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Sunday School Lessons

Explore the Bible Lesson for November 9: Faith Defined

October 23 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: Hebrews 11:1-7
 
Faith is one of the most important words in the Christian’s lexicon. It is also one of the most misunderstood. Some folks talk about faith as if it is simply wishful thinking: “I have faith the Cowboys are going to win the Super Bowl.” Others talk about faith as if it were some kind of magical rabbit’s foot: “If you have enough faith, God will heal you.”
 
The Bible, however, talks about faith differently. One of the greatest chapters in the Bible on the subject of faith is Hebrews 11. In the first three verses we are given insight into the nature of faith itself: “faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.”
 
You may think that he is simply talking about wishful thinking. But, that would be an eternally tragic mistake. When the author talks about the “reality of what is hoped for” he is describing the idea that there are things that exist in the universe which cannot be proven in strictly material terms. To embrace the existence of these realities requires faith.
 
To cite an example of faith, the writer points out that “we believe that the universe was created by the Word of God.” The writer emphasizes that it takes faith to believe the universe sprung forth into existence by the Word of God alone, so that “what is seen has been made from things not visible.” The spoken Word of God is not a physically material thing to be observed. Rather, it is a demonstration of His power and sovereignty that material things spring into existence by His verbal command alone. This is why Satan has sought to deceive us about the Word of God from the very beginning. Remember the question in Genesis 3:1: “Did God really say?” From the beginning Satan has sought to convince us not to believe the Word of God. And, yet, faith is inextricably linked with the Word of God
 
Such faith is demonstrated in the examples of Abel, Enoch and Noah (Hebrews 11:4-7). The vital nature of faith is pointed out in Hebrews 11:6 where we learn that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Indeed, there is no substitute for faith.

10/23/2014 1:01:46 PM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments



Bible Studies of Life Lesson for November 9: Overcome Hard Times

October 23 2014 by Thomas Marshall, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Wagram

Focal Passages: Genesis 41:28-36, 46-49
 
Christians believe in a sovereign God who never says “oops.” Nothing ever takes Him by surprise. We have a God who is omniscient. The Illustrated Oxford Dictionary defines “omniscience” as “knowing everything,” and the Bible certainly ascribes omniscience to God. God knows every past, present and future action. He knows every human thought and need. That means that when we are faced with hard times, He knew that before we got there. Moreover, the good news is that He is there ahead of us. Over my many years as a Christian (52 years) and as a minister of the gospel (34 years), I have learned and held on to two major truths when facing the hard times in life. First, I have learned that nothing touches me that has not passed through the hands of my heavenly Father. Nothing.
 
Jesus said in John 10:28-30 (HCSB) – “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish – ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
 
Anything that comes my way first goes through the hand of the Father, and then through the hand of Jesus. We must remember that no matter what occurs in our life, God has surveyed and approved it to happen.
 
Second, I have learned that everything I endure in this life is designed by the Father to prepare me for loving Him supremely and for serving others effectively.
 
We like to quote Romans 8:28, holding on to the promise that all things work together for our good. However, we need to go to the next verse and understand what that ultimate good is. Romans 8:29 (HCSB) – “For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.
 
Hard times may not seem logical, dare I say even fair, but we can be assured that when God is directing the affairs of our lives – they are always right. So, let us learn to live, not for just the present moment, we need to live for the future. Receive the hard times as a molding of God’s plan into our perfection in Christ.

10/23/2014 12:54:03 PM by Thomas Marshall, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Wagram | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for November 2: The Perfect Offering

October 21 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: Hebrews 9:11-15
 
In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king punished for his continued deceitfulness. His punishment was to roll a huge boulder up a high hill, only to watch it roll back down. He was confined to continue rolling that boulder up the hill for all eternity.
 
The book of Hebrews talks a lot about how the New Covenant is superior to the Old. One of those ways is in the finality that the New Covenant brings to the religious rituals required under the Old Covenant.
 
Like Sisyphus rolling that boulder, the Old Testament priests were continually making sacrifices; first for themselves, then for the people. Day after day, year after year this went on as a perpetual reminder that the blood of bulls and goats could never permanently resolve their sin problem.
 
The writer of Hebrews tells us that “now the Messiah has appeared” and that changed everything. Rather than requiring the blood of bulls and goats to atone for his own sin, Jesus entered the most holy place by virtue of His own sinless blood. That blood not only allowed Him entrance to the most holy place, but it cleanses completely the consciences of all those trust in Him. The result of that cleansed conscience is service to God.
 
