BSF Acts: Week 23: Lecture

Aim: God has a purpose for me and for you

Why?  Why?  Why?  We love to ask that question.

Why do I have to?  Why did you?  Why did that happen?  Why didn’t that happen?  Why am I here?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why do bad people do well?  Why? Why?

But, so often we approach that question not really wanting an answer we just want to gripe and complain.  But, here is the answer, even when we are only fake asking:  Why?  Because it is part of God’s plan. Period.

Now, we may not always understand God’s plan and we sometimes may not like God’s plan, but who do you think is better at a making a plan?  Us or God?

Let’s look at how He communicated this to the Ephesian church through Paul:

1st Division: Eph 2: 1-10 We are made alive through faith in Christ

Principle: God has work for us to do

Illustration: Our job is to work – that is what it means to have a job – that is what it means to have purpose – that is part of the answer to the question “why?”  The work we do is not to earn something (wages or favor), it is simply what members of the family do.  In your family you have jobs.  They are not things others need you to do – let’s face it, your parents have far more experience and skill at doing most of the things than you do and sometimes they could do them faster than having you do them.  (sorry to burst your bubble).  But, if you do not participate, you are not part of the family – see that word participate – it starts with “part” and means you have to do your part.  If you don’t you aren’t.  God gives us work so we can be part-icipants in His family.

Applications: Are you doing work to be a part or to get something special?  Are you doing work gratefully or grudgingly?  What is God asking you to do but you are denying or hesitating?

2nd Division: Eph 2:11-3:13 Christ provides unity for believers

Principle: Christ’s church was a mystery

Illustration: Have you ever seen a magic trick?  A magic trick is kind of like a mystery.  To people on the stage, there is  no mystery, they know what, when and how everything happens.  But to people that choose to just sit and watch, they don’t understand, it is unclear.  The difference is perspective and revelation.  Jesus revealed to Paul the mystery.  God revealed it to Paul, Peter, Isaiah, etc. etc.  There was no lack of information.  But there were lots of people who chose to view things from their comfy seats in the audience.

The church of Christ – Jews and Gentiles, was always God’s plan.  It is not, “for God so loved the Jews”  God loved the world – and, thank God, because otherwise we would not be on the stage and part of the show!

Application:  Are you curious or just wanting to be entertained?  Have you made up your mind or do you continue to ask and learn?

3rd Division: Eph 3:14-21 Paul’s prayer for Ephesus

Principle: God is glorified through His power in His church (you and me)

Illustration:

“Filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”.  What an interesting statement.  It is easy to pass over because at first glance it sounds common.  I’m old enough to remember my dad pulling up to the filling station.  ding, ding.  The station attendant jogged out and my dad would say, “fill ‘er up with ethyl.”  But, wait a minute – while that is where this verse starts, it actually says more.  Let’s take a deeper look.

In greek, the first filled is the word πληρόω plēroō, (strongs G4137).  This literally means to fill it as full as is possible – that another drop would over flow, that another grain would fall off.  Literally that there can be no more.

Now, most of us would look at that and say – filled is filled. Anything over filled is spilled and wasted, right?

But Paul doesn’t go there.  He goes on to say filled to all the fullness of God.  The second fullness is πλήρωμα plērōma (strongs G4138).  In the New Testament verses, this word takes on additional meaning: the body of believers, as that which is filled with the presence, power, agency, riches of God and of Christ.  In particular, it is the same word used in Colossians 2:9, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form”.

See, even in this seemingly simple verse Paul is continuing to emphasize this important message.  He doesn’t want us to be filled in accordance with what our earthly selves can hold.  He is praying that we are filled to the fullness that Christ in us can hold – He is praying that we are filled with the fullness of the Deity in bodily form – He is praying that we are filled not to the level we can manage but to the level God can manage, not with human limits but with holy limits (are there holy limits or is it limitless?)

But what a contrast that is to how I think – I think that I have a tank that holds a certain amount, just like the tank on our car.  Filling it any fuller just would overflow on the ground and be wasted.  But I am no longer just me when I am a Christian.  I am no longer just me when I am a Christian.  (that repetition was on purpose – don’t make me say it a third time :-) ). I am the church.  I am the body of Christ.  I am the body of believers.  I am the power, agency and riches of God and of Christ.  I am limitless in God’s eyes.

Application: How are you asking God to fill you up?

