Sunday School Lessons

Explore the Bible Lesson for May 15: Bold

May 3 2016 by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford

Focal Passage: Acts 9:36-43
 
Have you ever noticed that many Christians seem to want to do big temporal things and small eternal things? If you check the average Christian’s bucket list, you’ll find many of the same endeavors included on lost peoples’ lists. What is our obsession with skydiving, extreme mountain climbing, marathon running, travelling the world, and others? Most of our ancestors never did any of these things, yet they still lived full and meaningful lives. Aside from the experience and the adrenaline rush, do these challenges really change us? The answer depends on the kind of change we are seeking.
 
While Peter ministered in Lydda, two men from Joppa came to escort him, without delay, to the bedside of Tabitha, their deceased sister in Christ. When Peter arrived, he found a group of widows tearfully displaying the garments she had made.
 
He could have comforted them during the wake and proceeded to preach the hope of the resurrection at her funeral, but God had other plans.
 
The exhortation to come without delay revealed that the believers in Joppa hoped for a miracle. Peter sent everyone out of the upper room (as Jesus did in Matthew 9:25), and proceeded to kneel and pray.
 
He then said, “Tabitha, arise,” and God brought her back to life.
 
Peter helped her to her feet and presented her alive to the mourners. The wake had become an awakening!
 
Although we live in a different time under different circumstances, God still calls His people to be instruments of His power.
 
If we desire to see our churches rejuvenated and God’s glory put on display as we’ve never before seen it, then we must begin to take bold steps of faith. Consider a spiritual bucket list consisting of things that will bring glory to God.
 
Here are a few possibilities: witnessing to a lost person you keep avoiding, going on a mission trip, caring for neglected people, putting your money toward the Great Commission.
 
Wouldn’t you rather meet Jesus with these experiences than a photo album and memories of an adrenaline rush?

5/3/2016 10:50:53 AM by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for May 15: Redeemed From Devastating Failure

May 3 2016 by Rob Pochek, pastor, First Baptist Church Park Street, Charlottesville,Va.

Focal Passage: Luke 22:54-62; Acts 4:8-13
 
I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the apostle Peter. Perhaps it is because he often spoke without thinking; a bad habit that I share with him. Or, maybe it is because he drew back from associating with Gentiles for fear of the crowd; a tendency to avoid conflict that many of us can identify with. But, if I am honest, it is because he denied the Lord on the night he was arrested.
 
The soft spot is not for his denial, but for his humanity.
 
Peter was flesh and bone, just as we are. And he failed our Lord at a critical moment. Sadly, because of the connectedness of our world today, our failures can often be broadcast to the whole world in a manner of seconds.
 
Just as Peter’s failure was very public and very painful, his failure was not final. Because of God’s grace, our moments of failure do not have to be permanent. While it may be easy to think that we would never have done what Peter did, we need to remember that his failure is a reminder that the strongest among us can fail.
 
It was, after all, Peter who made the glorious declaration that Jesus was “the Christ, the son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). And yet, later, he would call down curses on himself to prove he did not know Jesus (Matthew 26:74).
 
But, then, an amazing thing happened.
 
This same Peter who had called down curses on himself, had seen the risen Lord, been restored by Him, and received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.
 
His horrific failure was now a thing of the past.
 
The one who cowered before a servant girl’s questions now stood fearlessly before the most powerful religious body in Israel and boldly declared Jesus to be the Messiah (Acts 4:8-13). What a powerful reminder for us that failure does not need to be permanent. But, God’s grace is sufficient to redeem us from our worst failure.

5/3/2016 10:42:08 AM by Rob Pochek, pastor, First Baptist Church Park Street, Charlottesville,Va. | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for May 1: Obedient

April 19 2016 by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford

Focal Passage: Acts 8:26-31, 35, 38-39
 
By the time Mama or Daddy called the second time, you’d better be on your way.

That rule applied even when I got older and was tempted to pretend that I didn’t hear them.

I remember the day my dad committed a major work safety transgression by cutting a short piece of oak lumber while standing it on its end and running it through the table saw. I watched him start the project and went on about my business.
 
A few minutes later I heard an abnormal “ching” from the saw blade, followed by Daddy yelling my name in an emergency tone.
 
I ran at top speed to discover the saw had thrown the timber’s sharp edge into my father’s forehead, leaving a significant gash.
 
