Why a week late?

OK, now that I’m caught up, a quick explanation.  We are in the midst of a remodeling project and between other demands of work, home, painting, building shelves, moving boxes, etc., etc. I did really good to get my lesson done last week, much less update my blog.  But I was getting enough feedback from folks who evidently read this that I wanted to go ahead and fill in the week. 

Hopefully, back on track tomorrow morning.

BSF Acts: Week 21, Day 5: 2 Corinthians 12:11–13:14

Questions:

13. a. through his concern, as a parent: not wanting from them, but for them with a tough love allowing for disappointment

b. He wants the best for them and grieves that they may not be living the lives they should – still committed to sin

c. By pointing out Christ’s strength, not his own. By encouraging them to examine themselves. Not for proof of Paul, but for proof of Christ in them – for the truth

14. Too often we aim to be better than most, not perfection. We talk more than listen. We divide to show how we are better or more knowledgeable and we live with confrontation and division, not peace. Way better!

 

Closing Thoughts:

I love Paul’s response to the demand for proof of his authenticity.  I’m reading and interesting book called Money Ball about how the advent of computers and statistics is changing the way baseball is managed, at least in some clubs.  You might think at first that book is way in left field compared to what we are studying with Paul (get it: left field).  But, here is the deal.  Baseball has always had stats and teams paid attention to them.  They paid attention to how fast someone could run a fifty yard dash.  How fast someone could throw a fast ball.  The players batting average or RBIs.  But what the book talks about was a focus only on the stats that make a difference in correlation to the actual desired outcome: scoring more points than the other team. 

Paul took the same approach.  You want proof?  OK, forget all the letters and credentials and degrees and measurements of height and who has the best hair.  What is our real desired outcome? To see Christ in your life, saving you, changing you, making a difference.  Did you get that?  Good, then there you go.

But we do the same things in our churches.  Our food ministry measures how many pounds of food we deliver, not how many people that has given us an opportunity to talk with about God.  Our youth pastors are recognized for how many hours of service projects they coordinate, not how much of a difference they are making in teaching youth how to stay connected to the church and to serve from the heart.  I work in management so I understand the purpose of objective measurements, but, like the Corinthians, I think we can get so focused on the measurements that we lose sight of the real desired outcome.

Acts: Week 21, Day 4: 2 Corinthians 11:16–12:10

Questions:

10. Preface: keep in mind this was done as a lesson. They boast of how great and special they are. Paul boasts of his weakness and servitude. They boast of their eloquence and “looking the part”. Paul boasts of his scars and hardships.

11.  5×39 lashes (Deut 25:3): 3x beaten with rods Acts 16:22: Stoned Acts 14:19

b. 3xShipwrecked and spent day and night in open sea. In danger from bandits, the number of lashings and beatings

12. a. weakness provides strength – our goal is to lift people up by getting under them, not pulling them up from “above”

b. A thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, torment –

c. My weaknesses and imperfections are not because I am lacking or doing wrong, but because God’s grace is sufficient: power is made perfect in weakness. All for Christ’s sake

 

Closing thoughts:

I spent some time researching the 40-1 lashes.  What an odd number I thought until I learned about Deut 25:3.  See law said you were forbidden to lash someone more than 40 times.  If you hit someone 41 times, it came back looking bad on you.  Now, a prudent person would not want to risk that.  Better to be one under than one over, just in case of a miscount.  So began the tradition of 39 lashes.  13 on the left front, 13 on the left back and 13 on the right back. 

But, let’s put this in perspective.  This meant that on 5 seperate occassions Paul had been beaten with a whip, which would mean being chained.  These were done by people who would violently rejecting both God’s message and His messenger.  They were unabashedly rejecting Jesus, the son of God.  But, they didn’t want to risk going over 40 lashes, because, you know, that might really make God mad.

This is not some angry crowd or individual with too much testosterone.  These were planned, executed beating by a group of people who adored the law.  Unfortunately they adored the law more than the God who gave it to them.

Finally: pay close attention to the visual image of 12a.  If we are lifting people up, we are getting underneath them and having them climb up on our backs and shoulders.  Not that we are reaching down from some high and mighty place to give them a hand up.  Think about how that would change the face of local missions.

Acts: Week 21, Day 3: 2 Corinthians 10:1–11:15

Questions:

6. a. Luke 4, Jesus uses scripture to combat temptation by satan in the desert. Luke 22:32, Simon sifted like wheat, “I have prayed for you” Luke 22:44 “being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling”

b. Prayer saved me during a time of very dark fear in the hospital.  I had come out of heart surgery and my first night awake, the patients who had the same surgery on both sides of my room coded and died.  I remember reciting every prayer I could think of, including the Hail Mary which for a born and raised Lutheran was quite the feat.  As I have grown in God’s Word it has enabled me to teach and train others, particularly the young both in BSF, home and through other teaching and coaching.