Instead of spending our energy and time in religious ritual, because of Christ, we are free to serve God with a clear conscience. We experience a conscience that is clear, not because of our goodness, but because it has been cleansed with the spotless, sinless, perfect blood of Jesus. A sacrifice was made for your freedom by Christ as He offered Himself on your behalf.
 
Christ Himself mediates this New Covenant. By His death, He sets us free from the sins that were identified and committed under the Old Covenant. What a tremendous blessing!

Do you feel the freedom of having your consciences cleansed by Christ? Do you feel the freedom of no longer having to perform religious duties in order to please God?

 
10/21/2014 11:19:10 AM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments



Bible Studies of Life Lesson for November 2: Overcome Being Forgotten

October 21 2014 by Thomas Marshall, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Wagram

Focal Passages: Genesis 39:21-23; 40:5-8, 20-23
 
One of my all-time favorite movies is “Mr. Holland’s Opus” – maybe because I have spent many years as a teacher – but more because most people can identify with Mr. Holland. He spent his life as a teacher, while wanting to write his musical masterpiece. He feels throughout the movie as if he is totally forgotten in all the needs of family, students and others.
 
Most of us can identify that feeling of being forgotten or overlooked. Just as with Joseph, we can do all the right things and still wind up on the short end of the stick. We strive to advance, we study to be better, we work hard, we do everything exactly the way we should – and still it seems that nobody notices. Worse yet, it feels as if nobody cares.
 
Joseph’s life went from pinnacles to pits repeatedly. He was his father’s favorite, and his brothers put him in a pit and sold him as a slave. He rose to a position of prestige in Potiphar’s house only to be lied about and sent to prison.
 
Nevertheless, Joseph kept on keeping on serving God. God had gifted him in special ways – just as He has each of us. Joseph saw the need to love God and other people. He did not let the circumstances of his life dictate to him whether he would serve God or not.
 
We have the privilege of seeing the end of the story while Joseph did not as he lived through it. We have a God who knows the end of our story – even while we are living through it today.
 
We are reminded in Hebrews 6:10 (HCSB) – “For God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you showed for His name when you served the saints – and you continue to serve them.” We have a choice when we feel that we are being forgotten. We can choose to sit around and hold a one-person pity-party, or we can respond by doing what we have been called to do. God never promised that serving Him, loving others and staying the course would be easy. He did show us that it will have a future reward.

By the way, in the movie – at the end Mr. Holland is shown how much he is loved and appreciated in a great way.

10/21/2014 11:13:13 AM by Thomas Marshall, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Wagram | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for October 19: Only Jesus Saves

October 7 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: Hebrews 7:23-28
 
My family background is heavily Catholic. In fact, I have three aunts who are nuns and an uncle who is a priest. My grandmother was the only one of her siblings not to enter a convent or a seminary. So, I am well acquainted with the concept of the priesthood. The Catholic priesthood is not that far removed from the priesthood in the Old Testament.
A priest is one who stands between God and the people. He is an intercessor. He is the one who offers sacrifices to God on behalf of the people. And because the priest is a sinner too, he must offer sacrifices for himself as well.
 
When we read about Jesus in Hebrews 7:23-28, we are told that He is our high priest. But, his is a different sort of priesthood. We learn that because Jesus lives forever (v. 23-24), His priesthood is forever. It is a permanent priesthood because Jesus is permanent. It is not going to change. Unlike the constant change of earthly priests due to age or sickness or death, Jesus will be our high priest forever.
 
Jesus intercedes for all who come to Him in faith. If you are trusting in Jesus, He is interceding for you today. Jesus is praying for you, today. Even more astounding is that Jesus completely saves those who come to Him; He forgives our past, sustains our present and holds our future.
 
While earth priests must offer sacrifices daily, we learn (v. 26-28) that Jesus offered Himself once as a sacrifice for the sins of the people. He could do so only because He was perfect and without sin. The writer of Hebrews describes Him as holy, pure and set apart from sinners. Jesus demonstrated both active and passive obedience. He did everything God called Him to do, and He never failed in anything God required.
 
Indeed, Jesus is our perfect high priest. The question is, “Are you clinging to your own efforts or good works or are you completely relying on what Jesus has done for you?” My prayer is that you are trusting in Christ alone.

