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Sunday School Lessons

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

Explore the Bible Lesson for July 27: Draw the Line

July 15 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passages: Daniel 1:3-6, 8-9, 11-21
A father once told his son not to swim in the creek near their house. The son said he understood. A couple of nights later the boy came home wearing a pair of soaking wet swim trunks. “Where have you been?” asked his father. “Swimming down at the creek,” replied the boy. “The same creek I told you not to swim in?” asked his father, incredulously.
“Yes sir,” said the boy. “Why would you swim there after I told you not to?” asked his father, his impatience growing by the minute. “Well,” said the boy, “I was walking down there with my swim trunks, and I just couldn’t resist the temptation.” The father asked, “Why did you have your swim trunks with you?” “Well,” said the boy, “I figured I better have them along just in case I was tempted to swim and, sure enough, I was!”
Too often Christians are like that young boy. We know our areas of spiritual weakness, but we have our swim trunks along, just in case. If we are on vacation or a long way from home, the inclination is even stronger.
Daniel was a long way from home when he was asked to violate the dietary restrictions God had established (Daniel 1:3-5). Rather than reason that he was far from home or that God had abandoned him, Daniel evaluated the request of his captors in light of the Word of God. He quickly realized that obedience to his captors would mean disobedience to God (v. 8-10).
Daniel boldly offered an alternative (v. 12-15) that would allow Daniel to remain obedient, though it would not be easy. Daniel proposed to eat only vegetables and water for 10 days. Afterwards, the official could determine whether Daniel and his companions were healthy. Sure enough, they were. God rewarded their obedience with wisdom and understanding beyond the other “wise men” in the king’s court (v. 17-19).
Christians need to determine to honor God daily. Doing so is a moment-by-moment decision to yield to the Holy Spirit rather than to temptation. As a result we will experience a spiritual discipline that keeps us from spiritual compromise.

7/15/2014 12:05:23 PM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 27: Enduring Faith

July 15 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Carmel Baptist Church, Matthews

Focal Passage: 1 Peter 2:13-23
What comes to your mind when you hear the word, “submission?” Do you think “door mat?” Weakness? Loss of self? Does the description of “Christian” even pop into your mind? It should.
As Christ followers, we are called to a life of radical submission. After all, we follow the example of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings who emptied Himself and became obedient to death on a cross. He could have come to earth in power, prestige and luxury but instead came as a humble servant. Peter reminds the first-century Christians, who were facing persecution, of their calling. For the Lord’s sake, they should submit [or subject] themselves to every human institution (v. 13), including those that are practicing discrimination. Peter commands the believers to honor all men, love the brotherhood, fear God and honor the emperor (v. 17). He reinforces the need for submission again in verse 18, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect.
Peter also encourages Christ followers to endure any hardships that result from faithfully surrendering to those in authority. To patiently endure through suffering is commendable before God (v. 20) and brings Him glory. Christ set the example of patiently enduring through suffering (v. 21) and trusting God in every circumstance (v. 23). Jesus tells His disciples multiple times that a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a student above his teacher. Just like He humbled Himself and did not try to seek vengeance on those who were causing affliction, we too, must submit to others out of love for God.
The idea of submission in our culture is not a popular one. Our Savior set the example of denying self by surrendering to the will of the Father by laying down His life. He trusted the Father even unto death. Because He endured the cross, He triumphed over all powers and authorities and was given all authority in heaven and on earth.
How can you, as a Christ follower, exemplify the radical submission of your Savior this week?

7/15/2014 11:48:23 AM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Carmel Baptist Church, Matthews | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for July 20: Hope of New Worship

July 3 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: Ezekiel 43:1-12
One of the tragedies of the last 20 years (or so) has been the so-called worship wars. It is tragic because our insistence on preferences demonstrates a terrible narcissism that is counter to true worship.
True worship is not about what pleases us, or even what reaches unbelievers. True worship is about what pleases God.
In the Bible there seems to be a pattern associated with people encountering God in worship. That pattern includes recognizing God for who He is, repenting of our own sinfulness and experiencing empowerment for holy living.
In Ezekiel 43:1-5 the prophet sees the glory of God returning to the temple. His only response to the presence of God is to fall facedown.
God’s glory is so overwhelming that Ezekiel cannot even stand. We are told God’s glory fills the temple (v. 5), which is exactly what Isaiah experienced (Isaiah 6:1).
Such a description is intended to remind us of God’s greatness. What is the proper response to God’s glory filling the temple? Repentance.
In Ezekiel 43 it is repentance over our willingness to set idols next to God (v. 8).
How often do we do that? We may not put a wooden or metal object beside us in a church service, but when we place our preferences above God’s glory we have fashioned a false idol in our own image.
Finally, after repenting for our sin we are empowered for holy living.
This is seen when Ezekiel puts into place God’s plans for the temple. The idea is that, if you are truly repentant, you will do what God has called you to do.
Another way to say it is: holy living is obedient living.
The real test of worship is whether we are living obediently to Christ. It seems obvious, but honoring God has more to do with our obedience and less to do with our preferences. If your response to worship is not greater obedience, then you haven’t worshipped – regardless of what style of music was played during the service.

