Bible Lesson 5: Acts 8-9:30

Aim: The good news spreads through witnessing and obedience despite persecution

Last week we left Acts with the death of Stephen and the joy he experienced, even while being murdered, in seeing heaven opened up and Jesus at God’s right hand.

I want to start this week with a different picture.  Imagine you are sitting on a beach with some of your friends.  The waves are lapping by your toes.  The sun is shining but not too hot with a nice umbrella to shade you.  After sitting for a while you go to get up and find that you have sunk down into the sand.  There are only two forces that might help you – either a pull or a push.  In our lesson this week we get to see examples of both.  Saul’s persecution pushes the believers to move on to Judea and Samaria.  Philip pulls Samarians into a true faith.  Peter pushes Simon the Sorcerer to confront his sin.  Jesus pushes Saul, then sends Ananias to extend a hand to lift him up, with a gentle push to Ananias thrown in first. 

Division 1: Acts 8:1-40: Saul’s persecution spreads witnesses to “all of Judea and Samaria”

Principle: God fills a humble heart

Illustration:  Discuss the differences in Simon the Sorcerer and the Ethopian Eunuch.  The power that each had, the authority and influence and then how they each approached the teaching of Philip.  Focus on accepting the gift with a humble heart.

Principle:  Is pride and self reliance keeping you from fully experiencing God’s gift? (SS tried to buy it)
What in your life is “smoke and mirrors” that you don’t want to reveal to others? (SS’s whole profession was a sham)
Do you “go the distance” for your faith and take time along the journey to stop and study and learn? (EE traveled 1500 miles – reading Isaiah)
Are you putting off devoting yourself to God because you might appear a bit dirty in the process? (EE didn’t have an issue jumping into water along the side of the road)

Division 2: Acts 9:1-9: Saul “sees the light” on Damascus Road

Principle: God calls us to do His work

Illustration:  Read things clearly.  Saul was not an evil person.  He was someone who was zealous about trying to do right in God’s eyes.  If he believed or was taught that it was pleasing to God to go a mile, he wanted to go two.  But Saul had been blinded to the truth about God by the very teachers that he thought were teaching him about God.  Jesus had called these teachers a bunch of snakes who speak only evil.  That doesn’t make what Saul was doing, right, but it does help us understand what is going on.  Jesus asks Saul a question.  Did Jesus not know the answer?  Of course He did.  He is God.  He knows everything.  One thing you will find in scripture is that when God asks us a question it is for us to stop and think, rather than to give Him an answer.  Saul had been blinded by his teachers and his understanding.  Jesus showed him just how blind he was so that Saul could re-open his heart to the true teaching of the spirit.

Application: Do you test all teaching against the word of the Lord or, if someone is an authority, do you just accept what they say?
What truth about Jesus might you be blind to?

Division 3: Acts 9:10-30: Ananias and Barnabas help Saul’s ministry by listening to God over their own fears

Principle: Fear may say stop, but God says go.  Wise men go.

Illustration:  I’m sticking with the story of Ananias and the fear he had and set aside to follow God.  God sent him to see Saul.  Picture this.  There is men and his associates who, with the authority of the police and courts, are dragging people out of their houses, beating them, even killing them.  Your name is on their list.  God comes to you and says I want you to go to this guy, he is expecting you.  What would you say?  (I’ll talk a little bit more and read what Ananias said).  Then look at Barnabas.  You rarely see someone with more faith in God’s power than the Apostles, but here is this guy, when everyone else can’t see how Saul could possibly have changed, who believes that God can do any miracle, even this one.

Application:  What is fear stopping you from doing that God is calling you to?
How many times does God need to tell you to Go?
How big do you believe God is and what he is capable of?

Closing:  I want to bring some focus on “the supporting cast” in these stories this week.  We spend so much time on the key players, such as Saul, that sometimes we completely miss the others.  Did you notice the people that were with Saul on the Damascas road?  They were part of this same “persecution party.”  God didn’t call them by name, but did you notice what they did.  They supported a missionary.  They helped lead a blind brother.  They stayed with him even when he wouldn’t eat for 3 days.  Do you think Saul lowered himself in a basket down the side of the city walls at night? 

While the bible is full of the names we know.  The only way that they survive is by the quiet support of other believers (some of those others only coming to belief at the very same time).  I think we need to model more of our lives on these quiet supporters.  They don’t require a direct message from God, but when they see a brother with a need, they are filled with the spirit to help.  God bless the quiet supporters of the faith.