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 17: Lecture

I don’t lecture this week, but wanted to add my notes.

In this week’s lesson we get to see and learn a lot about power.  In some ways the salvation that we receive when we believe and receive the holy spirit in our lives to begin living an eternal life is a lot like a power tool.  Think about it.  People can build amazing things with power tools.  We can build homes, furniture, bridges, buildings.  We can shape rock and literally move mountains.  But there are two really important things that have to go with it.  One is training.  If you don’t know how to use a power tool it doesn’t do much good.  The word of God is similar.  We’ll see this week that just knowing the name of Jesus doesn’t get the job done, you need to actually know Jesus through his word.  The second is that, to work right, the power tool needs to be plugged in.  We need to stay connected to God and to other believers and we see not only Paul encouraging and spending time with other believers, but we see those believers spending time with Paul when he is in need.  We can stay connected today by reading the bible, connecting in our church and through BSF.  Let’s get into the word.

1st Division: Acts 18:23-28

In this first section we get to meet Apollos.  Apollos was blessed in many ways by God.  Not only did he have knowledge of, what we call today, the old testament, but he had fervor – energy – for speaking God’s word.  He had been baptized in the cleansing water of John’s baptism, to wash away sin.  But he hadn’t been exposed to the entire teaching about Jesus after the resurrection.  God set his path so he met Priscilla and Aquila.  These teachers took him in and provided him with additional training.  They expanded his knowledge and helped the spirit touch his heart.  Not only that, but they helped him further his ministry and mission work by sending letters ahead to friends in Corinth.

People were given power throughout the old testament.  One thing we saw that was interesting, particularly with Moses is the way he would get charged up from time in the tabernacle – he even had a glow to him – but over time that charge faded and he had to keep going back.  You see, when God first created us (Adam and Eve that is) we were completely connected to Him.  They walked and talked together everyday, living fully in the presence of God.  But then they decided to pull the plug on the relationship by breaking the one rule He gave them.  But, with the good news of Jesus Christ, the circuit has been completed again.  When we accept the gift of salvation we don’t just get charged up, but God sends the Holy Spirit to live in us – connected forever to the source of all the power in the universe.

Who do you need to help get connected to the power of Christ?  Who is afraid, hurting or sad, that you can be a witness to?

How are you going to use the power flowing through you?

2nd Division: Acts 19

In this next section we see the role that people play in relaying the power of God through teaching and healing.

First we see Paul planting a new church in Ephesus.  Let’s look at the way he did it.  First.  He went to where people were going who were hungy for the word of God – he went to the synagogue.  He did that for 3 months, touching many people, but he ran into so many barriers in the form of opposition from the jews that he moved out.  But he didn’t form a new church to meet every Sunday.  Let’s look at what he did.  He moved into a school.  He set up every afternoon to welcome and dialogue with people who wanted to learn.  Not once a week, not him up front in a one way speech/sermon.  It was a round table dialogue of learning.  Notice what it says – he stayed for 2 years until all Asia heard the word – talk about being thorough!

Then we hear this story about the seven sons of Sciva.  They obviously did not participate in these daily training sessions.  They knew the name of Jesus.  They knew the power of that name – but they did not actually know Jesus.  They didn’t have a relationship with Him.  They weren’t plugged in.  Now, we learn that demons may be unfriendly but they aren’t stupid.  The demon possessed man knew Jesus and Paul – but didn’t know them.  He jumped them and beat them until they changed from the sons of sciva into the sons in skivies!

From this people got the message and turned more and more to the ways of the Lord.  Things get rolling so much that the business people who make and sell idols start getting nervous and upset.  They have inventory to move and turn into an angry mob.  A city clerk steps in an calms things down and we see from this interaction that the city is pretty set on keeping one foot in the world of idols.  It is going to be a challenging area for the church – as areas of commerce and wealth often are.

Through this all we see how powerful God is compared to everything else and how he moves.  But as importantly, we see that God is in complete control of His power.  With less than a whisper, He could cause everyone to know Him.  But, that isn’t faith.  He doesn’t want to convince us – He wants us to believe, to trust and have faith.  To want to know more about Him and to want to connect to His power.

Besides BSF – how are you learning more about God?  Who do you need to spend time talking with daily?  Do you talk with God daily  – that might be a great place to start?

