Sunday School Lessons

Bible Studies for Life lesson for Dec. 28: Wanted: Missionaries

December 19 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passage: Acts 13:1-3; 14:26-27; 26:15-19; Galatians 2:6-10

When John and I were new missionaries in Rwanda, Africa, a young woman who would be working with us said, “My people know that you love them because you are learning our language, and not making us try to speak yours.”

It takes a lot of time, money, and hard work for adults to learn another language, or in some cases, two or three. Yet, as my young Rwanda friend put it so well, look at the love shown when that effort is made. Long-term missionaries live out their Christian witness daily, showing Christ’s love consistently to the people with whom they live and work.

I am still in awe of those who answer God’s call to be career missionaries, as I have been since I first heard of missionaries when I was a Sunbeam (remember Sunbeams?). I am in awe of those here at home, the parents and grandparents, who let go of their sons and daughters called to be long-term missionaries. I will always praise and thank God for those who go and those who let go.

For this reason, I found it very difficult for me to learn that I am hypocritical. God has put a love of England in my son’s heart, as He has put a love for the Jamaican people in mine, and love for French-speaking Quebec, Canada in John’s heart.

One day, as Marcus (our son) was excitedly looking up churches in England, I thought, what if God is calling Marcus to be a missionary to England!

Marcus is pastor of Woodland Baptist Church in West Chowan Baptist Association, where his dad is the director of missions, and I am Marcus’ secretary. As you can see, we three work very closely together, and the thought of Marcus being called someplace far away, made me panic.

Then I realized that one of my fervent desires is to see Marcus following his Savior’s leading no matter where that may be. I also know when that happens, God will be with me as He was with my mother, and with John’s parents when we were called to Africa.

I will continue to pray that my Heavenly Father calls laborers for His harvest, even if that laborer is my son.

12/19/2008 5:50:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 0 comments



Formations Sunday School Lesson for Dec. 21: Love

December 11 2008 by Shane Nixon, Director of Development/ Church Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: 1 Jn. 4:7-12

In Phillip Yancey’s book What is So Amazing About Grace, he quotes Dorothy Day as follows: “I really only love God as much as the person I love least.” When I originally read that I thought it was an exaggeration. I assumed it was exaggerated to make a point, and further assumed that I had gotten the point. I moved on.

In reading 1 John, I now realize that wasn’t an exaggeration. The writer of the tiny epistle would have us believe that “loving” is who we are as Christians by definition. That in order to be ourselves and be like God, we must love and we must do so completely. In the focal passage there isn’t even any mention of degree, nothing like loving most or least, just an expectation that those who know God would love.

When we learn to love the way God loves, there are no “levels” of love. We can’t love this person a little and that person a lot. There may be different types of love, and those may apply in our lives to the different human relationships we have. But inside the family of God, degree is replaced with completeness. There are no shades of gray on God’s “black and white love scale.” Either you love or you don’t.

I’ve concluded that Day’s words might, in fact be true. I may only love God as much as the person I love least. My problem is there are some people I haven’t loved as I am commanded to do, as God love requires. You see, it isn’t how much I love but that I love that is important.

12/11/2008 7:20:00 AM by Shane Nixon, Director of Development/ Church Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes of North Carolina | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Dec. 21: The Message of Missions

December 11 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passage: Luke 2:8-12, 16-18, 25-32

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11, KJV).

The words of the angel of the Lord to terrified shepherds are familiar, yes, but still breathtakingly exciting. The Christ is born and by His coming, God has given all people His way of salvation.

In Luke 2:10, the angel says to the shepherds, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people (emphasis is the author’s).”

Later when Mary and Joseph take Jesus to Jerusalem to offer a sacrifice according to the law of the Lord, the worshipper, Simeon, devout and filled with the Holy Spirit, was allowed to see Jesus before he, Simeon, died. In his prayer of thanksgiving to his Lord, Simeon prays, “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel (author’s emphasis)” Luke 2:30-32.

Jesus says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matt. 28:19).

My Lord Jesus came to be the way of salvation for all people, and I love Him so much, because He first loved me, that I cannot stand the thought of the people of all nations not being able to learn of Him. That is why I love missions.

That is why I pray that the Lord of the harvest will call laborers to work in His fields (Matt. 9:38). That is why I have promised my Savior that I will go wherever He sends me. That is why I give to missions, so that those God calls can go and make disciples wherever He wants them to go; places that I may not be able to go. That is why I pray for our missionaries in other nations, because they have acted on God’s call, and have planted their lives among those who need to be shown by the missionaries’ witness that Jesus truly does love them so much that He died for them.

I praise God with my whole being that He allows me to be able to help proclaim, by praying, giving, educating, and going, that my Jesus is Savior of the world.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

12/11/2008 7:18:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for Dec. 14: Joy

December 1 2008 by Shane Nixon, Director of Development/ Church Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: James 1:2-8

Some time in late January, I begin the annual process of preparing the Nixon family income tax return to be taken to the preparer we use. I gather the paperwork, organize it all, and take it over to the tax service. And so it was that late in the first month of 2003, I began the gathering of my 2002 tax return.