Bible Lesson 3, Acts 2: Lecture

Acts 2 Aim: Being saved, (accepting Christ and being baptized in the spirit), creates a changed life both in activity and quality.

I want you to picture the earth in your mind.  The entire earth.  Got it?  Ok, using one hand I want you to make a shape showing me what you picture.  (Everyone makes a fist).  Look around, notice anyone holding up a flat hand?  But even just a few generations ago, everyone would be doing that.  But notice how that small revelation changes so many things about how you think about stuff.  If someone goes out in a boat, do you worry about them falling off the end of the earth?  Do you have spend time thinking about what happens to the sun at night?  No.  Simple understandings completely change the way we look at things.

Tonight we are going to learn from a very large group of faithful jews who completely had their understanding of things rocked upside down by the truth spoken through a fisherman.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s go back where we left things last week. 

(at this point I’ll go back over Acts 1,40 days post resurrection, the final command of Jesus, the ascension, the MIW’s, the obedience to the command, the prayer and bible study that went on while waiting, the selecting of the 12 apostle)

1st division: Acts 2:1-13.  As promised by the bible and Christ, the Holy Spirit comes

Principle: The H/S is given to God’s adopted children

Seriously, do we need better illustrations that tongues of fire and speaking in tongues?  I plan on pointing out some of the background about pentecost as a Jewish Holy Day, both in terms of the festival of first fruits as well as the day Moses was given the 10 commandments (see my earlier post about pentecost).  In studying this, I found it interesting that the emphasis is on the giving of the law as opposed to the receiving of it.  It is about the grace of God and His desire to save, over my want and need of salvation. (probalby too deep for level 1, but I’ll work it in because it is so cool).  The law through moses was an outside thing – there was the structure of the temple, the sacrifices, all the various offerings and observances.  The spirit is an inside thing – no longer are we outsiders, we are adopted children.

Application:

  1. What are you on fire about?
  2. If God gave you the ability to speak in another language that you didn’t know to communicate with people you didn’t know – what would you say?
  3. Are you truly thankful for this gift? Not just focused on receiving it, but understanding the grace with which it is given?

Division 2: Actions 2:14-41

Peter preaches and calls for repentance.

At this point I’m supposed to give a lecture (aka. sermon) about a sermon formulated by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and delivered through the Apostle Peter.  I’m taking the safest route and literally reading the sermon he gave. 

Principle: Repent and accept Christ

Illustration: I have a nephew named James who is a toddler.  When James was an infant, the doctors noticed that his cranium (head bones) were not forming or shaping just right (very common condition called Plagiocephaly), so they gave him this device to wear on his head to help shape things.  It basically was like a baby helmet.  So, when baby James he would crawl and bump into something or fall backwards, it wouldn’t hurt – he was wearing a helmet.  Now he is fine and doesn’t wear it anymore, but he also seems to have absolutely no fear.  He will walk right up to the edge of stairs, or a tall drop-off, and just keep going, stepping out into space.  The adults watching him, jump to his rescue, but for the rest of us, it is terrifying. 

I think this is how it was for Peter and the Apostles.  Filled with the H/S, they were compelled to warn those around them, just as adults do with James, of the impending doom.  Stop – repent – you are on the wrong path.  We need to see that the path we are on is leading to a cliff and we may be only one step away from the ledge.  Stop, turn the other way and take Christs hand for guidance to the correct path.

Application:

  1. What paths are you on that take you away from God?
  2. What do you need to stop doing that leads you to sin?
  3. Are you willing to take Christ’s hand and go a different direction?

Division 3: Changed Lives: Acts 2:42-47

Having their eyes opened to the true meaning of the scriptures and the fact that they pointed to Jesus Christ, the gathered Jews cannot look at things the same way any longer.  The earth is no longer flat. 3000 immediately accept the gift and the spirit fills them up.  They are no longer the same people and they can no longer act the same way.  They eat together, they share, they help each other, they tell others and their numbers grow and grow.

Application:

When someone at school or in your neighborhood sees you and your family, the way you act, the way you talk to each other, the way you treat each other and other people.  Does it look different?  Does it look like something they would want?  You can use a million words, but the biggest testimony is in how you act and live as a changed person – as a child of God.

I’m closing with a big prayer:  I’m going to pray that God bring a mighty wind of the H/S and light up each of these kids.  I’ll ask that He give them 11 ofther friends who, no matter what anyone says, will always stand up together.  But even bigger, I am going to pray that God give each of them 3000 people to see the way they live, to hear the words they have to say and who, as a result, see things in a completely new and holy way.