7. a. Masquerading as an angel of light, as apostles of Christ. false and deceitful workmen. Masquerade as servants of righteousness.

b. cunning. lies, masquerades. the devil prowls like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour

8. a. Luke 4:1–2, 13: Jesus was tempted by devil in the desert

b. Luke 13:16: Jesus recognized Satan bound woman for 18 years

c. Luke 22:3: Satan entered Judas

d. Luke 22:31–32: Satan asked to sift Simon

e. John 8:44: Satan is a murderer and the father of lies – his native tongue

f. John 12:31; 14:30: judgment: prince of this world driven out

g. Revelation 12:9–11: the great dragon, accuser

h. Revelation 20:2: seized the dragon, satan, bound him for 1000 years

9. worldly jealousy is to covet what others possess. Godly jealously is to rightly desire what belongs to God and protect and preserve it as such.

 

End-Thoughts:

If you were Satan think about how you would do it.  First, you would do everything you could to make the thought of satan either be childish or weird.  Some made up tale.  It is much better to work covertly, than to have people understand that you are a real threat.  You would then get inside the church.  Work your way into church leadership where possible.  Be a false teacher that quotes from the bible, but, again, make the tough parts sound so silly and outdated. 

You would work your way up from the bottom of the commandment list.  You wouldn’t start with golden calves (although there are plenty to go around).  But coveting, that is way down on the list, start there. 

Don’t be fooled.  Satan is absolutely real as are his servants.  Christ recognized Satan as a real entity one who he interacted with and one who interacts directly with God.  That does make him on par with God, but it does make him real and an inhabitant of the spiritual realm.

 

BSF Acts: Week 21, Day 2: 2 Corinthians 8–9

Summary:

Paul encourages the church in Corinth to experience grace.  He points out the joy and grace the Macedonian church is receiving, despite extreme hardships.  He sends Titus to help and encourage them to finish strong in what they started and committed.

Questions:

3. Macedonia (Northern Greece): Phillippi, Thessalonica and Berea – Planted in Paul’s 2nd Missionary Journey: 16:12 Lydia, then fortune-telling slave girl, jailhouse rock; 17 jealous jews seize Jason; 17:10 study day and night, many believed, Jews came from Thessalonica to run Paul out of town (to Athens)

4. a. from severe trial, overflowing joy; from extreme poverty welled up rich generosity. Gave as much as able even beyond pleading for the purpose of sharing in this service

b. Encouragement of grace, eager willingness. To test the sincerity of their love by comparing it with the earnestness of others (not view the “standard” as too low)

c. Managed rightly, both in the eyes of the Lord and also in the eyes of men

d. sowing and reaping are connected. God loves a cheerful giver. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion. Generosity results in thanksgiving to God. Not just helping others, but giving thanks to God. Grace

5. Adjust where my focus lies.  I pay too much attention to money and not enough to grace: To do more to recognize God’s grace so that I give thanks to God in our giving, not for the funds but for His grace.

 

End-Notes:

I have to admit, this is a tough subject for me.  Not because I don’t enjoy giving or see the need or see how it provides an avenue for God’s grace to enrich me in ways far more than money ever could.  I’m just jaded because I have experienced church leaders parading out these verses only when it is the time of year for the annual pledge campaign.  And, while we are on the subject – what a horrible name: campaign.  I know it had a positive meaning at one point, but now it is more associated with politicians who are not know to be the most sincere or trustworthy during campaign season.  I think too many churches turn members against cheerful giving when it is only discussed in light of the church receiving.

The important thing is that is not what Paul is saying.  As I read these chapters for the tenth time I’m seeing more and more of Paul’s heart.  The church in Corinth was living in financial prosperity.  When this happens to us we begin to look all around us and start to believe things aren’t so bad.  We compare our giving to others that we see.  We compare our spending to others and what they purchase.  Through all of it we lose sight of God’s grace.  Not His grace that He has blessed us financially, but His grace that he has saved us from our sins.  Paul was gravely concerned for the church in Corinth that they were falling into this trap of near sightedness.  To open their eyes to the bigger picture he tells them about the church in Macedonia.  But notice, this is not a guilt trip about how it is up to Corinth to save Macedonia.  If anything it is the opposite.  Look at the joy and grace these folks are experiencing.  They do not see giving as a loss, but they are begging to give because they see the way God’s grace overflows to fill them up.  Paul wants that same spirit and joy for the Corinthians.  He is not sending Titus to be the collection agency.  He is sending Titus as a third-base coach.  You started out great, just a little way to go, let me help and encourage and coach you.  Paul doesn’t want them to give so he can receive.  He wants them to clean out their hearts so God can fill them up.

There are some great lessons here about giving.  The example that Christ set of giving himself, stepping down from the throne to suffer and die in the flesh not for His gain but for ours.  It was also important that “each man must decide in his heart how he should give.”  The giving that God wants is a heart thing, not a head thing.  You don’t crunch the numbers, you empty out your heart of worldly things so God can fill it with heavenly things.  When you do that, it is cheerful – that’s the difference.