Acts: Week 2, Day 2

Acts 2:1–13.

On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descends on the 120 gathered, taking the form of a violent wind filling the whole house and tongues of fire that come to rest on each of them.  They are filled with the spirit and speak in other languages and dialects, clearly, as if native speakers.  There are others present who hear and understand clearly, causing many to hear to be convicted to seek meaning in what they hear, but others made fun.

2. a. a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting

b. tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them

c. to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

d. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit (And baptized of the spirit)

3. a. The Holy Spirit provided the equivalent of 1 language (all present heard in their native tongue) for the speaking of truth.  In Gen 11, God confused their language so as to inhibit sin.

b. Language is a tool.  How you use it is what matters and what God either equips or hinders

4. If God wanted everyone present to clearly understand the words spoken He could have taken 2 different paths:

He could have changed the speakers, so they spoke in each of the different tongues, or

He could have changed the listeners, so they understood a foreign dialect. 

I think it is significant that He did the first because it shows two things: First, that God reaches out to us where we are – He doesn’t require us to change before He loves us or reaches out to us.  Second, that He does change those baptized of the spirit (believers) providing the words, language and power needed to light others on fire as well.

BSF Acts: Lesson 10, Day 4, Hebrews 3:7–19

Hebrews 3:7–19.

Summary:

Today’s passages reference the first generation of God’s chosen people led out of Egypt by Moses.  Continually they rebelled and tested God rather than put they faith in Him.  They refused to turn to God and instead kept a sinful, unbelieving, heart.  If it could happen to the Jews who saw the miracle of being led out of Egypt, then it could happen to anyone.  The author warns to Christians that sin is deceitful and works to harden our hearts.  God is faithful and just and unyielding in requiring our obedience (for our own good).

Questions:

12. Numbers 13 shows the “grasshopper mentality” that creeps into our lives when we don’t rely on God.  When we focus on the vastness of the universe and the trials and tribulations that surround and we try to rely on our own strength and power alone we can quickly begin to see ourselves as nothing more than grasshoppers.  But God never asks us to do anything on our own strength except bend a knee to Him.

13. a. v.15Heard His voice, hardened their hearts, rebelled  17 Sinned 18 disobeyed 19 unbelief, 17 God was he angry for forty years, their bodies fell in the desert 18 God denied them His rest 19 They were not able to enter the promised land.
b. I have and still do forget how jealous God is for my love and obedience.  Obviously, this is a deserving jealousy and it is out of love for me.  But, I can convince myself that God won’t care if I detour a little, if I commit a little sin, if I put my trust in my own abilities rather than His.  But not of those are little things, they are all acts of disobedience and all take me int the wrong direction.

Conclusion:

Hebrews is known to be a book of encouragement, and I believe that it is.  However, with careful reading it also cuts deeply and convicts the practicing Christian (at least it is me).

Take verses 13 and 14: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.”

How well do I do at encouraging other believers daily?  DAILY?  Other than BSF and possibly encouraging my wife and kids, I may go a month without specifically encouraging another believer.  The way I try to live my life may be an encouragement, but I don’t know that I’m doing that much “sharing in Christ” daily.  But that daily engagement is what God wants, not only with me and His word, not only with me and  Him in prayer, but also with me and his church (other believers) in fellowship and sharing.  How can I encourage someone if I don’t spend time with them and have fellowship with them.

This last point really struck home the importance of participation in BSF, not just doing the lesson, but showing up, sharing and hearing others, praying with and for each other.  God knew it to be so important that He calls us to do it every single day.

BSF Acts: Week 2, Day 1

2. It is probably just me.  There seem to be those BSF questions that I really have to work at because I can clearly see both sides of the argument.  I come away with, “if you look at it this way it could be x, but then, looking at this, it could be y”, and I feel very justified in my ambiguity.  Then I read the notes.  Every time, it seems, the notes are uncompromising and it always seems the notes simply state it as fact, without any apparent need for discussion or justification. 

This week those questions included the baptism of the spirit occurring at the exact same time as accepting Jesus.  The notes: 1 sentence: born of spirit = baptized with spirit = into the body of Christ.  All one thing and all together. It also included the question of casting of lots.  The notes: not since pentecost.  (side note, I did find it interesting that this is how some Amish groups select their leaders to this day: see Amish Encyclopedia.)

What humbles me in this isn’t that the BSF notes are gospel and I should yield unquestioningly to what is written, although they are written by people far more learned than I am.  But instead, that the points I seem to focus on, to spend a lot of time developing arguments for this side or that to show-off my knowledge of the scriptures, barely get a sentence in the notes.  In other words, they are really immaterial to the bigger picture.  And as christians, we are so like this.  How many denominations developed over little differences in the interpretation of scripture?  How many arguments have been made and how much effort has been placed in these minor and unnecessary issues?

Instead, I pick up such cool comments from the notes that encourage me that I totally seemed to miss: “Until one knows the Old Testament, it is impossible to understand the different facets of the Lord’s death and resurrection” and ” Although He had been invisible to them, they now realized He had been with them all the time.” 

So much for my grand arguments!

Quiet Strength – Daily Walk

I recently finished reading Tony Dungy’s memoir, Quiet Strength.  I enjoy football and I can get into watching a good game, but I couldn’t say that I’m a big fan.  To the best of my knowledge I’ve never screamed at the television set.  I also don’t obsess over scores or players.

At our first BSF leader’s meeting a number of the guys mentioned that they had read Dungy’s book over the summer so I decided to pick it up.  It is a very good biography and an excellent book on tape, read by the author.  Tony recounts the trials and tribulations that he has observed and been a part of from growing up through the Colt’s Superbowl championship.  Tony is a man of God and his faith and commitment to the Word are evident throughout everything.  It would be a good read for that story and the encouragement it provides alone.

But, what really struck me was how many sentences in the book Tony begins with the word “God.”  “God had this move in mind for us”, “God was with us”, “God is faithful to us”.  It made me think about the “walk of faith” that we so often talk about.  In Tony’s life it is clear that in his walk he is just to the side and one step behind our Lord, always keeping an eye and doing his best to let things happen in God’s time and at His pace.  It made me think about how many times I rush ahead, then fall to my knees praying that God will come find me when I get lost.  Or, the other times I’m behind, but pushing God to hurry up and take me the direction I want to go.

An old hymn came to mind as I thought more and more about the lesson that Tony provides of  daily devotion, unashamed profession of faith, pray and praise through everything:

I am weak, but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

Refrain:

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.

Acts: Lesson 1, Day 6

Acts 1.

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

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.