God calls us to witness to people whose situations are often less dramatic, but headed toward much greater tragedy.
 
Apart from a saving encounter with Jesus, their stories won’t end with bandages, broken bones or even physical death. They will all enter the torment of a Christ-less eternity.
 
Philip the evangelist was busy sharing the gospel with Samaritans when God sent him to a special assignment on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. He immediately obeyed, without knowing the “who,” and encountered the God fearing treasurer for the Queen of Ethiopia.

This witnessing opportunity proved to be, in baseball terms, a lob.
 
The man already had the Word of God opened to Isaiah 53, one of the most evangelistic texts in the Old Testament, and needed someone to explain it to him.
 
Luke tells us that, “beginning with this Scripture [Philip] preached Jesus to him” (v. 35). Consequently, the Ethiopian eunuch believed in Jesus and demonstrated his faith by submitting to baptism.
 
Our God has chosen to save sinners through the gospel witness of those of us who love and follow Jesus.
 
Pray for your lob today, and aim for the fence!

4/19/2016 9:29:16 AM by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for May 1: Redeemed From A Critical Spirit

April 19 2016 by Rob Pochek, pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: Numbers 12:1-11, 13-15
 
The 1998 movie “Enemy of the State” was about mild mannered, Washington D.C. area lawyer Robert Dean discovering an extensive world of surveillance carried on by various government agencies. Dean ends up partnering with a mysterious guy named Brill who used to be part of one of those agencies. As Brill is trying to help Dean understand what is happening around him, he tells him that every word of every phone call is being listened to by computers.
 
For some, the movie was a frightening look into the future. Indeed, some in the movie (and in our culture today) express concern over who is doing the listening. I find that to be fascinating, especially for Christians, because the Bible clearly teaches that God is always listening.
 
When we look at Miriam and Aaron’s opposition to Moses in Numbers 12:1-11, 13-15, we find the Lord is listening.
 
Not only is the Lord listening, but He takes decisive action.
 
Miriam was singled out for discipline likely for being the one to instigate criticism against Moses. Regardless, the critical spirit was born out of comparing themselves to Moses (v. 1).
 
The Lord acts “at once,” according to verse 4. He brings discipline to Miriam with the intended purpose of restoring her relationship with Moses, and ultimately with the Lord.

While Enemy of the State has to do with governmental intrusion into our lives, Numbers 12 has to do with the intrusion of a different enemy: pride. Their pride led Miriam and Aaron to criticize Moses, the one who intercedes with God on their behalf, without considering that God was listening.
 
Perhaps you struggle with a critical spirit, too. How can you be free of such a critical spirit? Only by repenting of our pride and turning to the One who intercedes with God on our behalf can we truly become the people God intends us to be.
 
And, you will find that, just as Miriam was brought back into the camp, “God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

4/19/2016 9:18:08 AM by Rob Pochek, pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for April 24: Selfless

April 7 2016 by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford

Focal Passage: Acts 6:1-10
 
When we think about growing pains in the local church, we usually focus on the need for more parking, classrooms or worship space.
 
While these physical needs may be the direct result of spiritual growth, they are outranked by the need to minister personally to new believers.
 
In Acts 6 the growing church had to address its failure to feed the Greek speaking Jewish widows.
 
To keep the apostles from neglecting the Word of God, the church chose seven men to address a practical need that threatened to cause spiritual division in the church.
 
Certain church activities have the potential to increase a believer’s pride, but serving behind the scenes rarely does.
 
These men set the example of what deacons ought to be – servants of the church. Far from power wielding spectators, these men put shoe leather to the gospel and humbly served their aged sisters in Christ.
 
The pastor who baptized me used to say, “Much can be accomplished for God if it matters little who gets the credit.” In other words, spiritual fruit grows from the lives of believers who are selfless instead of selfish. Praising men is one of the many worldly ideas that have been transplanted into the church. When we move beyond encouragement to make the ministry about trophies, we tempt church leaders to serve for the praise of men instead of the glory of God. If we serve to the glory of God, He will give us heavenly rewards that far exceed worldly commendations.
 
Stephen was described as “a man full of the Holy Spirit and faith” (6:5). Because he walked by the Spirit and not by the flesh, he neither sought the praise of men nor recoiled in fear of men. When we desire the praise of men, we will shrink back in fear either of allies who may overshadow us or enemies that could stop us.
 
When we serve Jesus selflessly, we stop worrying about our pride and the fears fed by it, and get on with His Great Commission.

