Summer Devotional September 1st, 2017

The Great Commission by Jesus Christ

Matthew 28:19-20:  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Evangelizing is something I believe a majority of us struggle with.  For my last devotional, I would like to challenge you to invite one person either to Bible Study Fellowship, a different Fall Bible Study you may be doing, or your church TODAY.  It’s a simple question, not a lot of pressure.  But it could make all the difference in someone’s life!

God bless and looking forward to Romans!

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Why is BSF SO Popular?

I got this question on my blog and rather than answer it myself, I thought it would be cool to have you all answer it.  So post a comment below answering the questions:

Why do you love Bible Study Fellowship?  Why do you attend?  What makes it so great? And Why do people flock to it every week?  I will post my answer after I read you all’s 🙂

My answer:  BSF is an in-depth bible study of the Word and the Word only.  Before I found BSF, all the bible studies I had found were fluff to put it mildly.  Most of the time it was about the people in our group and their circumstances.  We’d spend the whole two hours on “problems” instead of seeing what God said to solve the “problems”.  I’d walk away, depressed, feeling none the better.  I felt no closer to God or to knowing God.  I was so disenchanted I wanted to quit.

Then a mentor of mine from my church told me about BSF and the study of Isaiah.  I signed up and haven’t looked back since.  As you may have seen from my answers if you have been here long enough, they are much more thorough, in-depth, and thoughtful.  My knowledge of the Bible has increased 100 x (and I’m not exaggerating here).  I feel like I can discuss the Bible with others and know what I’m talking about.  Before, I had a vague impression of stories and that was it.  What the Bible was all about, I could never have told you all.  Now, I know when someone is twisting the Truth and I call them on it.  I know when something is dead-wrong–because I know God.

BSF is for those who want to know God and His word.  It’s for those who are tired of sitting in church on Sundays only hearing the “good” God and not the “wrath” of God.  It’s for those who want an authentic relationship with Jesus.  It’s for those who crave the Truth and all of the Truth.  It’s for those who are looking for a study where God is first and relationships with others second.  They have a top-notch kids program as well from infants through high school, which follows along exactly with the current study and steadily progresses in depth with age.

After every class, after every homework lesson, after every day, God will reward you for your diligence. He is there with you.  And if you join Bible Study Fellowship, He will be closer to you than ever before.

Get the Notes Ahead of Time!

I know I’m going to receive a bunch of contrary emails/comments on this one and accusations of “ruining BSF” as I have gotten before, but I have prayed and am prepared.

BSF (at least where I’m at) is no longer requiring you to sign out for notes/lessons ahead of time. I discovered this quite by accident when I got a lesson ahead of time as I will be gone next week.

So I got the notes for next week and read them and to be honest it makes me sad I’m going to miss next week because it has only fueled my desire for more.  There were some things in the notes I had questions on and was curious what the teaching leader was going to say.  I did more investigating on my own.  I learned some things.  It has convicted me in many areas of my life–things I’ve been working on for a while but was ho-humming around about.

This isn’t the first time I have gotten the notes ahead of time.  Three years ago, I actually posted on this same topic. If you’re curious, the original post is HERE I went back and re-read this and it seems this was echoed to me again. I feel everything has a purpose.

I feel like when I go to class after having read the notes ahead of time, I am more enlightened, more curious, more open, more engaged, more ready to receive God’s word because my mind is more open to the passage.  When I read the notes afterwards, I don’t get this feeling.  I get a feeling of finality and “we’re moving on” so who cares?

Maybe I’m wrong and you all can disagree with me for it and chastise me, but from now on I plan to get the notes ahead of time so I can read them before class discussion and lecture.  It awakens something in me I cannot describe and I feel more ready to absorb God’s word and lessons.

My confession:  for the longest time I feel like I’m just “doing homework” here and not incorporating the Word into my life.  I’ve been praying, but it seems hokey for I never can put my emotions into words and I feel God must think me a complete nincompoop.

For me, it’s all about understanding God and His Word better and whatever helps, helps.  Many of you have commented how you wish the notes were online and I do hope that will be forthcoming as well.  I think more would read the notes if we had them ahead of time instead of putting it off until you no longer remember what the passage was about.  I personally wish the lectures were available for a week for everyone as well because who can make every class, right?  Flu, holidays, family matters, sick kids, vacations, emergencies come up.  It would be great to get more of God in any medium.

Bible Study Fellowship changed the lessons and the lecture so they correspond, why not the notes?  Why wait on this change as well?  I know some of you will say because then people will read the notes before answering the questions.  This is a valid point.  BSF would like you to do the questions and then hear the lecture and then read the notes.  That’s how it originated.  But what’s wrong with switching the lecture and the notes?  That’s how a lot of school is taught, especially college.  You’re given a reading assignment.  You read it.  You return to hear a lecture on it and an opportunity to ask questions.  I learn better this way.

