BSF Acts: Week 16, Day 3: 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12 with Revelation 13:6–13

Summary: 

2 Thessalonians 2:1–12

Paul describes the bold act of the “man of lawlessness” that will precede the return of Christ.   That he will exalt himself and place himself in God’s temple, claiming to be God.  And, he reinforces to them that work has already begin.  Paul does this to reassure the Thessalonians against false teaching and to not lose sight of Christ’s triumph.

Revelation 13:6–13

The time that the beast is given authority over the earth.  A time when there is no more agnostics, everyone takes a side – either God or the beast.  Then the second beast, the dragon comes out of the earth and performs great and miraculous signs.  All preceding the Day of the Lord.

Questions:

6. That day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction

7. He is a deceiver.  His authority is only that allowed to him, not anything he has of his own power.

8. a. Their refusal to love the truth and be saved.  A delusion, they believe the lie and delight in wickedness, bringing condemnation

b. Entering the gate of righteousness is a choice that is revealed to us to choose.  Other choices are abundant, there are thousands of other things we can serve and fall into depravity, but only one gate (Jesus) leads to God

c. A favorite hymn:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Conclusions:

The revelation of the gospel is not just for our curiosity or enjoyment, like an action movie, but it is there so that we are not deceived as we stand with Christ at the narrow gate, bringing the called into the house of God.  Paul’s emphasis is well noted, though. It is important to understand the events that will occur, but the important place to focus your eyes is not on the activities but on the outcome – Christ rules forever.

BSF Acts: Week 15, Day 2: 1 Thessalonians 1 with Acts 17:1–10

Summary:  Interesting that we left last week discussing encouragement.  1 Thessalonians is a book overflowing with encouragement for a growing church.  You’re doing great, stay the course.  Stay true to what we modeled and taught you.  Challenge yourself to do more, grow more, love more, give more.  Stay assured and true.  There is also a repeating message of hope, hope for the family of believers, brothers and sisters, and hope for a reunion with Christ upon His return.

3.

1 Thes 1:10″and to wait for his Son from heaven”

2:19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?

3:13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

4:15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

5:2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

5:23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
4. Their strength came from the gospel, which they received and lived out withe the power of  the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.
5.  1:3 We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.   Because this is the perfect eulogy.  What better thing could anyone say at your funeral

Conclusion: 1 Thessalonians is such a notable and encouraging book because it is so multi-faceted.  It provides a stable base to build on.  It provides a vision of what is to come.  It reinforces and strengthens the existing foundation and structure.  It encourages and admonishes continued growth.  It warns of pitfalls and concerns.  It beams love.

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 13, Day 2: Hebrews 11:1–16

Hebrews 11:1–16

Summary:

What does it mean to have faith?  It is more than recognizing who Jesus is, even the demons did that.  It is to abide in a relationship for all eternity with God and the heavenly host.

Questions:

3. a. Our belief in the accomplished work of Christ is both the foundation or underlying reality of our eternal relationship with Christ and also the demonstration or proof of His eternal relationship with us.

Said another way – faith is neither cause or effect, it is a mutual relationship and covenant – like friendship, love, peace and joy, shared and enjoyed together in a the family of believers with God.

b. Many people think of faith as action you take when there is uncertainty – blind faith, leap of faith.  Others think of faith as a system or structure: Christian faith, Jewish faith, Islamic faith. Finally, some think of it as confidence or trust in another: I have faith in you.

4. Abel was commended as a righteous man.

Enoch was commended as one who pleased God.

Noah by his faith condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

Abraham made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country.

Sarah gave birth because Abraham considered God faithful

5. Each home land has culture, norms, traditions, laws and practices.  Do I live as a citizen of the Unites States and adapt to its culture and norms?  Do I live as a citizen of earth and abide in those practices?  Or do I compare my eternal life (starting now) with other heavenly citizens (such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham) and abide in heavenly principles?

Conclusion:

I probably spent way too much time on Hebrews 11:1, but I found it fascinating.  When you look at the greek words that make up the verse there is even more of a richness than is evident in english. 

For example, the first part (being sure of), the word used in greek is hypostasis, a word still used today, to mean the substantial quality or nature of something that makes it what it is, the substructure, foundation, substance or real being.  The word is a feminine noun – the DNA of being a christian – the core building block.

Then in the second part (certain of what), the word used in greek is elegchos, a masculine noun meaning proof, that by which a  thing is proved or tested.  It is what demonstrates it to be true. Evidence.

Finally, the thing that we are certain of but do not see is the word pragma, meaning “that which has been done, a deed, an accomplished fact.”

My take away from this was that faith is both the basis of what makes us christian and the proof that we are christian.  But contrary to common usage, it is not a one way street (I have faith in God), but instead it is two way, a relationship, male and female.  God also puts His faith and trust in me to be part of His family.

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 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.