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!

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BSF Acts: Week 16, Day 2: 2 Thessalonians 1

Summary:

Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians opens with prayer, praise and thanksgiving.  Paul also, as always, keeps the focus on the object of our faith, our reunion with Christ on the day of the Lord.

Questions:
3. a. Paul is grateful that their faith is growing, their love is increasing.  They show perseverance and faith in the face of persecution and trials.  Paul thanks God for these things because he understands that all of this comes from God, it is not by their own doing but only through the power and authority of God that these blessed things are occurring.
b. (Personal) I can see the maturity in my spiritual walk increasing this year.  I can see my faith and conviction to the word growing and my love for others expanding.  I am truly experiencing joy in seeing the legacy that I have been blessed to be a part of in helping teach 1st and 2nd graders about God – hopefully in a way that encourages them to stay in the word their entire lives.  I understand when Paul talks about the blessing he feels from God by being able to share the gospel with these new converts – it isn’t just a blessing to them.

4. Paul says:
a. Jesus will be revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.  He comes to punish and be glorified and marveled.
b. Christ is glorified IN his holy people and marveled at AMONG all who believe.
c. Punished with everlasting destruction, shut out from the presence of the Lord and cut off from the majesty of his power.

5. Paul prays that God may

  • count them worthy of his calling
  • fulfill every good purpose of theirs
  • fulfill every act prompted by faith
  • the name of our Lord Jesus glorified in them and them in him

Conclusion:

I was particularly struck by the prepositions in verse 10.  He comes to be glorified in his holy people and marveled at among all those who have believed.  I had always read this as: He comes to be glorified BY his holy people and marveled at by all those who have believed.  Being glorified “in and among” the body of believers is a completely different and richer meaning.

Jesus doesn’t require any further exaltation – he is already at the right hand of God.  He comes to reunite with the believers to raise the church up into glory with Him.  What a magnificent reunion that will be!

 

BSF Acts: Week 15, Day 4: 1 Thessalonians 4:1–12; 5:12–28

Summary

Faith is not just words that we say or a oath that we take.  It isn’t just an intellectual endeavor.  Faith is a changed life.  Faith is being brought into a new family.  Faith is being filled with the spirit and love of God and immediately beginning an eternal life, different that the ways of this world.

Questions
10. a.  The way we live our lives.  To be sanctified. To avoid sexual immorality.  To be holy and honorable.  To lead a quiet life, mind your own business, work with your hands. To acknowledge those who work hard and hold them in high regard.  To live in peace.  To warn those who are idle, encourage the disheartened, help the weak and be patient.  Strive to do what is good for everyone.  Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.  Reject evil.
b. They are opposite.  Current culture says focus on yourself only, look out for number 1.  Do what is fun and enjoyable.  Gossip and rumor and leisure are the entertainment of the day.
c. To warn the idle, encourage the disheartened and help the weak and most importantly – to be patient.  I very much need more patience with people.
11. a.  To give thanks in all circumstances.  Paul is such a great example of extreme persecution and extreme joy and rejoicing.
b. Through the holy spirit, through prophecy (the word of God), through God himself and the peace he provides.  Through God’s faithfulness.  Our responsibility is to not quench the spirit, to test the messages provided to us and hold to what is good.  To accept God’s strength.

Conclusion:

There are significant rewards to living a life pleasing to God.  Not something earned by this work, but in the same way that a father shows praise and encouragement to a good report card.  The love doesn’t come from the work, but it provides an opportunity to demonstrate it.

BSF Acts: Week 13, Day 4: Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12

Summary:

Have you every watched a herding dog work?  Part of the time it is out in front, leading the way, then it loops to the back, side to side, nipping at the heels as necessary to keep everyone on course, then back out in front again.  Hebrews 12, to me, is the personification of a herding dog.  The first verses are the dog, out in front – this way, here we go, keep going, doing great.  The last verses are back behind – don’t get off path, stay the course, are you insane, do you know what happened to the Israelites who just touched the mountain, nip, nip.  And I particularly love the very center of the chapter – verse 14-15 – Be holy and don’t let anyone miss the grace of God. (that is what it is all about, right?).

 

Questions:
9. a. what you must reject (verse 1a): shame, guilt, inadequacy, pride, self-reliance, self-confidence, distraction, wavering, (baggage and sin)
b. with perseverance – my own race (the one marked out for me)
c. on Jesus

10. a. It is provided in love and for training, not punishment.  It is provided by a loving Father for my growth and development.  I am allowed to receive the rewards eternally from the pain of the short-term training.
b.

1. Pray: One way to exercise your arms and knees is to bend them together, like we do when we pray

2. Work: Another is to get out and do good works for the kingdom.  Help, the poor, the widows and orphans, the disabled, those in need – for the purpose of serving God, not man.

