Acts: Lesson 1, Day 6

Acts 1.

14. Pray for obedience and patience to wait for God’s timing and for God’s calling.

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Acts: Lesson 1, Day 5

Acts 1:12–26

The 11 apostles and close friends and partners wait as commanded.  They spend the waiting time in prayer.  Based on prayer and scripture they ask God to help select a replacement for Judas: Matthias is selected.

12. a. Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James, the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.   I learn from this that they “joined together constantly in prayer.”  We often think of prayer as a one-on-one time with God, like an individual conversation.  And that is good and appropriate prayer.  This example in Acts also helps us see group or corporate prayer.  I can, at best, do a good job of listening to one conversation at a time, but God, in His infinite knowledge and power, can hear the prayers of all and those prayers have an even sweeter aroma when they are unified (joined together) and over time (constantly).

b. I think they prayed for their relationship with each other and with God.  I think they gave praise and thanksgiving for all of the miraculous things that had been revealed to them and they asked for strength, understanding and wisdom to process it.  I think they sought God’s guidance and direction and His timing.  They had been told to wait.  I think they made the best use of that time that anyone possibly could – they spent it together in prayer.

13. a. The thing I find most interesting in the selection of Matthias is what did not occur.  They didn’t have candidates submit a resume.  They didn’t watch videos of them giving sermons.  They didn’t interview them to review their past experiences and performance.  They didn’t discuss who was the most eloquent, who had the nicest family, who would fit in best.  Instead they got on their knees.  They had some base requirements, someone who had been around to observe Jesus first hand (side note: interesting how later on God shows that isn’t even a requirement for being an apostle), but aside from that they left it up to God to call the right person.  So, yes, particularly in matters of ministry, I think this is a far better way to go.  We would pick more David’s (see story of David’s selection in 1 Sam 16:5-13 and how even a prophet like Samuel struggled to be patient for God’s selection) and we would have fewer golden calves (see story of how Moses argued with God because he didn’t believe in his own skillset (Ex 4:10-17), so God allows Aaron into leadership.  Later Aaron is the one, while Moses is on the mountain, who constructs the golden calf (Ex 32:2-4).

b. Interesting question: should a person with talents but not a calling do work for the Lord?  On one hand, God is in control of all things, so we are all working for the Lord. And, I believe that all believers are called into some form of ministry (there are no couch potatoes on God’s team).  On the other hand, one of the things I am hearing loudly in this study so far is to wait on the Lord’s timing and pay attention to His guidance and selection.  When we pick the person we think is most qualified (especially if that person is ourselves), we are normally wrong.  My official answer is yes (because prayer for patience, guidance, etc. is work – keep in mind that Jesus prayed so hard he was sweating blood) and no (because we need to exercise patience for God’s calling and God’s timing).

Conclusion:

I had lots of ideas about what I wanted to learn from the study of Acts this year.  Getting a loud message about waiting on God’s timing and His calling was not one of them.  That is what I love about actually studying the scripture and BSF – we receive such a blessing of the unexpected.

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.

Acts: Lesson 1, Day 4

Acts 1:4–11.

The apostles were told about the baptism with the Holy Spirit and to wait in Jerusalem for it in a few days.  They question Jesus about plans for restoring Israel to power and He tells them to not worry about it but instead they are to take the power of the spirit and witness in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and ends of the earth. The apostles then observe the bodily ascension of Jesus into heaven.  As they stand there, staring up into the sky, 2 men show up by them and provide the teaser for the sequel: Jesus Returns!

8. Someone who receives Christ also receives the spirit.  I believe that while the spirit is always present with me, that the power, words, wisdom and intercession he provides vary based on both needs/opportunities and my openness.

