BSF Acts: Week 22, Day 5: Ephesians 1:20–23

Questions:

15. a. seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly realms.  Ruling all with authority, power, and dominion.

b. The church is the body of Christ, the fullness of him who fills – the church is the “supply chain management” division of God Inc.

16. a. I have a great boss and clear job objectives

b. I have all the power and authority required to do the work given to me as a member of the church and to help, support and empower my team-mates (only by asking)

c. I am not needed, but chosen to be given the gift of being a member of the winning team

 

Closing Thoughts:

Imagine that you enjoy the game of baseball.  You’ve thrown a few balls, hit a few with a bat, just for fun and the love of the game.

Now, imagine you just received a call from a pro team letting you know they are considering picking you in the upcoming baseball draft.  Now, imagine you get a call that not only might they pick you, but you might go within the first 20 rounds of the draft.  First 10.  First 5.  First round.  Ok, how about 2nd pick of the overall first round of the draft?

You would be amazed.  Beside yourself.  You would be anxious and worried… what do they want you to do, you would ask.  Do?  You don’t have to do anything, we are going to win the world (universe) series anyway.  We just want you to put on the uniform and be part of the team – not on the bench, catch a few, bat a few.  Get out and be an active part of the team, it is more fun.

There are many people who would give their left arm for far less when it comes to baseball, which is only a game.  But this is exactly what God offers us as christians.  He doesn’t need any skill we have, he just wants us on the team.  We don’t earn our way on the team, he picks us, first round, right behind his son.  Want to feel the full joy of winning?  Put on your uniform and get out and catch a few!

BSF Acts: Week 22, Day 4: Ephesians 1:15–23

Questions:

12. Wisdom is knowledge put into action – choosing of a path or action.  the fact that is is of the Spirit assures it is the right path or action.  Revelation is light to the path and clear direction for the journey

13. a. for light, for wisdom, for grace – that the power we have been given in the Lord be put to full use.  That we not underestimate or underutilize that power for the glory of God

b. The God by the Son with the Holy Spirit

14. It makes all the difference.  “Knowing God” means doing right, means not doubting, means seeing the light, means exercising the power that allowed Christ to rise from the dead, the power to forgive sins, the power to be pure and complete, whole and holy.

 

Final thought:

What do you seek?  Light. (AF&AM).

1 John 1:5.  God is light.  In Him there is no darkness.

When we seek God, to know God, for His revelation and wisdom, we seek light.  We live in a world covered in darkness, but God is light.  But as question 14 asks, what difference does that make?

Well, to sighted people (open the eyes of my heart) living in a pitch black world, light makes all the difference.  Without it we are lost, stumbling, in dire and immediate danger.  But light gives us direction, a path, hope, direction.  God doesn’t just shine a light, He fills us with it.

My favorite verses (mostly because I see how far I fall short of grasping them) are Ephesians 1:19 and 20.  The notion that God has given me the same power that He used to raise Christ from the dead.  (go ahead, read that again).  That’s not a light, that is every flashbulb going off at the same time.

But do I live any day using even a fraction of that power?  I’m a 40 ton crane lifting toothpicks on a normal day.  How about you?

BSF Acts: Week 22, Day 3: Ephesians 1:3–14

Questions:

8. a. to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ, v10

b. Christ is in heaven, ruling with the Father, but the times have not reached their fulfillment because sin is still active in the world and there are still souls to be brought back into the flock

9. a. state of great splendor & magnificence.  God is glorious, because of this he does these things and in so that glory shown

b. by better reflecting – light is His, show His glory, not try to substitute my own.  I need to pray more, private and with people.

10. a. chosen, heard, believed, marked with seal

b. The Holy Spirit is deposited in the person – no longer the same.  This indwelling also is the deposit guaranteeing inheritance

11. the authorization and testimony of God is given.  This assures, confirms and binds the ownership and promise

Closing Thoughts:

This passage reminded me of John 17:20-23 where Jesus prays for us to experience the unity that He has with God the Father.  Jesus lived a human life as a reflection of God the Father.  Luke 10:22, “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Where am I going with this?  It makes me think about being with really close friends as a kid, arms crossing over each other, legs crossed, crossing over, totally entwined, to the point you couldn’t tell who was who or what was what.  That is the real answer to 9b that Jesus teaches.  Jesus, while fully human having stepped down from living as a spiritual being, was so connected with the Father that you couldn’t tell one from the other, they were one.  And, through the Holy Spirit, He invites us into that unity, community, family.