One solution:  maybe make the notes available online 24 hours before the day of your class.  That gives everyone plenty of time to do their lesson but still read the notes before lecture and discussion.

[Suggestion:  I realize this is a stretch, but I will throw it out there.  Our BSF leader recently mentioned it costs BSF something like $84/person/year just in materials and staff.  Sometime in the future, I imagine BSF as going paperless.  Could you imagine?  We can get the notes and the questions all online and imagine the cost savings!  That would be more money to put toward other ministry areas BSF engages in or expand BSF further to reach more people.  At least in the developed world:  US, Australia, UK, Canada, etc. where most of us own printers and computers and have internet access.  I see this as a ways away but offering this as an option would be cost effective, save trees, and more environmentally friendly!  Just a thought for the future 🙂 ].

After all, the group leaders and the teaching leaders all get the notes ahead of time at leaders’ meeting.  I can’t tell you the number of times over the years I’ve had a discussion leader say, “Read the notes because they clarify this further.”  Wouldn’t it be only fair that the rest of us be allowed access to the notes before lecture/discussion?

At some point you just have to trust people to do the right thing.  To do what is best for them.  To follow BSF how it was designed to be.  For personal responsibility is lacking in today’s world and learning about God is an individual choice just like doing your BSF questions is a choice.  God and Free Will at His/its best!  Thus, I see no harm in accessing the notes before discussion/lecture.  For those of us who learn better by reading, it’s an eye-opener for sure.  Bible study is all about growing with Jesus and each does this in his or her own way.

I would believe one qualm BSF is concerned about is this:  Well, if the notes are online, why would anyone come to class at all?  Answer:  For everything else that makes BSF work:  community, fellowship, lecture, discussion groups, prayer, worship, and a profound love of our Lord and Savior.

Please feel free to agree or disagree below for I am no expert nor am I a seasoned BSF’er, but merely one who sees an area for improvement and suggests it.  And I would ask before you post your nasty email to not personally attack me as many have done in the past, but to take my idea as it’s meant to be taken:  a suggestion to improve BSF, not dismantle the system.  Change is good as BSF is demonstrating, and I hope you die-harders out there can see that.  Change is a part of life whether we like it or not and if we don’t change, we don’t grow; and if we don’t grow, we don’t become more and more like Jesus.

In conclusion, I’d love to hear your thoughts especially if you’ve gotten the notes ahead of time for some reason or another and either liked it or didn’t like it.

The Consequences of Studying the Bible (Or of Doing BSF–Whichever You Prefer)…

I’m doing another Bible Study outside of Bible Study Fellowship (yep, I’m nuts).  But this one is not quite as intense.  It’s more of a social gathering for ladies if you will.  Hence, I told myself, “Why not?  It won’t take up too much time.”

It’s actually my old Bible Study group at my church before I discovered BSF.  It’s been years since I’ve been.

Here, at this study, I am much more confident in what I am saying when I talk about the Bible. It’s not all Greek to me anymore.

However, last week, I did get into an “argument” for lack of a better word with a young gal at my table who held the common belief that God is not a God of wrath.  She just couldn’t believe the God of the Old Testament.  She tried to say how Jesus changed all of that and basically we’re not bound under the Old Covenant any more.

Well, having done the study of Isaiah, I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut (not uncommon for me) so I challenged her on her beliefs.  I explained that you can’t negate the God of the Old Testament just because the God of the New Testament is ‘nicer’.  God gets just as angry at His people today as He did in OT times.  I’m pretty sure God is angry when I sin.  Sad, yes.  But He’s definitely not holding a cheerleading party when I turn from Him.

Yes, we now live under the New Covenant but that doesn’t mean the Old Covenant can be shoved under the rug and  forgotten.  It’s important that we know the differences.  That we know how God’s people lived back then.  So then we can truly appreciate what Jesus did for us and how now we all can stand with God by His side upon death.

There are still consequences for our sins.  Yeah, we’re not gonna be sent to Babylon (mainly because Babylon doesn’t exist anymore–not because God couldn’t or wouldn’t do something similar today) but we all pay.  And that is because God is unhappy with us when we sin.

The Book of Revelation explains what will happen when Jesus comes again and most of it is not pretty for unbelievers.

I think people today do not “fear” God.  They embrace the loving God (and this is predominantly preached at my church) and ignore the God who disciplines us.

God is to be feared.  We need to be humble before Him.  For He is Lord and Ruler of us all.  He is to be revered.  Most people today do not understand what it means to fear God.  It doesn’t mean we are scared of Him or His ways like we’d be scared of a ghost or a goblin.  It means we fear Him because He is omnipotent.  He is in charge.  He is in control.  And we are mere ants in His world. We exist solely at His will.  We could not exist at His whim as well.