The previous month we experienced an addition to our family with the birth of my son Jack on Dec. 1, 2002. If you already know what these two things, tax preparation and childbirth, have in common, then you are a step ahead of where I was that January. I had not made the connection, but quickly had it made for me.

Did you know that, for tax purposes, the best time of year to have a child is December?

You see, by law, you get to count that child a dependent for the year, the whole year, even though almost none of that year’s income will have actually gone to support the child. Sometime around April of 2003 I got the single largest tax return of my life — all because of the birth of an additional dependent I had not counted when paying my taxes for that year. Joy indeed!

There is another, more popular story about taxes, and a child being born, and joy that calls for our attention this advent season.

The joy that particular story brings isn’t a one-time thing by way of some kind of healthy rebate. It is a deep, inner joy that comes from knowing Christ. It is a lasting, permanent joy that comes from experiencing relationship with Him daily.

James writes about this joy, even about its ability to endure through trials.

It is joy for the whole world, because the Savior has come.

12/1/2008 8:38:00 AM by Shane Nixon, Director of Development/ Church Relations, Baptist Retirement Homes of North Carolina | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Dec. 14: Your Missions Involvement

December 1 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passages: Matt. 9:35-38; 28:18-20; Rom. 15:23-28

When John and I were missionaries with the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) in Africa, and were home in the States, we were so often touched at the ways members of churches wanted to take care of us.

One person provided a car for our use, and when a man in another church found that the car’s air conditioning system was broken, he fixed it for us, telling us that we needed to be comfortable in the summer heat.  I thought his loving and much-appreciated gift to us was such a wonderful example of giving.

During our time “on furlough” as it was then called, we were fed, housed, and sometimes even clothed, by members of different churches.  I don’t believe that it was so much a matter of the people putting us on a pedestal, as wanting to lovingly spoil two brothers in Christ, John and our son, Marcus, and a sister, me. I was so grateful for all the spoiling, and yet the thing that mattered most to me was when they told us that they would continually pray for us.

Sometimes they would say, “That’s the least we can do,” to which we would reply, “That’s the most you can do.”  

I always let them know that I didn’t want to be in Rwanda and Burundi without their prayers, and now, I don’t want to go to Jamaica without the prayers of my Christian brothers and sisters.

I also was so thankful to our Heavenly Father and to our churches for the financial support we, and our fellow missionaries, were given. By giving through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, Christians made it possible for us to work in Africa, and now are making it financially possible for missionaries to work throughout the world.

Please, if you do not believe anything else that I say or write, please believe that your prayers for those who have been called to work in the Lord’s fields and your giving to support them make a difference in God’s harvest.  This I know.

12/1/2008 8:37:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Dec. 7: Peace

November 20 2008 by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: Romans 12:14-21

Peace is a topic that the Bible makes no bones about addressing. Those who wrote the portions of the Old Testament we know as history mention it with what can only be described as a sense of yearning. Prophets talk about its coming. Even in specific reference to those parts of scripture which foretold and tell of the Christmas narrative there is the mention — the not so casual mention — of peace. In his prophecy, Isaiah spoke of a “Prince of Peace.” And in the most familiar of all the scriptural words of the season, Luke has the angel telling shepherds of peace on earth and good will toward men. A quick scan of any reputable concordance of any good biblical translation or paraphrase will find the word peace in some form or another more than 400 times.

Paul had no shortage of things to say about peace. He makes what almost looks like a summary statement on the subject in the center of the focal passage for this lesson: Rom. 12:18.

“If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

The interesting thing to me is that Paul puts the “burden” for peace on us. He says to do everything we can to live in peace with our fellow man. His words “so far as it depends on you” seem to suggest that it is our responsibility to do everything within our power to make peace, instead of just hoping things will go peacefully. Of course Jesus’ words confirm this when He preached in the Sermon on the Mount that, “blessed are the peace makers.” There is a slight nuance here we will do well not to miss. Peace or “living peaceably” with our fellow man is not a call to being passive. Quite the contrary, we are called to make peace, to do something to cause it to happen. We should be asking ourselves, especially as we celebrate it during advent, what we are doing to bring peace.

11/20/2008 9:46:00 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 Dec. 7: God’s Missionary Heart

November 20 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passage: Isaiah 49:1-6; 56:3-8; 66:18-20, 23

John and I returned last week from my fifth mission trip to Jamaica. The experience was amazing, and yet heartbreaking. It was amazing to see the growth in the church we work with: Elim Baptist Church has added a Sunday night service, a women’s Tuesday morning prayer and fasting session, a Wednesday night Bible study, and a counseling session for new Christians. They have done this with the Lord’s guidance, and yet without a pastor.

My trip was also heartbreaking because this time I actually was able to visit homes, and I saw so much more poverty than even I knew was in that little community. We saw hunger, children unable to go to school, sick people skipping days of medication to make the medicine last longer. I was overwhelmed by the poverty, and didn’t think I was making any difference in the lives of the Jamaican people.