Romans 8:9, 14–16; if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:13; For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

2 Corinthians 1:21–22; He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit

Galatians 4:6: Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts

9.  Being “baptized with the Holy Spirit”  is the initial state of being washed clean of sin by the gift of salvation that we receive when we accept Christ and welcome His spirit into our heart and our lives.  Being “filled with the Holy Spirit” is the state of power that comes from the spirit when we need it because we are called on, by God, to perform acts (including ministry, counseling, etc. as well as physical acts) that further the kingdom. Paul reminds us that, while the work we are called to perform may be difficult and that difficulty may come from our own inner turmoils, the spirit is overflowing with ability and we are left with a feeling of Joy. (Rom 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit)

Acts 4:8, 31; Peter and the apostles filled with the spirit and speaking his words

Acts 6:3–4 The growing disciples, at the recommendation of the apostles, appoint 7 deacons who are filled with the spirit, to care for the flock of believers

Ephesians 5:18 Don’t get drunk of wine – be filled with the spirit.  I think about this everytime I hear the current song: “your love is my drug.”

10. a. Proof of power: Jesus says the holy spirit will come on them.  The greek word Jesus uses in this passage, eperchomai, is the same word used in Luke 1:35 that the angel spoke to Mary to describe the spirit coming on her so she would bear the Son of God. The command Jesus gave them was to witness.

b. I can apply this by waiting for the Lord’s timing and then not hesitating to act, regardless of how I would assess my own strengths at that time that I am called.  The image that comes to my mind is an assistant in an operating room.  I would be the one trying to hand over a tool either 3 steps ahead or 2 steps behind – but when I stop and listen to the surgeon, then I’m part of the life changing team.

11. a. Immediately before the ascension we get a glimpse into the disciples’ thinking.  They are still fixated on trying to figure out when God is going to get off His duff and put Israel into the seat of power.  Then, 2 sentences later, Jesus bodily ascends into heaven.  The disciples have not yet received the full empowering of the spirit.  I think they are, more than anything, confused.  Where are the armies wiping out the Romans and restoring Israel?  Did we miss it?  What now?

b. the two men in white encouraged them by giving the teaser for the next episode/volume: Jesus Returns, the sequel!

Conclusion:

While Acts opens with Jesus leaving the earth, physically, it quickly sets the stage that this is not the end of the story and that His presence remains here on earth, both through the spirit in the immediate time and again physically descending from heaven in a future time.  It also sets the stage for a new relationship by the Apostles with Christ and with other believers and Christ as well, to not just be followers and lurkers, hanging on His words and waiting for His healing, but to receive that power into us and then use it.

Acts: Lesson 1, Day 3

Day 2 Scripture:  Acts 1:4–8.

5 short versus that outline the rest of the book of Acts.  In this section, Luke recalls Jesus’ direction to the apostles to wait for the gift of the holy spirit, that they would not know all of God’s timing, but with the spirit they had power and with that power they were to go out and witness.  In previous posts I discussed how this outlines the direction the Apostles took, geographically.

6. The gift from the Holy Father, spoken of by Jesus: to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

7. a. John 14:17 explains that the Spirit of Truth would be with them and live in them.  The power of the spirit permanently resided within their soul now that the price of their sins had been paid-in-full.

b. John: 1:32: When Jesus was baptized, the Spirit came down on Him like a dove.  Clearly, at this point, the spirit was “with” the apostles, but not yet “in” the apostles.

Romans 8:26 says that the spirit intercedes for us in prayer with groans that words cannot express and Romans 8:28 points out that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.  So, can the Holy Spirit pray for us and guide us even before we accept the gift and invite him into our heart?  Absolutely, that is how it works!  Can the spirit continue to move through others, even non-believers for the benefit of those who love Him?  Without a doubt.   However, the state of the spirit being with me, but not in me, while good and reassuring is not sufficient.  Only by accepting him with the gift of salvation do I become a new creation, cleansed of my sins.

c. Simple answer is “in me.”  This is not to say that I am always obedient, nor do I always even consult the spirit before heading off in my own direction.  But I have accepted the gift and I live in the hope and assurance of everlasting life.  I am incredibly hesitant to speak for God (that just doesn’t sound like a muy bueno idea) but I think I am slowly maturing in my relationship, growing daily in a desire to follow Him and do things in His time.

Conclusion: God is not some distant, absentee, set-things-in-motion-then-sit-back being.  He is active not just in nature and in the universe, providing a hand of guidance and direction, but He, through the Holy Spirit, lives and dwells within us.  He washes over us and enters our body, mind and soul, like breath itself.