 

3rd Division – Acts 20 – 21:15

Paul wraps up this missionary trip with teaching and conviction.  You know, conviction is an interesting word – literally, it means “with proof”.  Paul is so connected to the power of God that this is no longer any question.  He doesn’t just believe it – he knows the good news as fact.

Paul joins believers in Troas and teaches late into the night – so late that one of the believers falls to sleep and falls out of a third story window and dies.  That’s right – if you ever feel like I’m boring you to death – I’m doing just as good as Paul!  But talk about being connected to the power of God – Paul rushes out and hugs the boy and he is brought back to life.

But Paul is also convicted to his calling.  There is no question this is going to be a tough road and Paul has no expectation of returning – but he is being called to Jerusalem.  Despite tearful good byes.  Despite prophesies of being bound and killed.  Paul is determined to do God’s will – period.

Why is Paul not afraid of going to Jerusalem?  Of being bound and probably killed?  Because he knows that death is not the end.  He is living an eternal life right now – connected to the Holy Spirit.  Death only means shedding the constraints of this world to continue what he is doing – living for God.

What are you afraid of?  Is God bigger that it?

BSF Acts: Week 17, Day 2: Acts 18:23–28

Summary:

We are introduced to Apollos, a brilliant and articulate man with a fervor for God.  After additional instruction from Aquilla and Priscilla he goes on to provide great teaching and ministry in Corinth.  So great that there is division in Corinth over which preacher they follow which Paul attempts to correct in a letter to them

Questions:

3. a. The region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples

b. (Personal) My family, my BSF group of kids (and indirectly their parents), my co-workers and employees

4. a. a learned man, thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, instructed in the way of the Lord, spoke with great fervor, he taught accurately and spoke boldly

b. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  If he knew only the baptism of John then he new the messiah had come, the son of God himself, to save the world, but he may not have had complete understanding of the resurrection.

c. They encouraged and helped pave the way for him to go into Christian ministry and missionary work.  They were from Corinth and sent letters ahead to the disciples there.

d. People in Corinth began following and idolizing the preacher instead of the message being preached.  They began forming factions of Paul followers vs Apollos followers.  Paul makes 2 points: we are both only men/servants; we are a team (I planted seed, he watered it, God made it grow).  Apollos wanted to stay away to not cause disharmony.

Conclusions:

What was Apollos most admirable trait?  This wasn’t a BSF question, but one I thought was interesting.  He had great intellect, poise and presence.  He had great command of the scriptures.  He was articulate and passionate.  All of those are great characteristics.  But to me was the fact that he set all that aside to receive additional instruction from Aquilla and Priscilla.  Keep in mind these were not university professors or temple scholars – they were tent makers.  But Apollos recognized the truth in their message and saw the spirit move in their instruction. 

I think his most admirable trait was a characteristic that he apparently didn’t have: arrogance.  So often higher learning and strong persuasive skills lead men to believe the more or better than others.  Apollos apparantly, as Paul put it to the Corinthians, was first and foremost a servant.

BSF Acts: Week 15, Day 5: 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:11

Summary:

Do not lose hope or mourn the dead.  The promise of Jesus’ return and the reunion with him is not only for living believers, but for all, living and dead in a trumpet shout and majesty.

Questions:

12. a.  The Lord’s return is for all believers, living and dead.  Jesus’ promise of reunion is for all and, in fact, those who pass from this life experience the reunion first.
b. The magnitude of the reunion and yet that it will be a personal experience.  The power of the trumpet call of God and the eternity that it begins.
13. Belong to the day, wear faith and hope as armament, as something we physically put on each day for protection and strength.

14. a.  Give two points with verses (chapter 5). To light and to salvation (v5 and v9)
b. To suffer wrath
c. Encouraged because as I spend more time with God and in His love I grasp more fully the wrath that I so rightly deserve.  The fact that God who is loving and fair understand this so much more immensely and deeply than I do, yet, appoints me to receive a gift of salvation.

Conclusion:

What does it mean to belong to the day?  I think there are 2 aspects to this.  The first and most obvious is to live a life of transparency, as if all we do is in public, in the light.  In other words, if we are doing something we don’t want others to know about or see, then we are not living in the light, but in darkness.  However, it also means that we belong to the day of the Lord.  That everything about my life today should be pointed at and longing for today to be the day that the trumpet blows and Jesus comes to claim him believers from this world for an eternal reunion party.