Can I get an amen to that one?!?!?!

Week 2: Lecture

Aim: Jesus continues His work on earth through the Holy Spirit’s power in believers

Intro:  The crowd shouts out in unison: Five, Four, Three, Two, One.  A loud noise erupts.  It’s over, the job is done, we did it!!

When we hear that description most of us think of a game, like the final minutes of a championship football game, where the whole season has led up to this point, to victory. 

We can think along those lines with the introduction to Acts in chapter 1.  Jesus is God, born as a man, who walked on this earth.  He has fulfilled all of the promise of the prophets.  He suffered, died and then defeated death by rising again from the grave.  He took on all the sins of the world and of all time, mine and yours included, and paid the price that we could not pay.  And now, after spending 40 days again on the earth in a resurrected body, He ascends into heaven.  Wow!

But, let’s play over that phrase again, but this time think of it in a different way.  The crowd shouts out in unison: Five, Four, Three, Two, One.  A loud noise erupts.  It’s over, the job is done, we did it!! 

What if, instead of a football game, this is describing a rocket launch.  While the earthly work is finished, the mission has just begun, and what if that mission includes an ultimate return to earth.  What a marvelous day that will be!

1st Division: Acts 1: 1-8 The Holy spirit is promised:

Principle: When God provides the direction He also provides the power

Illustration: You are so excited.   Your class has been studying for weeks about tigers and today is the big day, you get to go to the tiger preserve and see and touch a real, live tiger.  You have your sack lunch, water bottle, camera, notebook, 2 sharpened pencils, just in case.   You climb on the bus with all your friends and the bus pulls away from the school, but 1 block away, it runs out of gas. 

This doesn’t happen with God.  When He prepares us and sends us on a mission, He always makes sure we have the power to not only get there, but also to do the job.  The jobs God has for us are big jobs, sometimes way bigger than we could ever do on our own, but he provides the Holy Spirit to give us the power to do it right.

Application:

Just like our body needs fuel every day, so does our soul.  Are you filling up your tank in the word every day, or just sometimes?

Do you understand that your thoughts and words that say “I can’t” really mean “I won’t” since God gives you the power to do it?

What are you trying and failing to move with the power of your own 2 feet, when God has given you the keys to a 4 wheel drive, 454 cubic foot, v8 engine with a hemi, towing package and duellies?

Division 2: Acts 1:9-11 – He’s coming back!

Illustration: We think of the Apostles as amazing men of faith who suffered through great hardship and suffering for the mission of furthering the kingdom of God.  While that is true, it is also very fun to see that, at times, they are clueless num-nuts who require not one, but two angels to fill them in on what is actually going on.  They are standing here, asking about Israel being returned to power over Roman rule, Jesus gives them a final instruction then ascends, bodily, to heaven.  11 guys standing there, staring up into the sky, mouths open.  When 2 MIW’s (men in white) show up at their side to say, “OK, nothing to look at here folks, move it along… He’s coming back the same way He left.  Quite rubberneckin’ and get a move on.”

Application:

How many angels does it take to move you along the path that Jesus instructs?

What are you gawking at that is getting in the way of your obedience?

Do you get it that the climax of the story is yet to come?

Division 3:  Acts 1:12-26 – The Apostles are finally obedient and do as they were told – they wait.

Principle: Waiting on God’s timing gives us time to pray

Illustration: Listen how well these go together: Patience, Prayer, Power, Praise, Peace.  The opposite is impatience, self-reliance, inadequacy, chastising, anxiety.  Despite their earlier lack of obedience at the cross, the Apostles follow directions and follow the Lord.  That doesn’t mean it is the easier thing to do, they were very fearful in the upper room, but they were clearly relying on God not only to protect them, but even in choosing Matthias as an apostle to replace Judas – no discussion of most eloquent, best dressed, or anything like that – just a reliance on prayer and asking God to choose.  What a great example they set for learning from rather than constantly repeating our shortcomings by trusting in and obeying the Lord.

Applications:

It’s your life – you choose.  Which path do you want to take knowing where they lead: obedience or ignorance?  If there is any question, look at those words again! Patience, prayer… peace vs. impatience, self-reliance… anxiety/stress.

Who do you want to associate with, the people others see as popular, prestigious, attractive and talented or the ones that God has selected for you to be with?  Are you praying for God to bring the right people into your life?

Where do you need to practice more patience in waiting on God’s timing and what are you doing while waiting?  Are you praying?

