Thursday
Oct302014

Discipline of suffering

Explore the Bible
November 16, 2014 

Daniel Johnson
minister to students
First Baptist 
Dover

Hebrews 12:1-7

Not many children enjoy the activities assigned to them by their parents – activities designed to develop maturity and character. Chores are not at the top of many teenagers’ list of favored activities. Teens often desire to complete chores as quickly, and not necessarily as thoroughly, as possible. Yet the discipline of routine chores and household duties instills character in ways more enjoyable activities do not. The obligation of parents, however, is not to provide a good time and easy ride, but to develop their children into God-fearing, responsible adults. Discipline is necessary for this development to occur. 

In Hebrews 12:1-7, the author of Hebrews is urging his readers to continue in their faith even when faced with hardship, looking to the examples of believers who lived in previous times. Past generations endured all manner of persecution and adversity while remaining faithful. Additionally, Jesus Himself faced greater suffering than anyone and was rewarded for His faithfulness by His Father.

The persecution and hardship that believers often face should be viewed not as a cause for distress and discouragement, but as discipline from a loving Father who designs to use it for the good of His children. Christians should not “grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:3) in the face of discrimination, oppression and other forms of persecution the world brings upon them because of their faith, but instead should regard such trials as an opportunity to identify with their Savior as God the Father uses this discipline to mold and mature them in ways not possible without hardship. Discipline, while challenging, is a sign of salvation and membership in God’s family and should be received as such. When it becomes apparent that negative consequences will come from the world when believers stand firm in their faith, Christians should press on, remain faithful and accept the hardship with joy, knowing that their Father in heaven will use it for their spiritual growth, ultimate good and His glory. 

Thursday
Oct302014

Overcome bitterness

Bible Studies for Life
November 16, 2014 

Sandra Hardage
member
First Baptist
Bismarck

Genesis 45:3-11

Joseph’s brothers had passed the tests Joseph devised to learn their hearts. These were not the same brothers that sold him into slavery. The jealousy, bitterness and hatred they felt toward Joseph had resulted in selling him into slavery. Living with guilt for years as they watched their father, Jacob, grieve every day since the “accident” wore on their souls. When bad things happened, they blamed each other for selling Joseph as if it resolved individual guilt. Even now as they stood before this powerful man of Egypt, they blamed each other.

On Joseph’s part, he had come to understand God’s divine plan as the God-given dreams of Pharaoh were placed in motion. He had found peace in knowing he was exactly where God had placed him in order to fulfill His purpose of saving many lives and in fulfilling the prophecy of bringing the family of Abraham into a foreign land to grow them into a great nation (Gen. 15:13-16).

The bitterness Joseph had felt in the pit had been replaced by confidence in a God who was in charge of his life. In the midst of more trials and tribulations than most of us could endure, Joseph believed in a God powerful enough to bring about His prophecy. He had learned through these hard times to have faith that God was working to fulfill His plan. 

Now came the time for the “big reveal.” When this powerful man of Egypt spoke the words “I am Joseph,” the brothers were filled with terror and could not speak (Gen. 45:3). As Joseph further stated three times, “God sent me,” he revealed his understanding of God’s purpose for his life.  

Shouldn’t we approach circumstances as Joseph did? Get rid of bitterness in our hearts by forgiving, focus on being obedient to God’s leading and recognize God may be teaching and growing us as He fulfills His plan for our lives? As for the brothers, clearly they had not forgiven themselves for what they had done. Jesus has forgiven. Have you?

Thursday
Oct302014

Faith defined

Explore the Bible
November 9, 2014 

Daniel Johnson
minister to students
First Baptist 
Dover

Hebrews 11:1-7

As people work at their careers, the prudent make plans for eventual retirement. Some workers place their faith in a company pension, while others place their faith in the stock market and various retirement funds. Regardless of the specifics of a retirement plan, sacrifice and faith are always required: years served with the same company, which cannot be recovered, or money invested on the promise of financial growth, which may be lost.

A similar dynamic exists when people place their faith in Jesus as Lord: They make decisions and costly sacrifices based on the claims of Scripture. The author of Hebrews reminds his readers of the promise of heaven and encourages his readers to endure in their faith in spite of the cost. He exhorts them to remain faithful, no matter the sacrifice it may require, because God will reward them with a “kingdom which cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12:28).

