiving. It isn’t Christ and us, but Christ in us.”  

Which do we crave — a theologically correct outline, or the opportunity to sit at His feet?

6/22/2009 3:37:00 AM by Catherine Painter, Author, speaker, Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for June 28: The Spirit’s Prayer

June 22 2009 by Ed Beddingfield, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: Rom. 8:12-17, 26-27

Sometimes we just can’t pray.

Dennis Apple is a staff minister at a Nazarene church in Kansas. His book, Life after the Death of My Son, chronicles his journey of doubt and faith when his teenage son died unexpectedly.
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Apple was in “a spiritual fog,” unable to pray or read the Bible, feeling abandoned by God, just going through the motions of ministry.  

At the same time he was afraid that if his church people found out how he really felt, he’d be fired.

Eventually, though, he decided to tell his story to the congregation in worship.

What surprised him was the support he received, and the number of people who came to him afterward seeking pastoral care, needing to tell their own stories of spiritual crisis.

It’s more common than we think, or would like to admit. But we shouldn’t be surprised.

We are not compartmentalized people.

What affects us mentally, emotionally and physically can also affect us spiritually. Sometimes we just can’t pray.

Other times we can, but we’re not sure what we should pray for.

I visited a neighbor, a member of another church, in the hospital.

He was an elderly man, near death after a long illness. The family asked me to pray.

I prayed realistically, asking for the patient the peace of God and the hope of heaven, and for the family endurance and comfort.

After the “Amen,” a family member grabbed me urgently by the arm and pleaded, as much with her eyes as with her words: “You didn’t pray for him to get well!”

It’s the only time I’ve ever been asked to redo a prayer.

So what to pray for? For the man to “depart and be with Christ,” as I did the first time, or for him to “remain in the flesh” on account of his family (Phil. 1:23-24)? Is “Thy will be done” sufficient? What’s best? Who knows?
God knows.

The Bible says God “looks upon the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7), and “even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, You know it completely” (Ps. 139:4).

Prayer is not a matter of giving God information He otherwise wouldn’t have. Prayer is a relationship. It’s placing ourselves in God’s presence, at God’s disposal, and in God’s hands.

When sense and expression fail, when we don’t know what to pray for, when all we can cry is “Abba! Father!” or the best we can manage is “sighs too deep for words,” God hears (8:15, 26-27).

It may be the most eloquent and effective prayer of all.           

6/22/2009 3:36:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 2 comments



Bible Studies for Life lesson for June 28: Confidently Victorious

June 22 2009 by Kenny Byrd, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Sylva

Focal Passage: 1 John 5:12-21

I always felt better asking my daddy if I could do something when I was riding the swell of an accomplishment.

Those weeks after graduation from high school were nice because for me, and for many young people, you feel like you own the world. A whole new horizon is before you, and it seems as though opportunities sit and wait for you to grab them.

It is at times such as this you can approach another person with confidence, and feel the assurance that the other person will listen.

As a believer we have the assurance that approaching our Lord gives an opportunity for the same confidence.

He is approachable, and He has given us a path directly to His throne of grace, prepared by the blood of Christ.

In 1 John 5 it simply states, “He who has the Son has the life.” You can’t get much clearer than that for assurance for those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ.

God will hear us when we go to Him in prayer and in hearing, He will know that which we desire and most importantly that which we need.

We are called to pray for others as well. With confidence that God hears our prayers it should be without question that we would offer prayer for our fellow believers.

We are instructed to pray for those that we see in sin (v.16). The world will constantly present temptation that is easily followed. Lifting up one another in prayer is a simple tool that God has provided for His church that is free for all to use.

But there are times when some will totally turn from the gospel (sin that leads to death) and we can only hope that something will impact their life to return them to the fold.

And because of the promises we have from the Lord, it is with all the confidence that we can be secure in knowing that we rest safely in the hands of Christ.

We are told, “We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them,” (v.18).

Even though the “evil one” may control the world around us, we are under the protection of the “True One” who is Jesus Christ.

We live in fellowship with God through our saving relationship that was secured by a loving Savior, and we are called to keep away from anything that might seek to take His place in our hearts.

The world readily offers its idols to us daily. What shall we offer the world in return?

With confidence we can go before the Lord, and with confidence offer Christ to the world!

6/22/2009 3:34:00 AM by Kenny Byrd, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Sylva | with 1 comments



Formations lesson for June 21: The Servant’s Prayer

June 9 2009 by Ed Beddingfield, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: 1 Samuel 3:1-10

One Wednesday night at church I decided to have a real prayer meeting.

We would pray, or at least be in a prayerful attitude, for the whole hour.

First, praise: a Psalm, a song, our praises spoken out loud.

Then confession: silently, between each of us and God, and a unison prayer.

After that, thanksgiving: sentence prayers expressing our gratitude.

Then the prayer list, always the most extensive and energetic aspect of our community prayer.  
We were now about halfway through the service.

Next I read aloud a scripture passage. Then we read it in unison, then silently to ourselves. Then we took turns reading verse-by-verse, pausing between verses.  

Finally I reread the passage, this time asking everyone to pick out one word or idea that caught their attention. I invited them to focus on that word, repeating it silently to themselves and letting it take them wherever it would. After 20 minutes I called time.

We discussed their words, what thoughts they had during the silence, and whether or not those thoughts might have been God’s voice.

Afterward a deacon grabbed me by the shoulder: “Don’t ever do that to us again!”

Why is it that in prayer we are so intent on talking to God, but so resistant to listening to God?

Why are we so quick to tell God what to do, but so slow to hear what God has to say?  

One layman says that too often our prayers simply inform God of what He apparently doesn’t know and then advise Him what to do, now that we’ve told Him all the facts.

The teaching guide for today’s lesson asks if “long, wordy prayers” can be “an evasion that keeps us from hearing and obeying God’s voice.”

Jesus wondered the same thing (Matt. 6:5-8).

Crusty old Eli understood. God doesn’t just sit around, hand cupped to ear, waiting to hear what we expect Him to do for us.

God also has things He expects us to do for and with Him. If “the word of the Lord was rare in those days” (3:1), maybe it’s because no one was paying attention (Ch. 2).

Eli told Samuel (3:9), “Next time you hear His voice, answer, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”

The boy did listen, and then the most amazing thing: when Samuel informed Eli about God’s judgment on his corrupt sons, Eli said, “It is the Lord; let Him do what seems good to Him” (3:18). Eli was listening, too.

Maybe prayer is not so much about getting God on board with our program as it is about getting us on board with God’s.

Speak, Lord; your servants are listening.       

6/9/2009 10:00:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 2 comments



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



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