BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 31, Day 2: Acts 21:16-22:29

Summary of passage:  We pick up Paul right at his arrival in Jerusalem.  He was greeted warmly and then meets with James and all the other elders to give an account of his travels.  Immediately, there is a concern that needs to be addressed:  the Jews have mistakenly been informed that Paul is teaching the Jews to turn away from Moses and their customs.  They are angry.  So to appease them, we suggest you take four men and pay their expenses to be purified.  Then everyone will know the rumors are false and that you are living in obedience to the law.

Paul agrees and complies.  However, some Jews see him at the temple and repeat the rumors to the crowd and also throw in a lie about how Paul brought Greeks into the holy place in the temple, a lie based on a false assumption of association.

The angry mob seized Paul, beating him, fully intending to kill him for such a perceived violation of Jewish law.  However, when the Romans found out an uncontrolled riot was taking place, they ran to see what the commotion was all about.  The Romans arrested Paul and tried to figure out what was going on.  Unable to do so due to crowd noise, they remove Paul to the barracks.  Paul asks to speak to the mob in his defense.

Paul tells them his origins:  he’s a Jew who used to persecute followers of Jesus until Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and God commissioned him to the Gentiles.  This angered the crowd when Paul mentioned the Gentiles (for they believed the Gentiles were not equal with the Jews in God’s eyes) and the Roman commander ordered Paul be flogged and questioned about why the crowd was so incensed.

Here, Paul invokes his Roman citizen privileges (illegal to flog a citizen until found guilty in a court of law and illegal to chain a citizen) and the commander immediately changes course.

Questions:

3a)  He was trying to reassure the Jerusalem church of his loyalty by agreeing to take Jewish vows.  There was concern that Paul had turned against Jewish customs so they suggested Paul pay for the purification rites of four men as a gesture of support to the Jews and their way of life even though the Gentiles are not required to do so.

It seems to me there was a lot of confusion and misinformation about the new Christian faith and what it entails amongst the people.  Remember, there was no 24-hour news reel back then.  In this instance, mob mentality played a key role in Paul’s arrest and denouncement.  One person spread the rumor Paul took a non-Jew into the temple and a riot ensued.

It is very, very difficult to change and erase centuries of belief.  Most Jews had not accepted the fact that Gentiles are not equal to them in God’s eyes, that they too are now set apart, and set apart in the same way they are:  through faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, Paul’s teaching were seen as blasphemous and disrespectful.

b)  1 Corinthians 9:20:  “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.”  Paul’s attitude is to do whatever it takes to win people to Jesus, including supporting the Jews in their customs.

4a)  They seized Paul, dragged him from the temple, and tried to kill him.  The Romans intervened by arresting Paul so he wouldn’t be killed by the crazed, out of control mob.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  The same reason He allows bad things to happen to us all:  to strengthen us or perhaps those around us and test our faith in Him and His word(s).

5a)  Total obedience.  He asks, “What shall I do, Lord?” (verse 10) immediately after Jesus appears to him.  God commissioned him to the Gentiles (verse 21) and he obeyed immediately, never once turning back, despite the hardships.

b)  As soon as Paul uttered the word “Gentiles”, the crowd grew incensed.  We must remember Jews have lived for millenia as God’s chosen people, set apart and chosen by Him, as special.  So accepting the fact that Gentiles are now their equals, able to be saved by believing in Jesus, is an idea completely foreign to them and offensible.

Furthermore, when Paul declares this as God’s plan when he says the Lord told him to go the Gentiles (verse 21), this outrages the Jews.  God?  Our God said such a thing?  They just couldn’t believe it to be true.  So emotions took over and they wanted Paul to die for what they believed to be blasphemy.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I believe I have several callings.  First, is a wife to my husband.  Second, is a mother to my children.  Third, is a writer of novels to reveal God to unbelievers in a non-threatening yet powerful way.  Fourth, one day as a worship leader.  Fifth, through this blog in some way.  I hope it helps others see and know Him more.  It’s that simple.

I don’t really talk about my callings outside of my immediate family.  To be honest, I don’t talk to a lot of people outside of family.  Not to be stereotypical of writers but I’m much better with the written word than with the spoken word.  My husband and I often miscommunicate cause I’m so bad.  So I send him an email to clarify my thoughts on a matter.

So I haven’t experienced a lot (either positive or negative) because it’s something between God and me and when the time is right it will be between me and others.