BSF Acts: Week 11, Day 4: Hebrews 5:11–6:3

Hebrews 5:11–6:3

Summary:

Believers are encouraged to move forward (mature) in their faith, progressing from the basic tenants of faith to depth of knowledge and understanding.

Questions:

9. a. Resistance to let go of old ways and old understanding (paradigms).  The first 4 chapters of Hebrews have addressed these issues of carry forward from old teachings, but there is a time to let go and grasp the new reality.

b. (Personal) Many of my areas of spiritual immaturity stem from misunderstandings of what the scriptures really say.  So much of the bible that we learn, even from regular church attendance, only skim the waves.  BSF provides an avenue of maturing through studying verse by verse word by word.

10. To not distinguishing right from wrong

11. The word of God, but more specifically meditating on the word: being filled with it in mind and spirit through prayer and study and communion with others.

12. a. (Challenge)

Repentance from acts that lead to death: Rom 6:23 – The wages of sin is death

Faith in God: John 3:16 – Whoever believes in him shall not perish

Instruction about baptisms: Mar 16:16 – Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved

The laying on of hands: Luke 4:40 – people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them

The resurrection of the dead: John 11:25 – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” , 1 Cor 15:52 – For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

Eternal judgment: Rev 20:15 – If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire

b. (Personal) I believe I am ready – I would like to spend time studying Revelation, but I feel I am prepared to teach others.

Conclusions:

I wonder how many school teachers have Hebrews 5:11 on their classroom wall?  “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.”

But, joking aside, it is an important reminder that we are to progress not only in our knowledge but in our spirit and our faith.  One of the things I love about the children’s program in BSF is the memory verse time.  By the end of the year the children have 30 precious verses hidden in their heart.  I am amazed at how many times I rely on these memory verses as I face the thoughts and challenges of life and faith.

BSF Acts: Week 11, Day 3: Hebrews 5:1–10

Hebrews 5:1–10

Summary:

Being a priest is not just a job, it is a calling by God.  Jesus was called by God to be our eternal high priest and the source of our eternal salvation

Questions:

6. (1) Selected among men and appointed to represent them, (2) Able to deal gently with others, (3) must be called by God (not self appointed)

I think there would be amazing benefits if christian leaders held to these same standards, particularly the third.  A lot of issues come from those who take on a leadership role for reasons other than being called to it by God.

7. v5, Son of God; v5, appointed by the Father; v6, named by God as a priest forever; v7, while Jesus did not sin, He did pray particularly regarding death; v7, reverent submission; v8, suffered; v9, perfect; v9, source of eternal salvation; v10, designated by God as high priest forever

8. a. eternal salvation

b. While disobedient in many ways, many of my ongoing temptations are health related.  I don’t eat as I should, exercise as I should, etc.  The obvious result of my disobedience (of following the calling of my stomach rather than being obedient) is that I am shortening my days on the earth.  The blessing to others of greater obedience would be more days that I could be encouraging, loving and caring for them.

Conclusions:

Gen 14:18-20: Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

In the next several weeks of the study we will see Melchizedek’s name a few more times.  Prior to Hebrews he is referenced only in this Genesis passage and then again in Psalm 110 in a Messianic prophecy (Psalm 110 is only 7 verses long).  Here are a few interesting notes to keep in mind:

  1. He was the only priest of God who was also a king noted in the bible
  2. As the king of Salem he was literally the “king of peace”
  3. His name is comprised of two word meaning “king of righteousness”
  4. He predates the Levitical line by at least 5 generations
  5. He gave Abram bread and wine and blessed him (there will be discussion to follow about how the greater provides a blessing to the lesser)

BSF Acts: Week 10, Day 3,

Hebrews 3:1–6

Summary:

Focus on our high priest in heaven.  Jesus and Moses were both faithful to God, but Jesus, as the Son of God, is greater than Moses.

Questions:

9. a. Pray, remember our sins and repent of them, seek forgiveness and restitution for wrongs, accept the gift of grace
b. When we are tempted.  We can turn to many different things when we face temptation, but only one has the ability to help us: Jesus.