10/7/2014 12:24:46 PM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for October 19: Overcome Betrayal

October 7 2014 by Thomas Marshall, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Wagram

Focal Passages: Genesis 37:19-27; 39:1-2
 
A good friend asked, “How are you doing?” The response was, “Pretty good, under the circumstances.” To this the friend responded, “What are you doing ‘under’ the circumstances? Try being ‘under’ God’s grace.”
 
I once visited the beach on a very overcast day thinking that because I couldn’t see the sun, I didn’t need any sunscreen. After spending the entire day out, I painfully learned the lesson: even if I couldn’t see the sun, it still was at work. Even when we can’t see God at work, He is faithfully working on our behalf.
 
Betrayal is a word that can cause even the strongest of hearts to tremble. Who hasn’t at some time in their life felt that someone had betrayed them? Even Jesus was betrayed by Judas. We need to understand that we can live beyond the circumstances we are involved in. Joseph went through a lot of life’s circumstances to arrive at the point where God was preparing him – to be the one who would save his family – and in turn, the line of Christ.
 
This week, we see Joseph’s brothers discussing the murder of their own brother; however, Reuben intervened and asked the brothers to toss Joseph into a pit. The ones who should have been protecting and watching over him became the ones who betrayed him. They imprisoned him because of their jealousy and hatred. I am sure that Joseph could not understand how any of this could be for his good.
 
Often when we are betrayed we feel as if we are in a dungeon – dark and separated from all that is good.
 
Consider today how those who we look up to, we trust, we place on a pedestal – only to see them stumble, fall or worse, betray us. How we respond speaks to where our faith is ultimately placed. Faith in earthly things will fail. Faith must be in the One who is ever faithful, who is ever trustworthy, who is constantly working all things for our good (Romans 8:28), even when it seems that there are clouds blocking the way. The old statement of C. H. Spurgeon rings true, “If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart.”

10/7/2014 12:15:41 PM by Thomas Marshall, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Wagram | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for October 12: Don’t Walk Away

September 25 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: Hebrews 6:1-8
 
“Hey, I’m a Christian. In fact, I am a baptized member of your church!” I was shocked, to say the least. The man I was speaking to had finished his third beer and let out a string of profanities that would have made a sailor blush. When I asked him if it bothered him to use such language around a pastor, he made the statement above.
 
As Southern Baptists we have rightly held to a view of salvation that is eternal in nature. Sometimes coined “once saved, always saved,” we rightly emphasize the divine side of salvation. We emphasize that we are saved by God’s grace, through faith and not of works. We emphasize that if you can do nothing to earn your salvation, you can do nothing to lose it. But, in so doing, I wonder if we have raised a generation of lazy Christians?
 
The writer of Hebrews seems to be addressing just such an issue (Hebrews 6). Southern Baptists tend to shy away from the first six verses because we are not sure how to handle them. Or worse, we offer the notion that the writer is only speaking hypothetically and, you have nothing to be concerned about. After all, you’ve prayed “the prayer.”
 
The first three verses emphasize the fact that God expects Christ-followers to be growing and maturing in their faith. This section actually begins back in Hebrews 5:11 where the writer makes the point that “by now you ought to be teachers.” The idea is that there should be a trajectory toward Christlikeness present in every believer. The writer is urging the believers to move forward, not backward. He issues them a warning in verses 4-6: Do not leave Christ. These Jewish Christians were being tempted to return to Judaism. The writer’s point is simple: if you abandon Christ, there is no hope for your salvation. There is no salvation apart from a life-changing encounter with Christ. Frankly, for the writer of Hebrews – and, indeed, the rest of the Bible – there is less concern over whether you have “prayed the prayer” than whether you are faithfully following Christ today.

9/25/2014 11:12:57 AM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for October 12: Connected Through Prayer

September 25 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student

Focal Passage: Ephesians 6:18-22
 
Do you value prayer? Do you make time for prayer? Jesus, the Son of God, did. He valued communion with the Father – so much so that He carved out time to go to solitary places to pray. This week marks the end of the “connected” series as well as the end of the book of Ephesians. Paul, in his closing, emphasizes the importance of prayer. Not only is prayer interwoven in his final remarks to the believers in Ephesus; it is also listed as the last piece of the armor of God in Ephesians 6. For all of these reasons and more, we can deduce that prayer is not only valued but necessary and vital to the life of every Christ follower.
 
Prayer, as a crucial part of the armor of God, helps us to stand firm against the attacks of the enemy. John Piper defines it in this way: “Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief.” The church on mission is a threat to Satan. As believers, we must support the church with prayer. Prayer keeps us grounded in the strength of the Lord and in His mighty power.