If we do not fear God, we will not obey Him.  We fear Him because we know we are to be judged.  Yet, God forgives us.  God also loves us and protects us from evil.

Psalm 130:3-4:  “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.”

Genesis 22:12 releases Isaac back to Abraham because Abraham “fears God.”  This is the first mention of fear in the Bible.

In Matthew so far (and in most of the OT), we have seen when an angel of the Lord appears, most are frightened and the angel must say “Do not be afraid.”  This tells us we probably should be afraid.

I’m not saying I fully understand it because I do not fully understand God.  All I know is that I should be scared of God.  For He is my Creator.  And He could destroy me if He so chose in an instant.

Back to my story.  I’m pretty sure I offended most at the table, speaking of God’s wrath and how we cannot dismiss it because it happened in the Old Testament.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t earn any friends that way.  And needless to say I skipped this last week mainly because of it.  I don’t think many liked what I had to say.  I will acknowledge it probably didn’t come off as nice as this since I am a writer, not a speaker.

But I said it.  I said what little I knew of God.

Why did I say it?  Because I had studied it in BSF.  The study of Isaiah was all about how God’s people made God angry because they turned from Him so many times.  And how God’s wrath was brought upon His people.  His people deserved His wrath as we all do.  We’d all be better off if we remembered this fact every morning and every night.

Why else did I say it?  BSF exists to equip us to serve others.  To gain a knowledge of the Bible in order to bring others to Him.  To serve others in the community and the world.  It is my responsibility to tell others what I have learned.  My first BSF leader said if we graduate from BSF, we are basically receiving a degree in theology for free.  This has always stuck with me.

Was I called to say it?  Who knows?  But I would have been thumbing my nose at BSF if I hadn’t.  And that I will never do.

Yes, we are blessed because we live on this side of Heaven, after Jesus’ death.  But those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a repeat of God’s wrath.  Babylon was NOT a fun place to be.

WARNING: I May Be Sitting Next to You in Class….

I love technology.

Last week, my teaching leader pulled up the Bible on her cell phone.

My friend uses her IPad to find Bible passages.

All about it.

However, last week, someone in my group also used their phone–but not to pull up the Bible.

This woman pulled up my blog and read my answer VERBATIM.  From her phone!

Admittedly, she was called on because she hadn’t spoken and I, at least, discovered she hadn’t done the lesson.

But she pretended she had by reciting my answer.  Which was an answer that was personalized.

Normally, I don’t mind this.  But then I had to be quiet the rest of the time, afraid I’d give myself away.

Because, yes, I do use my answers in class.  After all, they are my answers.

Lately, I’ve been more wary though since I would bet half of the women in my group read my blog.  So, I try to only answer the obvious ones where we all have the same answer. You know the ones:  where the answer is the devil or Jesus Christ, etc.

Otherwise, I may give myself away–or you all may think I’m just cheating off of this site!

But I know for a fact this woman was!

I don’t mind if you use my answers.  I’d prefer you print it off ahead of time though.  Then I know you at least looked at the questions.

This woman hadn’t even read the question (or my answer) until that very moment.

So if you don’t want others (or me) to know you haven’t done the lesson, at least paraphrase my answer.  Pause and read it first and then put it in your own words.  Or write it in your own words.

With the popularity of this blog and the number of people who subscribe and read it daily, odds are there are several of you in your group.

And I love that!

I love how you all contribute to questions I have or others have and how we are all growing together in God.  It’s fabulous!  It’s why I do this!

And I am honored and blessed if you learn from me or even use my answers.  This is not an attempt to knock the woman who used my answers last week in class.

This is just an encouragement to do your lessons and see what God has for you.  You all read what God has (or recently doesn’t have) for me.  Discover His word in your life.

And from the changes BSF seem to be making, it’s okay if you come to class and admit you didn’t do it.  Someone else can share what they learned and you can learn from them. You won’t be looked down upon like in years past (at least from what I’m seeing in my group) and what I pray for.  We are all busy.  But you made it to class.  And you will learn. Just not as much as if you had done the lesson.

But we all have those days where the dog puked, the kids are sick, the car broke down, you moved, you spent an hour on the phone trying to resolve a bureaucratic nightmare, etc.  All those unforeseen events that take away time…

And God will meet you right where you are….

But remember….You never know who’s in your class…

There’s only one of me.  But there are thousands of you!

Suggested Terms of Use for This Site

I got an email from a lady who asked me to quit posting my answers to BSF lessons.  Why?

Apparently, her friend prints out my answers and doesn’t even bother to do the lesson herself.

At first, I was very angry at the email.  It had insinuated that it was my fault that this lady has chosen to not do her lessons, to not listen to the Holy Spirit, and to cheat herself out of growing with God.

I emailed the lady back, explaining that what people do with this is up to them. But it is not my responsibility what this lady does or doesn’t do.  She is doing this, not me.

