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Sunday School Lessons

Explore the Bible Lesson for August 31: Be Ready for Tribulation

August 14 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passages: Daniel 9:20-27; 12:9-13
“I don’t know” are some of the most significant words I have ever said in a ministry context. It is a phrase that brings a humanity and equality to the relationship between pastor and church member. For example, our ladies group had been immersed in a Precept Bible Study on Revelation in early 2011. At the same time, the “Arab spring” was occurring in Egypt and Libya. Standing in the breezeway of the church, one of the ladies in the class asked me if I thought the events in Egypt were tied to end-times biblical prophecy. My response was “I don’t know.” I think the same principles I shared with them apply to the passages under consideration this week.
First, pray for understanding. I don’t mean to pray that God will show you all of the details of the future or to pray that you will understand how all of the events in world history fit a prophetic timeline. It is doubtful that any of us could handle such knowledge. Which may be why God has kept it under wraps. Rather, do what Daniel did in Daniel 9:20-23. He confessed his sin and the sin of his people and prayed for understanding.
Second, prepare for difficulty. Regardless of your understanding of the end times, the universal witness of the scripture is that mankind grows more sinful, not less sinful. As mankind grows more sinful, those who embrace a biblical worldview become more marginalized (at best) and more persecuted (at worst). Do not focus on marginalization, but become familiar with and pray for your brothers and sisters around the world who are facing genuine persecution and death for their faith. Pray for their faith to be strengthened.
Finally, keep living for the life of faith. Don’t quit. Because so many who speculate on the “times and seasons” prove to be wrong, it can become easy to question whether the Bible is true at all. Though we don’t know all the details, Jesus is returning. In the meantime, we keep serving Him. Just as Daniel was told to keep living (Daniel 12:9-13) until God brought the events of His prophecy to pass, so should we.

8/14/2014 9:41:59 AM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 31: Our Work with Creation

August 14 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student

Focal Passage: Leviticus 25:1-7
God blessed Adam and Eve saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Many scholars refer to this verse as the cultural mandate. God has tasked mankind with stewardship of the earth. He has given us responsibility over His creation.
This mandate has been interpreted in multiple ways. One extreme could almost be considered the worship of nature. The opposite end may take the command as a power play; humans are at the top, and any creature or natural resource can – and should – be exploited for our benefit. A biblical approach falls somewhere in the middle of these two. Sure, God has given us the earth for our benefit but not for our abuse or manipulation. And we should care and nurture the earth but not to the obsession that we view it as its own god or force, independent of its Creator.
In Leviticus 25:1-7, the Lord gives instructions to Moses on Mount Sinai to relay to the Israelites. Essentially, God’s instructions for how to care for the land are modeled after His pattern of creation. He tells His people to cultivate the land for six years (v. 3). However, in the seventh year, they should observe a Sabbath for the land (v. 4). Observing a year of Sabbath not only stewards the land well but also demonstrates trust in God as the ultimate Provider. God not only promises to provide for the land owner during that Sabbath year, He also promises to provide for the manservant, maidservant, hired worker and sojourner; the livestock and wild animals (v. 6-7).
“Sabbath,” designed by God in creation, is a time of rest and cessation from work. It is a designated “holy” period to reflect on all that He has done (Genesis 2:2-3). God gave the Promised Land to the Israelites (v. 2). How can you be a good steward of what He has given you? Make time this week to rest, give thanks and acknowledge His provision in your life. Then use the provisions He has given you to help meet other’s needs.

8/14/2014 9:22:32 AM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for August 24: Live to Win in the End