3. Stay on the course: When the running gets hard it is easy to want to go rest under that nice oak tree, just for a little bit.  God stays to stay on the course, not off in the weeds.  We can become so distracted by “easy self-help guides” that we forget that we are given challenges to teach us to rely on God not ourselves. (duh!)

4. Play well with others:  There is no extra prize for getting through life first, but there are eternal rewards for running in a pack with others helping them even as they help you.

5. Be holy.

c. (Personal) My family, coworkers, those in mission work that I help support, other BSF leaders and HQ, my co-leader in BSF, my pastors and elders of my church, my family and the 16 kids in my class.

11. The analogy I think of is that of electricity.  Under the old covenant, the work was not complete.  The power was there, turned on and all could feel and knew of its presence, but any misstep was deadly – not out of threat or punishment, but out of reality.  Under the new, the work is complete, the electricity lights the landing field, sending a beacon of welcome to all believers to come home.
12. Following the analogy – do not mistake: the pretty lights are lit by the same power – and now that they are on and fully lit we have no excuse or justification for not following the beacon.  Choosing to not follow God is far more deathly than accidentally coming too close to him in the old testament.  In the old, they lost their earthly life, in the new someone loses their eternal life.

13. a. Hero worship – I think we are living in a generation and a time of information and communication that hero worship (except for the fanatical) is gone.  No man is good and thus no man is great.  In the past, blemishes were hidden and people were idolized.  Today it is all but assumed that those who have risen to power are flawed and deceitful. 

b.By being unshakable in my faith and devotion.  By not wavering from the path.  By keeping my focus on Jesus.

Conclusions:

1. I loved part 5 of question 10b – be holy.  It made me think.  Most of us have some sensibility of what we would do or bring into church.  We wouldn’t stand up in a church and start cussing.  We wouldn’t go to church and take money from the offering plate to line our own pockets.  We wouldn’t bring pornography or drugs or other vices into church.  But church is not a place, it is a body – my body as a believer.  Why would I do or bring any of those things into this church any more than I would into the four walled structure.  It gave me some new thoughts about being holy.

2.  Question 13a – Wow, that sounded cynical – Please don’t mistake this for a lack of admiration and respect for those who live a humble life of service to God and the church.  That is not what I mean.  But I think there was an era, maybe our parents generation, maybe grandparents, where people admired “great men”.  The history books seem to be filled with them.  But my sense is that the people of today are not better or worse than those of history, but the information we have about them is more honest.  The history books are filled with men of honor and duty to principle and values.  The people in equivalent positions today are accused of adultery, child molestation, transmitting nude pictures, etc., etc.  The higher we try to climb on our own self worth, the harder we fall under the light of scrutiny and information.  But those who lead as servants, who serve in prayerful obedience to God, those are the ones to be modeled. 

The people I look up to the most?  Those who spend the most time down on their knees!

BSF Acts: Week 12, Day 5: Hebrews 10:19–39

Hebrews 10:19–39

Summary:

The author reminds us that this is not simply a cognitive discourse or mental exercise, it is real and as such calls for action.  We are exhorted to live a life in keeping with the gift that we have received.  And we are also to understand that the free will we are given to accept or reject this gift of sacrifice and to sign up to be covered by it is ours to make – but their are consequences for rejecting the gift.

Questions:

13. Let us:

  • draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith: Pray with confidence and trust – not being timid and trying to hide my sin – God has forgiven it even before I’ve committed it.
  • hold unswervingly to the hope we profess – Am I living my life with an eternity focus or a short term focus?  Am living in the line or the dot at the beginning of the line?  How straight is my line pointing to God or does it swerve?
  • consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds – Do I encourage someone every day to come closer to the love of God?
  • not give up meeting together – Am I in communion with God and my community or do I spend too much time privately with the Lord?

14. The sin is rejecting God – we are given free will to receive or reject (without it eternal life wouldn’t be a gift, it would be a forced state).  If someone refuses to come into the house, they weather the storm on their own.

15. They get all that they deserve – eternity spent in regret

Conclusion:

The book of Hebrews does a good job of bridging the misunderstandings that many have between the old and new testaments, particularly in the understanding of God.  Many think of the God of the old testament as one of vengeance and war, death and fury and the God of the new testament as a God of forgiveness and love.  But God is God.  He hasn’t changed.  This was His plan from the day man decided to disobey Him.  And lest anyone be confused, read vs 31: It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

God loves the world, but those who choose to stand on their own, bear the weight of their sins – a price they cannot pay.  Eternity is a very long time to spend in regret.