I asked the lady instead of emailing me why doesn’t she confront her friend with her concerns. She wrote me a lovely email about the intentions of BSF.  It’s a shame she didn’t share this with the woman who needed to hear it.

But don’t shoot the messenger here.

This one woman is probably not learning a whole lot.  I’m sure she’s getting something out of the lecture but God won’t be prompting her to grow when she’s spouting off how I’m growing instead.  Many of the questions are personal and meant to be such.

Why am I bothering posting this?  First, I was pretty upset over it.  I’m tired of people assuming I’m responsible for others’ behavior.  No one takes responsibility anymore in today’s society.  So if I stop posting, this will force the lady to do her own lesson.  Ummmm…It’s obvious she doesn’t want to do it in the first place.  I can’t force her to do it.  Or there is something else going on. Something she is not sharing.

Secondly, I started analyzing my reaction more after sleeping on it.  I was pretty angry.  Still am–just a little though.  Now I realize why:  because I resent the lady who’s printing out all my answers and giving them as her own without thinking about it at all.  It made me wonder if she’s even reading the passages.

If you haven’t figured out, I spend a lot of time doing these lessons.  Typing them up, putting links up.  It usually takes me many, many days to do a Lesson.  Luckily for me, I’m ahead of you all so I can take the time I like to take.  I have learned A TON.  And I am proud of that fact.  And I enjoy sharing my “Ah-Ha’s!” with you all.  It’s what drives me in this endeavor.

I don’t mind you comparing and using these as a discussion group.  Even printing out some of my answers OCCASIONALLY when you have had a harried week or a child has been sick or the dog ate your homework the night before.  I get it: things come up.  Or using my answers when you are stuck or have no idea what BSF is looking for (I get stuck too and I’ll say it when I am!).  An answer here or there.

And many, many of you cannot attend BSF classes regularly for whatever reason.  There are many legitimate more reasons as well for this site.  Each of you come here for a different reason.

Please know I am not judging you all in any way.  You all know I use every resource available to me in answering these questions.  It’s my deep desire to understand what’s happening, the history around it, and to form a mental picture as clearly as possible so I can know Him more.

Please do not mistake my human reaction and my insecurities and overprotectiveness of my work as a judgment.  I am merely explaining how I feel when people don’t try to do the lessons and every week before class hit the print button instead and use my hard-earned answers.  This is not the intention of these postings.

I would like to encourage those of you who do not bother to do the lessons to please reconsider.  If you know friends who are doing this, I would encourage you to confront them about it and challenge them to listen to the Holy Spirit instead of a flawed human being (that would be me).

Maybe this lady just needs help.  Maybe she’s never studied the Bible before.  Her confession to you might be her unconscious plea for help.  Some of you BSF’ers are gifted in the Word and can help this lady who desires to know God but doesn’t know where to begin.  This might be a whisper from God.  You never know.

However, that being said, if you are not trying and have given up I am asking you to reconsider your study of Acts.  Quit BSF if you have no intention of doing the study.  Studying my study is not aiding you in any way.  You are cheating yourself and God in this great opportunity BSF has given you to grow with Him.  God has much more for you if you’d only give Him your time and effort.

BSF is not for everyone.  These studies are challenging.  They are for people who have a deep desire to know Him and His word and to grow in Him with the hopes of then growing others in the process and in the future.  This study may not be for you if you are finding it too difficult.  You may not be ready yet.  Perhaps this is not your time.  If you are have too much going on in your life to do the study, perhaps it’s time to take a break.

Of course, you can do what you want.  That is your Free Will and when I post these lesson online they are there and I have no control over them after that (although they are copyrighted as my intellectual property as I have learned you can use these for your own personal use–just not for distribution and otherwise republishing them in any form as your own.  That is copyright law).

But I will bear no responsibility in your not learning or not doing the study.  That is yours and yours alone.  And I will not cheat the majority of those who do use this site with the aforementioned intentions in mind in favor of the minority who do not.

Please pray about this and ask yourself why are you going through the motions if you’re unwilling to put in the work?  Allow God to work in you.  Trust me, you will be amazed what will happen in a short 9 months of study.

Please come here for support.  That’s why we’re here.  To help each other learn and grow with God.  But nothing is free in this world except God’s love.  He wants to know you so much.  Please put in the time to know Him as much as He puts in the time to know you (unfathomable and infinite for us to grasp).

In the end, you will be rewarded (God’s promise).

I hope you all read this in the love it is meant and not in any judgment or condemnation.  If you continue to hit the print button once a week, I will still pray for you.  I will still love you despite my annoyance at your behavior (like any family member).

Please search your hearts.  We are here for you.  Reach out to others if you are struggling.  God will lead you to the right people to help  you.

Spiel over.  Feel free to hit delete now.