10. Transcendental meditation (which has its roots in the Hindu religion) and other common forms of meditation that some use for stress relief have a focus on becoming empty.  Someone would focus on a mantra (normally a nonsensical word) and empty themselves of thought.  Christian meditation is a focus on becoming filled.  We meditate to be filled with the Spirit or to be filled with the Word or to be filled with God’s grace and forgiveness.  Here are a few examples:

Jos 1:8 Do not let the book of the law depart from your lips, meditate on it day and night

Psalm 48:9 Meditate on your unfailing love

Psalm 77:12 meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds

Psal 119:15 meditate on your precepts and consider your ways

Psalm 119:27 meditate on your wonders

11. Differences: Jesus is God (the Son of God), Moses wasn’t; Jesus built the house, Moses was in the house.  Similarities: Both men, both faithful to God.

Conclusion:

The high priest was charged with making the atoning sacrifice for the children of God.  Jesus not only took on that task once and for all, but he, himself, also became that sacrifice.  He gave himself freely as an offering of love for His father and for His fallen brothers who were enslaved by sin.

All men are born with a God sized hole in them.  We all feel longing, incompleteness, emptiness, a void from time to time.  While emptying your mind of thoughts may provide a temporary relief from stress, much like some attempt to find through the numbing effects of drugs or alcohol.  But becoming more empty is never going to be the long term answer to a feeling of emptiness and longing.  The only solution is to be filled: filled with the Holy Spirit, filled with the love of our creator, filled with the word of the Lord.  Now that is something to meditate on!

BSF Acts: Week 10, Day 2, Hebrews 2:5–18

Hebrews 2:5–18.

Summary:

The author of Hebrews again picks up the discussion of Jesus and the angels.  Jesus became man, lower than the angels, perfected by suffering to call those he saves brothers.

Questions

4. a. I think “the world to come” refers to a world totally under salvation totally subjecting itself to Christ.  For the elect I think it starts on the day we accept Christ as our savior, but I think it is complete when all do, when Christ comes again and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess.
b. In Genesis 1 God subjected the earth to man’s dominion.  The fallen earth continues in that covenant.  In these verses the writer confirms that the saved world also falls under that gift from God.

5. While fully man, Jesus took on the sins of the world and suffered death, becoming the author of salvation and rising to glory in heaven

6.Death (or fear of death), the devil, Sin, Temptation

7. (Challenge) The world is comprised of believers and non-believers.  Jesus defeated death for all, but it is not forced on all, it is a gift free given that can be received or rejected.  In Mark 16:16 the gospel says “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned”.  Satan is still in this world because free-will to sin is still in the world.  As long as sin remains, Satan remains.  But Satan is still defeated because he no longer holds power over the believers (Eph 2:1-9) who are no longer dead to transgression but alive in salvation.  At a time to come, all will know that Christ is Lord and every knee shall bow (Rom 14:11)

8. Hebrews 2:17, Jesus made like man in every way.  This is in perspective of Hebrews 1:3 stating that Jesus is the exact reflection of God.

Conclusion:

Was Jesus part man and part God?  God inside and man outside?  1/2 man 1/2 God?  Hebrews clears this up.  While we may have difficulty understanding it: Jesus was, at the same time, fully man and fully God.  It clears up that as fully man Jesus suffered when he was tempted, but as fully God he was able to remain completely without sin.

I have heard it said that Jesus could not sin because He was God.  However, if you are not able to sin then what would be the sting of temptation?  From these passages we see the amazing sacrifice that he made, to become lower than the angels and put himself in a position of suffering the same temptations and trials that we as men face, but in his divine nature He did something no other man has been able to: resist always and stay focused only on the will of God the Father.

Hebrews is a book of encouragement.  We see in chapter one the place and power of Jesus relative to men and angels and in this chapter we begin seeing the sacrifice that He made to be able to call us brother in every way.

BSF Acts, Week 10, Day 1

2. I thought the notes did a good job of explaining why our study is taking this detour in the middle of Acts to jump to the Letter to the Hebrews (besides the fact that it is strategically placed in between the chapter when Paul fights against requiring circumcision and the next chapter when he circumcises Timothy.)  On the first page it raises the question: if someone claims to be a Christian, are they?  If not necessarily, then what decides.  Hebrews explains that this isn’t a buffet line where you pick some things but leave others about faith in Christ.  You don’t rely totally on Him for your salvation but also try to do it on your own, just in case.  Jesus died, the work is done.  You are either inside the house or outside.  There is no screened in deck.  You get to choose: in or out.  I choose in!

p.s.: hold onto page 3, Homiletcs division are provided through then end of December in the table.