4/7/2016 11:57:08 AM by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for April 24: Redeemed From Broken Relationships

April 7 2016 by

Focal Passage: Gen 27:41; 33:1-11
 
Nicole is an artist living in the San Francisco area. She makes a modest living selling paintings, but Nicole’s adoptive family is wealthy. Her college education was paid for and like the rest of her family she anticipated receiving a fairly sizeable inheritance. Then something happened. Nicole participated in a documentary about the children of the really wealthy, without telling her grandfather. She knew it was a huge risk to be the first person in her family to talk openly about their wealth. And she was right to fear judgment. After all, Nicole’s grandfather is Warren Buffet, one of the richest men on the planet.
 
After Nicole’s appearances on television promoting the documentary, her grandfather sent her a letter stating: “I have not emotionally or legally adopted you as a grandchild, nor have the rest of my family adopted you as a niece or a cousin.” When asked about the issue a Buffet spokesperson said: “Nicole is not Mr. Buffett’s granddaughter. She is the daughter of a former daughter-in-law of his who was married to his son for only about 10 years.”
 
Wealth provides little insulation from the trauma of broken relationships. The Bible contains its fair share of broken relationship stories. Brothers Jacob and Esau are one such story of a broken relationship that God restores.
 
Esau is so angry with his brother for tricking him out of his birthright that he planned to kill him as soon as their father’s death was properly mourned (Genesis 27:41). Jacob ran from Esau and his death threat. After 20 years passed, the two brothers were on a collision course to meet again. Jacob knew his sin. And, in order to demonstrate his understanding of his sin, he extended gifts to Esau and bowed before him when they meet.
 
Broken relationships cannot be restored until one of the parties is willing take the initiative to show humility toward the other. Because Christ has taken the initiative with us (Romans 5:8), we are able, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to humbly seek restoration when our relationships with each other are broken.

4/7/2016 11:50:27 AM by | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for April 17: Faithful

April 5 2016 by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford

Focal Passage: Acts 5:25-35, 38-42
 
I remember practicing for the little league all-star game when I was about 12 years old. Someone hit a hard ground ball to me in left field, and as I prepared to scoop it up, it hopped and I stopped it with my nose.
 
I immediately fell over, grabbing my nose in tears. All the players close to me gathered around to observe my wounded face.
 
To my surprise, it wasn’t broken or bloody. Even if it had been, it was part of the calculated risk of playing baseball.
 
In Acts 5 the apostles were arrested for preaching Jesus and performing miracles. That night the angel of the Lord opened the prison gates and led them out so they could go back to preaching the gospel.
 
The officers who went to escort the apostles to court found the prison gates locked and the guards unaware of their missing prisoners.
 
As the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests received this report, someone arrived to tell them that the apostles were in the temple teaching the people.
 
After the temple guard brought them back to stand before the Council, the high priest reminded them that they had been given strict orders not to teach in Jesus’ name.
 
Peter and the apostles boldly replied, “We must obey God rather than men” (5:29). They then preached the gospel to a captive audience of the highest ranking Jews of their day.

How much would it take for you to quit serving Jesus?
 
I don’t mean denying the faith.
 
How much pain would it take for the wounds of discipleship to make you a spectator talking about the “good ole days?”
 
One hit to the nose brought our baseball practice to a halt so everyone could look at me.

Do we spend more time consoling believers over the ordinary wounds of discipleship, or calling fellow believers to stand up, brush off the dirt and praise God for the privilege of suffering for Christ?

4/5/2016 1:12:47 PM by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for April 17: Redeemed From Poor Choices

April 5 2016 by Rob Pochek, pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: Gen 15:1-6; 16:1-5; 17:18-19
 
On Dec. 14, 2015, Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. announced that Pete Rose’s application for reinstatement from the Ineligible List had been denied. Even if you are not a baseball fan, you are likely aware that Pete Rose was banned from the league for life for betting on games. For some, it is difficult to imagine that the man with more hits than anyone who ever played the game is ineligible to be considered for the Hall of Fame. But, heroes fail, even baseball heroes.
 
Bible heroes fail, too. Abram (later, Abraham) is called the father of all who believe (Romans 4:11), yet he had moments of doubt that led him, on occasion, to make really poor choices.
 
For example, when God promised to give Abram a child, from whom would come a lineage as numerous as the stars of the sky, Abram believed God’s promise (Genesis 15:5). Abraham’s belief was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).
 