Conclusions:  Yeah!  I’m so happy to be back in the book of Acts!  It’s like we stopped the book half-way through right at the good part and I am eager to see how the story ends.

I liked 5c because even though you may know God’s calling on your life it’s good to put it in writing.  I knew all of these callings but putting them together gives me a different perspective and priority for them.

I think a good question would have been:  how do you react when faced with a situation you know will be challenging but you have to do it anyways?

Poor Paul.  He knows his return to Jerusalem will be anything but pleasant and yet he walks it anyways, fulling trusting in God’s plan for his life and knowing God is right there beside him no matter what he will face.

I’m not for sure how I would have reacted if I had to walk in Paul’s shoes:  heading into a hostile environment where you know you will face physical pain, persecution, and probably death.  It’s a good lesson for all of us to ponder.

In God’s Hands

In God’s Hands by Lawrence Kushner and Gary Schmidt is a charming traditional Jewish folktale of obeying God that children will be sure to delight in.

Jacob, a rich man, always feel asleep during service but one day he woke up just long enough to hear one verse from Leviticus, saying he should make 12 loaves of challah and give them to God.

Believing it had been God who had spoken to him, Jacob obeys.  He bakes the challah and brings it to the synagogue and places it in the ark.

David, a poor man with a family to feed who cleans the synagogue, finds the challah and believes God has answered his prayers for food.

This cycle continues on for years with Jacob believing God ate the challahs and David believing God made the challahs until one day the rabbi discovers what is happening.  He calls the two men together and reveals the truth.  At first, both are disheartened as their belief in God is shattered.

But the rabbi points out that even though their conception is wrong, they must go on continuing to make the bread, knowing how both of their hands are God’s hands, doing His work, for His people.

Great lesson for all about obeying the whispers from God and seeing how the outcome of obedience is God’s plan with often unpredictable and wonderful results.  My kids loved this tale and couldn’t wait to read it again.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 30, Day 5: Jude

Summary of passage:  Jude writes in warning, concerned about the faith as it is under attack by certain, godless men who have slipped in among them and who deny Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Jude reminds them that the Lord destroyed those who didn’t believe after the Exodus; He imprisoned angels who abandoned their home; He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for sexual immorality.

These men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand.  They pollute their own bodies, reject authority, and slander celestial beings.  Woe to them!  They are selfish (Cain), greedy (Balaam), and rebellious (Korah).  These men are blemishes and shameless.

Enoch warned of these men.  They are grumblers, faultfinders, follow their own evil desires, boasters, and flatters.  The apostles prophesied of these men as well.

So build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.  Keep yourself in God’s love as you wait for eternal life.  Be merciful to doubters; save others from the fire; show mercy to others.

Glory be to God forever!

Questions:

11)  Jude is writing to urge others to contend for the faith and to beware of certain men (false teachers) who are slipping in amongst them and trying to lead them astray.

Peter writes as a reminder to stimulate his readers to wholesome thinking and to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the commands given by God through the apostles.  To warn them that scoffers (false teachers) will come and try to place doubt in your mind about the Lord but you must remember to have patience for the End Times for God’s time is not human time and He is patient with man, allowing everyone time to come to repentance.  God created the world and He will judge it as well.

The reasons are the same and Jude quotes almost word for word Peter’s letter at times.

12)  The Lord delivered His people out of Egypt but later destroyed those who didn’t believe (lack of faith and trust in God).

Angels who abandoned their positions of authority and their own home the Lord now keeps chained for judgement day.  The sin was some kind of sexual sin (harking back to Genesis 6:1-2) as indicated by the words “in a similar way” in verse 7.

Sodom and Gomorrah sinned with sexual immorality and perversion.

13a)  They pollute their own bodies, reject authority, and slander celestial beings and speak abusively against whatever they don’t understand, selfishness of Cain, greed of Balaam, and rebelliousness of Korah, and good for nothing.

b)  Blackest darkness (hell); forever

14)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I see verse 16 everywhere in every facet of life.  Pure selfishness motivated by greed and self-aggrandizement, pure and simple.  Those who do not have God.  I can speak the Truth in these people’s lives and pray for them.

15a)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Family members for all of these and others whom I encounter.  Shine the light of Jesus into their lives the best I can.

b)  Try to save those whom I see heading down the wrong path by revealing Jesus to them.

c) Do not judge for they do not know.  Try to impart knowledge to them.  Pray.  Forgive those in our lives whom we don’t want to (who amongst us doesn’t have one of those people in our lives?) and love them as our neighbor.