August 12 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: Daniel 7:7-18
I have two hobbies that clash: watching NASCAR and riding a motorcycle. They clash because racing (typically) occurs on a Sunday afternoon, which happens to be a great time to ride. So, I’ve begun recording races while I go ride. This, too, has a risk: someone text-ing me about the winner of the race before I watch it. My reaction to such a text is telling. If I get a text, and my favorite driver has won, I still watch the race. But, if a driver I do not care for won, I do not watch it. Apparently, if I think the outcome of the race is good, I watch the recording with joy, anticipating my driver’s victory.
In Daniel 7 we read about a vision given to Daniel of things to come. This section of scripture is a key portion of biblical eschatology and has been pored over meticulously by scholars. Yet, there is still significant disagreement as to Daniel’s precise meaning and the timing of the events. Rather than attempt to revisit all of the various theories, let’s focus on what this passage teaches clearly. 
First, verses 7-8 describe a great beast that devours and crushes its victims. It is a terrifying, powerful and frightening. These verses remind us that evil will persist until the consummation.
Immediately after we are introduced to the fearsome beast, we are reminded (v. 9-12) God is the ultimate judge. A beast that puts panic in the hearts of people is no match for the God of the universe. What a great comfort! Rather than fret about which world leader might be the anti-Christ, we can rest in the confidence that every living being is under the authority of God. Rather than worry about the details of the end times, Daniel 7:13-14 remind us that the Lord Jesus was given authority and dominion over all peoples and that His kingdom will never be destroyed. Therefore, we can serve Him with confidence, regardless of the circumstances that may occur around us. All of the kingdoms of this world will eventually go into the dustbin of history (Dan 7:15-18), but not the Kingdom of Christ. His is an eternal Kingdom. So, let’s live our lives with joy, knowing that the Lord Jesus Christ has won!

8/12/2014 9:38:31 AM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 24: God’s Work of Creation

August 12 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student

Focal Passage: Psalm 104:1-5, 24-30
Psalm 104 is book-ended with praise to God. The psalmist says, in both verse 1 and 35, “Bless the LORD, O my soul” (ESV). He is giving glory to God for the work of His hands, the creation of the world. Everything in creation is the work of our God, who loves us. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth … God saw all that He had made and it was very good” (Genesis 1:1, 31).
In Psalm 104:1-5, the psalmist highlights how God has created out of His power and majesty. He wraps Himself in light, stretches out the heavens like a tent and makes the clouds His chariot. He has set the earth on its foundations; what He has created cannot be moved.
Verses 24-30 emphasize God’s wisdom in creation as well as His provision for all He has made. The psalmist praises Him for his vast works: from the waters to the mountains to the beasts of the field and the birds of the air; to the sea teeming with creatures, the sun and the moon, the roaring lion and the laboring man.
Yet, the psalmist makes it clear that God did not simply create and then abandon His work. God is not “the watchmaker” who created and then left the world to run on its own. No, He is intimately involved in sustaining His creation. In verses 27 and 28, the psalmist describes how each living thing looks to God for provision “to give them their food at the proper time.”

I love how several translations emphasize the continual action of the verbs in verse 28, “When You give … When You open Your hand …” The psalmist recognizes that it is not a matter of if God will provide; it is a matter of when.
How do you need to apply this scriptural truth? Remember, you are His creation. He knit you together in your mother’s womb. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14). He has not abandoned the work of His hands. He will continue to sustain you and provide for you, just like He will for the butterfly and the bear.
Let us give thanks to our loving Creator this week and say, “Bless the LORD, O my soul!”

8/12/2014 9:27:20 AM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for August 17: Never Give Up on Prayer

July 31 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passages: Daniel 6:3-7, 10-11, 16-23
Prayer. When surveyed, most Americans will acknowledge prayer is important in their life. Indeed, since researcher George Barna began asking about people’s prayer habits, more than eight out of 10 Americans have consistently said they prayed in the previous week. Other polls indicate people are often confused as to the purpose of prayer. For example, according to a Beliefnet poll, only 38 percent said intimacy with God was the primary purpose of prayer, while 56 percent indicated their families were the primary focus of their prayers.
We can learn much about prayer from Daniel’s experiences in Daniel 6. Following his interpretation of the handwriting on the wall, King Darius ascended to the throne. Daniel was one of the 120 satraps (provincial governor) Darius appointed. His character was impeccable and he possessed an “extraordinary spirit.”
The satraps set themselves against Daniel and sought to destroy him. They decided to use his faithfulness in prayer as a weapon against him. They played on the king’s pride by suggesting that no one be allowed to pray to anyone other than him for a period of 30 days. The king agreed and issued the decree, with the lion’s den as punishment.
Consider for a moment that Daniel’s enemies knew him and his prayer life so well that they were aware he could not go 30 days without praying. Could you? If some act of Congress or a local government made it illegal to pray for 30 days, what would you do? What if it was only for a week? A day? How long would you be willing to not pray, under the threat of persecution? Who knows you well enough to know whether you would avoid praying, especially at the threat of death? For too many of us prayer is an add-on to our spiritual lives. It is something we do at mealtime or during a worship service, but it is not an indispensable part of our lives. It was for Daniel. He faced the lion’s den with confidence because he knew his God. That knowledge was derived through his prayer life. For Daniel, prayer was essential for his life. Is it for you?