This promise is reassuring because of faith – “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). When the time comes, many who have put their faith in retirement plans are able to reap the rewards of their sacrifice. Sadly, for others, unforeseen circumstances derail otherwise sound planning. The reality is that sometimes faith in earthly institutions does not pan out as expected. 

Faith in the Lord, however, is never misplaced. There is nothing that can spoil the promises of God. The hope of heaven is a guarantee, regardless of the circumstances of life. Indeed, faith is the way believers gain approval from the Lord. Abel, Enoch and Noah lived lives of faith markedly different from those of their contemporaries, making the necessary sacrifices because of this hope, and gained God’s favor. Christians today would do well to heed the exhortations of Hebrews and be faithful in the trying times of life, resisting the temptation to backslide or compromise. Believers live, looking not for the comforts of the world, but looking forward to the reward of the life to come. 

Thursday
Oct302014

Overcome hard times 

Bible Studies for Life
November 9, 2014 

Sandra Hardage
member
First Baptist
Bismarck

Genesis 41:28-36, 46-49

Two years after the cupbearer was released from prison and restored to his position in Pharaoh’s court, Pharaoh had two dreams. These dreams were distressing to the king of Egypt, and he sought the experts. His wise men, trained in dream interpretation, could not tell Pharaoh the meaning of the dreams. Finally, the cupbearer remembered Joseph’s successful interpretation of his dream. 

Joseph was brought before Pharaoh and provided Pharaoh the meaning of both dreams after first declaring that only God could interpret dreams. Pharaoh was told there would be seven years of plenty and seven years of severe famine, and Joseph advised Pharaoh that he should appoint someone who was discerning and wise to oversee what was to come. Pharaoh appointed Joseph.

After 13 years of preparation from the pit to prison, God would now use His man Joseph to become second in command of Egypt just as He had planned. This Hebrew boy had become a man fluent in all things Egyptian. God had prepared Joseph for the huge task that now lay before him. He would use the vast knowledge learned through the years in places God had put him. It was now time to serve God in bringing Jacob and family to Egypt according to the prophecy God gave Abraham in Genesis 15:13-16. In addition, Joseph would also save the lives of many people during the famine.

While in the depths of hardship, Joseph did not know God’s plan for his life, but he trusted God. Joseph’s family would one day bow before him just as Joseph’s God-given dreams had predicted. God’s divine plan would prove best for Joseph, his family, Egypt and beyond.

When you find yourself in the midst of hard times, remember God has been preparing you to face this situation even when you were not aware you were being prepared. He is present with you and knows His plan for your life. God will take care of you according to His plan in His timing and for His glory.

Thursday
Oct162014

The perfect Offering

Explore the Bible
November 2, 2014 

Daniel Johnson
minister to students
First Baptist
Dover

Hebrews 9:11-15

No one enjoys car troubles. The appearance of the “check engine” light has ruined the day for many people. Worn spark plugs, a dead alternator or a bad thermostat can cause all sorts of expense and headaches. When the light comes on, an afternoon spent washing and waxing the car will certainly make it look attractive on the outside, but the problem still remains on the inside, under the hood. 

The author of Hebrews is making the case to his readers that faith in Christ is superior to the observance of Old Covenant practices. Hebrews 9:11-15 explains that the Old Testament sacrificial system, with its sacrifices of goats and bulls, cleansed only the outside of a person from ritual impurity. While effectively serving a symbolic purpose, animal sacrifice was ineffective in actually fixing the serious problems brought on by sin. Much like washing a broken-down car, it cleansed the outside but did not take care of the actual internal issues.

Jesus Christ, however, is greater than the Old Testament sacrificial system. His perfect sacrifice on the cross fixes the problem, as His death appeases the wrath of God brought on by sin, while also maintaining God’s holiness. As opposed to the blood of animals offered in sacrifice, Jesus’ blood is actually effective at repairing the internal problem, and the sins of those who place their faith in Him as Lord will be forgiven.  

At some point in their lives, almost everyone will experience car problems. Often, friends are quick to refer the names of talented mechanics. Similarly, Christians know the One who can repair the sin problem that dooms all people to hell. Jesus paid the required price of death and is the only Mechanic who can fix each individual’s sin problem, and those who do not follow Christ should place their faith in Him as Lord. Therefore, Christians should share the gospel with those who need it, just as people would pass on the name of a good mechanic to a friend.