All of these:  pray and give my knowledge.  Model a Godly life.  Then allow God to do the rest.

Conclusions:  It seems the redundancy in these passages continues.  Remember in grade school where your teacher constantly said, “Don’t copy off of others!  Don’t cheat!  Do your own work!”  Jude must have missed that message.  Despite echoing Peter’s second letter (and ignoring his grade school teachers-ha!), this was a great synopsis of false teachers and the danger they pose.

The last question I thought could have been just one question and not broken up into a, b, and c for my answers are the same.  a and c are virtually the same (and they should be because we should not treat believers and unbelievers differently.  We are called to show mercy to all).  For “God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation” (Acts 10:34-35); hence, the Gentiles (those who are non-Jewish (me)) were accepted into the Body of Christ.

I liked Jude’s encouraging words the best “Build yourself up in faith, pray in the Holy Spirit, and keep yourself in God’s love.”

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 30, Day 4: 2 Peter 3

Summary of passage:  Peter lists his purposes for his second letter:  stimulate you to wholesome thinking and to recall the prophets’ words and the commands by God through the apostles.

In the last days (End Times) scoffers will come and question God and His timing.  But do not forget with God as day is like a thousand years.  He is giving everyone time to come to repentance, showing patience with you.

But when the Day of the Lord comes it will come like a thief.  Everything will be destroyed and laid bare.  Thus, you ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.  A new heaven and earth will come, the home of righteousness.

Be spotless, blameless, and at peace with him.  Be on guard so you will not fall.  Grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.

Questions:

9a)  As a reminder to stimulate his readers to wholesome thinking and to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the commands given by God through the apostles.  To warn them that scoffers (false teachers) will come and try to place doubt in your mind about the Lord but you must remember to have patience for the End Times for God’s time is not human time and He is patient with man, allowing everyone time to come to repentance.  God created the world and He will judge it as well.

b)  We all need to remember and be encouraged towards wholesome thinking and to remember the past and God’s commands.   Remembering God’s omnipotence and His timing helps Christians in every aspect of their lives here on Earth.  Everyone is out to make a quick buck and will scam you quicker than you can blink.  We must always be wary about false teachers and compare it to God’s word prayerfully to discern its truth.

10a)  Verses 11-13:  Live holy and godly lives and look forward to a new heaven and earth, the home of righteousness

Verse 14:  Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him.

Verses 15-16:  Have patience and strive to understand the apostle’s teaching and the Bible so at not to be deceived

Verses 17-18:  Be on your guard so you will not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.  Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  All of the above really.  Educating myself.  Trying to lead a holy life and be at peace.  Have patience for what is to come.  Be on my guard from evil.

Conclusions:  This chapter is a great summarization of our whole study:  have patience on the Lord, be holy and lead a holy life, be on guard against the enemy, grow in your knowledge of Jesus, strive for wholesome thinking, remember God’s omnipotence and timing, and remember the past.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 30, Day 3: 2 Peter 2

Summary of passage:  A warning against false teachers who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, bringing destruction upon themselves.  These teachers will exploit you out of greed and bring the truth into disrepute.  Many will follow them but they will face destruction.

God did not spare angels, the ancient world of Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah so He won’t spare these ungodly teachers. The Lord will rescue righteous men like He did for Lot and punish the unrighteous.

These men are bold, arrogant, slander celestial beings, and blaspheme and they will perish.  They will be paid back.  They entice people by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature and they promise freedom.  It would have been better for them not to have known the Lord than to have known Him and turned their backs on him.

Questions:

6a)  Bar-Jesus (Acts 13:6-12) whom Barnabas and Saul/Paul met in Paphos.  Paul temporarily blinded him with the power of the Holy Spirit.  They are ultimately proven false by God for they cannot stand against His Truth.  “For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.”  Romans 16:18

b)  They will bring swift destruction and condemnation on themselves

7)  Angels sent to hell (Jude 1:6; Revelation 20:1-2); Flooded the world (Genesis 7-8); condemned Sodom and Gomorrah and saved Lot (Genesis 19; Jude 1:7)

8a)  By appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error (believers escaping from unbelievers) and promising them freedom.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  What Peter recommends in 2 Peter 1:5-8:  strengthen my faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.  Pray.  Read the Bible.  Learn from other believers.  Seek support.  Act.