7/31/2014 9:27:03 AM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 17: Victorious Faith

July 31 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student

Focal Passage: 1 Peter 5:6-11
Madonna once said, “No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you’ve come from, you can always change, become a better version of yourself.” Our culture believes the lie of self-improvement. This lie parades on our television and computer screens and is evident in talk shows, books and movies.
C.S. Lewis said it much better, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” If you’re looking down at someone, or if you’re looking inward to yourself, as Madonna hints above, you’re not looking in the right place. You’re not looking to God.
Peter directs our gaze in the right direction. In the preceding verses, he is giving instructions to the elders and young men scattered throughout Asia Minor. He charges them to humble themselves under God’s mighty hand (v. 6). Notice the contrast from the prideful, self-improvement stance above. They are to cast all their anxiety upon Him (v. 7). In doing these things, God will lift them up. Peter is emphasizing “God-help.”
He also issues three imperatives in verses 8 and 9: “[You] be self-controlled; [You] be alert; [You] resist Satan.” Last week, we talked about how imperatives in the Greek are direct commands. Yet instead of focusing on self-effort, Peter explains how these believers are to obey these imperatives in verse 9 by “standing firm in the faith.” Read about standing firm in the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18.
Peter encourages the believers by giving them hope for the future. He promises God will restore them and make them strong, firm and steadfast because of their present suffering (v. 10). As believers, we too can take hope that regardless of our trials, God will strengthen and restore us. We should not look to “self-help” advice that is inwardly-focused. Instead, we should rely on “God-help,” and recognize that He has given us a victorious faith that is rooted in our triumphant Savior.

7/31/2014 9:20:18 AM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for August 10: Tell It Like It Is

July 29 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passages: Daniel 5:1-6, 16-17, 23c-28
In our culture it seems that the ultimate insult is to warn that a behavior is sinful. Admittedly, some have “warned” with tremendous insensitivity or even condescension. But, in the face of obvious sin, what is a Christ-follower to do?
In the first four verses of Daniel 5 we learn Belshazzar stoops to a new low. He takes the gold and silver vessels Nebuchadnezzar had removed from the temple in Jerusalem and uses them as dinnerware for a big party. Fundamentally, Belshazzar takes items set aside to bring glory to God and uses them to further the frivolity of his guests.
God does not take such action lightly. Rather than simply striking Belshazzar or his partygoers, God issues a warning of His impending judgment with a hand that appears and begins writing on a wall (5:5-6). God warns prior to judgment because He loves us and desires that we repent. Sometimes those warnings are as dramatic as handwriting on a wall. Sometimes it is as simple as the warnings in God’s Word. And sometimes it is as controversial as a believer unwilling to concede biblical morality for the sake of popular opinion.
When the king discovers that no one is able to interpret the writing, he becomes terribly frightened. Finally, someone mentions that maybe Daniel can do it. Belshazzar brings Daniel in and offers him royal clothing, gold chains and a position of power, if he could just interpret the writing. But, Daniel rejects the trappings of the king. Rather than fall victim to pride, he recognizes that he is but an instrument to be used by God. His humility in warning the king who held him captive was borne out of his understanding of the king whom he ultimately served. Rather than bravado or condescension, such knowledge was humbling to Daniel.
Be not mistaken, however, such humility does not result in passivity. Humility does not ignore sin or its consequences. Rather, humility demands that a warning of the judgment to come is issued. We do not love if we do not warn. But humility is the key: if we do not love, our warnings fall on deaf ears.

