Thursday
Jan292015

Return to the restoring God

Explore the Bible
February 15, 2014 

Jim Monroe
associate pastor
First Baptist
White Hall

Nehemiah 9:32-37

One of my wife’s favorite TV shows features a woman who restores 100-year-old houses, fallen into disrepair, to their original splendor. Throughout the decades, layers of wallpaper, rolls of floor coverings and lowered ceilings were added according to the style of the time and the personal taste of the homeowners. But after all of these superfluous additions are stripped away, the original grandeur of the house is able to be enjoyed once again.

God is also in the restoration business. He can take a person or a nation and restore them. After years, or even generations, of sin, God can forgive and restore the relationship between Him and His people.

The nation of Israel’s history included many cycles of sin. God would deliver the nation, they would sin, God would punish them, the nation would repent and God would delivered them once again. In Nehemiah 9:32-37, the Levites are concluding a long prayer of repentance as they led the people to return to the restoring God. The Levites’ acknowledgement of God’s greatness, might and awesomeness (Neh. 9:32), as well as God’s faithfulness and righteousness (Neh. 9:33), was not their way of gaining God’s favor; it was a recognition of God’s character. This is a first step in returning to God – acknowledging who He is.

When we recognize the qualities and attributes of God, this automatically leads to the second step: the realization of who we are and what we have done. When we bask in the light of God’s qualities, it exposes those dark recesses of sin. Although the Levites confessed the sins of their ancestors by admitting that “they did not pay attention to your commands” (Neh. 9:34), they also included themselves and their generation by stating “we acted wickedly” (Neh. 9:33).

How is your relationship with God? Does it need to be restored to its original glory? Remember, the New Testament promise: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Thursday
Jan292015

When homosexuality devastates 

Bible Studies for Life
February 15, 2014 

Eric Moffett
pastor
First Baptist
Pocahontas

Romans 1:18-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

If you are reading the Arkansas Baptist News, then you probably don’t have to be convinced concerning the prohibition of homosexual behavior in Scripture. More than likely, you’ve probably heard a number of sermons on it. The question that we really want to ask is this: How do we respond when a loved one tells us that he/she wants to be identified as a homosexual? I think Paul helps us.

First, we respond with love. No matter the sin, we respond with love because that is how Christ responded to us. Even Paul’s harshest words were given in love and within the context of the relationship that he had with the churches. He was not simply holding up a sign on the street corner proclaiming that God hates. Paul was writing people he loved. Love must saturate our response. If you respond with hate or by breaking the relationship, then you have missed the grace of God that covers all situations.

Second, we must be reminded that homosexual behavior, while certainly a sin, is not the only sin. Our passage in 1 Corinthians 6 also highlights sins such as adultery, theft, greed and drunkenness. Putting the spotlight on homosexuality while ignoring other sins is not helpful and is certainly not biblical. We approach homosexual behavior as fellow sinners who have been saved by the grace of God. There is no room in this discussion for pride or a sense of self-righteousness.

Third, we point to the character of God. Most likely, your loved one knows what the Bible says. It could even be that they are fooled into thinking they have found alternate ways to interpret and understand the passages that prohibit homosexual behavior. When you point them toward God’s character and holiness, it can help facilitate a discussion on righteousness. It is not enough to say, “The Bible says so.” Talk about why the Bible says so and how God wants our lives to reflect His holiness.

Finally, never stop loving. Imitate the character of God in your grace, kindness and love.

Thursday
Jan292015

Get an understanding

Explore the Bible
February 8, 2014 

Jim Monroe
associate pastor
First Baptist
White Hall

Nehemiah 8:1-8

As a child in vacation Bible school, I memorized Psalm 23. I knew what the first verse said, but I didn’t understand it: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psa. 23:1, KJV). I wondered why I wouldn’t want the Lord as my Shepherd. Years later, I noticed the semicolon. They were two separate thoughts, meaning since the Lord is my Shepherd, I will never be in need.

Ezra realized the importance of both knowing and understanding God’s Word. On the first day of the seventh Jewish month, Ezra opened and read from the Book of the Law (Neh. 8:2-3). He did this from dawn until noon, and the people stood and listened attentively (Neh. 8:3). It appears there were several Levites throughout the assembly who also read from the Law and gave it “meaning so that the people understood what was being read” (Neh. 8:8).