7/3/2014 11:28:39 AM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 20: Active Faith

July 3 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Carmel Baptist Church, Matthews

Focal Passages: 1 Peter 1:14-19, 22-25
Reading through the book of Leviticus, one can begin to see a common theme or purpose to why God is commanding the Israelites to adhere to specific laws and regulations. In Leviticus 19:2, the Lord tells Moses to say to the Israelites, “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” This command was not just specific to the Israelites in the Old Testament.

We know this because Peter refers to it again in the New Testament, “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

In last week’s lesson, we learned that faith must be focused on and founded in Christ. In our passage this week, Peter shares what we must do in obedience as a result of our faith. In other words, we must have an active faith that pursues holiness.
The process of being conformed into the image of Christ is called sanctification. When we become more holy, we become more like Christ. An abbreviated way to think of holiness is to be “set apart.”
God, in His holiness, is set apart from sinners. To be set apart is to be separate or distinctive.
Jesus said, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world” (John 15:19).
He says again in reference to His disciples, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth” (John 17:16-17). As God is holy and set apart, so we must be as well. We must no longer conform to the pattern of this world.
How can we be distinct from the world? Peter gives us at least three ways in our passage:

  • We must be obedient and not conform to evil desires (v. 14);

  • We must live our lives in reverent fear of God (v. 17); and

  • We must also love one another deeply (v. 22).

What are other ways can we pursue holiness?

7/3/2014 11:24:31 AM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Carmel Baptist Church, Matthews | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for July 13: Hope of New Life

July 1 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passages: Ezekiel 37:1-3, 11-14, 23-28
Last summer I visited Las Vegas. While I was there I made sure to visit Count’s Kustoms, the shop featured in the reality show “Counting Cars.” On the show, Danny “The Count” Koker and his team transform old cars and trucks into finely tuned, meticulously detailed works of art. In Ezekiel 37, the prophet Ezekiel was witness to something even more remarkable: the transformation of a valley filled with dry bones into a vast, flesh-and-blood army of God.
In the chapters immediately preceding Ezekiel 37, God has been explaining why the people were dispersed and His promise to restore the nation – a promise that seemed to be too good to be true. After all, the nation was scattered. Hope was in short supply. In Ezekiel 37, God takes the prophet to a valley filled with dry bones. As Ezekiel walks back and forth among the bones, the Lord asks him a question: Can these bones live? Ezekiel’s response is right on target: Lord God, only You know. God did indeed know. More than that, God was capable of bringing life to bones that had dried up.
God is not just doing magic tricks in the valley; He is providing a physical illustration of what will happen in the nation of Israel. In verses 11-14 God explains to Ezekiel that he is to tell the nation that, although they believe they are beyond repair, He will restore them. But not to the life they previously knew. No! He is going to transform them. He will impart His Spirit in them (v. 14), appoint His Servant over them (v. 24) and establish His everlasting covenant with them (v. 26) so that they will obey Him. He will be their God and they will be His people.
God fulfilled those promises in Christ. It is Christ who brings new life to those who will trust in Him (John 10:10). It is Christ who delivers us from sin (Romans 3:23-24) and who has mediated a new covenant (Luke 22:20, Hebrews 8:6). As much as I am impressed with the work of the transformation of cars, I am far more astounded when God takes broken, empty lives and transforms them into beautiful trophies of His grace.