7/29/2014 9:46:28 AM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 10: Joyful Faith

July 29 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student

Focal Passage: 1 Peter 4:12-19
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
It was unbearably warm in that small, one-room church building. I felt weary and tired from very little rest the night before. My stomach was in knots from unfamiliar food and spices. I felt grumpy and wanted to dwell in it … this was the day that I was responsible for training the South Asian Christians on how to share the gospel. Yet my attitude that morning reflected little of the Good News of great joy that was for all the people (Luke 2:10). The local missionary opened our training session by playing a simple song on his guitar. And immediately I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit in regards to my sinful attitude and ungratefulness.
This is the day that the Lord has made; I will be glad and rejoice in it. This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made.”
It was a new day full of God’s mercies. It was a day made for the sole purpose of bringing Him glory. In my weakness, I had a choice: to wallow in self-pity or to rejoice in the day that belonged to Him. I chose the latter and He gave me the strength to joyfully teach the gospel. In our passage in 1 Peter 4:12-19, Peter gives the early believers an imperative, or command, in verse 13 and says, “[You] rejoice.”
Rejoice in the midst of suffering. In verse 14, he shares that those who suffer and go through trials because of the name of Christ are blessed. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matthew 5:10). Finally, he encourages those who are being persecuted to persevere because their suffering brings praise and glory to God.
How have you faced suffering, trials or persecution for your faith? Have you been mocked for being a Christian? What is your response? Do you respond with anger, feistiness or passive resignation? Do you respond with self-pity when things get tough? Remember Peter’s imperative, “[You] rejoice.” What does that look like in your life this week? How can you choose joy in the midst of life’s difficulties?

7/29/2014 9:36:38 AM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for August 3: Risk Everything for God

July 17 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passages: Daniel 3:1, 8-12, 15b-18, 24-25, 28
It seems like we value physical security and safety above nearly all else in our culture. Sadly, that mentality also creeps into ministry life. We worry about going on that mission trip to Africa or the Philippines. What will we eat? Is there running water? Do they have poisonous snakes? Is the region/area/nation safe? I am not suggesting these questions aren’t worth asking. I am suggesting the fact that we ask these questions first reveals something terribly wrong with our view of eternity.
If we are going to be faithful in fulfilling the Great Commission, we must adopt a mentality similar to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. In Daniel 3 the king issued a decree requiring every person in Babylon to bow down to a statue or face a brutal death. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to do so, and their disobedience was reported (Daniel 3:8-12). The king ordered them brought before him with one final opportunity to obey or face the consequences.
They had no intention of doing so (v. 15-18). Rather, they let the king know that their God was capable of delivering them from the fiery furnace he threatened them with. More than that, even if he did not deliver them, he was still worth serving. 
The king was enraged and ordered the furnace heated seven times its normal temperature. It was so hot that the guards taking Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to the edge were consumed by the heat; but they were unharmed. Indeed, they were even seen to be walking around in the furnace, with one who appeared to be “a son of the gods.” Many theologians believe that the fourth person in the furnace was, in fact, a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus. A great encouragement to us that Jesus is with us in the midst of the trouble that may result from our obedience.
The actions of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are a reminder to us that physical safety is not nearly as important as obedience to the revealed Word of God. They were willing to die before they would willingly disobey God. Are you?

7/17/2014 12:09:23 PM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 3: Ready Faith

July 17 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Carmel Baptist Church, Matthews

Focal Passages: 1 Peter 3:13-16; 4:1-2
We, as Christians, talk a lot about the “refining” process. “God is really refining me through this struggle,” we may say. So what do we really mean? A quick search on the Internet for how to refine gold reveals the lengthy and deliberate process that is involved in separating the impurities from this precious metal. Heat, fire, acid – all are used to separate what is pure from what is not. 
Although we give a lot of lip service to the refinement process, I fear that most of us do not actually expect to go under the “heat” in our lifetimes. Tim Keller said, “In the secular view, suffering is never seen as a meaningful part of life but only as an interruption.” I think that view can also be said of the American church. We somehow forget that we are being sanctified – made more pure and holy – through the work of the Holy Spirit in our suffering.
Peter exhorts those who suffer for the sake of righteousness and calls them blessed. Not plagued with misfortune: Blessed. God is purifying us so that we are conformed into the image of His blameless and righteous Son. Scripture calls us to “rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
It’s important to keep in mind several things: (1) Suffering for our faith is not permanent. (2) Suffering gives us the opportunity to point to the hope we have in Christ (v. 15). (3) Suffering is not about us. Peter says in 1 Peter 1:7, “These [trials] have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
We must see suffering through the lens of the glory of God. Billy Graham said it this way, “Many a life has come forth from the furnace of affliction more beautiful and more useful than before.”
Let us take joy in the “refining” process, recognizing that God is removing our sin so that what remains is the purity and righteousness of Christ.

7/17/2014 12:01:28 PM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Carmel Baptist Church, Matthews | with 0 comments

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