For more than 15 years, Christian adult education has been one of my primary job responsibilities. It thrills me when people are excited about studying the Bible together. It is through hearing the Word of God that our faith is strengthened (Rom. 10:17). This is accomplished in a preaching service, but it is in a small group of adults sitting around with open Bibles that content is learned and an in-depth understanding and application of the text can be discussed.

Sunday school, as we know it, has evolved since its beginnings in Great Britain in the 1780s. Your church most likely has such a ministry, which may have one of many different names: “small groups,” “life groups,” “Bible Study Fellowship,” “cell groups” or “Sunday school.” Whatever it’s called, understanding the Word of God is a key purpose of these groups.

Most pastors do a great job of explaining the text in their sermons, but in most preaching services, there is no opportunity for questions. If will you support your church’s small group ministry with your prayers and attendance, you will come away with a better understanding of God’s Word.

Thursday
Jan292015

Ready when sex destroys

Bible Studies for Life
February 8, 2014 

Eric Moffett
pastor
First Baptist
Pocahontas

Ephesians 5:1-10

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are distinct. You are different. Some may even say that you are a little bit odd – Jesus promised as much! Paul’s words were probably as well received by the culture in and around Ephesus as they would be today. If you were to post this passage on a billboard in a major city today, it would probably be perceived as some sort of “hate speech” or maybe something worse. What was Paul’s message? You are distinct.

As Paul comes to his conclusion in the Letter to the Ephesians, he brings forth this major principle: “Be imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1). This imitation of God covers all aspects of life. When we imitate God, it changes our outlooks, our worldviews, our attitudes, our behavior and even our understanding of sex. Paul’s message was countercultural then, and it certainly is today. Followers of Jesus Christ imitate God in every single aspect of life – even sex.

Sexual immorality is lumped together here with greed, coarse speech and idolatry. For each negative, Paul gives a positive that should be exemplified in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ. Instead of greed, there should be offering. Instead of coarse talking, there should be sounds of thanksgiving. Instead of immorality, there should be the daily imitation of God as His “dearly loved children.”    

In your own life, are you imitating God in every single aspect of your life? We Christians get a little nervous talking about sex, but the truth is that we celebrate sex within the context of God’s gifts of marriage, love, procreation and intimacy. God created sex and gave this gift to us. As with every good gift, it must not be abused. Do your actions reflect the character of God? Do your sexual behaviors reflect the character of God? Are you living for yourself, or are you living for the greatness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? You are distinct!

Thursday
Jan152015

Do your appointed part

Explore the Bible
February 1, 2014 

Jim Monroe
associate pastor
First Baptist
White Hall

Nehemiah 7:1-8

Music has been a big part of my life since beginning cello in the fourth grade. When my family moved to Arkansas, I started on the trombone. I have been a handbell choir member in each of the three churches I have served. Currently, I play bass guitar in our church’s praise band, as well as trombone in a local community band.

When done correctly, various band members playing different notes at the same time can produce beautiful chord structures, making the piece more interesting than if everyone played the same note at the same time. Also, some instruments playing louder while others are softer or even silent can make a piece more interesting.

If a band member begins playing what they want, with no regard to musical notes or dynamics, chaos soon follows. Even worse, if during a concert an instrumentalist puts down his horn and proceeds trying to play another instrument on which he has not been trained, the forthcoming sounds would be awful and the concert would be ruined. A good musician plays his appointed part to the best of his ability.

When the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall was complete, this did not make the city completely secure. Nehemiah selected people to fulfill various roles to help keep the area safe. He appointed his brother, Hanani, to be in charge over Jerusalem (Neh. 7:2). Hanani then appointed guards for different posts, as well as for individual homes (Neh. 7:3). Nehemiah also appointed gatekeepers and singers (Neh. 7:1). Even the Levites, or the priests, had a function (Neh. 7:1). All of these people came together, fulfilling their various roles, to accomplish a common purpose: the securing and eventual rebuilding of Jerusalem.

This certainly has application for us as well. God has gifted individuals to function in a local church for a common purpose. Greeters, ushers, musicians, teachers, nursery workers and pastors all work together to reach the community for Christ and equip believers. Are you doing your appointed part?