Later, Abram and his wife Sarai concocted a plan to fulfill the promise of God on their own. They decided to use Hagar, Sarai’s handmaiden, as a surrogate; a decision that has had repercussions to our very day. And, even when God changes their names and reconfirms his promise to give them a child (Genesis 17:5,15-16), Abraham asks that God simply let Ishmael be the son of promise; a request God denies.
 
We are reminded that the most faithful of God’s people have moments of great failure. That is why Abraham’s faith being “credited to him as righteousness” is so important. God considers him righteous, based on something outside of Abraham.
 
It is not his moral goodness that results in the declaration, but faith in God’s promises. Indeed, it is precisely why you and I can be counted righteous, based on our trust in God’s promises to us as revealed in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is because of Christ’s perfect righteousness that God redeems us, not only from our poor choices, but from the sins that separate us from Him.

4/5/2016 1:03:04 PM by Rob Pochek, pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for April 10: Integrity

March 24 2016 by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford

Focal Passage: Acts 4:36-5:11
 
It was my fifth grade year. I had found out a couple of weeks before report card day that I would be making a “C.” I had been told on the previous report card day that the punishment I had just received would be doubled if I came home with another “C.”
 
When I received my report card I discovered not one “C,” but two!” Somehow, in the mercy of God, I escaped what was coming.
 
Although grades are an earthly concern, this story is one example of the kind of standards my parents set for their children. When I fell below my father’s expectations, he said, “You can do better! It would be different if you couldn’t do any better, but you can!” The same is true for the local church.
 
Ananias and Sapphira pretended to follow the example of Barnabas, and claimed to give the church all the income from a piece of land while they kept a portion of the money for themselves. God enforced this first example of church discipline because they had lied to Him and put Him to the test.
 
The early Church had enjoyed the favor of the people (2:47) from a distance, but they would not allow lost or spiritually immature people to set the standards for the Body of Christ. Most people who reject the idea of church discipline claim it is “unloving,” and bad for church unity. On the contrary, how can we say we love someone while we let them wallow in ungodly behavior?
 
How can a church be unified as part of the body runs toward sin while the other part runs from it? Such claims to unity are false.
 
Most established churches cannot make these changes quickly, because their members have never been taught the biblical and practical dimensions of church discipline. However, pastors must love the Lord, His Word and His Body enough to lead their congregations in an intentional process of establishing meaningful membership. Remember, God takes the health and holiness of His Church seriously, and so should we.

3/24/2016 11:44:57 AM by Troy Rust, pastor, Florence Avenue Baptist Church, Oxford | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for April 10: Our Need for Purpose

March 24 2016 by Rob Pochek, pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: John 15:1-8
 
As a kid I used to watch my dad tend to his flowers. It was a little strange to me because my dad was (and is) a big guy.
 
To see this large, hulking guy tending to roses, tulips, lilacs and rhododendron was peculiar. But dad loved his flowers. And, apparently, it rubbed off on me.
 
While I do not have anywhere near the size flower collection that my dad did, I have become a bit partial to knockout roses.
 
The first year that I planted them I had a bit of a learning curve, helped immensely by phone calls to my dad. One of the most shocking things my dad told me to do that first fall was to cut the roses back, way back.
 
I couldn’t believe they would survive, but they did. Indeed, they came back stronger and more vibrant than ever.
 
In John 15 Jesus shares an illustration from the world of horticulture with His disciples. He talks about being the vine and them being the branches (John 15:5).
 
There are at least two key elements in this dialogue that are vital for us to understand.

The first is that Jesus must be our very source for life. That is what the vine is to the branches.
 
The vine is the main source of nutrients, water and life itself.
 
A branch that is cut off from the vine withers quickly, just as the branches of my knockout roses do.
 
Likewise, we can only thrive when we are receiving the life giving nourishment that Christ provides.
 
We must remain in Him.
 
A second reality in this passage is that God (the gardener – John 15:1) sometimes has to prune us (John 15:2).
 
Though there is debate about whether “pruning” in this context is cutting back the branches or cleaning them, the point is the same. God acts on the branch in order to make it more fruitful.
 
He does this because our being fruitful brings Him glory.

So, remain in Christ and receive His pruning with joy, because both glorify your heavenly father.

3/24/2016 11:41:31 AM by Rob Pochek, pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments



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