Conclusions:  As a born skeptic (one who doesn’t believe anything is free in this life and if it sounds too good to be true it is), I would like to think it would be hard for me to be duped.  But the devil is crafty and knows all of our weaknesses.  That’s why it’s important to always be alert and watch out for the prowling lion (1 Peter 5:8; 1 Corinthians 16:13) and have on God’s armor (Ephesians 6).  Be prepared to fight for the Truth and help others to do so as well.

The writer obviously despised false teachers by how he goes and on how vile they are and how they will pay in the end.  They must have been doing great damage in his times.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 30, Day 2: 2 Peter 1

Summary of passage:  Peter (the most widely-accepted author of this book) tells the readers of this letter that God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him.  By His great glory and goodness He has given us great and precious promises so that we can be with Him (the promise of sanctification and eternal life).

Therefore, we must strengthen our faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love in this world in order to be effective and productive in knowing Jesus.  If we do these things (our calling and election), we will never fall and we will be welcomed into the eternal kingdom.

Peter promises to remind them of these things always as he is close to death.  He was an eyewitness to Christ’s majesty and stood on the mount as God himself declared Jesus as His son.  Plus, the words of the prophets confirm Christ as their words were from God.

Questions:

3)  Eternal life given to us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ

4)  A Christian must add to his/her faith:  goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love.  If you possess these qualities you will be effective and productive in knowing Him.  Make your calling and election sure (verse 10) by doing the above.

5a)  Peter was an eyewitness to Jesus and heard God declare that Jesus was His son.  And the prophets confirmed the truth who spoke from God’s will not their own (i.e. spoke God’s words, given to them by God).

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  By the way I live my life.  When I speak, I am sure.  I hope it radiates from me and my belief shines through.  And my knowledge of Bible and Scripture (which needs to be strengthened).

Conclusions:  I need to work on all of the aforementioned truths and callings of a Christian’s life:  faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness, and love.  I think I’m weak in all aspects (which probably explains my falls). Great reminder of what we should be doing in this world.

“The Lord Will Fight For You; You Need Only to Be Still.”

Exodus 14:14

Words from Moses to the Israelites I needed to hear today and I thought some of you might need to as well.

Substitute I for “the Lord” and picture God whispering this in your ear and you’ll get a beautiful picture to last the rest of the day (and beyond).  Magic.  Powerful.  Life-giving. From Father to daughter or son.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 29, Day 5: 1 Peter 5

Summary of passage:  Peter advises the elders to be shepherds of God’s flock, serving as overseers, and being examples to them.  You will receive a crown of glory for their service.

Young men be submissive to elders and be humble to all.  Give God your worries.  Be self-controlled and alert for the enemy.  Resist him and stand firm in faith and after you have suffered God will restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.

Questions:

14a)  A fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and one who will share in the glory to be revealed

b)  In these times where Christians were being persecuted, it was important to have an encourager, someone to lead by example and guide those who were new to the faith and at times afraid of proclaiming it.  These converts needed someone to show them how to lead the Christian life and to correct them and pick them up when they stumbled.  It’s the same for today.  We are all infants in our faith, growing, and we need support and guidance from elders.

c)  Crown of glory (eternal life)

15)  Respect their advice, treat them with respect, learn from them and their walk, and seek them out with questions of faith or advice on life.

16)  Resist him and stand firm in the faith, staying self-controlled and alert always.

17)  God will restore you, make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Conclusions:  More repetition.  And it all seems intuitive but I think this message is important for the younger generation to hear.  Respect your elders (the leaders) and submit to them.  They are much more knowledgeable than you are.  Today one would be hard pressed to find stellar examples of respect or submission in the secular world. Short, concise, sweet, and pithy advice.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 29, Day 4: 1 Peter 4

Summary of passage:  Peter tells us that Christ suffered in this body so we should be prepared to suffer as well since it means we will be done with sin, resulting in living for the will of God and not for this earthly life.  You spent time doing pagan things and now they abuse you.  But they will be judged in the end.

Be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.  Love each other deeply.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Use your gifts to serve others.  If you speak, speak the words of God.  Serve through God’s strength so that He may be praised.

Rejoice in your suffering since you are participating in the sufferings of Christ.  If you are insulted because of Christ, you are blessed.  Praise God that you bear His name in your suffering.  Commit yourselves to God and do good.