7/1/2014 10:29:16 AM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 13: Focused Faith

July 1 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Carmel Baptist Church, Matthews

Focal Passages: 1 Peter 1:3-9, 13
In 1 Peter 1, we are reminded that our faith is focused in a sure hope. Think of the kind of light that is emitted from a flashlight rather than a lantern. The flashlight beam is directed on an object while the light of the lantern floods out in all directions. In the same way, our faith is focused on one person, Jesus Christ.
Thankfully, our faith is grounded in the One that is far greater and far more certain. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” How’s that for constancy?
We can divide this week’s passage into those same categories: the past (yesterday), the present (today) and the future (forever).
In 1 Peter 1:3-4, we look to the past for what has already been accomplished in the finished work of Christ on the cross.
In the present, we can have confidence that our faith is being shielded by God’s power and refined through our trials so that it may be proved genuine (v. 5-7). Lastly, we can look forward in the future to the salvation revealed in Jesus Christ when He returns again (v. 9, 13).
As an encouragement to the believers who were experiencing local persecution in Asia Minor, Peter outlines three actions in verse 13: “Prepare your minds for action, be self-controlled, set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
How can you renew your mind (Romans 12:1-2), practice self control (1 Peter 5:8-9) and focus your hope on the One who never changes (Hebrews 13:8)? Biblical hope is more than a desire or wish with no guarantee.
You may hope for a winning season for your favorite team or hope for a job promotion.
For those who are in Christ, we have been given a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19-20), a hope that is focused on what Christ has done, is doing and will do.

As the lyrics say, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”

Is your hope misdirected?

7/1/2014 10:25:27 AM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Carmel Baptist Church, Matthews | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for July 6: Hope of New Freedom

June 19 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passages: Ezekiel 34:2b-6, 11-16, 22-24
The first time I travelled internationally with my son, I remember pointing to our blue passports and saying, “There are people all over the world that would love to have one of those.” It was not my intention to be ethno-centric or to display an over-the-top patriotism. I was pointing out the simple fact that we, as Americans, enjoy a freedom not known in much of the world – a freedom that is often envied and a freedom that is sought after by many.
Too often, our precious freedom is taken for granted. But there is another kind of freedom that is even more precious. And it too is sadly taken for granted much of the time.
Ezekiel 33 contains an explanation of Jerusalem’s fall into Babylonian captivity. Many of the people in Israel misunderstood the warnings. Indeed, they heard the words, but did not put them into practice (Ezekiel 33:31). Some of the worst offenders were those who were supposed to serve and protect the people. Ezekiel 34:2-6 refers to them as “shepherds.”
Rather than guarding the flock entrusted to their care, they worried only about themselves. When the shepherds are negligent, the sheep suffer. They are exposed to ravenous wolves. The sheep need to be rescued.
What will God do, since the shepherds have abdicated their responsibility? God promises He will be the Shepherd for His people (Ezekiel 34:11). He will be the one searching for the lost sheep. He will bring them into good pasture and make sure they are fed well. He will make sure they get the rest they need. He will be the one to rescue the sheep.
How will God do that? He promises to provide a faithful shepherd in his servant David (Ezekiel 34:23). Not king David, but the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – Jesus. It is Jesus who rescues the sheep. It is Jesus who sets them free from bondage. It is a joy to experience the political freedom found in America. But, how much more to enjoy the spiritual freedom found in trusting Christ alone! That freedom that goes with you wherever you are.

6/19/2014 9:31:25 AM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for July 6: God is Faithful

June 19 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Carmel Baptist Church, Matthews

Focal Passages: Hebrews 6:17-20;10:19-23
Each day I am reminded of my faithlessness. It is ever before me, represented in my sin against God. As the hymn goes, I am “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love.” My unfaithfulness is magnified when contrasted with the faithfulness of God. Over and over again, God’s steadfast commitment to His people is displayed. He calls them to remember His wonderful deeds because – just like me – all too often, they would fail to recall His faithfulness.
In Genesis 15, God establishes a covenant with Abraham. The covenant was one-sided. It did not depend on Abraham at all. The Lord, represented by the smoking fire pot and flaming torch, passed between the animal halves alone. Verse 18 says, “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram.” God was the initiator. In our Hebrews 6 passage, we are reminded of God’s promise to Abraham (Hebrews 6:13). The blood of Jesus shed on the cross symbolizes the new covenant. Just like God’s covenant with Abraham, it was a covenant that He made alone. God took on flesh and became obedient to death on a cross so that through the shedding of His blood, we may find forgiveness for our sins and be reconciled to God. We have access to God whose character is unchangeable and whose faithfulness is never ending.
Thus, we may take hope in the promise and the new covenant He has given us in Christ. It is “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19). We may have an unwavering confidence because, “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
Do you find yourself doubting the faithfulness of God? First, take a moment to remember His faithfulness to His promise with Abraham. Then reflect and ponder three moments in your own life when God has proved Himself faithful. Write them down and recall them to mind when your hope begins to waver. Most importantly, know that His faithfulness does not depend on you for He alone is the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

6/19/2014 9:27:36 AM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Carmel Baptist Church, Matthews | with 0 comments

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