We are not meant to be diverse, to be different, to be proud, to be respected, or to be accepted.  We are meant to be so communed with the Trinity that when someone sees us, they see God.  That is glorious!

BSF Acts: Week 22, Day 2: Ephesians 1:1–14

Questions:

3. God

4. Acts 9:4 Encounter on road to Damascus, 9:17 given back sight, 14:19 stoned but then raised back, 20:9 brought back Eutychus from window fall, 16:26 jailhouse rock

5. From the seat of the throne in heaven, God has blessed us with all the power of being adopted into his family, of being co-heirs with Christ

6. a. chosen, blameless, gave glorious grace, redemption through his blood, forgiveness of sins, made known the mystery of his will, to be in Christ for the praise of his glory, marked with a seal, deposit, guaranteed inheritance.

b. redemption, forgiveness, to be in him and as such to be holy in the eyes of God

c. Adoption as brothers to Christ to be glorified by, in and with Him.

7. deliverance, rescue, salvation, atonement for guilt, repurchase – rescue helps me understand just how “at risk” I was.

 

Closing Thoughts:

I think you could do an entire sermon series on any one verse in Ephesians 1.  This is truly one of my favorite and one of the deepest chapters in the bible, IMHO.

For example, lets take our self image.  How are you feeling about yourself?  Do you consider yourself to be a saint?  Do you consider yourself to have been blessed by God with EVERY spiritual gift, all the spiritual blessings of heaven?  Do you consider that God chose you and in His sight you are blameless and holy?  Are you feeling holy?

But that is what Paul says of the believers in Ephesus who are, frankly, no different than us.  Not of these positive self images are because of anything they did, other than hear and believe (not major feats of skill).  But they are no less true.  But how we take away from God’s glory by denying the glory that He has cast upon us (not for ourselves, but because of who He is).

What difference would it make in your approach to live as a saint?  What difference could you make as someone chosen by God fully blameless and holy in His eyes?  What great things could you do without the baggage of doubt and worry.

The song Amazing Grace does not say we remain a wretch, only that we were one.

There is a poster I saw that sums this up:  What if you lived a life so that each day Satan said, “Oh, no, he/she is awake.”?  What is holding you back?

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.

BSF Acts: Week 20, Day 5: 2 Corinthians 6–7

Summary:

Throughout the letter Paul has come along side this church of growing believers.  Here he gives them more of a nudge than just counsel, to live singularly focused lives devoted to God.

In that same light, he expresses the joy that he feels in and through them and Titus.  Paul has sacrificed his own joy and cravings and seeks furtherment of God’s kingdom.  He gathers so much joy from the growth of others that anything for himself pails in comparison.

Questions:

13. a. 1.in great endurance; 2. in troubles, 3. hardships and 4. distresses; 5. in beatings, 6. imprisonments and 7. riots; in 8. hard work, 9. sleepless nights and 10. hunger;

b. 1. in purity, 2. understanding, 3. patience and 4. kindness; 5. in the Holy Spirit and 6. in sincere love; 7. in truthful speech and 8. in the power of God; 9. with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left;

c. 1. through glory and dishonor, 2. bad report and good report; 3. genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 4.  known, yet regarded as unknown; 5. dying, and yet we live on; 6.beaten, and yet not killed; 7. sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; 8. poor, yet making many rich; 9. having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

d. Yes, but: I am not living a life “out there” as Paul did… little hardship, distress, no beatings, but developing in the spiritual characteristics and teaching others – Be more BOLD!  But also follow God’s call for my life.

14. It is living a life subservient to the gospel and the growth of others.  Joy is not found in self, well-being, etc., but in the growth and development of others

Summary:

What a great nudge/warning to the church.  One we should strongly heed today.  They faced the dilemma that many Christians struggle with today, compartmentalization.  There was their God life and their business life.  On the church side, they met, grew, communed, worshiped, etc.  This was a community of like minded, although socially/economically disperse people.  On the other hand was their business.  They were in trade unions with non-believers.  They ate with them, worked with them and were a part of this community. Paul isn’t telling them to sell all and become beggars, but he is saying (again) that your actions should tell you are being transformed.  If you can’t tell who the chistians are, then maybe they just aren’t reflecting that much of God’s life (ouch!)

Joy.  Paul has reached the point where his true passion is the growth of others, even to the detriment and destruction of his own body, rights and freedoms.  But what an amazing joy it is.