Acts Lesson 1, Day 1

What was new, helpful or interesting to you in the notes?

I was particularly struck by the comment in the notes that “the indwelling of the Holy Spirit enabled the apostles to perform acts that were previously impossible when Jesus was with them, but not in them.”  We often think about how wonderful and inspiring it would have been to physically walk with Jesus and see His ministry delivered first hand.  It is also tempting to attribute the faith that the apostles had to that gift.  But, as the notes point out, that wasn’t the source of their strength and that wasn’t what strengthened their faith.  As Luke will point out in the book of Acts, the apostle Paul came to know Christ after His ascension.

The notes continue with: “Your study of Acts will reveal that the key to living a powerful, fruitful Chrstian life is to be filled continuously with the Holy Spirit.  This is both each christian’s overwhelming priviledge as well as Gods command to be filled continuously (Ephesians 5:18).  This is the normal christian life; any other life is subnormal.”

That is such a bold and true statement.  Nothing wishy-washy or part way. Christians are to be filled (all the way to “F” on on our fuel tank) with the Holy Spirit.  So how do we top off the tank and fill our lives with the spirit?  The notes discuss the prescription that Dr. Luke notes through the account of the Acts of the Apostles and how they did it.  Prayer. Strength from other believers.  Witnessing.  Work.  Persecution. Praise. Joy. 

This last point, Joy, I think will come up over and over again in the study this year.  We live in an area of great affluence, where few want for much of anything.  But there is such a lack of joy in our communities and neighborhoods.  As the notes say, “These early Christians lived in a state of exaltation and gladness in the midst of unheard-of difficulties.  Luke emphasizes Pauls intense joy and devotion to the Lord in every page of Paul’s history in Acts.”  This includes during times of being beaten, inprisoned, persecuted, chased out of town and even left for dead.  Clearly that joy is not coming from outside influences.  It is from the same gift of indwelling of the spirit that has been given to me and you.

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!

Figures of speech

As we study the book of Acts this year, an interesting aspect to watch for and pay attention to are the speeches.  Luke doesn’t just observe and explain what is going on, he extensively quotes a wide variety of speakers to document the history, context and message of the early church.  There are approximately 24 speeches recorded which comprise over 30% of the total book.  These are not summaries, but quotes of the words said. 

Why is this important?  I think paying careful attention to the voice of the people recorded in Acts will provide great insight and perspective.  But, most importantly, I believe it emphasizes the the message of the good news of Jesus Chris is “the message.”  It is not a set of rules.  It is not an act of obedience such as circumcision of wearing of certain prayer boxes of articles of clothing.  It is not a strict memorization and recitation.  It is the same message being delivered over and over again, by numerous men and women to strengthen each other, defend the faith from attack, demonstrate devotation and dedication in the face of persecution and, most importantly, to deliver the message to those who had not heard or did not yet believe.

The message of the speeches is the message of God’s love and redemption through Christ.

Who is your Theophilus?

The Apostle Luke authors 2 books in the bible: the book of Luke and the book of Acts.  Both he addresses to Theophilus.  In Luke 1:3 he states, “it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus” and in Acts 1:1 he writes, “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach.”

I became curious, who is this Theophilus dude? The name only appears twice in the bible, in these 2 verses.  There is no clue or indication of the actual persona of this individual or even whether it is a real name, a nick name or a descriptive name.  As BSF would say, “answers may vary,” and scholars have as many opinions as there are options.

So I fell back to my experience of the scriptures.  What I have found and believe is that when a specific fact or name is presented in the bible, it is there for a reason.  When further information to specify the fact or name is not disclosed it is because that is not relevant.  So why is this name here?

Strong’s Greek translates the name into 2 parts: Theo, Strong 2316 (Theo), God, the Creator and owner of all thing  and Philus, Strong 5384 (phílos), expresses experience-based love.  So the name literally means someone who loves God, with an expressed, experience based love, as one who knows and shares the love of God because of a personal relationship with Him.

This struck me because of the quote I so vividly remember of Dr. Chuck Mesfeldt at the BSF conference in Denver a few years ago.  Chuck took the podium and, I remember it so clearly to this day, said, my name is Chuck Mesfeldt, I love Jesus and I love BSF.  Clearly, this is not an introduction you hear most men state today, but what a wonderful statement and succinct testimony!

To me, the emphasis becomes less whether Luke’s Theophilus was a specific person, group, pseudonym, or some other fundamental explanation.  What is more important to Luke and to us is that he had a Theophilus in his life to write to.  He had a Theophilus to share his faith, his love, his observations, his joy, his fears and his uncertainty.  What a blessing it must have been to Luke.

How amazing our lives and our world would become if we Christians introduces ourselves: My name is _____________ and I love God.

As you read this, I encourage you to give it a try.  I’m doing it.  It still feels strange, but I like it.  I love it.  At our first BSF meeting I tried it when I introduced myself.  I encourage you to try it to.  What an amazing and changed world this would be if we become each others Theophilus!!!