Questions:

8 )  Personal Question.  My answer:  Again, I hate to harp on this but BSF keeps asking:  I haven’t suffered physically at all.  No one has beaten me, flogged me, ostracized me, or condemned me, especially based on my beliefs (probably afraid they’d get sued if they did).  That being said, I have experienced God’s tests and how He takes away when we went through bankruptcy and we lost everything.  In this instance, I realized material things are just that.  There’s always another house or car.  But what matters is family and God.  If I have both, then I’m good.

9)  Pagans will have to give account for their actions and behavior (as we all do) because God judges both the living (those with the Holy Spirit) and the dead (those without the Holy Spirit).

10a)  Speaking the very words of God

b)  It is possible because Christ did so and if Christ did so, then we (with the power of the Holy Spirit) can do so as well.

2 Peter 1:3:  “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”  He has given us everything we need in order to do so.

c)  Love is also an act of will.  This is what many couples do not understand and what leads to divorce.  Love isn’t a feeling (and definitely not the one of first love).  You choose to love your husband even when….(fill in the blank).  It’s the same with others.  You choose to love others even when….(they fall, they sin, they hurt you, they are imperfect as we all are, etc). Christ loved all.  We must love all.  We must override our feelings and choose to do so.

11)  You will be rewarded when his glory is revealed, you are blessed with the Spirit of glory and God upon you, you suffer in His name.

12)  To pave the way for Christ’s return by purifying them and giving them time to be refined like silver and tested like gold.

13)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Perseverance.  Patience.  Faith and trust in Him.

Conclusions:  I almost choked on verse 8.  Love?  Seriously?  Come on, Peter.  We get it.  But I liked BSF’s take on it so I did get something out of it after all, pointing out how we must choose to love and not love by feeling.  If we relied just on emotion, no one would love anyone.

My favorite (if you haven’t guessed) was verse 10.  Yes, another repetition of Paul’s but one I need to hear constantly in order to keep the faith in my novel.  I have been gifted to serve others and I must follow through on that gift.  That is the hard part when every day I ask myself, “Is this worth it?”

I like the idea of being purified for I tend to think of myself as pyrite instead of gold. Good stuff!

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 29, Day 3: 1 Peter 3:8-22

Summary of passage:  Peter tells his listeners/readers to live in harmony with one another, be sympathetic, compassionate, and humble, and love each other as brothers. Do not repay an insult with an insult but with blessing for that is what we are called to do.  For Psalms says if you want good days and the eyes and ears (attention) of the Lord you must keep your tongue and yourself from evil and live righteously.

You are blessed if you suffer for good.  Set Christ apart in your heart.  Always be prepared to credit Christ for the hope you have in gentleness and respect (basically give no reason to support slander against you).  Better to suffer for doing good than evil.

Christ died to bring you to God.  He preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed God in the days of Noah and saved eight through water, the same water that now saves you through Christ’s resurrection.

Questions:

5a)  Live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic; love as brothers; be compassionate and humble; do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult (revenge basically) but with blessing.  I need all to tell you the truth.

b)  If you repay evil or insult with blessing as you were called to do, you will see good days and the eyes of the Lord will be upon you and he will listen to your prayers.

6)  Respond humbly for you are blessed for your suffering.  Stand firm in your knowledge that you are set apart and keep Christ as your Lord.  And remember this suffering is God’s will.

7)  I think the spirits in prison were demonic spirits, fallen angels if you will, whom Jesus visited (the reason why is not given) after his crucifixion but before his first resurrection to the disciples.  Genesis 6:1-2, the sons of God is a common terms in the Old Testament for angels.  Peter mentions this as an encouragement to the readers of his letter as an example of Christ’s triumph over evil in this world.

Conclusions:  Peter and Paul must have been good friends because this passage, again, echoes Paul’s teachings. Remember in the study of Isaiah how it all seemed like gloom and doom and every week it seemed like God’s people were disobeying and being punished?  Here in the study of Acts it’s the opposite:  it’s all advice (and the same advice in many cases) on how to live.

So instead of being told how bad we are we are being told how to live.  At times, it seems as if my mother were talking to me.  “Now, honey, don’t insult others when they insult you.  Be strong in who you are as a person.  Have compassion on that person and some sympathy.  You don’t know what they’ve been through in life.”

And we roll our eyes but in the end the repetitiveness of the Truth seeps down into our core and we do become compassionate, sympathetic, and humble human beings who love each other as brothers.

God knows us, doesn’t He?