Conclusion: If you think the story of the gospels was cool – you ain’t seen nothing, yet.  That paid the price of admission, the next part of the story is still being played out and the big finale is yet to come.

BSF Bible Lesson 1: Lecture

The old saying in corporate settings is to start out like you can hold out.  I am a fan of doing the exact opposite in the first night lecture in the children’s program at BSF.  I do my best to get as much excitement and energy as I can possibly get – even knowing I may not be able to match it every week – but I want the kids to know that I love this stuff and I think it is cool and exciting and fun.  I rarely write out my lectures, preferring to use some simple notes, because I  want to feed on the spirit and the energy.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t go in unprepared, but I also don’t write down word for word what I’m going to say so I feel trapped reading it. 

The scripture for our first night is “the bible”.  Pretty all inclusive – but also a great visual.  “OK, let’s all turn to …. our bible.”

The Aim is to cause the student to learn that the Bible is the true Word of God.

I’m going to open with and spend quite a bit of time talking about truth.  What is it?  What is true?  Does 1 + 1 =2?  Sometimes?  All the time?  Is the sky blue?  Sometimes or all the time?  I’m going to talk about swearing in at court (or at least how they do it on TV): promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  What is a truth that isn’t the whole truth?  What is something that is in addition to the truth?  Then back into the one truth – the word of God.  Always, absolute, complete.

Section 1: The bible tells us the truth about who God is: Eternal, creator, sovereign, holy, trinity.  Easy subjects to discuss and have fun with.  I’m going to do it in a playful way… “OK, the bible start out saying that after there had been a lizard crawing around on the earth for a while and he started talking and stuff he was throwing a party one night and decided… hey, let’s make god, right?  NOOOOO.  Did a lizard make God?  Did a man make God?  Which came first God or lizards?  Which came first God or men?  When was God start?  Lot’s of emphasis, lots of moving… lot’s of excitement.  I want the kid’s to be doing everything they can to keep from yelling out… noooooooooooooooo.  I also want to emphasis what sin is – missing the mark. 

Principle #1: The words of the bible are the words of God.  This isn’t a story.  It isn’t a book about people like the Apostles and Moses and Joseph and Samson and Esther and Lydia.  It isn’t even a book about God.  It is a gift.  These are God’s words that he gave us so that we can know Him.  Are you reading God’s words?  Can you think of something more important that you should be doing?  How do you think God will respond if we say we didn’t find the time to read what he gave us?

Section B: The Bible tells us the truth about what God has done.   Revelation of God through time, history (his story), that he is a man with a plan (just rhymes better than God with a plan), Salvation has always been His plan for His chosen people, this plan enables a future and hope of eternal life (clarifying that hope does not mean uncertainty, it means looking forward to.)  Critical in this is that God is DOING.  This is in direct contrast to the belief that God set things in motion but is now missing.  It is also counter to the “Lion witch and wardrobe movies” where Aslon sweeps in and out but is gone for large periods of time.  The bible tells about what God has actively done and from that we know that He is actively doing even today in each of our lives. 

Principle #2: The Bible is the final authority for all the events of life.  This is not a reference guide.  It is not a rule book.  It is not a fable or foible or action drama.  It isn’t a love story, although there is plenty of love in it.  Have you ever done the hokey pokey?  right leg in, left leg out… So here is the most important thing you are going to learn all year… see these words?  See the voice of God in these words telling us about Himself and His plan for me and for you?  This IS what it is all about.   When you have questions about right and wrong, where do you look?  When you think about role models, are you looking at magazines or this book? 

Section C: The bible tells us the truth about who we are and how we are to live.  Ever person is: made in the image of God, created to bring glory and honor to God, is a sinner, needs a savior.  God didn’t make trash.  I’m not something He spit out.  He made me different than any and every other thing in all of creation.  He made me like Him.  He gave me the ability to make choices.  He gave me the ability to decide and He loved me so much that He let me do it even knowing that I would mess up.  No other creature sins.  Rocks don’t sin.  Birds don’t sin.  Our ability to choose, to accept or reject is something that makes us unique in all creation.  And we have always chose wrong (all of us except Jesus that is).  But did God say, oh well.. let’s start over?  No, He had a plan all along.

Prinple #3: The bible is without error.  The bible cannot be wrong any more than God can be wrong.  God doesn’t make mistakes.  His Word does not have errors.  When you need to stand on something, when you need to build on something, do you want something that can change? something that is true some of the time but not all the time?  something that is partially true, but not all the way?  something that is mostly true?  No, you want a rock. 

This book is the True Word of God.

Amen!