Paul teaches us three principles in this week’s verses: we are to pray for each other, for the leaders of the church, and to stay abreast of how we can pray for others. Paul commands the believers to pray at all times in the Spirit with all kinds of prayers and requests (v. 18).
 
He then charges them to remain alert so they can continue to pray for the saints. The Greek renders this “as watching with all perseverance.” Just like Piper reiterates, we are at war (Ephesians 6:12). With the same kind of watchfulness as a soldier on the battlefield, we too must be attentive to the prayer needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Not only should we pray for each other, we must also pray for the leaders of the church. The apostle Paul coveted prayer. He recognized his need for others to intercede on his behalf so that he could proclaim the mystery of the gospel with boldness (v. 19-20).
 
Make a commitment to pray regularly for other believers, including your church leadership, beginning this week. Be intentional. Ask for specific ways you can intercede on their behalf.

9/25/2014 11:03:54 AM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for October 5: Secured With Confidence

September 23 2014 by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson

Focal Passage: Hebrews 4:14-5:6
 
“You just don’t understand me!” As the parent of a teenager, I heard this phrase on more than one occasion. I uttered it to my own parents a time or two. Even today, I want to be understood. We all do. We all want, dare I say need, someone in our lives who understands us. Yet, there is something frightening about that, too. Do we really want someone who understands everything about us? Someone who knows us deeply and intimately? Someone from whom there are no secrets?
 
The writer of Hebrews tells us that nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight, but that everything is laid bare before the One to whom we must give an account (Hebrews 4:13). If that is the case – and it is – how can any of us every bear up under the divine scrutiny of a holy God? The writer anticipates our anxiety and so reminds us in Hebrews 4:14-16 that we have a High Priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses, one who has been tempted in every way, yet without sin. He reminds us that Jesus  knows us deeply and intimately. He knows our weakness and our struggle. But, thank God, He is not powerless to help us!
 
Jesus provides grace and mercy to us in our time of need. Just as other high priests deal gently with those under their care (Hebrews 6:2), Jesus does as well. While other high priests offer sacrifices on their own behalf and those under their care, Jesus offers something better – a one time sacrifice that – by faith – makes us right with God.
 
Sadly, too many Christians want to receive such an awesome gift of forgiveness and then, inexplicably, not extend the same grace to others. Yet, the best way to demonstrate Jesus to others is to demonstrate his grace and mercy. If Jesus knows all about us and sympathizes with us, let us make it our ambition to sympathize rather than criticize. And, the next time you hear someone say “you just don’t understand me,” point them graciously to the One who does.

9/23/2014 12:36:19 PM by Rob Pochek, senior pastor, Raleigh Road Baptist Church, Wilson | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for October 5: Connected in Service

September 23 2014 by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student

Focal Passage: Ephesians 5:15-21
 
In our culture today, staying connected is pretty easy. We can instantly check our emails, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with just one touch on our phone. We can FaceTime or Skype with family and friends around the world. So if it’s that simple, then why does it seem like work to remain connected in the church?
 
Take a moment and gauge your level of connectivity in serving the body of Christ. Are you serving regularly? Are you serving at all? Very often, our connections on social media are one-sided. We are broadcasting our thoughts to the world or our photographs with the most flattering angle of who? You guessed it: ourselves. When we feel like “disconnecting,” we just close the app or turn off our computer.
 
Service in the body of Christ is not something that we can choose to be “disconnected” from. Scripture calls us to serve one another.
 
In Ephesians 5, Paul calls us to serve each other with wisdom. He counsels the believers to live wisely, not foolishly, and to make the most of every opportunity. In other words, redeem the time for the days are evil. How much time are you spending – unwisely – in superficial, surface-level (possibly me-centered) connections on social media? How can you better make use of your time by sacrificially serving others?
 
In light of this week’s theme of service, Paul also instructs the church in Ephesus to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (v. 18). When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are emptied of ourselves.
 
Paul uses a conditional statement in Philippians 2:1-4 to describe this: “… If [you have] any fellowship with the Spirit … then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves ….” We are to humbly serve in submission to the Spirit.
 
Lastly, Paul makes the point that our union with the Spirit should affect how we live as believers. Read the remaining verses and jot down the ways Paul describes how we should live as children of light.

9/23/2014 12:27:50 PM by Hilary Ratchford, writer, Southeastern Seminary student | with 0 comments



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