BSF Acts: Week 12, Day 4: Hebrews 9:11–28

Hebrews 9:11–28.

Summary:

For restitution and restoration with God, death was required, blood was required because life is in blood.  But Jesus, by making himself a living sacrifice, pure and without blemish, paid the price once and for all.  He did not walk into anything man-made to lay down this offering to the Father, He walked into the sanctuary of heaven and gave it freely, defeating death for all eternity. 

Questions:

a. God gave man the gift of life to spend in glory with Him.  Man rejected God through sin as a result we owe back the gift of life.  God provided His own Son, Jesus, to pay that price, giving up His life to redeem us from sin.

b. We were reunited with God on a personal level.  He could again look at us and see the joy of His Son.  We became brothers with Christ adopted into God’s family.  The curtain was torn. The old, inadequate methods of partial restitution were voided by the new – the price was paid in full.

c. I work to do His will.  I come up short every day, but I pray for strength.  I serve Him through the love and prayer I provide for others, through teaching, modeling, living a life that is different.

10. a. The original deal was made when God breathed life into man.  When man violated his end, through disobedience of the one requirement in the garden, he owed back the original item received.  Any avenue of return to the original relationship with God by man must include death since man cannot create life.

b. (Challenge) Lev 17:11 – For the life of a creature is in the blood… it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

11. Read Hebrews 10:1–10. The law and the sacrificial system are spoken of as shadows.

a. Like an X-Ray, a shadow or image provides a view so that we can understand the way things.  The sacrifice of animals in the earthly tabernacle and the cleansing with the blood of animals was just an elementary image of what was ultimately required.  However, a man was incapable of buying back his own life with his death.  In dying, he only gave back what was given, nothing more.

b. God’s will.  Jesus was God and gave this gift as a man because he held the love for man that only God could.

12. Once – done.  The price is paid it is time for rejoicing not deal making.

Conclusions:

I will be amazed when I get to heaven to see if God has any hair or if He has pulled it all out because of me. 

Think of it this way (not a perfect analogy, but it will make the point).  You buy your child a new coat and give it to them as a present.  It is beautiful and exactly what they need.  The next day they come up to you and say, I’ll give you $2 if you let me wear that new coat.  You explain, it is paid for, it is a gift, wear it, enjoy it.  The next day they come in and say, I’ll make my bed all next week if I can wear the new coat.  Again, you explain.  Day after day, they attempt to make deal after deal. 

But isn’t that what we try to do with God.  Thanks for washing away all my sins and clothing me in the love of your son.  I’ll promise to go to church and actually pay attention if you just let me be clean for the mess I made.  We try to make deals and promises for something that we have already been given as a gift.

If I were God I would have pulled all my hair out long ago.

BSF Acts: Week 12, Day 3: Hebrews 8:1–9:10

Hebrews 8:1–9:10

Summary:

Jesus is the High Priest of the new covenant.  The old covenant was made by man with God beginning with a promise of obedience.  The new covenant is between God and God for the benefit of mankind.  It is perfect and complete.  Jesus serves in the tabernacle in heaven directly in the presence of the Almighty (which He is), not empty handed but with the ultimate blood sacrifice and offering, that of His own life on the cross paying the price for all eternity.

Questions:

6. Jesus is our high priest in heaven in the heavenly tabernacle in the presence of God.  He talks with God daily about us and has made the ultimate offering and sacrifice for us to be cleansed of the stain of sin.
7. From verses 6–13 we read that the new covenant is superior to the old covenant. See Exodus 24:7–8.

a. An agreement or promise made between 2 parties

b. Old: Man promised obedience to God’s law, God promised forgiveness of sins through blood.  The people did not remain faithful.  New: God provided forgiveness of sins through the blood of His son, God promised all men will know Him and His law

c. (Personal) I do nothing to receive forgiveness, I only do works out of rejoicing.  I live under the new God/God

8. There were regulations for worship and structure.  There were also restrictions to entry and only timing as well as the preparation that needed to go into place in advance.  The sacrifices were not sufficient, only ceremonial.

Conclusion:

This whole deal of “deal-making” is a very human condition.  How often do people in trouble make promises to God, playing “let’s make a deal”?  If you will get me out of this mess then I will…  The problem with that is the same problem that existed under the old covenant.  Everything belongs to God anyway.  It would be like me saying to you – I want to make a deal with you, I’ll buy your car with the money you have in the bank – give me your checkbook and I’ll write you a check for it right now. 

The old covenant helped people see that they needed forgiveness and that the path to forgiveness was through sacrifice.  But they lacked anything sufficient to deal with.  Not only that, but the one thing they had, obedience, they failed at even as the law was being delivered.  God stepped in, through Christ, and paid the price that was sufficient – once and for all.