Then I read today’s focal passage: “Then I said, I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain; yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God” (Isaiah 49:4, KJV).

I have my answer. What I must do is exactly what God shows me to do in Elim, St. Elizabeth parish. I will keep going and working in this community, doing what God has for me to do there, and the results are in His hands. He can take my poor efforts and multiply them to help the people in the most efficient way.

God also showed me what was accomplished in our very short five days in Elim: (1) the people at Elim Church heard Spirit-filled preaching from John, my husband, on Sunday morning and night; (2) those at the new start in Junction heard Spirit-filled preaching from J. Brabban, of Chowan University, on Sunday morning, and Elim heard an incredible Bible study from him Wednesday night; (3) Betty Brabban and I did countless blood pressure screenings, one man with stroke level pressure was taken to the hospital, and two to the clinic; (4) Betty did an amazing amount of one-on-one health education in homes; (5) I was able to set up an Emergency Medical Fund so that if great medical needs happen, those who have no money can get to a clinic; and (6) the team prayed for and with many people in Montego Bay and Elim.

Our Lord is moving in Elim, Jamaica, and throughout the world. What we must do is ask Him what He would have us do wherever in the world He sends us.

11/20/2008 9:44:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Nov. 30: Hope

November 20 2008 by Shane Nixon, Institutional Director of Information Services, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina

Focal Passage: Hebrews 6:13-20

C.R. Snyder is a University of Kansas psychologist. He is not widely known, even in academic psychology circles. He developed, in 1995, what he called the “hope test.” The test was designed to measure the general level of hope a person possessed and by doing so put them into one of three categories. Using a series of questions, visual stimuli, situational stresses and the observations of the people responding to each, Snyder was able to label incoming college students as having high, moderate or low levels of hope. Snyder discovered that incoming students in the high hope level group did best during their first semester of college. He discovered this by posing the following hypothetical situation to them:

“Although you set your goal of getting a B in a class, after your first exam, which accounts for 30 percent of your grade, you find you only scored a D. It is now one week later. What do you do?” Snyder also compared the actual academic achievement of freshman students who scored high and low on hope, he found that hope was actually a better predictor of their first semester grades than were their SAT scores. Snyder found that hope made all the difference. In summary of his findings, Snyder was quoted as saying, “People with hope simply do better.”

If Snyder is right, and I believe he is, if people with hope do better, then we Christians ought to be on the fast track to an enhanced state. We have hope, the hope we celebrate most at this time of year. We sing carols, but the fabled old hymn “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand” may say it best:

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.”

As we enter into this season of advent, we turn our attention to an event two thousand plus years ago. We look to a night that was, for the most part, unspectacular. We see a city that was overrun with ordinary people. Our quest to answer “in whom” our hope lies sends us to the lowliest of places, a stable. The hope of all humanity, realized by we who claim His name as ours, is Jesus Christ, the baby in the manger. Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus.

11/20/2008 9:42:00 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. 30: My Ongoing Mission

November 20 2008 by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author

Focal Passage: Romans 15:14-21, 30-33; 16:25-27

As I write this lesson, I only have two weeks more before taking a team to Jamaica. I cannot wait. As my fellow team members and I teach Bible studies, I tell the Jamaican women, “I pray constantly for the people of Jamaica, and one thought runs through my mind: Jamaica for Jesus, Jamaica for Jesus. There is no reason why the fire of revival in Jamaica can’t start here in Elim — and start with you!”

Each time I tell them that, they look at me with disbelief because they have such a hard time believing that God has a plan for their lives, and they can make such a difference in their world by living entirely for Him. I pray that they can see they can be Christ’s instruments in ministry, and can be so much more effective than I can, because, even though I love the people so much, and possibly am an “accepted outsider,” I am still an outsider.

Almost in the same way, when I tell church members of my work in Jamaica, and tell them that by their prayers, they can also be Christ’s instruments in the ministry in Jamaica, they also look at me with disbelief, or worse, with amusement. They think that they have to go with me, which God may very well call them to do, to have a part in His work. I so want them to know that by lifting me and the team members in prayer, they are part of my team. I want them to know that I don’t want to go to Jamaica without their prayers for me.

When I take a team to Jamaica, I leave a daily prayer guide so that people will know what we have planned for each day of the week we are there. We may not always follow that exact plan, but the point is that believers are praying for us whatever we are doing in Jamaica.

During one of my trips, we met a Christian sister in the marketplace in Montego Bay. We didn’t even expect to go to the market, but this woman met us and led us to her shop. After finding that we were sisters in Christ, she shared a terrible burden that she was carrying, and by trusting us with this burden, she found three women who have been praying for her for almost a year now. She needed prayer, and God sent us to her to pray for her.

For that, and for countless other reasons, I say, with Paul, “to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (v. 27).

11/20/2008 9:40:00 AM by Sharon Johnson Pond, Founder of Other Side Jamaica and author | with 0 comments



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



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